So on Thursday I had a crack at constructing my first Smart Table activities using the Smart Table Toolkit, which comes included with the Table (you can download it from here). Obviously, things never run too smoothly, so because the verson of Windows run in the school was not compatible with the Toolkit (you need XP or Vista to be able to install it) I had to take in my laptop, which of course is non-networkable in school. This meant a lot of memory stick back-and-forth action between a school desktop sans Toolkit but with server access and my laptop with the Toolkit but without the server access!!!
Loading up the toolkit, you are presented with the home screen, as seen below:
The Toolkit Home Page
Whilst I created a number of activities, all based on our PE activities, for just now I am going to concentrate on the Hot Spots activity.
For what it’s worth, I think the Hot Spots tool has great potential; in fact, it is an approach I have been hoping would be incorporated into SMART Notebook for a while now. Essentially, what it does is allow you to designate a ‘correct’ position for an object, the pupil’s task being to find the correct position for the object. Since using Jigworks, I have been thinking that such a tool would have great potential in Notebook and could be utilised in a number of different ways, and despite its limitations, the SMART Table version has only increased my belief.
Using a downloadable Shapes activity from the Smart site as an example, here is how you build the activity:
1 – Create your background
2 – Create labels for the objects in their ‘start’ positions
3 – Select ‘Finshing Position’ and drag the labels to their correct positions. When the activity is run, ‘hot spots’ will appear on the background image, and you drag the labels to them. If the correct label is dragged to the correct hotspot it will lock into place and change colour.
Creating the Hot Spots activity was fairly straightforward, once a problem with file types had been sorted (my version of the Toolkit would not recognise jpegs so I had to convert to gifs, although a colleague says they can use jpegs with no problems). The activity is a useful and rewarding one, and the pupils find it an easy task to pick up with minimal guidance and will offer each other assistance.
So why do I mention ‘limitations’? Simply put, most of them are concerned with editability.
1 – While Notebook pages can be exported as images and then brought into the Toolkit, the ability to drag and drop or cut and paste from Notebook would be an excellent additon.
2 – Being able to select the exact point for a Hot Spot, and perhaps the position the label would ‘drop into’ would allow for a bit more precision when creating an activity.
3 – Being able to create ‘batches’ of Hot Spots would allow for some versatility in activities created. For example, a picture could have a number of objects on it and you had to label them ‘animal’ ‘vegetable’ or ‘mineral’ – the stup just now would not allow for such an activity to be created.
4 – From what I can gather, the ability to fix labels and have pictures dragged to Hot Spots is not available, which again would open up a range of activities.
5 – Being able to insert a number of pictures to create a background (without having to create a background in imaging software/Notebook first) would be a great advantage.
6 – For some of our pupils, matching pictures, sounds or colours might be more appropriate than using words. Improved editability in this regards would be most welcome.
7 – In a similar vein, allowing the choice of an outline for each object to be dropped ‘into’ would allow for the same activity to be tailored to pupils at differeing levels of ability.
I’m sure I had a number of other thoughts about this activity, but I’m dashed if I can remember any of them just now. And although it may seem like loads of moaning, I must re-iterate that my suggestions are mostly to do with improving editability and versatility and that I remain convinced by the value of the activity itself. Indeed, I am hopeful that SMART will see fit to incorporate it into Notebook as well as Table software.