Saturday, January 4, 2014

Using Microsoft Surfaces in the Classroom

In November I received a very generous donation for my classroom from a friend of mine who works at Microsoft....3 MICROSOFT SURFACES!
Up to that point, I had 6 desktop classroom computers and 2 iPads that we were using, so this just completely upped our technology to a whole new level, allowing essentially a 1:2 ratio of computers to students.  Now the difficult part - what is a Surface, and how do I use it effectively in my classroom so that I make the most of these amazing new devices?

The first thing that I did was have our school's technology rep come in to try and help me get them set up so that they were all connected with our network.  Then we established usernames/passwords and accounts so that my students could save files and access them from anywhere.

What are the advantages to having a Surface?

  • The greatest advantage I have found with using a Surface is having Microsoft products on them.  Each surface comes with all MS Office programs - Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, etc.  As a 5th grade teacher, I want my students to start learning proper note-taking and become more familiar with word-processing as they approach middle school.  (See how my students use Microsoft in the classroom below).  

  • The Surface also has an app store that allows you to download a plethora of free educational apps from Kahn Academy to Brain Pop.  Check out the top education apps for Windows 8.
  • Dual capabilities - the Surfaces came with an attachable keyboard, which allows the device to be either a tablet (without the keyboard) or a PC, where students can actually type.  The back of the device has a stand that folds out so that it basically becomes a computer.  You can switch the screen mode to turn it into a desktop just like a regular PC.
  • A USB port!  This has allowed my students to either work on something in Microsoft at home and then bring it in on a jump drive or vice versa.  This also allowed us to connect the Surface to our classroom printer so that students can print the work they create.
  • SkyDrive!!!  This may be one of my favorite features!  SkyDrive is similar to Google Docs or iCloud, where you can save all of your files into thin air and access them from any device.  I set up a class SkyDrive account and added it to all of the surfaces so that my students could save their work on one Surface and access it on another.  It also allows me to be able to see their work - this can be used for students to digitally turn in notes or assignments.
How My Students Use Microsoft in the Classroom

1.  Note-taking - Each day I pull tickets (that students earn for good behavior or for 100% weekly homework) for students to use the Surfaces during a class in which we are taking notes.  Those students use Microsoft OneNote to type their notes using its easy note-taking layout.  
Students can actually choose different layouts depending on the type of notes they are taking.  Check out this OneNote demo for more information.  

Each student can open their individual folder to access any notes they have taken in the past on any device that has our class account on it.  These files are all stored in our class SkyDrive (see #5 below).  

2.  Internet Access - The Surface can be used for students to look up information, do research for a project, and access general websites within the classroom.
3.  Apps - My students can access BrainPop, Kindle (for reading books they may have on their Kindles at home), a dictionary and thesaurus, National Geographic, and more.

4.  Projects - I have had my students use the Surface to write scripts for ELA in Microsoft Word, create charts and graphs for a math project in Excel, and develop presentations in PowerPoint.
5.  Saving Files - In SkyDrive, I created a folder for each student in my class.  When they create a document, they "share" it to their file folder and it is then accessible to any device that is connected to our SkyDrive account.  This allows them to access their notes from home or from other computers within our classroom.

What if I Already Have iPads in My Classroom or My Students Want to Bring in Their Own iPads?

Fantastic!  Another amazing thing that I learned is that Apple has an app for OneNote as well as SkyDrive.  

Once I had a SkyDrive account for my class, I allowed my students to bring in their personal iPads, creating an even greater ratio of computers to students in my classroom and an opportunity for all students to have computer access in the classroom on a daily basis.  We downloaded OneNote and SkyDrive to their personal devices and I logged them into our class account so that their files would save to their own folders.  If students have Microsoft Office at home, this allows them to add information to their notes from home or study their notes at home that they took in class.

As we move further into this age of technology, I feel that computer use in the classroom is becoming more prevalent and important.  It's vital that with these technological opportunities, we find meaningful ways to use them in our teaching.  If you're fortunate to have access to devices such as Microsoft Surfaces or Apple iPads, look into how other teaches use them for classroom instruction and spend time exploring everything that they can be used for.  

I hope this information was helpful.  I'd love to hear how you all use these and other devices in your classroom and if/how the information above has/will help you.  Please feel free to leave comments below!


  1. OMG I now officially want MS Surfaces in my classroom! I wish our district would allow BYOD, it would solve a lot of headaches.

    1. They have been awesome! Here's another post of how I used them for a project: