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Friday, February 1, 2019

Creating the ideal classroom

What is your ideal classroom set up? Any certain classroom audio visual technologies you think you need? Do you think there is a perfect classroom? University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism’s Reese News Lab is trying to accomplish just that. 

 
We caught up with Gary Kayye who has been teaching new media technologies, branding and advertising at UNC for ten years. He played a huge role in the creation of this prototype room.  Kayye says “This classroom was designed with millennials and generation Z in mind, and they learn differently than anyone over the age of 30 or 35 years old. They are electronic collaborators.” 

Why is this classroom different?

What if no student ever had to miss class and no professor ever has to cancel class? That's what Reese News Lab can accomplish. However, it also can be reconfigured within minutes to accommodate any setting because it is wireless and mobile. Kayye says “Literally within minutes you can take a regular lecture hall style class to 5 or 6 different huddle spaces where students are collaborating on projects, and multiple groups are in the same room at the same time.”  
Kayye added’ “But then again if a student is not in class they can still collaborate with their team remotely and get the same collaborative experience as if they were there live because that team can bring them in to the discussion through either the Nureva Span or through the camera system in the room using Zoom.” 
 
Kayye said, “I think this speaks to people because of its simplicity, but it's still a sophisticated operation. Meaning it's probably half the price of what a classroom like this would have been a year ago not just because of the technology improvement, but also because of the way we designed it using off the shelf tools rather than complicated, exclusive, or limited architecture.” For example, the room uses Zoom in the classroom for video conferencing which is roughly $10 a month giving the room a dedicated ID. Students can set up a free account and call in anytime. 
 

What’s inside the classroom?

Around the Reese News Lab, there is no shortage of audio visual solutions. However, two of the most notable are the Nureva HDL300 and Span Wall. The HDL300 is the room microphone array. It gives you the capability to record and hear live presentations as well as providing voice lift when students ask guest speakers a question. The HDL300 system is a patent-pending Microphone Mist technology that fills a room with thousands of virtual microphones to deliver full-room pickup.  



Kayye says “ The SPAN wall acts as a combination of an electronic whiteboard and electronic post-it notes. So it allows you to collaborate on group projects, but captures it in a moment of time that you can continue later.” Students can also be working on a project even if they aren’t in class. “Visually if you are there in the classroom, it is there on the wall, and if you are not, you just have to log in on with your user ID and password to see everything that was on the SPAN wall in electronic form on your laptop, tablet or even on your mobile phone,” Kayye said. 

What should you know about the classroom?   

Kayye explained that this room was meant to be a beta test or prototype for a classroom of the future. “We wanted it to be both linear and non-linear and synchronize and asynchronous. Meaning, like a traditional college you can go in and lecture in the classroom like you, normally would, but like an online-only university you can also teach that way as well from the room.”  

The intellectual property for this classroom is shared in hopes that the idea will be used and improved. All the designs and plans are open source and freely available for everyone to download. Many universities can use this design and accomplish what Kayye says is the "perfect classroom.” However, he also said, "Having an AV integrator diversified in their ability to do different kinds of projects and have access to different products was a good idea whether or not you are trying to do all the integration yourself as a university.” Kayye said, “I think Smarter Systems was a good partner to have.”   
 
If you are interested in learning more about the products used inside the Reese News Lab and how we can help create that environment for you, contact us here.  

Friday, January 25, 2019

Three benefits of a flexible classroom

When I was in K-12 classrooms, we had rows of desks. They were facing the front of the class, where the focal point was a chalkboard. If I ever entered a classroom with a different setup, it felt refreshing, even inspiring. That's the idea behind flexible classrooms. Classrooms don't need a designated front, and they certainly don't need a chalkboard. Most modern classrooms have mobile technology making it easy to move the classroom around.       

Technology is used as a tool to enhance learning at Providence Day School, especially SMART Boards on mobile stands. It's no problem to incorporate the board into daily lessons because administrators have created flexible classrooms. The benefits of having a class without a fixed front or structured seating have been immeasurable. Director of Digital Integration and Innovation Matt Scully pointed out three specific benefits that have impacted the learning experience at Providence Day the most.       


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Teachers love flexible classrooms    


modern classroom, classroom technology, SMART systems, Smarter Systems Charlotte NCYou can imagine why teachers would be excited about flexibility, but think about the possibility of changing and using the classroom in whatever capacity they needed. Scully says if you ever visit the 6th Grade English Room, you will never see it arranged the same way twice. "It's wild, every time you go in there, it looks different. The big idea was any teacher at any given moment could redesign the room in the spirit of what they needed."    Scully described scenarios in which his classroom would be changed several times in a single class period to create different experiences, but each scenario included a SMART Board on a portable stand. "So I might have 3 or 4 different configurations in one class period, I might want it set up one way on Monday, and another way on Wednesday and then the teacher who comes in after me can set it up however they want," said Scully. Many schools, like Providence Day School, share the classrooms so having the capability to move the room quickly to adapt to the next teachers is crucial.  Scully added, "I would say there are teachers that love it and I would say there are teachers that don't leverage it as much as other teachers do, but it's not like the teachers who move the furniture are better teachers than the ones that don’t. It just means we have the flexibility to meet everyone's needs."      


