By Stevan Vigneaux
The search for the new interactive classroom technology can be incredibly daunting. How do you know what’s right for your school? How do you differentiate between the various solutions available? Will it be simple for both teachers and students to use? And how do you find the best solution to fit your budget?
Here are the top 8 factors you should consider before purchasing new interactive tools for your school:
1. “What Do I Buy?” vs. “Why Should I Buy?”
Planning for new technologies often seems to start with asking, “How many should we buy and which brand?” But it’s usually better to begin by asking, “Why are we thinking about buying these?” and “Are we buying tools to help the teacher do an even better job, or are we focused on tools to equip the students with new skills?” A well-considered purpose can provide strong guidance for subsequent decisions about choosing, implementing, and adopting any new technology.
2. Choose Your Front-of-Classroom Displays Wisely
Classroom technology has been focused on the front of the classroom since the first blackboards were installed. The teacher remains the center of the classroom—even in highly collaborative learning environments.
If your primary purpose is to show videos, a smaller screen size is more practical—perhaps even a non-interactive projector or display. If showing text-heavy images such as web pages and slides is the intended use, then a larger display with single-user interactivity might suffice.
If the goal is to have one or more students interacting collaboratively and simultaneously with instructional content on the display, then a large screen size—coupled with very flexible touch interactivity—is your best option.
3. Display Size Matters
Once the basic technology package has been selected, the size of the display is the next crucial decision. Classroom applications almost always involve showing text—and doing so in rooms bathed in bright sunlight or the glow of fluorescent lighting.
When it comes to keeping students engaged from almost any area of the classroom, display size matters. Larger screens allow for greater visibility and readability, ensuring that every student is getting the most out of the content displayed on screen.
Educators should choose a screen size large enough that 20-point type can be easily read from the farthest point away from the display in the classroom, and the display must be high resolution—at least WXGA.
There’s no need to buy a display bigger than what’s needed for every student to clearly view the material. And the inverse is also true: You don’t want to bring in an HD display with a screen size that leaves the students in the back squinting to read the lesson at the front of the room.
Picture quality, resolution, image size, audio quality, the right selection of audio and video inputs and outputs—these are all important considerations in choosing a flat panel display for a classroom. But there are additional considerations when choosing an interactive flat panel display. These three are key:
- How many simultaneous single-touch students can it accommodate?
- How many simultaneous gesture or dual-touch students can it accommodate?
- How many simultaneous single or dual-touch students can it accommodate in the same horizontal plane?
5. Engaging Software & Apps
At the end of the day, what are you using these front-of-classroom displays for? Teaching! That’s why you need solutions that include effective and engaging software and apps. Look for software that offers interactivity both at the front of the classroom and on individual student devices. The software also needs to provide collaboration opportunities, assessment tools, and integrate with mobile learning. Download a trial or free version if you can and have teachers test compatibility and ease of use—this will allow educators to see for themselves what works and what doesn’t!
Interactive front-of-classroom displays can help make classroom content more available to students who would otherwise have trouble accessing it. They can help address language/hearing problems, vision problems, height limitations, and other physical challenges.
7. Training & Additional Resources
Research the different options for training that the solution provider offers. Is it just a user guide in the box, or do they offer training that teaches not just the technologist how to set up the hardware, but also educators, giving teachers the ability to integrate the hardware into their curriculum in engaging and effective ways.
After the initial implementation, your staff will need to be engaged with training tools and useful tips. Many interactive solution providers or their partners offer no-cost training options, including webinars and on-demand video tutorials. Some hardware providers offer nothing post sale, so you want to make sure you choose someone who can support your schools beyond the purchase.
8. A True Partner
Most of the time, you are purchasing your technology through an education technology reseller or partner, and choosing the right one can make all the difference. Partners can give you in-depth knowledge and understanding of various solutions and how they will best work with your current technology and curriculum goals. They can also help you plan, implement, and train on these new technologies. Choosing a true partner who understands your goals and unique challenges will put you in the right step for tech success.
Interactive technology is essential for helping our students succeed—both in the classroom today and in the real world after graduation. The collaborative nature of these tools encourages students to work together and builds essential skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.
Stevan Vigneaux is director of product management for Boxlight Mimio. This information was originally published on the Mimio blog, https://blog.mimio.com.