Teacher Perspectives On The Surface Pro 3

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew's College

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew’s College

As we approach the first anniversary of the Surface Pro 3 release in New Zealand, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that we now have 26 staff members using them across the school. An earlier update on how how teachers have been using the Pro 3 in their classes remains one of the more popular posts on this blog and in anticipation of teacher demand for tablets in 2016, I have surveyed those staff members who use a Surface Pro 3.

The overall satisfaction rates of teachers with the Surface Pro 3 is very high

The overall satisfaction rates of teachers with the Surface Pro 3 is very high

Using SurveyMonkey I have collated some interesting feedback from teachers and share it here for the benefit of other schools that may be interested in exploring the tablets for their teachers.

Whilst it is not always easy to ask the “right” questions when it comes to getting useful feedback I have tried to get staff to compare the key features and functionality of a Surface Pro 3 with a traditional laptop that the College has issued to teaching staff:

Laptop v SP3

An interesting comment to the above responses from a teacher was:

What is not mentioned above is the functionality – the Surface is far more functional than a laptop as it doubles as a tablet, when needed. This is the huge advantage of a Surface over a laptop.

It is important to acknowledge some of those “niggles” that teachers have experienced because no device is perfect. Here is some feedback from staff highlighting some of the challenges of the device:

The keyboard needs to be taken off and reattached to remedy glitches. The keyboard is small and I often hit the caps button. Consider body posture when using the Surface Pro 3 so that you are not hunched. Before putting a plastic box on the desk and under the tablet, I would wonder why I had a sore neck/back/eyestrain.

The thing I really don’t like is a cheapie-feeling keyboard and how I keen hitting two keys at once … lack of USB ports is really annoying too

Some issues with it freezing when in sleep mode. Need to force a restart when this happens

We have done a significant amount of experimentation with wireless projection at St Andrew’s College and a future post will cover what we have settled on, however currently only 41% of our teachers with Surface Pro 3 tablets are using wireless projection (this number is skewed as well because the majority of our SP3 users are in our Preparatory School because of where their lease renewal occurred). However, 96% of the teachers said they would use wireless projection if it was available in their class, with the following breakdown showing how significant it is to their teaching style:

Wireless Projection

Clearly, the ability to roam a classroom “untethered” from the front and a data projector cable is a big drawcard for teachers and a trend I see only growing as the technology becomes more reliable.

One of the key features of the Surface Pro 3 is the great accuracy of the pen and the ability to “write” into OneNote very easily; a feature that is consistently praised by our teachers. This question specifically asked about the usefulness of the pen:

SP3 Pen

Some departments at St Andrew’s College would love to change the requirement for students that all devices must support “inking” in some format, and it’s easy to see why: subjects that involve diagrams, formula and equations would be significantly easier for students if they could simply handwrite directly into OneNote.

Whilst the Surface Pro 3 is experiencing favourable feedback from teachers, we are also looking at “convertible laptops” that allow for the handwriting on the screen such as the HP Spectre x360 that folds back into a tablet. Historically, our testing of units like this have been disappointing as the accuracy of the inking on these hybrids just could not compete with genuine tablets like the Pro 3. That said, the attraction of a proper keyboard and a larger screen appeals to some of our teachers:

Laptop v Tablet

Ultimately, the value of any device to a teacher can be measured in whether they would recommend it to their colleagues: on this point, the teachers were almost unanimous.

Recommendation

One interesting comment from a teacher in the Preparatory School reflects the uptake of tablets in their class by students, purely based on what they have seen from teachers using the devices:

A number of staff in the Prep School who opted for laptops now regret their choice and given the opportunity would switch to a surface. 8 students in my class now use surface tablets – 2 having switched from Mac.

How has the practice of our teachers changed with the Surface Pro 3?

This is a difficult question to get answers to in some ways but a critical one to understand what, if any, impact on pedagogy a technology shift has had for our teachers. Up until the introduction of the Surface Pro 3 the teachers at St Andrew’s were all given identical laptops. By introducing some limited choice it has increased the support costs of maintenance and spares, therefore it was hoped there would be some positive changes or improvements in teaching practice. Here is a selection of some replies from teachers:

My practice has not changed, but the mobility of the Surface and the fact that will do all I ask of it has adapted my style. I am able to work with the students annotating a piece of writing or work through maths problems using the stylus and each child is able to revisit this learning through OneNote. The mobility, wireless projector connectivity and stylus allow me to get away from the desk and be with the students when teaching. Most importantly – the students use of the Surface to share with others is powerful. They take my surface and use it to explain concepts to a group when linked to the projector and when used in conjunction with OneNote, students collaborate in real time on a piece of learning using their stylus on their own Surface tablets.

Maths Teacher

A reply from a Preparatory School teacher suggests it can lead to MORE work:

I probably end up doing more work from home as it is much more portable [than a laptop]

Preparatory School Teacher

It has not changed my practice, but has complemented it very well. I already used my own Surface in conjunction with a school laptop. Before the Surface, I used my phone to do many of the same functions, complemented by a laptop. Having a Surface provided by school has meant operating fewer devices for the same outcomes, making it easier when you don’t have your own classroom.

Science Teacher

More movement around the class, use of pen and writing has enhanced the annotation ability, marking and so forth, integration of technology, ease of OneNote and working 1 on 1 with students. light, easy to move around with especially when wirelessly not connected to data projector

English Teacher

I don’t write on whiteboard anymore – I write directly onto my OneNote page so students can access this

Science Teacher

Much easier to use in PE settings ie with pen and tablet. Therefore I am more likely to use it, and complete observation style tasks more frequently. Easier to mark / use OneNote – I can mark and make comments quickly using the pen

PE Teacher

Less time at my desk and more time with students. Ability to take teaching outside the classroom, faster and with more resources. Being able to show examples of preferred practices with ease and ability to document past/current teaching and interactions with the students has been key. Students are assisted by this to become more reflective learners. (ability to revisit work via OneNote).

Preparatory School Teacher

A recurring theme comes through in these responses in terms of how a tablet, with the ability to ink, enhances the value of Microsoft OneNote, a key tool that is being used at our College.

The above information is important for the ICT team to understand. Like many schools, we lease our teacher laptops/devices and renew these every three years. The teaching staff leases are split into three, so each year we replace 1/3 of the devices (around 45-50), and I anticipate that the majority of our teachers who are up for a new device in 2016 will want something they can write on. The above information will be disseminated to those teachers to help them make informed decisions and also assist the ICT department in providing the best support possible.

Office 2016 Arrives for Mac Users

maxresdefaultSt Andrew’s College is an Office365 school, making extensive use of the Microsoft OneNote application in particular and we are also compulsory BYOD from Year 9 (we still allow choice of Windows / Apple). Over the last two years we have seen increasing amounts of Apple laptops coming to school with the students and one of the frustrations has been the old Office 2011 available for Macs.

This has changed with Microsoft’s release of Office 2016 for Mac last week, announced on their blog here (see below for the release video) and for the first time it also includes OneNote (for a long time unavailable and then only released via the Mac App Store).

It is strongly encouraged that students remove Office 2011 before attempting the install of the new version – detailed instructions are available here to do this. A video showing the complete installation process of Office 2016 for Mac can be seen here:

The new Office 2016 is distinctively “Mac” in design and brings the feature set much closer to the Windows 2013 version (although, frustratingly, some of the best features of OneNote are not there still). Here’s hoping that updates will improve this so that both Windows and Apple users have comparable functionality.

Another feature that appears to be missing from the new Office 2016 Powerpoint is Office Mix – a fantastic plugin that allows teachers and students to easily record narrated screencasts.

Overall, it’s a big step forward for Mac users and one that I am confident many of our students will download to their BYOD devices since it remains free for our students at St Andrew’s College

Promotional Video for Office 2016 for Mac:

Mr Hilliam Attends Microsoft Educator Exchange E2 Conference

Ben at MSAt the start of this term, Mr Ben Hilliam, flew to Seattle in the United States as a guest of Microsoft to attend their Global Educator E2 Conference. His attendance was based on his earlier selection as a Microsoft Innovative Educator for 2015 and his outstanding use of MS technologies in his classroom, including flipping the classroom with OneNote and Office Mix and his trusty Surface Pro 3.

