The ensuing enthusiasm has continued to match the initial desire for the devices, with teachers and students alike using the displays in a multitude of different ways. “It’s a terrifically multifaceted tool,” said Vollmert. “Teachers can adapt it to so many uses and they’re really using the touch capacity in creative ways that enhance what they do in the classroom.”
Among the examples he cited: Teachers can now create interactive spaces where kids then work alongside them; they can add internet content or video to enhance their lesson; and they can save any type of work used on the display and make it available to students on their Google accounts. Students similarly interact with the displays in any number of ways, such as using them to enhance presentations.
“One specific example that comes to mind is a math game a third grade teacher devised, where you have to use all 4s in an equation to come up with every number from 1 though 20. The kids got up and interacted with the board to come up with the equations. They collected the responses on the board, and then the teacher saved the entire thing and distributed it to all the kids as a Google doc so they could refer back to it. The kids had a blast – they all wanted to be the first to figure out an answer and get to write it on the giant tablet.”
An added bonus: IT staff, administrators and other teachers can walk into a classroom and use the embedded computer to log into his Google account and share information. What’s more, the utility as simply a display device is much better than their old projectors.
“Teachers don’t have to shut lights off in the room to be able to see the content,” said Vollmert. “And the resolution is better.”
As to whether he thinks excitement over the devices will wane as the novelty wears off, Vollmert had this to say:
“We’re a 1:1 district and every kid has a personal device and we’ve seen that this can happen. But when it does it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When the novelty fades that’s when we can really see how technology tools are used in all-new, transformative ways.”
For now, he said, the teachers and students at Rio School District continue to explore how to integrate the display’s functionality into their lesson plans; things will get even more exciting when they regularly use them in ways that are entirely different than what they did before, for approaches that couldn’t exist without the technology. Which, he noted, had already begun to happen.
“Because of the interactivity and the embedded PC, kids can send their work up to the screen for everyone to see and work on; they can capture video and use the interactivity to annotate it, then share with the Google groups. We couldn’t do that with our projectors. We couldn’t show a video of sea otters that kids could capture a screen shot from, then incorporate that into a student blog and write about what they learned.”
The bottom line, said Vollmert, speaking with passion as the teacher-at-heart he clearly is, is that this technology can free teachers to truly be teachers.
“With this technology I’m no longer the sole source of information for my students. I can say, go get your own information and now I’m a facilitator, their guide-in-process – helping them learn how to learn.”
Speaking with his IT hat on, Vollmert is equally pleased with the quality and performance of the hardware, as well as ViewSonic’s support.
“We’ve experienced ViewSonic’s support mechanism in the past and it’s tried and true,” he said.” And we appreciated that our sales rep, Cheryl Badley, has come out and done a couple trainings for us.”
What was initially perceived as somewhat of a calculated risk, this jump to an entirely new technology for the school district, has clearly paid off.
“I’m absolutely sure it’s worth the investment,” Vollmert said. “To be honest I haven’t seen a whole lot of technology deployments in classrooms that have had a better response.”