• Classroom Technology – What’s New In 2015?

  • Jim Tchinski, Solutions Engineer

    The world of classroom technology is an ever-changing, always-evolving environment. We started off simple with a standard square, plain classroom with a chalkboard, chalk and books. For decades this was the standard issue for these rooms. Now, you enter a classroom only to find everything but these items. Chalkboards are now interactive whiteboards or touch monitors. The chalk is now your fingers. And the books have become tablets, notebook computers and yes, even the students’ smartphones.

    Engaging technology into the classroom environment has allowed the born-ready, tech-savvy students of today to become more engaged and involved in the learning process. There are many products out there that can be incorporated into the room. In this entry for the ESCO Experts’ Corner, I’ll be addressing a couple of newer products and ideas that can help in the classroom.

    Mimio is a company that offers interactivity in many ways. The ability to turn any standard white board in to an interactive surface has become very popular. They also have interactive LED displays ranging in size from 55” up to 84” offering a collaborative experience for up to six single-point touch users, three dual touch users and gestures users. Mimio has an interactive short-throw projector that uses a pen-like tool as a stylus, which works well for teachers and students. All of these products are driven using the same MimioStudio software. MimioMobile software can be installed on a computer, and an app can be installed on any mobile device allowing for desktop and content sharing to between mobile devices, a convenient tool for schools in BYOD (bring your own device) territory. Students can then collaborate with the teacher by marking up items, answering questions and even sharing control of the teacher’s presentation, or lesson.

    In addition to Mimio learning technology, Aurora Multimedia has their “One Room – One Cable” room AV solution. With one part number you can get a wall plate that has HDMI, VGA, 3.5mm audio, network and USB connections. All of this is transmitted over one CAT6 cable, using HDBaseT, along with power for the wall plate and IR to control the projector or other devices. Also included in the kit is the receiver with an audio amplifier at the projector, two speakers and an eight-button controller.

    Much of the audio in a classroom comes directly from the teacher. FrontRow offers their Juno System with Lesson Capture and Voice Control. This system includes the Juno Tower receiver/speaker system, pendant microphone kit and teacher edition desktop software. The Lesson Capture software can be voice controlled to start making videos of the teachers’ computer screen while also recording her mic, the student’s mic and any media audio used. This can be automatically titled and posted in an MP4 format. The projector or TV in the room can also be turned on and off by voice commands if additional FrontRow control equipment is installed. If the FrontRow Conductor intercom is used, the teacher can make an intercom call to the office using voice commands and hear the pages through the Juno unit.

    When thinking about classroom technology, not everything has to be vendor specific. Tablet control is taking over the typical room wall-mounted controller. This gives the teachers the ability to control the AV equipment in the room and present from the same device while not being tied to one location. Wireless presentations from BYOD include sharing your screen and/or multimedia files, sometimes allowing up to four devices to be shown at the same time for collaboration and an easy connection to the display device. Crestron offers a unit that can do this. A Google Chrome stick is a basic wireless presentation solution for under $40 that can be used with Andriod and iOS. It plugs straight into an HDMI input on the display device. It can be powered by a USB port on the display or a separate power. With a simple setup you can wirelessly present your media files. Because companies are designing their products to be platform/device agnostic, BYOD is becoming more popular. The days when only an iPad or PC can run certain software are fading.

    In the end, ESCO could be considered the new product in 2015. We are the product that the customers are buying that is always new and changing.  We constantly strive to integrate the industry’s best products to create a complete package. ESCO has formed a committee to evaluate and rate products in order to determine the top-quality pieces to use.  Whatever new products are out there, we will find the best for each project designed.