Projectors: an educational mainstay

In a learning world increasingly dominated by individual devices, the projector remains central to education, writes Simon Fry

Projectors have come a long way from the OHPs of old, and their ever-increasing level of engagement is invaluable in keeping those being educated interested. Their reach extends beyond the classroom or lecture theatre, with one school creating an al fresco learning space with a natural ‘wow’ factor. Cost-efficient, reliable and adaptable, they allow educators to tailor their teaching to achieve maximum impact. Readily integrated with other technologies, when used as recording devices they can offer revision material at a later date, enhancing the assimilation of information.   

Projectors enable teaching to be more visually engaging which, in turn, can help to increase attention span and the absorption of information, said Lucy Meredith, Panasonic‘s Visual Field Marketing Manager: “The widespread use of internet and social media means children’s attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, with excessive media multi-tasking blamed for the deficit which will undoubtedly impact on learning,” explained Lucy. “Keeping lessons engaging is, therefore, a main consideration for educators to ensure as much information as possible is taken in.”

The medium through which students receive information is also important; something that projectors can address. Lucy said: “Research shows 70% of information absorbed to the brain is through visual cues. Projectors enable video content, images and visually appealing presentations to take the place of traditional whiteboards, offering more learning options.” 

The benefits of projection can also be felt outside the classroom when used within a lecture capture solution. High-quality laser projectors are used in conjunction with remote pan-tilt-zoom cameras and audio systems to record presentation slides and audio simultaneously which can then be uploaded and accessed online by students. The technology adds value to the teaching as it can be used as reference material for revision, and supports students in consolidating their learning

At Edge Hill University this use of projectors has successfully enhanced the student experience. “We were concerned we would see a drop in lecture attendance,” said Don Moffatt, the university’s Media Technology Development Manager. “The reality is that the opposite is true. We’ve seen more students attending the lectures – we think that’s because they can concentrate fully on the teaching without having to slavishly take notes.”

According to Optoma Territory Manager Nick Price, there is still no other display technology which nears projection in terms of cost viability relative to display quality and size. Due to the number of students per room being often far greater in HE than in schools, a front-of-class display (typically a projector) is still often deemed necessary. However, the desire to deliver any kind of teaching from any room, such as huddle spaces, is changing the AV requirements. Consequently, rather than one large display in the room, there might be a need for a central projector supported by smaller screens around the room.  

We’ve seen more students attending the lectures.
– Don Moffat, Edge Hill University

Projection in lecture theatres has brought increased benefits following the emergence and affordability of laser technology and improvements in resolution. Demand for these is expected to continue for 5,000+ lumen projectors – particularly for lecture theatres and auditoriums.

Interactive projectors bring other benefits to learning, not least through fostering greater collaboration in a class. Visualisers (also known as document cameras) can be used with projection and not only allow teaching staff to share passages of text, maps, detailed diagrams and 3D objects with the whole class, but teachers and students can annotate on an image captured by the visualiser and capture lessons as video clips to use later.

Projections can be daylight-visible and maintenance costs for bulb replacement have been eradicated through the laser technology which provides around 20,000 hours of impressive, virtually maintenance-free operation.  

According to John Garaway, Education Sales, NEC Display Solutions: “As the projector delivers the teaching material viewable by all participants in the classroom or lecture theatre, it must be bright enough and the image large enough and at the right height for all to clearly read the content.” In the classroom, a short throw/ultra-short throw or ceiling-mounted projector is preferable so as not to obstruct the beam. With interactive capabilities the projector can become the centrepiece to a collaborative learning scenario. Dual projection scenarios offer added flexibility for a larger-edge-blended image or side-by-side presentation and security against redundancy.

Educators unsure of which projector to choose are advised to partner with an experienced integrator with links to the manufacturer. They will have knowledge of the latest technology and can advise regarding the brightness and image size required for each teaching space.

John Dykes, Business Development Executive at Casio Electronics Co., believes projectors are as important as ever in the classroom, but increasingly important in creating an interactive conversation between the student and teacher. “With the advent of BYOD, students are able to work ‘live’ in the classroom, sharing results instantaneously,” he commented. 

With the advent of BYOD, students are able to work ‘live’ in the classroom, sharing results instantaneously.
– Jon Dykes, Casio Electronics

Projectors are an inclusive tool in the classroom, enabling the teacher to draw on multiple sources during a lesson, and to engage students in a more agile way. The value to learning is dependent on the creativity of the teacher, the way in which they are set up to share tools, and the content which is created for the lesson. The digitisation of lessons is a vital element in preparing children for the future workplace, where technology is increasingly at the forefront of productivity.

Hunters Hill Forest School, near Bromsgrove, installed an external Casio projector earlier this year to rejuvenate their outside area for a different kind of teaching experience.

Reverend Andrew Lomas, Head Teacher at Hunters Hill said: “We were surprised by just how bright the projection could be outside. Any activity which allows our pupils to benefit from outdoor learning is integral to the school’s ethos. All our Key Stage 3 students experience around 26 hours of Forest School sessions each year, which include fire building, communal cooking and eating, followed by activities to build soft skills and appreciation of being outside. When Casio approached us with the idea of making bat detection kits outside and using their projector to enhance the learning experience, we embraced the opportunity.”

Integration with other technologies and the ability to provide instant feedback are two qualities of projectors praised by James Hannam, teacher and founder at Maker Labs. “The ability to walk into the space and connect wirelessly complements my teaching style, as it means I don’t have to be tethered to the front of the teaching space. Engaging with pupils and taking photos of their work whilst instantly projecting it onto a whiteboard is a fantastic example of evidence-based learning. It allows me to take a screenshot and email it directly to the student.”

When used to their full potential, projectors make education exciting and engaging, bringing subjects to life to ensure pupils and students retain the knowledge being imparted. 

A generation of children and young adults expect visual stimulation and, unfortunately, are liable to switch off if not impressed and involved by the material addressed to them. Educators are, therefore, recommended to switch on a projector when seeking to generate ‘light bulb’ moments in the education of their charges.