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Putting Students’ Imaginations to Work with ListenPoint 2.0

Let’s face it. Other than parents, teachers have the greatest influence over children, so it is essential that students hear well in the classroom. That’s why we released ListenPoint 2.0, our latest Soundfield solution—we wanted to make learning limitless.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if Shakespeare had never learned to read? What if Einstein hadn’t had the opportunity to learn calculus? How different would our lives be if Steve Jobs couldn’t hear his kindergarten teacher? Without Jobs, we’d all still be using those crazy brick cell phones from the 1980’s! #lame #nomobileapps #howwouldiplaycandycrushsaga

Students learn best in environments where they can focus on what their teachers are saying. Unfortunately, several factors can get in the way. Some students have trouble focusing because they have hearing loss or are too far away from the teacher. Meanwhile, the classroom itself might have poor acoustics, or the teacher could have a strained voice from talking too loudly or too long.

In today’s classrooms, students have a lot of creative and innovative thinking to do. ListenPoint 2.0 helps them put their imaginations to work. It can also have a positive effect on their grades and test scores.* #bettergradesareawesome #A+ #listenpointisgenius

ListenPoint 2.0 delivers the following key benefits:

  • With mission critical deployments, it is the most advanced, flexible, scalable Soundfield system delivered by a trusted authority in the pro-AV market.
  • It incorporates AV technology and assistive listening systems to create enhanced and enriched learning environments for all students.
  • It is easy to install, operate, maintain, and adds more functionality over time.
  • It couples competitive pricing with advanced features.

We are truly excited to be part of a noble mission—educating students to become extraordinary people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The Marrs Report, 2006

Communication and Hearing Loss

Most of us have heard the phrase “Good Communication is Key” countless times, but the reason we’ve heard it over and over again, is because it’s true. When was the last time bad communication got you what you wanted or helped you achieve success? Probably never.
 

One of the biggest components in good communication is understanding. If either participant in a conversation isn’t being fully understood, then good communication isn’t happening. Making certain that both participants are being heard clearly is particularly important when hearing loss is a concern. Here are a few important things to remember when you’re communicating with someone who has hearing loss.
 
Use Body Language. OK, so you don’t have to turn into a puppet flailing your arms all over the place, but body language, no matter who you’re talking to, is incredibly important. It becomes even more important if you’re conversing with someone who has hearing loss. Keep your body language open rather than closed, so that your conversation feels inviting. It’s also a great idea to maintain eye contact.
 
Don’t exaggerate your lip and mouth movements. You have a lovely and expressive face and it’s great that you use it during conversations to convey how you’re feeling about something, but when you’re having a chat with someone with a hearing loss, don’t exaggerate things with your mouth. This can make it difficult for that person to read your lips. Also avoid speaking too slowly, because it can come off as super patronizing and nobody wants to be that guy.
 
Remember that time you went overseas and were sort of embarrassed by the tourists who would shout in English thinking that if they shouted louder they’d be better understood? It doesn’t work in Europe or in conversations with people who have hearing loss. Yelling often makes words harder to understand and it makes you look kind of silly. Follow the advice of your mother; there’s no need to shout.
 
Ask open ended questions. “Yes” and “no” questions can only get you so far, but an open ended query can not only keep things going, they also let you know if you’re being understood. How do you ask an open ended question? Simply ask something that will promote more conversation. For example, instead of asking, “Did you like the movie,” ask “What did you think of the movie,” because it allows more discussion. More discussion means more understanding.
 

If you’re unsure about how to best communicate with someone who has hearing loss, ask them. They may have their own advice that works best for communicating specifically with them; after all, no one’s hearing loss is exactly the same. The key is to make sure everyone’s needs are being met, that good conversation is happening, and that you’re both being understood.  

A Word from the Wise: Cory Schaeffer on Being a Woman in Tech

Cory Schaeffer, our fearless, talented, brilliant, charming Co-Founder and VP of Sales Worldwide, was recently nominated as a finalist for the 6th Annual Women Tech Awards.

The Women Tech Council’s program recognizes technology-focused women who are driving innovation, leading technology companies and are key contributors to the community.

