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Four Makerspace Ideas and the Technology Your Schools Need to Make them Happen

Makerspaces are sprouting up everywhere in K-12 schools, and for good reason. Makerspaces engage students in ways that standard classrooms can’t. With a makerspace, students are encouraged to try new things, persist through their failures, stay focused on a single project, and work with their hands. These are important behaviors for young learners.

The benefits of a makerspace are considerable, but some districts have questions about how to set them up and how to afford them. Part of the makerspace magic, though, is that schools can be creative in how they put one together. No matter what your school’s budget or floorplan looks like, there’s a space somewhere for making.

Here, we’ve included four makerspace ideas that can be adapted for most K-12 schools, even if you’re just getting started with makerspaces.

Idea 1: Combine a Digital Display with Low-Tech Tools and Projects

If you can make something with it, you can use it in a makerspace. That includes low-tech learning materials like:

  • Paint
  • String and yarn
  • Paper products, like construction paper and cardboard
  • Modeling clay
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Duct and scotch tape
  • Toothpicks
  • Straws

The list goes on, and you can include as many or as few materials as your space allows. Once you’ve got your materials together, consider adding a digital display to the space. A digital display makes it simple for educators to find and deliver creativity-focused projects. As long as a teacher is available to curate the videos, a digital display provides students with multimodal learning opportunities.

Even with a digital display, you don’t need much room to pull this idea off. If your school can’t dedicate an entire room for makerspace purposes, this idea can work just as well in the library or even in the corner of a classroom. Many teachers like to rotate their students through multiple activities during class, and making something can be one of those activities.

Idea 2: Turn a Library into a Research and Collaboration Hotspot

Libraries are the ideal starting point for any project that requires research. Whether it’s engineering, science, design, architecture, or just plain crafting. Libraries offer a treasure trove of information for makerspace students.

Unsurprisingly, many schools are making their libraries the focal point for makerspace activities. It helps that the typical school library is a large place with room to fit a lot of kids and a lot of makerspace supplies.

If your school is also targeting its library for makerspace purposes, consider establishing a room-within-a-room just for creating. There are two reasons for this. One, separating the makerspace from the rest of the library will contain any making-related messes (easier clean up). Two, with a space for making and a space for research, students are encouraged to gather information from the library’s research resources and then put that information to use.

An interactive display is the perfect AV solution for this idea. With an interactive display, students can work together while whiteboarding their projects. Sketch them out, put together a project plan, delegate parts of the process to each student, and watch them explore as a team.

Idea 3: Encourage Group Work by Dividing a Makerspace into Pods

Teamwork and group work are points of emphasis in many makerspaces. AV technology and makerspace furniture can help reinforce those points by encouraging better collaboration.

If you’ve got an expanded space to work with (the school library is, again, a good choice), then create pods where small groups of students can work together. There is even makerspace furniture designed to facilitate this. One example is Spectrum’s Aspire line of desks, which are shaped to fit together in a variety of combinations, no matter how many students are in each group.

At each pod, an interactive display can be used to visualize project details, like in the example above. If you don’t have budget room for interactive displays, standard digital displays and a document camera at the front of the room can also be effective. The document camera’s feed can be routed to each pod’s display, so instructors can introduce concepts with up-close physical examples that everyone can see.

This idea takes a bit more room to pull off. And in large spaces, audio enhancement is another technology to consider. Audio enhancement solutions can be as simple as a worn microphone and a speaker sitting on a shelf. The effects of better audio can’t be overestimated as high activity spaces (like a makerspace) will drown out a teacher’s best attempts to speak above the noise. Audio enhancement solutions allow educators to teach without straining their voice.

Idea 4: Add Another Dimension to STEM Instruction with AR and VR Technologies

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) solutions are already establishing themselves in the professional world, where they make excellent training tools.

ClassVR and zSpace are two examples of AR and VR in the classroom, and while they can be used for a variety of lessons, they are particularly effective makerspace tools.

With AR and VR technology, your students can visualize engineering and technical concepts in a way they’ve never seen before, with detailed, 3D exploration. AR and VR can be an engaging and inspiring primer before each makerspace lesson, as they can introduce concepts relevant to the lesson and provide a starting point for creation.

You Don’t Need a Big Budget to Bring Big Makerspace Ideas to Life

Makerspaces are an effective way to deliver STEM curriculum, providing students with a different approach to learning than they would get in a traditional classroom. Even better, makerspaces are infinitely customizable. If your school is just getting started, low-tech materials may be plenty. As your makerspace efforts develop, adding in AV solutions like interactive displays, robotics kits, document cameras and supporting furniture can take it to new heights.

Sound Masking Offers a Privacy and Productivity Booster

Sound Masking Offers a Privacy and Productivity Booster

In most workplaces, controlling sound is a challenge – but a challenge worth taking on for facility managers. Part of the difficulty is the expense involved with acoustic materials. Creating sound barriers and outfitted surfaces with acoustic material is costly and may require significant alterations to the space.

Sound masking technology is an alternative to sound blocking or absorbing materials. It works by blanketing areas with background sound – an invisible fence through which private conversations and distracting noise cannot pass.

The Modern Office is Full of Noise Distractions

Sound masking solutions are effective in a variety of places, but they’re most often found in office buildings. That may be due, in part, to how distracting the modern workplace is.
Research developed by UC Irvine found that the typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes by noise. And for some workers, it takes more than 20 minutes to get back up to the same working speed.

These interruptions can damage your company’s bottom line, even if they appear harmless in isolation. It’s different for every employee, but the average worker is losing around 5 percent of their day to audio-based distraction. The more employees your company has, the more those productivity losses add up. Adding a sound masking solution to your facilities may save a lot of time in lost man hours.

