Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New SMART Board Software is available

SMART has just released SMART Notebook Software version 11! Read an overview of the software’s new features in the SMART EdCompass blog.

If you’re ready to jump on board after reading the article, you might want to time your upgrade carefully. I tried installing the software over our wireless network when most people were out of the building, and it took and hour and a half to download and install. (Notebook wants to uninstall your old software and “start from scratch” with the new version. Plus, it re-installs all the old graphics in the Gallery & Lesson Activity Toolkit along with a bunch of new features.)  My laptop was able to multi-task somewhat during this time, but it was very slow. If you do this on your own, you’ll need to find a time when there’s very little competition for bandwidth in your home or school as well as time when you don’t need to use your computer for quite a while.

That being said, the new features are pretty nice!


The new toolbar (above) arranges familiar buttons in multiple rows and clusters. You can make the more-often-used buttons larger (the height of both rows). Buttons are grouped by Actions (on the left) and Commands (on the right). Clicking a Command button will reveal a set of buttons that let you control the Properties of the Command. For example, click the Pen command and buttons appear that let you select the color, line style, line weight (thickness), etc. Quite handy!

One of my favorite new Commands is the addition of a Crayon tool. This Command turns your pen strokes into digital ink that looks like wax crayon on paper. …And who doesn’t like to color…? Fun!

My favorite new Command is the addition of the SMART Exchange button. This automatically opens SMART Exchange, a warehouse of pre-made lessons and activities you can download and customize for your classroom. It’s a great time-saving resource for busy teachers like you!

imageOn the left side (by default – you can move it over if you wish) you’ll see a new tab with a “puzzle piece” on it. This is the Activity Builder. This new feature helps guide you through the process of making your activity more interactive for your students. I haven’t played with this a lot yet, but it looks promising.

So what else is new? Lots! In addition to a number of smaller enhancements to existing tools, they’ve added an embedded Internet browser, a voice recorder, Google 3-D Warehouse and new activities to the Lesson Activity Toolkit. There’s also a Beta version of the Gallery, which I look forward to exploring soon, too.

Last, users will notice the Gallery has a special listing of Interactive Techniques. These are individual slides that explain to users how to create and use certain interactive techniques that previously would be learned during a formal SMART Training event. These include “Erase-to-Reveal,” “Color-to-Reveal,” “Object Animation,” and “Using Pull-tabs” – handy features for the novice and intermediate users!

If you’re willing to invest the time, the newest SMART Notebook Software (Version 11) could be pretty cool! Read the article to learn more!

9 Ways to Assess Without Standardized Tests

ExamHere is a great article from the Tech and Learning’s T&L Advisor Blog:

9 Ways to Assess without Standardized Tests

Here’s a great quote from the article:

“How do we assess learning in real life?” …Think about it, learning is rarely measured via a test in real life. … The reality is that for most of us, success in life has little to do with how well we can fill in bubbles.

If only our legislators understood that simple fact…

Below are ways the article’s author suggest that we as educators can assess student learning while fostering creativity and expression at the same time.

  • Look at Student Work – There is a simple protocol for looking at student work that will help teachers gauge their effectiveness at meeting standards. Anyone who has been through formal ICE-21 Mentor training knows it. It works.
  • Games – Have students create games – board games, computer games, simulations, etc. – to show their learning. Takes that tired old artsy-craftsy project to the next level, stimulating student creativity and encouraging kids to find ways to have fun with otherwise-boring assessment tasks. It makes kids look at things from different points of view – just writing “the rules” requires lots of higher-order thinking skills.
  • Challenges, Real World Work, Real World Projects, and Real World Accomplishments – Do these really require explanation? Find a real-life “authentic” way to challenge kids to apply their knowledge to something that real people really do every day – for real. It makes learning meaningful. If you can’t find a way to apply your lesson to the way normal people conduct themselves on a daily basis, why are you teaching it in the first place?
  • Badges and Points – Face it – We can all learn a lesson or two from the multi-billion-dollar video game industry. Kids sometimes need both short-term and long-term reinforcement to continue putting forth effort. Earning “points” toward “badges” (like merit badges, etc.) can sometimes be enough for kids. Hey, it worked at Hogwarts… Just make the process of earning your points a little less random and a lot more clear to kids in your classroom at the start of the school year.
  • Personal Success Plans – Kids are unique, and every one of them is capable of growth. Work with them – and the parents, guardians, etc. – to develop and understanding of where each kid starts in your class, where they need to go, and develop a reasonable and achievable path to get there.
  • ePortfolios – This concept has been around for a long time, but some Districts are just now developing the capacity to pull it off. Use commonly available tools to record milestones in students educational experience electronically to demonstrate growth and document achievements.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How To Do Research

Here’s a nice interactive graphic showing kids how to conduct research, from the Kentucky Virtual Library.


This would be a great way to either set up and teach the research method, or have on-hand in the form of a Favorite or Bookmark for student reference when they get stuck and want to ask that dreaded question, “So NOW what am I supposed to do.?”

The home base is set up like a board game and takes kids on a step-by-step tour of how to conduct research. Students can click on the individual colored sections in each of the 5 major steps to learn more about each. The pages devoted to these individual sections tell students more about the resource, how to evaluate and use them if appropriate to their project or paper, and even what type of output they might select to share their new-found knowledge. There’s even a glossary of terms to help explain this strange new language you call “research.”

I learned about this excellent resource from iLearn Technology.

Earth Day Resources

Earth Day is coming up! Here’s a link to my favorite clearinghouse of educational resources, Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day – The Best Earth Day Sites


April Issue of SMART’s EdCompass is online

imageThe April issue of SMART’s EdCompass newsletter is now available online. You can view it in a browser or download the PDF to read as your busy schedule allows.



littleBits for little engineers

Here’s a great idea for the budding engineer in your elementary or middle grades classroom!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Free Common Core Lessons

From  http://www.lenovodreamtodo.com/teachersmaterial   

Lenovo recently conducted its "Dream To Do Contest" in which it collected a number of teaching materials related to the National Common Core State Standards. The result of their contest is a nice collection of NCCSS-aligned lesson plans and materials for teachers in grades K-8. It's worth a look!

Thanks to Vicki Davis for the tip!

Friday, April 13, 2012

NBPTS Candidate Fee Waivers due May 15!

From http://nbrc.illinoisstate.edu/
According to the folks I've spoken with, the National Board Certification process is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in one's professional career. True, it is a big commitment of one's time and resources, but the rewards are innumerable! In addition, studies show that students of National Board-certified teachers make significant gains on state testing AND increase their use of higher-order thinking skills that will serve them well later in life.

Currently, Illinois ranks sixth in the nation for the total number of National Board Certified Teachers. In Illinois, this is the only way to achieve 10-year Master Teacher Certification. And, with new teacher evaluation procedures on the horizon, it's a great way to get prepared for whatever "the next big thing" turns out to be!

Additionally, this year the State of Illinois will pay $2,000 toward the total cost of candidacy ($2,565). Their funding is limited, so it's time to visit their Web site to find out more and apply early! Fee waiver requests are due May 15!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Flexible Displays Not Far Off

Interesting USA Today article about the future of display hardware. Makes me wonder what the classrooms of the future might look like!


School Policy Meets First Amendment

Interesting story on school social media policies, from Minnesota Public Radio: You be the judge...


Read the latest post!

"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from pixabay.com After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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