Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Smart Board Tips and Tricks

I have had a Smart Board in my classroom for several years, and this year I was again asked to create and present a Smart Board workshop for my colleagues. Since I was already working to put together all this information, I thought I might as well share it more widely! This first post will focus on tips and tricks for using a Smart Board and Smart Notebook software in the classroom.

Tips and Tricks for Smart Board Setup

The order of operations matters. Any time that you want to use a Smart Board, be sure to complete the following steps in sequence.

  1. Make sure that the computer is plugged into the Smart Board (USB) and to the projector (Mac computers need an additional dongle).
  2. Turn on the projector.
  3. Turn on the computer.

If the computer is connected to the projector when it turns on, it will automatically adjust its screen size and resolution to match that of the Smart Board. If the computer is already on before the projector is connected, the computer will retain its screen's aspect ratio, which may result in a disproportionate or squished look when projected onto the Smart Board.

Troubleshooting: you may need to choose the "Mirror Displays" options in display settings, which will tell the computer to display the same screen on the projector as on the computer itself.

Background tip: When starting up, the projector will display your computer's desktop. Keep that in mind when choosing a background wallpaper, and I recommend trying to avoid keeping files saved on the desktop. (This is an easy one to forget if you are using a personal computer. Unless you want your students to be immediately distracted by a giant picture of your dog, don't use personal photos for your computer's wallpaper.)

Get in the habit of orienting your Smart Board as soon as you turn it on and are logged into your computer. (For SmartBoard-brand boards, you can hold down the two buttons together to activate the Orient action.) Although kids love to hit the orient crosshairs, I have found it much more efficient to orient the board myself, as precision is critical.

Tips and Tricks for Writing on a Smart Board

When writing on a Smart Board, always remember that the board responds to the last object picked up. If you pick up one of the colored markers to write and then pick up the eraser, anything that touches the Smart Board (marker, eraser, finger, pointer, etc.) will act as an eraser. If you put the eraser back, then the Smart Board will "remember" that the previous object was a pen, and anything touching the board will write like the pen.

When writing with a pen on the Smart Board, be aware of where your hand is in relation to the board. Many times when my students come up to write on the Smart Board for the first time, they grip the pen in such a way that they end up resting the side of their hand against the board. They are startled to discover that they are now writing with the edge of their hand and not where the pen point is. (Having kids write with their finger or a pointer while holding the pen in their other hand is an easy solution.)

The pen itself does not really determine its own color or style. By default, picking the red pen out of the red tray will make it write in red, but you can use the pull tab or toolbars to change the color, size, and style of the pen. I most often use this option to turn on highlighting when reading or responding to texts on the board.

You have two options to erase "ink" from the Smart Board. You can pick up and use the eraser, which erases in a large circle shape, or you can use the eraser to trace a larger circle around anything you wish to erase. Draw the circle, tap once inside it, and all the ink will disappear. (Using the Smart Board eraser does not erase typed text or images.)

Write Large, Write Legibly. You will need to use larger fonts when typing on a Smart Board screen. I usually use Arial as the font with a minimum font size of 24. You want to make sure that all students can easily see and read the information on the board.

Tips and Tricks for Managing Files on a Smart Board

If you are using a Smart Board connected to a school computer in your classroom, then you will want to come up with a system for transferring files back-and-forth between a school and personal computer. I have found that Dropbox is an easy way to keep Smart Board files synced. I can edit files on my personal computer or school computer and syncing keeps them both up-to-date. (You can use the 'selective sync' option within Dropbox to only share a folder of Smart Board files with your school computer, rather than sharing everything.) New to Dropbox? Using this referral link helps me store more files in the cloud at no cost to you!

Separate Originals and Class Copies: If you are using a Smart Notebook file with students, you may find it useful to save the file at the end of a class lesson to include all the notes or annotations you added as a class. I strongly recommend using "Save As" at the end of the lesson to save a new copy of your file. I use Save As and then append the date to a given lesson. (So, The-Tide-Rises becomes The-Tide-Rises-150524 if I shared it on May 24th, 2015.) Then, next year, I already have a clean copy of the file to use, or I can pull up the "after" version to see what kids came up with.

Export Smart Notebook Files: You can use File --> Export within the SmartNotebook software to save a lesson created in Notebook as a web page, image files, PDF, or even PowerPoint. Exporting to PDF is a great way to then share your lesson with students so that they can access and refer back to the files.

Smart Board Tips and Tricks

Do you have any favorite Smart Board hacks or tricks? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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