7 Ways My Interactive Display is a Key Part of My Student-Centered Classroom

Today, I had 15 photos on my interactive display at the front of the classroom. I’m teaching PhotoShop, and the students were analyzing which of the photos we’d just taken would be the best candidate for modifying an Avengers movie poster. The students pinched and zoomed in and out as they discussed the photos on the multi-touch board. When they voted to eliminate a photo, they’d remove it until we selected the final photograph. This activity represents a pedagogical shifts that my interactive display has made possible. In this post, I’ll be sharing seven pedagogical shifts that make interactive displays a key to a student-centered classroom.

SMART Technologies sponsored this post.

Shift #1: Students as Collaborators

In my Computer Science classroom, students are collaborators and co-creators. My interactive display is the common workspace for the whole class. Students work on their own computers sometimes; however, there are many times (like the Avengers Photoshop example) where I want students interacting with and manipulating digital objects as they discuss and work together.

The interactive display is a digital workspace that can operate demonstration computers, display a copy of student screens or smartphones “thrown” to it for discussion, become a large multi-touch drawing and brainstorming space, or show video and other content. Quite simply, my interactive display is a must-have device that is like a modern chalkboard for digital objects — but so much more. I wouldn’t teach without one.

But everything starts with the students. So, the first pedagogical shift is that students need a large workspace where they can stand, collaborate, discuss, and share ideas. I love standing back like I did today to watch them work.

Shift #2: Students as Publishers

In a project-based classroom where making and inventing happens all the time, students are always doing amazing things. We see incredible breakthroughs when students share their work with each other.

I want every student to understand how they can share from every single electronic device or a photograph of physical objects on my interactive display. Publishing this visual data should be a process of a couple dozen seconds. This is why, as part of my first and second day procedures, I teach students how to “throw” their screens (of all kinds) to my large screen at the front of the classroom.

Shift #3: Students as Teachers

Being able to quickly share is essential to progress, learning, and celebrating student success. This happens most often while students are learning because not only will students show their work to the whole class on the board, but they’ll also need to demonstrate their process. So, by narrating and explaining as the class sees the work on the board, students are showing other students how they did something.

Often I’ll explain a difficult concept but want to reteach it another way. If a student grasps the concept and wants to demonstrate it on their device, we can let them do this quickly, without leaving their seat, by “throwing” it on the interactive display for all to see. This on-the-fly teaching and sharing is central to making and inventing in my student-centered classroom.

Shift #4: Development of a Common Experience

While I could send the work that we’re doing to everyone’s screen, an individual screen is just that — a screen for an individual. My interactive display at the front of the room is the screen for the class. When we shift our focus from our individual screens to our group screen, it becomes a common experience.

Whether we’re watching a video or interacting with content, I still want my students to interact with each other. We have to be careful not to let one-to-one devices turn us into a classroom of individuals operating alone instead of remaining a group of students experiencing life and learning together. Building community is important, and my interactive display is central to that community. We laughingly call it the “Jumbotron” because it is our large place to share and connect.

When we’re not using our class screen for active content, I often play nature scenes or, in the holiday season, the Yule log. Students will literally come up to the Jumbotron and “warm their hands by the fire” as they have conversations. It feels like a throwback to my childhood when people actually did that during the holidays. But while this device might not warm our hands, it warms us up to experience learning together.

Shift #5: Formative Data Collection and Dissemination

I use a variety of apps that not only show the current presentation on the board, but it also show on student devices. So why would I need an interactive display if everything is on student devices? Additionally, I use software like SMART Learning Suite (which I've blogged about before)  which lets me quiz and share with student devices.

The students love the Monster Quiz games and other activities that the SMART Notebook does so easily.


Well, one concept for technology use is to let each device do what it does best. Small, handheld devices like mobile phones are good for viewing static slides, but they’re epic for sending formative assessment data to the teacher and the whole class.

For example, as I was teaching about the history of computing, I asked a question and opened up a whiteboard response opportunity using Shout it Out. The students’ phones were turned into mini data collection devices. They could draw, type, or handwrite the answers that they wanted to share with the class. As they submitted their mini smartphone-sized responses, these contributions appeared on my interactive display at the front of the classroom. When we were ready to discuss, I would click on one example to make it large and send it to student screens.

When we have in-class discussions like this, we can move whiteboard suggestions around and manipulate all of the submissions just like I would if each student had put a sticky note on a big sheet of paper. Unlike using sticky notes, of course, there are a few big exceptions:

  • Everyone can see the submissions.
  • I can send individual submissions to all of the students and give them a copy.
  • I can make the submissions larger.
  • We can interact with the newly created digital objects in many ways.

In addition, I can poll students and be the only one to see their answers. This eliminates the very unhelpful practice of asking for a show of hands to see if kids understand something.

For example, I used to use the show of hands method when I taught binary number addition and conversion — and it would take me two weeks to cover the content that I now cover in just three days! The shortened time is simply due to clarifying exactly what students know. Once everyone gets a concept, we can move on. (But, whether we’re raising hands or using a Nearpod poll, I will keep reteaching it until they get it.)

When students enter the classroom, a quick review shows me if they’re ready to move on. When they leave, a quick comment to me lets me know what my prep for tomorrow will look like.

Formative assessment is a not-so-secret of my own success, and the interactive display is part of this as I show certain items and hide others.

Research Note: Every student response describe here is a quick and painless form of formative assessment. More about this at Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American educator, 36(1), 12.

Shift #6: Digital Manipulation of Many Objects

A challenge with smaller computer screens, tablets, and smartphones is that screen real-estate seems to be shrinking. There are times we need to brainstorm as a class, and the many ideas, objects, and items just wouldn’t reasonably fit on the smaller screens. Many years ago, we would have put butcher paper on the walls and drawn on it with markers. But in the modern world, we use digital objects, delete them, erase them, draw on them, and then, when we’re done, we can email them, print them out, or send them to everyone’s devices. There are times we need a massive screen, and my interactive display is the only thing that will do.

Shift #7: Easy Ways to Point Out What is Important

I saved this one for last because some of you might think it’s overly simplistic. While I could send some things to screens and perhaps use a digital pointer, I find that when I’m teaching rapidly, pointing with my finger works best. I don’t always have the time to slow down and get digital tools to work. I just want to stand at the “board” and teach, point things out, move them around, and draw on them.

I Need My Interactive Display

My classroom has been blended for five years now, and I’ve been using videos for longer than that. Although there are many ways to use individual devices, for me, that’s only part of the full pedagogical picture.

To maximize learning, I want each student to have a device (or two), but I also want to have a common, massive, interactive device that is our group space, workspace, and digital drawing board. I want a shared device that’s a springboard to all of the making, inventing, and collaborating that I think must be part of an effective modern classroom. I need my interactive display, and I sincerely believe that our classroom needs it to supplement the other digital devices in our classroom.

Large interactive displays are an important part of my classroom pedagogy, my practice, and quite honestly, the fun we have as a classroom community. And having fun, however we achieve it, makes us better learners and collaborators.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere