students working at a Procolor Display

A Guide to Educational Technology in the Classroom

This guide can help schools overcome some of the hurdles they face when choosing and implementing an interactive solution. In this resource, we outline the key factors to consider for selecting the right front-of-classroom and whole-classroom technology for your schools. We include the pros and cons of each interactive solution, an overview of interactive area to cost, and resources for lessons, training, and more.

Whole-Class Solutions: Valuable Tools for Learning

As educators and schools strive to find ways to better engage students and motivate learning, they are recognizing that using interactive educational technology in the classroom is key. But the search for the right interactive solution—one that offers clear images, touch technology, collaborative abilities, and seamless integration—can be daunting. Questions to consider include:

  • What does the technical jargon mean?
  • What are the best ways to use the technology?
  • How do you decide between one technology and another?
  • Where does technology for student collaboration and small group work fit in, and how does it complement or even drive the choice of the front-of-classroom technology?
  • How do you make sure that whatever gets purchased is used well so the benefits it offers can be realized?
  • Will teachers adopt and adapt?
  • How much, if any, professional development will it involve?
  • And can the school’s already strapped budget accommodate the right purchase?

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Table of Contents

Section 1: Top 8 Factors to Consider Before Buying Classroom Technology

TOP 8 FACTORS
to Consider Before Buying Classroom Technology

#1 “What Do I Buy?” vs. “Why Should I Buy?”

Educator unsure what type of educational technology to purchase for school.

Planning for many 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 technology, including interactive flat panel displays, touch projectors, and student handheld devices such as iPads, Chromebooks, and Android tablets.

#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. There are some key questions you need to consider for front-of-classroom technology. Is it intended as a passive display like an old-fashioned movie screen, or an interactive one? Will the students be able to come to the front of the room to interact with the instructional material and collaborate with one another? Is an interactive front-of-classroom solution being considered because it is new and exciting (two of the worst possible reasons), or because it can fulfill an important instructional purpose?

If the 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 primary 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. Numerous websites provide guidance for choosing the screen size for a residential flat screen TV. A common recommendation says home viewers should sit between 7 and 12 ft. (2 and 4 m) away from a 65 in. (1,651 mm) TV, and between 10.5 and 18 ft. (3.5 and 6 m) away from an 84 in. (2,133.6 mm) unit.

However, these recommendations are for showing movies and TV shows at home, where the lights are usually dimmed. 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.

Quote 1

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.

That usually translates to 3X the diagonal screen size. A 65 in. display can thus serve students as far away as 16.25 ft. (5.0 m), while an 84 in. display can serve students as far away as 21 ft. (6.5 m). Considering that the average US classroom is around 600 square feet, the last row of desks could easily be 21 ft. from the front wall—which means a 65 in. image is too small for text readability and an 84 in. image is the minimum.

graphic showing the equation for buying the correct flat panel display.

With this simple equation in mind, look at a classroom’s size and seating arrangements to determine which screen size will make for the best viewing in that room. 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. Further Reading: Finding the Right Interactive Solution and Size for Your Budget. This includes a free downloadable infographic to use as a guide to find your perfect screen size. Go get it >>

#4 Touch Your Flat Panel Display

Picture quality, resolution, image size, audio quality, the right selection of audio and video inputs and outputs—these are all important when choosing a flat panel display for a classroom. But there are additional considerations to keep in mind.

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?

Collaboration is a 21st century skill that teachers can implement using touch displays. How can you include opportunities for collaboration in the classroom? Further Reading: Learn How to Rock Collaboration in the Classroom! Read now >> 

gestures used on a flat panel display

Another potentially valuable consideration is whether the device can differentiate between touch and pen. The ability to track off the surface has occasionally been touted, though actual experience suggests that capability sounds better on paper than in actual use.

#5 Engaging Educational Software & Apps

multiple devices used in the classroom

At the end of the day, what are you using these front-of-classroom displays for? Teaching! That’s why you want to make sure the software that comes with it gives you the ability to do a lot more than just create a slide show. You want to select software that can actually enable and engage learning—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.

