Almost everyone has heard the term convergence — the result of several technologies merging into one box. This phenomenon is affecting the model classroom more than ever. New classroom technology products are easy to manage and user-friendly, and will have a significant effect on student learning while improving the bottom line. Some examples:

  • Digital content systems

    These allow education institutions to eliminate centralized libraries of VHS tapes, laserdiscs and DVDs. Several companies have made it possible to have digital libraries containing thousands of videos of history, science or math that are accessible via the data network to every workstation. This system provides access to all videos simultaneously into a classroom without the need for scheduling. In addition, videos can be incorporated into classroom presentations. This means that teachers no longer have to cart equipment into classrooms. Schools also can acquire empty servers that enable them to store and access their personally authored digital video content.

  • High-resolution displays

    Because digital content is readily available, many education institutions have switched to high-resolution data projectors as permanent classroom fixtures. Data projectors provide a larger image in the classroom, and they are connected directly to teachers' computers so they can access digital content; this eliminates the need for video scan converters. Plasma and LCD displays are an alternative to data projectors. They too can be directly connected to a PC and can provide a sharper and larger image than standard TV monitors. This also eliminates the budget for replacement bulbs. If a school chooses high-resolution data projectors for instructional areas, plasma and LCD displays still have their place in conference rooms, lecture rooms and common areas.

  • Tablet monitors and wireless tablets

    Tablet monitors and wireless tablets allow a teacher to use the projector and an electronic pen. Tablet monitors and wireless tablets are an alternative to interactive whiteboards. Some tablet models use wireless technology, which gives the teacher freedom to walk around the room while using the tablet.

  • Digital streaming systems

    A digital streaming system takes analog video and audio signals, and streams them over the data network via an IP stream. The result is simple: With the proper software installed on all administrative and classroom computers, a digital streaming system allows every computer to view selected content from digital servers.

    Many schools are leaning toward data projectors, and digital streaming systems allow cable channels to be streamed via IP to every computer on a network. This convergence eliminates the need for RF equipment and RF cabling.

  • Single-point control systems

    Adding an all-in-one remote control and a single-point infrared system simplifies classroom equipment even more. Single-point infrared systems allow a teacher to point at a location near the screen and control all of the functions of the classroom equipment, such as turning the projector on and off, and selecting different inputs.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at bday@kbdplanning.com. www.kbdplanning.com