Connectivity challenges in a technology-rich classroom.
GUEST COLUMN | by Gina Sansivero
Interactivity, active learning, and collaboration are clearly the keys to successful student engagement. Research shows that investing in active learning pedagogy and supporting technologies can positively affect student performance. Unfortunately, some of the biggest obstacles to the use of advanced technology in the classroom are educator training, intuitive systems, properly working equipment and connections that are readily available. Having the correct connections in the appropriate classroom locations is vital to a useful and effective active learning environment.
Cabling, connection and equipment all offer their own set of challenges which facilities managers, technology managers and educators confront every day. Aside from aesthetics, cable management and connectivity can determine if the technology in a classroom is intuitive and easy to use or cumbersome and not being used at all. What are some of these challenges and what can designers, installers and technology managers do to ensure properly working equipment in safe environments?
Cabling, connection and equipment all offer their own set of challenges which facilities managers, technology managers and educators confront every day.
During room construction/ renovation there is little or no firm idea of the configuration or placement of furniture and equipment. When this occurs, it is important to find options that allow for discreet and convenient placement of cables and connectors. These options can include wall boxes and plates for power and data terminations or connections, table boxes on movable podiums to house a variety of cables and adapters for an educator to use or floor boxes placed in a variety of locations for easy access to power and audiovisual connections with flexibility to work within the furniture and equipment placement requests. Flexibility is key. However, keep in mind that ugly junction boxes and conspicuous hanging cables can be a distraction or even hazardous.
Connections evolve almost as quickly as technology. VGA or PC connections were the most common found on laptops. Now it seems that laptops, tablets, desktops and other equipment can be furnished with multiple connections including HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, etc. Purchasing and installing modular connection brackets like those in the picture allow for easy connection changes without having to frequently purchase new wall plates, boxes or cabling equipment. This works to help guarantee a future-proof classroom. Providing a number of different types of cables at the podium, lectern or desk also offers the variety of options necessary for seamless use of technology in active learning environments. For those who have specialty connection requirements, adapters are available to couple with many of the most commonly used cables.
Safety cannot be overlooked, cables should be invisible. Exposed wires and cables pose a safety concern for both students and teachers. When a classroom space is loaded with technology equipment, it is impossible not to address the management of these cables. Options include raceways, wall boxes, floor boxes and ceiling enclosures. Further, with the increased use of flat panel monitors in classrooms, hallways and public spaces, conference rooms for education, signage, and mass notification, there are also aesthetically pleasing wall based cable management and power termination enclosures that fit behind flat panel wall mounts and hide cables to prevent monitors from being pulled from the wall by the chord. These enclosures allow for easy access to cables and connectors when needed while eliminating hanging wires and messy exposed cables.
Offering the largest variety and most convenient placement of connections, wires and cables for educators helps to support their use of technology in the classroom. Audiovisual installations are time-consuming and costly, but necessary to a modern school and often to the success of students. Certainly, steps should be taken to ensure that this time and expense are not for naught. Convenient and flexible connection points will encourage the use of technology — even as it evolves.
Gina Sansivero is Director of Educational Sales at FSR, Inc (www.fsrinc.com) (www.fsr.education) in Woodland Park, NJ. FSR is a US manufacturer which offers connectivity, infrastructure, AV, and collaborative technology products worldwide. Gina is a member of InfoComm International. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter @GinaSans.