Clear Touch Team

5 of the Best Online Resources for Teachers

Our country promises students a free education from Kindergarten through 12th Grade, but online resources are quickly turning students into lifelong learners by making education more fun and affordable for everyone. Through top educational websites and award-winning online course offerings, students are able to learn faster, dig deeper into subjects that interest them, and continue learning outside of the classroom.

Inside the classroom, teachers are getting creative using augmented reality to take virtual field trips, 3D printing to create models for engineering students, and cloud computing and document sharing to get students working collaboratively. While traditional brick-and-mortar schools can be limited by economics and geography, technology continues to make education more accessible for everyone, breaking down the barriers between the educational resources available to teachers and the learners who can benefit.

In short, if we can give students Internet access, we can give them a first-class education—both now and for years to come.

Best Education Websites to Enrich Learning and Expand the Classroom Experience

There are countless available online resources designed to both improve and expand education beyond the classroom walls. We’ve rounded up 5 great websites that are particularly innovative, accessible, and effective for students of all ages.

Khan Academy

Today Khan Academy, one of the pioneers of free online education, is a household name. But many still think of Sal Khan’s videos as only a tool for individual use—perhaps for students who are struggling with a particular subject. The site is worth a revisit to see just how far it has come since the early days (over 10 years ago) when Sal Khan was sending individual YouTube tutorial videos to his cousin in Louisiana to help her advance her middle school math skills.

Pursuing his mission of providing a “free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere,” Sal Khan quit his job working for a hedge fund and expanded his efforts. Within the last decade, he’s created more videos in more subject areas to reach more learners. What he did not anticipate is the way his videos would transform the classroom. As teachers came across his videos, they evolved from supplementing their teaching with his videos to flipping their classrooms entirely so that Khan Academy videos carried the lion’s share of the lecture portion of a given course. Even more helpful for teachers, Kahn offers common core lessons in subject areas such as math, science, and language arts.

Khan has developed his program so that in recent years, teachers can use his entire program to give classroom students access to lecture material on their own time, at a relatively individualized pace, in the setting most comfortable for the learner. Learners can watch and rewatch instructional videos and then practice skills online. The program tracks their progress, identifying exactly where they are excelling and where they need more attention. This approach frees up instructors to focus classroom time on individual support and attention, maximizing meaningful teacher-student interaction—a phenomenon Khan refers to as using technology to “humanize the classroom.” More collaboration is happening and students are experiencing more academic success because they are able to get the support they need.  

MasterClass

What budding filmmaker wouldn’t love a chance to take a film directing class taught by Ron Howard? Imagine improving your hoop skills with Stephen Curry? Ramping up your acting chops under the expertise of Helen Mirren? You can do all of these things and so many more through MasterClass, a website offering online classes taught by some of the world’s greatest minds. The site offers classes in a wide variety of subjects, from cooking to chess, fashion design, and comedy writing.

While Master Classes are not free, they are quite reasonable, especially when you consider that you have direct access to instructors who are among the best in their field. For $90, you can enroll in one class of your choice that you can access at your pace, in your favorite learning spot, and on your favorite device. For $180, you can take as many classes as you like over the course of a year. What a deal! You can even gift a special friend, family member, or student with a class.

MasterClass could be a great way for teachers to help students delve more deeply into a topic that interests them or add some expertise to a Unit Plan. Check out their Free Trial Offer to explore and get started.

Project Gutenberg

If you didn’t much care for reading as a child, or simply had an education that didn’t require a lot of reading of the Classics, then you might be among the many working backwards to expand your literacy and education in Classic Literature. Project Gutenberg is for you—especially if you’re like most of us and love FREE. That’s right, over 57,000 eBooks at your fingertips for free without even having to leave your couch!

Project Gutenberg focus on older bodies of work for which the copyright has expired. The site is completely volunteer driven, with thousands of bibliophiles giving their time and talents to digitize, proofread, and record volume after volume for the sheer love of education. That means no registration or fees for you and me, but they happily accept donations to fund their project. The eBooks require no special apps for access—just your regular Web browser.

And if you discover that you are passionate about not only Classic Literature, but Project Gutenberg as well, they invite you to join their team of volunteers to help expand their offerings by working to digitize and/or record books.

Coursera

Want to take college courses, but working full time leaves you no time to be a full-time student, or you’re just not into dorm life? Perhaps you hope to transition to a different career path and need a few specialized courses. Many universities now offer complete degree programs online, but one of our favorite online sites for higher education is Coursera, launched in 2012 by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller. Coursera offers online, pre-recorded video courses from some of the world’s top universities and educational institutions. As of 2017, the site has 149 partners from 29 different countries to bring together a variety of individual courses and course bundles across all kinds of fields and specialized areas of study.

Coursera courses range in price from $29 to $99 and include recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums. Upon completion of a 4-6 week class, students receive a shareable electronic Course Certificate. Additionally, Coursera offers full degree programs that allow students to “study the same curriculum, learn from the same professors, and graduate with the same credentials as on-campus students” for a fraction of the cost of an on-campus degree.

Coursera could provide an excellent enrichment opportunity for students who excel in certain course areas or have an interest in a particular field. Imagine being able to help students explore topics that interest them for as little as thirty dollars.

DonorsChoose.org

Sometimes, online communities can even connect teachers to real-world resources for their classroom. Ask pretty much any teacher if he winds up spending his own money on supplies and materials for his students, and you might be shocked to learn that the average American public-school teacher shells out upwards of $500 a year to stock the classroom with everything it needs to provide kids’ the best experience they can get. This is not the way public education should be, and this is why we love DonorsChoose.org.

Started in 2000 by a public-school history teacher in the Bronx, this nonprofit connects any public school classroom in America with donors just waiting to help out and make educational dreams a reality. The idea is simple: a teacher posts a need, and a donor makes it happen. Anything from books to field trips to technology tools to tempera paints can be posted. Donors get to choose the precise project they want to help fund. It’s a great way to help a school right in your own backyard or meet the needs of kids on the other side of the country in a community where funds are short. As the project comes to fruition, classes send thank you notes, pictures of the project, and a report to their donors. Kids feel the direct support and investment of their communities (be that local or national) while donors experience a full-circle personal connection and get to see exactly where their dollars go.

DonorsChoose.org welcomes every public school in America. To date, over 3 million donors and dozens of organizations have donated over $7,000,000. 79% of public schools are getting in on the deal. What an innovative way to put materials into the hands of students while inviting citizens to support public schools in a direct and personal way! Post your project online to get started.

Our interactive panels make a great foundation for incorporating technology in the classroom. They offer clear, HD viewing, easy to learn software and unmatched interactivity to get each student involved in the lesson plan. Schedule a Live Online Demo to see our panels and software in action.

5 Ways EdTech Can Help Students with Autism in the Classroom

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—and that number is on the rise. It is considered a spectrum disorder because it presents a range of challenges and impairments. For example, some students with autism have strong verbal communication skills while others (as many as 20-30%) are almost entirely non-verbal, unable to communicate basic needs and wants.

There was a time when children with autism could be trapped in their own silent world, struggling to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs to those around them. Today, with assistive communication devices, language acquisition apps, and other innovative EdTech, students with autism are finding more success in the classroom and other social settings. Having technology available to them—and to the parents and educators who work with them—gives these children access to the full range of communication options they need and deserve.

Using EdTech to Address Common Educational Concerns for Students With Autism

This increasingly prevalent diagnosis places an urgent responsibility on educators to seek new methods and tools to assist students with autism in the classroom, maximizing their learning experience. Educational technology is making that a possibility. Teachers and students now have devices, software, and apps that help to decrease some challenges and to completely overcome others.

Consider these common challenges that students with autism face—and how educational technology can decrease frustration and increase success both in and beyond the classroom.

Auditory Processing Difficulties

It is common for those with ASD to have difficulty regulating auditory stimuli. For some, the world can seem like a loud noise machine with the volume turned all the way up. Many are oversensitive to noise and cannot pick and choose which sounds to focus on and which to drown out. Students with autism may experience all sounds simultaneously and at the same intensity, which can literally hurt and cause distress. High frequencies can also cause overstimulation.

With computers, sound as well as voice and decibel levels can be adjusted to meet the needs of an individual with ASD to help avoid anxiety and overstimulation from auditory stimuli. Apps like Noise Down or Too Noisy Pro activate when noise levels become too loud or high. The reminder cues those around (especially in a classroom setting) to lower their noise level. By regulating environmental noise, technology helps reduce stress and anxiety for students with autism, making them more at ease in group and social settings.

Or, with an interactive, multi-touch display as your classroom hub, students with sensory sensitivities can engage with the lesson directly from their personal devices with headphones to block out noise and other distractions while they work.

Visual Processing and Sequencing

Many students on the autism spectrum struggle with skills like sequencing, organizing, and prioritizing, which can make managing daily routines, schedules, and responsibilities stressful. Educational technology can address these struggles in multiple ways. Visual sequencing programs can play to students’ strengths to think and organize in pictures while also reducing or chunking tasks to make a sequence more manageable.

Other programs and devices can provide calendars, written as well as voiced lists and tasks, alerts and alarms that serve as reminders, and color coding to help with prioritizing. There are apps like Sequencing Tasks: Life Skills that can aid in developing and managing these skills by breaking down tasks into pictures which can be arranged in chronological order.

Using a large, crystal-clear HD display to present lessons and enable classroom interaction can also help all students become better visual processors. Plus, our educational software suite includes Snowflake Multiteach, a program that includes many built-in sequencing games and lesson plans.

Language Expression

Recent studies have found that nearly 65% of children with autism also show signs of apraxia of speech, a neurological condition interfering with the motor skills necessary for mastering speech. This is only one manifestation of nonverbal autism; there are myriad other complications that can result in a child with ASD not speaking or not speaking well.

Because those with autism spectrum disorder can more readily process and understand visual input, parents and teachers can equip these children with tablets such as iPad, Android, or Kindle devices. Augmentative and Alternative Communication tools, which generate speech through the use of pictures associated with words. work particularly well on tablets. These programs make speech communication a bigger reality for children with ASD who struggle with spoken language.

The best scenario for students with autism is learning in a one-to-one school district that also provides every classroom with an interactive display. This allows students with autism to wirelessly connect to the panel and interact with the learning experience directly from their personal devices. When they have assistive tools, students with autism are far more likely to express themselves, try new things, and communicate with teachers and classmates.

Fine Motor Skills

Handwriting and other tasks that require mastery of fine motor skills are sometimes incredibly difficult for students with autism. These activities can quickly become sources of frustration and impediments to learning. An otherwise highly intelligent learner may struggle to succeed on assignments requiring extensive handwriting, leading to avoidable academic underachievement.

Devices with touch screens and voice activated technology help students overcome these challenges so that they experience the level of educational success they deserve. For example, Clear Touch Interactive displays feature an intuitive, smooth-glide surface that responds to touch in milliseconds, helping students develop both gross and fine motor skills. Students can practice their fine motor skills through movements such as drag-and-drop, swiping, tracing letters, pinch to zoom, and much more. Our software also includes a handwriting to type feature that makes it easier for students with fine motor delays to communicate through writing.

Social Skills

It is commonly known that those with Autism Spectrum Disorder may struggle with social interaction. Delayed communication and sensory processing can make socializing more difficult, and the complex and nuanced skills necessary for successful social engagement can be overwhelming. Attention and timing, recognizing facial and other social cues, regulating sensory input—all of these play a part in creating rewarding social relationships. These are all areas that also create challenges for children with ASD. These difficulties can show up as deficits in children who are on the nonverbal spectrum or as an excess for a highly verbal child with Asperger’s Syndrome—in which case interactions are often one-sided.

