Technology Eliminates Need for One-way Mirrors

August 01, 2006 |

At Eastern Connecticut State University's new childhood development center, the use of observation rooms with one-way mirrors to study children's behavior has been replaced by voice- and video-capturing technology.

The technology lets observers study children without intruding into their environment or interrupting their focus, factors that could affect the children's behavior.

“We were trying to provide an environment where we could allow professors, instructors, and students to monitor and learn how children interact in an environment where the children don't realize technology is even there,” said Wayne Cornell, a senior consultant at Acentech, Cambridge, Mass., the acoustical consultant that designed the technology. All observations are done with parental consent.

Five child activity rooms in the Margaret S. Wilson Child and Family Development Resource Center on ECSU's Willimantic campus are each equipped with three video cameras, an input for a portable camera, and several fixed microphones. Wireless microphones can be placed on children as needed for dedicated audio recording.

The system allows employees in the center's main control room and professors located elsewhere on campus to zoom in and out to observe and record children's activity in selected classrooms. Three classrooms in the center's student wing are equipped with plasma TVs for real-time viewing. A satellite uplink allows for real-time broadcast of the video anywhere in the world. There's also an eight-foot-wide fake maple tree projects that images on the ceiling.

The cameras can capture close to 400 hours of video which can be stored and edited in the media center.

The $10 million, 40,000-sf center contains $1.5 million of A/V equipment. Konover Construction, Farmington, Conn., was the CM; New England Design Studios was the design architect and Karl Norton Architect was the architect of record, both of Mansfield, Conn.

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