Four Awesome Tools to Get Started with Your SMART Board

My district has brand new SMART Boards (model M600) this year. My principal asked me to show teachers what this hardware can do. Because SMART Boards can do so much, it can be overwhelming for teachers to know how to get started. Here are four tools I recommend to begin incorporating SMART Boards into instruction.

Let’s Start with that Floating Toolbar

Some teachers do not like having this constantly on their screen:

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That is the SMART Floating Toolbar which is actually very useful. First, you need to easily customize it to make it a great resource. Follow these three simple steps:

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Now you can start playing with some great SMART tools.

Tool 1: The Screen Shade

This tool essentially acts as a curtain to hide and unveil areas on the screen. It can cover any rectangular area on the screen.

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Tool 2: The Spotlight

Our second tool works like a spotlight does: it highlights one area on the screen and excludes everything else. You can manipulate its shape and size too.

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Tool 3: The Magic Pen

For this tool to work, you have to be working with a SMART Notebook file. PowerPoint presentations can easily be converted into SMART Notebook files by using File—>Upload in SMART Notebook. The magic pen has two uses. As a regular pen it works as disappearing ink. What you write disappears in about three seconds. If you draw a rectangle with it, the magic pen becomes a rectangular magnifying glass. I enjoy using it to highlight something and discuss it with students.

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Tool 4: Gallery Essentials

Here is a truly killer app from SMART: a database full of images and activities organized by subject area. To access gallery essentials while in SMART Notebook:

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Once inside take a look at your subject area. There are so many great resources. Many of them involve interactivity with the SMART Board which can make a great center activity.

Enjoy these four tools. I hope they make your instruction more engaging. Send me a tweet to let me know how it’s going or ask me a question.


SMART Clickers: Tech Driven Formative Assessment in the Classroom

This Spring my school purchased classroom sets of SMART Response XE clickers. I was honored to be trusted to experiment with one of the sets and incorporate it in into my formative assessment. John Hattie researched 138 influences on student learning and found that formative assessment was the third most effective of all of them. SMART Response XE clickers give teachers and students formative assessment in a format that students are comfortable with while producing data teachers can use with ease.

The Equipment

An actual SMART Board is not necessary to use this tool. As long as you have a projector, you can use it. A classroom set has 32 clickers. The closest mobile device I can compare it to is a Blackberry.

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Each clicker talks to your computer through a receiver that attaches through a USB port.

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To use the clickers and have them track student data you have a little set-up to do. If you want to just get a feel of how the class as a whole is understanding material, you can use anonymous mode which requires no set-up.

To create a class you have to assign each student a number and enter it. I used the student numbers they use to access their school e-mail and lunch account. They use this unique number in other contexts in the building.


 The SMART Response clickers are great for multiple choice summative assessment such as exit tickets. All assessments are created in the SMART Notebook program. You start the class and the assessment. Students join the class:

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You can project the question or questions using either the SMART Notebook program, Google Docs or Microsoft Word.

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If you are interested in having students take actual multiple choice tests using the clicker they can. You can create the assessment in SMART Notebook and print a copy for each student. Students would then answer on their clickers and you could review the results as they answer the questions.

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I like to go over the answers to summative assessments with the students after they are complete. SMART Notebook generates pie charts of how the class answered each question.

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The clicker has a full QWERTY keyboard and calculator functions. You can use them for short answer questions and math problems. You could ask for adjectives to describe something. The software will produce word clouds for short answer questions so you can see which answers were used the most and least.

 To conclude

 To be sure, there are many tools on the Internet that do what SMART Response XE clickers do. Letsgeddit and Socrative are two good examples. I especially like the way Socrative gives you student data for each assessment. The reasons you want to work with the clickers are 1) they show the class instantly how the whole class did on a given question – this sparks great class discussion about why answers are right and wrong and 2) they cross the digital divide in non 1-to-1 classrooms. I hate relying on student smart phones for Letsgeddit, Socrative or TodaysMeet and having a few students not have them. School provided clickers put all students on a level playing field.

 A tool that incorporates technology into assessment and looks similar to the devices that dominate students’  lives is an asset for any teacher. For schools not quite ready to take the 1-to-1 plunge Smart Response XE clickers can serve as a nice intermediate step to incorporate technology into assessment.

I owe a big thank you to Kristen Swanson, Ed.D, whose feedback for this post was invaluable.