The traditional classroom setting, with students poring over notes and teachers scribbling on chalkboards, is a thing of the past.
Today, teachers and students in Hall County are using laptops, tablets, phones and interactive boards for learning in the classroom.
Hall County Schools is in the midst of a $2.8 million project to install audio/visual projectors in all of its schools. The system is standardizing classroom features and installing Epson BrightLink 585 Ultra-Short Throw Interactive Projectors.
“This is a solution that we feel like brings together some decade-old technology with wireless interactive technology,” said Aaron Turpin, executive director of technology. “We feel like it is a solution that is flexible with whatever a teacher needs.”
The projector throws a clear, vivid display onto existing dry-erase boards, according to Josh Morton, project manager. It uses two interactive pens for the board, and allows students to wirelessly connect their laptops, tablets, phones and more to the content the teacher wants to share.
Morton said the technology allows teachers to share information with students, and students’ work can be shared straight from their devices to the board.
“Teachers can use the software with moderator function technology, to simultaneously share students’ work from PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices,” he said.
Cherie Hathcock, Seeking Excellence and Reaching Challenging Heights gifted and talented program teacher at Flowery Branch Elementary School, said teachers at her school can check out laptops from the media center to use with the projectors.
“We really like it because it’s so easy for the students to connect their laptops to the projector and share their work,” she said.
The projector mounts only 1 foot above the whiteboard and projects a 90-inch screen. Because it mounts so closely to the board, it casts no shadow over students or teachers who wish to use the interactive pens and write on the screen.
“We’re using it a lot instead of using a lot of paper,” said Brittany Miller, first-grade teacher at Flowery Branch Elementary. “We write everything on the board and we’re able to save the files and open them up whenever we need them.”
Morton and Turpin presented the Hall County Board of Education with an update on the project Monday, at which time Chairman Nath Morris asked if the new projectors are the best fit for the school system.
“Technology is quickly changing, and we see where we were five years ago,” Morris said. “I know we’re doing some replacing, but what makes this unique and able to be relevant longer than alternatives?”
Turpin said the Epson projectors are ideal because they are compatible with every device. The technology is based on an app, so it scales to whatever device is used.
Turpin said the projectors being installed are not the “latest and greatest” of their kind, but he assured the board they are the best choice for the school system.
“The latest and greatest has multitouch finger capability and this doesn’t,” he said. “But we didn’t go with that one, because the board has to be completely, perfectly smooth for the sheet of the image to come out right.”
The projectors will eventually be installed in 706 classrooms, and 13 schools already have the technology installed.
According to Turpin, six schools are still in progress and projectors will be installed in those schools by the end of the calendar year. Once those schools are completed, another seven will be installed by the end of February and the last five schools will be installed by the end of the school year.
Once the first phase of installation is complete, the next three phases will begin. They involve replacing aged technology. In 148 classrooms, technology is more than 4 years old as of October 2013. The cost to replace it will be $550,000.
In phase three, 236 classrooms will have technology that needs replacing, for a cost of $875,000. Phase four will replace technology in 241 classrooms, for $890,000.
Hannah Norwood, third-grade teacher at Flowery Branch Elementary, said the technology is important for student learning, and it helps engross student interest in a way that didn’t exist before in the classroom.
“That marker is like a magic wand,” Norwood said. “They love to sit there quietly, ready to draw or answer a question on the board.”