My Thoughts on the Surface Pro #flipclass #edchat #edtechchat

For the past 3 weeks, the only computer I’ve used has been my Surface Pro: at home, at work, in the classroom, at a conference, to present (wirelessly and wired – yes, you need an adapter for wired connection). I’m honestly super pleased with it! It’s a great solution for flipped classroom teachers (the handwriting and fluidity of the pen is absolutely awesome) and the Surface Pro is perfect to be used in-class, particular if you’re like me and do lots of moving around with your computer (provided you have a wireless projector).

So without being formal, here are my thoughts:

1. OneNote
Inking in OneNote is great. At my school, all teachers used to have Tablet PCs (now we get a choice, and I went with a Mac because overall I still prefer Mac over PC). I’m pretty sure, for most of us math teachers who replaced our laptops with a non-tablet, what was missed the most was inking in OneNote.
I am currently back to using OneNote daily now that I have my Surface Pro. If you were ever to watch me teach, you might get dizzy watching me walk in so many circles. I like to move when I’m in the classroom – and I like to give my students the freedom to move around also. Movement is good! Something I like doing, now that I have my Surface Pro, is keep the tablet projected (remember, the Surface Pro is a full functioning PC, so I can install the projector software directly) and then walking around the room with my tablet + pen to write. This enables me to project the work that I’m doing with groups so that anyone in the class can look up – see what problem we are working on – and then: 1. they can listen in if they are at a table close to the one I’m at, while watching me ink on the projector; 2. they can come over to the table I’m with and join in; or 3. they can continue doing the work they were doing if they don’t need help with the particular problem “my” group is working on. Another huge perk to having my “paper” projected is that when I’m working with a larger group of 4-6 students, it makes it so easy for everybody to see what is being written really clearly. When using a piece of paper, it’s never equally viewable to everyone around the table. And of course it doesn’t just have to be me inking the answer on the tablet. That’s for the kids to scribble on, too! But the portability of the Surface Pro is a big part of why I’m using it so much for this work – because in all honesty, when I had my Tablet PC, it just was too heavy to carry around all class. I more around a LOT when I teach, so having something light and easy to hold is important.

2. Scribbling on sticky notes
Yep, I love my sticky notes, like most teachers! The sticky notes on the surface pro can be typed on and/or inked on. I definitey enjoy just scribbling a quick reminder, in tablet mode.

3. Math Input Panel
Ever get tired of typing equations? The “Math Input Panel” is awesome in handwriting recognition. Want to type a math test in Word? Simply open a Word document, open Math Input Panel, and then hit the insert key. (You can insert the equation anywhere, it doesn’t have to be Word, this is just an example of how I’ve been using it.)
Speaking of handwriting recognition, I’m honestly kind of blown away at just how good the handwriting recognition is! In all honesty, however, it is not a feature I often find myself using, because I type much faster than I write.

4. Inking in PPT for my FlipClass videos
Those of you who have read how I structure my flipped classroom videos know that I ink in PPT. The writing on the Surface Pro is just awesome. It’s so smooth – easy to write, easy to erase – and the drawing is completely fluid. If you’ve ever used a not-so-great tablet, you might appreciate the above a bit more. I am extremely picky about smooth lines and fluid movement when inking. I honestly have zero complaints with my current setup.

5. Using Camtasia Studio to Edit on the Surface Pro
I was nervous that the Surface Pro wouldn’t be powerful enough to use with Camtasia Studio. Not the case. The Surface Pro really is a full functioning computer! In fact, editing my videos now, with the Surface Pro, is a far better experience than I was having with my 3 year old Tablet PC (which I have now completely abandoned). The Surface Pro is fast, stable, and I am having no difficulty with the workflow.

Now, do I look forward to going back to my Mac? Absolutely. I am tired of looking at a small screen all day and the touchpad on the surface pro leaves much to be desired (I have been using an external mouse). I have the typepad cover with the Surface Pro and I find the typing on it to be super. During the conference, when we were sitting in a room without desks, it was a little awkward to type on my lap, with the keyboard attached, but I did it. I still prefer Mac to PC for things outside of the classroom, but when it comes to in-class, I’ll continue using the Surface Pro because it does what I need much better. And certainly for both creating and editing flipclass videos, I have not found a solution that compares. I’m still looking for a good Mac solution (with a Wacom tablet) but at this point, I can’t say that I’m happy with what I’ve found.

If you’ve been wondering about the Surface Pro or looking into Tablet PC options, I hope you find my thoughts helpful. If you have the money to invest, or if your school is willing to make the purchase, (note: the Surface Pro is currently selling for $499 at Best Buy. If you want the type pad cover, you do need to tack on about $130 to that price) I would more than suggest the Surface Pro. It’s a fantastic solution for teachers!

