My SMART Project


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 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.


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.


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 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: – 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!


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.


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!


My Summary of Learning

I’m not totally sure that this passes as a digital artefact to summarize the most significant aspects of learning in this class, but I wanted to give Prezi a try.  I hope the link works.  I tried to embed some links to videos and my twitter feed, but it’s my first go at a Prezi, so we will see.  I really enjoyed learning how to put this together and add images, such as my Penzu journal, which I had to learn how to take a screenshot first.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the Prezi with writing, but at the same time wanted to explain my key learnings.  I hope it comes across that I wasn’t very aware at the beginning of this course and I still may not be totally tech savvy, but that in relation to where I began I have grown immensely!  Perhaps I should have used the iceberg Prezi format and not the tree since I feel that two thirds of this digital world is still beyond my awareness.

Avoidance, Apprehension and Anxiety

This ECI831 class has opened my eyes to soooo many new ways to use technology to benefit my teaching and also my personal life.  However, some days I feel more disconnected than I did pre-Twitter.  I think it’s because there are so many ways to grow my personal learning network and so many outlets (blog, google+, twitter, etc) that I am struggling to manage all of them.  As of late I have fallen off the twitter-wagon.  A few weeks ago it was my aim to tweet once a day and to keep up with my twitter feed nightly.  This has been a struggle for the last little while.  I am also struggling to blog regularly.  And while I’m being honest I must admit that I rarely use my google+ account nor have I been commenting much on others’ blogs.  For this I need to apologize because I realized tonight, after reading back my previous blog, that the questions I posed were never answered and this is disappointing.  I may be struggling with the parameters of keeping on top of all these new networks, but I am definitely giving them an honest try.  Where I am finding the most benefit is in my classroom.  I am really enjoying trying new tech tools with my students and sharing my learning along the way.  Not only does it engage them because it peeks their digital interest, but it shows them that learning is lifelong.  I realize that when our weekly online class is over I will have to look to Twitter, the Google+ communities, and other bloggers to stay informed about the new trends and tools that are useful for technology in education.

Will I continue my blog?  Will my tweets become even less frequent?  Will the e-tools I’m using now become my comfort zone?  These are all questions I have about my future as a wannabe tech-forward teacher.  I want to continue to progress, but I also want to become proficient at using certain tools before I move on to the “next-best-thing”.  Similarly, I was thinking about the types of adaptations I make within my classroom last week as I was preparing for Student Led Conferences.  I was thinking that there are some I feel very confident in applying and some that I’m not sure I’ve ever put in to action.  My question therefore is whether depth or breadth of teaching knowledge and skills is more important?  My personal opinion is that I will never be an expert in every area, however I would like to have a general idea about everything my job entails, and perhaps more aware of a few certain areas.  Could technology be one of those areas?

In other news, I am going to a SMART board training at my board office!  I am very excited to learn some great ways to utilize this new tool to maximize student engagement and learning.  I will be sure to blog about my learning.  Maybe I should make a top ten list or something.  Whatever I learn, I am looking forward to some face-to-face instruction and hopefully some tried and tested resources.  Until now it has been learning via my students, playing around, and some searching of my own to find how-to’s, activities and tips and tricks.

I will keep you posted…

Right and Left Copy

I’m about to start my students on a new Social Project based on cultures.  I want to begin by explaining them proper sourcing and the difference between right and left copy and how to use each.  Any suggestions?  I’ve never modelled this before and don’t really understand creative commons myself.  I would also love if anyone has any recommendations for cool e-tools or digital ways to help their learning of another culture delve a little deeper I would love to hear them.  

Penzu journals are going really well; the students seem to really enjoy them!  My Vice Principal came in last week to observe one class writing them in the computer lab and he thought it was a really cool tool.  Today, one of my ELA classes entered my room eager to find out if we were doing Penzu today.  The other cool thing about Penzu that I realized last week is that you can get the App on your iphone if you have a classroom account. This makes it possible for me to read my students entries wherever and whenever.  

Today I tried using pechaflickr as a creative writing prompt.  We were talking about main ideas in reading and writing.  The students chose “train travel” as their subject for their writing and that’s what we entered in the search box.  I asked the students to pre-write/brainstorm for this topic as the pictures came up.  From here they will take the details they brainstormed and turn them into a short story.  I will let you know how the stories come out, whether they’re coherent or not.  Either way, my students really enjoyed this way of engaging their imagination.

Lastly, the SMART board learning continues.  I am nowhere near being the efficient, expert in SMART technology that I would like to be, but there is just so much potential!  Next week I am participating in a one day professional development opportunity that my division is offering to SMART board newbies.  However, I want to take my SMART board use beyond the generic.  Anyone out there use an iPad with their SMART board?  I’d love to hear about how you utilize the two collaboratively!  

Pechaflickr, Penzu and SMART all in the same week!

Today was the first day we had students this week and already it has been a big week for me…

My classroom was finally graced with it’s SMART board at the end of last week, but suffered some technical difficulties off the hop so it was basically unusable until today.  It being web-video Wednesday in my class, I finally was freed from the shackles of rolling in the projector cart, unraveling the cords for the internet and power, as well as having the students rearrange their desks to fit the monstrosity into the classroom.  Three cheers for the SMART board!!!  I took some pics, but haven’t had a chance to upload them yet.  Will add those to a future post about my #learningproject.

