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Back to School

Summer may be vacation time for students and teachers, but not for the AV professionals who equip and maintain their classrooms. During the summer break, AV Technology spoke to some of these professionals, to find our what they were installing and what – if money were unlimited – they would like to install. Those who responded were awash with work: “I wish I had the time to fully participate in your article,” said Raymond Falcon, AV Systems Integrator with Florida State University, “but time is not kind to us at this time of year.”

Summer Buying and Installation Trends

Raymond Falcon had good reason to plead an overloaded schedule. “We are using stimulus dollars to replace defective AV equipment and to upgrade classroom and lab computers,” he told AV Technology magazine. “We also have two new buildings coming online in Spring 2011. The buildings are scheduled to have the latest state-of-the-art AV equipment installed in their classrooms and auditoriums, barring any unforeseen budget cuts.

The summer was similarly busy for Mary McAtee, Video Communications Analyst with the University of North Texas. “We are updating our firewall traversal infrastructure from Tandberg gatekeepers and border controllers to their VCS Expressway,” she said. “We are also converting four more Houston classrooms, making them videoconference-capable and installing additional AV equipment. Our Austin site has moved to new facilities and we are adding five videoconference-capable classrooms even as I write this.”

  • For Michael Pietrzak, Technology Director/Coordinator with the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, the emphasis was on purchasing rather than installation. “We have 38 schools, and the trend for them this year has been to buy Dell laptop computers from ByteSpeed for their students,” he explained. “A few of the high schools are starting to look at iPads and similar devices; both for students and teachers.

Meanwhile, tight funds combined with a desire to maintain a multi-year LCD projector/Smart Board upgrade motivated the North Penn School District in Lansdale, Pennsylvania to sit tight when the 2009-2010 school ended. As a result, “This summer has been strange for us because we have purchased no new equipment, all major purchases have been held for mid-year decision,” said Chris Doerr, the board’s Audio Visual Technology Specialist. “If the project does move forward we will bid the equipment in January, purchase in February, and take delivery in March.”

This is a change from the usual pattern, which sees North Penn buying equipment at summer’s start and then rushing to get it into place by Labor Day. Instead, assuming that the LCD projector/Smart Board upgrade survives budget cuts, “the entire summer vacation time [2011] will be available to us for installation, enabling more efficiency for us and less disruption for students,” Doerr said.

Summer Wish List

Asked what they would buy if money wasn’t an issue, the people we interviewed had lots of ideas to share.

“Given an unlimited budget our priority would be to provide every classroom with installed LCD projectors, sound reinforcement, and interactive capability – a multi-million dollar undertaking,” said Chris Doerr.

“If I had the budget, I'd like to purchase an Extron or AMX room control system, which would allow us full control of every local classroom from our desktops,” declared Mary McAtee.

“Ideally, we would like to have WiFi-connected iPads or similar tablets in our schools, so that our students wouldn’t have to run back to the computer lab to access data,” Michael Pietrzak said. “We would also like to install videoconferencing in our schools, so that we could do distance education. This would allow us to offer courses in subjects where there are enough interested students board-wide to hold them.”

James Careless is an award-winning freelance journalist with extensive experience in audio-visual equipment, AV system design, and AV integration. His credits include numerous articles for Systems Contractor News, AV Technology, Radio World, and TV technology, among others. Careless comes from a broadcasting background, with credits at CBC Radio, NPR, and NBC News. He currently co-produces/co-hosts the CDR Radio podcast, which covers the Canadian defense industry. Careless is a two-time winner of the PBI Media Award for Excellence.