These are exciting times.. again..

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).

 

Remember when devices like this changed the way we work?
Remember when devices like this changed the way we work?

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.

I've found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.
I’ve found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.

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.

The Surface 3 fulfils all the needs of education and home
The Surface 3 fulfils all the needs of education and home

Why ?

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.

Surface is used by the management of the school
Looking beyond the tablet – Surface allow you to do so much more in school and out.

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.

Windows 10 promises to bring a change in direction for Microsoft, and also technologies such as Hololens a real reality
Windows 10 promises to bring a change in direction for Microsoft, and also technologies such as Hololens a real reality

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.

Using the Surface Pen, students can take notes in real time as if they were writing into a text book
Using the Surface Pen, students can take notes in real time as if they were writing into a text book

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.

surface 3 3

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

 

 

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How Can Microsoft Technology Help Your Revision?

By JASON BROWN, Saturday April 11th 2015

Being an International Microsoft Showcase School and myself being a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassador representing Microsoft in Education at Wymondham High Academy, we are always keen to show off how Microsoft products can be used to help students and staff with their educational life, whether that be planning their day, completing their homework, messaging colleagues in school, taking notes in class and most importantly of all at this time of year, revision.

Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.
Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.

For those of you unfamiliar with the UK education system, every child in the UK is required to take GCSE examinations at the end of Year 11 when they are 15 or 16 years old, and those who choose to go onto further education (A levels) also take exams at the end of Year 12 and Year 13. The exams are in May and June, and so April is definitely ‘revision month’ for many teenagers and young adults in the UK! At Wymondham High Academy we have students taking their GCSE and A level exams each year and suggesting methods of revision to these students is absolutely vital to ensure that they do well in their exams.

Traditionally revision could be done in a number of ways. A lot of students were encouraged to make ‘flash cards’ with questions and answers on them to help test memory and key points as well as to put posters around their bedrooms with key points and of course make notes from the text books. These methods still work and they are all effective, though I found making notes from textbooks more effective than the other methods. However, with technology come some new methods of revision. We’ve written a few articles about Microsoft OneNote from both the students’ and the teachers’ perspectives on this blog. Have a read of those articles and it will be clear to see how OneNote can be used to help with revision.

Microsoft OneNote stores your notebooks in OneDrive, meaning that you can access them on any device, such as a smartphone (pictured). Notice the notes displayed on the phone are the same as the ones shown on the Surface in the header image?
Microsoft OneNote stores your notebooks in OneDrive, meaning that you can access them on any device, such as a smartphone (pictured).

From a students’ perspective, all of your notes are in one centralised place and are accessible on any device. This means that so long as you have an internet connection you’ll be able to access your notes on your laptops, desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets. Even your games console if you want! Having all of your notes in one place means that you can save time trying to find notes and avoid accidentally ‘losing notes’. This means that revision can ‘travel with you’ because you’re not having to taking lots of revision books or files full of paper notes. It’s true that you need periodic breaks from revision to ensure that what you are learning is sinking in and to rest from working, but whilst in the car or sitting there in bed on the night before your chemistry exam wondering what the pH value of rain is, you can quickly pull out your phone and check on your notes on OneNote. You can also periodically test yourself with questions whilst out and about and then check your knowledge using OneNote on your phone or tablet – rather like ‘digital flashcards’. One reason why I think handwriting notes out from the textbook used to work really well for me was because the pattern and the physical action of my writing went into my head and the knowledge was retained. If you are using OneNote on a tablet or a device with a touchscreen you can easily make drawings and handwritten notes. I’ve already written an article explaining how OneNote and a tablet can replace paper as a medium for recording notes and how the Surface Pro tablet is a perfect device for doing this (though that doesn’t mean it is the only device you can use – there are plenty of tablets that OneNote can run on which I’ll get to in a minute!) and the same applies for revision. When I was revising for my mock GCSE exams in November 2013 I was going through notepads and notepads and writing pages and pages of notes. By the end of my revision periods my hands were aching and the ink in my pens was often depleted. However, with OneNote you can an infinite amount of ‘paper’ and not worry about your tablet’s pen or stylus running out of ink and you can still handwrite notes if you really want to. I have found that using OneNote on my Surface Pro is really helpful for geography revision (drawing diagrams) and using the Surface pen and OneNote has introduced me to the idea of using ‘spider diagrams’ for revision to highlight key points.

I've found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.
I’ve found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.

This is especially useful for economics because I can quickly, easily and clearly show how changing one factor (eg inflation) needs to another factor changing (eg price level changing as a result of increased inflation) which in turn changes another factor (reduced consumption, for example, which could then lead to unemployment). Using a pen on a tablet with OneNote makes during diagrams and charts much easier which helps to aid revision. You can of course choose custom colours for ink which is very good for revision because it has been proven that one of the things your memory associates things with colours (sound, smell and imagery are the others) which can help you remember your revision notes. From a teachers’ perspective, OneNote Class Notebook Creator can be a very helpful tool for helping your students with their revision. We have mentioned this fantastic tool several times on this blog, so please take the time to look at this article. The Content Library section in the Class Notebook is an area where teachers can post links to resources to help with revision (for examples news articles) or post information, for example exam techniques or the subject specification. Students however cannot edit this section of the notebook by default. The Collaboration Space is where resources for revision can be shared between the teacher and all of the students who have access to the notebook. Students can post helpful revision resources for the teacher and other students in the class to look at (and vice versa!) Each student has their own section in the OneNote notebook where they can do their revision. Other students cannot access other students’ sections, but the teacher can. This means that you can check up on who is using OneNote to do their revision and have solid proof that they have been doing revision. Of course, you couldn’t use this to see who hasn’t been doing revision because not everybody is going to want to revise using technology, however it’s a good way to see what your students are actually revising and how they are revising.

Using a stylus in OneNote makes marking very easy! You can also use a stylus to 'draw' onto documents in Word too.
Using a stylus in OneNote makes marking very easy! You can also use a stylus to ‘draw’ onto documents in Word too.

Past papers are a great method of revision. They are the ultimate way of testing your knowledge. However, with 20 pages per paper and wanting to complete as many as papers as possible, printing off past paper upon past paper upon past paper can end up costing a lot of money in paper and ink very quickly. It wouldn’t be so bad if you were to keep the papers or if they served some useful purpose once you had finished your exams, but you end up just throwing them in the bin, or if you’re like me you give them to your Dad to use as mousemats! A year on and he’s still using my old GCSE papers as mousemats! Anyhow, you can download PDFs of the exam papers from the exam board websites and you can also download the markschemes. You can answer the question papers in OneNote and you can also mark them in OneNote using a pen on a tablet if you access to one. If students do their papers in their sections in Class Notebooks then teachers can look at their answers and help to mark their papers and add comments and feedback. Moving on from OneNote, I want to talk about how I revised for my GCSE exams and my AS level mock exams. After having killed my hands after filling notebooks full of revision notes for my GCSE mocks, a friend of mine suggested to me that I typed my notes into PowerPoint presentations instead. Typing the notes into slides on PowerPoint presentations was good because I was limited to how much information I could put on one slide and typing my notes was much faster than handwriting them – and of course no paper was consumed! This worked well and of course using OneDrive and SharePoint you can share PowerPoint presentations and collaborate with people in real-time when making adjustments or revising in groups.

Sway makes it easy to create professional presentations for the web and mobile devices. Simply add 'blocks' to the presentation and adding content such as pictures is as easy as searching on Bing!
Sway makes it easy to create professional presentations for the web and mobile devices. Simply add ‘blocks’ to the presentation and adding content such as pictures is as easy as searching on Bing!

