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BLDENDED LEARNING & HYBRID CLASSROOMS

Lumio by SMART: a Blended Learning & Hybrid Classroom tool for teachers!

By: The PAVE Academy

Introduction

In our last article we unpacked the differences between hybrid classrooms and blended learning and developed an understanding around how these two approaches to digital learning differ (if you did not get a chance to read the article please go back and take a look because it can make your movement forward into the blended learning environment much easier). In this article, we are going to explore a specific tool that can be used both for Blended Learning and Hybrid Classrooms – a powerful tool that will drive your success in this pedagogical area – the SLSO or the SMART Learning Suite Online.

The SMART Learning Suite Online, or as it is otherwise known as the SLSO, is a relatively new instalment from SMART Technologies as a part of their SMART Learning Suite, and specifically the SMART Notebook software. A powerful interactive learning software on its own, SMART Notebook has been around for many, many years and has provided millions of teachers around the world with the tools to be able to create highly engaging and interactive lessons that can be driven directly from their front of classroom SMART Board interactive screens. However, in 2017, SMART Technologies shifted their focus from the downloadable NOTBOOK software and launched the SMART Learning Suite Online platform, a cloud-based platform that extended student and classroom engagement from their front of classroom displays to the student’s individual devices. No by no means has this shift in focus meant that SMART is no longer supporting or developing their Notebook software, in fact this is far from the case, this shift into the cloud-based platform was designed to enable teachers to effectively engage in interactivity in a ‘blended learning’ environment, and if I am honest, I think that this is one of the best blended learning tools available for teachers today. Why you ask? Well, let us unpack the SLSO in stages and you can see for yourself.

Accessing and using the SLSO:

The first thing that makes the SLSO so beneficial is the way in which students and teachers access the digital classroom space. In the following section of this article we are going to unpack the different ways in which you can access the SLSO and how teachers can use this tool to develop powerful interactive lessons. 

Teacher Access:

As the SLSO is a cloud-based platform, this means that all teachers need to create highly engaging and interactive lessons for their students is an internet connection, access to an internet browser and a SLSO license (we will unpack that a little more later).  

Logging onto the platform is easy, all you need to do is go to suite.smarttech-prod.com, click on the ‘sign in’ button and using your school email, you gain access to a easy to use dashboard where you can access a variety of different learning tools and elements.

Once you are logged into the dashboard it is easy to start developing lessons and creating interactive activities for your students. 

The big green “+” button (shown on the image above) allows you to access a variety of different lesson tools that you can use quickly in your classroom, tools and activities that we are now going to briefly overview:

1: IMPORT RESOURCE – this tool allows you to upload any existing lesson content quickly and easily you may have developed as a PowerPoint, PDF or SMART Notebook file straight into the SLSO platform. Once uploaded the lesson appears in a “slide deck” format which you can edit or add SLSO learning elements into the lesson and then instantly delivery to the students in your class.

2: YOUTUBE – this tool allows you to search for and publish YouTube videos directly in the SLSO platform. The YouTube search is called a “white hat” search which means that it filters out any inappropriate content and also strips off any ads or banners that appear in the videos. This tool also plays the video in the SLSO app meaning that students are not redirected to the YouTube app in the lesson which can prevent any detours is engagement and focus – a very useful tool for showing videos to your students.

3: NEW PAGE – this tool allows you to add blank pages which you can build in the SLSO platform by adding images, text and other tools.

4: SHOUT IT OUT – one of SMART’s brilliant student voice and engagement tools, you can quickly create an interactive student activity that captures their voice, ideas and opinions and shares them with the entire class.

5: RESPONSE – a formative or summative assessment tool, this element allows you to create interactive quizzes and assessments that can not only test your students understanding, but when set up correctly, can mark the work for you, provide the students with instant feedback as well as give you a spreadsheet of data and results to export for reflection and future planning.

6: GAME BASED ACTIVITES – is another of SMART’s brilliant assessment tools. Highly interactive and easily customised games, there are currently 11 games available to insert into your lessons to increase student engagement while triggering a variety of different teaching and learning strategies.

