SMART Blends Classroom Technology With the Art of Teaching
How to engage students—and educators—at once
One unassailable principle of pedagogy is that intuitive technology in the hands of inspired teachers will lead to positive outcomes in student achievement. However, providing technology that inspires learning is only part of the equation. In order for technology to have maximum impact on student outcomes, companies like SMART Technologies (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), the industry pioneer and global market segment leader in easy-to-use interactive whiteboards and other group collaboration tools, realize that they must provide a fully integrated solution, which includes a commitment to community support and professional development.
“SMART isn’t just about creating intuitive products that inspire learning,” says Andrew Exner, education solutions manager at SMART Technologies. “Our full education offering helps educators achieve a successful implementation with the best integrated solution and user experience, which means we view professional development and community building as essential components of our offering.”
Exner continues, “By having a strong pedagogical tie to other elements of the solution outside of the technology products themselves, we ensure that teachers can use the tools we provide effectively and achieve superior results. “Teachers are looking for ways to engage students using such tools as rich video/audio-based content and leveraging the power of the computer and the Internet. We provide teachers with an integrated means for delivering these things to students. We also empower teachers to spend more time on the learning cycle, not managing technology. It’s all part of our commitment to enhancing the user experience by making sure the technology is easy for teachers and students to use.”
SMART Technologies’ overarching philosophy to provide an easy-to-use, complete solution is a key reason that the company has been able to effect a monumental change in K-12 education. SMART is the only company that offers all the components necessary for maximizing the improvement in student outcomes through information and communication technology (ICT) implementation: technology products, content and resources, professional development and community, and service and support. SMART offers a complete range of product choices to equip any learning environment with the most flexible and cost-effective solution. At the core of the company’s ICT offering is SMART Notebook™ 10 software, offering an array of powerful design and delivery features that enables teachers to add interactivity to their lessons. (See “SMART Notebook’s Powerful Education Tools Enhance Learning” story.)
Exner sums up the company’s approach by saying, “Our goal is to provide an integrated product solution designed to form a learning environment that creates extraordinary moments in the classroom.” As part of that commitment, the company has created a community for SMART teachers that provides them with access to a global community of educators with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and insights to share. “Through our professional development and community efforts, SMART opens a world of advice, ideas, and support to teachers,” says Exner.
Because SMART is strongly committed to professional development and community building, the company has seen enthusiasm for its technology products grow exponentially. SMART’s vast education community is thriving, thanks to the thousands of passionate practitioners who share ideas on the SMART Exchange, an online community of teachers, administrators, and SMART experts who regularly share ideas and advice on how best to use SMART products in the classroom.
In addition to SMART Exchange, there is a vast universe of other online activities and resources enjoyed by SMART educators. For instance there is a SMART YouTube channel as well as the SMART TeacherTube channel, created by teachers where a simple search returns more than 100 user-created videos on the implementation of SMART products in the classroom.
The SMART community doesn’t just exist online. According to Exner, SMART’s education consultants host numerous regional conferences that are tailored to that region’s needs. These conferences help novice, intermediate, and advanced practitioners learn to use SMART products in ways that are most pedagogically effective. The SMART community is further supported by EDCompass, a newsletter that keeps teachers up-to-date on the latest SMART products, best practices, and tips and tools designed to help them become more effective teachers.
Another means by which SMART facilitates the exchange of ideas among members of the SMART community is through the company’s Exemplary Educator program. (See “SMART Exemplary Educators Lead by Example” story.) This program recognizes and promotes teachers who use technology in education to its best advantage for students. According to Exner, one of the keys to becoming a SMART Exemplary Educator is a commitment to professional development, demonstrated leadership, and adoption of best practices as they relate to technology implementation in classrooms and the greater education community. “Community is closely tied to professional development in terms of how teachers learn from the success of others,” says Exner. “It is one of the core elements of how professional development works, and Exemplary Educators are best practice models that provide other teachers with a clear understanding of the best ways to implement technology in the classroom.” In addition to this, SMART offers a range of advanced, subject-specific training courses to equip teachers with the knowledge they need to create even more effective and engaging lessons for their students. Exner concludes, “The end goal of all teachers who implement ICT in the classroom is to maximize the positive impact on student outcomes. With SMART, this impact is maximized through a superior user experience that brings powerful benefits to students, teachers, technology directors, and administrators.