Building Connectivity and Community at Ponderosa High School
It’s astounding what one person can accomplish with a little drive and determination.
Over the past year, Darrel Kim, the Senior IT Support person at Ponderosa High School, has revolutionized the way his school looks, feels, and operates—creating both a stronger, more connected school community and a more individualized classroom environment using Clear Touch™ panels.
Kim said that all of his current initiatives began with the need to replace Ponderosa’s outdated classroom technology.
“We started thinking about replacing our classroom projectors,” Kim explained. “I was constantly getting calls to find the right cable, replace bulbs, and calibrate the projector. Each projector had to have its own dedicated computer, so if something wasn’t going wrong with the projector, something was going wrong with the computer. There had to be a better way.”
The Search for a Solution
The potential uses for Clear Touch™ technology grew from there. Darrel Kim and his team developed an initiative for digital signage at the school and began purchasing a couple basic flat screen televisions to use as signage.
“As soon as we put them up, I realized we could do so much more with our digital signage if we made it truly interactive,” said Kim. “What if students could walk up to the screen and look up the week’s activities or the lunch menu? What if we took the same Hall of Fame content we’d developed, but students could touch the photos to find out more? The idea really captivated my imagination.”
Kim and his team began browsing through trade journals to see what options were available that could both replace classroom projectors and work as digital signage.
“I was surprised to discover only a few companies provided what we needed—and among those that did, most had a yearly subscription fee, required maintenance plan, or required cloud-based storage plan,” said Kim. “It all added up. In some cases, you’re essentially spending enough in annual fees to buy a display every two to three years.”
The added costs weren’t the only issue for the Ponderosa IT department, though. “Any additional component adds yet another layer to the approval process at the district level,” Kim explained. “For each additional expense, there are all sorts of associated clearances that make approval more cumbersome and less likely. I needed a simple, bundled solution that could be approved quickly.”
THE SEARCH CONTINUES
Buying Local is Beneficial for IT Purchases, Service, & Support
It was important to Kim to find a local or regional solution in order to get the best service and support. “When I integrate a new solution, I try to buy locally so I can develop a rapport with the support team,” said Kim. “I can find out what’s next before it comes to market and maybe even have some input about new features and releases. I like having that close, mutually beneficial relationship with my tech providers.”
Eventually, Kim found a promising company nearby and scheduled a tour of their showroom. “I took the tour and loved the tabletops and kinetic display they offered,” Kim said. “However, their software was limited, and I was trying to keep my programming time to a minimum. I also felt like I couldn’t get a reliable quote, and I couldn’t get timely follow-ups, which made me doubt the company would be a good fit for the way I work.”
After that trip, Kim ran across an article in a trade journal that highlighted the Clear Touch Interactive® display. “I saw the Clear Touch™ panel, read some of the specs, and immediately felt like I’d found the fit for our school. The company was based in South Carolina, but I decided to call anyway.”
Kim was impressed by how quickly and thoroughly Clear Touch™ responded to his questions. “I got in touch with a representative, and we had several great conversations about what I wanted. In those conversations, I discovered that Clear Touch™ maintains a network of regional partners all over the country that enables them to offer reliable service and support to their customers,” Kim said. “And then, they did something that absolutely floored me. They offered to send me a panel on a trial basis. I couldn’t believe it. They flew out here, set the panel up, showed all of us how to use it. Well, that panel never left the building—and I bought seven more by the end of the school year.”
CLEAR TOUCH™ INSTALLATION & INTEGRATION
A Fully Versatile Solution
“One of the coolest aspects of the Clear Touch™ solution is that I don’t see any limits to how or where I use the panels—they’re a complete solution that I can use as digital signage, as floating media centers, in Special Ed applications, and, of course, in the classroom.”
According to Kim, the Clear Touch™ solution has more than met his expectations, with easy installation, simple maintenance, and comprehensive service and support. He also appreciates the robust software included with every purchase.
“The panels are incredibly easy-to-use and completely versatile, as is the software,” Kim said. “I got exactly the digital signage network that I was dreaming of. We’ve used Snowflake to create our own Hall of Fame, and the follow-up step will be adding short films or videos about what our graduates are doing. Students can walk up and interact, look up a graduate, scroll through upcoming events. We’ve put an interactive map of the school up for Open House, put up announcements, welcome messages, or challenge questions to engage students. It makes the school feel brighter and more welcoming—more like a true community.”
Kim is equally excited about the applications he’s found for the panels inside the classroom, especially for his resource teachers.“It would be hard to overstate how perfectly these panels work in Special Education classrooms. We’re using the 70” panel with the convertible mobile stand, so we can angle the panel, turn it into a tabletop, and adjust the height.
It’s such a good tool for students who are in wheelchairs or who have limited mobility. I’ve watched this panel in use, and it builds hand-eye coordination—the intelligent autowrite feature is invaluable in these classrooms with students who are practicing their handwriting. In general, this is powerful, powerful software; it’s unbelievable what you can do with it.”
Building on Ponderosa’s Success
Darrel Kim continues to expand his use of Clear Touch Interactive® displays at Ponderosa High School.
“My colleague’s joke that I walk around campus, looking for new places to install panels,” said Kim. “My end goal is to get every classroom in my school a dedicated panel. I appreciate that the Clear Touch™ solution is so scalable. I can buy these panels as I get the budget and approval, grow the program, and even re-assign older panels for new uses as I integrate new purchases and upgrades. They are fully mobile, easy to install, and easy to change out when you need to.”
Kim doesn’t plan to stop his initiatives with his school, either. “I’ve become the biggest Clear Touch™ advocate out there. I think every school in our district should have these panels. In fact, I recently lent that first trial panel out to another school so they can see for themselves—so, I guess I was incorrect when I said it’s never left the building! I also hosted an all high school tech conference and got 64 participants; I think it’s only a matter of time before other schools start implementing this technology.”
Kim also loves the value that the panels bring to the IT department. “I tell everyone I talk to that Clear Touch™ offers the best value out there from an IT department perspective, hands down. They have the best built-in quality, the best software, the best product. Once you add up all of the different components, there’s no comparison,” Kim said.
According to Kim, the 5-year onsite warranty is a key differentiator, clearly demonstrating that Clear Touch™ believes in and is willing to stand behind its products, service, and support. “As a self-contained unit with no associated yearly costs and a strong warranty, it’s a much easier sell for the district. No other product I’ve found offers a 5-year warranty. Most offer a 1-year warranty—that’s never going to be enough. One year is barely enough time to figure out what you like and don’t like about the product.”
Finally, Kim mentioned that what he appreciates the most is the fact that he gets to work with a responsive team of representatives as he builds his program. “As much as I love the product, and love how students and teachers can walk up and start using the panel, it all goes back to that first phone call for me. The fact that I could get answers so quickly made the decision for me,” said Kim. “I feel like I have an inside track to the development team at Clear Touch™; they listen to me—and I’m really excited to see what comes with the latest update. This is truly the next wave of interactivity.”