However, last year Microsoft Sway came along and it impressed me. We’ve written an article about Sway before, so check that out, but for those of you who don’t know what Sway is it’s like an online version of PowerPoint but much sleeker and more refined. You can customise your Sways using a number of pre-set designs, much like you can in PowerPoint, but the difference is that Sway’s themes are much more pleasing to the eye, and you can also integrate multimedia content such as Tweets and YouTube videos to enhance your revision notes. The beauty of Sway is that it encourages you to make your presentations look pretty, which is great because as mentioned earlier you remember thing based on colours and pictures. Adding photos of real places really helps bring geography ‘revision Sways’ to life and gets you really thinking about what you reading! Please do take a look at some of the Sways I have created for my revision by clicking on the links below:

AS level Computing: Sway 1 | Sway 2 | Sway 3

AS level Geography: Urban (1) | Urban (2) | Rivers (1) | Rivers (2)

Revision notes made in Sway can easily be shared via something like Yammer by posting the links to your Sways.
Revision notes made in Sway can easily be shared via something like Yammer by posting the links to your Sways.

The beauty of Sway is that when I have finished creating one, I can just get a link for the Sway presentation and then post it in a Yammer group or in the Collaboration Space of a OneNote Class Notebook so that the other people in my class can benefit from my notes. To get started with Sway all you need to do is visit sway.com and sign up, and that’s it! Get Swaying! Of course, Sway is a great alternative to PowerPoint and can also be used to deliver engaging and interactive presentations. I use it a lot to present ideas and meeting presentations to my Student Digital Leader Team. Here’s what one teacher had to say about how he thought my Sway presentations looked in comparison to his lesson PowerPoints.

“Your Sways look great, better than many of my lesson PowerPoints.”

– Andrew Howard, Computing Teacher

OneNote and Office 365 is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.
OneNote and Office 365 is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.

The best thing about using Microsoft technology to help you revise is that it is all free. OneNote is now free to download and comes pre-installed on every computer with Windows 8 anyway and Sway is a free tool that you can use. Staff and students at Wymondham High Academy are also entitled to download 5 copies of the latest Microsoft Office 365 software at school so that they can have the same version of Office at home as they do at school which makes the transition between the two seamless. Whilst I am definitely a fan of running Windows and Microsoft software on Microsoft hardware, not everybody is, and that’s fine because Office 365 and OneNote can be downloaded and installed on any Windows, iOS or Android device meaning it runs on a huge variety of hardware ranging from a £100 Windows 8.1 tablet to a £1200 Surface Pro 3 to a £400 iPad or to a £200 Google Nexus. This makes working very flexible and you can the use the platform that best suits you.

To conclude, revision isn’t all about handwriting notes. You can now make something that is eye-catching, informative, helpful, very accessible and easy to share with peers thanks to Microsoft technology.

I wish everybody who is taking exams this year the very bust of luck! Hopefully this has been a helpful article!

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter to hear my views on Microsoft products from a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors’ perspective: @JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Making OneNote Class Notebook a ‘killer app’

Its very difficult to improve on something when it’s really good!   OneNote Class Notebook has really become a ‘killer app’ in our school, with teachers making the most of the technologies available within Office 365 to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom.   Matching this with a range of devices from the Linx tablet range to the new Surface 3, we really now have all the tools to begin to transform education in our schools.

We used to talk about killer-apps in the form of products like Lotus 1-2-3 in the eighties. Iconic software which will still remember today that literally transformed how we used computers.  OneNote and the OneNote ClassNotebook have really become the killer-apps in Education, it really has transformed how learning in the classroom can move forward with the use of technology.

For those who have not experienced OneNote Class Notebook I would suggest taking yourself to http://office365.com and sign up for the 30day evaluation for your school. This will show you how the transformational use of ‘digital paper’ in the classroom can transform the way teachers teach and students learn.

OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.
OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.

 

Let me give you a run through of how this can affect change at your school.   One of our teachers at Wymondham High School is Kay Southgate who works in our MFL department.  Kay freely admitted to being a ‘techno-phobe’ but after attending one of our OneNote training session soon saw the possibilities about personalised learning through OneNote.    Kay started using OneNote Class Notebook for marking and feeding back to year 11 students in preparation for their oral exams. Traditionally this had been done with written feedback, after sitting in a quiet area outside the class to listen to a student speak.

Kay setup a class notebook and encouraged student to use there mobile phones to connect to OneNote and use record their oral practise work.  A conversation could be had between student and teacher, and feedback left directly in the students OneNote section. Of course the simple idea of a section heading in bold meant every time Kay opened the class notebook she could see who had added content to the section!

Students have adapted a two prong approach to OneNote,  the first is having their personal OneNote synced to OneDrive for Business, second they work in open ClassNotebooks, (kind of like the textbook for each lesson). So by using OneNote clever use of Tags and its search facility, students tag important work and can then make ‘revision topic’ sheet by searching on tagged work !

Data-centric students are not phased by which device they use..
Data-centric students are not phased by which device they use..

We have a term in use at school and that is our students are data-centric!  Data-centric to us is our students don’t mind what device they use as long as they can access their data. So we see students  using mobile phones, Apple Ipads, Laptops or Surface devices the common platform being Office 365.

So how would I make OneNote Class Notebook the ultimate killer-app?

The one thing OneNote misses is to latch in to the idea of the controlled assessment.  CA’s are guided by a set of rules which mean students cannot access the work out of the controlled hours at school. So to make  ClassNotebook the ultimate  killer-app would be to add the ability for a teacher to lock a Controlled Assessment Notebook once a lesson has finished and then unlock it at the start of the next lesson.

Teachers love the aspect of a centralised Notebook to work with for a class.  The ability to drop in and see what progress is being made by students is a real time saver and the ability for different types of feedback have been received well by students.   Another feedback from teachers has been that some don’t work full time hours and therefore the ability to mark ‘from home’ or ‘from a device’ has also been a real benefit.

Controlled Assessments I am sure exist in other countries, however by adding a ‘Lock’ facility, it would make OneNote ClassNotebook the ultimate education app.   I am sure if the our colleagues in the OneNote team continue to build OneNote with the improvements we have seen so far this feature will be ‘in the roadmap’ as we like to say.

 

Getting going with OneNote Class Notebook Creator.  

Just to remind you how easy it is to try this killer-app in your school, watch this video from the hugely talented @jasonbrown2014 who is a member of the Wymondham High O Team on just how to do it.

 

Find out from @jasonbrown2014  why he believes OneNote is a Killer-App for student revision  in the next article.

The Wymondham High O Team, @WyHighOTeam will be at the Microsoft E2 Global Educators conference in Redmond from the 28th April  representing Wymondham High Academy Trust.  Make sure you follow the blog to find out the latest information from the global forum.

 

Why OneNote is perfect for education

By JASON BROWN, Saturday 14th February 2015, 20:40 PM

I wrote an article today explaining why the Surface Pro is the ‘most perfect’ device ever made, which you can read here, but as I was writing it I found myself talking a lot about the pen and OneNote and how it made taking notes easy. So I thought I’d write another article explaining why Microsoft OneNote is the perfect piece of software for education!

Firstly, it’s free! You can read all about that here. With students more often than not being unable to afford the latest software all of the time (especially having spent a chunk of money on a tablet like a Surface Pro 3), OneNote being completely free is a blessing for any student! Of course, Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit enables students and staff in educational institutions to have access to five free copies of the latest Microsoft Office software and as a student you’d be stupid not to take advantage of that great offering, but many schools and students do not know about this offering.

