I am a preschool teacher who also has a little crush on technology (except for my Apple computer the district gave me for my classroom).
Last year, our district started using a new online assessment tool, Teaching Strategies Gold (TSG). Even though it meant a ton more work initially, I was a bit excited at the idea! Unfortunately, I had login issues for about half the year, and was not familiar enough with the objectives to do as thorough a job as I could have last year on assessments.
I was thrilled to have been invited to be part of a group that would review the objectives we were tracking. Through the couple of meetings we had early summer, I got to know the objectives really well. The year of experience I then had under my belt didn’t hurt either! 😉
TSG has an app for the ipad that allows teachers to do things like take pictures of students, and upload them directly to portfolios. Pretty cool, if you ask me. As last year went on, I became more and more bummed I didn’t have an ipad to use in the classroom. Unfortunately, they do not have an app for Android. I figured instead, I would just use the regular TSG website to do assessments with my android tablet. Sadly, my wifi connection on my Galaxy seems to have been wonky from the start. It was very unreliable, and couldn’t connect at all at school. Instead, I did everything the old fashioned way… I had to write notes on post-its, and then, either transfer them to TSG, or tape them all to a piece of paper with their name, and refer to them when I was entering checkpoints. It worked, but took a lot of extra time.
This past summer, my husband spoke at an event called Tech Ed. As a benefit to speakers (or maybe all attendees), Microsoft sold their tablets, The Surface RT and Surface Pro at a hugely discounted price. My husband picked up a Pro for himself, and an RT, which he gave to me (they were limited to one of each). When I first got it, my initial thought was, “Meh.” Some apps I was looking forward to using (such as LiveWriter) wouldn’t work on the RT. There was also the whole idea of getting used to Windows 8. Come on Microsoft… you had a good thing going with the old windows format, why make it so confusing?
I mostly used my RT for pulling up recipes on OneNote in the kitchen, playing iheartradio, or for watching shows on Netflix while cleaning the house. Then, I decided to try to link my Surface to the wifi at my preschool. I didn’t have much hope that it would work, since I was never able to connect with my android tablet. Then, the magical moment happened, it connected! 🙂
My life as a teacher with what seems like an endless amount of assessments to do, just got so much easier!!! The RT has a “kickstand” that helps it stand up at just the right angle. It has a USB slot on the side, so I can plug in a wireless mouse. The Surface also comes with a super thin keyboard that is magnetic, so it can come off if you don’t want to use it. The keyboard works pretty well on a table top, but not on a lap, due to how thin it is. It also can be a bit tricky to use, but now that I’m starting to get used to it, I am becoming more effective at it. Microsoft also sells a separate type cover that acts more like a regular keyboard, but is also thin enough to use as a cover for the tablet. I’m trying to convince my hubby that would make a good Christmas gift for me. 😉 While the RT has some limitations, it is, for all intents and purposes, a super light, super thin, laptop. The Pro can do so much more, that my husband has been known to use his as his workstation while out at client sites. (IMPRESSIVE)!
Most days in my classroom (as long as everything is going pretty smoothly), I can be seen sitting in various places of the classroom with my RT, taking notes, doing assessments, etc. I am able to select a specific objective, pull up a list of the entire class, and check off where each child is at with a skill/objective. It has really streamlined that piece of my job. Children get excited when they see the tablet, because often times, it means they will have a turn to “play a game” with me. They love the one on one attention, even if only long enough to name 4 shapes for me.
This past week, I was doing math assessments for all our 4-5 year olds. Being able to enter data as soon as I collected it, was so slick!! TSG in combination with my RT are making me one happy teacher! They are buying me more time to do what I really love, which is interact with the children. I decided that rather than tweet out for the hundredth time how much I love having the RT in the classroom, I’d write a blog post about it instead. Wait, I guess I tweeted it too! 😉
I have had a few people comment on the usefulness of this post through other social media outlets, so I thought I’d add a couple of other things that make the Surface really cool… With the USB port, that also means you can plug a printer into it. You can’t do that with just any tablet!
It does come with a camera and webcam. This has proven useful in skyping with my husband while he is out of town for work. I haven’t played around with the camera too much, but it seems to be decent. The only thing I don’t love about the camera, is the lack of ability to zoom.
The Surface also comes with MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint on it (in addition to OneNote). These are very useful for someone who wants to use it for more than just “playing on the internet.” I think the Pro in combination with a type cover could just about eliminate the need for a laptop.
One thing we did find out though about the Surface, is that while it’s fine for playing Bejeweled, Candy Crush, or Farmville, it’s not a great device to play games like Civilization 5. It will work, but you may experience some lag.