When Central Coast Grammar School (CCGS) refurbished a block of classrooms recently, it installed wireless screen mirroring technology in every room. Then the Australian K-12 school did something really radical. “We literally threw out our teachers’ desks,” says Damon Cooper, an English teacher and the director of teaching and learning at CCGS, in New South Wales. “There are just classrooms, and we can teach from anywhere within them.” He explains, “we’ve physically centered the room around the children. It’s not a theory; it’s not a philosophy; it’s not an approach. Literally, physically, the children are the center of the classroom.
"Wireless screen mirroring, which allows the projection and sharing of device screens without cables, doesn’t just free teachers from worrying about what became of the HDMI cord or which dongle goes with which tablet. It eliminates the need for them to be glued to the front of the room—and the imperative to stand and deliver. Cooper calls wireless screen mirroring a game changer, and he likens it to the introduction of the mobile phone. “It used to be if you were on a call but had to turn down the oven or open the front door, you had to put the phone down to do it,” he says.
“With cordless and mobile phones, we can do multiple things at once. Likewise, with screen mirroring technology, we teachers are no longer locked physically.”
Free range teaching is just one of the many benefits of wireless screen mirroring. Australian educator Lauren Sayer has been thrilled to see it move her class in a new, student-driven direction. “As the class researches things, one student will say, ‘Oh, I found this link, and it’s a great resource,’” says Sayer, who also oversees learning technologies at Haileybury, a large, multi-campus school based in Melbourne. “I can ask that student to bring it up on the screen, and everybody can see it straight away and we can have a discussion,” she explains. “Then the next student will say, ‘Oh, I found this!’ And all of a sudden we have this amazing cooperative learning group. Now it’s the students’ discussion, not mine. I become the facilitator. That’s extraordinarily exciting.” . . . with screen mirroring technology, we teachers are no longer locked physically.
Both Haileybury and CCGS use screen mirroring tools and software by Vivi, an Australian education-focused and educator-staffed company that hopes to bring its successes to schools in the U.S. Central Texas’ Liberty Hill Independent School District, for example, embraced Vivi after investigating several options. “It’s kind of the holy grail of screen mirroring,” says Jay Olivier, Liberty Hill’s Chief Information Officer. “It’s an application that handles video streaming well and works all the time, on any device that I try it on—iphones, tablets, androids, ipads, Windows devices. It works on everything. And it just works.”
Student presentations, says Olivier, which are a recurring tech headache for many teachers, become simple with Vivi’s technology; it boasts an app that connects to any platform. “The students can use whatever devices they’ve been working on,” says Olivier. “They just connect to the room and request access to present their screen out to display. They can also download screenshots, annotate them and take notes on what the teacher is doing.”
The app is easy for teachers, too, which was a huge selling point for Haileybury. “With Vivi, there was no learning curve,” says Sayer.
“Teachers didn’t have to learn a radical new piece of software, they just had to log in and get going at what they do best.”
And now they can do what they do best from anywhere in the classroom. Untethered, teachers have more flexibility and can be more responsive to their students’ struggles and triumphs in the moment. “A teacher can be running a lesson but still be looking over kids’ shoulders,” says Cooper. “He can say to a kid, ‘that’s really interesting, try this’ or ‘perhaps add that’ without having to interrupt the flow of the presentation.”
Teachers can also stop the flow, if that’s what the moment demands. “Say the teacher is checking on a group in the back of the room, and there’s an issue,” says Olivier. “He can say, ‘Okay, guys, everyone pause for a second. We need to look at this.’ Then he can throw it up on the screen at the front and then have a quick discussion. Or maybe it’s, ‘Hey, everyone, I want you to see what Johnny’s doing; this is really cool!’ And then he throws Johnny’s screen up there.”
Most of the refurbished, teacher-desk-free classrooms at CCGS have a luxurious four screens per room—and most of the rooms can be opened up to a double space—which offers all sorts of possibilities for screen mirroring. When Cooper was team teaching Macbeth to his 10th graders, he was able to display a copy of the script on one screen and play a dramatic reading on another. “At the same time, we were able to do annotations on the script and take notes on a separate document to model note-taking behavior for the students,” he says. “And we could do it all while we were near the children.”
Overall, teachers using this technology offer positive feedback. Sayer says it’s something her teachers “beg for”. Olivier admits he’s actually “a little surprised at how quickly our teachers accepted it, embraced it and ‘couldn’t live without it’”.
Student reactions, however, have been mixed—at least initially. Some students had to recalibrate when Haileybury rolled out Vivi two years ago. “They realized, ‘Oh, my teacher is no longer going to be sitting up front and I can watch Netflix in the back,’” says Sayer. “So the level of accountability increases. But once the students realize this benefits their learning, we see them become more engaged.”
Along with accountability and engagement, student agency has gotten a boost, too, says Sayer. When one student doesn’t understand something, another student has the ability to explain it with an on-screen example. “It’s not just the teacher roving around the classroom; our students are becoming teachers with this technology,” she says. “Student access is my favorite aspect of this.”
Sayer also likes the Emergency Management System that pops up on the screen in the event of a fire drill or lockdown—an idea encouraged by Haileybury and incorporated into Vivi’s software. Indeed, the company actively solicits and integrates teacher feedback into its product development. “Before, if there was a lockdown in the school, you would be waiting for someone to come knock on your door and say, okay, the fire drill is over,” she says. Now, the relevant information is delivered instantaneously. “Teachers and students really like knowing what’s going on.”
Though he doesn’t yet have data on how it has impacted student performance, CCGS’s Cooper thinks wireless screen mirroring technology will soon become the norm in classrooms because it’s affordable and the benefits are enormous. “It has changed the efficiency of the learning process, and I think it has built a better classroom culture, a better culture of learning,” he says. His favorite aspect of the technology? “I’m more connected to the children, in both a learning sense and a well-being sense. I’m with the children now. They don’t come to my class; we go to our class.”
This article originally appeared on EdSurge.