7: READY MADE RESOURCES – these tools have been developed by SMART for teachers to drop quickly into their lessons. Divided into 4 categories (Activating Prior Knowledge, Questioning & Reflecting, Graphic Organisers & Manipulatives), these tools can help teachers create powerful interactive learning activities for their students.

Please Note : To assist teachers with their use of the SLSO platform, the PAVE Academy have developed a series of on-demand courses that focus on the the Game Based Activities, Shout it Out and Ready Made Resources in the SLSO. These courses are all available for teachers and educators to access through the Learning Academy element of the PAVE Website – all you need to do is register to become a member of the website using your school or government issued email address and then you are ready to access and explore these resources – all free of charge!

The other key element that is available for teachers is the explore resources button at the top of the SLSO Dashboard.

This resource provides teachers with a wide variety of different pre-made resources which they can add into their classrooms quickly and effortlessly.

Divided into 4 categories Distance Learning, Manipulatives, Emotional Literacy amd Managing your classroom or presented in “streams” or “feeds”, teachers can browse through the catalogue of predesigned tools that can be quickly and easily added into your lessons. All in all, the SLSO dashboard is a very powerful and user-friendly digital teaching platform that is designed specifically for teachers to ensure their ease of use and access.

The big kicker for this learning platform, for me, is the HANDOUT and WORKSPACE elements. The SLSO platform allows you to quickly and easily turn any page of your digital class presentation into either an individual student HANDOUT or a group collaborative activity called a WORKSPACE by just clicking the option at the bottom of your slide.

Once you have made this conversion the students can interact on their own devices directly with each activity… but to help you get a better understanding of these amazing, blended learning and hybrid classroom tools, I will unpack each of these elements separately:

HANDOUTS:

Let’s say you have a PDF of a worksheet that you usually print out and give to each student to complete. The SLSO allows you to upload this PDF and convert it into a HANDOUT.

 This handout, embedded into your digital SLSO lesson, can be accessed by each student on their own device and completed using either a writing/pen tools, a text tool or by searching for and adding images from their devise directly into the handout.

Students click the START Button their devices and then they start working through the activity individually. Teachers have the ability to view the students work in real-time from either the front of classroom display or their own device and can provide feedback which will appear in real time directly on the students’ screen. Teachers can also skip from one student work to another allowing them to keep tabs on how engaged the students are with the activity. The added bonus to this is there is also a “teacher version” which allows you to bring up a clean version on the front of classroom display so you can teach the answers or explain the process without showing students work to the entire class.

WORKSPACES:

Another common experience is a collaborative activity that you may have designed and saved as a PDF, which you then print out and give to students to work in groups to complete. Well the SLSO platform allows you to upload that collaborative PDF activity to your dashboard, convert it to a workspace and then push it out to students to work in groups. When you activate the activity in the lesson, the SLSO workspace wizard prompts you to choose how many groups you want to have in the session (or if you want the entire class to work on the same task) and then auto-populates the group members for you.

You can customise the group members and move them around as you require and then once you activate the activity, the students can start interacting with the members of their groups on their own devices with each person’s work updating in real-time on their screen. Like the handout activity, teachers can switch between groups to see what they are doing with real-time updates on either the front of class display or their own laptop. Teachers can also include feedback to the group to help direct their continued work on the activity.

There is also a “teacher version” which is a clean activity which can be used to further explain the task and/or teach the answer without having to broadcast a groups work to the class. This truly digital collaborative learning tool cannot only provide you with highly engaging content for your lessons, but it can also save you time and budget by cutting down on the amount of printing and paper that you are using in your lessons.

Hopefully, you can see why I think these two elements are such an important element of the SLSO platform, but the benefits don’t end there…

Student Access:

The other HUGE benefit of being a cloud-based platform, is that with each SLSO license, a teacher gets a unique digital classroom code, which students can connect to through the hellosmart.com portal. Accessible through an internet browser, and yes you read that correctly – there is no need to download any special application just a standard internet browser.

