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The benefits of large screens in education are clear to see, writes Simon Fry

Posted by Rianna Newman | August 22, 2017 | Facilities & buildings

While children spend much time consuming content in isolation on their individual screen, the use of large screens through which they study together makes for efficient learning. 

Earlier this year, SMART Technologies commissioned a study of 400 teachers, administrators and IT professionals in education from 26 countries. Jane Ashworth, UK MD of Smart Technologies, comments on the conclusions. “Large interactive displays are clearly vital to the classroom ecosystem and remain pivotal in effective group and whole-class pedagogy and student-driven learning. This is demonstrated by attainment levels, especially in maths and English, increasing by up to 34%, with an average improvement of 16%. As we continue to drive education towards useable lifetime skills and preparing students for viable futures in a technology-based society, group learning, collaboration and the more social aspects of education are gaining importance and are beginning to be measured in some geographies.” 

The report’s conclusions are borne out in three recent studies of K-12 classrooms in Europe, one of which was a 2012–2014 study of a specific UK school with over 500 teachers, students and parents providing input. “The impact of intelligent whiteboards saw students experiencing increased frequency of active learning, teachers better tailoring lessons to meet students’ needs and parents finding their children to be more self-directed and collaborative.” 

Recent developments are enhancing learning, according to Birgit Jackson, commercial director at Sharp. “One new capability we have added to our latest BIG PAD is putting privacy buttons on the bezel, meaning you can immediately freeze or hide the content on display, helping teachers deliver lessons without interruptions. They can ‘freeze-frame’ or black out their display while continuing to work on a connected device or prepare the content they plan showing next. This means students aren’t seeing ‘behind the scenes’: teachers’ lessons can flow, helping focus students’ attention.”

Connectivity brings contribution to the classroom. “More interactive whiteboard displays are also offering multi-user interaction, so everyone in a classroom can work together on one screen, making it more likely you will get everyone’s attention and contribution. Using wireless connectivity also allows any wireless device to be connected to an interactive display so teachers and students can view, interact with and share content directly from laptops, tablets or phones. With our Display Connect software up to 50 people can connect to a BIG PAD at any time using their own personal devices, to make notes and contribute to the lesson where required.”

Interactivity and feedback are really important. Children nowadays can find the answer to anything on the internet. They're used to immediate answers and immediate feedback.

Reliability and ease of use may be more important than extra capabilities. “Spare a thought for the teacher who puts so much work into lesson planning only to get a little over halfway through due to technical problems, and then trying to get pupils to concentrate again. This not only lowers confidence but also encourages teachers to become ‘risk averse’ with the tools they use to get results. We focus on devices which are lesson-ready within seconds and feel natural to write on. Using a variety of screen technologies we have created a pen-on-paper feel when using our displays. It’s vital interactive displays just work, giving teachers the confidence to deliver their lesson objectives. This has certainly been the case at Woodchurch High School, which last year installed several Sharp BIG PADS into their classrooms. One teacher explained what he most likes about the display is knowing he can walk into the room, plug in two wires and be ready to go.“       

North Essex’s Felsted School has implemented the platform Unio By Harness® to support a highly personalised and collaborative visual learning experience by way of shared online screens. Felsted’s director of learning, Mrs Christina Bury, explains that Unio’s interactive features create a “buzz and excitement about learning” arising from the connectedness between student and teacher. “Interactivity and feedback are really important. Children nowadays can find the answer to anything on the internet. They’re used to immediate answers and immediate feedback.”

Using Unio-shared screens, a teacher can respond to learning in real time, providing targeted and student-centred feedback, moving every learner forward. Felsted students annotate lessons on their own devices, enjoying instant feedback through automarked quizzes and rich, multimedia learning experiences. “Unio supports a 21st-century, flexible learning environment. It’s a dynamic way of teaching, allowing a teacher to shift the level of control to the students and back to the teacher, as required.”

Prysm has been working with Belgium’s Ghent University to foster student collaboration and increase engagement in its digital marketing courses. The University’s Professor Steenhaut recalled, “I had previously attended a business seminar at a local facility favoured by many high-tech and entrepreneurial companies. What really stuck in my mind was the massive video wall used by the presenter, which on further enquiry turned out to be the Prysm Visual Workplace. When I started to design the digital marketing course my ultimate aim was to identify a platform that could amalgamate the discrete elements: I realised I could achieve this with the Prysm Application Suite in a way that would optimally stimulate communication, collaboration and learning.”

One important factor for the professor was ease-of-use. “For any technology to be properly embraced it has to be accessible. With its sheer size and visual impact, the Prysm wall can initially feel overwhelming but the instant you touch the surface – the gestures, the menus, moving content – everything quickly becomes really intuitive and very natural. It takes no time at all for a user to become 100% comfortable.” 

Productivity has been the stalwart of Microsoft’s ethos in recent years, and in education, products such as the Surface Hub have the capability to transform the classroom experience for both student and teacher. A multitude of features suitable for the classroom include digital whiteboard and note-sharing capabilities, dual 1080p cameras and integrated videoconferencing through Skype for Business. The Surface Hub provides completely differentiated and flexible options for learning, whether it’s viewing embedded videos, annotating a presentation through responsive touch and ink input, or engaging experts from other countries to demonstrate new approaches.

The University of Bristol’s medical school is embracing Microsoft’s collaborative technology, using Microsoft Surface Hub to enhance how medical students interact with others on campus, and with other professionals globally. Using the device, students have been able to innovate and improve the learning experience by allowing lecturers to create interactive data, demonstrate simulators and facilitate communication between students and experts across the world.

Despite technology continuing to shrink, large screens continue to play a major role in the shared learning experience at all ages of education. Greater usability creates greater confidence, leading to higher levels of learner engagement – and attainment. 

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