A pair of local educators spent some time north of the border recently, making good on an invitation they received earlier in the year.
In March, SMART Exemplary Educators were invited to attend the 2014 SMART Summit in Calgary, Alberta, Canada from July 20-26. There was a written, as well as video portion to the application. The two-minute video was on the applicant’s “SMART Breakthrough Moment” and was posted on social media sites for public voting. In mid-spring the two educators were among the 76 notified from 17 countries that they were selected for the all-expense paid, weeklong trip. Among those 76 were Amanda Hensley, sixth grade teacher at Sierra View Elementary and Danessa Menge, seventh grade English teacher at Oakdale Junior High.
The two teachers, along with the others were housed in the Olympic Village at the University of Calgary at Hotel Alma. The theme of the weeklong event was “It takes a teacher to…”
Monday: It takes a teacher to start an education revolution
The group was introduced to the newest SMART software- SMART amp (a web-based program that allows students to collaborate and create together). An oversized digital whiteboard that an unlimited amount of students can work on simultaneously from anywhere. They also explored a fully digital “classroom of the future” that included several different models of SMART Boards and the SMART table, as well as training on SMART Notebook (a current software in most OJUSD classrooms). Software developers (SMARTians) meet with the educators to discuss likes and dislikes about their programs.
“They were fully vested in hearing what we had to say and were so appreciative and grateful to us for our feedback,” Menge and Hensley stated via e-mail. “It was refreshing and is a perfect example of why we love SMART so much. They truly care about educators and students.”
Tuesday: It takes a teacher to inspire amazing
Thirteen of the 76 “SMARTees” met in small focus groups with software developers to create new feature requests in SMART Notebook and SMART Amp. Within four hours over 20 different ideas resulted in the next software updates.
While the 13 were busy aiding in development, the remainder of the group participated in Amp Camp, an in depth training to use amp to create projects for the classroom. The two worked with other English language arts teachers developing a collaborative lesson within SMART Amp.
Wednesday: It takes a teacher to grow global understanding
The SMART software development team met with the group to ask and answer questions.
The world is moving toward global collaboration and the group views teachers as having a responsibility to prepare students for the place they will hold in it. Many of the teachers shared how they collaborated in the previous year with classrooms worldwide. The students used SMART software to communicate and collaborate in ‘real’ time.
“We were all given the tools and encouraged to set up a plan with international teachers for global collaboration for the upcoming school year,” stated Menge. “We are excited about our plan to partner with classes in Scotland, Texas and Canada this year.”
Thursday: It takes a teacher to share wisdom
Participants met in small focus groups with members of the SMART product development teams, offering additional feedback on experiences with using the products. Both teachers shared they felt both encouraged and grateful for the experience of offering hands on insight to the team.
A surprise reception was hosted that afternoon to thank and honor the educators for their help and involvement with the evolution of the SMART product. Each participant also received a white cowboy hat making them “Honorary Calgarians” as well as gifts and a one year trial of SMART Amp.
Friday: It takes a teacher to move mountains for students
Rounding out the week of education and growth, attendees were given a day of sightseeing as a group around Calgary. They visited Lake Louise, had lunch at the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and concluded sightseeing in the quaint town of Banff.
“I had no idea that a professional development even could change me so much, both as a teacher and as a person,” said Hensley. “I left the Summit inspired to be better, full of new ideas and goals and with renewed faith in the educational community. It truly was a life changing experience.”
Both educators expressed a sincere appreciation for both the learning opportunity and the connections they were able to foster with other educators as well as the SMART team. They classified it as an opportunity which they will each now take back to their classrooms, as well as the Oakdale school district.