Dallas Independent School District (ISD) is “one of the nation’s fastest improving school districts,” according to the Council of the Great City Schools. With 230 schools and more than 157,000 students served by over 20,000 employees, it is considered one of the largest employers in the city.
Dallas ISD is receiving renovations made possible by a $1.35 billion 2008 Bond Program that is being used to construct 14 new schools and renovate and repurpose existing schools to improve the student learning environment. Part of this funding, which has been spread out over a five-year period, is dedicated to technology upgrades that help create digital classrooms. As the district looks to the future, these upgrades will play a critical role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Dallas ISD instructional programs and school operations.
According to Jacquelyn Cumby, technology project manager, for Dallas Independent School District, “Like many school districts around the country, a number of our classrooms had obsolete technology such as overhead projectors that still used transparencies. In some instances, this was linked to budget, but most others were tied to complacency.” She explained, “Teachers grow accustomed to what they know but most soon realize that obsolete technology hinders the students.”
She added that certain classrooms were without sufficient data ports, projection equipment and interactive software. At the same time, some of the schools simply required too much preparation for permanent technology installation “such as abatement, brick mounting and the absence of drop ceilings.”
Input from the teachers and principals throughout the district was sought to decide specifically which tools were best-suited for the classrooms. Most of the components were selected because of the requirements set forth by the Texas Education Agency Technology Applications (TEKS). Some of the technology upgrades required in this package — which would be installed in more than 6,600 classrooms throughout the district — included interactive projectors with multimedia management, mobile whiteboards, laptops, audio systems and document cameras.
When it came time to search for mobile whiteboards with projector mounts, the biggest factor was being able to standardize on a package of products that were flexible. It was crucial that the whiteboard was able to accommodate the same components currently standardized by the district. The mobile interactive technology package was designed to facilitate teacher presentations and student activity. Consequently, the mobile whiteboard needed to provide safe operation in concert with an interactive projector, laptop, audio system and document camera, particularly in those schools unable to install wall-mounted projectors. Although each package is not shared from room-toroom due to IP address restrictions, each package needed to remain mobile so it could be repositioned into different areas of the classrooms, depending on room configuration.
Lastly, warranty was a large factor when selecting a manufacturer for the mobile whiteboards and projector mounts. Because of the high performance nature of a school environment and the large number of products being deployed throughout the district, Cumby and her team needed assurance that the manufacturer would stand behind its products.
Because of the infrastructure challenges present in some of the classrooms, it was determined that the Bretford® EXPLORE® Mobile Interactive Whiteboard was ideal because it eliminated the need to mount equipment to the walls or ceilings.
Dallas ISD had previously standardized on a Bretford customized AV cart with shelves for a projector, laptop and document camera that also included a laser cut Dallas ISD school logo for branding. “We already had great success with this cart so rather than start from scratch, we created a customized mobile whiteboard solution,” said Cumby.
The Bretford EXPLORE® Mobile Interactive Whiteboard offers a canvas for interactive learning, brainstorming and connection. The 32”D x 66”W x 73-90”H board is designed for use with an ultra short throw interactive projector combined with the teacher’s laptop to elevate the teaching and learning experience. Cumby and her team worked with Bretford to add a second laptop arm and custom-sized platform to allow a document camera to be securely mounted. At the same time, a customized speaker mount was added to the top of the board so an audio speaker could be mounted. “This was a huge accomplishment because all of these enhancements allowed us to install the same components used in the standard systems package,” explained Cumby.
Another great feature of the cart is the height-adjustability. “Our elementary classrooms require that the bottom of the board is 32 inches from the floor while middle schools and high schools require 36 inches,” said Cumby. “The mobile whiteboard had to be height adjusted for use at all these different levels while still meeting code requirements. The size of the board and the structure of the frame made the Bretford EXPLORE® Mobile Interactive Whiteboard a great fit for our technology package. The ability to adjust the height depending on the room and the age of the children in it is definitely a plus.”
Return on Investment
Dallas ISD has successfully completed two phases of the technology integration package. Feedback from classroom instructors regarding the mobile interactive whiteboard has been outstanding. Instructors find the Bretford EXPLORE® Mobile Interactive Whiteboard and integrated technology easy to use, which ultimately enhances the learning experience for both the instructor and the students.
“The cost- and time-savings resulting from the mobile interactive technology package — verses permanently mounting equipment to the wall or ceiling — have helped keep the project budget on target,” noted Cumby. “This really helped solve a dilemma our district was not aware of when initially starting the project.”
In terms of the strong warranty requirements, Bretford stands behind the design of its products with a 12-year standard warranty. This robust support allows the district to keep the cart and whiteboard working properly in the classrooms without concern about a disruption in learning time due to the equipment.
Teachers have also provided positive feedback on the package. Morgana Wilborn, a teacher at Ann Richards Middle School, Dallas ISD, teaches in one of the classrooms with a Bretford EXPLORE® Mobile Interactive Whiteboard. “I integrate the mobile unit each and every day in my classroom,” she said. “My students are able to view notes, video clips, how-to instructions or read passages using the document viewer, Power Point and various media players and websites.”
She added, “Utilizing the interactive pen, they have been able to view directions on how to draw floor plans, how to use Photoshop to edit pictures for headshots, how to formulate a resume on Word, as well as how to create an animated movie online.”