Speech Privacy is a Major Concern for Employees and Companies, but it’s Difficult to Find

The other sound-related challenge facing many workplaces is speech privacy. With open offices the standard for professional work, it’s nearly impossible to find a place where private conversation can be had. This isn’t a trivial issue, either, as worker surveys like the University of Sydney’s shows. More than half of the surveyed cubicle and open office workers stated that they were dissatisfied with the speech privacy in their workplace. Only professionals with a private office had a positive impression of their workplace’s speech privacy.

In professional settings, it’s best to keep private conversations private. Many of these conversations, if overheard, could give HR migraines. More importantly, conversations between employees may include sensitive information that your company is legally required to protect. If your organization is regulated or supported by any of the following entities:

  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
  • GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act)
  • HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey)
  • FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)

Then it’s of paramount importance that employees have the comfort and privacy they need to exchange critical information.

Sound Masking Technology Can Create a Comfortable Audio Environment

Creating that comfortable, private space for workers is possible with sound masking technology. Sound masking solutions are simple in design, with steady audio piped through a series of emitters installed throughout the building. These emitters are essentially speakers that can output white noise or pink noise. For most applications, noise that resembles rushing water or wind is the preferred option. However, sound masking systems can be tied to your facility’s larger audio system, so it can be used to output music or deliver announcements.

The primary goal of sound masking is to make human speech unintelligible over shorter distances. In other words, if a conversation would normally be heard 60 feet away, sound masking may reduce that distance down to 15 feet. Every system can be calibrated for a different “radius of distraction,” or the distance at which human speech can no longer be picked up.

Ideally, emitters are evenly distributed throughout the floor and in high enough volume to ensure 100 percent coverage. Complete coverage is important because it will interfere with how uniform the system sounds. And if the sound masking solution itself becomes a distraction, that defeats the purpose.

The Difference Between Direct and Indirect Sound Masking

There are numerous sound masking solutions on the market, and most of them can be placed in one of two categories – direct and indirect sound masking. What’s the difference?

  • Direct-field systems – With a direct masking solution, the emitters are installed in the ceiling itself and broadcast the audio directly into the workspace. The primary benefit of direct-field solutions is that they can be easily zoned. Facility managers can set the level of audio masking in different spaces, which allows for a custom radius of distraction.
  • Indirect systems – An indirect solution places the speakers above the ceiling tiles, in the building’s “plenum” where cabling conduit and HVAC components lie. This means the emitters remain invisible, so workers cannot pinpoint where the masking audio is coming from. This can help ensure the system does not become a distraction.

During operation, indirect systems cast the audio upwards, toward the ceiling deck. It then reflects and diffuses through the ceiling and into the workspace. The diffuse nature of indirect audio masking makes it easier to create the uniform sound that installers are going for.

Where Can Sound Masking Solutions Help?

While sound masking technology is an ideal fit for any office space, there are plenty of other applications. They include:

  • Meeting rooms and huddle rooms
  • Research laboratories and engineering labs
  • Educational settings, such as libraries and testing rooms
  • Hotel reception areas
  • Spas
  • Hospital and clinic patient areas
  • Banks
  • Call centers
  • Courtrooms and high security facilities
  • Airports
  • Churches

Certified AV Integrators Can Help Design and Install Sound Masking Solutions

While sound masking technology is simple from a hardware standpoint, installing it isn’t as simple. A single project may involve installing dozens of emitters in the ceiling – or above it. Proper emitter spacing and configuration is essential, too, so installation is best handled by a trained hand.

Certified AV integrators have the expert personnel on hand to oversee sound masking system design and installation. With a certified integrator’s assistance, your organization will have no trouble identifying what features to look for in a solution, and which system comes with those features. An AV integrator can also layout the system, install it, and provide ongoing support, ensuring it remains viable for years after installation.

How Clevertouch is Improving Communication to Keep Schools Safer

How Clevertouch is Improving Communication to Keep Schools Safer

In many schools, education time can turn into an emergency in moments. During those moments, delivering critical information to classrooms and common areas is paramount. With prompt alerts, teachers and students can respond immediately when seconds count.

Instant, effective communication is what AV solutions are designed for, so they’re well-suited for school safety. One such solution is the Clevertouch, an interactive display that can support both education and an emergency response.

Clevertouch Displays Can Double as Digital Signage in Schools

The Clevertouch can be integrated into any school’s digital signage network with ease. Once it is, it can be used to deliver visual alerts in combination with other emergency alert technologies.

These alerts can be triggered by the front office, through wall switches installed throughout the school, or through a worn device that teachers carry with them. No matter how the alert is triggered, though, the response is the same. Once an emergency alert is triggered, messaging is instantly sent to every display attached to the school’s signage network, including any Clevertouch panels being used.

This emergency messaging can describe the nature of the emergency and provide information on what to do next. If digital signage and Clevertouch panels have a large presence in the building, it will be easier to alert everyone at once.

Four Ways the Clevertouch Delivers More Effective Emergency Alerts

AV solutions are purpose-built to deliver faster and more effective communications. This includes how emergency communications are delivered. Specifically, here’s four ways Clevertouch can improve how your students, teachers and administrators respond to an emergency:

  • Instant alerting – While the primary function of a Clevertouch is to deliver compelling lesson content, it can double as full-featured digital signage when needed. This means that, like digital signage, the Clevertouch can be used to deliver emergency alerts instantly. This is the case no matter what users are doing with the Clevertouch on their end. There’s no need to keep an application running on the display to allow for messaging capabilities either. With a single button press at the front office or through a security officer’s device, alerts can be sent to every networked Clevertouch in the building.

They’re also sent with priority, so no matter what the Clevertouch is being used for, the message will appear front and center, on top of everything else.

  • Preprogrammed or customized messaging – Emergency alerts can consist of preprogrammed messaging or quickly customized to provide more in-depth instructions. For example, your school could put together a tornado alert that details where students and teachers should go to keep themselves safe. Other alerts may instruct teachers to lock classroom doors or evacuate at predetermined points.

