Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Integrated Voice/video/data System Puts Indiana Prairie Schools on Leading Edge

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Integrated Voice/video/data System Puts Indiana Prairie Schools on Leading Edge

Article excerpt

Prairie Vista Elementary, part of the Peno-Harris-Madison School Corporation, nestles amidst native grasses, a lake and even a little house on the prairie" in Granger, Indiana, near South Bend. This idyllic, 40-acre setting is also home to a Classroom of the 21 st Century.

Behind a window off the main entrance is the school's Instructional Materials Center (IMC) in which computers, telecommunications equipment, banks of fiber optics, amplifiers and switchers, and a variety of instructional media hardware come together to form the basis for an Integrated Information System (IIS). This IIS allows teachers to easily utilize all of the center's sophisticated tools. Through video, audio and data links, the classroom becomes an extension of not only the school's media center, but of a network of information sources that span the globe.

The IIS also coordinates signals for computerized physical plant operations--energy management, telephones, safety and security.

* Design Criteria

Developing the instructional goals of the IIS was assigned to Richard Hardt, formerly the director of planning at Penn-Harris-Madison and now in private practice.

"We determined that there had to be an integration between voice, video and data processing systems," he says. The telephone assumed new importance as its fiber-optic cabling allowed access to video programming in addition to the usual voice and data signals.

Hardt's final proposal included a fiber optic-based signal distribution system, open-architecture building design and cost-effective operation in both a large (460,000 sq. ft.) school like Penn High and in a small one (67,000 sq. ft.) like Prairie Vista Elementary.

"Educators designed the system to suit their needs" explains Dynacom vice president, Tim Beekman. "It was not done by consultants with something to sell." His firm, Dynacom, of Mishawaka, Ind., designed and built the system-control and event-programming packages.

In designing the system, the following criteria were used:

* Allow the teacher total control of the media output only;

* Keep source machines and source media out of the classroom;

* Design the system to last, (a combination of fiber optic and copper cable helped balance cost with utility needs);

* Keep its architecture open to allow for growth and change;

* Make it easy to learn with standardized controls;

* Make telephones abuse-proof, (they allow dialing of only "approved" numbers); and

* Let the teachers request the information and services-the what, where and when-but let the computer determine the technical method of how.

* The Final Look

Prairie Vista's IMC serves as the hub of the entire voice/video/data system. It houses the controlling equipment, video and voice switches, fiber-optic distribution point, system controller, source-machine controller and all of the input devices. It is connected to each classroom through a riser system of fiber-optic cable and three four-pair copper cables.

An AT&T System 75 serves as the telephone system for the entire school corporation (12 buildings) with a Merlin phone system for Prairie Vista Elementary. That combination provides the flexible base of the distributive data system.

Exceptionally demanding were the system's requirements of being able to pass any signal type, grow to any size, and be controlled by an outside computer. The video and audio source-to-classroom selections into the fiber-optic distribution network are accomplished by a Dynasty HDTV routing switch from Dynair of San Diego, Calif. Penn High's audio/video matrix is 40 inputs x 150 outputs; Prairie Vista's is 20 inputs x 40 outputs.

Each classroom has a locking wall box that contains a telephone; voice, video and data connectors; and an easy-to-read control panel that gives teachers push-button access to all types of source machines. …

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