I had the opportunity to visit the British Educational Training and Technology (BETT) show at the end of January and the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) event in the beginning of February. As BETT concentrates solely on educational technology and its pedagogical use, ISE looks at technology from an audio-visual perspective ranging from home automation to commercial and industrial AV-solutions with a small area for educational technology. Being a regular visitor of BETT, but a first timer of ISE, these events combined offered a great opportunity to take an inside look at how technology is already shaping education and what is coming around the corner. I will share some of my thoughts and experiences in this article.
Interactive displays have been gaining momentum for a couple of years at educational technology events, but this year there was a big increase in how many displays were on show. It was a bit overwhelming to try to go through all of the displays and their features, quality and the responsiveness of their digital writing. One of the new features of interactive displays is InCell or InGlass -technology, where the panel has a touch sensor embedded instead of infrared (IR) light on top of the glass. This new method can eliminate the lag effect in writing to the display often present in traditional displays that use IR technology.
An important new feature for interactive displays is the ability to mirror content from any other device present in the classroom no matter what OS the device has. Until now, mirroring content in the classroom to the display needed wired or wireless external boxes or software installed on to the PC, but now there are interactive displays in the market that handle mirroring out of the box.
As schools will be equipped with a multitude of displays, the need for centralized management is a necessary feature. Altering settings, updating firmware, setting passcodes, Wi-Fi credentials etc. with centralized management ability makes the IT department’s life easier.
4K resolution which refers to a horizontal display resolution of approximately 4,000 pixels, has been a marketing point for display manufacturers for a couple of years, but in honesty there is not much material – and even less learning material- available to utilize in teaching and learning. At the ISE event, it was possible for the first time for me to see 8K screens live and in action. It was overwhelming! As the screens get bigger, resolution sharper and the screen shapes curved, there seems to be no limit to how schools could benefit from this kind of technology in maybe 5-10 years time. In the near future there might be classrooms in schools that have screens that surround the students and make it possible to immerse them in nature or space and use 360° content.
Immersive technology attempts to emulate a physical world through the means of a digital or simulated world, thereby creating a sense of immersion. It enables mixed reality and extends reality or creates a new reality by leveraging the 360° space in which users can look in any direction and see content. Virtual reality glasses were present at BETT and are already in use in some schools, but the next phase would be students creating content by themselves. As every educational institution should strive to provide authentic learning opportunities in engaging ways, harnessing the power of AR/VR experiences in learning applications is a possibility that educational communities should not pass. Various platforms already at hand offer possibilities for students to be active and create VR/AR content by themselves. Augmented tand virual reality tools and apps make it possible to create and experience learning in novel ways. Students can travel anywhere – even outer space; they can explore these places from their own personal points of interest. We need students to be active producers, not just passive consumers. Enabling them to be creative collaboratively with AR/VR technologies can make a big difference in student learning.
Have you visited classrooms in older school buildings where technology has been implemented into classrooms afterwards? If you have, you know what it looks like: a multitude of cables, wires, switchboxes and various technical devices inserted into the classroom. This approach makes it a mess and difficult to master, not to mention the difficulty in finding out the cause for something to stop working. Luckily, wireless technology and centralized management is finally coming to the rescue. It is now possible to have any device mirror or cast content to the display or screen wirelessly. A teacher can broadcast content from the main display to other displays in classrooms or even straight to students’ personal devices. As wireless audio (e.g. Bluetooth) and ceiling/wall mounted speakers are coming into classrooms, the cable hassle is finally disappearing and technology is becoming ubiquitous.
At ISE 2019, I saw an example of artificial intelligence based video solutions and edge analytics implemented into a classroom. A camera in the classroom uses handwriting extraction and presenter overlay to extract handwritten objects from black and white boards using moving/unmoving object detection algorithms. This allows audiences to see written content and diagrams, while simultaneously being able to see the gestures and expressions of the presenter.
Various cable instalments are still necessary in school environments as the need for higher data transfer, live broadcasts and multimedia presentations get bigger. HDBaseT seems to be the global standard for the transmission of ultra-high-definition video & audio, Ethernet, controls, USB and up to 100W of power over a single cable, for up to 100 m/328 ft. HDBaseT eliminates cable clutter without compromising performance or high quality. At ISE, many manufacturers presented HDMI cables that were able to transmit UHD data for up to 200 meters. There were even examples of extending 1080p (HD) HDMI signals over distances of up to 600m (2000ft) using any 2−wire cabling with the help of a high−performance transmitter box.
Educational technology is evolving and taking steps further all the time. As BETT concentrates more to present pedagogical application of technology, ISE gives an inside view of where technology is heading in consumer and business levels – levels from which these advances will ultimately emerge to schools as well. I can warmly recommend both of these events for all educational technology enthusiasts.
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