The Benefits of Updating Classroom Technology
Stacy Royster, technology coordinator at Opelika City Schools near Auburn University, in Eastern Alabama, knows the educational diversity that technology can bring to the classroom, when used properly as a teaching vessel; but she also knows that the wrong technology can disrupt precious learning time.
Royster gained firsthand experience with classroom technology while teaching high school mathematics for 13 years. Four years ago, when she stepped out of the classroom and into the district technology office, she brought with her a strong conviction that classroom technology should be simple for teachers and students to learn and use, and easy for schools and districts to maintain. That conviction led Royster to Clear Touch Interactive®.
“I first saw the Clear Touch™ panels at a conference,” she said, “and I could instantly envision it: no more tripping over wires, ducking to avoid casting shadows, turning off the lights, or climbing ladders to replace expensive bulbs.”
All Clear Touch panels are made with HD LED displays that produce brilliant colors on a 4mm anti-glare, anti-friction tempered glass surface—so it’s not necessary to close the blinds or dim the lights when using a Clear Touch panel.
“Technology should make teachers’ lives easier and enrich student learning, not distract from it or cause anyone frustration.”
— Stacy Royster
Deploying the Panels in Opelika Classrooms
Opelika City Schools serves over 4,300 students through its eight district schools: three primary schools, three intermediate schools, one middle school, and one high school. Royster has begun replacing the old whiteboard-and-projector setups used in the district’s classrooms—the same technology she used while teaching high school in the past—with Clear Touch panels.
Royster deployed 18 panels in the first round last summer, mostly into new classrooms. Of those, ten went into first grade classrooms in a newly built wing at Carver Primary School. Five panels were installed in Opelika High School, two in the middle school and one in the boardroom in the district administration building. Ten additional panels were later purchased to completely outfit the learning center. Today, they now have 88 total panels.
“We started slow [initial purchase of 18], but the Clear Touch panels are such a hit with our students and teachers that we’re now considering district-wide deployment,” she said.
“Clear Touch was so accommodating. They let us test and thoroughly vet the panels, and then, when we made the decision to move forward, they provided us with a turnkey solution. They hung the mounts, installed the boards and set up the operating systems. We were very happy with their service and expertise,” said Royster. Clear Touch provided onsite training for Opelika’s teachers.
Enriching Education at Opelika City Schools
In high school career technology classes, teachers utilize 70-inch Clear Touch panels to demonstrate to students how to master Microsoft Office and other business applications, while students follow along at individual workstations.
Of the two 70-inch initial panels installed at Opelika Middle School, one is used in computer programming, and the other in a special education classroom. Royster says the new panels are more adaptive to kids with special needs. “There are no long cords posing a trip hazard, and the touchscreen is much better for students with dexterity issues, since you control it with a finger instead of a pen.”
In fact, the Clear Touch panels have true multi-touch capability, featuring ten simultaneous touchpoints and rapid response times. This capability gets a lot of use in first grade classrooms, particularly in center-based learning models. When the panel is serving as one of the “centers” for number games or phonics at Carver Primary, multiple children are touching the screen at the same time.
Royster likes to see the Clear Touch panels leveraged for student interactivity and collaboration. “Naturally, we want teachers to use the panels for showing slideshows, solving problems, displaying student work, playing videos, and accessing online resources to share anything they can dream of sharing, but we also fully intended for students to put their fingers all over the panels,” she said.
It’s the reason the district opted to install height-adjustable mounting systems. Even the youngest and shortest operators in the primary school classrooms can reach the 65-inch Clear Touch panels, thanks to the balance box mounting hardware. These spring-loaded wall mounts enable teachers to quickly and easily adjust the height of the panels to accommodate different users.
Royster said the mobility factor also makes these panels more conducive to modern teaching.
“It’s not necessary for teachers to sit at a computer screen or even stand at the front of the room in order to operate the panels.”
— Stacy Royster
Teachers can roam the classroom while using any tablet or smartphone running Clear Touch’s EasiConnect software to operate the panel: pulling up web sites, changing slides, flipping between apps, sharing snapshots of student work, etc.
Maintaining the Panels is a Breeze
Nobody wants learning time to be interrupted by a burned-out light bulb, but unfortunately, said Royster, that’s what happens with the projectors. The Clear Touch panels don’t use bulbs or other expensive consumables. “Not having to purchase any replacement bulbs will eventually save us about $23,000 a year.”
Royster also notes that she hasn’t had any problems with the panels. “We use a district-wide ticketing system for IT support, and in the past year, we had 1,400 support tickets,” she said. “Of those, 132 tickets had to do with projectors and 125 with whiteboards. It’s usually an issue with a projector bulb, or a wire in the whiteboard. Meanwhile, not a single ticket has been issued for a Clear Touch panel, though in the event that there is an issue, I can remotely log into any panel to troubleshoot. I can’t do that with the whiteboards.”
After all the whiteboards and projectors have been replaced with Clear Touch panels, Royster will gain back the 20 percent of time she currently spends fixing these old technologies. When that happens, she says she will be able to spend more time creating and communicating innovative ways teachers can further incorporate technology into their classrooms and curriculums.
Clear Touch™ Panels…Clearly a Win-Win-Win
“We’re fortunate to be able to put the latest and greatest technologies into our classrooms and continue to move in a progressive direction as a district,” said Royster. “Our students really enjoy learning and working together on the Clear Touch panels, the reliability is a huge time-saver for me, and all the teachers who don’t have a panel yet want to know when theirs is coming.”
Soon, she tells them, soon.