Making the most of interactive technology

Advances in digital technology are transforming the look of interactive teaching, and it’s all good news. Well harnessed, the use of new technology and virtual communication can enrich learning opportunities beyond those we might have imagined, even a few years ago.

Industry views

Chris Maclean, general manager at Canon Business New Zealand, says that interactive technology is now truly in the hands of the teacher and their students. “We have seen that some schools still work strongly towards a front of class lecture teaching, whereas others are very interactive with their styles, engaging students as a whole, one to many, or one to one.”

Also at Canon, national collaboration manager Ben Smythe says interactive technology is constantly changing. “There are now products for schools regardless of location, class size, or IT set-up, and they offer teachers greater flexibility to run lessons to suit their own teaching style and needs of individual students.

“Schools need to consider the exploitation of technology to increase self-learning and collaboration as much as possible,” says Russell Williams from technology company , Shipleys Audiovisual. “Students should be able to utilise all resources at their fingertips to apply relevant information to the topic or project, teachers should be able to monitor the students’ direction and progress live to give immediate feedback or encourage seeking alternative perspectives from their peers or online resources.”

 

Gone are the days of “band aid tech” – Canon

 

“Most schools are on a tight budget so the main thing they are looking for is an economical system. We prefer not to align with low end brands due to the issues they cause with interconnectivity and instead work to ensure a system can be modular and expanded once the budget rolls over. The second criteria is generally simplicity, it must be simple for all end users.”

Mr Williams says connectivity is key. “BYOD is huge in a lot of schools so our clients want to ensure the system can talk to these devices as well as other systems both in the school and off site.”

At Canon, Mr Smythe says schools are starting to order the “newest and best “imaging technology, knowing that higher quality products are easier to engage with and give students a better experience.

“Gone are the days of ‘band aid’ tech, more and more schools are remembering that quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten and that replacing aged equipment every few years no longer makes sense. They’re going for companies with a technology roadmap.”

There are probably two trends with these interactive technologies which should be noted, says Peter McAlpine, APAC region manager of SMART Technologies. “One is that, although they are a great teacher display device increasingly we’re seeing students at the board having educational experiences. These boards due to their intuitive nature, create a front of room teaching and learning space rather than just a teacher display space. The second trend is students and teachers collaborating and using gamification as learning by using the board and SMART’s software to send and receive information from students’ individual devices.”

The use of interactive projectors in schools is growing. Epson’s sales of interactive projectors has increased 15 per cent during the past two years. “We are seeing greater implementation of students using electronic devices such as tablets, Chromebooks and laptops as both their learning and recording devices,” says Simon Rogers, general manager at Epson NZ. “This will become more and more prevalent as each generation grows up with the ever changing technology space.

Many projectors now have the functionality through free software to allow the students’ devices to connect the classroom projector and share their work to the class. Some have free software that allows the teacher to be the moderator and to choose which students work they want to display on the projector.

Equipment must be portable. “The biggest trend we’re seeing is mobility,” says David Parker, managing director of Active Vision, interactive touch screen specialists. “The schools are wanting a mobile solution rather than an attached to the wall solution so they can share the resource and use them in flexible learning spaces. Our mobile solutions have one cable then everything else is integrated into the system. It is safe and secure, purpose-built for the classroom, and robust.”

Equipment must be portable – David Parker, Active Vision

 

Mr Parker has also noticed the increasing uptake of interactive technology in high schools. “Historically we have been very strong in the primary and intermediate market and that continues today, but what’s happening today is that the students who have grown out of that education have moved to high schools and tertiary so our technology is significantly expanding through the high schools and tertiary – and also into business because it is an expectation of the new generations coming through that interactive technology is used.”

What to consider

Possibly the most important questions for schools to ask suppliers is how the technology impacts on student learning outcomes. Once that is answered satisfactorily schools should get into the nitty gritty of cost versus lifespan of the device, and maintenance requirements.

Mr Parker advises educators to visit schools that already have new technology. “Look at schools with interactive, engaging technology based around G Suite, Activinspire and other educational software applications.

“We get huge feedback from schools that have visited another, they just cannot believe how engaged the students are working in that environment.”

At Shipleys, Mr Williams recommends that schools find out:

  • response times if something were to go wrong
  • can the supplier provide a turn-key customised solution and sound technical advice following site visits?
  • can we work with and integrate existing equipment?
  • what lifespan can be expected from the system
  • If the technology is future-proof (for example, IP based))
  • how long the recommended product has been around and whether it has been installed in other schools?

