The Electric Educator: Big Screen vs. Small Screens

Monday, January 12, 2015

Big Screen vs. Small Screens

I get regular solicitations from EdTech companies wanting me to feature their product or service on my blog. I'm honored that they have identified me as someone with influence and trust who can help them promote their product. Several years ago I made the decision not to accept paid content insertions; I believe my independence is worth far more than I could make by accepting payment for a post.

That being said, the conversations that I have with these companies can be helpful and open my eyes to new trends in educational technology. That's what happened this past week when I talked with InFocus.

InFocus is a well known, respected company the manufactures many different pieces of hardware, mainly focused on projection and display. One of their new products is the JTouch - a large 65" touchscreen display specifically designed for the classroom. It looks nice, and has a pretty good price as well ($1,999 for schools).

I politely declined payment for writing a post about their product and offered some suggestions about how to market and promote the JTouch to teachers. I also had to ask one poignant question:
Why should educators invest in a teacher-focused device rather than putting technology into the hands of students? 
Their response [my paraphrase]
Every classrooms need a display device. The JTouch gets students up and interacting rather than just sitting behind their screen and the JTouch is a lot less expensive than other interactive whiteboard or interactive projector products on the market.
Nothing wrong with the response but it got me thinking: InFocus is NOT competing exclusively against other "large screen" products, they are competing against EVERY product with a screen.

If you have $3000 to spend in your classroom, would you rather have 1 BIG screen or:
  • 6 iPad Air 2 ($479 Edu pricing)
  • 10 Acer C720 Chromebooks ($279) 
  • 11 Nexus 7 Tablets ($259)
The question of large vs. small screens goes well beyond price. Much of what you can do with an interactive display can be replicated on small screen devices: 
In addition, small screens can be used for small group work, writing essays, making multimedia projects, research, and more. 

Is the "large screen" era dead; or at least limited to special applications (media centers, trade-shows, lecture halls, etc)? Would you rather have a large screen or small screens in your classroom? 

Oh, if you are interested, you can learn more about the JTouch here


  1. Another software package capable of sharing or even monitoring student screens is SoftLINK. Personally, I find that using the students' monitors as the display device engages the students more and gives them a perfect view of my presentation. I rarely use a projector anymore.

  2. I really like the way you tossed a question back at them, especially considering you were talking to a marketing or sales person, and they attempted to answer from a sales pitch of talking points. You're dead on, any large screen is competing with many smaller screens, and we're in a transitional period where some schools still haven't quite outfitted all classrooms with large displays (interactive or otherwise) and yet are racing to flood classrooms with many small screens.

    FWIW, I would argue that a large communal display is still a necessity, although if the teacher isn't prepared to teach in an environment where students are active and in front of their peers a lot, you could make do with a standard projector on a whiteboard. In the interest of establishing a communal experience, preserving bandwidth, or working as a large group for presentations and exploration, I would rather have a balance between one large screen in the room and several smaller screen. I certainly wouldn't be looking at another large piece of hardware for that screen though, given the cost, mobility, and flexibility of a projector and any number of apps that now allow me to interact with my computer remotely so I can still move around the room.

    Then again, I'm not in the classroom anymore, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

  3. Very good question. It reminds me when I was a basketball coach. The bad coaches used only one ball in the training, so most of the time the kids were just looking how the one with the ball was corrected by the coach. Meanwhile, the aim of a good coach was that all the kids had a ball and were active all the time, even if it was more difficult to control them.

  4. I would like to start off and say that I think its so great that you decided not accept paid content insertions for promoting products. I also liked how you fired back questions to InFocus. I believe both products with big and small screens could beneficial in a classroom. Yes, one large screen might be easier and ideal for some educators, but it's not the only way to get students engaged and learning with technology. Great read! Thank you

  5. Really inspiring that you decided not to take any insertions from these companies in order to keep your independence. I really enjoyed reading your post, and I liked the fact that you threw back a question to InFocus to stir up conversation on why their product was so vital to the classroom. I agree that small screen devices are so much more interactive and useful then big screen devices. Also, any small screen device can be streamed to a larger device with the right apps and programs. Maybe Infocus's product could be used in replacement of the Smart Board? Either way, the Jtouch is a neat display device that can be used in any whole group discussion or setting.

    URL for class blog:
    URL for class:


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