Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smart Board Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Because I visit other classrooms once in a while, and I talk about technology with other teachers quite often, I get the chance to gain insight into how teachers are using the technology they have in their classrooms. I have noticed something when I visit classrooms with Smart Boards in them: many teachers tend to use their Smart Board as a replacement for the white board (which replaced the chalk board).

This is not a bad thing! Smart Boards work well as a replacement white board (although I wouldn't mind them being quite a bit bigger). The problem is that this tends to be the full extent of the Smart Board use that I have seen. If teachers stop there, then what's the point of putting Smart Boards in the classroom in the first place? I have even heard this lament from some teachers - they don't have the resources available to help them take advantage of the more advanced features. The really sad part is that in my current school, the web filter blocks the Smart Tech help and support website.

This is a source of personal frustration for me. I believe passionately in the importance of technology in the classroom, but it can't just gather dust! Research shows that in order for technology to be useful, it must be accompanied by professional development for teachers.

I gave a workshop at my school for teachers who are already comfortable with their Smart Boards. This was not a "plug this wire in here" type of workshop - it was to show what makes the Smart Board different from a plain old whiteboard. It was a lot of fun, and I know that at least a few of the techniques I demonstrated were put into practice. My objective, however, was not to give the teachers skills on the Smart Board (although that was a happy by-product); I wanted them to think about how they could change the way they use the Smart Board.

For a downloadable example, check out this file (you need the Smart notebook software to view it). It is a quick animation of the equivalence of one whole, ten tenths, and one hundred hundredths (that's 1/1, 10/10, and 100/100). An oral explanation of the animation is necessary, but it can be a useful addition to a math lesson on equivalent fractions. The notebook file makes use of layers, animations, cloning, and layout, but none of its components are complex. It is also available on the Smart Exchange website, which allows a preview (if you don't have the software).

It took me over a month, but I have put together a quick video of some of the techniques I demonstrated at this workshop. This is not an exhaustive explanation of how to do things (just use your favourite search engine to find that): I wanted to show off some of the things that Smart Boards and the notebook software are capable of.

Take a look - it's only 8 minutes. Think about how you might use the Smart Board, and what makes it so different from a white board. And, if you can, ask for (or demand) some professional development opportunities to teach you these skills! I'd be happy to visit your school to help you integrate technology effectively!