SMART Technologies Case Study
By standardizing district-wide with SMART Board™ interactive whiteboards, Lisle's technology committee hands teachers a "wow factor" and a big boost to their creativity.
As the department head of social studies at Lisle High School, District 202, in Lisle, Illinois, Bruce Howell is always searching for technologies that will strengthen his capabilities as a teacher and improve the overall effectiveness of his department. As a member of the Lisle Technology Committee, Howell attends conferences and seminars to find the latest advances in teaching technology for use in the district. At the beginning of the 2006 school year, for example, Howell, along with Lorie Ferguson, the district's instructional technology coordinator, began a serious evaluation of SMART Board ™ interactive whiteboards from SMART Technologies (Calgary, Alberta, Canada).
"We attended a seminar in Chicago where the capabilities of SMART Boards were being demonstrated," says Howell. "I immediately thought it was a great piece of equipment and an outstanding teaching tool. When I returned to my classroom, the first thing I did was explore SMART's Notebook software. The more I used Notebook, the more I realized that it had a host of applications. I began converting my old PowerPoint presentations to Notebook."
Lisle's Ferguson adds, "Bruce also put his class notes in Notebook software. In this way, he was able to post them on his Web site. When students are absent, they can download the notes. Bruce even adds hyperlinks to the notes to make it easy for students to connect to related subject matter on the Web."
Howell and Ferguson were not completely unfamiliar with SMART Board interactive whiteboards when they began their in-depth evaluation of the technology. According to Howell, the Lisle elementary school had already installed at least one SMART Board interactive whiteboard in a classroom prior to his field trip to the Chicago presentation. However, it wasn't until Howell began his extensive evaluation that the district-wide movement to standardize with SMART Board interactive whiteboards took hold. "We decided to standardize with SMART Boards because of SMART's commitment to training and their ongoing development of Notebook software," Howell adds.
Notebook Wow Factor
Today, according to Ferguson, because of Howell's determination and keen insight into the use of interactive whiteboard technology, Lisle has eight SMART Board interactive whiteboards in the District's elementary school and several additional SMART Board interactive whiteboards at Lisle High School, including the one in Howell's social studies classroom.
"In my classroom," says Howell, "I try to incorporate different types of digital media into my lesson plan. For instance, using Notebook software, I'm able to build audio and video files. I also appreciate that Notebook enables me to easily manipulate the objects I display on the SMART Board screen."
According to Howell, by using SMART Board interactive whiteboards, he is better able to engage his students in the learning process. "For instance, when we work with Venn diagrams, I often ask students to come to the board and write their answers," says Howell. "With a few taps of my finger, I can minimize and drag that diagram anywhere on the screen, and I can change the student's handwriting to text, which certainly adds a wow factor."
To bring the wow factor to his colleagues' classrooms, Howell made sure all of the social studies teachers at Lisle High were equipped with a SMART Board interactive whiteboard. In this way, Howell can share lessons with the other teachers in his department and introduce them to many of the programs he's built using Notebook software. "Everything I create in Notebook is shared with the other teachers in my department," says Howell.
21st Century Teacher
Beyond facilitating better lessons and lesson planning, SMART Board interactive whiteboards have had a direct impact on student performance and a positive effect on behavior in Howell's 21st century classroom. To illustrate the impact of SMART technology, Howell tells an amusing anecdote about how he was able to channel the energy of a pair of high-strung students with the help of his SMART Board interactive whiteboard: "I was giving a presentation using Notebook in my first-period history class, and I said to a pair of high-energy kids, 'You guys can come up to the board and manipulate it, while I teach from the back of the room.' Doing that focused them on what we were doing in the class, and at the same time, it gave them a sense of being at the center of attention, which is what they crave. I shared this story with my department during our weekly meeting, and everyone felt it was an excellent adaptation of the technology."
SMART Technologies has provided Howell with a number of interactive arrows for his technology quiver, including SMART Ideas concept mapping software, which ships with the SMART Board. Howell uses the concept mapping software to quickly and easily produce diagrams. "The concept mapping software is an excellent program for helping to build different idea maps," he says.
Another of Howell's favorite tools in the SMART software suite is The SMART Recorder. "The SMART Recorder records anything you do on your computer," says Howell. "By integrating it with a microphone, I'm able to produce tutorials. This is something I've taught other teachers to do during our district's technology workshops."
In addition to using SMART Board interactive whiteboards that run Notebook software, Howell takes full advantage of a host of complimentary technologies that integrate seamlessly with SMART. To create a 21st century classroom environment, Howell relies on a myriad of technologies, including an integrated network of six desktop computers and 12 laptops. According to Howell, the SMART Board interactive whiteboard seamlessly integrates with his classroom computers and a host of wireless peripheral devices, which gives him the option to work from the front of the room, or use a wireless, remote mouse to drive the action on the screen from the back of the classroom.
While he's teaching from the back of the class, Howell encourages students to come to the front of the room and write their answer directly on the SMART Board interactive whiteboard's screen. It is during these times that Howell says he especially appreciates the built-in Handwriting Recognition capabilities of Notebook software. "I love the fact that the SMART software has such good recognition," says Howell. "If you are careful with your writing, it recognizes what you have written and instantly turns it into easily readable text. My lessons include a lot of fill-in-the-blank work, and I often say to students, 'Okay, come to the SMART Board and fill in the answer to my question.' With Handwriting Recognition, I can very quickly convert what the student has written by hand into more manageable text."
While it's clear that technology plays a critical and alluring role in his classroom at Lisle High, Howell is quick to point out that sophisticated tools like the SMART Board interactive whiteboards are only effective if teachers use them to actively engage and involve their students. "The SMART Board frees up teachers so they can be more creative," says Howell, "but it won't do the teaching for them. This tool is designed to engage the students; that's the key to it. As a teacher, I'm not doing anything different—the SMART Board just makes my job easier and more effective."