SMART Learning Suite Online: 2021 Updates (Part 1)
2021 has seen the introduction of lots of new elements to the SMART Learning Suite Online platform. The first thing you will notice is a new look landing page. For those of you who have not used this solution before, the new landing page provides users with an overview of the platform as well as a variety of different references and resources. The new landing page also offers a brand-new feature for new users – a ‘freemium’ version. This new ‘fremium’ version gives teachers the opportunity to try out the SLSO platform, offering you all the elements of the software but with one small catch – only 50MB of lesson storage. This storage limitation will fill up quickly and will limit users to very few interactive lessons saved in the SLSO dashboard, but it is a great way to taste all the elements of this amazing platform. Teachers and schools who want to move from the ‘fremium’ version to the full version which places no limits on lesson storage they can purchase a license, which are available through the PAVE Academy and Pro AV Solutions.
In our article “SMART Learning Suite Online – a blended learning and hybrid classroom tool for teachers” we explored the power of this amazing education software and how it can help you create a powerful, engaging, and interactive hybrid and blended learning environment. However, in this article, we are going to unpack some of the exciting new developments and upgrades in this platform that can take your lessons to the next level.
#1 – Explore Resources
There is a new button which has been added to the top of the SLSO dashboard. The explore resources button takes teachers to a selection of ready-made resources which can be added to your dashboard with the simple click of a button. Embedding the power of the SMART Exchange directly in the SLSO platform, this section seems to take its design from the television streaming services which means that it is familiar and easy to navigate around. 4 collections (Distance Learning, Manipulatives, Emotional Literacy and Manage Your Classroom) are featured at the top of this section and clicking on these buttons will open folders that house resources shared by SMART Technologies and will soon have other resources shared by SMART affiliated teachers and associations. Underneath these 4 collections, there is a series of streams of subject related lessons covering elements like STEAM, Fractions, Reading/Writing, Multiplication, Sight Words/Phonics and Art/Music.
This new section is a great way to support new users and teachers with the idea that using the SLSO does not mean that you must start from scratch. The embedded tools allow you to engage with the platform in your classroom quickly while developing your understanding, skill, and confidence with this amazing tool. I highly recommend spending some time exploring the different tools that are available in this space, you will not be disappointed.
#2 – Word Search
The SLSO already has a great selection of engaging and interactive Game-Based Activities, but the 2021 updates see the addition of a Word Search or Word Find. Designed to reinforce vocabulary and spelling for any subject, the very easy to use game builder allows you to add 20 words into the game, adjust the grid size between 8 and 18 letters and control the level of difficulty from 3 levels (easy: vertical and horizontal words only / moderate: vertical, horizontal, and diagonal words / difficult: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and backwards words). There are also 4 themes or templates to choose from (future-bots, monsters, pirates and simple) which allow you some customisation as to the look of the game. In summary, this new game, coupled with the fantastic SLSO game building wizard will allow teachers to quickly and effortlessly build work search games which can be pushed out to their students’ devices.
#3 – Updates to existing games
The things that make SMART Technologies such a powerful force in the education sector is not only their ability to create effective products, but also their willingness to listen to feedback and recommendations that are provided by the teachers who use their products. With this as a key element of their movement forward, SMART responded to the recommendation from teachers and have improved some of their existing games to allow a deeper level of customisation.
In some of the games you have the ability to insert either words or images. In the games that allow you to use images, the new update provides you with the ability to either upload and image from your device or you can conduct a “Bing SafeSearch” directly from inside the game building wizard, making it easy to find the images that you require to help build or adjust the game for your students. The other element that is worth noting is that not only are you conducting a SafeSearch meaning that only appropriate content will be shown, but the search also accesses only creative commons images, meaning that you don’t have to worry about breaching any copyright laws with your games as only images that are licensed to be shared and reused for free will be shown.
The second upgrade is the ability to customise the theme that you are using. All the SMART Game-Based Activities came with a selection of themes which change the appearance for the students, however the new upgrade allows teachers to move away from the standard themes and create customised themes of their own. Available in most of the games in the SLSO Game-Based Activity suite, teachers can alter characteristics like backgrounds, edit text, change the layout, as well as card and icon images, allowing games to be customised and targeted towards the specific learning needs of the students in the classroom.
The third upgrade is based specifically around games that use images as their answers. Previously, images were quite small and at times were difficult to identify however the new 2021 update has added a zoom preview button allowing students to have a large preview of pictures within the game. As shown on this card taken from a Music Symbol “Flip Out” game that I created, you can see the broken box icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the card. Clicking this button creates a larger screen preview of the image that was used, meaning that teachers can now use images in their questions and answers without having to worry about image size or legibility.
