Tech Talk: A Smart Fit

Sept. 1, 2007
Innovative technology for retrofitting.

Educators use technology as a tool to spark the desire for lifelong learning in students. Today, with the wealth of information and educational technology available, the days of teachers lecturing at a chalkboard for six hours are clearly over. Because of this technology transition, schools and universities are faced with the task of retrofitting existing buildings with innovative technologies.

Some new products on the market will ease this process. The first are wireless VGA transmission products. Lesson plans that combine a variety of media, such as print, graphics, video and audio, keep students engaged and alert. Now, with a few simple solutions, a teacher's multimedia lesson content can be viewed easily at the front of a classroom on a screen, monitor, LCD or plasma screen and even directly at a student's desk.

For simple point-to-point scenarios that require information on a PC to be transmitted wirelessly to a display such as a video projector or plasma display, a wireless transmitter plugs directly into the computer, and the receiver plugs into the monitor or projector. Information from the PC is sent automatically to the remote location. From system setup to wireless data transmission, this process takes place in less than 5 minutes. Wireless technologies allow teachers to reconfigure their teaching environments easily to suit the educational experience. A teacher can move his or her teaching location to anywhere in the room: in front of the room for lectures, in the rear of the room for laboratories, or at one of the desks formed in a circle for group work and discussion.

Another challenge of retrofitting existing buildings is the bundle of cable that has to go from the teacher's workstation to a ceiling-mounted projector or flatscreen location. How do you get a VGA cable, audio cables, video cable, S-video cable and component cables from the teacher's computer to a projector without installing a mammoth conduit or raceway?

Several companies have tackled this problem head on, and the result has created some effective products for education. One product is an all-in-one three-input A/V switcher and transmitter paired with a remote receiver. The unit is installed in each classroom and gives a teacher individual buttons for turning the projector on/off and selecting the video source for display. It sends the selected AV to a remote receiver at the projector via two Cat5 cables. No other cabling is needed between the display and the teacher's workstation, which eliminates the need for a bundle of cables and costly conduits. No power supply is needed for the sender. The remote unit can be up to 750 feet away and has a built-in stereo audio amplifier that can drive a pair of ohm speakers directly. A volume knob on the sender adjusts the sound level. The unit automatically controls projector operation (on/off and source selection) via serial commands stored in the unit with the touch of a button.

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].

About the Author

C. William Day | Former Senior Analyst

Day is former senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning.

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