Students respond in flexible classrooms   


 Have you ever been in a classroom where students are engaged and excited to learn? Flexible classrooms encourage that. It allows teachers and students to collaborate on a different level. Scully says "We are learning what's best for kids and what we could be doing in the classroom. A flexible environment gives me the adaptability to respond to the new research and the new stuff that comes out as opposed to having my room set up a certain way." Scully admits students at Providence Day have become accustomed to it. "I think a lot of our students quite honestly take it for granted because they just expect the environment to meet their needs, so they are just moving stuff around." However, he acknowledges that if they've ever done collaborative work in an environment that's not built for it, then they appreciate the flexibility more.        



Flexible classrooms help long term planning      


SMART Boards on mobile stands make sense for day-to-day use, but Scully says the no brainer is when it comes to long term planning. "The classroom is a 6th Grade English room this year, but because of our needs, it may be an 8th-grade math room next year. How do I make sure I'm not spending money every couple years moving the board or re-hanging the projector, or taking cable runs off the wall? This is just a beautiful solution in that the rooms aren't necessarily a particular room; they are whatever you need them to be."  He says from a budget perspective it's the best thing you can do for your classrooms.       




If you are ready to create flexibility in your classroom, now is the time to act. Right now, we have a special promotion on an 86″ SMART Interactive Flat Panel and mobile height adjustable stand. You get more than $2,000 off! If flexible classrooms are in your future, this is a deal you don't want to miss. Contact us for more information. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

WHAT SHOULD BE IN MY SMALL CONFERENCE ROOM?


The most important aspect of a small conference room is simplicity. A small conference room typically has dimensions no less than 12x15 and no larger than 14 x 18. It is designed to seat 4 - 8 people comfortably. Every small conference room should have an appropriately sized monitor or projection system, a solid audio setup that allows everyone to hear, and a quality conference phone.   


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Smarter Systems' Chief Operations Officer Micah Pattisall says, "The biggest pain point is lack of functionality. Whether this is due to insufficient user knowledge of how to connect, missing or broken patch cables, or a network issue with the wireless connection, if a user or team cannot connect to present, time is wasted, and meetings are less productive."  
  
Display   
  
A 50-60" monitor is all a small conference room needs. Like any small room, if you get much bigger, it can be overpowering. However, if you get too small you may not be able to see graphics or spreadsheets.    
  
Upgrade: If you are looking for an update to your current small conference room display we suggest a commercial monitor with an automatic shutoff feature. You could also add an interactive monitor. SMART has several options that would work well in small conference rooms.   
  
Audio   
  
When it comes to baseline in a room of this size, you can use the monitor speakers. Monitor speakers provide an adequate level of audio for basic presentations. 
  
Upgrade: If you want an upgrade, you can always add a sound bar above or beneath the monitor, or even have ceiling speakers installed.   

Communication   
  
Your team will need at least a conference style speaker phone in this type of space.   
  
Upgrade: If you are looking for an upgrade we suggest the Crestron Mercury. It's a 3-in-1 device that acts as a phone, soft conferencing appliance, and wireless connection. If you are using a unified communication tool like Skype for Business, Zoom, or Webex, the Crestron Mercury integrates seamlessly.    
  
Connection/Control   
  
In a room of this size for a small working team, you'll need an HDMI connection. The most budget-friendly option is to plug-in directly into the monitor which we call a tether.  If you want to improve the aesthetics, use a cable cubby so you can plug in from the table.   
  
Pattisall says, "The connectivity of your team’s laptops should be a quick and painless process. Whether you are connecting directly with an HDMI patch cable, or via a wireless solution, you should be able to walk into a room and begin a meeting within 2 minutes.  
  
Upgrade: A popular audio visual tech upgrade option would be going wireless. You could also add push-button wall plate controller for the room. That way you can manage the different components with a simple button push.    

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With every upgrade or change, you should keep in mind teams need training. Pattisall said, "Even simple systems require a basic outline of steps for connectivity. You can accomplish this with a bullet point card in the room detailing connection options. Second, clients need to assess their computers and ensure their teams have the proper adapters, and correct settings selected. Even small things like administrative rules that disallow applets to load can interfere with wireless connectivity and create inefficiency."   

A professional AV company will help the client think through both the systems they need and the steps required to connect with a variety of devices and software. Clients also need to consider connectivity for their clients who use that space. For instance, if your wireless connectivity is limited to your network, and not the guest network, you will want to establish protocols for guest users.  

If you are ready for a free small conference room assessment, contact the Smarter Systems team today.Visit www.SmarterSys.com to learn more.