CDEC shortlisted for Education Project and Reseller of the Year at the AV Awards

CDEC has been shortlisted for two AV Awards by AV Magazine including Education Project of the year for its work at Kensington Prep, and for Reseller Integrator of the year.

We have been recognised for our innovative work on the Explore Floor at Kensington Prep school. Part of the £2.7 million Growing Minds project undertaken by the school, the Explore Floor uses technology to encourage students to be creative thinkers, risk takers and to enable them to collaborate on projects to develop their self-enquiry and independent learning skills. The technology in the room is extensive, from projectors, iPads and multi-touch screens to intelligent blinds and lighting, not to mention a multimedia recording studio, complete with green screen facilities.

The announcement of Reseller of the Year comes in recognition of the fact that CDEC has invested in key people and in training to create a knowledgeable, professional workforce dedicated to delivering Excellence in AV, while also delivering some outstanding projects across the education corporate and medical sectors in the past 12 months.

Toni Barnett, managing director at CDEC, said: “The AV Awards are always a great night and we’re thrilled to be part of it once again this year. Kensington Prep showcase how great technology can transform environments and improve learning outcomes. The shortlising of Reseller means a lot to me personally, CDEC having won this award in 2013 and 2014, It feels good to be back in the mix once again and we are thrilled that AV Magazine has recognised our commitment and passion to the AV Industry.”

Encouraging edtech uptake

Despite the fact that technology is more readily available in classrooms and lecture theatres than ever before, there are still concerns that some teachers are not using it to its full potential. The reasons behind this are relatively well known: lack of time to reach the necessary level of proficiency, lack of confidence in their ability, or a lack of resources to invest in either the ideal tech solution or the ongoing training and resources needed to ensure it is used for many years to come.

To overcome these issues, they must be addressed at the beginning of any build or refit project. It is easy to believe that the more kit installed in a space the better it will be, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The important thing is to think about how the space will be used – will it be used to teach multiple subjects and age groups, how do teachers want to utilise the area, what technology would aid learning and save time for teachers, rather than acting as a hindrance? Once these questions have been answered it will be easier to begin to build an effective learning space.

As soon as the decision has been made regarding what the teaching space will look like, it’s important to get teachers on board and give them time to get hands on with the new kit before they are in front of a class full of students. Many schools have enthusiasts who see the benefits of edtech and are keen to get hands on with kit from the start; this can be invaluable in encouraging uptake. Having a person who uses the technology on a regular basis who can act as a champion, answer queries and share lessons developed with kit in mind can be a great asset to a school and can be less intimidating for the less tech-savvy teacher than approaching an ICT professional.

Remember that the vast majority of teachers do see the importance of integrating technology in the classroom and do believe it has a positive effect on learning outcomes, so it’s often anxiety about using technology rather than a lack of belief in its value that holds teachers back. This being the case, it can be a good idea to introduce teachers to specific tools – based on their current teaching methods – that will make their life easier rather than simply expecting them to go from using little more than a laptop and projector to embracing interactive, collaborative learning spaces overnight. Productivity tools such as Dropbox for sharing documents or interactive tools such as Google Earth to add a more visual element to classes are simple, effective ways of saving time and enhancing teaching. Once the potential and ease of use of these has been realised teachers may well be more willing to look at other tools, both hardware and software. The key thing here is not to force technology on educators but to show what can be achieved without having to learn large amounts of new processes and systems.

While this informal approach to technology is often a good idea for those more reluctant educators, introducing professional development based around technology relevant to a teacher’s subject area will be welcomed by many as it adds an element of professionalism. An interactive programme that encourages teachers to explore the functions of technology, investigate how it will work and create real-world examples of how it can be used will boost confidence and undoubtedly encourage uptake. Recognition or incentives for doing this will allow this to be taken a step further, acknowledging the time, effort and thought that goes into creating a blended learning environment or flipping a classroom.

And finally, don’t forget that your integrator or manufacturer is there to help. They don’t want a classroom full of technology to be sitting unused any more than other stakeholders in the project. If more training or suggestions for different use cases are needed the people involved in specifying and designing the tools with undoubtedly have numerous ideas and suggestions for encouraging uptake.

Fighting for the future of education

With so many social and political issues on the agenda at the moment, it can be easy to forget that schools and colleges continue to face major budget cuts. Earlier this year the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighted the fact that schools in England are set to endure the first real-terms cuts to their funding since the mid-1990s. Spending per pupil is set to fall 6.5% by 2019-20. Sixth Form students are faring particularly badly with spending per further education student falling by 6.7% between 2010-11 and 2015-16, and a further drop of 6.5% expected over the next few years. It means that funding for 16- to 18-year-olds is no higher than it was almost 30 years ago.

With many schools already struggling to replace equipment, improve buildings or even invest in necessary tools such as textbooks, any further cuts have the potential to severely damage children’s education.

