On the surface

Why the Surface 3 is truly an evolved design for education

 Interview with Kevin Sait, Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator, and Head of IT Strategy at Wymondham High Academy.

Q. Hi Kevin, so the new Surface 3 is upon us and it’s no secret that it’s been designed with the education sector being a key user. How has it evolved from its previous incarnation? 

A. The size of the Surface 3 is ideal. Being the size of a traditional notebook, it makes using software like OneNote more intuitive. It also means it fits inside a student’s bag more easily with the rest of their ‘A4’ world. The weight of the device (it is the lightest surface yet) means it can be easily moved between classrooms by students and teachers alike. Its three position kick-stand allows for typing using the responsive type cover keyboard, but also it can be laid out to make optimum use of the pen for lessons like art or design.

However, the thing that really excites us is Surface 3 and Windows 10. Combining the power of the pen and Microsoft Edge allows annotation of the web browser itself, putting Edge at the centre of things in the classroom. We now have the ability to read and ink on PDF files or annotate a web page, then share it through OneNote – it truly is a game changer.

For too long now schools have simply bought the latest technology to overlay into the current classroom teaching model, now with Surface 3 and Windows 10 we have the opportunity to shape those classroom dynamics and deliver engaging and student-led learning today. 

Q. Can you specify why it’s more suitable to the education sector than other devices currently on the market?

A. Surface 3 is more than just a tablet, it’s more than a device with a 10-inch screen running a mobile phone operating system and it offers more to students and teachers than other devices on the market.

Your laptop, desktop and tablet can all be replaced with this all-in-one device. The Surface 3 can run any software and apps that you may require at school or in the classroom, plus fully running Windows 10. The use of OneNote and the Surface pen is something which really stands out to me as truly transformational. A lot of other devices are touch only, or use a ‘dabber-style’ stylus. Surface pen is just an awesome experience with software like OneNote, or indeed with design software like Photoshop or FreshPaint.

Also, if you need to type up an essay or report, the type cover keyboard means that the struggle with an on screen keyboard is no longer. However, if you do prefer using it on screen, you can simply detach the keyboard and use it in tablet format. Add to that Continuum in Windows 10, which detects how you want to use it, and you will always have the most user-friendly interface. You really get the best of both worlds with Surface 3.

Q. We were impressed with the synergy that the Surface 3 embraces Microsoft’s other applications such as OneNote. From a teacher’s perspective, how does this streamline their day-to-day work? 

A. I think you really have to look at transformational learning as part of a bigger picture for schools. You can give every student a device in school and the learning outcome could be zero. However, mix the right hardware platform with products like OneNote Class Notebook, then you have the recipe to increase learning.

OneNote Class Notebook has really become a ‘killer-app’ for teaching and learning in school. OneNote is part of Microsoft Office but also probably one of its best kept secrets. OneNote is a digital notebook for teachers and students and when you mix it with the note-taking power of the Surface pen you then have a powerful tool. OneNote Class Notebook takes that a step further where a teacher can deploy a ‘Class Notebook’ to student devices. There are three areas it creates: a teacher area for the teacher to put lesson information and topic information in; a collaborative area for students and teachers to share ideas about the lessons; and finally the student notebook, which the student can edit and the teacher can also edit to leave feedback.

So gone are the days of the teacher lugging 30 books back home to mark. A teacher can use their Surface 3 to simply look at the class’ work and use either audio, video or indeed traditional hand written feedback for the student. The student sees this as simply a personal digital notebook for the lesson, however, the teacher has access to the whole class. This has seen teachers differentiate work in the classroom more effectively as well as more engagement for students in their work.