You need solutions that include effective and engaging software and apps. Solutions that allow learning to happen from the front-of-the-room display and whole-class learning that can either be teacher- or student-led, such as:

  • Several students working together at the front of the classroom to highlight a key concept.
  • Formal and informal assessment on mobile devices to determine which type of learning should come next.
  • Team or small group learning to work collaboratively to expand or review the whole-class concept.

It’s about choosing a system that makes it easy for your teachers to incorporate technology to improve learning and help build the essential skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

The software and applications need to work with the lessons and content you have so you can still leverage those resources, whether it be PowerPoint or other IWB files. 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!

#6 Accessibility in the Classroom

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.

 

Another aspect of classroom accessibility is text size. A high-definition display supports zooming in to increase the visual size of the image for those who have difficulty seeing or reading. That same zoom capability can increase the image size of on-screen manipulative content to help those with dexterity issues.

 

Finally, consider physical access. Many interactive flat panel displays are mounted at a fixed height on the wall. Wall mounts with adjustable heights and elevated floor stands are a convenient way to make the position adjustable for small children or people who use wheelchairs.

#7 Teacher Training & Additional Resources

Imagine sending one of your students out to drive without having taken a driver’s ed course. Or, letting them go into the pool without swimming lessons. Well, dropping a collection of classroom technology—whether personal technology for the students or front-of-classroom technology for the teacher—without training is just as unwise.

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 training webinars and on-demand video tutorials.

Resources can be much more than training—they can include online communities and lesson resources. These rich online libraries of free lessons available from educator communities can help teachers hit the ground running and serve as a gathering place for sharing resources and best practices with peers. Many education-focused technology companies have these additional benefits.

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.

Which Interactive Solution Is Right for My School?

Which Interactive Solution Is Right for My School?

Whole-class learning is a key aspect of the modern classroom. It’s a terrific tool for introducing new concepts to the entire class, or for reviewing material that most of the students found difficult. Many students grasp new ideas more quickly through whole-class instruction—especially if the material is interactive and engaging. It’s a great first step in the learning process before collaboration or team learning begins.

Interactive technologies offer an effective, engaging, and easy way to provide teacher-led instruction. Whole-class tools are designed to put students at the center of the educational environment so they’re more engaged, more collaborative, and more motivated.

multiple classroom configurations diagram

Whole-Class Tools Guide

There’s a wide array of choices when it comes to whole-class technology: portable IWBs, interactive projectors (standard and laser), touch boards, and flat panel displays. Some of the most important considerations are what will work for your classroom configurations and for the teaching and learning styles of your educators and students.

Kim Taylor
Principal

Our portable interactive whiteboard makes learning much more student-centered and, by its very design, it’s giving our teachers a host of engaging features and so many different ways to collaborate. It’s not about replacing the conventional tools my teachers currently use, but rather adding a new dimension of engagement.

Kim Taylor, Principal
Charlotte Dunning Elementary School, Framingham, MA

Interactive Flat Panels

Interactive flat panels offer the brilliance of HD and 4K UHD, which can really bring video and imagery to life. And with touch features, it’s so easy to just walk up and start using the display. What’s more, these displays can enable up to 10 users to work at the display at the same time.

Interactive Flat Panel graphic

Stats
Interactive Area: 65–86 in.
Simultaneous Users: 2–10
Image: UHD
Interactivity: Styli or finger-based

Pros:

Engaging Visuals With Collaboration: Nothing dazzles like a 4K display. They can bring lessons to life in UHD while allowing up to several students to collaborate at the front of the room on a responsive touch screen, providing a highly engaging and intuitive medium for them to work together on. The multi-touch functionality allows up to 10 students or five dual-touch users to work together, encouraging collaboration.
Sound System: Built-in features make setup easy and simple. Most displays include built-in speakers, so sound is ready to go.
Built-In Apps and Hardware: Displays can be selected with options for a built-in PC, Android system, or whiteboard software. This allows educators to easily access valuable resources such as Google Classroom, or even eliminate the need for an additional classroom computer.
Ease of Setup: Displays are simple, and many people find display installation very easy. Mount a display, connect it to the teacher’s computer, plug it in, and you are ready to go.
Flexibility: With various add-ons such as mounts and carts, you can make displays even more functional. They can be moved from room to room with wheeled carts, angled flat as an interactive table, or become more accessible to students with varying abilities and heights.

