November 1 , 2016

Why Higher Education Is Investing In Smart Classrooms, and What’s Missing

The college experience is gradually starting to resemble an education utopia for students. Higher education institutions are becoming a place where young adults can grow as individuals while surrounded by on-demand conveniences and like-minded peers. State-of-the-art leisure facilities and smart classrooms filled with collaboration and presentation technology are abundant.

That comes at a price, though. The cost of tuition has been increasing and state funding for higher education institutions has been decreasing ever since the recession. As tuition costs rise, high school students must make tough decisions when deciding which college to attend. This leaves schools looking for ways to add value and differentiate their offering from competitors to appeal to prospective students.

Funding down, tuition up
On average, states are spending 18 percent ($1,598) less per student, and annual published tuition at four-year public colleges has jumped by 33 percent ($2,333) since the 2007-08 school year. So how do schools differentiate themselves and show value in marketing materials for prospective students?

Lavish recreational facilities, apartment-style dorm rooms and pristine landscapes can all add value to a student’s educational experience. This is true of smart classrooms, too. It’s why higher education institutions are devoting more resources to equip learning spaces and offices with technology that facilitates collaboration, presentation and instruction.

According to The Center For Digital Education, higher education institutions will spend $10.8 billion on IT support and services this year. Network upgrades are a top priority on the agenda. Increased connectivity on college campuses can help educators reach students with modern teaching methods such as blended learning, personalized learning and competency-based learning.

The typical list of amenities in “smart classrooms” on college campuses looks like this:

  • MacBook or PC laptop
  • Projector
  • Large wall screen or TV
  • Apple TV/Chromecast
  • Microphone
  • Lighting controls
  • Speakers
  • Document camera
  • HDMI/VGA cables
  • Interactive white board
  • Wireless presentation pointer

What’s missing
While this technology contributes to a smart classroom, it doesn’t create a truly wireless or collaborative environment for students. It doesn’t do for instruction what a rec-center sauna does for the “college experience.”

Wireless content sharing is a common problem for higher education institutions. Imagine if every building on campus – academic buildings, administrative buildings, university libraries, student centers, conference centers and residence halls – had one simple and universal way to wirelessly display computer screens to TVs and digital projectors. Wouldn’t that be....convenient?

The key word there is “simple.” A school’s IT department must operate within a range of technical know-how that varies greatly among staff, students and faculty on campus. What’s common technical knowledge to a computer science professor may be a completely foreign concept to an adjunct journalism professor. This creates a barrier in the adoption of new tech services and solutions.

Collaborating in smart classrooms
The theoretical simple and universal screen-mirroring solution for college campuses mentioned above? Yeah, it exists. Think of it as a facilitator that’s used to display content in meetings, lectures and presentations. It makes HDMI/VGA cables obsolete and allows any student, teacher or faculty member to present from anywhere in a given room.

Content sharing is never going to be viewed as a game changer from a student’s perspective, and it’s just one component of an advanced smart classroom, but it’s an important feature of any room intended to foster collaboration. You can’t have a truly smart, collaborative and connected classroom until every individual in the room has the ability to quickly display his or her screen at a moment’s notice.

What makes your campus stand out?
While per-student funding decreases and tuition costs increase, higher education institutions will continue to look for ways to differentiate from competitors and add value, from campus technology offerings to student lifestyle enhancements.

What are some ways your school has tried to differentiate itself from competing schools? What’s in your school’s smart classroom? What type of technology would you like to see introduced to the classroom, lecture hall or administration offices?

June 12 , 2014

ISTE 2014: Pro tips & Conference Badge Giveaway

Attending #ISTE2014? We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your conference experience! We’re also giving away a full pass to the conference below.

