My son just entered into his Freshman year of high school. (Where has the time gone?? That’s another blog posting all together!) We relocated to Georgia roughly 7 weeks ago. The largest part of our moving decision was “where” to move was the high school. We interviewed (visited) several public high schools which showed up on the various “Best High Schools” lists. The reason I pointedly used the word “interviewed” was that we not only looked around each campus, but we dove into their curriculum and met with staff to determine the general feeling for the school. We found that a few of the schools which were advocating themselves as “STEM schools” really had very little change to the curriculum other than an “Intro to Computers” added. We really wanted a school that my son would wake up in the morning and say, “I can’t wait to go to school!”. (NOTE: For the purpose of this post, I’m only going to focus on the technology integration piece of the equation however there were a TON of other factors such as social clubs and extra curricular activities.)
We found the school which we believed to be “THE right one”. At the end of the day, it’s a leap of faith after all the research you put into it. Heck, at his last school, the administrator who brought STEM into my son’s previous K-8 district left. Thus, the district took two steps back! This high school has a track record over a longer period of time of producing results balanced with my son’s educational needs.
As I sit and type this posting, my dear wife is sitting with my son getting his backpack ready. They started last Thursday which gave the educators enough time to hand out their syllabi, grading scales and such. I’m finding it incredibly frustrating listening to them put together each “required” 2” binder for each class. They’re complete with tabbed sections including returned homework (for studying for tests), handouts and the likes. This is NOT the way I wanted him to get ready for school! For heaven’s sake, let’s leverage the technology which kids are used to using today rather than taking them back to an earlier era!
It’s not a secret that I work for Microsoft Education. We have some of the most AMAZING educational solutions to enable student learning! Let me walk you through the technologies which I’ve acquired and equipped my son to be able to leverage for his high school career.
- Microsoft Surface Pro 2
- HTC 8X Windows Phone (with Office Lens)
- Windows 8.1
- Office 2013
- My Study Life
In this post, I’ll go over the basic setup and the “whys” of the hardware and software. However, this is setting the foundation for student success in my opinion. The reason I chose the Surface Pro 2 was that it was a perfect backpack size tablet running full Windows 8.1 with digital ink. The HTC 8X Windows Phone was my old phone. Thus, he got a “hand me down” but it has communication and productivity features I believe he needs as a student and young adult.
I purchased my family a copy of Office 365 Home. This allows the entire family (up to 5 PCs or Macs, 5 tablets, and smartphones) to have a full installed copy of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access). It also gives each family member 1 TB (5 users) of cloud storage (which can by synchronized for local access as well).
The last piece of the equation was a free Windows 8 app called My Study Life. This allows him to manage his class schedule visually, track tasks (homework assignments, revisions, etc.), store exams, and a notification function.
Let’s put all this together very quickly as a “day in the life” of a student (I’ll follow up with subsequent “how to” articles and videos on each). During Freshman Orientation, we received his class schedule. We converted this into 3 different work items:
1. My Study Life – Entered in each of his classes, rooms, and times.
2. OneNote – Entered in each class for his digital notebook for note taking
3. OneDrive – Creation of storage folders for each class
He gets to school, pulls out his Windows Phone to check which class and room he needs to be in via My Study Life. He walks into class and his teacher hands out the syllabus. Again, he pulls out his Windows Phone with Office Lens to snap digital copies of it for future reference. Part of Office Lens is the integration into OneNote. Thus, his Math syllabus gets saved into his OneNote section which we created (see #2 above). He pulls out his Surface Pro 2, opens OneNote and can either highlight or annotate notes on top of the syllabus or open a new page to take notes on with digital ink.
With the power of two devices and student enabled software, he can have a rich and immersive experience! Instead, for the moment, my wife is stuck with him labeling 2” binders so he can stuff them into his backpack! Curriculum night is this coming Thursday. I’m looking forward to having this exact discussion with them on the power and student enablement of technology. It should be a fun ride!