In both cases, children can learn and improve social skills when the proper coaching and tools are made accessible. An indirect benefit of the EdTech tools and programs we have already mentioned is increased confidence that comes with success in the learning environment. Confidence naturally supports improved social interaction. In addition, there are programs and apps, like Social Stories, designed to specifically target and improve skills needed for successful social interaction.

Research also indicates that older students with ASD are more likely to pursue college majors and careers in STEM fields. The Los Angeles-based STEM3 Academy offers students with ASD and other learning challenges a rich STEM-based curriculum to capitalize on their natural strengths in order to build a positive, rewarding learning experience. Students are able to collaborate on projects through the use of technology in a flipped classroom, using computer-aided design programs, 3D printers, and robotics. The natural collaboration builds fluency in social skills that transcend the classroom and help improve relationships with parents and others.

While it is exciting to consider all of the tools and technology available to boost confidence and success for the learner with ASD, it is the long-term goal of all of these things to increase life-long success for students that extends far beyond the classroom years.

When we give these students access to the education they deserve, we equip them with numerous skills that help them function more independently as adults. We increase their odds of finding and keeping good jobs, and we help them have richer relationships with friends and loved ones. Life gets better for these students when they have access to the educational tools they need for success.

While Clear Touch Interactive® displays for education are not ADA compliant and do not qualify as augmentative and alternative communication tools per se, they can be incredibly useful for teachers who work with kids on the autism spectrum in a number of ways. Key features such as 20 points of intuitive touch and wireless screen sharing allow students with sensory processing and communication difficulties to connect to the lesson from their personal devices. Students can also communicate through visual cues, learn sequencing through game-based learning, practice handwriting and work on other fine motor skills.

5 Reasons Why Students Need Technology in the Classroom

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when every educator has grown up with computers and the Internet; there won’t be teachers who remember a time in their lives that was pre-Internet.  For teachers younger than 30, it is already hard to grasp a life without technological devices and aids that enhance education.  But for those north of 40, the opposite can be true: it can be hard to grasp a whole new model of teaching. A model that is less lecture driven and more collaborative, where teachers facilitate, coach, and advise, and where technology plays an integral role in expanding the classroom beyond even its own native country, serving to individualize the learning experience of every student. That idea is exciting and inspiring, but can, at the same time, feel overwhelming.

For our students, though, using educational technology is not merely a benefit or a preferred learning style—it’s a genuine need. All K-12 students have grown up in a world where they can interact with touch screens to zoom, swipe and manipulate content and where they can tap on a link or icon to explore a topic further. Students expect to be able to engage with their world this way and often find it more difficult to learn when they can’t fully interact with the information.

As teachers, it makes sense to invest our professional development time to become EdTEch savvy so that we can reach our students effectively. As an added bonus: classroom technology keeps becoming simpler to use and more intuitive, so learning how to use educational technology will save you time and frustration, too.

Top 5 Ways Educational Technology Enhances the Classroom Experience

These are exciting times for education. Innovative classroom technologies are creating possibilities that were unimaginable only a few years ago. And we aren’t done.  We can predict that over the next decade emerging technologies that are now at the cutting edge will become commonplace, and new technological tools will be introduced that do not yet even exist.  We have arrived at a place where we can say with confidence that every student stands to benefit from the use of technology in the classroom.

Here are our favorite ways that students and teachers are using technology to bring their learning to life.

1. Student-Directed Learning

As educators, our goal is for students to take ownership of their learning. When students take responsibility for their education, they develop skills to explore and solve real-world problems like poverty, waste management issues, business sustainability challenges, and illiteracy (which gives learning a meaningful context and makes it stick). They cease to be passive receivers of knowledge and become engaged co-participants. When teachers are limited to textbooks, video lectures, worksheets, and other static resources, they are limited in their ability to increase understanding and improve learning. Used effectively, technology can come alongside the teacher and provide the needed differentiation in instruction. Technology expands a teacher’s reach, inviting every student to think independently and engage in the learning experience in his own unique way. For instance, with our panel’s screen sharing capabilities, students can take control of the panel and present to the class at the touch of a button.

2. Teacher-Facilitated Learning

Technology in the classroom is freeing teachers up at unprecedented speed to step out of the antiquated “sage-on-the-stage” role. When teachers can move around the classroom more freely, they can facilitate as students work individually and together to pursue their passions and heighten their educational experience. Educators who use technology to individualize learning are freed up to assume a role as coach or facilitator, guiding and encouraging students as they leverage their own ideas and interests in the classroom. Effective educational software programs observe and track student’s problem-solving methods and progress. This provides critical data that informs teachers’ planning and communication with parents and other teachers. As an additional benefit, better data helps teachers work with students to set realistic goals for their learning.

3. Individualized Learning

Every teacher hopes to meet his students where they are—to tailor each student’s education to her individualized styles, needs, strengths, and challenges. Easier said than done. That hope is often trumped by class size and limited resources. In a perfect world, we might have a tutor for every student, but that is an impossibility. Integrating technology in the classroom can help teachers tighten that gap between class size and individualized instruction. When we can put effective educational technology at their fingertips, students get the individualized learning we all want for them. Individualized learning means that while overarching goals remain the same for all students, each student is able to work at his or her own pace, engaging in lessons that maximize the student’s aptitude and help the student surmount challenges. The best technology is designed to adapt in real-time to create individualized education. For example, our software suite includes Snowflake Lessons Online, which enables teachers to assign and grade work outside of the class, give formative assessments, introduce self-directed, game-based learning into the classroom, and much more.

