MDUSD tech teachers get early training on new interactive digital panels expected to enhance teaching in the fall
MDUSD teachers and administrators are enthusiastic about new technology the District will provide to every classroom by the fall to enhance instruction. Called "Promethean ActivPanels," the high-tech displays look like large screen Smart TVs, but act like touch screen computers, white boards and overhead projectors all rolled into one - with extra bells and whistles that make them more interactive, easy to use and even fun! "It's built for collaboration," said Promethean trainer Xan Roberti, during an after-school training on May 24th at Concord HS. "It's an engaging tool."
Training started in May for 200 teachers and administrators, including Tech Integration Leaders (known as TILs) who are receiving their ActivPanels this month to begin testing them out. These Phase 1 users were designated by their principals as "tech-forward educators," said Erin Vallejo, MDUSD's new Educational Technology Coordinator, who is overseeing the training. In Phase 2 next fall, all teachers at every school will be trained, "but we'll already have some Phase 1 users on site so they can help Phase 2 users whenever they get them and tell them how amazing they are," Vallejo said.
The District is hiring two dedicated Promethean educational consultants for the 2023-24 school year to help train teachers on the basics of how to use the panels, then move into "pedagogical lesson planning," said Vallejo, who is a former English teacher. "I'm thrilled," Vallejo said, "because we're standardizing technology across the District, so that we'll be providing equity" and consistency from one school to another. She's also excited about how well the panels integrate with Google and document cameras such as Elmos, as well as the interactivity and "top-of-the-line" technology that includes adjustable stands, a wireless keyboard, and "Chromeboxes" that integrate with Chromebooks. Now, she wants to be sure "teachers are feeling supported so they can ultimately support their students" and make the panels "as valuable as possible" in classrooms.
Teachers and administrators at the training were all smiles as they wrote or drew on the panels with their fingers or with stylus "pens," connected to the internet, created "spinners" and timers, moved images around, split the screen into halves and quarters, and learned how to use a variety of math tools. They learned that they can annotate on the screens, then save their work to PDFs or google drives and share them in their Google Classrooms and even tap into Google translate. They can also record their lessons along with their voice for students to review later, with adjustable brightness and volume. And they can share their students' Chromebook screens on the large screen so everyone can see what individual students are working on. "It's tricked out," Roberti said, adding that Promethean is a company that was created by teachers for teachers.
Mt. Diablo Elementary teacher Elaine Baker teamed up with Silverwood Elementary teacher Roxan King and Crossroads HS teacher Teresa Bolla to try out the panels. "I'm really excited that all the schools are getting the same equipment, so it's not a decision between the haves and the have-nots," King said. "Everyone's going to have it." Baker said the panels are adaptable for every grade level, from TK all the way through high school, and "this does way more than the large screen TVs or whiteboard projectors." Bolla said she thinks her students will love the technology. "I think it's very exciting and I'm looking forward to learning right alongside my students," she said.
Mt. Diablo HS computer science teacher Susan Verharen said the panels are a big improvement over current District tech tools. "The touchback is cool," she said, referring to a teacher's ability to touch a student's screen to give them feedback on some computers. "It's nice to be able to share the students' individual screens, so if you were teaching math, you could say, 'Joey did it this way, and someone else did it another way.' This was so fun. I like it.'"
Monte Gardens Elementary Principal Bess Inzeo gave the panels a glowing review. "It's life-changing for the teacher in the classroom," she said, explaining that the adjustable stand allows teachers to lower the screen to the level of a TK child or a student in a wheelchair or raise it for a tall student standing in front of it. "All kids can access it."
JULY 24, 2023 UPDATE: Phase II is now in full swing, Vallejo says. The District has begun delivering the ActivPanels to classrooms, and has so far deployed them to every classroom at Ygnacio Valley HS; Oak Grove, Pine Hollow, Foothill and Diablo View middle schools; and Ayers Elementary School. These are funded through the District's voter-approved Measure J funding.