Protecting the Connected Classroom

How to mobilize existing technology resources for security and emergency response


Much of the technology in the classroom can be networked. Internet protocol (IP) can facilitate technology utilization by tying together technologies throughout the entire school to enable greater communication. This connectivity can also enable security and emergency response systems to leverage various classroom technologies to add safety to the benefits of classroom technology.

 

Leveraging the Security Advantages

IP connects information networks to ensure video can be made available from anywhere on campus without the added expense of running coaxial cable to each camera. Existing networks are typically campus-wide, which means the ability to provide critical video for any surveillance need is as near as the closest network node. The connectivity and functionality of various classroom systems also enable them to play a role in security and emergency response in addition to their everyday function to enrich the learning experience. For example, the same wireless classroom audio system can double as part of an emergency response system. The wireless pendant microphones can put a panic button within easy reach of a teacher in an emergency, and the system can work in tandem with an integrated document camera or other classroom video camera.

By pressing the panic button, the teacher can quietly initiate an immediate first response and provide real-time video of an unfolding incident. When the button is pressed, the document camera is automatically repositioned to focus not on a book or map, but on the classroom as a whole. In effect, the document camera, or potentially any networked video camera used for anything in the classroom, can instantly become a surveillance camera, with video sent to the school’s networked surveillance system to provide visual information about an unfolding event. The panic button also sends an alarm to authorities, enabling immediate response and action to secure the campus if needed.

 

Addressing Privacy Concerns

The presence of surveillance cameras in the classroom could be seen as disruptive or inhibiting to the learning environment; however, when an emergency situation arises, real-time video surveillance provides a critical tool to security personnel and first responders.

The ideal approach to would be to have cameras in place and kept inactive until needed. Activating a camera for emergency use when needed is one approach; another is to use a camera that ensures privacy until it is activated.

The Port Washington, N.Y., Union Free School District has installed a solution that incorporates technology to guarantee student and teacher privacy. Panasonic worked with SituCon Systems to develop the Panasonic-powered SituCam Privacy Protecting Camera — a dome camera within a housing featuring software-controlled “eyelids” that cover the camera’s lens to ensure teacher and student privacy except during an emergency.

The SituCon Systems’ Emergency Awareness Solution enables a faculty member at the school district to push a wireless “Instant Alert” button to immediately provide school administrators and police with critical information such as the faculty member’s name, location and telephone number. Simultaneously, the privacy-protecting “eyelids” open, exposing a Panasonic security camera that provides real-time video to the police dispatch center, in the cruisers, and on responding officers’ smart phones. At all other times, the eyelids remain closed to prevent camera operation and to make it obvious that the classroom is not being monitored, thus ensuring student and teacher privacy.

The SituCam camera requires only a single Ethernet cable to be run to each camera and replaces an existing ceiling tile using a “Drop-In” Suspended Ceiling Mounting Tile. The integrated Panasonic camera provides high-quality images over the existing wired and wireless data networks without requiring infrastructure upgrades.

Such a system provides assurance to teachers and students that help is only a push of a button away. Police officer safety is improved as responders no longer need to venture blindly into potentially dangerous situations — they can see what is going on before going in.

 

Balancing Security and Teaching