4. Collaborative Learning

When students collaborate, each one is able to capitalize on the strengths and particular skills of the others. But in a traditional classroom layout where a teacher stands up front and addresses students in isolated desks, collaborative learning can be a challenge. Technology in education shifts this paradigm such that students not only work in teams inside the walls of their own classrooms, but are able to interact with the creative minds of students in other classes, other schools, and even other continents. For example, in a recent case study that Clear Touch conducted, we discovered a district where preschool and early childhood education classrooms are using our panels to video conference with engineers and scientists. At another school, the Yearbook teacher and her students collaborate on design spreads in real-time. In an era where global communication is now the norm, delivering this possibility to the classroom is key to preparing students to succeed in a connected world.

5. Learning Promotes Digital Literacy

There was a time when only those professionals who fit specifically into a technological niche were required to be tech savvy. Not so today. It’s a sink-or-swim world where success for almost everyone from those in vocational fields to expert decoders need a working knowledge of computers and other tech devices. When we provide students ample exposure and experience engaging with technology, they develop early on their facility in using it. This early command eases their transition into college and adulthood, giving them a leg up as they enter into the larger world and boosting their chances of professional success.

Clear Touch Interactive® panels are the perfect resource to make these educational goals a reality in the classroom. Our interactive displays feature 20 points of simultaneous touch, so that multiple students can use the panel at once, and an impressive educational software suite that helps teachers build a library of digital resources.

Contact us today for a Live Online Demo to see all the ways that Clear Touch can bring your classroom to life.

4 Ways Schools & Teachers Can Save Money with the Right EdTech

A survey released in May 2018 by the US Department of Education confirms that 94% of public school teachers spend money out of their own pockets to buy classroom supplies—close to $500 on average. Some report as much as $1000. With teaching salaries already modest, averaging $49,000 per year nationwide, this is a predicament that should be corrected. However, school budgets continue to get tighter. The most recent data show the national average spending per pupil is a hefty $11,762—much of that spending goes toward salaries and student support services. It’s no wonder teachers feel compelled to dig into their own wallets for extra classroom supplies from time to time.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to install cutting edge technology (which can come with a significant price tag) into classrooms as one strategy to combat this issue and save schools money, you might be surprised just how cost-effective classroom technology can be. Yes, the latest EdTech tools incur an initial investment, but over time can save school districts, individual schools, and even teachers money.

How a Clear Touch Interactive Panel Can Help Educators Save Money

At Clear Touch, it is our goal to provide state-of-the-art interactive panels that empower educators and increase learning. As an added benefit, our panels also incorporate affordable technology and essentially pay for themselves over time.

Check out these 4 ways Clear Touch Interactive Panel can put money back in the school budget:

Reduced IT, maintenance, and power costs.

Overall, the total cost of ownership for Clear Touch Interactive panels is much lower than for competitive technologies or outdated interactive projectors. Our panels operate on an efficient power budget and do not require any ongoing maintenance like bulb replacements, replacement cords, or recalibrations.

In addition, unlike many technology implementations, Clear Touch installation is quick and simple and requires no costly or intrusive construction crews or classroom modifications to accommodate our panels. A few hours of simple device setup and configuration is usually all it takes to get your panel up and running. In fact, our mobile and convertible stands can be assembled in a couple hours, and our adjustable wall mount light can attach to nearly any surface.

Lastly, Clear Touch provides remote, centralized IT infrastructure and unparalleled customer support, which means your IT staff won’t have to waste time going from classroom to classroom, device to device, to manage and solve tech problems. By offering better warranties and flexible financing, Clear Touch makes Interactive Panel ownership even more affordable.

Streamlines expensive communication.

Teachers, administrators, and support staff in any school district need a comprehensive and effective system of communication—which can be costly for the district. The use of Clear Touch Interactive® panels streamlines and centralizes communication, making it more cost-effective. Our intuitive EasiRemote system unifies communication throughout a school, for easy morning announcements to emergency alerts. Use full multicast video to get a message out school-wide or send a message only to a specific classroom. Our software allows you to customize communication to meet the specific needs of your school, creating systems that target groups by grade level, wing, subject matter—whatever your need is. No more wasted time bogged down by inefficient, slow communication. Free up time to focus on your important tasks and responsibilities. Time saved ultimately translates into money saved.

Clear Touch technology also allows for district-level monitoring of technology in the classroom. Administrators are empowered to make informed decisions that improve the use of technology and maximize the educational experience they provide students. User-friendly dashboards and EasiRemote access give an at-a-glance look at how your technology is performing. Effective, efficient monitoring of classroom technology reduces money and time wasted on multiple, less-effective technology systems. Kinks are worked out more quickly and technology use is maximized. When districts save on technology, money stays in the school budget.

Saves money on paper and printing.

The reduced need for printed materials can save schools money both inside and outside of the classroom. In the classroom, the panels’ infinite whiteboard and 20 points of touch allow for maximized student collaboration and involvement. Depending on your panel’s set up, you can even tilt the screen to convert it to a table top for even easier student access. Combine this with limitless options for interactive games, lessons, activities, etc, and the need for classroom sets of consumable printed worksheets becomes almost nonexistent.

As cloud-based communication and the use of educational apps increase, the need for printed copies decreases. Cloud services not only improve productivity and efficiency, but they decrease the need for printing and storing paper communications and records. If a school suffers a technology crash or needs to track down records, cloud-based data management allows for swift and easy recovery. Educational apps breakdown all kinds of hard copy, printed communication barriers, allowing students, parents, and educators to access materials, grades, assignments, and communications from any location on a variety of personal devices. Since Clear Touch panels are both software and device agnostic, they easily integrate with any educational apps, software, or cloud-based storage solutions that your school prefers.

Saves money on software and boosts teacher collaboration.

Unlike many EdTech resources, Clear Touch does not charge annual license fees to use our educational software suite. Clear Touch interactive® panels come fully equipped with a comprehensive suite of educational software that requires only a single training session to get you going. Our software enables educators to draw diagrams, create animations, edit videos, while wirelessly connecting to tablets and other devices.

