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Expert Roundtable: Trends in Education

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jack Kontney

Four industry experts weigh in on what's moving the market forward.

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Are short-throw projectors finding their way into schools?

Pusey: Absolutely. We are big advocates of this technology as it eliminates the educator's shadow at virtually all angles, allowing students to see the displayed information at virtually all times.

Boyce: Yes, advancements in short-throw projectors have created excitement in the educational market. The only reason we are not seeing more of these in the classroom is the cost difference between short-throw and traditional projectors.

Do the increased technology needs of educators require a stronger commitment to training? Is your company active in this area?

Scanlon: Yes, and to meet this requirement, we have a number of trainers on staff dedicated to training — for example, on interactive whiteboards. It's a major initiative at AVI-SPL.

Boyce: Yes. Once an educator has been teaching in the classroom for several years, it can be difficult to convince them to integrate the new technology into their existing lessons. We are committed to spending as much time as needed for the educators to feel comfortable with the new technology that we are providing, so they can effectively utilize it in the classroom.

Pusey: This is probably the single biggest issue that is missed in the whole process. For more than 10 years, we have kept full-time trainers on staff for this specific purpose. Moreover, we learned probably the hard way that these trainers must be licensed teachers. Currently, we employ a Virginia State licensed educator with 11 years of classroom experience and a strong technical background. This gives us the ability to teach a lesson plan during school hours to actual students, thus training the educator in their own classroom.

What emerging trends do you see for this market in the next few years?

Dougherty: The convergence of IT and AV technologies will continue to grow in importance. The need for a unified approach to network and AV system monitor-ing and maintenance will certainly be part of design criteria moving forward.

Boyce: I see a continuing push toward video over IP, digital-content management, and IP control of devices over networks. We have seen the demand for these solutions increase over the past few years. As schools continue to increase the bandwidth of their networks, the convergence of AV and IP will continue to infiltrate the educational market.

Pusey: I would have to say that the tremendous focus on a safe learning environment is the most significant growth market for the foreseeable future. Mass- notification systems that provide audible internal and external voice messaging coupled with email blasts, text bursts, and outdialing integrated to a single solution is without a doubt our biggest growth area in both K-12 and higher education.

How has the emergence of IP control and information technology changed your business model?

Pusey: Most significantly, we have had to redefine our staffing requirements to meet not only the physical installation and upfit requirements, but we've also had to address the software, programming, and analysis world of the non-physical installation — data collision, transport failure, network architecture, and so on. So for us, training and certification in TCP/IP, Microsoft MCSA and MCSE, and certainly Cisco CCNA are virtually a must.

Boyce: We embraced the emergence of IP control and information technology early on. We recognized that the convergence of IP and AV would be prevalent because most educational facilities rely on the IT staff to support AV systems. Continuous education for our technical staff has been key to offering IP solutions for our clients. During the initial design phase, we are able to educate clients on the added benefits of IP control and management. Having an understanding of IP control and information technology has been a great sales tool for our firm.

Dougherty: The emergence of IP control has presented us with unprecedented ability to serve our clients. We make every effort possible to establish a true partnership with our clients. By establishing this type of relationship and gaining access to their network, we can provide a multitude of services such as system monitoring, usage reports, and true help-desk support.

Jack Kontney is contributing editor, audio, for SVC and president of Kontney Communications, a content-creation and marketing firm specializing in professional audio, video, and electronics. Email him at

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