Located along the coast on Florida’s panhandle, WCSD serves 10,000 students grades K through 12. Notably, the district is home to a diverse selection of schools, from Title 1 schools to incredibly affluent schools—and has found creative, effective ways to address the needs of all. The progressive and innovative school district is a proponent of public choice options, offering three charter schools, two alternative schools, a career development center school, and virtual instruction opportunities to better serve and reach their students.
The top-performing district is also committed to academic excellence and has high standards for employees and students. As a result, the WCSD has maintained the State Board of Education’s Academically High Performing School District designation for seven consecutive years.
Recently, Walton County partnered with Clear Touch Interactive® to bring 21st Century technologies to all district classrooms.
The Search for a New Digital Teaching Platform
“All of our classrooms had legacy interactive whiteboards, so we wanted to refresh technology district-wide,” said Henry Martin, the CIO for Walton County School District. “That was the driving force behind our search for a new solution. The technology was quite old and outdated, and we knew it was time to move into the digital world with a digital platform.”
Martin, along with several members of his IT team, had gotten the chance to see the Clear Touch™ panel in action at a conference three years before their search for a new solution began, and what he saw stuck with him.
“The Clear Touch™ panel piqued my interest from the moment I saw it,” said Martin. “When it was time to start a pilot program to test out a new digital learning platform for our district, I called Clear Touch™ first.”
Henry Martin and his team installed several different brands and types of interactive panels in one classroom at Freeport Elementary School for testing and comparison.
“We had one teacher who was known for being the best at the ActivBoard, so we put the panels in her classroom for a few months so she could compare them and make a recommendation,” explained Martin. “She came back to us after just a couple weeks and told us there was no comparison. The Clear Touch™ panel included the software suite and had superior support and online training available. She liked the feel of the panel and the touch response. Overall, she thought that the panel was a simpler, packaged, all-in-one platform with a higher-quality look. She preferred the Clear Touch™ panel by far.”
“The Clear Touch panel piqued my interest the first time I saw it.”
— Henry Martin
Installing Clear Touch Interactive® Panels District-Wide
After this initial recommendation, Martin and his team began their technology overhaul, buying and installing eight panels in that same school, Freeport Elementary, when they did a renovation. In the summer of 2017, they were able to outfit about half the schools with Clear Touch™ interactive panels, installing a total of 325 panels district-wide.
“We jumped head first into the project and got as many panels as our budget and schedule would allow,” Martin said. “Now, we’re finishing up Phase 2 of the project and installing about 300 additional panels. In the fall semester of 2018, every classroom in our district will have a brand new digital Clear Touch™ panel.”
In addition to the interactive panels, all elementary school classrooms have the adjustable mobile stands while the media center in each school is equipped with an interactive panel and a tabletop stand so teachers can create learning stations.
The installation went well with very few challenges or setbacks, which Martin partly credits to the control standards at Clear Touch Interactive®.
“One thing that many people forget to consider before purchasing an interactive panel is the DOA rate. Clear Touch™ has a DOA rate of under one-percent, which is unbelievably low for digital panels,” said Martin. “Most manufacturers are much closer to five-percent or even ten-percent. That may not make much of a difference if you’re buying a handful of panels for one school, but when you’re rolling out nearly 625 panels district-wide, it can have an impact. Clear Touch™ not only has fewer panels that are DOA, they also get any panels that don’t work repaired and sent back quickly, which makes the installation process so much more enjoyable.”
Implementation and Training
After installation, WCSD started off with one training at the beginning of the school year, followed by a more advanced training in January after several months of classroom use. From an IT perspective, implementation and training have gone smoothly with no disruption to the learning environment or negative impact on classroom time. “We did the installation during the summertime to minimize disruption and had training the first day the teachers came back—panels are so intuitive that once you have a panel and go through a couple trainings, you’re pretty adept” said Martin.
According to Martin, the intuitive platform is part of the reason that implementation is easier with Clear Touch™, but the biggest differentiator is the platform’s simple connectivity and compatibility with third-party applications.
“What really makes the difference, the big seller for me, is the built-in software and the panel’s compatibility with existing software,” Martin said. “Teachers can keep using all of their digital lessons from previous years, which means they don’t have to switch all at once during the most hectic time of the year. We’ve had Promethean for over a decade, so there’s a comfort level there when the teachers realize they can keep using the resources they’ve created over the past 10 years and learn on their own timeline. It’s much less overwhelming.”
The Clear Touch Interactive® panels have also led to more teacher collaboration over the past year.
“Teachers learn the new software and build up new lessons gradually. As they learn the capabilities, they really like the new software and start to teach each other. The training process truly becomes teacher-driven, just like the classroom learning experience becomes student-driven,” said Martin. “Teachers use the panels in a real learning environment, think of things they’d like to be able to do, and reach out to other teachers or one of our digital specialists for support. IT isn’t constantly getting calls to troubleshoot software or connection problems. Clear Touch™ makes it so easy to switch; the transition is smooth, painless, better for everyone.”
So far, the teachers and students have nothing but praise for the interactive panels and what they’re able to accomplish in the classroom.
“I keep hearing reports that student engagement is up, learning time is used more effectively, and creating lessons is easier and more fun. The teachers absolutely love the panels, especially the clarity and the smooth touch response. Shadows, dim bulbs, lag time and recalibration were ongoing issues that slowed teachers down when they were working with interactive whiteboards,” Martin said. “I’ve had lots of positive feedback and not a single negative comment. I’m not surprised. The difference between a bulky, outdated projector and a digital panel is night and day.”