Classroom flow is an elusive beast everyone seems to be after, using all available tools of the trade. In the setting of a classroom, managing to catch and ride on this flow can be a make-it-or-break-it moment standing between your success and failure as an educator. Increasingly obsolete gadgetry can actually backstab you if you turn to it for help, yet wireless technology promises to restore your full control of the engagement flow and turn its tide in your favour.
Going with the flow without bottlenecks
Mainstreaming of multimedia technology in our classrooms has been celebrated as the next best thing in education since we moved away from clay tablets. Overhead projectors, internet connection, and online audio-visual tools have come to classrooms with a lot of bang whose echo seems to be fading now as the technologies become too mature for comfort. Yet, we still sing its praises on each occasion, remembering the days of chalk and blackboards as something from the Jurassic era.
But what about the flow theory, which came to prominence at the same time as the first electrical gadgets entered our classrooms? In a nutshell, its application in the classroom means that the students are fully attuned to and focused on the educational goal of a particular class for sufficient time. Engagement is the name of the game here, but with the teacher acting as a sole technological arbiter and hub in a classroom, it is not realistic to expect to keep the student’s full attention at all time.
Consider this: no matter how professionally designed and informative your presentation is, your increasingly unreliable ally in maintaining the classroom flow is your reliance on keeping the student’s concentration with the help of your technological “marvels”. At the same time, wireless tech has emerged as a helping hand in keeping the students immersed in the classroom flow you create with a single miniature device. Let’s see how.
Caught in the cabled web
First of all, imagine an all too familiar scene: you are showing your classroom a video which runs via HDMI cable and you manage to keep them engaged by it. Before its end, you need to switch to the second piece which is essential for post-presentation discussion. Yet, years of pulling and inserting the cable in your laptop have wreaked havoc on its Made in China pins and it refuses to transmit signal for no apparent reason. While you go into a damage control mode, your previously impeccable classroom flow is interrupted beyond recovery and you are left to salvage whatever you can from the remaining class time.
These classroom situations are actually more common than we think, and you can hardly blame it on yourself. With the complex network of pins featured in cables, it has become notoriously difficult for the industrial workers to manually solder them as per the highest industry standards, while their mass production makes it equally difficult to perform QA on each of them. Ultimately, you are left with a myriad of cheap and easily available cables which are prone to malfunctions, particularly with increased use.
The problem is not strictly related to malfunctions, however. The rise in the number of classrooms has significantly increased the amount of cabling and adapter interfaces used for them. This turned their proper management into a nightmare for both teachers and tech support personnel who, with tight human resources budgets, cannot afford to be on hand in every classroom when things go south. The practice of bringing one’s device (BYOB) hasn’t helped much either since many of these gadgets lack compatible ports for efficient mass viewing.
The stats look bleak even when the tech works as promised, with a meagre five-minute video clip taking at least three additional minute to be used effectively. This amounts to at least a three minute waste per presentation in your already tight space for achieving the desired classroom flow. How about getting rid of the cabling and engaging the students classroom-wide in a seamless manner?
Student as a technological focal point
If you think your presentation in the classroom is “interactive” just by the fact that your cursor is on your laptop’s screen, you are wrong. “Interacting” today means posing a problem and having the students propose their own solution to it, with technology acting as the bridge between the two.
Yet, even when you sort out the aforementioned technical issues and manage to present a problem, you’ll have to invite your students to huddle together around your laptop and have them take turns in solving it. Clearly, this mother hen approach is hardly a way to achieve smooth classroom flow, as the students will have a hard time showing you how they arrive at their individual solutions with so many heads crowding a single screen.
With wireless HDMI streaming devices, your presentation will easily jump from your laptop to a large screen, projector or a wall. Not only will everyone be able to follow what you what to show without the hassle of dealing with meters of unreliable cables, but you can easily have each student take part in showing how they solved a given problem before the whole classroom. This devices are already among us. Airtame’s wireless transmission device, for example, may look like a USB stick, but this superficial similarity begins and ends with its ambition to become as ubiquitous as this storage device.
This Danish manufacturer has recognised educational and business institutions as pioneering niches for the adoption of cable-less engagement of their respective auditoriums. In case of classrooms, textbooks and teacher-focused presentations increasingly make way for big-screen multimedia used by the student themselves, strengthening the sense of classroom-level collaborative effort.
Even the everyday Google Earth presentations and video conferences with persons in the field can become engrossing and interactive experiences once you get them on a classroom wall without the nagging fear of faulty cables or the availability of tech support personnel.
Instead of a grumpy IT technician, have your students see and talk to an archaeologist in the field. Have the students embark on a virtual trip from Kilimanjaro to ancient Rome within seconds of a simple device switch, instead of having them witness an unplanned live demonstration of cabling and adapter troubleshooting.
Going beyond the classroom flow itself, having the students observe and use a novel and intuitive tech in your classroom will increase their computer literacy and prepare them for the IT-heavy demands of the modern day workplace.
Creating a fully digital and networked classroom requires us to rethink the maturity and usefulness of increasingly obsolete classroom technologies. Limitations of faulty cabling, frequent breakdowns conflicting connection interfaces and the undeserved focus on the teacher’s device in supposedly interactive presentations all pose a challenge in creating and maintaining an engaging classroom flow.
The rise of wireless technologies with minimal footprint will remove final obstacles in the race to offer a fully interactive and student-focused experience in the classroom whose effects will ripple across education and business sectors for the years to come.
Jonas Gyalokay, CEO, Airtame
Image Credit: Chris Oakley / Flickr