One of the biggest questions I get whenever I get the chance to hang out with teachers at a SMART Board workshop is "where do I find the time to create Notebook files?" My answer is always a 3-part answer:
2. Why are you doing all the work? Get students to create challenges for their peers.
3. Did you know there's like a bazillion files floating around on the internet that you can take and modify as opposed to building from scratch?
While all 3 points could spawn lengthy blog posts and debate, my 3rd answer is the focus of today's post. Enter the SMART Exchange. For those unfamiliar with this website, I'd HIGHLY recommend that you bring yourself up to speed, pronto. In fact, if you've been looking for a summer holidays homework project for yourself (after you've had the standard 2-week rest to recuperate from the school year) I'd suggest starting with the SMART Exchange.
In a nutshell, this website is a place that teachers, educators, experts from SMART and 3rd party publishers can upload content that they've created in any of SMART's software programs (Notebook, Response, Table Toolkit, Ideas, etc.). What this site can do for YOU is provide a starting point when looking for both teacher resources and interactive student ideas. Recently, SMART has required a free signup (don't worry - I've yet to receive copious amounts of spam mail, so go ahead and take the plunge!). What this allows you to now do is keep track of things that you've uploaded, downloaded and searched. The organizer in me is pleased.
Now before you start with the skepticism or negativity -- after all, it is almost the end of the school year and believe you-me, I KNOW what kind of head space teachers are usually in by now -- hear me out. No, this isn't the magic bullet that can mystically transform your teaching overnight. It will not give you day-by-day lessons to fulfill the requirements of a unit.
And yes, I'm aware that this at first glance can seem like a digital version of the nightmare that every new teacher walks into...you know, the one where every freaking well-intentioned colleague hands them a binder full of "useful" stuff that they used to teach that class back when THEY were the ones in charge of that curriculum. Enter pointless hours spent pouring over the 823,098 different ways that someone taught keywords/ideas/concepts to students back in 1991 that the eager first-year teacher initially thought was going to save them time, when in fact, it just put them further behind getting on with their own planning.
Trust me. This isn't like that at all.
Instead, this is a MUCH more efficient way to skim through what other educators from around the globe have created and utilized with their SMART products. While I'm not going to go into every little detail in what's available on this site, I thought I'd save you some time and give you my top 5 ways to use the SMART Exchange effectively.
1. Take advantage of the fact that you can change what country you're from. Why? There are numerous reasons including:
- finding resources in different languages (French, Spanish, etc.)
- yielding different search results (whatever area of the world teachers uploaded FROM, is the same area that it will look for said files during the search)
- getting MORE search results due to population (ex: US has more teachers using the site than Canada...which means MORE files)
- looking to some places that are a bit ahead of the game (ex: UK has had interactive whiteboards waaay longer than most of us in North America, and therefore, tend to have pushed more towards files that are meant for student, rather than teacher, interaction.)
2. Use the search engine provided when starting a new unit. Be specific.
3. Filter those search engine results with the file type(s) that you have software for:
In the example above, a quick search was done on "space", yielding 715 results. However, not all of the uploaded content may be useful to you. If you don't have SMART Notebook Math Tools, SMART Response or a SMART Table, there's really no point in sifting through 75+ items that aren't even compatible with the products you have.
4. Use the preview option. I can't stress this enough. Save yourself the time it requires to download a lesson (especially if you're one of the lucky ones with snailpace "highspeed" internet), as well as the time it takes to open the files in Notebook. All you need to do is follow the directions and "Click to Preview" any content that shows up on your screen. This provides a thumbnail of each page in the file so you can get a fairly good idea of how applicable it is to your lesson/students/teaching style. It will not allow you to try the interactive components, but nonetheless can give you a pretty good sense of the quality of the file.
5. Share. No, this isn't kindergarten, but yes, it's still one of the greatest lessons we all learned that applies to adulthood. Don't worry about being judged -- 99.9% of people using this site are in the same boat as you are, and are simply looking for something...ANYTHING to get them started on a lesson. Try to replenish even 1/100th of what you take from here with fresh content.
If you have any other tips on how you've used the SMART Exchange to help with your planning, feel free to share in the comments section below!