What is Smart showcase Miramichi?

Posted on June 6, 2010
Filed Under Commentary, Miramichi, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

For perhaps the first time ever, local teachers and students are taking the lead in the development of a powerful new tool for Miramichi tourism and business generally.
Miramichi celebrated being named the world’s first Smart Showcase Community on June 1. District 16 teachers and students led the way.
Just what does that mean and why might you be excited about it?
First of all, Smart Technologies Corporation ( http://www.smarttech.com/ca )
sells large, interactive, touch-screen white boards. They look like a cross between the old school chalkboards, a movie projector screen and a touch screen computer monitor. They are big and white and you can touch and move things around on them. You can also touch something to activate access to a web site or a video, which will come up on the same board.
Software, data storage servers and a growing data bank of content from all over the world link and support the boards.
Miramich School District 16 first got involved with the company 10 years ago.
Later, Terry Power, NB Tourism & Parks product development officer for Miramichi learned what the school district was doing. At O’Donaghue’s, with district IT pioneers Rick Hayward and Joey Savoy, Terry and his tourism colleague, Wade Hallihan, wondered how they might let the community know about the resource being developed in the school district. Terry broached the idea of expanding the system’s potential into tourism.
Marjorie Sinclair leads the tech support team made up of Rick Hayward, Joey Savoy and Bob Gillis. From personal experience, I can vouch for Rick and Bob as two of the finest teachers I have ever met. Rick says that IT team members Craig Duplessie, Graham Bateman, Kelly Jacques, and Glen Johnston “make Bob, Joey, and I look much better than we really are!”.
Smart board application began in the District 16 school system as the answer to then district superintendent, Kathy Baldwin’s challenge to staff to find ways for new technogy to benefit students. Her successor, Laurie Keoughan, continues to encourage the effort.
Curriculum content, links to reference sites and teleconferencing with teachers and students near and far made it what one teacher called a powerful collaborative teaching tool.
Asked what she liked best about the Smart board technology, one teacher said she liked that the teacher is at the board so interaction is more focussed than if students’ attention was divided between her and a computer or paper. Students like going up to the board, writing on it with digital markers, moving items around by touch and tapping icons to link to other sites and videos.
Asked how Smart Technologies would maintain its relevance as other teleconferencing and touch screen services come along, Deena Zenyk, Smart’s Senior Education Specialist, K-12 programs, said the dedication to educational techniques and resources is a key. In one GG Times video, She describes an “augmented reality camera” that will be able to look at a sheet of paper with a three-dimensional drawing and translate that to a screen image that can be looked at from all sides.
As more and more teachers and students became talented users of the system, the Miramichi River Tourist Association was invited to incorporate the system. Now there are 11 regional Smart boards. Staff in the various tourism attractions can communicate with each other and tourists to help them plan their visits.
Staff in the Rte. 11 Visitor Information Centre, for example, could connect a visitor to the Atlantic Salmon Museum in Doaktown. A staff member there could answer questions, display videos and even print out a map for the visitor. In effect, it makes all of the expertise and resource material of the MRTA and its members available in every location and on the world wide web.
That, in turn leads to the first involvement by private business. MRTA members can make information, including videos about their attractions part of the system.
What led to the designation of Miramichi as the world’s first Smart showcase community was the next step. Enterprise Miramichi, the regional business development commission is now becoming part of the system.
All types of business throughout the region will be able to show their goods and services to the world and to each other with the system.
The ceremony included the usual greetings and expressions of gratification from Stephan Doyle and Patrick Nagel for Smart Technologies Corp., Premier Shawn Graham, Hon. John Foran, MP Tilly Gordon on video, Joey Savoy for the district technology team, Jim Gertridge for the MRTA, Brian Donovan for Enterprise Miramichi,
What was especially exciting and impressive about the celebration was the performance of the youth.
Megan Woods, James M. Hill class of 2010 and headed to Mount Allison University in sciences was the master of ceremonies. She did a more professional, charming, and sophisticated job than the majority of events conducted solely by adults.
Patrick Losier and Kim Mertens, demonstrating local Smart Community innovations performed more like TV or movie professors than new university graduates.
AJ Adams, Zach Newman, Erin Savard and Bailey Black are grade five students at Gretna Green. They were featured guests because of their use of the Smart board system to gather and present news in a video section called GG Times. They are 11 years old and have already lived in two millennia and two centuries. They may well live in three centuries.
Imagine what they will see! Imagine what they will do!
You can visit the District 16 site at: http://dt16community.nbed.nb.ca/media/
Be careful. It is a site that tends to draw you in and lead you on. It is not easy to leave. Here are just a couple of bits that attracted me.
You can go to: http://www.discovermiramichi.com/ to see how the MRTA is beginning to meld its web presence with Smart.
From that site, you can easily and quickly link to member sites.
The use of the tool for its various educational, community communication, tourism and business marketing functions is still in its infancy. It seriously needs trained editing and graphic design management. It reminds me of the community newspaper business when composition and printing technology suddenly opened unimagined opportunities and challenges. The creation, presentation and organization of content for the Smart community will become far more sophisticated, much more quickly. For one thing, NBCC Miramichi already has an established graphic design program.
For another, the public sector project will have to make sure the talents, capabilities and interests of private operators, like Mighty Miramichi, are properly considered and included.
On we go! DAC


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