by Troy Thomson
Expert Educator Columnist, Australia
Now four months in, and the Surface Pro3 is over the initial hurdles that any new device suffers from. It has been very well received by independent reviewers and the general public alike who have purchased the device in any of its available configurations. But can it make an impact in educational circles?
Whilst the previous versions of the Surface made their ways into schools, there was very little momentum built and some of this was to do with device design, some to do with marketing and some to do with school leaders not understanding how this device indeed was different. Microsoft responded to the feedback about the Surface Pro 2 and its third generation product, with the necessary design revision is a powerful and sleek device and can be considered a foundation to encourage innovative teaching and learning. And here’s why.
The Surface Pro 3 is a very versatile device in that it can run full scale Windows applications, run Apps available from the Windows Store and it comes with the Surface Pen, which actually feels like a pen when you write with it. Microsoft pitched this directly against the MacBook Air and has done a pretty good job at why this is the ‘tablet that can replace your laptop’. In my own school context, where we have been an Apple school, we have now provided staff a choice between these two devices and for every staff member who is choosing the MacBook Air, there are two choosing the Surface Pro 3. Whilst there is some nervousness about moving away from a platform that they have been comfortable with, staff can see the potential that the Surface Pro 3 offers in allowing them to change their classroom practice, rather than just more of the same.
They really like the device – the look, the weight, the 12” HD display, the flexibility in the kickstand and clearly the pen. They come to realise very quickly they don’t need multiple devices, a laptop and a tablet – that this single device does the job. The touch interface is quite intuitive and with 10 minutes training they know how to access the charms, arrange and name apps on the start screen, Bing smart search, multitask apps, pinch and zoom – they are up and running. But it is more than just the shiny device.
Surface Pro 3 + O365 + OfficeMix
When you also add into the equation the ability to project to a display wirelessly, from anywhere in the classroom, whilst annotating or running apps on a tablet, demonstrate to them how OfficeMix re-energises Microsoft PowerPoint presentations into interactive, multimedia rich videos and the collaborative nature of O365 with OneDrive – the potential to be innovative in practice starts to emerge. Visit https://mix.office.com/Gallery to see how OfficeMix can transform your presentations.
Surface Pro 3 + O365 + OfficeMix + OneNote
Then there’s the power of OneNote and the O365 OneNote ClassNotebook Creator App – this is where true collaboration can and does occur. Even with the smallest of glimpses at OneNote, again, my staff get it. They can see the potential in OneNote, about how it can be used effectively for teaching, learning, assessment and feedback. When I say it runs on a Mac, they brush that comment aside – because they want to explore the Surface Pen further. To learn more about OneNote visit http://onenoteforteachers.com/.
Surface Pro 3 + O365 + OfficeMix + OneNote + Apps
We then move to the Windows Store and look at some of the apps that are relevant to their subject area and they now see how the puzzle is starting to come together. The Microsoft Education Australia Team have provided the best apps for education at http://www.pinterest.com/mseduau/ or at http://www.microsoft.com/education/en-au/apps/Pages/default.aspx
The Surface Pro 3 by itself is a pretty good device in that it is the right balance between laptop and tablet. It allows users to consume and create content, but its most powerful advantage is that it allows thinking to become visible, through the pen. When you add to it the software tools that are currently available we finally have technology meeting pedagogy, and this is where innovation is born.