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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Don't Have a Smartboard? Here's an idea!

As you may have read in the "About Me" space, I am a Navy spouse. As a Navy spouse, I tend to move frequently to follow my husband's career. While this provides for exciting new opportunities, adventures, and friends, it also means changing schools frequently - often in other states. When you change classrooms all the cool technology and resources you might have been fortunate enough to have do not get to move with you. This can be extremely disheartening, particularly when you have put a lot of time and effort into creating numerous Smart Lessons (or Promethean Flip Charts, etc.) only to find yourself without a Smartboard. So, alas, those lessons get put into a folder to be pulled out again at some point in the future when you are lucky enough to find yourself in a classroom with a Smartboard once again....

While this is the personal scenario I find myself in, many of you may simply have learned the technology at a professional development event or in college classes, regardless of your circumstances, if you are without a Smartboard (or other interactive whiteboard) this entry is for you!

I was fortunate enough during my student teaching experience to learn this nifty trick from my cooperating teacher. Unfortunately, the reason she developed this trick was because her Smartboard was not mounted and at the time, it took too much time in her room set-up to get it out, hooked up, and aligned for it to be beneficial for her to use the actual board. I am almost sure that she has since become an avid user of her Smartboard, or at least I hope so! (Don't get me wrong, she was an amazing teacher to learn from and I will always treasure my experiences in that classroom! It was simply before the big Smartboard push and the training and availability of lessons were not as widely available as they are now!) Nonetheless, she showed me how to overcome the challenges of not having the physical Smartboard to keep things interactive in her room!

Alright, enough of all that, let's get down to business....here's how it is done!

What You Need:
- Wireless Trackball Mouse
- Wireless Keyboard
- Projector connected to a computer
- Smart Notebook Software
- Dry Erase Board

Chances are your school or district already has the Smart Notebook software loaded onto your computer if there are Smartboards anywhere in the district or at your schools. If not, talk to your tech specialist to see if it can be installed on your desktop.

As for the wireless mouse and keyboard, the mouse is worth being a little picky about. A trackball style mouse ensures that students can be seated at a carpet, standing in a group, or be located anywhere in the room to operate the tool. A traditional wireless mouse requires a flat surface which limits its effectiveness since many of the today's mice use light to navigate and are frequently overly sensitive to certain surfaces. So, save yourself the hassle and invest in the trackball, presentation style mouse! My personal recommendation would be this one found on Amazon.

The wireless keyboard is more flexible in style, brand, function, etc. Don't splurge on the most expensive, high-tech keyboard out there. Remember, you work with kids! Classrooms can be crazy at times, things spill and kids can be clumsy (heck, even you can be clumsy!). The keyboard is mostly used for typing in search engines, composing lists/documents, etc. that you wish to save for later. For things you don't want to save, you simply use dry erase markers!

To get all this to work....

Connect your projector, computer, wireless mouse, and keyboard so that they are working seamlessly with one another. I will refrain from going into more detail regarding this set-up process because it tends to be specific to the type of computer, projector, mouse, and keyboard that you have, as well as how your school network is set up. Be aware that if you are needing to install any drivers or new software to operate your new tools you will need the tech specialist at your school to assist you as installations are normally only possible with administrator log-in information.

Now, instead of pulling down a projector screen simply project onto the dry erase board in your classroom. You can open any Smart Notebook lesson you have in your files, or you can find one at Smart Exchange to try out.

From there, you use dry erase markers to circle objects and write in blanks and you use a regular eraser before moving on to the next slide. Use the trackball mouse to have students select objects and move them to various locations, they can also use the mouse to use the highlighter or manipulate sounds, videos, or shapes. The wireless keyboard is used for any text entry.

I have found it works best to have students walk the mouse to a friend they select to have a turn next or to deliver the mouse between students yourself - with some practice and a few guidelines this becomes a very efficient transition. Be patient.

Also, expect a few of your students to struggle with the trackball mouse at first. Encourage them to keep trying and ensure they don't feel pressure to complete the task in a specific amount of time. The trackball is something new to many students, but they will adjust the more practice they have.

If any of you give this a try, I'd love to know how it works out for you or if you have any questions!