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AV Planning & Integration

The Ed Tech Quarterback

In the design of learning spaces, one key member of of the planning team is often not formally identified: the educational technology quarterback. This is the person who acts as both an advocate for technology and a coordinator between disparate departments. But the function of the "ETQB" doesn't end there.

Every new construction or renovation project involving the creation of learning spaces requires a team to take responsibility for various day-to-day aspects of planning, oversight, and implementation. Typically these teams comprised internal users, one or more department heads, the dean, representatives from the facilities or building and construction group, and often someone representing the office of the president. External design team members include an architect, engineers, and various specialty consultants, often including an AV consultant.

One key member of the internal team is often not formally identified: the educational technology quarterback (ETQB). This individual is often the local AV Manager, tech support person, or sophisticated user who has experience with the equipment and existing classroom environment.

The role of the ETQB is to enhance communications among all design team members and is critical for several reasons.

In House Expert
First, as a knowledgeable in-house expert, he or she understands how the current environment is equipped and used, which classrooms are successful and which ones aren't. He or she is are familiar with the technology from an operational standpoint and has a good sense of the implications of decisions made during the planning process. This person can serve to help less sophisticated internal team members understand the more technical aspects of discussions and help guide them.

Liaison Between Users and Design Team
The second role is to serve as a liaison between the design team and users. Often times throughout the planning process, questions crop up, and clarifications are needed. It is extremely useful for the design team to have a single point of contact to discuss ed tech- or AV-related issues. For example, during the needs analysis or design development phase, the AV consultant or architect may have questions that impact architecture directly. Rather than schedule and convene a user meeting, these questions can be directed toward the ETQB, who can get answers and report back to the design team in short order.

Reviewer of Planning Documents
Another role for the ETQB is to review reports and plan drawings and budgets with internal and external design team members. While the ETQB does not necessarily sign off on these documents, he or she represent a resource that can help colleagues understand content and can collect opinions, which can then be communicated to design team members.

Maintainer of Continuity
While many user participants spend only a small fraction of their time involved with project planning and execution, the ETQB has a greater responsibility to keep current on decisions made and evolving planning as it affects educational technology and architecture. The ETQB can help "remind" users of decisions already made and previous compromises accepted and help the project move forward.

Implementation Coordinator
During the equipment specification phase of the project, the ETQB should be assigned to review the equipment specification to ensure that user requirements and initial expectations will be met and that equipment choices and user interface design for control panels are consistent with existing installations.

Another important responsibility in the implementation category is to make sure that a plan is in place to provide technical support for these spaces once installation is complete. This includes ensuring that an appropriate staff will be assigned to receive primary training, to train faculty and student users, and to provide equipment maintenance.

During equipment installation, the ETQB should be available to monitor (if not project manage) these activities and to respond to unexpected problems that inevitably arise. At some point following installation, the ETQB should hand off the project to the technical support manager who has been assigned.

Post Occupancy Evaluator
Once the facilities have been completed and used for several months, the final responsibility of the ETQB should be to conduct a post occupancy user evaluation of the technology systems. Having been involved throughout the entire process, the ETQB is in the best position to interpret the results of the evaluation within the context of compromises made during the planning process. The information collected will be invaluable in both taking corrective actions, as well as to learn important lessons which can be applied to the next project.

ETQB Characteristics
It is important that the ETQB have a technical knowledge of how the equipment works and its proper integration within learning spaces. However, it is also critical that he or she have a good understanding of the faculty's teaching and learning goals and be sensitive to how learning technology specifically supports those goals. To focus on the equipment, and not its intended mission, is to miss the point of the entire exercise.

The value of the enhanced communication, planning continuity, and ongoing advocacy for educational technology throughout the project planning and implementation phases are compelling reasons to ensure the formal assignment of the educational technology quarterback in every project.

About the Author

Michael David Leiboff is the founder of EdTech Planning Group. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been involved in the planning and implementation of hundreds of advanced technology learning spaces. He can be reached at 914-401-4172 or at [email protected].

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