Gretchen Monahan, Title I teacher for K-6 reading and math at Avalon Elementary School, is part of a select group of educators selected for a new teaching technology program called SMART amp.
It’s cloud-based collaborative software that lets students explore and co-create on mobile devices so teachers can see how they are contributing and learning. The SMART amp was Invented by SMART Technologies, which created the interactive whiteboard in 1991.
In March, Mrs. Monahan was among 11 teachers in North America invited to the company’s Seattle conference.
She’s now known as a SMART amp champ, which makes her eligible to teach other educators how to create collaborative workplaces with their students and how to virtually meet other students around the world.
Mrs. Monahan, 42, of North Fayette, has been teaching for 18 years at the California Avenue school, which is part of the Northgate School District. She is in charge of 146 students.
She was trained last summer in Calgary and then was selected to go to Seattle, making her qualified to train others in-depth.
“I'll create work spaces and share them out with everyone, and they can see how SMART amp software is utilized,” she said.
Since October, Mrs. Monahan has been using the software with her students who are using the SMART amp work spaces on Kindles that were donated by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.
She originally had 50 licenses but she received an additional 100 licenses so students can work on a project or assignment anywhere and the teacher doesn’t have to be with them. There’s also a messenger feature in the SMART amp so students can ask questions to teachers and collaborate with each other.
She said when it comes to state testing, teachers can send out assessments to the students to see if they’re really understanding what they’re learning.
“In cases of missed school days, teachers can send the instructions via SMART amp to students who are old enough to work independently,” she said. “However, my students are so young, we still need to make explanations in person.”
Mrs. Monahan became a SMART Exemplary Educator before applying to become a SMART amp champ. She’s the only SMART-certified educator at Northgate where she said she enjoys helping teachers and others who use the SMART board and notebook.
SMART amp has become a passion for Mrs. Monahan. It’s popular with the students, too.
“I love SMART amp, especially when we get to meet new people from other countries,” said fifth-grader Lamiaya Fields, 10. Her class is doing a global project using the SMART board, Kindle and iPads. They’ve interacted with students from Spain, Austria and Russia.
“It makes me want to travel, and it makes lessons a lot more fun,” Lamiaya said.
Mrs. Monahan said she is a go-to resource for educators interested in learning how to use SMART amp. She said SMART pays for all of her expenses but her training is voluntary.
“I do this because I love it,” she said. “It’s the cutting edge of education.”
Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.