On May 11th 2016, Ryan Cahoy along with the Kent School District, and the Manor Independent School District sat on a live panel with the Digital Signage Federation to discuss leveraging digital signage in K-12 schools.
Manor Independent School District in Texas has 12 schools in their district with campuses sprawled across a large geographic area. They began using digital signage 3 years ago to improve communication across the district.
Kent School District in Washington State, has one of the most diverse student populations in the area with a large migrant/immigrant population and a student body who speaks over 135 different languages. They began their digital signage project roughly 5 years ago in an effort to reach out to families and to support student achievement.
Manor has catered their signage to the students experience, displaying school lunch menus, calendar events, student work and accomplishments such as student of the week/month. In their offices, they have signage showing a variety of topics ranging from school events to district-wide events, which are displayed for parents and visitors to see. To learn more about their digital signage project, head over here.
Kent School District has taken a unique approach to digital signage, featuring both kiosks and wall-mounted displays in their hallways. Their touch-interactive kiosks feature 2 screens, one for advertising -their main source of funding for this project- and the second is an interactive screen, displaying news, internship opportunities, student grades and attendance, interactive maps of the building, check-in and check-out procedures as well as registration services for new students. They are also currently in the process of rolling out cafeteria specific signage which will show meal offerings, prices, and nutritional information.
Kent and Manor both started small. They began with pilot programs, running a simple powerpoint on an old wall-mounted display which showed in a central office or a few central locations. They needed something to show passerby’s that could communicate their goals for the project while testing its feasibility.
Positive feedback sparked the growth of these projects. Support from the schools and their communities has allowed these districts to transition from powerpoints to software solutions like Rise Vision and additional displays to show content in more locations. At Manor, principles were coming into the central office, seeing the display, and then requesting displays for their own schools, and so the project expanded. Now every school in their district has digital signage. These school districts are now using digital signage in diverse ways, ranging from interactive maps of a campus to the answer to "What's for lunch today?".
These districts now have displays across all of their schools, communicating messages and events concerning what’s going on that day, month and year, to everyone who walks through their halls. Kent and Manor agree that digital signage is an easy and manageable solution to the stale billboards that used to lie in their place and an abundance of delighted parents, students, principals and community members are all overwhelmingly satisfied with what digital signage has accomplished in their schools.
How To Get Started?
Here are a few quick tips we picked up from the panel on getting started with digital signage in your school.
You don’t need to start with 50 displays, the latest software and the best media players around. If you’re not sure this is a viable option for your school just yet, start with a pilot. Put up a powerpoint on an old display, have it run for a bit and listen to feedback from students, staff and parents. From there, you can only grow the project and adapt it as you apply the feedback you receive. No risk, and no upfront investment.
Once Manor decided they wanted to scale their project, they found old netbooks that were sitting around in storage collecting dust and used those to power their displays.
A great option is the Raspberry Pi, it is a low-cost player that is supported by the Rise Vision Community. And if you’re looking for something a little less DIY and more plug and play, the Intel Compute Stick is another solid choice.
Still unsure of how to start? Check out how a school in the Netherlands assembled a digital signage network with limited resources here.
We know that the price can make or break your decision to embark on a project like this so we propose that you get creative. Kent School District was able to fund their entire signage initiative through advertising. They developed a level-based advertising system where businesses could buy-in based on the duration and size of their advertisement.
Now we know that organizing a system like this is easier said than done for many schools so why not look around for sponsorships. Talk to your local businesses, inform them of the project and offer naming rights to one or many of your displays. Have your display show an ad in rotation, or add a simple banner along the bottom reading “sponsored by X”. It’s great exposure and is almost guaranteed to get noticed.
What to show?
The opportunities for content are endless. Engage your students with lunch options, school-wide events, sports tryouts, student accomplishments, notices for early release, updates on registration, traffic updates and the list goes on.
Your digital signage is a visual piece and it needs fresh and relevant content, which begs the question of who is going to update it. Manor has designated a role for this purpose at each of their campuses. They have an already existing staff member assigned to updating their content whenever it is needed. Kent’s signage is updated by their Internal Governance Team who has been taken through online training on how to use the software.
If these solutions don’t work for you, let the students do the work! Students are multi-talented and far more literate when it comes to technology. Create a club. If you’re worried about the appropriateness of the content, have a staff member oversee their work and ensure that the projects are kept in line. Students love the opportunity to learn something new, try a new skill, gain some initiative and work with a team. Even better, they are rewarded by seeing their work displayed every time they pass a display in the hallway. Students are a willing bunch, full of ideas and you may as well take advantage.
Check out the incredible ways in which the University of Laverne involved students in building their digital signage network.