IN THE BEGINNING…
Let me begin where my Learning Project originally began – MOOCs. I first heard about these from my brother who is quite academically inclined and always sharing articles and TED videos with me. When he first tried explaining them to me I thought it sounded like a really interesting idea, but wasn’t exactly sure how this worked. Fast forward a year or so and I’m hearing about MOOCs from Alec in a class devoted to Social Media and Open Education. I thought this seemed like a perfect fit for my Major Digital Project as I am one of those people who would be a student-for-life if it was financially feasible. I immediately went to coursera.org to look at my MOOC options. Having many different areas of interest it didn’t take long for me to find one that felt like a good fit. The class I enrolled in was History of The World Since 1300. This class was through Princeton University, how prestigious! The class claimed to be approximately two hours of lecture each week (manageable). After a few lectures, the recordings started getting lengthier and lengthier. Also, I was not doing the MOOC blog or the assignments and really felt as though I wasn’t taking from the MOOC what I was meant to get out of it, other than some knowledge of the history of the world, which I did enjoy. After six or seven weeks of lectures I decided to abandon ship. However, I do plan on using MOOCs in the future for personal interest, perhaps when I’m not also taking a Master’s class. I did enjoy the format and think there was much more depth to the medium than I was able to digest at the time. I especially liked how it was at your own pace at your own set time.
I have since passed on my knowledge of MOOCs to my dad, who is now participating in a MOOC on economics through Coursera. As I write this last sentence I feel that I should have written a post on my dad and his new found love and addiction to being digitally connected. This might have also been a clever idea for a Learning Project – passing on my Web 2.0 learning to my very keen and retired dad.
FROM ONE LEARNING PROJECT TO ANOTHER…
Having given up on my MOOC, I decided to focus my Learning Project on something that would benefit my learning for this class, my teaching, my students, and my overall technical awareness. Since I knew that sometime this fall I would be graced with a SMARTBoard in my classroom I thought that would be a perfect undertaking. The following are a few pictures I took along my journey.
NOT JUST A PROJECTOR…
The next step in my Learning Project was to teach myself how to utilize this awesome piece of technological equipment to benefit my teaching and my students’ learning. I have to admit, for the first little bit and still more often than not, it is a very handy cart-less projector. I have begun to compile a list of SMART resources that I plan to share with my staff. After the SMARTBoard was installed I also started following some people on Twitter who seemed to be SMARTBoard connoisseurs. One Tuesday evening, I even tried my hand at a Twitter chat – #SMARTEE. The chat was for educators who use SMARTBoards. For the most part they were asking questions that were beyond me, but I introduced myself and was a voyeur for the chat. I enjoyed the experience and will definitely join the chat again sometime. I also started following some new people on Twitter and received some new followers myself.
The first very simple thing I did was a little snowman attendance activity that I found on SMART Exchange. It was already created, but I did have to change the names and this took me ungrouping each image, changing the name and regrouping the image with the name. This was something I was not familiar with. I have inserted a screen shot below of the activity. The reaction of my students was a little apprehension at first, but then they were all enjoying moving their pieces around and making the snowmen. I realize this did not fortify any curricular outcomes, however it did engage the students and it showed them how I am learning and willing to try new things. I believe that in this day and age where students are often quite passive in their home lives we need to find ways to actively engage them in the classroom environment, even if that’s just getting up to do a game or activity on the SMARTBoard. I also know that my students are among the digital generation and are more apt to buy into something if there is a technology component. I found this out when I changed their duo tang journals to Penzu e-journals. I have to think beyond what I enjoyed and related to as a Grade 8 student, but what will encourage their participation and give them some ownership of their learning. Having said that, I don’t believe SMARTBoards are the end-all-be-all to instructional approaches. I think there are lots of great activities and games on SMART Exchange and other such interactive whiteboard sites, but making these interactive resources can be quite time consuming. I’m hoping that I will feel more comfortable and get faster with using the SMART Notebook as I get more experience.
I should also mention that my students have really enjoyed using the SMARTBoard to present PowerPoints and Prezis; they have really taken to Prezi! I have also been more prone to use PowerPoint presentations for introducing assignments and lessons. And I must say that providing notes or filling in tables and graphs on Word and saving them instead of erasing them from the whiteboard after each class brings me great joy. I have also found lots of great resources for ELA on http://www.teacherspayteachers.com that have great zip files that have everything from PDFs, Word docs, PowerPoints, and SMART Notebook components. Slowly but surely I am wading into the SMART waters, but I have yet to take the plunge. I really appreciate the comments and tweets I’ve received from people with suggestions for my SMART Learning Project. Here are just a few of the resources I’ve found and a few of the suggestions I’ve received:
mrsgebauer.com/smartboard.html – This is the goldmine of resources. I found this after finding the others and turns out she has listed a few of them. This is ideally what I would have created; however, since Mrs. Gebauer has already created it, no point in reinventing the wheel and I will give credit where credit is due. This is a hub for interactive whiteboard resources! Once I saw this site I thought it deserved to be at the top of the list. Check it out SMARTBoard users!
