Microsoft Surface Pro 3… A student’s perspective.

I had been looking to upgrade my Google Nexus 10 for a while, yearning for a tablet with a pen so that I could take notes in lectures and seminars, straight into OneNote. I’d looked at the Samsung offerings and not been satisfied, and I’d flirted with the idea of getting an Nvidia Shield. And then the Shield was withdrawn from stock…

But then the Surface Pro 4 was announced, and the price of the Surface Pro 3 was dropped! The perfect excuse for me to spend the bursary that had just arrived in my bank account.

So what do I think?

It’s great.

After some umming and erring over which model to buy – the i3 or the i5 with the bigger SSD – I settled for the bottom model, with the i3 and a 64gb SSD. After a gazillion updates, which took well over an hour over the University WiFi, and the upgrade to Windows 10, I was ready to play.

I say play, I haven’t played any games on it yet. Well, I had a brief play of and the device’s fan got pretty loud. I touched the back of the device and was pretty warm. The screen itself is really nice, and is able to play 1440p video beautifully… It does get a bit warm though!

I’ve changed a few settings: set the pen to left-handed, the version of OneNote that opens when the purple button on the pen is pressed. Perhaps the most interesting setting that I’ve changed is the location of the taskbar. I’d previously not seen the point in moving it before, but I kept accidentally bringing it up and opening programs while writing. That doesn’t mean that the Pro’s palm rejection tech is bad at all. When writing, it has yet to accidentally draw where my arm is. Since moving the taskbar to the right of the screen, I haven’t accidentally opened any programs – yay! The one slightly annoying thing about this, is that the location of the taskbar has changed on my desktop too. This is because I have logged into Windows using a Microsoft Account. This means that all my personalisation settings are transferred from one computer to another. It’s nice, but I’m still getting used to having the taskbar in a different place on my desktop, and am beginning to look into solutions so that I can have it at the bottom on my desktop, and at the side on my tablet, but still use my Microsoft account. Know a way? Let me know in the comments!

Surface Pro 3 on a desk
Nom, potato quality photo!

In terms of device performance, I’ve got nothing to complain about. The i3 is fine for what I’m using it for, and even 64GB SSD is big enough for my needs. I’m using OneDrive a lot more than I was before, storing the documents (mainly those related to my PGCE) in the cloud, so that I can access them from anywhere. Also, thanks to the SSD, programs open nice and fast.

I got the black type cover with the device, and it’s great to type on. However, my cover seems a little “warped”, in that it doesn’t lie flat. I’m going to be taking it back to the retailer to exchange it.

Overall? Well worth the money.

Introducing: Friday Flash (And NaNoWriMo 2015)

In order to write well, one must write.

I’m going to be writing and publishing, on here, one piece of flash fiction a week. This is in addition to working on my novels and short stories.

It’s also that time of year again. As the wind blows October away, along with all the leaves, National Novel Writing Month gets closer.

Although I attempted NaNoWriMo last year, I didn’t manage to complete it. I intend to this year. I’ve not done much planning for the novel that I intend to write, but I do have an idea. I think that my personal aim is not to necessarily complete the novel, but to get into a writing routine, where I write everyday. That said, it would be nice to complete the novel next month, but I anticipate it being longer than the 2,000 words a day that I intend to write during NaNoWriMo.

Rather than keeping my NaNoWriMo efforts in a Word Doc, I intend to actually blog the novel that I write. Why? So that you guys can hold me accountable for my progress, and hopefully support me! Knowing that I’ve posted this and have stated to The World that I’m going to do this will (hopefully) provide additional incentive to ensure that I do it!

Enough of that, let’s see this week’s flash!

The Hand

The hand is long, wrinkly. The skin sags in yellow folds, over thin blue veins with little forests of blonde hair curling on the surface. The fingers are stiff, stuck splayed out across the table. A ridge around one of the fingers, a metal band, marks the owner’s unity with another. Just as the hands had grown wrinkly, the gold band had grown dull and scratched.

A pair of hands reaches down. This pair is young, the hands slightly plump, ringless and smooth. One holds a cloth, damp with antiseptic, the other is empty. One by one the ringed hand’s fingers are lifted and cleaned.

