Magazine article Technology & Learning

Sharing Multimedia Resources - without the Hassle

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Sharing Multimedia Resources - without the Hassle

Article excerpt

Now you can display everything from videos stored in the school's central library to student-produced news shows and announcements on a wall-mounted TV screen in your classroom

When it comes to using video technology in the classroom, most teachers would agree on one thing: Getting there is definitely not half the fun. Merely procuring the appropriate equipment when it's needed can often be a formidable task. Since VCRs, videodisc players, and other pieces of video hardware are typically shared among several classrooms, teachers must remember to reserve them well in advance. Assuming the equipment is available on the desired day and at the desired hour, transporting it to the classroom frequently means a precarious trek down long and crowded hallways, up or down stairs, and through narrow doorways. Once in the room, the system must be connected and plugged in and the desired video must be located and loaded.

Things usually go smoothly from this point on. There are, however, those occasional days when the only response to repeated pushes on the "Play" button--and every other button, for that matter--is a screen filled with a raging snowstorm and a room filled with the chafing hiss of television static and the theatrical groans of impatient students. And, invariably, there is no one in the entire school who is harder to track down during this dilemma than a staff member who is well-versed in the vagaries of wayward video systems.

Moments like these make one wish for a magic wand that could be waved at the front of the room to produce a complete set of video equipment pre-loaded with the desired program. With a second wave of the wand, the tape would start and play flawlessly until the teacher commanded it to stop. At the end of the day, the teacher would merely wave the magic wand and the video equipment would return itself to the media center.

Enter the Media Management System

Recent technology most commonly known as the media management system appears to be the closest thing yet to the fulfillment of this fantasy. While such systems don't yet include a magic wand, they do use a remote control device that gives teachers a high degree of control over a wide range of multimedia technology--all without having to cart equipment in and out of the classroom.

The remote control is the most visible component of a comprehensive communications product designed to allow teachers to integrate video resources into their classes without physically managing the necessary hardware and software. Media management systems deliver multimedia resources from a centrally located control unit that can incorporate hardware ranging from slide and film projectors, VCRs, and audio tape decks to videodisc players and CD-ROM drives. Some systems can also integrate educational and distance learning programming offered over cable TV and satellite networks.

Teachers use either a personal computer or a voice prompting system via a classroom telephone to schedule media resources incorporated into the media management system. These requests are transmitted to a media scheduling computer built into the system's control rack. After the requested materials have been loaded by a media center technician, the scheduling computer delivers them at the desired time via a school-wide cabling system to a video monitor permanently mounted on a wall in the classroom.

The hand-held remote control device (or a wall-mounted touch-tone panel) allows the teacher to control the flow of the media presentation. …

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