Thinking of upgrading your paging and bell system?
We interviewed New Era Technology NZ’s Solution Architect, Michael Askew about paging and bell systems for schools. Read below his insights and how they can help you when deciding whether to upgrade systems.
Traditional Versus Modern Functionalities of a School Bell System
When asked about the balance between traditional and contemporary functions of bell systems, Michael explained that even though IP paging and PA systems have evolved to meet modern education requirements, schools still see value in a classic school bell.
Instead, Michael encourages school leadership teams to not think about replacing the traditional bell but look at the extra value an IP paging and PA system brings.
“These systems can perform the function of a classic school bell but are modernised in a way where you can adjust what sound the bell will be. Some schools use music for the bell, and the students decide what the music will be. For example, at one of my client schools, whichever whanau is winning in points gets to decide the song for the next term. Students must be in class before the song finishes.”
In addition to the basic bell, Michael outlines other critical considerations for schools, such as emergency paging and lockdown functionalities and VoIP integration.
“Modern systems enable schools to quickly alert everyone onsite to evacuate, stay inside (lockdown), or any other emergency (Tsunami, Tornado etc),” Michael said.
“Where possible, we also like to integrate these systems with a VoIP phone solution. This makes it easy for staff to make announcements via a mobile app over the paging system and initiate lockdown/evacuation when they’re not onsite. Benefits to The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) are that they are not tethered to a desk and do not need to get to the system to initiate a lockdown physically.”
Popularity of Systems and Technology
We asked Michael what systems or technology he has noticed becoming more popular in schools over the last 12 months.
“I find many schools are moving towards VoIP phone solutions in response to the copper network being phased out within New Zealand,” Michael said.
He also outlined that when New Era are having conversations around implementing VoIP systems and cloud-based Voice solutions with customers, it often ends up with a broader discussion, including IP Paging systems. Mainly due to the integration opportunities between IP Paging and VoIP systems.
Top Purchasing Considerations for Schools Looking to Install or Upgrade IP Paging and PA Systems
If you want to update your bell system, consider the following.
Michael emphasised that scalability is vital when you are starting your planning.
“You want to be able to add, move or remove a speaker easily.”
Leverage Existing Technology and Projects
“It’s a good idea to take advantage of the PoE switching that is being offered as a part of the Te Mana Tuhono (Network Hardware Replacement) program by N4L (Network 4 Learning),” Michael said.
Michael explained that many SIP speaker systems could be powered via your data network, saving a lot of money.
Can Your IT Provider Maintain the System?
Another consideration is if your IT provider can maintain the paging and PA system. Traditionally, it has been up to the property team to look after these systems. However, with the trend moving towards network-based solutions, it makes sense for IT to support and maintain these systems.
Misconceptions Schools Might Not Know About
We asked Michael to let us know the most significant misconceptions he hears regarding paging, bell and PA systems.
Michael stressed that IP paging and PA systems do not have fire alarms and that they cannot use the fire alarm speakers.
The systems can be set up to recognise zones throughout the school.
“The system can be used to play radio, and you can localise this to just certain speakers/zones if required. Some schools use speakers to complement certain spaces. For example, some have outdoor settings with native bird noises occurring occasionally, and others use it indoors for relaxing spaces with soothing music/sounds,” Michael explained.
One misconception is that the solutions are only one way. Michael outlined that some of the solutions do allow for two-way communication. An example is where the administration office can call a single classroom to talk, and someone can respond.
A common sentiment is that these systems are costly. Michael told us that because the system is scalable, we can work on single speakers instead of taking everything offline simultaneously. Conversely, traditional speakers/bells can disrupt the entire system if one speaker goes down or gets stolen.
Michael added that there are also additional benefits that come with these speakers, such as integrations for students who are deaf.
“We can implement lighting with these systems that flicker to alert them that there is a lockdown/evacuation,” Michael highlighted.
The Best IP Paging and PA Systems
Michael explained that the best solution for your school depends on several factors. What the best solution is for one school may not suit another.
However, in New Zealand, the team are currently seeing lots of 2N speakers in conjunction with 3CX as a phone system. If not 3CX, the other phone solution is Microsoft Teams.
New Era Technology can help you implement an effective paging and bell system at your school. Talk to us today about how your school can increase your communication between staff and students.