A Southeast Oklahoma Success Story from Howe Schools

How Zoom and Salamander are Supporting Today’s Educational Gaps and Needs

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The American educational system that evolved based on the concept of students always gathering together at a central location has changed dramatically, and perhaps even forever. Today’s classroom is often a hybrid mixture of students who are on campus and students who are learning from home.

In just 2020 alone, per UNESCO, over 1.5 billion children in 195 countries have been part of remote or blended learning as education migrated from the classroom to laptops in locations spread far and wide.

This varying geographical location of students and teachers has been a great challenge for all types of schools. Educators, students and families are adapting and seeking fresh solutions. And while we are seeing some classes back in person, most every class now has a combination of local and remote people, and we can expect that this is here for the long haul.

Fortunately, companies like Zoom and Salamander Designs offer some big, yet easy-to-deploy solutions that are bringing great engagement and productivity to all regardless of where people are located.

Lance Ford has 27 years of experience as a teacher and understands the past, the present and how to look forward for all stakeholders. Thanks to his passion, he has produced some ways for educators to rethink their spaces and technology to create optimum learning systems for today’s world.

Lance Ford
Education Advocate/Zoom Rooms Specialist

Howe Schools Take on Tech for Modern Learning

Howe Public Schools in Howe, Oklahoma, is an awesome, real-world example of education for today – and tomorrow. We met up with Lance Ford, a member of the Howe faculty and a Zoom Room educator. While Lance enjoys teaching, he also enjoys creating the most engaging learning environments. How does he do it? He helps educators leverage all the power of current technology to assist them with the best ways to instruct their students.

During the past year, Lance envisioned and deployed “superpowered” learning systems using Zoom, Zoom Rooms and Salamander Designs furniture. His goal was to find a way to bring all students together, regardless of if they were seated in the classroom or at home. And he set out to make all students equal for interacting, engaging and learning.

Chris Discotto, Director of Sales at Salamander Designs, collaborated closely with Lance from the Salamander angle to design and deploy remote learning solutions faster and with lower infrastructure costs, while bringing optimum engagement for all participants.

Chris Discotto
Director of Sales

Flexible Classroom Designed to Support Students Today

Lance and Chris shared several flexible approaches to creating classroom environments conducive to concurrent local and remote teaching, based on individual needs. Several of these are in full use at Howe Public Schools now and taking hybrid education to a whole new level thanks to this team.

Making Mobile Classrooms

“Teachers with hybrid learning struggle to be seen and heard by remote students and vice versa,” said Lance. “We combined a Zoom Room device, a screen and a Salamander mobile cart for learning. The beauty of this solution is that our own students can physically relocate the system. This is happening right now in my high school classes. Even when I’m not there, students are moving this self-contained system to where they need it, plugging it in, and everyone is showing and sharing in an instant!”

Tech in an educational setting is all about the technology getting out of the way and providing maximum flexibility to students. And the Howe community is doing just that.

Enabling Ebb & Flow Classrooms

Live instruction in classrooms often requires large group gatherings where all students may get initial information, followed by individual breakout sessions. Lance also happens to be a music teacher. In the past, he would bring the entire class together for singing. This was followed by smaller group breakouts by musical section. Lance explained that reorganizing from large to smaller workgroups keeps students more engaged and attention focused.

While this sounds great, it presents a challenge for educators now that learners are in separate locations. By using a slick combination of large screens on new, thin Salamander Strut Walls (full inventory available in 2022), cameras, mics and other branded mobile tables, classrooms can be reconfigured in literally minutes. Zoom rooms can even build an “acoustic fence” around small groups so that remote students only hear the mics of the group they are working with and don’t hear distracting chatter from other groups in the room!

Best of all, remote students never feel left out, as now they are part of the full group and the break outs. Salamander ADA-compliant features can be added such as guard rails for the blind. And electric lift for screens and low wall construction makes this a dream solution. All wiring is hidden to prevent issues, while power setups allow for instant connection to computers and other devices as needed.


“This ebb and flow solution helps engagement, as everyone can move around, sit, stand and even work together at small huddle stations where they can lay their work out and interact with someone on the large display as if they were in the room together.”

Deploying Distant Education Rooms

Some Howe classrooms require a purpose-built, larger system for hybrid learning.

Per Lance, “Lots of universities have been seeking this for some time. Covid brought this to the forefront and now we’re making it a reality.” 

In this configuration, through use of Zoom, multiple cameras and large screens on a dual cabinet by Salamander, students offsite can see the classroom, the teacher and even an annotation white board. Everyone sees what’s happening, while the classroom teacher and students can see all the remote students on one of the monitors while content is shared on another.

“This setup is so, so powerful,” shares Lance. “Verbal and nonverbal feedback is most easily shared. Presenters and students alike can view all participants—and that creates the feeling that remote students are transported into the classroom and part of all the interaction.”

Adds Chris Discotto, “These education rooms are a place where Salamander stands with height-adjustable monitor attachments play a vital role. These allow teachers to position screens and set the classroom in seconds for students everywhere.”

Getting to Class Made Easy

Zoom technology even mitigates the old “couldn’t find the room” excuse that students used for being late for class. Zoom offers digital signage and can deliver Push Notifications to keep students abreast of venue changes, for example. In Kiosk Mode, using a technology called “Hot Desking,” displays in a Zoom Room can serve as an interactive floorplan map that directs students to the right place and allows students and instructors to schedule available rooms in seconds.

Education for Today – And the Future

Overcoming today’s learning challenges isn’t easy but it’s possible. Embracing modern technology like Zoom and technology infrastructure like Salamander Designs furniture is the first big step it the right direction for many schools.

“We even have deployed today’s Student Union which consists of gaming and other fun technologies that are available in the open yet employ lock down of the components. With no wall construction necessary, this elevates every activity area for college campuses.”

Shares Lance, “This distance and separation is common, and it’s something we are perfectly capable of solving with the right thinking, technology and furniture. It’s been inspiring and fun to implement at Howe, and together with Salamander, we enjoy being at the forefront of education for our students.”