Superstition Springs Elementary leverages teacher’s vision to design high-tech classrooms

Based on a technology grant submission by first grade teacher, Valerie Gresser, Superstition Springs Elementary School was able to outfit one of its classrooms with high-tech gear, including NEC’s NP400 projector.
Based on a technology grant submission by first grade teacher, Valerie Gresser, Superstition Springs Elementary School was able to outfit one of its classrooms with high-tech gear, including NEC’s NP400 projector.

When Scottsdale, Ariz.-based CCS Presentation Systems offered a $20,000 technology grant for teachers to design their ideal classroom, first grade teacher Valerie Gresser of Superstition Springs Elementary School saw an opportunity to realize her vision for a 21st century learning environment. With the support of school principal Patty Rogers, Gresser submitted a winning proposal that ushered in new teaching techniques at the school.

Superstition Springs Elementary is a K-6 school of 840 students and is part of Gilbert Public Schools. The school opened in 1995 and has earned the highest rank of “Excelling” from the Arizona Department of Education for its student-centered learning environment and academic excellence. Gilbert Public Schools serves 35,000 students with its 41 schools.

The challenge

Classroom design and related equipment are often beyond the purview of a teacher, while school administrators across the country are responsible for the difficult task of matching available budget to desired project upgrades and new technology rollouts.

Often, teachers don’t have the chance to tap the resources that will help them most, especially as their instruction methods change.

With more textbook content and teaching materials becoming available online, there is a lot of potential. But with only one computer in her classroom, Gresser faced the challenge of students huddling around one screen to view internet content and multimedia lessons.

Search capabilities on the internet can provide real-time assistance to teachers as they answer questions and seek multimedia content to support the discussion, but the classrooms weren’t designed to leverage internet content effectively. To compound the issue, students nowadays are exposed to 3D gaming and high-definition content at home, which sets a new bar for entertainment and learning. Traditional textbooks needed support in terms of multimedia to create student engagement and excitement.

“I began to experiment with NEC NP400 projectors, available from the school’s media center, because I wanted to address these challenges and create a more dynamic, motivating, instructional environment,” Gresser said. “I love the NEC projectors. They are state-of-the art and very easy to use.”

Gilbert Public Schools had previously standardized on NEC NP400 projectors after evaluating several products and selected NEC based on ease of use, bulb serviceability, and positive feedback from staff about features, such as the volume control and quick setup button.

As Gresser gained experience with the projector, she began to envision a variety of supporting technologies that would dovetail for a complete makeover of the classroom to bring the subject matter to life and dramatically improve the way she could teach. When she learned of the CCS technology grant, she decided to develop an integrated design with her best new ideas. Her proposal included the use of projectors, electronic whiteboards, document cameras, interactive electronic tables for data input, and even entry-level digital cameras for the students to use on class projects.

Developing the design concept was challenging but very exciting for Gresser, who felt that she was on the cusp of profoundly changing the teaching environment for the better. With support from her school, she submitted the proposal to CCS.

This was the first year that CCS had offered a technology grant, and CCS executives felt it would be great for teachers to have a say in the technology, without financial constraints.

“A lot of teachers are ready to do exciting things and just don’t have the budget,” said John Godbout, founder and CEO of CCS Presentation Systems. “CCS is always interested to hear teachers’ plans and ideas on integrating the latest state-of-the-art technology to better educate students. With this grant, CCS hopes to inspire schools and provide teachers the chance to create innovative programs through technology that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to fund.”

CCS is an NEC reseller partner with a heritage of innovation in audio/visual training among educators and corporate professionals. CCS trains more than 3000 educators each year through its centers in Scottsdale and Tucson, and at its Mobile Training Center, which debuted in March 2007.

Laura Ascione

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