Bibb County School District is a technologically-sophisticated district in Macon, Georgia. Comprised of 34 schools and 4 specialty schools, Bibb County strives to prepare all students for success in a 21st-century global society. In light of this mission, several years ago the district began looking for a better solution and replacement for their outdated interactive projectors.
“Interactive panels have been the newest, best technology for students for a while now,” said Rose Powell, the Executive Director of Technology Services & REAA for Bibb County School District. “Before choosing Clear Touch, we’d been going to conferences, looking at different panels, and having in-depth discussions with a number of vendors.”
Eventually, Powell and her team narrowed down their search to three different panels, which they asked media specialists in the district to test out and give their feedback. The selection team also asked teachers to test the panels to help with the decision.
“We evaluated the panels at both the district and the school level, bringing in the people who are actually going to be the ones using the technology every day,” said Powell. “The functionality of the Clear Touch panel sold it. Because the panel did so much but was still so easy-to-use, the teachers fell in love. They were comfortable getting up and using the panel right away. They had confidence that they could transition to the new technology without disrupting their classrooms. I think this is Implementing Technology 101. It’s imperative that the teachers and the schools have a say and understand what they’re getting.”
Implementing Clear Touch™ Panels District-Wide
According to Powell, they began their comprehensive, district-wide implementation of over 1500 panels at 38 schools with a pilot program at a single school. “The pilot went very well. Everything that comes with the Clear Touch panel is so easily adaptable and customizable, from the software to the stands, mounts, and optional PC unit,” Powell said. “That was the main reason we decided to move forward district-wide. We knew this was a comprehensive solution that we could make work for many different applications.”
In order to manage such a large-scale installation, Bibb County and Clear Touch™ began the process in the summer, working all day and night to get the first round of panels up and running. Installations continued during the school year, in the evenings. From start-to-finish, it took about 18 months to get panels installed in every classroom in the district, and Bibb County continues to add panels to classrooms as they grow as a district.
“The installation was complex but it went incredibly smoothly,” said Powell. “For most classrooms, we chose the wall mounts, and we standardized the height for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms throughout the district. For our assistive classrooms, we have the adjustable mobile C-stands for greater accessibility.”
The installation team at Bibb County decided to bring in additional audio functionality for each panel set-up.
“In each classroom, we also installed audio and video solutions that included four connected external speakers to ensure consistent volume throughout the classroom. This decision meant that Clear Touch had to collaborate with a third-party vendor during installation, and they handled it beautifully,” said Powell.
Bibb County also chose to equip every panel with the optional onboard PC unit, which Powell believes transforms the panel from a useful presentation tool to a comprehensive hub for classroom engagement and school-wide collaboration.
“Of course, teachers can connect to the panel and pull up lessons from laptops, jump drives, or any personal device. But having the built-in PC means that everything they need is always right there, accessible directly from the panel,” said Powell. “Our old, interactive whiteboards had a hard connection, so teachers were tethered to their workstations when they presented. If they brought in a guest to co-present or if the students were working on a project, they had to turn over their computer. Now, they can use the panel as a presentation tool, learning station, and collaboration tool without ever tying up the workstation.”
So far, the IT team has spoken to teachers who use the panels for virtual field trips, mystery Skype sessions, daily learning centers, and much more. The teachers have told the team that they particularly enjoy having everything connected and ready-to-go without having to be calibrated.
“I can’t overstate the benefit of the intuitive, sensitive touch screen. It’s a beautiful thing to watch,” Powell said. “With the interactive whiteboards, teachers had to calibrate all the time, sometimes in the middle of a lesson. It could easily get off, teachers could accidentally erase everything, there was lots of lag time, which is all very frustrating for someone trying to move through various activities in a classroom. Now, teachers just turn their panels on. That’s it.” Another benefit that the teachers have discovered is the ability to use the panel as a platform for their favorite cloud-based software programs, creating a fully-integrated classroom experience.
“We have school-wide access to the Clear Touch software suite, Microsoft 365, and other cloud-based applications,” Powell said. “We’ve customized all of these programs with our district logo, which gives our schools a sense of continuity and community. Overall, the teachers love the look and feel of the panels. They’ve taken our classrooms from old, legacy systems to being one of the top districts in the country for teacher-ready tech in every classroom.”
“I can’t overstate the benefit of the intuitive, sensitive touch screen. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
— Rose Powell
Beyond the classroom: Clear Touch™ Panels as Professional Development Devices
Bibb County didn’t stop at the classroom. They are now in the last stages of installation and implementation, equipping all media centers, conference centers, and professional development and other collaboration rooms across the district with interactive panels.
“It was important to us to have the same experience in other offices and areas in the schools and throughout the district that we’ve created in the classroom,” said Powell. “These areas are where teachers, parents, students, and administrators meet, present, and collaborate.”
Powell and her team are impressed with all of the far-reaching applications their schools have found for the panels in the first two years of the initiative.
“The panel is the ideal presentation device. The teachers enjoy having them in the training and professional development rooms because presenters have everything they need in one unit,” Powell said. “That makes it easy for presenters to come in, access their presentation online or wirelessly connect to their device, and get started with zero downtime. My IT teams love them because the teachers can get going without any set-up, A/V, or other tech support. It’s a packaged, all-in-one solution.”
In addition to regular school in-service days and professional development, Bibb County has discovered unique value in having a standardized experience across every school in the district.
“We have the webcam and a video production center at the district offices, and we use it to create webinars for the teachers that we deliver through a virtual live feed,” Powell explained. “The teachers can attend high-quality training sessions in real-time without having to travel to us. By delivering the training to every school, we’re able
to reach a lot more teachers in a way that’s much more effective. All teachers can participate collaboratively in their own classroom or the professional development room, practicing on the same device the presenter is using, rather than watching a video recording later.”
Being able to reach more teachers at once has both cut down on professional development costs for Bibb County and boosted teacher morale. As Powell explained, teachers are tired after a long school day. They don’t want to drive out of their way to cram into an overbooked classroom to get their professional development days completed. Instead, the district preserves teacher time to prevent burnout and fatigue.
“We’ve even been able to use video conferencing to bring in expert professionals from around the country without having to incur travel and hotel costs,” said Powell. “In every way, the panels provide our district with a better ROI for professional development. We can offer effective, district-wide training, and there’s no limit on how many people we can reach at once. The teaching is world-class and it’s direct training, not redelivery.”
Helping Bring Clear Touch™ to Other Districts
Due to the success that Bibb County has experienced with the Clear Touch Interactive® panels, their classroom configuration is quickly becoming the gold standard in the state of Georgia.
“I have other district IT departments and administrators from around the state contact me all the time. We bring them in, showcase our classrooms, even sit in for our professional development sessions. I present what we’ve experienced so far at educational conferences as well,” Powell said.
Overall, when Powell explains why Bibb County chose Clear Touch™ panels, the discussion always goes back to ROI. According to Powell, the true value of the interactive panels lies in the smooth transfer of knowledge, no matter what the application. Whether the school district is using the panels for classroom learning, professional development sessions, or parent and community presentations, the Clear Touch™ panels make the experience easier for everyone, more engaging, and more fun.
“We did our research to make sure we were going with a company with a tried and true product, a company that stands behind their work. We also knew that the product would have to be something that we had the ability to support and maintain over the life of the project. There’s a lot of planning and calculating that goes into a decision like this, and Bibb County takes that responsibility very seriously,” Powell said. “We want to get the ROI we expect, but these panels have far exceeded our expectations. When all teachers are on the same device and there’s no gap in understanding, then the technology becomes an unbelievable benefit rather than a barrier.”