The interactive classroom – the story so far…

It’s been over a decade since the UK adopted interactive whiteboard technology as its core teaching tool in the classroom, and it was nothing short of a revolution.

All of a sudden, teachers had a wealth of opportunity at their fingertips, from annotating images to hand writing recognition to advanced educational software and more. School pupils could interact with shapes and maths puzzles and apostrophes and teachers could engage with pupils and present like never before.

In spite of a perceived lack of teacher training in some areas, using this interactive display technology became second nature to the majority of teachers. Lessons resources built into the software packages were shared among staff, and teachers retained them when moving schools. Schools became comfortable with their use and pupils were seeing a technology developing as the burgeoning Apple iPhone was in their home lives.

That is, until the technology began to fail. 

Classroom projector lamps began to dim and their warranties expired. Several hundred pounds of unbudgeted spend for a replacement lamp began to look excessive, as did the time spent needing to calibrate the interactive whiteboards every morning.

Maintenance became an issue, and that lack of training among IT support staff began to bite. Interactivity functions on the whiteboards became sketchy and new 16:9 laptops seemed incompatible with the 4:3 display on the wall.

Boisterous children upstairs, wobbly mobile classrooms and even changes in temperature affecting classroom projector fittings meant teachers were incessantly recalibrating the whiteboards.

Some schools invested in maintenance, paying for services such as our ‘Projector Refresh’ program. Others purchased replacement systems off the page, renewing performance but not upgrading functionality.

A concerningly high proportion of schools began to close the blinds and switch off the lights during teaching time, perhaps even using their investment as a dry wipe board. Many teachers felt they were letting both themselves and their pupils down.

Our vast experience with schools, specifically on the hundreds of Classroom Healthchecks we’ve carried out of the years, shows the latter is widespread. A school may incorporate Growth Mindset into its teaching yet fail to implement it into management of their technology – schools have come to accept mediocrity in how they present their teaching.

In 2012 though, a relatively expensive alternative for schools arrived – the interactive flat panel display – otherwise referred to as interactive touchscreen, touchscreen TV and others. Brighter, clearer, with lower running costs and so a return on investment, early adopter schools and new-build academies took the bait and immediately saw the benefits.

Adoption became more widespread and affordability improved, as did their specifications and capabilities. And we are now at a stage where around 40,000 classrooms have been upgraded and around half of schools have invested in at least one interactive touchscreen.

We are also at the point where a bewildering number of manufacturers are trying to access the market, yet alongside some new entrants, it is those original innovators who have retained their leadership.

Consider the modern classroom with a large, clear, bright all-in-one teaching tool as its hub, seamlessly facilitating collaboration. Teachers and pupils can interact with content, simultaneously write and draw, and connect mobile devices to mirror content and collaborate. Teachers can wirelessly share their lessons, easily access content, and download and use their favourite applications.

Teaching resources, learning through play, lesson building, formative and summative assessment abound – as a teacher, you can watch your pupils’ eyes light up and learn.

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Article published on Blog page at Elementary Technology

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