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  • The new normal in the classroom

    By Sefi Aharon

    Everyone’s talking about the “new normal” these days. It’s quickly becoming a tired phrase. But like it or hate it, it is the best way to describe our world right now. So bear with me…

     

    The emergence of hybrid learning – A short timeline

    In education, the “new normal” is not so new. It’s been with us in changing forms since the very first days of the pandemic. And it emerged pretty quickly, driven by need.

    • 2020 – For the first time, remote learning became the standard for education, even for very young children. Hybrid learning followed, in different formats, as schools with different policies and technologies ironed things out.
    • 2021 – The hybrid model took hold in a whole new way. Some days (or even just lessons like art or math) had some kids in the classroom, and some at home. On other days (or lessons), everyone was remote, or everyone was in person. And it constantly switched back and forth.
    • 2022 – More kids are returning to the classroom, but it’s not a total return. Having tasted the freedom of hybrid learning and its inherent flexibility, many educators and students want it to stay in some form or another. Hybrid is here to stay. And it keeps getting better!

    Lessons in learning throughout the pandemic

    So what did we learn over the past two years?

    A few interesting facts

    • ~ 1.5 billion students worldwide were affected by shutdowns
    • 75% of US schools plan to continue distance learning
    • But just 49% of professors currently support it
    • While 40% of students say e-learning is more helpful than in-person learning

    In addition, we met Gen H – a direct answer to the pandemic, resulting in the largest cohort of users of hybrid solutions and services. Unlike Gen X, Y, and Z, Gen H is not an age thing. It’s a state of mind and a global megatrend that is here to stay. Teach and learn from home and onsite; learn from anywhere with any device. We are all part of it in some way.

    Digitized content and online learning

    Video used to be king when addressing the education market for the AV industry, with projectors in each classroom. Then, once hybrid learning kicked in, audio took the throne, with the addition of microphones and speakers. Now it’s content that reigns supreme. That’s the distinct challenge of our times.

    Students don’t just want to hear or see the content. They want to experience it. That means “being” in the same space as equals – even when it’s a virtual space. No more talking to a blank screen, never seeing feedback on people’s faces. No more viewing classmates in little boxes on a monitor or cell phone screen. Instead, imagine a space that feels like 3D, even if it’s not, where it looks like everyone is sitting in the same room, even if they’re actually in different locations.

    Sound futuristic? It’s really not.

    Just think, less than ten years ago, we were predicting that AV would be integrated with the IT network. And that’s undoubtedly gaining steam with the advent of solutions that make it easy and secure to connect AV systems to their IT network.

    Perhaps even more incredibly, just three years ago, we were still arguing about the efficacy and desirability of BYOD (bring your own device) learning environments. Now there’s no question. BYOD is a must, and AV solutions increasingly support that.

    So it is with hybrid too. Schools and universities already using or planning spaces with multiple cameras, speakers, and display screens have laid the groundwork. The next step will be to design learning spaces with an enhanced hybrid experience in mind – which is already happening.

    What’s next for education spaces?

    It’s an exciting time, and there’s infinite potential as to where hybrid learning might lead. With all that’s occurred in just two years, imagine what the new normal for classrooms will look like ten years from now! I have some ideas, and we at Kramer are working on them.

    What do you think? When it comes to education, what’s the new frontier?

     

  • IT Leaders - Planning to convert your company meeting spaces into hybrid, wireless video conferencing places?

    Learn how you can easily turn any room into a collaborative meeting space.

    By Joel Zand

    As large companies continue making hybrid work the new norm, IT managers face a challenging set of responsibilities.  They play a pivotal role in that ensuring global end users are included and connected, regardless of their physical location.

    That means paying careful attention to technology, training, and culture. This article focuses on how technology helps IT managers transform their organizations’ meeting spaces into wireless collaboration zones, with minimal effort, while maintaining the highest security standards.

