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Hickory Public Schools planning major technology upgrade for all classrooms

As he visited Hickory Public Schools classrooms last school year, Superintendent Bryan Taylor observed that technology across the district is dated and inconsistent.

Taylor told the Hickory City Schools Board of Education on Monday that he saw an opportunity with the district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to fit classrooms with newer technology. He asked instructional technology specialist Jordan Caldwell and director of technology Jeff Tice to give a presentation demonstrating features of the 2021 Promethean Platinum interactive panel.

The difference between interactive panels and SMART boards is that SMART boards must plug into a PC or other device. An interactive panel is a device itself, though it can also plug into devices. Caldwell described it as “a big Android tablet.”

Three notable features were the Promethean’s built-in instructional elements, built-in apps and its ability to screen share.

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Instructional elements allow teachers to display visual guides and references for students with ease, Caldwell said. He used the example of an instructor teaching a chemistry class being able to pull up a periodic table in just a few taps on the screen.

Built-in apps like the Chrome browser allow users to open the browser on the interactive panel itself rather than their personal device, Caldwell said.

Board member Ittiely Carson, who attended the meeting virtually, asked if students could share their screens on the Promethean. Caldwell said they can, and that there are protections in place to prevent students from sharing inappropriate content.

Students are placed in a digital waiting room before they can share a screen, Caldwell said. Teachers can then freeze the screen in the waiting room and view content on their device before showing it to the entire class.

Board member Mike Heard, who also attended virtually, asked if all classrooms would receive an interactive panel.

Taylor confirmed that every classroom from K-12 would be fitted with an interactive panel.

“One thing we have not mentioned is this is a way for us to address equity in our district,” Taylor said. “This is not going to be something that some schools have and others do not. This is not going to be (something) some students are exposed to and others are not. It’s going to be consistent across all our schools, in every grade.”

A timeline was not confirmed because the district is still researching brands and pricing. Taylor said he hopes to order the panels before Christmas.

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