The fourth update to the existing SLSO games is the ability to add images to the questions used in Game Show and Speed Up. These great games have now been made even more powerful with the ability to customise questions to include images or text. Like the other image upgrades, teachers can either upload an image directly from their device or they can conduct a Binge SafeSearch directly from inside the game building wizard. The true beauty of these tools are that you do not have to choose just one or the other question type. Your Game Show and Speed Up games can bounce between text-based questions to image-based questions, giving you true flexibility with the interactive and engaging summative or formative assessment tools.
#4 – Shout It Out Updates
One of the favourite tools in the SLSO for teachers all over the world is the Shout it Out. This virtual sticky note tool allows you to capture student voice in your classroom quickly and easily. Now with fully customisable backgrounds, teachers can customise the look for their single or category screen shout it outs. Worried that there may be an inappropriate comment shared by a student, well this has been addressed too, allowing you to drag and drop these comments directly into the bin on the screen. The final upgrade to this amazing tool is one of the simplest yet something that transforms this interactive tool. By adding a simple question line to the top of the shout it out screen, students can have the catalyst on the screen for their constant referral during the activity.
#5 – Editing Handouts & Workspaces
One the elements that made SLSO so powerful was the fact that you could turn any page that you created or Notebook/PowerPoint/PDF file that you uploaded into a digital handout or collaborative workspace for students to access and engage with on their devices, however in the past once you had ‘converted’ a page into a handout of workspace you couldn’t edit any elements in the activity… well that is no longer the case. The 2021 updates have now given teachers the ability to go back and edit their Handouts & Workspace activities meaning that you can continue to reuse lessons and activities well into the future without fear of the inability for editing and future customisation.
It is worth noting however, that if you edit the activity, you are changing the page from an activity back to a ‘normal page’ which allows you to conduct any editing that is required. This action means that you will lose any activity results or responses that may have been submitted by students in the past. While editing the activity does remove the interactive layer to the activity, it does not remove any elements that you had previously added to the activity, meaning that any images, text, or infinite cloner tools that were used will still be available.
A few other simple but effective updates to the Handout and Workspaces tools are that there has been the addition of a ‘preview’ button, allowing teachers to view the handout before pushing it out to students. In addition, there has been a quick view addition made to the background of the activity, providing teachers which a quick glance view of the activity (if you look at the image above you will see the background is a sample of the activity page).
#6 – Training
The final update that we will discuss in this article is the addition of the training button, added to the top of the SLSO dashboard. Here you will find quick reference assistance for using different elements of this educational software. Great for a quick reference guide to ensure you are able to achieve what you are after for your lesson; these videos and resources will walk you through building the tools and interactive elements you need.
Don’t forget that the PAVE Academy also has a variety of different on demand courses available for you to access, specifically around the use of the SMART Learning Suite and the elements in the SLSO platform. These free courses, all mapped against AITSL standards, will provide you with resources, how to guides as well as give you a certificate of completion which you can use as evidence for your professional development requirements for your annual teacher registrations. Go to https://www.paveacademy.com.au/learning-academy/ for more information.
While these 6 updates are taking an already powerful educational software and making it even more valuable to teachers all over the world, the best thing about these updates for me, is that most if not all of them came directly from the feedback provided to SMART by teachers. This shows me that SMART are not only dedicated to creating great classroom digital education resources but are honouring their ethos of listening to the teachers and using their advice and expertise to continually update and improve their products.
If you would like to explore the SMART Learning Suite Online (SLSO) platform I suggest you read our other article on the SMART Learning Suite and then check out the fremium version so you can see exactly what it can do. If you would like to purchase an unrestricted license for either yourself or your school, please use the contact us page to explore how we can assist you.
Questions that can drive professional discussion with your teams and colleagues in meetings and workshops.
How am I/could I use the SMART Learning Suite to increase student engagement and digital literacy in my classroom?
How can the updates listed above improve my use of the SLSO in the learning that is occurring in my classroom?
What can I do now that I couldn’t do before and how will this change my approach to using this tool in my class?
What current lesson/unit of work could we explore using some of these updates to change the way in which I deliver learning in my classroom?
What are our current strengths and weaknesses as a team that would affect the roll out of our exploration of the SLSO and the elements listed above?
2021 SMART Learning Suite Online Updates
By: SMART Technologies
All images used in this article have been taken directly from PAVE Academy SMART Learning Suite Online Account.