May 18 2023

Essential Classroom Technology to Reduce Digital Overload in K–12

Focusing on core ed tech buckets can help administrators and IT staff determine what will best support teachers in their classroom work.

Just like periodic assessments can help teachers gauge student mastery of a particular subject, a periodic ed tech review can help teachers and administrators reflect on what works and what doesn’t. One thing that does not appear to be working for many teachers in the classroom is what might be called digital overload. According to PowerSchool’s 2022 Education Focus Report, 46 percent of educators say that juggling multiple digital tools was one of their top challenges. This concern is reflected in another data point from the same report: In a given month, teachers accessed an average of 148 different technology products.

A good way to help reduce this digital overload for teachers is to step back and review what is essential for effective instruction. Go back to basics. Start by breaking down classroom technology and infrastructure into three basic categories: audiovisual tools, flexible infrastructure and user devices.

Focusing on these three core buckets can help administrators and IT staff cull unnecessary technology and better support teachers in their day-to-day classroom work. As refresh cycles play out, you’ll know exactly what to upgrade and what can be taken out of service.

With that in mind, here are some suggested products for each of these categories.

Classroom Transformation TOC


The Latest Audiovisual Technology in Education

When thinking about audiovisual technology in the classroom, digital whiteboards (also known as interactive whiteboards) are probably the first thing that comes to mind. In assessing digital whiteboards, one important feature to consider is software. For example, the SMART Board M700 comes prepackaged with proprietary SMART Notebook, Ink and Learning Suite software. This whiteboard also allows users to connect a projector or a computer, opening it up to sharing every application and program they have access to on these other devices.

Another important consideration for digital whiteboards is simultaneous touchpoints, or how many users can directly interact with it at one time. The Samsung WM75B supports up to 20 simultaneous touchpoints, allowing large groups to engage directly with content on the whiteboard at the same time.

Projectors are an additional core classroom technology, allowing teachers to present and share materials on a projection screen or whiteboard. Projector brightness needs to hit at least 2000 lumens for a good classroom viewing experience. The Epson PowerLite 982W is a moderately priced projector with a brightness level of 4200 lumens. It also features a moderator function that supports up to 50 users simultaneously connecting to the display, allowing teachers to show multiple pieces of content at one time. An alternative is the LG ProBeam BF50NST, which offers 5000 lumens and 1920x1200 native resolution for a bright, sharp image, regardless of the lighting in the room.

Student engagement improves through a combination of visual and audio inputs, so it’s important to also have technology that connects with students’ ears. One option to consider is adding a sound bar to your digital whiteboard. Promethean offers the ActivSoundBar as an option for schools looking to enhance their Promethean ActivPanels. Providing 40 watts of output power, this sound bar offers the right audio boost for most classrooms.

A different approach to greater audio presence is a portable, Bluetooth-enabled speaker like the JBL Charge 5, which can connect to either a laptop or digital whiteboard. This speaker offers 20 hours of rechargeable battery life, enough to get most teachers through the school week on a single charge.

Schools that want to go a step further with classroom audio might consider adding a digital assistant into the mix. These digital hubs use a voice-activated interface, usually in the form of an artificial intelligence–enhanced smart speaker, to assist teachers in quickly navigating among digital resources. The Merlyn Mind Symphony Classroom allows teachers, through either voice commands or a remote control, to access and control classroom devices, apps and resources.

The Belkin SoundForm Elite is a more traditional smart speaker that makes use of Google Assistant. Pairing it with a smartphone lets instructors use voice commands to access everything from classroom calendars to countdown timers, all while the phone sits and charges in the speaker’s charging cradle.

DIVE DEEPER: Here’s how schools are using upgraded audiovisual tools to improve learning.

Flexible Classroom Furniture and Infrastructure

If audiovisual gear is at the center of an effective classroom, then furniture serves as the infrastructure that positions instructors and students alike to best take advantage of classroom resources.