If the emergency develops over time, additional customized alerts can be sent to classrooms to update staff on the situation.

  • Wayfinding with alerts – The Clevertouch can include graphics with each alert, which expands on what information the alert can deliver. One example of this is including maps with each alert, showing people where to go for safety. With these displayed throughout the building, it’s easier to maintain order during a drill or evacuation.

Digital displays like the Clevertouch are far brighter and far more vivid than print, so they’re easier for people to read quickly. That visibility advantage can be decisive when seconds matter.

  • Alert color coding – With greater layout and color control, the Clevertouch can be used with various color codes to keep K-12 schools safer. Color codes can be associated with different emergencies, and to differentiate between drills and active situations. This gives staff an idea of what to do even if they can’t read the words on the screen. Again, this could be important when time is the priority.

Combine the Clevertouch with Other AV Technology to Enhance School Safety Further

The Clevertouch is a valuable safety and security tool, but it’s not the only one that certified AV integrators offer. In addition to digital signage, an integrator can also set up the following for your school:

  • Zoned audio and PA solutions – Enhanced audio solutions are the “A” side of AV, and better sound drives better understanding. With high-quality audio delivery, your front office can communicate with individual rooms clearly.

Some current generation audio solutions, like those offered by Audio Enhancement and FrontRow, also allow for two-way communication between the classroom and office. They can also be used to deliver audio to certain zones, so targeted instructions can be given to teachers and staff.

  • E-mail and text alerts – An AV integrator can also set up e-mail and text alerts that are tied to the school’s emergency alert system. These alerts can be sent to students, teachers, administrators and even parents, providing instant awareness of a developing situation.
  • Emergency lighting – AV integrators also know how to source, position and install lighting, including emergency lighting. Strobes, for example, are a common choice with fire and weather drills and provide visual reinforcement. Emergency lighting can also be color-matched to any color codes that a school uses during an emergency.

The Clevertouch Instant Communication Features Can Help Keep Students and Staff Safer

AV solutions are a proven method of improving safety in all types of venues, including K-12 schools. Their ability to deliver high-impact communications, reliably and versatilely is what makes this possible. And that’s also true of the Clevertouch, which can act as an in-classroom extension of any school’s emergency alert system.

What to Include in a STEM Bus

What to Include in a STEM Bus

School districts are getting creative with their STEM curriculum, and one of the newest trends is the STEM bus. What’s a STEM bus? Take an old school bus, fix it up, outfit it with AV technology and you’ve got a mobile STEM station. With a STEM bus, districts can deliver curriculum to several schools on a rotating basis. For schools that don’t have the space or budget for a traditional makerspace, STEM buses are the next best thing.

If your district is also considering one, you’ll need some AV support to pull it off. Here, we’ve included the audio and visual technologies that can help your school do that. With these solutions, you can turn any old bus into a STEM-lab-on-wheels.

You Could Use the STEM Bus Like a Mobile Makerspace

Makerspaces are a proven tool for educators, giving students the space and resources they need to explore the world of STEM. And if it works so well, why not take the same approach with your STEM bus?

If your STEM bus is going to double as a makerspace, then you’ll need makerspace furniture and technologies to bring it to life. For example, 3D printers can turn your bus into a mobile engineering lab, allowing students to design and produce their own creations. The 3D printers used in education are small enough that they can be mounted to a cart or desk, so you don’t need a lot of room to operate them.

Your STEM bus can offer low-tech projects, too. With makerspace storage, STEM buses can keep an array of craft materials – rubber bands, string, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, paper, you name it – and keep them organized during transit.

Digital Displays Offer a Compact, Engaging Way to Deliver Curriculum

Most STEM buses are zoned so that students move from one station to another during the class. There may be several projects going on inside a single bus, so keeping students focused on what they’re doing is critical.

Digital displays are a simple solution in this scenario. Digital displays can be used to deliver lesson content and instructions, and their ability to engage will keep students at their stations. Better yet, digital displays are slim and compact, so you can fit several in a single STEM bus without crowding things.

Some districts also opt for interactive displays like the Clevertouch. An interactive display makes perfect sense for STEM teaching because it can be used to brainstorm, sketch and plan projects. This can also be used to introduce collaboration skills to students and encourage them to work as a team.

Enhanced Audio Solutions Allow Instructors to Maintain Control of the Experience

Don’t forget about the audio side, which can be used to maintain order inside an active STEM bus. Audio enhancement solutions are simple, consisting of a microphone (worn or mounted), speakers and an amplifier. They’re also simple to use and teachers can get comfortable with them in moments.

Audio enhancement can be used to drive learning experiences or used to direct students during the class. Some districts use their STEM bus to create a single, cohesive lesson that’s reinforced through learning stations onboard the bus. With audio enhancement, students can be immersed in rich sound that excites, so children are engaged and ready to go.

As a support solution, audio enhancement makes it easy for educators to communicate with everyone onboard at once. This can be used to rotate kids from one station to the next, remind students of the time, and keep students engaged.

VR Solutions are a Good Fit for STEM Buses and Their Tight Spaces

For STEM buses, the primary limitation is space. You’ve only got so much to work with, which takes some ideas off the table. However, there are some AV solutions perfectly designed for smaller environments, and virtual reality is one that tops the list.

VR solutions, like ClassVR, take up almost no space and work with only a headset and connected device. During a ClassVR session, students do not need to walk around to control the device, and teachers retain full control over the experience.

The beauty of virtual reality is that it can be combined with any other STEM curriculum. For example, if your students are learning about astronomy, VR can put students on Mars and let them walk around. If your students are learning about science, VR programs can reinforce everything students are learning in their classrooms. If students are learning about robots, VR can introduce engineering concepts in a lifelike 3D environment.

With its excellent engagement, versatility and small size, VR is a match made for STEM buses.

