Going Beyond the Tools!

September 5, 2014

Welcome back everyone! I hope you had a great summer. I’m excited to announce that Avi Spector’s ICT Blog is evolving into something a little different this school year. In the spring of 2008, Avi Spector’s ICT blog was started to collect and share web-based tools that could be used in our classrooms. It’s hard to believe that just six years ago smartphones were rare in the classroom, and apps and tablets didn’t even exist. Technology integration mainly involved using interactive websites to supplement teaching materials and there was lots of buzz around our new SMARTBoards. As such, a big part of my job was visiting FGA centres to provide one-size-fits-all technology demos to large groups of teachers.

Over time, I discovered that focusing solely a tool was not necessarily the best approach. Many workshop participants had trouble applying the tool in their own classroom environment, and therefore, they did not use it. As I got closer to the teachers I moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach and began working more collaboratively with teachers and smaller groups to come up with individualized solutions. We now start by first looking at the learning objective(s), rather than designing a lesson or learning situation around a particular tool.

This is the motivation behind my new website, Beyond the Tools. I want to help teachers move beyond the tools and work together to share our best practices in regards to technology integration. Rather than simply providing information about an app or tool, I will be focusing instead on sharing stories of successful projects and connecting teachers with similar goals.

I’ve also ported over my full history of app suggestions, interactive whiteboard content, and web tool suggestions from my old ICT blog. These may come in handy as you brainstorm about projects and look at what you would like to accomplish in the classroom. These all can be found at my new site at www.beyondthetools.com.

As many of our schools have opened their wifi networks to students, a lot of us now find ourselves teaching in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom. Students might be experts at using their own devices but often still need a teacher’s guidance in knowing how and when to use their technology for learning. How can we help our students with information literacy skills (critical thinking, search strategies, copyrights) and safe on-line behavior? How can concepts like the Flipped Classroom and Gamification help in a BYOD classroom?

These are just a few of the topics I’d like to address on the new site. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. I’m also interested in hearing about you and showcasing your projects on Beyond The Tools for others to see and learn from throughout the year. Be sure to check my “speaking and events” section for upcoming events and links to resources from past workshops. See you around!

Note: If you’re already subscribed to Avi Spector’s ICT Blog by e-mail, I will automatically move over your e-mail subscription to Beyond the Tools. Nothing needs to be done on your part.


Consider this: Advantages and limitations of Interactive Whiteboards

April 19, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

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Quick overview: An interactive white board (i.e. – SMARTBoard) can do wonders for your classroom but can be detrimental if used improperly. This post provides an overview of the advantages and limitations of this technology.

What is this post about? This post is a little different from what we normally post up on the blog. Instead of providing you with a new ICT suggestion this week, we’d like to step back and analyze an ICT tool that many of you may be already using in your classroom – the Interactive White Board. Do you have one in your classroom? Is your center or school considering acquiring one or several? It’s a wonderful tool, but like every tool it can be used poorly and hinder rather than help in what we’re trying to achieve. The following Sliderocket presentation is from our colleague Marc-André Lalande, who runs the RECIT FGA r.u.a.ware website, which you should definitely check out when you’re done reading this post. (Source: Marc-André Lalande, RECIT Provincial Service)

Feedback: Comments? Thoughts? We really want to hear what you have to say! Please feel free to leave your comments on our blog with the “leave a comment” link below this post.


SMARTBoard: A web based version of the SMART Notebook software

October 26, 2010

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

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Quick overview: A web based version of the SMART Notebook software. Now you or your students can open Notebook lessons on ANY computer with a web browser and an Internet connection!

How can this be used in the classroom: The SMART Express website (express.smarttech.com) is a simplified on-line version of the SMART Notebook software. It’s similar to the SMART Notebook software that you are already familiar with, but it can be accessed on any computer with a web browser. You can use it to open previously created SMART Notebook lessons, or even create simple new ones. This site works great when you want your students to open up a copy of your lesson on their computers at home or if you need to have access to the SMART Notebook software in a pinch. That all being said, please keep in mind that the SMART Express website is not meant to replace the SMART Notebook software you already have installed on your school or home computer. Currently, many features and tools are missing from the SMART Express website when compared to the SMART Notebook software. Regardless, it’s still worth checking out!

Legal: An added bonus is that the SMART Express website can be used on other products (Tablet PCs, other Interactive Whiteboards, touch enabled projection systems, etc..) that you are not normally allowed to use the SMART Notebook software on. Please read this official PDF document for more information. (Source: ISTE 2010 Conference)

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of how to use the SMART Express website, please click the large play button below:


SMARTBoard: How to share your SMART Notebook presentations with your students (as a PDF file)

April 27, 2010

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

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Quick overview: A step-by-step video tutorial on how to export your classroom SMART Notebook presentation as a PDF file. This allows your students to open your presentation on their home computers, even if they don’t have the SMART Notebook software installed.

