As educators, we live in a constant cycle of feeling like we’re on fire. You’ve seen that Someecards meme, right? The one that says something like “Teaching is like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire and you’re on fire and everything is on fire…”
…that stuff about being on fire…yeah, that’s totally accurate.
Just like the procedures and routines we put in place in our classrooms, we need to create procedures and routines to be productive in our crazy, educator lives.
Below, I’ve listed some routines and procedures that you can begin now with the help of your Surface Pro to increase your productivity and to gain some time back in your crazy life.
5. Capture screen shots and jot your thoughts down with the Snipping Tool and your Surface Pen
The Snipping Tool is something that I have pinned to my taskbar for daily use. I use it to capture screen shots of images on my device in real time, then I use my Surface Pen to draw on those images (as pictured below). These “Snips” can be copied and directly pasted into whatever your working on (a Power Point for students, an email to a colleague, etc.) or they can be saved in a file for reference and use later. I don’t know how I lived my life before the Snipping Tool!
4. Create a priority list using free,web-based tool, Workflowy
Every organized person needs a to-do list but every educator knows that crossing every item off of a to do list is a difficult feat. Don’t get down on yourself! Instead of creating a daily task list, keep a running list of priority items. I use workflowy.com to categorize my tasks. I break my list into A, B, C, and D categories, all prioritizing which projects are most pressing. Each task falls into one the four categories. I make it my mission to at least address one item from each project category daily. Keeping a system like this allows me to feel productive though I’ll likely never check every task off of my list in one day. In case you’re wondering about my “Dump List,” this is the space where I brain dump every task that pops into my head. I leave it there until I have time to sit down and decide what category the tasks belong to. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, claims that it’s important to get every thought of a task that comes in to your head out on paper somewhere immediately so it doesn’t cloud your mind. The best thing about Workflowy is that it’s not only a web-based product, but there’s an app as well. This allows me to add items to my “Dump List” on the go.
3. Take video conference calls on the go with your Surface in tablet mode
While you may not participate in many video conferences as a classroom teacher, I frequently participate as a member of our Instructional Technology Team. Using tools like Skype and Zoom has never been easier as it is with a Surface device. If I’m on the go or moving throughout my office or building, I can turn the video option off, transform my Surface into a tablet, and stay connected with my earbuds as I travel and talk. What an easy process! Being mobile while on a conference call isn’t nearly as easy with a MacBook. You would be surprised how often I use this feature.
2. Seamlessly interact with your device between the keyboard functions and touch screen capabilities
This feature speaks for itself – the Surface gives you both a keyboard so that your device can act as a laptop, or you have the touchscreen option. I often scroll down a webpage both with my mouse track pad and by swiping on the screen. Your pick! Either option is great. What’s really funny is the countless number of times that I’ve been on a device without a touchscreen and I start feverishly swiping. #embarrassing
1. Use a OneNote Class Notebook to collaborate with students and other educators
One of the most powerful tools that Microsoft has to offer for education right now is the OneNote Class Notebook. While you can use this tool across device platforms, I love interacting with it on the Surface for the inking capabilities.
A OneNote Class Notebook allows several options and includes the following tools: the Content Library, Collaboration Space, the Teacher Only space, and tabs for each individual student.
The Content Library: The Content Library allows you as the teacher or owner of the notebook to broadcast information out to students. All of this information is public to the students. Have a worksheet you need them to complete in their section of the notebook? Pop it in the Content Library and have students copy it from that space to their section of the notebook to work. Have presentation materials that you need to share? This is the spot for it. With the “Learning Tools” add in for OneNote, you also have the capability to copy resources across several different notebooks. Jackpot!
The Collaboration Space: This is a space for your students to work together. They can collaborate in real-time using editing tools within the notebook. There are some digital citizenship skills that you may need to teach your students prior to working in the collabo space (ie: don’t deliberately mess with or erase your peers’ things in the notebook!). This is an awesome way for small group work to commence or for your student groups to give you updates on projects they’re working on. As the teacher, you can provide them feedback in this space as well.
The Teacher Only Space: Have a need to store notes and information for your eyes only? The Teacher Space is the spot for you to do just that. You (and any co-teachers you choose to add to your Notebook) are the only ones with access to this space.
Individual Student Tabs: The tabs with your student’s names on them are a private space for the students and classroom teacher only. This is a place where students can submit work to the teacher and the teacher can provide feedback. This section is not viewable by anyone else in the class. Students will only be able to see their name in their Notebook, no one else’s. You as the teacher, on the other hand, are able to see a tab for each student in your class, which makes this Notebook your one-stop shop for distributing content to students and accessing student generated work.
Enjoy these tips, tricks, and features of the Surface Pro as a way to be more productive in your busy life. Along the way, maybe you’ll feel less on fire and more ready to light a spark in your students!