Summer Break Upgrade: Prioritizing Classroom Tech for the New School Year

School might be out for summer, but faculty & administrators know their work is far from done. There are campuses to prep, supplies to order, classrooms to organize and curriculums to design.

For schools looking to ace their summer prep, now is the time to consider integrating collaboration technology into their classrooms. With most institutions’ fiscal years beginning on July 1, administrators are building their budgets – which means it’s the right time to request increased funding for new technology, or apply for grants to fund new AV equipment.

The US Department of Education reports that during the 22-23 school year, nearly all public schools surveyed – 96% – provided students with digital devices to make learning easier both in the classroom and at home. Improved technology in the classroom can act as an extension of those devices, ensuring a consistent experience whether a student is in the classroom or participating remotely.

Education technology is a topic near and dear to RoomReady, and that’s why we put so much effort into helping schools find the right solutions, and the funding, to improve education through AV. Here’s a closer look at how we got started in education, and how our technology can help you transform your classroom.

It runs in the family

RoomReady customers know the McArdles – Aaron, our Founder & CEO; Phil, an account executive; and Jay, former COO. But there’s one McArdle you might not know: Brent, their dad.

Before retirement, Brent was the superintendent at the school district in Lexington, Illinois. – a rural community about 30 minutes outside of Bloomington-Normal, home to RoomReady’s headquarters. One aspect of working in a small, rural district meant that administrations had to work with less funding, often impacting students’ access to coursework outside their core curriculum. Brent became well-versed in writing grant applications to make up the difference.

As video collaboration became more accessible in the 2010’s, Brent’s experience with grant writing and network of educational professionals helped RoomReady enter the education technology space, while also expanding educational opportunities for students in those smaller districts.

The RoomReady Distance Learning Program came to life as Brent helped schools apply for USDA funding for rural school districts to install AV systems in conference rooms and classrooms. The installation of video collaboration systems in classrooms allowed students in small K-12 districts to remotely participate in classes at Bloomington-Normal’s larger school districts. Through this program, a high school student could now fulfill AP requirements, and further explore their educational interests, without the district having to hire part-time instructors.

When the pandemic arrived in 2020, classroom interactivity between remote and in-person learners went from nice-to-have to need-to-have.

What the hybrid classroom looks like

One of our first pandemic-era projects took place at the United Nations International School in New York City, launching in Summer 2020. The school, which serves 1,500 students across Manhattan and Queens, wanted AV technology that would both assist in remote learning – as the school tried to manage uncertainty in the first pandemic summer – and grow with the school as education returned to normal. It also needed a solution that would fit with its existing laptops and smartboards.

Working with managed service provider WPG, we equipped the school with mobile carts that supported 55-inch displays, allowing educators to see all students both in the classroom and participating virtually. We also integrated 29 Poly X30 and 131 Poly X50 all-in-one bars (depending on the size of the room), each equipped with a speaker-tracking microphone and camera. Taken together, these new technologies ensured all students could see, hear and interact with their classmates as if they were in the same room. And bonus – we installed the technology for 150 classrooms in just three weeks. You can read the whole story here.

Video collaboration in higher education

The emergence of online learning in higher education started long before the pandemic, but not necessarily with the adoption of video meeting platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Higher education had begun to explore online learning, but the pandemic accelerated the process.

Before I came to work with RoomReady in 2021, I worked at a small private college as a Head Coach, Athletics Administrator, and a lecturer. I saw the evolution firsthand in the spring of 2020 and had to adapt quickly to using Zoom to communicate with my players and students. The rest of the 2020 school year was a bit of a blur of video meetings, “you’re on mute” and technical difficulties.

Fast forward a few years, and I am blown away by the capabilities of AV technology in the classroom. AV technology has the power to create equitable learning experiences for students both in the classroom or online. Many of the advances in AV technology come from the guidance of ADA requirements, and the need to serve students of all abilities. We have seen the emergence of real-time closed captions, advancements in assistive listening devices, lecture halls become equipped with multiple cameras, AI technology that can automatically track and frame the instructor and the audience, and so many other functionalities.

Don’t flunk the tech exam

Just as much of the workforce has embraced remote working, hybrid learning will still be an important component of the educational experience post-COVID. It’s important for administrators and educators to explore AV solutions that can make these remote interactions as close to the in-person experience as possible, while also providing equitable experiences for students.

If you’re searching 23-24 school year funding, take a look at these grant resources from the Department of Education – specifically if you’re a rural district. And reach out to RoomReady! We’re always happy to help you explore the costs and benefits of classroom AV technology.