North Adams Schools Invest in Smartboard Technology
06:21PM / Tuesday, September 14, 2021
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Department has 53 new smartboards installed across all school buildings with the goal having one in every classroom by November.
The interactive panels function as both classic blackboards and as interconnected collaborative screens that can allow teachers and students to interact remotely, save lessons and access and edit documents on the fly.
"It was two years ago that we were talking about maybe having a couple of boards per school, and this was a request that teachers had made, can we look at adding smartboards to our classrooms?" said Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Roberts-Morandi at last week's School Committee meeting. "Now we're really looking at competitive classroom environments. We have teachers who work very, very hard, and they had to do so in times when the equipment in the past was a bit lacking.
"Now, I'm proud of how we've equipped our classrooms and proud to be a site where other districts have already contacted us and they want to see what it is that we have and how we're using it."
The decision to move to smartboards had come out of discussions last winter, she said, reminding the committee how she had spoken about the increase in laptops and need for additional technology to assist in instructing students in person and remote.
Most of the Drury High classrooms now have smartboards and the teaching teams in the elementaries have boards to share; by November, the goal is to have one in every classroom and she is negotiating the next round of purchases now.
"The boards are fully mounted either on top of the existing black or white boards. We opted not to use the rolling carts for both safety and durability purposes, but we also wanted to make sure that we kept as much of the whiteboard or blackboard space that teachers had been using in the classrooms as well," she said.
There will be professional development as well as extra training for some staff on what the boards are capable of doing but Roberts-Morandi said the teachers have been playing with them to get a sense of how they can be used and how they interact with devices the students already have.
"The boards really offer a whole new dimension in our teaching, and in the technology skills building for the teachers and the students," she said. "They also provide us, as Dr. Malkas had mentioned earlier, with another way to readily pivot across multiple instructional delivery methods."
The district also purchased a "very inexpensive" license for Otis for Educators that offers a virtual professional development course on teaching through these boards. There is a library of courses and while they do not meet state standards, Roberts-Morandi said the district can offer micro-credentialing based on outcomes — how they are being used in the classroom and between colleagues. It will also allow the schools to connect to others.
Roberts-Morandi said the cost was $295,065 for this particular round.
Committee member Tara Jacobs had earlier in the meeting asked for some clarification on the technology and software line items and where the district was in purchases. The monthly balance sheet showed that the line item had been expended above the amended amount budgeted by 16 percent.
"We purchased a lot of hardware this summer, and have already made some purchases with ESSER I and ESSER II," said Superintendent Barbara Malkas. "Then we're going to be sitting down to write as ESSER III within the next two weeks. We already have some earmarks for that as well so a lot of hardware has already been purchased through the stimulus funding sources, and therefore, we're using our local budget amounts to offset our subscriptions for software systems like PowerSchool."
The ESSER, or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grants, were authorized by Congress as part of the relief funding for schools to offset the impacts of the pandemic.
Business Administrator Carrie Burnett said the technology line was similar to the insurance line in that items were paid in full, upfront, at the beginning of the fiscal year.
Committee member Ian Bergeron noted that the $300,000 spent on the smartboards would "obliterate" the annual budget for technology that has been running about a third of that.
"How are we going to replace them? What's the plan? Grants don't come around like this very often," he said. Roberts-Morandi said the district was concerned about that as well but for the moment, the smartboards come with a 10-year warranty.