 

In celebration of this illustrious nomination, we thought we’d share some of Cory’s thoughts on being a woman working in the technology industry. So, without further ado, here is what Cory had to say:

How did you get interested in the technology industry?

The truth is, I fell into the industry. However, I stayed in it, because I quickly saw an opportunity for ongoing growth in an exciting field. I also saw that there were few women and it felt great to talk the technology talk and have the industry really want to “understand.” I feel that I can discuss technology at a very basic level or a very high level and it has served me very well.
What lessons have you learned about being a woman working in a field that is viewed as predominately male?

I’ve learned that because an industry is predominately male, there are tons of opportunities for me as a woman and for other women, too. The men in the industry want women to succeed and they are willing to help them. I’ve also learned to step up and take a seat at the table. Women can and should be in this industry and we should be leading. There is no reason not to and there is absolutely nothing stopping us. This industry needs more women. We ask questions that many of our male counterparts will not, we take time to educate ourselves, we are great networkers; it’s a great field to push beyond our comfort zones.
What do you think the future is for women working in the technology industry?

I strongly believe that we’ll see more and more women on boards, running organizations, and projects. Women prefer to communicate and involve others collaboratively. Women are strong communicators and communication management is vital to our industry. Women are more interested in preventing a crisis, than relishing the chance to save the day. To be sure, this description doesn’t fit every woman, as this could also apply to some of the industry’s best males, but so far, it doesn’t apply to enough of them.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start working in technology?

Don’t wait to be asked and don’t wait for the perfect job or fit. Just get in. Once in a technology field, you’ll find so many opportunities, many of which you won’t see or have until you’re in the field. Be bold and be aggressive.
Congratulations on your nomination, Cory. Everyone at Listen is very proud of you!

Santa Visits Kauri Sue Hamilton School

I knew I’d have fun.

I knew that I’d have stories to tell.
I did not know just how deep an impact the students at Kauri Sue Hamilton School would make on my heart.
Now in its third year, the Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Jordan School District is a school for students with severe, multiple disabilities.  The land was donated by Cletus and Sharon Hamilton in gratitude for the education Jordan School District provided for their daughter, Kauri Sue.   Kauri Sue is now 40 years old and lives in Spanish Fork but has fond memories of going to school at Jordan Valley School, Bingham High School, and South Valley School.

When Santa Claus came to town, to the Kauri School to be more specific, I had a chance to be his elf/helper for the day. Of course that meant I needed elf attire and the Hale Center Theater’s costume department did not disappoint. Being an audio company we decided to have a little fun and bring in one of our portable systems.

Imagine Santa walking into the classroom and not only calling each student by name but having a conversation with them. These children face many challenges and a better part of them cannot verbally communicate their thoughts and feelings. When Santa was able to talk about their lives and their interests, the excitement was palpable. One little qirl, a quadriplegic, could not speak or move. But when Santa talked to her and held her hand, her breathing became more rapid. One of the teacher aides told me, “That means she is excited!”
Another little boy would stick his leg out straight and shake it. Santa stuck his leg out and shook it. He shrieked with joy and stuck both legs out shaking them. So Santa did the same. Then he stood up and plopped down, stood up, plopped down, stood up, plopped down. Santa did the same. And they connected.
The amazing Teacher Specialist, Jenny Eyre, wore a portable transmitter with a lapel mic while Santa wore an earpiece and had a receiver clipped to his pants. Jenny was able to stand on the far side of the room or down the hall and whisper details in to Santa’s ear. The details she knew of each student and teacher in the school showed that this isn’t just a job, it’s an important part of her life.
Santa was able to bring joy not just to the students but the teachers as well. They were trying to figure out who Santa was and how he knew such details.  Several teachers would whisper to me with a knowing look in their eyes, “Okay, who is Santa? I can’t figure it out?” My response was simply, “Why it’s Santa Claus of course!”

In a world where so often the focus is on material things and winning the rat race, this magical experience is something that I will treasure. The love and acceptance that was shared with me was far greater than any service that I could have provided. Thanks Kauri Sue for letting me see the world through your eyes for a day.

