SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Calgary here I come!
Apr 4th, 2014 by H-Blog

So, it’s been a while since I posted, but I had some really exciting news today and thought this would be a good place to break it, as well as a good reason to get me writing again.

If you work with me, follow me on Twitter or are unfortunate enough to be one of my Facebook friends, then you will have been getting plagued for about the last fortnight to vote for a video I created telling people about “My SMART moment”. This was part of the application process for the 2014 Global SMART Exemplary Educator Summit in Calgary this summer – from July 19th to 26th. Sorry you had to put up with it, and thanks to anyone who watched the video, voted, harassed anyone else into voting, thought about voting or liked, RTd or shared. 

Although I never got enough votes to snag myself an automatic space (some of those other SMARTees had thousands of votes!) between my video, the votes cast and my application form I must have done enough to impress someone on the panel, because I received an email today telling me that I had been selected to attend!

I’m delighted and excited, and looking forward to meeting educators from around the world, learning loads and possibly getting a sneak peek at the new technologies that SMART are developing.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you all about it on here, but that’s in the future. For now, here’s some flag mashups I created using Notebook (obviously!) to celebrate! Which is your favourite? 

 

Looking into concept mapping
Jan 22nd, 2013 by H-Blog

I’d been asked by my Head Teacher to see what my network had to say about concept mapping. A few shouts on Twitter and some retweets from the pedagoo crew got me a pile of responses, so thanks to Kenny Pieper, Fearghal Kelly, Drew Burrett, Sinclair Mackenzie, Alan Stewart, Samantha Williams, Malcolm Wilson and Allan Reid for all their help.

So, what did I find?

A pile of stuff actually. On the free side, as well as being pointed towards bubbl.us which I have used before, I was also given links to FutureLabs exploratree and the quite interesting text2mindmap whilst Google suggested I take a look at Simple Mapper and I also stumbled across the Seeing Reason Tool from Intel.  Commercial resources mentioned included  SMART’s SMART Ideas, Mindomo, MindMeister and creately (most of which have free versions with limited functionality). Alan sent an address for a Livebinder which as well as having most of these links and a pile of others, also reminded me how useful LiveBinder could be.

So, job done then?

Sadly not. Over and above the resources themselves, I’d been hoping to find examples from people who are working with concept mapping already, and nobody seemed to have anything to share on this point. We’d also been quite hopeful of finding someone who might be able to deliver some training on the effective use of concept mapping, and whilst I had noticed that iansyst had a mention of concept mapping training on their site, I could find little else.

So, that’s where things stand just now. But I’ll keep looking and listening and see if I can find out anything else!      

 

IWBs – the eternal battle continues….
Jun 8th, 2011 by H-Blog

Last week, I read this interesting blog post from Kevin McLaughlin Entitled “Switching off the interactive whiteboard for good”. It revisited the argument that IWBs have been a huge waste of taxpayers money, and should be replaced with alternative technologies. The post generated a large number of comments, and even caused Kevin to go over his bandwidth allocation, reminding me of an earlier IWB-related post to this blog, which remains to this day my most commented upon blog post ever! Matthew Pearson then posted a robust defence of IWBs, which again provoked debate in the comments and on Twitter – including the (rather amusing) retitling of Matt’s post as “Interactive Whiteboards Are Awesome, It’s Just People That Suck”.

Whilst I find myself agreeing with some of the concerns other educators may have about the (over?) hasty roll out of IWBs in UK schools, and have no issue with their listing of alternative tools that they could have spent the money used to purchase IWBs on, I feel that this is a different debate to the one that they say they are having. If people want to have a theoretical, philosophical or even ideological debate about whether there should have been such hefty investment to put IWB hardware into UK schools, then I am quite happy to sit back and listen to that debate – I might even bring popcorn. My own views on that issue are not fully developed and probably rather ill-informed, and I think I could probably learn quite a lot from sitting back and listening to people who do know what they are talking about debating it.

However.

That is not the debate that people are having, although it seems to be the debate that they think they are meant to be having. The money for the IWB hardware has been spent, and the hardware is hanging on a wall, being wheeled round on a stand or carried round in a bag. At this point, whether such large investments should have been made or not becomes irrelevant, or at the very least stops being part of this debate and becomes part of the other debate described above. From a pragmatic point of view at least, where the investment came from for the boards or if it should have done so or not doesn’t matter one iota. The boards are here, so should we be learning to use them more effectively or turning them off for good as Kevin suggests?

Having read both his post and Matthew’s as well as the accompanying comments on both blogs, I find it hard to reach the same conclusions that are being drawn by many of the people involved regarding the use of IWBs in classrooms – namely that they have no future in classrooms, have had no impact on attainment and should be turned off for good to be replaced by a ‘better’ way of doing things, using different technology. Apart from anything else, the logic behind this argument is flawed – the money that has been spent on IWBs is gone, we cannot go back in time and ‘unspend’ it and choose something else instead. And even if we could, should we? Kevin mentions in his post that

Occasionally you will meet those in teaching who use their boards as an interactive learning tool, creating content that engages their class. But this is not the norm

Surely then what we are saying here is that a tool has been provided with which teachers are able to create engaging content for their classes, and that they are simply not doing so? Why, therefore, should taxpayers be willing to provide these same teachers with a different tool? A blanket rollout of IWBs has not worked, why would a blanket rollout of iPads or slates or netbooks fare any differently? From a purely financial point of view, it makes no sense. Why waste – and let’s make no mistake here, that is what we are talking about – a perfectly good resource? Surely you owe it to your pupils to find ways to make good use of  all the available resources, including IWBs? Looking at the comments made by pupils in Kevin’s post (the ones used as a reason for ditching the IWBs), it strikes me that they are not criticisms of the IWBs themselves as much as criticisms of how teachers are using the boards, so surely just finding better ways to use the IWBs is the answer?

And there are better ways to use IWBs. Bill Ferriter argued in a comment on my previous post  that it is not necessary to buy an IWB to achieve some of them, and that is true as far as it goes. But here’s the point – if the board and the accompanying software has already been bought and provided for you, why would you want to use something else to achieve the same aims? And perhaps more importantly, if the hardware and software had been provided for you, why aren’t you using them? If you have a pedagogical reason, then I’m going to be okay with that, but if it’s because you don’t know how to use them? Shouldn’t you be finding out? And to suggest you want to replace the IWB with a new piece of technology instead?  If a maths scheme or a set of books had been bought and the teachers were not using them to best effect, would the answer be to buy a new maths scheme or different books? Of course not – the answer would be to provide training for the teachers so that they can utilise the tools and equipment they have to best effect.

And so it is with IWBs. Teachers need to be given the opportunity to see and show what IWBs are capable of, and perhaps more importantly need to be given time to generate ideas and content that are relevant and useful in their classrooms. Having been working in a school which uses SMART Boards, I know for a fact that SMART are very good in this regard, having trainers who can come to your school and help deliver training for your staff and answer questions that are directly related to the resources they are wanting to make. As far as I am aware, there is no cost to the school involved for this above the purchase of equipment. There is also no cost involved in downloading Notebook to your computer at home to create resources there, providing you have your SMART product key. SMART also run content creation seminars, where teachers who know a trick or eight using Notebook will create content that can be tailored to (in our case) the Scottish curriculum and made available on their website to download for free.

In these times of shrinking budgets and cost-cutting, it seems to me that these services would make a lot of sense to schools that were trying to find savings. The equipment is already there – we’ve all seen it hanging on walls, often not being used properly (or at all?). The expertise is there – you only have to look around classrooms, trade shows or the internet to see that. Perhaps it is the inclination that is missing – the drive to share and the willingness to allow yourself be shared with?

But there are signs that things are changing. The increasing popularity of TeachMeets and similar CPD events where educators are learning from other educators is encouraging, as is the continued activity in CPDMeets. Perhaps if there were opportunities to learn from colleagues who were already using IWBs effectively (TeachMeet IWB anyone?), and perhaps the chance to work collaboratively on resources that enabled the IWB to be used as was intended  – interactively with engaging content – then the desire to rip out all the IWBs and throw the on the scrapheap would be somewhat lessened? After all, just because they shouldn’t be used for everything doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used for anything…..