Snowflake Multiteach® software puts unlimited educational resources at teachers’ fingertips. The Snowflake software allows teachers to create interactive touchscreen lessons that are in line with their curriculum. And perhaps the best part? Lesson plan sharing through the Snowflake Multiteach® community, where teachers can share and swap lesson plans, saving time and energy that teachers can invest back in the classroom so that they and their students reap rich benefits.

And if you prefer familiar programs you already use like PowerPoint, you can still use those, too! Our panels work well with any software, including competitor software like SMART Notebook or Promethean ActivInspire—which means teachers can continue to use their lesson plans from previous years while building up their Clear Touch teaching resources.

Clear Touch Interactive® Panels are designed with content in mind. We know that by making lesson content affordable, universally accessible, and easy to use, teachers gain more time to do what they love most and do best—teach, interact, and engage with students.

We want to help teachers reduce frustration and wasted time on finicky, hard-to-manage projectors and machines. We want to provide tools and services to save districts, schools, and individual teachers time, energy, and money. And of course, all of this moves us toward our ultimate goal of improving the quality and accessibility of education to benefit students in the classroom.

Monroe County School District – Clear Touch™ Goes to the Florida Keys

Monroe County School District serves over 8,700 students at 16 educational institutions in Florida’s upper, middle, and lower keys. This unusual school district stretches over 106 miles, making any full-scale technology deployment difficult. 

The operational hurdles didn’t stop the forward-thinking district from looking for the best EdTech solution for their teachers and students. In late 2013, Joy Nulisch, the Director of Instructional Technology for Monroe County, and Thomas Matangos, the IT Operations Manager for the district, began researching options for installing interactive panels in every district classroom.

“I came across Clear Touch™ at a conference,” said Nulisch. “I saw the panels from across the exhibit hall and it drew me in, because it seemed more engaging than anything else I’d seen. It was midway through the year, so I had a limited budget available to replace some older projectors. They came down for a demo, and I ended up doing a small initial purchase of 15 panels for each of our three high schools.”

While the teachers who received the panels absolutely loved them, Nulisch and her team didn’t have the budget remaining to purchase interactive panels for all classrooms.

“We decided to go with interactive projectors for the other classrooms,” said Matangos. “That ended up being highly problematic. The bulbs burnt out, they weren’t compatible with all software and devices, and we were constantly getting calls to come fix problems. As soon as we had a new budget, we got engaged with Clear Touch™ again.”

Teachers Evaluate Interactive Panel Options

Nulisch and Matangos saw the new budget as a chance to outfit all of the Pre-K through eighth grade classrooms with the same technology they’d purchased for the high schools. Along with Clear Touch™, the IT team evaluated three other vendors—making the teachers part of the process.

“We wanted to base our decision on what the teachers wanted, so we invited teachers to come see a demo of all the panels,” Matangos said. “Afterward, we conducted a survey. Overwhelmingly, the teachers chose the Clear Touch™ panel.”

According to the feedback, the teachers loved how easy the panel was to use and the included software, particularly EasiNote and Snowflake. They also loved being able to adjust and convert it into a tabletop.

“We had the panel on the convertible mobile stand, which kind of sealed the deal,” laughed Nulisch. “The teachers fell in love. The three other panels didn’t get any votes.”

Matangos agreed. “The stand sold it for our elementary teachers especially. They can adjust the height for different grades. I know at least one teacher who adjusted her panel toward the end of the year, because younger kids grow so fast.”

Larry Schmiegel, the principal at Poinciana Elementary School, was instrumental to the evaluation process, ensuring that he and his teachers got to test the products.

“I’ve been a principal in three districts, and this is the first time that I’ve seen an IT department ask for teacher input instead of buying what they thought would be best,” said Schmiegel. “It was important to me to make sure our teachers took the opportunity to have a say.”

The teachers also enjoyed the evaluation stage.

“I really appreciated being part of the process,” said Bridget Harrigan, a first grade teacher at Dr. Schmiegel’s school. “We’re on the front lines, working with students every day. Being asked for input made me feel professional—valued as an integral member of the team.”

“Since the teacher’s device doesn’t have to be tied to it somehow, it eliminates security issues and gives students control.  We’ve successfully flipped the classroom with Clear Touch™.”

— Joy Nulisch
Director of Instructional Technology for Monroe County

Installing the Panels and Teacher Training

The IT department ordered 328 panels, choosing convertible mobile stands for all Pre-K through second grade classrooms and adjustable mobile stands for all third through eighth grade classrooms.

“Clear Touch™ really delivered for us,” said Nulisch. “They brought their team members here for support, unloading trucks and getting it done. Mr. Matangos led that effort, and he gave them a massive schedule, spread out across 10 schools and over 100 miles. They were able to adjust their delivery model so we could be successful.”

So far, the response to the panels has been
entirely positive.
“We drop in and check on the schools, make sure everything is going well,” said Matangos. “We’ve had great feedback from everyone, but especially from the special needs classes. The panels adjust and can move so far that they’re accessible to everyone, and we’re seeing these students enjoy learning like never before.”

In addition to the interactive panels and mobile stands, Monroe County chose the optional onboard PC modules and the professional development package.

“We got Billy Jack for training, and it’s been such a pleasure,” explained Nulisch. “He’s a former teacher, so he understands the kinds of things that teachers are going to want to know. He’s been to each school twice this year, doing group sessions and going to individual classrooms to show teachers specifics. We have a wide range of comfort levels, from tech gurus to technophobes, so it’s been helpful to get that level of training.”

Even without the training, though, the IT team believes that the panels are so intuitive that the teachers and students could use them right away.

“Other products we tested were cumbersome and hard to use. We love the interoperability and the ability to use the panels without a computer tied in,” said Matangos. “Before we even had formal training, the teachers were pulling up the interactive whiteboard feature and starting to use it.”

The optional onboard PCs also allow Monroe County to brand the panel with their own Windows image and give teachers the ability to have a separate computer in the classroom, which enhances security.