Protecting Teens From Hearing Loss

This was originally posted on February 21, 2012 on the InfoComm All Voices Blog >>>

For the first time in nearly 25 years, teens have experienced a 30% increase in hearing loss. The culprit: noise-induced hearing loss. Recent studies show that 1 in 5 teens now have noise-induced hearing problems. Although reported by many, I believe there is still much work to be done to build awareness about this important issue. I personally find it concerning because hearing is so critical to our interactions with others, and it’s all too easy to take our hearing for granted.
 

 “Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.”  Helen Keller
 
I grew up listening to Foreigner, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and others at high volumes in my bedroom, barely hearing my mother’s voice as she yelled for me to “Turn that ‘ya ya’ down.” I was also very proud to redo the stereo system in my 1964 Volkswagen Bug — I put eight speakers in that little car! Nothing seemed more important than playing my music so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything else. And I know my friends were impressed when I pulled up and they could hear me before they saw me.
 
Many of us have shared similar experiences; after all loud music is a rite of passage for teenagers. Our industry is rich with individuals who once played in a band — and in many cases still do. Being a member of a band is cool, and it’s a passion for many in our industry. We understand the joy and emotional connection that music brings to us, and often we believe that the louder the better. Remember the saying that if it’s too loud, you’re too old? If you’re working in the audio industry, chances are that you or some of your colleagues are already dealing with hearing loss.
 
In some ways, hearing loss in a seasoned AV professional seems understandable. But such a significant rise in teen hearing loss is alarming. The fact that it’s noise induced — and therefore preventable — makes it tragic.
We have an opportunity and a responsibility to communicate that it’s not cool to lose your hearing. The fact is that once you’re hearing is gone, it’s gone forever. There is no fix for hearing loss. Let me state it again: Once it’s gone it’s gone!
 
Imagine what this means. Hearing loss changes our ability to fully enjoy experiences, and it impacts our lives in so many ways. It’s more difficult to understand a conversation or appreciate music. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect an individual, but also one’s family and friends. It affects our ability to connect with people. It can separate us, isolate us. Some people get ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, which often becomes permanent. All of this can cause anxiety and irritably.
 
Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing impairment resulting from prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. Everywhere I look, I see people wearing ear buds and headphones, and often the volume is such that I can hear some of what the person is listening to. But here’s what else is happening with those headphones and ear buds:
  • You have your earphones on and you’relistening to your favorite music at high volume.
  • The sound waves enter the ear, travel thru the ear canal all the way to the hair cells located in your inner ear.
  • Hair cells help convert sound energy into electrical signals sent to the brain. This allows you to hear the music clearly.
  • But when the volume is too loud, those hair cells get damaged  — nd never grow back
For more information about noise-induced hearing loss, visit the House Research Institute,  a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss and related disorders.
The fact of th ematter is, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Even a small loss of hearing can have a lifetime of consequences fora child. Here are a few tips for noise-induced hearing loss prevention:
  • Talk about it and educate your kids
  • Monitor sounds in excess of 85 dB
  • Remove headphones and ear buds often and take 15-minute breaks
  • Move away from on-stage monitors or amplifiers while listening or performing
  • Use hearing protection often — and not just at concerts
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, but more education on thetopic is necessary. We need more dialogue about how to prevent this type of hearing loss and it needs to come from this community.

School District Eliminates Disruptions At Meetings with Language Interpretation

While lively discussions may ensue in some PTA meetings, most are fairly routine and occur with little disruption. For the Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD), however, disturbances from language interpretation, which accommodates its large Chinese-speaking community, were becoming increasingly noticeable and problematic.

Director of Technology and Information Services Robert Leri reported that 65 percent of the population is ethnic Chinese, the majority of those speak Mandarin as their first language. While interpreters in the back of the room and parents did their best to be unobtrusive during meetings, it became evident that the district needed to find a better way to unite the parents linguistically, so they could continue to strengthen the education for the students.

Commitment to Outreach AUSD has already been doing a lot of community outreach to help all parents become involved with their children’s education. In addition to the language interpretation at PTA, booster, and other committee meetings, the district also offers community liaisons for ethnically perse families and free English classes to members of their community in an effort to help children more quickly acquire English skills.