Interactive White Boards – the source of all known evil?
Feb 21st, 2010 by H-Blog

The other week, in the middle of some severe essay trauma, a tweet from the inspirational Neil Winton of Perth Academy came floating by in my Twitter feed (I had Brizzly running in a background window, and was clicking in and out of it to give myself a wee break from writing. Or to distract myself from writing, whichever you prefer). One of Neil’s tweets catching my eye is nothing unusual, but this one really grabbed my attention.

Neil's IWB tweet

Strong words indeed. But a viewpoint that appears to be shared by an apparently increasing amount of educators – I have personally spoken to a sizeable number of teachers who have no interest in and no time for Interactive White Boards, or anything connected to them. In fact, at times it appears to go beyond having no interest – there appears to be a genuine animosity towards IWBs from some quarters that can at times border on the evangelical. On the other hand, of course, there are a number of teachers who appear to believe that Interactive White Boards are the saviours of the universe, and the one true path to cosmic enlightenment.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between?

Now, I think it’s only fair to make two confessions up front, namely that:

1) I have a fairly positive attitude towards IWBs, and have been known to leap quickly to their defence if I feel they are being unfairly maligned.

2) My personal experience using IWBs is exclusively limited to SMART Boards

Following the link in Neil’s tweet I found myself on a blog that I’d never seen or heard of before – intriguingly titled “The Tempered Radical”. The post in question was entitled “Wasting Money on Whiteboards…” and I started reading with a ready-to-be-offended attitude. The blogger, Bill Ferriter, started off by telling us how he had ‘given away’ his board as he had found it ‘basically useless’. However, the majority of his post – and indeed the comments following it – seemed less inflammatory and fairly well-reasoned (Bill also followed up his original post both here and here. Well worth a read, if you get a chance). I think, however, that the target of Bill’s self-confessed rant, as well as that of many of the critical comments in response to his article, was misplaced.

In the main, both Bill’s post and the comments it generated had major issues with what we might call blanket rollouts – that is to say schools or local authorities (districts) that decide to install a specific number of IWBs into schools and classrooms regardless of whether they are wanted or what impact they might have on the learning and teaching there. As well as the actual costs involved, Bill points to the opportunity costs – what could have been purchased with the same amount of money. Whilst these are valid points, surely they have nothing to do with IWB technology itself, but rather are to do with how our schools are being funded and administered? My own school uses SMART Boards, which has proven to be problematic as we are part of a “Promethean authority”, that is to say that all the schools within our authority are meant to use Promethean IWBs rather than any other brand. A decision has been taken somewhere, using some kind of criteria that is perhaps not educationally based (would it be fair to assume that cost might come into it?) that every school in our authority then has to accept, regardless of what they feel is best for them educationally speaking. Surely this is  – to use Neil’s words – counter to CfE? That is perhaps a rather large discussion, and should be saved for another time and place.

Reading the reactions to Bill’s post, as well as the Twitter Edchat about IWBs he mentioned in his post, it was interesting to see that a number of people were responding with the tech-neutral position that I was inclined to adopt myself. That is to say that IWBs (or indeed any technology, technique or tool used while teaching) is not in itself either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, rather it is how the teacher goes about using it that causes it to ‘become so’. In the case of IWBs, when I first saw one, it was being used purely as a large monitor with regular Microsoft applications, which could be touch controlled as well as mouse controlled. Not exactly the epitome of interacivity, yet some teachers were making very good use of it just like that. The next time I encountered an IWB it was being used as a large touch screen monitor, but for more web-based bespoke learning and teaching applications, and once more some teachers were making a very good use of it. My own personal use of an IWB in the classroom started during my probationary year, and tended to follow the large touch screen monitor approach spoken about above. Occasionally, we would use the IWB to write on but that was about as far as it went.

So, to review. Valuable as a teaching tool? At times, and for some teachers/students. Embedded in classroom practice? Again, perhaps for some teachers/classes, but only in limited ways. Worth the money? Hmmmmmm. Doubtful. I remained to be covinced as to exactly how useful a tool these IWBs were.

And then I started working in the school I’m in now.

