Connected Classroom

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Pennfield High School Takes Its Video Systems Onto Its IP Network

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At Michigan’s Pennfield High School, eVideon software allows users to access the digitized video anywhere there is a networked computer or a TV..

PENNFIELD, MI—Whether it’s film or television in the classroom or daily announcements in the cafeteria, everything travels in digital format over a single IP network at Pennfield High School in Pennfield, MI. Gone are the days of tangled cables, damaged tapes, and precious class time wasted wondering why there’s no sound coming from the system.

“We’re seeing a convergence of voice, data, and video technologies onto a single IP network,” said Brandon Julian, director of technology design for Convergent Technology Partners, which designed Pennfield High School’s high-bandwidth network. “The fact that the internet is so widely used and carries so much media makes IP video formats ideal for a building-wide or district-wide media library, for streaming media on your local network, and for setting up video-on-demand (VoD) systems.”

At Pennfield, a cable TV feed is split into 16 channels at the network head end using standard cable boxes and economical DVD/VCR tuners, and then is digitized with an AVN series encoder from from Visionary Solutions (VSI), headquartered near Santa Barbara, CA.

Jeff Ingle, president of Grand Rapids, MI-based Optimal Solutions, who designed the video distribution system, said the encoders put fullscreen, full-resolution data from almost any source onto the school’s network in real time. The 16 TV channels are available to network users together with the school’s digital phone service, security cameras, and VoD library. “What attracted me to the VSI encoder was that it offers a much lower-cost MPEG2 solution in comparison to other products out there,” he explained. “And it wasn’t a proprietary solution. Our eVideon management application fits nicely with their technology.”

The eVideon software allows users to access the digitized video anywhere there is a networked computer or a TV. At Pennfield, teachers can access the video through their desktop computers and project it using ceilingmounted Epson LCD projectors, which are installed in each classroom. For areas where there is no computer access, Optimal Solutions equipped 25 32-inch Oleva LCD monitors (installed by Digital Age Technologies of Davison, MI) with an Amino set-top box, which decodes the MPEG-2 stream back to video for input into the monitor. “We have monitors in the cafeteria, the fitness center, the hallways, the front office, the conference rooms, the band room, the choir room, and the wrestling room,” said Pennfield’s network specialist Susan Lewis. “They can all be tuned to a different channel, to our announcements or to an on-demand source via handheld remote control or over the network.”

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Network administrator Susan Lewis sets up a video stream using eVideon...

Librarians are systematically digitizing all of the school’s DVDs and VHS tapes and storing them on a VoD server also installed by Optimal Solutions. “Digitizing older videos is not difficult to do, but it’s time consuming,” said instructional technology coordinator Tammy Maginity. “Once you put the video into the front end, however, you don’t have to worry about teachers checking things out and not turning them back in. And they will always be there when someone else wants them.”

“There are cost benefits as well,” Julian said. “Because IPTV runs on your data network, it eliminates the requirement to install coax cable systems or duplicate expensive head-end equipment in each building. It can be utilized district-wide on the computers and infrastructure you already own, taking advantage of these previous investments.”

“It’s really just a matter of your imagination as to what you want to deliver over the system,” said Ingle. “It will serve almost anything on your network—except lunch.”

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