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SMART Technologies Case Study

Glencoe District 35, Chicago

Across this district, SMART Board interactive whiteboards and Notebook™ collaborative learning software are freeing teachers and students to push the learning envelope with visually engaging, dynamic lessons.

Chicago’s North Shore suburbs are home to some of the most successful and progressive public school districts in the United States, and Glencoe District 35 is a prime example. The district prides itself on its outstanding teachers, facilities, and curriculum. To remain an elite district, the administrators in Glencoe, supported by a strong Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), the Glencoe Education Foundation (GEF), and other community groups, routinely seek out and obtain some of the most advanced teaching tools, technology, and equipment.

District 35 is often one of the first school districts in the nation to leverage emerging technology to facilitate the strongest possible learning environment for its students. More than six years ago, for example, when the district renovated several middle-school science labs, a decision was made to outfit the labs with SMART Board interactive whiteboards with Notebook collaborative learning software from SMART Technologies (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), the industry pioneer and global market segment leader in easy-to-use interactive whiteboards.

“In addition to laptops and probes, SMART interactive whiteboards were one of the items that we installed in all of the labs to make them more technologically rich,” says Jay Howe, assistant superintendent for curriculum structure and assessment at Glencoe District 35. “Six years ago, we carefully evaluated the technologies we wanted, and SMART Boards fit our immediate needs and provided a pathway to the future.”

A year later the district increased its investment in SMART Board interactive whiteboards by placing one in each of the district’s three library learning center’s computer labs. Over the course of the next five years, Glencoe acquired 13 additional interactive whiteboards for use in general classrooms. “Functionally, we looked at what the original models did for us—how they integrated into our network and system—and we added more SMART's technology products to our district. We decided that the SMART Board 600i Series fit perfectly in our plans.”

The SMART 600i interactive whiteboard system puts Glencoe teachers in control of a powerful multimedia environment thanks to Notebook—the software, the power behind the SMART Board interactive whiteboard. The all-in-one design of the 600i brings an interactive whiteboard, projector, and audio system into District 35 classrooms. According to Catherine Wang, principal at Glencoe District 35’s K–2 South School, the 600i has become an integral tool in the daily routine of the district. So much so, in fact, that recently when a tree branch fell, partially knocking out the school’s power supply, some of the kids in the rooms with the interactive whiteboards weren’t sure how they were going to have school that day.

“That’s how dependant they’d become on the tool,” says Wang. “When the kids expressed their concern, the teacher said, ‘There was a time when I taught without a SMART Board, so I think I can go back in my memory and figure out how we can do this.’ But this story illustrates how important this piece of equipment has become in our lives.”


Noteworthy Notebook software

The SMART Board interactive whiteboards with Notebook software have clearly become part of the fabric of life in the district. “It functions as an integrated tool in our daily routines,” says Wang. “For instance, we use SMART Boards to take kindergarten attendance. The Notebook software files contain the children’s pictures. The children are actively involved in moving their pictures on the interactive whiteboard to signal that they are present.”

Wang continues, “We also use Notebook in our math program. Notebook software is used by younger children to answer graph questions such as, ‘How many children carved a pumpkin at home this Halloween?’ The class works with that information to compare the data from the responses. In another instance, as our first graders were studying worms, the children were able to actively participate by generating a Web page about what they had learned, and then linking that page to a Web site containing an interactive experience related to worms. All of this was created in Notebook and then the files were saved for future use.”

“Older students have used Notebook software to scan journal pages and then import them into the Notebook folders,” says Wang. “Through this process, the lessons become more interactive. Further, teachers can use additional graphics and manipulatives from the Notebook gallery to enhance the lesson. These pages can then be stored and shared with children who may have been absent or need a visual reminder of the lesson as they do their homework.”

Teachers within District 35 are finding additional, equally creative ways of making the interactive whiteboards part of the everyday classroom experience. For instance, Wang describes how one teacher uses her SMART Board interactive whiteboard to teach history. “The kids were asked to research the lives of historical figures,” says Wang. “They used the SMART Board to display photographs of the person they selected, along with video and audio clips. The children dressed up as the famous person they were studying, and using the whiteboarding software, they played an interactive game of ‘Who am I?’ It was visual and engaging—the famous figures from history really came to life for the children.”


Best of Both Worlds

While some school districts have decided to provide each child with a laptop computer, Glencoe has determined that the SMART Board interactive whiteboards are a better option for the group learning environment, as evidenced by the history class example.

“We’ve decided that SMART Boards are a significant improvement over laptops,” says Howe. “SMART Boards enable the children to get out from behind their little screens and participate in the group dynamic; we believe this scenario is much more conducive to learning. The SMART Boards provide the ‘best of both worlds’—in which teachers are able to use innovative, interactive technology without the kids needing to keep their heads buried behind individual computer screens.”

Wang agrees, “At all grade levels, SMART Boards enable children to interface with a large screen format. SMART Boards provide a more visually engaging environment than a computer or laptop screen. To facilitate learning, some children require a large visual representation in the classroom. A big-screen SMART Board—with its ability to save images that can be accessed and used repeatedly—significantly benefits both students and teachers.”

Here, too, Notebook software plays a key role in freeing students and teachers from laptops. “Our teachers love the Notebook software,” says Wang. “It is a comprehensive application that allows our teachers to do the simplest act of writing on the board—with handwriting recognition—all the way to much more complex functions with a high level of interactive objects on a page. The teachers love having the layers available to continually add to the ‘stack’ of learning levels they are creating. We feel as if we are only tapping some of the potential of the software.”


Investing in a SMART Future

From its initial purchase of three SMART Board interactive whiteboards in 2002, Glencoe District 35 has built a network of interactive whiteboards in the district’s classrooms. “Parents, teachers, and students are excited about our use of SMART Boards,” says Howe. “Each year, the district has increased its investment in SMART Board technology, and we have many teachers who want a SMART Board in their classroom. The teachers who are ‘SMART Board Owners’ are training other teachers how to use the technology.”

And teachers within District 35 are sharing their files. “We have regularly scheduled meetings to share information, and our teachers send out reminders about sites they find or files they have created,” says Wang. “We make use of Notebook’s drop folder to allow teachers to share lesson files across grades.”

“Ideally,” Wang continues, “we’d love to see a SMART Board in every student center classroom. We have a waiting list of teachers who are asking, ‘When are the new applications coming out?’ ‘When can we apply for a SMART Board?’ There is tremendous enthusiasm for the technology, which is fostered by the sharing and training within grade-level teams and buildings. Even though all teachers at the grade level don’t have a SMART Board right now, there is sharing—within their team structure—of SMART Board lesson plan ideas. And when teachers with SMART Boards take their classes out for a special activity, they open their rooms to other classes, so that children throughout the district can have the SMART Board experience.”

Wang concludes, “The SMART Boards have had a very positive impact on the district, especially when we look at how engaged and interested the children are in learning. The children are more excited and poised to take in information when we are using interactive whiteboards. We know that most of our children are surrounded by high-tech equipment and multi-sensory information outside of school. SMART Boards allow us to bring that type of technology into the classroom while delivering curricular content.”

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