There was a time when the main form of displaying information in a classroom was either a blackboard or an overhead projector – even overhead projectors may have been few and far between because of financial strains on the school budget. In the 21st century the chalk and board have been left far behind and been replaced by technological systems which both mirror the devices and communication systems children use outside of school and act as a truly dynamic way of enhancing the learning environment.
Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) and the Flat Panel Display are becoming common in the everyday classroom and are easily funded through astute leasing in education. Now reports are suggesting that the more expensive and more technologically advanced option, Flat Panel displays, are becoming more popular – in fact sales are now beginning to out run IWBs.
So first of all how do these two options differ? How are each used in the school classroom?
The title is a little bit of a misnomer as they are not based on the traditional idea of a white surface which can continuously be wiped clean to advance or renew presentations. An IWB comprises two elements: a laptop, tablet or computer and an overhead projector. The images on the computer device are projected onto the projector screen for instructional purposes and to allow pupils to interact with the images. The teacher, or the pupils, can use their hands to manipulate the images on the screen.
Although IWBs have become very common in school classrooms it is still clear they are not being used to their full potential. Teachers tend to use them to show, rather than to interact. In short they can be used to:
- Add notes and drawings and then save them to be printed out and shared, or added to a virtual learning environment
- Add annotations
- Highlight text
- Show pictures and educational videos to the whole class. The teacher or the pupils can label parts or highlight elements of an image
- Demonstrate the content available on a website in a teacher-directed activity
IWBs can be a great saving on overall school equipment and also enhance the learning environment. One computer device can create a powerful interactive learning tool for the whole class as opposed to each pupil working from their own device. In the same way, the class is brought together to learn and interact together.
Flat Panel Displays
A Flat Panel Display is slightly more advanced than the IWB as is it takes away the need for a projector. The computer display panel is central to the classroom and is manipulated by touch by both the teacher and pupils. Magnetic stylus can be used to allow pupils to interact smoothly, instantly and by using a variety of multi-touch gestures. Speakers are built in, so sound is focussed totally on the display itself.
Statistics show Flat Panel Displays more popular
Computer technology within the classroom continues to rise with the market value for interactive display up by 19%. This is even taking into consideration the fact that there is also an increased demand for PCs and tablets. From recent surveys it seems clear that Flat Panel Displays are becoming more popular in the classroom. Traditionally more expensive than the IWB, alternative new sellers are entering the marketplace who, in offering branded solutions from the Far East, can also reduce overall cost.
The other factor in the increased take up of Flat Panel Displays in classrooms apart from their ease of use and advanced technology (see below) is we are entering a time when the replacement market is significant. School budget holders are able to look at integrating them into the annual budget because of reduced cost and because of highly effective leasing agreements which take into account maintenance and computer upgrades.
Benefits of Flat Panel Display systems
- Installing and using the Flat Panel Display is much simpler than using the IWB where there are two systems (the computer device and the overhead projector). There is one on/off switch, one remote and one cable to link to the internet. There is no hassle of dealing with individual consumables like bulbs and filters.
- Speakers are inbuilt so sound resonates from the images from the screen. There is no need for separate speakers which call for further outlay and maintenance.
- Because the effect is like having one giant iPad in the classroom it is more akin to the devices children will meet every day and in itself is a learning experience.
- The interactivity is enriched as the teacher is able to use other apps to great affect, available on the computer device interface.
- The screen will appear the same at whichever angle it is viewed in the classroom. A significant issue with the IWB is the fact that colours often look washed out and shadows can interfere with the display.