Talk about an eye opener. On my very first visit, I saw more being done with their SMART Boards than I ever had before. When I started my job, I got to see a number of different teachers in a number of different classes using their SMART Boards. All sorts of weird and wonderful things were happening, and the children were all so engaged. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and even asked them what software or application it was that they were using, and how much it had cost. They just looked at me like I was stupid.

“SMART Notebook. It comes with the board.”

I couldn’t believe it. The same software that I had only ever used if I was looking to write something on my IWB, and you should have seen the things that it could do. And for children with a huge range of additional support needs. Children who just couldn’t make the conceptual leap between clicking a button or pushing a switch and something happening on a screen were able to make that connection because they could touch the screen and cause the reaction that happened on it.  Notebook activities could be highly personalised for individual classes or even pupils, using text, sound, video, animation or web content all from one ‘document’. And the pupils were driving the IWB activities forward too “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this, or that?”.

I began pottering with Notebook myself, and by now have achieved (I hope!) some level of competence with it. During this time I have used my SMART Board and Notebook software to deliver learning activities across all curricular areas. I have used it to collaborate with other teachers and other classes, and have even helped pupils use it to work together. I have used Notebook to administer moderations for SQA Access 1 and 2 units, as well as using the built-in recording function to create a video record of the moderation that can be used as evidence. I have created content that utilises the SMART Response ‘clicker’ system (formerly Senteo) to collect and analyse data, and have helped our Pupil Council start using this technology to cast their votes anonymously.

Now, the question behind this is why have I used Notebook to do all these things? Firstly, because Notebook is easy to use. Once you learn to use it (and I mostly taught myself) it is intuitive, quick, easy and versatile. And I still feel like I’m only starting to get to grips with it, especially as it continues to develop. Secondly, ease of access – it is on virtually every computer in our school, and is available to download for use at home for SMART Board users (a product key is provided for this purpose). Thirdly, and probably most importantly, is because the pupils I work with absolutely love working on the SMART Board. They find it hugely engaging, and are far more willing to ‘have a go’ on the SMART Board than they are on a more traditional paper-based jotter or worksheet task. Does this mean that the SMART Board is the only teaching tool I use? Of course it doesn’t, and neither does it mean I would keep using it if it didn’t meet the needs of my pupils (for instance, I found another way to deliver a set of activities that had been planned using SMART Response last year as the class were unable to make the connection between the clickers and the board, and also found the interfaces too confusing). And if they took the SMART Board away tomorrow I would still be able to teach. But that’s hardly the point – I would have to be a fool not to take advantage of such enthusiasm from the pupils wherever I found it.

Now, you may have noticed that I have answered a question about IWB hardware by referring to IWB software. This was no mistake, and I make no apologies for it, because I truly believe that the software, its functionality and what it enables us to do with the IWB are at the heart of the debate about the role that the IWB has to play in the modern classroom.  Back on Twitter, someone else summed it up in a far more elegant way than I could ever have managed.

rachelala's tweets about IWBs

I think that sums it up in a nutshell. When it comes right down to it, the IWB will make no difference in class on its own, whether it’s in one room, ten rooms or every room in a school/district/country.  It is, after all, just a tool, and the impact of any tool on learning and teaching comes down to how it is used.  Whilst I have had the privilege to witness some absolutely fantastic work being done with SMART Boards both within and outwith my school, and have also been lucky enough to take part in a Content Creation Seminar with some extremely talented colleagues from across Scotland, I have also witnessed some work where the IWB has added nothing to an activity, and indeed in extreme cases where it seems to be getting used in an almost tokenistic, gimmicky manner.  The IWB is not to be blamed for the second observation any more than it should be credited for the first – each teacher, each class, each pupil, each situation will call for a different approach and it is up to the skilled and professional educator to adjudge best what that approach should be. Solutions should not be ‘forced’ upon a practitioner, pupil or school any more than they should be withheld from them.

