Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Catholic Central High School (CCHS) has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence. As the oldest Catholic, coeducational, Diocesan high school in the United States, it is proud to create an exceptional educational experience for its students.
Being the oldest school of its kind speaks to the quality and integrity of the institution. Unfortunately, “old” was also how one might have described the school’s AV technology.
For quite some time, each of Catholic Central’s classrooms were outfitted with outdated projectors connected to a desktop computer. To meet the needs of changing instructional practice, as well as capitalize on the latest in-classroom AV technology, it was clear that the time had come for Catholic Central to up its game.
Rachel Kooiker, director of Technology for CCHS, was tasked with modernizing each classroom’s technological footprint. While students each had their own iPad, teachers were lagging—relying on older desktop computers for lesson planning and other daily tasks.
The first step in the revamping process was to provide teachers with modern laptops, giving them more computing power and increased mobility. Next, Kooiker turned her attention to the antiquated projectors. Sharing student content with the rest of the class required sending a link to the teacher’s desktop or the use of a thumb drive. The goal was to have wireless display capability, allowing for even more mobility.
Kooiker and her team weighed the cost of wireless projectors versus implementing entirely new AV technology. Ultimately, they decided to replace the projectors with smart TVs. The smart TVs would enable teachers to stream content, wirelessly share assignments from students’ laptop screens, and perform a number of additional functions.
A total of 45 smart TVs were purchased: one for each of the 35 teaching classrooms, and 10 for administrative/corporate areas. With this sizeable investment, the question of where to put the TVs became top of mind for the upgrade team. The front of the room seemed an obvious spot, except for the fact that each classroom had a whiteboard situated squarely on the front wall. It was eventually decided that nothing should block their usage, as they are integral to the functioning of the classroom.
“The mobile cart idea seemed reasonable at first, but we quickly realized they would take up valuable floor space in the classroom,” Kooiker said. “And we were also concerned about the fact that students might bang into them and hurt themselves—not to mention possibly damaging the TVs.”
The installer suggested a pull-down mount that would allow the TVs to be mounted high on the wall—well above the whiteboards—and brought down in front of them when they were being used. When the lesson was finished, the TVs could be pushed back to their original position, up on the wall and out of the way.
While this seemed like a potentially viable plan, the pull-down mounts recommended by the TV retailer did not impress Kooiker. Some of her own research turned up MantelMount, a designer and manufacturer of pull-down and motorized mounts.
“The MantelMount impressed us in a number of areas,” Kooiker explained. “Their units are more solidly built than the ones suggested to us. That was important from a safety standpoint—we obviously didn’t want the mounts or the TVs falling off the wall—but also because we were investing significant dollars into this installation, we wanted mounts that would last a long time.”
“What’s more, the MantelMount units looked more polished; it was clear they were just a superior product,” she continued. “Combined with the new smart TVs, we felt that overall, it allowed us to equip each classroom with the best equipment possible.”
Kooiker recalled that the local installation team initially had reservations about the product since they weren’t familiar with MantelMount. In fact, the team leader was skeptical when informed that the school had supplied their own brackets. But when they arrived for the installation, they sang a different tune.
“Our facilities person had put together a model classroom to illustrate how we wanted things set up,” Kooiker said. “We walked the installation team through the model, and they were really impressed, especially with the MantelMount units. After they saw the model, they felt much more confident about the job.”
The MantelMount units selected by Catholic Central offer a wide range of features, including a 27-inch vertical travel distance. As a result, the TVs can be dropped down in front of the whiteboards at eye level—the ideal viewing height for resolution quality, as well as to eliminate neck craning or eye strain. The 30-inch swivel in either direction allows further adjustment as needed. Adjustable stops and auto-straightening prevent the TVs from hitting the walls when they are being lowered, swiveled, or raised.
“It was a great experience,” Kooiker said. “The installation not only went smoothly but was very quick—it took just three days to complete the entire process.”
As might be expected in a building that’s over a century old, a few structural challenges arose during installation. First, the antiquated plaster walls complicated the process of attaching the mounts somewhat. The bigger issue, however, was that the height of the classroom ceilings is not uniform; in 10 of the classrooms with lower ceilings, fixed mounts had to be used instead.
Teachers in the 40 classrooms where monitors are secured with the MantelMount units have given the installation high marks.
“I recently completed a survey to get more data on the overall project implementation,” Kooiker said. “By and large, there was overwhelming satisfaction with the entire setup. The teachers love the wireless capability that the TVs provide. And they love the mobility of the MantelMount units, not to mention the fact that we were able to preserve their whiteboard space.
“Some teachers don’t even push the mounts back up,” she added. “They like the flexibility of being able to leave it in any position they want.”
Not surprisingly, the teachers who don’t have a MantelMount in their classroom are experiencing a bit of “mount envy.”
“In the 10 classrooms where we have fixed mounts, the teachers have voiced their desire to have a MantelMount instead,” Kooiker said. “Even though we were able to maintain their white board space, they want to be able to lower the TVs for optimal viewing.”
Those teachers who were left off the MantelMount train might get a ticket in the near future, as Kooiker is considering putting a second monitor in some of the classrooms. It may be possible to work out the logistics so that the rooms that currently won’t accommodate a MantelMount can be modified appropriately—and perhaps a different model will fit the bill.
Kooiker noted that the mounts located in non-teaching spaces have made a positive impact as well.
“We included some in our conference rooms and a few other non-classroom settings,” she said. “The feedback from the business staff has been through the roof. They do several presentations to donors, and the whole setup with the MantelMount looks really slick and professional. They’ve never had access to something like this before.”
Catholic Central is making great strides in its technological advancement, and recently became the first high school in Michigan to be STEM-certified. Its addition of smart TVs on MantelMount units has brought cutting-edge technology well within reach of students, teachers, and administrators alike.