Following suit, AUSD purchased a Listen Portable FM system to reduce disruptions from language interpretation, enabling them to continue providing the valuable service and conduct more efficient meetings.

Taking “Charge” of Interpretation the custom-designed system consists of three LT-700 Portable FM Transmitters with microphones, 50 LR-400 Portable FM Receivers with headphones, and convenient charging carrying cases. The charging cases were a major factor in AUSD’s selection of technology, according to Leri. “Other systems we looked at required a separate cord for each unit. That would have been a cord nightmare,” he said.

To facilitate quieter interpretation services and smoother meetings, an interpreter listens to the proceedings through the headphones of an LR-400 receiver set to one of its 57 channels. Then the interpreter speaks the interpretation into the microphone connected to the LT-700 transmitter set to a separate channel, which broadcasts a clear RF signal out a radius of 150 feet.

 

Listeners, equipped with the body pack receivers, hear through the headphones. Each unit has inpidual volume control so even guests who may be hearing impaired can listen to the interpretation clearly.

 

“This system really addresses the needs of the parents, so all of then can understand and participate in their children’s education,” Leri said. The district also intends to use this portable language interpretation system with its bilingual advisory committee, other parent groups, and possibly with students.

Seattle Public Schools Connects to Multi-Lingual Families

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is the largest public school system in Washington State, and the 44th largest in the United States. SPS also boasts an incredibly diverse network of 97 schools, serving 45,900 students from more than 70 countries representing over 89 languages. Some of the represented languages and dialects include Amharic, Chinese, Laotian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese.
 
The administration and teachers of Seattle Public Schools believe that teaching and learning are truly enriched by the diversity of its students and staff. Their goal is to provide a range of services that assist bilingual students and their families to feel welcome at school and support students’ academic success.
 
One person charged with responsibilities for connecting the students and families of Seattle’s diverse population is Hung Pham, SPS District Community Liaison & Consulting Teacher. With over 32 years of experience, Mr. Pham is committed to ensuring that Seattle Public Schools families’ needs are being met. He also understands the importance of making a connection with students and their families in their native tongues.
 
Mr. Pham partners closely with the district’s bilingual program services department to offer English language programs, bilingual instructional assistants to support students with limited English proficiency, and assistance with referrals to health care, employment, and legal services. This multilingual team also supports students’ families by enrolling their children in an appropriate educational program and informing parents about school policies, enrollment, school transportation, transcripts, testing, and many other school activities.
 
“Effective education is about everyone taking part in the process—parents, school staff and community members—to create an effective experience for all students,” said Mr. Pham. To facilitate the community’s involvement he oversees 4-5 outreach meetings per month. These community outreach meetings are a reflection of the diversity of the student population and Mr. Pham’s team has been instrumental in providing language interpretation services to meeting attendees.
 
“I knew we had the resources to provide the translators, but needed a solution to make the interpretation easier to do,” noted Mr. Pham. Mr. Pham turned to Anne Renaldi, Deputy Director, of Conference Services for ASET International.
 
 “We knew we could provide Seattle Public Schools with a solution for their meetings,” stated Ms. Renaldi. ASET International is a Listen Technologies dealer offering full-service rentals, sales and support. Ms. Renaldi suggested using Listen Technologies’ Portable FM products for Seattle Public Schools’ language interpretation needs at their community meetings and state wide conferences.
 
“I recommended Listen Technologies because their products offer the best sound quality, a lifetime warranty and they are easy to use,” stated Ms. Renaldi.
 
Thanks to the generous partnership of the Seattle Council Parent Teacher Student Association, Seattle Public Schools was able to purchase a Listen system.
 
Mr. Pham, Ms. Renaldi and Listen worked to create a custom system to meet Seattle Public Schools needs. Multiple LT-700 Portable Transmitters with 57-channels are used by the interpreters and allow for more than one language to be interpreted at every meeting. Attendees in need of language interpretation services use the LR-400 Portable Digital Display FM Receivers. “Many of our clients have had trouble with the old style receivers that do not have digital tuning. This was a perfect product for their application,” noted Ms. Renaldi. Mr. Pham’s team can easily program the receivers to the applicable channel making it easy to use. “We really like the Charging/Carrying Cases, our equipment is organized and always ready to use, stated Mr. Pham.
 