STEM Buses are Complicated Projects, so Work with a Certified AV Integrator

AV integration is challenging even in ideal conditions. Installing AV equipment in a school bus, though? That’s a different kind of challenge.

If your district is just beginning the process, consider working with a certified AV integrator to execute and oversee the project. An integrator can map out ideas for your STEM bus before you’ve even got a vehicle picked out. And once a bus is picked out, an integrator can design the AV solutions for the bus, source all technologies, install them, ensure they are operating as intended, and maintain them so that they provide a reliable STEM experience for students.

STEM curriculum is an area of focus for many districts, but budgeting and space-related hurdles may be too high for some districts to clear. If they are, a STEM bus is a viable alternative. With the right AV solutions in place, they can provide STEM learning wherever it’s needed.

What is the AV Design Process

What is the AV Design Process

Design is only one part of the AV integration process, but it’s an important one. It’s during this phase of the project where the exact system components are selected, the solution is visualized and the project’s scope is made clear. With this information, project timelines and budgets can be put together, giving both the integrator and the client a clear plan of action.
Given the importance of proper AV system design, the process is best handled by a certified designer. One of the industry’s most popular certification tracks is AVIXA’s (Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association) CTS-D track because the industry is always in need of talented designers. And also, since AV design itself is made up of several steps, each must be completed according to best practices.

In short, there’s a lot to cover during the AV design process, including:

  • Needs analysis
  • Site survey
  • Selecting the system’s components
  • Creating project drawings
  • Producing essential project documentation

Once the designer completes the above, a final project proposal can be delivered to the client. From there, the installers, programmers and project managers take over and shepherd the rest of the integration.

AV Design Starts With a Needs Analysis and Site Survey

Before the actual design begins, the designer needs some information to work with. This information is gathered during a needs analysis meeting with the client and a site survey. Together, these planning tasks provide the following design-relevant data:

  • What the client needs their AV solution to do – During the needs analysis, the client and integrator will work together to match the client’s wants and goals with the right solutions. In most cases, the client presents a problem they’re having with their organization that they hope AV can solve. The integrator walks through the problem to determine the best way to approach it with the ideal AV solution.
  • The client’s expectations and conditions – It’s also during this meeting that the integrator will establish the client’s budget, desired timeline, and any other important conditions. For instance, do they want a future-proof solution, or a low-cost one? That may change the integrator’s approach.
  •  The layout and size of the client’s facilities – During the site survey, the integrator will inspect the client’s facilities and any room that’s to receive AV equipment. They will record room sizes and layouts, taking note of anything that may pose an obstacle to the design or installation team.
  • Relevant lighting, acoustic and structural information – The integrator will also account for each room’s lighting and acoustical qualities. Is there a lot of natural light present? Is the room made from acoustically reflective materials like glass? Is there anything in the room that could obstruct a person’s view? Does it look like hardware can be mounted where it would be most effective?

The above may be handled by the designer, but it’s typically done by a member of the sales staff or an experienced project manager. Once they have the necessary info, it’s passed to the designer so they can get started.

During AV Design, the Technician Determines What Products Will Go in the Space

The initial phase of AV design includes taking information from the needs analysis meeting and site survey and matching those up with the right products. AV design software can help with this, as most include a product library with exact product specifications. However, it still falls to the designer to choose the right mix of AV components.

This includes displays, video conferencing, streaming and recording equipment, switches, speakers, microphones, amplifiers, digital signal processors and control hardware. It’s a lot to account for, and each component must fit the client’s needs and budget.

However, this is just the start. Once the system’s components have been selected, the real design can begin.

The Designer Also Puts Together Project Drawings and Documents

If AV design is like putting together a puzzle, then each piece of hardware is a puzzle piece. But in this case, the designer is putting together more than one puzzle. To create a comprehensive solution, the designer must visualize the solution on multiple levels. They must also produce several drawings and documents in the process, so the rest of the integration team can follow the plan.

This is what the designer normally includes in the plan:

  • Line schematics and signal flow diagrams – The designer’s primary job is to detail how every part of the solution will fit with each other. This is established in line schematic drawings and signal flow diagrams. Both line schematics and signal flow diagrams serve the same purpose, they just look slightly different, so the designer may only produce one or the other.

In a line schematic or signal flow diagram, the designer uses line-and-node diagramming to visualize everything. In this instance, the lines are cables (or wireless signals) that run from one component to the next, and the nodes are input ports.

So, for example, if the designer wants to show that a particular camera will be connected to a particular switch via HDMI, they will draw out boxes for the camera and switch, make a node on each box for the HDMI input or output, draw a line between them, and label it HDMI for reference.

This is just one extremely simple example. For a single meeting room solution, there may be dozens of components and connections to establish. The goal is to ensure there is a place for every piece of hardware.

  • AutoCAD drawings – The designer will also put together a structural drawing in AutoCAD or something similar. This structural drawing is built from the room’s floor plan, and using it, the designer marks where equipment will be installed. It’s common for AV designers to also visualize coverage areas for audio and video equipment, such as speaker range and display viewing range.
  • Rack layouts – Racks are enclosures used to house the system’s equipment, and they must be designed according to best practices. The AV designer is responsible for this and will produce rack layouts for review. While creating rack designs, the designer will account for the space, weight. and cooling needs for each piece of hardware.
  • Cable schedule – The designer will also produce a cable schedule, which lists the types and lengths of cables that will be needed to connect the system together.
  • Bill of Material (BOM) – The designer will also create a BOM for the client and project manager to review. The BOM includes all of the AV equipment and hardware that will be required to execute the project and is a helpful at-a-glance reference for the client prior to integration.

With a Project Design in Place, AV Integration Can Continue

With the above documentation put together, the designer can generate a final proposal for the client and a final integration plan for the rest of the AV team. This gives both parties a foundation to work from, so if any changes need to be made, they can be made with clear understanding on both sides.