I would also like to share that I got my students started with their Penzu Classroom journals today.  Goodbye duotangs, hello font options!  I think this will be a fun new way to have students write their journal entries.  However, I may have to go over the expectations and guidelines a little more closely since a couple students wrote one line entries with no punctuation and several text message shorthands.  Their first entry was about their e-habits or digital life; I wanted to know what apps, e-tools and social media they use.  I was surprised at how many students talked about because until a couple of weeks ago I had never heard of it.  This just goes to show that the majority of my students are probably way more digitally advanced than me.  So far the students seem to be engaged and I like that their journal entries are submitted directly to me and they’re not public.  

Lastly, I really enjoyed the guest lecture from Alan Levine, @cogdog, last night!  He gave me so many ideas about digital storytelling that will work so well in my ELA classes.  Already today we tried doing the improvisational story using pechaflickr.  The kids thought it was awesome!  They wanted to continue doing it the entire class.  In case you were wondering, the subject we used was “farming”.  I am planning to use this for some creative writing activities in the future.  

There you have it…  this could be referred to as Web-nesday perhaps 🙂  Corny or catchy???  Overall, it was a big day in my digital evolution and I am looking forward to continuing this journey of moving outside my paper and pencil box.


Quick Commentary

It’s Sunday evening and I’ve been battling a cold all week so I’m going to make this quick.  First of all, I’m still waiting for the smart board 😦  We are having six installed at my school and apparently some of the classrooms need some electrical work before their boards can go in.  My classroom’s installation is therefore on hold until the electrical work of others is done.  We are one step closer though; they came and painted the surface where the smart board will be going!  Also this week I started created a smart board reference for myself and my learning project.  So far I’ve found some great sites with smart board games and activities, as well as some sites that have how to information.  I am really excited to start using my smart board.

Secondly, I really enjoyed our lecture on Tuesday night about Understanding Digital Citizenship.  Last fall the middle school that I teach at in Swift Current actually had Alec come present to our student body about digital citizenship and the idea of their digital footprint.  The message is so powerful, but I think it might be lost on many students.  I remember talking to lots of parents last year about their child’s online activity and many told me their son or daughter wasn’t allowed to have Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.  At the time I was thinking about how this was such a good idea.  However, after this last lecture and upon learning as much as I have in the past few weeks in this class, it’s true that ignorance is not always bliss.  I totally understand that these parents are simply trying to protect their children from the potential negative outcomes of being a digital citizen, but I think education is the key.  Could we not draw similarities between this and teaching our children about other potentially harmful realities (ex: sex and drugs)?  My parents always thought is was better to be open and honest and trust that I was smart enough to make an informed decision.  Should this not be the same with the digital world that we live in now?  I tweeted and was retweeted (8times!!!) about the idea Alec mentioned about citizenship being built on integrity, on and off line.  We need to be teaching kids, as parents and educators, about what integrity means on and off line.  The big question for me is how do we teach kids that anonymity is not a green light for immoral behaviour/comments.  I know I need to do a better job of teaching and modelling how to source and the difference between copyright and copyleft.

Thirdly, I was playing around a little tonight with my word press account and figured out where you can see your blog stats!  Pretty cool how you can see how many views on any given day, as well as a map of where people are viewing from.  Very cool!

I think that’s all for now.  Every week I’m left with a grocery list of websites to check out, articles to read, videos to watch, people to follow, and concepts to research to better my learning and my citizenship.  I am thoroughly enjoying the learning experience.  Two months ago I would never have imaged myself getting so excited about getting multiple retweets and yet, here I am blogging about it.  Please, if you have any Smart board suggestions I would love for you to comment!

Looking for to Tuesday!

Penzu Classroom

Today I signed up for Penzu Classroom.  Note, this is not a free tool.  I had to pay a membership for the year that covers myself and my students.  I’m going to give it a whirl and if I don’t like it there is  a 30 day guarantee.  I really enjoy having my students blog in ELA because I think it gives them a format to express different thoughts and opinions.  Sometimes I prompt their entries, sometimes I show a video and ask a question, and sometimes I just let them free write.  I can’t remember where I came across this tool this fall, but it got me thinking that this could be an interesting way to have them write their journals in a new and possibly more engaging, 2013 way.  The way it works is you set up classrooms, which each get a code.  You give the code to your students and have them sign up for the free Penzu account to which they enter the classroom code.  This links your accounts.  Students are then able to journal and submit their journals directly to their teacher.  I can then grade and comment and it gets returned to them. It is very cool the way it looks just like a pen and paper journal.  I haven’t told my students we are going to switch, so I will keep you posted on how the transition goes and what the reaction is.  I have a couple concerns, the first being that we have two computer labs in our school and they get booked very quickly.  Therefore I may not always have access to the lab when I need/want.  My second concern is that they need an email address to get an account.  I’m not sure that all my students will have an account or more importantly whether I should be asking them to use it.  I immediately thought of the way Alec showed us you can add email addresses to our own by adding  ex. +eci831.  Could someone help me out with this?  Do I have that right?  I was thinking I could set myself up a classroom email and then provide each student with an addition to that email.  Thoughts?  What I really like about this e-journal is that it goes directly to me and is not open to the public.

I think this will benefit my students typing skills as well.  However, I may have to give a few lessons in proper word processing.  Currently I don’t grade their journals on spelling, grammar or punctuation, but will make notes if need be.  I am thinking I might want to add a criteria to my assessment that would encourage them to use capitals, punctuation, and no texting shorthand.