Classroom Displays

There are very few absolute truths in displays, but this much I know: Larger is always better.

As a result of that simple fact, I am a strong proponent of HD projectors in classrooms- and as I’ve covered here before, I don’t really care for IWB’s. That’s not to say they can’t be used well; I just mean that I, personally, don’t have any use for them. And, given their small size, I don’t like that they don’t allow me to pull my projector back and make the image on the wall bigger.

What I’m starting to see, however, is the difference between the same information presented on the same size display in different ways. I’ll take twitter as an example- here are a couple of truths I’ve discovered:

1. The faster the update cycle on twitter, the better the audience response.

2. The larger and easier to read the text, the better.

3. The more posts shown at a time, the better.

Numbers 2 & 3 are clearly in conflict with each other- the larger and easier you make the text to read, the fewer posts you can show at a time. But here’s the kicker: there’s nothing out there that does this. There are individual tools that address any one of those points, but nothing that completes the package. To whit:

1. The fastest update cycle I’ve seen is via Today’s Meet, in which case it’s very quick. But it’s not twitter, and there are problems surrounding abuse/username/and-so-on that aren’t trivial to fix.

2. The largest and easiest to read twitter client is Trickle for iOS. But it’s not a full client and it only shows one post at a time. Also, I’ve not been able to get the video from that app to output to a projector via a wire. Yet.

3. The highest post density can be created using Monitter, but it’s has lag, occasionally re-loads everything, and isn’t super readable.

This basic notion seems to apply to other places- Google Docs, for example, is a great tool for use in the classroom. But displaying a Google Doc on a projector is a less-than-optimal experience. Given the limited space on screen, the browser bar and menus kill real estate- and to get the Doc readable for the whole classroom, you’ll need to bump the font size way up- say, 24pt. Between those two factors, you’re only seeing a slice of the document, and if it gets larger, they’re not much you can do. What I’d like is a projector setting in the menus. Actually, Today’s Meet has this- it optimizes the display for use with a projector- and it’s a lovely thing.

It’s not enough that we think about presenting information in the classroom- we need to be deliberate in how that information manifests. You’d never hand out a printed packet set in 8pt font- but we have no problem projecting 12pt at a distance of 30 feet. We need to step back and think about the visual clutter, the readability, and the overall layout of the displays we present.