I am very excited to have been invited to New York City to see the media debut of SMART Technologies new SMART amp software. I had the pleasure of talking with the CTO of SMART a while back and we has a great conversation. I am certainly looking forward to this meeting. It is at 2 today and I am siting in a small cafe in NYC getting ready to check out this latest educational technology from a premiere company. Stay posted for more information after the event. I will be writing several posts on the experience.
"We are training students for jobs that don’t yet exist, preparing them to use technologies yet to be invented and equipping them to solve problems that we don’t yet recognize."
- author unknown
A Discussion with Warren Barkley: CTO of Smart Technologies
The SMART Board was one of the first interactive devices to really take the educational community by storm. It was the technology that you just had to have and most schools worked very hard to get a board in every classroom. The smart board, in my opinion, was also instrumental in making the distinction between having technology in your classroom and actually using that technology to better student achievement.
A white board can be a really expensive chalk board replacement, or it can be a new interactive technology that enhances or enriches the learning experience. At one point there were very few white boards on the market, now you can get about 20 different types of “interactive white boards” with a range of abilities and costs. So what do we buy now? Do we go with the least expensive? Do we go with the most popular? How do we decide on what technology to buy for our classrooms when everybody is in the business of making identical products? These questions do not have to apply to white boards; choose any technology and the same questions seem to apply.
Being a blogger for the Huffington Post, I had an excellent opportunity to talk with Warren Barkley, the CTO of Smart Technologies. I wanted to get some answers to these questions and more in regards to Smart Technologies. Now, those of you that read my blog know that I really enjoy “telling it like it is” and “not pulling any punches”, so I was ready to share some tough questions with this man. When I called him, we decided to make the phone call more of a conversation and less of an interview. I started the conversation with this:
“So, a white board is a white board and I don’t see the point in buying the popular brands. What do you think?”
He then threw me for a loop. He agreed with me. We started agreeing on everything. About 5 minutes into the conversation, I felt like I was talking with one of my high school friends or fraternity brothers. I would guess that if you could have eaves dropped on our conversation we may have sounded like two young girls squealing about getting ready to go to a Justin Bieber Concert (sorry Warren, that’s how we sounded). I had so much fun talking with him– it was simply ridiculous. I mean we were two technology buffs talking about the latest technology. What could be better?
As our conversation continued, Warren and I agreed that the white board is not the key to interactivity; it is the software behind it that makes a SMART board special. That is why I am continuing to furnish my school with SMART Boards. He told me that there is a new version of Smart Notebook coming out soon, Notebook v. 14. SMART Boards is also looking into 3D boards and interaction with 3D printers. I explained to him that that is why I went with SMART Boards. You can’t beat the software of Smart Technologies. Also I told him that my teachers preferred it because there is a huge community of educators that create for SMART boards and the collaboration is second to none.
Warren then went on to tell me about some exciting things on the horizon for Smart technologies, some of it will be available quite soon. He told me about this new software called AMP. Now this is going to revolutionize the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) issues for schools. AMP takes the smart software and lets the teacher interact with the SMART board and every child’s device. The beauty of AMP is not only the collaboration between teacher and students but the fact that it is a multi platform program. No matter what type of device your child brings to school, AMP will run on that platform.
Just an aside: Warren and I then got into our personal lives and we discovered that we both have 5 year old children. I was telling him a story about how my 5 year old boy was caught trying to turn on the DVD by pushing on the TV screen. He had the same thing happen to his kid and we joked about how times certainly have changed. At that point he told me about a new product that is coming soon. It is a SMART Board, filled with all of the fantastic software of Notebook, but in the form of a flat screen TV. I lost my mind! To me this is just awesome and it will bring the overall costs of class integration down. Why? Now with one purchase you get a SMART board, a projector, and a TV. In my world this is a three for one deal that I would not pass up.
