Hello! I’m Sophie from Carousel Digital Signage. I’m excited to be here with you today. I want to share with you our vision for digital signage in schools.
But first a bit of history…
Carousel has been in the digital signage market for over 20 years, before digital signage was even a phrase. In 1995, one of our founders was training teachers on how to use (ANNUNCIATE) multimedia authoring software to put messages on their tube-tv’s that were hung in the hallways. Frustrated by how hard it was to teach this software, the co-founders set out to make a tool that was easy for teachers to use. And Carousel was born! This passion for helping educators create spaces where people feel welcomed, informed and connected is still with us today.
We are proud to have such a long history serving the education market and are thrilled about new innovations, like the Apple TV, which allows us to get the technology out of the way so educators can focus on teaching.
I want to share with you a story about how we see the connected classroom.
Let’s imagine that you are at your school… in one of the classrooms… Got it, are you there? I’m going to imagine my neighborhood school, Otter Lake Elementary. This classroom has all the standard things: desks, books, posters, and of course, a large flat-screen in the front of the room. The teacher has an iPad Pro and there is a cart of student iPads in the back of the room.
As our students arrive in the morning, there are messages running on the classroom display. These messages include the lunch menu, the teacher’s word of the day, the poster about ‘how to be an otter’, one of the school’s core values, and information about the upcoming school carnival.
The teacher kicks off the day with a history lesson, which she AirPlays from her iPad to the Apple TV that is connected to the classroom display. Being able to share a lesson from anywhere in the classroom allows her to move freely and engage with the students while sharing her content.
Mid morning are the school’s live video announcements so the teacher turns off her AirPlay session. The Apple TV automatically tunes into the video stream. Today’s announcements are filled with news about the new playground equipment and the planned tornado drill.
After the morning announcements the class is back to business as usual. Students are sharing their book reports with the their class by AirPlaying their iPads to the front of the room. They are easily able to talk about what they learned from their books.
Right on time, the tornado alarm sounds. In ALL of the classrooms, the active AirPlay sessions are automatically stopped to show the school’s tornado drill procedures. Because this is a visual message that is persistent, we can be sure that all students are able to understand the procedures.
Now that the students practiced the tornado drill, class can return to normal and AirPlay sessions can resume.
This story illustrates how efficiently you can communicate with everyone in your school. A truly connected classroom gets the technology out of the way so educators can focus on teaching, collaboration, and communication.
You will notice that there was no talk about switching inputs on monitors, connecting HDMI cables, or loading files onto other computers. Using a powerful, multi-use device, like the Apple TV, creates seamless collaboration and makes the technology disappear!
There are a lot of different ways that you can use digital signage in your facilities. Student communication and school safety is the obvious ones highlighted in our story. But there are many more.
Like, parent engagement. There are a lot more people in and out of your schools everyday than just students and staff. Making sure everyone who comes to your campus feels connected to the space is a great way to enhance the sense of community.
Many times a school will host special events. Digital signage can help people who are not familiar with your facility know where to go and what to expect. We want people to feel welcomed and that feeling starts with effective communication as soon as they enter the door.
Most spaces are used differently throughout the day and week. For example, you might have a different student population in your school at night, like after school programming or continuing education classes. You can instantly change all of the displays in your facility to show content that is relevant for that audience. Or, maybe your facility becomes a community center on the weekends. Digital signage is a great way to transform your space from one use to another!
We have so many customers use their digital signage in so many creative ways. In higher ed, we see signage used for building a sense of community around the school for students, parents, and alumni in areas like sports facilities, student unions, and alumni centers. We even had an art school who posted the login to their Carousel system and allowed students to publicly post any content they wanted… as you can imagine, it was pretty … interesting.
No matter how you use your signage we simply want to help you make a space where people feel welcomed, informed, and connected.
Now that we have an idea about where and how we can use signage, let’s talk about the most import part of digital signage, the content!
We know that keeping content fresh is the hardest part of digital signage.
