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The two-minute guide to classroom technology

Chris Kendall, AMX Europe’s business development director for education, explains how, by taking control of classroom technology, you can ensure that technology doesn’t take control of the classroom.

Chris Kendall, AMX Europe’s business development director for education, explains how, by taking control of classroom technology, you can ensure that technology doesn’t take control of the classroom.

Today’s classrooms are complex places. There’s been a staggering variety of digital technologies introduced to education over the years, from projectors and televisions to computers and smart boards, through to video and web-conferencing via the internet.

In most cases, these classroom technologies are deployed, operated and managed independently and rarely complement each other. As more and more of these systems are introduced, the opportunities for system conflicts, user confusion and mismanagement grow accordingly and the level of complexity involved in using the multitude of available devices makes it difficult for even the most motivated teachers to integrate technology into their lesson plans.

In a world where visualisers are the new overhead projectors, stylus has replaced chalk and white is the new blackboard; teachers have had to embrace a new, more technologically interactive way of teaching. Whilst this may be a language in which today’s generation of electronically-enabled pupils are fluent, mastering this new approach and its associated hardware and software can be a daunting prospect for some of their teachers.@page_break@
But, when done right, there’s no doubting the advantages that technology-aided learning can bring. Interactive learning spaces can bring lessons to life and improve academic achievement and it seems that such technological intervention is long overdue. In its 2009/2010 annual report, education watchdog Ofsted claimed that pupils at schools in England are facing too many “dull and uninspiring lessons”. But, by embracing the very best of today’s technological advancements, schools can take teaching to another level.

Imagine a technological solution that gives the ability to meet virtually any video management and distribution need that a student may have. Technology that enables the capture, encode and relay of live events or TV programs to students, in a multitude of formats. That gives the ability to record and store lessons and lectures on a central server for future viewing; capture and distribute live lessons and lectures, in real time, to additional classrooms, campuses or even directly to students PCs. The kind of technology that allows the creation of an interactive library for the 21st century by providing a complete storage, management and distribution solution for all archived content and that even allows a school to create its own TV station; delivering pre-recorded video and live programming to students via a schedule, just like a traditional broadcast network.

Imagine the simplicity of fingertip control over all these technological elements: a single management interface that allows teachers to easily access and use the integrated systems, whilst giving them the ability to operate their own in-classroom devices such as projectors, projection screens, visualisers and audio-visual equipment, as well as a variety of other components such as lighting and blinds, all at the touch of a button. All this, and much more, is possible today.

At AMX, we know that technology should simplify a teacher’s life, not complicate it. We know that, to get the most value from these systems, a comprehensive and easy to use control and management system is essential. In short, the secret to creating a fully interactive classroom lies in the concept of unified control. Providing a technological backbone to enhance and support the educational infrastructure; a robust control system can enable schools, colleges and universities to harness the power of installed systems and make them work for them.

The latest generation of advanced control systems can effectively solve the complexity of integrating the vast array of operating platforms found in today’s learning spaces with reliable, consistent and user-friendly technology. Whether for a single classroom or multi-location campus; these innovative solutions network all of the multimedia and facility operation equipment into one time-efficient, cost-cutting solution. By dealing with the disparate technologies, so that users don’t have to, unified control simplifies the way a teacher interacts with the technology around them. Gone is the proliferation of menus, options and remotes associated with each individual device and in its place is a single, easy to navigate user interface which operates as an electronic dashboard for the classroom.

Just one touch of a state-of-the-art touchpanel or keypad and technological operation becomes child’s play. Say goodbye to the days of lessons coming to a temporary halt as the teacher grapples with the overhead projector; integrated control allows for seamless switching: from interactive whiteboard to visualiser, from display to source; with minimum disruption and maximum effect.

Integrated control allows teachers to do what they want, when they want to. Teachers can have access to all system functions, or just what they need, and the control screen in each classroom can be configured to look exactly the same so that teachers are left with well understood, consistent controls, irrespective of the room they are in or the equipment being used.

These innovative systems can also integrate with other building-wide functions such as lighting, blinds and air-conditioning, so that teachers can have fingertip control of their entire teaching environment. And, when used in association with other technologies such as IPTV, IP video delivery systems and digital signage solutions, they can allow administrators to build a complete communications infrastructure, around a fully integrated product.@page_break@
But, maximising teacher efficiency is only half the story. Integrated control and automation solutions, like those from AMX, can also be used to maximise operational efficiency by enhancing full facility management. Allowing resources to be managed like never before, these comprehensive solutions allow IT staff to monitor and maintain classrooms, lecture theatres and their associated electronic devices, across an entire facility. Real-time monitoring and problem notifications allow a facility’s resources and equipment to be maintained proactively, with automatic and routine checks being made to the system’s status. And, using its full reporting capabilities, users can access instant, web-based analysis on a range of subjects; giving an unrivalled understanding of equipment, resource and energy usage, for optimum operating efficiency.

By proactively managing resources in this way, an education facility can virtually eliminate the technical problems that have hitherto beset a teacher in the classroom; administrators will know, in advance, when a bulb needs replacing or when a piece of equipment needs servicing, so that equipment downtime becomes a thing of the past.

All in all, technology has come a long way since it was first introduced into the classroom. Technology can create vibrant and interactive learning spaces and save time, energy and money, whilst allowing the teachers to focus on teaching. Technology can revolutionise schools; from the way pupils are taught, to the way schools themselves are managed and run. What was once considered to be the classroom of the future is now a reality, but these classrooms can be technologically complex places. The secret lies in taking control of the classroom technology, so that it doesn’t take control of the classroom.