“Our philosophy here is to be kind,” says Jo O’Brien, director and co-founder of the Platinum Pre School in New South Wales. At their core, Platinum strives to create a safe and welcoming environment that is open to all kinds of young learners, including children with disabilities and cultural barriers.
“We are really, really passionate about inclusion,” she says. As a veteran educator raising a son with special needs, O’Brien is keenly aware that learning has to be more accessible to a more diverse set of children. By giving kids an equitable learning experience, they get more opportunities to develop both their cognitive skills and their 21st century skills, which include their ability to socialize with peers and their familiarity with technology.
“One of our main focuses here is school-readiness,” says O’Brien, explaining why they want to give their children the basic social tools and knowledge they will need once they transition into the next stage of their education. “The reality is… They move from an early childhood setting to a mainstream primary school setting where they are using computers, and laptops, and iPads, and things like that so we need to expose the children a little bit.”
“There’s a big difference between including children and interacting with them,” says O’Brien. She explains how although it’s their school’s goal to give all their kids equal opportunities to learn, they want to go beyond just inclusion and create more meaningful interactive learning opportunities where children can develop their social skills and build deeper relationships with each other. “It’s all part of that school transition… We want the children to feel comfortable and attain that sense of belonging,” she says.
In an effort to get students to socialize with their peers, they originally installed a projection-based interactive whiteboard in one of their learning spaces. However, it didn’t take long before they realized how limited the device was in terms of functionality and usability. For one, their interactive whiteboard was fixed on a wall so only one set of students assigned to that room could use it. Another problem was the lighting conditions. Since the interactive whiteboard uses a projector, they needed the room to be dim. Teachers had to close the windows or turn off the lights in order for the kids to clearly see what’s being projected on the wall. Other issues, such as inaccurate touch response and unstable connectivity, also interrupted the flow of their learning sessions.
As these inconveniences piled up, the teaching staff’s drive to use the interactive whiteboard had waned over time, so much so that they had stopped using the device altogether. It was at this point where the staff at Platinum Pre School knew that it was time for a better education solution.
“One of the best things about resources like BenQ Boards is that… we can develop activities where they’re going to be interactive with each other.”
The preschool reached out to their solutions partner, B2B Technologies, with their set of pain points and requirements. They needed an interactive display solution that showed content very clearly, would allow kids to work together, and would offer them more flexibility in terms of activities and mobility. After going through a few rounds of demos and consultations, they found that the BenQ Board met all their criteria.
The large 4K UHD screen, with its multiple touchpoints, was big enough for immersive group games and activities. The staff also appreciated that the board supported wireless screen sharing, since it gave them and the students more opportunities to interact. “One of the best things about resources like BenQ Boards is that… we can actually develop activities where they’re going to be interactive with each other,” notes O’Brien.
The school also opted to have their BenQ Board mounted on a rolling stand for more flexibility. “The fact that we can actually move the board around the center also is such a benefit to the educators,” O’Brien adds.
As a bonus, the staff also found the BenQ Board’s germ-resistant screen was also in line with their preschool’s healthy learning policies.
“Since we got the BenQ Board, our lessons have changed,” says Danielle Robinson, one of the teachers at Platinum. “We can have more children at the board… [They] can have shared experiences and learn together.”
Whereas before, when teachers loaded games and lesson modules (from education resources such as RosiMosi and Reading Eggs), the children had to work on these tasks individually, either by taking turns on the interactive whiteboard or tapping away from personal tablets. But because their new BenQ Board has a large responsive touchscreen, several kids are now able to walk up to the board and do these activities together.
Furthermore, teachers are also able to utilize the EZWrite whiteboard, particularly its Team Post feature, for group activities. By enabling Team Post, they can split the board into sections, giving kids their own personal canvas to write and draw on as they work side by side.
Another way the teachers at Platinum marry inclusivity with interactivity is through wireless screen sharing. Robinson explains: “One of our favorite features on the BenQ Board is the InstaShare app. We can mirror our iPad onto the screen or vice versa… which we find is really inclusive for children with additional needs that maybe can’t access the board independently. We can then share the program onto the screen of our iPad and they can use it from wherever they are.”
“Seeing my child enjoy the screen… and wanting to participate… is wonderful, because that’s all anyone really wants… their child to enjoy learning.”
Sinead Hollywood, a teacher whose daughter also goes to Platinum, notes how the BenQ Board is positively shaping their children’s attitudes towards learning. “Seeing the kids having fun while they learn is… it’s massive… You want them to find learning fun, and you want to instill that in them. [You want them to enjoy] learning something new instead of it being this chore or [having] their confidence being knocked.”
“Seeing my child enjoy the screen… and wanting to participate in those games… is wonderful, because that’s all anyone really wants is their child to enjoy learning, really.”