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5 lessons learned from replacing whiteboards with touchscreens

Do your homework and test the tech carefully

We know that it’s no longer possible to prepare students for the real world and provide an excellent education without integrating technology into the classroom.

At Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) in Jacksonville, Fla—the 20th largest school district in the nation—our mission is to deliver educational excellence in each classroom and school, every day, to give all our students a chance at success. This includes using technologies to facilitate interest in learning.

Our educators had been using tools such as projectors and interactive whiteboards in classrooms for years, but there was no real across-the-board standard for our schools’ core classroom equipment.

Additionally, the equipment we had was aging. Projector bulbs were starting to dim and teachers would have to turn off lights to use them, which hardly energizes students. Some of the interactive whiteboard software was out of date, and not all schools had the funding to upgrade outdated equipment.

Our superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti, gave us the opportunity to put new technology in, and worked to secure the funding. This presented a two-fold challenge: update and standardize our interactive classroom technologies while also being mindful of the taxpayer dollars used to fund the investment.

DCPS needed something that was easy to operate and affordable enough to be standard across all classrooms, but that was also innovative enough to change the landscape of the classroom and create a more active learning space—something that a teacher could use for the whole class as well as in small groups. After researching options to replace our somewhat outdated technology, we ultimately decided on a combination of 55- and 65-inch touchscreen displays.

5 best practices

We had success using the following best practices for implementing new interactive display technologies into schools:

Keep an open mind. We asked school administrators and teachers what they were looking for in a touchscreen technology to ensure we hit the mark, and narrowed it down to four vendors that each submitted a proposal to make sure we had enough options to choose from. In the end, we ended up with touchscreens from NEC Display Solutions.

Ensure ease of use. The displays we chose have software built in that uses native drivers within Windows. The fact that we don’t need to worry about software anymore is huge — these displays give us plug-and-play functionality, which eliminates any future issues with outdated software and the costs of upgrading.

Next page: Learning from the past

Allow portability. Teaching doesn’t only happen at the front of the classroom — it also happens on the sides and at the back. We purchased the displays bundled with media carts to make them portable, allowing them to move around classrooms as needed.

Learn from the past. Previously, our schools had been using portable interactive whiteboards, but if the boards were ever bumped or jarred, they would go out of calibration and it would take time to recalibrate them. The calibration issues were eliminated with the display and cart bundle – and we also were able to use the monitors as one piece of equipment to replace both projectors and interactive whiteboards.

Test out the tech. We deployed the monitors in middle schools first, because our experience is that teachers of that population have more flexibility to change the way they do things. Middle school students can be especially restless, and we’ve been successfully using blended learning centers to keep them interested, giving students the opportunity to learn with the monitors as well as one on one with the teacher.

DCPS now has 2,500 interactive displays across our schools, and we plan to have an interactive display in all core classrooms in each of our 45 secondary schools for the 2016-2017 school year. So far we’ve tripled the number of interactive devices in student hands thanks to our superintendent, who was supportive of our goals.

Feedback from students and teachers has been positive, and we plan to continue to grow student use of the monitors. At DCPS, we believe that using interactive displays to facilitate learning will help us in our quest to set students up for success, giving them the best possible opportunities, and new ways to learn and grow.

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