IMAGE CONSCIOUS: PRESENTATION TECHNOLOGY TOP PRIORITY AT TROY SCHOOLS
"How is this technology going to affect the teaching, learning and growing of students within our district?" According to Steve Shotwell, Director of Technology for the Troy School District, Michigan, this question is asked at every presentation that he makes before members of the Troy School Board. At one meeting last year, Shotwell was prepared to answer the question before it was asked. While he usually addresses the board about computers, servers, wide area networks and the like, the focus of this particular presentation was classroom tools...instruments that represent the most advanced visual presentation technology available today.
The Troy School District, which supports 12,000 students among 12 elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools, and one alternative high school, was to vote on a $1 million proposal to replace and upgrade existing technologies in each of these schools. Due to the importance of this issue, a 10-member committee had scrutinized various options for months and conducted numerous meetings to review products, meet with vendors, formulate bid specifications, and conduct a bid to the business community in order to select products that best suited the needs of schools within the district.
Leading-edge visual presentation technology
The Troy School District, recognized as a leader in instructional technologies, is committed to providing their students with the best resources available to prepare them for the future. Therefore, from its inception, the committee was looking for cutting-edge technology that would provide maximum image quality, color accuracy, trouble-free operation and ease of use.
The Troy district already owned Epson and some Mitsubishi projectors as well as visual presenters by ELMO and another manufacturer. In 2004, when teachers were surveyed as to what technologies they most needed and wanted for their classrooms, color printers, ink jet printers, computers and network upgrades were high on a list of 22 specific areas. However, the #1 priority of all teachers surveyed was obtaining the latest ELMO visual presenters for elementary classrooms, followed by new projectors.
After discussing these needs with Kevin Gibson of City Animation, an audio-video dealer based in Troy, the committee recommended replacing the existing document cameras and overhead projectors that had been used for years with ELMO P30 XGA visual presenters and Mitsubishi XD450U high-resolution digital video projectors. The P30 is an 850,000 pixel progressive scan CCD camera that allows live image capture at a smooth 20 frames per second. Shotwell said, "The DVI output of the presenter matches the DVI input of the projector to give us an ideal combination for the high quality images we were looking for."
Shotwell was so impressed by the Mitsubishi projectors that he elected to retire all of the projectors being used throughout the district and replace them with XD460U's. Due to the overall lower cost of the projectors, the Troy district purchased additional units, raising the number of projectors they own to 185, approximately double the previous number. Shotwell was particularly impressed with the XD460U's image quality, along with its filter-free design, low fan noise and DVI connector, which is perfect for use with the ELMO P30 presenter. "Our teachers are very pleased with the overall quality and performance of both of these units," he said. The XD460U projectors are powered by Texas Instrument's DLPTM chip technology and have been designed with sealed optic engines. This advanced filter-free construction makes Mitsubishi projectors resistant to dust, dirt and other micro particles within the light path, making them a good overall value.
Shotwell demonstrated the equipment to the Troy School Board last year. First of all, he noted that the advanced technology allowed the images to be easily viewed without having to dim the room lights, saying, "The brightness and clarity is far superior to other products we reviewed." He proceeded to show how easy it is to present documents and pages from books to large groups of students; freeze images while flipping pages; zoom in for close-ups of everything from pictures to peg boards; and create snapshots of images that can be captured on SD memory cards and called up at will. Shotwell also explained how the presenter's S-Video feature enables teachers to display images on monitors and switch from computer to presenter with the touch of a button. He described how other features, such as auto focus and white balance, make it easy for teachers to display images without having to deal with focus or iris controls.
Displaying pictures to transparencies to moving images
The ELMO presenter is especially useful for displaying objects such as blocks, geoboards, geometric shapes, and the like for science or math instruction and is a powerful tool when combined with a Mitsubishi XD460U projector. Science specimens such as owl pellets and items in a beaker or petri dish can also be shown, as well as book pages, photos and other documents used in social studies, language arts, foreign language, and other instruction. Transparencies can also be easily displayed. In addition to still images, teachers can create "movies" for their presentations by storing moving images that can be played back using WindowsR Media Player.
The third component of the proposed package was the portable carts on which the presenters and projectors could be rolled into the classroom or from one room to another. Shotwell said, "They had to be large enough to hold the units yet small enough to fit down the narrow aisles that we have in many of our classrooms." The carts, presenters and projectors were assembled, put on trucks, and delivered to 23 locations in the district by City Animation. Gibson explained that all of the equipment was tested and that of approximately 360 presenters, 185 projectors and 410 sets of carts and accessories, the only problem found was one defective cable, which was easily replaced.
To help teachers get started with the new equipment, the Troy School District Technology Resource Center prepared a hand-out describing basic operating procedures. Shotwell said that the operation is so intuitive that teachers started using the presenters as soon as they were delivered. "The teacher rolls the cart into the presentation area, plugs in the power cord, points the projector at the screen and turns on the presenter."
Gibson described the excitement shown by teachers and students alike when their trucks pulled up to the various schools. "We heard teachers yelling 'The ELMOs are here' and one kindergarten student actually walked up to the presenter and said, 'Welcome to our school, ELMO'." He then began singing an Elmo song from Sesame Street.