This is a guest blog post from SMART Ambassadors Jonathan Olshan and Shelly Chmil from Warwick School District in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
Jonathan Olshan has been an educator for 11 years. He taught 7th, 8th, and 10th grade English as well as 9th-12th Broadcasting before accepting his current role as a K-12 Instructional Technology Coach. He is an advocate for all students and has a passion for helping teachers excite and engage their learners by using technology to create student-centered, innovative classrooms.
Shelly Chmil has been an educator for 24 years. After being a classroom teacher in a variety of elementary grade levels, her love of technology led her to her current role as a K-12 Instructional Technology Coach. Shelly is a firm believer that all students deserve to learn in an environment that is engaging, collaborative and equitable. She believes that learning never stops. She loves to learn and share what she learns with others. Shelly would love to share her love of SLSO and would be happy to connect with you!
Working SMARTer Not Harder: Using SMART Learning Suite Online in any Learning Environment
Effective teachers understand that building a unified, positive classroom culture is an absolute necessity in order for students to thrive. But what happens to a traditional classroom culture when its participants are constantly fluctuating between in-person and remote learning? Pandemic teaching and the shift to online, hybrid learning has challenged educators to find unique methods to deliver synchronous and asynchronous instruction for both types of students simultaneously.
SMART Learning Suite Online offered one of the most beneficial solutions to help us bridge the divide between our in-person and remote learners by providing collaborative, interactive experiences that promote a sense of community among students.
A little bit about us. We are Technology Integration Coaches who support 340 teachers and over 4000 students grades K-12. We provide resources, offer professional development, and help our teachers incorporate technology that is meaningful and purposeful. We value and promote tools that allow collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. Our K-8 teachers have SMART licenses as well as boards in their room. Our K-2 classrooms have iPads and our 3-12 classrooms have Macbooks.
This year was like no other. With the constant shifting of kids in a face-to-face/remote environment, we focused on tools that would provide a collaborative engaging experience to all learners no matter what environment they were in.
In enters SMART Learning Suite Online! We had shared SMART's online software in the past, but only a few of our teachers were using it regularly. After looking at some of the latest updates in 2021, we fell in love with its versatility and ease and decided to create a few sample projects. Early February, we created a Figurative Language SMART lesson geared towards 4th grade. Our goal going into that classroom was to see if things would “break”. We never want to push something out to our teachers (especially during a pandemic year) that would cause stress or anxiety. Our lesson contained every SMART Online element you could imagine: manipulatives, graphic organizers, shout it outs, and a few game-based activities. With every activity we tried, the more excited we would get. Everything worked flawlessly and the kids LOVED it! Our next mission was to test it out with First Graders on the iPads. It was their 100th day of school and we wanted to have some fun! We loved watching our youngest learners interact and collaborate using this amazing tool. After a few more trials, each met with success, we knew we had to share this info with our teachers ASAP.
What does SMART professional development look like during a global pandemic? Challenging to say the least, but it gave us the perfect opportunity to showcase all that SMART had to offer in any learning environment. At our Middle School, we were able to meet face-to-face with teams of educators during their shared planning time. A thirty-minute interactive demonstration was enough to showcase all the SLSO had to offer. Teachers immediately began visualizing how they could use SLSO within their specific content area.
At the Elementary level, we conducted our sessions virtually throughout a two-week span. These sessions consisted of K-6 teachers, school counselors, speech therapists, and intervention specialists. We began with a Google Slideshow to inform our staff about the benefits of using SMART Online. Then we imported that slideshow into SLSO and created an engaging lesson in less that 4 minutes by adding activity templates and ready-made resources. The teachers then joined our SMART lesson to experience the student side of the activity while also pausing to reflect and witness the teacher side of things.
The feedback we received was inspiring! Some teachers started using what they learned the very next day. Many teachers would stop us in the hallway and tell us about their success stories. Teachers that had old SMART Notebooks from 10 years ago were able to easily revive them in a way that made them more collaborative and engaging. They no longer had to rely on one board for interactivity. It was now at each students’ fingertips. Introducing teachers to SMART online gave them the opportunity to engage everyone in their classroom and work smarter, not harder and that’s a win for everyone.
Reflecting on the past few months, we’ve outlined some of our favorite features in SMART Online that have helped our educators establish and build meaningful, interactive experiences in their hybrid learning environment.
1: Make a page a collaborative Workspace Activity to promote teamwork
Smart Online allows you to take any new page, PDF, PPT, or G Suite file and instantly convert it into a Collaborative Workspace Activity. This feature allows you to set up partners and groups for instant collaboration. Remote students and in-person students can suddenly cooperate on any activity in real-time!
A 6th grade teacher converted a PDF and used the “infinite cloner” feature so that students could plot points to simultaneously graph parts of an equation as a team. Using the Frayer Model graphic organizer from the ready-made resources, students in an 8th-grade social studies class collaborated on different sections of this vocabulary assignment to complete the work. During a 100th day of school activity for a first grade class, the entire class filled up a digital gumball machine together!
2: Use a Shout It Out! for generating whole class ideas and reflections
The Shout it Out! feature can be added to any SMART Online activity and offers students a chance for their voice to be heard among their peers. Customizable settings allow the educator to set the number of submissions from each student, the type of contribution (text or image), and the students’ ability to respond publicly or anonymously.
Shout it Out! categories are also a great option for post-discussion sorting. During a 5th grade SMART lesson, we were able to use this feature to have students categorize their writing samples based on figurative language types. Shout it Outs! have also been a favorite method for icebreakers and activating prior knowledge. One of our 7th grade Math teachers uses it as a way to help students find their work groups and develop interpersonal relationships. Another 2nd grade teacher used Shout it Outs! to have students show what they know about preventing the spread of germs that cause infectious diseases.
Stay tuned for ideas 3-5 in a second blog post from Johnathan and Shelly!