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After months with no official training, teachers find workarounds to use new interactive boards

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After months with no official training, teachers find workarounds to use new interactive boards

High school science teacher Bradford Buck demonstrates how he uses the BenQ Board in his classroom.

High school science teacher Bradford Buck demonstrates how he uses the BenQ Board in his classroom.

Kennedy Brown

High school science teacher Bradford Buck demonstrates how he uses the BenQ Board in his classroom.

Kennedy Brown

Kennedy Brown

High school science teacher Bradford Buck demonstrates how he uses the BenQ Board in his classroom.

It has been four months since the new BenQ Boards have been installed. In that time, teachers have had to find different tools and tricks to make the BenQ Board usable, since no official training was ever offered.

“Pretty much I looked up online,” said Bradford Buck, high school science teacher. “There’s actually limited information, I wasn’t able to find too much on the inner workings because a lot of it, it’s like app based. It doesn’t have an internet connection, which is kind of annoying. It has the capacity for wireless but I don’t have any of the passwords to actually get on. So I can’t download any more apps or search the internet from it which I think would be a useful thing. At this point, it’s like a glorified whiteboard/second monitor, which is what I use it for. As far as that, the usefulness of it I think is in that connectivity and being able to have it be its own entity that you can use your own resource, that you can use instead of going constantly back to my computer for things. I’ve gotten how to use it and discovered things randomly along the way, for the most part.”

Not having these wireless and app capabilities limits the potential for growth within the classroom. Since teachers are not properly trained on how to use these devices or given all of the tools they need, it reduces the possibilities of impact the BenQ Board can have.

Kennedy Brown
A portable whiteboard stands in front of English teacher Dana Chamberlain’s BenQ Board after it was mounted on her board without being connected. Before science teacher Bradford Buck came and helped her get it connected, she still relied on her old projector, using the whiteboard in place of the BenQ for several weeks.

High school English teacher Dana Chamberlain had quite a journey with her BenQ Board, starting off with it being left unfinished for months. The screen was installed in the middle of her dry erase board that she was using for her projector, rendering it useless. The device wasn’t hooked up to anything and dust from drilling holes to install it piled up in the marker tray. She then had to put a portable dry erase board in front of the BenQ so she could still use her projector, where connection cables dangled from the ceiling, forcing her to bring her laptop to the middle of the room and set it up on a box on top of a desk.

Despite multiple emails Chamberlain sent, weeks passed and nothing was resolved until Buck heard of Chamberlain’s circumstance during the research process of this story. In late October he went to Chamberlain’s classroom and wired up her BenQ Board showing her what he learned on his own, so she could start using it. Even without access to the full capabilities of the board, she has found ways to integrate it into many of her lessons.

“I’ve started using it a little bit with digital notes I’ve started using it do screenshots, screen captures, cause I teach a graphic novel course and its useful for that,” Chamberlain said. “I’ve used it when we’ve done like comparative media studies, like for film I’ve used it a little bit for that, that’s how I’ve integrated it into the classroom so far.”

Students and teachers have been surprised by occasionally finding new features entirely by accident. 

 

“No this is just from experience, literally using the board, I had one student that was basically giving a presentation, and it was on this screen where she was showing her Google Slides,” Buck said. “Then she was clicking through them and she was pointing at something like this [holds pin to board]. Then that happened and everybody was like what is that, and I was like I don’t know…and then she could draw, and that’s a feature that they didn’t describe on their website or anything. I had to just randomly have someone accidentally do it and then we stopped her presentation completely and tried to figure out. Because when you hit this [hits any spot on board] it goes away and then we didn’t know how she did it to get it back. So we experimented with a bunch of things like tapping and holding, and all that but we found out two fingers, you hold it and it comes up. It’s a cool tool.”  

If we’re going to use that type of technology in our school, then there should be training.”

— Ashley Olsen, head of school

Middle school math teachers Deanna Breeden and Elisabeth Reeder described a very different experience with the BenQ Boards. Reeder was part of a pilot program last year, so she’s had her board longer than the other teachers. 

“I’ve kind of had a little bit [of training] at the very beginning, I guess just a very quick run through,” Reeder said. “And then we have a tech person attached to the school so if different things have come up I’ve been able to contact her and she’ll either answer through email or actually come here. If I have any questions.”

Breeden was also able to get into contact with a tech person, as well as getting assistance from Reeder after her BenQ Board was first installed around the same time as Buck and Chamberlain received theirs, though she still finds its usefulness limited.

“They have shown me how I can use it as a marker board and erase, they’ve shown me how to put up whatever’s on my computer is on the screen and use it that way,” Breeden said. “They said that I need some kind of a piece of equipment that would allow me to not have to hook it up. So that I don’t have to keep moving back and forth and back and forth, that’s why I haven’t used it as much, because I have to pull a table over…And then there’s wires. So there’s some kind of modem or some kind of a device that I can get that would allow me to use it.”

Breeden explained that she only really contacts tech support if something needs to be fixed to run her classroom and they even give her a hard time for not asking questions, while at the same time the high school teachers have still not heard anything back from IT or administration.

“There are three instructional technology people throughout the district,” head of school Ashley Olsen said. “Marcy Dotson works in the resource office and then Matt Morouse does South City and I believe Aspire, so Melba [Goliday] has us and then I believe CPA.” 

One question I have is, why did I get it? Literally, they just showed up in my room one day like, ‘when can we install this on your wall?’”

— Bradford Buck, biology teacher

As the instructional technology coach, Goliday is in charge of training the teachers after they receive their BenQ Boards. She is also the person the teachers would reach out to for assistance if they had any questions. She did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or clarifications by email or phone.

It seems that everyone is open to helping each other and figuring out what they need to do to get these boards working to their best and full capacity, to benefit both the teachers and students.

“I mean, it’s a good resource I think people should use it. It’s very useful,” Buck said. “One question I have is, why did I get it? I was talking to another teacher and he says he’s been using one like his whole career and he’s never had one here. He really likes them and he knows how to use them and he wanted one and he was asking for one and he saw them in the lobby and was asking for one. And I got one and did not petition for one I didn’t ask for it. Literally, they just showed up in my room one day like, ‘when can we install this on your wall?'”

Buck declined to identify the other teacher he mentioned.

Every teacher with a board stated not only how grateful they are to have it but how excited the students are to use it. Despite the lack of assistance, training, communication, and lack of connectivity both students and teachers have found a way to use the boards.

“If we’re going to use that type of technology in our school then there should be training,” Olsen said. “Making sure the teachers know how to make the most of it at least from my perspective. A lot of times those things they can be pretty intuitive and you can sort of figure it out, but you can use it at its capacity when you actually have the proper training. As far as I’m concerned as the head of school that should be the plan but now this is something I’ll follow up on.”

As of the publication of this story, Buck and Chamberlain still have not received any training.

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