There are now some 70 Smart Boards installed at my school; a large investment in interactive white boards, to be sure. We’ve been providing related professional development for faculty since 2007, both during our June workshops as well as during the school year. About eight months ago, I mentioned to my husband that our faculty (yes, we are at the same school) would benefit by talking with faculty who are using these boards at other schools. Nothing like a healthy discussion and sharing of ideas with colleagues! The result of that discussion was just a few words uttered by my husband along the lines of hosting a conference; kind of like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney shouting “Let’s put on a show” in the movie musical Babes in Arms.
The result of our discussion was the Smart Board Conference hosted at our school on Tuesday, June 9. Eighty-eight faculty from 23 schools registered to attend, and on the day of the conference there were ten students (grades 8 through 12) on hand to assist with the sessions, plus our vendor, his boss, and a representative from the New York City Smarttech office. We provided continental breakfast and lunch, along with the location. Attendees came from schools in New York City and Westchester, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Morning sessions were organized according to subject areas: The Arts, Library & Media, Math, English/Language Arts, Science, Humanities, Languages, and two groups of K-4 lower school teachers. Each group had a faculty facilitator, five who kindly volunteered from other schools and four from my school, and each group had a student assistant, with the larger lower school group having two students. The primary goal for the morning sessions was to share lesson ideas and plans, what works (or doesn’t), and to for each person to cross-pollinate their learning by talking with faculty from other schools.
The afternoon sessions were organized by topics that had been suggested by people when they registered for the conference. My goal was for the afternoon sessions to have a quasi-unconference feel, and to that end, during lunch, I encouraged people to take charge of their own learning as they broke out into the afternoon groups. Also during the afternoon, our vendor and the Smart Tech representative provided demos of the Smart Table, the Smart Response, the Smart Document Camera, and the Notebook software.
Our students, who were the primary presenters the day before, were at the conference to provide a second set of hands. However, true to the collaborative nature of the day, many of the students also gave demos and shared their perspective as the primary consumers of this technology.
Overall, the conference was a success! I requested feedback in a follow-up email, and received many useful suggestions that will be considered for incorporation next time I organize a conference. Some of the suggestions included:
- having a marker board available for doodling and sketching notes and ideas
- putting out Legos (Zometools would work also) for people to randomly and collaboratively tinker and build
- organize sessions to accommodate differing familiarity/ability levels
- have facilitators for unconference sessions (would that take away from the unconference nature?)
Just imagine the dining room below packed with 100 people. You can click the image for a large version of the panorama taken by Riley K., one of our student assistants.