SMART Board Activities: How to Create a Cheap Promethean Board

No Promethean Board? No Problem!

Don’t get me wrong, Promethean boards are wonderful, but most teachers are still waiting for theirs to arrive. With belts tightening around the country, schools are barely able to maintain existing technology. Your Promethean board may be on hold for quite a while. So, here’s relatively inexpensive technological tip to take your classroom to the next level, allowing you to do SMART Board activities now.

Let me start by saying, as an educator I am always looking for ways to make cool stuff applicable to the classroom. On this particular occasion I was carrying my laptop in the open position and managed to hit a combination of buttons that revealed the latest “cool” thing, which has captured my attention. As I investigate this program further I have found that most people don’t know that it even exists and I find that the uses of it are only limited by the teacher’s imagination.

Allow Me to Introduce…

So, what is this amazing program that I speak of? Without further ado I introduce you to the Windows XP “Language Bar”. Unless you are a true tech geek or physically disabled in some way you probably have never heard of this. This program was designed to provide equal computing access to those with disabilities. Included in the program is speech recognition software that is really cool but not much help in the classroom because it is limited to one user and takes a lot of set up. Each user reads aloud a dozen or so stories to the computer so that the computer will recognize the user’s speech patterns and pronunciation. The really useful software connected to this program for teachers and classrooms is the “Write Anywhere”, “Writing Pad” and “Drawing Pad” features.

You can operate this program without any additional hardware, but I would highly recommend a Wireless Pen Mouse or a “Wow Pen” for younger students. Also a LCD projector or large computer adaptable screen would be very nice. Like I say these devices are not necessary but could enhance and extend the ways you find to use the program. Compared to a Promethean or SMART Board the costs of these devices are minimal. Wireless pens range from $40 – $120 and a nice LCD Projector will run you about $400.

Up and Running

First let me help you get this program up and running.

1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then double-click Regional and Language Options.

2. On the Languages tab, under Text services and input languages, click Details.

3. Under Preferences, click Language Bar.

4. Select the Show the Language bar on the desktop and Show additional Language Bar icons in task bar check box.

5. After clicking OK Select the Advanced tab in the Text and Input Languages window.

6. Select the Compatibility Configuration box and click OK.

7. Click Apply on the Regional and Language Options window.

8. Bookmark this page so that you can come right back.

9. Restart your computer. This is important if you want to use the program outside of Word.

For more help visit: keyword search Language Bar.

Now Let’s Have Some Fun

If you have just completed the steps above welcome back! Now let’s get started with a few basic pointers and the rest is up to your imagination. You should now see a gray tool bar on your desktop. You can move it where you want or minimize it to the task bar.

Click the hand w/ pen icon on the tool bar and select the “write anywhere” tab. Place your curser in any place where you would normally type like the navigation bar at the top of this page. Now draw / write a letter or word anywhere on the screen using the mouse. And get this, it doesn’t matter if you write cursive or print! Presto — what you wrote is now “typed” on the screen. If you’re like me your mind is already cooking at this point, but let me share a few pointers and ideas to get you on your way.

Tips and Ideas

  • For most applications: I have found the Notepad program under accessories in the main menu to be the most user friendly.
  • You can adjust the auto recognition time or select manual recognition. Why worry about this? If you have young students who take a long time to write letters and words it can be frustrating if the computer translates their work before finishing. Also you may not want to translate the writing at all if you are using this as a write over program for math problems, sentence dissection or film studies. Coaches, did you catch that? Draw right on top of the paused film. Just like John Madden.
    • How do you do this? Follow steps 1. and 2. above. Then select "Write Anywhere" and click properties. The Handwriting Options window is very user friendly.
  • You will note that you can adjust the pen color and width as well. Once again very useful if you have young students or for better visibility at a distance.
  • You will note that when “writing anywhere” or “writing pad” there is another tool bar that pops up. The manual recognition button is on this tool bar as well as common function of a keyboard such as space, tab and enter. You will quickly figure out the difference between the text and ink buttons.
  • When to use the “writing pad” verse the “write anywhere” function? I have found this very useful with emerging writers. You can type a sample of what you would like the student to work on, then you can align the write pad directly under it so that they can copy it. The students can practice shapes with the “Draw Pad” in the same manner.
  • With older students you could pass the wireless pen mouse around the room and let everyone give it a try.