Tag Archives: IWB

Green Light Learning Tools is the Featured Provider on the HMH Marketplace for July!

HMH Marketplace

Exciting news for Green Light Learning Tools: We’ve been named the Featured Provider on the HMH Marketplace for July. Hop on over to browse a selection of our products, from our iPad apps to our ever-popular Toolkit of Reading. (Bonus: The Toolkit lessons are Common Core aligned!)

While you’re there, check out some of the great summer resources available! Check back later in the summer for more great activities for back to school. Find something you love? Tell us about it in the comments or on Twitter.

The Rise and Fall of Premium IWB Content

by Tom Nieman

In October, SMART announced via email that it “will no longer be selling paid lesson content on SMART Exchange.” (We can’t find the announcement on the site to link to.) The announcement affected us because Green Light Learning Tools had developed hundreds of pages of “premium” content. One publisher spoke for many of us who had worked with SMART to create a premium IWB marketplace when he wrote, “You guys are idiots!”

Premium IWB content once seemed like a promising way to connect teachers and digital publishers. Now that market has all but vanished.

First Resource Packs

To the best of my knowledge, the paid IWB market began in 2005 when Promethean contacted Green Light to create the first “premium” IWB lessons. Even though Promethean Planet had thousands of free IWB lessons, the hope was that, like Apple with iBooks and iTunes, Promethean could create a revenue stream by inducing publishers to create professional IWB lessons and sell them on Planet.

We first partnered with Dorling Kindersley to create several “resource packs.” These “packs” used high-quality pictures and graphics from Dorling Kindersley books and the IWB software from Promethean to create standards-aligned resources for downloading. Premium meant, in effect, publisher-quality, as opposed to free and homemade.

Within a couple of years, numerous publishers had joined this effort and converted their published content into ActiveStudio or ActivInspire lessons and offered them for sale on Promethean Planet. Like Apple with iTunes, Promethean commanded a hefty premium of 30 or 40 percent commission for creating this marketplace. Then all they had to do was to wait until teachers downloaded the resources and the money flowed in.

Underwhelming Response

But there was no rush for the “resource packs.” They were in essence collections of assets (pictures, activities, graphic organizers) that teachers could adapt with the supposedly easy-to-use IWB software ActivInspire. Except, of course, the software was anything but easy to use for teachers. Sales struggled even to get into the hundreds of dollars.

We and other publishers soon began working with Promethean to create actual, ready-to-use lessons that teachers could simply open and display. Yet even that did not work, for at least two reasons besides Promethean’s smaller market share: 1) many teachers were not even using the new interactive whiteboards in their classrooms, likely because 2) they were not trained how to use the software. The introductory “trainings” provided by Promethean were perfunctory at best, and teachers weren’t learning how to use their IWBs on their own.

Half-life of SMART Exchange

For several years, SMART had no answer to Promethean Planet. SMART commanded a dominant market share through its intensive training efforts, but they didn’t have a website or “premium” content until finally, in 2013, SMART created SMART Exchange. It was like a shooting star, fast rising but soon sputtering out.

Lessons Learned

SMART and Promethean both learned that teachers are not, like most consumers, ready at a moment’s notice to whip out a credit card to pay for lessons. IWB companies also refused to take PO’s, which is how most schools pay for educational materials.

Next, they also assumed teachers would teach themselves how to use the software and thus need premium lessons. As it turns out, teachers never had the time or motivation to do so.

Finally, the whiteboard companies never worked effectively with educational publishers. Promethean and HMH made one valiant joint effort to create an entire Common Core-aligned math program in print and in IWB lessons, but neither the publishers nor the IWB companies felt that they needed to work together further.

Closed vs. Open Systems

At first, both SMART and Promethean also created systems that worked only with their handheld devices, but not with the tablets and smartphones teachers already had. The IWB systems were essentially closed. But America’s classrooms were open and free-wheeling. Google, as it turns out, was a better fit—open, free, and easy to use.

Starting in 2014, both SMART and Promethean released new software that worked with most tablets and allowed users to exchange documents back and forth with students, but now so did the free Google Classroom—which was better and easier to use.

Moving Toward Obsolescence

Interactive whiteboards are not quite, as some friends chide me, going the way of the LaserDisc players in classrooms, relegated to basement storage rooms. Whiteboards allow teachers to display content to an entire classroom, and for that reason continue to be useful. Boards focus students’ attention on the reading, problem, graph, picture, or video of the moment. IWB software—Inspire, Notebook, amp, ClassFlow—on the other hand, now seems very dispensable.

The End Is Near

Premium content for IWBs will soon have left not only the building but the entire district. “Free” resources appear to have won the day. Classrooms are moving towards a one-to-one environment where each student has a device just like his or her teacher. The teacher in front of the classroom dynamic is becoming obsolete as well, which is probably for the best, and it runs not on “premium” IWB lessons but rather on more teacher- or student-created ones.

Publisher-created materials in general are under siege by the do-it-yourself, “it’s free,” movement. “Open source” materials also attract considerable interest now, more for their price than their quality, and that may well be the way of the future. Yet a lifetime in publishing has taught me that there is a big difference in quality between lessons that are edited and vetted and ones that are not, but that—regrettably—is a minority view.

Tom bioTom Nieman is president of Green Light Professional Development and Nieman Inc., a privately held company that specializes in developing curriculum materials for educational publishers.

How to Create a Quiz with a Hidden Answer in ActivInspire [video]

Have you ever wanted to make an engaging quiz for your whiteboard, but thought it would be too difficult? With this video, you can learn the basics for creating an interactive quiz for your students. And once you have these steps down, it’s pretty simple!

  1. How to group objects for drag-and-drop activities
  2. How to lock and unlock objects
  3. How to use the Translucency Slider to hide objects
  4. How to create a quiz with a hidden answer, using the first three steps

For more ActivInspire tips, check out our first video.

Anything you want to know how to do in ActivInspire? Tell us in the comments (here or on YouTube) and we can make another video!

Special thanks to GLPD consultant Helen Beyne for making this video. 

Advanced ActivInspire Tips [video]

For anyone looking to do more with their ActivInspire flipcharts, here’s a video explaining three useful ActivInspire tips:

  1. How to extend a page
  2. How to embed a link to any object
  3. How to group objects

Anything you want to know how to do in ActivInspire? Tell us in the comments (here or on YouTube) and we’ll include it in our next video!

Special thanks to GLPD consultant Helen Beyne for making this video. 

Where to Find Free IWB Activities

by Dagmar Ladle

Websites for IWB activities

Your whiteboard can do better than this | image courtesy: Stock.XCHNG

Every time I enter a school, teachers ask me for recommendations for websites that are great to use on the IWB with their students.  Below are just a few free websites I like for small group IWB activities.

All Subjects

Interactive Sites for Education: This site is a great portal to interactive IWB activities. The site states that the activities are for grades K–5, but I have seen content up to the 8th grade level.

Marqueed: This is a site where users can share images and create a collaborative, secure area for students to provide feedback and discuss images related to class content.

BrainPOP: Though most of BrainPOP’s content requires a subscription, they do offer some great free resources across all subject areas. Click “Spotlight” or “Free Stuff” to see what’s available now.

Language Arts

It’s Greek to Me: This Scholastic game focuses on Greek influences on the English language.

Scholastic Story Starters: Story Starters allows students to choose from four themes to write a story.  Students type in their names, pick their grades (K–6), and then spin wheels to determine elements of the story, including its plot, setting, and characters. Once the students choose these elements, they can type the story and add a picture.  The story can then be printed or downloaded.

FlipSnack: This program allows teachers and students to create and share digital books. A basic class license is free.

LitPick: (Grades 6–12) This site provides preteens and teens a safe social community to read and review books.

