Saturday, September 20, 2008

Goal Setting Update

Just this week I found out that three articles I recently wrote about goal setting were published as a series on Education World. I felt honored that Ed World accepted them because I've recommended their website for years and I think it's a great resource. The series is called Goal Setting 101 and it starts with the article called Understanding the Process.

Now for my own goal setting project . . . it looks like our Smartboard is definitely within reach! We have $920 in actual donations and about $300 in money that has been pledged to us. The Smartboard will be about $1050, so as soon a little more money is in I can arrange for one to be ordered. We still have to raise money for an Elmo and an LCD projector, but in the meantime I'm borrowing equipment from the media center. I'm so excited, and I know my students will be excited when we have enough money in our account to pay for the Smartboard. We've been having fun with an Air Liner slate in the meantime, but it can be unreliable and difficult to use.

What's interesting is that the goal-setting process my class followed was the exact process I described in Goal Setting 101. We set our class goal of getting a Smartboard and came up with an action plan. We decided to call our project Smartboards 4 Smart Kids and put up a webpage where people could donate with credit cards. The kids also made posters and talked to their parents and other family members about the project. We visualized having a Smartboard in our room, and we had faith that the money would be donated. It really works! I love the fact that my students are learning that when you set a goal for yourself and believe in it, your dreams really can come true!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Smart Teaching

Smartboards and other interactive whiteboards are hot items in schools these days. If you’ve ever seen one demonstrated, it’s hard not to get excited about them! Last year my class was located in a “hut” or portable classroom behind the school. It was an interesting experience, and it wasn’t all bad. However, one difficult aspect was being isolated from technology. I wanted a Smartboard, but I knew that even if I could get a grant or raise money, the school system would not install it in a portable classroom. So my goal was to get into the building this year and figure out some way to get a Smartboard and learn to use it. The first part of my wish was granted over the summer and I moved into my new classroom. Now I’m working on the second part of the goal.

During the first week of school I talked to my new 4th grade class about the idea of trying to get a Smartboard for our classroom. Many of them had been in classes with Smartboards or seen them demonstrated, and they were excited about the idea of having one in our room, too. So we set a class goal of raising money for a Smartboard system (Smartboard, LCD projector, and Elmo) and we drafted an action plan describing how we plan to accomplish that goal. The first part of the plan involved me setting up a website for donations. We are calling our project Smartboards 4 Smart Kids, and I set up a webpage with that URL ( It looks like it will take about $2,500 to purchase the full system, but we are not discouraged. We have already received almost $500 in donations and we’ve only had the site up for a week. We have other steps in our action plan if needed, but we hope to get enough money just through donations. (Hint, hint!)

Being the positive thinker that I am, I’m already envisioning my brand new Smartboard installed in my room and ready to go! I’ve downloaded the Smartboard Notebook software and have been exploring what it can do. I’m planning to take a 10-hour course on Smartboard use that’s offered in my district, and I’ve been checking out Smartboard websites and tools. (As a side note, I know that there are other interactive whiteboards out there, but my district will only install and support Smartboards so that limits my options.)

Here’s where I need some help from other teachers. I want to learn how to create great lessons that use the interactive capabilities of the Smartboard. I’m probably not looking in the right places, but all I’ve seen so far are links to cool interactive websites that you can project on the Smartboard. However, instructional time in the classroom is limited, I am not convinced that those websites offer any advantage over high quality teaching without a Smartboard. Yes, the Smartboard is very motivating and it will captivate any observer’s attention, but I want MORE! I want to use my Smartboard in ways that will improve teaching and learning on a more fundamental level. I want the Smartboard to become an indispensable tool for teaching the way an overhead projector used to be for me - something that allows me to be a better teacher, rather than a cool toy that I use briefly before reverting to my old ways. I want to see some examples of Smartboard lessons, not just websites. I want to know how to use a Smartboard in different subjects like math, reading, social studies, and science. I need some step-by-step examples of ways to use the Smartboard to take students to a higher level as critical thinkers or to engage them in rigorous learning. I want to go from "using" a Smartboard, to "smart teaching".

So if you have any "Smart Teaching" lessons to share, or you know of any resources that would help me learn to use a Smartboard effectively, please share!