If the client agrees to the proposal and the project manager approves of the plan, the only thing left is to bring it to life with the help of the installation and programming teams.

Top Five Uses of a Document Camera

Top Five Uses of a Document Camera

Document cameras are a functional replacement to overhead projectors, but instead of relying on transparent sheets, they project an image digitally. Anything that’s small enough to fit in front of the camera can be captured via video, and this video can be sent to any networked display. It can also be streamed so that remote participants can see what’s going on.

Because there aren’t many limitations on what document cameras can present, they’re effective in an array of applications. Here, we’ve included five of the most impactful.

In the Classroom: Go Over Tough Test and Quiz Questions

Document cameras are a powerful educational tool and can be featured throughout K-12 Houston schools. This includes classrooms, where document cameras can be used to review student work and deliver lesson content.

Here’s just one example – use the document camera to review the questions from recent tests or a quiz. There’s always a couple of questions that trip up some of the students, and a document camera is ideal for reviewing these. If it’s a math quiz, the teacher could do the work for everyone to see. If it’s an English exam, teachers can use a document camera to open up the book and point out important passages.

In this way, a document camera functions much like an overhead projector, only the image is higher quality, and the video feed can be viewed by remote students as well.

In the Science Lab: Provide an Up Close Look of Exhibits

Document cameras are also valuable in science and technology labs. Here, educators can use the camera to show how to use lab tools and how to run experiments. Many teachers do this at the beginning of the lesson to give students a guide to go by.

As the lab lesson continues, the teacher can use the document camera to present the results of each group’s experiment, pointing out interesting results and reinforcing the lesson with the help of relevant objects.

Document cameras can also be used in larger educational spaces like makerspaces, where multiple displays may be present. Students can be grouped into pods around each display, and the instructor can use the document camera to deliver video to every display.

In the Auditorium: Run a Presentation for Hundreds of People

Because document cameras can be networked to multiple digital displays, they can be used to provide visual support during a large presentation. Guest presentations, for example, are a perfect opportunity for K-12 Houston schools to bring in the document camera.

For instance, if someone from the local zoo is coming by, a document camera can provide a close look at small reptiles or insects. A local museum could bring some of their exhibits to show off. If there are any science experiments, we’ve already shown how document cameras can help with those. A local visiting artist could demonstrate their skills to students with the help of the camera.

In short, a document camera can make for more creative assemblies and presentations.

In the Training Room: Present Important Technologies and Concepts to New Hires

Document cameras can play a role in professional settings, too. Training rooms are a natural choice for document cameras and can be used for demonstrations, presenting documents, or showing how certain tools are used.

Tie the camera to the room’s displays, and you’ll ensure everyone in the room can follow the lessons. Whether training materials consist of paper only or physical objects, trainers can use the camera to make training sessions more interesting than stand-and-deliver lecturing.

Document cameras are particularly helpful if your trainees are expected to follow along with materials of their own. For example, during a safety training session, the instructor can use the camera to present safety equipment and point out essential features with each piece of equipment. This is highly effective if your trainees have their own equipment, tools, objects, or whatever is being introduced, and can follow along with what the instructor is doing.

With expanded digital displays and a document camera, your training sessions can teach hundreds of people at once.

In the Courtroom: Give Jurors a Closer Look at the Evidence

Document camera applications also extend beyond education. In courtrooms, for instance, document cameras are becoming a valuable technology for court proceedings. Most notably, they can be used to present evidence to jurors and the court.

It’s common for sightline issues to interfere with evidence presentation, as the presenting attorney is usually well away from the jurors. If jurors are having trouble seeing evidence exhibits, court proceedings either grind to a halt to accommodate the jurors, or the jurors aren’t able to do their job as well. Both outcomes are undesirable.

To solve this common problem, courtrooms can use document cameras tied to displays in the courtroom. Instead of straining to see what the attorney is holding and talking about, the jury can watch from their own small screen mounted at the jury stand. If there are oversized displays inside the courtroom, everyone in the room can follow along through the camera’s feed.

Document Cameras are Versatile Teaching and Presentation Technologies

Document cameras can be used in many ways, in a variety of settings. While you’ll normally find them in K-12 Houston schools and classrooms, you’ll also spot them in professional and governmental settings. In short, anywhere presentations, meetings or lessons are likely to occur, document cameras are a valuable visual support.

What Makes Good Audio Solutions?

What Makes Good Audio Solutions

There’s a massive, impossible-to-miss difference between poor and great sound quality. It’s the difference between working efficiently and struggling to hear. It’s the difference between appearing professional and appearing amateurish. Strong audio communicates and convinces better, which is something every company can benefit from.

The best audio systems offer more than quality sound—they also offer excellent security, usability and flexibility. Here, we’ve included eight features of a high-quality audio system.

High Quality Sound That Can Work In Any Acoustical Environment

Audio quality isn’t everything, but the best sound systems start with it. A high-quality audio system is one that can produce a wide range of sounds, matching what we hear in real life as closely as possible. To do that, you’ll need additional components like woofers or subwoofers, along with well-positioned speakers, high quality microphones, and an amplifier to boost the sound where needed. This way, you get a wide range of frequencies, including some bass.

Many commercial audio solutions are all-in-one solutions, with microphones and speakers included in a single package. These solutions are convenient and easy to install, but most can’t match the improved sound clarity that comes from a traditional audio solution.

One notable exception is Shure’s Stem solutions. The Stem line includes ceiling microphone arrays, wall and table speaker phones, and loudspeakers that can be combined for use in any collaborative space. Stem provides even audio coverage throughout a room, at a level of quality that surpasses other all-in-one options.

Audio Zoning Capabilities

Part of what makes good sound is controlling where that audio comes from. As sound waves move through the room, they bounce off of walls and other objects. If the room’s acoustics are poor, the amount of noise that builds up can make it difficult to hear.

