St. Thomas School enables personalised learning through Surface and Surface Pro

Sean Dudley
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley on 01 July 2014
St. Thomas School enables personalised learning through Surface and Surface Pro

Located in Bellevue, Washington state, the St. Thomas School has joined the growing list of schools using Microsoft Surface tablets to bring a range of benefits to both students and staff.

Founded in 1951, St. Thomas is a private K-8 school that is using Surface and Surface Pro devices in its second and third grade classrooms after teachers of these age groups applied for an innovation grant.

They wanted to see if putting devices in the classroom would help with research skills, problem-solving skills, and encourage personalised learning,” explains the school’s ICT director Kimberly Meacham. “I think we’d say that both grades have exceeded their wildest dreams of what they would do in those classes.”

Enabling a 1:1 computing environment for these grade levels by using the Surface device has proved a great success, with the school’s staff and students enjoying a series of benefits.

“We have a OneNote notebook for each of our subjects, for reading, for maths, for science, for social studies,” said Amy McGraw, a third grade teacher at St. Thomas’, in a video for the Microsoft Surface blog. “It is a valuable organisation tool for us.”

The flexibility of the tablet is something staff are thriving on and are optimising to help to meet the specific needs of students. The school’s second and third grade students are using a tool called Raz-Kids, which allows students to choose books on the same topic but at different levels of difficulty.

“It’s a wonderful tool for kids that need differentiation,” said McGraw. “Being able to meet the needs of those kids that are highly capable, but it also helps those kids that need a little more help with things. It’s a lot less threatening if I just call them up and say let’s look at this together instead of the whole class knowing.”

Meacham’s willingness to try new things, as well as the school’s proximity to the Microsoft campus at Redmond, means St. Thomas’ is often the first to roll out new education technology innovations and provide feedback.

“What I hope to see is that the technology really allows us to spend more time differentiating and personalising learning, and really reaching kids in ways that work for them,” concluded Meacham. “And at the same time, allowing the teachers to have the capacity to be working in all these different ways because technology makes it easier and more efficient.”

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