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5-Minute Interview: Hall Davidson

Hall Davidson: Director, Discovery Educator Network (DEN). DEN is comprised of more than 25,000 teachers who are end users of Discovery's media products.

Hall Davidson: Director, Discovery Educator Network (DEN). DEN is comprised of more than 25,000 teachers who are end users of Discovery's media products. DEN provides comprehensive training and integration techniques for members who are interested in using multi-media in their core curriculum. A former teacher, Hall Davidson has produced educational programming for public television stations. He has been DEN's director since 2005.

Pro AV: What should AV systems integrators know about working with K-12 customers?

Davidson: As an integrator for the education market, you are serving a general population that needs quantity as opposed to a small number of high-end items. AV systems in an educational setting require “equity” and the need to populate the system across a school district. Schools almost want the opposite of the “wow factor” AV system design. They want and need the most stable and replicable system possible, rather than the system with bells and whistles that require a high level of technical expertise to operate.

You have a seasoned workforce, many of whom received their credentials before classroom multimedia existed, yet these teachers want to keep up. Our Discovery Education Network has tried to make the training engaging. There are lots of factors impacting a teacher's time, such as grading papers, so you can't automatically assume that the new LCD projectors will be used. Professional development time to show them how to make the AV technology work with what you have opens up a new world of instruction.

Pro AV: How does K-12 differ from other market segments such as corporate or houses of worship?

Davidson: A school environment is where there are lots of other activities happening in close proximity. As one teacher put it, your neighbors are 30 feet away, and they are always home. Also, the environment varies from school to school. There is no uniformity in school buildings; some buildings are old or intended as a temporary building but are not used as such. The level of technology can be coax cable strung between two poles. The bottom line is that places of work are different for each teacher even in a small school.

Pro AV: From a technology perspective, what is the biggest challenge facing K-12 schools today?

Davidson: From the end-user perspective, the work hasn't changed very much. It is the fundamental model of a teacher teaching to a student. But the teaching model is evolving and a shift to current models will require more collaboration and more new media. The biggest challenge is how to bring media to the classroom and shape how kids use it.

Pro AV: How do you see classroom AV systems evolving in the near future? We've already seen the shift from CRT TVs to flat panels or projectors. What's next?

Davidson: Believe it or not, some schools still have CRTs mounted in the corner, and they will stay that way due to the cost of taking them down. Companies like Promethean and SMART Technologies have recognized that media and blackboard interactivity is important. There is also the trend toward fixed systems rather than AV carts.

Schools are looking to meet the need of content creation and delivery. I estimate that 90 percent of schools have access to media one way or another. Media is omnipresent, but there are no common elements in the AV system. There is a commitment for hardware due to content delivery over the Internet. Regardless of the AV system, media content is effective only when you can get it in front of kids in the hands of trained professionals.

Pro AV: What about content acquisition and creation?

Davidson: For schools, original content is equally important as purchased content. Schools need a trusted content provider to help them bring quality content into the classroom. Sure, a teacher can find a video out on the Web, but it is probably buried in junk.

Media content creation gives kids skills and opportunity for accountability. The act of creating content gives kids dynamic knowledge of teamwork, judgment, meeting deadlines and self-evaluation. It's much like YouTube skills in an educational environment.

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