Reaching New Interactive Levels – The SMART Table

The new SMART Tables are slowly making their way into schools across the country. At a price tag of about $8000, you may or may not being seeing one in your school, but I had the pleasure of being able to experience one on April 3 and showcase it to about 15 school districts in New Jersey.

SMART Table Dimensions 35 7/8" W × 25 1/2" H × 28 7/8" D
SMART Table Dimensions 35 7/8" W × 25 1/2" H × 28 7/8" D

As for reaching new levels – it’s a short level. This SMART Table is designed for preschool through sixth grade students. Though if you ask me, at the rate adolescents are growing these days, I can’t think of a ten or eleven year old who could comfortably sit at this table. I see this portable table (it’s on wheels) easily and effectively used in preschool through fourth grade classes. I’d love to see it used with special ed students as well.

Before we began our 2 hour Showcase of how you could use the SmartBoard to improve teaching and learning in your classroom (I’ll get to that in a little bit) I took a video tour of the SMART Table.

What do you think? How can you see this interactive table used in your classroom or a classroom in your building or district? The SMART Technologies literature boasts, no calibration, multitouch and portability, all things I feel make a big difference in a classroom over portable interactive whiteboards (IWB) of the past). But the SMART Table is surely not a replacement for the IWB mounted on the wall. It’s meant to compliment the SMART Board. (You can read all about the FAQs and Features here.)

Kristine Scharldi presented an amazing array of activities across all content areas from the primary level through the high school level during the first 45 minutes of the Showcase.  I was impressed with the selection of tools and techniques that she chose to engage the educators in the event and she managed to bring Showcase attendees to the Smart Board throughout the 45 minutes.

One of the questions that came up during Kristine’s presentation was how some people smartboard-showcase-027(including students and adults) have trouble moving things on a SMARTBoard. So Kristine mentioned that she uses her fingernail rather than the tip of her finger. Wayne Copeland, from Keyboard Consultants, suggested using a tennis ball to move objects. Then @tomgrissom who was following my Tweets mentioned that he has students use a hand pointer with a little glove on. Well, I laughed when Wayne pulled this little surprise out of his bag (see picture on right).

I had planned to show our attendees some of the wonderful interactive websites that are just more powerful and engaging on an IWB. Why are they more engaging? Well, my suggestion is always to use the IWB as a station in your room. Allow your students to collaborate at the SMARTBoard on an activity related to your content while you work somewhere else in your classroom on another task with another group.

These are the sites that I demonstrated of course asking for volunteers to come to the Board.

  1. http://www.quia.com/rr/11505.html
  2. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/periodictable_0_click_all.html
  3. http://www.thinkingblocks.com/mathplayground/TB_AS/tb_as4.html
  4. http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks2/music/piano/

I also shared my wiki which leads to an eBoard which is loaded with resources on SMARTBoard Notebook in almost every subject and grade level. (I also showed them the Virtual Bubble Wrap site that I use just before the lunch break on a professional development day.)

Lastly, Wayne Copeland spoke about the SMART Technologies product line. He also went over all the grants that are available to help with the acquisition of this equipment. I was quite impressed. I wasn’t aware that there were so many options.

What’s your favorite site to use on the IWB?

Does your district fund it’s acquisition of this type of hardware through your budget? Or does it rely on its Education Foundation, PTO or other outside association?

I’d love to hear your response to the video tour of the SMART Table as well.

Be Teachable

sunday-at-educon21-0331
Written on one of the tables at http://educon21.wikispaces.com/Conversations#e313-4

Many bloggers have been posting their take-aways from Educon2.1. I have to admit that though I was sad to leave SLA and my PLN on Sunday afternoon and even sadder to say goodbye to Liz Davis as I left her at the Philadelphia Airport an hour later, my brain was fried. I wasn’t ready to think about next year or reflect on this year’s conference.

Let’s be honest. I wasn’t ready to drive home as I hadn’t had enough sleep. I wasn’t ready to tackle all the laundry that was waiting for me or to have to go grocery shopping to make sure that we had supplies for the girls’ lunches on Monday. Oh, and I wasn’t ready for my workshop on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. I was shot.

What are ya gonna do? Get ready!!

The next day I drove back towards Philly to work with a group of teachers on UDL. It was our third of 5 sessions together, so these were teachers that I had already built a rapport with. We talked openly about good teaching and what was working in their classrooms and then I asked them to take my presentation for the day and redo it so that it was more accessible to them.  We worked on the concepts behind multiple methods of presentation and worked on which tools would help them meet the objectives of the UDL framework. At first they were uncomfortable with editing my presentation. I explained that I had designed it that way to make a point and to teach me a more appropriate way to present these same ideas. I was hoping that they had really looked at the YouTube videos and wikis I had shared with them about PowerPoint reform.

On the drive home I spoke with a tech coordinator from a high school in North Jersey. We had been trying to connect with each other for a couple of weeks, so using the hands-free device in the car, I listened to him talk to me about how great the school’s infrastructure was, how they had at least four computers in each classroom, plus a couple of COWs. What he needed from me was to come in and get the teachers excited about using technology and to give them the tools, skills and confidence to bring their school into the 21st Century. I found myself thinking that I’d be happy to help him as log as his staff was teachable.

