ProAVmag

Old School AV

The last thing Chaminade High School needed, it seemed, was an upgrade of its AV technology. The numbers said it all: of its 1,600 students, 99.7 percent of them go on to attend college upon graduati 4/01/2005 5:46 AM Eastern

Old School AV

The last thing Chaminade High School needed, it seemed, was an upgrade of its AV technology. The numbers said it all: of its 1,600 students, 99.7 percent of them go on to attend college upon graduation, and the 2004 graduating class of 389 students garnered a total of 872 scholarships.

CHALLENGE: Catapult a highly successful but traditional private high school into the modern era of AV technology by facilitating the faculty's use of multimedia teaching tools.

SOLUTION: Install Internet access and an independently controlled AV system in each classroom that's simple and easy to use.

THE LAST THING Chaminade High School needed, it seemed, was an upgrade of its AV technology. The numbers said it all: of its 1,600 students, 99.7 percent of them go on to attend college upon graduation, and the 2004 graduating class of 389 students garnered a total of 872 scholarships.

A Mineola, NY-based private Catholic school founded in 1930, Chaminade High School requires its students — young men in grades 9 through 12 — to follow a rigorous academic program. Yet even with such outstanding results and an intelligent student body, teachers were constantly looking for ways to incorporate material from current events and resources outside the textbook. Recently, Chaminade High School turned toward AV technology to better address the needs of its teachers and students.

“Prior to the AV install, Chaminade was fairly traditional in its classroom setup,” says Brother Michael John McAward, former principal and current supervisor of technical services who oversees the school's television station, AV equipment, website, and also teaches Spanish. “It was a lecture-based format supplemented with films or filmstrips and some VHS videos. The teachers had to request a TV from the AV department and it was wheeled in on a cart. For our 45 classrooms, there were 15 to 20 carts available. There were also in-room overhead projectors and screens in each classroom.”

Fifteen years ago, McAward had first introduced the use of Microsoft PowerPoint and LCD projectors in the classroom to replace notes on an overhead projector. The school owned two extra LCD projectors, but other faculty members rarely used them. At that time, the school also had two computer labs that were open to the student body, but reduced it to one because there wasn't enough demand to justify both. Students had computers at home and most teachers feared computers would be more of a distraction in class. The lab's heaviest user was the math department faculty, which only used the lab for computer instruction, and math students followed up with assignments at home.

Academically, Chaminade is in step with other schools in its category. Technologically, the school had more of a “wait-and-see” attitude. “We don't choose technology for technology's sake,” McAward says. “For example, we wanted to observe the Internet's usefulness in academics before offering access to the students and faculty. With that governance, we moved cautiously into the technology area.”

Two years ago, there was a groundswell from the faculty for Internet access in the classrooms and the desire to use more PowerPoint in class. There was even enough interest to request a permanent setup in every room, which launched Chaminade's Smart Classroom Initiative to push the integration of AV technologies into every course and grade level in the school. The initiative also included providing teachers with access to high-speed Internet and DVD/VCR units.

McAward suggested replacing the traditional overhead projectors in each classroom with a Canon LCD projector and a video visualizer. McAward presented his idea to the school board and received the budget to install the system in 10 classrooms. Each room cost approximately $5,500 to equip, excluding labor.

To ease budget concerns, McAward enlisted the help of some students and completed the installation in several phases over the course of a year.



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Old School AV

The last thing Chaminade High School needed, it seemed, was an upgrade of its AV technology. The numbers said it all: of its 1,600 students, 99.7 percent of them go on to attend college upon graduation, and the 2004 graduating class of 389 students garnered a total of 872 scholarships.

The 10 classrooms in the first phase represented a sampling of the current diverse construction with ceiling heights that ranged from 8 to 14 feet and four to five different room setups. McAward drew on his previous experience running a television studio and working with AV equipment to tackle any issues during the installation.

Once the first 10 classrooms were operational, the school board and the faculty realized the value of the technology in academics. McAward received additional funds and proceeded to install a system in each remaining classrooms.

Some classrooms were constructed with sheet rock and drop ceilings, which made the installation (and snaking wire) a bit easier; others were plaster walls and ceilings that required the installation team to use a surface-mount channel for wiring. The Canon projectors are hung approximately 24-inches down off of the center support beam using a pipe flange and a Chief RPA-620 projector mount.

For budget purposes, McAward used the school's existing pull-down or bow screens, whenever possible. Because the rooms and screens were various sizes, McAward had to determine the optimal mounting location for the projector in each room.

“I tried to place the projector between 9 and 10 feet away from the screen, but I could get what I needed as close as 7 feet, thanks to the excellent keystone correction function built into the projectors,” he says.

