FSC School of Education stays SMART with the times

Apr 15, 2016

by Samantha Surrency '18 | Editorial Assistant

Since more and more classrooms are equipped with new technological updates each year, faculty members at FSC’s education department make it a priority for future teachers to learn how to use the SMART board. Today, the department is the only degree program in the nation fully equipped with SMART software.

A day in the Technology Infused Teaching education class begins in the department’s computer lab, where students get into small teams to work on activities like creating digital graphs, charts, and spreadsheets that interpret various types of data.

Education professor Dr. Karen Aponte teaching using a SMART board in her Cross Cultural Communication class.

The most useful aspect of this and other such classes is the student teacher’s ability to master a SMART board presentation by the end of the semester — a major advancement from previous presentation options that utilized older, non-interactive projection screens.

SMART created the world’s first interactive whiteboard in 1991, and remains a leading provider today. The brand also creates products that greatly enhance digital conferencing, classroom-management, and concept mapping.

For schoolchildren to use the board, all they need is a pen or their finger. But for a teacher, it’s a much more complex process.  That’s where FSC’s great education faculty comes in.

“Because it is so crucial to each student’s future career goals, I make sure that everyone becomes comfortable with this kind of new technology,” assistant professor of education Dr. Karen Aponte said.

College students are mentored and trained to interact with SMART technology by utilizing it for classroom use as if they were in-service teachers. Through the innovative digital application, FSC students create their own activities, such as simulation games or story lessons that in the past took much more time and effort to design. Thanks to the SMART board, teachers can now focus on more impactful academic content that promotes collaboration.

Template screen for designing a SMART lesson.

The selection of activities, games, pictures and ideas is almost unlimited. This screen (left) is an example of templates for interactive and colorful activities that can be adapted for any lesson. Students love to play and interact with the aliens, and there are similar options with monkeys in a jungle, racecars in the desert, or knights and dragons.

Creative tools like these allow for a hands-on experience in the classroom that can also be entertaining for the students and the teachers. Engaging assignments are an important part of keeping kids focused on the lesson and on-task. SMART technology has also advanced children's attention spans in the classroom, keeping them alert and concentrated.

Spinning wheel that will randomly select a student’s name.

This tool (right) is a selection wheel that allows a teacher to enter the names of all the students in the classroom. When the wheel spins and stops a student’s name pops up and that student gets to answer a question or come to the board. It’s a random selection that provides opportunities for everyone to get a turn.  A teacher can use this random selection process for all kinds of activities. Rather than student names, a question could pop up when the wheel stops.

“Children will shut down and lose interest after a while, but if you use lots of little tools, everybody feels like they get a chance.” Dr. Aponte said, “It provides a fairness, and fairness means something to the students. Activities like that that are really effective in keeping kids engaged.”

“If you use lots of little tools, everybody feels like they get a chance ... Activities like that that are really effective in keeping kids engaged.”
Dr. Karen Aponte

Modern classroom teachers can use this and other interactive technology to create lessons that help students learn with the technology and from it. This allows the students to build a foundation of learning and solving problems by working independently, which will lead to better development of critical thinking skills for real-world applications.

“This class is important because it integrates relevant programs like Microsoft Office and SMART very well,” elementary education major Nicole Strain ‘19 said. “It’s important to learn how to use it in this age of technology.”

As more classrooms across the country upgrade to include the latest technologies, college education programs must also upgrade their curricula. The purpose of the program at Florida Southern is to develop each student’s competence and qualifications to use the latest programs and to know how to adapt to new changes in technology.