If you’re going to implement technology to truly improve learning, consider these points.

GUEST COLUMN | by YT Liang

As classroom technology continues to advance and new approaches to learning increase interaction between teacher and student, more educators are taking advantage of innovations that improve teaching effectiveness, learning outcomes, and even extend the reach of institutional resources.

But with new technology, comes new challenges. Solutions must be flexible enough to fit a wide range of teaching methods and philosophies, but not obfuscate or overshadow the learning process.

As a place where information is communicated in both a visual and audial manner between multiple individuals, the classroom has been one of the primary sites of development in professional audiovisual (pro AV) equipment for decades.

Convergence Driving Pro AV Adoption

The increasing integration of AV and IT technology is driving advancements in classroom technology as well as accelerating its adoption. The use of AV is evolving rapidly in the higher-education space, but experiences vary widely, based on everything from budgets to the types of schools that IT managers work in.

Despite some initial concerns about AV/IT integration in the market, in terms of both cost and compatibility, the transition has shown to be positive, largely due to the increasing availability of more advanced pro AV solutions being offered today.

Video walls and intelligent digital displays are becoming an integral part of modern campuses, and solutions that incorporate these technologies – along with installation and design flexibility – are paving for the way for a parallel increase in adoption inside the classrooms themselves.

“Just as educators understand that students need to be supported in the learning process in a more stimulating and collaborative fashion, integrators too understand that advances in visual education technologies must also be accompanied by tangible benefits to the teaching environment.”

 

This change is clearly reflected in the fact that educational institutions are allocating substantially larger budgets for AV systems.

Another factor to cite is the ongoing simplification of the technology as classrooms move from legacy “one channel, one wire” AV solutions to a fully networked environment, which has in turn increased the reliability of systems by decreasing the number of potential failure points.

On top of that, more advanced classroom connectivity solutions have not only made the integration of multiple video sources easier for system integrators, but increased ease of use for teachers utilizing the system as well, making it simpler for students to share and collaborate.

More Tech + More Devices = More Learning?

The number of devices seen in the classroom has increased steadily over the past few years. According to a Futuresource Consulting report, sales of laptops, tablets, and mobile devices for the education sector grew 18 percent from 2015 to 2016, and that growth is expected to continue.

The trend is also helped by dropping prices for consumer electronics, making it much less costly for educators to incorporate devices such as integrated webcams, DVD/Blu-ray players, and HDMI inputs into the classroom.

At the same time, educational institutions from the secondary to university level are becoming open to letting students bring mobile devices with them into the classroom (BYOD).

These technologies afford teachers a wide range of platforms to share lesson content to students beyond traditional analog sources such as whiteboards.

For example, interactive displays are being used in more classrooms, allowing students and teachers shared access to the learning space. This interactivity also encourages participation and discussion.

With the proper AV system in place, teachers now can use presentations, videos, or even content from student-brought devices to support the lesson topic at hand. Technology also presents more ways for students to engage with learning materials in a personal manner, thereby making learning a more enjoyable experience.

Active, Collaborative Learning

The need for collaboration is a trend across all AV and control system sectors, and this is especially true in the realm of educational technology.

Educators have always needed to foster teamwork in the learning environment as a basic educational tool, but advances in classroom technologies have widened the scope of what is available to innovate and create environments that incorporate collaboration spaces inside of schools and classrooms.

In the traditional classroom setting, the teacher is the primary source of learning content, with students just receiving the information. New approaches to teaching, such as blended learning or a “flipped classroom” are changing this approach by having teachers record lectures for students to view before class so that class time can be dedicated to activities or projects.

Meanwhile, using collaborative technology in the physical classroom itself allows teachers to share content with students in small groups or individually, and vice versa – students can “share back” text, polls, and even images from PCs or devices in the classroom.

This kind of active participation adds interest, maintains student focus and attention, and encourages more dialogue between students and teachers, creating a much more active, two-way learning environment.

These approaches not only force students to think about the lesson materials but motivate them by creating a closer connection with the content, which in turn inspires them to explore and share new ideas.

Considerations for Solution Implementers

Systems integrators developing pro AV installations for classrooms will face several unique challenges. The adoption of pro AV in the education segment has evolved rapidly, meaning classrooms always come with a combination of legacy and digital AV sources.

Therefore, integrators must find a way to smoothly and seamlessly integrate all these technologies – the increase in the amount of digital equipment using 4K (ultra high definition) can make installations even more complex.

Additionally, integrators need to make sure the equipment control setup is simple for teachers to operate so it does not interfere with their lessons.

It has long been known that visuals aid in the retention of information versus simply hearing something, so there has been a rush to invest in video conferencing and video capture technologies in the education fields.

This means that solutions that include video-focused technologies, such as video walls, interactive displays, and presenter tracking systems are at the forefront of developments in the classroom solutions field.

Just as educators understand that students need to be supported in the learning process in a more stimulating and collaborative fashion, integrators too understand that advances in visual education technologies must also be accompanied by tangible benefits to the teaching environment.

An understanding of this is at the crux of providing tailored solutions for tomorrow’s intelligent classrooms that will ultimately bolster curriculums in appealing and effective ways.

YT Liang is a product manager at ATEN Technology, Inc., a global manufacturer of KVM and Pro AV connectivity solutions, helping customers achieve stability, solve complex problems, and become more efficient in their day-to-day operations. For more information, visit: www.aten.com/us/en/ and follow @ATENConnect on Twitter.