the words Turnaround Tuesdays

How we built an immersive learning environment

See how a large Texas district decided on the right collaborative infrastructure for its teachers and students


The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (ISD) is the third-largest district in Texas, covering 186 square miles and serving more than 115,000 students. The Houston district currently includes 11 high schools, 18 middle schools, 54 elementary schools, and five special campuses.

Biggest challenge:

Our district is large and continues to grow by nearly 1,000 students each year, creating a continuous pressure to provide all students with equally impactful educational experiences. The teachers and district administration realized we lacked a collaborative technology infrastructure that engaged students in their learning environments. In short, we weren’t where we needed to be to prepare students for today’s higher education and workforce.


To realize this immersive learning environment, we needed the necessary funding to take on a project of this size. Thankfully, our community also saw the importance of modernizing technology in our schools and in 2014 voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $1.2 billion bond to help update the district’s classrooms. Once we secured the funding, we needed to answer the biggest question: Which technology could create the most impact in preparing our students and improving student outcomes?

Related: 10 steps for bringing connectivity home

A committee of teachers, curriculum staff, and technical staff collaborated to assess available solutions that would increase student interaction in all age groups, drive unique classroom engagement, and provide professional development for educators throughout implementation.

After diligent research, our committee landed on the Promethean interactive displays. During a four-week evaluation, we conducted an extensive hands-on review with each panel and corresponding software. This review process provided our committee members with the opportunity to experience the different panels as students and teachers will—in the context of their subject areas and classroom needs.

In the end, Cypress Fairbanks ISD selected the ActivPanel hardware and ClassFlow software solutions, which have successfully enhanced student engagement in the classroom.

Our students love being able to go up and touch the board and are excited that more than one student can interact with the board simultaneously. Overall, students have embraced the new technology, and the interactive panel and software combination has had a clear, positive impact on teaching and learning. Our team sees the huge strides we are making in the district by using an immersive, 21st-century learning environment that will prepare students for their next steps in their lives.

Lessons learned:

  • Not all classroom technologies are created equal. It was extremely important to us that our new infrastructure allow for simultaneous use from several students at a time. Both at the panel and on the cloud-based software, the real-time collaboration aspect has been huge for our classrooms and opened a whole new range of possibilities for our teachers.
  • Professional development is paramount. Integrating a brand-new system into a district of our size is a huge undertaking at minimum. Our team is proudly made up of educators from all walks of life, which is an amazing thing but also provides the challenge of figuring out a way to get everyone up to speed. From demonstration to our continued rollout district-wide, looking for a provider that has expertise in leading professional development demonstrations and workshops is something that I would recommend to any interested district.

Next week:

See how a district turned around teacher retention.

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