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Surface (Pro) 3

Surface Pro 3
Koen Timmers
by Koen Timmers
Educator - Author - Keynote speaker - Global Teacher Prize 2017 finalist

"The tablet that can replace your laptop".

Frankly, I've never been a tablet lover. I've been using an tablet to search for information, read mails or to let my son watch a short movie. I personally make a great difference between a laptop or tablet. A tablet is a multimedia gadget. Well enough to gather information, but insufficient to create content. The Surface Pro 3 seems to solve my problem. Let's take a closer look. 

A tablet is built to consume, while laptops lend themselves to produce

A Surface combines both tasks.


Factors which influence the creation process 

1: key boundaries

Using an iPad, people read and typ at the same screen. Since this is a glass surface, there are no keyboard or key boundaries which makes touch-typing impossible without an external keyboard. Typing on an iPad is slow and it's easy to make mistakes.

2: the cursor versus mouse

On an iPad you're not able to use a computer mouse. The result is being obliged to use your finger to navigate, which isn't exactly as precice as a cursor. Clicking small buttons, making selections, typing large texts and other actions become impossible. Although some solution are offered like autocorrect and a loop during correcting text, working with a finger on a screen is like an oversized elephant in an exclusive glassware shop.

Working with a finger on a tablet is like an oversized elephant in an exclusive glassware shop 

3: switching between programs

Switching between different apps on an iPad is painful. Particularly copying text in one app and pasting it in another takes quite some time. Both factors slow down your workflow dramatically.

4: apps versus software

iPad and iMac are using different operating systems. Your not able to install software on an iPad or Android tablet and thus you are limited to iOS or Android apps. These apps can be fun, but they aren't comparable with extended software. 

Apps can be fun, but aren't as feature-rich as their desktop equivalents

Althought there are apps which allow text processing, spreadsheets and creating presentations, these apps can be compared with Word, Excel and Powerpoint, although there is now a Sway app. Programming definitely is impossible on a tablet. 


A structured file system

The process of creating, presenting and sharing is often based on a solid file system. The ability to access and create folders and files is still extremely cumbersome on iOS. A device needs to a simple USB port for being able to read/write files to a USB flash drive. The cloud (OneDrive) might have killed such devices, still they can come in handy to tranfer files very fast between several devices. 

Any benefits? 

A tablet wouldn't have become this popular when there weren't benefits. It's mobile and combines a lot of features which required years ago different devices: gps, camera (photo and video), flashlight, etc. There are a lot of funny, nice and educational apps and games. By installing apps you convert your tablet to a baby monitor, personal trainer, social media coach, ... in a flash. 


Educational opportunities

Let's focus on the academical resources. Morris (2010) advocates that touchscreens, compared to physical keyboards, puts a brake on sustained use. For learning professionals this is a real worry as students may stop prematurely or reduce performance in a writing task, simply because of the limitations of the input device. Touchscreen may even alter style of expression, Wigdor (2007). It may limit experimentation, more complex sentences and playing around with vocabulary and style, all tasks which are important for skills development. This is even more worrying.

A Surface can offer many advantages over classic textbooks. Students are able to search of information, collaborate, create and share. They are able to learn mobile (mlearning). What about studying trees in a forest, examining water of a lake and noting all data, a quest in a museum or connecting with other classrooms / countries via Skype. The role of the teacher might shift from instructor to a guide or mentor. Students are able to process knowlegde and construct knowlegde in a team. Students can learn at their own pace and teachers can strive for personalized learning classes.

A tablet is built to consume, while laptops lend themselves to produceA Surface combines both tasks.

Surface Pro 3 met pen


A tablet is a wonderful multimedia device mainly for content collection like reading emails, watching a video, checking your Facebook account and surfing. A laptop allows to create like word processing, programming and photo editing, but it can be a bit unhandy in a laisy chair, car or train. A Surface combines both devices. By attaching your keyboard you convert your tablet to a laptop. Did you know Windows 10 allows to switch to tablet modus? Not forgetting to mention the Pro Pen, which offers countless educational opportunities. But that's actually another story ;-)

Read my article about digital ink.



Want to know more? There has been done quite some research on using touchscreens and physical keyboards (in education):

Morris, M.R., Lombardo, J., Wigdor, D. 2010. Search:  Supporting Collaborative Search and Sensemaking on a Tabletop Display. Proc. CSCW 2010, 401-410.
Benko, H., Morris, M. R., Brush, A.J.B., Wilson, A.D.  2009. Insights on Interactive Tabletops: A Survey of Researchers and Developers. Microsoft Research Technical  Report MSR-TR-2009-22.
Wigdor, D., Penn, G., Ryall, K., Esenther, A., Shen, C.  2007. Living with a Tabletop: Analysis and Observations of Long Term Office Use of a Multi-Touch Table. Proc.  Tabletop 2007, 60-67.
Hinrichs, U., Hancock, M., Collins, C., Carpendale, S.  2007. Examination of text-entry methods for tabletop displays. Proc. Tabletop 2007, 105-112. “Text entry a major deficiency in multiple studies”
Ryall, K., Forlines, C., Shen, C., Ringel Morris, M.,  Everitt, K. 2006. Experiences with and Observations of Direct-Touch Tabletops. Proc. Tabletop 2006, 89-96.
Barrett, J., & Krueger, H. (1994). Performance effects of reduced proprioceptive feedback on touch typists and casual users in a typing task. Behavior & Information technology, 13, 373-381.
Wilson, K.S., Inderrieden, M., & Liu, S. (1995). A comparison of five user interface devices designed for point-of-sale in the retail industry. Proceedings of the Human Factors & Ergonomic Society 39th Annual Meeting, 39, 273-277.
Shneiderman, B. (1998). Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human Computer Interaction. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.


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