Tag Archives: SMART Board

Digital Wave – Smart Board Conference

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.

SB conference


Digital Wave

Digital Wave got its start in the summer of 1994, when the headmaster of the school where I currently teach, and the headmaster of the school where I was then teaching, made it possible for faculty at both schools to participate in technology workshops hosted by my current school. My role was to organize and teach the sessions, the focus of which was to assist folks with getting comfortable using computers and basic applications.

Sessions have been offered every summer save one since 1994, with each year’s format and topics being updated to reflect emerging trends in the world of technology, needs of faculty, and alternative methods for sharing information. Along the way, multiple students have been part of the process, acting as teachers and co-facilitators.

The sessions of the early years were open to faculty from other schools, both as participants and facilitators. One summer there were upwards of 80 faculty from a multitude of schools taking sessions offered by 12 other faculty. However, as more and more independent schools, including my school, began laptop programs, many of these schools started their own in-house tech workshops, and Digital Wave became exclusively an RCDS endeavor.

Following the focus of Digital Wave over the past 15 years provides a fascinating look at how the use of technology has morphed in the world of independent school education. In the very first session the topic was “making the most of the Macintosh” and we used ClarisWorks 2.0 and various content-specific programs. Anyone familiar with these: PageMaker, Painter & Freehand, Geometer’s Sketchpad, HyperCard (alas, no longer in use), HyperStudio, FileMaker, Microworlds, PageMill, BBedit, Graphic Converter, Now Up To Date, PhotoShop, Inspiration, FirstClass, Table Top, and HomePage. These applications filled our first seven years, along with tips sessions, all types of Internet sessions, and sessions on using one computer in the classroom.

Around 2001 we began pushing digital video and imagery, with sessions on camera use, scanning, iMovie, QuickTime, SnapsPro, LiveSlideShow, plus continued teaching of software for making web pages with a switch to Dreamweaver. 2004 saw the ushering in of student participation, often as teachers but also as assistants. If you didn’t already know this, it turns out students are super at collaborating one-on-one with faculty in teaching how to use programs and offering useful suggestions for their use in classes. Hmm, a classic case of asking the experts for their feedback 😉 (Hey students, what works for you as a member of my class?) Around this time sessions on MS Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) entered our summer repertoire. We also started focusing more on integrating technology into the curriculum, instead of teaching applications in quasi-isolation (both to the students during the school year, and the faculty during the summer workshops).

From 2005 to 2008, workshops wove in Apple’s iSuite (iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, iPod), along with Mac OS Tips and Tricks. All of our desktop computers had always been Apples, and during these years the balance of laptops switched from being mostly PCs to mostly Macs. In 2007 we added workshops on Smart Boards, as our school began installation of what would eventually wind up being 70 Smart Boards. Wikis, blogs, Google apps (Docs, Spreadsheets, and Earth), along with Flash, digital grade books, more on FirstClass email and FileMaker, and podcasting tools, highlighted the sessions of the past two summers.

In November of 2007 I offered an idea for our professional development day entitled Digital Natives, Diverse Learners. Here is the pitch I made to our Curriculum Council, and here are some of the resources I provided. The pitch struck out, partially because it was competing with other themes of the year (Sustainability and Diversity).

I am DELIGHTED to say that on Monday of this week, we presented Students on Tech to a highly appreciative group of faculty. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post with details on the student sessions! (Would add them now, but this is already a long post!)

Summer Segue

I can gauge how relaxing summer has been by the length of time it takes me to get back in gear for doing tech support at school. Providing tech support is a minor responsibility for me that mostly gets called in to play at the start of each new school year. My school has an outstanding tech department, but at the beginning of the school year everyone in the computer department pitches in to ease the work flow.

The more relaxed I feel, the longer it takes me to fish out the tips, tricks and tech trouble shooting skills that got tucked away the previous June. Case in point from yesterday was the first three Smart Board issues that came my way. Thanks to Ben Zander’s words

You made a mistake. How fascinating!

