High school digital signage takes educational role

A Colorado high school that deployed digital signage several years ago has seen its networked displays become both a highly effective communications channel and an educational tool for students.

Heritage High School in Littleton, Colo., just outside Denver, deployed five digital signage screens throughout the school, starting in 2009. One display greets students and visitors just inside the main entrance; another sits above the school's "Senior Pit" area; while the remaining three hang in the school's student center.

"It's a great communication tool for us," said Heritage High School Office Manager Kathy Smith, in a recent interview at the school. The displays are used for campus-wide announcements and to help keep students apprised of the different bell schedules for different days of the week or for school assemblies, she said. "It keeps a lot of the kids informed; instead of coming in here constantly asking, they can just look up on the signs and get the information. They seem to really like it."

The digital signage system also has evolved into something that provides educational opportunities and video production experience to Heritage High students. Various students groups have created video ads to be displayed on the screens, and the school's fledgling video production class and marketing classes create video ads for the system. School booster groups also have created videos for the screens, such as a highlight reel from the school baseball team, and the school's band director usually provides clips of concert highlights for the displays.

"I think it's great; we try and integrate technology — that's part of the 21st century learning, integrating technology with schools — so it just helps us do that," Smith said. "It's really student driven, so they really like it. They're always bringing me videos and asking me to show them when they create them."

The school deployed digital signage when the graduating seniors in 2009 wanted to buy TVs for the school, Smith said. The principal at the time told students they could buy screens, but the school would control the content. That discussion turned into the school's digital signage system, paid for by students and by donations from other groups, with no money coming out of the school's budget, Smith said. (Students raise money as a class throughout their four years at the school, for programs and dances, and when each class graduates, they use any funds they have remaining for a "senior gift" to the school.)

Heritage High was the first school in the Littleton school district to deploy digital signage, but Smith said another nearby middle school is in the early stages of deploying its own, and the district transportation office has deployed digital signage. The school uses displays from LG Electronics and software from Denver-based Four Winds Interactive — and Smith said updating the content displayed has become second nature, taking "minimal" effort on her part to keep it fresh.

The school also had the option to make the screens touch interactive, Smith said, but decided that hanging the screens out of easy reach of students was the more prudent course of action.

The screens also serve a wayfinding function, with the school's multiple floors displayed in a clear layout, and the school can include RSS feeds from media outlets such as CNN and ESPN. And occasionally, Smith said, the students will succeed in petitioning to have a live event, say the Olympics, shown on the screens.

"And when I do turn it to live TV," she said, "you'll see kids from different groups that never would've associated with each other, they're all hanging out there in front of the signs."

Read more about digital signage in education.

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