Interactive Flat Panel Displays are set to dominate classroom collaboration
The e-classroom will rely on local Visual Data Devices for serving content, video recording and analytics
Student devices integrate with the classroom hub from any location
Should you happen to hear a student or teacher talk about “flipping classrooms”, you might be surprised to discover that they’re not expressing discontent for lessons but a term to describe one of many technological approaches to learning that has grown rapidly in the education sector.
While making video recordings of lessons isn’t exactly new, the application of this material alongside other content is what makes flipping the classroom a rather more engaging and beneficial experience. The flip part being that, instead of a lecture followed by homework, the students prepare beforehand; viewing short video lessons recorded by the teacher together with additional course work content or required reading. Primed with this sneak peek of the forthcoming lesson, the students are better able to engage with the topics being taught in class, which can allow for a more interactive approach to learning, where the teacher is untethered from the front of the classroom.
“Edge to cloud technology provides an exciting new ecosystem to support teachers and students alike, enabling instruction from any source”
Complete lessons can, of course, be recorded too and rather than being the focal point, video serves as one of many options available in today’s e-classroom solutions. As technology allows increasingly sophisticated learning environments, video content from classes is recognised as a valuable educational asset that can be applied in a variety of contexts. Whether viewing is for home schooling, due to location or health issues, or for immersive revision sessions, video enables educators to devise ever more inventive teaching methods.
Indeed, tech-savvy teachers are fast becoming the norm and readily contribute to the e-classroom learning experience, supported by intuitive authoring tools that enable them to include mixed media to produce absorbing and instructive educational content.
Among the more common technological teaching aids available is the interactive whiteboard (IWB). A feature of nearly all UK schools since 20071, its use has typically involved a large whiteboard which is equipped with sensors to enable interactivity with images projected onto it. Given the size of the visible area needed for classroom use, projection was the most cost-effective method for the time but there are shortcomings. For instance, users end up casting shadows over the area they are drawing or manipulating and all too often end up appearing “tattooed” with the projection while addressing students. With older equipment, classrooms need subdued light to optimise image brightness and intensity, lest we forget how noisy projector fans can be. And costly to maintain – from engineer call outs to replacement bulbs.
More troubling is that capturing the interactive input on the whiteboard isn’t always straightforward and resorting to video recording with a camera aimed at the projection on the whiteboard tends to produce less than satisfactory results. As teaching methods evolve to feature more interactivity and collaboration, the lack of integration with student devices, such as tablets and laptops, is not only a significant obstacle in the classroom but has wider implications as educational establishments seek to offer sophisticated remote learning facilities and coursework.
Such lessons have moved on from a one-to-many broadcast on Skype* that amounts to a lecture theatre equivalent of a TED* talk; what can be achieved today encapsulates all areas of learning. Whether the interaction is in the classroom or with remote attendees, edge to cloud technology provides an exciting new ecosystem to support teachers and students alike, enabling instruction from any source – tutor, student, class collaboration and one to one, one to many or one to few sessions. And, of course, the instructor can be anywhere using a mobile device to take part in the lesson.
One of the most significant components leading the transformation to an e-classroom solution is the Interactive Flat Panel Display (IFPD). Available in 1080p or 4K resolutions, screen sizes of 65- to 84-inches are found to work well in classrooms, with 4K UHD panels rapidly becoming the standard. Easily visible in daylight and featuring vivid, high contrast image quality, the excellent definition of IFPDs enables them to remain effective in smaller sizes rather than the 100-plus inches required by IWB projectors. Moreover, the way IFPDs integrate in the e-classroom means that whatever appears on-screen is also viewable in real-time on student devices, including all the annotations and content manipulation.
The vision for the e-classroom is one that facilitates frictionless teaching, providing the tutor with the freedom to move around the room and interact with students while at the same time using Smart Switching to share content on the Interactive Flat Panel Display, which also functions as a hub for what is sent to and received from student devices. The difficulties of capturing content from IWB projections no longer exist either, as the lesson activity on the IFPD alongside video of the tutor and classroom can be broadcast easily or recorded for future use.
As Ian Hole from New College Swindon says: "As an ICT director, a key challenge today is enabling collaboration and interaction between teacher and students in a secure and controlled manner, across multiple teaching environments."
To make all this possible, the Intel® Visual Data Reference Design Specification was devised to work behind the scenes to capture, store and manage video and lesson content, and orchestrate its distribution. Built to this specification is the Visual Data Device (VDD) which is essentially an edge device that, by being on the premises, reduces internet bandwidth overheads, while allowing senior teaching staff to review and control the available materials in a Central Content Repository, so that it remains relevant and up to date.
The VDD performs a number of valuable functions from handling multiple camera feeds to compute intensive tasks such as transcoding video for remote students granted access to content via cloud services. Even e-classroom analytics is featured that, besides monitoring attendance and content access, can be configured to assess student engagement, which teachers can use to explore and assess different teaching methods.
An advantage to this kind of deployment, with its flexibility and content accessibility, is that it enhances teaching consistency, which is vital to student success and the reputation of schools and colleges. Intel also enables e-classrooms with a separate Content Access Point (CAP) which is an offline device that allows content to be situated where it’s needed, including portable use outdoors. For example, it can be used as a low-cost solution for developing countries or smaller establishments.
Adding a more noticeable IoT element to the e-classroom is the use of presence sensors that can detect when more than two people are in a classroom, triggering the booting up of the systems necessary for a teaching session and automatically registering the class numbers. A lesson could even be set to commence as students enter the class, with content appearing on the IFPD and shared with the class client devices, prompting them to prepare for certain tasks. When the lesson ends, and the sensors detect the room has emptied, a power down sequence can be automatically initiated, which, as a routine repeated throughout numerous classrooms, can amount to a considerable annual cost saving in energy bills.
“Intel has been at the forefront of developing the e-classroom from concept to reality; enabling educational establishments to reach a greater number of students and yet monitor their progress more closely than ever before using data driven real-time insights” says Jose Avalos, VP, Internet of Things Group, Global Director of Visual Retail at Intel. “The e-classroom delivers versatility in teaching methods, creating an immersive experience using interactive flat panel displays (IFPD), combined with compelling content and excellent revision resources. Beyond the IFPD hub, the features of the edge to cloud combined with classroom activity support deliver robust, easily manageable, IT functionality that reinforces the learning process, rather than divert attention from it. And there’s more to come, as we never stop learning.”
With the edge to cloud e-classroom solution, there is learning everywhere as schools and universities begin to understand how they can maximise their potential as educational content creators. Educators now have the capacity to enrich teaching at all levels, as they discover unique ways to stimulate the minds of their students. They can even choose to add yet another arena for study by becoming truly interactive online broadcasters with high quality and exceptionally valuable assets that can be accessed anywhere in the world. With the edge to cloud e-classroom it’s always an option and no matter what your school of thought, when it comes to learning innovation, Intel will keep you on course.
1 Becta Research: Harnessing Technology schools survey 2007
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