As with most schools, St. Patrick Academy had to pivot to remote learning this spring. Since then, the small catholic high school in Providence, R.I., has overhauled its classroom technology to improve the hybrid learning experience for students in the classroom and at home.

Before the pandemic, St. Patrick had limited classroom technology, but over the summer the school took a closer look at its audiovisual technology as it prepared for hybrid learning for the fall semester. In a move to ensure students learning at home and in the classroom have a positive experience, the school upgraded six classrooms to support live video feeds.

The school partnered with Atlona to install new pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras to visualize the classroom environment, and USB technologies to extend video and control signals without excessive wiring. The school also deployed new microphones so students could both hear the teacher and hear in-classroom student-teacher interactions.

“We really wanted cameras that were rotatable, rather than having a static camera pointed at the board,” said Mark Luzzi, IT director at St. Patrick. “It was critical to have that PTZ capability so that we could aim them anywhere we want, and really capture that feeling of being part of the classroom.”

St. Patrick wanted to make sure the cameras could be customized to each teacher’s daily lesson plans. With that in mind, Atlona mounted the cameras at the back of the classrooms to enable the widest angle possible. The cameras can also be reconfigured in each classroom depending on the teacher’s lesson plan.

“They can switch the presets to change the camera to point at the desk, at the board, at a particular student, at a podium, or to capture a presentation they are delivering that day,” Luzzi said. “This makes the experience more engaging for the students at home, because they can align the work that they are doing in class with how the teacher and classmates interact while in session.”

As with any new technology deployment, it was essential for St. Patrick to train teachers, students, and IT staff on how to use the new tech.

“Once the installation was complete, we went straight into learning how to use the systems properly,” Bruce Daigle, principal at St. Patrick said. “Students also received training so that they understood how to use their laptops in conjunction with the camera systems. What we wanted to ensure was that the technology was ready for use, and that everyone was prepared to use it.”

While the new tech is most heavily used in traditional classrooms, Luzzi’s team has equipped two mobile carts for use in spaces that weren’t already overhauled for distance learning. Dean of Students and Director of Athletics Charles Toste has used the carts during gym classes to keep remote students engaged with physical fitness.

“There’s still a way for them to participate and engage even if they’re not doing traditional sports activities,” said Luzzi. “They can still exercise and follow along, and it allows for more interactivity between the teacher and those students.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs