Making the A/V Club Cool

November 14, 2013

Classroom technologies race forward at an astounding rate, connecting educators to media savvy students. While projectors, interactive white boards, tablets and video on demand are increasingly visible in the classroom, adoption and deployment of such technologies are typically managed at the district level. Such was the case with Greenwood School District in South Carolina, who selected ASW to design and integrate networked presentation systems in over 700 classrooms across 18 sites.

ASW Sales Engineer Shane Boyce worked with the district to define their needs and create standardized systems that formed an enterprise solution. Each classroom features a projection system with audio reinforcement and interactive whiteboards. Teachers have simple and intuitive control of the system though an Extron control system. That control system is the key in allowing the district to effectively maintain the technology. With projectors under heavy daily use, lamps are destined to fail. The Extron system emails facilities staff to let them know about lamp failures, projector alarms or even if a projector is disconnected – a sign of possible vandalism. “It’s one thing to put in all of this great equipment, but it doesn’t do the students any good if we can’t keep it operational,” says Dwight Herring of GSD. “Once Shane’s crew has a school up and running, then I still depend on them for a quick response to service issues.”

Web-based IPTV is a core component of each classroom from the perspective of the teachers and students. Again, an enterprise level design is at work here as seven load-balanced SAFARI Montage servers provide on-demand content district wide. ASW has long enjoyed a close relationship with SAFARI, who has remained the leader in classroom video-on-demand systems for nearly two decades. The Montage content server comes with a core content package of over 2500 titles and 13,700 images that have been reviewed by a team of teaching professionals. They meticulously index and catalog the media according to grade level and subject area curriculum standards for each state. That means that teachers can choose specific program segments that focus on individual curriculum requirements simply by searching against the standard. The entire class can watch clips on the projection system in the classroom, or teachers can put together playlists for the students to watch individually in a media lab. And when the content providers are from major media establishments such as Disney, National Geographic, PBS and BBC, quality is never in doubt.

Server based content isn’t the only thing to watch, though. Over fifty MPEG4 video encoders throughout the district capture and redistribute cable TV feeds, legacy content libraries on VHS or DVD, and live student-produced video. That student-produced video originates from production carts that ASW designed. The exact implementation varies according to each school’s needs, but they all have a couple of prosumer camcorders, a video mixer, wireless microphones and a preview monitor. Students can roll the cart all over the school and plug into the network to send live video to all of the classrooms. Remember those monotone morning announcements read by the Principle? That’s not what happens in Greenwood. Students interview school faculty and produce a morning show, delivering the news the way it should be delivered in a high-tech school. Some schools even added optional Teleprompters and green screens to allow keying video weather-announcer-style. The AV club is a whole lot cooler than when we were pushing slide projectors around!

Shane’s team also implemented digital signage throughout common areas in the schools, and installed wireless, GPS synced clock systems district-wide. So, from presentation systems to IPTV to mobile production carts to digital signage and clocks, ASW has spent three years working in Greenwood, bringing schools online to what is essentially an enterprise video network. “I really like working with school systems,” Shane notes. “You know that what you are doing is having a real impact in the community.”

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