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How to Deploy Wireless Connectivity in the Classroom

How to Deploy Wireless Connectivity in the Classroom

One of the most difficult aspects of updating classrooms with new technology is determining the means of connectivity. For many existing school infrastructures, there are limited pathways available in which to run cabling for projectors, whiteboards and audio amplifiers. The cost to retrofit a classroom using limited cabling pathways can be high due to the additional labor required for the field termination of cables or structural modifications of the room. Cabling can also limit the mobility of portable devices, such as laptops, and impede mobile classroom configurations.

Deploying wireless technology in a classroom can overcome the challenges of limited cabling pathways and provide a solution for mobile classroom configurations. Wireless technology can be used to connect a laptop or desktop computer to the classroom's whiteboard, projector and audio amplifier with little need for cabling. Laptop users can also gain the mobility needed to help students while remaining connected to A/V equipment. Wireless can be deployed in a several ways, depending on the available cabling pathway in the structure, the need to maximize mobility and the need to fit into a specified budget.

Mixed Cable and Wireless Connectivity

In an environment where cabling pathways are limited, it is important to select devices which will remain in static locations to be connected with cabling. Typically devices such as Blu-ray or DVD players will be installed within closets or cabinets and will rarely be moved. These devices are ideal for connecting with cabling. An interactive whiteboard which requires a USB or RS232 control signal from the computer would also be a good example of a device that may be connected with cabling.

In an environment where devices need to be mobile or it is difficult to make the connection with a cable, there are wireless solutions available. Blu-ray or DVD players may be connected to the classrooms projector using 60GHz technology, which is designed for the transmission of high-definition audio and video. This technology will typically allow for same room connectivity of up to 30ft. Control of the interactive whiteboard may also be a candidate for wireless connectivity. Some manufacturers offer an integrated wireless connectivity solution for control. If an integrated solution is not offered by the manufacturer, then it may be possible to make the connection through Ultra Wideband (UWB) solutions. UWB technology will typically allow for line of sight connectivity of up to 30ft.

Wireless connectivity is a solution for devices in the classroom that must be mobile, such as the teacher's laptop. UWB is ideal to connect the laptop to the projector and audio system. UWB gives mobility to the teacher and will not occupy space in the cabling pathways. UWB offers the best solution for classroom applications due to its low latency and ability for the signal to remain isolated to each individual classroom. A UWB system is composed of two parts: a transmitter unit that is attached to an available USB port on the computer, and a receiver that is connected to the display devices, i.e. the classroom's projector or audio system. The receiver will require a short cable to connect to the display device and power which can be obtained from the same source as the projector or audio system.

Complete Wireless Connectivity

There are many reasons why a classroom may require wireless connectivity. In some situations, such as classrooms in older buildings, there may be no pathway available for cabling or the pathway may be blocked. Asbestos and insulation are common materials that may obstruct a cabling pathway in older school buildings. The cabling pathway may also already be filled by current or obsolete infrastructure. Another issue in some classrooms is the cost of running cabling through the walls or raceway may be too high. This high cost may be attributed to material removal or structural alterations required for the classroom in order to support the new cabling. Finally, some situations require that the teacher have maximum mobility within a single classroom or the ability to easily move to a different classroom.

When no cabling pathway exists or maximum flexibility is required for mobile classroom configurations, a complete wireless solution is ideal. DVD and Blu-ray players with HDMI outputs can use a 60GHz solution for wireless connectivity. Most whiteboards manufactured within the past few years are able to connect to a computer to allow control using a wireless solution offered by the whiteboard's manufacturer. Audio and video from the teacher's computer can be connected using UWB as suggested above without interfering with the 60GHz connectivity for the DVD or Blu-ray player. Many UWB solutions offer a quick connect feature which allows the teacher to switch between classrooms without switching equipment. A single transmitter in a UWB system has the ability to connect to multiple receivers with minimal setup time. This feature allows the teacher to have maximum mobility with the ability to remain connected to the A/V system.

There is no "one size fits all" solution for wireless connectivity. Most classroom applications will require a mixed environment of wireless and wired connections. Finding the right mix of wireless and wired connectivity as it relates to each specific installation is key for ensuring that the system will meet the needs and requirements of the end user. Successfully deploying wireless in the classroom will provide both teachers and students with an invaluable resource which will allow for more effective communication of information.

This white paper is for informational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. C2G makes no guarantees, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information found in this document.