Are projectors obsolete?

1:1 devices really have me questioning the importance of a projector in the classroom.

Not so long ago, projectors were in high demand at school campuses across the country. These devices were–and still are–incredibly expensive. At the time, a simple projector could cost $2,000. Some districts were purchasing smartboards that also functioned as projectors, and the price of these tools was astronomical.

Receiving my first projector really changed the way I taught. PowerPoints and document cameras replaced overhead transparencies for sharing instructional materials and student note taking. It was great.

But there are drawbacks with projectors and smart boards. Only one or two students can use them at a time. Also, a projector makes classrooms teacher and lecture-centric as opposed to an environment that encourages student constructed learning. In my experience, lectures tend to monopolize time and take the place of project based learning during our finite instructional time. Students aren’t offered the opportunity to make the learning their own. This is a huge problem at many schools across the country.

1:1 devices highlight this downside of projectors, but that doesn’t mean projectors are unnecessary or bad. Direct Interactive Instruction (DII) is a great strategy for deploying new information, and PowerPoint, Google Presentation, and Prezi are all wonderful tools to enhance DII. Quality instruction and sound pedagogy will always be valuable.

With 1:1 devices, however, students can view presentations on their own devices. They definitely don’t need a teacher to read the text on every slide when they can do it themselves. What if a teacher shares a Google Presentation via Edmodo, allows the students to digest the information on their own or with a partner, and then walks around the room facilitating guided and independent practice? The role of the teacher changes dramatically in this scenario.

Perhaps when projectors start to break down or burn out they don’t need to be replaced with another projector. A $300 flat screen TV (with the aid of an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV) could be used for teacher and student presentations, agendas, etc. This is a much cheaper alternative and lasts a lot longer. I mean, I’ve had my Sony flat screen TV at home since 2008, and it has never needed a repair. I can’t say the same for my classroom projector.