Finally, then, we come to my response to Neil’s original tweet and Bill’s original post, and it’s quite simple. Don’t blame the board. IWBs are only a tool, and it is us who make them what they are and not the other way round. IWBs will neither entrench nor challenge traditional orthodoxies, it is up to each one of us to do that, and to decide how to deal with the technological hand we have been dealt to our pupils’ best advantage. To use one of my favourite quotes from a wise man: “It’s not about the tech, it’s about the teAch…”

Gaming Design with 2DIY
Jan 25th, 2010 by H-Blog

Last week I introduced the class to the excellent 2DIY from 2Simple software, and they all made themselves a game, with support. I am hopeful that now they have been through the process once, we will be able to fade the support and see what they are capable of on their own.

I had tried to drop all the games into SMART Notebook so we could share them and display them all from one place, but although the games displayed alright, the controls didn’t work. I sent out an SOS to Anthony Evans at 2Simple, and he has kicked it around for a while with no joy finally concluding it might be a Notebook issue. I’ll forward that to my friends at SMART, but in the meantime Anthony suggested they could be displayed on a blog, much like Cleveland Junior School have done here. I must admit, I like the thematic idea, with Pirate Pete adventuring his way through a number of different games.

So I thought I would try and drop one of the class games here and see if it worked! If it does, this is ‘Kong’

Kong

Multitouch mayhem – finding our way around a SMART Table
Oct 1st, 2009 by H-Blog

This is a post to give some idea about what I was thinking of saying during my presentation at #TMSLF09, if I had been lucky enough to be chosen.

A year ago, I sat watching a presentation being given by Tom Barrett at TeachMeetSLF08 on the Philips Entertaible, a multitouch device being used in Tom’s school. I remember using my phone to text to the backchannel in the room – “Where do I get my hands on one of those tables?”. I saw them as a very intuitive and powerful tool for teaching and learning, and could see a number of possible ways to utilise the technology.

I was intrigued enough to go and do a bit of digging on the internet, and was fascinated to find there was a real community out there looking at multitouch, particularly at the NUI Group. I also stumbled across the work being done at Durham University by the SynergyNet project – another one that Tom became involved in – and was particularly impressed with the Water Application, which convinced me even further about the potential of these devices in the ASN setting. Around the same time, I found my DHT watching a video for the Microsoft Surface, and became involved in discussions about how such devices could be used in the school in the future.

Someone at SMART must have been listening.

The news came through around March that we had been selected as one of the schools in the UK to pilot the SMART Table, a multitouch device from the people behind the SMART Board. As it turned out, Tom’s school had been selected too. To say I was excited would be something of an understatement. The table arrived, and we were soon all playing on it merrily. You can read my initial thoughts on the Table here and my description of creating my first activity here.

Things have moved on a bit since then, in a number of ways. Firstly, both myself and my partner-in-crime have become a bit more adept at creating content using the toolkit. Secondly, as we get our heads round the activities themselves, we are finding better, more imaginative ways to use them. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the Toolkit and Table software have both been updated, and user feedback seems to have been involved in shaping the changes to the software, which is always excellent news.

The project is, however, still a pilot, and as such there are a number of limitations. Previewing the activities you are creating  on a computer rather than the Table itself is now possible, but remains buggy. Perhaps a Table emulator (ideally running within the Toolkit) rather than tweaking the Table software to run without a Table would be a solution to this issue.

Secondly, the toolkit itself is somewhat ‘clunky’ to use. Now, having thought about this for a while I have decided that we have to blame SMART Notebook for this issue, and I’ll tell you why. Notebook is just so versatile, user-friendly and intuitive to use that it makes other applications look bad. With the Table Activity Toolkit being another SMART product, I keep expecting it to be as good as Notebook. What I have forgotten, of course, is that we are currently on Notebook 10, whilst we are only on Table Toolkit 1, or maybe 1.5. The good people at SMART – who have already been tweaking the toolkit, mere months after its release – have had years to get Notebook right, bit by bit, responding to detailed user feedback. Table Toolkit has not yet had that luxury, although it is already trying: if you look at the new activity created “Hot Spaces” it directly addresses many of the issues I raised in my “Hot Spotting” blog post. Given time, I am sure the Toolkit will become as quick and easy to use as Notebook itself.

