Ultraportable projectors, such as BenQ’s GP1, are ideally suited to small-group collaboration, as well as structured presentations delivered by a teacher, users say.

The GP1 can be loaded with educational content in a variety of forms—photos, graphics, video, PowerPoint presentations, documents, lesson plans, and reference material—using a USB flash drive, eliminating the need for hooking it up to a PC or converting content to a DVD.

The GP1 displays an image that is only about 30 inches by 40 inches in size, making it ideal for viewing by a small group of students in a corner of the classroom, says Juan Alvarez, director of U.S. education for the BenQ Corp., which is based in Taiwan. And because it can project a relatively small image up close, several groups of students can work with GP1s in separate corners of a classroom easily.

After the students complete their work, he says, they could use the projector to share what they’ve learned with the rest of the class.

Because the device is easy to set up, “you can maximize the time for learning,” Alvarez says.

In schools that have yet to focus on small-group collaboration, teachers are finding that BenQ mini-projectors can enliven classroom lessons by allowing them to turn a traditional lecture into an interactive, multimedia experience.

The Baltimore County, Md., school system uses BenQ GP1 projectors in the immersive environment of the district’s two inflatable, portable Starlab planetariums, which the district uses to teach astronomy lessons aligned with Maryland’s science standards for students in preschool through grade 5, says David Copenhaver, elementary coordinator in the Office of Science PreK-12.

The Starlabs rotate among the district’s 106 elementary schools, spending about eight days a year in each school’s gym. Various classes are brought inside to experience being in space as images of stars and planets are projected on the ceiling and walls. As many as 30 students can fit in the Starlab, once they crawl through a small opening to get inside.

The district used to use slide projectors, but when “they started breaking down, and we couldn’t find parts,” the district switched to BenQ GP1 mini projectors, says Starlab resource teacher Tim Kent. “We didn’t want to take a laptop inside the Starlab, because it has a bright screen, and we wanted total darkness,” she exaplins. Also, the BenQ only needs one plug, which avoids a lot of messy cables in a small, crowded space.

The projectors are loaded with hundreds of slides from NASA, including images taken by the Hubble telescope, and movie clips, such as Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. The slides were scanned into computers and converted into a digital format and copied to flash drives, which plug into the projector.

Kent’s lessons include lots of interaction, with students taking notes on clipboards with pens that light up. He might have kids draw constellations and compare them to what the ancient Greeks saw in the night sky. Or, they might try to figure out what an alien life form might look like, based on a particular planet’s characteristics.

“We try to get them to role play as much as possible. With the pre-K students, we pretend like we’re floating in space,” he says.

“We live in a visual society,” Kent adds, and watching images projected inside the Starlab “is like watching them on a big movie screen. It makes the galaxy come alive.”

The GP1 uses LED technology for the lamp, which lasts 20,000 hours, compared with 3,000 to 4,000 hours for a traditional projector lamp, Alvarez says. Lamps cost $300 to $400 to replace. A typical classroom uses a projector for 1,000 hours a year, and most non-LED projectors will need at least one lamp replacement every three to four years, which adds considerably to the cost.

And unlike the traditional lamp, which decays over time and loses about 50 percent of its power by the end of its life, “the LED lamp doesn’t lose any brightness,” Alvarez says.

That’s particularly important to Bill Tudor, director of exhibitions and technology at the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, who uses GP1 projectors to create an immersive environment for viewing artworks, including one piece that requires four projectors displaying images on four walls.

“The color balance starts to shift when bulbs start wearing out, and you spent a lot of time correcting and calibrating” the image, he says.

The brightness of the GP1 lamp is about 100 lumens, compared with 2,500 lumens in a traditional projector, but “LED [technology] makes it feel brighter,” Alvarez says.

Other features of the GP1 include wall color correction, SVGA resolution of 858 x 600 pixels, low power consumption, DLP filter-free operation, and a 16.7 million color palette. The device weighs just 1.4 pounds. The GP1 can play audio either through the 2-watt speakers included in the unit or through headphones. It also comes with cables that can be attached to a laptop, digital camera, iPod, cell phone, gaming console, DVD player, or TV.

BenQ is offering the GP1 for educators with a three-year warranty through Dec. 31 for $499. To request a free loaner, contact BenQ at Education.US@BenQ.com.


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