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Kentucky District Transforms Instruction With Digital Classrooms

LG plasmas, with easy-to-use component controller, give teachers the power to reach every student

When Kentucky’s Johnson County K12 district set out to create digital classrooms in its nine schools, the primary goal was to help teachers provide differentiated instruction to meet the learning needs and learning styles of its 3,700 students.

To that end, the district installed 50-inch plasmas from LG Electronics in each of its 232 regular classrooms. District Technology Coordinator Harry Burchett knew teachers would like the plasmas, but in a time of tight budgets, he wondered if they would use them often enough to justify the cost.

Burchett need not have worried.

“You cannot walk into any of our schools without seeing the systems in use in 75 to 80 percent of the classrooms at any one time,” Burchett says.

"They are much more than an instructional tool. Every classroom in America needs something like this."

“To me, that’s amazing.” Burchett credits several factors for the district’s success implementing a digital classroom, and ease-of-use is a major one. Teachers can easily change what’s displayed on the LG plasma with the use of 1UControl, a component-control software system. Simply by selecting the device on an AirLiner wireless slate or a laptop or desktop computer, teachers can switch between a document camera, a combination DVD/VCR, an Internet site, streaming media or applications like PowerPoint and Excel. The plasmas can display notes that teachers or students write on a wireless slate. Everything that the teachers create can be saved and shared with others throughout the district.

The Johnson County digital classrooms also incorporate a system that amplifies the teacher’s voice and a classroom response system that allows teachers to get immediate feedback about what students know.

“If you were a parent who walked into one of our classrooms two years ago and then today, you’d see something totally different in instruction,” Burchett says. “It’s not that they are teaching anything different; it’s just that they are teaching it in a different way, in a way that reaches all students.”

The district found even more uses for the LG plasmas. The 1UControl software has a related program that allows administrators to control the plasmas from a central computer. They can turn them off to conserve power and perform maintenance operations. With front office controls, school administrators can also target screens in specific rooms for messages, including warnings in an emergency.

“We are developing a safety protocol so that if we have a safe schools issue, we can put our own signal across the plasmas,” Burchett says. “We were surprised to find that we can use the plasmas in many different ways. They are much more than an instructional tool. Every classroom in America needs something like this.”

Johnson County school administrators first considered purchasing multimedia projectors, but the plasmas offered distinct advantages. Total cost of ownership was a key issue for a district committed to providing the benefits of advanced instructional technology in every regular classroom. Based on the life expectancy of 60,000 hours, teachers could use LG plasmas 8 hours a day for 40 school years. With projectors, by contrast, the district would have to replace lamp bulbs after 2,000 to 4,000 hours at $250 to $350 each.

With plasmas, teachers also don’t have to dim the lights. Teachers and administrators overcame concerns about the 50-inch displays by testing them in various classrooms.

Johnson County Schools worked closely with Creative Image Technologies, which coordinated all the vendors, installed the equipment and provided staff development that has proved crucial to the district’s success.

“What we were trying to do is offer collaborative instruction using differentiated tools to provide the optimal learning experience because we believe Johnson County students deserve that,” Burchett says. “It may take two to three years to realize the full impact, but we believe the impact will be improved scores on state and national assessments. ”

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