SMART Amp: The New BYOD Collaborative Bridge

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) can be a challenge. SMART has created a bridge — SMART Amp. Together with a web browser, SMART Amp builds a bridge between diverse BYOD devices in a simple collaborative workspace connecting students and teachers.

SMART Amp collaboration

Unveiled this past Wednesday via live stream, SMART Amp makes it easy for students to work together. To illustrate the simplicity of the tool, as the panel discusses collaboration, students from San Diego and New York study biomes in the SMART Amp workspace. (This is the live collaboration we dreamed of when writing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds.)

This post is divided into two parts. In Part 1, I’ll share SMART Amp product info. To sum up the panel (including Clay Shirky, Angela Maiers, Cristin Frodella, and Warren Barkley), Part 2 is my transcription of the best quotes.

SMART Amp Panel with Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky says “Introverts are often the ones who flourish in this environment. Degree of introversion and extroversion has a huge impact on how students choose to contribute – shy kids most benefit from the modes that are asynchronous. Otherwise, you let the extroverted students dominate. It is also important as students grow older to have girls in a situation where they won’t get interrupted.” (Scroll down for the rest of the quotes from the panel.)

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SMART Amp Cloud Software

Neil Gaydon, SMART CEO says

“Disparate devices present challenges, In BYOD, how are they going to work together? SMART Amp brings together devices under one simple architecture. It ‘glues’ the classroom together and unifies it. SMART Amp lets anyone choose any device they want.”

SMART Amp Product Review

Students in San Diego and New York City collaborated live as they studied biomes.

As evidence that technology is often not transformational, Warren Barkley from SMART observed an iPad classroom where the students stack their iPads on the teacher’s desk like paper. The teacher checks assignments and hands back the iPads when done. Warren says it was

“the saddest thing I have ever seen.”

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(Note to reader: In the classroom Warren Barkley observed, the style is entrenched in the “Substitution” phase. Notably, the SAMR model as  shared by Richard Wells helps us understand why some classrooms aren’t transforming. We are substituting technology for what we’re already doing but we’re not REDEFINING what happens in the classroom as we should.)

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Although I haven’t tested SMART Amp (yet) with my students in collaborative projects, collaboration via web browser in such a way is exciting. We need this because we must reinvent writing (my new book coming in just 2 ½ weeks) and collaborate globally.

As Clay Shirky says in the panel discussion:

“The ability to distribute collaboration over large areas is one of the characteristics of this new era.”

We will all be making decisions in the near future about how to bridge our BYOD devices. From what I’ve seen SMART Amp will be a contender. For the cost of an app, SMART Amp is between $9 and $3 per student per year. (Depends upon volume.) Notably, you are not required to use a SMARTBoard to use SMART Amp.

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SMART Amp Talking Points

  • SMART Amp – cloud based software lets students collaborate and share ideas in interactive workspace – requires no installation or updating of apps and is accessible from most internet enabled devices. Overcome struggles of multi platform  (BYOD).
  • Seamless transition from whole class, small group, and individual learning. Project based learning (PBL), student led learning, collaborative learning, personalized learning, inquiry based learning are all possible using SMART Amp.
  • Robust way to get dynamic content on or off personalized devices.
  • What is happening in most classrooms isn’t transformational because students and teachers aren’t connected.
  • Teacher creates file →  Sends content to student devices. Live collaboration and sharing real time.
  • When computers “die” – teachers won’t “freak out” because files are based in the cloud. Files live in the cloud.
  • They collaborated and then split off into small multi-classroom groups.
  • Teacher embeds assessment – capture individual learning inside the workspace.

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Panel Discussion on Collaboration

Warren Barkley from SMART leads a powerful panel discussion around student collaboration with technology. In this section, I’ve taken live notes but when verbatim, I’ve put it in quotes.

Angela Maiers speaks.

Angela Maiers says: “The necessity to operate in ‘the we’ defines your role as a learner and your potential to lead. We must create environments and mindset to let the work move forward.”

Angela Maiers

“Be the kind of learner you want students to be.”

Clay Shirky

Focus on social media and technologies.

“The ability to distribute collaboration over large areas is one of the characteristics of this new era.”

Cristin Frodella, Google

“In our workplaces we never work alone, we are constantly working together… we get to work with students and teachers who are grocking the information flow.”

Warren Barkley, SMART

As social expands are we preparing students to prepare for this collaborative world?

Clay Shirky

When technology comes into the classroom it is easy to still do old things in a new way. Collaboration enables better forms of learning than the repetition and test model. Collaboration gives students permission to say what they don’t know. It is easier to turn to your peers than to turn to your teachers – collaboration does a better job of surfacing the short term goals of education.

