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    Classroom Technology Designs Media Console System
    by Reba Leiding, Editor

    The media console now found in 34 Technology Classrooms on JMU’s main campus, and in some rooms on East Campus, integrates different computer and media formats in a single, fairly uniform system that is easy for instructors to use.  Students and faculty with classes where these consoles have been installed are already aware of them.  But they may not know that they were designed in-house by staff of the Libraries & Ed Tech’s Classroom Technology (CT) unit.

    The console, made of a laminated composition material with a wood-like finish, was designed by Olen Burkholder.  These units are constructed locally by Woodworks (in Staunton), a cabinetmaker with experience making furniture for local television studios.  The console can accommodate Macs, PCs or laptop computers, and has room for two keyboard drawers, video playback equipment and a document camera for transparencies or solid objects.  It can also be modified to hold additional hardware such as projectors for slides. In fact, Woodworks now promotes Burkholder’s console design and has constructed versions of it for other clients.

    The basic philosophy behind the design of the console and its teaching system is that instructors shouldn’t be expected to be technical experts or have to focus on making the technology work.  The system had to handle multiple computer platforms, different video formats, and be open-ended enough in design to accommodate changes and special equipment that may be connected to the system on a temporary basis.  At the same time, it needed a uniform “look and feel” so teaching faculty would know what to expect from one Technology Classroom to another.  Burkholder also wanted to minimize what he calls the “teaching bunker” feeling of a large, obtrusive media unit that can sit like a wall between faculty and students.  The console is also ADA compliant.

    The teaching system in the console utilizes the SP Control System, a new product that brings media technologies together in a single control panel.  The unit integrates switching, projectors, and volume controls.  Its logical display of switches and controls is clearly labeled and intuitive to use, has an easy training curve and eliminates the need for multiple equipment remotes.  It also extends the life of projector lamps-- which can cost $500 each to replace—by automatically shutting down the projector after an “idle” period when the system is not being used.  The system also features a multimedia monitor that serves as both as a computer monitor and a high-quality video monitor.  This monitor allows the faculty member to view at their console exactly the same thing the students are watching on screen—or to view another source instead. For example, a faculty member may want to open and prepare a PowerPoint presentation on their console multimedia monitor, while students watch a videotape segment on the large viewing screen. 

    The in-house designed console and teaching system can be produced at a third of the cost of commercially available media systems.  Each console unit costs about $13,000 depending on equipment options.  Classroom Technology staff estimate that the SP Control system will pay for itself within five years due to savings in installation costs and lowered projection lamp replacement costs. 

    (Editor's note:  Thanks to Olen Burkholder and Jeff Clark for providing background information for this article.)

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