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:


SMARTBoard: Use the SMART Recorder to capture a live video recording of your SMARTBoard presenation and then share it with your students!

February 17, 2010

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

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Quick overview: The SMART Recorder is a “screen capture” tool that allows you to record yourself teaching on your SMARTBoard. For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, I use a similar a technique to create the step-by-step video tutorials you see each week. The best part (that I saved for last) is that the SMART Video recorder is really easy to use!

What is required? The SMART Notebook software and a microphone. A video camera is NOT required. A USB drive is recommended for storing the videos.

How can it be used in the classroom: Using the SMARTBoard, you would record yourself teaching a lesson. Anything you write (or say) while teaching on the SMARTBoard is captured by the computer and then automatically packaged into a single video file. You could then provide your students with the video file at the end of class. The students could take home this video file (on a USB drive or sent by e-mail) and watch it as many times as they would like. This approach may be useful for students who have difficulties taking notes and listening at the same time.

What about in an individualized classroom? If you often find yourself explaining the same concepts, why not create a small bank of video tutorials? If your students are receptive to learning with video, you could provide one of these videos to a student (explaining a particular concept) and then circulate around the class to help the others. Once your student is done watching the video file, you would come back and see if anything needs further clarifying.

What do the final videos look like? Here’s an example video (click here to see) that was created by Mark Frost, a math teacher in the Eastern Shores School Board. Mark has created a bank of math videos for students in his individualized classroom using the SMART Recorder. If you’d like to get in contact with Mark Frost and discuss using his videos in your own classroom, please let me know.

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


SMARTBoard: A quick(er) way to download free sound effects to use within SMART Notebook

February 2, 2010

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

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Quick overview: The SoundJay (www.soundjay.com) website contains hundreds of pre-recorded sound effect files that can be downloaded to be used within your SMART Notebook presentations.  Easy and quick.  No registration required!

How can it be used in the classroom? Sounds from this site can be used within the SMART Notebook software so that if your student taps on an image or word, they will hear a specific sound effect played back.  The SoundJay site includes sound categories such as button beeps, background, human, household, machine, mechanical, nature, transportation, music tracks, and more. The sounds on the site are free of charge and royalty free for typical classroom use. For more specific information in regards to the legalities, you may want to read the terms of use on the SoundJay website.

Video Tutorial: For a quick tour of the SoundJay website, I’ve created an on-line video tutorial which can be viewed below:

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How do I insert these sounds into my SMARTBoard presentations? If you’d like to know how to insert these sounds into your SMART Notebook presentations, please refer to my other ICT Blog posting on inserting pre-recorded sounds into your SMART Notebook presentations.

How does this compare to other sound effect websites? For regular readers of my blog, you may recall that I wrote about the Freesound Project website in a previous blog posting. To compare the two websites, the SoundJay website provides the advantage of allowing you to download sound effects WITHOUT having to first setup an account. In addition, sound files on the SoundJay site are all available in MP3 format which are guaranteed work with the SMART Notebook software.  On the flip side, the Freesound Project website allows you to search for specific sounds by keyword and has a much larger library of sounds to choose from. The SoundJay website only allows you to browse by category – no keyword searching allowed!  My advice?  Use both!

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SMARTBoard: Inserting YouTube and digital video files into your SMART Notebook presentations

January 19, 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 convert videos from YouTube or other digital video files (i.e – videos from a digital camera) so that they can be inserted into your SMART Notebook lessons.

How can it be used in the classroom? If you have access to a SMARTBoard in your classroom, you now have an alternative to dragging in a bulky TV with outdated VHS cassettes or DVDs to support your lesson. Instead, why not think about inserting pedagogically relevant digital videos from YouTube (or other sources) directly into your SMART Notebook presentations? These could be videos of current events or clips that best relate to your students’ interests.

What are the advantages to this approach? One of the advantages to embedding videos directly into a SMART Notebook presentation is that you can showcase videos from blocked sites, such as YouTube.  However, even if YouTube isn’t blocked in your centre, you won’t have to worry about finding the video at a later date or if you’ll have a fast enough Internet connection to play back it back smoothly. This is all possible because the embedded videos are stored locally (i.e – not on the Internet) within the Notebook presentation. In addition, digital videos have the potential to be more current that what you’d find on an older DVD or VHS cassette.

ICT Note: At this point in time, the SMART Notebook software only accepts Flash Video files (.FLV) and will not accept any other types of video files. This Blog posting focuses on how to convert video files into .FLV format with the Zamzar website.

