Enriching the classroom experience for students and educators
elementary and 9 secondary schools
faculty and staff
The Avon Maitland District School Board is a public school district in southwestern Ontario bordering Lake Huron. It includes 32 elementary and 9 secondary schools employing 2,700 full- and part-time staff. Avon Maitland provides first-class education to approximately 15,100 students across the district as well as five adult learning centres that offer employment-focused continuing education.
In the 2018 academic year, the Ontario Auditor General completed an IT Value for Money Audit that included recommendations for building a long-term, sustainable technology plan for students and staff. To better understand how IT resources may be used for curriculum delivery and to achieve more equitable access to classroom technologies, the Avon Maitland District School Board began to create a new Technology-Enabled Learning Plan (TELP). This new TELP opened the door to the exciting possibility of transforming the way classroom education is delivered throughout the district. This transition sees classroom learning evolve from the teacher lecturing in front of the classroom to one where students are immersed in interactive technology, enriching the experience and stimulating their minds through creative instruction.
The new learning plan would ideally also see students leverage technology in self-directed learning pods or teach material themselves in presentations seen in virtually connected classrooms around the globe.
One area of interest for Avon Maitland was technology to enhance student engagement.
“We wanted better technology to equip our students with 21st-century skills and competencies,” said Jason Hillier, Administrator of Information Technology Services at the Avon Maitland District School Board. “We needed solutions that could increase student engagement and help us stay ahead of the curve in terms of learning technology.”
Avon Maitland was looking for a solution that would be capable of providing interactive activities for students for a more stimulating classroom experience. Interactive classroom panels were at the top of their wish list based on positive prior experience with some early generation technology. Any new panels would need to be feature-rich and device-agnostic so that students could participate regardless of the type of device they brought into the classroom.
Hillier set out to find the right front-of-classroom technology solution and the right partner to help them source and implement it. His research drew him to the Promethean system but needed a partner’s perspective on how it could be implemented best to overcome the school’s challenges. Compugen – Avon Maitland’s longstanding partner – worked with the school board to leverage Promethean’s strengths and integrate the system into the existing education technology in their environment.
The interactive panel technology’s appeal is that it brings student attention to the front of the classroom. The Promethean panel can also be used as a screen or a whiteboard and can be easily mirrored to more than 30 devices at a time, no matter where these devices may be. STEM teachers, for example, could set up a digital lab that can run simultaneously with a real-life lab, allowing them to draw students’ attention to specific aspects of the activity to better demonstrate how it works.
A key goal for the school board was to increase student engagement. Therefore, before going ahead, it was important to see how students and teachers would react to the technology in a real-world classroom environment. Compugen facilitated a demo model in the trial phase to ascertain how it could be efficiently integrated into the classroom without disruptions. The trial also gave Avon Maitland’s students and educators first-hand experience of the ActivPanel technology as it was rolled out to be tested in one elementary school, and one secondary school in the district.
“The biggest concern for me was that I didn't want to upset our students’ learning. You think about years and years of professional development classroom activities and lessons that were pre-developed, we couldn't just throw that away and start anew. We needed the technology that could help us seamlessly transition without upsetting the curriculum status quo,” Hillier said.
To minimize disruption, Compugen also facilitated a contract between Promethean and Avon Maitland that would allow the school board to use their software on older boards. Combined with training sessions provided to educators on how best to incorporate the technology in their lesson plans, this solution made the adoption even easier and more seamless.
It didn’t take long for Avon Maitland to see all the benefits of the new system. Right away, they noticed a sharp increase in student engagement – an observation verified through conversations with both teachers and students.
“Students love the interactivity because it’s not just a static board where an educator is simply projecting something onto the screen,” Hillier said. “With this engaging platform, we have noticed that students thoroughly enjoy being able to come up to the board and interact with it directly. They are also able to utilize existing tools, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops to engage with the subject matter and share their content wirelessly,” he added.
Avon Maitland has been working with Compugen to gradually introduce Promethean technology to schools throughout the district. Regardless of where in the district they are implemented or whether it is in an elementary or secondary school, the results have been consistently positive. The technology improved student engagement and accelerated the learning process.
“That’s what we’re in the business for. The primary goal of any educational institution is to engage students and accelerate learning,” Hillier said. “We found that this impressive piece of technology – when implemented with expert help – was able to address those key areas around engagement and collaboration in building 21st-century skills among our students.”
From the educator’s perspective, the new Promethean system has been a welcome addition to their arsenal of teaching tools. The transition from the existing technology to Promethean was effortless due to its intuitive interface. Teachers quickly took to several new features, such as creating annotations on the screen and the multiple touchpoints they didn’t have before. They also appreciated the flexibility to have a device-agnostic platform that allows students to showcase their work wirelessly from any device.
Another critical advantage to the system is the access to training and development resources that Promethean developed specifically for educators. Teachers can interact with other educators with pre-built professional content shared in an online community, so they don’t have to build from scratch.
Hillier believes this type of classroom technology is just the beginning of a continuing transition in classroom learning. “I see this tool as continuing to evolve the classroom environment, and we will continue to change teaching practices and learning methods well into the future,” he said. “Promethean is constantly updating its solution and providing new ways to improve student engagement, so I foresee this solution to become a core component of our continual learning plan.”
In the end, students are more engaged and better prepared for success as graduates in the 21st century.