The conference ran between the 27th April and the 4th of May and was attended by 200 delegates from over 80 different countries with only five being selected from New Zealand to go. During the conference a number of inspirational Keynote messages were delivered that focused more on the possibilities of technology in the classroom than on immediate practical implementation for teachers.

The members of the Challenge Group Mr Hilliam worked with

The members of the Challenge Group Mr Hilliam worked with

Some of the “how” was covered in the breakout sessions which included workshops on specific programmes such as Office365, OneNote and Sway (a relatively new feature from Microsoft that is a web based visual presentation tool). Another activity was the Challenge Groups – Mr Hilliam was grouped with teachers from Sweden, Georgia, Korea and Columbia and they were tasked with creating a learning activity based around 21st century learning ideas. They then had to pitch this to a number of judges and present a schema for the learning.

Being the only native speaker of English in the group this was certainly a challenge and Mr Hilliam acknowledged the conference was likely to evolve over the coming years – 2015 being the inaugural event. I was interested in any observations he had gained in terms of how his teaching practice with technology, and indeed the wider staff at St Andrew’s College, compared to what was happening in other countries. He noted:

No one else there was flipping their classroom in maths in the way a number of our teachers are at St Andrew’s. There was a teacher of French Literature who was using OneNote similar to how Jac Yoder and the English Department are, in the sense that they were using audio recordings for feedback and directly annotating into the NoteBooks.

The conference delegates from New Zealand

The conference delegates from New Zealand

Whilst St Andrew’s College has embraced Office365 and the cloud based flexibility it offers via OneDrive, Mr Hilliam did not see many US based schools setup in this way. Some were still using local on-site Sharepoint servers for OneNote synchronisation, meaning students could not get updates when at home. To this end, he felt that the work by teachers at our College was quite close to the leading edge, a view reinforced by the parents feedback at the recent Year 10 parent/teacher interviews, where a number commented how widely OneNote was being used across the school:

The ubiquity of OneNote in our College makes it quite easy for our students to get a handle on how to use it. It’s largely just fallen into the “background” of their usage. Students have stopped thinking about how to use OneNote and instead it is simply a tool to help them with their learning.

Interestingly, this view was echoed by Mr Tom Adams, the College eLearning Integrator, who mentioned:

Students don’t think they’re doing any special using OneNote now – they just get on and do it.

He went further by suggesting that because the College has focused on only two main tools of Moodle and OneNote, students are not being bombarded by a wide range of different tools and platforms from teachers. This has allowed them to quickly grasp the fundamentals of each and use them efficiently in their school work.

One the highlights for Mr Hilliam at the conference was the chance to ask Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella a question:

Mr Hilliam ask Satya Nadella for advice for Kiwi kids interested in working in the ICT sector

I am really pleased to see our teachers getting recognised outside of St Andrew’s College for their great work authentically integrating technology into their teaching and learning. Moreover, to hear that the students are becoming increasingly familiar with this technology and starting to leverage it intuitively to support their progress is outstanding. I wrote in this earlier blog post, 

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

It seems that we are progressing well along this path of embedding technology into the background of the learning and this is a fantastic tribute to the hard work of our teachers.

Combining OneNote & Moodle For Assessment Submissions

OneNoteOne of the great things about Microsoft OneNote is the ease with which teachers can provide feedback to students on their work, helping them to develop their ideas towards the submission of assessment. This was explained in detail by Ms Helaina Coote, our Head of Department for English, in this earlier blog post.

moodleHowever, as the internal assessment season ramps up in 2015 a number of teachers have approached Tom Adams and I about how to “lock” OneNote notebooks to prevent students modifying content after the submission date. Whilst there are some work arounds, such as password protecting sections or moving them to a “read only” section in a teacher’s OneNote notebook, these are not always easy or intuitive as I explained in this post comparing the strengths and weaknesses of Moodle and OneNote.