This would help address the third issue, one raised previously by Tom Barrett when he said that the balance between the time spent by the teacher creating an activity and the pupils using an activity was not quite right. Whilst in our school this isn’t as much of an issue –  the same activities may be used over and over again by the same pupils with a great deal of engagement, making our ‘payoff’ much higher – I can understand that with older, mainstream classes this may not necessarily be the case. Additionally, the number of pupils that may make up a group in Tom’s class would probably be the same amount that would make up a class in our school, and whilst obviously there are good reasons for this, I can certainly recognise and sympathise with Tom’s point. An improved user interface for the Toolkit, one that enabled content to be produced more efficiently, would go a long way to ‘improving the payoff’. Ideally, the Toolkit could be integrated into or linked with Notebook in much the same way as the Senteo/Smart Response software is. This could build on an already familiar and very effective platform.

Finally we come to the issue that I believe is going to determine the success or otherwise of the SMART Table – content. Whilst the number of different activities you can do on the Table has already increased, and the range of resources using these activities continues to grow (see here for SMART’s Table Activity download page), at the moment there just aren’t enough things to do with the Table, and the things that there are to do can often seem very similar. In simple terms, the hardware is currently ahead of the software – a bit like the first iPhones, waiting for the app developers to catch up with the hardware. Whilst this situation is completely natural and understandable, it doesn’t half get frustrating! I have a number of ideas floating about that could make for fantastic Table activities, and just don’t have the ICT/coding capability to do anything about them. For example, a version of Durham’s Water Application would be fantastic, and could be used on a number of levels if created properly; from simple cause & effect through to a virtual ripple tank. Some kind of reactive music & colour application would be great too – with different touches causing different sounds and colours to appear –  and my very first thought of a finger-football application would be amazing for gross/fine motor skills as well as co-operation and teamwork. And there are many more brilliant ideas out there covering a wide variety of subjects, not all of them requiring a great deal of work – myself and Tom had a lengthy Twitter conversation about how the Finger Addition application could be easily adapted to provide a range of activities from the same basic platform. Similarly, the ‘Puzzle’ application could be a veritable goldmine of content, were it customisable (create new shapes, add pictures) and included in the Toolkit. Perhaps putting some educators into a room with some code writers is the way to go on this issue.

I think it is clear that the SMART Table definitely has a place in the classroom. It excites and engages pupils, and just screams out to be touched. Overall, our pupils just love it, as I think was clear to anyone who saw the demonstrating at the Scottish Learning Festival. It has the potential to be a fantastic addition to the repertoire of tools that teachers and pupils have at their disposal, and I look forward to continuing on that journey with SMART.

Introducing our Smart Table
Apr 21st, 2009 by H-Blog

Well, today I finally got my hands on the school’s latest bit of kit – the Smart Table. One of 3 in the UK pilot scheme, and the only one in Scotland, it’s an exciting project to be involved in. Having been out of class since lunch, I was going quietly demented as the Table was locked away in a meeting room which had a meeting going on in it! Fortunately, the room was vacated pretty swiftly afterwards and I was taken in by one of the IT support staff to help get the table up and running before Anne Forrest from Steljes arrived. 

Bump in Road #1 – turning it on

Having read about Tom Barrett’s problems with power cables and keys, I was relieved to see that our Table was plugged in, had its keys and had previously been booted up. My relief did not last long, however, as despite promising signs and noises, the screen on the Table did not start to display. The computer was obviously working, and the touches were being registered – we could hear the sound effects of our interactions with the Table even though we couldn’t see them – but nothing could be seen on the Table surface. We tried all we could think of to no avail. Salvation came in the form of a small remote control stuck magnetically to the inside of the cabinet which is for ’emergency’ use. Not quite sure what they had in mind, but it sorted us out and the Table was up and running in all its glory.

