Effectively Using Clear Touch™ Panels in a Rural School District
Madrid-Waddington Central School District is a small rural district in the far northern reaches of New York, just a stone’s throw from the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian border. MWCS enrolls 700 students in Pre-K through 12th Grade on a single campus—but don’t let the district’s smaller size and remote location fool you. Their technology plans and the tools they’ve implemented easily rival those of any large district in the state.
Clear Touch’s 75″ flatscreen panels are the most recent addition to the district’s technology arsenal, as of the 2016-2017 school year. Thanks in large part to the Smart Schools Bond Act, these multitouch interactive panels can be found in every classroom, in the school’s two libraries and in the auditorium on the MWCS campus.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Clear Touch panels were considered alongside two other technologies. “We arranged to have pilots so we could test out our options. Our teachers came in and worked with the three different technologies being considered, and they all agreed the Clear Touch panels were hands-down the best solution for us,” said Burke. “We applied for the Smart Schools funding, and while we awaited approval, we bought five panels out of district funds.”
“We had interactive whiteboards with pens and projectors in our classrooms, and they were reaching end-of-life and starting to fail. We knew we wanted to replace the old projector setup with interactive panels of some sort, and I had seen the Clear Touch panels at ITSE 2015 in Philadelphia. I was impressed with the features, the ten points of simultaneous touch and the amazing onboard software, though we did look at other options.”
— Michelle Burke
A Great Team Effort
MWCS was approved for the Smart Schools funding in May, and an additional 55 panels arrived in July 2016, bringing the total to 60. Burke worked closely with Clear Touch to make that happen, but it’s the MWCS tech and custodial teams who deserve all the credit for getting 55 brand new Clear Touch panels installed and operational by the start of the new school year. The tech department did the wiring, while the custodial staff installed the 75” panels in the elementary and high school classrooms.
The installation team mounted each panel according to teacher preference. “We gave our teachers a choice of mounting hardware. About 60% chose to have their panel wall-mounted. The other 40% chose the mobile stand option,” said Burke. Clear Touch panels in the K-2 classrooms are installed on height adjustable wall mounts, which enable teachers to easily raise and lower the panels to accommodate users of shorter statures.
Today, there are 57 panels in use in MWCS classrooms and three additional panels used elsewhere on the MWCS campus. In each of the two libraries—one for elementary students, one for high schoolers—a Clear Touch panel is mounted to a convertible stand, which allows it to be turned into a table that students, or coaches and their teams, can gather around. These two panels feature Clear Touch’s optional integrated computer module, which slides directly into the back of the panel and is connected wirelessly to the school’s network. One panel can also be found mounted to a mobile cart in the auditorium.
Integral to the Overall Plan
“We have a lot of technology, but much of it has been piecemealed over the years. The panels pull it all together,” said Burke. “Teachers have been running the panels with existing desktops and laptops, but we’re also in the process of replacing about a third of our teacher PCs with onboard processors like we have in our libraries. Clear Touch’s integrated PCs have i7 processors that are so much faster than what our teachers are currently using.
According to Burke, Clear Touch panels are a key part of the district’s technology plan, which begins with “providing a foundation of physical technology development” in elementary school and continues through middle and high school to “allow all students to become career and college ready.” There are many technological resources available to MWCS teachers and students, including Chromebooks, iPads, and mobile labs for both Windows and Mac platforms.
The panels are software agnostic and integrate with all of these available resources, and more. Connecting the panel to a third-party device provides for instant screen-sharing, enabling teachers to quickly and easily display any Windows-based application, iPad app, video, website, etc., and manipulate what’s on the screen using only their finger. The panels also come preloaded with powerful Clear Touch software, like EasiNote, which is designed for drawing, annotating and writing on existing presentations, photos and videos as well as on built-in background images like graph paper.
The Possibilities are Endless
Glance into classroom after classroom, and you’ll see extreme panel versatility in action. Kindergarteners arrive in the morning and approach the Clear Touch panel to contribute to the daily lunch tally. Each student taps the icon that represents their choice: “brought lunch from home” or “getting hot lunch.”
In a fifth grade classroom, the teacher uses the spinner app in Snowflake MultiTeach, an edutainment suite of apps created by Natural User Interface Technologies (NUITEQ), to randomly call on students. Clear Touch Interactive has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for Snowflake MultiTeach, which now comes bundled with every Clear Touch panel.
Middle school math students can often be found side-by-side at a Clear Touch panel. The teacher divides the panel into zones, and each student tries to solve the problems within their zone. This multi-touch functionality is made possible by Clear Touch’s ability to recognize
Middle school math students can often be found side-by-side at a Clear Touch panel. The teacher divides the panel into zones, and each student tries to solve the problems within their zone. This multi-touch functionality is made possible by Clear Touch’s ability to recognize an incredible ten simultaneous points of touch.
Several teachers use games and game-based learning platforms like Kahoot! to engage students.
In some classrooms, teachers create learning centers called “stations.” The station-based model of learning fosters small-group interaction and teamwork. In these scenarios, the Clear Touch panel serves as one station, and the content rotates. For example, the panel may feature math problems one day, phonics games the next.
Meanwhile, Spanish and French teachers are leveraging another Clear Touch software, EasiCapture, to record themselves teaching their daily lessons so they can be shared with students for future reference.
Sixth grade students in Danielle Maclin’s social studies class recently participated in a lesson about Otzi the Iceman. “We watched a documentary about his discovery and theories related to his death. As we watched, we paused the video, and students pointed out examples of ‘evidence’ by writing over the video itself. We were also able to keep a running log of the theories next to the video,” said Maclin, who also posts a Question of the Day and asks her homeroom students to write their response on the panel every morning when they arrive.
Whether for student manipulation, work in small groups or whole-group instruction, it’s clear to see that the panels are empowering teachers with new tools, and driving student engagement to new heights.
“I’m starting to see more student-centered activities around the panels. Instead of teachers just standing and lecturing all day, they’re letting students go and learn on their own. The result is a powerful one.”
— Michelle Burke
Ease of Training & Maintenance
I’ve never seen professional development go as well as it did when we introduced teachers to the panels,” said Burke. “We gathered a dozen Clear Touch panels in one of our libraries for training. We had 48 teachers, four per board, and the collaboration was unparalleled. We had language teachers paired with math teachers, art with social studies, and so on. They weren’t just learning about the panels. They were creating new lessons and finding inspiration. It was amazing to see so many teachers working together and learning from each other.”
Clear Touch Interactive panels are made with HD LED displays that produce brilliant colors on a 4mm antiglare, anti-friction tempered glass surface—so they stand up extremely well to heavy daily use.
“We haven’t had any problems with the panels, and Clear Touch have been great to work with,” said Burke. “We’re pleased with our choice, and the feedback from teachers and students has all been positive.”