The Smartboard

When I started at WHS last January, I inherited a Smartboard in my chorus room.  At first glance, it looked like a plain whiteboard with a computer cord coming out of it.  Since I had other safe, un-smart whiteboards in the room, I put the Smartboard in the closet and forgot about it.

You could say I was intimidated by the Smartboard.  The last thing I needed was a freakin’ whiteboard that thought he was smarter than me–that’s what the students were for! 

The technology guy at West chastised me a couple of weeks ago:  “Byron, you don’t know what you’re missing.  You have to give this thing a shot.”  And, since this is what summers are for, I recently dug it out.

It’s actually a pretty nifty idea–the Smartboard is touch-sensitive, and you simply project a computer screen onto the board so that one can interace with the computer via the board.  The trick for me was to come up with something useful to do with it.  Most of my classroom time has been spent in front of the kids, rehearsing them and working the music.  How could I make this technology add value to the class?

One of the classroom tasks that I hated the most was the tedium of attendance-taking.  Is the student here/absent/tardy/on time, how do I pass this task off to someone else without exposing a student to arguments concerning the definition of “tardy,” etc.  I settled on a simple seating chart (one page per day) where I could cross through the names that corresponded with empty seats, and had the students add a “T” to their strikethrough if they were tardy.

It occurred to me–what if I could come up with a system where each student was responsible for checking himself or herself in, and received automated feedback as to whether or not he or she was tardy?

Enter the Smartboard.  I came up with an Excel workbook, tricked it out with some macros, linked shapes, and conditional formatting that basically lets the students handle attendance for me.  Check out the video:

I hope this works! I’ll run it by my students this summer before going live in the fall.


22 Responses to “The Smartboard”

  1. 1 Kelley June 23, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    PLEASE send me more info on how to do this!! This is sheer genious and I must implement it this year.

  2. 2 Dean Cooper June 24, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Hey Byron – I can’t see the video. Is it still up?

  3. 3 Dean Cooper June 24, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Nevermind. Got the video working. What will keep the kids from tappig in their frinds? Way cool use of Excel.

  4. 4 Byron June 24, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Dean–basically, the only thing that will keep kids from tapping in their buddies is the threat of reprisals/detention/lines if caught, but that goes for almost everything else they get into. And, to tell the truth, I don’t care THAT much if they do help each other out, so long as the data is resonably accurate i.e., students who are on time are marked “Present,” late students are marked “Tardy,” absent students are marked “Absent.”

    It’s been my experience that the kids will work the system just to see if they can, then they get over it and get in line.

    If a kid obviously comes wandering in late, I can simply re-tap his/her name and the timestamp will be updated. Maybe I’ll punish the “beneficiary” of the help?

    What I don’t know how to do on the input screen is un-do a tap. Say an absent student is miss-tapped–how do I reset the status to “Absent” without unhiding the timestamp column and manually deleting the stamp? It’s a bit unwieldly.

  5. 5 Kristine July 11, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Do you have this file available for download? I train teachers on using SmartBoard and would love to share it!

  6. 6 Kristine July 11, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    okay – found it! Can;t wait to play with it!

  7. 7 Susan H. July 22, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Have you given any thought to the “count if” formula?

  8. 8 Byron July 22, 2008 at 10:11 pm


    Good suggestion–you know your stuff.

    I updated the workbook 3 weeks ago to include a “Term Totals” sheet that aggregates the data, and yes, I used the “count if” formula to keep totals.

    You can download the workbook in its current form using the widget in the left pane of the blog.

  9. 9 Dave Shaw August 9, 2008 at 6:23 am


    You attendance xl sheet rocks! What a great idea.

    I tried playing with it on my macbook, and it doesn’t fair well with MS XL 2008 for Mac, but did okay with NeoOffice.

    How does one edit the name boxes to include student names?


  10. 10 Byron August 9, 2008 at 4:27 pm


    The “master cells” for student names are currently in the “Weekly Tally” sheet. It’s probably not the best place for it (my next version will have it on the more logical and intuitive “Setup Term” sheet), but that’s where they are.