“We have been very happy with the results of using Listen Technologies’ products for language interpretation, our meetings are more professional, efficient, and effective,” noted Mr. Pham. “We are really connecting to our Seattle Public Schools families.”

Sound Amplification Basics

Sound amplification needs to not only make sounds louder but more intelligible. A loud overhead sound system that no one can understand has no value. The effect of quality sound amplification for presentations and trainings is significant.  Studies have shown that sound amplification in small- to medium size rooms can increase people’s retention by as much as 30%.
For sound amplification to give everyone in the presentation or training room a full sound experience, it must deliver sound that is:
 
• Clean—free from noise and artifacts
• Intelligible—clearly recognizable and comprehensible
• Natural—full range of frequencies are properly reproduced
• Balanced—different audio sources produce the same level
• Evenly dispersed—loudspeaker coverage is such that everyone can hear
When you consider the cost of attendee time, particularly higher salaried employees, any downtime due to issues with the room is wasting company money. A recent study of IT managers who support presenters in company presentation rooms found that on average, each problem wastes up to 31.5 minutes of the meeting time—from the initial attempts by meeting participants to resolve the problem to the final resolution. Multiplied by the average number of meetings and the wasted time added up to 21.2 hours per attendee per year.1

Exploring Sound Amplification Options
For most small organizations, choosing a solution is a balance between the sound quality they are willing to tolerate and their budget. Here are three possibilities:
 
• Attaching external speakers to a laptop, for example, will amplify music and video audio that is played from a laptop as well as from Skype remote callers. But it won’t amplify the presenter’s voice, improve intelligibility, accommodate speakerphones, or make it easy to use.
• Purchasing a microphone, amplifier, and loudspeakers will make it easier to hear the presenter—particularly if the loudspeakers are properly placed in the room. But it won’t accommodate additional audio sources or remote callers.
• Installing a feature-rich solution that provides microphones, loudspeakers, digital-signal processing, numerous input and outputs for audio devices, and a variety of control options will deliver excellent sound quality. However, it will probably cost upwards of $4,500.
In reality, an installed system like this has far more horsepower than most organizations need for their multi-purpose rooms. But if you could strip an installed system down to only the most necessary components, you would have a complete sound system that includes:
 
• Wireless microphone for the presenter
• Ceiling speakers
• Device with a VoIP port, audio inputs, control interface, and wireless microphone receiver
• Equalization and filtering capabilities
• User-friendly controller

Components of a Complete Sound System

The illustration below depicts the basic components of a sound system for training rooms or presentation rooms. It is a system that is able to deliver rich, full sound. This system uses four loudspeakers to distribute audio throughout the room, creating a soundfield. It also includes a microphone with volume control, a control unit that interfaces with audio devices and provides volume control and device selection. Finally, the room module ties the system together and delivers audio signals from the various inputs to the loudspeakers.

 sound-system-components
1 The Meeting Room Marathon – A Waste of Corporate Time, Dynamic Markets research commissioned by Casio, July 2010.

Six Classroom Technologies To Seriously Consider

A study published in May by Nobel Prize winning physics professor Carl Wieman suggests that teaching methods using interactive technology can be far more effective than traditional lectures.

Wieman found that students who were taught physics using interactive methods at the University of British Columbia scored about twice as high when tested as those attending traditional lectures on the same material. That was true even if the lectures were delivered by far more experienced teachers.
 
The interactive method he used involved short, small-group discussions, demonstrations, question-answer sessions and electronic quizzes that gave instructors real-time graphic feedback on what students had and had not learned successfully.
 
The study confirms what many teachers know intuitively – but the question remains, what kinds of interactive technology are most effective in the classroom?
 
The experience of Conference Technologies customers suggests that there are six key technologies that you should be using in your school or training program.
 
1. Student Response Systems
An important advantage for Weiman’s instructors was the student response system he used. There are quite a number of these systems on the market, but in essence each gives an instructor the ability to ask a multiple choice or true/false question during class and get immediate feedback on student comprehension. If the percentage who answers correctly is high, it’s time to move on to new material. If it’s low, the instructor can spend more time on the topic. It’s a simple idea, but as the Weiman research shows, it can be extremely powerful.
 
