Now That's Control

In the evolution of the electronic classroom, equipment advancements enable teachers to present lesson plans electronically to every student in a classroom. This equipment usually includes a data/video projector, a DVD/VCR, a classroom sound amplifier and speakers, and a document camera.

One challenge in such a system is keeping up with all the remote controls: separate units for the projector, the DVD/VCR and the classroom amplifier. Another issue is the high cost of data/video projector bulbs and battery replacement.

To address these issues, companies have developed software and multifunction wall control panels that can control all classroom equipment from one location.

If a projector has been left on mistakenly, it can be turned off via software that monitors projector activity.

One product puts a control directly on the wall by the teacher's workstation and enables teachers to control all classroom equipment. This Ethernet control device allows infrared or RS232 control of any classroom AV device.

Wall control panels are useful tools in electronic classrooms. Often, teachers have laptop computers as their primary machine, but when a substitute teacher fills in, he or she might not have access to the laptop that controls media devices in the classroom. Sometimes the right computer is available, but a substitute teacher might not have access to the needed password.

A simple wall controller allows instructors to use available media equipment without computer aid. The wall panel requires only a single-gang wall box and comes with illuminated buttons.

A wall controller is a perfect fix for schools that have a high volume of transient users. No more confusion caused by wandering remotes, dead batteries or absent computer controls.

Another feature allows for interfacing with presentations and interactive whiteboards from this same wall controller.

A user needs only the network address of the controller and the number of events being triggered. Suddenly, buttons created within PowerPoint or on an interactive whiteboard can be used by the presenter to control any device in the room, on the campus or around the world.

A few companies offer software that monitors the projector lamp-life, filter changes and usage statistics. This software allows personnel to know exactly when to replace a bulb and when to clean the filters.

One of the key ingredients in getting teachers to use technology is having equipment that works and is easy to use. A simple control panel in each classroom can provide system uniformity and a comfort level for all.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected]. www.kbdplanning.com

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