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Opinion: displaying interactive tendencies

Education leads the way with interactive displays, writes columnist Rob Lane.

Following my column last month about how education institutions are adopting a more commercial approach to AV, here I look at how educators are equally enthusiastic when it comes to specifying interactive display technology – tech that is often central to such commercial-facing mindsets.

In fact, the education sector has long since embraced interactive display technology in all its forms, and continues to find innovative ways of making it relevant to classroom teaching – particularly in higher education where there is widespread employment of interactive touchscreens for informal small-group learning.

There is a definite trend towards the increased use of interactive large format displays in non-university classrooms too, although continuing pressures on budgets mean that a sizable percentage of schools in the UK and across EMEA are still using interactive projectors.

Indeed, education technology specialist Promethean’s latest annual survey of over 1,600 educators across the UK, The State of Technology in Education 2017/18, reveals that an impressive 80% of UK schools have access to interactive flat panel displays, with 55% of teachers believing that the general use of technology for education improves behaviour and engagement levels.

Recent advancements

Alistair Hayward, Promethean head of UKI and ANZ, tells me that education is benefitting greatly from recent advancements in interactive technology, with its enhanced role in the sector being primarily driven by the development of external and upgradeable devices.

“The connectivity of interactive flat panels has enabled teachers to break down geographical boundaries and extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls,” he comments. “While access to the internet direct from the interactive flat panels has played a large role in this, there is a new generation of tech-savvy teachers who are exploring innovative ways to leverage the enhanced functionality of the technology.”

With education having embraced interactive displays earlier than other sectors, many believe – perhaps counter-intuitively, given traditional budgetary constraints – that the education sector continues to lead the way when it comes to the use of interactive touch display tech, while others, including enterprise, lag behind.

An impressive 80% of UK schools have access to interactive flat panel displays

“The education sector is the early adopter of large format interactive touchscreen technology,” Shaun Marklew, sales and marketing director at Sahara Presentation Systems, manufacturer of Clevertouch, tells me. “But as the products have developed, other sectors are beginning to introduce this technology into their organisations.”

Arcstream managing director Neil Dickinson agrees: “Education continues to lead the way, but the BYOD way of working means the corporate marketplace will soon catch up.”

Education ahead of enterprise

It appears that enterprise AV – which is having such an influence on the way education institutions run their facilities, with collaboration the biggest enterprise-to-education success story (see last month’s column) – is perhaps not the bastion of interactivity many of us assumed it to be, at least not when compared to the education sector.

And given that the age demographics across all areas of education are mostly post-millennial (if you discount the older mature students), it’s no real surprise that there exists an ideal audience who are both excited by and willing to try interactive technologies in order to enhance their learning experience – and who, of course, are much more likely than many adults in the workplace to reach out to a screen, rather than a keyboard or mouse. (And as more and more millennials enter the workplace, they are driving the push to interactivity there.)

With only a few weeks to go until ISE 2018 – certain to break its own attendance, exhibitor and square-footage records yet again – it’ll be interesting to see which sectors the various interactive display manufacturer marketing campaigns target the most. Enterprise perhaps offers the most untapped potential for interactive sales – and this is certainly a market that is growing exponentially for interactive tech, for software as well as hardware. But with education the only genuine banker sector (no pun intended) for interactivity, I suspect we’ll see a lot more marcoms about teaching than about boardrooms.