Become the Smartest Teacher Ever; Use SMART Board

SMART_students

Technology has become increasingly important in education, and, it will become even more important in a near future. Students, of all levels, have easily access to technology. They own “iDevices”, laptop computers, and even more, at an early age. Schools are trying to incorporate various types of technologies in their classes. The company SMART Technologies, among others, has found an alternative to the traditional whiteboards. They came up with the idea of an interactive whiteboard… SMARTBoard was born.

 But, what is SMART Board? As mentioned above, it is an interactive whiteboard. Basically, it displays the desktop of the computer to which it is connected. With its tactile screen, the user can click on any icon and execute the same actions as on the computer. In short, it is like a tactile computer. Because one “video” is worth a thousand words, you can see the basic features of SMART Board here.

 In order to use SMART Board at its full capacity, the user has to download SMARTNotebook software on his/her computer. This software permit the user, most probably a teacher, to prepare a lesson. The presentation is created in a way similar to a PowerPoint presentation. What makes it different is that the SMART Notebook makes the presentation interactive. Once the frame of the lesson is prepared, the only thing left to do is to open SMART Notebook on a SMART Board device and to start teaching. Having all the elements of a lesson prepared in advance is great because the teacher does not lose time writing everything on the board. All the elements prepared beforehand can be edited, manipulated, deleted, etc. Everything is possible! Furthermore, everything that the teacher does on SMART Board can be saved afterwards to keep track of what has been done in class. Have you ever had a teacher that had a bad handwriting? Amongst all the functions of SMART Notebook, there is a particular one that would have been useful to that teacher of yours. Basically, this tool recognizes handwriting and transforms it into normal font (Here is an example).

In my opinion, SMART Board is the best improvement I have seen so far in the field of education. The main benefit for using SMART Board is stated here. For a long time, tactical learners have been the hardest ones to adapt to as teachers, simply because they need to move and create things from their own hands. With SMART Board accommodating all kinds of learners, it makes it easier for tactical learners to learn, because teachers can make every single lesson of the school year interactive. As seen in my university class about technology in the field of education, the use of a SMART Board makes it easier for teachers who want to show something on the computer. We have all had this one class when the teacher wanted to show a particular thing on the computer and moved the mouse around the element he/she wanted the students to pay attention to. By using SMART Board, the teacher is physically in front of the computer screen, because it is displayed on SMART Board. The only thing he/she has to do is pinpoint what he/she wants the students to look at. Another way is to use the Magic Pen. One of the functions of this tool enables the user to spotlight elements at his/her wish by simply drawing a circle on the board (see here). I have shown you only a small part of what SMART Board has to offer. Again, the possibilities are endless.

So, have I convinced you that SMART Board / SMART Notebook is the greatest teaching tool ever?

 

If you have a SMART Board in your class and would like to see a full tutorial, click here.

Using Dropbox as a Teaching Tool

Dropbox Logo

You are a teacher; you are tired that your students keep “losing” and “forgetting” their assignments. Say “Hello” to Dropbox! Let me tell you that if you are in the previously mentioned situation, Dropbox has become your BEST friend.

First of all, what is Dropbox? Dropbox is a free and easy-to-use online tool. It has been invented to store Word files, PowerPoint presentations, Excel Spreadsheets, and more (watch this video to know more about Dropbox itself). The minimal storage capacity of a Dropbox account is 2 Go. I have used it for years and have not overcome the minimal storage capacity. For people who would like to have a greater storage capacity, here are a few simple and mostly free ways to acquire more of it.

As previously mentioned, Dropbox is quite simple to use. The way it works is that the user has to create an account. Once this is done, he/she can create any desired number of folders to organize his/her files. When ready, the user can click on the Upload icon and choose any type of file/picture to upload. When needed, a document can be downloaded and modified by the user. In order to save the changes on Dropbox, the modified document has to be uploaded again. Moreover, it is possible to install Dropbox software on your computer so that you remain connected for an extended period of time. It makes the uploading process faster because one simply has to drag a file saved on his/her computer’s hard disk and drop it on the Dropbox icon rather than accessing the Dropbox website to do so.

