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Lubbock Provides Model for Successful SMART Implementation

When it comes to a school district that has a top-down implementation of interactive whiteboards from SMART Technologies (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), few make a more powerful statement than Lubbock Independent School District (Lubbock, Texas), especially when it comes to its use of the overall SMART solution. Truly, the Lubbock district is a showcase, not only for its use of SMART technology, but as a lesson to a nation struggling to improve public education. In many respects, Lubbock demonstrates that a technology-driven, 21st-century classroom is attainable.

The secret to Lubbock’s success may be in the unique way the district has approached the acquisition and implementation of SMART tools for the classroom. Bill Landis, executive director for instructional technology in the Lubbock school district, explains, “In Lubbock, we asked teachers what technology would have the most impact on enriching the learning experience for students. Teachers requested that we put SMART Boards in their classrooms. Then, we tied that request to long-term professional development.”
Today, nearly 100 Lubbock teachers have requested and received their own SMART Board interactive whiteboards, according to Landis, and that number is rising. By the end of the next school year, Landis anticipates that the district will have filled 200 SMART Board interactive whiteboard requests. After each of those requests is filled, Landis does random audits to verify that the technology is being used to its full potential. “For several hours, I walk up and down the hallway doing random checks,” says Landis. “About 95 percent of the time, the SMART Boards are being used as I walk by the classroom. It’s rare for any technology to be used to the extent we see the SMART Boards utilized.”

Landis’s random walks are not the only steps he’s taking to maximize the return on investment of the SMART implementation in the district. Lubbock’s success is also based on the district’s decision to build a core group of SMART-certified teacher technologists. “Several of our teachers have become SMART-certified instructors,” says Landis. “We found this to be of great benefit to us as it continually adds to the usability of the technology. The biggest difference we saw in terms of usability is the professional development afforded by the technology. Teachers actively work to understand all of the great tools being added to this product in order to get the most from it.”

While professional development has been one of the major keys to maximizing return on investment, Landis credits SMART Notebook as the largest component in successfully using the SMART Board interactive whiteboards as a teaching tool. “As far as we are concerned, Notebook is the biggest key,” says Landis. “We are finding that our teachers are switching over to Notebook to create all of their lessons on that platform because it is
so intuitive.”

Here, too, Landis has taken an extra step to unlock the potential of the SMART solution. “Notebook can be loaded on the laptops we provide to teachers,” he says. “Today, teachers can take lesson plans home and work on them. Teachers like being able to access the Notebook software on their laptops and then share what they’ve developed with other teachers districtwide.”

It all adds up to an outstanding user experience for the teachers and students in Lubbock. An example of that experience can easily be seen in the way teachers share the lessons they’ve created in Notebook. Today, according to Landis, teachers in Lubbock send lessons to the administration for review by a group of “demonstration” teachers. This group determines which lessons are the most applicable across the district, and those lessons are posted internally on the district’s intranet. “This method encourages teachers to share, and it encourages them to expand on the ways in which they use their SMART Boards,” says Landis. “It also leads to important improvement in the delivery of lessons.”

Due to these efforts, the rigorous curriculum in Lubbock is now completely in digital format, which brings the district to the forefront of the 21st-century classroom ideal. Eventually, according to Landis, all of Lubbock’s teachers will have a SMART Board interactive whiteboard, and the district’s entire K–12 curriculum will be available on SMART Notebook. “From the first day SMART software is installed,” says Landis, “it changes the focus to the material being in front of the room and the teachers and students manipulating it. In the future, we predict that instead of the teacher talking about lessons, everyone in the classroom will be able to talk about the material and how it is internalized.”    

Beyond being a visionary, Landis is at the core a practical administrator. He realizes that technology must be cost-effective to be truly applicable. When it comes to his district’s investment in SMART technology, Landis says, “I have worked with SMART technology for more than 15 years in this district; I have yet to have to replace a SMART Board because it is worn out or broken. The long-term benefit for a district that buys SMART Boards is that the technology will be there for the long haul. Everything else, such as cameras, projectors, and computers, has a life cycle of five to seven years. On the other hand, SMART Boards just seem to keep on going and going like the Energizer Bunny®.”

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