2. Collaborative Learning
Weiman also put an emphasis on small-group discussion during class time. One trend we’re seeing is the use of collaborative learning systems to enhance group activities.
 
For example, we recently installed a system at Middle Tennessee State University using Tidebreak ClassSpot software. With Tidebreak, students working on laptops plugged into the network can each take over a shared machine with a large-screen display, collaborating on documents, opening websites, sharing files or making presentations to the full class.
 
Some of our corporate customers use Microsoft LiveMeeting to share files among group members in training sessions. The nice thing about this setup is that students can work together from different locations in a distance learning environment.
 
Our elementary and high school customers most often choose SMART’s Bridgit software to provide similar capabilities. Bridgit allows students to share screens, voice and video and work on shared documents, whether together in a classroom or across a distance learning connection.
The great power of collaborative systems is engagement. Used thoughtfully, they can help students pay more attention in class and take ownership of the material they are asked to learn.
 
listenpoint-flexroom
3. Voice Lift
University professors have been using wireless mic systems in lecture halls for many years, but research indicates that voice reinforcement can be very valuable in standard classrooms as well. Special Ed teachers began the trend, finding that students with learning disabilities did a lot better in class when teachers used sound systems to moderately increase their voice levels. Further research suggests that almost anyone can benefit, whether children or adults, gifted or learning disabled, when the instructor’s voice is reinforced.
 
Listen, Extron and other manufacturers now offer low-cost classroom solutions based on a pendant microphone with an infrared transmitter and a ceiling speaker with a receiver built in.
 lifesize-video-center
4. Recording & Streaming
More and more educators are adding cameras, microphones and servers to classrooms to stream video to students live or on demand. Several of our corporate clients use the technology to train staff in distant locations. Universities are recording classes for students who can’t be present or who attend but wish to review difficult material. Elementary and high schools webcast classroom sound and video to home-schooled children.
 
Among the more interesting new streaming products is the LifeSize Video Center, which can reduce HD recording and streaming to single-button simplicity; 323link’s Educast, which simplifies audio, video and multimedia webcasts, and the NewTek TriCaster, which is aimed at more production-savvy users, including audio/video production classes.  
 
5.  E-books & Tablet PCs
With the price of e-book readers and some tablets now roughly equal to that of many textbooks, it only makes sense to move written classroom materials to an electronic format.
 
As schools begin to do so, students will use e-readers to access webcasts, input answers into response systems, and collaborate in many ways. At CTI, we’re expecting to begin integrating tablets and e-readers into classroom AV systems within the next two years, and we’re encouraging our customers to begin planning for their use now.
 
6. Unified Classroom Communications
The influx of tablets highlights a trend toward unified technologies that combine collaboration, streaming and other educational applications into single or closely-related systems.
 
For example, the Promethean ActivClassroom, which is very popular in Europe, ties learner response systems and voice reinforcement to interactive whiteboards and an open source library of educational software and activities.
 
AMX has introduced an extremely interesting product in SchoolView, which streamlines and controls multiple technologies including two-way paging, video-on-demand, AV controls, security and surveillance, emergency notification, even school bells in a single system. Because it uses an integrated platform, the cost of design, installation and maintenance can be much lower than with separate systems. Because it’s IP-based, flexibility and scalability are high.
Are traditional teaching methods dead?
 
No, I don’t believe they are or should be. But interactive technology is enhancing what teachers can do and how effective they can be.  There’s much to gain from thoughtful use of these six core technologies.
John Laughlin, CTS, is president and CEO of Conference Technologies, Inc., a provider of audio-visual design, integration, video conferencing, rental solutions, and technical service support, with nine offices throughout the United States. 

How To Create Great AV Learning Spaces

Designing and implementing successful AV facilities requires the collaborative effort of a number of participants with varied interests, backgrounds, skills, and agendas. For the purposes of this discussion, assume that an institution desires to build a new classroom building comprising a variety of learning space types. 