Together, Tom and I thought about a better workflow for teachers and students to use and settled on the following simple process:

  1. The teacher creates an “Assignment” task in Moodle setting the due date to be when all students need to have the assessment completed and handed in by.
    1. The option to allow “late” submissions exists within Moodle too, clearly showing to the teacher in red how many hours/days overdue the submission was. This could be useful in scenarios where students were away for legitimate reasons.
  2. The student exports either their page, section or entire OneNote Notebook into a PDF file on their local computer.
  3. The student goes to their Moodle course, clicks on the assignment and then drag ‘n’ drops the PDF file for upload and submission.
    1. The teacher can optionally include to have all students “sign” the authenticity agreement by clicking the “accept” each time they submit an assessment.
  4. Once the due date is reached, the teacher can bulk download all of the submissions for offline marking, moderation storage purposes or printing and returning.

The ease of this process is outlined in this six minute video showing all of the above:

By using this process, a number of things can happen:

  • There can be no dispute about when the assignment was submitted
  • There can be no “losing” the submission because it’s stored on Moodle
  • All assignments are stored in one place with a single click to download all assignments into a folder for marking / moderation.
    • This also reduces the need for the Teacher to “harvest” the submissions from a variety of sources that students may have submitted by e.g. email, printed and left at the teacher’s desk or office etc.
  • Students can be required to “sign” the authenticity statement for every assessment they submit within Moodle.
  • Moodle supports the use of http://turnitin.com/ – an online tool for verifying the authenticity and originality of a submission. Whilst this costs, it would allow students to improve their work before a final submission and also support teachers in ensuring the submission is the original work of the student.

turnitinTransBack400pxOn the St Andrew’s College website we share a number of reasons why we use technology in our classrooms, with one of them being preparing students for tertiary study and the workforce. The vast majority of tertiary institutes now require students to submit assessment online – by teaching our students to manage their time and to become accustomed to this form of assessment submission, they are being prepared for life beyond St Andrew’s.

At this stage, there is no formal requirement for students to only submit their assessment via Moodle in this way. However, with the obvious benefits outlined above, along with the potential to include Turn It In to further assist in the originality and authenticity of student work, it is an idea that we presented to the combined Heads of Department meeting this week. There will be further discussion over the coming weeks and it may be something that we trial later this year.

Guest Post: Excel-lent! A Smart(ie) Take On OneNote & Excel In Maths

This post was originally written by Ms Briony Marks, a teacher in our Preparatory School, on her teaching blog that you can read here. I liked the post so much, and her natural integration of technology into a Year 6 Maths lesson, that I gained permission to reblog it here – enjoy.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

Now that the school year is well and truly underway a few of my summer pipeline plans are taking form inside my classroom which is exciting, and it feels like a long wait is over!

As a member of the eLearning professional learning group in the Preparatory School I have been trying to integrate the useful and purposeful use of computers and the Internet into my lessons and I am endeavouring to document my reflections as I go along to feed back to the rest of the group.

Last week I set up a class OneNote to use with my Year 6 and Year 7 Maths groups using the Class NoteBook Creator App (I think I’ll do a blog on this once they are underway and being used in the longer term – I’ll share how I’m using it and how effective it is in a class without their own devices). We finally got started using it in our maths lessons this week and I was really pleasantly surprised with the results.

Student graphs showing analysis of their Smartie investigations (note the feedback comments from Ms Marks to the right of the graphs)

With my Year 6 class we were undertaking the age-old Smartie statistical investigation. I decided, like many teachers, to use this opportunity to introduce the class to Microsoft Excel. My aims were to show students how to use AutoSum; to see if they could understand the benefit of this function and the advantage over using a calculator and to make simple graphs. Next week we will be adding the results of other groups to take a Mean and use a comparative graph feature to support our analysis of the results.

