Even before the widespread closures and move toward e-learning, many schools were investing in audiovisual solutions. The price of AV hardware has come down considerably in recent years, and many schools have been working to create modern learning environments, or MLEs, for their students. And as schools nationwide began suspending classroom activities, the need for education leaders to have a solid remote learning plan in place for times of emergency was made abundantly clear.

These AV solutions are of benefit now and will continue to pay dividends long after students are back in their classrooms with their teachers.

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Here are four ways that AV tools support connected learning for K–12 students.

1. Remote Learning

Especially given the current situation, remote learning is a highly valuable application of AV tools. Schools have scrambled to put remote learning tools in place quickly enough to avoid major disruptions in instruction, and many educators have been surprised to see just how readily even their youngest learners have adopted them. First grade teachers are using videoconferencing software such as Zoom to host morning meetings and read-alouds with their classes, for instance. These use cases haven’t been without their hiccups. To illustrate: “Can you ask an adult to help you mute your computer microphone?” is a sentence most teachers probably never thought they’d be uttering dozens of times per week. But these tools have proved valuable enough that I think we’ll see a lot of schools lean on remote learning more heavily in the future to help handle events such as snow days and sick days.

2. In-Class Sharing

Digital displays can be used for more than bringing in content and resources from outside. For example, they can be a great way for students to collaborate and share their work with each other in the classroom. AV solutions are especially effective for sharing group work. Students can huddle in groups of three or four (often with the help of flexible furniture) and create short presentations to record their thinking or the results of an experiment. Then, using wireless connectivity, they can instantly display their findings on a larger screen for the entire class to see.

3. Creating Global Connections

Pen pals are a good way for students to learn about life in other parts of the country or the world. But video chats are even better. Through videoconferencing tools, young students can see the faces and hear the voices of their new friends and get a better window into what life and school are like in other parts of the world.

4. Connections to Outside Experts

Bringing in special speakers, such as children’s authors, is a great way to make learning come alive for students. But these visits can often be a logistical challenge, and they can also be quite expensive. For example, a children’s author may charge $500 for a half-day visit. This may not be prohibitively expensive, but if the author lives in California and your school is in Michigan, suddenly the school is looking at paying for plane tickets, meals, a hotel room and a rental car. Rather than spending several thousand dollars, teachers and administrators are likely to drop the idea of the visit entirely. Using AV tools, teachers can connect students with experts instantly, without having to worry about travel expenses. It’s one more way that increasingly affordable AV solutions can help educators open up the world for their students.