Published in the May 2015 edition of k-12 TechDecisions.com:
With the help of design build-firm, Presentation Products, a boys prep school revamps classroom tech and turns its gym into a multipurpose space.
“That way all of their equipment would be a little easier to manage,” says Joseph Fattorini, K-12 sales manager for Presentation Products, the A/V design-build firm that designed and installed Browning’s new technology.
Before any tech was purchased or installed, Browning’s director of technology, Aaron Grill, sought the opinion of his teachers. During a professional development session, educators weighed in on what they would consider to be the ideal classroom.
“An overwhelming response was more whiteboard space and flexibility,” Grill says.
Browning has interactive whiteboards in its classrooms. These boards were installed over existing whiteboards. This didn’t seem to be a problem at the time, but it proved to be an inconvenient setup for teachers. If the interactive whiteboard system stopped working, teachers were left without a way to present lessons. Grill found a way around this issue by replacing the interactive whiteboards with interactive projectors. He went with SMART LightRaise projectors instead.
“The LightRaise seemed to work for everyone so they could have both a whiteboard and an interactive projector,” Grill says.
Presentation Products also installed an Extron system to control classroom AV like projectors, document cameras and a Bose professional sound system.
“The teacher hits a button on the wall and it turns on the projector and the Bose system,” Grill explains. The teacher then has the option of choosing either an HDMI or VGA connection. They can also connect to a compact Elmo digital document camera.
The upgrades to classroom technology were part of a larger renovation project that also included converting the Browning School’s gym into a multipurpose space. The room had to serve as a fully functioning gymnasium, theater and presentation space. The challenge was to find a setup for the sound system that wasn’t in the way when the room was used as a gym, but could still provide the necessary audio coverage required of a theater or large meeting area for the whole school to gather. Presentation Products did not create the design for the multipurpose space, but the company did work with a consultant and install the AV equipment. Upgrades were also completed in the school’s cafeteria that included a projector, ceiling recessed screen, distributed audio and digital signage.
A Culture That Supports Tech Innovation
These upgrades go hand-in-hand with Browning’s forward thinking approach to technology. The school began the process of rolling out a 1:1 iPad initiative three years ago. Grades 9-12 are currently 1:1. Next year the program will expand to the fifth and sixth grades.
“Managing the rollouts is key for our small department,” Grill says. “If we just rolled out an iPad for everyone in one year it would not only be difficult for teachers, but difficult for us to manage.” The 1:1 is deployed using Cisco’s Meraki Management.
Grill has been happy with the school’s phased approach to mobile learning. it’s allowed him enough time to really make sure the school’s network can handle additional traffic. This careful approach has led the school to see success rather than encounter obstacles on its path to 1:1 that could have discouraged or teachers or made them apprehensive about the benefits of mobile learning.
“If you do something way too fast then it doesn’t work and it’s not used,” Grill says.
This measured approach to technology integration is one more schools could learn from.
“They approach technology in a good way from the top down,” Fattorini says. “They can fund it. They don’t rush into it. They’re not following trends. They’re looking at their goals and then giving themselves the right time-frames and budgets to get it done.”