OneNote is part of the Microsoft Office 2013 suite and is included in all editions of the suite as well as Office 365.

Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario - whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!
Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario – whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!

Secondly, OneNote makes all of your notes accessible on any device. We know that students have a variety of devices that they like to use – varying from laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones. I’m a student myself and I have all four. OneNote apps can be downloaded on Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android and Windows Phone meaning that it doesn’t matter what device you want to use for note-taking, the chances are OneNote can be used on it. The Metro app for Windows 8.1 is particularly nice and ideal if you want to write using a pen (pictured left).

You can save your OneNote notebooks locally on your device but you are much better off saving them into the cloud because then it is much easier to access them on any device and when you make changes on one device the changes are automatically synchronised (‘applied’) to your other devices so you can work on a tablet one minute and on a desktop computer the next and then a phone without worrying about needing to manually transfer and update your notebook. By default your notebooks are stored on OneDrive. This makes OneNote a very versatile app.

OneNote is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.
OneNote is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.

But the big reason why OneNote is a student’s dream is because it eliminates the need to create massive paper files and saves you having to carry these heavy, heavy files to school.

Paper files are a student’s nightmare. As a student I can tell you that there is nothing worse than having to cart around these huge files to school. The files are heavy and have caused me some serious backache over the past few months and because they don’t fit in my bag properly, I end up having to carry them in a separate bag to school. Paper files have cost me a lot of money in paper, ink and rucksacks. My previous £40 rucksack split thanks to carrying these massive files to school.

Paper files often do not fit very well into bags. They are unpractical to carry.
Paper files often do not fit very well into bags. They are unpractical to carry. However, one tablet with OneNote fits very nicely into any bag!

Paper files are also a pain to revise from – especially if you only need to revise half of what is in the file. More often than not you’ll need to take out sheets of paper in your file to revise from and you risk putting them back in the order, or worse, the whole file will pop open as try to turn over 100 sheets of paper and suddenly you’ll find all of your work all over the bedroom floor. Then you have to spend time putting the file back together when you could be revising.

OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.
OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.

Put simply, to most students files are a nightmare. One has to wonder why, when we live in a world of scarce resources, we are still printing out work and consuming masses and masses of paper and using hundreds of pounds of toner to produce an archive of work that is hard to organise, takes up a lot of physical space, is hard and impractical to transport and difficult to revise from.

We do not like using our natural resources to produce electricity, heat homes or manufacture goods. We are always being told that renewable energy is the way forwards and we are constantly being pestered to save paper and ‘think green’ and recycle just about anything we can. We are always being told about the damage that logging does to the rainforests and the environment and how we can help by buying sections of rainforest to protect to stop this. So why are we still encouraged at school to print out work and put it in a massive file when we know that this is not sustainable?

It seems to me like it’s just an old idea that has stuck around and has become the ‘accepted’ way of doing work at school, or we have yet to find a way in which technology can replace huge files.

This is where Microsoft OneNote comes in.

A lot of people ask me ‘what is OneNote?’ and the easiest way to describe it is ‘a digital file’. Literally. Open up OneNote and what do you notice? Little tabbed sections at the top of the window and a Pages panel on the right side of the window. The little tabbed sections represent subject dividers in a paper file and the pages represent – you guessed it, the pages of the file.

The tabbed interface of OneNote makes organising notes straightforward.
The tabbed interface of OneNote makes organising notes straightforward.

This makes organising your notes very easy and you can set your notebook up in such a way that makes finding notes easy for you. This is of course great for revision ad you don’t need to worry about your notes falling out place – and if they do get disorganised for whatever reason, you just drag the pages and sections into the order you want. OneNote is much better than Word for doing your work in. Not only does OneNote support things like handwriting, it is much better for organising notes because your work is stored in one ‘document’, and not several individual Word documents.

The great thing about the tabbed interface of OneNote is that you can arrange your notebook into your subjects (for example) and this means that OneNote can quite literally replace an unlimited number of heavy, bulky paper files.

OneNote means that one small and light device can replace multiple heavy folders.
OneNote means that one small and light device can replace multiple heavy folders.

But OneNote is more than a digital file.

You can share and collaborate on notebooks using OneDrive and the handwriting recognition in OneNote is now so advanced that you can select handwritten notes and turn them all into typed notes. What’s more, it also converts special symbols such as maths symbols into typed characters.

Why is this good? Isn’t it just a gimmick? One might argue that, but think of it like this. Everything in OneNote is designed to make your note-taking faster and easier. Most people can write faster than they can type – but most people’s handwriting is poor. Now what we can do is write quickly using a pen on a tablet, and then we can transform scrawly handwritten notes into beautifully-presented typed up text. This makes note-taking quick but note-revision straightforward and simple.

You can use the Office Lens app on your smartphone to take photos of diagrams and text in textbooks and then you can send these photos directly to OneNote and it will automatically crop, straighten and align the images and then put them into the page you specified in your notebook. This makes taking notes out of the textbook very quick and easy!

OneNote Class Notebook Creator is a great tool for teachers. OneNote not only saves students the pain of carrying files to school, but it also saves teachers the pain of carrying them home to mark! OneNote Class Notebook Creator is what it says on the tin – a OneNote notebook that a class can share and work in. There is a Collaboration Space where everybody can share ideas, but each student has their own little private section to work in which only them and the teacher can see. This is fantastic for teachers and is the digital equivalent of a student handing in work to a teacher to mark.

Watch the video below to learn how easy it is set up OneNote Class Notebook Creator!

The features of OneNote go on and on, but there are clear environmental and efficiency benefits to using OneNote in the classroom. OneNote saves paper, ink, time and money and makes working with technology much easier and quicker.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Saturday 14th February 2015, 21:12 PM

Why the Surface Pro is the ‘most perfect’ device ever made

By JASON BROWN, Saturday 14th February 2015, 15:12 PM

With it being Valentine’s Day and all, I’d thought I’d share my new-found love with the Surface Pro and explain why I think it is simply the ‘most perfect’ device ever made.

The original MacBook Air of 2008 is generally said to be the ultrabook that started the trend for slim and portable laptops.
The original MacBook Air of 2008 is generally said to be the ultrabook that started the trend for slim and portable laptops.

What do consumers look for in a laptop or portable computer in 2015? Portability, long battery life and power are definitely three things that consumers want for computing on the go. Since the MacBook Air first came out in 2008 revolutionising the concept that having a stylish, portable computer with a great battery life was possible, everybody’s been onto it. Over the years the shortcomings of those early utlrabooks such as the first generation Air and early attempts by HP, Lenovo and Dell have been ironed out, but truth be told: ultrabooks are becoming a thing of the past. Put simply, they’re a little stale.

Whilst having a slim computer with decent specs and good battery life was great in 2008, the world has moved on since then. There is a new ‘ultrabook’ on the market now – and has been on the market for several years. And I’m using one to type this very article up on. I give you: the convertible tablet (sometimes called a ‘hybrid’).

Why are hybrids becoming the ‘new ultrabooks’ then? It’s simple really. Where an ultrabook offers great portability, good battery life and usually a high resolution display, they do have their limitations. Whilst many of them come with touchscreens these days, where is the pen? What happens if you want to save even more weight by detaching the keyboard or want to walk around with your device and use it as a tablet? You just can’t do it with an ultrabook – so is an ultrabook really as portable as the manufacturers make them out to be?

