One of the perks that comes with teaching at Grand View is that almost every classroom on our campus is equipped with an interactive Smart Board. It’s a really versatile tool, but in the hustle and bustle of the semester, it’s easy to forget it can do a bunch of stuff. So we default to using it like we would a regular old whiteboard (though don’t use the dry-erase markers on it–PLEASE!). If you’ve ever wondered, though, if there are additionally capabilities with the Smart Board that could help you and your students, here are a few tips and tricks you might be interested in:
- Every instructor computer in a Smart Board-enabled classroom has the companion software–Smart Notebook–installed on it. To open the Smart Notebook software, look for the small blue icon in the bottom taskbar and click on it. Once you open the software, you can create a new “notebook” file, which will put up blank pages on the Smart Board screen. You can write, type, insert picture files–or any combination of these. It’s a great way to capture student comments during a discussion, or to demonstrate writing formulae or solving equations, for example. The most useful part of the Smart Notebook software in this regard is your ability to save whatever you wrote. You can save your screens as Notebook files (requires Smart Notebook to open), Image files, or as PDFs. We have a quick tutorial on how to save into any of these formats available HERE.
- The ability to write and save notes on a blank whiteboard space is cool, but what if you want to annotate text, or images, or some other type of material where everyone can see it on the Smart Board display? Well, you can do that, too! Let’s say you have a piece of text you want to mark up (underline, highlight, etc.–the Smart Board’s electronic pens can do all of that). There are a couple of ways to go about it. You could display the text through the computer and projector on a Word Document, PDF, or something similar, and then open a Smart Notebook file on top of it. Set the page transparency on the Notebook file to (100%), and it’s like you have an invisible layer on top of the Word doc or PDF to write on. If you want to save the annotations and original text together, though, you can import a document into a Smart Notebook slide. Once you do that, the document will be embedded as an image on the Notebook page, and you can write on it, then save the file to preserve the markup. Directions on how to import files into Smart Notebook are available HERE.
- You don’t need to have a Smart Notebook file open, though, to use the annotation features of the Smart Board. You can open a PowerPoint presentation, or Excel spreadsheet, or Word Document, and take advantage of the SmartInk feature that connects these Microsoft products with the Smart Board software. Just pick up the electronic pens and mark up your stuff however you wish. When you’re finished, and want to exit the file, you’ll see dialog box asking you if you want to save your SmartInk annotations: Once you click “yes,” you’ll be able to save your file with the markups you made. Note: If you want to save your original copy and want to save the annotations, use the “Save As” option to save the annotated version, using a slightly different file name. You can find a set of instructions on annotating other files HERE.
- There are all sorts of things the electronic pens and Smart Board can do–shapes, text boxes, highlighting, animations, screen recordings. The toolbar is fairly intuitive, but it’s worth looking at the Smart Notebook guide if you want to see everything the software is capable of. That’s a 190-page document, though, so if you just want the good stuff about the Smart Board tricks, consult Chapter 8, or click this link for a document version of that chapter by itself.
There are a number of ways that Smart Boards and the companion software have made things easier for both class instruction and student learning on our campus. If you have a student with a documented disability, for example, who needs access to the notes you write on the whiteboard every class session, using the Smart Notebook software and saving everything you write is a quick and convenient way to address this student need. Exporting the files as a PDF and putting them on Blackboard helps students who want to refer back to class discussion notes as they prepare to write papers or study for exams in our classes. Using the Smart Board to annotate other documents gives us a visually compelling and interactive way to analyze texts or images, or to collaboratively peer-review student writing.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Smart Board or Smart Notebook software, we’d be happy to do a consultation and help you find out what you need. Just call, email, or come by CETL, and we’ll set something up.
If you have any advisees who are eligible to register for the Spring, but haven’t done so yet, don’t forget to contact them and encourage them to register ASAP; course sections are filling up quickly, especially for high-demand major and prerequisite classes!
Finally, may you successfully keep on top of all your tasks and appointments this week!