Cons:

Budget: For displays to be seen from beyond the front row, they need to be on the large side. If your budget isn’t as large as your classroom, you may have to select a smaller model that will not be as visible or effective.
Portability
2
Collaboration
10
Ease of Setup
8
Erasability    0
Touch
10
HD Imagery
10
Affordability
4

Interactive Projectors

Interactive projectors have the advantage of creating a very large interactive space more affordably than flat panel displays. With these projectors, you can create interactive areas as large as 140 inches—consider what you can do with a space that size! Projectors now come in a wide range of models: touch-based or pen-based, bulb or laser (no bulbs to change, ever!). Many of the touch models allow up to 10 students to work together on the same projected activity.

Interactive Projector graphic

Stats
Interactive Area: 85–115 in.
Simultaneous Users: 2–10
Image: XGA, DLP, LCD
Interactivity: Styli or finger-based

For more in-depth information on laser vs. bulbs, click the button below to read our blog article!

READ NOW

Pros:

High-Resolution Images on a Budget: Projectors are able to create beautiful, bright, clear images that will rival almost any HD display. Getting an HD display with an interactive area ranging from 104–115 inches just wouldn’t be possible on a comparable budget.
Touch-Enabled Interactivity: Today’s projectors are available as finger or stylus controlled. In addition, they can allow up to 10 students working together at the front of the classroom, giving you the same opportunities for collaborative and whole-class learning.
Large-Scale Collaborative Areas: This is where projectors offer a unique value—they can create an interactive area as large as 115 inches. Most displays allow six to 10 students to work together, but if the area is small, it isn’t realistic. Projectors allow for large-scale collaborative areas where students and teachers can actually work together. If this is the type of learning that you favor in your classrooms, then a projector might be a good alternative to a flat panel display.

Cons:

Flat Surface Issues: For touch-enabled projectors to work at their optimal level, they need a flat surface. Improper alignment or a whiteboard that is not flat will significantly degrade the performance of the touch tracking system.
Installation Can Be More Involved: Projector installation requires calculating the distance from the whiteboard, and running wires through the ceiling or wall can often be more challenging. Most interactive projector companies offer distance calculators to make this easier.
Ambient Light: If your school has classrooms with lots of natural light and limited shades, then a projector may not be your best option.
Portability
2*
Collaboration
10
Ease of Setup
7
Erasability
10
Touch    0
HD Imagery
10
Affordability
8

* There are a select few interactive projectors that can be moved on a cart and used interactively.

Travis Rink
Science Teacher

My interactive projector allows me to have a huge collaborative space for my students— and I still have my whiteboard.

Travis Rink, Science Teacher

Interactive Touch Boards

Interactive touch boards give classrooms the erasable surface of a whiteboard along with the power of touch, making it a great choice for budgets that can’t afford an HD touch display.

Pen-and-finger capability gives students multiple ways to work with the lesson content for a more engaging, hands-on experience. The steel surface supports magnets when used with dry erase, so teachers still have their whiteboard. In addition, several students can work together, providing a collaborative learning solution.

Interactive Touch Board graphic

Stats
Interactive Area: 78–87 in.
Simultaneous Users: 6
Surface: Magnetic projection-optimized steel
Interactivity: Styli or finger-based

Pros:

Collaboration: The multi-point touch allows several students to work together, engaging students in collaborative learning.
Flexibility: The erasable surface allows teachers to use this solution as both a conventional whiteboard and a touch board, maximizing classroom space.
Affordability: The cost is lower than purchasing an interactive flat panel, so for some schools—especially if you already have projectors—this solution allows you to bring collaborative touch to your classrooms for less.

