Monday, March 23, 2009

Animated Timeline

I have to pause in my series of tips for new SMARTboard users to talk about a great website: Timetoast. Building a timeline is a great opportunity for students to research, trace the development of a trend, and put it in a larger context. I use MS Word for timelines with students in my computer classes. The callouts on the drawing toolbar serve as markers on the line. But wouldn't color, animation, and the web make it even more exciting? Try Timetoast. It's a free website that allows you to create timelines, post them on their site, and add them to a web page. Enter the events in any order. Add a short explanation, link, and photo if you choose. Timetoast arranges the events in callouts along a timeline. The viewer mouses over the line and the events pop out with title and thumbnail photo. Clicking on an event reveals the text, link, and larger photo. Here's a sample I made, Shakespeare's Plays.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

There's Got to Be a Better Way! Copy Notebook Page

Tip #6 for new users of SMARTboard/Notebook: I begin a Notebook file for a lesson on research paper for my 8th grade and a different introductory file for my 6th grade. Now it occurs to me that my review page in the 8th grade file would work very well for other class too. I select all; then copy—uh-oh, text and images are locked. Up to Edit > Select all locked items, then command-u to unlock. Copy all; then to the 6th grade file, add a new page, then paste. Finally, add the page background from the Gallery or Format > Page background again. Nine steps—there’s got to be a better way! There is: Line up the 2 Notebook files so that the thumbnails show. Just drag the thumbnail of the page to be copied into the other file. Done.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Select all Locked Items

Tip #7.  The first time I attempted a Notebook page--that's the software designed for SmartBoard--with animations and hyperlinks, I worked on it for quite some time. At last it was finished. But I had misspelled one of my links. That sent me back to the animation/link-lock jail described in Tip #8. I ended up deleting the page, then starting over. Of course, once I deleted it, other pages that were linked to it didn’t work either. Frustration like this can lead to some pretty bad grammar. The cure: Under the Edit menu at the top is something I had overlooked: “Select all locked items.” Clicking this of course selects everything you so carefully locked, and now you can use command-u to unlock them all. Fix the ones that need fixing, then select all (command-a), and lock (command-L) again. Mental health is restored.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lock Last

Tip #8 for new users of SMARTboard and its software, Notebook. Here's a great time waster: Add animation to 5 or 10 text boxes--say, spin--then try to lock them. Every time you click a box, it spins so can't access the menu. The cure: Take care of your color, animations, links, etc. As the last step, use command-a to select all. Notebook selects the text boxes and images that are not locked. Use command-L to lock them all without starting the animations or activating links; or use the pull-down menu to choose "Lock > Allow move" for all items at once.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stuttering Finger--Won't You Give?

Tip #9: Lock: Many of my carefully prepared Notebook lessons--"Notebook" is the software designed for the SMARTboard--were pounded to mush as students tried to drag words into the right category—a condition called “stuttering finger.” The student touches the text box; the finger slips and taps again. This double-click opens the text box for editing, whereupon, the next slip rearranges the order of the letters till the lesson is unintelligible. The cure: Lock. Select the text box, pressing on the downward-pointing triangle to choose “Lock.” If you prefer, use Command-l. In the case of a text box that needs to be placed somewhere else on the page during the lesson, choose “Allow move”--no keyboard shortcut for this.  Now the words in the text box cannot be changed until you use the same pull-down menu to “unlock”--or Command-u.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Freeze! Tips for New SmartBoard Users

New to SMARTboard? These are my top ten tips for new users of Notebook, the software designed for the SMARTboard, starting with number 10.