 

Basic Design Team 
 

Typically, a team of participants is assembled to represent the institution’s interests. Most often a project manager is assigned from the facilities and construction department or other administrative support group to organize and lead the process. Next, one or more user group representatives are identified to ensure that the needs and goals of the users are appropriately met. Finally, an architectural firm is hired to undertake the process of designing the building and to prepare the necessary construction documents.

At this point, a number of sub consultants are hired to help the architect design the building appropriately. The most important of these include engineers to design the mechanical HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems(MEP). Proper planning for these disciplines is essential to designing a building which can accommodate all of these technical sub systems.

Broadly speaking, educational technology for learning spaces requires a similar type of planning process. This is true in particular for audiovisual multimedia technology. These systems can profoundly impact architectural design parameters. 

So what is it exactly that needs to be coordinated, and how should this coordination be orchestrated?

Briefly, presentation technology encompasses the integration of specialized equipment that should be seamlessly and aesthetically integrated within the interior architecture of a building. In order to achieve this, a number of steps must follow, and a planning process must be completed.

 

Statement of Requirements
Role: Facilitation and Needs Analysis
 

The first order of business is to develop a statement of requirements. This information is usually codified in the form of a Program or Concept Design Document. It results from a process of collecting user requirements and refining them until such time as a consensus and formal approval have been arrived at. 

This is usually the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process, as rationalizing the varied and often conflicting needs of different users can be an arduous task. It is helpful to engage an experienced facilitator/analyst to help ferret out, organize, and prioritize user requirements. This expertise can be hired by the architect or the institution.

A statement of requirements typical has three elements:

  1. The identification of the range of capabilities and technologies the facility should accommodate, in each space or space type, over the foreseeable life of the building;
  2. The identification of equipment that should be installed initially, for use on Day 1; and
  3. An estimated cost of initial equipment installation. Often this budget is conceived as a scenario analysis, outlining several alternatives, in terms of high, medium, and low cost options.

Basebuilding Infrastructure Design 
Role: Basebuilding Architectural Designer

Once the AV program has been completed, the architect must develop a detailed, buildable design that is hospitable to the equipment that will be installed. A variety of architectural design priorities must evolve, some of which include:

  • Physical space to accommodate the necessary racks of support equipment;
  • Appropriate electrical power and telecommunications connectivity;
  • Coordination of ceiling elements, including projector(s), audio speakers, and video cameras (as well as lighting, HVAC elements, sprinkler heads, etc.);
  • Coordination of wall and floor elements, such as patch panels, wall and floor boxes, projection screens, etc.;
  • Conduit runs to accommodate low voltage wiring needed to support AV systems;
  • Millwork, such as casework to house equipment and power or network outlets; and
  • Structural Support to accommodate wall- or ceiling-mounted flat-panel displays and projectors.

Few if any architects have this kind of design expertise in house and often hire an AV consultant to guide them in the architectural accommodation of technology.


Technical Systems Design
Role: Systems Designer

Once the building is well under construction, detailed technical systems design and specification must be completed.

This involves completing the following tasks: 

  • Developing a systems design that achieves the utility needed to meet Day 1 requirements and also stay with budget targets established in the needs analysis phase;
  • Identifying equipment items needed, by make and model number (or, in some cases, functional performance);
  • Identifying signal flows, which define technically how the equipment will be integrated; and
  • Installation procedures and technical performance requirements.

Again, not many architects can provide this service directly, and they typically either ask the institution to contract a consultant or hire one themselves. 


Systems Integration
Role: Systems Integrator

After the systems has been designed; the equipment must be procured, installed and tested. In a project of any complexity and scope, it is wise to hire a systems integrator to take responsibility for this work. This contract is often held by the client.
 
The most common approach to integrating audiovisual technology into a building project, as described above, is for either the architect or institution to follow one of two paths: 

  1. To hire an audiovisual consultant to conceive, architect, and design AV systems with the goal of preparing a specification for competitive bid, followed by the participation of a systems integrator; or
  2. To bypass the audiovisual consultant and hire only a systems integrator to conceive, design and install of the systems equipment.

Experience shows that both methods can work wonderfully well, and both can fail miserably.

About the Author
Michael David Leiboff is 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.
 

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