Advanced audio systems allow for audio zoning, which gives additional control over how audio propagates throughout the room. With audio zoning capabilities, users define which source is outputting at any time, in order to confine the audio to the spot where it’s needed most. This is especially useful in large rooms where an echo could be a problem.

Quality Build And Durability

High quality build materials don’t always mean high quality audio, but there’s definitely a correlation. Durable build materials will hold up better during shipping and installation, reducing the likelihood of quality-related issues following placement.

And while it’s not the most important box to tick, audio components with better build quality tend to look better as well. They have the kind of aesthetic that’s easier to blend into a commercial setting, which makes for a more immersive collaborative experience.

Compatibility With Leading Collaboration Platforms

Collaboration is key in the corporate world, and collaboration is what a great audio system is designed to improve. The whole point of installing that better sound solution is to help everyone hear each other better.

That means you’ll want a solution that works with modern AV conferencing technology. The best sound solutions can be integrated into modern AV controls, so you can adjust volume and audio zoning with a single gesture. Can the audio work with leading digital displays, tabletop control systems and video conferencing platforms? It should.

Secure, Encrypted Audio

AV conferencing may include the exchange of sensitive company information – the kind of information you don’t want third parties intercepting. That’s why an effective audio solution is a secure audio solution.

Shure’s audio solutions, for example, leverage AES-256 encryption technology to disguise and protect sensitive audio data. This is the same encryption solution that’s used by financial, health and government institutions. Encryption is critical to keep sensitive information safe.

Intuitive Operation For People Of All Skill Levels

Getting your teams to adopt new audio technology is part of the challenge when integrating a new solution. If your solution is difficult to operate, that will be a big problem when expecting your team to use the technology.

A great sound system is easy to use, especially if it’s compatible with your existing AV control system. This is a design focus of Shure’s Stem solutions. Each product in the Stem line is made to be compatible with a variety of conferencing platforms. Because it can be paired with your AV controls, you can power the system up and adjust audio levels from the table.

A Solution For Every Type Of Collaborative Space

Ideally, you pick one audio brand you’re comfortable with and adapt its solutions for all the collaborative rooms you have. Splitting your focus between multiple audio brands will make it difficult to keep up with maintenance and inter-room compatibility.

The audio brand you select will need to be flexible. Do they have solutions for a modest huddle room and a sprawling auditorium? Do they have a variety of audio products that can work in a variety of settings? A huddle room could get by with a single tabletop microphone and a speaker bar, but a large training room may need ceiling microphones and speakers mounted around the room. If a single vendor can provide all the gear you need for all of your rooms, every room will have excellent sound.

Scalability As Your Audio Solution Grows

Setting up an audio solution for a single room is one thing. Scaling that solution up is another thing entirely. If it’s time to outfit many rooms at once or to build onto an existing room system, you’ll want a solution that’s easy to manage. Ideally, your audio solution will be remotely manageable so you can push over updates and monitor system performance at a glance, wherever your IT personnel are.

Strong Global Support Infrastructure

Even the best designed and installed audio solutions experience the occasional hiccup. When things go wrong, it’s good to have expert support on your side to keep things running smoothly. AV integrators frequently consult with the brand’s experts for installation, configuration and maintenance purposes, so a brand with a strong global presence will ensure your system can be easily maintained.

A Trusted AV Integrator Can Help Your Audio Solution Sound Better In Your Collaborative Spaces

As you can see, the best audio solutions have it all. Flexibility, scalability, security, quality, intercompatibility – that’s a lot to check off if you’re looking for a better audio system. And with so many audio components to consider, it’s an intimidating job sourcing and putting together the necessary hardware.

That’s why many companies look to a certified AV integrator to manage the job. A reputable integrator is well-connected to leading audio brands and can match their clients’ needs with the best performing technology. That way, your teams will be able to speak, listen and collaborate clearly.

Modern Times Call For Modern Video Conferencing Solutions

Modern Times Call For Modern Video Conferencing Solutions

No modern meeting space is complete without a modern video conferencing solution. Remote work is on the rapid rise, and even for in-house teams, video conferencing is a preferred method of communication and collaboration.

Given the widespread adoption of video conferencing technology, AV manufacturers have poured a lot of resources into developing modern video conferencing solutions for today’s lightspeed economy.

Four Video Conferencing Solutions That Can Add A Modern Touch

Video conferencing solutions have come a long way since they were first introduced decades ago. Actually, they’ve come a long way in just the last 10 years. AV is developing at an incredible pace, and there are plenty of modern video conferencing solutions to consider. In fact, there are too many solutions available to consider in a single list, but here’s five of the most popular:

Interactive Flat Panels Add A Tactile Dimension To Meetings

Interactive flat panels like the Clevertouch are an ideal companion to any video conferencing solution, and especially for teams that do a lot of remote collaborating.

Interactive flat panels look like a standard commercial display and can output at the same resolution and image quality as a modern display. They are also powerful collaboration tools, too, because with an interactive flat panel the meeting’s presenter can visualize everything they’re talking about while talking about it. Need to jot down notes for the group? Open up the whiteboarding application and start writing. Time to collaborate on a concept? Use the flat panel’s built-in browser to bring in some visual aids from the internet. Is this meeting information-heavy? Scrub through slideshows, charts, graphs and figures with a finger swipe, so there’s no interruption while you figure out the controls.

Even better, interactive flat panels facilitate remote and hybrid collaboration as well. During a whiteboarding session, remote users can connect to the conference and make annotations as if they were right there. During the video conference, remote users can see the whiteboard and the room at the same time, so they aren’t isolated from the face-to-face experience that conferencing supports.

For optimal meeting efficiency and engagement, nothing beats an interactive flat panel.

Set Up The Perfect Meeting Environment With AV Touch Controls

AV systems can be controlled using touchscreens, and several manufacturers produce touchscreens ideal for this purpose. Among them, Crestron and AMX lead the way, with touchscreens purpose-built for controlling AV technology.

