An integrator and two manufacturers work together to build a better education ‘mouse trap’. The students are the real winners.
Text:/ Graeme Hague
The Department of Education in South Australia looks to be doing things properly. It’s not afraid to adopt new technologies and has its own ICT department that offers (through a Business Engagement Team) all the necessary expertise and knowledge to have campuses (ranging from kindergartens and primary schools to universities), equipped and supported with the best software and hardware technologies to deliver professional education solutions.
So this story isn’t so much about a neat AV installation in a particular school, so much as an exciting and fast-growing development across a large swathe of schools.
There’s even a high-tech school bus involved, but not what you think. So, settle down at the back, behave, and read on.
Having a one-size-fits-all approach to anything education-related is a mistake. The education system is wildly diverse — not just the various levels of teaching (eg. primary schools versus high schools) but also the locations and demographics of each school.
The Department for Education contacted Troy Edom of IOT-TEK and requested he workshop some ideas to help achieve its aims.
Next, Troy formed his company Teach Tek in 2022 with the specific aim of tailoring AV systems that were affordable for any school, simple to operate, and created a consistency in design so that schools, staff and, more importantly, students wouldn’t find themselves investing in technology that might be rendered obsolete if they were transferred to another position or region.
Troy began to work closely with Matt Lynch of PPDS (Philips Professional Display Solutions), and Nathan Terrington from Vivi. PPDS is a division of TPV Technology, which in turn has the exclusive rights to all things Philips when it comes to digital signage, LED displays and interactive monitor displays. Philips already has an impressive range of interactive displays, but between Troy, Matt and Nathan, a design was fine-tuned to perfectly fit the bill — and complement Troy’s vision of a new integrated solution-based system that could be broadly integrated across schools all over the state.
HOME GROWN SOLUTION
Vivi is an Australian success story that shows no signs of slowing down. Developed in Melbourne, Vivi is best described as a ‘content distribution solution’ that’s specifically aimed at the education system. At the core of the concept of Vivi is the ability to display a variety of content across a school network of any size, and when it comes to the real deal – inside the classroom – teachers aren’t locked into the standard configuration of a dedicated laptop connected to a screen of some kind, and everyone is beholden to that display. Modern technology is great, but at times it’s still not too far removed from all the kids trooping into the library and watching an ABC documentary on the telly.
Instead, with Vivi’s own App, teachers can wirelessly share their computer to the classroom screen or route video content directly to the classroom’s display, all while removing advertisements and pop-up from video sources like YouTube. This frees up the teacher’s computer for other resources and tasks such as marking or lesson planning … or maybe a sneaky game of Solitaire while the little tykes are watching the show. In fact, the teacher can assign control of the classroom screen to a favourite pet and go grab a quick cuppa.
At the same time, Vivi is at work across the entire school network. Any kind of digital signage throughout the complex is all scheduled, organised and displayed by Vivi – it’s a complete solution for every AV display on the network, which is fed by the cloud through Vivi’s own cloud management portal, Vivi Central.
Vivi goes further, and aims high to support the health and wellbeing of our young children, providing features such as integrated Headspace, a direct video playback from the display with dozens of mindfulness and meditation practices designed for K-12. It doesn’t stop there. With custom-created student polling, tailored daily exercises can be done with student on devices to utilise emoji-based responses. This creates a digital-in-classroom student care support engagement, with data collected and automated for reports to the school’s health and wellbeing officer, rounding out a powerful tool across the whole site.
It may sound a bit too all-encompassing when you can have perhaps dozens of classrooms and spaces all trying to access a network which is already busy with a large range of tasks to display school-wide, however, that’s the beauty of Vivi: it copes easily with multiple demands, and it’s a straightforward action for teachers to join a ‘Room’ or ‘Learning Space’ and get a priority connection to any screen and share that connection to anyone else – such as the students.
Philips' New E-Line PPDW interactive display, together with the Vivi content distribution solution, now form a backbone for one of Teach Tek’s recommended interactive system in any classroom
VIVI ON A CHIP
To make everything even easier, the experts at Philips worked with the Vivi CTO and engineering team to provide the API for Vivi to be loaded ‘natively on the panel’ or alternatively known as ‘system on the chip’, meaning the display doesn’t require any extra hardware, it automatically recognises the Vivi connection. Philips’ New E-Line PPDW interactive display, together with the Vivi content distribution solution, now form a backbone for one of Teach Tek’s recommended interactive system in any classroom.
Of course, in many situations the AV integration goes much further to make extensive use of various digital signage throughout the complex, and different units such as projection and smaller touchscreens and outdoor LED displays can be a part of networks that go way beyond just providing an electronic panel at the front of the room. A Vivi receiver takes care of content for these types of display.
Designing and installing school-wide AV solutions has become Teach Tek’s speciality and passion, coming up with the best solutions for every challenge that such projects can present. Troy Edom’s mantra is all about simplicity, “focusing on the majority, not the minority”. Meaning, he creates systems that staff and students will want to use because they’re easy to operate, instead of bespoke, over-complicated AV designs that may well be very capable but too daunting for many end-users.
GET ON THE AV BUS
Troy is so passionate about what Teach Tek can do for educators throughout South Australia that they built the Tek Bus — yes, the motorised kind of bus, not the electronic/data sort. The Tek Bus is a fully-equipped vehicle that can visit schools anywhere in the state and instantly provide a complete demonstration of the Philips PPDW/Vivi system with minimal interruption to the school’s schedule. It even goes as far as hosting workshop sessions for students and teachers in technology, with some free TeachTek treats to go with the session.
Which isn’t to say that Teach Tek hasn’t been busy in the last few months. The team has indeed been in demand installing its school-based solutions in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a complete refit of all the screens in the North Adelaide Primary School to a single, large display across the Eyre West at Ceduna Area School, and even a heap of new trolley systems to Leigh Creek Area School, all incorporating Philips displays and the Vivi platform.
It’s a brilliant example of how three different companies can work closely – Philips, Vivi and Teach Tek – and provide a powerful, single solution not just for one project, or one venue, but across that wide and challenging range of installations the Department of Education represents.
Troy and Matt have a long business relationship which certainly assisted in Troy realising the vision. Hours of testing and design has resulted in a well-rounded and supported offering across the whole product line — backed by Philips commercial nationwide, onsite warranty.
So it’s all aboard the Teach Tek bus for a fascinating ride into a 21st century education. Some things haven’t changed — don’t forget to fasten your seat belts, and spit-balling the driver from the back seats isn’t allowed.