Across the nation, schools are making the move from standard whiteboards to interactive whiteboards. Many benefits have been associated with interactivity in lessons, such as student engagement and teaching effectiveness.
Despite the fact that all schools try to maximize limited resources, many schools are unaware that some interactive whiteboard options can provide optimal results for only a fraction of the cost of more widely known options.
This can be illustrated by the case study of Troy Community Consolidated School District in Plainfield, Illinois, where savings of approximately 50 percent were achieved when upgrading classrooms to interactive whiteboards.
The move to interactive whiteboards was initiated by Troy School District’s superintendent, Don White Ph. D., when he proposed a multi-phase plan to bring the district’s classrooms into the 21st century.
At the time, 109 of Troy School District’s classrooms had a standard chalkboard, and the first phase of the plan would require each chalkboard to be replaced with an interactive whiteboard. When the costs for dismantling chalkboards and installing new interactive whiteboards were calculated, the plan nearly came to a halt.
The expenses would not be compatible with the district’s budget. In addition, dismantling the old chalkboards might also incur additional costs associated with hazardous materials abatement.
Determined to find a more cost-effective solution, Ron Sarver, the district’s director of information services, and Rita Schulz, the district’s technology coordinator, continued to research options.
Their efforts paid off when the research yielded a solution that would allow them to convert the school district’s chalkboards to interactive whiteboards with an estimated cost reduction of nearly 50 percent.
Their plan involved converting each chalkboard to a new whiteboard using self adhesive dry erase panels. The new whiteboards would then be converted into interactive whiteboards using Mimio, a technology that can turn any surface into an interactive surface.
Having not yet used dry erase panels before, Sarver and Schulz initially had several concerns ranging from the quality of the dry erase surface to the quality of the projection on the dry erase surface.
To prevent issues with the quality of the dry erase surface, they chose EverWhite dry erase panels, which were guaranteed to remain white without any signs of ghosting or staining. Using a classroom as a test case, Sarver and Schulz installed an EverWhite dry erase panel over the chalkboard, and proceeded to add a Mimio interactive system and short throw projector.
Then, they thoroughly tested the solution to see if it would work for the rest of the district’s classrooms. Their concerns about the projected image quality were quickly alleviated.
According to Sarver, “Typically, boards that are very stain-resistant and shiny do not work well as projection surfaces, but that wasn’t the case with these dry erase panels. Everything on the projection was very sharp, with crisp lines and no blurriness.”
He continued, “As an added bonus, unlike typical whiteboards, the dry erase panel was capable of reflecting more light than the usual whiteboard, so the teacher wouldn’t necessarily have to dim the lights each time the interactive whiteboard was in use.”
With the proposed solution thoroughly tested, it was clear that Troy School District would be able to proceed with the first phase of the district’s plan, bringing each classroom into the 21st century using the combination of an EverWhite dry erase panel, Mimio interactive system, and a short throw projector.
There would be no expenses incurred dismantling chalkboards, and teachers would have the versatility of both an interactive whiteboard and a high-quality dry erase board. In addition, by using Mimio as an interactive solution instead of a more widely known supplier of interactive whiteboards, the district was able to realize cost savings upwards of $1,100 per room.
According to Sarver, “The cost differential was dramatic.”
The Training Component
The overall success of Troy School District’s interactive initiative has much to do with Troy School District’s proactive training program.
When Troy School District was initially formulating a training plan, they found research showing that many teachers with interactive technology were only using their interactive equipment as expensive projectors.
Troy School District knew that before the interactive solution could be successful and engage students, adequate training would need to be provided to teachers, enabling them to effectively utilize the equipment and make lessons interactive.
Troy School District’s training program required each teacher to attend a 2-1/2 hour class showing teachers how to use the technology before their classroom could be upgraded with an interactive whiteboard.
Substitutes were provided by the school district so teachers could take the class during the day instead of after hours. A second, more advanced class on the interactive technology was also offered to teachers.
According to Schulz, “We didn’t want to just hand teachers the equipment; we wanted to show them the possibilities.”
Once each teacher received training, he or she was able to customize the capabilities of the interactive whiteboards to suit individual teaching plans.
As Schulz explained, “I show them how to use the software, but they are the ones that figure out how to successfully incorporate the software into each of their classes.”
Troy School District’s story illustrates a cost-effective deployment of interactive technology in classrooms that was supported by well-planned training.
According to Schulz, an added bonus is that “the kids have been able to quickly learn the equipment and be a part of the interactive lessons, which has been a big benefit for the teachers.”
Overall, the ultimate goal of cost-effectively harnessing the potential of interactivity in classrooms has been successful, perhaps best summed up in the words of Sarver: “Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.”