Monday, September 29, 2008

SMART Board 600i - First Impressions

In the coming months, I will be writing a lot about the SMART Technologies line of products, in particular, the SMART Board 600i. Several weeks ago, I approached SMART Technologies in an effort to attain a review unit of the SMART Board 600i in my classroom. I also asked Prometheum, a leading competitor in the interactive white board market, if they, too, would like to participate in my review. As of today, Prometheum has not responded. A couple of weeks ago, SMART Technologies indicated their interest. And last week, they installed a SMART Board 600i in my classroom. Since its installation a mere five days ago, I have already used the device in Language Arts, Writing, Social Studies, and Math. The moment I used it in one subject, I felt energized to use it in another. Even at this early stage, I can already see why interactive white boards are a must-have tool for teachers.

Today, I used the SMART Technologies document camera, connected to the SMART Board, to snap a picture of a page in our math text book. I then invited students to come up and solve some problems on the SMART Board. One at a time, students approached the interactive white board, selected one of the four dry erase markers, and began to write directly onto the enlarged image of the math page. Some students took a little longer getting used to the markers than others. Each marker is simply a prop designed to look and feel like a real dry erase marker. They come in four colors: black, red, green, and blue. One problem is that an incidental palm press confuses the white board about which press it should respond to -- the palm press or the tip of the marker. But students master this skill within seconds. By pressing firmly and deliberately, and by resisting the urge to rest their hand on the board, they find they can write on the board with success. After the math lesson, I saved our work as a PDF which I now have the option of either uploading it to my class website, archiving it for later, or printing it out for students.

The students' reaction to the SMART Board has been very positive. When they see me power it up, they suddenly become very excited because they know that in a moment, I am going to invite volunteers to come up and perform some kind of learning activity on it. In the coming weeks and months, I'll post more observations about the SMART Board 600i; review the SMART Airliner Wireless Slate; SMART Notebook software and lesson activities; and the Senteo interactive response system.

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