Which interactive solution is right for my classroom?

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The concept of interactive learning in the classroom has been in existence since the first classroom was ever built. And, it’s for good reason. Hands-on learning has been proven to increase student engagement and give students a better understanding of the material being learned. This fact is one reason educators around the world work tirelessly to transform their classrooms in to interactive learning spaces.

Now, with the overabundance of technologies available to today’s teachers, it’s easier than ever to transform a classroom in to an interactive learning space. Choosing the right tool for the job, well. . . . that part can be a little more difficult.

Advanced Classroom Technologies has helped hundreds of school districts choose and implement interactive learning solutions. With over 20 years of experience transforming thousands of classrooms into interactive learning spaces, there is one thing we know for certain. And that is. . . there is no “one size fits all” solution.

This blog will examine some determining factors behind the choices that integrators and educators make when choosing between several different interactive technology solutions. The determining factors we’ll examine are: classroom size, student success, and of course, budget.

Before we go any further though, we need to set some ground rules by determining which technologies will constitute an interactive classroom solution. For the purposes of this discussion, our considerations will go to those tools that allow every student in the classroom to engage with learned material using sight, sound, and touch at the front of the classroom. The solution must also be flexible enough to function across all grade levels and capable of providing value in every subject through integrated software. Our set of choices with those qualifications will include Interactive Flat Panels, Interactive Projectors, Interactive Whiteboards and their alternatives.

Which interactive solution is best for my classroom size?

Interactive Projectors

Interactive Projectors

Educators must support the right visual environment to help students learn. Pedagogy aside, the focus should always be on visibility of learning materials for every student in the classroom. With that in mind, we’ll use the 4 times diagonal height rule for optimal visibility of a displayed image. The unwritten rule states that within a maximum distance of 4 times the diagonal height of a display, analytical viewing can be achieved. At any distance greater than 4 times the diagonal height, a student with 20/20 vision may have some difficulty differentiating between 20pt text. Simply put, larger classrooms sometimes require larger displays to make sure that those kids at the back of the class can see adequately.

When it comes to display size, Interactive Projectors take the gold. Some Interactive Projectors boast a 140” diagonal projection at maximum throw while others like the Boxlight MimioSpace offer an Ultra Wide 11 x 4 foot tall interactive area with 10 points of touch. This makes interactive projectors a great tool for teachers looking to transform larger sized classrooms in to interactive learning spaces.

Standard throw projectors can be mounted on ceilings to help conserve precious floor space. Short-throw projectors can be mounted just above a whiteboard and provide much brighter images while minimizing shadows. Both allow for flexibility of whiteboard use and are also considered a more budget conscious interactive solution when compared to the interactive flat panel.

Although they may provide the largest interactive display, interactive projectors are not without their drawbacks. For example, ambient light can drastically reduce overall brightness and clarity of a projected image regardless of projector type or mounting option. Keeping a classroom darker can help with clarity, but darker rooms make it more difficult for students to follow along with written material, take notes and even stay awake. Interactive projectors also require regular maintenance including cleaning, calibration and sometimes bulb replacement. Shadows can easily become a nuisance as anyone interacting with the display will be forced to work in their own shadow. Lastly, taller stationary displays (like those projected by mounted projectors) can sometimes put interactive capabilities literally out of reach for some teachers and students.

Interactive Projectors can be a great tool for larger classrooms but for classrooms of normal size, those with roughly 25-35 desks, the Interactive Panel (our silver medal winner in the category) is an even better option for viewability. Interactive Panels provide a much brighter backlit picture most often delivered in stunning 4k resolution. Interactive panels, currently offered in 65”, 70”, 75” and 86” models, can give students sitting up to 30 feet away the clearest most vibrant picture available. Interactive panels can also be surface mounted or placed on mobile carts allowing for even more versatility in positioning. Height adjustable mounts can also make the interactive panel more accessible to students of all sizes.

Which interactive solution is best for student success?

Interactive Flat Panels

Interactive Flat Panels

Student success may be hard to define. Key metrics like retention rates and graduation rates do not always reflect academic performance. Test scores and objective completion may qualify as education goals but because not all students learn the same way, those who can complete objectives in a timely manner are considered successful but every success is not measured through the aforementioned metrics.

A 2016 study focused on student skill development proved that group learning coupled with collaborative technology increased the student success rate by 3.4 times. Collaborative learning not only achieve more but it has also been proven to boost social-emotional skill development and enhance student communication skills. It’s no wonder collaborative spaces such as labs, workshops, and makerspaces are becoming more prominent in new school designs all over the world. Whole-class learning through collaboration and interactivity have become the new normal in modern classrooms and with that, the interactive learning solution a more prominent feature.

If collaboration and interactive learning are proven to increase student success, then the clear winner in this category is the Interactive Flat Panel. With panels offering up to 20 points of touch and some like the Smart Board 7000 Series offering Pen ID, the interactive flat panel gives multiple students the opportunity to collaborate, engage and differentiate themselves through digital content, all at the front of the classroom. Pair this with the ability to share content directly with and from student devices and it’s easy to see why the interactive flat panel can make such a big splash in an interactive learning space.

Which interactive solution is best for my budget?

Interactive Whiteboard Alternatives

Interactive Whiteboard Alternatives

Budget is undoubtedly one of the most important factors to consider when discussing potential classroom transformations and technology upgrades. The uncertainty of public funding, initiatives curbed through public policy, and the consideration of opportunity costs to not purchasing new equipment make the discussion even more difficult.

As technology integrators, our focus will remain on total costs instead of opportunity costs. Because technology is changing everyday, it is quickly becoming more capable and less expensive while at the same time becoming obsolete and therefore less cost effective. With that in mind, one of the most cost effective solutions we have found in transforming a classroom is the Boxlight MimioFrame. The MimioFrame kit can turn any existing whiteboard into an interactive whiteboard with the help of a projector and computer for a fraction of the cost of other interactive solutions. The frame is mounted to an existing whiteboard using double-sided adhesive and once connected to a computer and projector, can allow for 10 points of interactive touch through technology built into the frame.

It must be noted that the frame kit cannot function without a computer, projector and of course, a whiteboard. Each component purchased separately would place the framekit close to the same cost as an interactive flat panel, but for those classrooms already outfitted with a whiteboard, projector, and computer, the MimioFrame is one of the least expensive solutions for introducing interactivity into the classroom.

Extensive research over the past decade has proven that modern interactive tools are far more effective at improving the learning capabilities of students at all grade levels. There is no debate about the benefits that interactive technology brings to the classroom. At Advanced Classroom Technologies, we want to help educators prepare students for the future with the most effective technology tools possible. Our hope is that this blog might help educators get answers to questions that impede their decisions to implementing technology solutions. If you have questions or need help solving an edtech integration problem, feel free to reach to Advanced Classroom Technologies. We can provide a solution. solutions@act-ol.com