Seeing it Clearly

Data projectors will become as ubiquitous in classrooms of the 2000s as TV monitors were in the 1990s.

The display device is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in the classroom and should be chosen with care. For years, many students have complained that they can't see or read the display on TV monitors. Larger screens do not necessarily solve the problem. The trend is turning to data projectors.

A data projector allows a teacher or student a new dimension in sharing ideas, information, charts, images, animations, audio or video. A data projector can show a large, clear image visible from all parts of the classroom. Text is easy to read so long as suitable font sizes and contrasting colors are used. The brightness, features, ease of use and price of data projectors have improved in recent years.

Schools can justify investing in a data projector if it leads to better teaching and learning. Here are points to consider:

  • The display can motivate students and hold their attention. The class is focused more quickly on the lesson.

  • Instructors can demonstrate and introduce instructional materials so that all can see and hear easily; they can structure material in advance, prepare high-quality examples and illustrations, and store them for reuse.

  • With multiple inputs, teachers can use their computers to project from multiple video sources.

  • Projectors require less dimming of lights.

Other product features to evaluate before purchasing:

  • Make sure the projector has appropriate light output. On a 6-foot screen, 1,100 lumens can do a good job, but 1,500 lumens is a better buy.

  • Be sure the screen has sufficient resolution, the amount of detail that can be seen in an image. For VGA screens, 640 × 480 resolution; S-VGA, 800 × 600; and XGA, 1024 × 768.

  • Have sufficiently powerful speakers. Better projectors typically will be strong enough to use their own stereo sound output in a classroom. However, some schools prefer to use external amplified speakers.

  • Make sure the projector is equipped with wireless remote control, so a teacher can run the projector from different parts of the room.

  • Consider permanent ceiling mounting. Check to make sure there is an option to flip the image if the projector is best mounted upside down on the ceiling.

  • Seek a warranty with a minimum of two years.

Whatever your projection system, be sure to evaulate its image quality with both text and graphics, as well as a variety of software and regular video inputs to make sure your viewing conditions are suitable. Text should look as focused in the corners as it does in the center. Black and white text letters should be equally clear and readable. Neither the darkest nor the lightest colors should be washed out, and gray colors should not be tinted with other colors.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Bloomington, Ind., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected]. www.kbdplanning.com

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