How does it work? By default, a SMART Notebook presentation is saved as a “.notebook” file. This type of file requires that you have the SMART Notebook software installed on your computer in order to re-open it. If you do not have the SMART Notebook software on your computer, it simply will not open. That being said, most of our students do not have the SMART Notebook software installed on their home computers and will be unable to open your presentation if you decide to share it with them. In order to share your SMART Notebook presentations with ALL your students, you need to export it as a PDF file.

How can this be used in the classroom: This technique is most useful when you use your SMARTBoard as a virtual blackboard by writing with the pens during your class. For example, a record of everything you write on the SMARTBoard could be given to your students as a PDF file at the end of class. The students can then review your handwritten notes on their own computer screens or print it on paper when studying for a quiz or exam. Here is an example of what an exported PDF file looks like from a Notebook presentation. (Thanks to Chantal Bellon, Eastern Quebec Learning Centre, CQSB, for suggesting this ICT tip)

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of how to save and export your SMART Notebook presentation as a PDF file, please click the large play button below:

Advanced ICT Tip: Want to get really fancy? You can even embed additional attachments to your PDF file, such as a supplementary Word or Excel file. Open this example and click on the small paper clip icon next to the words “first derivative test” on the second page. You’ll notice there is a Word document attached that you can open up. If you’d like to know how to do this, please contact me.


SMARTBoard: The SMART Exchange website allows you to search and download complete SMART Notebook lessons!

April 7, 2010

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

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Quick overview: A great website that allows you to search or browse for free and “ready-to-use” SMART Notebook presentations created by other teachers. This site is maintained by SMART Technologies, the manufacturer of the SMART Board. Hundreds of lessons are available, including FSL and Canadian content. Easy to use.

How can I use it in the classroom? While I always think it’s best to create your own SMART Notebook lessons (i.e. tailored to your students) sometimes we simply don’t have enough time to do so. On other occasions, another teacher may have already done an excellent job creating lesson for a topic that you were planning to cover. If so, why re-invent the wheel? The best way to use this site is to download and look over these presentations in advance of your actual lesson – I can’t emphasize this enough! If you find a lesson that’s interesting, I highly recommend give it a dry run on your SMARTBoard without any of your students present. This way you’ll know where to click and which parts of the presentation are most relevant. Teachers can also give back to the SMART Exchange by uploading their own lessons to the site. In regards to specific questions about legalities, I suggest you consult the FAQ section or Terms of Use on the SMART Exchange site.

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to search, browse, and download lessons from the SMART Exchange, please click the large play button below:


SMARTBoard: Using the Magic Pen Tool with the SMART Notebook software

March 23, 2010

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

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Quick overview: An overview of the Magic Pen tool found in the SMART Notebook software. Basic technique.

How can it be used in the classroom: The Magic Pen tool can be used in three ways. If you draw a circle with the Magic Pen, it will create a “spotlight” effect to highlight information on the screen. If you draw a rectangular shape with the Magic Pen, it will magnify selected areas of the screen. Lastly, if you use the Magic Pen to draw freehand, the ink will act as “disappearing ink” and fade away after a few seconds.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of how to use the Magic Pen Tool, please click the large play button below:


SMARTBoard: How to create “links” in your SMART Notebook presentations

March 10, 2010

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

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Quick overview: A step-by-step video tutorial on how to create links in a SMART Notebook presentation. Links can be to websites, external documents (i.e. – Word, Powerpoint, PDF) or other slides within the SMART Notebook presentation.

How can this be used in the classroom? If there are a number of interesting websites you plan on showcasing during class, you can setup a SMART Notebook presentation in advance so that if you tap on a particular image or piece of text in your Notebook presentation, a web browser will automatically open and go to the link.  In addition, if you are a teacher who likes to showcase Word, PDF, Excel, or PowerPoint documents to your class, linking to external documents from your Notebook presentation is a useful technique to help keep things organized and all in one place when you are presenting.  In other words, no longer would you have to stop what you’re doing and search for individual files on a USB drive or hard disk to show them to your class. Any relevant documents you need for your presentation can be permanently “embedded” into your SMART Notebook presentation.  After you create a link, you would simply need to tap on an image or text in your Notebook presentation to launch the external document!

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of how to create links on the SMART Notebook software, please click the large play button below:


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