AV control surfaces can be tied to just about any room technology, and not just AV technologies. With a couple taps, you can set the lighting, temperature, audio levels and start a video conference call. Even better, users can tie their preferred settings to a user profile so the next time they use the room, they can press one button and set everything exactly how they like it.

This is extremely useful for video conferencing, as the room can be made meeting-ready within seconds using AV controls.

Connect And Share With Any Device With Wireless Presentation Technology

Wireless presentation technology has taken off in the last couple years because companies are looking for touch-free conferencing solutions. Multiple top AV brands, including Crestron, Barco, Mersive and Screenbeam, have brought wireless presentation solutions to the market recently and they are a smart addition to a video conferencing system.

With a wireless presentation solution, users can connect their own devices to the room’s conferencing and presentation technology. It can all be done without touching a single surface in the room, too. When the user walks into the space, the room’s display automatically detects them (if there are occupancy sensors present) and provides instructions on how to connect to the wireless presentation system. This can be done through a standalone dongle that’s ported into the user’s device or through the use of a random, temporary code that the system provides.

Once connected, the user can control all of the room’s equipment from their device and push content over to the display for viewing. It’s an extremely user-friendly option for businesses that operate on a bring-your-own-device policy.

Collaborate In Cyberspace Using Virtual Reality Solutions

If the above aren’t enough for your futuristic meeting fantasies, there’s always virtual reality (VR) to consider. VR meetings haven’t quite hit the mainstream, but it seems inevitable. VR conferencing solutions allow remote teams to meet together in a virtual gathering space, using digital avatars that stand in for real people.

It takes some getting used to, but there’s a whole lot you can do in a VR meeting that you can’t do in a real-life conference – at least not easily. During a VR meeting, users can whiteboard endlessly on surfaces that pop into existence. Unlimited visual aids can be brought in and arranged anywhere. Your interactions with other team members can even be reinforced with haptic feedback if you have the right technology. Can’t do that through a laptop screen.

VR meeting technology is still being worked on, but some business somewhere is already using VR technology to host its meetings on the moon. That’s the future.

Data Projections Is An Expert In Modern Video Conferencing Solutions

It’s a challenge for businesses to keep up with the latest in video conferencing technology, but certified integrators like Data Projections specialize in modern conferencing solutions. We have designed, installed, configured and supported a countless number of conferencing systems for clients that span many industries.

We’re much more than an installer. We serve as a proper technology partner for our clients. That means we get to know how your business does business, evaluate your existing technology, and then design a conferencing solution that provides maximum value. If the goal is to modernize the way your company does video conferencing, we are the ones to call.

AV Guide to Enticing Your Employees to Come Back to the Office

The 2020 pandemic forever changed the way businesses organize their teams. Without offices to commute to, many professionals got used to doing everything virtually, including how they collaborate and how they run their meetings.

Now, managers want those remote employees to return to the workplace. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, more than 80 percent of business decision makers believe getting people back into the office is a major concern.

It’s not going to be easy, though. The in-person to remote transition may have practically happened overnight, but many professionals aren’t going back just because it’s in the best interest of the company. In fact, Microsoft’s survey also found that 73 percent of professionals need more than a company mandate to give up their new-found work flexibility.
That’s where AV solutions can help. Long before the pandemic struck, AV technology has facilitated better connections between teams, and that power can now be leveraged to make in-office work more engaging.

Remote Employees are Seeking Better Connections with Their Coworkers

Although companies are having difficulty in convincing their teams to return to the office, there are signs that some remote professionals might welcome it. About half of remote workers state that their relationships with close coworkers have suffered, and about half also state that they feel generally disconnected from the company.

Disconnected employees are less productive and less engaged, which offers the question: How can an organization improve the way its people connect with each other in the office?

The answer for some is better AV technology.

What AV Solutions Support Better, More Engaging In-person Work?

How can AV offer opportunities for a better in-office work experience? Here are some solutions that can make an impact:

  • Interactive displays Interactive displays already play a major role for hybrid and remote teams, but they’re just as effective for in-person meetings. One of the factors motivating remote employees to stay remote is undoubtedly meeting quality. Traditional meetings are just not that engaging, with static presentation materials and one-sided conversations that have people staring down the clock.

Interactive displays change this dynamic. With an interactive display, in-office meetings can easily incorporate meaningful collaboration, no matter the subject. The Clevertouch, for example, makes it simple to launch a whiteboarding session in seconds and begin taking notes. During the meeting, the presenter (or anyone else) can use the board to bring in supporting materials from the internet and encourage visual brainstorming. Meetings are much more engaging when everyone is expected to participate, and the Clevertouch allows everyone, regardless of familiarity with the technology, to share content and make meaningful notes.

The Clevertouch can also be integrated into your organization’s existing conferencing technology with ease, as it can work with Zoom Rooms, Microsoft Teams Rooms or with companies that prefer a BYOD approach.

  • Wireless presentation technology – Wireless presentation solutions took hold during the pandemic because of the better cleanliness they support, but even as pandemic fears lessen, they are still effective tools for in-office collaboration.

And they’re even better for hybrid teams, though. In a hybrid work setup, some professionals may only be in the office occasionally, so they may not be as familiar with any technology used in meeting rooms. That can be a major challenge for a meeting’s presenter if they are rarely in the office.

Wireless presentation solutions like the Barco Clickshare and Mersive Solstice are a perfect answer to this challenge, as they make it simple for people to access the room’s collaboration technology, even if they’re never in the office.

Wireless presentation solutions make this possible because it only takes a few moments to connect to everything in the room – conferencing hardware, audio, lighting – everything. Connection is handled through on-screen prompts delivered by the room’s displays. The meeting’s presenter launches the appropriate app on their own device, enters a short-lived passcode, and that’s it. Once connected, the presenter can control everything from their own device and even share content to the room’s display. All this without touching a single piece of hardware in the room.