10 thoughts on “My Thoughts on the Surface Pro #flipclass #edchat #edtechchat

  1. Stacey, thanks for the post. I recently acquired the Surface Pro 2 and as a teacher I’m very happy with it. I’m currently using it as my only device. I also use OneNote very much and believe that that there is no better device for using with OneNote inking.
    What is your setup for wireless projection? I’m curious whether you are using WiDi, Bluetooth or some other setup where you have to plug in a dongle into your Surface Pro.

  2. Very interesting post. I don’t own the Surface Pro. I was thinking about buying one but I ended up buying an iPad Air. I can’t say it was a mistake and I am very pleased with it. I will certainly have a closer look at the next Generation of Surface Pro that should be out at some point this year. As for the iPad Air, this is a superb device and I can have some work done quite easily I would say, small texts and exams can be written fairly easily. I do understand that with surface pro all this could be done much easier and faster for sure. I am looking for a new computer but I think I definitely should wait for the next surface pro or the new MacBook Air, which hopefully will come with the fantastic retina display.

    May I ask you something? What are the main drawbacks of the surface pro?

    • I have both a Mac & a Surface Pro. Honestly, I wouldn’t be happy with the Surface Pro as my only computer. It’s too small to use all day. So even though it is a fully functional machine, I really just use it to: make videos, edit videos, presenting in class when I was to ink (mainly using OneNote), and for any other inking that I need to do. For everything else, I use my Macbook Air. The great thing is that they’re both light so it’s not a pain to carry both around :)

  3. Hi Stacey
    We are looking at finding the right device to use in a 1:1 environment with 9 year-old children. Being very familiar with the iPad I am excited about the possibilities it has to offer as an engaging and interactive learning tool. My colleagues are curious about the possibilities of Surface Pro because it is more like “a real computer”. Can the Surface Pro offer the same level of options for fun, creativity and playfulness that an iPad can offer? What applications are available that are comparable to PicCollage or GarageBand? I have read many articles like yours where the Surface Pro is being used by adults or teenagers to run Office products, but do you know of anyone using them with young children in the way that iPads are used? Thanks

    • Great questions and thoughts. The Surface Pro and iPad are quite different, in my opinion. For 9 year olds, I would favor the iPad to use with them, because of the rich selection of apps, etc. The Surface Pro, on the other hand, is a full functioning computer. The inking on the Surface Pro is fantastic; I’ve never felt that comfortable writing with the iPad (that’s not really it’s main purpose anyway). OneNote, for instance, is an incredible tool for keeping all work in very organized notebooks, and when used on the Surface Pro you have the amazing benefits of inking. It can easily totally replace a paper binder system. As a high school teacher, I would be limited in what I do if students only had iPads. But in our lower school, they use iPads because we think that is the best device for that age group (we have class sets). In middle and high school, they are required to bring their own laptop. I’m typing this response on my phone so sorry if any thoughts are jumbled! I hope that is helpful!

      • Thanks, Stacey

        I think if I was teaching high school students that the Surface Pro would be a very tempting option. The idea of the pen sounds like a major breakthrough. I have tried a stylus with my iPad just to see what it was like but I can’t say it felt natural. I would blame this on my poor pencil grip and left-handed habit of resting my hand on the page more than the stylus itself though. I fear I would be just as disillusioned with the Pro pen unless I can change my forty-year-old bad habit. As far as younger students go, the pen, the kickstand and keyboard just seem like bits to lose, snap, break, damage or worry about.
        I’m really hoping someone might read this and know some ways to do iPad stuff on a Surface Pro just in case my school decides these are the way to go.

        Thanks again for the quick response. It’s good to hear the opinion of someone who has used the Surface Pro.

      • Writing with the pen eliminates any of the problems of resting your palm on the device. I’m a fellow lefty, so I understand your pain :) There are even settings to adjust for handedness to improve the handwriting recognition function, which is truly incredible! I don’t think you would have problems with broken parts to be honest – none of the materials are flimsy. Lost pens would probably be the biggest thing to deal with. The Apps available for windows 8 are greatly lacking, so there really isn’t a best of both worlds right now. There are many web tools that I use and software to be downloaded, though. I think it’s going to have to come down to what you’re tying to accomplish as a school.

      • Hello Jane
        I can concur with Stacey. I’m using the Surface Pro 2 as my only computer. It has totally replaced my laptop. I also use it extensively with OneNote with the inking capabilities. I still do not have the ability to present wirelessly at my school though :-(

        The Surface Pro has palm rejection built into the touch sensitive screen – so as soon as you bring the pen closer to the screen, it no longer accepts input from your hand. That should sort out any problems that you’ve had in writing with the iPad.

        I have not had much experience with the iPad except for an Educational Conference that I attended on the use of digital devices in the class room. I’m not an iPad fan but I was amazed at how easy the iPad is to use and how user friendly it is. I would definitely say that would be the way to go with younger students. The Surface Pro, as amazing as the device is, requires a certain level of computer literacy to get the most out of it. The Surface (not pro) would be more like the iPad except that you don’t have the great selection of Apps that you have with the iPad.

  4. Pingback: My Top Blog Posts of 2014 | techieMusings

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