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Using ActivPanels: More than just giant TV screens!

A ClassFlow advocate Rhianna Rose explains how her school is learning how to use ActivPanels to encourage more digital learning techniques in the classroom.

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Rhianna Rose is a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) at Ysgol y Ddraig Primary School in Llantwit Major, South Wales. After playing a key role in the technological advancement of her school, she has keen interest in the development and implementation of edtech within the classroom, and the integration of digital learning techniques.

As one of our advocates, Rose has written a guest article about how her school is learning to use the new Promethean ActivPanels — or ‘giant TV screens’ — in her classroom.

I woke up at 4am on the morning of the 26th of July 2017. It was going to be a long day filled with train journeys, new people and a new perspective on Promethean; not just operating the ActivPanels, but also the people involved in the company. First, here’s a little back story:

In 2016, two primary schools in the small, historical town of Llantwit Major amalgamated as Ysgol y Ddraig. In our old school, we barely had a projector that would work, the computers were older than stone, and with all the advances in edtech within the classrooms of other schools, we were seriously behind.

New education technology

That all changed when we moved into our new building. Every classroom was kitted with iPads and Chromebooks, and the teachers were given iPads and MacBooks. But on that first day, I couldn’t help wondering what these ‘giant TV screens’ were on the walls!

Now, I’m not afraid of technology. I used to build my own PCs and have no problem playing around with computer software. I was eager to explore this new tech we had at our disposal, but there just wasn’t time that day. We had to unpack the contents of two schools into one, design the layout of the classrooms and of course, educate the children.

Much more than just a giant TV

We had a quick introduction to the wonderful new screen in our classroom, and learnt it was far more than just a giant TV screen! We were briefly shown the basics and got to grips with some of the functions. We were so overwhelmed, however, by the jump in technology that we neglected to take full advantage of everything ActivPanels have to offer, not to mention the time involved. You know what it’s like — you sit at the computer for what seems like 10 minutes, and when you look up 2 hours have passed!

The problem of underutilised tech in schools

We spent the day with other Promethean advocates, we were introduced to ClassFlow and the other ActivPanel features. I then realised how underutilised much of our schools technology actually is.

Staff within schools are extremely busy. Sadly, they have little to no time to get to grips with the very software that could reduce their workload, once they take the first steps to understand how it can work for them. More training is certainly needed, but not everyone is willing to develop his or her knowledge in this area. For better or worse, there are those within any company or organisation that do not wish to ‘move with times’ or change the way things have ‘always been done’.

I’m not saying this is always a bad thing; we can learn from how things used to be done. I don’t, however, think this is an option with the rate technology is moving. This is especially true within schools; these are the adults of the future, who will be constantly connected to the technology being developed right now.

Teaching technology with confidence

In this increasingly digitised world, we need to teach young children how to use technology with confidence, with an awareness of how it can work both for and against them. Of course, childhood beyond the computer screen is important, and this is unchallenged by the government and local authorities. Children have a basic right to experience the world in which they will live in for a very long time.

But equal importance needs to be placed on the experiences that a child will have within the digital world, where they will spend more and more time. We don’t hesitate to tell a child to be wary of strangers when they are out playing, but how many of us take the same approach when it comes to having an online presence?

Awareness is increasing among adults, but children also need to be taught how to keep themselves safe. Using technology, and navigating the online world safely, allows both adults and children to take advantage of everything it has to offer. It can help us, entertain us, allow us to be creative, and to teach in a variety of fun and engaging ways.

Learning through play — the same rules apply

Staff who are reluctant to use edtech beyond what they absolutely have to are usually afraid to just ‘have a play’ for fear of breaking an expensive bit of kit. But they can’t ‘break’ anything that can’t be quickly fixed, not really. It’s about instilling confidence in the adults using technology, so that they are able to gain a better understanding and willingness to use what is available to them.

Children learn through play more than most other methods; it’s how they develop an understanding of the world around them. So, can’t we apply that logic to adults in the relatively unknown digital landscape? Can’t we, as adults, take a page out of the books of the developing child and explore these new digital surroundings through play, and the freedom to press a button and see what happens, just for the fun of it?

And just as we tell a child, “you mustn’t play in that building because it’s not safe” we apply that same rule to adults exploring a new piece of software. We could say, “as long as you don’t play around in this folder (eg. the registry or Windows files) you’ll be safe to explore everything else and perhaps you’ll learn some things you didn’t know before.”

After my wonderful two-day experience meeting amazing people and learning more about Promethean and the ActivPanels, I plan to ask staff for a few minutes of their time. I will show them everything I’ve learnt about the ‘big TV screens’ in their classrooms, how to use them to their full potential, and how to implement more digital learning techniques.

Promethean ActivPanels, powered by Android, provide the perfect technology to bring education to life. The tablet-like experience is intuitive and equips pupils with digital skills for the future. As Rhianna points out, these skills are imperative to tomorrow’s workforce.