Fair Funding For All Schools, an independent, parent-led campaign working to stop cuts to school funding, has warned that the only way to cope with these cuts will be to increase class sizes, reduce the number of teachers and support staff, ask parents to contribute to running costs, and even implement a shorter school day. It’s easy to see how any of these would negatively affect a child’s development. And with all nations of the UK already languishing mid table at best in the increasingly influential PISA rankings, it won’t be long before the reputation of the UK education system suffers globally too.

While it’s perhaps easy to understand why there isn’t a limitless supply of money to upgrade classrooms with the latest technology, there are some changes that could be made to promote sensible investment and encourage the Department for Education to take a more rounded approach to education spending.

As an example, if schools were able to invest in upgrading technology in more than one classroom at a time all pupils would benefit from the latest technology, rather than there being disparity depending on which classroom they are located in; it could also allow schools to benefit from economies of scale when it comes to purchasing. Similarly, if there was encouragement for all classrooms to be identical, each child would have the same opportunities, benefit from the same learning styles and gain experience of using the same equipment. This continuity could be particularly relevant when it comes to students heading into the workplace. There has been concern for some time that pupils are not leaving college and university prepared for the world of work, whether this is because of a lack of communication skills, limited real world experience or not having a sufficient mix of technical and soft skills. As technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, it is essential that children learn the tools they’ll be using in the workplace and become comfortable using a broad range of technology that will enable them to continue to adapt to new platforms and systems as they move through life. Schools should be ahead of the curve on this, not behind it.

A key way to enable this is to ring-fence budgets for AV/IT. In the current setup, all funds are treated as one, so any funding initially allocated to technology can be saved or used in other areas as issues arrive. As funding cuts kick in, we’re likely to see this happen more and more as money is used to solve crucial maintenance problems and the like, at the expense of upgrading technology. If funds were allocated to a particular purpose and then had to be used for that, we’d see more continuous investment and learning outcomes would be protected.

It is crucial that anyone with a vested interest in our schools and the education of our young people helps to keep this issue at the top of the political agenda, whether this is by raising awareness, writing to their MP or supporting Fair Funding For All Schools. Here at CDEC we are always keen to listen to your ideas and needs to help you create the most cost-effective and inspiring teaching spaces possible.

How to benefit from BYOD

We all know that children are owning and using mobile devices from an ever earlier age and younger generations expect to be able to connect and access content anytime, anywhere. It’s also undeniable that the BYOD phenomenon is of some benefit to educational institutions – bringing technology into the classroom without any significant financial outlay to the school and ensuring students are working with a platform they understand and that they can take away with them to continue learning. However, there are also some potential pitfalls that need to be considered before introducing BYOD into the classroom, such as network access and security. Educational institutions must ensure these logistical issues are covered while also having clear fair usage and device requirement policies in place to make sure both teachers and students benefit from BYOD.

To ensure access everywhere, the tools needed for learning must be accessible across devices and platforms. This is particularly true at a higher education level where students will expect to be able to access content on campus, at home and anywhere in between on smartphones, tablets and laptops depending on what works best for both subject and location. This access also must not affect a student’s ability to use their devices for personal means. Staying at universities, a successful BYOD strategy can help you to tap into the growing number of remote learners; if they are able to access recorded lectures, join in with online discussions and maintain a dialogue with tutors and fellow students they will feel more part of the class and more involved in their learning, thus reducing the dropout rate. Again, the expectation is that they will be able to do this on any device and at any point on campus or elsewhere.

When it comes to BYOD for younger students, teachers have raised concerns about devices proving a distraction in class and pupils forgetting to bring their tablets to lessons or them not being charged sufficiently. One possible way to solve this is to invest in tablets for a class along with storage and charging points. This will ensure the teacher is in control of when devices are used and it will encourage students to adopt good habits regarding returning and charging devices at the end of each lesson.

Once the issue of access has been sorted, network security will be next on the agenda. Having a host of unregulated devices on a network will obviously be a cause for concern.

Many BYOD policies contain a clause stating that personal devices be kept secure and recommend installing an up-to-date anti-virus application. However this can be difficult to manage so a simpler solution may be to provide students with a network security application or make them log in via a separate virtual local area network.

A key thing to remember is that while BYOD may seem to create a whole new set of problems, most schools already have systems in place to mitigate the threats involved – namely data security, authentication and authorisation, and data access and privacy – and the means of addressing the problems are often standard practice – encryption and passwords, virtual desktops, web filtering and the like.

When it comes to data security for example, ensuring only those with the necessary permissions can access the information and making sure data is archived regularly and according to school policy will help to minimise the risk of it being accessed by unauthorised personnel. With data increasingly stored in the cloud, make sure your service provider has the necessary level of security in place for your sensitive data.

When introducing BYOD into a school, it is important that formal policies are established and students and staff know and agree to the policy to ensure data security. Crucially, this policy should make clear distinctions between what is acceptable and what isn’t, when it comes to both usage and behaviour.