Expert advice to help schools keep digital progress simple

Shipleys is an audio-visual consultancy and installation service heavily involved in the education sector. Based in Christchurch, the company sources, installs and codes new equipment and components into bespoke systems for its clients.

“Most schools are on a tight budget so the main thing they are looking for is an economical system. We prefer not to align with discount brands they typically cause issues with connectivity and interfacing with other products, instead work to ensure a system can be modular and expanded once the budget rolls over,” says spokesman Russell Williams. “The second criteria is generally simplicity, it must be simple for all end users.”

Shipleys is focused on helping educators to determine and acquire the equipment they need, within budget. “We offer a staggered roll out to suit cashflow using technology that won’t become redundant as systems expand.” They also hire out equipment and offer long term lease agreements and service agreements for new and existing systems.

“We have the newest equipment on the market and invest heavily in developments and innovative technology, we have a creative team with centuries of collective experience and support our clients 365 days a year.”

New interactive projectors designed for the MLE

Epson is a leading provider of interactive technology to schools, and continues to upgrade equipment and software for optimum learning experiences. New features include wireless connectivity for up to 50 users, and options to display up to four users on the projector at once.

Projectors are brighter with longer lamp life with the lamp“eco” mode extending the lamp lifetime to 10,000 hours.

Epson’s new range of interactive projectors are designed to integrate with the modern classroom environments. With higher lumens – up to 3800 lumens in both white and colour light output – and options for full high definition resolution, projectors display brighter, clearer images for classrooms. 

They also allow the teacher to control their computer at the projection surface and project interactive content to engage the students at a higher level. This can be done using finger touch, an interactive pen or a combination of both. When used in conjunction with the likes of Microsoft Word or One Note, annotations/notes can be digitally saved into the actual programs to allow content sharing; students will not need to copy what the teacher has written or projected meaning they can focus on content comprehension. “This functionality enhances learning both within the classroom and remotely,” says Epson spokesperson Nika Osborne. “Interactive projection has reached its next level with finger touch technology and multi-user functions, enhancing learning at schools or remotely.”

Epson’s interactive and selected non-interactive projectors also allow students to share content from their laptop or tablet with their peers by displaying on the projector. This functionality is available across major platforms including Chromebook. However, the teacher retains control of content by using a moderator function provided in free Epson software. Newer models also contain a code which allows teachers to redeem a 12-month licence for Smart Note Book educational software.

Schools have the option to lease projectors from Epson dealers meaning they can wait until the end of the lease period to buy outright or opt for an upgrade to a newer model.

Digital tools for future-focused learning

Active Vision supplies a comprehensive range of interactive technology designed to boost engagement in the classroom. The company represents two of the largest selling interactive brands in the world, Promethean and Clevertouch, and specialises in showing schools how to reap the benefits.

Previously known as ACTIVboard, the company recently rebranded to reflect its departure from selling interactive whiteboards (IWB) to supplying digital tools to take learning into the future.

“Both companies that we represent have developed significant pieces of software and apps that actively engage the students,” says managing director David Parker. “As opposed to a lean back and look at a big screen piece of technology, it’s a lean in to collaborate and work together on a large interactive display. And we provide the software and training to go with it.”

Some of the technology’s biggest supporters are lower decile schools. “They have seen the significant improvement in the engagement of their students because of the technology that we are providing. It makes a difference. Our technology is designed for anything from one-to-one to a group of students working together, that’s where they’re learning to work together.”

Active Vision also offers leasing options so that schools do not get saddled with out of date equipment.

“The technology we are supplying is always cutting edge but we do offer leasing because the benefit is in its use and not owning it. Using a financial plan, schools can update when the technology changes as opposed to being stuck with the legacy technology that’s eight years old. We’ve got schools with some of our older technology out there and we continue to support them and also look to help them move to the new technology.”

The company provides training to schools throughout the country. “The best technology in the world is fantastic but most people will need a level of training. We have regional-based trainers, and offer training every term. We have a online and helpline support services, too.”

The company is also building an online community where teachers can share recommendations for apps and online tools. Visitors to the company’s website can download and trial apps and tools, and most are free to keep using.

About Anna Clements

Anna Clements is the School News print and digital editor. She has a background in journalism spanning 25 years across newspapers, magazines and television, and spent six years working as an editorial advisor to a group of ECE centres.

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