Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – An educator’s point of view


For the last few years I have been focussing on Professional Learning to support ICT integration and 21st Century Skill development in schools across Australia. I currently work as a Microsoft Master Trainer and Peer Coach Master Trainer for my own independent company, Design Learn Empower. Previously I was a 7-12 Language Teacher and Head Teacher of Welfare in a NSW High School, and ICT Professional Learning Consultant for NSWDEC. I love working alongside teachers to support the development of new learning experiences for their students.

I’ve been using a Surface Pro 3 since late July. I have the i5, 8GB device, and I love it. 

Eager to get my hands on the shiny, sleek device, I purchased one while in America before they became available in Australia. As they say, the rest is history.

Below are some of the reasons why I love the Surface Pro 3, and why it's a killer device for educators and students.

It runs Apps and Applications

The fact I can install anything I want on my Pro 3 is a huge win for me. I can use apps or installed software. I use a lot of Adobe Software. I’m not a professional creative, but I try to learn something new each week. My Surface Pro 3 has everything I need installed and it never slows down or crashes. I can have as many programs open as I want, and not have to worry about lag. The ability to set up you home screen and task bar with apps and shortcuts means that as a teacher you can easily dip into software, or smoothly work with necessary applications as needed without having to search through all the programs. It’s a small time saver, but big stress saver. In the classroom, by pinning apps and applications, students can easily navigate their computers without feeling lost or getting side tracked on the way to completion of set tasks.

Surface Pen

I’ve been using the Pen more lately. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s the 12” screen, or perhaps it’s the feel of the pen, but I am writing more and more on the screen. I take notes while in meeting using OneNote and the pen. Since I have a Windows phone as well, I can look at my notes on the run with the OneNote App. I am finding this great for following up on inspiration and actions. I think of my own teenagers writing notes in class all day, and I wish they could use this device. It would be great for them for all subject areas. They could write and take visual notes, then come home and re-organise, summarise and synthesise their learning very easily.

Sure I’ve lost a pen already, but I was able to purchase a new one online from the store and it was with me in days.

Workdesk Setup

On my work desk I have a monitor and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse set up so, while at home, my Surface Pro 3 becomes my desktop. I usually have my outlook emails open on the smaller surface screen and work from the larger monitor. This is a perfect work environment for me. The Pro 3 screen is a great size for keeping an eye on the inbox, or catching up on TV, while I work away on the monitor. One day I will buy the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station, but until then, I’m perfectly happy with the setup. If I was to use my device in a school I would set up a monitor, keyboard and mouse on my desk, or at home and plug in to do my preparation and administration work. In the classroom I could remain free to move around the classroom as necessary, presenting websites or content from wherever I needed to be.

Start up time

I never paid much attention to device start up time in the past. Now that I have a seriously quick start up device I can see the difference. For teachers on the run from staff room to classroom to home, this is huge a bonus. No need to shutdown all the time. Just put your device to sleep and it opens again in a flash.

No big backpack needed

When you work in technology, a big backpack is usually a must. Not so when you own the Surface Pro 3. I am able to fit my device in to a small side bag with charger and pen. It’s not heavy, and it’s not bulky to carry around. This is a little, but big thing in my world and I am sure it is for students and teachers too.

The webcam and audio is awesome

My first encounter with the Surface Pro 3 webcam shocked me. It was so clear! I didn’t realise how low quality the other webcam I had been using was. Ditto for the microphone. I am able to use my Senheisser ear buds with as much clarity and definition as my larger mic enabled headphones. There was a small glitch earlier on where the fans were making my audio sound like I was in a wind tunnel, but turning the default mic settings down to zero sorted that all out perfectly. Webinars and online meetings now hum. The fact that the webcam is very clear means that you can easily include a group of students and still have clarity. It allows for a better experience for online learning for both teachers and students

Screanbeam Pro for wireless presentations

 I have been using the Actiontec ScreenBeam Pro for wireless projection. On the Surface Pro 3 this has enhanced the use of the device when working with people.

This is seriously powerful for classroom use. Being untethered to a data projector means teachers can present from anywhere in the classroom, stick close to students who need more support or keep an eye on changing screens. When using a wireless device like this, students can also easily share their presentations and content with the class without having to stand in front of their peers. It leads to more adhoc collaboration and sharing.

The Screenbeam does not use your internet, and it is virtually impossible to bump others off the screen. It’s a simple to use, handy tool.

Wish List

If I had a wish list for my Surface Pro 3 it would have three things on it

  • SIM Card – I’d love to be able to put my own broadband SIM card in the device. I travel a lot and being able to jettison the tether to the wifi dongle would be very handy
  • Non-glare screen - Screen glare when using outdoors gets to me. I love to work while sitting outside, and I find the glare on the screen is a little too hard to bear. Maybe I’ll work out the right angle for the screen soon, but for now, I have to remain tethered to the desk.
  • Pen holder - Random episodes of pen searching are causing weird looks among participants in my sessions. A pen holder in the device itself, would help me out greatly.

The Surface Pro 3 gives me everything I need and want at this point. I can imagine that it would be a wonderful device for teachers and students, giving the option to install anything they need, the freedom to carry it around with ease, and the enjoyment of using a digitised stylus in a smooth, learning focussed way.

 

For another educators view of Surface Pro 3, check out this blog post by Mike Reading from Using Technology Better.

Interested in finding out more about Surface Pro in education? Check out our website or contact us via email at aus-edu@microsoft.com.

Comments (7)

  1. Abdulali.Allawati says:

    Everything is perfect in pro 3 except missing the sim card slot

  2. Brendt says:

    Thanks for this post Pip. I've been thinking about upgrading from the DEC laptop I've been issued and was tossing up between a MacBook Air and an SP3 . The SP3 seems more portable and runs windows apps. I have always been a big fan of OneNote and have missed having a decent version on the mac. Your post has gone a long way to clearing up some ideas for me. Well done!

  3. Michael says:

    Hi Pip. Just keep in mind that the surface pro 3 does have a pen holder on its "type cover" keyboard. If you don't posses one of these the right side of the device where the windows button is found is also magnetic. Just place your pen there while not using it and it will stick to the side of your surface pro!

    Kind regards

    Michael Anderson

    CfLAT AUT university  

  4. Huy do says:

    Is surface pro 3 good for media

    1. D. Smith says:

      S3Pro is not bad for media. I run Netflix and other video resources all the time with no problem. The key I find is the projector in your classroom. If you do not get an HD projector, images are a bit dark and you do not get the best quality.

  5. D. Smith says:

    Hiya,

    Thanks for the article and info! The pen itself is great. I have not used the Screenbeam pro. AirParrot2 combined with Apple TV is a nice combo for wireless presentations in the class. I have been testing for the past four months or so and have had no issues.

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