    The Challenge of Managing Many Hybrid Meetings

    How can one IT department manage many meetings – often 50 or more, along with corresponding technology – when employees are physically everywhere: the office, at home, in transit, and halfway across the globe? 

    How can they configure, manage, and deploy secure digital meetings when their enterprise’s employees are spread across multiple times zones and work environments, using different computers and mobile devices? 

    If you are an IT leader, you have probably faced these challenges. Here are tips on how to solve them.

    Bridging the Physi-Digi World

    Fortunately, there are wireless hybrid work devices that let teams do just that. With advanced hardware and software, these solutions enable IT managers to turn any room into a secure, collaborative space in this new ‘physi-digi’ world. Today, companies prioritize letting employees wirelessly engage, share, and collaborate effectively in hybrid work settings. Anywhere, from any device, over major videoconference platforms like Zoom® and Teams®.

    A Mission-Critical Role in our Hybrid World

    IT managers benefit from dependable hybrid work solutions so that their colleagues have infinite ways to engage from any device, from any location, using industry-leading videoconferencing platforms. Companies and colleagues rely upon IT departments to provide simple, secure, and reliable hybrid meeting rooms. It’s critical to resolve these issues efficiently and effectively.

    Organizations seek proven hybrid work solutions that are incredibly advanced, while configuring and managing them should be trouble-free. Cloud-based tools that can seamlessly manage and control 50 or more hybrid meeting room devices from a single location are valuable.

    Having flexible, open architecture makes access from the leading desktop and mobile operating systems a reality. Enabling employees to easily bring their own devices (BYOD) over major videoconferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom® and Teams®) is essential. So is calendar integration with Office365® and Google Calendar™.  Empowering employees with these tools also helps reduce IT department bandwidth.

    Hybrid work environments should offer wireless flexibility, security, and enable AV collaboration with colleagues anywhere from any device.
    Hybrid work technology should be seamless, secure, and reliable.

    Security First

    Every IT leader takes security very seriously, preventing cyber-threats and securing information is always a top priority. This should, of course, be the case when evaluating a wireless hybrid video conferencing solution for your organization.

    Having multiple layers of security, including 1024-bit end to end encryption, 802.1x authentication and dynamic room codes, enables IT managers to provide employee and guest access in an enterprise environment, without any security holes.

    Making IT for Hybrid Work Easy

    Employees want simple, quick wireless connectivity and reliable tools for effective collaboration. How often have they complained about meetings starting 10-15 minutes late because nothing worked at the start? Colleagues get frustrated wasting time searching for the right Wi-Fi network or cable for a monitor, camera, or sound system, and a single controller to manage them?

    Presenting and collaborating via 4K from the office or remotely is essential for high-quality streaming and content sharing that businesses and their clients expect. From video, diagrams, illustrations to high-resolution photos, 4K offers hybrid meeting attendees an outstanding experience. That is why having the flexibility to share 4K either wirelessly or using hard-wired, auto-switching is an asset.

    Equally important is wireless connectivity for in-room presentations over AirPlay® and Miracast®, as well as having wired options for peripherals and a screen. Companies rely upon IT managers to select dependable hardware and software for employee productivity in any setting. In today’s hybrid world, this is a mission-critical task.


    Control Room Peripherals for a Better User Experience

    Office meeting rooms and corporate huddle spaces have wired HDMI monitors and related USB peripherals (e.g., cameras, microphones, projectors). Deploying technology that lets employees connect to and control these room peripherals provides in-office and remote attendees a better user experience.

    Colleagues should be sure to keep one another in the loop about when they may be temporarily unavailable. Good calendaring is a must. During the evening or weekends, responsible employees will put in the time for such a quid pro quo arrangement.

    This benevolent paternalism has boundaries, of course. If you’re a night owl, but your teammates prefer to sleep, it’s not a great idea to schedule 1:00 a.m. early-morning strategy sessions.

