When fifth-grade teacher Lauren Lightfoot shared a multiplication problem on the interactive touch panel in her room, hands shot up – nearly every student in the Joe Lee Johnson STEAM Academy classroom wanted to write on the touch panel and share their strategies for solving math problems.

All elementary classes in Round Rock Independent School District would be upgraded to interactive touch panels if the District’s Bond proposal is approved in the Nov. 6 election.

“Kids are more engaged because they see the work coming alive,” Lightfoot explained. “It’s very interactive. It’s like a huge iPad to them because they are used to the tablets and things they work on at home.”

Joe Lee Johnson is Round Rock ISD’s newest elementary school and was built with money from the 2014 Bond. Classrooms there are equipped with the interactive touch panels. Lightfoot says students start their day making lunch choices on the panel, and they use it all day for all subjects.

With this technology, students also can easily display their work from their laptops onto the touch panel for the benefit of the entire class, and Lightfoot believes that improves students’ work. “I’m seeing the quality of work and engagement increase because the kids want to put their best work and best effort up front.”

Students want to share, she said. “Hey, I know what to do. I understand the work – I want to show you what I’ve learned.” And that benefits everyone: “Learning increases when they hear other students explain their thinking.”

Fifth-grader Riley Powers said that sharing can help give other students ideas. She shared the progress on her video report by showing it on the touch panel for the rest of the class. “I was shy about it, but it was really cool that they got to see what we were working on.”

Touch panels make learning fun and effective, fifth-grader Kripa Karki said. She likes that everybody gets to participate. “If we do a number talk, if someone doesn’t get it, your friend helps you. But when you’re just at a board or on a paper by yourself, it’s not fun and you don’t learn anything that way.”

One of Lightfoot’s favorite touch panel tools is the ability to show her students slides with examples of work. She likes that students can annotate over the slides to show their thinking and math problem-solving skills. That work can be saved and revisited again later.
Kimberly Sotello, a first-grade teacher at Joe Lee Johnson, said the touch panels build on the home-school connection because students starting elementary school now are very familiar with this technology.

“If you think about technology and the way it’s progressing, not only in education but in our world and society, children need access to this and exposure to these tools to be ready for our workforce. So, if we start in elementary with something like this, they gain that background knowledge, and it’s only going to set them up for future success with any technology they might see.”

First-grader Evie Ward says the touch panel helps her with math. She likes to use the screen to connect math diagrams because “it shows what we’re thinking.”

Students in her class are on their best behavior when they want to be picked to go up to the touch panel, Evie said.

“Students are so excited, not only when I use the panel but when they have the opportunity to use the panel as well,” Sotello said. “They are always eager to show what they are thinking to their classmates because who doesn’t want to be a teacher in first grade?”

Touch panels are accessible to all students, Sotello explained. The picture can be enlarged, the colors are vibrant, the panels can be raised or lowered for students who need it, and the audio projects from the touch panel and through the classroom speaker system.

“It’s also extremely user-friendly for educators,” Sotello said, “Because you get to learn alongside with your kids, which is a great bonding experience. But it’s everything you need it to be—it’s a touch panel, it’s a recording device with student laptops, it’s a great tool to use.”

Round Rock ISD is seeking a $508 million Bond for improvements throughout the District, including $76 million for instructional technology upgrades. Other instructional technology upgrades for the District include replacing cafeteria AV multimedia systems; refreshing student laptop carts and devices; server and network improvements; replacing aging projectors and ceiling speakers; and more. Full Bond details

Approval of the Bond is not expected to increase the tax rate for Round Rock ISD. Rate projections are based on current assessed values and the District’s current proposed plan of finance. Changes in assessed values or in the plan of finance could affect these numbers. These projections are backed up by the District’s traditionally accurate projections for growth and the area’s hallmark growth and rising property values.