0128091The next day I drove to North Jersey to finish some SMARTBoard mentoring I mentioned in a previous post. I had 5 sessions mapped out for the morning ranging from a group of pre-k teachers with no IWB experience to a 5th grade teacher with over a year’s experience who was thirsty to learn the more advanced features of the technology.  What I didn’t expect was the middle school language arts teacher who walked in the room who had just started working at the school the prior week. She immediately asked me how this technology would help her get her students to be better writers. I asked her how she teaches them to write. We only had 25 minutes together, so you can understand that I needed to make some pretty quick decisions. She was very much against using any technology in the classroom because (…and you’ve heard this one before…) when she was a student, she learned to write just fine without a computer.

I sat and calmly talked with her about how not every piece of technology meets every need. That she might consider using collaborative documents with her students. I asked her if she wanted to make sure that her students were ready for high school, college and the work force in addition to being good writers. She said she was interested in learning how she could integrate technology and still teach the pedagogy behind good writing. She was open to ideas. She was teachable. I invited her to the upcoming Google Learning Institute at Rutgers University.

I was scheduled to drive back towards Philly today to work in one of the middle schools in Camden City School District. I work with a team of stellar teachers there in my 21st Century Learning Initiative. Though I’m disappointed it was canceled due to the snow (the district closed the schools), it gave me a chance to go through my inbox, my notes from Educon2.1 and look back at the week and what’s still to come.

What have I learned?

I tell people I try to learn something each day. I’m pretty sure that on the days I’m out in the field working with teachers I learn way more than one thing. I know I learn more than one thing a day when I attend a professional development event, be it in person or virtually.

I try to be teachable. Whether you are a noobie or a seasoned educator or somewhere in between – be teachable.

French Fries for the Brain

gyag-bgbag-bobvyegrb-bggoyoggylger

Or so I thought. I figured this one would take me no time at all.

I was honored when Dean Shareski asked me to do a quick presentation for his pre-service students this coming week along with the pre-service students of Alec Couros. Well, in typical Lisa fashion, I got caught up in what should have taken me an hour or so to prepare. I’ve presented on Google Apps, Tools, Resources, however you want to phrase or look at them, dozens of times. But every time I prepare for a presentation I get caught up in all of the fantastic resources out there. I am proud to be part of the Google Certified Teacher network, but there are also other extremely innovative educators out there who have resources to share. It’s difficult to keep up with the resources educators have created. What I thought would be just another review of a past presetnation and a look through my bookmarks ultimately turned into an entire Sunday Google Fest, 3 cups of coffee and anything but french fries for my brain. (Add in glare from husband and two children.)

So, how do I wrap this all into a neat 45 minute package? At least when I prepare for the Google Teacher Academy and only have 20 minutes, it’s for ONE specific tool. Dean wrote that he was “thinking of things like iGoogle, docs (including forms) Notebook (although I see they may not be supporting that anymore) Picasa or any other key educational tools, tips or tricks. It’s your show.” Those of you that know me know that I have a certain, should we call it, enthusiasm, for what I teach. I could spend 45 minutes alone on just saying hello to the class. So I chose to create a new presentation that focused in on the 6-application suite of Google Apps Education Edition. Of course, by doing so, I was leaving out iGoogle and Google Reader, so I also addressed those tools.

Never mind the fact that this was the last weekend before Educon, I wanted to dedicate some time to continuing my UDL Toolkit for a group of educators I’m working with on Wednesday and I’m mentoring some teachers with their SMARTBoards this week as well (and this is the schedule I’ve been given):

  • Period 1 4th grade general studies
  • Period 2 Set up and questions
  • Period 3 Using the SMARTBoard with K-2 students
  • Period 4 General technology questions
  • Period 5 Foreign Languages
  • Period 6 Middle School English
  • Period 7 Middle School Math
  • Period 8 Science K-8
  • Period 9 5th grade general studies

Having said all of this, thanks to Dean and Alec, I’ve gathered some really great resources on using Google Apps and Google Apps – Education Edition. Some I already had in my Diigo / Delicious (I maintain both). Some were new to me and I’m so glad to have found them. I don’t know if we’ll get to these resources during my time with the pre-service classes Wednesday night, but I will be able to point the students here to check them out and I wanted to share them with all of you as well.

Have some others to share? Please leave a comment. Thanks!

These two articles are worth a read, if you haven’t already:

Colorado State University Partners with Google to Enhance E-mail and Collaboration Services
http://newsinfo.colostate.edu/index.asp?url=news_item_display&news_item_id=979928202

Go Ahead and Blog; the Experts Would Approve
http://www.techlearning.com/article/8908

These resources developed about Google Tools are phenomenal:

A comic book by Kern Kelley
Google Tools Comic Book

Google Earth is our Paper: A Five Part Series by Tom Barrett

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5

Google More – a wiki created by Mark Wagner
http://googleined.wikispaces.com/

The Google Almanac by Kyle Brumbaugh, Jerome Burg, Cheryl Davis, and Kathleen Ferenz
http://sites.google.com/site/gctalmanac/

Not sure where to start: Try with one of these 40 ideas: https://sites.google.com/site/thingstolearnwith/

Another PD Site by Cheryl Davis https://sites.google.com/site/classlearningnetwork/Home