The first interactive whiteboards were invented back in the 90s. It was a while before they caught on but now they have been at the heart of classroom teaching for years. A more recent development has been the introduction of tablets in an educational setting.
As with interactive whiteboards, this platform has gone hand-in-hand with the gamification of learning. The best teaching appreciates that many pupils are kinaesthetic or visual learners. Students who process information best, not out of a textbook or from the teacher’s mouth, but when doing or watching things. Technology has been instrumental in delivering a more tailored education. But many areas of schooling continue to be overlooked…
Digital signage promises to be the interactive whiteboard of the decade. It’s only logical that in the 21st century, when everyone is glued to screens 24/7, that schools should be communicating with their pupils digitally. The main bonus of digitalisation is the ability to automate and integrate external sources of content, making life for school administrators easy. We’ve compiled a list of five uses for digital signage in schools:
1. An Educational Platform
Today, syllabuses once taught purely through a textbook are brought to life through video, interactive diagrams and games. But this multi-media approach doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom. Digital signage around school can be used to consolidate in-class learning.
The ‘how-to’ video, for example, is one of the most popular educational tools. There are videos on the internet covering everything from ‘how to bake a cake’ to ‘how to tie a tie’. There’s no reason the Maths department can’t use a digital screen in their corridor (or even in the classroom) to display ‘how-to’ algebra videos. The History department might want to set up an interactive timeline on their screen to help students remember their dates.
The strength of digital signage as an educational platform is the ability to draw on external content. Schools often subscribe to websites like the Khan Academy, or use resources like Horrible Histories. Having a network of screens to convey this content is an invaluable addition to pupils’ in-class learning, especially as it doesn’t create teachers any work.
2. A Wayfinding Tool
A practical use for digital signage in a school environment is wayfinding and organisation. Keeping up with a busy schedule of classes – not to mention finding their way to the right rooms (especially at the start of term) – is a challenge faced by all school children alike. Installing digital signage screens around school makes this experience less stressful. When used to display class time-tables, screens help students get organised and plan their day.
Again, the key to digital signage is integration and automation. Screens can often be integrated with a school’s timetabling software and programmed to show classes at transition times throughout the day. The result is a no maintenance solution.
In addition to providing the location of their next class, the most sophisticated signage solutions are able to offer directions, perhaps through a touch screen interface.
3. A Communication Channel
Children today have an increasingly short attention span. Teachers and school administrators have to compete with more distractions than ever, now that even young children are walking around with smartphones. It makes perfect sense that schools will most effectively communicate with their pupils digitally.
Putting up screens around school is a huge upgrade on trying to advertise a school trip or theatre production on a poster. Dynamic screens utilise video, images and moving text to convey information. A school with a social media presence can even integrate its social accounts. With tweets displayed on-screen, a headmaster in control of the school Twitter can deliver live school news throughout the building. The great thing about integrated social media is that displays become automatically updated. This lets schools make the most of content they are already putting out – rather than creating more work.
4. Locationally Targeted Content
A strength of a digital signage network is the ability to adapt each screen to its location through targeted content. A screen in the school’s reception would be valuable in shaping a positive first impression for visitors. It could display snippets from the school’s prospectus, photos from recent events, or perhaps a schedule for an Open Day.
Another great place for a screen would be the school canteen. Gone are the days when dinner-ladies need to write their menus out in chalk or on paper posters. With a digital display, schools can remotely update their lunch menu for every day of the week, as well as provide nutritional information. They can schedule the content in advance for easiness, or make last minute changes. If your catering staff didn’t want to manage their menus on screen software, the software itself could be linked to a website. Menus could be simply updated there and then pulled in by the software and put on-screen.
5. A Staff Aide
Finally, digital signage is an effective way of communicating, not just with students, but with staff. Screens are becoming popular nowadays in staff-rooms as a way of both informing and entertaining staff in their breaks. Up until now, staff have relied too often on falling-apart bulletin boards or impermanent whiteboards for important notices. With a signage screen, memos and alerts can be delivered with confidence knowing that they’ll be seen.
Alternatively, the same screen can be used to stream live TV, like Sky News, to help staff pass the time in their breaks. A staff-room screen could be integrated with traffic and weather reports: information that is sure to be of use and appreciated.
Digital signage is multi-functional and versatile. With the price of screens continually dropping, it’s a matter of time before they crop up in even the smallest of institutions. The technology’s most significant advantage is its low maintenance – the ability to integrate and automate external sources of content.