“At the end of the day, this is a device for the students,” said Nulisch. “Since the teacher’s device doesn’t have to be connected, it eliminates security issues and gives students control. We’ve successfully flipped the classroom with Clear Touch™.”

The Teacher’s Perspective: Using Clear Touch™ in the Classroom

Julie Bridger, who teaches in a self-contained ESE classroom, and Bridget Harrigan, who teaches first grade, have used Clear Touch™ for the past year. Both teachers work at Poinciana Elementary School with principal Larry Schmiegel.

“So far, this year’s been amazing,” said Schmiegel. “I invite friends in administration to visit, and they can’t believe the technology we’ve put in the hands of our teachers and students. Often, in initiatives like this, planning forgets self-contained classrooms or assumes they can’t use the technology. Under Joy Nulisch’s leadership, all of our classrooms have the panels.”

In the self-contained classrooms, teachers are finding the technology to be incredibly helpful.

“If there’s something I want to explore, it’s simple to jump in and try something new. It’s so intuitive, and the kids pick it up even more quickly. My kids can come in and do their own attendance; they’ve completely taken over that responsibility,” said Bridger. “We use it from the first moment. We do a fitness program in the morning, calendar time, counting patterns. It’s so engaging, and it makes expression easier for students who, sometimes, have difficulty expressing themselves.”

Harrigan has also discovered creative ways to use the panel in her classroom.

“We have a morning message as soon as they come in, so they go to the board and respond, connecting with the lesson for the day,” said Harrigan. “We use it as a word work and writing center. My students will co-write and then edit a piece right on the panel. Snowflake is amazing for word work and ELA in general—with spelling games, phonics games. They love this game where they spin the beginning of a word and have to figure out the rest. In Math, it is always a center. I put it in tabletop mode and 8 students can get around it at once. With Canvas, they easily screen capture one of their quadrants and share to the others. Or, the students work problems on individual whiteboards, take a picture and send it to the panel to explain their methods to the class. The kids start to teach each other.”


The Shifting Classroom Dynamic

Dr. Schmiegel added: “One thing I’ve noticed since getting Clear Touch™ is that the teachers say we a lot more when talking about the technology. Students use it as much as the teachers. The teachers have collaborative conversations, engaging students in dialogue about their own education. The classroom dynamic is changing, and the technology is helping us get there.”

As part of the shifting classroom dynamic, Monroe County is also planning to purchase more flexible, collaborative furniture in the near future to help students stay mobile in the classroom.

“As a first-year teacher, I don’t know anything other than having students up and moving around,” said Harrigan. “They are self-paced and nearly self-governed by halfway through the year. I can’t imagine them sitting still the whole time, doing a worksheet instead of an engaging, awesome activity.”

Bridger, a veteran teacher, has similar thoughts about a more mobile classroom.

“In the past, my students have been expected to remain in their desks,” said Bridger. “But they need to move and interact to learn. I have fewer behavior problems now because they’re getting that need met, and because I’m free to move around the room, too, and be with them.”

In addition, the teachers appreciate how much time, and money, they save because of the panels.

“This is the first year that I’ve felt I can truly focus on my teaching,” said Bridger. “I’m not scrambling to make copies, and I don’t spend nearly as much time getting worksheets together and cutting stuff out.”

One final benefit that both teachers have noticed while using the Clear Touch™ panels is a greater ability to collaborate in lesson planning.

“I’ve joined a Facebook group called MultiTeachers, and Clear Touch™ connected me with other teachers across the state who are using the panel,” said Bridger. “We’re always sharing tips and resources. It’s amazing how many people I’ve connected with, and often they share something that’s exactly what I’m working on with my students.”

“Since these panels are easy-to-use, more teachers are embracing the technology and using it in incredible ways.”

— Thomas Matangos
IT Operations Manager for Monroe County School District

Technology Teachers Can Rely On

“We wanted to have technology that could be used for more than just presentations,” said Schmiegel. “We wanted something flexible that would emphasize the student.”

The teachers have all experienced breakthrough moments with their students using Clear Touch™ technology.

“My students have been playing a Snowflake game called Numbers that asks them to fill in a balloon with the right numbers to complete a math sentence,” said Harrigan. “I had a lower performing student who whizzed through math with this game, but then he got stuck during assessment. I asked him which balloon he would use, and I got to see the light bulb moment when he realized the quiz was the same as the game he loves.”

From the perspective of the IT department, the first year with Clear Touch™ has been a complete success.

“Compared to other technology we’ve used, this deployment has been 100 times easier,” said Matangos. “We can manage everything remotely, and I can count on one hand the number of tickets we’ve had the whole year for 328 panels.”

For Thomas Matangos and Joy Nulisch, though, using Clear Touch™ isn’t about making their job easier.

“The teachers can rely on the tech and know it’s going to work, instantly, when they turn it on. My wife is a 5th grade teacher in the district, so I know,” said Matangos. “When the teachers have to stop and fix a connection problem, they lose momentum. That’s frustrating, so they quit using it. Since these panels are easy-to-use, more teachers are embracing the technology and using it in incredible ways.”

Nulisch added: “And that means better ROI, because the technology actually gets used. That’s the IT nightmare—to walk into a classroom with an interactive projector and see a poster or student work hanging on the whiteboard. You know it’s not being used. That never happens anymore with Clear Touch™.” 

4 Reasons Why You Want To Get a UL Certification and Not Other Certifications

There are dozens of standard safety certification marks to choose from when selecting a third-party testing partner. The only federal requirement is that products be tested by a facility that is a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

However, there’s only one third-party testing organization that has been around for over a century and wrote the vast majority of the current industry safety standards: Underwriter Laboratories. That’s right. Although companies can choose alternate testing labs for their safety certification, the UL standards are the benchmark that every testing lab adheres to.

Even though other safety certifications go by the UL standards, that doesn’t mean that their testing process is the same. UL Certification is more difficult to obtain than other safety certifications because the testing process is more rigorous and comprehensive.