There are a great deal of hybrid devices on the market these days with Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell, ASUS and Acer all offering their products, so the choice is not limited, but the ones I have been most impressed by are Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices.

The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!
The Surface Pro I have runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!

I’ve owned an original Surface Pro for a few months now and from the very moment I first turned it on I could see how for school it was going to be much better than my ThinkPad L540 – you can already ready my article about the Surface Pro in education here if you are interested. I still feel that the original Surface Pro was one of the most pioneering devices ever made because it was the tablet that started the trend for hybrid tablets. Simply put, the Surface Pro was, and still is, a tablet that can replace your tablet. It had an i5 3317U CPU which was more than enough grunt under the ‘hood’ and paired with 4GB of RAM and an SSD of 64GB or 128GB, it ran, and still runs, just about anything perfectly. The 1080p display is one of the best I’ve seen and is crystal clear. I want to talk about the pen, but I’ll do that later because I think that is the biggest selling point of the Surface Pro and is the secret behind what makes it the most perfect device ever made.

If you ask me, the Surface Pro was, and still is, quite simply nearly perfect. There are only few ways in which I feel it could be improved and Microsoft listened to their customers and fixed these in the Pro 2 and Pro 3. For a first generation device, the Surface Pro absolutely nailed it and I love mine.

Of course, the Pro 2 came out with a newer CPU, the option to have 8GB of RAM, the option for 256GB and 512GB models and a three-position kickstand which was great. I have never used a Pro 2 but secretly I wish I had bought one instead of my Lenovo for school, but I have a Pro now which is a very similar device.

The 12" Surface Pro 3 is noticeably bigger than its 10.6" predecessors but is not really any heavier.
The 12″ Surface Pro 3 is noticeably bigger than its 10.6″ predecessors but is not really any heavier.

The Pro 3 has been the ‘new kid on the block’ since July 2014 and what can say other than ‘this is the most perfect device ever made’? It genuinely is. Of course I’m no stranger to the Pro 3, I’ve played with a few and I see them around school everyday because several (lucky!) people I know own them, but this is the first time I’ve had on ‘review’ to test for any length of time – and let’s say I am absolutely smitten.

Truth be told, I actually have this Surface Pro 3 on ‘review’ because apparently there is a problem with the screen where it would flicker occasionally. It actually belongs to my headteacher, Russell Boulton. Since completely removing and reinstalling the latest Intel HD 4400 graphics drivers, I think I have fixed it but I might just lie and say it’s broken and offer to put it in the bin so that I can keep it and get myself a free copy of the most drop-dead gorgeous tablet ever made.

So let’s get to it – why is the Surface Pro 3 the ‘most perfect’ device ever made?

The Surface Pro 3 is well and truly the tablet that can replace your laptop - and your desktop!
The Surface Pro 3 is well and truly the tablet that can replace your laptop – and your desktop!

Microsoft continue to market the Pro 3 as ‘the tablet that can replace with your laptop’. Usually with marketing claims like this you have to take them with a pinch of salt and either laugh and say ‘in your dreams!’ or move on. But Microsoft have truly hit the nail on the head with this claim. The 12″ 2160×1440 display is every bit as gorgeous as the displays you get on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the new Dell XPS 13 (if a little lower resolution) but the Surface Pro 3 has the benefit of coming with a touchscreen as standard and whilst that high resolution on a 12″ display makes for fantastic real-estate meaning that you get the best of both worlds: a stunning display and a small(ish) display which is still perfectly usable.

The original Surface Pro and the Pro 2 being around 10″ maybe make for better tablets but they don’t have as much real-estate as the Pro 3 does so I feel that they aren’t quite as good laptop replacements. The Pro 3 seems to be good blend between a laptop and a tablet. Most premium ultrabooks are 13″ or 14″ but the Pro 3 being around 12″ is more portable and to be honest you don’t need the extra space with the high resolution display.

The keyboard on the Surface Pro 3 is not bad but doesn't quite stack up to a keyboard on a proper laptop.
The keyboard on the Surface Pro 3 is not bad but doesn’t quite stack up to a keyboard on a proper laptop.

Whilst I am not going to lie and say that the keyboard on a Surface Pro 3 can match the world-class keyboards on Lenovo’s ThinkPads and is even really as good as the keyboards on most laptops, it’s not bad and must be half-decent because I’ve managed to write a 2,000+ word article on it! But where the Surface Pro 3’s keyboard shines over the other ultrabook’s is that it can be detached and voila you have yourself a tablet! This makes the Pro 3 an extremely portable and versatile device. Try doing that with a ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Lovely as the X1 is, it’s not as versatile as the Pro 3. But if I am perfectly honest I prefer the keyboard my Surface Pro has (the keys seem to have more travel).

The Surface Pro has always represented being a perfect blend between power and portability. Two years after the original Pro came out, its i5 and 4GB of RAM are still perfectly adequate. The Pro 3 improves on the Pro and Pro 2 by offering a choice of SKUs to choose from. Let’s face it – even the ‘low-end’ i3 model is more powerful than the CPU in an iPad and is perfectly adequate. You can choose from i3, i5 and i7 offerings with the choice of a 64GB, 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD. There is a Pro 3 to fit everybody’s needs and budget. Perfect, eh?

Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario - whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!
Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario – whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!

Let’s now talk about the pen. It’s funny how times change, isn’t it? In the early 1990s, pen computing was seen as being the future. It merely died away for computing and was only seen as being useful for PDAs and early smartphones and ‘Pocket PCs’. In 2007 Apple launched the first iPhone and its biggest selling point was that you didn’t need to use a stylus. Steve Jobs famously said that if a company made a tablet that needed a stylus, they’d ‘blown it’.

In 2015 the situation has changed. A touchscreen tablet without a pen is like a dog without a bone. Even Apple have been forced to admit this which is why the 12″ ‘iPad Pro’ will come with a pen (seem familiar?). The pen has always really been the selling point of the Surface Pro. With apps like Microsoft OneNote in this day and age, it makes sense to use a tablet with a pen – the pen makes note taking so much easier and with handwriting recognition as advanced as it is in OneNote on a Surface Pro, we could be spelling the end of the keyboard (no pun intended, honestly). You can read my article about why OneNote is ‘perfect for education’ here.

The pen on the Surface Pro is a multi-purpose device and the versatile kickstand makes using the pen easy.
The pen on the Surface Pro is a multi-purpose device and the versatile kickstand makes using the pen easy.

It must be understood that the pen is a multi-purpose device. Not only is it ideal for note taking and drawing diagrams in OneNote, it is also fantastic for creative applications. Adobe CC 2014 is designed to work with the Surface Pro and notably make use of pen technology. Designers and creatives love working on their tablets with pens. Who needs a graphics tablet a desktop PC in 2015 when you can just use a Surface Pro which is two in one and portable?

One problem with the original Pro was that its kickstand only had one position. This position was fine for general computing but if you want to use the pen you need to use the tablet flat on a desk (ideally). This works fine but the Pro 2 and particularly the Pro 3 offer much more versatile kickstands that support a variety of positions making it easier to use the pen whilst the Surface is not flat on a desk.

People are worried that one day people won’t be able to hold a pen because nobody handwrites these days. That’s not true at all and we are in a time and a place where we are seeing the rise of pen computing once again. More and more people are seeing how a pen is useful for computing and applying it to many applications. It will be a long time yet before humans forget how to hold pens, I feel.

