One independent Florida school is erasing the “front” and “back” of the classroom.
Tampa Preparatory School, an independent school that serves about 660 students in grades 6-12, has essentially eliminated the walls of a classroom by using innovative technologies like the Epson BrightLink interactive projectors.
There are two projectors in each classroom, said Director of Technology Chad Lewis, equipped with touch screens so students can not only display their work, but make changes in real time.
“There’s no front or back of the classroom. No matter where you sit, you have the same experience,” said Lewis, who discovered the projectors at the FETC conference about four years ago. The school currently has about 100 of the projectors.
“We want to be able to have kids throw up their work seamlessly to display, so that we can compare work between students and show off what we’re doing,” he added. “So it’s just a more engaging, mobile, collaborative environment.”
The school used to use SMART boards, but Lewis said the BrightLink projectors are cheaper – a lamp costs just $50, while other projector lights can run around $200.
“We still wanted to have some type of digital white board experience, and the Epson came with its own touch-screen software,” he said. “The fact that the teachers and students can use either a digital pen or just their finger to write has really been cool for the kids. You can have not just one person, but up to six people writing on the board at the same time.”
About four years ago, the school became a one-to-one environment, putting an iPad in every student’s hands. The school links the tablets to the projectors – students download an app called iProjection so they can wirelessly connect to the projectors. The teachers also use a software called Moderator, which allows them to hook up to the projectors and see which students’ iPads are connected.
“When a student drops out of the app, or leaves the app, the color of their device changes,” Lewis said. “So teachers know if they’ve gotten off path.”
The projectors are mostly used in math classes, but they can also be spotted in English classes during grammar exercises. The level of student engagement has increased thanks to the projectors, Lightspeed Technologies microphones used by teachers, and mobile furniture to foster more group collaboration and discussion. There are also Apple TVs in every classroom, Lewis said.
“It’s like an IMAX theater now,” Lewis joked. “You can’t hide from learning. It’s everywhere.”