Sunday, January 24, 2016

Game Changer: The Surface

When I first entered the field of education, my mentor told me that everything in education went in cycles.  Administration, the state, and department heads would lead the charge, fully convicted that whatever initiative, strategy, etc. was popular at the moment was the game changer that education needed.  I've seen this myself in the form of writing programs, a loss of the much adored teaming concept in middle school, and now with the implementation of new technologies.

One such game changer came in the form of an interactive white board (IWB).  Years before I received an official interactive white board, I was using a projector and laptop on a cart and my regular white board.  It was cumbersome and glitchy, but it worked.  Then came the much anticipated IWB.  I no longer had the obstacle of a cart and laptop because I could run things from my teacher computer on my desk.  I could write digitally directly on the board and could save my notes/annotations so that I could print them for students who missed the lesson.  I thought this was it.  This was the thing I needed to make my class more interactive an engaging.  It truly was for about two years.  Then, another game changer entered my life.

The day I opened my Surface Pro 3, I didn't realize what a jewel I had under my fingertips.   My intention was to replace my Surface RT which was used primarily as a personal device and something I carried into classrooms when I did my instructional coaching cycles.  The device, however, inherently changed my classroom in ways I didn't even imagine, and here's how:

1. Wireless Projection

My projector was old, so when I opened the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter and saw that it only had an HDMI port, I was bummed.  I dismissed the idea of being able to tap into my Surface in my classroom until one of our amazing tech department members sat down with me and discussed options.  Through trial and error, we found a converter that worked.  After simply plugging in the adapter and converter, I was up and running in minutes.  Projecting was seamless and efficient.  I could have my screen projected in just as little time as my wired teacher computer, but I was now mobile in my classroom.

My co-teacher currently uses a Surface 3 during our shared class period.  The transition from one Surface to another is quick and easy.  Our dueling Surfaces in room 703 are the envy of many of our colleagues because it is so seamless.

2. Mobility and Engagement

The most frustrating part of using an IWB is that you are basically chained to the board.  You can walk a bit and go back to the board, but you are truly anchored to the front of the room.  Not with the SP3 and Wireless Display Adapter.  I quickly learned the benefits of freedom.  When students were working on notes or a task displayed on the board, I could circulate the room and talk with my students.  If a student had a particularly good response or an astute insight, I could hand them my Surface and they could add their notes for all to see.  If students struggled to find something in our OneNote Class Notebook, I pulled up the notebook and walked them easily through the steps of finding the document/adding a video/inserting a printout while I was physically helping those who were struggling.  An added bonus has been that students LOVE to write on the Surface.  They consider it "fun" to correct grammar with the pen and argue about whose turn it is.  CRAZY grammar fun happening in room 703 all thanks to the SP3 and Pen.

4. Grading

I would be remiss if I didn't add how much I love the SP3 for grading papers.  In my last post, I discussed some of this, but again, it is so freeing as an English teacher to go home without any papers and still be able to get grading done over the weekend.  Digital inking is AMAZING on the SP3!  It is one of the biggest reasons that many of my colleagues have used their hard-earned money to purchase a Surface because it is SO WORTH IT!

There you go folks, my love affair with my Surface explained.