  • Take care of yourself - Bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated, snacks to stay energized, comfortable shoes for walking and get some sleep so you can take in everything ISTE has to offer. 
  • Come prepared - Print address labels with your relevant contact information or bring business cards. This will save time and inaccuracies when providing someone with contact information. Also, don’t forget your device charger!
  • Spend your time wisely - There won’t be time to do everything… make the most of the time you have available! A lot of vendors will have the option to get most of their information online, so take that into factor when budgeting your time.
  • Get social - Don’t be afraid to talk to people! Even if you’re attending alone, don’t hesitate to approach people… you’ll be surprised how much you learn.
  • #ISTE2014 - Follow the hashtag on twitter to keep up with everything that’s happening! Twitter is a great way to share what you’re learning and learn from others who are attending. Can’t make the show? Follow the hashtag for quick recaps!
  • Stop by and say hi! - The Squirrels team at booth #3660! Come learn helpful information about taking your connected classroom to the next level, enter the prize drawing and meet our awesome staff.

Not attending #ISTE2014? We are giving away a full conference badge and 10 Expo passes (travel, lodging, and other expenses not included) to one lucky winner. 

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 15 , 2013

Reflector and AirPlay in the Classroom

Reflector has many uses, but in the classroom, we find an AirPlay receiver to be an effective and almost indispensable tool. Displaying an iPad to a classroom or group of students  can be done by mirroring to a computer connected to a projector. Most classrooms already have the equipment needed to do this.

An AirPlay receiver as a document camera

Reflector gives teachers the ability to move around the classroom while teaching. Instead of being tied to a desk, educators can interact and engage directly with students. Many teachers find Reflector to be an effective mobile document camera.

When a teacher is interacting with students and recognizes work that could benefit the class, Reflector allows the teacher to stop and show the class what that student is doing. This can be particularly helpful when showing steps to solve a math problem.

Brian Meehan, Director of IT at Allendale Columbia School, described the use of Reflector in Geometry.

Students studying geometry take pictures of objects in their lives. Then we launch 2 or 3 windows of Reflector on the teacher laptop (connected to a smartboard) and students use the SMART tools to measure angles and congruency.

Below, @MrMiahScience demonstrates Reflector on a white board.

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Using an AirPlay receiver to flip the classroom.

Reflector puts students in charge of the classroom. Students can create work that  can be shown to an entire classroom without complicated setups.

Sharan Shah, Head of Grade Seven, Avenues: The World School explained.

With Reflector, I’m not always the one in charge of what is being shared on the screen. It’s another way of moving into a student-centered classroom.

Reflector makes handing off a lesson to students easy, and it’s more engaging than traditional learning. Students have the ability to project directly from their seats.

Giving students the power to teach the class is engaging and challenges traditional teaching methods. Instead of paper flash cards, students can go head-to-head isolating word problems. Students can explain geographical areas with interactive maps, or they can browse through timelines explaining certain points they chose. Reports exploring the animal kingdom or ancient Rome can be shared with the entire class by any student.

Using Reflector to monitor students

Amy Burns, a music educator in Far Hills, NJ, explains her use of Reflector in the class room at her blog. She’s using Reflector to keep track of her students’ progress on projects by projecting their iPads to a SMART board. For more privacy, she can turn the board off and monitor directly from her laptop screen.

An Apple TV AirPlay receiver alternative

At $99, the Apple TV may be too expensive for some education environments. Reflector works on almost any computer, and if a classroom is equipped with a projector and computer, Reflector can engage every student at the same time.

Reflector is an inexpensive AirPlay receiver available for $12.99. Educational and bulk rates are available to help schools make purchases.  Not only is Reflector much less expensive than hardware devices, it replaces fragile dongles, cables, adapters and other pieces of expensive hardware. These extra pieces are often lost among students and staff. Reflector stays put and is managed directly by IT staff.

Other samples of Reflector in the classroom include:

  • Connect classrooms across the country or world 
  • Watch and comment on YouTube videos
  • Annotate documents with students in real time
  • Display photos of other student work
  • Demonstrate apps
  • Use whiteboard apps to explain ideas
  • Create video tutorials for students to follow

We’re finding new uses for Reflector in the classroom every day. Have your own use? Tweet @ReflectorApp and let us know!

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About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. Our excitement and passion lies in creating high-qualty, budget-friendly software that can be used to enhance the devices already found in today's home and work environments. Follow our blog for all the latest product releases, #TeamSquirrels news and industry insight!