After running out their energy at recess, the students in Kate Gould’s transitional kindergarten class return from the playground for quiet time. To help them settle in, Gould, a primary teacher at Greenhills Elementary in the Eureka Union School District, queues up calming music or an educational show on her iPad and shares it to her ActivPanel. This simple exercise gives her students a chance to rest so they’re ready to focus on their afternoon lessons. It’s just one of the many ways Gould uses Screen Share. “I live by it,” she said.
More than 15 years ago, Eureka brought the Promethean ActivBoard into its seven schools. In 2020, after using those boards successfully for many years, they began replacing them with the ActivPanel. Now, like nearly every classroom in the district, the technology in Gould’s room is a new, highly engaging set-up. With the ActivPanel as the central hub, it frees her to teach from anywhere in the room.
Getting ahead of the technology curve
Eureka is a high-performing district with excellent test scores and a large percentage of students enrolled in gifted and talented education programs. The district also has an exceptional teacher retention rate. “We don’t have a large turnover. Our teachers have been here for 20 to 25 years,” said Lesley Day, coordinator of instructional technology. The tools provided in classrooms and the support given to teachers contribute to the district’s success.
A future-forward district, Eureka has been proactive about integrating technology for many years. Heidi Williams, Excelsior Elementary School principal, recalled that when the district began looking into edtech in the mid-2000s as a tool to support continued academic excellence and teacher satisfaction, they asked educators for input. She’d heard about interactive whiteboards from a colleague in a neighboring district and went to see the ActivBoard in action.
Williams was impressed. “I began scrimping, saving, and trying to find different budgets to purchase boards for our school,” she said. She also organized a cadre of 14 teachers to test the interactive whiteboards. The pilot went extremely well. Based on this success, the district installed an ActivBoard in every classroom.
Cultivating a culture of support and creativity
Moving from chalkboards to the ActivBoard was a big change, but the transition was smooth. From the start, the administration made it clear that giving teachers time to learn the new technology was a priority and set a precedent that fostered a highly collaborative, supportive community. Part of that support included a train-the-trainer program, where selected teachers received hands-on training from Promethean Education Consultants. Then, those teachers took that knowledge back to their schools, training their peers and providing ongoing help when needed.
In addition to the train-the-trainer program, teachers were empowered to find and share creative new ways to use the technology. Williams recalled the dramatic impact of that edtech. “To have a tool like that in your room that was interactive, it just changed everything,” she said. “It revolutionized the way our teachers were teaching.”
ActivPanel helps untether teachers
After more than a decade of use, the ActivBoards were becoming outdated, so Day began looking for an interactive smart panel display to replace them. In addition to wanting to update the tech, she also wanted to minimize the multitude of devices in each room. “We had so many pieces of equipment, which had so many points that could fail on any given day. We wanted to reduce those pain points,” said Day.
A new group of teachers piloted the ActivPanel. Familiar with the Promethean platform, they found it easy to learn. “Our teachers know and love Promethean already. It was at the top of our list,” said Day. After the successful pilot, the district began installing panels faster than Day initially expected.
“It wasn’t set to expand so quickly, but our school board saw it as a necessity. And our superintendent is very supportive of making sure our teachers have what they need as well as enhancing the teaching and learning environment.”Lesley Day, coordinator of instructional technology
Prior to the change, classrooms had a board, a projector, a laptop, a document camera, and a variety of other devices, connected by cables. Now, classrooms have an ActivPanel and an iPad connected by WiFi, as well as a laptop. It’s a simple, efficient set up but the change created some worry at first. “Our teachers are so used to being connected, that disconnecting them, untethering them from their technology, is a learning curve.” said Day. “We put together a training module. All our teachers came in to learn the basics—what I like to say are ‘the top 10 things you need to know about getting started with your panel,’” said Day.
Ongoing professional development and support for teachers continues to be a priority. Day has kept the successful peer-to-peer training program running. And later in the year, as part of the district’s overarching Technology Plan, Day, Williams, and school technology coaches have scheduled a full day of technology training including sessions specific to the ActivPanel.
Supporting differentiated learning and teaching styles
The ActivPanel is making an impact, just as the ActivBoard did, but in new ways. For Kate Gould, the panel is an essential part of her classroom and has shown its versatility across grade levels. “There are so many things you can do with the Promethean panel, with pictures for the younger students, text for the older students, and ways for them to interact together,” she said.
Her transitional kindergarten students regularly use manipulatives to learn, and the ActivPanel makes it easy to share their work. “They don’t have to pick up their blocks and carry them somewhere,” said Gould. “I can take a screenshot with my iPad, share it to the panel, and they can point to what they did and talk about it.” Last year, Gould co-taught a mixed class of kindergarten through 2nd grade students. In that class, the panel helped her and her teaching partner quickly pivot between small groups, keeping mixed-aged students immersed in learning.
Leslie Day has also seen how the ActivPanel engages students across grade levels. “It brings students up to be a part of the learning environment,” she said. “Our teachers can take a shot of a student’s work, instantly screen share, and make that a big part of positive student reinforcement.” She is also happy with how the panel helps teachers teach in the way that suits their students best and gives them the freedom to use their unique teaching styles. “With multiple ways to connect and bring lessons to life, it really does meet the needs of all of our teachers,” she said. “Some will screen share and touchback using their MacBook. Some use their iPad. Others are just panel experts, and don’t need any other piece of technology.”
Heidi Williams agrees the panel has been a game changer.
“We’re not tied to a computer that’s attached to the board anymore. Teachers have a lot more flexibility about how they’re presenting. The students have the flexibility and ability to share what they’re working on,” she said. “I could never overstate how much this product has changed what we’re able to do.”Heidi Williams
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