All students need to do to access your digital classroom is go to www.hellosmart.com and either sign in (using their school Microsoft or Google email account) or join as a guest. The difference between these two systems is that if a student signs in to the system you can track their engagement and work, whereas joining as guest is only session by session based. Once they have chosen their signing in method, all they need to do is enter in your unique digital classroom number which is given to you at the top of your SLSO dashboard:  and then they are connected to your lesson.  

Once they are connected, each student can use their personal device to:

  • See the lesson content you are presenting on the front of classroom screen
  • Play the games and answer the response activities you set in the lesson
  • Engage in classroom discussions through the shout it out activity
  • Watch YouTube videos you embedded into the lesson without leaving the SLSO platform
  • Complete handout and workspace activities
  • Move from one slide to another – once the lesson has been changed from teacher to student driven – so that they can personalise their learning journey.

There are a huge number of benefits for both the teachers and the students for using a tool like SMART Learning Suite Online in your teaching. It allows the lesson to be completely interactive from all seats in the class, and it gives teachers the opportunity to differentiate the ways in which they are delivering content and students are engaging in the learning that is occurring. It allows teachers to move between student paced and teacher paced learning while allowing them to access a wide variety of digital tools which can help students gain a stronger understanding of the concepts they are learning.

SMART Learning Suite Online is truly one of the powerhouses with regards to classroom blended learning activities!

How do I gain access to the SLSO platform?

SMART Learning Suite Online is a paid license service that is embedded as a part of the SMART Learning Suite which also includes the SMART Notebook and SMART Ink Software programs. This blended learning works through individual licenses which are purchased by individuals or schools and are provisioned against individual teacher email addresses. Once this provisioning has occurred in the SMART Admin portal, the teacher is free to log onto the SMART Learning Suite Online platform or to download the SMART Notebook Software and log into the account menu tab to unlock the full capabilities of the software.

Having said all that, SMART do offer teachers the opportunity to try the SMART Learning Suite Online platform for a free, but it comes with limitations to the amount of lesson storage that you have. You can also download the SMART Notebook Basic software from the SMART website, which is a free version of their popular interactive teaching software. While the basic version of the software does have some of the premium elements stripped out, it, like the free access to the SLSO platform  can provide you with a great example of the powerful tools that can be available for you in your teaching.

Licenses can be issued as 1, 2 or 3 year lengths and they can be purchased through Pro AV Solutions and the PAVE Academy as we are premium SMART Technology resellers and work closely with the SMART Technology ANZ team. If you would like to explore using the SMART Learning Suite Online platform in your teaching, please feel free to contact us to explore how we can assist you with your license purchases.

5 Questions that can drive your thinking around blended learning and hybrid classroom tools that can spark professional discussions with your colleagues

Q1

What blended learning or hybrid classroom tools are we currently using in our teaching practice?

Q2

What of the tools listed above excited us and could really make powerful changes in our students learning?

Q3

What benefits to our students could the blended learning experience bring?

Q4

What current lesson/unit of work could we explore using a blended method?

Q5

What are our current strengths and weaknesses, as a team, that would effect the roll out of our exploration of blended learning or hybrid classrooms in our practice?

Please Note : To assist teachers with their use of the SLSO platform, the PAVE Academy have developed a series of on-demand courses that focus on the the Game Based Activities, Shout it Out and Ready Made Resources in the SLSO. These courses are all available for teachers and educators to access through the Learning Academy element of the PAVE Website – all you need to do is register to become a member of the website using your school or government issued email address and then you are ready to access and explore these resources – all free of charge!

References

SMART Learning Suite Online:
Link: https://www.smarttech.com/smart-learning-suite/

Blended Learning:
Link: https://www.smarttech.com/en/blended-learning

Blended Learning with SMART:
Published by: SMART Technologies

Image References

All images used in this article have been taken directly from PAVE Academy SMART Learning Suite Online Account.