It is a big investment to purchase new interactive flat panels for classrooms; one that involves a lot of stakeholders, time, and financial resources. If done right, an interactive flat panel (IFP) initiative can transform the teaching and learning experience. It can weave existing technology into a richer learning ecosystem. Plus, it can engage and inspire both teachers and students in novel new ways.
Lindsey Keely, a veteran teacher, and current Teaching and Learning Consultant at Trafera, sat down with us a few weeks back to share her experience working on interactive flat panel projects in schools across Louisiana. Here are some of the different factors she encourages anyone planning an IFP initiative to consider before making this huge investment:
Watch the entire webinar, “Planning and IFP Initiative? We’re Here to Help” with Lindsey Keely here:
Before You Start, Talk To Your Teachers
Before ever looking at different interactive panels, talk to your school’s teachers about what they want out of their new classroom board. Remember, these are the people that will be using this technology the most. Their buy-in can be the difference between a successful investment that improves teaching and learning, and a total waste of school money.
Ask them: What are some must-haves? What are some nice-to-haves? What software/apps does a new interactive panel need to be compatible with? Are there any deal breakers?
8 Factors to Consider When Planning an Interactive Flat Panel Initiative
Based on the conversations you have with the teachers at your school, make a list of must-have and nice-to-have features. This will help you pinpoint the interactive flat panels that will best suit the way your teachers teach (or aim to teach). Your list of desired features might look something like this:
- Multi-source annotation
- Cloud sync
- Screen recording
- Personalized profiles
- Robust security
When it comes to interactive flat panels, the cost of the actual panel may only be the beginning. There might be some hidden–or just less obvious–costs that come with new interactive panels. Remember to consider software, mounting, installation, and training costs when budgeting for your IFP initiative. Some of these things may come included, but be sure to understand what is bundled in and what isn’t.
Some other questions to consider when looking at the cost of an IFP are:
- What features/software/apps are included?
- Is there a warranty included?
- Is white glove setup included?
- Does the cost include customer support?
Teachers juggle a lot during class time, and struggling with their interactive flat panel shouldn’t be an extra pain point for them. If you ask a teacher what they want out of an IFP, most will tell you they just want to be able to “walk up and start teaching.”
Some IFPs really are that simple. Many interactive flat panels for classrooms were designed for simplicity and deliver a minimalistic and simple user experience. However, other options with more robust feature sets might require a little more training to get teachers fully acquainted and comfortable.
This is where it becomes important to demo products before you purchase. Manufacturers like Newline and Promethean offer virtual demos that let you see the board in action. If the trainer makes using the panel look complicated, odds are your teachers will find it cumbersome too. During demos, pay attention to:
- Sign-in speed and ease
- Navigation across the user interface
- Connectivity with teacher and student devices
- Compatibility with digital curriculum, online tools, or systems
- Finding and storing files
#4: Classroom Setup
Each classroom is different. Even within the same building, you might have some variations of classroom setups from room to room. Audit each room you plan to equip with a new panel, and consider these variables:
- Power: Where are the power sources in the classroom? Does that affect where you are able to place the board?
- Internet: Do you want the IFP to have WIFI capabilities or does it need to be wired to an ethernet port?
- Wall type: What material are the walls made of? Brick? Drywall? Concrete? How does that affect your mounting options?
- Mounting: Do you want the IFP to be mounted or on a mobile stand?
- Placement: Based on the factors above, where is the optimal place to put your new interactive flat panel? Will that affect the orientation of the classroom? If so, communicate that with the teacher and explain your reasoning behind putting the IFP in the determined spot.
- Size: Based on placement, what size board makes sense for the space?
#5: Professional Development
Professional development is critical when introducing new technology to the classroom. We’ll say it again for emphasis: PD is a make-or-break factor for any new tech initiative! That’s especially true when the technology being brought into the classroom 1) is a huge investment and 2) has broad functionality and features.
Whatever type of professional development suits your teachers’ schedule best–whether virtual or in-person synchronous training or on-demand video lessons–work with your PD provider to create a custom experience that suits your teacher’s needs. That might include tailored experiences based on grade-level, subject, or experience level.
You may also consider a “train-the-trainer” model where a few select technology coaches receive professional development which they can trickle down to their peers.
Check out these tips for implementing an effective teacher tech training program.
#6: White Glove and Installation
When asked what advice she would give another school planning an IFP project, Denise Murphy from St. Peter Lutheran School answered, installation of these flat panels is best left to the experts. If you don’t have the correct mount, mounted correctly, it could be a costly mistake.”
Beyond the general classroom setup discussed previously, well-executed installation requires a few additional actions and information. Having an expert partner to help guide you through it all can be a huge help.
Work with an expert on installation and white glove, and be sure to work with them on a plan for:
- Asset tagging
- Mac address reporting
- Installation reports
- Serial number
- Room number
- Security certificate for filter
- Enrolling in a management system
#7: Post-Purchase Support
You don’t need to be alone in managing and supporting interactive flat panels. After delivery and installation, many partners and manufacturers offer support that helps you impactfully integrate and effortlessly maintain classroom panels. Here are some post-purchase benefits you want to consider when selecting your interactive flat panel and the vendor you purchase it from.
- Professional development and product training
- Support number for easy troubleshooting
- Simple ticket system for issues and breaks
#8: Demo and Pilot
As mentioned earlier, a virtual demo is worth doing for any interactive flat panel you are considering for your school. Still not sure after that? Consider buying a pilot. Some vendors offer steeply discounted pilot units that you can get for 50% (or less) than MSRP.
With pilot panels, you can see for yourself how specific products work within your technology ecosystem. What’s more, you can let teachers at your school test it out and provide their feedback. Remember, teacher buy-in is paramount to the success of your IFP initiative.
Our Favorite Interactive Flat Panels
Now that you have an understanding of how to get started planning your interactive flat panel initiative, we wanted to share some of our favorite flat panels.
Newline Interactive Flat Panels
Newline Interactive Flat Panels, create bold and engaging classroom experiences. These displays are also designed with education in mind, with intuitive functionality and tools designed for better collaboration and creative learning. Newline sparks a passion for learning, giving teachers the ability to:
- Cultivate whole-class engagement
- Have a hassle-free, multi-touch displays
- Have options to work with favorite apps.
Promethean Interactive Flat Panels
Promethean’s next-generation interactive panels deliver robust, seamless, and secure user experiences. They also offer features that respond to the unique needs of teachers, IT administrators, and school leaders.
To learn more about starting an IFP initiative, check out this webinar, hosted by Teaching and Learning Consultant at Trafera, and veteran Supervisor of Technology, Lindsey Keely!
Elevate learning experiences with Trafera
At Trafera, we believe technology can only improve learning experiences when we make people our number one investment. We partner with the industry’s most trusted brands to provide students and educators with the tools and the technology they need to transform the learning experience in 2022 and beyond.
What’s more, Trafera has welcomed the team from AXI Education Solutions who bring over a decade of expertise in installation and training for interactive displays.
With Trafera on your team, we’ll work together to navigate the complexities of today’s learning environment in a supportive and empowering way. Contact us today to learn more about providing your students with a more engaged and a more connected experience this school year and beyond.