Software-based Control Systems for the Classroom
Feb 4, 2009 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes
The increasing number of AV devices in a classroom has made control systems a popular item for teachers and administrators. Control systems are used to provide multifunctional support to everything from the flatpanel display and projector to input devices such as the DVD/VCR player, streaming video from the Internet, and the document camera. 1UControl in Granger, Ind., began the development of its software-based control system nearly 10 years ago. The company's flagship product, the Virtual Remote Control Center, has been on the market for the past three years.
"Ten years ago, we saw that classrooms were moving away from centralized video systems. VHS and DVDs were becoming cheaper so schools were opting for in-classroom systems," says Kevin Cleary, president of 1UControl. "So we began the development of a software solution that can handle the needs of in-classroom AV systems."
The Virtual Remote Control Center is a software-based solution that runs on the teacher's PC. The software controls IR and RS-232C compatible equipment, allowing the teacher one-click access to the functions on each device. The control pad is a graphical interface that sits on the teacher's desktop and provides clear, consistent control while switching from one AV device to another.
1UControl's software works in conjunction with a network converter, as well as a video capture card that can tune the classroom's cable TV and record incoming cable signal. "We understand that it's important to teachers to create content," Cleary says. "Teachers can record content as it happens and save it to a digital content server. They can also capture streaming media using our streaming media decoder."
The company's streaming media decoder supports Windows Media and MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4.
"Teachers can record presentations in the classroom and create a portfolio to track students' progression through the year," Cleary says. "Teachers can also use the software to record current events and create a new lesson plan. It's a great teaching tool."
1UControl also offers administrator software, giving school administrator's a global view of all equipment installed in their school district. Using the Device Usage report, an administrator can monitor which devices are used and by how much, as well as view the power on/off status of any device. Cleary also notes that the administrator can override the classroom control for district-wide emergency broadcasts. "The emergency broadcast can turn on every projector and show a full screen of the emergency channel. If security cameras are installed, you can also pull the camera feed into the analog viewer," he says.
The same function can also be used for non-emergency situations such as district-wide morning announcements.
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