Belmont Primary School on Auckland’s North Shore has been so impressed with the Samsung 65-inch interactive display it recently purchased that two more have been ordered and are on their way, writes Lee Suckling.
“Belmont is trying to differentiate itself from surrounding schools with a focus on in-classroom access to technology,” said Matt Johnson, a Year 5 teacher and the school’s resident ICT enthusiast. “We nearly have a complete 1:1 digital classroom setup, and we have BYOD. The displays add another level of in-class interactivity.”
While interactive whiteboards feature in all of Belmont’s 20 classrooms, the school plans to gradually phase these out with Samsung’s interactive displays. Currently, one 65-inch display is installed in the school’s music classroom in July 2014; Johnson’s own Year 5 class will be next.
“We’ve had a lot of problems with the interactive whiteboards. Samsung’s interactive digital signage displays solve all of them,” said Johnson. “They have brilliant clarity and can be used in light or dark rooms. The size of them is really good and, because they look like a television, kids pay more attention to them – more than they do with a whiteboard. These screens really draw them in.
Much less to go wrong
“There’s also no need for speakers that might not connect or a projector requiring bulbs that need changing. There are no membranes with limited life cycles and they’re not ‘laggy’ like interactive whiteboards can be. Overall, there seems to be so much less that can go wrong.”
Belmont chose the Samsung products because of the brand’s reliability and an existing relationship. The company’s interactive display products came with high recommendations from the school’s education technology consultants, Telco Technology Services (TTS).
“Over their life span, I think they’ll be more cost effective than interactive whiteboards because of their lack of maintenance costs,” explained Johnson.
Using in a variety of ways
In the music class, the 65-inch interactive display – which can be either mounted (as Belmont has done) or placed on a stand – is used in a variety of ways.
“The music teacher loves it,” said Johnson. “She can pull up a keyboard and play a bit of music. Things can be easily sorted, and videos and audio plays right then and there. When you’ve got a slideshow up, you can add a research bar and search for anything instantly on the internet right there on the screen – you don’t have to come back to it later. She finds everything very simple and easy to operate with the students in her class.”
Moreover, pupils can send audio, video, and text material over from their own devices to the interactive display (useful in a question and answer format, for example), and mirror their own screens to explain something to the whole class. This enhances engagement and allows for a process that’s less driven by the teacher and more about collaborative between everybody in class.
“It’s only been installed for a couple of months, so we’re still learning about its capabilities.”
No problems with sound
Samsung’s interactive displays have also proven more reliable than interactive whiteboards when it comes to connecting to external devices.
“The wireless connections are stronger,” said Johnson.
In the past, Belmont teachers have had problems with lost or glitchy connections between their laptops and whiteboards when the distance between the two are placed at opposite ends of a classroom. This problem has not occurred with interactive displays.
“The current digital signage is working absolutely fine. There’s never any signal fade, and there are no problems with sound because, unlike interactive whiteboards, the speakers are internal. Overall, this solution is just going to work for us – it’s never going to be a waste of time.”
Enhancing collaborative learning
Ahead of his own Samsung interactive display arriving, Johnson has also tested the music room’s interactive display with his Year 5 class.
“We used it for reading groups, activities, and YouTube, and it works seamlessly with Google Apps,” he explained. “I just pulled up my teacher dashboard and the kids’ work was right there. You can pull up apps from the Google Play store and show kids where to download them on their own accounts. The display works with a wide range of tablets and devices.”
Collaborative learning is enhanced with the use of Samsung’s interactive display in combination with pupils’ other devices.
“We can build a quick animation together on the screen, then kids can get into small groups to build more of them on their own devices. They go away and ask each other questions, and talk constantly to find out the answers using their own devices. They can do instant research and information can be found a lot quicker.”
Samsung’s interactive displays open up learning, and “get kids really excited”, adds Johnson. “It’s a big change from the old days of ‘chalk and talk’.
“I definitely don’t have a quiet classroom where everyone is just staring up all day. We all talk to each other, and students go back and forth between the screen and their own devices to try things out. They’re always questioning and always learning because technology is all around them.”
Instilling a culture of technology
As a school determined to instil a culture of technology into every pupil, Belmont sees the use of Samsung’s interactive displays as vital to future development.
“Next year, my kids will go into a classroom with a teacher who’s not as experienced in ICT as me,” he said. “But kids become the teachers with this technology. Often, they’re showing us new functions they have discovered with the interactive displays, and how they work in with their other devices. They will bring knowledge with them and push all future teachers further.”
Integral for this to work is a mindset shift for all teachers, no matter what experience level they sit at with interactive display technology.
“Teachers all need to accept that we don’t know everything,” added Johnson, “and we, too, have to be willing to learn.”
Lee Suckling writes for INTERFACE Magazine.
Located in Auckland’s North Shore, Belmont School is a contributing primary (Years 1-6) with a roll of approximately 375 students. It was founded in 1912 and operates a school-wide BYOD solution. The school recently hit the headlines for trialling boys-only classes.
Samsung has a range of interactive displays for schools. For more information go to samsung.co.nz/education
If you’re interested in finding out more about interactive displays – or other Samsung products – contact Phil Giller, Education Lead, Samsung NZ, on 021 243 8017 or firstname.lastname@example.org