Campus Technology

Gladewater ISD Selects Smart Board for Ease of Use

By Avon Bateman, Director of Technology, Gladewater ISD

If you’re purchasing a smart board for your school, you’re in luck. There are plenty of options out there. However, in my own purchasing experience as director of technology for Gladewater ISD, it came apparent rather quickly what interactive displays features meaningfully made a difference among competing smart boards. For our schools, that was the BenQ Board. BenQ has enriched its smart boards with stand-out features that make my life as a tech administrator, as well as those of our teachers, easier. 

NFC? What’s that? And why do I want it?
Within BenQ’s AMS (Account Management System) tools there are options to conveniently configure user accounts. One feature that sold us on the BenQ Board is its NFC cards. NFC stands for near-field communications. NFC cards function in a way that’s similar to today’s credit cards that can simply be tapped on a credit card machine for fast checkout, only here it’s making teachers’ lives easier. Teachers with NFC-compatible BenQ Boards (RP01, RP02 and RP03 models) can scan their personal NFC card at the BenQ Board for instant log in. With just a tap, it automatically connects to their cloud accounts like Google, enables access to local files, and loads their preferred smart board settings. This saves teachers an incredible amount of time and frustration of manually entering a lot of information.

I thought a little outside the box on how our schools could use NFC cards in other ways. At one of our schools, I set up NFC cards to drive a seamless classroom experience for our substitutes. When a teacher is out, rather than having to use a teacher’s laptop and give them passwords, they can use the BenQ Board in the classroom and log in with an NFC card that I’ve configured for access to a substitute account. With a tap of the NFC card on the BenQ Board, they’re logged into the sub account, where all they have to do is navigate to the appropriate sub folder on Google Drive. This is also handy for teachers making sub plans. They can upload anything subs might need for the day. Materials are all right there for quick access. No need for them to have access to the teacher’s laptop or to share their passwords, which comes with its own security risks.

DMS: Simplifying App Management and More
It feels as if there’s an app for just about everything a teacher might need these days, which is amazing for educators but as a technology administrator can be a time-consuming configuration proposition. How am I going to configure every smart board in our school? BenQ has the answer. DMS — Device Management System — is a license-free software that’s there to make the lives of technology managers headache free. Not only can I remotely monitor the status of all the more than 150 BenQ Boards in our district, but I can also install, update, and delete apps on them right from my office. This is customizable. For example, I can push out music-specific apps to our music teacher’s account. Or there are some apps, like Google Earth, I’ve installed on every smart board. There’s a multitude of apps to choose from, and whether it’s being pushed out on every board or just one, it’s a breeze.

DMS also makes help calls and other management tasks much easier. If I get a call from a teacher saying their smart board isn’t working, DMS gives me fast insight right from the DMS dashboard on my computer. I can see every BenQ Board and whether or not it’s on the network. I don’t need to step foot in the classroom.

Within DMS, there’s also the ability to schedule displays to power on and off. When you have a lot of displays to oversee and want to protect and prolong their longevity, powering them down is one of the best practices schools can do and can help save on energy costs. Plus, by having the ability to schedule this, teachers don’t have to be burdened with remembering.

Another great feature that helps to strengthen our community is the X-Sign software, which essentially turns any and every BenQ Board into digital signage. Some schools use it to issue reminders, alerts, or morning announcements. Our high school runs the latest news production from its Bears News Network, and I have personally used it to broadcast the school’s latest YouTube videos.

Teaching Toolbox
Of course, our teachers are enjoying all the functions available to them for adding interactivity to their classroom. It varies from teacher to teacher and subject to subject, which is the great thing about BenQ Boards — they pack a lot of versality into the smart board. Some of my teachers are making use of the screen casting capability, whether using BenQ’s InstaShare wireless screen sharing application, Miracast, or Airplay. They also love all the features tucked inside the BenQ Board EZWrite Toolbox — timers, scoreboards, protractors — you name the tool, and more than likely, BenQ has crafted one that adds excitement to lessons and ease to classroom management. My goal is that teachers will see the BenQ Board as its own device, capable of doing so much more than their laptop.

One last note, in this age of technology, responsive customer service is everything. It’s a feature in itself that shouldn’t be overlooked. BenQ has been an ongoing and responsive resource and partner. They’ve taken my feedback, helped to troubleshoot, and answered a multitude of questions to make the experience even better.

Avon Bateman has been at Gladewater ISD for over 15 years and oversees his district’s technology needs and esports program. He can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].