At the end of our conversation I told him how much I enjoyed our talk. He told me that he enjoyed it as well. I left the conversation with this feeling: If Smart Technologies has people like Warren Barkley running their business, then I will continue to be a loyal supporter. He has his heart and passions in the right place. He wants to make great things for our classrooms. He wants to be a part of the solution to helping educate our students for the 21st century and beyond.
Oct 21, 2013
Well, the first six weeks of school are safely behind me. The halls are all a flutter with five to ten year-olds discussing what they’re going to be for Halloween. Most of the costume ideas I have simply never heard of- “Despicable Me” and “Monsters U” characters, to name a few.
During this busy time of year I have got to thinking two things:
- Why am I a teacher again?
- What am I going to be for Halloween? There is a parade, after all.
Bear with me here as I try and make a coherent connection between these two thoughts.
The first six weeks of school are some of the best, and some of the worst. Just ask Harry Wong, author of the new teacher’s bible—The First Days of School. This Yale power point presentation does a nice job summing up what we teachers spend these critical weeks doing. Now throw in meetings, tutoring, an application for a Teaching Fulbright, a two week visit from our partner school in China, converting my Certificate I into a Certificate II (what does this even mean, really?) two field trips, online courses, and a partridge in a pear tree. THIS, my readers, is why I’ve had moments of yearning for the 9-5 office job. Anything other than teaching.
The US News and World Report just published its 2013 list of 100 Best Jobs. I will leave you guessing as to where “Elementary Teacher” falls on that list, but let’s just say I’ve contemplated several of the options (both as second career choices, and as Halloween Costumes—just one day!) from 1-44. In its more detailed description of Elementary Teachers, the article talks about how “there is never a dull moment… kids are constantly on the go. We [teachers] challenge them… we overcome their weaknesses.” So, I guess that means I could also choose some of these options for careers/Halloween costumes:
- Police officer
- Mad scientist
But then it happened. (Happens.)
- A parent pulled me aside and asserted “Thanks for being awesome. My son thinks you’re the only teacher that really gets him.”
- A student told me “My favorite special is Science. Even better than PE.”
- A mother shouts, “You’re fabulous—my daughter comes home singing the “Pupil” song every day!” (I’m not making this up. Teachers, you get it, right? Also, do I owe her an apology?)
- A student asks me to learn about “Ancient Creek” (Greece, clearly.)
- I get an apology note that reads “I SRY FR WAT I HAV DAN” (I’m sorry for what I have done.)
- A close teacher friend observes me and tells me that my management is great, and she’s stealing some of my strategies.
So what am I going to be in my second career? For my Halloween costume? I am going to be me. I am going to be me, because even though I wear so many hats, and do so many things, for so many people each day, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And when I forget, and want to choose numbers 1-44, or 46-100, I’ll remind myself of the above. Of the many students, parents, and colleagues of which I have made a difference in their lives. More importantly, how they continually make a difference in mine. This. Is. Why. Teachers. Teach.
And in case you need a preview of what else you might expect to see this Oct. 31st.
Aug 18, 2013
I was guilty of a lot of things in the late 80s & early 90s. Shoulder pads, puffy-painted shirts, homemade scrunchies, jelly shoes, and an impressive collection of New Kids on the Block memorabilia, to name a few. But perhaps one of my and my brother’s biggest offenses of the early 90s was running home from the bus stop (up hill, both ways) to erase any teacher messages from our answering machine or snatch any progress report or report card out of the mailbox before our parents got home. Why this mad dash, might 21st century parents ask? Because WE. WERE. SCARED. TO. DEATH. Getting in trouble at school meant getting in trouble at home.
Fast-forward 20 years, and I am a (more stylish) elementary school teacher. I’m the one disciplining students, calling (cell) phones, and writing the report card comments. And now, parents are running up hills back to the schools to get the TEACHERS in trouble. I was even accused of BULLYING a student this year, because I didn’t call on him while his hand was up through the entirety of someone’s presentation. What gives? Why does it feel as though parents & teachers are no longer playing for the same team?
