Digital Displays - No More Backing Paper or (in future) IWBs

ICT display from South Wootton School, NorfolkOver the summer holidays the IT Dept. at our school have been super busy creating the new VLE platform for Admin and parents in readiness for classes to start adding the first snippets of links and letters for home use before the bigger online docs start appearing.

But, one of the more exciting developments in my opinion is the removal of paper backed displays and the introduction of a series of digital displays. There are 6 screens, one for each year group and a shared one for Reception and Year 1. Each screen has a series of videos on loop showcasing that term's learning or important messages to the passing traffic.

The layout of our ICT area lends itself nicely to this kind of sharing of good children's work because throughout the week the entire school passes by our windows and, at break times a lot of the school walks by on their way to the library which is on the floor above. This means that the everybody can stop and watch and see good ICT, not so much in practice, but finished products; they seldom see a repeated screen.

It also means we're not printing a million reams of paper and HP's yearly output of ink to colour them all with. If you think I'm joking and is a bit of an expensive outlay then I'll give you some numbers first. In the whole of juniors we budget for NT$200,000 a year and always run out - that's about $6,800USD or £4,200. Now, in ICT we budget about £1,200 for ink alone (it used to be more with an A3 printer). So, with this cut slightly and moving the printing to be 'necessary items ony' or 'class displays' then this will cut the 'oh little Johnny wanted this to take home' scenario we all too commonly come across. Thing is we can email this home to little Johnny's parents and, with the other children's work he and his parents can see it on the screens when they walk by all term.

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Install 6 LCD displays

The other numbers are the costs of this setup. The screens are 27"(originally 23" but was way to small when sat in the windows) Acer LCD NT$7990 X 6 = NT$47940 + the case, wireless keyboard etc was a rough initial estimate and fitting of NT$137,000 was way too high. Plus we didn't need a giant 1TB drive and all the other gubbins you can see in the spec sheet.

So, we got a cheaper case and bits and pieces and paid for higher spec cabling. The cabling was the big draw as its vital to maintain a strong signal. The computer itself is way over to the right (in the pic) and controlled by standing the other side of this glass. So, the cabling had to run HDMI over LAN and back to HDMI again else the signsal strength would be toast by the time it got to the screens. Also, running 6 lots of VLC @ 720p + means the machine needs a bit of oomph.

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Display costsSo you can see from the costs it looks a little pricey especially as fitting was about a $1000US / NT$30,000. But, in all it looks good, the children and teachers are in awe of it and the parents always stop and stare for a while so it catches the eye like no other paper backed display - no matter how many bells and whistels you dangle from it!

And, in a few years it will have paid for itself more or less in the cost of paper and ink - this, assuming we would have been changing a similar amount pieces of paper to match the digital output.

We're pleased with it and wanted to share an important part of learning: seeing best practice of your friends, peers and of course celebrating achievement. We're also pleased with it enough to make another giant step in replacing IWBs across the school with 55-60" LED/ LCD monitors controlled with a wireless Wacom Pen and Touch tablet. If you've seen this tablet in action you'll know too that they are not like the old clunkers that meant the pen was a jagged affair. These are smooth with a multi-touch capability much like an Apple touchpad. We will post more about this development as we test this out. Needless to say we're a bit fed up wth IWBs, their non-interactiveness and VGA greyness.

 This is what it finally looks like from the other side of that glass.

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LCD Display in Action