There were plenty of resources on the Internet (TES.co.uk had a plethora!); wonderfully detailed PowerPoints or Word documents with screen shots and arrows showing the students a step by step method. I chose my favourites and adapted them slightly (one needed modernising to the Excel 2013 we run on our school netbooks and other details such as where to save and open the Spreadsheet were made more suitable for the school systems).

instructions

Example of OneNote NoteBook with the Excel instructions printed into it

What I chose to do next was not particularly intentional but it worked fantastically. I copied the Powerpoint into our Content Library on our class OneNote. Once those students who were savvy were online they took themselves through what was essentially a step by step tutorial, with minimal assistance, and self-taught how to use Excel.

This allowed me the opportunity to work with a smaller group of students who were not so familiar with OneNote or Excel.

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

The children were able to help each other and often a question was asked and before I could get to the child to assist, another member of the class had jumped up to show them where to find the answers on OneNote or how to do it.

I can’t wait for the next lesson and to see how they deal with the next set of skills.

 

St Andrew’s Teachers Named Microsoft Innovative Educators

JYO

Earlier this year Microsoft advertised the availability of nine positions throughout New Zealand for teachers interested in being recognised as innovative educators in their use of Microsoft products. St Andrew’s College was the only school to have two staff members selected into this programme:

BHIThe evaluation criteria to be selected included:

  • Ready to share your passion for Microsoft with peers, both face to face, and through social media, blogs and videos
  • A creative, innovative technology advocate
  • An educator interested in developing strategies to benefit and share with other educators
  • Energised, with a friendly and outgoing personality
  • Able to work autonomously and within a team
  • Display confident and articulate presentation and written communication skills
  • Full-time educator in Y1-13 or in a higher education faculty of education
  • #1 fan of Windows devices and services – 3+ years’ experience on a Windows device using Microsoft Office and other key Microsoft applications
A training session in Microsoft's Sydney Offices

A training session in Microsoft’s Sydney Offices

Each applicant was required to submit a written application, and those short listed were interviewed via Skype and needed to present a 5 slide Powerpoint. Having been selected, Mrs Yoder and Mr Hilliam were presented with a new Surface Pro 3 to keep, along with a number of other rewards, including an all expenses paid trip to Sydney, Australia for an intensive weekend with other Innovative Educators from around New Zealand and Australia.

Mr Hilliam has written a reflection on the weekend in Sydney that can be read in full here, but a small quote is:

It is amazing that there are so many incredibly passionate teachers out there who are showing incredible competency in how to become more competent! These teachers all know they need to continually update their practice and push the boundaries to improve the success of their students …

I had a wonderful time, met some wonderful people and was left inspired by some wonderful ideas. I can’t implement everything all at once, but I will start with something small.

Mrs Yoder added:

It was incredibly exciting to attend the forum with a group of teachers who were constantly seeking out innovation in their teaching practice through collaboration and embracing new ideas within e-learning.

As part of the weekend they were able to tour the Microsoft offices and see their flexible working environment:

It is very pleasing to see these two teachers recognised for their efforts in successfully integrating technology into their teaching practice and their stories are ones that we have shared regularly already. Mr Hilliam’s work with OneNote, Miracast and a Surface Pro was blogged about here, along with his experimentations with Office Mix in the classroom.

Meanwhile, Mrs Yoder was an original innovator with OneNote at the College, heavily influencing other English teachers such as Dr Jeni Curtis which was blogged about here and more recently an article was published on her teaching practice in the College Regulus Magazine.

With the creation of a new role of eLearning Integrator at St Andrew’s starting in 2015, our goal is very much to take the practice of our innovators and make it commonplace across all our classrooms.

Freemium: Students Can Be The Winners On The Day

freemium

This post was written as part of the Connected Educators Month 2014 and was first published on the Christchurch Connected Educators blog.

In my role as Director of ICT at St Andrew’s College I get to see lots of great products in the ICT sector, both the latest hardware (such as new tablets aimed at education) and software (cloud based productivity suites are the in thing currently for schools). I also get to step back from the coal face from time to time and observe some of the bigger trends happening in ICT & Education and there are two obvious ones:

  1. BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. More and more schools are exploring how they can allow (or in some cases require) students to bring a laptop/tablet/smartphone to school and use it as a tool for their education. There are literally tens of thousands of blogs about this, so I’m not going to write about that today.
  2. Freemium – Defined as “a business model, especially on the Internet, whereby basic services are provided free of charge while more advanced features must be paid for” This is a growing trend in education and, as the blog title suggests, students will be the ultimate winners from this.

