Windows 8 Wednesday: Creative Collaboration between Students and Teachers at Cincinnati Country Day School

Cincinnati Country Day School (CCDS) prides itself on its trailblazing ways and is recognized as an international leader in educational technology integration. A college-preparatory school, founded in 1926 and located in Cincinnati, Ohio, CCDS has always been an early adopter of technology. In fact, CCDS was the first school in the nation to move to 1:1 computing back in 1996, and was also one of the first schools to move to Windows 8. The school deployed 250 Fujitsu Stylistic Q702 hybrid tablet PCs, choosing it over other devices (laptops, slates/iPads, desktops) because students need a sturdy and flexible business-class Windows machine that inspires creative collaboration and artistic adventures.

Microsoft Education talked with Greg Martin, Ph.D., an English and History Teacher at Cincinnati Country Day School, about the Windows 8 deployment and its impact on faculty and students.

Microsoft Education: How has technology in education changed over the years on the path to Windows 8?
Martin: With Windows 8, you think about the technology a lot less. It’s fading into the background in a really nice way. We’re no longer hidden behind a desk and a monitor. With a tablet, you can have a human discussion—a Socratic dialogue, if you will—which is the oldest form of Western education. With Windows 8, you get the benefits of desktop computing, with multitasking capabilities, and the ability to work with a stylus, which according to research is important to the cognitive processing of ideas.

It’s nice to be able to have a stylus and a screen flat on a table and talk through things and be able to collaborate.  And Windows 8 does both of those.  So, if you’re just using the touch capabilities and you just want to bounce around from one program to the next, you just use your finger.  If you need a keyboard and mouse and a couple monitors, you can do that, too.  There aren’t any limitations.  I’m very pleased with the way that Windows 8 allows us to converge and be creative, productive, collaborative, and communicative, all in very seamless ways; it just works.

Microsoft Education: Why did you choose tablets?
Martin: In the words of Rob Baker, Director of Technology at the Cincinnati Country Day School, the tablet PC’s only weakness is its obscurity. When we say tablet PC, we’re not talking about an iPad. We’re talking about a PC that has a full operating system so it can run any program or productivity tool that our students need in the classroom.

We like the flexibility of being able to choose whether you want to type or handwrite notes and even convert handwriting to text later. Every student in our school, 5th grade through 12th grade, at any moment of the day can create their own Khan Academy type screencast.  There’s no better way to see a child understand something and learn something than for them to draw it out and narrate it with their own voice.  And you can really only do that with a Tablet PC running Windows 8 and a stylus, and we use OneNote as the canvas for all of our screencasts.

Microsoft Education: How are students using the Windows 8 tablets?
Martin: The technology helps us be more efficient, productive, creative, and collaborative. With Windows 8, the information students care about flows effortlessly to them through live tiles and timely notifications. Compared to the iOS, this operating system is more customizable. The file picker makes it easy to attach documents to outgoing emails, which the iPad can’t do. Windows 8 also supports more peripheral devices including a USB drive, keyboard, printer, or camera—and it just works.

For example, using Windows 8, students can handwrite their math equations or notes using a stylus pen, diagram a sentence, and create a piece of art all electronically. For teachers, the ability to connect multiple monitors to touch screens and easily run multiple programs simultaneously allows for flexibility and unimaginable uses we are only starting to discover at this time.

Microsoft Education: How have the Fujitsu hybrid tablets running Windows 8 changed the educational environment at your school?
Martin: This Windows 8 deployment helps us take another step towards humanizing the educational atmosphere in the ways we’ve always wanted. We can finally do anything we want anytime we want to. We have a full desktop experience on a tablet that allows us to pull information from various resources and have multiple applications open at the same time. An American Literature professor of mine said you should assign only books that fit neatly into the palm of a student’s hand—and this software and hardware achieves that goal. The destination for us is a lifelong pursuit of wonderful ideas that we’ve inherited from generations of thinkers. This great operating system propels that process and makes it more interesting.

Microsoft Education: What is your favorite Microsoft software?
Martin: OneNote is by far my favorite software. I use it for personal, administrative, and pedagogical purposes, and in each case it’s a better tool than anything else out there for keeping track of and analyzing documents, for collaborating with my colleagues, and for disseminating information to my students and checking in on their progress. Shared notebooks enable me to work and teach more efficiently and in more flexible and creative ways. Now, I’m also an Anglophile and have taught English to students from 9th grade through graduate school, so I also love Word. It’s the industry standard in terms of producing high quality written documents formatted for printing. Finally, a lesser-known Microsoft program called Community Clips is also a favorite. It enables me and my students to do screen-recordings directly on the Tablet. Thanks to a stylus and an active digitizer, Community Clips can capture fine ink strokes and audio recordings at the same time.

Microsoft Education: What is your favorite Windows 8 app?
Martin: Right now, my favorite Windows 8 apps are Kindle for PC (because my Q702 is also a full touch-enabled device) and Nook Study. I also like Microsoft’s Travel app and a little app called Physamajig.

Want to learn more about Windows 8, sign up for a free Windows in the Classroom seminar for your school/district. You can read more about CCDS Windows 8 deployment and other early adopters in Ed Tech here.Thank you to CCDS for sharing the accompanying pictures of their students with their new Windows 8 tablets!

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