Richard Snyder's title is teacher-librarian for Kirkland Middle School in the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) east of Seattle. But in a casual conversation he prefers something a bit more descriptive: "Ombudsman of education." It's a role he savors not just for the daily interaction with students and other teachers, but for the latitude he has to affect the processes and tools used in classrooms every day-including the technology that is reshaping education.
He's seen a lot of evolving technology standards during his years in education, including 10 years at the LWSD plus prior stints teaching English teacher in Bellingham, Washington, and in Atlanta. All those years of working with technology in the classroom has earned Snyder another title- Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.
As an MIE Expert, Snyder joins a global community of educators who look for innovative ways to use technology while helping their peers understand how to put Microsoft technology to work in the classroom.
Snyder's been busy educating other LWSD teachers, administrators, and students about the advantages of Microsoft software and devices. We caught up with him to talk about the tools that he's most excited about today, including Office 365, OneDrive, OneNote, and Microsoft Surface tablets.
When did the district deploy Office 365? How is it working out?
We migrated to Migrated to Office 365 last fall, making it available for all students and teachers. Using their account login, students can also install the Office applications at home if their household has a computer. That way, they always have access to the programs needed to do their work, regardless of where they are or even what device they're using. Giving them access to all of the Office programs at home also lets me assign kids to do lower-level tasks outside of school, like watching a video to learn how to search for images in Bing. That frees me up to focus on more valuable content in the classrooms.
How important is OneDrive to you and the students?
OneDrive is a critical element to support always-available access. Our district has a 1:1 deployment of laptops for secondary students, and sometimes their devices fail. With OneDrive, they don't have to worry about losing files-they're always stored in the cloud, and can be accessed the moment a student logs in.
Can you tell us about your use of OneNote?
I'm a huge OneNote fan, and even have the OneNote Avenger cape! I was first exposed to OneNote in 2008, immediately fell in love with it, and told the school principal that we had to start using it for notebooks. I teach classes in OneNote throughout the district, and could not do my job without it. For education in general, it's a fantastic collaboration tool. One way I use it is to take notes during Lync meetings, then save them in OneNote, where I can always find past notes. In fact, I have seven years' worth of searchable notes. It's definitely a beefy OneNote, but it performs just fine. We've also trained our kids on OneNote. They can use it to take notes, track web resources, use the screen-clipping tool to document research, and keep track of the books they've read. And OneNote automatically saves all their content, so again, they don't have to worry about losing their work.
You're also an advocate for Microsoft Surface devices. Why's that?
The district has a variety of Windows devices throughout the schools, including Dell, Lenovo, and HP laptops. But I own a Surface Pro 3, which runs on Windows 8.1, and am getting one of the new Surface 3's to test it out. I love the Surface Pro 3 because it literally turns on in about two seconds and flawlessly runs all of my favorite applications-I live in OneNote, Outlook, and Internet Explorer all day, every day. I also love using the pen with the Surface Pro. I just got finished teaching some kids about infographics, and used the pen to annotate and draw on some PowerPoint slides.
What's it like being an MIE Expert?
I've been an MIE Expert for about a year, but have been working with the MIE program since 2013. I took the two-day workshop, did work to become a trainer, and have given lots of presentations to teachers on Microsoft technology. What's great about the MIE program is that you get endless amounts of tools and ideas. You're exposed to so many colleagues who you can collaborate with, and can go to the Microsoft Educator Network and Australia's Microsoft in Education sites for great resources, to find out more about training, and to read research. The great thing about being in the MIE program is that we can see what's new and can share what we do with others. The MIE program provides this huge cloud of inspiration that you get to be part of.