The pair of hands move away, return with a narrow nailbrush and then each nail is cleaned, miniscule bits of dirt being pulled out.

Once more the pair of hands moves away, for longer this time. Then they return, place a sheet of paper on the table, away from the hand.

The hands lift the ringed finger, and slowly pull the ring off, wiggling it over the knuckle. The hands hover for a second, rolling the ring around their palms.

The hands move across the room, where they place the ring in an envelope.

The now ringless hand lies lifeless.

Poetry, poets and more poetry

As said in a previous post, I skirted around poetry in my degree. It’s only now that I’ve begun to actually read much poetry. Rather than just reading the poetry that I’m going to be teaching on my current placement:

  • Songs of Innocence and Exploration – William Blake
  • And then, after half-term: Mean Time – Carol Ann Duffy
  • and, The Whitsun Weddings – Philip Larkin

I’ve been reading widely, including many of the “greats.”

In one huge Amazon order, I also got:

  • Simon Armitage – Selected Poems
  • Charles Bukowski – Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973
  • Ed: Andrew Motion (Selected by Larkin) – The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse
  • Wendy Cope – Serious Concerns
  • Isaac Rosenberg – The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg
  • Rudyard Kipling – Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson – The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in An Open Necked Shirt
  • John Cooper Clake – Word of Mouth – The Very Best of John Cooper Clarke (CD)
  • Robert Browning – The Poems of Robert Browning
  • W. B. Yeats – The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats
  • W. H. Auden – Selected Poems
  • Walt Whitman – The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman

That’s rather a lot of poetry to read. I haven’t read most of it yet, although I have dipped in and out of each book and read a few interesting poems. In light of that, I’m planning on creating a poetry journal where I jot down what each poem makes me feel and how it links to other things that I have read.

My knowledge of actual poetry wasn’t the only thing that was lacking. I needed to develop my knowledge of how poetry works and how to analyse it. So I picked up a few more books (in addition to the ones that my mentor lent me):

  • Stephen Fry – The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
  • Ted Hughes – Poetry in the Making: A Handbook for Writing and Teaching
  • Ruth Padel – 52 Ways of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life: A Poem for Every Week of the Year
  • Tom Paulin – The Secret Life of Poems: A Poetry Primer

Again, I’ve only dipped in and out of most of them, but I am making substantial progress through the Fry and Hughes books. I just wish I had bought them years ago!

Where’d the last four weeks go?!

So I haven’t blogged for the past four weeks. I guess this means that I’ve been busy. Part of this time has been spent in Faculty, in a variety of different professional and subject studies sessions that have covered a broad range of activities; the other part has been spent in my first placement school.

In my interview I mentioned that my poetry knowledge was a weakness. This has showed itself in my first placement. As my PP1 school is my only contact with Sixth Form students, I have to teach a series of lessons to them. These students are studying William Blake.

Cue a minor panic and an extensive amount of reading as I learn how to analyse poetry, the context of William Blake’s writing, and develop knowledge of the poetry itself! The anthology being used is Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. Over the past week I’ve been reading it and analysing each of the poems, as well as researching their context.

Subject Studies work has also helped me to develop my knowledge of poetry. Earlier this week, each of us wrote a “furniture poem” based around a best friend. I’m covering poetry in a separate post, so I won’t include it here.

Other lectures have included differentiating work for EAL learners – something that I was fortunate enough to gain experience in at my previous school, where we were lucky enough to have a specialist EAL teacher. We’ve also spoken about Assessment for Learning, reflecting on our experiences in our primary observation week as well as our general experience; we also did practical work with regards to this, assessing each others work.

I’ve also been prepping for a peer-teaching session next Monday. This means I am working in a small group to prepare a 15 minute lesson to teach to the rest of the Secondary English PGCE students. The broad focus is on grammar, and we’ve decided to focus on different types of adjectives.

In my PP1 school, I’ve begun to progress into teaching. I took half of a Year 13 English Literature lesson (they are the Blake studnets), as well as an entire Year 7 lesson. Now? Now I’m planning lessons for next week and reading over student’s essays to practice marking.