Budgeting is always a challenge for K-12 schools, and finding cost-effective ways to get done what needs doing is always on everyone’s minds. Mark Lindstone, Chief Information Officer for Littleton Public Schools in Colorado, had a digital signage system in place from a competing provider, but the costs began to soar beyond what they’d originally been quoted. So he did some research and found Visix.
The Right Price
“We went with Visix because of the great pricing models,” he says. “Visix and AxisTV digital signage represented a one-fifth delivery cost for us over the other system. We pay for licensing from a centralized budget, while the schools themselves pay for the displays and channel players. Visix worked out much better for us in this regard.” Hardware and software were not the only factors that came into play. “Training costs way less and is faster – we got people up to speed in only two hours, maybe less. Those are worthwhile efficiencies that make a difference.”
Easy Data Integration
Lindstone is very pleased with the switch to AxisTV. “It’s deployable, it’s sustainable and the cost model is very appropriate for K-12.” He oversees deployment throughout a large and diverse school district, and had already found ways to start unifying all their facilities using online tools from companies like Google. “AxisTV software offers way better Google integration than competitors. Google is now a main part of our culture. We use it for a lot of things, and AxisTV has great support for Google Calendar, Docs and so on,” he tells us. “Plus there’s integration with Facebook and other social media, and we can push web data right to the screens.”
By saving on outlay costs and training, Littleton can expand the system until all schools in the district are part of a compete and comprehensive digital signage deployment. “We currently have 43 channel players in ten different schools and five Connect Room Signs at Arapahoe High School,” he says. “We are almost done converting an 11th school, and we’ll get another one in January. The goal is to get 100% coverage, so we can really start doing district-level communications. I think that’ll happen very soon.”
The flexibility of AxisTV is another plus for Littleton. “We’re a very collaborative organization. We believe in collaboration and buy-in. We prefer doing things with our schools to, not to them. There’s local ownership and control of content – we help them with overall things, they do the rest. They can respond much faster, and they know exactly what their audience needs. We see ourselves as facilitators.” They encourage sharing the workload as well. “And a web-based system like this means the people doing the work can be anywhere. For example, we have someone in New York doing the Facebook posts for schools in Colorado.”
Displays in specific areas show differentiated content targeted to specific audiences. “At Arapahoe, we have three screens in the library with content geared to the kids there,” he says. “It’s an aggregation point for students, so we show student-centered events – after-school programs, testing dates, support and additional information about testing, and the like.”
They also take advantage of dayparting. “We’re aware that some information is time sensitive, so at 9am we’ll put up info on the day’s school assembly, at 11am we start showing lunch info, after-school activities are on later in the day.” The students have also responded to having weather displayed and news tickers “to remind them there’s more out there than just this school.”
In the lobby, some of this content may get repeated, with additional content supplementing student communications. “The lobby is more for the general public and parents, so we show things that they might be interested in. We pull from a mix of sources and aim for the middle of the road.”
Lunchrooms get their own content “again student-centered,” Lindstone says. “We put up menus and nutritional information so they can make their choices before getting their food, saving everyone a little time.” In hallways, the audience might be a mix of students and parents. “We display after-school events – details for the parents, reminders for the students – as well as back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, pancake breakfasts and other fundraisers, including sports fundraising.” They also add in relevant district-wide messages, including promotions for their two annual large-scale events.
Digital Room Management
Several high-tech meeting rooms have become mixed student-teacher use spaces. “These were very expensive, with whiteboards, a big table in each, 60-inch TVs. We wanted spaces for staff to be able to meet – like the teachers may have a staff meeting or brainstorming session – but also the students,” Lindstone says. “The kids can look up the calendar right on their phones and schedule it right there at the Connect Room Signs.”
Lindstone sees this as a natural part of modern education. “These kids are already using lots of tech,” he says. “We use Chromebooks with all our students in our schools. In the lower grades, we have a lower ratio of students to devices, since we want to limit screen time in those early developing years. But third grade and up, it’s one device for every one student.” He sees this as an invaluable supplement to traditional classroom teaching. “We encourage inquisitiveness. These kids, when they grow up, will be using technology like this, and whatever comes next, on a daily basis,” he explains. “We teach them where to go to read about something, say a historical event, and how to be discerning – find and verify credible sources, and so. We’re creating the digital citizens that will guide civilization in the future, so we have to give them the tools to fact check, and determine what is fact and what is opinion.”
When it comes to convincing other schools in the district to join in, Lindstone lets schools that are using AxisTV do the convincing. “My best sales people are the existing schools that have the system. Talk to your peers – they’ll tell you why you need it. They walk in the same shoes you do. Teachers talk to teachers, principals to principals. There’s nothing like having a peer tell me what the benefits are. I let the product speak for itself.”