Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Generation SMART

Well, everyone is blogging these days so this is my attempt to join everyone with a blog of my own.  I don't intend on this being a place for me to make gobs of money or a movie like Julie and Julia.  I'd just like to share with you an interest, nay, a passion of mine.  If you haven't figured it out already, that is the SMART board. 
I am a sixth grade teacher in Kerrville, TX.  For those of you that don't know where Kerrville is, we are that town you drive through on I-10 on your way east to San Antonio.  Yeah, the one with the car dealership and the giant bronze cross up on the hill.  There isn't much to our little town, but it's home to me.  I grew up here, moved away for a spell to go to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, and here I am again.  I teach at BT Wilson Sixth Grade School in Kerrville Independent School District.  This is my fifth year teaching, and my fourth in Kerrville at BT.  Kerrville does a phenomenal job of providing technology for the teachers to use, and I am one that takes full advantage of every piece of equipment I can get my hands on.
One of those pieces is the SMART board.  My SMART board was mounted in February of 2010.  With the exception of standardized testing days, there have not been many days that I haven't use it.  In fact, I depend on it.  I found out how much I depend on it when my projector went out one day last year and I was forced to use the most outdated piece of equipment in my room- the whiteboard.  Luckily in Kerrville, we have an amazing IT department and I had a new projector by the following week.  That fast-forwards my story quite a bit so I'll go back a tad...
So this thing is on my wall that I have been waiting seemingly for months.  I had touched one once in college (I have been told that Texas Tech's College of Education now offers courses in Instructional Technology with SMART boards as one of the tools that students are taught to use), and had a brief encounter with one that another teacher on my campus had.  Our district rolled them out to most of the classrooms in one swoop and so we were all infants with a new toy that we didn't know how to use.  This was a sink or swim moment.  Now that I'm blogging about it, you can guess which one I chose.  I played with it, starting slow- turning on the projector and seeing what happened when I touched it.  If you were a student in my class, it probably seemed like most of the stuff I did was for the sake of being able to do it, which was in fact not far from the truth.  I taught myself what each button did, what was offered in the taskbar, what happened when I right-clicked on something on my screen.  I fell in love.  Lucky for me, the one SMART trainer we had in our district was moving away.  I sat through her Train the Trainer session before she left that summer, and I had an epiphany- 'I can do that.'  Early the next year, I asked our CTO about the possibility, in the future, of me going to the official SMART training to become certified.  There is a pretty hefty cost ($1800), and I figured I would get an answer in the ballpark of "We'll look at next year's budget and talk about it," but instead I was told "Give me the dates."  About a month later, I found myself in San Antonio becoming certified.  What a certifiable idea!?! 
The Certification training was much like the Train the Trainer workshop I sat through that summer, and not to toot my own horn, but I would consider myself the class's valedictorian.  Later that year, I was accepted as a SMART Exemplary Educator and then inked my name on the short list of SMART contract trainers.
Since then, I have become very well acquainted with the SMART Exchange and have posted several of the activities/games I have created.  Just type in 'mrmein' in the search engine and see what pops up!
I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity work in a place that makes technology like this available-  A place that opens doors for me to branch out and do something that I love to do.
That is what this blog is about.  Not just the experience I have had with the SMART board, but also to share with all of you some helpful hints that will make you a "swimmer" rather than a "sinker."  So that is my first SMART Nugget, the SMART Exchange and the games that I have posted for you to use in your classroom.  There is no sense in recreating the wheel when one has been made for you.  Please let me know what you think of my games.  I really hope to see followers start popping up!
Let's get SMART together!

John Mein
Mr. Smart Trainer

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