Since the arrival of interactive whiteboards at the turn of the century, audio-visual (AV) has been a dominant part of schools’ IT investment.
However, despite being such a major part of schools’ ICT assets, has AV actually transformed the teaching and learning environment, and if so, are the changes due to alterations in teaching styles or more about the new technologies?
Caroline Wright, (pictured) director general designate of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) shares the thoughts of its member organisations, and imparts their advice on how the technology and teaching could develop further.
Changes in AV technology
Adam Norton-Howells, education director at Dataspire Solutions Ltd, has seen a number of new technologies come to market over recent years. “Over the last decade the more traditional interactive whiteboard has been replaced by LED touchscreen, flat-panel display technology alongside interactive projectors. These combine the touch capabilities of an interactive whiteboard with the crisp visuals of flat-panel display technology to make course material more engaging for students. The technologies also offer low maintenance and energy efficiency.”
“With handheld devices being part of everyday life, tablets are also becoming commonplace in the classroom which poses new opportunities and challenges for teachers,” explains David Mann, educational services director at LearnPad.
“Over the last decade the more traditional interactive whiteboard has been replaced by LED touchscreen, flat-panel display technology alongside interactive projectors’
He continues: “Due to the relatively low cost of tablets they offer a wealth of new learning opportunities and enable far greater collaboration in the classroom. With the diverse mix of technology and brands available it’s vital that the technology works together. Being able to easily share classwork between tablets, laptops, desktops and interactive displays provides a seamless learning experience.”
On behalf of BESA member Steljes, Karen Nelson, education marketing at SMART Technologies, adds: “As schools look to augment technology in classrooms, 3D printing is at the top of the list for many. Why? Because 3D printing helps speed up innovation. Students can discover the engineering process, build something, and test it to see if it works – all in a few hours or days thanks to this amazing technology.”
But is ‘new’ and ‘upgraded’ always better? David Mann, offers a word of warning: “In terms of the evolution of classroom technology there is always the option to increase the definition or the processor speed; but if the effective, collaborative pedagogy is not in place then really these ‘upgrades’ will not add to the learning benefits. How you use the technologies together is what is key.”
Adam Norton-Howells, adds that the changes in teaching over recent years is less about the individual new technologies, and more about the integration of these technologies. “Aside from the change in technologies we are also seeing a shift from whole-class use of ICT (frequently the use of interactive whiteboards) to independent and group learning using laptop and tablet computers.”
The ‘reinvented flipped learning model’ is the next big edtech trend that Karen Nelson, sees on the horizon. She explains: “Traditionally, flipped learning focused on utilising technology to maximise the learning day, but it missed out on personalising the student experience. The reinvented model optimises lesson content for interactivity and collaboration among small groups, classes, and between schools rather than focusing on one-way instruction.”
The ever-increasing convergence between AV and IT, is increasingly being seen by Mike Brooman, director of Vanti. He explains: “We are seeing the replacement of visualisers, the use of cameras on mobile devices and the streaming of content wirelessly to presentation devices. Marsh Academy is one great example of a visionary school; from experimenting with how students responded to various LED colours to having a large touch interface display to view content before sharing it with other students, the central collaborative space is now the heart of the learning experience.
“Traditionally, flipped learning focused on utilising technology to maximise the learning day, but it missed out on personalising the student experience’
It is the arrival of several software applications that is enabling this convergence explains Adam Norton-Howells: “The software is now available to allow multi-platform content to be shared and presented, encouraging participants to interact in a creative and convenient way.”
This is also being seen by Zulfi Baig, international operations director of iBoardTouch: “Studios, pop-up learning hubs, virtual groups and peer-to-peer project groups are fast replacing the physical spaces of traditional classrooms. Interactive technology now offers ‘anywhere digital’ and ‘anywhere learning’ capabilities.”
Mike Brooman, director of Vanti, concludes: “What may be considered futuristic ideas to many, are rapidly becoming standard in the early adopter schools across the country.”
There are clearly a lot of new technologies in the AV product category but it appears to be a more informed application of these technologies that is achieving greater learning benefits. As ever, training is key and BESA members will always encourage schools to understand the value of investing in this vital part of any technology implementation.