30 years ago a typical classroom may have been described as having desks and chairs, a chalk board and maybe a carpet corner or fish tank to liven it up. Today, many 21st century classrooms are now described as having tables with yoga balls, “smart boards” and computers.
SMART technologies has done something that very few companies have been able to do. Like Band Aid, Kleenex and Vaseline, the SMART board has become the name for every interactive white board out there.
I am a fan of the Smart board (the actual SMART board). I prefer it due to its community of users and the software that drives its interactive white board. In my opinion, it is second to none. Recently, I had an experience that I will not soon forget. I had the opportunity to be a part of the world wide launch of a new SMART Technologies piece of software. It is called SMART Amp.
Imagine every student in your classroom using their own device and that device running a web based piece of software that turns their device into a SMART device (pun entirely intended). SMART Amp does just that. It turns your students' devices into their very own interactive smart board. The devices link up to each other and the teacher also has complete control. This is a collaborator's dream. Now let’s take it even one step further. Take those same devices running SMART amp in your classroom and link up to another classroom using SMART amp in another country. Now you have two classrooms hundreds, if not thousands of miles apart collaborating and problem solving together.
The possibilities are endless. Think of this scenario. You are the reading teacher of an elementary school and you just finished reading a nonfiction work about the Revolutionary War. You have the students do a collaborative poster discussion on SMART Amp answering the following question-- How do you think today’s students in England would feel after reading this same passage on the Revolutionary War? After the students have had time to create their interactive piece, you then flip a switch and your SMART Amp project is being shared with a classroom in England who has just completed the exact same project but the question asked was-- How would an American child feel about this work? Can you imagine the discussion that would ensue? It would be quite an exciting learning experience.
As educators, we talk about the need for 21st century skills and the need to change education so that our students are prepared to live and work in the 21st century. But yet, it seems that many teachers have not taken that first step into the 21st century. Collaboration is a necessary skill for our children and can represent that first step. Is it quiet? Does it fit into neat rows of desks? Is it bound by 4 walls? All of these questions have a simple and irrefutable answer. NO! New technologies like SMART Amp will help to create and enhance the collaborative experience on a global scale. But, keep in mind, the first step must always be a competent, enthusiastic teacher willing to give it a try. The second step, perhaps is to get in touch with SMART Technologies.