School is back in session, and students at Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, MA have traded their pens and notebooks for something a little more high tech: Microsoft Surface Pro tablets! That’s right. Every student and faculty started off the year with a school-issued Surface – that’s roughly 100 faculty members and 545 students.
The introduction of the Surfaces fell right in line with Williston’s ongoing initiative to use classroom technology to boost learning. The Surfaces have brought a new level of technological consistency that the school has not had in the past. “Somewhat ironically, when everyone has the same device, the device ceases to become as important as the work that’s being done, because no one is distracted by a device that may be different,” explained Andrew Shelffo, the school’s Chief Information Officer. With everyone on the same device, students require only one set of directions, making classroom instruction easier.
So why did Williston choose the Surface over other laptops and tablets? Shelffo explained that it has all of the factors necessary for a powerful and useful learning tool: touch screen, multiple inputs including a stylus for scientific and mathematical notation, the ability to run multiple programs simultaneously, a table form factor, a comfortable keyboard, and compatibility with other programs and devices.
The Surfaces were also outfitted with specific software to meet the needs of the students and faculty. In addition to being equipped with Microsoft Office Suite 2013, the tablets feature several web browsers, Nook and Kindle apps, digital editing tools, specialized editing software, and let’s not forget a few games. Students will be able to write papers, monitor grades, share documents, and conduct research (all of which they will surely be doing rather than playing games!).
For their progressive technology program, Williston has been named one of Microsoft’s Innovative Schools. This title is given to those schools who have engaged deeper with Microsoft’s Partners in Learning, a 10-year initiative aimed at improving teaching and learning. We hope to see many more schools embrace technology in the classroom as Williston has done! Way to go!