In the previous blog I looked at the reasons why you might need an interactive touch screen. These were about how you are presenting to your teaching group and the kind of teaching actions you want to support. I reached the conclusion that if you need to present to the entire group then you definitely need a display screen.
But does that display screen need to be interactive? Do you have to be able to manipulate content on the screen or can you just get away with using your computer when showing content to your group? This is an important secondary question, so let’s look at it in a little more detail.
My answer to it is rooted not in technology but in human nature, and in particular the instinctive ways we respond to people around us and what they are doing. I’ve not been a teacher for many a year, but I have done many many presentations and led hundreds of training sessions so I know a lot about talking to a group of people and the curious dynamics involved in trying to keep their attention and get your message across. One thing I know for sure is that keeping their attention is not easy. People can get distracted if you wander off your message. Even worse, if you say something which is exciting to them they may spontaneously start discussing this with the person next to them, seemingly oblivious to the social expectation that you stay quiet in a ‘one to many’ presentation unless the speaker explicitly asks for your input. So you will lose the group if you are too boring (obviously), but you may equally lose the group if you are too interesting….
Teachers are, in my experience, the absolute all time, undisputed, worst ever for this. Give a group of teachers just a sniff of a gap in your presentation and they’ll start talking, and then getting them to stop is a Herculean task.
One thing that really helps with sustaiing a groups’ attention is being able to command the room by standing in front of them, using your position in the room and your physical presence as a proxy for your authority. Put simply you can command more of the room stood up than sat down. You may hazard a go at sitting on the table if a session is going well, but it is a rare presenter who is confident enough to sit on the normal seats during their presentation, because once that height advantage is lost, the attention of the room is much harder to hold.
Touch screens are a vital tool in the teachers’s armoury as they allow you to manipulate your content and interact with your slide stack or spreadsheet or whatever you are doing whilst stood up. If the screen was a display only device you would have to duck back to where your PC or laptop is, and the minute you go back to that, even if just to type a URL in, you’ve probably lost the room. Your audience may not be deliberately looking for an opportunity to seize the momentum from you, but something deep and primal in the brain kicks in once the presenter is no longer in the magical zone at the front of the group.
So a touch screen helps you command the attention of the group. As the group can also see every move you make on the screen, every button you press and so on, there is a sense of it being a shared space and this contributes to the efforts you are making to bring the room along with you through consent, rather than by coercion.
Touch screens are more expensive than displays, but if you are a budget holder ask yourself how much extra you want to spend to help your teachers do their job well.
Work out the additional cost of an interactive screen over a display screen and then divide that by the lifetime of the device. You then have the amount of money you are willing to spend to give teachers’ that help. Or the amount of money you want to save in order to make their already tough jobs tougher still.
(Image: Tarek Ali Taha (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons