Experience with SMART amp

Story Sixteen

Let's go on a digital walk, my dear student, and
learn the stuff you need to know when the place and time is right.

The Ancient Greeks would learn while having a walk with their teacher, tackling issues that were at his heart and developing ideas. We are lucky now that we have – despite a handful – record of what they said and thought.

Nowadays, we can have a kind of a digital walk when students can be in almost limitless contact with their teachers. It cannot, obviously, be conducted face to face, but the digital devices can easily bridge the strait of physical distance. All you need is to sit down, plan what you want to deliver, put the materials into a workspace and prepare possible scenarios of communicating.

I use SMART amp for tutoring support because it extends the time my student can spend on his or her task far beyond possibilities of our face-to-face sessions and it is very often to find time for sessions that would suit us. The workspace is divided into thematic parts that provide enough food for thought on the topics discussed in person, and added worksheets and questions provide material to get deeper understanding of it and also assessment. 

The workspace provides topic areas and resources for exploring them.

The common work is conducted via worksheets, quizzes, questions and chat box that is a really flexible tool to clarify objectives, record the though thread and also show what times work well for online discussion.

The added activities correspond with the topic by colours and the student gets quick feedback. 
Chat enables additional questions and also makes the student answer quickly to show the depth of understanding. 

Well-tailored workspace can set both teacher and student off on an amazing digital walk full of engaging discoveries.

So don't hesitate, enjoy the walk. 


Experience with SMART amp

Story Fifteen

Questing with SMART amp

I wish I could say I'm a gamer. I'm not. I've never excelled in computer games and completely comprehended their mechanism. Still, I love the idea.

After reading 'Explore Like a Pirate' by Michael Matera (for more visit his website) I got the urge to do something similar with my children. SMART amp seemed to be the best solution to provide children with 24/7 access and still be able to have the game as a part of our sessions.

I came with the idea of a fantasy game called 'Dib Abuha' in which children would get coins for completing particular challenges which would help them practise their English and would help them prepare for their SAT exam. First, I asked children whether they would like to play the game and told them that any time they were co-creators and encouraged them to come up with ideas and rules.

The whole idea was very simple: they started as school children in their uniforms and on their quest got to the blacksmith's who wouldn't let them in until they pay him 100 coins (earned by revising SAT mock exams). Until then we played at the same pace, but once they got inside the workshop they could choose their own quests to get a helmet, chest armour and greaves. Whoever got the complete armour could go through the gate and undergo duels and tournaments.

SMART amp made the quest really flexible due to these reasons:

  • the main workspace could take children anywhere online or let them upload SMART Notebook files with LAB challenges.
  • it linked children to their leaderboard made in Google Sheets to show how much they had earned.
  • it allowed gain or restrict access to particular challenges via the sharing option.
The main workspace with links and paths.

The Helmet challenge included activities with materials in the classroom, digital materials and Notebook files.

The leaderboard was made in Google Sheets, which made linking and access much easier.

I really enjoyed creating the challenges and it didn't take me much extra time as it was just a different way of doing activities. Yet, it definitely got most of children carried away and work hard on their tasks. Fancy going on a quest with SMART amp?


Experience with SMART amp

Story Fourteen
Cloud Cuckoo Land
Phasing out the use of tools

In our Literacy project ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ we came up with an idea that it would be great that children would create their own land using wooden bricks and paint. After a disastrous attempt to have a creative art session that resulted in a wet floor, blotchy wooden bricks, really colourful school uniforms, and a distressed teacher, I gave up on the idea of using colours and water (they are on my black list now along with glitter and glue) and decided to provide children with the alternative to create their virtual land using SMART amp.

Believing in the creator’s soul in every child and the power of creative team work, I simply set up a blank workspace, had a fruitful discussion about our expectations and let children’s muses talk. I was unpleasantly surprised to observe an ultimate artistic mayhem full of yells of disapproval, complaints and bitter remarks. It was so due to the fact that children had naturally chosen to use pens and I hadn't anticipated the possible dangers, which are following:
  • Children love doodling vigorously to warm up before painting
  • They panic when somebody else's line appears close to their
  • They try to immediately remove anything that disrupts their drawing
  • The excessive use of the eraser results in disappointment and recurring blank workspace

