You knew this day might eventually come. SMART Boards have infiltrated classrooms across the province. They used to be as rare as the reclusive puma. But now they are as common as the raccoon. And frankly, you might be happier to see a wild racoon in your classroom. After all, you could gently shoo it out the front door. Or send a page for the bravest custodian. At least no one would expect you to facilitate student learning with it!
For better or for worse, the SMART Board sits in your room with its face gaping blankly at you. The charcoal-grey ledge cradles four plastic marker-shapes and a clearly artificial chalk-brush. You thought you’d be happier. Why is it that the thought that keeps running through your mind is Okay, what now?
As you may already know, SMART Boards are a type of interactive white board (IWB). If the breathless exultations of your colleagues are to be believed, IWBs are the greatest classroom advancement since the automatic pencil sharpener.
SMART Boards are a combination of hardware and software. The hardware is the easy part. Think of it as a large, rectangular mouse. With a touch, you can draw, cruise the Internet, and anything else you would normally use a keyboard and a mouse to do.
What about the software? The software, named SMART Notebook, does what other computer programs do (word processor, handwriting recognizer, paint program) and some tasks that are harder to come by (video integration, Internet links, Flash programs). In fact, the enormous number of widgets, tools, and whatnots that come with the program mean that the potential for classroom tasks is limitless.
SMART Technologies Inc. has also created a lesson exchange site called SMART Exchange. You can find it at exchange.smarttech.com. Teachers from across the province (country, world!) have created their own lessons and uploaded them. Using the ready-made templates, you can create lessons, design inventive assessments, or simply interact with the Internet in fresh ways. While writing this article, I logged on to the Exchange and found fabulous lessons on human muscular systems, electricity, reading graphs, and anagrams.
Let’s say that you need an interactive way to take attendance in your primary classroom. Searching the word attendance at the Exchange generates dozens of free resources. There’s one where the students get to pop their name balloon. Another has them click their name-arrow and watch it fly into the St. Valentine’s Day heart. Or perhaps on a hot September day you’d like your students to click their name-popsicle and watch it melt off the stick! All free and ready for your use!