For Mill Valley School District just outside of San Francisco, a new take on old technology is proving to bring students and teachers into the world of the latest high tech.
First, a primer on some terms:
Extreme short-throw projector: this is a projector that is placed close to the wall, even as close as 22-inches, that can create a large image, over five feet, measured diagonally. The closeness of the projector and wall eliminate distracting shadows on a screen or white board, whether mounted on a wall, ceiling or as a desktop model. Teachers can move in front of the image without creating distracting shadows on the screen.
Interactivity: in the old days, interactivity meant that a student would go to the blackboard with a piece of chalk, write something, and the teacher would correct it. Nowadays, students and teachers can collaborate on an electronic board or handheld display and draw, write, or modify together, in color, and save the work for future reference.BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): the latest classroom trend—in our ever-connected world, students and teachers bring their tablets and smart phones to class, using them to access the Internet, show files and photos, and share information in the classroom setting.Apple TV®: a digital media receiver developed and sold by Apple Inc., designed to play digital content like lessons, music, movies and video clips in classrooms.
HDMI® (High-Definition Multimedia Interface): a compact audio/video interface for transferring video and audio data from a source device to a display like a computer monitor, video projector, or digital television. HDMI is a digital replacement for existing analog video standards.
Tim Ryan, director of maintenance and operations with at the Mill Valley School District, faced a daunting challenge from their teachers: they had been using projectors that weren’t quite right…yes, they worked, but there were issues that made things just a little bit more difficult.
“With the projectors we already had, the feedback we received was that the image was too small, the projector had to be on when using the speakers, and teachers were tethered to the front of the room—they wanted freedom to move around the classroom. Solving those problems was our primary goal,” Ryan said.
When the District was were ready to modernize its classrooms, it looked to a mirror-less solution from several vendors including Mitsubishi Electric's WD380U-EST extreme short-throw projector, which created a large, vivid image in the classroom.
“The teachers were really impressed with the size and clarity of the image, even though it was so close to the screen,” Ryan said.
The next issue they tackled related to the speakers contained in the old projectors. The teachers complained that they had to keep their old projectors running in order to use the speakers, so a static image or white screen and fan noise would disrupt their teaching when they simply needed the speaker.
Ryan said, “This was a huge issue for our teachers—they didn’t want the projector to stay on if they weren’t using it. This is especially important for our lower grades, which have a lot of music as a part of their curricula.”
The WD380U-EST has what industry-insiders call a “pass through” meaning that its high-powered, built-in 10-watt speaker has a variable audio output, so when the projector is on, or even in stand-by mode, the speaker can still be used.
“Now we can use a self-powered speaker with the potential for a lavaliere microphone, without the lamp on. That makes our teachers happy, which makes us happy. And it saves on lamp hours, too,” Ryan added.
The teachers also wanted a device that is simple to connect and easy to use.
“Our school district uses Apple TV, which works best with an HDMI connection, and our last projectors didn’t have HDMI as an option,” lamented Ryan. “It was another important criterion we wanted in our new projectors.”
With a plug-and-play connection, when the projector is connected to AppleTV, and its content is displayed through the new Mitsubishi WD380U-EST, students and teachers can connect to the projector wirelessly and display whatever is on their iPads®, computers or Smart Phones.
“It’s really easy for teachers and students to connect to Apple TV and the projector,” added Ryan. “The interface is simple and intuitive, and it didn’t take a lot of training to get everyone up and running.”
This option also places interactivity into teachers and students’ hands anywhere in the classroom, instead of in front.
“We’ve been very happy with the whole experience,” said Ryan. "Our local vendor at D&D Security helped raise the bar in our classroom technology with Mitsubishi.”