The Smart Classroom
What exactly is a Smart Classroom?
A smart classroom is a connected room with an abundance of audio and visual assisted technology that fosters and enhances learning for students and professionals. You'll see smart classrooms on college campuses and many corporate headquarters. But now, even public (and private) elementary and secondary schools are learning that creating a smart classroom is a valuable tool to assist in learning.
What kind of technology & equipment is found in a Smart Classroom?
There are many high tech equipment components that make up a Smart Classroom. Here's what components should be in there.
The room should have an abundance of wired ports for internet connectivity. These ports (usually called ethernet, LAN, RJ-45, or CAT-5/6 ports) is essential when students and learners bring in laptops. They can simply "plug-in" and will be up on the internet.
The room should also have a wireless router in which students that have wireless cards and devices will be allowed to connect "wire-free" and without added cables. The majority of classrooms these days often have a wireless router/access point in which you can connect to.
A Windows or Macintosh computer
Located at the front of the room, where presentations are being held, there should be a computer. Whether it be a Windows based or Macintosh computer, there should be one there for teachers and students to use.
Since the majority of the working world still uses PC compatible software, it is suggested to have a Windows based PC. However, that is not to say that you cannot accomplish the same things with a Macintosh computer. If you do go with a Mac computer, you'll want to be sure the software loaded on the Mac has at least Microsoft Office to allow compatibility when participants an students bring in files that they've worked on from home. Another way you can be sure of compatibility is to load Windows on a separate partition on the Mac computer. This way, you get one computer with two operating systems. It's the best of both worlds.
- Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Power Point);
- Internet Explorer;
- Mozilla Firefox;
- Adobe Acrobat.
It's a great idea to have a laptop connection so that guests who present in the room can bring their laptop, Apple iPad or Android Tablet.
DVD and/or Blu-Ray Player
In the event a video is needed to be played, a DVD and/or Blu-Ray player will fit the bill. It is recommended to have a Blu-Ray player because of its backward compatibility with DVD discs. If a DVD is the only one available, Blu-Ray (or BD) discs cannot be played.
Ceiling or front speakers
In order to be fully heard, ceiling speakers are needed. Sometimes, if ceiling speakers cannot be installed, front mounted speakers are often used. Speakers are crucial and needed because many audio/visual (A/V) sources use sound. If a video is being played with sound, speakers are definitely needed.
The LCD projector is needed to project images from the various sources onto a projection screen. Think of this as a very large TV. The sources that primarily will feed the projector would be the computer and the DVD/Blu-Ray. The majority of the time, though, projection of the computer is primarily the source.
A projection screen is needed to adequately display the sources being projected from the LCD projector. Sometimes you can get away with just having a blank white wall. But if you need to have other interactive sources, such as a SMARTBoard, you'll need to have a different device in the front of the room. More on that a little later.
LCD or Plasma Display
In the event you need to show more than one display device at a time, it's a great idea to have s secondary display such as an LCD or Plasma. This can be mounted in a corner of the room or even on a rolling cart.
Touch Screen and/or Automated Control
Room automation truly makes learning easier. Touch screen or button controls on walls of a classroom handle complex tasks such as turning on the projector and setting the input selection to project a certain computer input as well as routing of audio and video signals.
It's basically one button press that will accomplish a chain of events, often called a "macro." This macro replaces several tasks you'd have to do manually with several remote controls.
Touch screen for Room Automation
Room Automation via fixed buttons
Telephone (IP is preferred)
Gone are the old RJ-11 connected telephones. In are the new systems of IP telephony from Cisco and 3COM. An IP phone is crucial in the classroom just in case you need to call for help with tech support or just need it to call in the event you ever need to just make a call to someone.
If a guest comes in with a presentation with audio and video, you'll want to be sure that toward the front of the room there are ports to connect those devices. This way, it'l be ready for anyone who comes in.
Document cameras are also called "digital presenters." With this, you'll be able to project objects that do not lay flat onto the screen via the LCD projector.
This is a great tool for science classrooms. If you have an object you'd like the whole class to see, but it's too small, and you don't want to pass it around, you can always put it on a document camera and the whole class can see it. You can also zoom in and out and see every detail.
Video Teleconference Equipment (VTC)
Extend the classroom outward and with the rest of the world with VTC. Anywhere in the world where a VTC unit is, you can can "call" them and hold a meeting or teach. This is truly bridging the gap for distance and distance education. The world truly is your classroom with VTC.
Interactive White Boards
Ever heard of SMARTBoards? There are many other interactive white boards such as the SMARTBoard that offers more interactive learning.
An interactive white board is a great tool to have in the classroom because it encourages more student participation. It also enhances learning. You no longer are tied to sitting behind the presenter computer to click on the mouse and keyboard. All you need to do is touch the board and your fingers become the mouse.
The Smart Classroom enhances learning at all levels
The Smart classroom isn't just for use at colleges and elementary/secondary schools. It can be used in corporate training facilities as well as military installations. There are no limits to learning, and the Smart classroom is just the beginning in enhancing learning.