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New technology is leveling the playing field in STEM classes

Minnesota district finds higher levels of student engagement from SMART's STEM-friendly products

SMART Technology's suite of STEM-products—applicable for science, technology, engineering and math, as well as other subjects—help even the most socially or academically reluctant pupils make the grade and have fun doing it.

"The beauty is that the non-traditional science and math student is totally engaged," said Mary George, district engineering coordinator for Mahtomedi Public Schools in Minnesota. "They jump right in and are turning out to be leaders."

Mahtomedi schools got their first SMART Board interactive whiteboard in 2005. Today, the district's 3,242 K12 students can find one in every classroom. Most recently, the district has been finding new ways to motivate students in STEM subjects—often daunting for many students—using SMART products such as:

  • The SMART Response XE interactive response system, which enables students to click their answers to teachers' questions so lessons can be modified based on feedback.
  • The SMART Exchange Web site, which provides access to more than 50,000 learning resources, including lessons and interactive content. Teachers can even connect with colleagues in the next town or the next state to share ideas or collaborate.
  • SMART Notebook Math Tools, which allow teachers to add equations or customized graphs. The software also recognizes handwritten equations and symbols, which can be turned into text equations and solved automatically.
  • The SMART Document Camera, which turns a real object into a 3D on-screen picture that can be examined from different angles.

Mahtomedi physics instructor and engineering specialist Scot Hovan uses the document camera to magnify and project tiny objects so students can comprehend intricacies without straining their eyes or jockeying for position. Hovan's aerospace engineering students often use SMART Boards to effectively demonstrate how projects or strategies would work in the real world. Their peers toss out suggestions for improvements—similar to how they might collaborate in a corporate conference room.

Math and science education can be hampered by factors as complicated as not understanding obscure concepts, or as simple as being afraid to raise your hand.

The interactive response system, which can be used anonymously, can actually help students step out of the shadows, said Patrick Crothers, Mahtomedi's technology integration specialist. "They start to build their confidence by using the remote, and hopefully that translates into them being involved physically and verbally," Crothers said.

Students who miss a class or need reinforcement can benefit from the SMART Recorder built into notebook software. Mahtomedi's advanced placement calculus teacher, for example, records her lessons and posts them to her Web site. Students with SMART software on their home computers can check them out.

"They not only see the teacher's lesson, but they can hear what the class is discussing," Crothers said. But SMART's STEM-friendly products aren't just for STEM subjects. Document cameras allow a foreign language teacher to create a scene on the whiteboard and have young students manipulate objects within that scene to demonstrate comprehension of spoken commands. And a high school language arts teacher can use the response remote to see how students' opinions change during a murder-mystery, based on clues, character descriptions or plot development.

"Teachers are doing things better because they have the technology," Crothers said.

For more information about SMART Technology's products for STEM education, please visit