Social Studies

The Underground Railroad: Another Scholastic activity, this interactive journey along the Underground Railroad is engaging for students and includes a helpful teacher’s guide.

The Digital Public Library of America: The Digital Public Library of America draws on online content from libraries, universities, archives, and museums to be a one-stop search spot for students and teachers. Search for a topic, or click “Exhibitions” for curated content.

Current Events and Community

Youngzine: This is a current events website for kids that allows students and parents to interact with another by commenting on news, informational pieces, student writing, and books.

Where do you go to find free IWB activities?

Dagmar LadleDagmar Ladle is Manager of Consulting Services at Green Light Professional Development. Before Green Light, Dagmar worked for Chicago Public Schools, Promethean, and Apple. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools. 

7 ActivInspire Tips to Enhance Your Lessons

by Erin Dye

Using ActivInspire to create engaging flipcharts

Creating engaging flipcharts is easy with the right ActivInspire tools

We all want to make the best possible use of the classroom technology available to us, right? Using your interactive whiteboard efficiently and effectively is an excellent place to start. Here are 7 easy ways to integrate ActivInspire and the Promethean interactive whiteboard into your classroom routine.

1.    Import existing lesson materials. Although there are many benefits to creating flipcharts entirely within ActivInspire, you don’t have to lose the work you’ve put into creating materials in SMART or other formats. You can import files from SMART Notebook or Gallery in one quick step using File > Import. The Professional edition also makes importing PDFs a snap. If you are running Windows, you can even import PowerPoint files into ActivInspire.

2.    Create action objects. Maximize interactivity by assigning actions to objects on the flipchart page. Use the Object Browser to select a shape, image, or text box, and then use the Action Browser to associate an action with the object. Action objects can turn a dull class lecture into an engaging interactive experience! Encourage students to click one object and reveal another. For a full tutorial on action objects, check out this helpful teacher-posted how-to video.

3.    Add fun “extras.” You already incorporate different media into your teaching. Why not pull it all together into one place? Consider adding a sound clip, a PDF, or a link to a website to make your flipchart more engaging. You can drag a file directly onto the page from your desktop, or choose Insert > Media… or Insert > Link. You can also create your own shape or image and make it an action object that will launch the file.

4.    Switch your profile. ActivInspire comes equipped with the following five profiles: At the Board, Authoring, Languages, Mathematics, and Media. Choose the profile designed for the task at hand. For instance, the Mathematics profile puts handy math tools like the ruler and compass into the toolbar. If you have ActivInspire Professional, build a custom profile with a toolbar that’s designed by you, for you!

5.    Change toolbar and browser settings. You can dock the main toolbar at the left, right, top, or bottom—or have it float so it’s always within reach. This works a lot like the palettes in other software you may already use, like InDesign. Similarly, you can pin or unpin the browser pane. When it is unpinned, it will slide offscreen and return when you hover your mouse or ActivPen over it. This is a great way to maximize your screen real estate without losing access to page notes.

6.    Expand your flipchart-creating capability. Search Promethean Planet > Collections & Assets for resource packs. Some resources will provide you access to functions that are not built in to the Personal edition. For instance, the Calculator tool is not included in Personal. You can download a free resource pack that includes an action object/icon that will launch the Calculator when it’s dragged onto your flipchart page. If you have Professional, you can still enjoy the many fun and functional images, backgrounds, templates, and action objects available for free download.

7.    (Professional version only) Put tools in the hands of students. Using Drag and Drop within the Action Browser is a great way to direct interactivity. Students will quickly understand how to best engage with the page when they see the Pencil and Reset icons on the board. Also, placing the tools directly on the page puts them within easy reach of students, so you don’t have to move the whole toolbar. (For more information about which ActivInspire features are exclusive to the Professional edition, check out this post.)

What are your favorite ActivInspire tricks and tools? Tell me in the comments!

Erin Dye

Erin Dye is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development with extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.