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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Who Owns This Board?????

Had a couple of interesting happenstances today. Firstly I had related our experiences with the AIM test and the board to other teachers in the unit, suggesting that they might like to try "doing" their test practice the same way. One teacher was a little reluctant and suggested that another who has been into my room a couple of times previously might like to do the session instead. This was fine by me as my children were out at library for an hour. At the appointed time the grade 3 children dutifully filed in and they began the test. Again apart form some minor hiccups with pens in hands when trying to scroll or move pages, the teacher did as good a job as me, (and probably better in some respects). Great to see another teacher gaining confidence.

We also used the board last night to highlight where on the school server a folder of information regarding our current topic of energy is housed as well as display what some of the documents looked like. (Using the board sure beats the heck out of craning necks around a desktop monitor.)

In our little discussions about things this morning we got onto kinetic and potential energy, (which is part of the work we are doing at present). Talking about springs and elastic and things of that ilk talk soon turned to balls. I straight away thought, hey there must be some animations out there that show a ball bouncing and how it compresses. I remembered that I had FURLed a site with timelapse movies called Playing With Time but unfortunately they didn't have a movie of a ball. There was however a 20 second movie that spanned 0.1 second of real time showing a water filled balloon landing on a table available. Well did this spark some discussion. The children wanted to stop and start and reverse and then play back ad nauseum. They actually began to suggest and conjecture what might happen if the table were surface were modified. Without too much encouragement they began to come out to the board and draw over it which was quite impressive to see.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Smart Idea Up To Date

Over the weekend, in response to a query about another matter, I got an email back from Jeremy at Electroboard, (our SMARTBoard supplier), in which he passed on the information that an update for the Smart Ideas software was now available to move up to Version 5.

Having discovered how to download the software, (via the Try Now option), I was most impressed to see how fresh and new the interface looked and how some of the problems I had commented on in the older version, (see Not Such a SMART Idea Again????), had been addressed. The only minor whinge, (though I can see their reasoning), is that the clipart is available as a separate download which then needs to be installed later. As I said I can see that doing it this way allows customers to download a "light" version of the basic program over a slower connection. It also means that you are not dragging along clipart, that often won't be needed.

BTW, the aforementioned Jeremy also has a blog, (though I do note he isn't as regular a poster as I try to be :). His Growing SMARTer blog is at

Taking AIM at 2004

After our aborted mis-adventures with using the SMARTBoard to demonstrate how to take an AIM test of last week, I finally found the 2004 version to match the student books we already had. A number of scans later, I had digital image copies of the 2004 test items ready for display. Gathering the grade 3's together it was then a tour through how to best do multiple choice tests.

Displaying the scanned pages in Windows Picture and Fax viewer again we were soon very busy checking through the reading passages to find the answers. The children were also involved coming out to the board to shade the bubbles next to the "correct" answers. There was one minor drawback in this and that was each time we scrolled the page, the shading was lost. I also had to tap the page twice to firstly agree that I didn't want to save the page as an image, and then next to actually scroll the page. This was a minor inconvenience, (especially if a child still had the pen in their hand...... :).

Because we had the correct test, this time through went very smoothly and we finished the test well within the expected time which in itself was a re-assurance to a number of children, (now let's hope they can carry the same dedication to the task into the real test in a week's time.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Curses, Foiled Again Batman..........

Each year in our system, the children in grade's 3 & 5 are subjected to a set of state-wide tests quaintly titled the AIM, (or Achievement Improvement Monitor..... Sounds like some form of strange lizard to me :). As we want to do the best by our children, and given that the AIM format is quite foreign to our students, (it is an optical reader corrected, mainly multiple choice test that requires children to shade bubbles and all that next to the required answer), we give the children that chance to see previous tests so that they know what they are getting into. This obviously requires a lot of photocopying. To address this problem, I had the brainwave of scanning a previous test into digital form and then throwing it up onto the SMART Board to work from there.

After waiting for the lamp on the scanner to warm up, (perhaps a blowtorch might be a alternate option :) I had a copies of the test all ready to go. As they were jpegs I decided just to use the Windows Picture and Fax viewer. This allowed me to zoom as required and then advance through the pages of the test. Having collected another group of grade 3's from the room next door, (and palming off my grade 4's), we sat down to do the test on the board. Alas someone had mixed the tests and to my horror the children's reading books that the test items referred to and which I had dutifully given them were from another year to the test pages that I had scanned. SO MUCH FOR SAVING PAPER !!!!!!!!

