The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (ISD) is the third-largest district in Texas, covering 186 square miles and serving more than 115,000 students. The Houston district currently includes 11 high schools, 18 middle schools, 54 elementary schools and five special campuses—and continues to add about 1,000 students a year.
The large and growing district was looking to turn its classrooms into 21st-century learning environments where all students would be engaged in learning.
The Tech Decision
To provide this growing community with the technology it needed to prepare students for today’s higher education and workforce, in 2014 the community voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $1.2 billion bond to help transform the district’s classrooms into 21st-century learning environments.
According to Becky Cook, the director of instructional technology at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, more than $127 million of the funds from the bond were earmarked for instructional technology, which included interactive panels.
The bond committee approved the panel purchase, because panels last longer than projectors and don’t require costly bulb replacements. When the new funding became available, the district took the opportunity to compare six different interactive panels, including Promethean’s ActivPanel.
During a four-week evaluation, vendors were allowed to present their panels to a committee of 60 people, which included teachers, curriculum staff, and technical staff.
The process included an extensive hands-on review opportunity, where committee members could interact with each panel and correlating software. The opportunity allowed the committee members to review the panels in the context of their particular subject areas and classroom needs.
Promethean ActivPanel was the overall first choice of the committee.
According to Cook, there were four reasons why the ActivPanel was the clear choice for Cypress-Fairbanks:
- The high quality of the panel: The panel is a clear and sharp 65” screen that does not have diffused light like one would find in a projector-based board. The surface is ultra-smooth and does not create friction when dragging one’s finger across it.
- Multitouch: The ActivPanel allows up to 10 touches at once, opening up a range of possibilities for students and teachers to collaborate in real time.
- ClassFlow software: ClassFlow is a game-changer. It allows teachers to send out cards to students’ devices, have students work together, and then have the students send the work back to the teachers for a discussion.
- Customer support: Cypress-Fairbanks appreciated the expertise of the team that came to demonstrate the ActivPanels. The Promethean team has provided continued support as Cypress-Fairbanks begins to roll out the panels district-wide. User group sessions are held regularly with both Promethean and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD staff to hear feedback from the customer in an effort to continuously improve their products.
One of the most important goals for implementation was to create technological equity, giving all students in the district an equal opportunity to succeed. “All the schools have the same equipment,” says Cook.
The district intends to purchase more than 7,000 ActivPanels and has been installing 300 a month—some mounted on walls and others on rolling stands to allow for greater mobility.
Starting the second year of the massive technology roll-out, Promethean and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD continue to work closely together, and the benefits of the partnership flow both ways. The ClassFlow development team takes feedback from their early adopters consistently. When suggestions are made, they are embedded into the product in a short period of time.
“The partnership had a clear, positive impact on teaching and learning,” says Cook.
For example, Cypress-Fairbanks’ Secondary Math Coordinator Linda Sams mastered ClassFlow and has been a champion ever since. She is now in the process of training all of the math teachers in the district to use the software to create discourse in the classroom. In terms of learning, students can now work together to solve problems and then have conversations about which solution is more efficient.
Students have also embraced the new technology. “Kids love being able to go up and touch the board,” says Cook. “They love that there’s more than one touch.”
Cook sees the combination of ActivPanels and ClassFlow as an open-ended way to engage all students.