Despite knowing that working in a virtual workspace requires high-level collaborating skill, I forgot to get the children used to three basic aspects of dealing with a workspace:
  • keep calm when an object appears near yours or even overlaps it If you don't react immediately (I'm avoiding the word panic), the other creator is more than likely to remove it soon.
  • Start with the larger elements of the workspace and gradually get to the finer details
  • When you are happy with your creation, lock it and possibly leave a note letting the others know that the object should be considered completed. This can be deemed the golden rule.
The first version

The next session we talked about the reasons why our design did not meet our expectations (we also review rules for creative dialogue and giving instructions) and agreed on three steps to create another design. The step that lead to a successful design were following:
  • One – insert only objects and lines
  • Two – insert images, either from the Internet or camera
  • Three – finalise the design with a pen or highlighter
The second version

In the end, we all experienced time full of creative excitement that lacked confusion and disappointment and it was really great to see how proud the children were when they presented their workspace to their peers.  


Coffee bean instruction

I am an ardent supporter of SOLE approach (https://www.theschoolinthecloud.organd have successfully applied it in my lessons using SMART amp. The results were astonishing and the amount of creative work involved was mind-blowing. Working on the big questions was very adventurous for both my students and me, moreover, we all learnt a lot about the topic as well as ourselves.

Some time ago, an idea how to supplement this approach (note: not change, not replace) crossed my mind. It is a very simple concept of giving a single instruction that is a foundation to a limitless (both in the meaning of space and time) piece of work: a descriptive workspace. 

I decided to call it coffee bean instruction because students are given metaphorically  beans to brew coffee from. It can be coffee of any taste, strength or flavour; what matters her is that it always will be coffee. Its quality would only depend on factors affecting its maker.

The instruction can start like this: ‘Help the others understand  ..'

In the next week I will work hard on my very first instruction, which is: 'Help the others understand your teaching approaches and inspirations'.

You will see the result in a week, and in the meantime feel free to leave comments on the idea. Your feedback is more than appreciated.

The uniqueness of SMART amp

TIt has been quite a while since I published my last post. It was all caused by really significant changes in my personal and professional life; but this blog is not about my personal life so let's not delve into details. Beneficially, I had a lot of time to think about ways of using SMART amp and its pedagogy, so I have eventually come up with ideas why it is so different and how else we can use it. Bear in mind, that I am fully aware that I'm quite possibly re-brewing somebody else's ideas; and apologise to the possibly affected ones.

Most of digital material that has been so far created operated in a linear and, obviously logical way. Needless to say, that it is very often more chronological. In any presentation or teaching material we have an idea of how particular slides are related and we have lesson steps planned. Obviously, there is always enough space for unexpected surprises but these can be quite easily predicted.

SMART amp, on the other hand, allows us create a workspace in which we can search for fact, discover different resources and compete tasks in a quite random fashion.The word ‘random’ should probably replaced by the word ‘self-paced’. Thus, if start our learning from the centre of the workspace, we gradually build-up and expand our learning circle. The way we discover the workspace and acquire the information is upon our own needs, interests, or even momentary mood. What I extremely intriguing is the fact that this workspace circle can be surrounded by a vast number other workspaces overlapping the concept at the particular border of the actual workspace. These workspaces can be easily accessed via links. In case you are not sure what I meant, see the diagrams below.


Experience with SMART amp

Story Thirteen

Let the classroom become a resource for a lesson.

Not long time  ago I was thinking about what new design of a workspace I could come up with. I wasn´t surprised not to get an idea even after interminable racking my brains. And then it happened! I looked around my classroom and suddenly saw all the fantastic resources at hand. Posters, maps, essays ... I got an idea to create a workspace which is a floorplan of the particular room, with hints where to look for answers. At each bookmark there was a question to which an answer could be found in the classroom and one based on online resources.

Students divided into small groups, appointed a group leader, and the leader was handed out a copy of the workspace. Then the work began. It was lovely to see how the students using materials majority of which was created by them or their peers.

I was happy to find out that this kind of an activity worked well with the students and can´t wait to use it in a larger scale.


Experience with SMART amp

Story Twelve

Share the shared so that it can be shared.

This story is going to be quite short and probably not very innovative, but I do believe it might help especially those who love creating students´ portfolios. Due to the fact that workspaces can be shared in Google Drive the same way as any files, there isn´t anything easier than sum up all project activities within a single workspace.¨

In picture bellow you can see the summary of all the fantastic activities my students did during the Global Teenager Project. This workspace is view-only mode. However, the worskpaces it links to are not, which allows - if we create a project consisting of more activities - monitoring all project activities.

Sharing is important and SMART amp supports it more than any other solution I´ve ever used.