Located in Chase, British Columbia, Chase Secondary School's mission is to enable learners to become personally fulfilled so they can contribute to the changing needs of the world. Chase fosters a supportive environment that encourages an interest in students' education. However, it is difficult for faculty to achieve its "big-picture" goal without the support of current technology, as well. During the spring of 2011, school officials realized it needed to provide its students and teachers with reliable, user- friendly technology that would aid all who encountered it.
Prior to 2011, Chase Secondary had been using three NEC projectors that teachers had to sign out to use in their classrooms. Outdated CRT monitors were used in the computer labs, and many teachers utilized overhead projectors, chalkboards, VHS players, and televisions.
After learning of NEC's $25,000 makeover contest through the Star Student program for school districts, Chase teacher and multimedia guru Mark Wereley decided to enter the school in the competition during spring 2011. The contest required video submissions, and Wereley worked with students to get their input on creative ideas in hopes of winning. Inspired by a TV commercial, Mark wrote a brief script that would provide humor and show the school's needs in a creative way.
"Instead of showing our meager facilities and equipment, I used 'frustrated students' to communicate their plight of being stuck with outdated whiteboards and overhead projectors in the 21st century," says Wereley. "From there, I spoke about what could be done to enhance the school. It seemed to me that this method was more creative, conveyed a message, and met the requirements of the contest."
Wereley elicited help from his students to record, edit, and submit the "Frustrated Students" entry. When it was named a Top Five finalist, Chase officials used the school website and newsletters to encourage students, parents, and staff to vote.
In April 2011, Chase was officially named the grand-prize winner of $25,000 in NEC products, receiving the most votes of the top five finalists and outlasting the hundreds of institutions that entered the contest. Elated, Wereley sat down with his team to design a brand-new technology plan.
"After winning the contest, we knew we wanted a good-quality product that would last us a long time," says Wereley, "so we met with our NEC rep, who suggested AccuSync desktop monitors and the widescreen short-throw projectors for the classrooms."
In July 2011, Chase ordered 12 M300WS projectors, 56 19-inch AccuSync AS191WM desktop monitors, and one 42-inch E421 LCD display with various accessories. Wereley's team, with help from School District 73's technology department, began its deployment, which was completed early last year.
Ten of the short-throw, wide-format projectors were installed in a number of classrooms around the school. One was installed in a computer lab to be used by teachers whenever they book the computer lab or teach a computer course. Most projectors were installed using the MP300CM ceiling mount and now utilize the available whiteboards as projection surfaces. Chase also installed a projector on a portable cart with a sound system, to be used in classrooms that were not able to have a projector installed.
Additionally, the computer lab was outfitted with the LCD desktop monitors, replacing Chase's old CRT monitors that were bulky and took up a good amount of space. These monitors allow students to better access information from the Internet and free up some room on the desk for students to work.
Both the projectors and monitors are being used to enhance the learning environment in the classrooms, as they allow teachers to show videos, view websites, or show presentations that will enhance lectures and student assignments.
"The projectors offer an excellent brightness level and gives our faculty the ability to view a lot of information on one screen due to the wide-format resolution," says Wereley.
Chase, through NEC's donation, was able to purchase two projector screens from partner Da-lite: one for the band room and one for the gym, which has allowed presenters to address the whole school. This also enables ease in viewing during graduation ceremonies where a video slide, produced by a student, is shown.
"Students have appreciated the fact that I, as their teacher, am able to access relevant, current, and interesting material from the Internet without having to fight for a projector from the library," said Wereley. "For example, when talking about poetry and music, I'm able to immediately access artists on YouTube that upload poetic videos. The students then can discuss the artist's use of poetic devices heard through song. The NEC projectors enable me to enhance my students' learning and encourage interest to a particular lesson with relatable material."
Chase installed a 42-inch E421 display at the school's front entrance next to the main office. The display is used to announce upcoming events and showcase student work to the whole school.
Educator Darren Seibel was able to create an animation course for the school as a result of the new technology placed in the computer lab. The 42-inch unit displays work created in this animation class. Additionally, Seibel has been able to utilize a computer tablet in conjunction with the new projectors to show math concepts and move geometric objects around to help student understanding.
"This technology has engaged student learning and provided a more up-to-date method of teaching," adds teacher Phil Arkinstall. "My students are more interested during the day and therefore gaining more knowledge. I have used the NEC projector to enhance lessons by integrating video clips from the Internet into my lesson plans."
Wereley believes students took great pride in the fact that their small school won such a great prize. The students have appreciated the variety of ways their teachers can present information to them, which have led to improved grades and participation during class.
"In the near future, I'd like to try accessing a live or recorded lecture on a topic of interest to my students," says Wereley, "or perhaps video conference with another classroom from a different school or country to gain perspective in each lesson."