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Saved by the Bell: Classroom Audio Over IP, Part 2

Oct 21, 2010 9:21 AM, With Bennett Liles

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And you did the installation and all the programming? This was a completely inhouse project?
Right, one of the nice things about the Barix hardware in combination with the BellCommander Software is that there’s no code that has to be written in order to put this system into work at any point in time, so I was able to get the BellCommander database up and running within, I estimate, six hours. I had the whole system with the schedule ready to run. So not labor intensive in that regard, and I would say part of that six hours was my learning curve. The use of the database and learning to use the software was a very low curve as far as learning other software is concerned, so it was real easy to get into and get started with the BellCommander Software. The Barix equipment, it ships with a smaller user guide, and I found that the online material for Barix—they have PDF files and other materials that are readily available right from their website—made it really easy for me to understand what protocols and what functionality, what hardware that I needed in place, and then again, what software changes that I needed to make. And the configuration of the Barix devices right over the Web was so easy it just step me right through getting those set up. The lead time in setting up a Barix system is as close to zero as you can get. [Timestamp: 8:32]

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Saved by the Bell: Classroom Audio over IP, Part 1
When IT manager Jerry Boyd set up the computer network at Calvary Baptist School and Church, the school had no way to make announcements or signal the beginning of classes...

So I guess you don’t need to have any man behind the curtain pulling levels and twisting knobs to operate the system; it’s pretty much transparent; they’re just using the familiar equipment they’re used to. Who makes all the scheduling changes?
Well I lead the administration with the illusion that there has to be 20 IT guys behind the scenes doing all this work, but in actuality, it’s just me. [Timestamp: 8:53]

Oh we won’t tell them.
The schedule changes are made by the school administrator and the school principal, and more often than not, they leave me with plenty of time to make schedule changes. [It’s] very easy in the BellCommander System to put an alternative schedule in for a particular day or for several days. You’re able to name a schedule, put all the sounds in at the particular times that you want, and then apply that as either the standard schedule, and it will run that five days a week or six or seven days a week if your application needs that; and then as you put the exception schedules in there, it just knows to run those and it runs that exception schedule instead of the standard schedule; and then there are a few occasions where they’ll come to me and say, “Oh, by the way, we have to do this at 12 o’clock,” and of course it’s 11:55, but I run down to the keyboard and do my magic and Barix does the rest of the work. [Timestamp: 9:54]

All right, well, it sounds like you didn’t have to do a whole lot of training of people or anything on this.
The only training that I’ve had to do inhouse is to demonstrate, and I do give some support for the principal of the school for doing prerecorded announcements. And in those announcements we use an audio capturing software, and then it converts it to an MP3 format for us, and of course she doesn’t need to know how to do that; all I want her to have to do is push the microphone button make the announcement. We encourage her to write those down and practice those a couple of times. When she gets it the way that she likes it, I take it and do the rest of it with it, but since she doesn’t have to do that very often I do sometimes have to reiterate the steps and walk through that with her again as we do if it’s been several weeks since she’s had to do something like that. The only other training that I had to do is I showed the principal and the secretary how to do emergency notifications and run the fire drills from the system; other than that the only other interaction that we have is the students responding to the sounds. [Timestamp: 11:03]

And you said something about this in part one, but how long did it take from the very beginning of this thing to where you are now with the installation of it?
We started the original installation two years ago, and the first installation start to finish—including the amount of time we were spending on the IT network, which that backbone had to be in place before we could implement this—the original installation only took about 4 maybe 5 weeks during the summer to accomplish. The setting up of the Barix systems and each individual zone took about 4 or 5 hours, so it’s not terribly labor intensive. But last summer we made some additions to our system and again this summer as we had some changes and some needs that we wanted to improve this system; we added the Annuncicom and the Instreamer and added one additional zone. [Timestamp: 12:03]

Fairly smooth going to be a system covering that much physical area. So how are the faculty and students responding to this? What’s their take on it?
Everybody is excited; I haven’t heard a negative comment yet. Students like to know where the boundaries are, so having the bells and knowing that they have a particular amount of time and of course being students, they want to use down to the last second. But they enjoy this system because they know exactly where they’re supposed to be at a particular point in time, and the Bell System serves as a reminder to them what that daily regimentations going to be, and we’ve also included a sound in there that lets them know that they have one minute until they’re tardy and that’s a benefit to them. Some of them do have to go from building to building and make a couple of stops and that just lets them know that they have another 60 seconds before they have to answer for any trouble. [Timestamp: 13:00]

Right and you probably got some that want to see how close they can cut it.
They do; they’ll stand by the door and wait for the extra bell. But our administrators really like this system; they like knowing that the bell is going to ring in a particular point in time and the additional notifications that we have, for example on our elementary zones. We have a few notifications toward the end of the day, and it’s not a bell; it’s a more mild tone, a chime, comes in letting the teachers know that they have about 15 minutes before they need to get the elementary students to the car line, for example. And then we have a dismissal bell, which having the additional notifications helps the teachers there and then our local fire marshal had very positive things to say about the preparation, the installation of the system, and the improvements that it’s made to our emergency drills and emergency notifications and procedures. [Timestamp: 14:00]

Well, it’s always great hearing about a system that was a good idea to start with and was properly installed and has really made a practical different in the peoples lives there. So Jerry, I appreciate your being here. Jerry Boyd with the Calvary Baptist School and Church in Conroe, Texas, and the Barix Annuncicom installation there. Thanks for giving us all the details on it.
Well thank you Bennett; I appreciate the opportunity to be on the show.

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