    VIA Connect2 for Hybrid Meeting Rooms

    Kramer’s VIA Connect2 enables IT managers to exceed their organizations’ hybrid work needs by turning any room into a secure, collaborative space. This makes it ideal for the companies that incorporate flexible, inclusive work environments, prioritize security, and want effective collaboration and presentation tools.

    Hybrid work isn’t going away, so it’s critical for companies and their IT leaders to support employee productivity wherever their workers are. To seamlessly configure and deploy 50 or more meeting rooms into hybrid, collaborative workspaces, a cloud-based management solution is invaluable. Discover how to easily and securely deploy and manage your company’s hybrid work environment with VIA Connect2 today.

  • Top 4 Pro AV Megatrends for 2022

    By Ornit Sade-Benkin, VP Marketing

    With the beginning of the New Year, I am reminded of our world’s incredible transformation through two years of pandemic. The borders between where we work and learn have changed dramatically, blurring in some cases, and all-but-disappearing in others.

     

    Working in the office is no longer the default; today we work from home, during our commute, while traveling and wherever we can. Schools and universities now teach far beyond the physical classroom, offering hybrid and blended learning settings to students at home, on campus or any other location where they have internet access.

     

    That means collaborative and inclusive online environments are now the norm as we’ve adapted to a new physi-digi (physical-digital) world. With the accompanying rapid advances in technology these changes are unstoppable. But where is it all going?

     

    At Kramer, we’ve identified four megatrends related to this transformation that we believe will impact dramatically all of us in 2022 at work, school and across our communities.

     

    1. An increasingly hybrid world

    Today, we are all part of ‘Gen H,’ the Hybrid Generation. We’ve become accustomed to switching back and forth between working in offices or learning in classrooms and doing so from home. Offsite is the new onsite. What brought us here is the combination of rapid digital innovation and the need for flexible, faster and safer ways to communicate, collaborate, work and learn during the pandemic.

     

    The speed at which we’ve integrated and adapted to our new hybrid environments is astounding. Yet, challenges remain. How can companies help employees stay focused in hybrid meetings? Will schoolteachers and university professors be able to focus on teaching without dealing with technical issues?

     

    The Pro AV industry had already developed hybrid technologies years before the pandemic arrived, but the need for intuitive and more seamless hybrid solutions persists. As such, it is our responsibility to continue innovating for Gen H by listening to users’ challenges, insights and suggestions.

     

    Bill Gates recently shared his thoughts on our new hybrid world:

    “The pandemic has revolutionized how companies think about productivity and presence in the workplace. The boundaries between once-discrete areas of work — brainstorming, team meetings, casual conversations in the hallway — are collapsing.”

     

    I couldn’t agree more, but we still have work to do. How can we ensure that hybrid meeting attendees and students learning online feel included? That their voices are heard, and faces seen, no matter where they are?

     

    Born of insight and propelled by necessity, in many ways our hybrid world is only just getting started. 

    2. Always-On collaboration

    Collaboration is a fundamental part of our work and school lives. ‘Always-on’ means that technologies supporting our collaborations must always and immediately be available whenever we need them.

     

    But more than simply available, communicating and collaborating should be intuitive and easy, supported anytime, anywhere, via any device.

     

    While the solutions exist, questions remain in terms of the user experience. Can teachers use existing in-room screens, whiteboards and in-class AV peripherals to create inviting learning experiences for students in the classroom and at home? If an organization holds dozens or thousands of meetings a day, how can the IT department manage them easily and securely?

     

    In an era when we constantly stream and consume content in our professional and personal lives, we now expect technologies supporting these advances to always work and be available whenever we need them. The need for always-on collaboration at work and school in 2022 will increase the need for effective and secure solutions. 

    3. Seamless technology

    Challenges remain for seamless integration between platforms, preventing connection ‘hiccups,’ and having all technologies work well together. We expect technology to work without a glitch. But have you ever tried talking on Zoom or Teams, without realizing you were on mute? I expect we’ve all done it. This is a perfect example of the challenges we regularly face.

