Friday, April 22, 2005

AV in Schools: What good is it if they don't know how to use it?

Recently, I spoke at a local university's technology show and I was amazed at how much AV technology the campus actually had. It was everywhere. Not only were their large screen displays in virtually all the classrooms, meeting rooms and lecture halls, but there were 25 projectors and plasmas in the cafeteria! We've finally hit the big time!

But, there's a catch. Even with all that AV gear all over campus, most of the instructors didn't know how to use much of it. No one could quite get the document camera to display on the projector without calling an AV technician. Sure, if all they wanted to do is connect up their laptop to the projector in the ceiling of every classroom, they could figure that out. But, introduce any sort of extra signal routing or a problem with the picture and, again, enter the AV technician.

It all started in the 1980s when Apple virtually gave away Macs to schools by the hundreds of thousands. Almost every school got at least one. Then, the districts seem to instantly fall in love with them and buy hundreds more. Within eight years of the first Mac hitting the first elementary school in Southern California, the Apple moniker became just that.

But, no training. Sure, theoretically the Apple operating system was easy enough that just about anyone could learn it on his or her own with virtually no training. And, eventually schools hired media center directors to be in charge of the Mac distribution – thus the training.

But, the cold, hard fact was that they went underutilized and then obsolete before their potential was ever realized. No real training was ever offered in most cases.

Then, the PC came out with Windows. It, too, followed the same pattern but this time was almost impossible to figure out without a college degree in computer science.

Then came the laser disc player and a library of educational laser-based content.

Then came a host of other technological gear and software that was well-meaning, but difficult to use. Thousands of titles. All cheap, readily available, and ultimately better understood by the pupil than the teacher. Why? No training.

Now, here we go again. We’re seeing projection technology and all sorts of other AV gear appearing in the classroom – with little of no training attached. Of course, it’s blamed on budgets – everything seems to be: "We don’t have the budget for both the gear and the comprehensive training for everyone to know how to use it." – the story always goes.

And in many cases, it is somewhat budget-related. Everyone in the educational field knows that budgets are being squeezed more than ever, and this does cause one to pit one against the other.

But, enough is enough. The computer can be used for much more than it’s being used for now. We all know that. And, so can the projector. It’s not just for PowerPoint presentations and browsing the Internet. In fact, it’s imperative that we integrate AV-based and interactive technologies into every element of the schools or we’ll have a generation of kids that can’t pay attention and are bored – although it will probably be blamed on ADD (attention deficit disorder). And why shouldn’t they be bored? Look how much technology has changed the way we all work and interact in both our everyday personal and professional lives. Yet, school is taught virtually the same way it was since I was there – 20 years ago – heck, since my dad was there – 48 years ago. And, we’re not talking just elementary, middle and high school – college too.

Sure, we’ve added PowerPoint, PDFs and even fancy Web browsing to the curriculum, but can we all agree that someone who’s got a GameBoy with them in their backpack is going to be bored in virtually any lecture-style course?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Demand training. Don’t buy so much technology – buy some training. Yes, a self-proclaimed technologist just said, "don’t buy so much technology." Get trained on harnessing the power you already have lying around campus before asking for more. More isn’t always better.

OK, I admit this is an oversimplified solution or, more accurately, a soapbox. But, I’m working my end of the deal too. I have been demanding, for years, that manufacturers include some baseline training in their products sold through to the educational markets. I’m making progress, but it’s far from a solution.

But, you have to start somewhere.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Electrograph Acquired

Electrograph parent company Manchester Technologies was acquired today by New York-based Caxton-Iseman Capital. It was a cash deal valued at approximately $56 million. Manchester shareholders receive $6.40 per share in cash. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2005.

Electrograph will become a private company doing business as Electrograph Systems, Inc. Alan Marc Smith becomes CEO. Smith is the former president and CEO of Westcon Group, Inc., and is an investor in the acquisition. Sam Taylor, president of Electrograph, will remain in his position and will also invest in the transaction.

Electrograph, a premier value-added distributor of Pro and high-end HomeAV equipment, was founded in 1982.