No matter how you prefer working, the Surface Pro 3 can accommodate it.
No matter how you prefer working, the Surface Pro 3 can accommodate it.

As I said earlier, many ultrabooks come with beautiful touchscreen displays that are high resolution and they are lovely. But I struggle to see why you’d want a touchscreen on what is essentially still a laptop unless it comes with a pen. You want to take your laptop to school or work to take notes – you are still forced to type. You want to draw a diagram in your notes? You can’t quickly draw one. You want to use a pen to draw something in an Adobe app but you are stuck with using the mouse or getting a graphics tablet. The pen is a truly overlooked piece of hardware.

Still not convinced that the Surface Pro is the most perfect device? If there’s one more thing that needs to convince you is the price.

I admit, when the original Surface Pro came out in 2013 I said ‘£700 for a tablet? Are Microsoft being serious?’ but that was before I realised that the Surface Pro was literally a fully-blown PC in a tablet shell. Unfortunately, many people thought like I did and still try and compare the price tag of the Surface Pro 3 to other tablets such as the Nexus line and the iPad. But you shouldn’t compare the Surface’s price tag to the price tag of the other mainstream tablets because the Surface Pro has always been much closer to a high-end laptop or ultrabook than it has been an ‘mainstream tablet’.

Let’s compare prices.

The Surface Pro 3 is likely thinner than the X1 and the XPS 13.
The Surface Pro 3 is likely thinner than the X1 and the XPS 13.

For £1,200 you can have an entry-level Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Lenovo’s premium ultrabook offering. It’s in its third generation now (just like the Surface Pro) and for your hard-earned cash you will get an i5-5200U, Windows 8.1 x64 (non-Pro), a 14″ 1920×1080 TN display (non-touch), 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

For £1,050 you can have a mid-range Surface Pro 3 with an i5-4300U, Windows 8.1 Pro x64, the 12″ 2160×1440 multi-touch display with the Surface Pen that all Surface Pro 3s have, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD with all of the benefits listed above. Add £90 on for the keyboard and the Surface Pro 3 is still a better deal than the X1 Carbon.

You have to spend more than £1,500 before you even get a touchscreen on the X1 Carbon – and even then you are still stuck with an i5, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and Windows 8.1 x64 (non-Pro).

Lenovo's X1 Carbon is a gorgeous notebook, it must be said, but the value just isn't there when compared to the Surface Pro 3.
Lenovo’s X1 Carbon is a gorgeous notebook, it must be said, but the value just isn’t there when compared to the Surface Pro 3.

If you spend £1,500 on your Surface you can get one with an i7 and a 256GB SSD for £1,250 and even if you add £90 on for a keyboard it still comes to around £170 cheaper than the cheapest X1 Carbon with a touchscreen (and that still only has an i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD!)

For £1,550 you can get a Pro 3 with an i7 and a 512GB SSD. Add £90 for the keyboard and this becomes £1,640. Let’s just say that the equivalent X1 Carbon doesn’t exist because Lenovo doesn’t offer a model with a 512GB SSD, but they will charge £1,930 for a model with an i7-5500U, Windows 8.1 Pro x64, a 24560×1440 touchscreen , 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

For £1,050 you can also have an entry-level Dell XPS 13 – Dell’s new premium ultrabook offering. You’ll get a 5th generation i5 CPU, Windows 8.1 x64, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a QHD+ touch screen display. Granted, the resolution is slightly higher on the Dell than the Surface Pro, but what are you missing in the way of versatility by sticking with an ultrabook?

What we can conclude from this is that people who compare the Pro 3’s pricing to other tablets are misguided. The Surface Pro 3 is actually a very competitively-priced machine and clearly outshines its competitors in the price war. The cheapest Pro 3 starts at £640 and this has an i3, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD which isn’t too bad but it could be argued it is pricey for what you get. The value starts to shine when you get to the i5 offerings. Don’t even get me started on Apple, but they do appear to be better-priced than Lenovo in this market at least.

Don’t get me wrong, the X1 Carbon is a gorgeous laptop, but it is clearly not as much value for money as the Surface Pro 3.

Not convinced?

Persistent perfection: the Surface Pros are beautiful tablets.
Persistent perfection: the Surface Pros are beautiful tablets.

Just look at the Surface Pro tablets. They are all drop-dead gorgeous. I am so bored on the ‘Apple look’ these days that the relatively rectangular look of the Surfaces looks beautiful to me. There is no denying that all of the Surfaces are beautiful tablets and are well-built and turn heads.

So there we go, these are the reasons why the Surface Pro is the ‘most perfect’ device ever made. Why do I love going to school? Every now and then I get to bring home very nice pieces of technology like this to try out!

Ultrabooks are not the future. They just aren’t versatile enough to be considered ‘the future’. The ‘future’ has been on the market for over 2 years now and has been overlooked by too many people to mention – but the future is definitely the Surface Pro and hybrid tablet computing in a world where we are demanding versatility, power, portability and all at a reasonable price.

‘Persistent perfection’ is what a lot of companies strive for. Many do not achieve it because being persistently perfect is not a terribly realistic business concept. But to me, the Surface Pro is persistently perfect. Each generation just keeps getting better and better.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Saturday 14th February 2015, 21:02 PM

My BETT Show Presentation – ‘Bringing Learning to Life at Wymondham High Academy’

By JASON BROWN, Thursday 29th January, 22:24 PM

On Saturday 24th January I was fortunate enough to present with Kevin Sait at the BETT show at the ExCel Arena in London. For those of you who don’t know what the BETT show, it is quite simply the largest technology show in the UK with many large corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Dell, HP and Acer each with stands and presentations. The show is held each January and is approximately a mile from end of the exhibition hall to the other – quite an event!

Kevin and I behind the Microsoft lecture stand at the BETT Show.
Kevin and I behind the Microsoft lecture stand at the BETT Show.

A week or two before the BETT show began on January 21st Kevin and I began creating our presentation. Our presentation was focused around how we use Microsoft technology at Wymondham High to bring learning to life, most notably Yammer, OneNote, Office 365 and Sharepoint and we also talked a little bit how we have helped to deploy Office 365 at Old Buckenham High School and how we offer Microsoft qualifications to students at Wymondham High as well as Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit, of course.

Is it fair that some students are disadvantaged because they cannot afford to buy the latest version of Microsoft Office every three years? Of course not! Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit ‘levels out the playing field’ and allows any student access to five copies of the latest Microsoft Office software.

Jason Brown

If you’d like to read exactly how we bring learning to life using technology at Wymondham High Academy, I recommend reading my article here. You may also be interested in reading all about our Student Digital Leaders here.

Our presentation featured some videos including one about how easy OneNote Class Notebook Creator is to set up for a class and also a video asking students what they use Yammer for in school and how Yammer and Office 365 has allowed collaboration compared to the old system which did not. We hope to have this video on the O Team YouTube channel in the near future.

Here I am in 'full swing' during my presentation.
Here I am in ‘full swing’ during my presentation.

Kevin had already been presenting this presentation several days prior to me present it with him on Saturday. Whilst the crowd was certainly not the largest, it was still a great experience presenting at a show as large as BETT and I felt that the presentation went very well with several members of the audience calling me an ‘inspiration’ and even getting the ‘nod of approval’ from Head of Microsoft Education UK, Steve Beswick who commented after the presentation that he liked the fact that I put my own opinion in (notably about how it’s unfair that students can be disadvantaged by using old software because they cannot always afford the latest releases).