Video Tutorial: This video demonstrates how to convert digital videos so that they can be embedded into presentations created with the SMART Notebook software:


SMARTBoard: How to install the SMART Notebook software on your computer at home

November 25, 2009

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 install the SMART Notebook software on your personal computer at home. A SMARTBoard at home is NOT required.

How can it be used in the classroom: A common question I hear is, “How am I supposed to prepare a SMARTBoard lesson at home without an actual SMARTboard?” Well, you can use the SMART Notebook software. This is the same software that runs on the SMARTBoard in your classroom, but it is also available for use on your home computer and doesn’t require a SMARTBoard to operate.

What is the advantage to doing this: SMARTBoard lessons prepared in advance using a combination of the text tool, images, and other interactive elements from the Notebook Gallery, tend to be more polished than those created “on the fly” in front of students. In addition, it also forces teachers to move away from relying only on using the SMARTBoard pens (similar to chalk on a regular blackboard) when presenting a lesson. The true strength of the SMARTBoard is evident when lessons are developed with functions that make them interactive and student driven. Remember, there is more to a SMARTBoard than simply using the pens like a fancy blackboard!

How do I get my lesson on the SMARTBoard at school: Once you’ve completed your lesson at home, you would save your SMART notebook file (.notebook) to a USB thumb drive. Next time you are at the school, you would load it up on your SMARTBoard connected computer in your classroom.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of how to install the SMART Notebook software on your computer at home, please click the large play button below:

Note: The above video tutorial has been fully updated on April 29th, 2010 to reflect the changes on the new SMART website.


SMARTBoard: How to calibrate your SMARTBoard

October 29, 2009

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

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Quick overview: How to ensure that the SMARTBoard accurately registers where you press with your finger or a pen. Beginner technique.

How can it be used in the classroom: As a rule of thumb, I highly recommend that you calibrate your SMARTboard before EACH class.  This quick and easy procedure (literally just a few seconds) will ensure that your SMARTBoard accurately registers where you press with your finger or pen during a presentation. An uncalibrated board will make it difficult for you to move around small objects or manipulate toolbars. A SMARTBoard will become uncalibrated if your digital projector or SMARTBoard is moved even a fraction of a inch!

Video Tutorial: To see a short on-line video of how to calibrate your board, please click the large play button below:

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SMARTBoard: Common problems when preparing SMART Notebook lessons in advance and how to fix them!

October 6, 2009

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

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Quick overview: Common problems encountered when preparing SMARTBoard lessons in advance and how to fix them. Intermediate to advanced techniques.

How can it be used in the classroom: In the 2008-2009 school year, I provided many hands-on SMARTboard workshops.  In these workshops, I began to see a pattern of common problems that frustrated many teachers when preparing lessons on their home or school computers (i.e – not on a SMARTBoard) in advance of their classes. As this is the case, I’ve prepared a small video tutorial to help you avoid the same frustrations. Topics include working with the text tool, layers, lock in place, allow move, and the text splitter tool.

Important notes: As the tips presented in the video are intermediate to advanced, it is primarily intended for teachers who would like to start preparing SMARTBoard lessons at home or for teachers already using the SMARTBoard on a regular basis. If you are not familiar with the SMART Notebook text tool, I would suggest you first consult my earlier ICT blog posting before watching the video below.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of common problems that occur when preparing SMART Notebook presentations, click the large play button below:

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SMARTBoard: Using the text tool with the SMART Notebook software

September 22, 2009

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

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Quick overview: An overview of the SMART Notebook text tool. Basic technique.

How can it be used in the classroom: If you prepare SMART Notebook lessons on a home or school computer without a SMARTBoard connected to it, you should familiarize yourself with the text tool. The text tool is needed when you are preparing your lessons in advance and don’t have access to the physical SMARTBoard pens to create handwritten text in your lessons. The following video also contains some useful tips for math and science teachers using the text tool.

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

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SMARTBoard: An on-line bank of sound effects to use within your SMART Notebook presentations

May 5, 2009

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

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frees-indQuick overview: The FreeSound website contains thousands of pre-recorded sound effect files that can be used within your SMART Notebook presentations. A free account signup is required to download files from the site.

How can it be used in the classroom? The FreeSound website (www.freesound.org) allows you to search for sound effects of animals, nature, household noises, ambiance, vehicles… pretty much whatever you can think of! These sounds can then be used with the SMART Notebook software so that if your student taps on an image or word, they will hear a specific sound effect played back. These sound effect files could also be used with other ICT applications too. Great for language classes!

