Gwinnett County Public Schools Chooses DLP Projector Technology for Thousands of Classrooms
Deploy vivid, clear display technology in 2,300 classrooms while minimizing maintenance issues.
Over 2,000 fixed-mounted Mitsubishi XD 205 and XD 206 DLP projectors installed by Computrac that display on 60 or 70 inch screens, providing clarity and visibility from anywhere in the classroom.
Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest school system in Georgia and 14th largest in the nation, serving approximately 156,000 K-12 students in 110 schools and educational facilities across 345 square miles. For years, the Gwinnett County School District has been an aggressive adopter of classroom technologies - including video displays - to create a richer learning experience for students at all grade levels. However, as Gwinnett County embarked on wide-scale retrofitting projects for its thousands of classrooms, the district recognized that a new strategy was needed for the video-display portion of its standard classroom configuration.
"Previously, we'd adopted 27-inch television monitors and converted VGA output to interlaced video," said Greg LaHatte, director of broadcast and distance learning for Gwinnett County. "The clarity wasn't very good, especially if you were viewing data from the back of the room. If teachers needed to display data, that required them to reserve and roll in a portable projector.
"As we initiated our design review, based on our experiences with 27-inch monitors and our assessment of the technology direction, we knew that traditional monitors were not a feasible option going forward. We were reaching our 'tipping point' with respect to digital learning. Many traditional library and video resources and curriculum supplements are now turning almost exclusively to digital formats. The right displays would make a significant difference in the learning experience."
Comparing the Technologies
With a funding source allocated, thanks to a local one-cent sales tax, Gwinnett's tech team undertook a careful evaluation of newer-generation display technologies, including flat panels and projector-based technologies. They concluded that the minimum diagonal size for a flat panel would be at least 50 inches. "When you factor in the 4x3 aspect ratio, a 42-inch or 47-inch display only equates to what you'd get from a 32-inch TV monitor," explained LaHatte. "Did we want to spend $2,000 per classroom for a 15-20 percent increase in image size? Not really." The team then turned its attention to LCD and Texas Instruments DLP projection technologies. "We were looking for a solution that could accommodate native digital output and integrate with enhanced audio, too," he said. "We found that a minimum level of brightness - probably in the 2,000-lumens range - would display well in almost any classroom's lighting conditions and that would keep teachers happy. And teacher satisfaction was a key to our process. If they were unhappy with the new systems, they'd all be clamoring for the return of their old TV monitors."
Maintenance makes the difference
Beyond the image quality and affordability factors, the key to Gwinnett County's decision was the radical difference in maintenance requirements between LCD and DLP display projectors. "First I didn't think we could get a three-year warranty on an LCD lamp and projector," LaHatte said. "So that was problematic. But the bigger problem we found was that LCD projectors aren't sealed systems. To dissipate heat, they require supplemental airflow. Those fans are protected by dust filters that require regular cleaning or replacement.If we didn't keep those clean, we'd likely run into early failures that wouldn't be covered by the warranty.
"When you're looking at thousands of classrooms, that kind of maintenance burden is unfeasible. You have to move ladders into and out of classrooms when they're empty-and that's an issue that no one wants to take on. I knew that if we required that level of maintenance, it would doom the project.
"By contrast, we found that DLP was a sealed system with virtually no maintenance issues. There were no filters to replace or clean. In the aggregate, over a three-year period,this simple fact would save us millions of dollars in labor costs and eliminate those warranty concerns, and prevent us from saddling our IT team with one more issue to deal with." Ambitious deployment, enhanced classroom experience When you're looking at thousands of classrooms, that kind of maintenance burden is unfeasible. You have to move ladders into and out of classrooms when they're empty - and that's an issue that no one wants to take on. I knew that if we required that level of maintenance, it would doom the project."-Greg LaHatteDirector of broadcast and distance learning Gwinnett County Public Schools
In 2007, Gwinnett County worked with TI partner Compu-Trac Interactive Solutions, the nation's largest provider of audio-visual solutions to K-12 schools, to begin a deployment of 2,400 Mitsubishi XD204 and XD206 DLP projectors over a six month period, installing and implementing at a rate of 150 projectors per week. This installation process dovetailed with the larger retrofit process underway across a vast number of Gwinnett's middle schools.
"We feel we couldn't have completed this process without the help of Compu-Trac," said LaHatte. "They created careful plans and kept everything on schedule."
Now that teachers and students have had a chance to experience the new projection technology, their unprompted feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. "I've had a number of people stop me - principals and teachers - and tell me how excited they are to have this technology in their classrooms," said LaHatte. "Just today, I received an e-mail from a local tech coordinator at one of our schools serving students with special needs.She said the impact that these projectors are having on students in their classrooms is remarkable - that it was beyond significant and impactful in immeasurable ways.
"The lower TCO of the filterless DLP technology has made all of the difference in the world for our school system. As we expand our deployment into 5,000 elementary classrooms in our next phase of refurbishments, it's easy to see that DLP technology is improving our classroom technology platform while easily saving us millions of dollars over the life of this equipment. The long-term value is easy to see."
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