Redefining Traditional Learning with EdTech
  • BenQ
  • 2024-06-21

West Ottawa Public Schools Transformed Their Classrooms and Increased Project-Based Learning Opportunities with BenQ Boards

Today’s classroom demands a flexible environment that can quickly adapt to new standards and practices. For many schools, smart boards offer a path forward in this transformation. Although smart boards are classroom game changers, they can be complex to learn, initially overwhelming educators. West Ottawa Public School District in Holland, Michigan, wanted to ensure a smooth and supportive transition to smart boards. The district needed a solution that enhanced learning immediately but allowed for gradual transformation over time. After a testing period over two years and with over 80 teachers, they chose BenQ’s BenQ Board for its seamless integration and support.


West Ottawa Public School District spans 69 square miles, with over 44,000 constituents, and 12 schools. The district was coming from classroom technology that was outdated and hard to use. Many of the classrooms were equipped with an aging projector, which was fed by a teacher’s desktop computer with audio augmented by hardwired speakers. This setup presented many challenges: Teachers were tethered to their desks when sharing lessons and students had poor visibility of the screen. Teachers were having to spend more time on transitions between lessons and during lessons in order to change screens or highlight material.  This resulted in a loss of student attention and engagement, requiring teachers to spend more time getting the class back on track.


This setup also lacked the flexibility needed for student-centered and project-based learning, essential for modern education. It also burdened teachers with running updates, which were easy to forget and cumbersome to complete, increasing help desk tickets to IT.


“In our decision-making process, we used the SAMR model, which helps to facilitate conversations around how we are redefining and transforming instructional spaces to create relevancy and why students are learning, and to provide more student-centered learning practices in our pedagogical approach,” said Elaine Stiefel, Director of Instructional Technology in West Ottawa Public Schools. “We evaluated many smart boards vendors through the lens of the SAMR framework, so we could best align the needs of our teachers as well as adopt new standards and practices to better prepare our students for the real world.”

The BenQ Google EDLA-certified smart board aligns with the SAMR model. BenQ Boards RM04 integrates with Google Classroom, providing familiarity and efficiency for teachers and staff. Teachers can access Google apps and content directly from the board. While EDLA certification is essential in today’s classrooms, BenQ Boards stand out by making it easy for educators to start using the board immediately. They can begin substituting their previous display and augmenting lessons with high-quality video, audio, and whiteboarding tools that can be learned over time.


Teachers often have established teaching styles that maximize classroom time and student success. BenQ Boards’ tools match these styles. For those who are comfortable and enjoy working from a whiteboard, BenQ Board features EZWrite interactive whiteboard software, which packs in tools, such as paintbrushes, measuring and graphing tools, calculators, and more, for driving effective and engaging classes right from the board. Its cloud functionality also extends whiteboarding sessions to remote students, such as those out for medical reasons or those needing classes offered at other campuses.


For teachers who are more comfortable teaching from their laptop, they can either connect it to the board to share their screen or wirelessly cast it using BenQ Education’s InstaShare wireless screen sharing solution. But more than just mirroring a screen, InstaShare also lets facilitators annotate, record, and open up the session to the rest of the class.


Finally, for those who teach from their Google cloud, the BenQ Board’s AMS links teacher’s Google Drive and other cloud accounts such as Dropbox and OneDrive for direct access from the smart board with just a tap of a NFC card. They also can pull up the board’s built-in web browser and load games and lesson materials from educational sites.


Educators can start using BenQ Boards immediately with minimal training while continuously deepening their skills and developing new experiences that aid learning. This enables them to redefine traditional learning tasks, transforming the educational experience and helping students develop essential skills for work and life.

Following a pilot program and small rollout that spanned two years, West Ottawa saw improvements in instructional effectiveness and classroom efficiency. BenQ Boards’ Google integration and built-in tools reduced time spent on administrative tasks and lesson transitions, increasing instructional time and improving teaching effectiveness and student engagement. The smart boards also facilitated a robust project-based learning environment, allowing classes to connect with audiences outside the school through virtual meetings. Projects like student-led fundraisers and community campaigns have demonstrated BenQ Boards’ impact on fostering student initiative and engagement.


Teachers can engage students more effectively, and student engagement has soared due to interactive lessons and collaborative activities facilitated by the boards' features. Additionally, BenQ’s management tools have streamlined IT tasks, ensuring that every board across the district is automatically updated and maintained.


“Kids see writing as a one and done task, so revising and editing can be like pulling teeth,” said Kim Fox, who teaches Students Advanced in Language Arts in 3-5 grades. “BenQ Boards transforms this traditional learning task. Now they’re eager to get feedback because we can write it on the board right next to their work. Then they can take a screenshot of it, which can be emailed or shared with them in Google Drive.”

“The BenQ Boards have been a game changer in the classroom for flexibility and our learning spaces. Our teacher can be more of the ‘guide on the side’ now instead of the ‘sage on the stage.’ They have the potential to truly transform our classrooms,” said Stiefel.


The success of the initial rollout prompted West Ottawa to proceed with the full installation of BenQ Boards across the entire school district, with completion scheduled for fall 2024.