When we say ‘fresh’ we mean that the information is relevant, timely, and the right duration for the audience. For example:
If the information is about another school, not the one we are at; that’s not fresh
If the message is promoting an event from two weeks ago; that’s definitely not fresh
If the content is 15 minutes long, but the viewer only has 15 seconds to watch it; that’s not fresh
Now, let’s think about how this works day-to-day.
Imagine that you are one of the office staff working the front desk at school. As we know, this person is a critical communication hub; dealing with students, parents and staff. Every time I’m in a school I marvel at how skilled these individuals are! It would be easy enough to have them also update the digital signage content, right? Well … they would be rockstars at it, but it would be better to share the workload. Especially if the content is coming from other people anyway. We’ve always said “Updating the signage needs to be easier than sending an email”. c If everyone is able to contribute by creating content, the more likely you are to be successful.
Another awesome way to keep your content fresh, is to not have anyone update it at all! What I mean is, integrate with other data sources so the information gets automatically updated without someone typing it in. For example your lunch menu’s, calendars of events, and school news are probably already being entered somewhere else - just have Carousel go grab that info and display it! This is simply an extension of collaboration!
Lastly, we think a lot about the audience when we are planning digital signage. Because they, of course, are who we are trying to help, right?! Think about what will they be doing when they see your sign. (pause) Are they rushing down a hallway onto their next class? (pause) Are they a captive audience in a waiting room or exercise area? (pause) Is this their first time to your campus? (pause)
The key metric here is how much ‘eyeball time' your sign will get in various locations.
This is one reason that we love putting signage in the classroom. The students are more likely to absorb the information while settling into class then when they are rushing through the hallways. However, if you have a special event at night with a group of people who are casually coming into your space, the hallway is an excellent choice.
Now, let’s get a little bit nerdy and talk about actually deploying a digital signage network. There are two basic parts of a signage system. The content management software, like our Carousel software, and the media players, like Apple TVs. The media players are the little computers behind each display that play the content. Sometime the CMS software and media player are the same box, but most of the time they are separate.
Let’s imagine that you are an AV tech at a school and your job is to deploy digital signage onto the 15 displays in your hallways and common areas.
The old way of doing this would have been to buy media player appliances from your local AV reseller. These boxes would likely be running some version of the Windows operating system with the signage player software loaded on. Your first step would be to unbox them, plug them into your test bench, boot them up and start configuring them. You would need to set up the network, probably join them to your Windows domain, so you at least had some way to manage them, and get some content loaded onto them or connect each one to your content management server. Oh, and don’t forget to run Windows Update with a handful of restarts between updates…. And do that 14 more times! Once you get these units installed if there is any maintenance you either need to physically go get the unit and plug it back into your test bench or use a screen sharing app to get to the Windows desktop. Yuck! I’m already exhausted/stressed! But believe me, we're not judging that process, because we did that for many years!
But with Apple TV and MDM there is a much better way!
Now imagine that you are in the Apple ecosystem. I simply buy my 15 Apple TV’s through my Apple School Manager where they will be part of the Device Enrollment Program, or DEP. That online purchase will be picked up in our MDM software, like Jamf Pro. Then we can set set these Apple TV’s to provision themselves as media players. This profile can set things like network addresses, if the remote control can be used, single app mode, and, of course, our digital signage software settings. Now when my Apple TV’s arrive, I simply plug them into the network, power them up and they automatically install and configure themselves as media players and start playing content. A true shrink-wrap to signage experience!
The best part is if you already have Apple TVs deployed to the classroom you can simply add the Carousel app to them and they will all become part of your digital signage network! Taking your 15 displays to 15 hundred!
On top of that, any maintenance to these devices can be done through the MDM software you are already using. And if an Apple TV ever fails, which we’ve never actually experienced, you can simply add another one to the ‘digital signage’ device group and it instantly becomes a media player just like the others.
Like I mentioned in our classroom story, the elegance of having a single device connected to the classroom display is amazing. A little black box with power, network and an HDMI connector is super easy to install, manage and use.
We absolutely love the Apple TV as a digital signage media player. The size, manageability, multi-use, and cost make it a no-brainer. The Apple TV is totally in-line with our goals of enabling communication and collaboration while making the technology for the teacher, disappear!