Barking Abbey's teaching rooms are each equipped with a visualiser and projector, introduced last year by Barking and Dagenham as part of ICT Test Bed, a DfES project to investigate the impact of high levels of investment in ICT. The use of the visualiser complements a highly successful whole-class teaching strategy, which schools in the borough have been pursuing for more than a decade. Giant projection screens are already used as the focus for lessons, and seating is in horseshoe formation to encourage all pupils to contribute to discussions.
Nigel Sagar, the authority's inspector for art, design and technology, says: "We use the visualiser to promote interactive teaching, so that teachers and students can enter a dialogue that enables children to build vocabulary and develop clear ways of thinking. The visualiser technology is astonishing, and schools are exploiting it in many different ways, allowing everyone in the classroom to share a common experience in a way that other technologies cannot achieve.
"Eight of the borough's schools were equipped with visualisers for the ICT Test Bed project, but many others are now buying the equipment themselves."
Schools are using visualisers to help students with everything from developing handwriting to exploring the world of colour.
Nigel Sagar says: "The visualiser holds particularly fascinating potential for primary art education, because it can help children develop observation and language skills, as well as stimulating their imagination.
"Rather than a teacher having to describe the texture of driftwood, the wood can be shown on a large enough scale to allow children to notice things for themselves and share their thoughts with the class.
"The visualiser can help break down stereotypical views on colour. Zoom in on a piece of orange peel, and you suddenly realise what orange means - there are red dots, yellow dots, white reflections.
"The technology is also an important stimulus for helping children share and talk about their own work. One of our Year 2 classes made paper puppets, and rather than trying to hold up the puppets while trying to explain their work to their classmates, they simply put them on the visualiser. They were liberated, because they knew that everyone else could now see what they themselves could see."