If your organization anticipates an adjustment period as people return to the office, wireless presentation solutions can provide a BYOD bridge that ensures people aren’t intimidated by in-office collaboration technology.

  • Improved training room technology – One way to incentivize a remote workforce is to offer more effective training to those onsite. Young professionals, in particular, are open to improving their skills through advanced training, and that training is hard to deliver through remote means only.

AV solutions can greatly improve your company’s training space or spaces. Large digital displays, interactive displays, enhanced audio solutions, document cameras, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) solutions can all be integrated to produce an unmatched training experience.

And improved training is the ultimate win-win for companies. Invest in better training methods and you’ll not only be more likely to bring people back to the office – you’ll also be more likely to retain those employees as they enhance their skills and capabilities for the company.

What Is Audio Visual Integration?

What Is Audio Visual Integration

AV integration is the process during which a certified AV expert designs, plans, installs and configures AV technology for client use. As AV systems can be scaled up or down almost endlessly, no two integration jobs are the same. A project that only involves setting up a few video conferencing bars, for example, is much simpler than overhauling a utility company’s network control room.

But while the process may vary a bit from system to system, the idea behind integration goes beyond mere installation.

Why Is It Called Integration And Not Installation?

Because integration is much more than just installation. During simple installation services, it’s typical for installers to consider the room the technology is going in and nothing else. There isn’t a system-wide, much less a company-wide, view of how the new technology fits in. It isn’t integrated into the organization’s operations – it’s only tacked on.

When an experienced, certified professional provides AV integration services, they consider the needs of the client and look to connect those needs to the best AV tools available. While an installer may only be interested in selling hardware and getting it started, an integrator considers how to make AV work from your organization’s perspective.

In practice, AV integration comes with a higher level of service. It’s like having an AV technology expert on your team.

What’s Included During The AV Integration Process?

The details may vary, but the following services are typically part of every integration project:

  • Consultation and initial planning – Before any actual AV tasks are completed, the integrator will first sit down with the client to discuss their AV needs. During this communication, the integrator can get the full picture on the organization’s problems and goals. Using this information, the integrator can begin selecting technologies and solutions that will best fit the client’s objectives.
  • Site survey – During a site survey, the integrator will review the client’s facilities to ensure it is ready for integration to proceed. During this survey, the integrator is looking for things that could interfere with the project, like outdated existing technologies or challenges with running cable.
  • System design – If everything is a go for integration, the integrator’s designers go to work visualizing the solution. During this step, the designer lays out the system according to the client’s needs, along with the room’s acoustics and size. The designer will also produce technical drawings for the client’s reference.
  • System installation – Once the solution has been designed, it’s up to the installation team to place the hardware and run the cable. Occasionally, installers run into obstacles in the field, so they must be ready to produce workarounds and problem solve.
  • Post-installation configuration and support – Following installation, there’s still work to do in configuring the hardware for users and supporting the system’s performance. Reputable integrators will offer options for long-term support, too. That way, all covered equipment can be maintained for optimal performance.

Who Is Qualified To Provide AV Integration Services?

As you can see, AV integration is no simple job. It takes a team of designers, technicians, project managers and support staff to see it from start to finish. Given the complexity involved, it’s a good idea to target a certified AV integrator for your AV projects.

Like many industries, the AV industry has prominent trade associations and manufacturers in place that can provide technicians with certifications. To attain certification, AV professionals must complete training and education, and prove their new-found knowledge during testing.

There are a few reasons why it’s important to factor in certification. For one, certified integrators remain up to date on their industry and product knowledge. Also, certified integrators may possess specialized knowledge in the vendors or products your organization is most interested in. Finally, certified integrators demonstrate a commitment to the industry, care about their reputation, and typically operate by a code of industry ethics and best practices.

What Are Some Of The Most Important AV Certification Programs?

Clearly, certification is a must-have in any AV integrator you work with. But which certifications are the most valuable for industry professionals? If you’re looking for an AV integrator, here are the certifications worth paying attention to:

  • AVIXA’s CTS-I or CTS-D certification – The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, or AVIXA, is the leading trade organization for the AV industry. As such, its certification programs are considered some of the most fundamental to AV success.
    AVIXA’s Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) certification track is the most popular, and advanced CTS certification is split into design (CTS-D) and installation (CTS-I) tracks.
    CTS certification addresses every part of the integration process, preparing technicians for executing varying stages of integration and how to manage the job from start to finish.
  • Certification through major vendors like Poly or Crestron – Prominent AV manufacturers include Crestron and Poly, both of which have operated in the industry for decades. Poly and Crestron products are some of the most popular for businesses, from SMBs to enterprise operations.
    Given their prevalence, it’s common for AV technicians to seek certification in Poly or Crestron products. By doing so, AV professionals can remain knowledgeable of some of the most effective conferencing technology the industry has to offer.
  • SBE’s Certified Audio Engineer (CEA) – There are numerous certification options for technicians specializing in audio. In addition to major audio vendor certifications, like those from Shure or Biamp, there’s also the Society of Broadcast Engineer’s CEA certification. During CEA certification, technicians learn about audio theory, operating concepts, safety, and problem troubleshooting, ensuring they’re ready to implement audio technology.

A Certified Integrator Can Implement Modern AV Solutions For Your Organization

Delivering a compelling AV experience is a challenge, requiring creative vision, technical knowhow, and an ability to manage large-scale projects. It requires a great deal of expertise, in other words, and the kind of expertise you’ll only find with a certified integrator like Data Projections. Our team has been recognized as a top 50 integrator nationwide for a decade running, and that’s because of our focus on continued development as an AV service provider.

And that includes comprehensive integration services, from planning to post-integration support. As a thoroughly certified and experienced AV firm, we can manage every part of every project.