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Exclusive: Interactive displays – lockdown learnings

Promethean's Simon Port on what the last 12 months have meant for the interactive display market in education

Simon Port, head of channel operations EMEA & Asia Pacific at Promethean, reflects on what the last 12 months have meant for the interactive display market in education and looks ahead to what he believes the future might now hold.

Before looking forward, it’s only natural to look back. For me, that starts with Bett 2020. The EdTech show was as busy as ever, buzzing with school leaders, educators and IT managers eager to learn about the latest technological advancements to support teaching and learning.

As the annual sales springboard for interactive flat panel displays (IFPDs) in education, activity at Bett suggested that 2020 was set to be another promising year for EdTech. So, when the national lockdown came in March, and most students moved to remote learning, there were some initial questions about what this might mean for the future of classroom-based teaching. However, it soon became clear that students learning from home should only be a temporary solution…

For the past six years the Promethean State of Technology in Education Report has measured and monitored key education and technology trends. In 2020, the survey canvassed opinions from over 2,000 teachers, school leaders and IT managers during one of the most challenging years for the sector.

Providing unique insight into the impact of Covid-19 on schools and how it could influence the future of learning, the latest report revealed a series of key findings.

Pupil motivation was cited as the number one challenge facing teachers during national lockdown. Given the prolonged periods students spent away from school and outside of a social learning environment, this is not surprising. However, it does mean that re-engaging students in lessons will be a priority, and 80% of teachers believe technology is a great engagement tool.

Insights from the report have also highlighted that three quarters of educators believe that lack of access to technology is a barrier to learning in the classroom and at home. Schools will need to adopt a pragmatic approach to technology investment to bridge this gap.

Solutions designed specifically for the education environment can not only support teachers with student engagement, but also make teaching with technology even easier. Moreover, IFPDs, which are traditionally used to enhance classroom-based learning, can make it easier to pivot to distance learning when needed, helping to support education continuity.

During the initial period of remote learning there was a shift towards adopting distance learning technologies. In many cases, teachers had no prior experience of utilising these solutions, demanding a steep learning curve and creating additional pressure to prepare compatible lesson materials.

With students now back in school, the focus of lesson preparation is very much on classroom-based learning. As an IFPD creates a hub of interactivity, it can be used to promote participation and encourage engagement within the classroom. With powerful collaborative content, IFPD resources will also support teachers in re-engaging students as they adjust to learning back in the classroom. Crucially, the same resources can also be used to support students learning from home – without impacting teacher workload to produce duplicate content.

When evaluating where technology upgrades are required, schools are prioritising investment that will support students in the classroom – as this is where they learn best, and where they will be learning for most of the time. However, given that there will be a need to temporarily support learning at home for short periods of time, we are increasingly seeing schools select those solutions which can also accommodate this approach.

While many of the changes experienced in the last 12 months were an acute response to the pandemic, in some areas we expect these to last for the long term. Take IFPD demonstrations for example, these would traditionally always be hosted on-site at a school.  However, a move to virtual demonstrations when face-to-face session were not permitted has given schools increased flexibility and choice over how they evaluate new technologies.

The same is true of IFPD training. The availability of virtual and on-site solutions is enabling schools to access support more easily than before.

Overall, the IFPD education market has effectively navigated the challenges of Covid by being adaptable to schools’ needs and developing product innovations that address the needs of the modern classroom. This means supporting learning wherever it takes place, while helping to minimise the impact on teacher workload and maximising student engagement.