I can look back at each misdiagnosis and smile that next time, I’m more likely to remember the solutions due to his words. Just in case, though, here’s a reminder to self:

  • Check the resolution on the computer when the board does not register being touched in partial areas once it has been oriented.
  • Check that version 9.7 of the notebook software (we are using 9.7, with plans to upgrade to 10 in January) is installed on any computer attached to a board where the orientation is off by a few inches.
  • Check that the ceiling projector is set for the computer on any board that turns on but is not displaying the computer’s desktop.

Happily, our neighborhood pool is open through September 15th, and I can swim through the summer segue. And then the decision will be whether to join an indoor pool or not. Here’s a picture of the entrance to our neighborhood pool, taken one winter’s day when the schools were surely closed!

Design and Innovation with Arnold Wasserman

Arnold Wasserman is the man behind The Idea Factory. I discovered him thanks to a recent interview by Joan Badger and Ben Hazzard for their SMARTBoard Lessons Podcast.

Wasserman echoes Sir Ken Robinson in saying that we all come hard wired to be creative, and we then teach that feature right out of our children as they progress through school.

In discussing his company’s work with Singapore’s education system, Wasserman asks how we go about reintroducing our two hemispheres to one another, and concludes that we need to figure out how to use the ideas of K-6 education in the upper grades. He says:

“The brain knows how to be creative and the mind gets in its way.”

In other words, as we get older (and more “educated”) the mind encounters enough information that it begins to put a harness on the brain, stifling it from using ideas that do not mesh with the reality to which the mind has been exposed.

Wasserman references Google’s 80/20 rule as a way to nurture innovation. The rule states that employees can spend twenty percent of their time focused on their own ideas. This allows “the mind to get out of the way of the brain.”

“The Learning Journey” is a method that his company uses to “get the mind out of the way of the brain” by shakings things up. He suggests that to innovate it helps to see how innovation is working in other fields in order to understand how innovation works, in general, as opposed to within a specific field.

Wasserman’s tips to discover the principles of innovation:
First – see how it is done in other fields
Then – try to solve a problem in yet another field, completely different from your own (the proverbial “sandbox”)
Now – translate this to your field

The main reason for getting out of your comfort zone and exploring a completely different field, where you then have to solve a problem, is that “expertise is the killer of innovation.” The more you know about your own field, the more difficult it is to innovate. What is required is to “think back into the company from the minds of those outside it.”

This last bit reminds me of teaching. It is said that the best way to learn something is to have to teach it, and I agree with this concept. However, sometimes if you know a thing too well, it becomes very difficult to think back into the learning from the mind of someone who is struggling to learn that very thing. Yet more food for thought for educators on summer break.

What we educators know, and sometimes forget

In December 2007, I participated in a three-day training session to become a Smart Master’s Certified Trainer. At the time, my school had close to 50 Smart Boards installed, and this summer another 20 are being set up. Thus, it should not surprise you that I follow several blogs geared to the Smart Board and interactive white boards.

One such resource is the SMARTBoard Lessons Podcast by Canadians Joan Badger and Ben Hazzard. I confess to usually not listening to the podcast (because I learn better visually) but to always checking out their links and often checking out their lessons.

This week’s lesson is about Design & Innovation with “Arnold Wasserman, a legendary human systems designer, is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Idea Factory who is redesigning the nation state of Singapore. Wasserman talks about design principles in an education context, innovation in education, and his ideas about the brain versus the mind.” Given the topic, I couldn’t pass up listening to the podcast, which I will write about in my next post.

Before listening, I visited the The Idea Factory and did a bit of exploring. Curious to know more, I downloaded the pdf An Introduction to the Idea Factory and was immediately struck by three of the six beliefs of the company:

Hazaah! These beliefs coincide with what is known about how we best learn, and the third one is quite in harmony with what I have written about professional development. These ideas have been around since the days of John Dewey, but it’s always a little disconcerting how many in education tend to forget them. Food for thought as we educators transition to the summer.

Smart Reflections.3 – The Activity

Without seeing the activity in advance, fourteen faculty graciously agreed in June to be facilitators of the opening day afternoon activity in August. My aim was to have facilitators from each of the three divisions (lower, middle and upper) as well as in as many subject areas as possible. I was thrilled when a teacher in the Music Department responded that he would be delighted to be a facilitator and that this was the first time he had been asked to act in such a capacity. So far, so good.

