With the official New Zealand launch of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 last week, St Andrew’s College took delivery of six of these units with a very clear focus to get them into the classroom and finding innovative ways of using them in teaching and learning.
Having purchased a number of the original Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 devices, excellent examples of teaching with these in the classroom have already emerged, such as Mr Hilliam’s math lessons blogged about here. Over the course of 2014 a number of teachers, in both the Preparatory and Secondary schools, have been asking for Tablet style devices to trial in their classes.
We have explored a range of different units, including the HP X2 and HP 360 – the latter really impressed us with the innovative design that allowed for the keyboard to flip right around behind the screen and also serve as a built in stand.
In the end, the biggest difference between these devices and the Surface Pro 3 came down to the inking (writing) ability on the screen. The earlier iterations of the Surface Pro had shown the accuracy in this technology from Microsoft was significantly ahead of the other Windows 8.1 devices and iPads. Small things, like the ability to rest your palm on the screen and still be able to write without the palm interfering with the touch, really stood out.
Microsoft’s website says:
Behold the most natural writing and drawing experience on a tablet thanks to the new Surface Pen. Use the Pen to mark up presentations, sign documents or enjoy art apps. You can also open a blank OneNote document with a click of the Surface Pen to instantly capture your next idea–even if your device is in sleep mode.
OneNote is used extensively at St Andrew’s, so the instant click on the end of the pen to open a notebook will appeal to our teachers and students.
The use of Tablet style devices does create some challenges for the ICT team here – reduced storage on the devices means teachers will need to become more familiar with Cloud / Network storage for starters. Additionally, if a teacher currently has a laptop failure e.g. a cracked screen, they come to the ICT helpdesk where the hard drive is removed, placed into a spare laptop, and they carry on as normal very quickly.
Given we can not directly service these devices, there is potential for some delays for our staff if they have not stored their content off the device.
Another part of this trial will be getting our staff to use the web interface of our Student Management System, Synergetic, instead of relying on the client application. The trend in development for this product is towards the web interface and if this trial is successful, it may open up possibilities for even wider device choice amongst staff.
Finally, we are listing the Surface Pro 3 as part of our recommended devices for 2015 for students at the College. The ongoing testing of these devices by the teachers should present additional compelling reasons why this device is an excellent fit for a student in the classroom.