SMART PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT…
My SMARTBoard was installed about six weeks ago, but I didn’t receive SMART Training until two weeks ago. In the mean time I had been searching for resources, playing around, and getting a few pointers from my students. I was really looking forward to the training as a more human, face-to-face experience to further my SMARTBoard education. I was hoping to return to the classroom the next day with a greater sense of confidence and maybe a few tricks up my sleeve. I thought for sure I would learn more than I knew. Maybe it was because I was working on this Learning Project, but my expectations were not completely met. Perhaps this was due to the diversity of the teachers at the training. Some teachers didn’t have their SMARTBoards yet, some had them, but didn’t know what they were all about, then there were the “in-betweeners” like myself, and there were a few who perhaps were just there for a refresher. I should mention that I did have one colleague who’s had a SMARTBoard for a couple years give me a rundown on the basics previous to this. I knew how to use the SMART Ink and how to clone and make shapes, etc.
As our school division is doing what seems like a big push to get SMARTBoards in classrooms, they were offering this training. They have also been updating all of the software to SMART Notebook 11. For the training they had updated the software but for some reason the software on some of the laptops was not working properly. I unfortunately chose the wrong laptop; the Gallery Essentials were not working. This prevented me from really doing any creating of my own. I did learn several neat tricks such as:
- Utilizing the screenshade
- Using the magic pen to either spotlight (circle) or zoom-in (square)
- How to screen capture in order to save in SMART Notebook
- Gallery Essentials! Including lesson activity examples
- Locking images, yet still allowing them to move and rotate
- Grouping images
- Linking images to websites or different pages in your Notebook
Also, I had already set up a SMART Exchange account and spent some time looking at the lessons, games and activities that were already created. I found it useful to find out that you could search by your provincial curriculum – by the grade and subject area. I just want to mention quickly here the last link above is a Google search that just looks for interactive whiteboard resources related to the query. When I got home that evening I set up the SMART Notebook software on our computer and went through the short Notebook Training they offered. I found this to be helpful and I learned some additional tips and tricks. I found it interesting how they described the SMARTBoard as “intuitive”. Isn’t that how Mac markets themselves and their products? Perhaps that is the tech word “au courant”? Just by flipping through these slides I added to my repertoire: alignment tool, decorative initials, direct access to SMART Exchange from the toolbar, how to customize your toolbar, how to reset your page, adding sound clips, internet browser within SMART Notebook, and using palm or fist to erase. Have I put these all into practice, no, but I do feel that I have a much better handle on how to function the SMARTBoard and the software. I think one more step in my SMART education would be to spend some time with a teacher who uses the SMARTBoard to it’s full potential and just observe what kinds of things they do with it. I think observing someone create activities and perhaps the way they go about it would benefit me. I also know that I just need to spend some quality time playing around and getting to know the ins and outs. Just as with this blog, over the course of the semester I have come to know its abilities and some of its quirks, which has resulted in my comfort level increasing and my familiarity allowing my apprehension to subside.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE…
Honestly, as of this Friday I will be on maternity leave and will not have access to a SMARTBoard for over a year. However, I did install the SMART Notebook software on my home computer and might play around with it. I look forward to reintroducing myself to the SMARTBoard in the winter of 2015 and really using it to it’s full potential. When it comes to the SMARTBoard I still feel, in the words of Homer Simpson, “S-M-R-T!” I should have taken the time to create a really great activity, game, or lesson from scratch to demonstrate all the learning I have done, but it just did not happen. I really want to create a game that involves a KOOSH ball because I think the students would absolutely love that!
Perhaps while on maternity leave I am hoping to acquire an iPad and would like to learn how to use this in conjunction with the SMARTBoard. I know there is just so much potential. Google Connected Classrooms is something that I want to try using within the classroom. I just think the virtual field trips look amazing and would benefit the students immensely! How cool would it be to be live somewhere around the world, learning from an expert, while sitting in your desk. I can only imagine the endless opportunities for learning we can facilitate for our students that have not been possible before.
I realize that I am NOWHERE near being a social media and open education expert, however I have enjoyed the journey of learning beyond words! It may not be apparent, but I am very aware of the leaps and bounds I have come since starting this class in September. I have even had a few colleagues come to me for assistance and questions, and some students who think I’m very tech savvy (and of course some that think I’m totally not with-it). I am still in my first ten years of teaching and still feel somewhat in touch with my students – my finger on the pulse of how to relate to them. However, I definitely feel more in tune with what is going on in their world as it relates to their digital lives and citizenship thanks to this class. One past comment Alec shared with us on the first day about EC&I 831 was “transformational”; I couldn’t have said it better myself!