FutureFive New Zealand - Consumer technology news & reviews from the future
The evolution of the digital classroom: From OHPs to Smart's Kapp IQ
Mon, 21st Sep 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Smart Technologies has recognised a growing demand in New Zealand for collaboration tools well suited for the digital classroom, and is doing something about it.

Those who are interested in learning more about Smart can register to attend a demonstration and networking session on October 22. Click here for more information and to register now.

The 1980s saw a new age of learning techniques emerging in the classroom, with the focus on adapting the learning environment to suit visual, kinesthetic or audible learners.

The better the environment was adapted for these three types of learners, the more engaged the pupils were and the more learning outcomes were achieved.

These days, we've taken this a huge step further. As schools are redeveloped, new schools built and new teachers trained, the buzz is around student-led learning. This is very distinct from the traditional teacher-led classroom environment.

Driving this shift is technology, not just to replace a traditional tool like paper, but to create a truly immersive and collaborative experience - the promise of which is even higher levels of pupil engagement.

“There are so many kids who have been lost in the school system, [with] students having to conform to teacher-led learning.

“But now we have a new phase of student-led, collaborative learning," says Peter McApline, Smart Technologies ANZ country manager.

"Data shows when a student is 'doing' they will retain 70% of what they do, and if you're talking to them they'll retain 10%.

"So clearly, if you can get them working, collaborating, interacting, doing, the learning outcomes will be dramatically better," he says.

One of the specific technologies used to foster student-led, collaborative learning has been projection and interactive whiteboards.

These obviously started with the OHP (Over Head Projector) back in the 90s. Then came the interactive whiteboards (IWBs) that enabled print-outs or file saving of what was drawn on the board.

Next came the same interactive whiteboards, but this time combined with projectors. These, in turn, have been complemented by interactive projectors (IPs) that had the intelligence to track the pen built into the projector.

However, these had lots of disadvantages, including lack of accuracy, wobbles from just a door slamming, and the potential for the presenter to block out the image by moving in front of the image.

What is now available is the new breed of classroom tool: the Interactive Flat Panel (IFP). We recently got our hands on one from Smart.

Smart has been the leader in this interactive classroom category for nearly 20 years, and have nearly 50% market share in Australia and New Zealand.

The IFP is a huge, touch enabled TV that mounts on the wall of a classroom. You no longer need a projector and the marker pens never run out of ink.

You can choose a 55” or 65” model, and all classrooms can opt for the Kapp IQ option to be installed. Which they should, because this is where all the magic happens.

The first thing you'll notice is that the IFP is ready when you are - it senses your presence in the room and turns on immediately.

Gone are the 10 minutes of technology setup required before presenting or teaching a lesson.

The next part you'll notice is that everything you write or present on the screen can also be viewed on other devices, whether these devices are in the classroom or in another country entirely.

The other students simply have to download an app, or click on a web link shared by the teacher to access it via a device browser.

Students or other teachers can connect on on either iOS or Android and any device.

Teachers have the ability to share their lesson or presentation easily, using an email, QR code or text.

Those on other devices get to see both the presentation and the pen marks live as the teacher writes notes or highlights information, and they are able to interact themselves, adding their own comments and pen marks.

At any time, a snapshot can be taken of the work. Each snapshot is saved for any of the students to look back on or save to their device until the end of the session.

The IFPs are also primed for computer based tools, with teachers able to use the board to present interactive presentations and games.

This tool is called Smart Notebook and is available for either Windows or Mac OS X. It helps teachers create lesson presentations and even gamify these with a simple wizard interface.

This Notebook software comes with the clever Kapp IQ feature that schools should definitely buy with their Smart IFPs.

A teacher could create an awesome presentation involving graphics, characters, clip art and even games with rewards. Then, when in class, pupils could go to the front of the room and solve the puzzle interactively in front of their peers. You can imagine the engagement these tools could easily engender.

Smart forsee's each classroom having multiple of these IFPs mounted or on trolleys - at times paired together to show the same picture with multiple students interacting on them at once.

While these aren't inexpensive devices on their own, the benefits of greater engagement and, in turn, better learning outcomes are very clear for all to see.

To help with the cost, Smart provides what they call Seed pricing, where schools can get their first three units at a significant discount. Click here for more information.

It would be good to see more school boards and Ministry funding to upgrade our ageing classrooms with this sort of technology. With even toddlers using smartphones and tablets these days, its clear how this new generation natively wants to learn.

For more information on this topic, please click here.

*Thank you to Canon NZ, SMART Gold Partner, for providing the premises for this review.