Instruction is increasingly focused on team-centered activities, making flexible, mobile furniture key to moving quickly between full-class instruction and small-group activities. The VariDesk Flip Top Training Table offers great classroom flexibility, with a flip-top design and roll-and-lock casters that make for easy mobility and storage when not in use. This is a great table for stationary activities. 

For individual seating mobility, the Ergotron LearnFit Short Sit-Stand mobile desk is a great option. This height-adjustable desk allows for ergonomic personalization, and its caster-driven mobility allows for quick, on-the-fly seating configuration changes in the classroom.

Teachers also need to be able to instruct and present from different locations in the classroom. The Balt Trend podium has a simple setup, providing locking casters for easy movement, plenty of securable storage for technology, and built-in cable management.

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Taking a different approach to the podium, the HoverCam Pilot X podium functions more as a digital teaching station. It includes a tablet that serves as the podium’s hub, allowing wireless HDMI connection and casting to whiteboards and projectors. The ergonomically adjustable podium also has a fold-out document camera and a pop-out, full-size keyboard paired to the tablet when it’s docked.

With student laptops and tablets growing in classroom instructional use, schools need flexible storage and charging options to manage all of these devices. Charging carts offer a convenient and secure location to hold student devices when not in use. The Bretford Cube Cart mobile charging cart can house and charge a variety of Chromebooks, notebooks or tablets. Users can also pre-wire the cart with USB-C power adapters so it’s ready for action.

LocknCharge offers its EPIC Cart for space-saving, protected storage of notebooks and tablets. The EPIC Cart’s intelligent charging determines which devices are drawing electricity and automatically routes power to them, reducing the cart’s overall power draw. It also has removable plastic dividers for devices, allowing for reconfiguration of its interior space as needs change.

WATCH: Here’s how schools are helping to free teachers from their desks.

Teacher and Student Mobile Devices to Enhance Learning

In today’s classroom, digital devices have become critical to in-class instruction. Choosing the right student device that meets the unique learning needs for each grade is important.

Tablets tend to be more appropriate for lower grades in elementary school. The Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite has a smaller, 8.7-inch screen and is relatively lightweight. With expandable storage of up to 1 terabyte and long battery life, this tablet is a good fit for the basic computing needs of younger students.

Another consideration is the Lenovo Tab P11 Plus. With an 11-inch display, 6 gigabytes of RAM and an 8 megapixel camera, this tablet has a lot to offer higher elementary grade students, who have more intensive and far-ranging computing needs.

Chromebooks offer students an Android OS-based computing experience and easy access to the Google universe of apps for education. They also offer many fleet management benefits, including web-based administration and configuration. One option to consider is the Acer Chromebook 317. At 17 inches, it is among the largest display options for a Chromebook. Thanks to advanced Intel Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology, students will experience data transfer speeds up to three times faster than standard Wi-Fi 5 with this computer.

Another one to consider is the Dell Chromebook 3110 2-in-1. This computer has an 11-inch display, 360-degree hinge and touch-screen functionality, allowing it to be used as either a laptop or tablet. The 3110 is one of the more rugged Chromebooks out there, having met MIL-STD specifications for U.S. military use.

RELATED: How technology supports personalized learning in K–12 schools.

During any given class, teachers are often toggling between multiple apps and platforms such as Google Classroom, GoGuardian, PowerSchool, Google Slides or Newsela. Having more digital desktop real estate, such as an additional monitor, would help ease this common burden. The ASUS VA329HE offers a 32-inch display with 1920x1080 resolution, giving teachers more room to easily connect the dots between apps. ASUS Eye Care technology provides a comfortable viewing experience.

Another option is the ViewSonic VX3211-2K-mhd monitor. This one also offers a 32-inch display, delivering a crisp 2560x1440 resolution. With multiple input options, including HDMI, DisplayPort and VGA, this monitor will get a lot of use in a variety of setups.

Schools and teachers are still adjusting to being back in the classroom. Technology that was once needed may no longer be relevant. Taking proactive steps to pare back some of that tech clutter and cycling in more effective technology will go a long way toward reducing teachers’ digital overload.


Illustration by James Carey

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