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Smart classrooms for engaged 21st century learning

In recent years, the positioning of Smart technology in the classroom has quietly shifted from a novelty to a necessity. As learning becomes increasingly digitalised, loosely tethered to its advancement outside of schools, more students, especially in independent schools, are accessing 1:1 laptop programs.

Elsewhere, as teachers gain confidence through tech-related PD and in-school training, BYOD culture has taken hold in earnest.  In the ACT, every student will receive a Chromebook, in a program to roll out over the next few years, while, in other states, government directives continue to urge teachers to incorporate 21st century teaching methods into their pedagogy. 

School News spoke with Epson’s Nathan Fulcher about the role of technology, particularly Smart technology, in the classroom.

Industry view

He began, “the use of Smart tech in the classroom facilitates the development of students’ proficiency in using technology to synthesise and report information”. 

“Any technology aid in the classroom has the potential of enhancing the delivery and pace of the classroom session.” With the volume of curriculum today’s teachers are wading through, anything that streamlines delivery and enhances the pace could be seen as a plus. 

“With this objective, Epson has created solutions that lay down learning pathways for achieving ‘digital literacy’ in students, before they face the complexities of an increasingly digital world as adults,” Mr Fulcher noted. 

With school uptake of BYOD technology on the increase, Mr Fulcher says it’s vital that interactive projectors allow the teacher to connect to a variety of devices, including Windows®, Mac®, iOS® or Android devices.

“It’s important that this technology allows multiple displays on a number of device screens simultaneously, so as to accommodate all students around the classroom.”

He says projectors have come a long away: “Interactive functionality is also available without a PC connection, so drawing on the projected screen is now possible when connected to other devices, such as visualisers or DVD players.”

Mr Fulcher explained that developing solutions for teachers means focussing on what sort of functionality is required in the classroom, to support the performance of both teachers and students.

“Functionalities like allowing for two people to write simultaneously on the interactive area – using the two interactive pens – is key for the collaborative culture that is emerging in high-functioning schools.”

“Another exciting development is the finger touch interactivity, which means no pens are required and greater spontaneity is facilitated,” Mr Fulcher added.

“Certain models now allow teachers to operate intuitively using their fingers on the screen –  now you can annotate, open and close files, scroll through pages, move and enlarge objects.”

“With the finger touch interactive models, multiple users can annotate on the interactive area using a combination of two pens and up to six fingers at the same time! Perfect for classroom collaboration.”

With flexible learning areas on the up, Mr Fulcher says interactive functionality without a PC connection allows for free movement around the school: “Drawing on the projected screen is now possible when connected to other devices. such as visualisers or DVD players. Even when there is no input source, you can annotate on the screen like a whiteboard.”

He says innovation in Smart tech is all about enriching learning, while making life easier for educators: “features like on-screen operation, allowing teachers to perform operation functions on screen means there’s no need to look for the remote control when the projector can be easily operated directly from the screen!”

He noted that using wireless projection and interactivity software, with a networked interactive projector, has emancipated teachers from restrictive and confining cables.

“Educators can wirelessly display and interact with content as they move about the classroom with their laptop, experiencing a whole new level of interactive freedom.”

He said, “education solutions have proliferated in recent years, and teachers really can expect Smart technology to challenge the parameters of what’s possible in class”.

According to Mr Fulcher, advanced network connectivity and management capabilities can allow educators to present A/V content over the LAN, or to annotate on network content using instant annotation tools.

He says the technology exists for teachers to display, annotate, and control content from their iOS® or Android mobile devices with a free ‘iProjection’ app and the optional wireless card.

“Teachers can walk around the class and still share engaging content,” he advised, saying that while he understood teachers found the new developments daunting at times, developers have been working on ensuring operation is straightforward and interfaces are intuitive.

Mr Fulcher says Smart technology is bringing people together in an education setting, by enhancing engagement due to the multi-channel input and output capabilities that will inevitably replace the ‘teacher-talks-while-students-listen’ model of instruction.

Another key application of Smart technology in student engagement is in its entertainment value. “I think a major benefit of having Smart technology in the classroom is that they allow students to play!” Mr Fulcher noted – and the utter saturation of the educational app market shows he’s not alone.


Suzy Barry

Suzy Barry is a freelance education writer and the former editor of School News, Australia.

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