     

    For many of us, hybrid and remote interactions make up most of our daily communication, yet somehow, they still don’t feel natural. We spend too much time and energy operating helpful communication solutions, rather than simply engaging and collaborating with one another. This makes us frustrated and tired.

     

    Meeting rooms should offer complete, holistic approaches for starting, managing, and finalizing meetings. They should be seamless. The standard should be ‘zero-click’ meetings, and I am sure that we will be there soon.

     

    It’s about much more than automation. I‘m talking about AI-based solutions that help you prepare, execute and summarize meetings with your team. A seamless experience without the need for advanced training, complex company policies or troubleshooting audio and video malfunctions.

     

    I know, for example, that many educators are begging for better and more natural solutions for teaching a mix of in-class and remote students. Hybrid classrooms should allow teachers to show a mechanical model or math formula remotely on the whiteboard with the same ease and effectiveness as if the teacher and students were all together in the same room. Every teacher (and student) should have a seamless experience that facilitates engagement and learning wherever they are.

     

    4. Mission-critical communication

    We’re currently seeing a surge in demand for mission-critical communication.

     

    These days, everything is connected, monitored and centrally managed. And with the rise of Industry 4.0, it’s expected there will be 30 billion IOT-connected devices by 2025. The ability to effectively analyze and forecast machine performance, infrastructure needs, healthcare services, transportation and manufacturing demands will be extremely dependent on our ability to control and monitor these operations.

     

    Our need to control solutions that are up and running 24/7/365 will give rise to more command and control centers, all requiring mission-critical communication.

     

    In such control centers, operators and managers cannot afford any delay or loss of information when handling any type of content or data. In many cases, the consequences could be tragic.

     

    The Pro AV industry will continue focusing on secure AVoIP and cloud-based solutions. The ability of these technologies to help organizations rapidly scale, safeguard and deliver mission-critical communication to any endpoint is a significant advantage.

    What does this all mean going forward?

    While those four trends are by far the biggest AV megatrends of 2022, I believe they will ultimately have a more significant impact in the coming years.

     

    Public health concerns will continue affecting education, private enterprises, non-profit organizations and governments for the foreseeable future. Even more significant is the cultural shift already underway. Employers now understand that many employees prefer hybrid work models, and that some workers would even consider leaving their job if their employer did not have hybrid solutions in place.

     

    Our hybrid world and technologies that support it are not going to disappear. The advances are already here, and they will only improve quickly and radically. Yet even with the best hybrid technologies, challenges remain, and we will continue to address them by providing innovative, customer-focused solutions. That’s our part. But I’m curious what you think.

     

    How do we create technologically advanced and inclusive environments for participants regardless of whether they’re at home, in the office, in class or traveling, and regardless of the device they are using?

     

  • Who does the classroom belong to?

    By Sefi Aharon

    When it comes to K-12 education, there is consensus on the basics. We all learn to read and write. Plus, there’s science class, gym, some civics studies, and more.
    I always knew that the curriculum differs from country to country. But the more I traveled around the world, the more I learned that there is another substantial distinction between education systems that I had never thought of before –who the classroom belongs to.

    Teachers vs. kids – Who moves around? 

    Having grown up in Israel, it seemed obvious to me that kids stay in the same room all day, while teachers circulate between the classrooms. The same model is widely used in many countries across the globe: Australia, India, Germany, and China. That is why I was surprised to learn that things are done differently in other places. For example, teachers stay in their permanent room in the US, and students come to them

    How it works

    In places where teachers move around, they must bring all their resources and equipment with them. It is not just about having their pens and teaching notes in hand. In today’s increasingly technologically empowered classrooms, teachers must use various electronic devices and systems to share their content and allow students to share their own. Due to the new normal, teachers also need to accommodate a hybrid learning environment – with some students in-room, and others participating remotely.