Cons:

Projector Required: The touch board requires a non-interactive projector, so you need to either already have one in the classroom or purchase one at the same time.
Portability    0
Collaboration
10
Ease of Setup
8
Erasability
10
Touch
10
HD Imagery    0
Affordability
6
Jen Maher
Computer Teacher

Knowing that up to six students can work independently and collaboratively on this board is incredible! The learning potential exceeds any other technology I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

Jen Maher
Computer Teacher, St. Patrick’s Elkhorn

Touch Board Kits

Interactive touch boards kits allow you to use your existing classroom whiteboard, projector, and computer to create a multi-user touch board in under 15 minutes. The frame installs directly onto a dry erase board using industrial strength tape—no drilling, no mess, and no losing valuable whiteboard space.

Pen-and-finger capability gives students multiple ways to work with the lesson content for a more engaging, hands-on experience. These kits make touch interactivity an affordable solution, and the lightweight kit means 75% less shipping costs than a standard touch board. In addition, several students can work together, providing a collaborative learning solution.

Touch Board Kits graphic

Stats
Interactive Area: 84.5 in.
Simultaneous Users: 10
Surface: Current whiteboard
Interactivity: Styli or finger-based

Pros:

Collaboration: The multi-point touch allows several students to work together, engaging students in collaborative learning.
Flexibility: The erasable surface allows teachers to use this solution as both a conventional whiteboard and a touch board, maximizing classroom space.
Affordability: The cost is lower than purchasing an interactive flat panel, so for some schools—especially if you already have projectors—this solution allows you to bring collaborative touch to your classrooms for less.
Low Shipping Costs: The lightweight kit design allows for easy installation and 75% less shipping costs than a standard touch board.

Cons:

Projector Required: The touch board requires a non-interactive projector, so you need to either already have one in the classroom or purchase one at the same time.
Portability    0
Collaboration
10
Ease of Setup
8
Erasability
10
Touch
10
HD Imagery    0
Affordability
8
Andy Numa
Technologist

I was impressed with the ease of installation of the MimioFrame. It is compact, lightweight, and once properly calibrated, it turns a regular whiteboard into a fully functional interactive solution. School districts looking to upgrade their existing classrooms already equipped with a projector should definitely consider using it.

Andy Numa
Technologist, Automated Systems Consulting

Ultra-Wide Touch Solutions

This collaborative system consists of a touch board, ultra-wide laser projector, and classroom software, allowing you to have an interactive and collaborative area that’s almost 11 ft wide and over 4 ft tall.

This solution gives you one of the largest work areas with clear, brilliant laser-projected images. In addition, you have 32-touch point interactivity, which means unlimited options for collaborative learning at the front of the classroom.

Ultra Wide Touch Solution graphic

Stats
Interactive Area: 135 in.
Simultaneous Users: 32
Surface: Touch board with laser projection
Interactivity: Styli or finger-based

Pros:

Collaboration: The multi-point touch allows several students to work together, engaging students in collaborative learning.
Flexibility: The erasable surface allows teachers to use this solution as both a conventional whiteboard and a touch board, maximizing classroom space.
Complete Solution: The built-in PC means that the system can run on its own without an additional computer. You are getting a complete interactive solution in one product.

Cons:

Budget: For this all-inclusive solution with collaborative space for up to 32 students, you will pay a premium. However, you should keep in mind just how much you get for that one price: an ultra-wide touch board (which can still be used as a whiteboard), laser projector, mini-PC, and engaging classroom software for lesson creation, collaboration, and assessment.
Portability    0
Collaboration
10
Ease of Setup
8
Erasability
10
Touch
10
HD Imagery    0
Affordability
7
Amy French

Every school and teacher has different needs, and the MimioSpace collaborative solution helps me meet my classroom needs. This tool enables me to create an ultra-wide learning environment where I can prepare students—not just for the next level of education, but for lifelong success.

