If you’re reading this, chances are when you think of the school classroom you will recall blackboards, colourful ring-binders atop graffiti-riddled wooden desks, clunky overhead projectors and the holy grail of lessons – when the teacher wheeled out that huge TV and VCR.
Sure enough, times have changed. Being so integral to our personal lives, it is no surprise to see the central role technology is taking on in classrooms today.
This means hello interactive whiteboards, iPads, laptops and smartphones and goodbye textbooks, fountain pens and chalk.
In particular, Macs have grown in popularity and some will be surprised to learn that teachers have now embraced the use of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, finding them to be very effective teaching methods.
In short, schools have had to get with the now to stay relevant for todays’ tech-savvy students.
So how did Birmingham’s Aston University Engineering Academy (AUEA) –formerly a car park – ensure that it was DWTK? (That’s down with the kids to you and I).
Moving away from traditional styles of teaching, AUEA has embraced the concept of a ‘flipped classroom’.
Essentially, this means that students study the content at home – usually online, obvs – with homework being completed in the classroom with personal guidance from the teacher.
Located in modern, new-build premises and backed by high profile partners including Aston University and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network, AUEA aims to provide a cutting edge environment for students to learn.
AUEA’s vice-principal, Daniel Locke-Wheaton, has been heavily involved with choosing the Academy’s technology partners; “When we opened we had a fantastic opportunity to invest in our future; we had backing from our
corporate partners and a clean slate to work with. To ensure our Academy was an attractive one I knew we needed to provide our students with a modern and impressive environment to study, learn and grow in.
“As part of this project we decided to invest in a digital signage system which we saw as a vital way of communicating to our students, entertaining them in between lessons and injecting life into communal areas.”
AUEA researched the market, assessing a number of products, but the staff were most impressed by what they saw during a visit to Staffordshire University: Tripleplay.
“It was an incredibly simple to use solution, it was a business quality system and had all of the features and functions we believed we needed. When we spoke to the team at Staffordshire University we knew we had found our solution,” Daniel enthuses.
“Tripleplay was introduced to the customer via one of our channel partners who felt our solution was a good fit,” explains Tripleplay’s James Keen.
“Our exposure to the integrated AV marketplace means we are being referred-in to a number of opportunities via word of mouth. This client needed a solution for IPTV, media portal for video streaming and digital signage, so it was almost a no brainer to select Tripleplay as we are the only option who could offer a single integrated solution for all of these services.”
Tripleplay’s features include; the ability to zone and group content, create scheduled and ad-hoc playlists, flexible and easily expandable deployment, simple web based management interface and rights-based aggregated administration.
Zoning and grouping of content in particular was hugely important as the Academy’s students are separated into four ‘colleges’; Shilling, Lanchester, Hounsfield and Whittle, with each requiring its own communications messaging.
Also catching AUEA’s eye was the integrated TripleChoice Media Portal and Digital Asset Management system.
“We have a lot of staff who operate a ‘flipped classroom’ model and as an institution we use a phenomenal number of video files both in and out of the classroom,” furthers Daniel.
Indeed, the build was the first of its kind in a new approach to teaching and learning.
“Everything about the academy, from the building design to the technology, is geared around new ways of learning with 75% of staff adopting the ‘flipped classroom’ approach, making video and digital content delivery a huge part of the day to day operation of the Academy,” comments Tim Hoddy, UK sales manager, Tripleplay.
“It was a key consideration in design, something that can’t often be said for these types of tech. To be able to implement a technology that brought in new ways of learning to a cutting edge school was very exciting for us as a business.”
To provide the cutting edge technology the Academy required, the team deployed digital signage with IPTV capability across the campus – 25 screens in total.
Each zone is provided with bespoke content, the reception has information and live TV displayed, whilst the restaurant and cafe has menu choices for the week ahead.
Meanwhile the library displays learning resource information whilst screens in break out areas and student zones show important college information.
The college also has a traffic light system to advise students on acceptable use of Internet-enabled devices and technology; Red is no, Amber is only for college work and Green is yes to all.
The Academy uses the signage screens to show what status the zone is in, so during lessons a break out zone may show Amber, while at break it may switch to Green.
Interestingly, the lunch hall always stays Red, encouraging students to interact and socialise during meal times.
“We have a system whereby we actively encourage the use of technology for learning and so access to mobile devices is essential for our students,” Daniel explains.
“However, we also know the importance of social interaction and creating a disciplined, professional environment.”
Aside from this, the Tripleplay TripleChoice Media Portal is delivered to laptops and PCs across campus via the college network, giving each user individual access to live TV, uploaded and recorded content and libraries of personalised content and bookmarks.
“When we found out that the Tripleplay system could also provide a full asset management and video streaming service too it really opened our eyes to the possibilities we could realise with our chosen solution,” Daniel reflects.
In the past the Academy had distributed video files from a central server, a clumsy system that resulted in a number of duplicated items, vast use of memory and storage and limited search ability.
“Aside from the fact we can now centrally manage this content, add Meta tags for search and create our own content libraries, a key element of the impact of this solution has been the Bookmarking feature,” he continues.
“We try not to use video items of over two to three minutes as the modern student expects short, sharp and snappy content. Unfortunately, many of our video files are very long and it can take a lot of manual searching to find the section you wish to show. Using the Bookmarking feature this preparation can be done in advance of a lesson and can be accessed in seconds when delivering a lesson; we believe this alone will make a huge difference to the learning experience.”
As the Tripleplay team were deploying a video media portal solution as well as digital signage and IPTV, they had to integrate with LDAP systems, allowing staff to use their general school login to load personal profiles and rights on the TripleChoice Media Portal.
“The availability of recording and upload facility also created a need for storage space, managing this is an ongoing process, ensuring the files are encoded in the most appropriate format top deliver quality and get best use from assigned memory,” says James.
“Until the solution is in place it is very difficult to make a judgement on what you’ll need, so you almost have to adopt a trial and error methodology to get the balance right.
Since being implemented, special events such as the Paralympic Games, Winter Olympics and Remembrance Day celebrations have been broadcast at the academy using the TripleSign Digital Signage and TripleTV IPTV platform.
“The client has been very vocal about the quality of the end product,” smiles Tim.
“They like the fact it is a commercial grade solution used by global banks and football clubs as well as universities and academies; it shows AUEA in a good light and is an impressive addition to the site.”
“Technology plays a huge part in the modern world and young people more than anybody else have grown up expecting their environment to include it,” Daniel nods.
“As a forward thinking academy we have implemented technologies we believe enhance our offering and service to our people and Tripleplay has been a huge part of that.”