Collaboration is a lesson in itself, learning how to adjust to and work with a variety of personalities and methods of accomplishing tasks is a lifelong skill integral to success in school and beyond. But trying to manage group teaching in a busy classroom can leave teachers wishing they had an extra hand (or three). Tech has arrived to help. Creative educators can ditch the staid drone of attendance announcing for a colorful display where students can fly a rocket “them” from Earth into space or swim a fishy “them” from a reef to the open ocean. Clever uses of interactive projectors and displays like these have changed the game and brought everyone to the table, sometimes literally.
Using an interactive projector, rather than relying on a static touchscreens or board-style displays, gives educators the ability to change any surface to a whiteboard. The snack table in the back of the room can turn into an educational game venue for reward breaks or inclement weather recess, for group trivia or bingo. Using a projected tabletop map, groups can work together charting the migration path of the monarch butterfly or tracing Lewis and Clark’s journey across the untamed west. Short throw and ultra short throw projectors can create a scene for kids to work with, without fear of shadows from little heads or hands distorting the images.
Another plus of interactive projector and displays is a feature which allows wireless mirroring or of other devices to the central display. Use of this tech not only engages students (and keeps them on their toes when asked to share their work), but it can help kids with challenges. Beth Heile, Speech-Language Pathologist and Assistive Technology Specialist for North Shore School District 112 of IL, uses interactive displays to keep the classroom truly inclusive. A fourth grade student who is physically unable to use her voice (making Google Slides a challenge) beams the screen of her communication device to share her history presentation with her class. A student unable to hold a pencil can complete a team worksheet with his peers as they digitally annotate a scanned version together. A student with impaired mobility connects his laptop to the projection to participate in a group activity without needing to physically stand at the board with his classmates.
One of the most impressive and useful features for group work is the projections’ ability to recognize multiple points of input, with some allowing as many as 21 individual fingers or light pens to simultaneously be recognized. Teachers can stream a video of the Serengeti, with students picking out different animals to observe, or create a rainforest “Where’s Waldo” highlighting the myriad creatures big and small that make up the ecosystem. Interactive PowerPoint presentations can include multiple entry slots for teams to converse and answer questions, letting the whole class work together as a unit. Virtual murals or posters can be painted with an entire art class, before being sent to a printer for production or to a partner school across the world.