Yes… you read that correctly… Nestor finally has its FIRST SMARTBOARD! and as you might have guessed, it’s in MY CLASSROOM! WOW!
First of all, I must extend my most grateful appreciation to the COQUITLAM FOUNDATION for a most generous grant to make this happen. What a wonderful organization… this year they awarded over $100,000 to worthy projects in the district! Throughout the year they tirelessly contact local businesses and philanthropic groups for donations. Then they sift through dozens (hundreds?) of applications to find the projects they feel will benefit the community the most. When I listened to large variety of worthy causes at the Awards Ceremony in Spring, I felt very lucky indeed to have been chosen.
I also have my husband to thank for pushing me forward at at a New Year’s party to talk about my “SmartBoard Wish” with a neighbour who is a Rotary member. That’s what started the ball rolling, and resulted in my letter of application to the Coquitlam Foundation. I almost can’t believe it… but virtually every day someone new stops by my classroom to say “Wow! So that’s a SmartBoard!”
As a VERY new SmartBoard user, I am experiencing a wealth of “ups and downs”. Despite the grant being awarded in Spring, my SmartBoard ended up being installed on the first day of school, Sept. 3. No time to try it out in the holidays, and with the district cut-backs, no chance of a workshop in August. I read a few self-help books like “SmartBoards for Dummies” ahead of time, but they just don’t have much impact until you are actually face-to-face with the “real thing” in your classroom! The first problem I ran into was on the day of installation… fortunately one of the experienced SmartBoard managers dropped by and informed the installers that they had to take it off the wall and re-install it at a lower level to accommodate Primary students. Whew! That was a close one!
I found the month of September very challenging… my family already knows they don’t see much of me then, but with the addition of having to rearrange part of my already “tightly tweaked” classroom and then trying to learn a new technology, I found myself scrabbling between “things I usually prepare” and “things I needed to do differently”. One of the SmartBoard speakers didn’t work, so that was another “glitch”. Additionally, one day a week I work in the Computer Lab giving preps, and unfortunately my new job share partner quit and there was a confusing time as a new partner was found. (Happily, she is a wonderful fit!)
Trying to coordinate the SmartBoard activities with a job-share partner is also a difficult area. I have tried using DropBox to deliver updated files to her but I have to say that in the end we are choosing to use our Nestor generic account as the go-between. (Naturally, we wish to keep our passwords and accounts private.) I can prepare the new calendar, planner pages, theme activities etc. on my own account and then transfer them to the generic account for her. This is also helpful when there is a TOC using my laptop.
My latest “glitch” wasted most of the Thanksgiving weekend! The SmartBoard stopped working at school… first the pens wouldn’t work, and then the interactive media wouldn’t work. I brought home the laptop to try to figure out the problem. I also have the SmartBoard software installed on my home desktop and my home laptop, so I spent the weekend on THREE computers as well as searching for answers on the internet. It was all to no avail. The software wouldn’t work on ANY of the 3 computers. I put in a help request to SmartTech, and what did I find out 2 days later…??? It was all the fault of Adobe Flash! It seems that the latest version 11.9 does NOT WORK WITH SMARTBOARD SOFTWARE! AAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!
So, here I am, in the middle of an October weekend, uninstalling Flash and re-installing a previous version on all 3 computers. (BTW, it turns out that I will have to do the same on all 30 of our Lab Computers because the new Flash doesn’t work with our Raz-Kids program either!) I am also slowly figuring out how to organize my files. *Unfortunately* in the summer I read on the internet that OneNote is much better at organizing SmartBoard files than SmartBoard Notebook, so that’s the way I started. (Usually, indexing, cross-referencing, making folders & files are a favorite activity of mine! I have no idea why!) Getting the two programs to work together, however, has been difficult for a “newbie” at both of them. Then trying to get it to also work for a job-share partner’s account has turned out to be stressful. I’m guessing it will be good in the end, but…. ahhh…. sigh… if ONLY I could have been doing this all in August instead of Term 1 at school!
That’s a lot of “negatives”…. so I should really finish off with the “positives”.
WOW! SmartBoards are sooooo COOL!
The students are getting hands-on practice every morning with our SmartBoard attendance which has delightful themes (put your book in the schoolhouse, leaves on a tree, feathers on a turkey). We are using a “Morning Math” calendar activity that has all the features of my old “wall calendar” and much more. I can display the “Planner Page” that looks just like their “real” planners, and then actually write on it and save it. I downloaded several activities from Smart Exchange for our Math unit on Patterns and Relations which have captivated us all! We tried participating in our first Webinar… too bad they had glitches at their end, but we enjoyed seeing ourselves and recording our voices. We used the internet for some spontaneous learning (what part of the turkey is a caruncle?) as well as viewing our homework (a web scavenger hunt on our own classroom website). Looking at our “little monsters Avatars” on the Class Dojo Behaviour Management website really inspires the students to “arrive on time” and earn a point and “get your homework in on time” or lose a point. Students use the pens for our “Clues and Questions” activity and are delighted when THEY teach ME some new function of the board that I didn’t know! Right now, our activities center on ALL of us learning “how” this SmartBoard works, but as time progresses, the learning will be so much deeper!
Again, a HUGE thank you to the Coquitlam Foundation for making this new technology happen at our school! It is going to be the most amazing of years… and to think that I *almost* started wondering when I might retire! Not now, that’s for sure! 🙂