Integrating Clear Touch™ Panels Into a “Campus Master Plan”
“Clear Touch Interactive panels have become integrated into the very fabric of Indian Springs School. They are used all day, every day and have revolutionized the learning experience here,” said Technology Director Chuck Williams, who was responsible for deploying 20 Clear Touch panels in the past year.
The panels are part of the school’s “Campus Master Plan,” which identifies the need to replace or modernize aging buildings dating from 1952, when the independent, coeducational school opened its doors. The three-phase plan is funded through Indian Springs School’s “Campaign for Springs Eternal,” and it impacts a large portion of the 350-acre campus near Birmingham, Alabama.
“The new panels make it possible to do more than just go through the static prepared content that you were going to show in class because now you can actually annotate over and extend the prepared content. They also allow you to step away from behind a projection system and instead stand in front of the action.”
— William Besler
Phase One included removing six classrooms, adding 18 new classrooms and 18 faculty offices, constructing a new Administration Building, and completing the Leo Kayser Jr. Academic Center. Clear Touch panels, comprising a mere fraction of the $20 million budget, were unveiled in all 18 classrooms and in the Kayser Academic Center when the school opened for the 2015-2016 school year.
The HD LED touchscreen panels are a significant upgrade to the school’s whiteboard-and-projector setup. According to science teacher Lisa Balazs, the images, videos and interactive content that now appear at the touch of a finger used to be so much trouble to access via projector that teachers avoided using them. “The new panels are so fast and easy,” she said.
Deploying the Panels and Training the Faculty
The decision to deploy Clear Touch panels at Indian Springs School, which enrolls roughly 300 eighth through twelfth graders, followed a thorough review of available technologies. “We were zeroing-in on a competitive panel when I heard about Clear Touch from a group of fellow independent school technology directors,” said Williams. “The panels we were considering were twice the price [as the Clear Touch panels] and a lot less functional.”
One difference is the HDMI ports. Clear Touch panels have three. “The other panels only had one,” said Williams, who was committed to ensuring ease of connectivity and operation. Clear Touch panels can support connection of up to three components: Apple TV, Blu-ray, DVD, etc. “We could have done it with a single port, but it would have required a switch, which complicates things.”
Williams said the panels are also easy to install and maintain, and because most of them are mounted to mobile stands, they provide extreme flexibility. “We purchased the panels direct from Clear Touch. We started with two panels last spring. The Clear Touch team walked us through the installation on those,” he said. “When the rest of the panels arrived in August, we were able to put the carts together, mount the panels and load the PC modules ourselves.”
Faculty members were trained on-site by Williams and his team, with the help of Clear Touch training videos. “There’s a great selection of videos on Clear Touch’s YouTube channel. We didn’t have to create training content from scratch, and their videos provide training in perpetuity,” said Williams.
Building a Culture of Collaboration
Clear Touch panels support an impressive ten simultaneous points of touch. At a school like Indian Springs, where the student-teacher ratio is 8:1, this means that, in many classes, the entire class and the teacher can be interacting with the panel at the same time. In this way, the panels drive powerful collaboration.
“Our new technology gives kids access to more resources via a common platform that is there to engage everybody, not to separate everybody in their own technological worlds,” said David Noone, Associate Director and Dean of Academics. “When we use it to support clearly defined curricula and to give students opportunities to collaborate, we are teaching them how to navigate the wide world of online resources and at the same time fostering shared learning.”
According to Gareth Vaughan, the school’s Director, in addition to opening the door to important online resources and new ways to learn and collaborate, the new classrooms and technologies are changing the dynamics of class time for students and teachers. “This ultimately means less time spent trying to access and display content, and more time spent analyzing and using it,” he said.
It’s also preparing them for the future. Now more than ever, technologies like the Clear Touch panels provide the foundation of global collaboration and decision-making, so giving students the chance to work on multi-layered projects and problems while navigating complex resources prepares them well to succeed in a multitude of career paths, explained Vaughan.
From the Classroom to the Board Room
Walk through the Indian Springs’ classrooms and it’s immediately apparent that teachers are using the Clear Touch panels to enrich student education.
Balazs, who teaches astronomy, pulls up images of the moon and its orbit, displays a view of space, and shows an animation of a lunar eclipse. She doesn’t like the way one interactive image indicates the direction of the sun, so she taps on the sun to delete it and uses her finger to draw her own sun.
Dr. Richard Neely pulls up historical paintings and documents, draws in details on battlefield maps, and shows National Geographic articles during his AP U.S. History and Civil War & Reconstruction classes. He said, “Last year, we had to look at small maps in our books, or I would draw a rough map on the board.”
Chinese teacher Athena Chang uses the panels to demonstrate the order of strokes used to write Chinese characters. “As we practice, we can write the characters using different colors and calligraphy art forms,” she said.
Geometry teacher Paul McGee and fellow math teachers utilize built-in graph paper templates and math features, plug T1 calculators directly into the panels, and use EasiNote’s annotation tools to break down complex problems.
“Our teachers love EasiNote,” said Williams. Clear Touch’s EasiNote software provides creative multi-disciplinary tools for controlling the panels.
Meanwhile, in the board room in the new Administration Building, an 84” Clear Touch panel is frequently used for presentations and video conferences.
Making Connections Outside Classroom Walls
In addition to his role as technology director, Williams also coaches soccer. “We watch film from time to time, and with the panels, I can freeze the video and use EasiNote to circle players and draw arrows indicating runs or passes they should make. I can also capture that image, with the markings I made, and save it for future reference,” he said.
The college counselor often gathers upperclassmen around the panel in the Academic and College Advising Suite to see presentations (via webcam) from college students and faculty.
As part of the school’s technological advances, students also have the ability to take online specialty classes offered by other independent schools around the country through the Malone Schools Online Network. Indian Springs is now poised to reciprocate; it will begin offering select courses as a distance learning option to students in the Malone Network in the years ahead.
At Indian Springs, it’s never all work and no play. Of the 299 students currently enrolled, 83 live on campus. They come from 13 states and nine countries. “This is as much their home as it is their school. Even for those who don’t live on campus, we want it to feel like home. Students are encouraged to use the panels, whether to enrich study time or simply to have fun. I’ve seen ten points of simultaneous touch redefine games like tic-tac-toe,” said Williams.
Just the Beginning
Phase One was just the beginning. Williams said he’s starting to put panels into the science center now, and there will be many more to come as the school continues to build out additional phases of its Campus Master Plan.