Visual communication technologies such as projectors and flat panels are revolutionising the way education is delivered in schools and universities, and for good reason too explains Hans Dummer, Director of Visual Instruments at Epson EMAR.
According to the World Health Organisation, 80% of education material is remembered when delivered via visual means and 90% through interactive lessons, showing that there is clear evidence display size matters in education. Compare that to the just 25% retained from one way verbal lectures and its clear that these methods will be used heavily for years to come. One issue surrounding the increase of digitisation as opposed to traditional delivery methods is the increase in myopia (short-sightedness) which has dramatically increased to double the total amount it was 50 years ago.
Despite this, many schools remain uninformed as to proper screen use and decision making protocols.
Flat panel or projector?
When making a decision on technology in classrooms and group teaching rooms, there really are only two choices: flat panel TV’s or projectors. Of the two, projectors are the established technology, but flat panels are being adopted by some establishments due to familiarity and perceived simplicity. However research shows that 58% of students cannot read all content provided on a 70 inch flat panel*, causing a negative impact on learning as well as un-due strain on the eyes. Despite this, there is still no Europe-wide legislation in place to govern how such technology should be used in the classroom or to ensure that what is installed is visible to all students and therefore fit for purpose.
The use of a projector however, offers a far more responsible and flexible choice for the education environment due to the size of the screens, that can be scaled up to 100 inches.
All possible reservations with projectors have been quashed by the advancement in todays technology: performing in daylight with super high colour brightness, incorporating connectivity that allows for BYOD (bring-your-own-device) interaction, interactive sensing and touch technologies and bigger distortion-free images as well as being more portable and taking up much less space than a flat panel.
Ensuring the screen is fit for purpose
As a market leader in projectors for the past 13 years and working closely with a range of schools and training institutions, Epson knows how vision of projected information and images affect learning outcomes. Similarly, they have recognised the need for clear recommendations and will work with all partners to ensure they have the correct product to suit their purpose. This ensures the projected content isn’t too small, is of high quality and is clearly visible, taking into consideration the viewing distance and the angle from the screen.
Today’s learning methods are no longer centred on one person presenting to a group of students. Instead students are presenting to other students as well as using screens to work collaboratively throughout the wider group. Therefore, classrooms require a planning process to facilitate appropriate integration of technology, as opposed to making a purchase decision on prior specifications and costs.
It is important to assess the needs and limitations of the environment parameters – room size, number of people using it, and despite there being no overall legislation in place, there are currently several guiding principles that should be followed in order to maximise learning capacity and minimise the impact on students’ eyesight.
According to guidelines set out by the University of South Wales in its report entitled Audio Visual and Teaching Space Guidelines.**
- The bottom of the screen should be no lower than 1.2m from the floor;
- The minimum distance between the first row and the screen should be twice the screen height;
- The minimum screen width should be the same as the distance between the closest viewer and the screen; and
- The maximum horizontal and vertical viewing angle is 45 degrees and 30 degrees respectively.
Guidelines are also in place for the type of information being viewed in a classroom setting. The 4-6-8 rule is based on recommendations from regulatory bodies that state, the the participant should sit no futher than 4, 6 or 8 times the vertical height of the screen away depending on the task being performed.
“Passive viewing” or video viewing can be furthest away (8x), followed by “detailed viewing” (6x) which is general reading of presentations and lastly “inspection viewing” including small text and spreadsheet content should be no further away than four times the vertical height of the screen away.
Research from The Smart Cube reports that numerous factors should be considered when ascertaining the technology to opt for and the size of the screen needed including ceiling height, length and width of room, number of people and budget avaialable which evidently impact purchase decisions. However, it must not be disputed that the larger the screen, the higher the possibility of memory retention by a classroom and consequently, educators should be choosing projetors over flat panels.
SIZE DOES MATTER.
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*Epson whitepaper (Comparing leading 70” class model 4k resolution flat panel (top-selling – in units – excl sales into hotels according to PMA Distributor data for North America, sales between Jan-Sept 2015) in a 22 feet width x 27 feet depth classroom style arrangement. When asked to copy down six short items of information from slides being displayed, 58% of students aged 12-22 copied at least one item incorrectly. Based on US research conducted by Radius Research, April 2016.)
** The Smart Cube, Epson Digital Displays: Display Size Relative to Distance, 12 August 2016