After our 20 minute presentation, I spent the rest of the day looking around the stands and also doing a little bit of ‘shopping’ with our network manager, Andy Underwood, for a new server and some laptop trollies. Watch this space! 😉 I also watched fellow O Team member, Harry Traynor’s presentation on the Surface Pro 3 which was the final presentation at the show. In addition to this, I also enjoyed a lovely foot-long beef cheese-melt sandwich from Subway and I am surprised that didn’t give me a heart attack to be frank (definitely the best bit of the day!) 😉

Here is Kevin in 'full swing' with me 'waiting in the wings'.
Here is Kevin in ‘full swing’ with me ‘waiting in the wings’.
OneNote Product Manager Ari Schorr gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
OneNote Product Manager Ari Schorr gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
English teacher Emma Hicks gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
English teacher Emma Hicks gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
Here I am with the 'Steve head' at the BETT Show.
Here I am with the ‘Steve head’ at the BETT Show.
Kevin Sait with the 'Steve head' at the BETT Show.
Kevin Sait with the ‘Steve head’ at the BETT Show.
Here I am underneath the infamous 'Minecraft Tree' at the BETT Show.
Here I am underneath the infamous ‘Minecraft Tree’ at the BETT Show.
Harry Traynor delivers a presentation about the Surface Pro 3 at the BETT Show.
Harry Traynor delivers a presentation about the Surface Pro 3 at the BETT Show.
Kevin experiments with holographic technology at the BETT Show.
Kevin experiments with holographic technology at the BETT Show.
And finally, the kind of expensive handset a poor person like me can only dream of - here's a Nokia Lumia 930 at the BETT Show.
And finally, the kind of expensive handset a poor person like me can only dream of – here’s a Nokia Lumia 930 at the BETT Show.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Thursday 29th January, 22:24 PM

Head to head: laptop or Surface Pro for education – what’s better?

By JASON BROWN, Sunday 11th January 2015, 22:00 PM

At Wymondham High Academy we welcome technology in the classroom and encourage the students to bring in their own devices to work on. Using the power of Office 365 and OneDrive, it is now possible for students to work on the same document on a range of devices, from desktop PCs to smartphones and even games consoles (if you are mad!), it makes more and more sense to buy your own portable device to work on in school and continue working at home either on the same device, or on a different device without the need to worry about transferring the latest version of your document to a flash drive and then deleting or overwriting old versions or having to worry about emailing yourself the latest version.

When choosing a device for school what is the best thing to go for? Are you better off being ‘boring’ and ‘sticking to what you know is tried and tested’ and getting a laptop, or are you better off being adventurous and using a tablet or a ‘convertible’ device for your education?

Option one will probably bring you to a laptop from somebody like HP, Dell, Acer and Lenovo. You tend to get good value for money and can even pick up machines with dual-core Hyper-Threaded i5s for as little as £500 these days which comes across as being great value. There is a wide range of devices to choose from, with screen sizes ranging from a tiny 11.6″ to a massive 17.3″ and processors ranging from the smallest Intel Atoms to the biggest quad-core i7s with some AMD options and i3s and i5s in between.

When choosing a device for school I needed something that was tough, reliable and dependable. It also needed to be fast and able to run Adobe CC 2014 well as well as of Office 365 of course. I also needed a decent battery life and I wanted something with a great display and I wanted something that was fairly portable.

A traditional laptop or a tablet convertible? It can be a tough choice!
A traditional laptop or a tablet convertible? It can be a tough choice!

I ended up spending upwards of £900 on a Lenovo ThinkPad L540. The reason I went with Lenovo and the ThinkPad was because I am a big fan of Lenovo and I owned several ThinkPads whilst they were still manufactured by IBM, so it’s true that you never ‘get over your first love’. For those of you who are not familiar with the ThinkPad line, they are legendarily reliable business machines, with even the most basic models being ‘military-spec tested’ in this day and age. They are not what you call ‘beautiful machines’, being somewhat square and ‘corporate-like’, but I love them because they are quite unique in the United Kingdom where I live and there is something about them that I find very ‘badass’.

Yes, for what you get people told me ‘you’re crazy to spend this kind of money on a mid-range ThinkPad’, but hey, I wanted the ThinkPad, so I went for it.

I ordered my ThinkPad L540 in April 2014 with the following spec:

– Intel Core i5 4200M @ 2.5GHz

– 8GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM

– 15.6″ 1080p display

– 1TB Seagate SSHD (Hybrid HDD)

– Windows 8.1 x64

The ThinkPad arrived a few weeks later. In a flurry of excitement I opened it up and fell in love. The laptop felt fast, robust and powerful. I had a full review written of the laptop within a month of owning it which you can read here (if you have the time! Warning – it is long!)

My ThinkPad L540 is a fast machine, but it is heavy and bulking. I struggled to get it in my bag with my books and in the end my bag started to split!
My ThinkPad L540 is a fast machine, but it is heavy and bulking. I struggled to get it in my bag with my books and in the end my bag started to split!

I intended to use the ThinkPad for studies at Sixth Form at Wymondham High, for use in class to type up notes on and to do my photo editing and Adobe work on for. The ThinkPad was ferociously quick, especially after I had replaced the 5400 RPM SSHD with a proper fully-blown Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD (which can achieve reads and writes of 500MB/s without a problem) and the keyboard was amazing for note taking because of how comfortable it was to type on (I don’t think any laptop or tablet can match the keyboards on the ThinkPads – they are world class), but there were several problems with it for me:

– The weight. 2.5KG may not seem like a lot on its own, but unfortunately I also have to cart heavy textbooks to school which alone probably weigh a couple of kilograms. Add the laptop to that and my school bag is very heavy. But it gives my shoulders a good workout!

– The thickness. Originally when I took it out of the box I was surprised – it was thinner than expected. But again, taking it to school everyday, the thickness shows! Sometimes it’s hard to get stuff to fit in my bag because of the thickness of the laptop. The annoying thing is that most of this thickness is the DVD drive that I never really use.

– The battery. It’s not bad, and considering I’m doing stuff like Photoshop on battery I can’t really complain, but I can’t make it through a whole day on a single charge. My school days are typically 8am – 4pm and usually I end up charging the battery in my free lessons, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just means sometimes I have to take the A/C adapter to school (but I usually leave it there during the week and bring it home at weekends).

– The size. It’s a big laptop. I find it’s fine for use in computing and art lessons where I’m in IT suites anyway, but for note taking in geography and economics lessons where I’m in normal classrooms it takes up a lot of desk space.

The laptop was so heavy that it actually ended up splitting my bag and because it took up so much desk space in most of my lessons, I ended up taking my Surface RT in to use in lessons such as geography and economics where I also have folders. But of course the Surface RT was not a great ‘all-rounder’ for me because of the obvious limitations with Windows RT meant it could not run the Adobe suite or Python or Visual Studio for my computing lessons.

Don’t get me wrong, the ThinkPad is one hell of a laptop, if a little showy, expensive and heavy, but sadly the weight was the biggest downfall for me. Eventually my backed ached so much from carrying it and a load of textbooks that something had to be done.

The trouble is that with laptops unless you spend a lot of money it’s very difficult to find a good blend between power and performance. Most ultrabooks that are £1000 tend to have fairly weak CPUs and a small amount of RAM, which makes laptops such as mine seem more appealing and those £500 i5 laptops you see even more appealing.

What I really needed was a device that was small, portable and powerful.

The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!
The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!

Oh, what’s this we have here?

Could it be a Surface Pro 64GB running Windows 8.1 Pro x64 with an i5 3317U CPU and 4GB of RAM? I believe it could be!

