Multimedia Projectors: A Key Component in the Classroom of the Future

Classrooms have changed dramatically over the last decade with the advent of new technologies and equipment developed to make teaching and learning more diversified and interactive. Today, more teachers than ever are using multimedia projectors in the classroom. Students no longer have to crowd around a computer monitor to view presentations, Web sites or training programs. Multimedia projectors are becoming the centerpiece of classroom technology hubs that directly engage students and add impact to each lesson.

Identifying Classroom Needs

The education market's growing interest in multimedia projectors has led to increased research and development efforts from product manufacturers. In the past, educators had to adapt projectors that were intended for business use. When educators wanted a portable projector, they often settled for reduced image quality, fewer connection options and a machine that could get very hot if run over long periods. However, when educators wanted a projector to perform at a high level for many hours, and could accommodate multiple connections, they likely settled for a large machine stationed in a multimedia center or other shared room where they had to relocate their class for that lesson - making it impractical for daily use. In both cases, these projectors were often difficult to operate, requiring assistance from an audiovisual specialist. The good news is that more products are being introduced to meet specific classroom needs.

To get a better understanding of exactly what teachers, media and AV specialists are looking for, Philips recently worked with Quality Education Data Inc. (QED) to survey 500 educators and media specialists in U.S. public schools to learn more about technology and equipment trends in K-12 classrooms. Most significantly, the study uncovered how highly educators value multimedia projectors as essential classroom tools. In fact, AV specialists who participated predict a projector in every classroom within the next five years (see chart below).

Important Features and Classroom Applications

Educators identified the following key features as what they liked best when purchasing a projector, in order of those most important to them: picture performance, resolution, long lamp life, product portability, brightness, PC connections and quiet operation. Other attributes considered critical included overall projector performance, ease of use, purchase price and cost of operation. In short, the study showed schools need affordable, high-performing, highly versatile and easy to use projectors.

When inquiring about what applications multimedia projectors are being used for (see chart below), 91 percent of the educators surveyed who are currently using a multimedia projector indicated their most common use is for multimedia presentations. Educators commented that disseminating information to students in more than one form -whether through the combined use of text, audio, graphics or full-motion video - increases the student's chance of grasping and learning the lesson. Approximately 89 percent said they used the units for projecting computer screen images of the Internet or other PC applications while teaching, and 45 percent said they used them to display movies in the classroom.

Teacher, Student Benefits

When asked how multimedia projectors affected the teaching and learning experience, several areas of influence were identified, including visual aid, greater flexibility for alternative teaching methods, enhanced teacher demonstrations, heightened student awareness and customized curriculum applications.

Visual aid. Multimedia projectors allow teachers to provide diverse content to all students in the classroom at once, allowing students to have a visual and colorful learning experience during a given lesson. These projectors are perfect for this generation's visually oriented youth because they help make abstract concepts easier to understand.

Alternative way of teaching. By not forcing a teacher to rely solely on books, a multimedia projector makes more educational information available to students. It changes conventional habits and rituals in the classroom. In fact, some survey participants believe a multimedia projector could soon replace the chalkboard and overhead projector.

Makes teaching easier and better. Instead of having students crowd around a PC, the entire class can view one big screen without difficulty. The multimedia projector has made the teaching of Internet-related subjects and the demonstration of new software applications much easier - heightening stu-dents' awareness and expectations, while captivating their attention and increasing their motivation. The projectors also accommodate the electronic submission and viewing of student work.

Customized curriculum applications. Projectors are being used for a variety of curriculum-specific applications. In language arts, a teacher linked up to an author's Web site to provide greater insight and impact to a reading assignment. A science teacher created a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate a frog dissection. In social studies, a teacher developed a tornado presentation for increased audio and visual impact. For math classes, projectors have been used to teach students how to work with spreadsheets, calculate formulas, and utilize charts and graphs. Athletic departments show practice and game films, as well as illustrate plays, with the ability to pause, reverse and update them spontaneously.

Summary of Findings

With an average of 30 classrooms per school, 68 percent of respondents indicated they are currently using multimedia projectors. Among these users, more than 80 percent are using portable units in the classroom to display multimedia presentations and project images from the computer screen for teaching. Teachers believe the minimum number of projectors each school should have is 16, even though most schools average less than four. Despite keen interest in multimedia projectors, more than 90 percent of those surveyed have traditional technologies available to them (see chart below), including: TVs (97 percent), VCRs (96.2 percent), PC networks (86.4 percent), and laptop or desktop computers (82 percent). In addition, fewer than 25 percent of those surveyed have access to interactive whiteboards and DVD players, which are perfect complements to multimedia projectors.

We gained valuable insights from the survey. We learned that although educators have strong opinions and ideas of what tools they need to succeed, the majority of technology currently being installed in classrooms is fairly traditional. This includes TVs and VCRs - equipment that trends show could be replaced in the near future by multimedia projectors and DVD players. So, if you're making technology investments that need to last for several years, keep in mind the future of multimedia equipment.

Philips' TechOver Sweepstakes

Register by June 30, 2002, for Philips' TechOver Sweepstakes and your school could win a complete multimedia system from Philips. Two winning schools will be selected in July to receive a classroom 'TechOver' prize package, which includes a cSmart projector, VCR and DVD player, portable audio system, monitor, and CD-RW drive. For more information, visit

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.