This week I received our first touchscreen for the school. After much deliberating and several trials I decided to go with the GeneeTouch LED Screens. I purchased these from Interactive Education. I found the sales team to be extremely helpful and willing to bend over backwards to ensure I got what the school wanted. They offered us several options so I could get these screens within the budget I had available. Although they offered me installation I decided to not take this as I knew myself and the caretaker would be able to install them. The package I got included the bracket for fixing to the wall and several bits of software to help the school make the most of the new touchscreens. The whole process of ordering the screens was simple and a week later they arrived.
So now we have them the caretaker and myself set aside an hour after school to fit the first screen. This is the 42″ model and I had decided to put this into our reception classroom. The screen is replacing a simple projector and IWB installation which I removed in 15mins ready for the new screen to be installed. 30 mins later the caretaker and myself had the screen mounted on the wall and connected to the teachers laptop. 5 mins later the windows 7 laptop had installed the drivers and I was interacting with the laptop via the screen.
I found using the screen to be just like a tablet or smartphone, but with a more robust feel. It was very responsive and accurate. The thing which hit me the most though was the sharpness and clarity of the screen. Although the screen is only 42″ it was still clearly visible from anywhere in the classroom. I also didn’t need to close any blinds to see the screen due to the brightness being so much better than traditional projector, IWB setup. After playing around and learning the touch features of windows 7 I then decided to install the software which came with the screen. This allowed me to carry out a simple calibration to make the touch even more accurate.
A few extra things worth noting about the screen is the amazing amount of connections available. This makes the screen extremely adaptable and usable in almost any setup type.
It also comes with a sound, VGA and USB cable to make the connections. These cables are all 5 meters long making the screen location very flexible. The screen is also has a slot in the back to allow the installation of a mini pc and make it an all in one solution. The screen also comes with tuff glass making it almost indestructible. I decided to show this to the teacher by hitting the screen hard and ouch did it hurt, but more importantly the screen was unmarked. The remote control is also nice to use and features some little tools like freeze which gives you the traditional projector freeze. This we find is a tool the teachers in our school love. Also worth noting is how quickly the screen turns on and off.
Anyway now the screen is installed I got the Headteacher to have a look and he was very impressed saying how nice it looked and he was surprised how clear and responsive the screen was. He also wanted to play a video on the screen which looked and sounded fab through the built in speakers.
It’s also worth noting I installed this into a classroom with a teacher who is almost ready to retire, hates change and hates computers. You may ask why, but my idea is if she can use it then anyone can. So it’s nice to report that after a few days use she commented how much easier it was to use than her old IWB and she is no longer worried about using her computer in lessons. I think that is the perfect result. This is because the screen just works, she doesn’t have to calibrate every time someone slams the door and she knows the kids can see it easily. She can also use the remote control easily as its just like a normal tv remote. She has allowed her children to have a play with it. This has changed the way they interact with the board and the quality of work they produce on it as they are using their finger and not a pen. The children also don’t find using the screen unusual or strange as they are used to using touchscreen tech like iPads.
So to finish this post of I would recommended an interactive screen as the perfect replacement for any IWB setup. I’m now looking at how I can get more of these into our classrooms. With the benefits of cheap running costs it makes sense to get these into the classroom and bring the classroom into the modern touch generation. I would also recommend talking to interactive education to purchase these GeneeTouch screens as they have the best prices with fantastic sales and support. They will also send people to demo the screens and assess your install locations advising on size and install type required. So all in all a win win solution for me.
This week I tasked myself with displaying a Windows 8 tablet on a projector wirelessly. The only problem I had was no money or time to buy anything new and very old projectors. Then I thought to myself I wonder if I could use the Apple TV in the Heads Office to wirelessly connect using Airplay.
So a quick google search leads me to a piece of software called AirParrot. The first thing to note this software does cost money but you can download a free trial. The free trial gives you 20 mins of airplay time before closing. You then have to open the program again to get a further 20 mins.
After a quick download and install I was ready to give it a try. The program sits in your task bar and when you need to connect you just right click the little AirParrot icon and select the Apple TV you wish to connect to. A few seconds later and bang your windows screen is on your projector via Apple TV. It even lets you connect to an Apple TV which is pass code protected.
To be honest I was very surprised when I started trying different metro apps and programs. I was able to draw on the screen in Fresh Paint and it replicated on the projector without lag. I also tried watching videos and again no lag.
AirParrot also has tools to allow you to alter frame rate etc to improve performance if you do have trouble.
So if you don’t have a modern projector or TV with wireless then this bit of software with an Apple TV may help you out.
This week was a big week for technology in education. Why? Because this week the annual BETT show took place. This year they have moved location from Olympia to ExCel. This was probably one of the best things they could have done. The new venue was brilliant, everything was on one floor and in the same room, the food outlets ran down the side with numerous entrances to the show making eating and drinking much easier. The other advantage to this new venue was the space, this allowed for bigger and better show stands a whole new learning arena and much more space to move around. Lets hope next year they decide to stay at ExCel.
As for the show I went with some specific areas to look at so I didn’t visit or see all stands. I find this to be the best way to explore BETT otherwise you end up spending hours walking around and not getting anywhere. I was able to do this even more effectively this year as they released a BETT app which allowed me to explore and mark on a floor plan the exhibitors beforehand.
The first product I explored was interactive touchscreen tv’s. These seem to be the next big thing to replace the interactive whiteboard and projector solution which has been around for the last 10 or so years. These seem to have many advantages and make an ideal replacement. First they are much sharper, clearer, and brighter making the image easy to see from a long distance. All screens are also 1080p HD and have great colours. The screens are multitouch allowing from two to four people to interact at the same time. They all seem to have toughened glass over the normal panel and use inferred technology to read the interaction. They seem to come in sizes ranging from 32″ upto 80″ although I felt for our classrooms 42″ to 55″ would be fine. You also have the option to have them wall mounted or on a movable stand. Some also have fixed wall brackets with movable arms allowing you to pull the screen from the wall and rotate it, pull it down to the children or move it up out of the way. The other alternative is a stand which allows the screen to be flipped and used as a touchscreen table! Finally you have the option to buy these tv’s with built in computers thus allowing you to have an all in one solution with only a network and power cable coming from the tv. Also gone are the days for the need of an amp and speakers as the TVs have speakers built in. Compared to even modern IWB and projector solutions these are a major step forward. You may think sounds great but they must be expensive and the answer is yes they are but to be honest no more expensive that a new IWB and projector package. However the running costs of the tvs are where the savings are to be had. First you no longer have to replace bulbs and projectors, then no more filter cleaning is required, the real advantage is the electric cost approx £80 per year compared to £300 to £400 for an IWB and projector. Also the screens have an expected lifespan of 25 years!
I think we’ll be making the change sooner rather than later.
Some of the products I tried are