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08/24/2010 - View Point Article - Importance of PD SMART Board Training

As the morning bell rings, students stream into the kindergarten classroom. Keeping to her usual routine, the teacher is helping students get settled in for class, all the while listening as they recount their adventures outside of school. At the front of the classroom, students are engaged with the SMART board interactive whiteboard, dragging their pictures onto a seating plan of the classroom. It is a unique and creative way to take attendance. This is but one example of how educators are using the SMART board to transform teaching and learning. However, without professional development training on new and existing SMART boards, this powerful technology will not be used to its full potential.

SMART board interactive white boards and SMART Notebook software are taking classrooms by storm. Teachers and administrators alike understand that the SMART board’s touch sensitive surface can be used to make learning interactive, visual and kinesthetic. Currently, one in five American classrooms has a SMART board. FutureSource Consulting predicts this number will grow to about one in three by 2013! Teachers comment that SMART boards provide greater access to curriculum for students. They also use the SMART board as an alternate assessment tool. Students comment that it is easy to “visualize” a concept due to the interactive nature of the SMART board. This is in turn improves student confidence and engagement.

During a recent SMART board workshop, experienced SMART board users were amazed when I added text and images directly into Excel, Power Point, and Word through the SMART board. Although they had been using SMART boards for several years they were not aware of this feature. Instantly the room was abuzz with questions and comments. A spontaneous discussion centered on practical application of this feature to support meaningful learning and create deeper understanding followed. Using the SMART board to edit documents during class and then sharing these documents with students is a powerful learning tool. Ink Aware as this feature is called, is easy to use, however the example illustrates the need for ongoing professional development to ensure that end users learn strategies for applying all tools and features of the SMART board.

Ease of use is an important consideration when implementing any new technology. SMART board interactive white boards allow teachers to focus on using the technology rather than on the technology. Having said that, how do we as leaders ensure that SMART boards are used to provide a media rich learning experience for students? How do we show teachers the possibilities for using the SMART board as tool to differentiate learning and meet the needs of visual and kinesthetic learners? Experience tells us that relevant ongoing professional development is the best way to ensure success. There is so much potential built into the SMART board and SMART notebook software that a single training session is not enough. Single session training tends to overload attendees with information. A series of professional development workshops spread over time allow users to assimilate SMART board use into their teaching practice in a systematic manner.

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to work with many teachers and learn how SMART boards have transformed their teaching practice. In one instance, two 12th grade business teachers explained that they prepare and post skeletal outlines of their lessons before class. Students download the outline onto their laptops. During class, students have the option to add important details the outlines. Other students focus solely on participation, using the SMART board to add details to the skeletal outline. The notes completed by the students are available for downloading after class. This model of differentiation allows students to learn in a way most meaningful to them. Posting class notes online supports anytime learning for students as well as helping parents stay current with what their children are learning.

Another SMART Notebook software tool being used by educators to transform teaching and assessment practice is the SMART recorder. When activated, the tool captures everything happening on the SMART board. The Recording feature allows students to view a recorded process as many times as required, freeing the teacher to work with other students in the class. Recordings can be saved and posted online where students can access it for home study. Teachers also use the recording feature as an assessment tool. By recording and saving work competed by students at the SMART board, teachers are able to compile a portfolio that demonstrates a student’s progress during a semester. Parents, teachers and administrators are able to use the portfolio to make informed decisions about a student’s academic progress.

Teachers use the SMART linking feature to incorporate multimedia into lessons and increase time on task. Objects on the SMART board can be linked to documents, websites, audio, sound and other pages in the SMART Notebook file. One touch of the linked object seamlessly launches the desired application. Linking is an easy way to incorporate multi sensory stimuli into a lesson. Combining audio, video and images helps the brain to understand and remember concepts and principles. Since applications and files can be launched from the SMART board, there are fewer interruptions meaning students spend more time on the task and experience fewer distractions.

Teachers often differentiate classroom activities to appeal to the various learning styles of students. An eighth grade teacher in Atlanta structured a SMART board “Acids and Bases” activity by creating two separate but similar categorization activities. One activity used only images, the other used only text. Students selected the activity that made most sense to them. As part of the activity, students worked in groups and were required to come to a consensus before completing the activity. This simple but elegant teaching strategy supported student learning while developing skills essential for success in the workplace.

A principal at one school challenged one of her early adopters to incorporate the SMART board into every subject area. The teacher developed a strategy to use the spinner and dice tools as part of a class fitness program. Students spin the spinner on the SMART board to randomly select one of eight activities. Rolling the dice determined the number of repetitions of that activity. With students leading the activity, the teacher felt there was more engagement by the rest of the class.

The previous examples exemplify the engaging types of lessons that can be developed when good teaching practice, creativity and technology converge. Understanding the full potential of the SMART board is critical to creating these types of activities.

School district officials often struggle with limited resources to support teacher use of technology. Face to face learning is without a doubt the best way to meet the needs of most learners. However, after a face to face sessions ends, learners have to rely on printed material and hand-written notes for support. User groups, forums, YourTube, and Facebook are replacing traditional review resources but their value is limited to the collective knowledge of those contributing content. As the rate of SMART board adoption increases over the next three to five years, technology departments will be looking for meaningful, innovative and cost effective ways to provide just in time learning for a large group of teachers.

In K – 12 classrooms across the country caring teachers are using SMART board to engage students in meaningful learning. As teachers integrate SMART board use into their classrooms, they progress through four stages. The length of the journey from novice to exemplary user differs for each person. In the early stages, users are most likely to make use of existing resources while they become familiar with the SMART board. Teachers will know they have reached the exemplary user stage when the technology is being used to redefine instructional strategies in a way that helps student to create products through successful problem solving. Throughout this journey, teachers deserve the opportunity for ongoing professional development; without it our schools and students will miss out on the full potential of the technology we install in today’s modern classroom.

John Palbom OCT, B.A. B.Ed.

Manager of Professional Development, Blossom Learning

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