Angela Maiers

We shouldn’t position collaboration as a skill. Collaboration must be the default, not just an activity. Collaboration is the how work is done.

The necessity to operate in “the we” defines your role as a learner and your potential to lead. We must create environments and mindset to let the work move forward.

Cristin Frodella

Google researcher Rich Kiker told Cristin teacher John Benner’s story. John is a middle school math teacher who flipped his classroom. (Kids go home and absorb content via video and learn concepts. In the classroom John teaches using project based learning, collaboration and working together.) 100% of his class has succeeded to the highest level of Pennsylvania standards for improved learning.

Clay Shirky

“The thing this medium is best at, if you’re shy, there is an asynchronous way to add to the discussion without having to raise your hand. Introverts are often the ones who flourish in this environment. Degree of introversion and extroversion has a huge impact on how students choose to contribute – shy kids most benefit from the modes that are asynchronous. Otherwise you let the extroverted students dominate. It is also important as students grow older to have girls in a situation where they won’t get interrupted.”

Standardized tests – the problem is we are looking at rankings instead of how kids learn

Angela Maiers

Spent time to talk to students before they started the press conference. When educators talk about collaboration we talk about standards but students didn’t mention any of that. Kids said

“It helped us as individuals because it helped us work together. We don’t have a choice not to contribute.”

It is a deliberate environment. The cool part is

“we learned ideas about each other that we never knew.”

It was default that

“contribution became nonnegotiable.”

“These are the mandates and tenants of the sandbox. Put them in a sandbox, this is what they do.”

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SMART Amp Panel with Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky says “People try to optimize what they are measured for – they ignore what you say and act on what you measure. We have to measure these things but we have to start insisting on additional kinds of value and how it can be evaluated. Other kinds of skills matter. Math is not the only thing to get right. Don’t stop measuring and ranking – how can we start adding to the rankings so more of what matters gets reflected.”

Clay Shirky

“People try to optimize what they are measured for – they ignore what you say and act on what you measure. We have to measure these things but we have to start insisting on additional kinds of value and how it can be evaluated. Other kinds of skills matter. Math is not the only thing to get right. Don’t stop measuring and ranking – how can we start adding to the rankings so more of what matters gets reflected.”

Warren Barkley

Saw teacher take up iPads – mark it on the iPad and then hand the iPads back out.

“It is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Cristin Frodella

We’re not providing change management training to schools. How do we teach teachers how to do this?

Clay Shirky

Back when computers first emerged, only one class of companies thrived. In most companies, people were computerizing but weren’t becoming more productive. The companies who upgraded and changed what they were doing were the ones who became more productive.

We must upgrade and change what we’re doing.

“Teachers don’t absorb best practices from administrators, they absorb them from other teachers. If you don’t have a community of practice then change will not flow between your classrooms.”

“Letting teachers choose to opt out of new tools works because it gets the naysayers and blockers keep things from being blocked moving forward. Let those who are interested implement change. They’ll talk to their peers. Otherwise you have pockets of learning and nothing spreads across the whole school.”

Likeliness is to copy their behavior from one another not from vendors and not from administrators.

Angela Maiers

“Isolation is the most detrimental enemy of collaboration and innovation.”

She points to Twitter as building community.

Clay Shirky

The principle obstacle to a group innovating is the group itself. Too rigid and people will opt out. Too open people will distract themselves.

Angela Maiers

Masterful explanation of cooperation versus collaboration. Cooperation is often each student with defined roles. Collaboration is a lot messier and requires students to grapple and push back to get to the final product.

Clay Shirky

Cooperation is a Flickr photo group. Collaboration is a Wikipedia article.

Both are possible modes of working but if you’re going to say that they labor together to shared outcome is harder to do.

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In summary, the potential impact of online spaces on introverts and girls points to collaborative spaces as a way to engage all learners. (Something many of us have been saying for years (2007).)

I would argue further that online spaces that are synchronous and asynchronous help your students who are more introverted. Schools are bricks and clicks. Every classroom has a face to face environment and an online environment. Likewise, as a teacher, I have a face to face and a digital persona. Both are important ways I connect and communicate.

Building a bridge in BYOD is going to be of strategic importance as we move our classrooms through the  SAMR model  to bring them to a total redefinition of how we teach and learn. From what I’ve seen, SMART Amp will definitely be a leader in this space.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: This is being written by me as I watched the live stream of their press conference. I am being compensated by a related company via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to live blog the press conference and post it to my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

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