We Love Wordament!

This week, I had the pleasure of visiting our Year 6 Enhanced English class as well as their teacher, Mr B.
We had planned a special session to introduce them to the Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 and, in particular, Wordament.

Wordament is a fabulous word game that can be downloaded for free from the Windows 8 App Store. ¬†However, we must warn you – it is very addictive! ūüôā

It was the last lesson of the day and we had reached an incredible 37 degrees¬†Celsius! ¬†As you can imagine, the students were exhausted as they arrived for their English session. ¬†Initially, Mr B and I were concerned as to “how much we would get out of them”, given the less than ideal conditions. ¬†However, we needn’t have worried!

During the first part of the session, we introduced the Wordament app via the SMART Notebook software. ¬†A screenshot of a Wordament grid gave the students the opportunity to get a feel for the app prior to playing the real thing. ¬†By using the “Magic Pen” in the SMART Notebook Software, students were able to show how they could make words. ¬†The markings of the Magic Pen would then fade, in time for the next student to make a word.

When introducing the Microsoft Surface to the students they were immediately excited by what they saw. ¬†In particular, many of them had seen the television advertisement and were keen to see the “cool keyboard” and “what Windows 8 was really like”. ¬†There is no doubt that students take to touch screen devices “like ducks to water”.

The students then had the opportunity to play the game in pairs while the remaining members of the class worked on another pre-set task. ¬†It was fabulous to watch on as the students encouraged each other and discussed words they could make. ¬†“What about Latte?” ¬†“Would Latte be allowed?” ¬†Wordament’s “traffic light colours” instant feedback was very valuable for the students. ¬†Green when they located a word successfully, yellow if they had already located the word and red for letters selected that did not actually form a word. ¬†At the end of the game, students saw a follow-up screen that showed the number of words they had located as well as other “common” and “obscure” words that were not found. ¬†I can see that by taking screenshots of the app, a great deal of follow-up work could also be done. ¬†“What does tritium mean?” ¬†“What does nutria mean?” were the types of responses that could be heard after each game.

After this session, we are certainly looking forward to exploring more opportunities that the Microsoft Surface and Windows 8 can bring to teaching and learning!

*Avatars created with WeeMee and movie created with Animoto.

The Rock Solid Surface

Before commencing this post I must warn you…I am not an ICT technician so have a very limited knowledge when it comes to hardware and its specifications. ¬†However, I’m keen to learn and wanted to explore the Microsoft Surface from a hardware perspective before I launched into posts about software, etc…

What has definitely impressed me about the Surface is how solid it feels in comparison to any other tablet device I have seen. ¬†This is due to the special type of magnesium that has been used known as “vapor MG”. ¬†You can read more about this material here or watch the video explanation below. ¬†Although I have a limited understanding of the scientific principles behind it, one thing’s for sure, it is rock solid! ūüôā

The Surface has a micro HDMI port, USB port and micro SD card slot.  (The micro SD card is very cleverly hidden behind the flip out stand!)  In order to connect this type of device to a projector to use in a learning space, we need to use a mini HDMI to VGA adaptor (shown above).  One possible issue I have run into when connecting the Surface to a projector is if you need audio along with the visual.  Unfortunately, the headset outlet is on the opposite side making the cabling a little awkward, particularly if you would like to hold the Surface in your hand rather than set it up on a table.

When using the mini HDMI or USB port I found I had to use a fair bit of force to insert the cable/USB device properly. ¬†They are certainly a “snug fit”!

This particular model of the Surface with Windows RT does not come with a stylus/tablet pen. ¬†As I’ve been using a tablet PC for a number of years now and grown used to using the tablet pen for writing, annotating, etc… I think it is something that I would really miss. ¬†I am sure that many of my colleagues would feel the same. ¬†The Surface with Windows 8 Pro that is soon to be released, will come with a pen. ¬†In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with a Targus Stylus for Tablets which works beautifully, although not suitable for writing purposes. ¬†I was lucky enough to receive one of these at this year’s Expanding Learning Horizons Conference. ¬†The Targus Stylus sells for around $20 and you can read more about it here. ¬†An alternative that might appeal to students (or those who like a bit of colour!) would be the Smiggle Stylus Pen.

Overall, from a hardware perspective, the Microsoft Surface is an impressive device!

Microsoft Surface with Windows RT – Specifications

Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro – Specifications

Exploring the Microsoft Surface

Today I was presented with a very swish box containing a new Microsoft Surface with Windows RT. ¬†(Yes, I was just a little excited about this!) ¬†I’ve been asked to test it over the next few months in terms of the following:

  • Hardware: ¬†What is the Microsoft Surface like as a device? ¬†Would it be a suitable candidate for our 1:1 student laptop program?
  • Operating System: ¬†Exploring the Windows 8 elements of Windows RT to see how we can make the most of this Operating System in an education environment
  • Windows 8 Apps: ¬†Test ready made Windows 8 Apps available in the Apps Store and explore ways to create our own apps

To date, I’ve had fairly limited experience with the Windows 8 Operating System, having a brief “play” with it on a couple of the devices that we have in our ICT Department. ¬†In terms of tablet technology, our Staff Laptop Program has been providing Tablet PCs for more than seven years. ¬†This year, we also conducted a small trial of Windows Tablets with one of our Junior School groups. ¬†You can click here to learn more about this trial.

We have been exploring tablet devices for the past few years at our school. ¬†Unfortunately, the Apple iPad was problematic, particularly when we tried to connect it to our school network. ¬†Also, we weren’t looking for a device that would only give us access to apps and some websites – we were after the “whole package”. ¬†We needed a device that could offer access to our favourite software and educational apps, a browser to enable us to access any kind of website or web 2.0 tool together with hardware that had different options to cater for today’s digital learner.

I’m really looking forward to documenting my explorations with the Microsoft Surface. ¬†All of the posts can be accessed via the Windows Tablets page on the main menu of this blog.