Mar 25 2015

4 Tips for Classroom Use of the Surface Pro 3

A technology director shares his lessons learned following deployment of the Microsoft tablets.

Cincinnati Country Day School deployed 230 Surface Pro 3 tablets this school year. One thing led us to be early adopters: our desire to provide the most powerful teaching and learning environment possible. If there were a better device, we would be using it.

In 1996, Cincinnati Country Day School was the first school in the nation to adopt a one-to-one notebook program for grades five through 12. We like to act as a lab for what is possible when a school deploys the right hardware — devices that reduce the constraints on integrating tech in the classroom and that let teachers focus on pedagogy, not technology. 

A Single Device for All

Our focus is on empowering every user with a device that can do it all. That is why we switched to tablet PCs in 2003 and have gradually been improving our hardware ever since — striving for the best combination of speed, power, portability, battery life and modalities.

The Surface Pro 3 devices — with touch, Digital Ink and full notebook functionality — remove all constraints for users and allow IT departments to manage, maintain and support them efficiently and effectively. We feel that our hardware is finally catching up to our vision at Country Day.

Here are four simple tips that we learned along the way as we rolled out the Surface Pro tablets to our users. 

1. Choose the Right Device

People like to say that the device doesn’t matter. 

That is only true when you have the right device. Otherwise, the only thing your users and IT department will talk about will be the constraints a device places on use and management. It is truly amazing what is possible when you deploy the right hardware and allow users to fit the device to the task at hand — and not the other way around.

Bottom line: Identify your needs and then test tablets and other devices against those needs to find the tool that removes the most constraints for your students and teachers.

2. Incorporate Microsoft Digital Ink

Writing, sketching, annotating, highlighting and drawing are such an essential part of the teaching and learning process. The fact that every user at Country Day has had a tablet PC since 2003 is a huge part of the success of our program. How much better are the examples I can share because Digital Ink is available when that modality fits the task at hand? I love to say, “Type this,” when sharing examples of process, feedback and problem-solving involving Ink.

3. Use the OneNote class notebook creator App

If you are not using OneNote — more specifically, shared OneNote notebooks — you really are not taking advantage of all that Office has to offer. Microsoft Office 365 has the potential to enhance workflows and collaboration both internally and externally, and it is free for schools.

4. Protect Your Devices

Finally, you need to deploy these tablets with bumper guard cases. The form factor lends itself to being super-mobile, which means there will be drops. It’s also helpful to tether the pens to the tablets and provide a location for students to store their devices conveniently to keep them out of harm’s way when not in use.

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