In the Hands of the Students: The SmartBoard and the Digital Notebook

In further developing 21st Century classrooms and learners, it's vital that we move beyond using technology to enhance teacher-led instruction, but rather as tools to assist student-led discovery. In the Hands of the Students is an ongoing series that explores the benefits that occur when students interact and engage with the technology already found in our classrooms and schools.

This week we take a look at The SMARTboard and the Digital Notebook.

I have had the privilege of having a SMARTboard in my classroom for many years. In those years I've tried to experiment with it in a few ways. More importantly, having the kids experiment with it to see what they feel the most comfortable with has proven to be most beneficial in promoting academic success. It's relatively easy ( I think ) to use the SMARTnotebook software on the SMARTboard and teachers that use the SMARTboard are relatively comfortable with simply using the markers and a blank slate. But it's how the students use the SMARTboard that is the real challenge. My administration challenged me to put the technology in the hands of the students, so I gave it a go.

With enough exposure for the students and practicing, here is what you might have students do.
  • Person #1: sits by the computer to make quick adjustments to the document if needed.
  • Person #2: is at the SMARTboard using the pen and its tools
  • Person #3: can do the same as person #2 (SMARTboards are large - perfect for collaborating!)

My students benefited most by seeing a photo of their own work on the SMARTboard, rather than them writing their work by hand on the board. A photo (of their work) can be added into a SMARTnotebook document in a number of ways (upload, use document camera, etc). Once the photo is in the document you can send students up to discuss what they did, how, where, why, etc.

Repeated learning experiences on the SMARTboard, in combination with SMARTnotebook software, resulted in a digital file of accumulated student work. I ended up calling this the Digital Notebook because it became a compilation of all the students learning that they captured and discussed as a journey of learning. Not to mention making this available via PDF or PPT online, allowing students to access this at school and at home.

I have tried the above in my class where students are discussing their own math work after taking a picture through the Document Camera for example.  This has proven to be a successful method for engaging the students in deepening their understanding of their own work and others that they see. What I noticed when walking around the classroom days after these sessions, is students using other students strategies because (a) they could access they Digital Notebook by themselves online, (b) they understood all the notes that were applied to each students work or page of the Digital Notebook and (c) because they were engaged.

Here is are some screen shots of pieces of a digital notebook I have done in the past. It is by no means perfect and I could always use feedback, but it's a place to start. It's a place for your students to start to experiment and play with their work using the SMARTboard.

Even if you feel you may not be capable of running such a classroom, don't worry, see if your keen students are willing to step up and sail the ship for you. This way you can see what kinks need to be ironed out and how well the Digital Notebook and student run SMARTboard could work. At the very least, you're putting the SMARTboard in the hands of the students rather than you standing up there all the time and using the SMARTboard as just another white board surface.

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