Integrating Technology and Space

Put IT There

Integrating Technology

PHOTO COURTESY OF SMARTdesks

Well-designed learning spaces are paramount to the college campus. But it’s not just the Apple TVs, Chromebooks and iPads that make up the educational environment. The often-overlooked components that charge, support and store technology — namely, audio/visual lecterns, charging carts, and various types of mounts — are just as important to ensure classroom success and boost learning potential.

Robust and Resilient

Lecterns, carts and mounts are required to endure much abuse due to movement and the touch of countless hands throughout their life cycle. Selecting products that can withstand stress and, at times, misuse is a very significant consideration for the higher education market. “You have multiple generations of students and professionals using these products,” says Jeffrey Korber, president of SMARTdesks. “They aren’t always conscious about the fact that they may be mishandling the products.”

Aside from being strong enough to handle repeated stress over the course of years, cabinets and carts also must protect the tablets that are stored within them. Well-padded slots prevent jostling and shock to expensive devices when they are in transit. High-pressure laminate and welded edges are recommended for many school-oriented items because they withstand stress and edges don’t pop off easily and yet provide a professional, clean appearance wherever they are used.

Carts that tote tablets and other devices between locations can become heavy once they are fully loaded. Scott Dorn, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Spectrum Industries, says, “Heavy-gauge steel handles ensure durability and allow a firm grip when moving the carts. One of the most commonly overlooked aspects is the type of caster or wheel used. Since mobility is the key, having a high-quality, reliable wheel that can handle the weight and movement is important. Look for a tapered wheel that reduces effort needed to move the cart by reducing the surface area contacting the floor.”

Display mounts need to be reliable to ensure long-term use, but adjusting knobs or levers may cause problems when users are continually tweaking the positioning. “Not everyone knows the right way to adjust the product, and in the end the mount may not work correctly. It’s important to have mounts that work properly throughout the product’s entire life cycle,” says Jim Ford, manager of corporate product management at Southco.

Flexibility and Ergonomics

Supportive products should offer ease of use but also allow for an open flow to a classroom or lecture hall. In fact, they should function as if they aren’t even there. “There should be minimal obstruction to the students’ line of sight,” says Korber. “No one in the class should be hindered from seeing important information.”

Another capability that Korber points out is that lecterns, carts and mounts should be adaptable enough to be moved into multiple arrangements quickly instead of remaining static in the room, which is very handy when these items are used in different learning environments. “It’s great to always have options,” Korber says.

Integrating Technology

PHOTO COURTESY OF SPECTRUM INDUSTRIES, INC.

TAKE A STAND. A variety of designs and options are available for lecterns, so take the time to determine your needs, as one size may not fit all. A height-adjustable worksurface allows presenters to sit or stand comfortably. Features such as monitor arms, keyboard trays, built-in power strips and retractable cord reels facilitate technology. Good ventilation prevents equipment from overheating, and locking doors can provide both easy access and security.

A key feature of these products, especially lecterns, is to ensure that they can be adjusted easily to accommodate individuals of different heights and physical abilities. Frank Kolavo, president of Computer Comforts, has seen lecterns evolve from bulky cabinets to modernized furniture components that offer a range of features. “Adjustable lecterns allow for faculty members to sit in chairs while prepping for classes. These lecterns also meet ADA compliance,” he explains. Additionally, lecterns with multiple functions like pullout drawers that hold projection equipment and document cameras and flip-up shelves and side tables for added work space improve the overall learning experience, yet keep areas tidy.

Seeking a solution to a particular problem can help match users to the product that best meets their needs. Ford says, “A mount used on a standalone podium has different functionality than one in a biology lab. The podium may only need a tilt-positioning mount to allow for people of different heights to use it. For lab use, there is typically a need for a mount’s arm to have the flexibility to move back and forth.”

Other Considerations

Kolavo has worked closely with the California State University and the University of Texas to help these institutions determine the lecterns that best fit their needs. He says, “Ease of use is a big factor for faculty members. They don’t want to be trained on how to use products. They expect to walk into the classroom and have a user-friendly lectern available.”

After touring classrooms and observing the setups at different schools, Tim Schnabel, director of education programs at Extron, addressed the fact that the overall environment is as important as the technology used in teaching. He says, “Spending money on technology isn’t going to do much for learning because a holistic view of the classroom is needed. Taking an aggregated approach will improve the overall environment and the components that go with the technology. The carts and other supportive items are just as important and cannot be overlooked.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Karen Spring has been a technical writer for more than 10 years. She began her career working as a marketing specialist for two computer distributors and as a senior editor for an IT publishing and consulting firm. Ms. Spring contributes to a weekly newsletter that highlights network and Internet security topics.

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