Nestor Gets Its First SmartBoard

Yes… you read that correctly… Nestor finally has its FIRST SMARTBOARD!  and as you might have guessed, it’s in MY CLASSROOM! WOW!

smartboard

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! 🙂

 

 

 

 

21st Century Teacher (Tech) Tools

This blog will actually showcase someone else’s work…
because
Michael Zimmer has done a great job of putting together a publication that explains some useful, current tech tools.  I am familiar with many of the tools, but others are  new to me.  I’m REALLY excited about one of them (Dropbox) because I think it may solve a file transfer issue I have.  Hopefully YOU will find a tech tool that will excite you too!

21st Century Teacher Tools

21st Century Teacher Tools

BTW, the purpose behind this post is to ENTICE YOU to go to Mr. Zimmer’s publication to find out more!  I have gone to the trouble of listing all the tools he discusses so that you might come across one that has intrigued or puzzled you, or perhaps one that you think might enrich your own technology!

Here is a brief synopsis of this information you can explore in depth
at “Tools for the 21st Century“.

TWITTER
Twitter is a social networking tool which has allows educators to quickly share very short comments, valuable links, questions, and helpful answers.  It’s how I found THIS useful resource!

BLOGGING
Blogging is a great way to share your interests online (eg. Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress).  Classroom Blogs provide an interactive way of communicating between school and home, as well as providing a wider audience for student work.

GOOGLE READER
Once you become interested in reading, or hopefully creating, blogs you need a way to organize your favourite blogs and a way to find out when new information becomes available.  RSS feeds bring the updates to you, instead of you having to go searching yourself.

DIIGO
As I mentioned in my last post, social bookmarking is an important tool to organize and share your favourite links.  “Delicious” was one of the leaders, but “Diigo” offers extra features.

GLOGSTER
Glogster
is a “digital poster board”, so you can add images, audio, and video to your creations.  I was inspired when I saw it used  in a teacher website, and my computer club has been trying it out at school, via a “Glogster Education account“.

PREZI
I’ve heard about Prezi from several different sources, but I really need to do more exploring here!  Mr. Zimmer says it is one of his favourite new tools, so it must be good!  He describes it this way: “The best way to describe Prezi is to think of it as 3D Infinite Canvas for creating a presentation.”

DROPBOX
Dropbox offers free online storage for 2GB (think of your flashdrive size).  This is the one I’m going to sign up for right after I finish this blog!!!

EVERNOTE
Evernote is another way of organizing your information.  It can be information that you find on the internet, but it could also be notes you are taking at a conference or something you would jot down on a post-it, a napkin, or the palm of your hand.  There is a free app for using it with your phone too.   Hmmmm…..  this sounds interesting!!!

QUIZLET
Quizlet allows you or your students to create online flash cards.  I just took a peek at it… it looks worth a longer look!!!

WALLWISHER
Wallwisher is like a virtual bulletin board where you can stick your post-it notes, photos, videos etc.  I had heard of this before, but thought “why would I want to do that?”  Mr. Zimmer provides some good reasons!

TITANPAD
TitanPad allows you to collaborate with others in real-time.  Evidently there are several such programs out there, but this is one of the more popular ones.  Each person gets a different colour of type, so you can easily see who is adding information to a document or conversation.

SKYPE
Skype is a hugely popular and  free video conferencing web-based software.  Basically, it allows you to talk to others in real time, just like on the phone, but free!  Lots of people just use it for personal reasons, ie. talking with relatives.

WORDLE
Wordle is a very popular program that allows you to make “word clouds”.  The title page of Mr. Zimmer’s publication is a Wordle.  Basically, it ranks the number of times you use a word in your article (the, and, etc are removed) and then highlights these in larger font.  It’s fun and attractive too!

WEBSITES
There are many ways to create your own (free!) website.  Mr. Zimmer lists his favourites:  Google Sites, Weebly, Wix.

WIKISPACES
Wikispaces is a place to store as well as share information, links, videos, photos, and files.  I have tried out Wikispaces with my grade 5 computer club and want to do more with it.  Mr. Zimmer has created a “Wiki Wednesdays” post to highlight useful wikis he finds.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, MR. ZIMMER!

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your publication and plan to follow up on several suggested programs.

I hope that this blog will inspire others to do the same!