Despite this major hiccup, we were able to work through a couple of items that didn't need the reader book enough for me to say that yes, once again the board has been quite adaptable to presenting work in a cost saving way.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Not Such a SMART Idea Again????

One of the joys of teaching is to sometimes have a pre-service teacher in your room getting classroom experience before launching into the career full time. So it is that I had the pleasure of Mrs N's company at the end of last term. As she had a bad case of flu she missed a couple of days and needed to come back to do some work with the children. As a result she chose today.

Her task was to construct a concept map type of reflection on what the students thought about maths. "Aha." I said, "Why not use the board and the SMART Ideas software?" After watching some of the colour drain from her face, (she had barely used the board yet, let alone the software.....), I re-assured Mrs. N I would be there to help. A quick demo and five minutes later the children were in the room, eager to go.

Now of course I should have known better and thought she was making a very valiant attempt Mrs. N soon needed my assistance. After we finally both figured out how to write on the board with the pen and then turn it into text based objects after less than four or more attempts things became a lot smoother. I did notice her general reluctance to write over other entries, (a bit like not making the page too messy), whereas I tend to just compose wherever on the board and then move it to the spot it is needed, (shrinking and modifying on the way). Anyway we soon had a range of ideas and points listed on the board and again the utility of doing it this way soon came into great advantage as Mrs. N and the children moved them easily around to make a well ordered arrangement reflective of their comments on maths.

The question was then raised as to whether we could print the concept map. The answer yes however didn't quite provide the result we were looking for. Despite a little exploration of the menus, we could only print a relatively small, (a slightly smaller than B4 size copy of the map), when we were rather looking for a full A4 page presentation. I know that I could have copied and pasted the map into Word as a picture file and then enlarged it that way but there was not enough time in that session as Mrs. N had to keep moving. (A later quick look through the Help files for SMART Ideas also failed to suggest any other way around the problem.) Suffice to say we also had similar problems with earlier versions of Inspiration software, (though they seem to have solved that one in Version 7).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Now Where Is New York

Here we are back at work and the children are as eager as ever to learn??? (well some of them at least :). The first week back has proceeded pretty much as normal though now I have reclaimed my time release as all other teachers have had their "orientation to the board" session. Each of our other three boards have been mounted over the hols however a mix up with the USB cables has meant that they are not yet operational in the respective rooms just yet. GRRRRRUMBLE !!!!!! (Why is it that the technical assistance is often the most problematic aspect of these sort of implementations?).

Back in room 11 though things have proceeded much more smoothly. This week we had some visitors from the US who were visiting the school for a whole different set of reasons other than checking out the board. The Prin however asked if we wouldn't mind doing our "show and tell" routine which the children were more than happy to oblige with. It is most interesting to see how all are getting very proficient at "working" the board, doing the "wow" things with the SMART Notebook software very efficiently, (writing greetings, converting to text, changing fonts, rotating and resizing etc with professional ease). I just sit back and marvel.

This time they even took the lead and suggested showing our visitors things out of the gallery. A quick browse found the map of North America and our poor visitors had to try to explain where New York was, (which in this case proved a little tricky).

Much less tricky, (but more impressive), was our next "exhibition". This time we showed off one of the great features of the board, the ability to deliver "just in time" immediately relevant experiences. An hour earlier in a class discussion we had been talking about internal combustion engines and valves, (yep these kids are 9-10 year olds). Over recess, I had done a quick Google on "internal combustion" with "Flash animation" and of course come up a page from How Stuff Works, (why did I bother, I should have known that....). Our guests were blown away by the way in which the children were so engaged by the animation and immediately, without prompting drew parallels between this animation and ones viewed previously showing the workings of the heart. One visitor later actually commented on how engaged the whole class was with the experience and how well they were understanding a concept the teacher concerned knew little about.

Later we were to have another group through but time constraints meant they only looked in at the door as we "read" a Flash animated story on the board. I had by that time remembered however a "little" download I had made during the hols. Google Earth proved quite a hit as we zeroed in on New York and then later on Melbourne and Geelong. This is an absolutely fab tool, highly recommended. Also worht downloading, (though only over a very good broadband connection is the 180 Mb NASA World Wind application that delivers even better "realtime" satellite images. HUGE!!!!!!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Conferencing again

Another holiday, another conference. This time it was CONASTA, the Australian Science Teachers' Annual Conference. I had offered to run my session on ICT and Science and once again sought the assitance of Electroboard, (the suppliers of our SMART Board) in providing a board for the presentation. Once again Jeremy came through with excellent service and the session went like a dream. Only one member of the group had seen a board in action, and the others were stunned by the capability and ease of it to deliver information.