TechDecisions spoke with Mike Kilian of Mvix about how digital signage is being utilized in K-12 schools, both inside and outside the classroom.
TD: Typically who is the champion of bringing digital signage solutions into K-12 environments?
MK: Champions vary depending on the level of the school or district that we’re working with.
At the school level it’s typically the principal. These are typically projects that the principals create or that they are behind 100 percent and have conceptualized on their own.
At the district level the champion is typically the IT staff or the director of a specific department. Case in point would be a digital menu board campaign across the district cafeterias – the digital signage champion here is the food service director or a health and nutrition director.
When we look at the district level, oftentimes the staff becomes a bit more collaborative, the source ideas for the project are a little more collaborative, and there’s typically more than one stakeholder.
TD: How is digital signage being used within the classroom?
MK: There are three main purposes for digital signage within the classroom in today’s environment.
The first is to allow better planning of lessons and learning material, and ultimately better execution of those lessons and learning material. The goal is for a teacher or staff member to use digital signage to constantly keep upcoming lesson plans, learning objectives, assignments and goals in front of the students so that they’re consistently seeing what’s next on the agenda to learn. That ties in, to some degree, with the instant gratification that this generation expects.
The second is collaborative learning, and this could be learning from a group perspective or collaborative teaching. The concept here is leveraging different tools (usually web-based applications) to allow children to team up and either present with other students or learn as a group. These tools include Google Docs, YouTube, and are just a variety of ways that digital signage can be used in a collaborative environment. Some schools are getting even more creative and using the technology to take students on virtual road trips.
The third way K-12 digital signage can be used is to bridge the generation gap between today’s kids and teachers. A lot of today’s teachers weren’t necessarily raised next to or as part of the millennial generation. For them, this is a matter of trying to transition away from some of the older teaching methods that aren’t digitally rooted, and doing that in a way that relates to today’s tech-savvy generation. These kids grew up around technology and expect that the majority of their day is going to be entrenched in technology. Digital signage is not changing the content or material being taught—it is changing the delivery and presentation of this information, which is what most tech-savvy kids are concerned about.
TD: How have these digital signage methods changed the way kids learn in the classroom?
MK: Previously it was much more of a static learning environment, where primary learning materials were no-digital—things like printed textbooks, hands-on experiments, field trips outside the classroom.
Today the landscape is much more digital. A lot of learning happens through coursework that’s posted online i.e. resources that may or may not be physically hosted within the school but are in a third party environment.
This digital approach is much more dynamic where switching gears is easy. The mindset of today’s kids reflects that as well. It is much more “on to the next one” than spending 3-hour time blocks on one subject and another 3 hours on the next subject. It’s quite easy to not only move between subjects in today’s digital learning environment, but also to leverage that in a good way – tying in concepts and weaving subject material together that you wouldn’t be able to do in a more static environment.
TD: How is digital signage being utilized in K-12 environments outside of the classroom?
MK: There are a variety of use cases outside of the classroom itself.
Digital menu boards in a cafeteria environment can take a lot of the work out of the way for cafeteria managers and even district level supervisors. In addition to encouraging healthy lifestyles by promoting healthy entrees and showing nutritional info, these menu boards can also be used to direct traffic during lunch so that kids have more time to eat.
A lot of informational signage in lobbies, hallways, lounges etc. can have things like directories for the buildings, wayfinding maps, analytics showing attendance and grades, event planning for upcoming exams, and regular school announcements.
One use case that isn’t necessarily intuitive right out of the gate is advertisement. Digital signage can take on the role of promoting sporting events, volunteer activities or foot traffic to a theater performance.
The last use case which has lately been one of the biggest trends in our industry, I hate to say, is emergency messaging. This is the ability to get emergency information and safety instructions out to students and faculty as quickly as possible in a dynamic environment where the nature of the emergency isn’t always clear.
TD: How have digital signage solutions changed the way information is distributed outside of the classroom?
MK: When we look at the speed that it takes to get information out through digital signage versus traditional notifications, it’s night and day.
In a traditional environment, a faculty member would have to coordinate and use the PA system or send emails to the rest of the faculty. In today’s digital environment, whatever screens are present in a facility can be taken over almost instantly with a quality CMS.
The second aspect of that is quick and dynamic notification. Situations in an emergency or disaster scenario aren’t always static from start to finish. Being able to change the nature of that information is crucial. Maybe five minutes ago students had to stay in place, and now they have to evacuate. Or at first we thought it was a fire, but it turns out to be a busted steam pipe so students still need to stay in place. So digital signage gives schools the ability to instantly change the messaging throughout the course of an emergency event or a disaster.
A well designed solution is also going to give you the ability to do that remotely. Today’s administrators are not glued to their desks all day. They are roaming the halls, roaming the campus, checking in on classes, escorting students and faculty – being able to deploy those types of cloud-based applications remotely or from the field, rather than behind one’s desk, is a huge advantage of digital signage applications.