McAward needed a projector that could handle the short throws and was small enough to position based on the existing beams and light fixtures in each room. The Canon LV-7215 and LV-7210 LCD projectors fit those requirements, and also include all of the inputs the school needs: two VGA, analog video, and a wireless remote mouse. The projectors operate independently of the Canon RE-450X visualizers, and enable the faculty to display PowerPoint presentations, VHS tapes, DVDs, Internet websites, or even broadcast television.

The Canon video visualizers also offer image-capture features that greatly enhance their versatility in the classroom. The cameras in the visualizers can tightly zoom in and capture intricate details on any type of instructional material such as fossils, art illustrations, or field specimens, and also include a still picture function that enables teachers to freeze-frame any image during a classroom presentation. Connected to the Canon LCD projectors, the visualizers' images can be projected and displayed onscreen.

“We saw the visualizer as a good way to get technophobes to use the technology,” McAward says. “Teachers could use the same transparencies as before, and with the installed projector we could eliminate the need for wheeling in the AV carts.”

In each classroom, McAward also installed a custom corner wooden cabinet with the visualizer placed on top. Two shelves within the cabinet hold a receiver for the sound system and a Sony DVD/VCR combo unit. Because the installation lasted longer than 12 months and there were issues with product availability, McAward used three receiver models: a Panasonic SA-HE100, a Panasonic SA-XR25, and a Sony STRDE197. Each classroom also includes an independent audio system consisting of two Polk Audio RTi4 loudspeakers in a left/right stereo pair at the front of the room.

The Smart Classroom initiative also encouraged each faculty member to purchase a Dell laptop with the school subsidizing half the cost. Behind the teacher's lectern, a connection interface in the wall offers ports for VGA video, stereo sound for the computer, a USB hookup for the wireless projector mouse, and a Cat5 connection for access to the Internet and the school's data network. The interface includes a 10-foot, flexible umbilical that holds all four connectors in one place for quick and easy connection before class.



Old School AV

The last thing Chaminade High School needed, it seemed, was an upgrade of its AV technology. The numbers said it all: of its 1,600 students, 99.7 percent of them go on to attend college upon graduation, and the 2004 graduating class of 389 students garnered a total of 872 scholarships.

“Our student body is intelligent and requires information beyond the textbook, which can result in lots of writing on the board,” says Dan Petruccio, director of guidance at Chaminade, who also teaches junior religion and social studies classes. “Your back is to them so you don't get much face time, but by using tools like PowerPoint and the visualizer, I can do more teaching. The technology takes the mechanics out of writing information on a chalk board.”

Although most of the faculty found the AV equipment easy to operate, McAward offered a 10-minute orientation for teachers who wanted a bit more instruction. He also set up a sample AV system in the teacher's lounge so the faculty could become comfortable with the equipment before using it in class.

“Now there are always several teachers in the lounge doing research on current events on their laptops,” Petruccio says. “The science teachers found some great tsunami animations and maps online to use for class.”

With the AV systems fully in place for this school year, Chaminade's teachers are already finding new and innovative ways to use the technology for teaching. In the school's music classes, teachers can project sheet music and show videos about famous composers. In social studies classes, instead of having to physically pass fossils and other delicate artifacts around the classroom, each student can simultaneously view items using the visualizer. The new AV equipment also enables teachers to project daily news stories from national and international newspapers that are relevant to coursework.

McAward recently chaired an evaluation committee for the state of New Jersey on AV technology. During a visit to another school, he observed some behavior that helped shape Chaminade's approach to AV in the classroom. At this school, students were encouraged to purchase their own laptops and use them in class.

“The teacher had to repeat the URL over and over to get everyone on the same page,” he says. “Also she couldn't see what students were doing on their own computers. Some would click ahead and others weren't following at all. That visit confirmed the direction of what we're doing.”

THE POWER OF VISUALIZERS

The video document camera/visualizer is one of the best examples of technology's march toward smaller, multi-use AV devices. A visualizer's uses can be as diverse as those of its user. These devices are often used in high schools, colleges and universities, laboratories, corporations, medical and dental offices, hospitals, and courtrooms. A visualizer can display anything from hand-written or typed documents to 3D objects, photos, microscopic slides, and even X-rays.

The Canon RE-450X video visualizers used at Chaminade High School offer twin fluorescent lamps that provide uniform light, a text enhancement feature, and auto-white balance and exposure capabilities. The visualizers also include a color-corrected light box for viewing slides and transparencies. With the press of a button, a high-quality digital still image can be temporarily stored in memory, and then displayed on a projector or monitor.

For Chaminade, adding visualizers in the classroom greatly enhanced its teachers' ability to instruct. “The visualizer is great for social studies because the teacher can easily display a reference book containing an interesting and relevant map instead of relying on whatever pull-down map exists in the room,” says Dan Petruccio, director of guidance at Chaminade who also teaches junior religion and social studies classes. “The book can travel with the teacher from room to room since all the classrooms have a visualizer. The technology definitely complements the teacher.”

 Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance writer and PR specialist for the professional AV industry. She can be reached at linda@frembes.com.



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