SMART Technologies Case Study
Imperial Elementary, Anaheim Hills, California
SMART Board interactive whiteboards gave one teacher the power to change the lives of her visually-impaired students.
Carol Anne McGuire has been teaching visually impaired elementary school children for nearly two decades, with almost all of those years having been spent at Imperial Elementary School in the Orange Unified School District (Anaheim Hills, California). McGuire’s kids range from kindergarten to sixth grade. Enrolled as students in regular education classes, they come to Carol’s classroom to learn Braille and explore online technologies.
To help her visually impaired students and facilitate learning in her classroom, McGuire sought out special teaching aids—sometimes buying them with her own money. Her ultimate goal, however, was to find a tool that could make visual presentations easier for her students to see. In 2006, McGuire found a way to bring her lessons to a large screen: She acquired a Rear Projection SMART Board™ 2000i interactive whiteboard with Notebook™ collaborative learning software from SMART Technologies, the industry pioneer and global education market segment leader in easy-to-use interactive whiteboards.
“For my kids, rear projection technology is a critical element in the effectiveness of a presentation board,” says McGuire. “With the use of an overhead projector—which beams images from the front—kids would lose the image they were looking at simply because they were standing in front of the light source. Using SMART’s rear projection unit, the kids can walk up to the board, putting their face as close to the screen as they want without casting a shadow on the screen or blocking the image.”
According to McGuire, another critical element of SMART Board interactive whiteboards is the Notebook software that works in tandem with them. “Notebook software has a big impact on student success,” says McGuire. “I have many kinds of students using Notebook Software: from gifted and talented, to autistic, to learning disabled, to visually impaired. It’s motivating for all learners. The built-in resources and the ability to share files between teachers makes teaching easier and more motivational for students.”
Achievements of Note
McGuire understands the motivational power of her SMART Board interactive whiteboard and its use as a learning tool. “Kids enjoy using the screen, and want to be up at the board,” McGuire explains. “In a classroom without a SMART Board, the teacher may set up a math problem and say, ‘Who wants to volunteer?’ The same kids always seem to raise their hands. The SMART Board motivates even the shy kids to get up and touch the board. In addition, the Notebook software’s handwriting recognition feature rewards kids for printing neatly by ‘recognizing’ their handwriting. It’s motivating, engaging, and fun for them.”
One of her students’ favorite motivational activities is making movies using the SMART Board interactive whiteboard. “Every year, I teach my kids to become filmmakers,” says McGuire. “They write their own films in Braille. They do the filmmaking. Then they edit their movies. My kids turned out to be great filmmakers—not because of me, but because I gave them the opportunity to try. They have won national and international awards for their movies because they were given that opportunity.”
With the Rear Projection SMART Board 2000i interactive whiteboard, McGuire can adjust the screen height for different users and activities, such as her filmmaking project, and she can roll the whole unit to another location, if need be. However, it is Notebook software, and specifically the Gallery: Essentials for Educators collection, a collection of more than 6,600 engaging learning objects, that is at the heart of most of McGuire’s lessons. “The Essentials for Education plays a big part,” says McGuire. “With the variety of great resources, it makes teaching any subject easy and more exciting for students. It is one of my favorite tools, because it enables me to add audio files and easily enlarge any image.”
McGuire also relies on Notebook software to help her build and share classroom activities. To this end, McGuire runs Moodle, a software package designed using sound pedagogical principles to help educators create effective online learning communities. “All of the Moodle lessons are downloadable by other SMART Board users,” says McGuire. “For example, there are lessons that were built when we studied the sun with NASA, and digital storytelling with the American Film Institute. Classes from all over the world participate in sharing files on Moodle.”
The SMART Board interactive whiteboard’s advanced functionality motivates students. Even more important, in the case of McGuire’s kids, it also helps overcome physical obstacles. For instance, according to McGuire, one little boy in her class struggles with math because it is hard for him to see the problems in a standard-size math book. “We have his math problems enlarged using the SMART Board. Now, his inability to see is no longer an obstacle.”
Another child, returning to school after an extended hospital stay, was able to access lessons McGuire saved for him on the SMART Board interactive whiteboard. “There is a feature on the board that enables me to record and annotate lessons,” she says. “The fact that I can record a lesson—including any associated visual images—while it is being taught is invaluable, especially with students who are absent or need extra practice. They can watch the instructions as many times as they need on a big screen.”
The SMART Board interactive whiteboard’s big screen is complemented by the latest in touch screen technology, which is an important feature for McGuire’s vision-impaired students. For one of McGuire’s children, the SMART Board interactive whiteboard’s touch technology combined with SMART’s powerful Notebook software, provided the student with a dramatic opportunity to see his name in print for the first time.
“One of my very low-vision students desperately wanted to see his name in print,” explains McGuire. “Using the SMART Board with touch screen technology and whiteboarding software, the child was able to trace his name in a very bright color, and was finally able to see something that most of us take for granted.”
McGuire adds, “With touch technology, students can manipulate the screen with their fingers. If they need to click on an object, they just touch the SMART Board. Everything is touch-sensitive. It’s much easier for my kids who don’t have the hand-eye coordination to move a mouse due to physical constraints; they don’t have to worry about manipulating a mouse. For kids with vision problems, using a standard computer with a mouse isn’t easy. They aren’t able to see the mouse cursor on the computer screen. Since the SMART Board doesn’t use a mouse, it’s not something they need to worry about.”
Recently, McGuire found another use for the SMART Board interactive whiteboard. During an international video conference with children from around the world, McGuire’s students could hear the conference but they couldn’t see the conference speakers on her small computer screen. “There were twenty kids in my classroom trying to watch the conference on a 15-inch screen. By broadcasting the conference on the SMART Board, my kids could actually walk right up to the board and see who was talking.”
In addition to enjoying the success she’s achieved in the classroom with her SMART Board interactive whiteboard, McGuire has been impressed with the people at the company that manufactures her interactive whiteboards. “SMART Technologies has been very good to us,” McGuire concludes. “Their education department has been top notch. It’s nice to work with a company where the people you are communicating with have a background in education. They talk the same language as a teacher does; it’s refreshing.”