Mr P's SMART Board

One teacher's record of the implementation of a SMART Board Interactive whiteboard into a primary school classroom. For links see the Simply Science FURL. For science education try Simply Science site. For ICT check out My Other Blog. For one with the lot then go to my Suprglu archive.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Play the Game

Wow, the kids really enjoyed playing "Trapper and Escaper" on the board so much that I am not sure that they really wanted to go off and play on the game boards. There was a lot more interaction as different children were able to make each of the moves. They were also able to change roles from being the Trapper to the Escaper.

Of course with every step forward there seems to be another in another direction. Even though the electrician is wanting to come back to tidy up all the cables etc, the solution on the tech front has been harder to achieve. It seems that the projectors we have purchased can only send out signal. This is different to some other models that can apparently loop the signal. This means that trying to connect two alternate computers to the projector will not be a simple matter of looping them on a shared cable. Instead a switching device will be needed. Sourcing this of course is taking more time so the cables still hang around. As well in another surf around the Smarttech site I have found there is a need to purchase specific extension cables for extending the cable to the board and projector. Ah well another week of children being careful around cables........

In the mean time it has been a lot of fun inviting other classes into the room when my class are off at art etc and showing them and their teachers some of the capability of the board. We usually do the name on board, convert text to type, a Flash animation story or two, an interactive or game and maybe something associated with what they are doing in their classroom at the time. All, (teachers and children), have been quite excited and have really enjoyed interacting with the board.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Maths Games are Fun

Over night I had a brainwave. Often we play maths strategy games. To teach these games we usually have the children in a circle on the floor watching as I play a game on an A4 sheet against one other of the children. Thankfully most children are reasonably engaged though often there is a little pushing and movement as they try to see what is going on. More often than not however when they move off to play against each other there are many variations on the understandings of the rules. As a result I decided to see if the board would help.

Using the notebook again I fiddled until I was able to make gameboard for our next game, "Trapper and Escaper". Thank goodness for the "Copy/Paste" and quite useful "Clone" function of the notebook. Next it was up to making the counters. Making them movable without having the board also move was a problem until I remembered the "Lock in Place" attribute via the right mouse click. Pretty soon I had a functioning game.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Have We Been Sold a Pup?

Interesting how you start to explore things. Today after school I went wandering around the SMART technologies site and discovered the SMART Notebook software we were provided with was already out of date. A quick????? 1.1Mb download later and some more waiting till I installed it I realised that I had indeed been lucky to have ferreted around as this latest version was vastly improved on the supplied version.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Branching Out

So far the board has been quite useful as a replacement for the normal board and the text to type function has been well used though it is time to break out a bit. For lots of other tasks it has been easier, or more convenient to use the normal whiteboard, (am I still being paranoid about the globe and yes I have the batteries and the remote works fine except when you turn it off and then realize that you really wanted it on again but you have to wait until the lamp cool down is complete and the projector is ready to start up again.

Today we tried a Thinking Skills activity called TWINK or "Things I know" "Things I Want to Know" and "Things I Know now". I had a template prepared though again it would have been easier to prepare the template in Word. SMART Notebook doesn't have customizable tables in the gallery and drawing them with the Autoshapes is possible but just that little more clumsy that I could do in Word. Still after a little experimenting I was able to get up a quite attractive template for the children and I to work with. Modelling how to use the TWINK template via the board however was great and most effective.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

We Live in a Fish Bowl

Interesting isn't it how most things new attract attention. As our class is next to the library and the computer lab, all other classes in the school go past our room at least twice a week. It seems that at the moment they go past our door just that little more slowly than usual, especially when the whiteboard is operating. Most teacher also just want to say "Hi" or pass some comment about our grade being the "smarties then". We don't mind, we'll take the good with the

Even when I'm on yard duty siblings of my class children come up and identify themselves as having someone in the smart class.

It's my intention that when I have time release or when we are out of the room that other classes will use our room and the board.

At the moment I am still a bit paranoid about having the projector globe running when not needed and as I haven't yet gotten batteries for the remote this means climbing on tables a bit, (I'll get the batteries tomorrow). Also we found out that the laptop hibernates quite often when not plugged in.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Kids are Back

"Hey look, it's up." Boy were the children excited as they realized that the board was in. "Is it ready to work?" was the universal query. It sure was despite the dangly cables etc.

First up it a talk about the need to be safe near the board, not look into the projector, not make hand shadow shapes onto the board, not to sit too close, to take care with the pens etc and generally treat it with respect, (though I can never actually recall any child ever treating a blackboard with disrespect, lol). Next it was the write our names exercise again and this time change it and move it around. (Somehow I had changed the transparency settings and all of the text was translucent but it was too late to spend time finding out how to reset it. First valuable lesson for both myself and the children that using the board was going to take a little patience.)

