Guest Post by Steven Payne

Working with Windows 8 in the classroom can sometimes take some getting used to, so today we thought we'd focus on 3 topics that can help: Searching, Multi-tasking and the Reading List App.

1. Quick and Easy Searching

Being able to access files, apps and web resources quickly and easily is great for teachers and students alike! Smart Search is optimised for touch-screens and provides visual search results that you can start working with immediately.

You can swipe from the right edge of the screen to engage the search option but a handy short-cut is that you can start typing a query while on the Start screen! Try it yourself and you'll see that Smart Search will begin showing you results automatically.

This is also a quick way of launching apps or pinned websites – suppose you want to launch mathletics.com.au and it is pinned to your Start Screen, just start typing MATH… and you will see it pop up in the search results area.

A New Search Experience

Windows 8 provides an intelligent summary of results encompassing your files (including OneDrive), the web and related apps - all organized in a beautiful, compelling, and easy-to-read way. I particularly like the full page, web previews which help you see at-a-glance what the web page looks like behind each search.

Smart Search is great for students as it engages them and gets them to learn the importance of interpreting results in order to pick the best sources without clicking lists of links and reading every page.

The search function provides such a variety of informational mediums in its results that students can use for a variety of subjects.It can be a great tool for geography lessons, where searching for a location, such as Alice Springs, provides information about the city as well as the option to open that result within apps, such as the Wikipedia or Maps apps – as well as a selection of high quality images of the city.

The search function could also provide a greater depth to history lessons, as students can search for people and will be provided with brief biographical information, images and other relevant results instantaneously. A search for Nellie Melba, for example, offers songs that can be played directly from the Results page. If you search for a current topic or person you will also see videos and links to relevant news websites. 

 

Simple Search Filters

Another great feature of searching on Windows 8 is that you can quickly and easily scope the search results you are interested in (e.g. just your files or images on the web), or leave the default to “Everywhere” to simultaneously search across your device, your OneDrive files and the web.

You do not need different tools to search your files and those on the web. With Bing Smart Search, searching is natural and fast – so you can make sure classroom time is maximised.

2. Multi-Tasking

A second great feature of Windows 8 is the user’s ability to multi-task. ‘Snap’ your search results to one side of the screen and links to websites and apps will open on the other side. Everything you need is in-view and in-context. No more jumping back and forth between search and other apps. This is great when students need to go-between two information sources, such as an app and a website.You can even re-size the portion each side is displayed on your screen by dragging the middle of the black line in the centre.

 

3. Reading List App

A great way to manage your research is to use the Reading List app provided with Windows 8.1. It is like a powerful bookmarks or favourites manager.

Students and teachers can easily keep track of articles and sources that they have used, or save something to read later. You can save websites as well as from any text-based app, e.g. How Stuff Works, News, Wikipedia.

To save to your Reading List, engage the charm from the right screen edge, click Share, and choose Reading List. You can choose a category or create your own. When you open your Reading List, you will see your most recent saved articles. Swiping from the top of the screen allows you to switch between categories.

As with Bing Smart Search, you can snap your Reading List to the side of the screen and keep it in view as you revisit your saved content. This is great, especially for students who may like to research the topic they are reading about.

As with many features on Windows 8, your Reading List is synchronised with your account, so you can access it from any device you are logged onto. This is very useful if you share devices between classes, if projects require work to be done both at school and at home from different devices.

Windows 8 is an exciting and innovative software and searching, multi-tasking and using the Reading List app are great ways to get you and your students on their way to making the most of the experience!

Steven Payne is a former teacher who runs Standout Education, a Perth-based business helping schools to enhance learning and teaching with technology.

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