The rise of interactive technology in the classroom The rise of interactive technology in the classroom

There has always been a need to engage children in British schools, and while the past may have involved strict discipline and continual learning in the form of chanting times tables, modern children who have grown up with computers and digital technology expect something far more fun.

One successful way of keeping kids interested in their lessons has been the advent of interactive whiteboards (IWB), flat panel technology, touchscreen tablets and computers, and other educational audio/visual (AV) technology such as projectors.

Adrian Robertson, the managing director in Scotland for integrator AVMI, told Installation: “The last six months has seen a significant swing towards screens. There is a real appetite for flat panels that’s surprised us.

“Budgets are tight within education departments — yet despite this, clients repeatedly, when offered low-cost IWB solutions, opt for more expensive interactive screen technologies.

“Growing numbers of schools are investing in very large flat panel displays that are, in effect, dumb — they’re being used in a traditional IWB role but, interestingly, also as collaboration tools interacting with students’ own devices.”

Helene Podmore, head of education solutions at distributor Steljes, backs this up: “The increased number of online resources, free apps and functionality within cloud and web-based tools all benefit teaching and learning, whether they were specifically designed for education or found to be useful for that market sector.”

With mobile devices so popular among British youngsters and the social networks that link such devices so ubiquitous, schools are rightly looking to embrace the technologies that their students already know, rather than follow their technological path. Schools have therefore taken up software that enables the sharing of AV content from a multitude of devices, including PCs, mobiles and tablets.

Toni Barnett, MD of integrator CDEC, says: “many solutions are specifically aimed at schools and learning establishments, although the interactive touchscreens for education are of course a similar concept to the technology that we are already using in our homes.

“The fact that children and teachers are already using these devices means that it’s easier to adapt to using them for education.”

Interactivity is therefore seen as the key to driving student engagement within schools and higher education institutions. When pupils can see videos, touch graphics and employ their abundant computer skills in an interesting way, they engage with their learning in a more positive manner.

John Garaway, from the education sales department at NEC, says: “Teachers are looking to engage their pupils – and the interactivity that is made possible with touch is vital to that engagement.”

Another concern is sustainability and trying to reduce carbon emissions. Many education facilities are keen to adopt laser and LED projection systems, but they may have been put off by the cost of switching in the past. However, this no longer seems to be the case, and projector firms are getting the message across that laser projectors require far less maintenance as there are no lamps to replace, as well as saving energy in the long run.

Phil Clark, head of projection at Casio UK, says: “Pressure is being put on education establishments at all levels to try to reduce their carbon emissions. That pressure has seen schools looking at their total cost of ownership and willing to make the simplest of switches to different platforms or procedures to bring this down over the course of a year and improve sustainability performance. Switching to laser and LED projector models, for example, has been proven to make a real difference to the total cost of ownership and energy bills.”

In conclusion, there’s a very bright future for AV technology being used in educational settings, and its recent rapid growth and adoption rate in schools seems only set to increase.