When teachers connect a visualiser to a projector they can share virtually any document or artefact with their learners - even across a video-conference, explains Dave Smith

Four years ago, while working as an ICT consultant at Engayne Primary School in Havering, I visited a Barking and Dagenham ICT test bed (enrichment) school with Engayne's headteacher, Suzanne Ship, to look at visualisers in action. The transformation in teaching and learning we witnessed resulted in a decision to install visualisers in every classroom at Engayne.

Since then Engayne has been making effective use of visualisers for teaching and learning, experimenting with a range of applications including linking one to video-conferencing equipment to share documents and artefacts with other schools. The school’s success with visualisers even attracted the attention of staff at the Japanese Ministry of Education and resulted in two visits from members to see the teaching and learning at first hand.

Once schools have tried one, they want more. After the success of Engayne, I  was seconded to Havering LA’s ICT team to promote the pedagogical benefits of visualisers to the rest of Havering’s primary schools. Now more than 70 per cent of the borough's primaries have visualisers in some or all of their classes.

Putting the teaching before the technology

I was amazed at the response. Maybe that's because we have focused on the pedagogical benefits of visualisers. Teachers love them because they are so simple to use and help enrich lessons. Sharing a text or artefact with a whole class, demonstrating a skill in art or design and technology, improving measuring in maths, turning mini-beasts into massive monsters, filling the screen for all to see. has meant that schools have quickly recognised the power of the visualiser.

They are now the most wanted piece of hardware - apart from laptops - in our primary schools. Even the least ICT-confident staff love to use them.

We also discovered that a visualiser can be a route to using interactive whiteboards with teachers who are not initially keen on them. And Havering is now planning to expand this advantage by looking at how visualisers can be used as a tool for animation. And we are also exploring the different ways in which they can be used with interactive whiteboard software.

A selection of key uses and impacts of visualisers from research in a number of Havering Schools:

Science/Knowledge and Understanding of the World
• Flower components – parts of a plant can be viewed in minute detail
• Look at detail of mould and rocks up close

Mathematics/Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy
• 3D shapes - can be explored as a whole-class
• Improve accuracy when measuring of angles, length etc
• Show how to layout work for accurate work

Art and design/Physical development/Creative development
• Demonstrate art techniques such as shading, brushwork, colour-mixing and cutting and scoring

Literacy/Communication, language and literacy/ICT
• Annotate/adapt text from pupils’ own work for editing, rather than teacher-created text

• Examine maps, documents and artefacts

Classroom Management/Planning, Preparation and Assessment
• Rotate the visualiser around the class and display pupils in Performance Poetry, Demonstrating PE skills or for observations in Foundation Stage
• Focus on wall displays that can then be displayed for all to see
• Take a picture of an artefact and save to the shared network area
• Recapture the attention of pupils – having real impact on visual learners
• Replace the photocopier – share visual prompts immediately
• Capture images and videos for evidence for Foundation Stage Profile and portfolios of pupil work

More information

Videos of visualisers in action in Havering Schools



Dave Smith is giving a Visualiser Seminar at BETT on Friday January 16 at 1pm in the Software Theatre

Dave Smith is an  ICT consultant and curriculum adviser to the London Borough of Havering Inspection and Advisory Service and chair of The Visualiser Forum

Dave Smith, London Borough of Havering Inspection and Advisory Service, Scimitar House, Romford Essex RM1 3NH