Tech 2015: Integrating Technology and Space

The A to Z of AV

Integrating Audio Visual Technology in Schools 

PHOTO COURTESY OF STEELCASE

We are constantly hearing how the learning environment is changing and that evolving technology has played a large role in those changes. In this article, we look at the most basic components of that reality — the nuts and bolts, so to speak. What do the people planning and furnishing these spaces need to consider now and how can they make decisions that will serve everyone in the future?

Today

Before looking to the future, let’s take a look at the present day and how schools are currently implementing AV technology. “Schools across the country are implementing BYOD (Build Your Own Device) and 1:1 initiatives,” says Tom Piche, product manager of Epson K-12 Interactive Projectors. As a result, the adoption of Chromebooks and cloud-based systems is exploding. To meet the demands of these initiatives, projector companies are creating solutions to take advantage of these devices to allow more collaboration and just-in-time learning to take place in classrooms. From a network perspective, the infrastructure is becoming more powerful to support networked projection. This power will provide more collaboration and distance learning, which will enable students and teachers to move about the classroom more freely while working together. From a hardware perspective, the ability for projectors to offer better connectivity, communicate with applications and provide more engaging, bright images only continues to improve”

Integrating Audio Visual Technology in Schools 

¿Qué es esto? As the learning environment continues to change, the tools being used used by teachers and students will also need to evolve. While there are many great technological options, none of them will properly serve the needs in the classroom unless the people using them understand how to make them work and how to best implement them into the learning environment. To do that properly, you need to conduct a needs assessment and then create an implementation plan that has been formed with input from teachers and students.

Tim Ridgeway, vice president of Marketing for Califone, agrees and expands on the topic. “The need for students to hear has always been important, but the increased concentration on teaching to assessments has heightened that need. I think you have two trends at the same time pulling in opposite directions. On one side, there is the need for continual, whole-class audio amplification. On the other side, you have more individual or personalized learning opportunities — led by mobile. This has led to a shift in how students are arranged in a classroom to more pods or learning groups. Any teacher in the battlefield will look to see how the students are using the technology themselves and try to mimic that in the classroom. Is the lesson being taught in a way that is accessible to the student? In response to this, you don’t as often see in present day the teacher in the front of the class with rows and rows of students. There is a more modular approach to seating arrangements.”

Marisa Sergnese, Training & Professional Development leader at Steelcase Education, offers another perspective, “Over the last little while, I have been noticing that many schools are switching from interactive whiteboards to more use of monitors that are touch sensitive. I believe this is growing in popularity due to products such as Chromecast and Apple TV. These are tools that allow instructors to display interactive content that they are able to access from a variety of popular and effective cloud-based solutions. This technology is providing greater visual access to more information. It is shifting the dynamic of interaction between the instructor and student. Students have greater access to information, so the way they are able to conduct their research and share that information with their peers is different. It is more immediate and self-initiated. Where we would once use an encyclopedia, students are accessing expert information from a variety of sources, not just the educator who has traditionally been the director, controller and disseminator of information. Technology is now empowering anyone, anytime, anywhere to locate and share information.”

Tomorrow

Integrating Audio Visual Technology in SchoolsTo effectively plan for our schools futures, let’s take a peek at what is coming down the road. “In the last four years, we’ve seen projectors take the place of other technologies as they evolve. Interactive projectors, for example, have virtually replaced the need for a separate interactive whiteboard and projector. Projectors are continuing to evolve and support additional features to connect learners to information, experts and each other. With cloud-based computing devices, such as Chromebooks and projectors that can connect to multiple devices, teachers can have students engage in small group learning and then share their discoveries with the whole class,” says Piche.

“Whole room learning will never completely disappear, says Ridgeway. “I think the need for the whole-class reinforcement is still there and always will be. But the ability to integrate new modalities is key. A system needs to be flexible so it can be connected to devices that are just now coming into play or haven’t been invented yet. So much content is being pulled from the Cloud or online in general, that not having an internet capability or storage devices on phones, tablets and other systems is not acceptable. We will see an increased use of existing equipment in ways we haven’t thought of yet.”

Sergnese says, “I anticipate that pretty much everything will be wireless. We are already starting to see this trend. As people are using more mobile devices they don’t want to be tethered. Even with laptops, people don’t want to be tethered to a power source. Schools will use interactive whiteboards or other display monitors to access content.”

Planning Ahead

Integrating Audio Visual Technology in SchoolsNow we have an inkling of what is coming, but how do we seize these opportunities for our educators and our students? Proper and early planning is key. “One of the most important factors when purchasing technology for the classroom is making sure the infrastructure is there to support it. Nothing is more frustrating than purchasing cuttingedge technology whose benefits cannot be fully realized due to insufficient infrastructure. Also, in order to give teachers and staff the confidence to use new technologies in the classroom, administrators must understand training needs — and meet those needs,” says Piche.

Ridgeway agrees, “Don’t let the technology dominate the discussion; it should melt into the background to facilitate the students’ learning; it should be seamless. Talk to your stake holders, understand your teachers’ teaching style and ensure the technology meets both the students’ and the teachers’ needs. The infrastructure takes more planning in the front end. Mobile is more portable, whereas the whole-room speaker is in the bricks and mortar of the room, so start there. Also keep in mind the noise factor. You don’t want what you are doing in one classroom to interfere with the lesson next door or even with different pods within the same room. Bringing in an architect who focuses on education and understands what the space will be used for, can be vital. Also use professional installers who understand how to hang speakers properly so the sound doesn’t reflect off of the wall, ceiling, etc.”

“A needs assessment is so important to gather the data to work with to make informed decisions,” says Sergnese. “Engage teachers who are seeking technology and let them be the trail blazers. The challenge is buying everything at once that people may not be ready for. I recommend not doing multiple rollouts of products or initiatives at the same time. Mastery of one new initiative or tool at a time is important especially with folks that are already feeling overwhelmed. Communication is key with all audiences involved. Funding sources sometimes mean buying everything at one time, stagger the implementation for success and keep everyone informed of intent, process and procedures. Many districts have lost the funding that supported personnel to address these issues, so it is important to assess what an institution has. Knowing how much is online in terms of the cloud-based solutions being used and the bandwidth that is required, the tools that are desired and readily available, before investing are important pieces of data that an administrator needs to work with. Building the infrastructure to support the technology use is as important and necessary as the focus on how they will support and provide teacher training and technical issues.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

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