Tech directors: Here’s how to truly support multi-screen classrooms

An IT director describes how his team unleashed teaching and learning by revamping their infrastructure

Today, education is far more flexible and collaborative than a generation ago, and technology is key in enabling teachers to quickly adapt lesson plans to suit the moment’s activity. Having multiple screens that a teacher or student can wirelessly project to, along with the ability to switch between sources in seconds, means that teachers aren’t tied to the front of the classroom any more. They are free to roam around to small groups, to see what students are working on simultaneously, and to call attention to particularly high-quality work or ideas that challenge and stimulate.

But all that technology does students little good if it can’t function properly because your school’s IT infrastructure isn’t up to the job. At Central Coast Grammar School in Australia, when Director of Teaching and Learning Damon Cooper pushed for more flexible and collaborative classrooms, we knew we would have to redefine our infrastructure.

Prototyping a vision with spare parts
For more than a year, Cooper piloted his vision of multi-screen classrooms by piecing together whatever spare parts we had on hand. If I retired a screen from another part of the school or had a spare from a bulk purchase, he wanted it. Over that period, Cooper worked closely with me to prototype his vision. That work functioned as a proof of concept and fit nicely with our strategic plan, which called for an increased focus on digital literacy, greater collaboration, and developing students who can produce and publish digital work.

Once Cooper could show the teaching and learning benefits of multi-screen classrooms, he convinced his colleagues to push for a refurbishment that would eventually include collapsible walls for combining classrooms for team teaching, writable glass panels for visual learning, a film studio to allow students to demonstrate what they are learning through multimedia production, and, of course, multi-screen classrooms to showcase those productions and enable student collaboration.

Understanding the need
Like any school, we weren’t looking at introducing multi-screen classrooms onto a blank slate. We already had a significant challenge in supporting the tools our teachers and students were using. We are 1:1 with a mix of devices: iPads for grades 1–3, Windows 10 laptops for grades 4–9, and a BYOD program for grades 10–12. For faculty and staff, we offer Windows 10 2-in-1 tablets and also support the smartphones and tablets that most of the faculty and staff bring in with them.

Our wireless platform and web-filtering system had to be robust, easy to use, and device- and operating-system agnostic to support that variety. We knew that would also be true for our wireless video projection (WVP) platform. Even our youngest students would need to be able to use it, after all.

Cooper’s early work showed us that our existing wireless platform couldn’t cope with WVP at the quality we needed across the school, so once we had approval to refurbish B Block, the area of the school we decided to focus on, we got serious about finding the right wireless, networking, and WVP platforms.

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