United Visual About Us
Contact Us
Support
Whats Hot
Site Map
    
  

Pilot program helps New Trier reengineer classrooms

New Trier High School makes LCD projection its classroom standard

Each classroom features a Sharp LCD projector, screen and equipment rackThere’s no more crowding around the dissection table in Mr. Clough’s biology class at New Trier High School. Those kinds of logjams, with students straining to see a small exhibit, are a thing of the past now that United Visual has outfitted the school’s classrooms and laboratories with the latest array of educational technology. When the 2 1/2-year project is finished in the summer of 1999, almost half the school’s classrooms will be equipped with a system that was custom designed to fit New Trier’s specific needs and tested in a unique pilot program set up in the school.


A projection pilot

Any way you look at it, bringing multimedia projection to half its classrooms would have a major impact on New Trier. So, before deciding what type of equipment to purchase, Technology Director Dr. Steven Baule, A/V Supervisor Ron Austgen, and United Visual’s Rick Nelson and Dan Ferraro decided to do a little experimentation. The first step was to choose a projector.

Most of the rooms in question have at least one wall of windows, so the school needed a projector that could perform on both sunny days and cloudy ones. The district looked at data and video quality from a wide variety of makes and models before settling on the Sharp conference room series. (They originally purchased the XG-E1200U and then moved to the XG-E3000U as it replaced the 1200 in 1999). Once the projector was decided, Rick Nelson designed three pilot systems and, in the fall of 1997, his crew installed them at New Trier.

Locking equipment rackThe first of these pilot rooms was a computer lab with nothing but computer and video inputs feeding the ceiling-mounted Sharp projector. The second, an English department classroom, was outfitted with a projector, computer input, powered Anchor speaker, and a rack containing a VCR, laserdisc/CD player, and a switcher. The third was a science lab—outfitted like the English classroom but with individual inputs at each lab station for Flexcam cameras, which can be routed through a switching system to the projector. Due to the size of these labs, United also installed an amplifier and ceiling speakers. Then the group asked several teachers to use the rooms repeatedly and give them feedback on what they liked and disliked.

Advanced Placement Biology teacher Brian Woodruff was one of the first to try out the new rooms. "It gave us a chance to see what the bugs were going to be, and work them out ahead of time," says Woodruff. It turned out that there really weren’t a lot of bugs to be fixed. One problem came up when a science teacher brought in a Windows computer and found the rooms cabled for Macintosh. Another required the addition of a volume control pod to the rack in the classroom system. "Since New Trier would be building so many rooms," says Nelson, "the trick was to design something that would work well, yet keep the cost low." United made adjustments to the prototypes as needed and teachers continued to use them for the rest of the school year.

As the school’s 3,000-plus students headed out the doors for summer vacation, United installation crews went back to work. They installed the now bug-free systems in 24 classrooms, five science labs and the school auditorium. They equipped all the new classrooms with the laserdisc player, switcher and VCR, and the science labs with the camera switching system as well, as those components proved their worth during the pilot. The auditorium—a large one with 1,000 seats—got the basic classroom rack, but United installed Sharp’s brightest LCD projector and fed the audio into the room’s existing sound system.

The systems in use

New Trieir's auditorium One of the nicest things about the New Trier systems is that they are so similar. Such continuity means teachers and students don’t have to learn a whole new set of operating controls when they move from classroom to classroom. Steve Baule says that, after a year of use, such easy access to the technology has brought about several obvious benefits.

First, teachers have been able to make better use of laserdiscs and videos that are now available for many of the textbooks New Trier uses. These kinds of materials can make a big difference in the learning process, although Baule says most schools don’t have the classroom infrastructure to use them effectively.

The versatility of this technology opens up many possibilities when teachers write their lesson plans. French teacher Adrianne Lawrence says her class used to have to go to the computer lab whenever she wanted them to work with scanners and computers. The lab wasn’t always available, nor was the projection equipment, which was shared by everyone in the humanities department. Now, her students are learning about French art and putting their presentations on PowerPoint right in her own classroom. "This has encouraged us to do these kinds of things more frequently, as part of a regular lesson, rather than making a big deal of it and planning it months in advance," says Lawrence.

    Other stories
like this:

 
 
 •   
 •   
 •   
 •   
 •   
 •  
 •   
 •  
 •  
 •  
 •   
 •
 
 

 

In the science labs, when one student finds what they’ve all been looking for, the teacher moves a Flexcam into position and projects the image from that single lab station for all to see and discuss. "We’ve used the system extensively with our pig dissection unit," says Mike Clough. "I can project real-time from a lab station, or I can correlate what we’re working on with a section on the laserdisc. I just plug in a reference number and punch it up on the screen. It has incredible resolution."

Brian Woodruff says his biology students seem much more enthusiastic about their class time, now that they can access the Internet directly and interact with it. His classes used the system to practice for their AP tests in May, accessing a website that had sample AP questions, then projecting them so everyone was on the same page. Woodruff is hoping the test results, when they come in this summer, will reflect the enthusiasm his class had during the practice sessions.

Of course, now that New Trier teachers can use this equipment every day, it’s starting to lose its novelty. But in truth, that’s what classroom technology is all about. Computers and VCRs are becoming almost as commonplace in some classrooms as paper and pencil. Unlimited information is becoming available to everyone, and having the right tools to reach that information is imperative.

Making those tools a reality is all in a day’s work for Nelson and his crew at United Visual. Once again, summer vacation is under way at New Trier, and United is back, outfitting 20 more classrooms with new projection systems. Steve Baule is happy with how things are going. "Rick and Dan do an excellent job. They’re easy to work with and accommodating when we need changes." And Nelson and Ferraro are happy to return the compliment. "The people at New Trier are phenomenal to work with," says Nelson. By working well together, United Visual and New Trier have found a unique and effective way to shop the vast technology marketplace, bringing significant benefits to the classroom.