SMART Technologies Case Study
Lower Lake, California
A California Teacher of the Year accelerates his success with a SMART Board ™ interactive whiteboard and Notebook software.
When Alan Siegel was recognized by the California Department of Education as a 2005 California Teacher of the Year Honoree, he received an unexpected bonus. Siegel, a social studies teacher at W.C. Carlé Continuation High School in Lower Lake, California, was awarded a SMART Board interactive whiteboard from SMART Technologies (Calgary, Alberta, Canada).
"SMART is generous enough to give every state's Teacher of the Year a free interactive whiteboard," says Siegel. "The people at SMART said, 'We are giving this board to you, but we are also giving it to your students. We want you to bring students up to the board.' As soon as I brought SMART technology into my classroom, I had kids up at the board easily interacting with it. Then, when other teachers saw the board, they fell in love with it, too."
According to Siegel, his students at the award-winning W. C. Carlé High, a national leader in alternative education, are daunted by academics, but not by technology. His students couldn't wait to get their hands on the SMART Board interactive whiteboard. Serendipitously, Siegel's honor spurred school management to install SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboards in other classrooms at W.C. Carlé High. Colleagues at the school were using a different brand of interactive whiteboard, which had been installed prior to Siegel's recognition by the state. Through Siegel, teachers heard about the benefits of the SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard and especially liked that the SMART product is an easy-to-use, software-rich, all-in-one system. The SMART Board 600i combines an interactive whiteboard, projector, and centralized control panel for connecting the classroom's peripheral devices. By simply adding speakers, Siegel made a full multimedia system in his W.C. Carlé classroom. "A successful teacher has many weapons in his arsenal," says Siegel. "SMART Boards are a way to bring these assets together in a seamless and extremely interesting multimedia way, where lesson design is limited only by the imagination of the teacher."
According to Siegel, teachers at the school immediately understood that the SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard would be more seamless and intuitive for them and their students. W.C. Carlé teachers felt they weren't achieving what they needed to with the other brand of interactive whiteboard. For example, prior to having the SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard system, teachers had to arrive to class half an hour early each day to hook up the media sources they wanted to use, and they had to realign the interactive whiteboard before each period. But now that they are using the SMART Board 600i system, they don't have to worry about those troublesome chores any longer. Within a day, according to Siegel, teachers using their new SMART Boards excitedly acknowledged that the system was much more intuitive than the previous interactive whiteboard brand. "They commented that the other brand required too much of a learning curve," says Siegel. "The greatness of the SMART Board 600i is that it's an integrated system, and everything you need is right there and easy to use."
How will the new SMART Board 600i impact lessons? Siegel says the improved color and image quality will further enhance the details of lessons. Streaming and still video will look better and the text will be sharper. "The quality of interaction with the SMART Board interactive whiteboard is top notch and the Notebook collaborative learning software, which ships with the SMART Board interactive whiteboard, is the best that I've seen," says Siegel. "These improvements make the SMART Board 600i the superior product, by far."
Siegel's own classroom use of the SMART Board 600i helps illustrate the positive impact of SMART Board interactive whiteboards running Notebook software. "From the beginning, I was struck by the elegant design of Notebook software," he says.
Through his imaginative use of Notebook software, Siegel is able tie his lessons directly to the subject matter. For instance, in a breathtaking example of creative teaching, Siegel has ingeniously digitized a traditional topographical map to facilitate a geography lesson. "I laid out all of the geography of the United States in Notebook software, thereby enabling the kids to come up to the interactive whiteboard and touch the names of the places to move them to the proper spots on the digitized map. SMART allows me to teach kids in a multi-modality and tactile way. The board provides me with the freedom to bring anything I can imagine into a lesson: music, art, and finger touch technology. Today, there are a lot of kids who are kinesthetic learners, so allowing them to go up to the board and physically interact with it brings another dimension to the learning process."
Notebook allows Siegel's imagination to roam unfettered. "SMART allows different software programs to seamlessly work on the interactive whiteboard, whether the program was developed by SMART Technologies, such as the Notebook software, or other software providers," he says.
Siegel points to his use of Google Earth as an example of the seamless quality of SMART Board interactive whiteboards. Because the feature-rich SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard functions much the same as a computer touch pad, Siegel can use Google Earth to show students how the globe actually spins. Additionally, Siegel uses a part of the Mac OS X operating system called Exposé to simultaneously present a wide array of elements on the whiteboard screen à la Tom Cruise in Minority Report. "Apple's Exposé allows me to have multiple windows open at the same time," he says. "Having that ability gives you the sensation of being a magician, because it allows you to open windows, resize them, and move them forward like David Copperfield."
The magic, according to Siegel, comes from the Notebook software.
"Notebook is incredibly intuitive," says Siegel. "I love its ability to capture things anywhere and bring them in so easily. Creating lessons using Notebook software is phenomenal."
Spreading Enthusiasm and Building Excitement
Siegel isn't the only SMART enthusiast who has been inspired by Notebook software. "The students are unbelievably excited about the software; they totally love it. It helps them to focus, and they enjoy using it. We all use it. For instance, the English teacher uses it to diagram sentences, and the science teacher uses it to facilitate interactive labs—pulling in information directly from the Web. It is endemic to our school's environment. It has become an essential element in teaching at our school. Notebook software is truly the 21st century teaching tool."
Siegel continues, "The SMART Board 600i control panel enables me to display multiple sources of information on screen at the same time, and with one flick of a button I can alternate between those sources. For instance, a Star Wars DVD can play on my 600i, while at the same time, my students can annotate over it for a project they're working on. I'm comfortable leaving them in the classroom without supervision because I know they're motivated to do the work, and they're having fun with the project. I love how the SMART Board enables them to be creative."
To spread the love, Siegel recently highlighted the benefits of the SMART Board 600i to teachers at a neighboring high school that currently uses another brand of interactive whiteboard. He demonstrated the higher quality of the SMART Board interactive whiteboard and its superior collaborative learning software. "Within minutes teachers were sold on the SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard system," says Siegel. "The SMART Board 600i is so much more intuitive. Everything you can do in one easy step on a SMART Board interactive whiteboard takes at least three cumbersome steps on the interactive whiteboards they're using."
Siegel sums up his experience with SMART Board interactive whiteboards in this way: "SMART Board is a tool that enables a teacher to focus on the critical thinking aspect of the job. SMART will help transform our society. We are in the Information Age, where all information is available all of the time. SMART brings the classroom into the 21st century by helping to organize information so students can easily access and use it. It is clearly the technology of the 21st century classroom. In the future, everyone will use it."