Archive for April, 2013

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What does “interactive” look like in the classroom?  At a recent workshop I conducted,I asked this question to university faculty.  Some of the responses I received were, “children engaged with one another, the teacher, the lesson, and the materials,” and “hands-on learning experiences through large and small groups.”  When interactive whiteboards began finding their ways into schools across the world, educational leaders and teachers believed they would be able to instantly change the culture of learning within their classrooms by making their teaching interactive.  It’s been seven or eight years since IWBs were widely deployed in school, and I’m not sure we’ve really changed that learning culture yet.

A SMART Board was installed in my third grade classroom in 2009, and I was stoked!  I began making these really “interactive” lessons using SMART’s Notebook software and I started a wiki site for teachers to share resources and websites that are good for IWBs.  As I began using the board and these great lessons I had created, I noticed something.  Even though I had objects on the screen the students could touch and manipulate, I was still the one delivering all the instruction, and for the most part, running the lessons.  The students, although definitely more engaged, were still being passive recipients of information.  As I have been observing in more and more classrooms across my district, it’s becoming obvious that many, if not most, teachers are simply using their IWBs as large whiteboards and overhead projectors.

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It is important to remember that there are many types of interactive.  In the classroom, students can interactive with each other, with lesson materials, and with ideas.  In order for IWBs to be truly interactive, we have to make sure that we provide opportunities for all of these types of interactivity within the course of a lesson.  Below I have listed some strategies and activities that will help you get the most out of the your IWB.

1.) Have a designated “Operator” who runs the lesson.

2.) Include Hide and Reveal activities within your lesson, and provide your students with handouts to record these activities.

3.) Use clickers to monitor student comprehension before, during, and after a lesson.

4.) Provide students with the opportunity to discuss in small groups multiple times during a lesson.

5.) Provide students with the opportunity to monitor their own understanding during a lesson.

*Are you using SMART Boards? Notebook software is free as long as your school has a board.  I loaded the software on all the lab computers, and have the students creating lessons.  Talk about interactive!  They loved working with all of the tools and techniques, it gave them the opportunity to show what they know, and allowed them to practice their presentation skills when it came time to deliver their lessons.

Want to learn more about how to get the most out of your SMART Board and Notebook software?  Check out my SMART Notebook Tutorials playlist on my YouTube Channel!

Please leave a comment and share how you are creatively using your SMART Board to increase engagement and interactivity with your students!

Is there such a thing as adult-onset ADD?  If so, I really think I have it.  Working on the computer most of the day, I find that I have an extremely hard time focusing on a task because of all of the information coming into my inbox, across my Twitter feed, or my Google+ account.  I find myself exhausted at the end of the day and all I’ve done is sit at my desk.  Wading through all of the information available to find things useful to me, while trying to balance everything else in life can lead to serious brain overload.

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way because the last few conferences I’ve been to have featured  sessions on staying focused, organized, and dealing with the information onslaught that happens every time you sit down in front of your computer, device, or tv.  I’d like to share with you some of the strategies and resources I’ve found to help you deal with information overload.

Slife: Have you ever sat down at your computer or jumped on your iPad to do something really quickly, then looked at the clock and realize you’ve been there for an hour or more?  Yeah, that happens to me all the time too.  Setting goals and priorities is one of the keys to staying focused.  Slife is a neat little tool that tracks what you’re doing while you’re on your computer.  By tracking your digital movements, you are able to see what you’re really spending time on.  If these activities don’t align with your goals and priorities, you can make adjustments.  You can choose from a limited, free account that only allows you to track activity within applications and on websites, or Plus and Premium accounts that allow you to set up activities, like checking email, then set time goals.  Slife will track these for you and let you know how you’re doing.  Check out all the features of Slife here.

GoalForIt:  Speaking of setting goalswithout setting SMART goals, both short and long term, we’re really setting ourselves up for failure.  What are SMART goals?  They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  GoalForIt is a free website that allows you to set goals, create chores and behavior charts, and to do lists.  GoalForIt will send you emails periodically to remind you of your goals and to allow you to self-check your progress.

OnlineStopWatch and Google Calendar:  Time Management is a major key to staying focused.  If you can give yourself specific time parameters to complete certain tasks, you’ll find you get so much more done during the day.  You can use online tools like the Online Stop-Watch or even your Google Calendar to do this.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent time each morning laying out my day on my Google Calendar.  I get email alerts and dings on my iPad and iPhone when I’m supposed to be doing a certain task.  When my husband and I wrote out a budget rather than winging it each month, it felt like we got raises.  I have found that writing out my days on my calendar has made it seem like I’ve had more time in the day.  Try it!

Gmail:  Another strategy that I have found extremely useful is to set times during the day where I check my email.  I have set a time in the morning and early afternoon to check it.  If it is not time to check email, I make sure I have closed it on my computer.  I also turned off the email alerts on my iPad and iPhone so I’m not tempted to look and see who sent me something.  I just finished a post on setting up filters in your Gmail to control the influx of student emails.  Using filters to control incoming emails from other teachers, blog/website subscriptions, etc. will also serve to keep you organized and avoid that information overload.

My next post, What Is Content Curation and Why Is It Important, focuses on ways to curate and organize all of the digital content that may come your way.



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