The basis is very simple but because it has a Windows PC behind it, you can start doing an awful lot
The touch screen BIG PAD is powered by a Windows computer and can serve as a traditional whiteboard, a video player, a screen to display a Power Point presentation, or in fact, any number of software applications. Soon BIG PADs will be connected up to the cloud, from where teaching material can be downloaded and any changes in lessons uploaded. This will also mean that pupils will be able to link up to the whiteboard with their own computers or tablets in the classroom.
These digital whiteboards have been designed for use in the professional environment as well as in schools. Peter Plested, Director of Sharp’s European Solutions Business Centre, says, “The basis is very simple but because it has a Windows PC behind it, you can start doing an awful lot. Imagine you are walking into a conference or a seminar: you have a carousel on the screen and you can flick it around and pick the right presentation. It’s a beautiful, really simple solution and very easy to use. Then you can call up a PDF, a word document or Power Point; you can mark it up, you can save it, you can print it out and soon you will be able to save it to the Cloud and work from there.”
Classrooms are already embracing digital technology, with many now using tablets. Plested’s wife works at a school and this has given him an insight into the type of technology that could help in the classroom. Plested says, “My wife manages a 6th form study centre which invested 2 years ago in Macbooks and iPads. The students who have a natural affinity for working with these internet-enabled devices, simply borrow a unit during their study period. In a month or so, this same school will receive their first BIG PAD’s which will be installed into a newly constructed set of classrooms”
Some classrooms in the UK have already adopted less advanced versions of interactive technology, such as whiteboard-projector combos, but it is only now with the BIG PAD that there is a product that is both technologically advanced and affordable.
It is only in recent times that we have been able to make screens this large, this cost effectively
Darren Gaffey, Product Planning and Marketing Manager at Sharp Europe, says, “A lot of classrooms already have some kind of interactive whiteboard so teachers are used to this kind of technology. This is the next step really. The barrier to this kind of technology in the past has been the screen size. It is only in recent times that we have been able to make screens this large, this cost effectively. Even 3 or 4 years ago a 70” screen like this would have cost you £30,000 or £40,000 which put it beyond the budget of any school. These days, the same size of display is one quarter that cost.”
Like Plested, Gaffey also sees the important role the Cloud will play in the context of the BIG PAD and the digital classroom. He says, “A lot of lessons will come straight from the Cloud so you don’t need a huge powerful computer. Instead you can use a thin client device and that’s key because then you don’t need local storage. If the screen gets stolen or broken but you store everything on the Cloud, it’s not a huge problem. They can’t steal your confidential data, your PowerPoint presentations or whatever else is on there.”
It also means children won’t have to lug heavy books and files around for their homework as all the lesson materials will be uploaded from the BIG PAD onto the Cloud. On the downside, the age old excuse that the dog ate their homework will be even less believable than it is today!