What Makes a UL Certification Superior to Other Safety Certifications

As we mentioned in the introduction, Underwriter Laboratories literally wrote the book on safety certification—so, to us, it makes sense to get certified by the gold standard organization. Here are four more reasons why UL Certification is better and more reliable than other safety certification marks:

1. Superior Track Record

Underwriter Laboratories has been in the safety certification business for a long time. In fact, the nonprofit safety organization was first established over 120 years ago, which means that they have their long-standing reputation riding on their seal of approval every time they certify a new product. Underwriter Laboratories is the global leader in product safety testing and certification—it is not only the most widely-known Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), it is also the only testing laboratory operating in over 100 countries and recognized worldwide.

2. Stricter Certification Requirements

UL Certification is the top-rated safety certification in the world because their testing process is more rigorous and comprehensive than other certifications in a number of important ways.

First, Underwriter Laboratories test for three separate facets of product safety:

  • Electrical safety
  • Fire safety
  • Mechanical safety.

In addition, UL Certification includes extensive testing for:

  • Longevity
  • Resistance
  • Durability

UL testing for durability usually includes testing under adverse conditions—so that consumers know, when they see the UL mark, that they’re getting a high-quality product in addition to a safe product. Finally, UL Certification applies the strictest quality control, mandating that every individual component of a product be tested separately to make sure that it meets all safety standards and operates as it’s supposed to.

3. Ongoing Third-Party Verification

As part of the ongoing safety certification process, a local field representative from UL visits manufacturers at least four times per year to ensure that the UL mark is only applied to products that meet all UL requirements. These visits are unannounced and unscheduled so that a disinterested third party can re-evaluate products that have already been certified, verifying that the manufacturer continues to maintain all of the required quality and safety standards. Of course, any change in the design of the product requires the manufacturer to use components that have already been certified or else undergo a comprehensive recertification process, retesting the entire product.

4. Nonprofit Organization

Finally, UL Certification is more consistent and reliable than other safety certifications because Underwriter Laboratories is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to consumer safety. This means that getting the certification is not dependent upon membership in any trade organizations or a company’s professional relationships. In other words, the UL Certification can be applied for but it cannot be bought.  

We care about the safety of our customers, and we encourage you to search for the Clear Touch UL Certification mark on the UL database. We’re also proud to have received UL Certification in the United States and UL Certification in Canada.

Most importantly, though, we’re proud that we’ve been able to consistently produce a high-quality, durable product with an industry-leading DOA failure rate of less than 1%. When you see the UL Certification, you know that the product has been through a rigorous inspection that guarantees that it will operate safely, and continue to operate safely for a long time.

Clear Touch Interactive® Named to the Inc. 500

Greenville-based company listed among America’s fastest-growing private companies.

Greenville, SC — Clear Touch Interactive®, an American-owned and operated company headquartered in South Carolina and a leading provider of multi-touch interactive flat panels for education, government, and business,  has been named to the 37th annual Inc. 500 list, ranking No. 490 on the 2018 list.

“It’s an incredible honor for our company to be selected among such influential organizations,” said Keone Trask, President of Clear Touch™. “This recognition is a testament not only to our team’s hard work and accomplishments, but also their ongoing commitment to innovative product development, superior customer support, and industry-leading quality. As we work to expand our national footprint, we are quick to remember our foundation was and always will be built on strong partnerships and satisfied customers.”

With a growing national footprint and increased visibility within the industry, Clear Touch Interactive® is positioning itself as a leading provider of interactive technology for businesses and educators across the country. “Inc. has built their reputation as one of the most respected voices in the business world by keeping a finger on the pulse of the entrepreneurial community,” said West Martin, Vice President of Sales for Clear Touch™. “To be ranked among their top 500 companies is a distinction that confirms we’re not only building a nationwide platform for our brand, but fulfilling our mission to transform the way business leaders and educational professionals communicate and interact with information.”

ABOUT CLEAR TOUCH INTERACTIVE®

Founded in 2012, Clear Touch Interactive®, Inc. is transforming interactive experiences for educational institutions, government agencies, and commercial enterprises. Clear Touch™ panels, related accessories, and software provide a truly immersive experience with twenty simultaneous points of touch and rapid refresh rates, HD LED display technology that produces brilliant colors on an anti-glare, anti-friction tempered glass surface, and are available in six sizes ranging from 55 to 86 inches. For more information, visit www.getcleartouch.com .

ABOUT INC. MEDIA:

Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Winner of the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in both 2014 and 2012. Total monthly audience reach for the brand has grown significantly from 2,000,000 in 2010 to over 18,000,000 today.  For more information, visit www.inc.com .

 

Back-to-School: A Teacher’s Point of View

Children aren’t the only ones mourning the fact that summer vacation always seems to end too soon. As a teacher, you know that feeling all too well. But you love your job and your students (well, most of them), so take a deep breath and get ready to go—it’s Back-to-School time again.

Let the games begin.


Source: Pinterest

 

Displaying boundless creativity, you finally gathered all your supplies.


Source: Pinterest

 

You even got extra hand sanitizer, because otherwise…


Source: Pinterest

 

It’s time to put on your happy face and get ready for “Meet the Teacher” night.


Source: weareteachers.com

 

You’ve memorized all the names on your class roster.


Source: makeameme.org

 

Now, you’re wondering which children will be your “helpers.”


Source: theclassroomkey.com

 

To keep things simple, you approach the first day of school with two goals:
To begin like this…


Source: weareteachers.com

 

…and end like this.


Source: Pinterest

 

From all of us here at Clear Touch™ to all of you teachers, THANK YOU!


Source: Complex.com

5 Best EdTech Tools for Interactive Teaching

Educational technology is changing the way we think about teaching and learning. Teachers want rigorous learning experiences that foster collaboration among students. Creative and effective use of digital tools inspires, engages, and energizes learners. But it’s easy to get lost in the ocean of options and programs, and, in our quest to keep up with the newest, shiniest edtech product, lose focus on the most important thing: the teaching and learning itself. Technology should enhance the learning experience, not eclipse it.

