Audio Visual | Feature

What's New in Educational A/V?

Audiovisual technologies—including LCD displays, flat-panel monitors, video walls, studios, and A/V devices and applications—are gaining presence in today's learning spaces as educators increasingly rely on these technologies to reach and engage students.

"A/V is not just supplemental," said Bill Thrisk, vice president of information technology/CIO at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. "It helps students learn when other instructional and retention methods leave off."

The proposition is difficult to ignore, as evidenced by the growing volume of A/V equipment, tools, and applications currently being used by the educational sector. Here are five A/V technologies that are showing up in more classrooms in 2012:

  1. Interactive, touch-screen video walls. Gone are the days when students had to huddle around a single, meager display to get visual enrichment for a lesson. Today, schools are installing interactive "video walls"—multiple displays tiled together to form a single giant screen. Marist College, for example, installed a video wall/trading floor where students can view stock tickers, look up company performance statistics, and invest "real" money from the college’s endowment fund. Thrisk said the trading floor helps to bring concepts to life for students and enhances traditional lecturing and textbook learning. "When you can put images, sound, and interactive A/V technology at a student’s fingertips," said Thrisk, "you reach a much wider audience of learners."

  2. Sharing "over the air" with Apple TV. Installing streaming HD video equipment and/or wireless video sharing capabilities into a school at a cost of $10,000 per classroom isn’t an option for most institutions, but a $99 Apple TV box is. The small entertainment device plays content in up to 1080p HD and is showing up in classrooms nationwide. "We’re installing Apple TVs in as many classrooms as we can right now," said William Rankin, director of educational innovation for Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX. Using Airplay technology, which is build into the device’s operating system, an entire class can share its Macbook screens wirelessly using projectors. The equipment allows the teacher to "flip" the classroom around and put the power into the students’ hands. "Rather than just using a big board, a projector, and a lot of complicated wiring," said Rankin, "teachers and students are sharing cool ideas, videos, graphics and other tools over the air."

  3. Adaptive A/V tools. Audiovisual devices and applications are bridging gaps that existed between traditional students and those whose physical or learning disabilities prevented them from absorbing 100 percent of a lecture. One of Marist College’s newest A/V tools combines a handheld "smart pen" with a special paper pad and is used to capture both the written word and any accompanying audio. Manufactured by Livescribe, the pens allow these students to extract the full value from a lecture that, say, includes a high quantity of math formulas and problems. "Using this A/V technology, teachers don’t have to adjust their instructional methods," said Thrisk, "and students can go back and get a fully immersive experience by reproducing the lecture in real-time."

    Marist College also uses TextHelp to scan books and notes and then display the text on a wall to increase readability for visually impaired students. "One of our computer science students who was virtually blind used the technology to manage the Java code that the instructor was spewing out at a very high rate of speed," said Thrisk. TeamViewer, an application that allows faculty members to input lecture content into their own computers, enables students to access in a content more readable format.

  4. Collaborative studio spaces. As the traditional school library continues to evolve, some institutions are creating A/V-infused collaborative studio spaces that more appropriately address the needs of today’s learners. "As books move to digital and as the library no longerhas to serve as a warehouse for books," said Rankin, "schools are transforming those spaces into discovery studios." Abilene Christian University, for example, has set up podcasting studios, screening rooms, and HD studios that students use to give, view, and review presentations. "Those studios are massively popular," said Rankin, "and have become extremely important creative spaces for both students and faculty."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net.

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