Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Shout it Out: the SMART LAB is Cool!

Almost a year ago, SMART Notebook was updated to version 15, bringing with it a new feature called Lesson Activity Builder (LAB). This addition allows teachers to create engaging, interactive activities for students. Options include flipping cards, filling in blanks, ranking and sorting things. Many of the activities also include a gaming component - random spinning wheel or hat pick, dice, and so on. In August, Notebook 15 was updated to include a LAB called Shout It Out that allows students to use devices, mobile or otherwise, to interact with a Notebook file. I tried this out yesterday in class.

Step one was to use the LAB to create categories in the SMART Notebook file. I planned to use this feature just to see the answers my students calculated to the homework due in class, so I just made each question into a category. It is very easy to follow the on-screen prompts and click through some options (themes, game components) to create the Shout It Out.

Step two was to start the activity in class. When you do, you get a prompt to send students to a website ( and a code they enter. Once they do that, they can start typing and entering answers and they instantly appear in the Notebook file. Within a minute or two, I could see the answer every student calculate to our homework the night before. A quick scan told me which questions I needed to go over in detail and for which questions I could just describe some hints or common errors.

You can select whether or not to show student names. I initially chose to show names because I was not planning to project the file; I just wanted to see the answers. I loved the way it looked, though, and wanted to share it with my students, so I clicked a button and hid the names so we could look at all the results. My pictures show what it looks like both ways. One of the screenshots also shows how you can see how many times each student has contributed and how many students are participating. When the activity is started, the mobile device icon turns green. When it is finished, it turns red. When a student exits the activity, a red mobile device appears by his name, a handy classroom management tool.

Shout It Out would be great for asking students to infer similarities and differences, provide operational definitions to vocabulary words, report out their lab work, reflect on learning or group work, make predictions and more. I love that you can use it anonymously but also see identified student contributions. That is a great feature for sharing in a class while also tracking student progress. For me, it meant I knew how many students were successful on the homework and also which students struggled with which questions. Most of my students used MacBooks to participate but a few used their phones because they had them in their hands when I gave the directions. It worked equally well with mobile devices and laptops.

I don't know how this update passed me by, but I really enjoyed this tool and am looking forward to trying out some of the other Learning Activity Builders soon. If you have SMART Notebook, look for the magic hat icon in your toolbar. Click it and start building today!

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