The best digital tools for the classroom spice up the experience and increase student engagement all while keeping things simple, straightforward, and user-friendly. It’s been a banner year for the introduction of new and innovative digital tools and programs that enhance and expand the classroom experience. Here are five of our favorite EdTech programs and tools that are taking the classroom by storm while preserving the core teaching as the star of the show.

Top EdTech Tools To Engage Students and Simplify Teaching

1. Google for Education

Everyone’s heard of Google and Gmail, of course. But not everyone knows that Google has created solutions for K-12 education and for higher education institutions. Google for Education is “an ecology of digital tools from Google designed to host and distribute digital documents, communication, and collaboration through cloud-based technology.” Educators have at their fingertips a variety of Google products that are independently customizable and can be set up with their own domain name. In other words, as with Gmail, educational institutions can customize the Google platform to look like their organization.

Google for Education provides products and digital tools that foster digital literacy in teachers and students. Through these tools and apps, teachers can distribute information and materials, post quizzes and other written evaluation documents, and provide real-time feedback on students’ work—all paperless and easy. Google for Education and Google Suite are designed for easy use with cost-effective Google Chromebooks, America’s #1 device for 1-to-1 use in the classroom. Chromebooks arrive with G Suite already included.

2. Snowflake MultiTeach Community and Lessons Online

If you have a Clear Touch Interactive® panel in your classroom, then you already know how great Snowflake is—and how well it integrates with your favorite online tools and the other classroom solutions that are included in our subscription-free educational software suite. However, what you may not have discovered yet are all the resources available to you through the MultiTeach Community and Lessons Online.

What teacher doesn’t know what it’s like to feel burnt out? To stare down stale, overused lesson plans with no creative energy left to breathe new life into them? Collaborative support and shared ideas among educators are both vital for professional development and helping teachers maintain their momentum, enthusiasm, and creativity. Peer knowledge sharing has been demonstrated to make teachers feel more connected to their colleagues, more effective in the classroom, and less likely to feel burnt out or stuck in a rut.

The Snowflake MultiTeach Community invites you to engage and collaborate with teachers all over the world. As a part of the Snowflake MultiTeach Community, teachers gain access to innovative and fresh lessons created by other teachers as well having the opportunity to share their own. This software enables teachers to create interactive touch screen lessons for the classroom in minutes. Lessons online allows teacher who use Snowflake to develop their own online classroom, post their lessons to the cloud, grade student submissions online, and more.

3. Flipgrid

Teachers and students are flipping for Flipgrid! Flipgrid is one of the leading video discussion platforms, connecting students and teachers in 150 countries at every level from Pre-K to Phd. It incorporates something today’s kids already love doing: making and sharing videos. Flipgrid connects students within their own classroom—and how far beyond is up to you. Learners use the program to collaborate with students in different sections of the same class in their own school, district, or around the globe! They get the benefit of exchanging ideas and both inspiring and getting inspired by others.

To begin using Flipgrid, the teacher simply posts a question or prompt and invites the students to post short video responses. Flipgrid can energize any subject matter. Invite students to share thoughts on the book they’re reading. Challenge them to find and explain the mistake in the math problem you share. Let them walk their classmates through their process of testing a scientific hypothesis. Dare them to let their parents post videos that are relevant to the classroom topic. The possibilities are endless, and students grow from connecting with other students. Educators have complete control over the privacy, security, and shareability of their grids. For help getting started on your FREE Flipgrid account, click here.

4. HyperDocs

What do you get when you combine curious students, innovative teachers, Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, and the internet? HyperDocs! If you are already using Chromebooks in your classroom, either one-to-one, or a few per class, HyperDocs will rock your teaching world. HyperDocs aims to nurture students who are “creative, collaborative, critical thinkers and communicators.” A HyperDoc is a transformative and interactive Google Doc created by the teacher as an alternative means of sharing and delivering instruction with students. Use a HyperDoc to share videos, links to valuable and pertinent websites, invite student reflection and feedback, etc.

After the Doc is designed by the teacher, students become co-creators in further developing the Doc by sharing their own thoughts and ideas as well as uploading videos they choose, and interacting with other students in small groups. With HyperDocs, teachers become less of an information gatekeeper and more of a facilitator as students participate in driving the learning process. A HyperDoc can be shared with other students beyond your own classroom to provide further opportunities for collaboration. As with Flipgrid, educators have complete control over privacy and security to make the experience safe and appropriate for their students. For more information about HyperDocs, check out their YouTube playlist.

5. Peekapak

We love this program. Peekapak is not about direct teaching of curriculum, but rather about integrating literacy, reading, and writing standards into meaningful and engaging lessons, stories, and digital games that foster social-emotional learning. Peekapak is about nurturing empathy, compassion, and character in early childhood students. And what teacher isn’t trying to do that every day?

Through Peekapak, young children get to know three main characters who live in their own fun-filled, magical world called Peekaville. Peekapak capitalizes on the way children respond to and engage with story in order to engage them with the original stories and adventures of these Peekaville characters as a vehicle to teach the whole child and improve SEL skills. The Peekapak design was conceptualized for classroom use, but is expanding into the homeschool world. Learn more by watching this Peekapak intro video. They offer a free basic starter package as well as a free trial so you can see how much your students will love and benefit from this wonderful program.

This list is obviously only the tip of the EdTech iceberg. It’s a challenge to pick our top 25, much less our top 5. But this list will get you started and inspire you to go out and dig even deeper to find opportunities to incorporate digital learning into your teaching. There are endless EdTech tools and programs for use with our Clear Touch Interactive® panels as well as other devices used in your schools. Since our panels are both device and software agnostic, you are free to flip the classroom and create a more interactive experience using any tools you prefer.