First Impressions

My very first impression was that the Table is a durable bit of kit. Designed to be portable, and small enough to fit through regular doorways, it has clearly been designed with a working school in mind and is solid. I don’t know if I would fancy moving it too far on my own; in fact I think our full-size rear-projected Smart Boards are easier to move than the Table (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). The other thing that struck me was that the Table is just screaming out for you to touch it. It’s so inviting and appealing – you just can’t help yourself. So that’s what we did, and got down to test driving some of the activities included with the Table. These are built round the current standard applications:

  • Multiple Choice:  Students answer questions by dragging their answer to a central image
  • HotSpots:  Students identify parts of a diagram by dragging labels to the correct spot
  • Paint:  Students select colors and effects and then paint with their fingers
  • Media:  Students drag or resize photos and videos
  • Addition:  Students work together to solve math problems
  • Puzzle:  Students work together to solve a tangram or jigsaw puzzle

Whilst the appeal of some of the applications is obvious – when Anne Forrest arrived, we never even saw her, so busy were we working out simple addition and subtraction using our fingers to supply the answer to the table – without additional content the Table is going to be of limited appeal for our pupils. The supplied Smart Table Toolkit allows you to customize these applications, meaning you can create your own versions of the 6 activities. Having downloaded some additional activities from this page on the Smart website we set about trying to add this content to the default packages. Being our first time, this took us a wee bit of time to work out. The activities are ‘synchronised’ to the table one at a time, and when you exit synchronisation mode and open up the Table Activities, whichever activity has been most recently synchronised is the one that boots up. Once we had established this, things got a bit easier, and when we worked out that once an activity has been synchronised to the Table once it is kept in the Activity Archive things got even easier still.

Bump in Road #2 – Gizmo never liked bright light…

As with the Mogwai, our table has a serious aversion to bright light. Having established this yesterday, we had been working in a dim room with the table, which obviously has implications for classroom use. Feeling slightly gallus after our content success and spurred on by Anne we opened the blinds. At first things continued apace as we introduced one of our students to the Table but then disaster struck – the sun came out! Even though the table wasn’t in direct sunlight the brightness seriously impaired the Table’s ability to track touches. With the blinds half drawn again, the problem was resolved.

So that was that, for today anyway.

As a pilot project we are being encouraged to give feedback about our experiences to improve the user-friendliness of the Table. Whilst I was thinking some sort of document sharing (perhaps Google Docs?) might allow the 3 pilot schools to contribute to one document (and perhaps offer solutions to each others problems), for the instant feedback from anyone who uses the table, it’s probably going to be paper and pen (or possibly a digital voice recorder?) beside the Table itself. We were also hopeful that given the current shortage of resources (it is a pilot scheme after all) we might find some space to share ‘beta’ resources amongst the pilot schools before subjecting them to the glare of public scrutiny. Another hope is that the Table SDK (Software Development Kit) – which has been designed to allow the integration of C++, C#. Visual Basic and Java with the Smart Table’s DViT platform – may give us the facility to ‘port’ some of the fabulous opensource applications written in these languages onto the Table. Tech-wise it’s beyond me, but I might know a man who is up to the job!!!

Our initial thoughts regarding the Activity Toolkit mirrored those of Tom Barrett;  that it needs a preview feature to enable the teacher/designer of the activity to give it some kind of a test run without having to get it up and running on the table. This is because you may have the toolkit on a lot of computers, but you’re only going to have one table which you might not be able to access there and then. Additionally, the process of plugging in, synchronising, running the activity, plugging back in to enter teacher mode and then resynchronsing to the default apps could be streamlined (or we might just have been too dumb to work out the shortcuts). 

I have been given the afternoon on Thursday to work with some of my pupils on the Table, and am going to try and create a set of activities to tie into our PE SQA work before then. I’m pretty sure I won’t be tearing it up like Judi Dench in “Quantum of Solace”, but I’ll let you know how I get on anyway, and will try and see if I can get some photos/video up somewhere.

Finally, on a slightly different note, I found this very, very interesting piece of information on the Smart Development Network site

Multitouch capability
The SMART Board SDK also provides multitouch capability, which enables your application to receive several touch events simultaneously. Multitouch works only with interactive products that feature DViT (Digital Vision Touch) technology, such as Rear Projection SMART Board interactive whiteboards and the Sympodium interactive pen display (model DT770).

So the possibility would seem to exist of multitouch capability for some current Smart Board users in the very near future. Exciting thought.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa
© The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely the author\'s. They are not endorsed by and do not reflect the views of the author\'s employer or any other party.
Skip to toolbar