Copyrights: Please note that the sounds on the site are freely available for download under a Creative Commons license, which you should quickly consult before you start using these sounds in your classroom. (Don’t worry, it’s not a long read!).

Important note: If you’d like to know how to insert these sounds into your SMART Notebook presentations, please refer to my earlier ICT Blog posting on “Inserting pre-recorded sounds into your SMART Notebook presentations“.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video overview of how to create a FreeSound account and get started with the website, click the large play button below:

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SMARTBoard: How to group images or text in your SMART Notebook presentations

March 24, 2009

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

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Quick overview: How to group (i.e – combine together) multiple objects in your SMART Notebook presentations.  Intermediate technique.

How can it be used in the classroom? Let’s say you insert a picture of a house and then write the word “house” underneath it on the SMARTBoard. By default, the SMART Notebook software considers the word “house” and the image of a house as two separate objects. Why could this be problematic? Well, if you or a student tries to tap and move the image of the house on the SMARTBoard, the word “house” underneath it will NOT follow along. By grouping multiple objects together, you can move, resize or rotate them as one single object. (Note: Grouping is a little tricky to explain without actually seeing it in action. If you’re still not still not sure why you’d want to group objects, please watch my video tutorial below!)

Video Tutorial: How do you group objects? To see an on-line video overview of how to group objects in your SMART Notebook presentations, click the large play button below:

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SMARTBoard: Using Layers in your SMART Notebook presentations

February 25, 2009

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

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Quick overview: How to work with “layers” on the SMARTBoard. Intermediate technique.

How can it be used in the classroom? When dragging images or words on the SMARTBoard, you may notice that they do not behave the way you would expect them to. For example, the object you’re dragging may appear “underneath” or “on top” of another object. This may cause your object to either be hidden or cover another important element of your presentation. How do you control the “layering” of objects? Watch my video tutorial to find out..

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video overview of how to work with layers in your SMART Notebook presentations, click the large play button below.

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Special note: In the video, I explain that you can “tap and hold” any object to make a context menu pop-up on the SMARTBoard to control your layering. However, if you are using a computer to prepare your SMART Notebook lessons, the same thing can be accomplished with a click of the “right mouse button” of your mouse.

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SMARTBoard: Using the Magic Eraser to reveal correct answers in your SMART Notebook presentations

January 21, 2009

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

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Quick overview: How to use the “Magic Eraser” technique on the SMARTBoard. Intermediate technique.

How can it be used in the classroom? The Magic Eraser technique allows you or your students to use the SMARTBoard eraser (i.e – the eraser in the pen tray) to reveal hidden text and images within your SMART Notebook lessons, sort of like a lottery scratch card. It’s a great little trick for revealing the correct answers when you’re finished with an activity! How do you use the “Magic Eraser” technique? Watch my video tutorial to find out..

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video overview of how to use the Magic Eraser technique in your SMART Notebook presentations, click the large play button below:

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SMARTBoard: Inserting pre-recorded sounds into your SMART Notebook presentations

December 16, 2008

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

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Quick overview: How to insert a pre-recorded sound into a SMARTBoard presentation.

How can it be used in the classroom? Individual sound files (.MP3, .AIF, or .WAV format) can be inserted into your SMARTBoard presentations. You can link each word (or sentence) to a unique recording of your own voice. When the student taps on the words, they will hear your voice read aloud! This technique works great for language teachers teaching proper pronunciation to their students. If you’d like to know more about how to record your own sound files, please refer to my earlier blog posting on Audacity.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video overview of how to insert sounds into your SMART Notebook presentations, click the large play button below:

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Workshop: An introduction to the SMARTBoard

November 18, 2008

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

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Quick overview: This blog posting is a video excerpt from an Interactive Whiteboards workshop (SMARTBoard) that I provide for General Adult Education teachers. I recommend that you watch this video if you are curious about SMARTBoards or would like to see a basic overview of how to use them.

SMARTBoard Workshop: Topics covered in this video include an overview of the SMARTBoard, using the SMARTBoard to view websites, SMARTBoard tools, and other possibilities of how to use the SMARTBoard in the classroom. The video is a 12 minute excerpt from the Galileo Adult Education Centre that was given on November 6th, 2008.

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video overview of my SMARTBoard basics workshop, click the large play button below:

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