Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Closing the Shades

Originally I had been disappointed to find that the Smartboard Notebook software did not have any Powerpoint-style special effects--especially when it came to making text appear and disappear. There are many times when I don't want all the text visible at once. Perhaps I'd like students to work through a problem, then display the solution on screen. Or I want to make a presentation out of it--show one thing, then another--when having it all visible at once would minimize the discovery of new facts and ideas.

So, I've been trying out different ways that Notebook can conceal and reveal information.
The three options I came up with are the screen shade; using text boxes (and pictures) to hide other sections; and the spotlight.

I first tried the text boxes. I thought it would be a perfect solution--cover one text box with another, then move aside to reveal the text behind it at the correct time.

I do use that method on occasion, but I found it to be cumbersome to set up. Text boxes by default are transparent and I always end up fumbling through the menus to find the right combination for hiding the boxes I need and revealing the text I want shown. It also doesn't always line up right.

[It still is a useful technique. I just used it together with a picture that had a black background. White text was visible at first; when I shrank the picture, the black text that had been hidden behind it showed up, and the white text disappeared. An easy solution that looked a lot more complicated than it really was.]

Next is the spotlight, which looked like such an elegant solution the first time I saw it. But it's not that easy to manipulate on screen, and it affects the entire screen--not just the slide I'm showing. Going to the next slide doesn't remove it.

Finally, there's the screen shade. It didn't seem all that exciting at first--especially when you're looking for a Powerpoint-effect substitute. But it turns out that it's the solution I use all the time.
I use it to reveal sections of text, or pictures, or one line at a time, depending on what we're working on.

Last week I displayed a screen with a lot of text--I didn't have the shade down, since I was planning on going over all of it at once. My students took one look and asked, "Can you please put on the screen shade?" Apparently viewing all that text at once led to information overload!

I put up the shade, lowered it by each section of text that we read and discussed, and eventually it was all out in the open--but now students were comfortable with the text.

So right now the screen shade is my default approach. But if anyone has a better solution, please share it--I'd love to try it!


Keith said...

Check out the Lesson Activity Toolkit available at


This will give you some great ways to hide/reveal information in addition to the screen shade (which I also love)...

Elky Langer said...

What a terrific resource! Those show and hide boxes should work really well. Thank you for the link!

Rabbi D. Nimchinsky said...

If your goal is to select and display specific sections of text so that your students are not overwhelmed or distracted by everything else on the page you might consider using your Smart-Tech screen capture tools. Just "select" the passuk or paragraph you want to focus on with your finger and have it set to save what you captured to a new page. As an added bonus, it usually shows up magnified in the new page so your your students can't miss what you want them to focus on.

Elky Langer said...

I haven't used the screen capture tools much, mostly because I'm adding my own text, not working with existing text.

Are you referring to scanning in text directly from the original, then capturing portions of it to display?

Have you experimented with a document camera at all--so you can bring in text right on the spot? That's one addition to the system that I think would be very useful.

Rabbi D. Nimchinsky said...

Document cameras are big, bulky, overpriced and rather limited in their functionality.

You could buy 4 good quality flat-bed scanners for what a decent document camera would sell for, and still have enough left over to buy one or 2 medium quality digital cameras.

Elky Langer said...

Interesting comment on the document camera. I saw one in action a while back, connected to the Smartboard, and it struck me as being very convenient. Didn't look all that bulky, and much easier to get the book/sefer into electronic format than scanning it. (I've scanned quite a few sefarim, so anything that would speed up the process is a plus in my book.)

I'm thinking primarily in terms of using it on the fly--in the classroom--put the Chumash under it and have the passuk/meforshim up on screen, right there, without having to scan everything in advance.

In your case, it seems you're significantly manipulating the pages before students see it, so the on-the-fly functionality wouldn't benefit you all that much.

I never looked into the price, or practical functionality. If it's really that high then it goes in the luxury category. I thought I saw a few in the sub-$500 range, but they may not be effective--I don't know the differences between the models.