The concept of Freemium is probably best known as starting within the Apple App Store and it has spread rapidly from there. Developers, keen for you to try out their apps, give away a limited feature set, be that the first few levels of a game for example, and if you love it, you pay the full price for the app.

How Is This Impacting Schools?

Major players in ICT have long recognised that exposing students to their products early on increases the chances of them continuing to use their products when they leave school. Earlier this year I attended a conference where Francis Valintine from The Mindlab by Unitec named five companies that are likely to dominate education in the near future. These were (in no particular order):

  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Google

office-logo_v3Many New Zealand schools are already availing themselves of the Ministry of Education negotiated contract with Microsoft allowing for very affordable access to Office365 and associated products. Other schools have gone for the free option of Google Apps For Education (GAFE). Both products are excellent, and allow schools to deliver Enterprise quality email, cloud collaboration services, online storage and backup options and a huge range of additional features from third party developers that plug in to these core products. It has massively reduced the workload for school ICT technicians; for example not having to run a local mail server and spam filter for students and staff.

Google-Apps-for-EducationBen Kepes, writing for Forbes.com, described the Google/Apple/Microsoft rush for education as a “war” – they are certainly battling for the hearts and minds of students, hoping that their loyalty to a product will continue on into tertiary study and, ultimately, the workplace. Indeed, I’ve even come across ICT technicians from different schools exclaiming incredulously “What? You’ve gone with [product x]?? I can’t believe it when [product y] gives you 10x that storage space for free!!”

And so it goes on …

Should We Be Concerned?

The answer to that question is not a clear cut yes or no – it’s more like a “maybe.” With more and more companies offering free or heavily discounted products to schools, we should in theory be seeing increased choice around what tools are used for the best educational outcomes. Paradoxically, however, the opposite is happening as each major vendor creates an ecosystem where their products play nicest together. As these ecosystems grow ever more encompassing there becomes less compelling reasons for schools to explore great products outside of those provided within the ecosystem.

To highlight just how much focus these vendors are pushing a widening product set, many traditional software only companies are now releasing hardware products to complete their ecosystem:

  • Microsoft: with a long history of operating systems and office suites, they are now offering hardware like the Surface Pro 3 tablet
  • Google: started out as a search engine and then developed a mobile operating system called Android and then ChromeOS for running on laptops. They have now released their own ChromeBook called Pixel
  • Apple: already a hardware and software company, they needed a cloud based productivity suite to complete their ecosystem and introduced iCloud

Ultimately, schools have to make a choice which ecosystem they enter and straddling two at once becomes challenging. Towards the end of Term 3 I organised some of our staff at St Andrew’s College to present to senior leaders from a range of schools throughout New Zealand on how we are using Microsoft OneNote in Maths and English. Afterwards, a number of the guests from other schools asked how they too could implement OneNote in their schools, only to realise they were a GAFE school and didn’t have the Microsoft licensing to affordably do this.

Therein lies the problem.

It’s not that Office365 is better than Google Apps for Education – both are tremendous products and as schools, we should all be incredibly grateful we have access to these. It’s more that in being spoilt for choice for free or heavily subsidised product offerings, it’s not always easy to explore the best products across multiple ecosystems.

Conclusion:

I wrote in a recent blog post that great integration of technology in a classroom should see it fade into the background:

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

moodleSchools are in an incredible position that they’ve never really experienced before where major players in ICT are literally giving away their products to them or using a freemium model for base services. On top of that, there is the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community offerings such as the very popular learning management system (LMS) called Moodle.

At a time of such rich pickings, our focus should not be solely on [product x] or [product y], but squarely on the teaching and learning practices that authentically integrate whatever the chosen technology is into the lesson.

When this occurs, the students will indeed be winners on the day.