Technology helps Louisiana district overcome barriers and rebuild after multiple hurricanes

Student interacting with the ActivPanel

Published: January 31st, 2022

Calcasieu Parish School Board (CPSB) is a massive district with 58 schools and 36,000 students. Battling a pandemic and multiple hurricanes, a resilient community has defined the district’s character. From packet pickups to student device distribution for virtual learning, it’s been a collective effort among CPSB tech leaders and households to digitize its classrooms. At the pandemic’s start, migrating course content online for remote instruction became a race against time. 

For Kaufman Elementary Curriculum Director LeeAnn Reon, it became vital to discover how technology helped ease abrupt shifts between distance and in-person learning. “Being not one-to-one changed what our technology looked like. A lot of times everyone was using the same computer or iPad® in a station with students lined up. We couldn’t do that anymore. When I went into classrooms with Promethean ActivPanel, students could interact virtually from home or in person without a device to show what they were working on,” explained Reon.

As staff and students returned in August of 2020, CPSB had begun a districtwide device checkout program for remote learners. On what was supposed to be the first day of school, Hurricane Laura hit the district.  “We were supposed to start on a Monday (August 24th). They evacuated us on Sunday night. There was so much storm damage, including tarps on building roofs and temporary doors. They got us back as safe as they could post-hurricane.” she recalled.  

With the district scheduled to resume six weeks later, Calcasieu Parish was evacuated again on October 5th. “We get hit again with [Hurricane] Delta. We were supposed to come back on a Wednesday. We were evacuated the following Monday for the second hurricane. We’re finally back at the end of October with COVID restrictions in place.” Due to the hurricanes, CPSB started its school year rebuilding and shifting its focus to technology to support any learning environment.  

Calm after the storm: Paving the way towards meaningful tech integration 

When school resumed in late October, CPSB began its monumental move to a one-to-one program. Its Pre-K through 2nd grade were issued iPad® devices, 3rd grade through 12th laptops. With device distribution underway and the return to face-to-face instruction, Promethean’s ActivPanel helped streamline the integration process for more classrooms. “Teachers were super excited about logging into the panel using their Microsoft® account to show work in real-time. Even with socially distanced seating, the panel allowed collaboration (that students were missing) by pulling together different devices across the room.”, said Reon.       

Moving through the 2020-2021 school year, CPSB secured additional devices for all its classrooms. As staff and students gained their hands on new devices, technology became more intuitive with each new lesson on the panel. For Moss Bluff Elementary Teacher Michelle Farque, allowing students to connect, interact, and complete more tasks in real-time have maximized active learning opportunities.     

Letting students share their thought processes enriches the classroom experience

Since having ActivPanel Titanium installed in her classroom, Farque has optimized the panel’s versatility to create a more collaborative learning space. ActivInspire flipcharts and the panel’s built-in Whiteboard app set the stage for daily learning activities that optimize student interaction.

“ActivPanel is a game-changer. Students are no longer just sitting there. Right away, they get up and interact with a pre-loaded morning calendar. They move parts and pieces along the infinite whiteboard, and they’re like, ‘Yep, I know what day it is, and I know how to do something,” said Farque.

Farque regularly cues up ActivPanel’s Sceenshare app to encourage critical thinking skills. Using the Doodle Buddy™ and Sketch™ apps, students live cast their work from iPad® devices onto the panel to show how they’ve figured out a math word problem. “The panel gives my kids a stronger voice. They’re teaching their buddies and showing them, ‘Hey, this is how I did it and my thought process in real time’ Then others come out of their shell to show how they wrote another word or sentence”, explained Farque. 

Farque’s students have also dabbled in the world of gamification to complement math skills.  By live casting their Minecraft™ projects onto the panel, visual learners showcase their creativity with fellow peers.  “When we do Minecraft™, my kids want to show how they did something or went somewhere. They want to show how they did it on the panel by explaining their thinking process and what they’re doing”, added Farque.   

ActivPanel has also helped further curricular initiatives at Kaufman Elementary.  For Reon and the students, it’s fun to utilize tech that connects students to Louisiana’s rich cultural heritage. Every year, 3rd-grade classrooms at Kaufman create their own Mardi Gras map. After choosing their planning groups and roles, teams use the grid background on the Whiteboard app’s infinitive canvas. The lesson delves into math applications with task cards. For example, a card might say, “you have to create a building that’s this many square feet.” After calculating the area, perimeter, street locations, and parade route clearances, groups return to ActivPanel to draw their maps. 

“Groups end up coming together on the panel, using the grid paper to plot all of their buildings in the correct sizes. Then they go into some coding and make the bots trail through the map around the town. The infinite canvas is user-friendly and engages students right away,” said Reon. 

1:1 and beyond – CPSB looks to integrate further with its staff

Amid the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and overcoming natural disasters, Reon and Farque remain optimistic about how technology will be a growing asset in CPSB classrooms. Every student will be assigned a one-to-one device-specific to their name this year. If there is a weather-related shutdown, students will take their devices home for virtual learning. With single sign-on onto panel accounts and cloud-based apps, Promethean technology will facilitate any change in the learning environment. “Disconnect the laptop. We don’t need to be co-dependent with a laptop. Just turn on the panel to realize the perks of not having it connected all the time,” emphasized Reon.

For Reon, year two of one-to-one will be all about giving teachers the confidence to dig in, use essential tools, and unpack all the things they can do with ActivPanel. Future integrations will help staff grow without changing how they teach by striking the right balance between live instruction and technology.