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Classroom Control Systems: Tackling the Multiple-remote Syndrome

Sep 20, 2006 5:09 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes

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Tech System First Year Total Costs At the University of Minnesota
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It’s bad enough that we have this problem at home—a remote for the TV, one for the DVD, and another for the stereo system. In the classroom setting, add a remote for the projector, perhaps one for the motorized screen, one or two more for the amplifier, lighting, and window shades. More and more, K-12 and higher-education facilities are turning to control systems to help tame the chaos.

“There is a lot of technology in the classroom already; at some point, it becomes a hurdle for the instructors, technologists, and administrators,” explains Mikhail “Michael” Shtyrenkov, education market manager for AMX, a control systems manufacturer based in Richardson, Texas. “For instructors, there are too many devices and remotes.”

Technologists must maintain classroom equipment that is usually not standardized. Meanwhile, school administrators are constantly fielding requests for new types of equipment. Control systems solve problems for all three groups—instructors can use a centralized point to control all devices, technologists have a standardized way to maintain those devices, and administrators can track the usage of devices and make purchasing decisions based on hard data.

Several large colleges have adopted AMX control systems, such as the University of Wisconsin, Arizona State University and the University of Minnesota. “Colleges were amassing AV systems first and then they realized that they needed a control system,” says Robert Noble, vice president of product management for AMX, explaining, in part, the popularity of control systems at the higher-education level.

For Crestron, a control systems manufacturer with headquarters in Rockleigh, N.J., the education market is growing quickly. “A large percentage of our customers are higher education but it is now trickling down to the K-12 level,” says Michael Frank, regional manager/commercial market development manager for Crestron. “More consultants are coming to us for K-12 projects because they have seen our systems work at the college level.”

The biggest reason for the slower adoption rate in K-12 is funding. Colleges have more funding options than K-12—whether via grants, endowments, or student fees. Recent cuts in state funding are putting the burden for financing AV systems onto the local cities and counties. Frank adds: “Second are activities like distance education that is happening more at the higher-education level and is driving the need for more technology in the classroom.”

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