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Presentation Systems Focus on Interactivity

Multimedia units get presentation systems out of the A/V closet and into the classrooms

In the tech-savvy world of universal Internet access and lightning-fast laptops, the hidden trend in technology may be the rapid developments in multimedia presentation systems.

In fact, multimedia projectors — linked to tablet PC, laptop or desktop computers, digital cameras, VCRs and DVD players — are fast becoming among the “most-desired”teaching tools at the K-12 level,according to many administrators and IT specialists.

Example:“When we recently polled our teaching staff,” says Hamilton Township Public School ( Manager David Loveless, “the top two items on their wishlist were multimedia projectors and digital cameras.Thanks to the Hamilton Educational Foundation, we were able to supply our schools with cameras and multimedia projectors.”

The impact was immediate.With wireless connections to the Internet and an array of supporting interactive presentation software, teachers and students are bringing a new dimension to classes, with little training required. In fact, adds Loveless, multimedia projectors, even as they have expanded dramatically in capabilities, have reduced even more so in complexity.“ These [BenQ DS650 units] are pretty close to plug-and-play,”he says,“and they’re portable enough [under seven pounds] to carry from a classroom to science lab to auditorium, which are key reasons why we chose the units.”

Another key reason is pricing. Multimedia presentation units have now reached the affordable range. The technology, which cost about $7,000 per room just a couple of years ago, now costs under $1,500 — but with significantly more computing power. “BenQ’s two-year Xpress Xchange service and threeyear limited warranty was also a key factor in our decision,” he says.

Still, the overwhelming reason for Loveless’ choice was the way the units transform classrooms — any classroom,he adds: “The picture is so bright and the wide-angle lens is so good it allows for a larger picture from a shorter distance [The specs agree: a 60-inch image from 6.6 feet] — into interactive learning centers. “Students are jumping at the chance to use [the multimedia projectors] with their video projects.And we’re using them at school assemblies, among other places.We’re discovering different ways and places to use them.”

So are other schools.At the Oakcrest School ( in McLean,Virginia, a private Catholic girls’ school with grades 6 through 12, for example, the addition of multimedia and the concurrent upgrading of computer technology is changing the way instructors teach and the girls learn.“We are still working in this ‘new’ technology here,” says Clay Stewart, Oakcrest’s new Technology Director.

“Before we moved into our new building and upgraded the technology, the students were learning about Java on a blackboard,”he laughs,“which is not the best way to grasp its capabilities.”

Integrating multimedia projectors into the school’s curriculum — as well as linking the high-tech units to CD-ROMs and the Internet over a wireless network, adds Stewart — is the first phase of a twoyear technology plan for the school’s 170 students. In the meantime, the units do double-duty as learning aids for the classroom and as presentation vehicles for administrators.“ Everyone is figuring out how to make the most of them,” Stewart adds.

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