Sam Taylor said: "This transaction with Caxton-Iseman is a positive development for Electrograph, and our vendors, customers and employees. Under new ownership we will continue our tradition of value-added distribution for our customers. Electrograph will offer the best selection of large format displays and associated peripherals as well as the highest level of service and support in our industry. Concurrently, we will actively pursue new ways to add value for our business partners."

According to the announcement, Alan Marc Smith was CEO of Westcon Group, Inc. from 2001 to 2004, during which time he oversaw the growth of the company from $200 million in revenues to more than $2 billion, and from 120 employees to more than 1,200. As CEO he managed eight acquisitions and 24 subsidiary integrations in 16 countries. Smith served as executive vice president and COO of Westcon Group from 1998-2001 and director of business development and planning from 1997 to 1998.

Other holdings of Caxton-Iseman Capital, Inc. include Ply Gem, a company that makes vinyl siding, windows, patio doors, fencing, railing, decking and accessories for home construction, and Anteon International Corp, an IT technology provider. Caxton-Iseman also owned Buffets Inc. as of mid 2004.

Monday, April 11, 2005

That's Entertainment

Someone posted the following as a comment on my NSCA wrapup article. It's WELL worth a look. Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...
see the christie booth sprinkler video here:

Do you Bridgit?

Whether you’re working with people across the street or across the country, you can conference quickly and easily with Smart Technology's Bridgit software. You can work on a document, revise a spreadsheet or give technical assistance – all in real time, right from your desk.

Bridgit software takes the clutter out of conferencing. You just give your conference a name, invite your participants and go. You don’t need to book in advance or upload files. Your participants don’t need to have used the software before. All they need is a PC and an Internet connection.

It’s About Time!!!

Bridgit software helps you get things done. In less than a minute, you can respond to a client, get feedback from colleagues or follow up with a sales prospect. Instead of waiting to deliver documents, you can show information right from your computer screen. Writing tools and webcam support help you understand each other quickly.

This BLOWS AWAY WebEx and all the over-bloated, over-engineered Internet-based web conferencing software. Bridgit is all you really need for over 95% of those applications and UNLIKE ALL OF THE OTHERS, it's simple to use and works 100% of the time.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Breakout Products are Hard to Find These Days

But I found one. DayView Glass, distributed by Pro Display USA, is one such breakthrough product. It is actually a film placed over any glass, such as a window, which can be used as a rear or front projection screen. When not in use, you can make the window clear (with no noticeable change to the window) or opaque for privacy.

Now, this new technology is breakthrough because you can put it on the windows of a fishbowl conference room, in any window that separates two rooms, anywhere there is glass.

But what really makes this breakthrough is the imagination of the company CEO, Angelo Skiparnias, who foresees all kinds of new ways dealers can sell this technology. One recent installation at a retail store is a good example of creative advertising using this new technology. As a shopper passes by the retail store window, a sensor “wakes up” the projector and screen. Audio comes on saying hello, and stopping the shopper, who is then presented with a short video advertising a specific product. At the end of the video, the window clears to show the actual product in the retail store window display. You can do this with clothes, jewelry, food, cars – anything at all.

Another consideration with this technology is that the size of the image is only limited by the size of the glass. That means you can project huge indoor or outdoor displays. Now, we’re talking sports arenas, marinas, hotels, convention centers – even the entire sides of buildings.

Pretty creative. But the best example is a concept Angelo explained of making an entire building disappear. Let's say you have a building that has the Hollywood Hills and Hollywood sign as the backdrop. Using a few image captures, projectors and this new DayView glass, you could project the background onto the foreground and voila, the building now looks like it blends into the surroundings.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sanyo's 16:9 4000 ANSI lumens projector is AWESOME!

My new favorite projector is the ultimate cross-over projector, in my opinion. Sanyo's new PLV-WF10 is the industry's first, bright 16:9 projector that's affordable. At under $13,000, this 4K lumen native 720p LCD projector is PERFECT for boardroom, conference room, large venue and even home cinema applications.

It's about time!

There are thousands of applications out there where the need for a bright, 16:9 aspect ratio projector is required. What's taken the projector market so long to get us here? Well, I'm not going to worry any longer about that and will recommend the new Sanyo PLV-WF10 to anyone and everyone who asks.