Do you need an interactive touch screen? (part 1)

This chap is confident that teaching from the front is a jolly good thing….

I work for a company that manufactures touchscreens. It’s an amazing company and it makes extremely cool technology and I love my job.  It’s a bit of sales, a bit of training, a bit of business development, a bit of technical support and other bits besides.

So why write a blog with a title like this? Because if you ask a school the big existential question: ‘Do you need an interactive touch screen?’ and they say “no”, then that is pretty much the end of the conversation, particularly if they have some good reasons to back this up.  Doesn’t matter how cool your swag is, if a school doesn’t want it, then you’re out of the game.

So why complicate things with this question; surely all schools and all classrooms need interactive touch screens?

The reason for posing the question is twofold.

Firstly quite a few of my formative years were spent doing research into ed-tech and one thing you learn doing research is to question everything. So asking big questions like ‘do you really need an interactive touch screen?’ is a powerful thing to ask in the edtech research space, because it challenges orthodox thinking and forces you to think again about the fundamentals of what ed-tech is meant to achieve. If the answer is ‘we need interactive touch screens because our interactive whiteboards are all old and breaking down’ then more thought is probably needed.

Secondly, on occasions a prospective school or college will ask the question of themselves:  ‘Do we actually need interactive touch screens’.  They do represent a cost, and like any cost it needs justifying. A budget will always outstrip the amount of things it could be spent on, so every purchase is competing with every other, tough decision need to be made.

Answering the question

My instinct when faced with a big question like: ‘Do you need interactive touch screens?’ is to interrogate the teaching strategy of the school or college. What kinds of teaching do you want to see happening? How are teachers to spend the precious time they have with students and which kind of behaviours and practices do you want to promote and which ones do you want to discourage or even proscribe? Once you have an answer for that you can get closer to an honest answer to the question. Now the question of the teachingf strategy is one for Senior Leadership Team (SLT), or at least it should be.  The SLT should work to set the teaching strategy of the school and then put in place the correct support so teaching staff can implement this strategy. An SLT which does not spend a good proportion of its time thinking about teaching and learning and how to improve it, is not doing its job.

Does your teaching strategy include talking to the whole group?

I think it would be very rare for any school or college to have a teaching strategy which did not involve the teacher talking to the whole group, for at least some part of a lesson1.  This is so basic an assertion that I doubt it gets explicitly covered in teaching strategies, it’s simply a given that the teacher will stand at the front and talk to the class as a whole, at the start of the lesson and once again at the end. So once thjis decision has been made you can ask the question: ‘When the teacher is doing that, how do you want to support them?’ Of course, ut is possible to talk to a group without any audio visual aids. a lot of the most popular TED talks happen on a blank stage with nothing but the speaker and a spotlight. But often teachers need something on the screen, it may be they are setting up group work and need the instructions, or are explaining a concept and need the formulae up  there, or teaching a historical idea and have images and illustration which help.

Once you have decided that it is desirable for a teacher to spend at least some of the lesson addressing the entire class it becomes a necessity to have a screen to display a computer image at a size that all of the participants can see.

So we have got some of the way there.You have at least decided that to support your pedagogic strategy you need a display screen.

In the next blog post, we’ll take a look at whether it needs to be interactive or not.


1: It is very easy to imagine a situation where a teacher did not ever address all of the class together. If the classroom is a ‘flipped one’, then the whole class instruction would be created by the teacher and then delivered to the students to access outside of lesson time. So the teacher could make a 10 minute video on the structure of the periodic table, and use a learning environment to deliver this to the students who all watch it individually in their own time.  The classroom time is then devoted to them working through a group or individual activity the teacher sets with the teacher visiting each group or individual and supporting them according to their need. I know of no school where this happens though.


Touchscreens for Huddle Rooms

An increasingly common feature of the modern workplace are huddle rooms.  The word sounds awkward, but the concept is useful as it denotes a space where a small group can come together informally to have a meeting; work out ideas, get some stuff done and then return to their desks.

Huddle rooms became necessary as more and more work areas in business were converted to open plan. Open Plan is great for maximising space and also having employees feeling involved in things (as opposed to shut into individual offices like battery hens). But the space in an open plan office is not conducive to a meeting, either you risk interrupting everybody else working, or conduct your business in the hushed tones you have to use when visiting the Sistine Chapel.

Huddle type spaces are even added by innovative architects and designers in areas such as motor way services. The image below shows some ‘sheds’ at the back where you can get some privacy and escape the bustle of the main room.

Gloucester Services

Huddle spaces are informal, and my view is that they should not be bookable like meeting rooms, but used as needed in a more ad hoc basis. This way they encourage spontaneity and your employees to act quickly on ideas and get them progressed.

So what technology do you put in a Huddle Room?

Video conferencing is important along with a display screen, but ideally you need an interactive surface for scribbling and sketching.  And the technology must be really easy to use, people should be able to sit down, do what they need to, save or capture it and move on.  Nobody has time for training on complicated tech, and even if they did, they’d forget it all when they actually wanted to have a meeting, and waste all of their time messing around with the kit rather than working.

The ProLine+ is a great choice of interactive touchscreen for a Huddle Room.  Here are the reasons for this:


1: Prowise Central: the onboard operating system for the screen.  It means the screen can be used without a PC. You get a browser, and a whiteboarding application.  You can save your work to the memory (to return to it later); email it or capture a full resolution copy of it by snapping the QR code with your phone or tablet.

2: Prowise Reflect: Want to get your computer display on the big screen but can’t be faffed with cables? The ProLine+ has Prowise Reflect for wireless sharing of screens, download the app to your device and share it easily with the group.

3: ProWrite Ink:  The ProLine+ touch is powered by Infared (tracking 20 points of touch), but it also has a very slick pen powered by (magic) electro-magnets.  This means you can write on the board just as you do on paper, the harder you press the thicker your line gets, and you can rest your hand on the screen as you write, as the pen cancels out the IR touch. You have to actually do this yourself to experience what a great experience it is.

4:  Full 7 year warranty.  If you do invest in this technology for your Huddle Rooms you will want to get a good return on investment. The ProLine+ is built to last with an industry beating 7 year full warranty. I won’t bore you with the costs and maths, but over the 7 years you could get this solution for around £480 per year.  You won’t be able to put a figure easily on the results of your employees collaborating but my guess is that even with a handful of meetings a month this cost will be coming back to your business ten fold.

5: Flexibility.  Huddle room design is still evolving and local space and the layout of your building will dictate how you set up your spaces. But why commit to fixing the screens on the wall when Prowise have built a custom mobile lift for the ProLine+ ?

This means the screen can be raised and lowered within the meeting, but the screen can also be wheeled to other parts of the room for other purposes. Having a large meeting? Wheel your 3 huddle screens into a single room and you have a huge presentation area.  Outgrow your office and have to move to a totally new one? Take the screens with you with no de/reinstall costs.


If you would like a demonstration of the ProLine+ and how it can help you make a great Huddle room, then get in touch.