Feb 01 2022

Q&A: How Laser-Focused Learning Can Support Student Engagement

Epson’s Remi Del Mar shares how laser projectors are enhancing interactivity and collaboration in remote and in-person classrooms.

The pandemic disrupted learning for millions of K–12 students and caused student engagement to plummet in many districts. At the same time, the crisis accelerated the adoption of technologies and tools that connect students and teachers across varied classroom environments. As educators focus on re-engaging students in person and online, digital content display has taken on a more important role.

Remi Del Mar, commercial projector product manager at Epson, spoke with EdTech about how educators can use laser projectors to support student engagement through visual content display and interactivity.

DISCOVER: Find Epson laser projects to inspire collaboration in K–12 students with CDW•G. 

EDTECH: As schools continue to face tough choices about in-person versus remote learning, what does student engagement look like in today’s education environment?

DEL MAR: As I talk with end users of our products — including teachers and administrators — we’re asking ourselves questions: Is the physical classroom going away? What’s happening with one-to-one devices? What challenges are parents, students and educators facing?

We’re seeing that the design of physical classrooms is changing to be conducive to a more active engagement style that is defined by both cognitive attention and emotional involvement. Students aren’t just learning independently; they’re also learning as a group and learning from one another. And displays, of course, are a portal to information, and they play an important role in supporting engagement in classroom spaces, whether learning is in-person or virtual.

Front-of-the-classroom interaction is not going away. There is a need, particularly for K–6 students, for the ability to come to the board and show what they’ve learned and what they’re working on. However, technology is also shifting to adapt to the modular design and to one-to-one devices, increasing the need for device-to-display sharing.

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EDTECH: How do Epson laser projectors support student engagement?

DEL MAR: Our BrightLink projector series caps image size at 100 inches because we want to optimize interactivity without losing the ability to use the whiteboard space, which is precious to teachers. Teachers and students need to be able to write or interact with the content at the display. If you don’t need interactivity, you can get up to 500 inches of image size from a mid-range projector and feel confident that students in the back of the room can read and view the content.

The ability to split the projected image on the display also helps with engagement in remote and in-person settings. Teachers can play a video or display an image on one side and take notes on the other side. It’s easy for students to share what they’re working on from their laptops or tablets because you can connect multiple devices wirelessly to the projector.

I think that over time, those features are going to become more important. They all support the seamless integration of devices to displays for different types of interactivity, be it at the board or at students’ desks.

EDTECH: Where have you seen schools using laser projectors to measurably support engagement and collaboration?

DEL MAR: Des Moines Public Schools in Iowa (with a student population of 31,000) is a good example. District leaders wanted to create a learning environment that would be similar to what students may encounter in college or future careers, and they wanted to inspire collaboration, specifically on STEM concepts.

Students at Des Moines Public Schools work independently on their own technical drawings using different software to design a prototype, and they use the interactive features of our BrightLink laser projector to present their ideas to the class. Students can annotate one another’s drawings to share feedback or notes, and then the prototypes get printed on a 3D printer.

It’s a cool way of using several technologies at once to manifest students’ ideas and knowledge into a physical, visual product. It’s important to think about laser projector displays within the context of the classroom ecosystem and how that’s all evolving to deliver the best performance students can have.

EDTECH: Why should schools invest in upgrading their projectors?

DEL MAR: There have been significant improvements in the technology over the past few years, with smarter, brighter, smaller projectors. Epson prides itself in getting a lot of field feedback. Laser projectors are appealing for districts because of their longevity, fast startup and their simplicity — you don’t have to wait for them to warm up, or stop teaching to change a lightbulb, as with old-school projectors. And that gives the teachers less downtime and more flexibility because the projector is always running, and the image quality is consistent.

We’re constantly looking at what’s changing in how we’re using classrooms. What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? What do we need to do to upgrade the technology to deliver to those needs? It’s important for schools and integrators to consider new feature introductions that can be conducive to learning and teaching. Because technology improvements move fast, staying in touch with what manufacturers are doing to enhance the classroom experience and considering faster refresh cycles becomes more important.

I feel there’s a lot of untapped potential in laser projection. Imagine if, in a music class, you could use a small projector to reinforce learning by showing chords when students walk in, or you could display animal facts on the cafeteria walls, so you continuously keep students engaged in learning. I think it all goes back to the mindful integration of technology in tomorrow’s classroom.

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