While the points above are all important considerations when it comes to a BYOD policy, the outcome will vary school by school. The keys to success will be listening to the concerns and suggestions of the ICT team, being clear how teachers expect to be able to utilise devices, and ensuring both teachers and students have a thorough understanding of their responsibilities when it comes to accessing devices for learning.

The rise of interactive flat panels in the education sector

As teaching practices change and students move towards more collaborative learning practices, what role will IFPs play in education and can they ever truly replace projection technology?

In recent years there has been a shift away from linear learning towards lessons based on engagement, collaboration and interactivity. Technology has been instrumental to this shift, with projectors, interactive whiteboards and now interactive flat panels.

First of all, let’s be clear on the difference between whiteboards and flat panels: an interactive whiteboard (IWB) is a large interactive display that connects to a computer. A projector projects the computer’s desktop onto the board’s surface where users control the computer using a pen, finger, stylus, or other device. The board is typically mounted to a wall or floor stand. Interactive flat panels (IFPs) require no projector, no calibration and feature anti-glare glass meaning clearer images even in rooms with high levels of ambient light.

But why would you choose to invest in an IFP over the simple projector solution that has done the job well enough and at a reasonable price for a number of years now, and are IFPs the best solution for every situation?

There are many technical features that make IFPs stand out in the classroom. While the initial cost of ownership may be higher than projection technology, TCO will be about the same as they consume less energy, require less maintenance and need fewer replacement parts.

Image quality can also be improved and IFPs won’t suffer from image fade, which projectors are prone to. Full HD and 4K Ultra HD panels are now available, including the ActivPanel from Promethean, which features a 10-touch surface and wireless mirroring of mobile devices. IFPs can also be quicker to set up as teachers will not have to spend time adapting the lighting to ensure the content is clear, they are silent in operation and easier to install.

However, the key benefit of IFPs is the level of interaction and engagement they inspire among students. Rather than simply listening to a lecture or watching a projected presentation, IFPs encourage students to get involved whereas IWBs were largely used to show student’s information.

This interactivity is enriched as the teacher is able to use apps to great effect, available on the computer device interface. As students will have grown up using tablets and smartphones, there will be absolutely no learning curve should a classroom move to an IFP.

Collaboration is also taken to the next level when students are able to share their work with classmates and colleagues in real time. Cloud functionality takes this further and allows you to share with other departments across the school.

For example, the RP790 from BenQ features a custom Android OS that comes with various apps for classroom instruction, from WPS Office to Web Browser, EZWrite and Media Player. This closed platform puts schools in full control of the RP790, by preventing downloads and use of unauthorized apps.

With flipped learning still being considered by some educational establishments, IFPs can aid in this transition. In a flipped classroom, instructional content is delivered outside of the traditional learning environment – often online at home. This enables classrooms to become more collaborative spaces where students work together to research in-depth topics, give presentations or participate in discussions and problem solving. An IFP would be an ideal tool in this scenario enabling students to work in small groups, learn in a more collaborative fashion and share ideas.

Before a school makes a decision on a suitable solution, it is important that the learning environment and the aim of any purchase is taken into consideration. In large rooms, such as lectures or auditoriums, for example, a projector could be a wiser choice with devices able to create larger images. In addition, short-throw interactive projectors such as Epson’s BrightLink 697Ui are catching up and can respond to as many as six fingers or can be used with its pair of included digital markers.

All in all, there is a lot of choice out there and it can be difficult to make a decision. Seeking advice from a similar type of school that is already successfully using interactive flat panels may be useful or speak to an integrator or technology provider for advice and to find out more about the options available to you.

CDEC Wins Education Project of the Year at AV News Awards

We are delighted to announce, live from ISE 2017 in Amsterdam, that we have been crowned as the winner of AV News’ Education Project of the Year award!

The award was presented for our work at which we have done with Goldsmith University in London. Goldsmiths were looking for an AV company to undertake the supply, installation and commissioning of audio & visual systems into 91 rooms across the University campus. Originally this project was to take up to 30 months, but it was completed within nine months. This was down to all the success of the programmed off-offsite build process.

David Swayne, chief information officer at Goldsmiths, said:
 “CDEC is the best AV company that I have worked with – the success of our project is largely due to the excellent and flexible attitude of the CDEC team and the quality of their work.”

Speaking at the awards presentation, Toni Barnett, managing director of CDEC, said: “We are thrilled to have once again been recognised by AV News and to receive this award. The Goldsmiths project was a challenging one but the end result has been incredibly well received. We were able to significantly reduce the time each teaching space was out of use with our innovative off-site build and we’ve had a lot of positive comments from senior management at the university.”

By winning this award, it firmly cements CDEC position as one of the U.K’s best integrators and resellers. We hope we can carry our success on throughout 2017 and receive more awards to underline the hard work and success of our fantastic team.  We also wouldn’t be able to obtain these accolades without support from partners, suppliers, manufacturers and clients.