Jun 30 2021

ISTELive 21: The Classroom and AV Design Trends Emerging from Pandemic Learning

2020 may have been the year of the couch as a classroom, but advances in audiovisual adoption will impact learning space design well into the future.

Laptops and online collaboration dominated the learning space last year, but key audiovisual adoption trends are likely to carry over into the future, said Mike Peters, an educational strategy lead for CDW•G.

“Prior to the spring of 2020, when we had this conversation around the modernization of learning spaces and how 21st-century classrooms were changing and adapting to doing things in a new way, we kept talking about the fact that we were really trying to create and foster an environment for students who are going to be having these jobs that don’t exist yet,” Peters said during a presentation Tuesday at the all-virtual ISTELive 21 conference. “And I still think that’s the case.”

The presentation, titled “Past, Present, and Future: Classroom and AV Design Trends and Lessons Learned,” examined opportunities for IT leaders and educators to update their classroom technology to support the future of learning.

FREE RESOURCE: Find powerful tech solutions to support the future of learning in K–12 education.

The Focus of the Mission Evolves, Again

Peters pointed out that while educators are still committed to preparing students for an undefined future, the pandemic also significantly impacted how their postsecondary education will be delivered.

“I think the other piece that really fundamentally changed in the past year is that not only are we preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet, we are also needing to prepare students for a different ways and modalities and types of teaching that they haven’t been exposed to until this past year,” Peters said. “We know higher education is further adopting these remote and hybrid strategies to deliver education and will be moving forward. We need to make sure we’re preparing students for them.”

One example? The rising use of nontraditional space that, while seen predominantly in higher education, is making its way into the K–12 learning environment. Think video walls, microphones and flexible seating in spaces that can be adapted for larger or smaller group collaboration.

“We need to start to adapt to not just the remote student but the hybrid student for class technique and how we design these classroom spaces,” he added.

The Current Landscape of Ed Tech Solutions

Peters said it appears the intention is to bring students back into the classroom wherever possible, with the expectation that there will be opportunities to reach remote students and adapt to a hybrid population as well. To achieve meaningful learning environments for a variety of students, schools’ AV solutions will become more important, especially for districts that haven’t refreshed their classroom spaces. IT leaders should consider laser projectors, lampless projectors and interactive flat panels when updating their classrooms.

“We are seeing a large shift toward interactive panels,” said Peters.

Peters also offered a warning for anyone thinking about commercial displays: Large-screen televisions are not the best solution, he said, because they are not specifically designed for classroom use. As a result, schools can encounter lifespan and warranty issues with these devices.

Plus, when it comes to 4K displays and adoption, there’s a lack of 4K content for K–12 education. In the event that content does become available, schools should consider network bandwidth, as the amount of data being transferred increases significantly with 4K.

Interactive panels, on the other hand, are built for classroom use. A recent report found that 52 percent of teachers chose interactive panels as their most-used classroom tools. Peters noted that 75-inch panels seem to be the “sweet spot” for most schools.

EXPLORE: Promethean releases product enhancements for K–12 classrooms.

The past year also brought wireless casting and AV carts to the forefront of classroom design. These elements are likely to remain as popular options for IT teams and educators.

“When the majority of our students were at home, cart solutions worked well, and what we’ve seen is a desire to continue this,” Peters said. “You’re able to pivot on the fly and move them around, and you’re able to quickly stand up a videoconferencing solution.”

Wireless collaboration tools will continue to play an important role as students come back to in-person learning. “Wireless casting is a huge consideration,” said Peters. “As we are coming back into the environment, after we’ve been trained to wash our hands and minimize touch, wireless casting promotes healthy behaviors.”

The Future Is Remote — and Hybrid

Peters noted the hybrid and remote trend accelerated the adoption of videoconferencing as a realistic learning tool. He also pointed out the importance of students embracing the technology now. “In the higher ed space, this is not going away,” Peters said. “They are actively designing their classrooms to support videoconferencing.”

Another trend emerging in response to the pandemic are lecture spaces that allow teachers to connect with students on a personal level, even when teaching remotely. This could bolster much-needed social-emotional learning in the K–12 environment.

MORE FROM ISTELIVE 21: Listen as two educators discuss digital equity and social-emotional learning.

Peters explained that this personal connection is possible with smaller room setups that are outfitted with technologies to support the classroom space. These technologies allow teachers to have a line of sight with all the students.

Curious about other emerging trends? Look for items like e-glass, a collaboration tool that allows presenters to write on a clear plane of glass and have the content automatically flipped to display for viewers. Video walls for media and communal spaces will also increase in popularity, along with networking solutions like AV over IP and digital signage.

“There are a number of solutions out there,” Peters said. Ultimately, “we are all trying to drive toward more collaboration in our classroom spaces.”

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