York Region District School Board (YRDSB) is the 3rd largest school board in Ontario, serving nine municipalities. The district consists of 180 elementary schools and 33 secondary schools.
The schools of YRDSB had invested heavily in projectors and display technology for their classrooms, and while the projectors themselves performed well, there were several shortcomings with the complete solution. Some schools had projectors on carts that wheel to the computer and then plug in via a cable, while others had smartboards with HDMI and VGA cables that would run up a wall and over a ceiling to where a projector was mounted. With this method, many devices couldn’t be used with the system, including iPads, iPhones, and Android devices.
Over time, the wires from the projectors or smartboards would end up damaged, whether it be at the connection point or the physical wires themselves. A support team member would have to come in and replace these cables. Not only did this mean the cost associated with the replacement cable, but it also meant the costs of scheduling a worker for the replacement, a required contractor to come in, and more. To repair one of these installations could cost over $1,000, and possibly weeks of time!
The board had previously trialled another screen-sharing solution, but it was inadequate at integrating into a diverse environment with complex network aspects. These included multiple VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) and enterprise authentication requirements.
YRDSB needed a solution that would simplify their screen-sharing across a large number of buildings. Another driving force? Finding a solution that their curriculum specialists could use to help enrich the teaching environment.
After acquiring a fleet of Airtame 2 units, the board resolved many of their previous screen-sharing issues. They have broadened their ability to connect to various devices, allowing users to mirror their iOS, PC, Mac, Miracast or Chromecast devices. Students can use the school computers or their own devices to share their work in class now. Their network concerns are also a thing of the past, as the Airtame 2 can easily integrate into a complicated corporate network environment.
While YRDSB turned to Airtame for a wireless screen-sharing solution, they have now set their sights on further enriching the learning environment with digital signage through Airtame Cloud Plus. They currently have an in-house solution for digital signage based on an open-source product, but it’s not the best solution for their needs. It requires an Android box connected to the screen/projection device, necessitating support for two different systems.
With their Airtame 2’s, the board can use technology they’ve already invested in. With built-in digital signage capabilities, no additional hardware is required, and any necessary support is provided by the same Airtame team. The hardware, software, and support are all fully unified. The applications available through Cloud Plus, such as Rise Vision, and included capabilities like Scheduled Content, are just bonuses. “The primary reasons why we’ve selected the Airtame product have been met, and now it’s really about optimizing and getting the most out of them,” says Rob Cover, Assistant Manager – School Technology Operations.
Since their rollout, “We’ve had excellent feedback,” says Rob. “Our teachers can use the devices immediately, with very little training involved. Our devices are set up with the instructions on screen, plain as day, on how to connect. It’s really helped in the adoption of the use of the product. They love that it’s device agnostic and the fact that they don’t have to worry about wires or plugging things in.”
Some of the more innovative teachers use the capability of the Airtame 2’s to increase student engagement. “You can have a class of 25 people, they’re working in groups, on a project. Lecturers can ask each student what they’ve done, and they can immediately share their work to the screen.”
The hardware team at YRDSB is a strong supporter of the Airtame platform as well. When the department receives a call for a damaged wire, they strongly urge a switch to an Airtame unit, instead of replacing the cable. “Now, they have a much richer environment, for less cost, and with less maintenance on the team.”
Airtame also helps simplify things on the IT side with remote management. As Rob states, “I love the cloud management. The features that I’ve asked for in the past have been included.” One of his favourite features? “The signal tab. This will show if a unit is not connected with the appropriate strength of wifi. It’s a great usability feature.”
In the end, Airtame enhances the educational environment through wireless screen sharing and strong support. “These devices are all about providing a classroom environment that is more engaging, and richer for learning. Does the product enhance or ease the classroom environment? In both cases, it does just by virtue of its connectivity and agnosticism. It simplifies display technology for the teacher, which enhances the curriculum and the teaching. In short – your support environment and your receptiveness to customers are fantastic. I have been lucky enough to come across some products that know how to do things right, and I think the Airtame is one of those products. Its evolution can only get better as time goes on.”