Having done the name thing it was time to have a look at Flash story, (fortunately I have "harvested" a couple from off the net so we didn't need the blue spaghetti network cable to be plugged in). Viewing the story was a big wow.

Next up was reading groups and a chance to demonstrate for the children the computer based reading activity option that each group would work through. This really demonstrated how useful the board would be. Previously these demos took place using a desktop monitor with children sitting and kneeling close by craning their necks to see. The board meant all could see and that I could even use some children to demonstrate what to do via the board, (a big plus already).

For writing time it was the "ever popular" "What I Did In My Hols" topic, lol. Ah well at least they all had something to write about. Again the board came into play as the place to write those "hard" spelling words. (Previously we had written these on the normal whiteboard and later transcribed them to add to out Words To Spell Chart.) This time it was one write and then a print and we had both. Only one problem is that the words are not uniform size when converted to type. I will have to investigate this further, maybe the handwriting template in the Gallery might be useful.

Later in the day we introduced the SMART Ideas software on the topic of ANZAC Day as this was our topic for the week. Even though we have used Inspiration software previously it was interesting how the children were captivated by the representation on the board. Again however there were many fumbles on my behalf in getting things onto the board and then neatly ordered. Thankfully the children were generally forgivingly patient. There was definitely a need to re-inforce that we were all learning here.

After the children left for the day I fiddled with the ANZAC Day concept map a little more finding out how to more properly use the connectors. I also discovered the Export function especially the export to HTML. This will be possibly quite useful later.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Installing the 1st Board

As I was the "guru" for all of this it was decided that my room should be the guinea pig room. In that way we could iron out any problems regarding the installation so that when installing the system into the next three rooms we could basically duplicate the system. One of our parents volunteered to assist in the installation which was carried out over the term break.

Installation necessitated the modifying of the existing blackboard and removal of some cupboards below it. The mounting of the board was quite easily done though the builder had originally set it higher than I wanted it. Luckily I was able to check in and help recify this. Mounting the projector was also a problem as we had not taken into account the need to pitch the projector at a quite sharp angle. Again modifications were needed to the projector mount. A fan was removed to mount the projector and this was then used as the power source.

After a few hours things were sort of set up though the need to run the cord from the computer to the board meant going up over the top of the board and down its side. (Why didn't they put this computer/board cable connection at the top of the board?) Connecting the projector to the computer meant a cable dangling down onto a trolley in the centre of the room plus power and network cables also running from the corner along the ceiling and dangling down. Albeit temporary and a little problematic regarding Health and Safety issues at least we had the board functional.

The only other minor problem was that the batteries to to projector remote control were flat which meant to turn it on and off I had to stand on a table, (more grist for the OHS people :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Showing off to Colleagues

As it was the hols, it was an opportune time to get some practice in with a couple of the other teachers who will have a board installed in their room. A time to meet had been arranged and we spent a good couple of hours just fiddling with the NoteBook which is quite neat as well as trying to make some sense of how to get the SMART Ideas software running like we wanted to. Overall it was good PD and time well spent.

I also spoke at length to the technicians who work on the network in the school about how we could set the board up so that we could operate it off of a desktop or my laptop with some sort of switching device in the middle. Thus if needed we could run the board without my laptop if required. The techo seemed to think this would not be a problem, (famous last words). He also said he would look to see how speakers could also be configured so that we could listen into the animation/interactives.

It was also time to clean up all of the shavings/plaster etc left over from the installation, (and they say all we do is teach......)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

First Time For The Kids

Taking the class down to the old office where the board was set up and boy were they excited, (though this was no doubt tempered because they had already seen one in the "Life Ed" van. Ours is quite a lot bigger so there was still quite a "Wow" factor. The first experience for them was to write their names on the board with pens and then convert this to type.

Most found this easy though there was a tendency to stand in front of where they want to write thus throwing a shadow, (as the projector was at the same level as the board and not elevated this meant that the shadow was even greater than might have been). Some children also were a little timid. It is important to write firmly on the board. Others wanted to go back and "correct" errors. Unfortunately the "text to type" recognition doesn't like this and as a result threw up some curious translations. Generally it proved better to write large letters quickly and do any alterations later.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Interesting how when you think that you have discovered something new how other things fill in around you. The week after setting up one board, a "Life Ed" van arrived to visit our school. In the van amongst other things the teacher had was an interactive whiteboard. As a result most of the children got to use that board before they had a chance to use ours............. :)