There are only a few times in education that have excited me with technology, the first was the launch of the ‘home micro-computer’ in the early 80’s. Computers like the Sinclair Spectrum and the BBC Model B had a systematic change on a generation of students with using the technology and programming (as we called it then).
However I now believe we are back in those exciting times, which again means the advent and use of the technology in the classroom can really affect a generation and beyond. The power of cloud computing has the means and reach to affect everyone, and believe it has the same potential as those days in the 80’s when home computing took off.
Now we all probably use ‘the cloud’ on a daily basis, shopping on Amazon, playing on an Xbox One. However students are now seeing the ability in school to ‘work in the cloud’ using Office 365. Who thought that a student would start a document in an IT suite, save it to OneDrive for Business, and then open it on an IPad when they got home, and not have to reformat it, and then ‘share it’ with the teacher instead of printing – truly transformational times – using key 21st century skills in doing so.
We have seen teachers utilise the power of OneNote, the true hidden gem in Microsoft Office. The idea of digital paper in the classroom, and the ability of those teachers to use OneNote Class Notebook Creator to look at student work and give dynamic feedback in the form of audio and video. Again who would have thought that these technologies would be available in the classroom? No more would teachers have to load there car up with textbooks to mark at home, simply by opening the Class Notebook the marking can begin.
Indeed who would have thought the big PC only companies like Microsoft, would be offering these technologies on Apple and Android platforms. Visionaries like Satya Nadella and Anthony Salcito are shaping Microsoft into a company that innovates across a complete generation of users. A great example of this is the Microsoft Office 365 Proplus benefit, which means students, and teachers can download (for free) the latest version of Microsoft Office for use at home. Suddenly the playing field is being levelled with the technology, allowing schools to get on with creating innovative teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom. Do I see other companies affecting change like this ? No I do not.
So you would think I live in this Utopia world of changing technology in the classroom? Well kind of!. At our school we use the cloud to give our students the best opportunities, however teachers still use desktop PC’s connected to IWB’s and only some students bring there own devices into the classroom. So the final part of this jigsaw really is the hardware, aka the device, aka the tablet.
Up until now there has only ever been one device on the market which schools have adopted. A truly revolutionary piece of technology and certainly has its place in the technology timeline. Schools today especially primary schools still refer to a tablet as an Ipad, but lets look at how it really fits it into the classroom.
A true tablet, has an on screen keyboard, which when in use reduces the screen display (not good for typing that all important essay), or just trying to see the screen. There is no natural typing position on the tablet, so you either lay it flat, or have to buy a carry case with a stand built into it. Also the tablet tends to runs the same mobile operating system, which again has some limitations in day to today use in the classroom.
Students should have a device that has the power of a desktop pc, the portability of a laptop and the flexibility of a tablet wrapped in one device. That is why as a school, we have decided to deploy the new Surface 3 from Microsoft in the classroom.
We all need a why? in our life don’t we? Why do we do the things we do! Let me explain the why behind our decision of the Surface 3.
Price – I use a Surface Pro 3 in my day to day work. It has the power of a laptop in the size of a tablet and simply changes the way I work. I can run all of the enterprise software I expect to run, use a full size keyboard and have the added bonus of the Surface Pen with OneNote. However for a school the price point has been simply to high for a mass rollout. School principal Russell Boulton and Vice Principal Jonathan Rockey now use Surface Pro 3 for all aspects of school life, teaching, assemblies, management meetings – Surface is at the heart of it.
However Surface 3 addresses this by coming in at a price point which is cheaper than a comparable Ipad.
Size – smaller and lighter than the Surface Pro3 we have noticed how students can simply fit the device straight into the school bag.
Typing position – Surface 3 has a three position kick stand, ideal for typing in the classroom, or using with the pen to take notes in OneNote. With the positive touch Surface keyboard means Microsoft have learnt from the original type covers which took quite a bit of getting use to.
Its Windows 10 ready – Surface is future proof, it doesn’t run a cut down version of Windows (goodbye Windows RT) or a mobile operating system, it runs a full version of Windows. Install whatever software you are running on a PC, Microsoft products, Adobe products, all enterprise grade software which students should have access to.
Also Surface 3 is Windows 10 ready, so in the home environment, you gain connectivity through to Xbox One and are able to stream games direct to you Surface. After all its important to have down time as well.
The Surface Pen has been at the heart of many blogs. In education we recognise the importance of the pen in the classroom. It has been proven that the pen is ‘mightier than the keyboard’ in the fact the you will retain more by taking notes with a pen. Your brain will filter then information you need to jot down, rather than typing like for like. The pen also allows you to brainstorm, annotate in no other way. Added to this the superior inking technologies that have been available since the launch of the original Surface Pro, and in Windows 10 you can now annotate a webpages directly and share it through Project Spartan really means it establishes this device in the education arena for a new way of working.
Computer or Tablet? like its big brother simply its both, remove the keyboard, its a tablet. Want to type the essay, click, its a computer. Its simply the best of both worlds at an affordable device.
So remember Surface 3 is a great device for education, its not the holy grail. Simply go and buy loads of devices for your school does not mean results will improve or attendance will go up (as some companies will have you believe), its a part of the strategy of teaching and learning for your school. Added to services such as Office 365 in the classroom, and preparing students for a world where employers are looking for Microsoft Office skills for there high paid jobs – Surface 3 connects all of this with your students at an affordable price.
These are the reasons why Wymondham High Academy, have chosen the Surface 3 in the classroom, this has been done in starting at our end goal of improving teaching and learning in the classroom through technology – our device of choice is the last step.
It would be wrong to say our journey will ever end however Surface 3 has just made it a whole lot better for students and teachers. These really are exciting times.
Catch me at this years E2 Educator Forum in Redmond from the 28th April, or follow the Wymondham journey with Surface by following @kevin_sait