Advanced Media Technology Prepares Elementary Students for 21st Century

When University Elementary School went through the planning, building and equipping of its new facility, everyone was in total agreement on two basic issues. According to Principal Alice 'estreich, "The faculty and administration wanted a school that would help prepare our children to be citizens of the next century. Paper and pencil teaching is no longer sufficient. "Advanced media technology is the future," she continues, "and we must offer our children the opportunity to learn about and become comfortable with this equipment. Additionally, since we knew there will not be another new school to replace this one for a long time, the technological systems we chose needed to be both state-of-the-art and capable of growing as new advancements become available. " A technology committee comprised of teachers and administrators met once a week for a year, visiting media fairs and other schools to evaluate a variety of programs and systems. This committee worked together with consultants and architects to design a technological vision for the school -- a vision that included advanced communication and information management. New Learning Environments The system University Elementary School chose to manage and control its media equipment is Synergy Electronic Classroom Systems, designed by AMX Corp. in Dallas, Texas. "This system," according to the school's media specialist, Karen Boswell, "has created a multimedia learning environment that is exciting for the students, manageable for the teachers, and cost and time effective for me and the school." The automated media retrieval and management system is delivered via broadband. All the school's media source equipment -- VCRs, videodisc players, cable and broadcast feeds, etc., plus all media titles -- are located in a room connected to the library. The Synergy Media Distribution System transmits videos and videodisc programs, television broadcasts, closed-circuit broadcasts and more to monitors mounted in each classroom. The Synergy System's scheduling program provides a computer cue that indicates what title to load, what equipment to use and which classroom should receive the transmission. To eliminate wear and tear on any one piece of equipment, the computer even selects equipment based on when it was last used. Transmissions can play automatically or be controlled by the teacher via a remote unit. Programs can be presented to selected classrooms or displayed throughout the school. No More Conflicts "The benefits of the system," Karen Boswell continues, "are extraordinary. We no longer have to push VCRs and televisions on carts up and down the halls; we no longer have scheduling conflicts; we have eliminated loss and damage; and we are making so much better use of our multimedia collection. "I used to spend a good deal of my time scheduling who could have what and when and resolving the obvious conflicts that occur when there is only a limited amount of equipment. I also spent too much time looking for missing videos and arranging for repairs on damaged equipment. With the Synergy System, nothing leaves the media center, so equipment is not getting damaged and media programs are not getting lost. There is definitely an increased use of our media resources," she notes. "Teachers are willing to show more and shorter videos now, because there is no hassle. They are exploring new ways to integrate distance learning and team teaching into their curriculum. We are also in the process of creating a database of our titles [that] will allow teachers to search for titles using subject and key words." Finally, the school received excellent technical support and training from the local AMX dealer, an important factor according to principal 'estreich. Infinite Possibilities Both principal and media specialist agree that they have only begun to explore the infinite possibilities available with Synergy. " States 'estreich, "We realize that our system will grow and expand. We had the vision; we had the dream; and now we have the framework to keep abreast of advancing technology." Overall, the principal is very pleased with the investment made. "Although we know that we have only touched the surface of what Synergy can provide, we are very pleased with how much we have learned and how much the system has been welcomed and embraced by our faculty. "Perhaps the best example of the thrill of this system occurred during NASA's last shuttle launch," she says. "At the appropriate hour, all monitors went on throughout the school and, for the first time, teachers, students and staff were able to view this historic event as it happened. It was an exciting moment. Modern technology had truly brought the world to the classroom."

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.