    Teachers’ main challenges 

    Busy teachers have enough to deal with: planning lessons, marking students’ work, conveying information, imparting skills, and discipline. They are simply too short of time to juggle multiple operating systems and struggle to connect different devices in the first 15 minutes of every class.

    How we can help

    When planning the installation of AV technology in an educational space, it is vital to accommodate teachers’ needs. While speaking with educators, I realized that what teachers are really looking for is to simplify the process of operating technology in every classroom, whether they stay in place or move around. No hassles, no complications.

    Based on my observations, three key takeaways can contribute to streamlining the technology in any given school:

    1. Maximize automation: Enabling teachers to press just one button to get all the technology working for them saves time and irritation at the beginning of every class.

    2. Offer BYOD (bring your own device) functionality: Making it possible for teachers to use their own familiar devices such as tablets, laptops and cellphones makes both lesson planning and delivery easier.

    3. Provide remote troubleshooting and management of the spaces: Ensuring a smooth and continuous teaching environment is essential for efficiency, as well as peace of mind.

    In other words, the goal really is to make a tech-enabled space the teacher’s best friend!

    To summarize, the question ‘Who does the classroom belongs to’ has a significant impact on its management. Streamlining technology is critical to empowering teachers, whether they teach in the same room all day or move around.

     

    Now I am curious how this works in your country or school.

    Please share your thoughts below.

  • Top 5 Hybrid Work Collaboration Tips

    By Joel Zand

    Welcome to “Gen H,” the Hybrid Generation. Hybrid work environments are the new normal, and they aren’t likely to go away. When “horseless carriages” (i.e., cars) entered the world, Thomas Edison concluded that “the horse is doomed.” That didn’t exactly happen, but auto technology couldn’t be de-invented. Similarly, hybrid work environments won’t replace the office, but they’re here to stay in our 'Physi-Digi' (physical-digital) world. Consider these five tips to help you adapt and work effectively in Gen H.

    1. Be Flexible

    These evolving hybrid settings are transforming our understanding of work. Adapting to this change requires being flexible enough to recognize the delicate balance between our professional and personal lives.

    Your colleagues have diverse backgrounds, ages, demographics, and responsibilities in and out of work. Suddenly, you probably know more than you ever thought possible about the personal lives of your boss or employees you manage. They have children attending school from home, noisy roommates, attention-seeking pets, spouses or partners under the same roof, or are passionate country music fans.

    Be flexible and empathetic in this evolving new reality. A little respect is more than likely to be reciprocated many times over.

    2. Work Wirelessly

    Working with colleagues and clients in a hybrid environment is simple if you can wirelessly engage and collaborate. A recent survey of US and UK-based IT managers and executives found that 63% of companies prioritize adopting collaborative solutions for their hybrid workforce.

    Enterprises need security and flexibility for their teams to collaborate wirelessly. In Generation H, this means the ability to work with anyone, anywhere, from any device, via any videoconference platform.

    High-speed internet, dependable Wi-Fi, as well as dependable notebooks and mobile devices are essential. For IT managers, this also means deploying secure, easy-to-manage, and reliable hardware solutions like Kramer’s VIA Connect2 to bring colleagues and clients together in a click.

    3. Communicate

    Seamless communication with videoconferences and voice calls is critical for hybrid collaboration. You want to prevent "a failure to communicate" among colleagues, whether they work in the office, at home, or halfway around the world.

    A decent noise-reducing microphone and headset or earbuds can help your communication stay focused. Check the settings of your videoconference software to reduce background noise for others in hybrid meetings.

    But remote work doesn’t mean giving up your company’s culture and congeniality. Hold virtual coffee breaks, ring a virtual gong to celebrate the latest sale, or hold a virtual meet-my-pet session with your team. Keep those conversations going!