Initially, I had come up with a few theories on this; then, quickly realized that I’m really only one piece of the equation—teacher—and that I best reserve some of my opinions until I’ve actually experienced being a parent. Here’s some things that I DO know:
Family-School Partnerships are an integral part of a child’s success as a student. An article published by the National Association of School Psychologists states that a “strong family-school partnership will improve both academic and behavioral outcomes for children… Furthermore, these children complete more homework, and are more likely to enroll in post-secondary education…other benefits include higher attendance rates, and self-esteem…” Regardless of personal experiences with specific teachers, I believe this is the one point on which both parents and teachers can agree.
The role of teachers has changed over the years. As I was researching, I came across this PBS website which has a nice “teacher timeline” which summarizes this exact point. From Common Schools, to the Feminization Era, to segregation, to unions, and now to standardized testing, teacher’s are pulled in more directions than ever before. The modern-day fix? Technology—it’s quick, it’s easy. The modern-day drawback? It’s impersonal. As a result, the parent-teacher relationship can become fragile.
21st century families look and feel different. (Even in comparison to my school days of the 80s and 90s) Couples are satisfied not marrying; Couples are waiting until they’re older to get married and start families; there’s an increase in same-sex couples with children; there’s an undeniable increase in the workforce participation rates amongst families with school-aged children. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics has tons of data on this. In its April 26th release, “Employment Characteristics of Families-2012,” it’s stated that “among the 34.6 million families with children (under the age 18) 87.8 had at least one parent working. 67.1% of single mothers work, and 81.6 % of single fathers are working. Are we, as American’s trying to “do it all?” Perhaps, “have our cake, and eat it to?” Is this taking away from the parent-child relationship? In turn, setting a different precedent for the student-teacher relationship?
And lastly, the invention of social media. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, have given traditional media outlets a ton of “teacher prey.” What used to be private is now very, very public. And, unfortunately the media loves the negative stuff. Please check out the article “Social Media Nightmares—CyberSpeak no Evil” on the National Education Association’s Website. One could go on and on about how damaging Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts could be to any professional’s career, but this illustrates how teachers are held to a different standard. My favorite section of the article is entitled ‘First Amendment 101,’ where it’s quite clear that “teacher free speech rights are fairly limited: their speech is protected only if they speak out as citizens on “matters of public concern” and their speech doesn’t disrupt the school.” Could diminishing private lives, and increased media predation be to blame for strained parent-teacher relationships? This is a very real 21st century concern.
I’ve struggled to find an insightful way to conclude this post, but maybe there isn’t one. Or, maybe I would have one if I had a child of my own. The fact remains, that right now both parents and teachers seem to be navigating the unchartered waters of the 21st century in their own ways. So I ask you, parents, teachers, students, caregivers, principals, and guidance counselors—what gives? How can we get parents and teachers on the same team again?
Aug 8, 2013
August 9th at 9am Eastern Time
Using Technology to Motivate the Reluctant Reader
with edWeb founder and CEO, Lisa Schmucki, and her special guest
Dr. Rob Furman, elementary school principal at South Park Elementary School in South Park, Pennsylvania. Dr. Furman was recently honored as a national 20 to watch in educational technology by the National School Board Association.
Lisa Schmucki is the Founder and CEO of edWeb.net, a professional social and learning network for the education community located in
- Twitter handle: @edwebnet
- Website: www.edweb.net
- Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cell number: 908-407-2755
Dr. L. Robert Furman is the elementary school principal at South Park Elementary School in South Park, Pennsylvania. He works with aspiring principals as an adjunct faculty member at the university level and feels strongly that technology is a major key to a successful career in education. He presents on virtual leadership topics. Rob was recently honored as a national 20 to watch in educational technology by the National School Board Association.
- Twitter handle: @DrFurman
- Email Address: Rob@FurmanR.com
- Cell number: 412-999-0449
Jun 26, 2013