Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Interactive Now – How it All Began

You might say that it all began at a 3-day SMART Content Creation Seminar in Lewisville, TX, over the Memorial Day weekend in May, 2009. Debbie Anderson and I were the only elementary music teachers present at the seminar, and we were anxious to learn all that we could about using SMART Notebook software. We decided to collaborate and share files that we created to help us teach music concepts in our elementary music classrooms. Why reinvent the wheel when we could work together, and we have had a great time as well!

Then, Artie went to Amarillo! When our 2010 TMEA (Texas Music Educator’s Association) Conference proposal, “Get SMART! Using the SMART Board in the Elementary Music Classroom” was accepted, we decided to go to Amarillo, TX to learn from the “Queen” of elementary music workshop presenters! Artie Almeida was invited to give a region workshop in Amarillo, and we were there. We let it be known that we would be presenting a SMART Board session at TMEA, hoping that some of the Amarillo teachers would attend, and were asked, “Where can we buy your files?”

A seed was planted. A lot of our colleagues already had or were getting SMART Boards in their music classrooms, but there is quite a learning curve, and few of them had the time or inclination to learn the software to create material for their classrooms. We thought that perhaps we could respond to a need that we saw for ready-made, usable activities and lessons that could be presented using the interactive features of the SMART Board.

Fast forward to TMEA. With the help of Debbie’s husband, Mike, we co-wrote and self-published Volume 1 of SMARTBoardNow, and sold copies after our 2010 session at TMEA. Three music companies present at the convention—Music in Motion, West Music, and Pender’s Music—agreed to place Volume 1, which contains 10 music lessons/activities for various age levels, grades K-5 for presentation on SMART Board, in their catalogs. Debbie and I then co-wrote Volumes 2-4 in 2010-11, again self-published, and presented another session at the 2011 TMEA Convention. These volumes were sold by several convention vendors, and contain 10 lessons each in the same SMART Board format for various grade levels. It was at the 2011 TMEA Convention that we were approached by the good folks at Heritage Music Press about publishing our SMARTBoardNow volumes. 

Heritage renamed our products "InteractiveNow" and published Volumes 1-4 for both SMART and Promethean Boards. Volumes 5 and 6 were written by Debbie and myself, and are published in Flash format so that they can be used on any computer that runs Flash. I completed Volumes 7 and 10 on my own, and Debbie wrote Volumes 8 and 9, all four of which are published in Flash format. Heritage has just published Interactive Now Recharged: Selected Units from Volumes 1 and 2 in Flash format, and selected files from Volumes 3 and 4 are slated to be reformatted in Flash and published soon.

A lot has happened in the five years since the SMART Content Creation Seminar in 2009. Debbie and I continue to present lessons and activities on our SMART Boards daily in our elementary music classrooms, and are thrilled to be using both the SMART and Flash versions of our products. Stay tuned to see what the next five years will bring!


Volumes 9 and 10 of Interactive Now are in print, on the shelves, and ready to be ordered. 

Order your copies today!


Phyllis Thomas has taught elementary music for over twenty years, and has been on the faculty at Bridlewood Elementary since it opened in 1998 in Flower Mound, Texas. She received her BA from Adams State College in Alamosa, CO and MM from what is now the University of North Texas (UNT). She completed three levels of Kodály training and one level of Orff training at UNT. Phyllis is past Teacher of the Year, has been a Model Technology Classroom teacher since 2008, and has been a SMART Exemplary Educator since 2010. She is co-author and editor of the Music Memory Passport, published by the University Interscholastic League (UIL) of Texas and has written lessons and activities for the Online Learning Exchange Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett, developed by Pearson in partnership with Alfred Music Publishing. Phyllis currently writes articles and IWB lessons and activities for Heritage Music Press (Activate! Magazine, Interactive Now,  and Mi in the Middle). 

She is a frequent presenter for technology and SMART Board sessions at district, state, and regional workshops and conferences across the country. She has been a featured clinician for the Elementary Division at the Arkansas ACDA convention, the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) conference, the regional and state Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conferences, the Appalachian State University Silver Burdett/Pearson Summer Music Institute in Boone, NC, and the national TI:ME convention.

1 comment:

  1. Great success story! ...good to have Phyllis and Debbie teaching in the school district in which I live (Lewisville Independent School District).