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The SMART Way to Create the 21st-Century Classroom

It is a rare occurrence in K–12 education when a technology moves from being a useful classroom tool to an education platform upon which an entire teaching philosophy is built. But that is precisely what has happened over the course of the past two decades, as interactive whiteboards from SMART Technologies (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) have become the focal point of the technology-driven, 21st-century classroom. Technology companies like SMART that have created a fundamental shift in education all have one thing in common: They provide an overall solution that is greater than the sum of their product’s component parts.

SMART Technologies’ overarching philosophy to provide a complete solution is a key reason that the company has been able to effect a monumental change in K–12 education. At the core of this philosophy, according to David Lapides, director, education market development at SMART Technologies, is the company’s ability to design and develop products that enable teachers to successfully complete the same educational task in multiple ways. “Today,” says Lapides, “SMART offers a robust set of resources and a full ecosystem of support—bringing a new level of interactivity to everyday lessons—that enables teachers to reach every student in the classroom.”

The foundation upon which the SMART solution is built is the company’s full-featured interactive whiteboards. According to Lapides, SMART Board™ interactive whiteboards are the most trusted line of interactive whiteboards on the market today. Since 1991, the SMART Board interactive whiteboard has led the way in engaging students around the world. Combining a touch-sensitive display and digital projector that connects to a computer, the SMART Board interactive whiteboard has brought a whole new level of interactivity to the classroom. However, Lapides is quick to point out that the SMART solution is much more than interactive whiteboards. At the heart of the SMART solution is SMART Notebook, which, according to Lapides, is the most advanced collaborative software platform available for classrooms.

SMART Notebook collaborative learning software enriches classroom learning with more than 30 tools and educational resources. The SMART solution also includes an interactive assessment tool, called the Senteo™ interactive response system, which is designed to enhance learning. Further, the company’s comprehensive suite of software enables various models for technological options. For instance, SynchronEyes™ classroom management software provides teachers with a means to support one-to-many as well as one-to-one environments. Another important tool in the product suite is Bridgit™ conferencing software, SMART’s remote conferencing application that provides a quick, easy, and effective way to share voice, video, and data over the Internet.

Sophisticated software and hardware components like these are only the beginning of the SMART story. SMART understands that maximizing value in the classroom takes more than just advanced products. That’s why, according to Lapides, the company created the SMART Learning Marketplace, a world-class collection of more than a million learning resources that teachers can bring into their classrooms. This is in addition to scores of online resources available from SMART’s Web site (education.smarttech.com) at no cost. Plus, SMART offers education solutions to support every component of a successful implementation. These solutions include content and resources, professional development, community networking, and service and support.
“SMART has moved from delivering technology product solutions to delivering an overall, world-class education solution that provides the best user experience for teachers and learners. Our solution is the most intuitive, easy-to-use, best integrated, and most modular line of technology on the market,” says Lapides.

To further facilitate implementation of the 21st-century classroom, SMART has created an online community, called the SMART Exchange, which consists of teachers, school district administrators, SMART employees, and other experts in the field. “The SMART Exchange fosters real professional development that stems from the solution itself,” says Lapides. “We believe that professional development is most effective when it is ongoing and collaborative; it is a crucial part of our overall solution philosophy.”

It’s precisely this synergy among the educational community using SMART that has brought the company to the point of creating a paradigm shift in education. “The fact that there is this vast, global group of educators sharing their best practices with one another makes our solution a phenomenon in education,” says Lapides. “By creating the SMART Exchange, we systematically provide access to a wide range of teacher-created materials, so teachers can learn from, borrow from, and share information with their peers.”  

Lapides continues, “When teachers find something that works effectively for them, it drives student learning outcomes. This is the crux of our mission. Not only do teachers immediately become better teachers, but they also become stronger advocates for their profession.” He adds, “When a technology reaches a point where there is a critical mass of people using the solution, that becomes part of its appeal. The use of SMART Technologies in the classroom has already reached that point. Not only do teachers benefit from it, but principals, technology directors, and superintendents benefit from it, too, through lower total-cost-of-ownership and world-class customer support.”

As Lapides’s comments suggest, the widespread adoption of the SMART solution is playing a significant role in assisting school district administrators and district information technology directors to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, a wide choice of online and on-site training modules, and 24x7 comprehensive online support (smarttech.com/support), as well as phone support, make it possible for school districts to ensure effective use of the SMART products in their classrooms.

Lapides concludes, “All of the elements of our solution provide significant benefits that enable those responsible for maintaining and supporting the technologies to do so cost-effectively and with maximum efficiency. We’ve designed our solution so that teachers, administrators, and technical support staff can all have a hand in improving the educational process and reap the benefits of the SMART solution in the classroom.”

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