Monday, October 1, 2012

One SMART Summer

This was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of summer- in like a lion, out like a lion.  First of all, my district started summer staff development off with a BANG!  We hosted an unconference “techpalooza” where we created the schedule for the conference as we went along.  My duties were to cover SMART and technology interactivity in the classroom.  We took a quick glance at Notebook 11, checked out some of my interactive games from Mr. Smart Trainer, and then found a few other interactive flash-type websites that I frequent.  This is a great model to follow to kick off summer staff development and a great way for teachers to get their “earned-off” days.  For the next two weeks, I hosted SMART professional development, covering just about everything I know about the SMART interactive whiteboard, from Basic and Intermediate Training to SMART Games.  The short vacation portion of my summer started in mid-June and ran through very early July when I started to prepare for the SMART Exemplary Educator Summit at SMART’s world headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
 I got to spend the most amazing week with 49 of the world’s most proficient and powerful users of SMART products as well as the amazing SMART staff (SMARTians).  We got to share how we use SMART, collaborate with others to learn new tips and tricks, and built an amazing personal learning network.  Most of these people I have talked to several times since the summit via Twitter, Facebook, or email.  We stayed at University of Calgary’s Hotel Alma, and got to see a lot of what Calgary has to offer.  SMART took us to murder mystery dinner theater and to the Wild West Events Center for line-dancing lessons as well!  Headed by our fearless SMART Exemplary Educator leader (you have to be fearless to head up a group of 50 strangers!), Deena Zenyk, did an amazing job coordinating the event to make sure that we were all in the right place at the right time.  Her support staff also did a terrific job to get us where we needed to go and fed us extremely well.  We had the opportunity to participate in a soft launch of Gold Star SEE, the SMART Exemplary Educator gaming platform, to track our SMART participation.  If you are a SEE and haven’t checked out Gold Star SEE yet, you better get in the game!
It was bittersweet leaving SMART’s headquarters, but 7 days away from my expecting wife and 8-year old little boy is tough.  I knew I was coming home a lot SMARTer than when I left.  I had lots of ammunition to finish out my SMART summer with two more weeks of SMART professional development for the staff of Kerrville Independent School District.  At the end of my last two weeks of workshops, the cherry on top was getting to train the faculty of pre-service teachers at Texas A&M at Corpus Christi on their brand new 800 series SMART interactive whiteboard. 
We are four weeks into our school year now and it amazes me how quickly time has flown by.  September 20th marked the one-year anniversary of my blog-writing attempt on Mr. Smart Trainer.  I ended the year with just under 21,000 visits.  This is quite an amazing feat for just starting out, but I will continue to create and share everything I find and make with the SMART community.  Make sure to stop by and see me at TCEA this spring in Austin, TX, and hopefully in San Antonio at ISTE, or stop by Mr. Smart Trainer and say hello.
Thanks for stopping by,
John Mein

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