I provided a brief description of what the activity would be, stated that it would not be complicated to carry out, and promised to get back in touch towards the end of the summer with all supporting materials. This was in June, and again, so far, so good, because folks were still around and checking email.

Off everyone went on their summer ways, and off I went to design the activity, only to return in August with an email letting everyone know that they would find a packet in their mailboxes with all pertinent materials, and that I would do a run-through of the activity the day before the opening meeting.

Glitch #1: One member of the group doesn’t read email over the summer (as she later told me), avoiding it until the very first day back for opening meetings. Hence, she missed the run-through meeting, never bothered to read the email, and never bothered to check her mailbox. I did telephone her after the run-through to find out if she was okay, and the next morning, after she told me she still had not checked her mailbox, I retrieved the packet and set everything up for her.

Lesson #1: I should have phoned everyone at the same time that I posted the August email. This would have insured that the one individual did not miss the run-through.

This activity required the use of fourteen SMART Boards. I went through room assignments twice, first dispersing folks throughout the buildings but then relocating them to mostly three wings near one another in order to make it easier to check with everyone during the activity.

Glitch #2: Many of these rooms had SMART Boards which were newly installed over the summer and required last minute touches to get them ready for the activity. Classes did not start for another eleven days, so having to accommodate the opening activity added to the IT Department’s load, forcing them into my time frame instead of theirs.

Lesson #2: Rather than just doing this verbally and assuming it would all be set, in June I should have shared via email the technical requirements for August, and then followed up in early August, so that nobody would be caught by surprise.

In order so that I could wander around and provide support during the activity, my group was co-facilitated by myself and another faculty member. I had slotted the Headmaster into my group and during lunch gave him a personal invitation/reminder to attend. Am happy to say he came and stayed for close to half an hour. I checked on all groups at the very start of the activity and then remained with my group for the rest of the activity.

Glitch #3: There were a few groups that could have used some assistance. In particular, one group was not sure how to align their computer with the new SMART Board.

Lesson #3: If I organize an activity that has facilitators, it is my responsibility to be available to provide support to those facilitators throughout the activity. I put my participation in the activity ahead of my final facilitation of the activity. (Seduced by my own stuff 😉

One other comment given me was that not all facilitators were at the same level with their SMART Board skills. Aware of this at the very start, I did not see it as an issue. We all have different teaching styles and comfort levels with this skill set. One purpose of the activity was to model use of the Board, and I thought it fine for faculty to see that not everyone is an expert from the getgo. I also viewed this as an opportunity to get folks involved as facilitators from different subject areas and divisions.

Would I plan a whole faculty activity again? Absolutely! Have I learned from this process? Absolutely!

Smart Reflections.2 – The Content

Via email and conversation, I received a bit of informal feedback on the opening faculty meeting afternoon activity. Most of the folks providing this feedback were rather positive about the possibilities of the SMART Board.

Comments about the content came not via email but rather from the reflections pages of the SMART Board activity. These comments were either introspective (applying the content to one’s own teaching style), factual (restating something learned in the activity), or empathetic (thinking about the students they teach and the students portrayed in some of the online movies). However, one colleague mentioned in conversation that modeling use of the SMART Board was useful but the content and application of brain research was not something of practical interest.

Below are two Reflections pages, each from a different group.

I have my own reflections from this activity. For eighteen days in June, I pondered how to best utilize the SMART Board for conveying information about the brain and how we learn. I wanted the final activity to be interactive and informative while demonstrating a variety of SMART Board techniques. And I envisioned the activity modeling what it was trying to teach.

As I put the activity together, I wrote about it on this blog, and included in the posts research and links supporting the rationale and content of each page in the SMART Board presentation. This creative process was exhilarating, and certainly supports Bob Greenleaf’s comment that the one who does the work is the one who learns.

There is no doubt that I solidified and increased my knowledge from the process of preparing the content and activity, but what did I learn from the process of carrying out the activity – both in assisting the presenters with their preparation and from the actual carrying out of the activity? More on that in my next post.