Aug. 23, 2016
By Gary Bailer, Director of Product Planning and Marketing, Pro AV Products, Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America
There's an old saying that students get what they take from their education. While that is partially true, both K-12 schools and colleges can take many steps to ensure more students are engaged with the curriculum and arm themselves for success in the workforce. Connecting with these students can be made much more effective through technological innovations, including interactive displays. In fact, research shows that investments in these and other technologies can improve the learning culture almost instantaneously.
It's important to note that it's not just the technology itself that makes the learning experience better; it's the way it helps students engage with their instructors and other students. Empowering students with devices that communicate with other devices that teachers are using creates a collaborative, interactive learning environment, and that is what resonates most with today's learners. Using these tools to enable them to connect with each other fosters the camaraderie that is often unquantifiable, but just as crucial to their development.
While the technology needs in K-12 and higher education sometimes overlap, the solutions must often be tailored to these disparate groups of students, which are equally important to the future of our global workforce.
K-12: Creating a collaborative learning environment
Many trends in K-12 schools mirror those we're also seeing in the workplace, while others are more unique to education. Since the late 1990s, more school systems and standalone institutions have adopted, whether partially or completely, one-to-one computing as learning shifts from the one (a teacher in front of the class) to the many.
A hallmark of one-to-one learning is investing in cost-conscious digital devices for every student. But a single laptop or tablet in the student's hands alone is only half the battle, and several bodies of research suggest that much more innovation is needed. To help facilitate learning, students still need an educator at the front of the room. But instead of the projector technology of the past, that educator is now increasingly engaging with interactive, bright, touchscreen displays that wirelessly communicate with the students' devices.
These interactive displays overcome the obstacles of yesterday's projectors, which expended a great amount of energy but weren't bright enough for use with open window shades. These projectors also added to maintenance costs because of projector bulb burnout.
The displays are now using a new wave of software that makes it easier than ever for teachers, and gives them cloud-based solutions that offer the same tools they are used to on their laptops. Coupled with an individual mobile platform at a student's desk, which can communicate with the dynamic display at the front of the classroom, one-on-one learning can really come to life.
Peters Township School District in McMurray, Pennsylvania, learned this firsthand. The 4,400-student system had a few smartboards and projectors throughout the district, but no cohesive plan to embrace technology and support collaboration. Plus, internet connectivity was spotty.
Recognizing the need to change, the district made an investment in technology and its students' futures, bringing on more than 40 large-format interactive display systems with touchscreen display link capabilities. Collaborative learning opportunities for all students is now a reality.
Additionally, the students have expanded access to internet tools, mobile capabilities and even cooperative learning scenarios with students in other classrooms.
"The ability to connect multiple devices at once has created a universally collaborative learning environment that we are very happy with," said Adam Swimchock, the district's director of educational and informational technology.
Higher education: Disrupting the old lecture hall
Interactive display technologies are booming in higher education institutions for some of the same reasons as in K-12. Many of the challenges, however, are different.
Unlike K-12, college and university lesson plans aren't as formulated. The need for an open-platform system that can work with nearly any technology and software, across campuses, with the added capability to record lectures and post information in real time is the next big step in higher learning.
In short, one of the primary jobs of this and other technologies on campus is to take the ordinary lecture and make it a completely interactive experience, better catered toward remote learning.
Caldwell University in New Jersey installed interactive displays across its campus. Some of the displays are located in a new, 4,000-square-foot nursing skills laboratory, and that has greatly increased both student and faculty collaboration and enrollment in the nursing program.
The school's sports department also has benefited from the new digital signage, with coaches showing video and highlighting key plays on the new displays.
However, college experience is about much more than classroom learning. One Midwestern university was confronted with two struggles many colleges face: Attracting new students and bringing students together. The school hired an architectural firm to design a visually appealing signature space where students could meet to watch movies and university sporting events. The showpiece is an elevated 240-inch diagonal inch, 16-monitor video wall display that can be seen across a wide area, from the school's smoothie bar to its basketball courts. The student rec center is now the place to be for that university, and attracts both current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students.
Interactive display systems, digital signage and video walls are the next frontier from kindergarten to college and beyond. It's no longer enough to embrace the tablet, laptop and smartphone as part of the learning process. The dynamic displays with which these devices can interact bring truly collaborative learning to life, and give students the tools and skills they will need in the workforce.
Gary Bailer is the Director of Product Planning and Marketing, Pro AV Products for Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America. SIICA is the B2B sales and marketing entity within Sharp Electronics Corporation, headquartered in Mahwah, New Jersey. Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.