The Surface Pro comes in several different variations and is the perfect blend of portability and power.
The Surface Pro 3 comes in several different variations and is the perfect blend of portability and power.

Option two may lead you towards something like this: the Surface Pro is one of many Windows tablets on the market now. The Pro is aimed more for those who want to truly replace their laptop with a tablet, especially the Surface Pro 3 with its i3, i5 and i7 offerings with 120GB, 250GB or 500GB SSDs and 8GB RAM, but you can now get your hands on a 10″ Windows tablet for as little as £150 these days which will run Office 365 and basic apps quite nicely. These cheaper tablets are absolutely ideal if you just want a portable tablet to fling in your bag or carry around to run Office and browse the web – and spend less than the cost of a Surface RT but have the flexibility of being able to run proper Windows desktop apps on it. Many of these tablets have quad-core Intel Atom CPUs and 1 or 2GB of RAM with a 32GB SSD, so the spec isn’t bad at all and for £150 or less the value certainly shines.

I got my Surface Pro tablet from Kevin because he was lucky enough to be given a Surface Pro 3 for free from Microsoft. All I can really is that it seems to me like it is the perfect blend of power and portability.

Yes, it’s not quite as powerful as the ThinkPad and it has an older CPU and half the RAM and yes 64GB of storage is a little limiting when working with the Adobe suite and Adobe Creaitve Cloud (but I did add a 32GB microSD card to increase the total capacity of the device to 96GB which has helped, and let’s be honest – my work is in OneDrive and it doesn’t need to be synchronised to my Surface) and the keyboard has taken some getting used to and yes this thing can run slightly hot at times, but the best thing about the Surface Pro is just the mobility of it. It is fantastically portable, something I can easily carry around in my bag or under my arm.

The pen and touch screen are nice novelties. I’ll be honest I don’t use them that often but Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 is pretty cool to use with a pen and it’s fun showing friends the OneNote ‘Ink to Text’ feature on my Surface. Several of them have been blown away by that, but again they were also blown away by the 180 degrees tilt on my ThinkPad’s display and its fingerprint scanner.

The battery life seems decent. When I owned a Surface RT the battery in that lasted for days but we have to remember that this Surface Pro has a fully-blown i5 in it whereas the RT only has a basic ARM processor, so this Surface Pro is much more like my laptop in terms of battery life. It doesn’t seem to be terribly good at estimating how much charge it has left though. Sometimes it can go from 5 hours to 2 hours in a matter of minutes when just browsing the web, and then it can shoot back up to 5 hours. But I haven’t completely drained it yet!

Side-by-side, the Surface is obviously much more portable than the ThinkPad.
Side-by-side, the Surface is obviously much more portable than the ThinkPad.

The performance is nice. Adobe CC 2014 runs very well on it. The display is nice and bright and with it being glossy the colours really ‘pop’ too so editing photos in Lightroom is good, but my gripe would be that the small size of the display makes working on big documents in programs like Word and InDesign where there is a lot of text quite hard. Mind you, with that being said the 1080p resolution makes good use of the small display and the real estate is pretty good as a result of this.

To conclude, the Surface Pro is a good all-rounder and is the perfect mobile device. I found that each machine has its benefits and each has its flaws, but for pure mobility and power in a tiny package, at the moment I am finding that the Surface Pro is probably the better machine for education. But that doesn’t mean to say that my ThinkPad is obsolete. I could go back to using it if I find more limitations with the Surface Pro.

But what device is best for you in education? It really depends on what you do and what your budget is if you ask me.

If you want something to just browse the internet with and write some documents using Office 365 on, grab a cheap tablet or laptop (it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Windows device, Office 365 apps are available for Android and there are some great low-cost Android tablets on the market too!), but ultimately if you want the portability then a tablet would probably be best. If you store your work on the cloud using OneDrive then storage space doesn’t really matter too much.

If you need something powerful and portable I would highly recommend something like the Surface Pro – look at the i5 Surface Pro 3. It’s the perfect blend of power and portability and for the same cost as something like a Lenovo Y50 or a ThinkPad T540p or a higher-end Dell XPS or HP machine, the Surface Pro 3 is the clear winner if you need power and portability. The other options are big and heavy, especially the gaming-grade Lenovo Y50 which may be able to max out the latest games at 1080p, but is big and bulky!

The bottom line is to think about what you want and need, and buy around that criteria.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Sunday 11th January 2015, 22:24 PM

Old Buckenham High School a year on….

Old Buckenham Area School circa 1938
Old Buckenham Area School circa 1938

 It was a year ago I first met with Aron Whiles, who was then the new head teacher of Old Buckenham High School.  Our first conversation went something like..

we want to do something with out technology in school!

The rest is history as the say,  here is a summary of what can be achieved in a year. Its certainly work in progress and I am sure in 2015 there will be a lot more to tell.

 

Old Buckenham High School is a small size high school based in South of Norfolk, and has been at the centre of village life since opening in 1938.   Today OBHS (as its known) has about 600 + students, and has recently been involved in the journey of transforming the use of technology in the classroom.     OBHS over the past  years has not been able to invest openly in the ‘technology’ which we see in a lot of bigger ‘academy’ schools in the area, but has more recently has played catchup and now will have overtaken a lot of other Norfolk schools with its use of technology entering the classroom.

The teaching vision was to allow students access to mobile devices to facilitate their learning , utilising Microsoft Office 365 as a content and learning platform.  The great part of this story is how the school went around thinking about there ‘mobile first’ strategy, instead of simply buying devices and then deciding how to use them in the school, they looked at the ‘technology vision’ and worked its way backward leading to the right decision in the hardware choices.

The first part of the journey has been well documented on this blog  The first part of the journey was to ensure the school had the correct infrastructure to support the schools vision of using Office 365 in the classroom.  The school implemented an upgrade program of the core and perimeter switches, and brought a new server running Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 r2.   As headteacher Aron Whiles said,

there is no point in having a fast car if you have not got the road to run it on!

From a non technical perspective, that statement from Aron Whiles, showed great understanding of the situation. It is really important to make sure that any infrastructure is upto dealing the workload it will be required for.   There is no point in deploying Office 365 into computer rooms with slow internet connections as the experience would not be pleasurable for teacher or student!

The next stage was a big jump!, the school had no Wi-Fi and it was decided that initially the science block should be enabled.  This soon rolled into ‘well lets get a price’ for the whole site.   Prices came in from suppliers invited to quote and there was a big difference!  to complete the whole school the top price was £52,000,  the lowest price was £18,000 , for installing the RUKUS Wi-Fi solution – my obvious advice as a school is make sure you shop around it really does pay!

So over the summer break Wi-Fi was enabled, over the whole school, meanwhile the Network Manager had created the Office 365 tenancy and using the free DirSync tool had created over 600 Office 365 account for staff and teachers.

So we had the infrastructure, we now needed to decide on the device to work with Office 365 and our students working in the cloud.   What were we looking for? . Traditionally  the Ipad has been the only route forward for schools, primarily being the only tablet device available. However these days we now have both Android and Windows devices to look at,  price is always keen for a school in any deployment, so we initially looked at the Google Nexus and the Toshiba Wt8.   However though unplanned sometimes a delay in making a decision can be a helpful one..

While we were evaluating tablets, a new range of Windows 8 tablets from Linx http://linxtablets.com was launched, the Linx 7, Linx 8 and Linx 10. These tablets feature full Windows 8.1, a quad core processor and start from just £62.00 + vat.

