Panasonic - Case Study: Union County Public Schools, NC
Creating “Classrooms of Tomorrow” for Union County Public Schools with interactive displays, lecture capture cameras, and classroom audio.
North Carolina’s Union County Public Schools (UCPS) wanted
to create classrooms that fostered environments where every
single student could succeed. In other words, UCPS wanted
to shift toward a student-centered learning environment,
rather than the traditional “sage on a stage”, teacher centered
setup. Dr. Michael Webb, deputy superintendent
of UCPS, explained “this philosophy is what we call ‘my size
fits me.’ We know more about how students learn today than
any other time, but classroom environments as a whole do
not fit how students learn.”
Dr. Michael Webb and his team turned to technology to foster that
environment, launching their ambitious Classrooms of Tomorrow (COT)
program last year. The initiative aims to transform traditional K-12
classrooms into innovative learning spaces, ultimately increasing student
engagement, attendance and performance. UCPS began phase two of the
program in July 2015, and partnered with Panasonic to design and equip
12 such classrooms. Said Dr. Webb, “We turned to Panasonic because
were looking for a true partner that could be agile and nimble enough to
change as we changed.”
Through thoughtful design and planning, the classrooms transformed into
collaborative learning spaces with a new audio system, displays, massive
whiteboards called “share walls” and even new furniture. Panasonic
installed three interactive LFB70 displays per room for each of the 12
classrooms: two 50" and one 65" LED-backlit LCD flat panel displays
with a Panasonic AW-HE2 camera mounted at the top of the display. This
fosters greater engagement in the classroom with students, who are able
to get more involved in the lessons. Noted Dr. Webb, “Every student can
see something – two panels might say the same thing, but one panel could
say something else.” This allowed classes to become far more dynamic,
with teachers able to use the screen recorder camera so students can
re-watch lessons as many times as they need to. Additionally, the teacher
can share the lesson with parents so that they are able to help from home.
Panasonic also installed its full Enhanced Audio system in the
classrooms, enabling teachers to speak over a microphone so that they
can be heard from any point in the classroom. Andrea Savill, the UCPS
Classrooms of Tomorrow coordinator, observed “the quality of the audio is
great. It sounds like the teacher is right next to you, so no one misses an
important point because they sit far away. We also have many students
who are English language learners, so the ability to hear clearly is a huge
advantage for them.” The full audio system builds confidence for softspoken
students as well, and the microphones also reduce vocal strain on
teachers who are speaking up to eight hours a day.
Andrea Savill adds, “Working with Panasonic couldn’t have been easier.
We wanted to install splitters so that the panels in the classrooms could
‘talk’ to each other. Without missing a beat, Panasonic jumped on this and
found out a way to make it work.”
The result has be resoundingly positive, with teachers exclaiming that
the technology brings new levels of excitement into the classroom by
allowing students to get creative and collaborative. For example, classes
can take virtual field trips and record lectures using the Panasonic
AW-HE2 cameras, while students can participate in interactive lessons
with the displays. Mobile furniture lets teachers change up the setups of
the classroom to promote individual and group projects. The technology
allows teachers to move away from the traditional style of lecturing and
focus on facilitating learning.
Said Dr. Webb, “The spike in energy of students and teachers alike has
been astounding. Never before have I seen a teacher ask questions and
have every student’s hand fly up. The kids are immensely more engaged.”
Continued Dr. Webb, “The technology empowers students by making
learning fun. Many of these students are already familiar with these
tools and are excited to use them. These students were raised in the
21st century and are naturally skilled at using technology. Students can
expand on these skills and learn how to use technology more efficiently by
incorporating these tools into their education.”
Union County Public Schools plans to expand the program into Phase
Three by January 2016. The pilot will help the district find the best
practices for the COT initiative, as well as discover areas of improvement.
UCPS hopes to establish a standard so that they can train and build an
army of COT teachers. The benchmark they create for the COT will serve
as a model for other schools across the county that are similarly looking
to prepare students by teaching them to collaborate and think critically,
arming them with the skills they need for a lifetime of success.
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