Here’s how one school district made sure that our $18 million digital classroom refresh project produced high adoption levels while supporting instruction.
By Rod Smith, April Mayo 07/10/19
Disjointed technology components that don’t “talk” to one another and require teachers to learn multiple applications — without support — are challenges for districts. After adding different systems, applications and hardware into classrooms over the years, districts find themselves with frustrated educators and with disparate, unintegrated systems that go unused, never realizing a return on a large investment.
Our district wasn’t any different. Years earlier, Clayton County Public Schools (Jonesboro, GA) had spent millions of dollars putting digital technology into classrooms, ending up with a very disjointed solution that included projectors from one manufacturer, whiteboards from another, student response systems made by a third provider and slates and cameras by another — none of which worked well together as a total classroom solution.
From an instructional standpoint, teachers need something that's seamless and saves them instructional time, in order to get to the business of teaching students. Additionally, teachers need training and support to utilize new classroom technology. We wanted to make that happen. Our instructional and operational technology teams developed a comprehensive RFP that yielded a number of different bids and submissions. Boxlight surfaced as a top contender. It had what we needed, including interactive flat panels, a student response system, document cameras, slates, a software suite to run it all and a team of digital learning specialists to train and support teachers.
6 Steps to Implementation Success
Today, you can walk up and down our halls at any point, and it’s guaranteed the IFPs are turned on, being used to display content and supporting instruction. The following are a few critical steps taken to ensure high adoption rates at all 38 elementary, 15 middle and 12 high schools:
Involvement and input from all stakeholders Don’t skimp in this area. Take the time to communicate with all stakeholders (i.e., tech teams, curriculum teams, teachers, media specialists, etc.) in the process of selecting a new digital classroom solution. Our technology teams work closely with the curriculum team and school personnel to truly understand what our students are expected to learn and be able to do. Anytime we consider any technology for the classroom, we ask: Will this technology help a teacher maximize instructional time? Will this technology increase student investment? And lastly, will this technology allow opportunities for timely or immediate feedback?
Create a bulletproof RFP. Based on the essential requirements of the district, develop an RFP that truly addresses all of the district’s key challenge points, needs and criteria. A district’s RFP should contain and address not only aspects of the product, but also installation methodology, roles and responsibilities of all parties, communication plans, and most importantly, support and training for teachers.
Find a vendor who will listen to you. We’ve worked with vendors in the past who didn’t have our best interest at heart, and who were more interested in selling versus helping us determine how to meet our district’s needs. Our current vendor spent time with us, listened to our challenges, then supported our plan of action for tackling those issues. Through this process, we have created a partnership rather than just a vendor/customer relationship.
Seek out a complete solution versus disparate technology components. We have installed 75-inch flat panels with PC modules in over 3,000 classrooms and media centers. We have provided all of these classrooms with MimioPads for teacher and student use. CCPS was also able to provide several MimioVote kits and MimioView document cameras across the district, at all grade levels. Having this multifaceted technology stack from a single vendor and single application, helped streamline the professional training process. Having digital learning specialists (DLSs) assigned to schools, gives teachers a single point of contact when they need help.
Go room to room. To help boost early adoption rates, our DLSs visited every classroom in every school, the morning after an install, to help our teachers log into and utilize the new equipment on day one. Our goal was to ensure teachers felt supported right away, and it worked.
Help teachers recognize the value of the technology. Teachers have created and accumulated a lot of content using other systems and platforms. They don’t want to lose this work just because their district invests in new technology. With MimioStudio Notebook (software), they don't have to. Teachers can take content they've created in other applications (i.e., a PowerPoint, IWB apps, etc..), insert those files into MimioStudio, and then use the rest of the Mimio tools on top of it. For example, teachers that had previously used Promethean, Smart (or others) can easily convert those files to MimioStudio Notebook, thus preserving the work they’d assembled over the years. Additionally, schools have their assigned DLS to provide ongoing training and support to teachers for the entire Boxlight/Mimio suite of tools.
Don’t just set it and forget it. Districts must make good use of the taxpayer dollars that fund technology projects. To expect utilization at a fully operational level without a plan for teacher support is unreasonable. In order to see the highest return on our classroom refresh, our schools have an assigned DLS to provide teachers the support and training they need for the Boxlight solution.
Monitor and measure. We have developed a survey that’s sent to teachers and media specialists three time per year, with the resultant data being used to determine how many teachers are utilizing classroom technology, and at what level. The data have been very positive and shown increases over previously installed equipment.
About the Authors
Rod Smith is Chief of Technology at Clayton County Public Schools in Jonesboro, GA.
April Mayo is the Director of Instructional Technology at Clayton County Public Schools in Jonesboro, GA.