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June 30, 2014

St. Thomas and Selinsgrove School District choose Surface

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been one year since Surface was at ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education Conference). Since then, we have been working hard to get Surface into the hands of teachers and students in 30 markets around the world.  Some of the schools who have adopted Surface over the past year include the Supreme Education Council of Qatar, Tuckahoe Common School District, St. Andrews Anglican College, St. Patrick’s College, Williston Northampton School, Twickenham Academy, CDI College, and many others.

St. Thomas and Selinsgrove School District choose Surface

We’ve also built a strong set of relationships with Education application partners including AssistX, Nearpod, Learning A-Z, Edmodo and many more whose solutions work great on a Surface in the classroom.  As well as software partners, we’ve also worked very closely with hardware partners to provide premium Surface Education accessories including charging carts from both Anthro and Ergotron, wireless display receivers such as the ScreenBeam Pro Education Edition, and various sleeves and protective covers from partners like Incipio and Brenthaven.

Throughout the past year, it’s been a great to hear all the stories from school administrators, educators, and IT directors about how they’re using Surface at their schools, and we also love getting feedback about how we can make Surface even better for Education. Here are a few examples from teachers we caught up with from ISTE last year:

“We are starting to see how the Surface behaves nicely with Microsoft Active Directory.  Like: That everything matches what teachers already know, and that you can connect to USB thumb drives and other peripherals.  Suggestions: video editing would be nice, and a better way to view personal and school email in one place.  Also make it compatible with SMART Notebook and smartboards.”

“This Surface is the single best gift I have gotten from school. It is a life changer. If you took it back today, I would go get another with my own money before I made it home. I use it for work and play.  And my students love using them in class”

“We are a private Christian school and we often take mission trips — so we have been sending the surface with our mission teams to take pictures, journal, skype, etc.  The Surface is just the right size for traveling. There has not been a huge learning curve for anyone, which has been nice.  But the keyboard took time to get adjusted to.”

“I used the Surface extensively at the ISTE conference last June and at other professional development meetings since. It’s small enough to carry easily; and the attached keyboard enables me to take notes.  Until I got the Surface, I’d never really used the OneNote program. But it’s become my favorite way of recording notes and photos from meetings and events.”

“When I showed the principal that we could acquire the equivalent of an Ultrabook with longer runtimes and a full software suite for a fraction of our estimated costs, she got behind my proposal to purchase a charging cart and 25 Surfaces for shared use in the upper grades.”

St. Thomas School and Selinsgrove School District join the growing set of schools using Surface

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the great fortune to visit several of our Surface Education customers and talk with teachers and technology directors who are transforming education through their vision, persistence, and willingness to try new things.

St. Thomas and Selinsgrove School District choose Surface

St. Thomas is a private K-8 school in a beautiful lakeside neighborhood in Bellevue, Washington, a short drive from the Microsoft offices in Redmond. Kimberly Meacham has been the ICT Director at St. Thomas for the past eight years, and when I met her, I was struck by her practicality and straightforwardness. When I asked her why she does this job, she responded, “I love making people and processes more efficient and allowing them time to do what matters most.” This quest for constant improvements in the way they do things at St. Thomas, coupled with Kimberly’s willingness to try new things and the school’s close proximity to Microsoft, means that St. Thomas is often the first to roll out new Education technology innovations and provide us with candid feedback about what works in the classroom and what doesn’t. St. Thomas is using Surface and Surface Pro devices in their 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms, and when asked about the goals for 1:1 computing for these grade levels, Kimberly responded, “What I hope to see is that the technology really allows us to spend more time differentiating and personalizing learning, and really reaching kids in ways that work for them. And at the same time, allowing the teachers to have the capacity to be working in all these different ways because technology makes it easier and more efficient.”

St. Thomas and Selinsgrove School District choose Surface

Selinsgrove Area School District is a small public school district located in the picturesque Susquehanna River Valley in Central Pennsylvania. Like many public schools, Selinsgrove relies mostly on public funding for their technology projects. Last year, Selinsgrove received a state grant to help improve literacy in their schools. They knew they wanted to focus their efforts on literacy through digital learning tools, and unlike in previous years when they had used their funding to acquire e-reader devices like the Kindle Fire, they decided to opt for a device that would be more versatile. Faith Bastian, a Literacy Coach at Selinsgrove, explained to me that, “The major challenge was the students couldn’t create documents on the Kindles. They couldn’t take notes. They couldn’t do a PowerPoint. They couldn’t create a Word document.  So, they really couldn’t create anything on them.” So they purchased Surfaces. Many teachers are still exploring all the different ways that they can use Surface in their classrooms. Nicole Sassaman, a middle school teacher commented, “Teachers are thinking of more ways to incorporate the Surfaces in their curriculum every day. We have the common core they have to abide by, but they now have flexibility in how they teach that. The Surfaces enable teachers who are very creative to come up with some innovative and interactive lessons that keep students engaged and working collaboratively.”

Surface Pro 3 plots the path ahead in Education

Looking ahead to year two of Surface in education, we see Surface being even more effective for teachers to use in the classroom, and for administrators to deploy and manage the device. We are already seeing a great deal of interest among teachers, school administrators and also private and higher education institutions for the new Surface Pro 3 with its larger screen size, improved aspect-ratio for reading textbooks, and best-in-class digital inking experience. For example, Rob Baker from Cincinnati Country Day School talks about his thoughts on the Surface Pro 3 in a previous blog post.

The past year has been the start of a great journey for us, and as our VP of Education, Anthony Salcito, puts it, “In education, we all have work to do,” and Surface is just getting started!