“Woah, why are there huge TV’s everywhere?” Returning from summer break this year, many Seattle Academy students were surprised to see the brand new Clear Touch boards which were installed during the two months off. These massive SMART Board replacements were hung throughout the STREAM and even in a few Temple classrooms.
Clear Touch Interactive, headquartered in Greenville South Carolina, produces the boards for use in both classroom and business settings. A strong competitor of SMART Technologies, Clear Touch offers backlit displays with cutting edge software. Pricing can range to well over $10,000 depending on options and sizing.
According to their website, Clear Touch promises to “empower a new generation of teaching and learning without all of the logistical headaches.” Are the new additions to the SAAS community living up to expectations?
The change was originally prompted by STEM teachers teaching in the new, very bright STREAM building. One of the most fervent voices for the change was Melinda Mueller, Biology Teacher, who had one main problem with the old SMART Boards. “On a sunny day, you couldn’t show a video in class. It was hopeless,” Mueller said. “We needed the light to come from within the screen.”
In late 2016, Mueller, backed by several other STEM teachers, asked the Technology Department to allocate funds for new boards, and after being presented with the research, the Department agreed. The STEM teachers were then all invited to the Clear Touch office to give their input.
“We got to test out all the new models and compare them. It was really exciting,” said Lysie Taylor, Science Teacher. “By the end, we were all pretty much in agreement that the Clear Touch was the best choice for the STREAM.”
Melinda Mueller’s favorite feature is “the blue button,” which freezes the screen instantly so the teacher can “take attendance, or check [their] email.”
Most teachers agree. “They seem more reliable and definitely take care of the glare issue we’d been having,” explains Alison Ray, who teaches in the STREAM Learning Commons. “The new boards also have their own hard drive, so we don’t have to bother with plugging in a computer, which saves us some time.” Some teachers, however, are having issues using the complicated new displays.
“They taught us all of the fancy ways you can use the Clear Touch, but I just want to know how to turn it on!” Catherine Klem, Math Teacher, exclaimed. “I do think, however, that if I used the boards more often in class, they would be much more exciting.”
Student reaction to the new technology is decidedly mixed. When asked about the issue of glare in STREAM classrooms, students disagreed on the effectiveness of the ClearTouch boards.
“It’s still hard to see the screen in the STREAM classrooms,” senior Lila Sangster commented. “The backlit screen doesn’t help much, especially when there’s lots of sunlight.”
Most students, however, favored the new screens: “When the shades are down, the board is way easier to see than before,” said sophomore Orson Smith. “Plus the boards don’t break as often as the SMART Boards.”
The main student concern came from the price of the new boards. “$15,000 per board seems like a lot,” said senior Luca Rogoff. “Yes, we can see better in the STREAM, but I’m not so sure that we should have spent that much money, or maybe we should have gotten fewer boards.”
All in all, devoted supporters, harsh critics, and those in the middle seem to agree with Lysie Taylor: “These boards are pretty freaking cool!”