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3 Ways to Use Interactive Projectors in the Classroom

By Nikki Zelinger
3 Ways to Use Interactive Projectors in the Classroom

Interactivity is a major trend we’re seeing in classrooms across the United States. Most high school classrooms have either an interactive projector or a Smart Board where both students and teachers can use pens or their fingertips to interact with the course material. My fiancé has used his Smart Board and projector to project students’ scripts for critique in his screenwriting class, circling mistakes so that the students can correct on their Chromebooks in real-time.

This is but one of the ways to utilize Smart Boards or interactive projectors in the classroom. There are many software programs and materials available to teachers to create interactive lessons to be used with either of these technologies. I have reviewed a few interactive projectors from Epson, who I would consider to be the leader in interactive projectors, and one from ViewSonic that is modestly priced in comparison and won one of our Best in Classroom awards for Best Value in this year’s Best in Classroom Education Projector’s Report. In this post, we will cover some of the interactive software and other interactive material that can be used with such projectors.

SMART Learning Suite

Interactive Projectors in the Classroom

I first learned about SMART Learning Software when reviewing the Epson BrightLink 710Ui (a projector I was supremely impressed with, so much so that it won our Best in Classroom Best Performance award for interactive projectors!) and immediately saw the immense value in this interactive software for teachers, as well as using interactive projectors in the classroom. One of the biggest challenges a teacher faces is that their classroom is filled with students of different learning styles that they have to appeal to. There are four types of learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic (touch) – interactive software can be used to appeal to each of these simultaneously.

So, what is Smart Learning Suite? It’s a collection of software programs created with both teachers and students in mind. It comes with four programs: SMART Notebook, SMART Lab, SMART Response 2, and Smart Amp. Each has a different use in the classroom that may even revolutionize the way teachers are able to teach.

SMART Notebook takes learning beyond PowerPoint – it is used for hands-on learning and allows teachers to create engaging content. Lessons become interactive experiences that facilitate deeper learning and integration of course material. One of the added benefits of this software is that teachers can install the program on their home computer, lesson plan in their PJs, and send their lessons directly to the classroom rather than having to stay extra hours at school.

SMART Lab allows teachers to create interactive activities for students using game-based learning. It includes customizable templates for lesson activities so that teachers can easily create activities that relate to their specific subject. Teachers who use gamification in their classrooms are seeing greater retention of lesson material because it’s a fun way to deliver content to students who are already receptive to the action-reward system from playing video games. It is also a really great way to break up any monotony in lesson planning, and can be refreshing for morale of both the teacher or student.

SMART Response 2 works well in conjunction with SMART Notebook lessons, and can also be used after SMART Lab activities to gauge how well students are absorbing the content. It does so by allowing the teacher to create a set of questions in under five minutes that students can answer on Chromebooks, desktop computers, smartphones or tablets. This eliminates the need for printed copies and ultimately makes grading more manageable for teachers – something many teachers desperately need!

SMART amp is a collaborative workspace for teachers and students, groups of students, or the whole class to create and work on projects with multimedia content. Teachers can see what students are working on while they’re working on it, and who contributed what to the project – that is so huge! When I was in school, I hated working in groups because ultimately myself and another student would do all the work while the others would just ride on the coattails of our glory. No more with SMART amp!

ViewBoard 2.1 Software

ViewSonic PS750W Vertical Projection Feature

ViewBoard 2.1 Software is a proprietary interactive software program designed by ViewSonic, and is one I learned about from reviewing the ViewSonic PS750W. That projector is an affordable option for K-12 schools, going for just $1,499 with its education pricing. I found it to be a truly capable projector, but for one issue – the software is only available for PC, not Mac. A lot of schools are switching to Macs, but PC usage continues to prevail for the time being.

This software does all the usual stuff one needs from an annotative whiteboard software, such as giving users the ability to write, draw, and erase, edit, highlight, and notate, etc. One of the best features, I think, is screen recording, so teachers can record their lessons. I like this for several reasons, the first being that teachers can go back and review their lessons to see what worked and what they can improve on. I also like it for being able to deliver the day’s lesson to an absent student, as well as those on independent study.

ViewBoard 2.1 has support for the most used Microsoft Office file types, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files. A variety of image file types can also be annotated, including PDFs, .jpeg, .gif, and .bmp, as well as .txt files. This does require an NMP-710 slot PC (ViewSonic Media Player) and Microsoft Office to be installed. ViewBoard 2.1 allows for the creation of multimedia projects that include audio and video, and have tools for easy scaling, rotating, etc.

Of course, the software does include templates for teachers to use in a variety of subject matter. There are templates for English, Math, Chemistry, Physics, and more, with fun ways to convey the course materials beyond the capabilities of a simple whiteboard. All in all, it’s a capable software to use with ViewSonic interactive projectors in the classroom setting.

Google Lit Trips

Google Lit Trips

Google Lit Trips are a fascinating way to make required reading material more interesting for students, going beyond the usual popcorn reading and discussion model utilized when I was in high school (from what I hear, things are mostly the same nowadays). These downloadable files use Google Earth to show the journeys taken by characters from literature, such as The Kite Runner, Macbeth, Night, The Catcher and the Rye, and more. The books are all organized by grade level, so if you’re a teacher of elementary or middle school children, you can still use Google Lit Trips for your reading material.

With Google Lit Trips, you can visit the locations of the story, with pop-up windows occurring at placemarks along the way. These pop-ups include relevant media to further understand the reading material, such as is the case with The Kite Runner. The story of “Rostam and Sohrab” is referenced many times throughout the book, and one of the pop-up windows includes a link to read a version of that story online. These pop-ups also contain thought-provoking questions for discussions and journal prompts, giving teachers a way to further drive home the concepts in the stories.

Google Lit Trips can be used with or without an interactive projector or Smart Board, which is a real plus for English teachers who do not yet have access to such technology. If you do have interactivity in the classroom, however, the interactive pens or finger-touch can be used to annotate over the Google Lit Trips to emphasize certain aspects of the material, aiding in the overall engagement of the students, which leads to better integration of the knowledge being delivered.

Interactivity: The Way of the Future

I wouldn’t be surprised if interactive projectors and Smart Boards were in nearly every high school classroom across the US within the next several years. The engagement that can be created by using such technology is higher than your standard whiteboard technique or even using a regular projector. Students of today were born into an era of high technology use, and many obtain cell phones before they’re even old enough to respect the smart computer they hold in their hands. It only makes sense to use the means that they grew up with to further their education.

Plus, with all those templates available, after the initial work that will go into creating the lessons, teachers will be able to put their course material on autopilot – meaning, they will have those lessons for as long as the technology exists in their classroom. This will free them up to grade and make other preparations, hopefully cutting down on the time they spend working outside of school hours. Being a teacher is a challenge that takes a special type of person to excel at, and I am personally for anything that can make their important job even a little bit easier, and installing interactive projectors in the classroom is a great way to do just that.

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