Advancing Education with Clear Touch Interactive® Panels
This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. View Part 2 here.
The Davie County High School story began years ago. Davie County is a small school district in North Carolina that serves about 6,200 students. For many years, the district administrators had been submitting requests and trying to get a new high school built. Those efforts finally paid off in the spring of 2014 when the new high school bond passed and work began on Davie County High School.
Davie County has historically been a forward-thinking district when it comes to educational technology. It was one of the first Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in the state to have SMART boards in every K-12 classroom, thanks to a joint effort between a county fundraiser and a local philanthropist in 2006.
So, early on, the planning team in charge of building the new high school decided that they should continue that same commitment to technology that enhances and supports the pedagogy.
“In Davie County Schools, we want everything we do, including the evaluation and procurement of technology, to be teacher-driven. Our Superintendent, Dr. Darrin Hartness, wanted to be sure we asked for teacher input in designing and outfitting the new school. They are the ones who will be using the technology and working in the classroom everyday, so they need to have input. We took this directive as the first, basic parameter for how we would outfit the new school with instructional technology.”
— Butch Rooney
Designing the Technology Selection Process
In order to meet the directive, Rooney and his IT team began by working with the department chairs for Davie County High School. They created a multi-purpose room where they had all of the options for new technology set up and allowed teachers to come by, use the technology, and submit their feedback.
“We took the largest room in the old school and turned it into our technology showcase or proving ground,” said Rooney. “We had regular flat panel TVs, interactive panels, and interactive projectors for the teachers to test drive for us, several brands of each, including Clear Touch Interactive® panels. We also provided all types and brands of teacher devices: laptops, tablets, Chromebooks, iPads—all with wireless connectivity.”
Hugh Lee and Ann Davis, the Instructional Technology Facilitators assigned to the new Davie County High School, and Yvette Shore, the math department chair and National Board Certified lead STEM teacher, were all involved with the selection process.
“The departments came in over the course of a good month to a month-and-a-half to experience the technology, keeping in mind what they currently used and did in their classrooms,” said Shore. “We had Mr. Lee and Ms. Davis available at all times to help us. As we evaluated our options, we were encouraged to bring in student groups to try it out, see how it worked for them, and get their input as well.”
Since different departments have different needs, the department heads met to discuss and compare their options with their teaching teams, talking about how the technology would both support their pedagogy and change how teachers teach.
“Math is a very heavy usage department when it comes to technology. We tend to show work on the board, do group work, solve problems individually and together,” said Shore. “Our department was looking for technology that could shift from the front of the room, change from teacher-led to student-led when needed, create a flipped classroom, keep kids engaged and interacting when working in groups, and give teachers the flexibility to be at the front of the classroom demonstrating a concept and then free to walk around the room and be with students the next moment. That’s a tall order—but I think it’s key to whatever solutions are chosen for schools going forward.”
The Next Phase: Building the School
“In the spring of 2015, we began the next phase of this process,” said Rooney. “We started both the build and the technology build out. This is a 60 million dollar high school; it’s an impressive facility. As the concrete was being poured and the bricks were going up, we still had the technology selection process going on behind the scenes.”
Davie County High School knew that the technology they chose would end up being the foundation for
how the teachers and students interacted in the classrooms, so they wanted to give everyone enoughtime to experience and evaluate the tools.
“We didn’t call for the end vote yet, and we knew we had some time while the new school was being built, so we installed the top choices in sample classrooms by department,” Rooney said. “This way, the teachers could get real worldexperience in addition to testing it out. The lead teachers got the technology installed in their classrooms and shared with the other teachers in their department.”
Yvette Shore took the opportunity very seriously, keeping a semester-long spreadsheet noting what happened, what worked, what didn’t, and how the teachers were able to collaborate.
“I was especially interested to see how the new technology would integrate with our older tech,” said Shore. “Of course, I lucked out and got the Clear Touch™ panel in my classroom, so I had no issues!”
Hugh Lee and other lead teachers for the new school were also impressed, seeing the Clear Touch™ panel in action.
“One of the things we recognized very early was the benefit of the software tools embedded on the panel,” said Lee. “Clear Touch™ distinguished itself and rose to the top of the list quickly because of all of the things that the teachers could do and how easily they could do them, especially compared to the rooms that had interactive projectors or regular flat panel TVs. The tech department stood ready to help in the experimental rooms, and we almost never got calls from the Clear Touch™ rooms. I think we got one or two calls during the entire process.”
Rolling Out the New Technology
In preparation for their August 2017 move into the new building, the administration brought the teachers together in early February to vote and choose by department which solution best met their instructional needs.
“The teachers unanimously voted for interactive panels, and many departments were also hoping for an iPad Pro or some other tablet to go with the panels,” said Rooney. “As part of the RFP process, I created a rubric that included price, warranty options, installation, teacher feedback, and instructional impact. Clear Touch™ won based on this rubric, with price being the the most heavily weighted factor. I was glad, because I knew Ms. Shore really wanted Clear Touch™, and when you consider total cost of ownership, ongoing software fees, maintenance, and training, it was no contest.”
After the long selection process, it was finally time to install the panels and begin training teachers.
“We had to get everything built out and installed within a month. Everyone was so excited,” Rooney said. “Everything came in on time, the installation crew was ready to go and started the installs immediately. I think we were one of the first schools in the country to get the new 6000U series panels—the installation went beautifully, and everyone was ready to train the next week.”
Ready for Day One
In August 2017, the high school opened as a BYOD campus and is actively building toward becoming a one-to-one school. Right now, they have carts of Chromebooks, iPads, and Windows laptops that the students can use.
“Regardless of what LEA you’re in or how much money your district has, sustaining a one-to-one program is difficult,” said Rooney. “We should be able to get 10-15 years out of the Clear Touch™ panel. That and the fact that we can use any device, and even allow students to bring their own devices, enables us to talk seriously about one-to-one and invest in these other applications.”
While the selection process was exhaustive, Butch Rooney believes that it was essential to finding the right solution, one that teachers would actually use, and making the transition as painless as possible. The rest of the district-level IT team was also pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the entire process went.
“I think one of the best things about the way we handled the selection and roll-out is that it allowed us to get teacher buy-in early, which has made training and implementation so much easier,” said Rooney. “And, then, we’ve had amazing support from Clear Touch™. They really stepped up, helped us get it done quickly and get everyone trained. From the district’s perspective, having a responsive and knowledgeable partner has made all the difference.”
This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. View Part 2 here.