So What Exactly Is a Smashboard and How Do I Create My Own?
In my last EdTeachTeam blog post I shared why I use Smashboards and in this post I would like to share in more detail what a Smashboard is, how my students are using them and how to create your own. To start, let me state that a Smashboard is all of the following:
- An interactive graphical board that can be teacher led or self-guided by students
- A game board design which encourages progression towards an end goal
- Full of attention-getting icons and graphics where all icons on the board are clickable
So I know what you're asking, is a Smashboard just a glorified HyperDoc? Well, yes, a Smashboard is every bit a HyperDoc with some additional twists! Smashboards are HyperDocs that utilize a game board design and involves appsmashing to encourage critical thinking and creativity as part of the product development process. Additionally, I only assign work that involves #thinkopen applications, namely, apps that are cost-effective and cross-platform so any teacher can replicate them without hinderance.
In summary, all Smashboards are Hyper Docs but not all Hyper Docs are designed to be Smashboards. Get it now?
So How Do Students Use Smashboards?
Practically speaking, students begin by being given access to the Smashboard via Google Classroom or a shortened link. I always share my boards in fullscreen mode as a way to eliminate distraction and for aesthetic purposes. I will share more on that later.
Given a timeline for the final project, and typically a timer to complete daily work, the students progress from a starting point and complete a series of steps that conclude with a unique end product. These are simple rules I share with my students, note, they are simply the explanations of the icons found in the Legend section of the board:
- We always start with the Problem. Return to this often to be reminded about the purpose of this project.
- Key Concepts are the lecture notes, or formal presentation materials that are either given in advance, or can be referenced independently.
- Creative Apps will soon be added to increase the fun. Maybe the icon is a direct link to a new app. Maybe it’s a link to a certain app, or possibly a digital app randomizer that links to something you’ve never tried before. Be on the lookout for this icon being replaced with something new!
- We Set Goals together. When you see this icon, we will collaboratively agree on what the minimum expectations are for this project and create the Doc for reference.
- If you see a Help icon, it is there to help you understand what to do with an app. If you don’t know what to do at any given step, you can also suggest that the teacher add a Help link for clarity.
- Design & Do is exactly what it sounds like. Get to work! This may link to a template or a Google Classroom assignment. You may see this icon multiple days in a row. Work, work, work, work!
- Peer Review is a must. This icon will point to a rubric based on the collaborative goals previously set.
How to Design Your Board
If you're ready to get started, use this mini board template and feel free to make any changes you like. Whatever you do, continuously ask your students for feedback on how to design the board better so that the expectations are clear and the activities are truly engaging. You will notice on the left hand side there are several icons that link to a digital randomizer for the different types of apps. If you want to know what kinds of apps these icons link to, see the speaker notes at the bottom. You can use these randomizers, or DigiDice as I like to call them, or you can change them to directly link out to a specific app. It’s your choice, you’re the game maker!
Some of my boards are completely full of icons from start to finish, some are revealed one step at a time on a daily basis, some involve lots of student choice, some are limited to pre-selected options. No matter how I design my boards, I inevitably make several changes, and only consider them a finished product after they have been student-tested.
Most recently, I have been making the editable version of the board visible to the students and we develop the board together. My students were proud of our collaboratively created Anti-bullying Campaign board, as you can see below. Here is the link if you would like to explore it for yourself.
My 4th Grade Advisory students at Charlotte Lab School are so engaged in Smashboards now, they decided to challenge one another on designing their own boards.
I highly recommend using a single slide in Google Slides to create your pathways using block shapes. You should not feel limited to a square board or square spaces for that matter, I just think it's a good start since it's a familiar design that requires little explanation on how to progress from start to finish. After you and your class get comfortable with the basic concept, you can creatively branch out from there. For instance, a colleague of mine impressed me recently with her curvilinear progression design to study Hurricanes. You can see her work in progress here. Also see this fantastic Digital Breakout board from Meagan Kelly using Google Drawings.
A final but important tip I recommend is to publish all hyperlinks to make sure everything is accessed in full screen. Alternatively, a trick I have learned is to simply replace the tail end of the url from “edit” to “preview” so that my formatting is maintained and if I want to restrict viewing access to only those I have shared the docs with or only within my school domain. Either way, fullscreen is the way to go to eliminate distraction.