Monday, December 3, 2012

Literacy Cart Prototype

Here in Mountain Village we have been abuzz over a concept recently brought to life with a little ingenuity and a lot of help from colleagues. This is the first of it's kind (that I know of that is). It is a mobile, battery backed-up, cable managed, all-in-one "classroom." Combined with twenty iPads, and (eventually) a charging station for syncing, this is a brilliant tool for infusing technology in the classroom. I am hoping to improve student learning outcomes in the area of literacy, fluency, comprehension, and mathematics at the third grade level.

Step One: Mobilizing the Unit

This is a fun one. Nothing bothers me more then mobile SMART Boards. The idea of a rolling teaching tool from class to class sounds great, but in reality it is a terrible idea. Without going into too much detail, I managed to procure a cart formerly mounted to a SMART Board and fabricated a TV wall mount to the trunk of the unit. With the assistance of a friend (supervisor), we measured, drilled, and secured the mount.  

Step Two: Mounting the Interactive Display

Assuring that the display will be secure in its current state, we moved on to the planning of component placement and cable management. 

Because the display is fully interactive, it functions just like a SMART Board with pen or finger.

Step Three: Painting the Base

Sometimes the easiest way to make something look like new is to slap a new coat of paint on it. Painting the entire unit matte black, we had a brand new (looking) stand to work with.

Step Four: Power Supply and Battery Back-up

Securing a battery and surge protection unit with velcro strips, the concave shape of the stand lent itself perfectly to the repurposing.

Step Five: Placement of Computing Components

Because the display is a SMART Board, there was a need for a computer with which to control the cart. Deciding on a Mac Mini, we mounted the CPU and external DVD drive using industrial velcro patches.

Step Six: Placement of Apple TV

Being deployed with a class set of iPads, this display point was in need of some means of sharing screens from iPads. With solutions such as Reflection (see previous blog posts) this can be done, but with limits. The Apple TV was chosen to assist in this endeavor. 

Step Seven: Cable& Control Management

As with any project, organization is a key to ensuring safety and success. In this case we employed the use of velcro once again on the Apple and display controllers. All wiring was wrapped, secured, and hidden when possible. The bulk of the wiring was then kept hidden behind the panel covering the hollow frame of the stand itself.

Step Eight: Audio

This particular model of SMART Board (6052i) is a commercial grade display with a built in amplifier. This made our job easy because we could then mix multiple audio inputs with the amplifier and output through standard home speaker systems. The speakers chosen were Panasonic brand, but any would do. These speakers were affixed to the sides of the display once again with velcro. 

Using the device

The device can be used in a variety of ways. The first, and simplest, way is through the Apple TV. When the display and Apple TV is on any iPad can stream content (video and audio) for the class. 

The second way is to use the display as a SMART Board. This is very handy for instruction, small groups, and student led activities. At this point I must mention my favorite way to use the device which is by running Reflection from the Mini. The result is the ability to annotate over the top of the displayed  iPad!

Besides these two possibilities, the display can support multiple other inputs from DVD players (though unnecessary due to the eternal Super Drive mounted and connected to the Mini), VCRs (not sure why...), or anything else you like. Worse case scenario, the network goes down and you might need to display an iPad via VGA adapter and cord directly to the display. Whatever the case may be, this cart addresses it all. 

Thanks for reading and if you would like further information about this or other ideas don't hesitate to contact Sam Bourgeois.