Amy French
Dwyer Middle School

Webinar: Redesigning Learning Spaces

On-Demand Webinar: Redesigning Learning Spaces

For decades, classrooms have essentially looked the same. Because we know that our learners have changed and what they need to learn has changed, our classroom environments must also change—but how? In this webinar, we take a look at different styles of learning environments, the “why” behind reimagining what a classroom can look like, how classroom design can foster (or hinder) learning, and share ideas of examples for how to fully engage students in 21st century learning.

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Portable Interactive Whiteboard

Portable IWBs, like the MimioTeach™ interactive whiteboard, allow you to use the projectors and whiteboards you already have to create an interactive space. Portable IWBs allow you to easily create another interactive learning area on any flat surface. The low implementation cost makes it possible to outfit more classrooms with this interactive technology.

Portable Interactive Whiteboard graphic

Stats
Interactive Area (Based on Projector): 96-112.8 in.
Simultaneous Users: 1
Image: Not applicable
Interactivity: Styli

Pros:

Affordability: Allows schools to transform the projectors and whiteboards they already own into interactive whiteboards. This portable solution typically allows schools to outfit three classrooms with interactive technology versus one standard IWB.
Portability: This flexible solution can be moved from one classroom to the next quite easily—the interactive bar is just over a foot tall and weighs less than a pound. This tool allows teachers to share resources, maximizing school budgets.
Ease of Setup: These devices are designed to work with your current projector and classroom computer, so after a simple calibration process, you have an interactive solution that’s ready to go in less than a minute.
Low Shipping Costs: The box is smaller than a loaf of bread, greatly reducing shipping costs compared to a standard IWB.

Cons:

Single User: These devices typically only allow one student or teacher to use at a time.
Projector Required: Its strength is also a con for some schools. If you don’t already have rooms equipped with projectors or the budget to add on an affordable projector, this might not be the solution for you.
Portability
10
Collaboration
4
Ease of Setup
10
Erasability
10
Touch    0
HD Imagery    0
Affordability
10
Jim LeMasters
Technology Instructor

It comes out of the box and just works. It’s a really versatile tool, and it captures the kids’ attention.

Jim LeMasters
Technology Instructor, Warsaw, IN

Interactive Projector Area Infographic

What Interactive Area Size Can I Get With My Budget?

You’ve seen the solutions and weighed the pros and cons, but what does it really mean when it comes down to what you can afford with your budget? Do you need a smaller interactive area or image because of your classroom size? Can you equip multiple rooms? This graphic representation gives you a more clear idea of the image size in relation to your dollar. Always keep in mind the size that is needed in order for students to clearly see the lesson—including fonts, web pages, and graphics. Large classrooms truly need bigger image areas to ensure that details and learning opportunities are not lost. In addition, if you want several students working simultaneously at the front of the room, you will need the space for them to accomplish that without it becoming a game of Twister.

Check out our infographic so you can select what will work best for your classrooms, teachers, and students.

Learn More

How Am I Going to Pay for All of This?

Boxlight has created five downloadable Funding Guides. Each guide focuses on a single fund and explains specifically how Boxlight technology or software qualifies for that fund. Download the guide that’s right for your needs.

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Whole-Class Solutions: Valuable Tools for Learning

No matter what you are teaching with—an interactive flat panel display, a conventional whiteboard, or a simple piece of paper—these tools all share one purpose: to educate.

While traditional tools can capably communicate knowledge and ideas, the interactive solutions more easily engage today’s students and create countless opportunities for exciting collaborative learning. This technology connects with our students in ways they are now accustomed to, and helps them be better students today and better prepared for tomorrow. The collaborative nature of the devices encourages students to work together interactively and seamlessly with other technology in the classroom, and builds essential skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. These skills will make them successful both in the classroom today and in the real world that lies ahead.

For more information about educational technology, take a look at our Five Change-Makers Shaping the Education Space blog article, which details five innovative influencers making change to shape education for the future.

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