Tip #10: I've just put up the instructions for the assignment on the SmartBoard. Just then I remember that there’s an important email to check. I used to just wait to use the computer for this or any other task till the SmartBoard wasn’t needed. Then I learned about “freezing.” There’s a button on the remote for the projector labeled “freeze.” It captures the picture and doesn’t allow it to change till you hit “freeze” again. So, check your email, print an extra set of instructions or another copy of the parent newsletter, then return to your presentation and hit “freeze” a second time. Seamless.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Put the World back in the Wide Web

It's great to be reminded that there's more out there than my small circle. A blog by Tom Barret, a teacher in Nottinghamshire, England, has awesome advice about applying interactive technology in the classroom. His blog, "ICT in My Classroom," often focuses on what we call Smartboards or Promethean Boards in the US--they're IWBs (interactive white boards) in the UK. "ICT" stands for Information and Communication Technology in Britain, Europe, and elsewhere, and refers to computer-based learning. This blog has a huge amount of material. Use the top menu to access the "Ed Tech Roundup" podcast (subscribe in iTunes), video tutorials, and wikis. I tried the "Creating a Befuddlr puzzle from a SMART Notebook page" project--it works great! One of the greatest resources ever for SmartBoard is the Google Presentation he designed, "Thirty-Eight Interesting Ways to Use Your Interactive Whiteboard." If you don't look at any other education sites, you have to check "38 Interesting Ways," and the presentations that followed. It's my all-time favorite education post! I come back to these "Interesting Ways" presentations again and again. Link

Daily Bookmarks

"It's all about the small potatoes," says Jerry Swiatek. He's the technology specialist from a central Florida school district that shares ideas in his blog "Thoughts from a Tech Specialist." He describes his purpose: "Taking a technology that some people have never heard of nor seen and making them comfortable enough with it to make a difference in their teaching." Whether he posts a few lines about several web sites, or an in-depth page about one technology innovation for teachers, his enthusiasm and energy for his job inspires. One of my favorite posts shared "Simply Box." He showed how it works as well as presenting uses for the site in the classroom. I've subscribed to some of the blogs I found on his list on his blog, and I've gotten links from his Delicious bookmark site, "jerthebear." I get a kick out of the "Live Traffic Feed" that shows users visit his blog from various countries.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Da Big Leap: A Blog Review

After reading Rebecca Blood’s article about the two types of blogs, I realize that for education issues, I prefer the “filter” type rather than the “web log.” I subscribe to a number of blogs, using Google Reader to “aggregate” them. Like a morning newspaper written just for me, they appear on my start page. I doubt that I’d read any blogs at all without my Reader packaging them conveniently for me. The “filter” blog searches the web for obscure items of interest or links with “how to” lessons. These are more useful to me than blogs of personal sharing, rants, and the like. I admit however that I seldom make it through my Google Reader page before some of the items are weeks old. When I read a how-to or an experimental lesson, I like to try it out. This takes lots of that scarce commodity, time. Certain writers have proven that their contributions are worth the time.

One that's worth the time is called “The Teacher Teacher,” written by “dabigleap”-- a technical trainer from Columbia, Missouri. He often writes about SmartBoard use, which is of particular interest to me since I’ve had one in my classroom for a year. If you haven’t used SmartBoards, a year may seem like plenty of time to learn the tricks of the trade, but I’m just beginning to realize its potential. In a February 23, 2009, post he explains how to use lessons in other formats, ex., PowerPoint, and turn them into an interactive activities at the SmartBoard. He describes how to change the blanks of the worksheet to text boxes, and working with the “Ink Aware” toolbar, transform the working into a game, engaging all the students in the discovery process. Next, he explains how to import an existing PowerPoint lesson into Notebook—as the software for the SmartBoard is called—and not only keep the advantages of your work in PowerPoint, but add to the interactivity of Notebook. I had known about Ink Aware tools in the SmartBoard system, but I never understood the advantages of using them. He explains how to engage students in writing notes on the SmartBoard and how to savethem to be used as part of the lesson. “Dabigleap” writes in a casual style about technical tips for classroom teachers. He often links to other blogs or web pages with more information. His entries are sometimes very short, sometimes more in depth. He keeps his advice practical, without philosophy, politics, or unsupported predictions about Technology Utopia. I like that.