SMART Notebook Issues

Last year, SMART Notebook made an update to its user license agreement. Mac users on the latest iOS were no longer supported … unless you decided to pay for a single-user license at $800 a bang! That meant lesson plans we’d been using on a daily basis were suddenly no longer accessible. This brought a lot of frustration to educators, including myself.
For the past year, I stopped teaching with my Notebook files on a regular basis. I admit I occasionally transferred files on a memory stick to my computer at work, but reviewing lessons at home were now impossible.
The increase in price for a single-user was a terrible marketing move; if the license was under $100, it would easily fit on a classroom  budget or the school budget. Even a desperate teacher might even scrounge up the change to pay out of his/her own pocket.
But nearly a thousand dollars just to edit existing files you’d had no trouble with before? No, thank you!

Nonetheless, I decided my students stay better engaged with the Smartboard and that they benefit from the lessons. In November, I purchased a Windows-based HP laptop ($625) and transferred all my lesson plans over. I had to repurchase a Planbook by Hellmansoft license ($43, expensed to the school) so that it links to my Dropbox.*

The transition has actually made my life a lot easier. No more memory stick tag!! That was a lot of work, transferring files back and forth every day. There were numerous technical hurdles** over the last two months, but I’m finally properly hooked up in January!

This morning, we watched a video on gears and wheels on my laptop. It went well. Yay for efficiency!


Of course, my desk is still a mess … not much I can do about that, it happens every day!

*Dropbox is where I store all my lesson plans, so that I can access them anywhere.

**Some of the hurdles were small, such as figuring out how to link up to the Smartboard. Others took a bit more time, like downloading drivers on terrible bandwidth. Still, the worst hurdle was not being able to transfer my lesson plans from Mac software to Planbook. Sadly, I had to start from scratch and retype my lessons!!


How To Have a Great Friday: Get Kids in the Lab

Fridays can sometimes feel tough for teachers and students, but on many occasions, I’ve found this to be a great opportunity to get the most work out of your kids.

To be clear, I don’t teach any new concepts during the last day of the week, but I use this time to consolidate vocabulary and ideas we’d learned through the beginning of the week.

As a science teacher, is that I tend to put lab days on Thursdays or Fridays. I will often set up the lab so that students must walk and move from station to station. A bit of movement helps keep them focused and shake off any excess nervous energy too! It also encourages social interaction with a variety of peers, as well as provide opportunities for students to help one another. Plus, at a glance, you can see who is on task and who is not!

Today, we worked on one of my favourite technology labs in the Grade 11 Science and Technology course. This lab actually comes straight out of the Observatory textbook and focuses on identifying links in mechanical objects. Students are given the period to practice choosing four pairs of terms:

  • flexible – rigid
  • direct – indirect
  • complete – partial
  • removable -non-removable


Most of the terms are fairly straightforward and it doesn’t take long for them to catch on. I will let them work individually or in pairs and pop around the classroom, collecting anecdotal data to check for comprehension. When doing so, I often encourage them to answer verbally, just to get that oral-aural connection going. This is extremely important for English Language Learners, as my students speak Cree as their first language. The technology unit comprises of a lot of new terms, so it’s important they apply each set of words and become familiar with them.

If a student does answer incorrectly when I’m speaking with them, I’ll ask the student to check their foldable* (pictured above). The definition for each term is written inside and I’ll ask the question again until they give the correct answer.

Usually after the set-up, a quick check around the classroom and I see that they’re focused, at least I can take the rest of the period and just have a little tea break at my desk!

Easy end of the day activity! Win win!

*We created these on Wednesday, just two days beforehand.