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INDUSTRY POV

Communicating On Campus

Education institutions are poised to move digital signage into the classroom.

By Eric Henry Carousel Digital Signage

I

still remember the days of Charlie Brown-style garbled morning announcements over the PA system in elementar y school. In high school, we progressed to CRT TV announcements, recorded by the video production kids, sent over the coax system to Channel 3 (or was it Channel 4?). We tuned in whenever the teacher actually remembered to turn on the TV at 8:05am sharp. Then we hit the big time in college, with all kinds of cool posters to highlight the events around campus. Completely filling the stair wells with all those posters must have taken a really long time. It turns out we had a college radio station, too. Who knew?! Despite all those means of communicating information, I don’t know that I ever retained much of what was communicated by announcements during my school years, apart from the events of the Challenger disaster, the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series and the OJ Simpson trial. I do remember paying particular attention to whatever the teacher wrote on the chalkboard, though. Maybe that was because my name and a few check marks often appeared there; then again, maybe it was simply because it was right in front of me. Fast-for warding 20 years, we have 36 Sound & Communications May 2019

email, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, automated phone trees, fancy flatpanel displays, and a growing trend of smartphones and tablets being in our kids’ hands. And despite all those communication methods, my kid somehow still called me up after fighting morning traffic for an hour to tell me he didn’t realize he wasn’t allowed to report to school until 11:15am, due to district testing. (Like father, like son, I guess.) It turns out, he did have first-period class in the field house—but he hadn’t heard the announcements. He also neglected to open his email. And, he never stopped to read the announcements on the signage displays in the main common area because he was too busy tr ying to get to his next class before the bell. As any good parent would, I concluded that I should probably blame the school. The reality, though, is that these are truly challenging times for education institutions. We live in a world of constant communication and information availability; and yet, parents and students often feel uninformed, despite the best efforts of educators and administrators. We live in a fast-paced culture in which there are so many things to get done that it can be over whelming. There’s an app for ever ything, which we hope will somehow help us get all the tasks done. This seems especially germane relative to educators, who are embracing all the learning and collaboration platforms introduced in recent years. Perhaps most challenging is that we live in a time when, unfortunately, we are forced to implement new mechanisms just to help keep our kids safe while at school. By now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “You just got done telling us we have tons of new communication tools and an app for ever ything. So, are you really going to propose adding one more?” Well, yes. I am proposing that bringing digital signage into the classroom, utilizing the right set of tools, can enhance communication without adding stress. Projectors and flatpanel displays have become the modern-day chalkboard. When not being used for instruction, they’re a great way to present information to students in a more powerful and dynamic fashion. For the past several years, the mission has been to find a way to place digitalsignage content on displays within classrooms. The complexity of deployment and management, along with the hardware cost, has always rendered the idea a nonstarter. It seemed unlikely we would ever see signage in classrooms without further technology convergence.

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