Friday, September 26, 2008

Slow Progress

Well after pushing and several issue for a couple of weeks, we have made some progress. I am sure that most folks would not be impressed, but these little details make the difference between being able to get the materials that our classroom teachers are asking for.

First, we are on the verge of releasing our first bid to install the infrastructure in the classrooms at Yorba Linda Middle School and at Glenknoll Elementary. That bid should be available for vendors and we are planning to make a choice and get the recomendation to the School Board at the second meeting in October. Work can begin on classrooms immediately after.

The remaining classrooms need to have engineering comleted. We got a first estimate on the cost of completeing that engineering but that cost was too high for us to proceed without reducing the nmuber of classrooms completed. No teacher would want their classroom to be a victim of increased costs. We are working with our vendor to try and reduce the costs. I am confident that we will get this completed and I would love to have work beginning next week. That would put us aon a timetable to have everything done by Christmas.

Next, we have a contract that our purchasing department and the county will agree to use to purchase the equipment for our rooms! This will eliminate our need to bid the equipment as we finish the rooms. We are in the process of putting the order together for our first round of classrooms at Yorba Linda Middle School and Glenknoll Elementary. I am hoping that we can get the equipment at the same time that the classrooms are completed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Smart Music Classroom

c ClSmart Music Classroom
As we started the Smart Classroom Project, I always had the idea that music classrooms would be very different. The most obvious reason is that the classroom is already very engaging, with each student participating, but the center of the class is audio and not video. The elements of our smart classroom are all visual elements. We needed to design something that would be very different.

I started work with a vendor who had ties to the music recording industry and two teachers who were very tech savey and had already cobbled together a set of microphones, cassette recorders, and speakers into the first smart music classrooms. The first meeting was very exciting. How to get multiple recordings, immediate playback, mixing various levels of audio, music editing software and studio speakers to represent sound at high quality levels. Lying on top of all of these elements would be the trademark of our smart classrooms: ease of use.

We decided on a cart that would contain a mixer, a processor for recording\, a power supply, various microphones for recording sections, two omni directional Microphones, music software, a mounted projector, a cd burner, and 1400 watt studio speakers. This will have the ability to record a band and drop out different sections so that kids can go home and hear the rest of the band as they practice their part. A teacher can record on the fly and play back to class providing immediate feedback or display notes on the projector as the students play the notes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I met with our engineering firm today and they have completed the site work and drawings for Glenknoll Elementary School and Yorba Linda Middle School.  We will need to put these specs and drawings into a bid document.  We met with our purchasing manager and it appears that we can have the bid out next week.

Although we could probably get the bidding done by the end of September, there is only one school board meeting in September and the next board meeting is October 14th  We fully plan to make this date, so the work could begin thereafter.  

Casework Update

Good meeting this morning with the our casework company that constructs the teaching walls.  Our big issue has been on how to mount the interactive white boards (iwb)  on the teaching walls.  Teachers are concerned about the loss of storage with the 75 inch board we used in the pilot.   We are trying to design a mount for the iwb that would swing or pivot upward like a garage door to allow access.

A secondary, but equally important issue is what size iwb to use.  I would like to use the 95 inch board that has the 16/9 high definition aspect ratio.  Although not much of what we use in the classrooms is in that format, in 5 years it will undoubtable dominate the landscape.  The bigger board is heavier and more diffcult to mount and it would obscure more of the storage.  

Our best thinking is that we would like to have 95 inch board installed in a demo classroom at Valadez Academy nest week.  I provided them with a board to use in the demo.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Last year we set out to define what would be the focus of a smart classroom, a classroom that was focused on Active Learning and Student Engagement. We visited several districts, went to conferences and concentrated on sessions that focused on technology in the classroom and took a trip to the NSBA model school visit at Minnetonka Minnesota. You can see my report on Minnetonka at:

Each of these added information to our concept of what direction we would go with our classrooms. Finally I met with every vendor that I could find, because they do this stuff everyday and usually have the most up to date information.

From this investigation, we compressed the ideas and decided what elements would be part of our version of the “Smart Classroom”. Now I have to say that I really don’t like the “Smart Classroom” name. Obviously it connotes visions of the SMART brand of products and we really have not used them in our project. I didn’t want to call it the classroom of the future because I don’t believe it is the classroom of the future, it is the classroom every teacher should have NOW. Plus, I did not want anyone to say that we do not need some futuristic classroom, but something more pragmatic and grounded. I could not think of anything that resonated with people except for “Smart Classroom” and started to use it. Now everyone in our district uses the name, so now it has “legs” and there is no stopping it now.

We had to decide what different inputs we wanted to bring into our classrooms. Most of the off the shelf systems are designed to accommodate 4 different inputs. We decided that we needed six to provide the flexibility to bring any instructional resource into the classroom. Our inputs are:

• Broadcast video
• Desktop computer (side of room)
• Laptop computer (front of room)
• Document Camera
• Auxiliary video (RCA inputs)
• DVD Player

The only real twist that we added, was that we were intent on making the system easy to switch from one source to another. I guess that this came from my home experience with our home entertainment system switching from the DVR to the Cable box, to the DVD player. Each switch requires powering up a new device and switching the audio and video inputs. It wasn’t until I discovered the Harmony remote, that we had harmony at home. This remote had buttons that read “play the DVD” or Watch TV” and the remote makes all the correct changes in the audio and video equipment to make it happen. What we designed was the Harmony remote for the classroom. When you have a classroom audio system and a number of inputs, you need to switch things seamlessly.

Here is a link to a Slide Show of the Smart Classroom Elements