New Richmond, WI High School
The New Richmond School District has about 12,000 residents and lies an hour northeast of Minneapolis. The school district residences' belief in the importance of a quality education was never more apparent than when the city passed a $92M referendum in 2007 to fund four new projects including the construction of a new high school building. Ground was broken in May of 2008 and the doors to the new school were opened in September of 2010.
The members of the AV technology design team included Jeff Moberg and Dan Zacharias from the school district and Dave Bridges from ATS&R Architects. The design was sent out for bid and won by Alpha Video in Edina, MN. The design team then consulted with Todd Johnson and Steve Westra at Alpha Video to optimize and integrate the design.
Given the opportunity to design from the ground up, the design team wanted classroom and campus-wide technology that would enhance the learning environment. As the team went through the technology planning process, they developed a guiding principle. Thanks to the wide use of the Internet, iPods/iPads, computers and digital video cameras, today's high school students are used to receiving information digitally. The team decided that they wanted to deliver curriculum to students the way that the students are used to receiving information - digitally.
The design process started with the digital classroom. Every classroom in the school has a projector, interactive whiteboard, a podium with a computer docking station, a sound field (more about this later), integrated control system and, of course, internet connection. There are no TV's or DVD players. This standardized configuration gives teachers the flexibility to comfortably use any classroom including the 120-seat, large-forum classroom.
An important component for the successful implementation of the digital classroom was the installation of the VBrick video-on-demand system so that everything is IP-based. All videos that teachers might use in the classroom are stored on the VBrick server. From their computers, the teachers access the server, select the video and show the video through the projectors in their classrooms. A teacher also accesses cable TV channels through the VBrick server.
An innovative IP-based digital signage system using CastNET software from Alpha Video is another way to communicate digitally with students. Two 42" digital signs are installed in each of the four locker bays and one in the entrance lobby. These signs display announcements, messages, videos and schedules and are especially important for students when they miss the morning announcements. A way-finding, touch-screen digital signage kiosk is located in the main lobby so that community visitors can easily find directions to their destination room in the building.
Connected to the digital signage system are two large video walls, one in the cafeteria and one in the gymnasium. These impressive video walls are formed by sixteen 42" displays in a 4x4 configuration. The digital signs and video walls give the school a platform to reach students in one of the most effective ways possible: student-produced videos about student activities and achievements. All types of activities are being recorded, not just the sports teams. There's hardly anything that will make a music student happier than seeing part of her song from the regional contest being replayed on a 148"x80" video wall in the cafeteria while eating lunch with other students.
Early in the planning process, the design team made a commitment to HD video. A fully-equipped video production studio with all HD cameras and production equipment is installed so all school video is produced in HD, stored and transmitted in HD and displayed in HD. Staff and students are able to record a student activity with an HD camera and produce high-resolution video that can clearly be displayed on the large video walls. This is very unique for a high school and Alpha Video's video and IP engineering expertise was especially helpful with this implementation.
The video wall in the gymnasium is a moneymaker for the school. Seven local businesses signed a five-year contract so they could advertise on the video wall during community events. The video wall has paid for itself!
In addition to the gymnasium and cafeteria, the new high school includes an 800-seat auditorium. All three spaces are connected by the network so that an event occurring in one of the venues can be broadcast to the other two locations.
As mentioned above, each classroom includes a sound field. The teachers wear a control/microphone unit on a lanyard around their neck. The unit provides control to the AV equipment in the classroom and reinforces their voices to the ceiling speakers so even the kids in the back row can hear the teacher. These systems were specified because numerous studies had shown that student retention increases in a classroom with an amplified voice.
After less than a year in the new high school, the school district has received many positive comments about the technology in the new high school from students, staff and visitor. The students remain extremely excited about the videos being produced by students, about students and for students.
Jeff Moberg, New Richmond High School Principal, reports that he knows of no school that is more technologically-advanced than the 835-student high school located in New Richmond, WI.