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Old School AV

The last thing Chaminade High School needed, it seemed, was an upgrade of its AV technology. The numbers said it all: of its 1,600 students, 99.7 percent of them go on to attend college upon graduation, and the 2004 graduating class of 389 students garnered a total of 872 scholarships.

“Our student body is intelligent and requires information beyond the textbook, which can result in lots of writing on the board,” says Dan Petruccio, director of guidance at Chaminade, who also teaches junior religion and social studies classes. “Your back is to them so you don't get much face time, but by using tools like PowerPoint and the visualizer, I can do more teaching. The technology takes the mechanics out of writing information on a chalk board.”

Although most of the faculty found the AV equipment easy to operate, McAward offered a 10-minute orientation for teachers who wanted a bit more instruction. He also set up a sample AV system in the teacher's lounge so the faculty could become comfortable with the equipment before using it in class.

“Now there are always several teachers in the lounge doing research on current events on their laptops,” Petruccio says. “The science teachers found some great tsunami animations and maps online to use for class.”

With the AV systems fully in place for this school year, Chaminade's teachers are already finding new and innovative ways to use the technology for teaching. In the school's music classes, teachers can project sheet music and show videos about famous composers. In social studies classes, instead of having to physically pass fossils and other delicate artifacts around the classroom, each student can simultaneously view items using the visualizer. The new AV equipment also enables teachers to project daily news stories from national and international newspapers that are relevant to coursework.

McAward recently chaired an evaluation committee for the state of New Jersey on AV technology. During a visit to another school, he observed some behavior that helped shape Chaminade's approach to AV in the classroom. At this school, students were encouraged to purchase their own laptops and use them in class.

“The teacher had to repeat the URL over and over to get everyone on the same page,” he says. “Also she couldn't see what students were doing on their own computers. Some would click ahead and others weren't following at all. That visit confirmed the direction of what we're doing.”

THE POWER OF VISUALIZERS

The video document camera/visualizer is one of the best examples of technology's march toward smaller, multi-use AV devices. A visualizer's uses can be as diverse as those of its user. These devices are often used in high schools, colleges and universities, laboratories, corporations, medical and dental offices, hospitals, and courtrooms. A visualizer can display anything from hand-written or typed documents to 3D objects, photos, microscopic slides, and even X-rays.

The Canon RE-450X video visualizers used at Chaminade High School offer twin fluorescent lamps that provide uniform light, a text enhancement feature, and auto-white balance and exposure capabilities. The visualizers also include a color-corrected light box for viewing slides and transparencies. With the press of a button, a high-quality digital still image can be temporarily stored in memory, and then displayed on a projector or monitor.

For Chaminade, adding visualizers in the classroom greatly enhanced its teachers' ability to instruct. “The visualizer is great for social studies because the teacher can easily display a reference book containing an interesting and relevant map instead of relying on whatever pull-down map exists in the room,” says Dan Petruccio, director of guidance at Chaminade who also teaches junior religion and social studies classes. “The book can travel with the teacher from room to room since all the classrooms have a visualizer. The technology definitely complements the teacher.”

 Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance writer and PR specialist for the professional AV industry. She can be reached at linda@frembes.com.



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