While the fate of humanity did not rest on her pulling it off, Australian English teacher Sarah Gunn faced a daunting task. Her high school literature students at St. Laurence’s College in Brisbane had just 50 minutes to write up a formative assessment on the representation of robots and artificial intelligence in the movies. For that to happen, she had to play five-minute clips from both "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Wall-E" in quick succession—twice.
In the past, such an assignment would have required Gunn to stream the clips through a projector and the school’s wifi—an arduous process that often left her battling lag time, poor video quality and balky sound that sometimes forced her to clamber onto a table to fiddle with speakers. With the class in the middle of an exam, “I couldn’t waste time flipping between videos,” says Gunn, who is also the school’s director of teacher performance and development. “I really needed a quick process.”
“I couldn’t waste time flipping between videos. I really needed a quick process.”
To the rescue: the video-streaming and screen-mirroring technology St. Laurence had recently installed. Using wireless presentation tools by Vivi, an education-focused company founded in Australia, Gunn was able to mirror her tablet screen on the classroom screen and play YouTube clips directly through a hardwired receiver without slowing down the school’s wifi—or her students’ work. “Vivi has been really reliable, so I’m happier and the students are much less frustrated because I’m not having to send someone down to the IT department for help,” says Gunn.
Wireless screen-mirroring, which allows the projection and sharing of device screens without cables, frees teachers from worrying about what became of the HDMI cord and which dongle goes with which tablet. It also eliminates the need for them to be glued to the front of the room—and the imperative to stand and deliver. And it saves time, lots of time.
Here are six ways the technology can maximize classroom time and boost student and teacher productivity:
Gunn’s school has a one-to-one device policy; when she projects her screen to model her writing process, for example, students can connect their own devices to use the platform’s annotate tool to take a screenshot and add their own notes. Because Vivi works with any device or platform, Gunn’s students are free to use their Apple laptops, Chrome tablets or Android smartphones. “Previously, if I was doing annotations on my screen and then if I wanted to share that work with students, I would have to either upload it to a OneNote or email that document to students,” she says.
Gunn saves even more time by being able to set up her classroom technology within about 20 seconds of walking into her classroom. In the past, she’d spend several minutes of at the start of every class connecting to her computer, waiting for the projector to warm up, synching it to her laptop and then trying to project videos or PowerPoint files—an operation that often caused the projector to disconnect.
Gunn estimates that by avoiding those hassles and little things like having to send emails of annotated documents, she saves 10 minutes out of every 50-minute lesson.
That benefits her students directly: She gets through her content more quickly, so her students are into the skill development stage of their learning faster. That will enhance their achievement down the road, says Gunn, “and it means I’m freed up to conference with students, or to run master classes with my extension students. Having that extra time has been really beneficial.”
Amanda Pfeffer, a science and chemistry teacher for grades seven through twelve at the Shore School in Sydney, has found that using screen-mirroring in conjunction with a new laptop has changed the way she teaches—in part because she can move away from PowerPoint. “Chemical formulas, with subscripts and superscripts, are incredibly difficult to type,” says Pfeffer, whose school is trying out Vivi in select classrooms. “It’s really helpful to be able to handwrite things on OneNote, project them on the screen, and then for the students to be able to go back and re-access them—through a read-only file or screen capture—later on in their own time.”
Using screen-mirroring, Pfeffer is able to model how her students should construct formulas and reactions; she can also share her annotations and modifications much faster than she could before. “That way a secondary explanation of a concept can happen instantly as opposed to the next day,” she says. “That gives us time down the track to work on additional examples, or extend the students’ understanding in a different way, or talk about it from a different perspective.”
Like most teachers, Natalie Harris, a primary teacher at St. Francis de Sales School near Sydney, could really use a clone. A multitasking screen could be the next best thing: In the past, Harris might have needed to prepare her math lesson but couldn’t because the children were using her screen. With Vivi’s pause screen feature, which allows teachers to mirror their screens and still work privately, she says she can “put the lesson up, go back to my computer and do things without the children getting disrupted.”
Pfeffer has also found the platform’s video features to be useful, if not perfect. Because Vivi works closely with educators on product development, those functions are improving. “I often start and stop a video part way through in order to replay or pause and take notes, and I asked for a better tool that I could use to scroll back and forth through video,” says Pfeffer. “They listened to that feedback and are improving that capability.”
Harris’s students all have iPads, so after they complete writing tasks, she has them film themselves reading their own writing. Then she can easily project each student’s filmed story onto the classroom screen to share with the rest of the class. “That’s when we can give feedback and say, ‘That was good,’ or ‘You needed to put a full stop in here,’” Harris says. In the past, students couldn’t give each other feedback because they weren’t looking in each other’s writing notebooks. “But now we’re bringing our books to life and showing them up on the screens and making them interactive where the kids are able to point out mistakes and quickly edit them.”
Gunn says one of her favorite aspects of device-agnostic screen-mirroring is the ease of presenting student work no matter what device the student has. “If I have a model group who is doing something really well and I want to demonstrate that, I just ask one of the students within that group to flip their document up on the screen and have them talk through their processes with the class,” says Gunn. “Students are able to connect in and showcase their own work, which is leading to more autonomy and student-driven learning.” Significantly, she adds, “we’re also seeing fewer behavior issues because they aren’t waiting for things to get connected or fixed.”
Fortunately, St. Laurence hasn’t had to use Vivi’s Emergency Broadcast feature yet. But they have taken advantage of the Digital Signage feature. Last month, the school used the system to broadcast a reading in honor of Australia’s Remembrance Day, followed by a moment of silence. “None of the teachers needed to do anything,” says Gunn. “Previously the school would have had to send out a PowerPoint to all the homeroom teachers and ask them to all make sure they do that with their homeroom. Instead it was just a school-wide, consistent thing that happened at the same time. Every learner had the same experience.”
And every teacher won a little extra time.
This article originally appeared on EdSurge.