It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

2010-2011 SMARTBoard Year-end Reflection May 19, 2011

Filed under: SMARTBoard Grant — Jamie @ 2:51 pm


I think that there are two components that are absolutely essential to the success of this project. The first is access to the equipment. The data projector, laptop and SMARTBoard have been invaluable to the learning and integration of the technology in my classroom. Though I think that the students would not get the same benefits nor would the lessons have the same impact, I think that a data projector would still serve some of the purposes and provide some of the benefits. If there was no access to the laptops, it would be essential to have a teacher desktop permanently attached to the data projector.

Secondly, the professional development is so important. It provides us glimpses of new technologies that we can then explore and integrate at a later date. As teachers, we don’t have the time to seek out new tools because we can get lost in cyberspace. However, if we are introduced to a tool (or two) during a PD session, then we can use the little time we do have to direct our exploration and focus on those few tools.


My leadership role has been informal but impactive. Because of the make-up of my classroom this year and the special needs of several of my students, as well as because of my own health issues, I have not been able to take on the same active leadership role that I did last year. Instead, I have approached teachers one-on-one to provide ideas or technology support when possible or when requested.


Again, given the make-up of my class and my own personal health (having been on sick leave for part of the year), I did not make the same gains in the realm of technology this year as I did last year. However, when I do some deep reflection, I feel like I’ve had at least one big success. Using the SMARTBoard to teach writing has been invaluable. I have seen an incredible improvement in student writing being able to move things around, edit, and correct with the students on the SMARTBoard. Trying to teach young students that the order of their words or sentences can have large impact is difficult. However, having the kids physically move the words around on the SB and read each new configuration has resulted in the lightbulbs going off!

Some of the smaller successes have been the access to immediate information in the guided inquiry we do, the exposure to different tools, and the confidence the students have when facing technology.



This has been a very difficult year for me.  I am a little disappointed with the progress that I have made with my students this year.  I have definitely grown in my own personal development and I have exposed the students to many new technologies as well.  I feel like they have made progress in their awareness and interest, but less so in their actual knowledge of using the technologies.  This was disappointing given the major gains that I made during the first year of this project.  It has been a learning experience also accepting that not every year will be the same and that some years, with some students will be exceedingly successful and others we will only make small gains.  As long as we are moving forward, we are moving in the right direction.

So, in the end, I don’t think that I achieved my goals of using a wiki to communicate useful links to my parents, of collaborating with another class or even of having my students create a presentation using a tool of their choice.  However, the students are aware of how to use the computers and several different pieces of software, how to blog, how to turn on and off the SMARTBoard, and some of them (though not all) did create multimedia presentations using PowerPoint and video editing software.


SMARTBoard Grant Update January 9, 2011

Filed under: SMARTBoard Grant — Jamie @ 5:20 pm

Two years ago, an opportunity to apply for a technology grant through our school board presented itself to me.  If successful, I would receive for my classroom a SMARTBoard, a data projector, a laptop, other bits as they came up (like speakers, a headset, etc) and PD throughout a three year project.  The requirements were that I attend the PD, provide feedback on my development through keeping a blog, and by creating lessons to share with others.  I was successful in my grant application.

Through the first year of this project (the 2009-2010 school year) I faithfully did all three of these.  I was creating simple notebook activities, I participated in all the PD provided as well as did some technology PD on my own and set up my first blog: Learning to be SMART.

This year, however, I find myself halfway through the year not really having accomplished any of these three.  First, I missed my first PD session while I was off on extended sick leave.  I read the notes and logged into the closed blog where my colleagues were giving feedback to the tools they were learning about.  I did not add my own feedback.  I looked at the tools, but without someone to show me how they worked, I didn’t feel like I could contribute anything constructive.  Before I log my reaction to things, be it books, programs, tools, speeches, anything really, I like to really understand what it is that I am commenting on.  Earlier this year, my staff participated in a staff retreat which was focused on the book Strengths Finder 2.0.  When I found my strengths, the following was said about me:

“Because of your strengths, you regularly find a quiet place to be alone so you can clarify your plans, theories, questions, or solutions. Once you know what you think, you can launch discussions. In addition, you can elaborate on your ideas when it is necessary to do so. Being deprived of preparation time puts you at a disadvantage. On these occasions, you say as little as possible and hope someone else gets people talking.”


Therefore, not being able to participate in the PD, I’ve found it VERY difficult to contribute anything this year.  I’m looking forward to our next PD session in February.  I’m hoping that I can get back into it then.


The second requirement is blogging about my progress toward a techy teacher.  Well, I honestly haven’t done much progressing this year.  I use my SMARTBoard daily.  We use it for many different activities.  I use it for morning task, I use it as one stop in my reading centers, I use it to teach writing, to pull up pictures or maps or information my students are curious about.  I use it to do demonstrations of things I want my students to later try on their own.


My students themselves haven’t done much on computers this year.  They have their own blog which you can see here.  So far, there hasn’t been much guidance as to the CONTENT of their blogs.  We have just been learning the basic of the technical side of blogging.  We have learned how to log in, how to type a title, how to type the body of the blog, how to change the size and colour of the font, how to save drafts, how to publish posts and how to post comments.  Just this week, we started learning how to add pictures to our blog posts.  I truly hope to get into some better content on the blog later this year, but I find that my students this year have lots of academic challenges.  If I can get some of them writing a well-crafted sentence, I’ll be happy!


Which leads me to the third part of the grant bargain: creating Notebook lessons and posting them to our system wiki.  Because I base so much of what I teach on where my students are at academically and socially, I don’t really create a lot that can stand on its own for others to use.  So much of what I do on my SMARTBoard with my students is created with them.  I have lots of templates, but the teaching and the lessons really happen through the interaction with the students.  I have taught high school, middle years and now find myself teaching primary.  While middle years and high school are more heavily content-based curricula, primary curriculum is less content and more basic skills.  We definitely have content we need to teach, it is just that the WAY that we teach our content is very different from what I remember in the older grades.  (And before anyone jumps on my for this comment because I know that teaching is changing, it HAS been almost 10 years that I have been teaching primary now!)  I look at the lessons that my colleagues post on the wiki, all of whom are grades 6-12 and I can’t really picture using these types of lessons with my students.  My dayplans reflect this as well.  If you were to look at my daybook, you would see the general “title” of a lesson with several possible paths to get there.  I start with one, if it works, great!  If not, I try the next.  I keep going until the kids get it.  From day to day, year to year, my lessons always look different depending on what the kids know and what works with each unique group.


So, since blogging is all about reflection, what can I do to contribute to my colleagues?  Last year I started my own wiki with a collection of links that I have found useful for my students and their parents.  I haven’t visited since last year.  I think that it is time to update it and get back at it again.  What do you think?


Well, thanks for reading.  I’m hoping that this blog post will at least answer a few of my requirements.  Any suggestions you have would be much appreciated.