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When it comes to new, interactive technology for teaching in the classroom, there are multiple options available. However, most will narrow the choices down to two options: an interactive projector (also known as a beamer to our German friends), and an interactive display (also known as an interactive flat panel).

While there are pros and cons to each, the decision a school makes can have long-term effects on how that technology performs in a classroom — and by default, how the students interact when utilizing that technology. To help educators and school administrators weigh their technology options, we’ve developed a comprehensive breakdown of the benefits and challenges of both types of tech. In this comparison, we’ll look at several crucial details — from how much the devices cost to how they will work on a day-to-day basis.   

What is an interactive projector?

An interactive projector is exactly what it sounds like — a projector built with infrared motion detection, which makes movements in front of it interactive. Typically used with a whiteboard, the projector can project digital information onto the whiteboard, allowing what was once a simple image duplication to become more hands-on than before. 

What is an interactive display?

An interactive display resembles a large-screen, high-definition television, but has the added interactivity of infrared or capacitive touchscreens, which create a truly hands-on, HD experience. In the simplest terms, an interactive display works and acts similarly to a whiteboard-sized tablet. 

Comparing an interactive projector and an interactive display

There are a number of considerations to take into account when determining whether or not to choose an interactive projector or an interactive display for the classroom. For the sake of simplicity, we will consider four major categories: quality of projection, functionality, installation, and cost of upkeep.

Quality

When considering the quality of resolution and clarity of the picture, there are some significant differences between the two options. 

Because an interactive projector is a projection via an external light source, it requires a darker room, which may require you to dim lights or shutter windows when using it. It’s worth mentioning that even in ideal lighting conditions, the image replication tends to be quite a bit duller than interactive displays. Additionally, due to bulb wear, a projector loses definition and brightness over time, so you’ll see more image degradation over time with a projector. 

An interactive display, however, provides high-resolution images via LED, similar to a standard high-definition TV. Because of this, there’s no need to dim a room to make the picture visible, which helps keep the room’s attention.. When it comes to image quality, an interactive display is a clear winner.

Functionality

One of the most important things to consider when choosing between an interactive projector or an interactive display is functionality and use — how much do you plan to use it? And for what purposes? 

With a projector, whether your connection is wired or wireless, it requires coupling to another device, and you can only project what is on that connected device. Because of this, you are limited in what you can view, and have less control over what is happening on the larger screen. Additionally, most projectors use a digital pen or stylus to determine movement, meaning they allow a single point of contact with a tool that can be lost or broken.

In contrast, an interactive display doesn’t rely on a connected device — it is the device. Thanks to integrated applications and software add-ons, these displays offer more control over screen sharing and provide a lot of teaching and learning options that you might not otherwise have on your own laptop. More importantly, these displays don’t require additional tools for interacting with the screen. They rely solely on human touch, and many (like Clear Touch interactive displays) offer multi-touch options, which provide a higher level of connectivity and collaboration than you will find with a projector or whiteboard option. The winner in functionality really depends on what you want to do with the technology.

Installation 

Regardless of which you choose, you’ll need a large enough space for your whiteboard or panel to be displayed. In addition, depending on your space and material of your room, you may need to consider your wiring and mounting options. 

With a projector, a stationary wall will work best, as the projector and whiteboard must remain stable to prevent resolution or calibration issues. When making installation plans, it’s also essential to allow enough ceiling or floor space for the projector itself as well as note any additional wiring that may be needed into the ceiling or walls. 

While some interactive displays are wall-mounted, many can be mounted on mobile stands that allow them to be moved around the room or from classroom to classroom.  There are even options (like the convertible mobile stand from Clear Touch) that easily transition from an upright to a table-top position, giving your students a multitude of viewing options. Again, for this category, the winner depends on what is best for your classroom.

Cost & Upkeep

When it comes to cost, it’s important to look at two distinct categories — the initial cost and the maintenance (or upkeep) cost. 

For an interactive projector, the initial cost is typically lower, while can be more appealing to some buyers— especially if they are planning to purchase multiple devices. With that in mind, they may look a little harder at the lower-cost interactive projector without realizing all the benefits of an interactive display. 

However, when you consider the long-term cost, which includes the cost of upkeep, there’s a big difference between the two options. An interactive projector requires replacement fans and bulbs throughout its lifetime. The average replacement rate is one bulb per projector per year. When you account for multiple devices or classrooms, the maintenance costs can add up quickly. However, an interactive display will often come with software integrations or accessories that would incur additional expense if you opted for a projector system. These options can include wireless streaming, decoder software, and learning applications. By purchasing an interactive display with integrated solutions, you can reduce the overall cost for implementation and ongoing use. Making a choice 

As you sort through your options, make sure you sit down with your “needs” and “wants” list and thoroughly review them in relation to each device — keeping in mind that there are multiple manufacturers and distributors of both technology options. This isn’t a small decision. With regular maintenance and upkeep, many of these tech options will last for years, so it’s worth investing a little extra time in your decision process.

While it may seem like a lot to process, we at Clear Touch are always here to help you along your path. Schedule a demo with us to find out more about the solutions we offer and how our services can increase interactivity in your classroom. 

October 26, 2020

Clear Touch Team

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