Audiovisual technology has long been a trusted tool for presenting information to students in an interactive way. Its use in the classroom is well established, but we’ve come a long way from when the OHP and television ruled the classroom. AV technology has become more interactive and innovative than educators ever thought possible, and its development shows no signs of slowing down. Constant invention of new technologies and reinvention of existing ones means there’s always some new innovation around the corner.
This is true across the board, and in universities the expectation of high-grade tech is expecially prevalent.“One trend we’ve seen in the past year or so is the growth in universities investing in professional-grade audio and AV equipment for students studying subjects such as music, production and broadcast,” says Niall Holden, CEO at VDC Trading. “While initially universities installing these high-end facilities were creating a competitive advantage, the longer-term effect has been that minimum standards have risen and students now expect to br working with professional kit.”
“As universities are increasingly judged on their ability to prepare students for the professional world, it is imperative that they invest in up-to-date facilities that reflect the industry, something that will also help to attract and retain students,” he adds.
There’s been a steady increase in the use of technology in the classroom over the years, as educators become more and more aware of the possibilities, and as new devices and applications become more accessible. According to a survey of 2,500 teachers earlier this year, three out of four say that they use some kind of technology in the classroom every day.
“The biggest innovations come not from any one technology but from the convergence of several,” says Jeff Rubenstein, VP at software company Kaltura. With imaginative lesson planning, teachers can combine multiple AV technologies to make a truly interactive lesson. Here’s our pick of the most useful AV technologies available to educators at the moment.
VR and AR: changing the way pupils see the world
VR and AR were frequent players in sci-fi a long time before they became a reality, but “it’s not a thing of the future, but the present,” says Gil Shefler, marketing manager and VR evangelist at Kaltura. but “it’s not a thing of the future, but the present,” says Gil Shefler, marketing manager and VR evangelist at Kaltura.
It’s a surprisingly affordable technology. You can get affordable plastic or Google Cardboard headsets that work with a smartphone, and many apps are free.
“You can teach geography, history, astronomy, foreign languages – almost anything,” says Gil. “Visit the Vatican, hover around a volcano in Chile, fly through the solar system to Pluto or travel back in time to Ancient Rome.”
Particularly adventurous teachers can make their own (“admittedly basic, yet fairly decent,” says Gil) education video for just a few hundred pounds.
“You can then offer students an experience of varying immersive value on any computer, mobile phone or, ideally, a VR device – which, of course, offers the best immersive experience.”
The opportunities for enhancing the learning experience are huge. Showing pupils places that no longer exist allows you to make history real for them in a way that a text simply isn’t able to.
And, though still an emerging technology with as yet limited material on the market, AR is an exciting new learning tool.
“It delivers the best of both worlds,” says Gil. “You will be able to take a good look at the actual world and superimpose information on top of it.”
SMART Boards and Learning Glass
SMART Boards have been around since the early ’90s, but only became really affordable in 2010. The interactive whiteboard is a computer-connected whiteboard that can be ‘drawn’ on with special pen sensors, using a projector and programmes like AutoCAD or PowerPoint to interact with the display.
It’s such a simple idea, but one that’s capable of transforming the learning experience. The board becomes a constantly changing interface with real-time annotations.
And, for an even more interactive experience, Learning Glass allows teachers to maintain eye contact while delivering the lesson. Learning Glass is effectively a transparent SMARTBoard, so teachers and lecturers can face students while they interact with the board. The content can then be saved for later use in the same way as with a SMART Board.
One of the major advantages of the interactive whiteboard is its built-in lecture capture system, meaning that the whole lesson can be revisited again and again. With everything you do on the whiteboard recorded as annotated video files for later viewing, begging notes off peers when you’ve missed a class becomes a thing of the past.
Some of the greatest innovations have come not from the invention of new technologies, but from the improvement of existing ones, and camera technology has advanced dramatically in recent years.
“We’ve had optical document cameras for a while, but now in terms of quality (optical precision) and format (digital) we can do all kinds of things,” says Jeff at Kaltura.
High-quality cameras and SMART Boards can be used in conjunction with one another to get pupils and students closer to the lesson than traditional formats have allowed. By filming things through microscopes and projecting them onto the SMART Board, you can interact with them in real-time, which is a far more effective way of engaging students than with an illustration in a textbook!
3D projection – the immersive experience in the classroom
Another technology that has got a lot more exciting since its reinvention is the humble projector. What used to be a fairly basic AV technology – little more than a big TV – is now able to get pupils and students closer to their subject than ever before.
“3D projection has allowed the immersive experience to come to the classroom,” says Mark Wadsworth from Digital Projection.
A power wall is a large wall for image projection with multiple projection options – you can project from in front or behind, and by one or multiple projectors. They’re typically used by engineers and designers, so they can interact with 3D models of what they’re making.
3D caves – a three-to-six sided room-sized space with projectors directed on each wall – are used for research at Glasgow School of Art’s School of Simulation and Visualisation.
“Here cutting-edge medical and heritage visualisation, commercial projects and academic research from a number of postgraduate degree programmes are offered in an environment that can’t be offered without 3D projection,” says Mark. The implications are huge, and “without doubt, immersive applications such as the above mentioned VR caves have been the most imaginative and beneficial applications we have seen.”
With the constant invention and reinvention of technology, the classroom children and HE students enjoy today is unrecogniseable from what was available just a decade ago, and with each new year new AV innovations arrive. It’s an exciting time to be a stu