Here is a list of benefits linked to the use of Dropbox.

Of course, Dropbox has a few disadvantages, which, in my opinion, are minor. One issue that I have personally encountered when using Dropbox is that it is not possible to upload an entire folder at once to the account. One has to upload each file separately. It can take a great deal of time when you have an extensive load of files to upload. Moreover, only folders can be shared. In addition to that, one absolutely has to create a “shared folder” in order to share information with his/her contacts. No file can be shared unless placed in a shared folder. The inconvenience comes from the fact that even if one wants to share just one file, he/she has to create a folder.

In my opinion, teachers should start using Dropbox because of all its benefits, the most important being that it is free. A teacher can have his/her students carry out a long-term project and require that they use Dropbox to save their work progression. Also, if the teacher is added to a shared file, he/she can monitor the students progression as they carry out the project and give them feedback. I think that by showing students how to use Dropbox can reduce the students’ use of excuses such as “I have forgotten my USB key at home; I cannot work on my assignment”, because they can access it everywhere. As stated in this article, Dropbox can provide an alternative for the submission of assignments if a teacher shares a Dropbox folder with each of his/her students. Dropbox provides a timestamp when uploading files. It would then be easy to verify who submitted his/her assignment on time.

Why not using Dropbox? “Some of Dropbox‘s 100 million-plus users worldwide are students and teachers (see here).”

Eager to use Dropbox? Watch a demonstration.

The Use of Facebook in Education

It is true that social medias are becoming increasingly accessible nowadays. The number of youngsters owning mobile phones is tremendous. Moreover, children tend to process mobile devices (tablets, iPods, etc.) at a younger age. It is also true that many schools try to give, to a certain extent, their students access to technology. Some teachers have decided to create Facebook “secret” groups with their students; the goal of this being to share school-related information. While some believe that Facebook can be used as a great educational tool, it is others’ belief that using Facebook with students can have a negative impact on them.

Teachers who are in favour of using Facebook with their students bring up the excuse that the majority of their students are already owners Facebook accounts (see here). Something neglected by those teachers is that some students might not want to use Facebook at all, even though the majority of their classmates may have Facebook accounts themselves. One of the major disadvantages that has been brought up by Michael Wong from the University of British Columbia is that a “[teacher] cannot require a student to use Facebook, as not all of them will want to share their personal information with their classmates and instructor.” (Learn more)

“The problem with Facebook is that it was set up for socializing”, reported Karen Matthews in The Huffington Post (see here). People tend to blame youngsters to interact not enough face-to-face and too much on social networks. In my opinion, using Facebook with students would set a bad example in this way. It would encourage them to spend their time on Facebook instead of spending it with their family and friends, with whom they can interact verbally and develop new communication skills. (Here is an article that also supports this idea.)

Although Facebook is a great tool for sharing information with others, it can become very disruptive when it comes to be used in a classroom environment. Hereafter is a little situation of my own making. Suppose you are at the school’s computer lab and you have asked your students to do a Facebook search on a given subject. Obviously the students have to log in to their Facebook profile. This is when you lose control. As soon as they will all be on Facebook, some of them will be doing the assignment; some others will be posting personal stuff; others will be chatting; etc. Consequently, it will be hard for you, as the teacher, to keep track of what everyone is doing because they will all be on Facebook anyway. Not being able to monitor what each and every one of them is doing can lead to the loss of precious class or computer lab time. It can be very tempting for a student to take care of his/her personal stuff when being on Facebook for other (school) purposes. As written in this article, “You love to spend most of your time checking your Facebook updates”.

This article was not meant to prove that social networks should not be used at all; it was meant to inform future teachers that social networks, such as Facebook, are not necessarily the best way to use technology within a classroom environment. A teacher, I believe, should think twice before using such a tool with his/her students.