  11. 11 Beth August 31, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Are you sharing this file? It looks like some others found out how to download it, but I’m missing it somewhere. I’d love to see if it could be adapted for my K-6 music classes. I just got my SmartBoard this week. So cool…and so overwhelming.

  12. 12 Byron September 1, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Beth– you can access the file from the “box” widget in the right-hand pane of the blog, or go directly to this address: Let me know how it goes!

  13. 13 Lori September 9, 2008 at 3:29 am

    I love this and am using it this year. Can you tell me how to make the kids names bigger. I tried to find where the font command was but I couldn’t figure it out.

  14. 14 Byron September 9, 2008 at 5:33 am


    It’s a trick to select the cells without activating the macros, but if you left-click the cell right below the last name in the column and drag straight up, you can select the cells one column at a time. From there it’s just a matter of right-clicking the empty cell at the bottom of the column and picking “Format Cells….” from the drop-down list.

    Once you increase the font size, pick the “Alignment” tab and try the “Wrap text” selection–it’ll enable your names to occupy two rows per cell instead of just one.

    Good luck! Let me know if you need any other help.

  15. 15 Sherman December 3, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I just discovered your SmartBoard attendance spreadsheet a few days ago. You did a fantastic job building it!

    Have you worked any further on a more fluid manner on undoing a tap?
    Manually unhiding the timestamp column and deleting the stamp works fine, but I agree that it is a bit unwieldy.

    I have pondered an array of ideas but haven’t come up with a solution.

    I appreciate you sharing your creation, and have shared it with a lot of people

  16. 16 Byron December 3, 2008 at 3:47 pm


    I have added a macro that erases the timestamp–click the upper-left corner of the status (Absent/Tardy/Present) cell and it’ll return to the “Absent” default.

    I still have to manually adjust timestamps if a student gets tapped late and ends up with an incorrect “Tardy” status.


  17. 17 Sherman December 3, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    FANTASTIC!!! It works perfectly. I greatly appreciate your willingness to share your spreadsheet.

  18. 18 Paula September 2, 2009 at 3:27 am

    Love it! I am planning on using it when I go back to school next week with my grade 3/4 class. Just one question, for the holidays where no attendance is taken; how do I move these to reflect my holidays?? Is there a macro something attached to the STUDENT HOLIDAY tag?


  19. 19 Byron September 2, 2009 at 4:48 am


    There’s no magic in the STUDENT HOLIDAY cells in the “Setup Term” sheet–I just put those in there to keep them straight in my mind. I’d just cut and paste the calendar cells to match your school calendar.

    An easy way to account for your holidays in the “Term Totals” sheet would be to simply delete the appropriate column for those days AFTER you’ve posted the totals for the week. If you take out the columns before you post, the macro will paste the values incorrectly.

    I hope this answers your question!


  20. 20 Danielle July 20, 2010 at 6:22 am

    I am trying to use this file…how can I add another class? Is there a way to eliminate the time stamp….i just need a tap in for present or absent.

    • 21 Byron December 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm


      Adding another class shouldn’t be all that hard–it would involve adding another sheet to the workbook and adding liks to the various classes.

      The time stamp is integral to the “Tardy” calculation, and the logic that drives this particular workbook is based on it. You’d probably be better off writing a different workbook altogether do just do the “present/absent” switch. Instead of a timestamp column, call it “status” and set 0=Absent and 1=Present.

      There are Notebook files out there that are much simpler (see and might be more what you need. They don’t have a built-in reporting mechanism, but then, I have to transfer the data from my workbook to the school’s attendance system also.

  21. 22 Jakob Aas Thomas 10th grade teacher Denmark May 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Byron just found your excel worksheet, and planning on using it here in my class in Denmark from next term – how do I delete x-numbers of students to match my 20 students instead of the 50?

    And how do I change the number of days, my students go to school monday and thuesday and then work the rest of the work, so they only attend classes two days a week!

    Hope you are able to help

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