    4. Respect Time and Boundaries

    In Gen H, work isn’t usually a 9-to-5 job. Hybrid environments offer the flexibility for a teammate to take her dog for a walk, help his kids with schoolwork, or run an errand at the corner supermarket. Of course, everyone still accounts for their time, but companies are devoting even more attention to their employees’ well-being in their personal lives in exchange for loyalty and appreciation.

    Colleagues should be sure to keep one another in the loop about when they may be temporarily unavailable. Good calendaring is a must. During the evening or weekends, responsible employees will put in the time for such a quid pro quo arrangement.

    This benevolent paternalism has boundaries, of course. If you’re a night owl, but your teammates prefer to sleep, it’s not a great idea to schedule 1:00 a.m. early-morning strategy sessions.

    5. Get Stuff Done

    A key objective in every hybrid work environment is collaborating effectively to get stuff done and do your job well. Being entrusted with freedom and flexibility is never an excuse to ignore your work.

    Even law firms know that lawyers are motivated by having a collaborative hybrid work environment letting them work from home. But they also know that attorneys have obligations to their clients. Failing to meet deadlines or get the job done has consequences.

    If you need help managing your hybrid work, ask for it. Organizations know that helping employees collaborate wirelessly and well — from any location, from any device, and with industry-leading videoconference platforms — is essential to every enterprise’s productivity and bottom line.

  • Kramer Honored with Three 2021 BEST Awards from Commercial Integrator

    Kramer is proud that AV/IT industry publisher Commercial Integrator recognized three of our Pro AV products with 2021 BEST Awards (Best Electronic Systems Technologies).

    Our award-winning products received honors in three categories from judges in these system integrator awards. Let’s take a look.

    KDS-10 | BEST IP Enabling Device

    Kramer’s high-performance, KDS-10 4K@60 dual-streaming transceiver features both H.264 and H.265 video codecs to extend 4K@60Hz (4:4:4) AV streams. It offers dual-streaming at 4K@60HZ (4:2:0) and a standard 1G LAN or WAN network interface.

    The KDS-10 empowers user applications in the education, digital signage, military, healthcare, and government markets. Learn more about KDS-10

    VS-34FD – BEST Matrix Switcher

    Kramer’s VS-34FD is the first modular 8K multi-format digital matrix switcher to bring true interoperability and next-generation flexibility for meeting rooms, lecture theatres, and presentation suites. 

    With 34 interchangeable I/O ports across 17 card slots, the VS-34FD’s multi-format modular matrix design offers unparalleled versatility with a modular and easy-to-configure platform for switching an enormous variety of AV signals, including HDMI™, HDBaseT, VGA, SDI, as well as analog and digital audio.

    Offering flexible infrastructure conversion, the VS-34FD has Kramer Core™ technology that enables copper or twisted pair cables to be used simultaneously, according to input/output module selection. It provides quick and efficient enterprise network management with the Kramer Network platform. Learn more about VS-34FD

    KIT-400 – BEST Video Scaler


    Kramer’s KIT-400 is the first high−performance 4K auto−switcher and video scaler kit of its kind. The combination transmitter and receiver reinvented how collaboration technology set-ups are configured in presentation environments, delivering instant and professional results. Spaces can be completely automated through Kramer’s Maestro Room Automation, saving meeting prep time and minimizing human error before presentations.

    The KIT-400 transforms the way integrators present professional-quality video signals. Its video signal extension ranges up to 40m (130ft) over CAT copper cables at up to 4K@60Hz (4:2:0) resolution, and even further reach for lower HD video resolutions. It’s easy to install and simple to connect, saving time and removing unnecessary complexity, cables, and content-scaling challenges.  Learn more about KIT-400

     These award-winning AVoIP, video scaler, and matrix switcher products are another reason why Kramer, for 40 years, remains a partner trusted by system integrators in more than 100 countries worldwide.  Our innovation, research, development, collaboration, and customer service put Kramer at the forefront of the Pro AV IT industry.