Months-long research project highlights the growing role of projection in post-pandemic classrooms
What will classroom technology look like as we fully emerge from the pandemic?
Based on insights from an exhaustive, eight-month study completed in April by Epson, front-of-classroom technology will continue to be crucial, but there’s room for improvement in what manufacturers offer and how it is implemented.
The research included interviews of teachers, curriculum designers, principals, consultants, space designers, and other thought leaders at levels K-12, plus focus groups to show teachers new product concepts and ask for their feedback.
The findings informed what we showed at ISTELive 22 in June, the conference for the International Society for Technology in Education.
Among the findings:
1. Interactive displays are more popular than ever.
“Throughout our interviews, we heard time and again that teachers love their whiteboards,” says Remi Del Mar, Senior Product Manager for K-12 Projectors, Epson America. “They don’t like the idea of giving them up for any reason, even to make room for other technology.”
That said, “You have all this different content that you want to show from student devices, teacher devices, websites and video, and you want to add your own notes as well.”
This may explain why we saw dramatic increases in the sales of our BrightLink® interactive displays in 2020 and 2021. “It may be that these increases were inflated by the funding schools received during the pandemic, but certainly it indicates a growing interest in combining a traditional whiteboard with the ability to project digital materials,” Del Mar explains.
In response, we put the BrightLink front and center at ISTE, and we have continued to add capabilities. “The BrightLink has become a massive tablet, offering touch-screen control of an instructor’s computer as well as serving as a display.” Del Mar says.
Still, the research findings show that educators want even more.
2. Wireless student connectivity is crucial.
“While 1:1 devices are the big new thing in many schools, students aren’t just learning independently,” Del Mar explains. “They’re learning as a group and, within that group, learning from one another. Educators want technology that can support that kind of interaction.”
The missing piece, she says, is wireless connectivity from student devices to the classroom display. It’s true that screen sharing has been around a while, but the research shows that administrators worry about having to add expensive new systems, while teachers want to be sure they retain control over their classrooms and the classroom display.”
In response, we showed our Epson GoBoard™ wireless collaboration software at ISTE. GoBoard allows teachers and students to share and annotate content from Chromebook™, Windows®, iOS®, or Android™ devices to the BrightLink, while working in concert with popular video communication tools, such as Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, so students at home can easily follow along.1
GoBoard includes a Teacher Console that keeps teachers firmly in control. From their own devices or from the BrightLink, they can connect to up to 35 student devices, accept files from them, share student screen to the BrightLink display, and annotate those screens. And without leaving the GoBoard platform, teachers can access lesson plans, cloud-based storage, and video communication tools.
“GoBoard really kicks screen sharing up a notch,” Del Mar says. “And the nice thing is, you don’t have to buy any new hardware to use it.”
3. Immersive displays and gamification are sparking interest.
As popular as the BrightLink and GoBoard were at the Epson booth at ISTE, the thing that drew the most attention was a wall-sized immersive display showing game-based learning applications from Lü Interactive.
In this setup, attendees could learn math or hygiene skills via multi-player games where they used their whole bodies to compete.
“One big concern we saw was the amount of time kids spend in front of screens,” Del Mar explains. “Teachers, administrators and thought leaders all expressed a concern that, with the proliferation of 1:1 devices, kids are that much more likely to spend too many hours in front of a device.
“There is a notion that kids need to get up and be active, outdoors if possible, but indoors as well. This kind of technology allows them to play games and socialize with other kids while they are in school learning. And it’s based on evidence that the more of your senses you can engage in a learning activity, the more likely you are to remember what you learned.”
It’s part of a trend, Del Mar adds, toward more immersive experiences in theater, art, and entertainment. “Just think of the immersive Van Gogh and Picasso exhibits, which more than five million people have seen. As projectors become lighter, brighter, and less expensive, you have the ability to create these huge images and use them in some remarkably effective ways.”
4. Better technology training is needed.
There’s nothing new about training teachers in the use of technology, but the Epson research revealed a strong desire for more.
“As with many things, people, teachers included, have widely different aptitudes in learning about technology,” Del Mar explains. “Our interviews revealed a fairly high level of frustration, not just with the process of learning how to use new devices, but with how to apply them effectively in the classroom.”
In response, we have teamed with training developer Eduscape to create a series of online courses called the BrightLink Academy, which can be offered onsite at the school or district, virtually or on an individual basis through elearning. We showed some of this new material at ISTE and it was warmly welcomed, she says.
Eduscape offers five learning packs with a total of 12 courses on using BrightLink and GoBoard technology on its own and with the Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and SMART Lumio, plus seven additional courses on driving engagement, meeting the needs of diverse learners, teaching reading skills, supporting social-emotional growth, teaching in early childhood classrooms, and other crucial topics using interactive technology.
“These courses are teaching teachers and instructional coaches not only how to use our products, but how to create engaging learning experiences using interactive technology,” Del Mar says.
5. Projection will continue to be relevant.
A final insight from the Epson research is that projectors are likely to stay relevant for many, many years, Del Mar says.
“It’s simple. The amount of content we see on web pages, video communication apps, even PowerPoint screens has continued to grow, and that makes the readability of the classroom display a big concern,” she explains. “A large canvas is very helpful.”
We now offer our BrightLink interactive display in sizes up to 130” diagonal. Our classroom laser projectors, with brightness up to 7,000 lumens, can easily handle screens of 400” – 500”.2
The research showed that teachers and administrators also appreciate Epson laser technology. “Laser projectors are appealing for their simplicity, longevity, consistency, and fast startup,” Del Mar explains.
In short, while classrooms have become decentralized, group instruction, and the technology to support it, remains crucial.
Fortunately, Epson is continuing to learn and to innovate.
1For wireless functionality, including via the Epson iProjection™ App, the projector must be configured on a network, either through the Ethernet port on the projector (check model specifications for availability) or via a wireless connection. Check your owner’s manual to determine if a wireless LAN module must be purchased separately to enable a wireless connection. Not all Epson projectors are able to be networked. The Epson iProjection App does not support all files and formats. See www.epson.com for details.
2Brightness will vary depending on usage conditions. Color light output measured in accordance with IDMS 15.4; white light output measured in accordance with ISO 21118.