Monday, October 25, 2010

SMARTBoard vs Mimeo interactive whiteboard

IWB (Interactive White Boards) is the generic name for SMARTBoards as they are commonly called in schools.  I’ve had a number of queries from teachers recently about the pros and cons of each platform so I thought I’d be efficient by posting on my blog and sending along the link. 

Disclaimer – these are my personal views and don’t represent the official view of our district.  Also, most importantly, I have no financial motivation for supporting either platform.


Several lesson examples emerging from SMART Board 600i A fast growing Canadian company based in Calgary.  They have been around for years as have many of their original boards as longevity of the hardware doesn’t seem to be an issue.  A whole ecosystem has developed around their tools.  There is certification as a SMARTBoard trainer and resources on their SMART Exchange website are outstanding.  In addition, most major Canadian publishers including Nelson, McGraw-Hill and recently Scholastic, make their digital resources available as SMARTNotebook files.  These publisher resources already have the interactive elements that would take hours for teachers to create on their own.  Their licensing allows for both teachers and student to install the software at home.  We have many teachers who assign homework to students to create a lesson in notebook that they then demonstrate to the class later.  See previous blog post about SMARTNotebook.

In addition, google search will let you search for SMARTNotebook files.  Just put the extension ‘filetype:notebook’ into your search.  Here is an example of a search for notebook files with the word ‘science’ on the page.

Pro Con
  • SMARTNotebook software is outstanding
  • Notebook 10 is the educational standard
  • hardware is durable
  • expensive to mount on a classroom wall ($400-$600 depending on building construction)



MimioTeachAccording to the website, they have been around since 1997 and were invented at MIT.  My experience with them is much more limited as I’ve only heard about them for about a year now.

We now have a few schools with Mimeo devices and more considering them all the time.  The are ‘instantly’ mounted on any pre-existing whiteboard.  A word of caution, if you use with an older 4:3 ratio LCD projector, the image size is quite small.  Be sure to consider a newer wide screen projector like the NP510W from NEC that we use in our district.  This will give a large working space.

Mimio also has a sharing site called MimioConnect with lesson plans, forums and support.

Pro Con
  • hardware is cheaper than SMARTBoards
  • instantly mount on any whiteboard
  • works great with a wide-screen projector to get a big workable area
  • Can’t run SMARTNotebook software as it is excluded in the terms-of-use


In reflecting on this posting, I realize that it looks like there is a clear preference towards the SMART product but here are some factors that will change the balance over time:

  1. If more educators select the Mimeo due to the cheaper price, there will be a growing critical mass of educators posting and sharing mimeo files
  2. A file converter that converts a SMARTNotebook file to a Mimeo file.

Please comment and share your pros/cons and experiences with your IWB.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Creative Commons–a teacher’s guide

Where do you get photos for students to use in their presentations?  This is a common question from educators as we want students to create high-quality reports and presentation and want to advise them how to follow copyright.

Here are some resources to get the busy educator started.

Canadian Creative Commons was established to give creators and copyright owners different levels of control to who can use and share their work.  In the past there used to be only a black and white copyright where you had to pay to use.  Many artists and content creator wanted to be more generous and this is why they allow the use of their pictures for non-commercial uses such as education.

Practical Uses of Creative Commons


Flikr is by far my favourite site to get amazing photos.  There are photographers with amazing cameras that get way better photos that I could ever get and then share them on Flikr.  Here is how to use a Flikr photo that has been licensed.

  1. go to
  2. click on ‘explore
  3. scroll to the bottom of the page and select ‘creative commons
  4. Selecting Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License has almost 50 million photos at this time. See more lets you do a search. 
  5. Save this URL in your favourites
  6. When you find a picture you like – right-click on select a size.  I use medium for posting on the web.  You can now right-click and copy.
  7. When you upload and post on a website, be sure to include the URL of the photo.

Below is an amazing photo of a Mount Saint Helens.  I visited it this summer and didn’t manage to get a photo as good as this one.

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft clipart and pictures are an amazing extensive resource of graphics.  The terms-of-use allows for use as long as you own Microsoft Office products which almost everyone does.

To put a clipart onto a website is easy if you have MS word and use Windows Live Writer to post. 

  1. Open Word
  2. Insert Clip Art
  3. Search for a graphic and place into the document
  4. Right-click to copy
  5. Paste into Windows Live Writer

Below is a picture from Microsoft’s clip art gallery.



What other sites and sources to people have for copyright free images that teachers and students can use?  Post a comment here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Digital Responsibility Resources

Digital Responsibility GraphicHere are some resources that may be valuable when working with student in teaching about Digital Responsibility.






Learning Connections

Here are the Provincial Learning Outcomes in British Columbia that I’ve found that related to digital responsibility, social responsibility and cyber-safety.There is a great progression of learning outcomes that progress in grade 1 from, “demonstrate an understanding of appropriate and inappropriate ways to express feelings” to grade 7 with “demonstrate behaviours that contribute to the prevention of stereotyping, discrimination, and bullying”.  It helps us know as educators, what student knowledge we are building on from previous grade levels.


There are a number of great videos on YouTube that teachers can show to their students which would create a valuable discussion about CyberBullying.  Here is one from England.  I’d recommend watching this video in two parts as the ending may not be plausible to students.


CyberSafety Videos

These videos are targeted to parents wanting to learn more about how the various technologies like facebook photosharing work.  There is also great value in sharing these with students as many of them don’t have correctly configured privacy settings. 

CyberSafe with Steve Dotto

Internet Literacy

In BC, the Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium (ERAC) has licensed a program from the Media Awareness Network called Passport to the Internet.  Be sure to check out the teacher’s guide that accompanies the resource.

“ An interactive Internet literacy tutorial that helps students develop the critical thinking skills they need to apply to their online experiences.
Using simulations of the most popular Internet environments, this interactive resource teaches students about online safety, authenticating online information, recognizing online marketing ploys, protecting their privacy, managing online relationships and dealing with cyberbullying. “

Students will need an account with LearnNowBC.  Here is the direct link to the page with the access to the Passport to the Internet.

Passport to the Internet (Student - English)

Policy and School Legal support

Schools should also know that our BC ministry has also put in place some great documents to support educators in ensuring that our schools are good learning environments.  Be sure to check out the Safe Caring and Orderly School policy.


I’d be interested in learning more about how students are reacting to these resources.  Are we meeting the needs?