In our music room, there is a lot of information I need to keep in front of the kids as much as possible. Over the years I have gone the traditional route and used a whiteboard writing all the information on the board under different sections. I am in our jr./sr. high school three days per week and I like to do a quote on two of those days and a riddle on the final day. Between technology and music, my days are cram-packed so any chance to make things easier using technology I take advantage of it.
The main entryways in both of our schools I have a large screen tv set up as a digital sign. I have played around with a few different pieces of software. I started with Chrome SignBuilder and found it didn’t look the way I wanted and just didn’t have the control I had wanted for a digital sign. We ended up using ScreenCloud running on a Chromebit and it worked well but still wasn’t as customizable as I wanted. I want to have full control of the layout and couldn’t find something that would give me that.
About two years ago I went to NY for a class reunion and stayed at my father’s house. In the kitchen, he had a 27″ monitor vertically mounted in the kitchen with a live radar, photos, news, and a calendar. It was a Raspberry Pi attached to the back of a monitor running a web app called Dakboard. As soon as I got back from NY I ordered a Raspberry Pi and an IPS 28″ monitor. The music room was the first place I was going to try it out as it gave me a smaller environment to play around with it before I possibly utilized it as our main digital signage for the schools. If you don’t know what a Raspberry Pi is I would highly suggest checking them out. They are small computers that range between about $35-$50 and allow you to do many different tasks like the Dakboard, making a Bluetooth audio receiver, learn how to program, learn how a computer works, a kid’s first computer, and a number of other things. There is a free version that is very limited, we paid I believe $100 for the entire year and it includes 3 screens we can create. I have the music room, elementary lobby, and the high school lobby. Other plans include more screens or for a cost, you can add additional screens.
There are some great tutorials online walking you through setting up the Raspberry Pi for the Dakboard. The first one took me about twenty minutes to set up, the additional boards only went very quick outside of the installation of Raspbian which is the operating system that runs on the Raspberry Pi. Once you have the Raspberry Pi set up all the rest of the work is done through the web browser on any device. That is the nice thing about the Dakboard, you don’t need to remote onto it to make changes to your screen. Everything can be done from any web browser. It can be updated from a tablet or phone but if you are working on the layout can be very challenging on a touch device. I find I use my phone or iPad when updating some of the information on the board but everything else I will do from my laptop. You create blocks that you can adjust the size and each block contains the content whether it is photos, text, or other information.
Dakboard has some predefined screen resolutions that are most common but you can set your own if you have a screen size that is not as normal. The example on the left is the one I have up right next to where I stand when conducting the different bands. It is right in front of the kids so they can see it at all times. I do a quote & joke of the week, our Google calendar, current weather, time/date, photos of things we do through the year, and important upcoming dates. I can adjust the exact size of each section by clicking and dragging the box sizes in the setup screen for the board. Our Google calendars can be linked along with folders from many different services including Google Drive and Dropbox and it will randomize photos in those folders. I set up I time-based display for the 2 quotes and jokes I do so I have set Monday it shows my first quote of the week, Wednesday it switches to my joke or riddle for the week, and on Friday it shows another quote. I don’t need to go through and change it manually each day. I go through Monday morning and put in the quotes and jokes for the week and it automatically switches when I set it up to switch.
You can also layer the blocks on the display so if you have a notice you need to show temporarily you can place it on top of all the other blocks. It will hide them and show just want you want and when done you can delete that top layer block you created to go back to how it was. There are really no limits on what you can do with the layout. The one part I had some trouble figuring out was having a Google Slideshow display so you can show some rotating content. I was able to get it to work but it took a lot of playing around with layering and the size. If you need any help with that part just leave a comment below and I’ll get in touch!
This past summer I moved our lobby TVs in both schools over to Dakboard and it has been wonderful. We had nice displays previously but now I can make it look much cleaner and more professional. The ability to layer your blocks allows you to tighten up the look and reduce wasted space. I have also set one up in my kitchen at the house in which I have the current weather showing, a live weather radar, a photo slideshow of an album shared between myself and my wife, latest RSS news feed, and my calendar as I keep busy and it helps my wife know what I have coming up. That is what I liked about Dakboard, you can use it in your classroom, home, and any other environment you can think of because of how customizable it is. I can see classroom teachers using it to show upcoming classroom due dates, quick info about topics covered in class, among many other pieces of information. It could be used in a cafeteria to show the lunch menu or in the gym to show practice schedules. The uses are endless and is something I am continually exploring as I would love to have these all over the school.