The Linx 7 inch tablet  a quad core Windows 8.1
The Linx 7 inch tablet a quad core Windows 8.1

The  super smooth 7 inch tablet from Linx is ideal for students as a personal learning device.   It allows students to use all the functionality of Windows 8.1 and Office 365.   The quad core processor gives a responsive feel to the product, and with a MicroSD card to upgrade the memory you just cannot go wrong.

For more information on this superb range of devices look at http://linxtablets.com

The Linx tablets allow the real possibility of increasing our vision of allowing every child in school to have access to a device to accompany their learning journey at school.  Using the familiar Windows 8 interface, its a natural progression to the transferring of documents to the desktop PC knowing where everything is.

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Windows 8 is supported by a wide range of hardware vendors, making choosing the correct hardware for schools an easy choice.

Also the Windows platform gives us the scalability to look at different models for different needs in the future.  Where as a tablet is just a tablet, we may require, bigger screens, full tactile keyboards, or improved inking capabilities which is the great thing about the Windows platform, there are plenty of hardware vendors that can supply a range of devices to meet the school’s needs.

So the school had the vision about how the use of mobile can help with learning in the classroom, it overcame the deployment issues and made the infrastructure sound and then decided on the right technology to inspire the vision.    However there was still one thing missing,  that was the students!   The school started its own digital leader team, whose aims are

to support and develop the use of mobile technology throughout the school.

The team was formed to help other students and teachers understand Office 365 and cloud technologies, as these are skills for students for there future.  The team’s first job was to complete a tech day at Wymondham High Academy, with the training team. This focused on some key skills of Office 365, some fun with the Raspberry PI and finally some hands on with Office Sway and gaming solutions like Project Spark.

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OBHS Tech Team members getting to grips with controlling a robot arm with the Raspberry PI during the tech day

After a productive day the team changed there name to the OBHS Tech Team, to reflect there aims and the role they are to play in the school.   The end of the day also made them more confident with editing pages in SharePoint Online and also supporting users with queries on products like OneDrive for Business.

I think everyone understood the benefits of saving to OneDrive and its flexibility, and once we had looked at OneNote and what can be achieved with Office Lens (mobile app), students were feeling excited about the future of using technology within the school.     These students are now working with teachers to develop great SharePoint sites for sharing resources, have established a Yammer presence to collaborate with other schools (and the Digital Leader team here at Wymondham High).    These students really are the future about changing the way things happen with technology at school.

 

In reflection the school (which didn’t have a big pot of money) has been able to establish a policy for enabling students to share, communicate and collaborate using Office 365, been able to offer the first steps for students to use mobile devices in the classroom and create a sustainable BYOD scenario for the future.   This has been done with a shared vision of the senior leadership group and the right approach to maximise the investment. Rather than thinking ‘lets buy the devices and then decided what to do with them’ the school started with ‘ what’s the end vision’ and lets map everything  back from there.  This is now backed up with the Tech Team a core bunch of students with the passion and excitement to transform learning in the classroom.

OBHS
The OBHS Tech Team complete there Office 365 tech day with the training team from Wymondham High.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OneNote Class Notebook Creator

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This time last year Wymondham High Academy was just at the point of trialling Office 365,  as the Head of IT Strategy I was still finding my way around the school site, and trying to remember names and faces. A year later and Office 365 has been embedded along with Yammer to 1600 + students, Teachers have begun to embrace the flexibility of working in the cloud, the ability to move documents in between devices without it changing layouts !

We have also in that year deployed Windows 8.1 to more than 700 school computers, deployed over 200 Surface devices, and added a sustainable BYOD element into school life!, that can really be described as the easy part!. Now the school is well on the way to its goal of embedding the use of technology in the classroom for the benefit of teachers, (making their life easier, working to improve good working practice in the classroom) and students, (understanding the technology, its use and how to benefit from key skills such as communication, collaboration and sharing).

One of the big players here has been the adoption of OneNote 2013, which I can guarantee is the one piece of software people have never heard of, but trust me it can be a real game changer in your school. The latest iteration as a SharePoint app The OneNote Class Notebook Creator can literally ‘blow your mind’ as an educator with its potential in schools.

So what exactly is it?
OneNote Class Notebook Creator allows you to create a whole class notebook, with content library, collaboration pages, and student notebooks, in one document! The real beauty about this is students only see the content library (resources from the teacher), the collaboration space (sharing ideas) and only their own notebook.   So students use the notebook as if it is their own, can copy information from the teachers resource pages, do homework, and the teacher has global access to all the student notebooks and with the power of OneNote can leave feedback on students work in a variety of manners (audio, video, annotation etc).

Going from Zero to OneNote Hero!

School Principal Russell Boulton has been one of the early adopters of OneNote Class Notebook Creator at Wymondham  with his Year 7 Science group.  Up until two weeks ago Russell would admit he knew of but didn’t use OneNote.  After a short session with us, literally 30 mins, Russell then an created his first Class Notebook and shared it with his teaching group on Yammer, our enterprise social network.

Russell Boulton
School Principal Russell Boulton is and early adopter of OneNote Class Notebook Creator

 Class Notebook  has been a catalyst for me to introduce Flipped Learning into this terms  topic.  I have uploaded some video’s into OneDrive for Business and created a sharing link, embedded that into the content library in the Class Notebook so students have access to those resources.     Part of the homework this week was to watch the video’s at home (or where ever they are connected to the internet). So we can get down to the task in the classroom and maximise the learning time.

We have an active group on Yammer for my Year 7 science, and this is a great place to share access to the Class Notebook, also students use it as a discussion point and can help each other out if there is a problem.

The great thing is I can also look into the Student Notebook and see how work is progressing at any time, and with OneNote on my Surface I can leave video feedback instantaneously if I wish.    These are early days but we see the potential and how to deliver learning in a more exciting way for students and am sure, this will develop further.

How easy is it to get started?

After installing the Class Notebook Creator into your Office 365 site then its a case of launching the app from your site.

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As you can see Class Notebook creator is now an app in your page, and you can now run it directly.

Here is how simple it is to get up and running.

First of all launch the app and you will be offered the opportunity to create a new Class Notebook, you also have the option of adding other students to existing books here also.

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So select Create a Class Notebook, this will take you to the next screen.

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Add the name for your Notebook  Science Period 2 Wednesday’s  makes it easy for student to find if they have multiple OneNote open.  Click Next.

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This screen shows you the construction of your Notebook.   You can rename the Collaboration Space and Content Library if you need to. Click Next.

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Add your students name individually or paste them from a CSV.  This sets up the correct number of Student Spaces.

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Decide what goes in the Student Space, these are just standard examples, but you can configure this for your own way of teaching. Click Next.

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Lastly you will see a Preview of the Notebook – make sure your happy with it or amend the structure – the choice is yours.  Click Create to create your Notebook.

What happens next?

As on Office 365, you now get presented with a sharing URL giving access to the document, with the permissions set so student only see their own space and both the content and collaboration spaces.   This is available on any internet connected device, so can be leveraged pretty much anywhere.

You can now post the URL into SharePoint or email it, we generally post it Yammer our social feed which is heavily used in school.

Are you an Office 365 user?

Simply add the app from the SharePoint store to get started.  If your not an Office 365 user try Office 365 free for 30 days at http://office365.com

In summary OneNote is a much under utilised tool in the Office suite on its own. Its feature rich and empowering for both teachers and students. Class Notebook Creator takes this to the next level of utilising 21st century skills in the classroom and of course is free.