Last week, Microsoft held a Surface event that took the wraps off a whole slew of new and innovative devices that the company is hoping will capture the imagination of its customers. Some of these devices were iterative versions of what is already available from Microsoft, but others were completely new product categories.
I’ve really come to admire Microsoft’s innovation. They are not afraid to push the boat out and try new things. These products don’t always pan out the way they hope, (see Surface RT), but a willingness to innovate and expand the boundaries of what is already out there, is something you have to at least respect, even if you are not a Windows user. Here’s what’s new.
Screenshots are important to anyone who is involved in education. They form the backbone of many step-by-step tutorials and are useful for creating better explanations for students. However, they are useful for other scenarios too. They are great for capturing some design inspiration, saving ideas from the web, or recording bugs to send to developers. This Fall, Microsoft introduced a new screenshot tool for Windows 10. It’s called Snip & Sketch. Here’s how it works. Continue reading Snip & Sketch: The Windows 10 Screenshot Tool
Have you ever wanted to zoom in on your Mac, PC, Chromebook or iPad screen? As an educator, and facilitator of professional development, I do this a lot and people often ask me how I do it. So, here is a quick rundown of how (and why) to use a screen zoom on Macs, PCs, iPads and Chromebooks.
Why I Use Screen Zooming
For the most part, I zoom in on my screen to draw people’s attention to a specific area or feature that I want to highlight. It helps eliminate distracting elements, and is ideal for large rooms of people where the projector screen may not be as large as you might want it to be.
The other reason I show educators screen zooming is in the context of assistive technology. For students with visual impairments, the ability to zoom in on your screen is a very useful accessibility feature. It helps make text more readable and can give those students a much better way to access electronic materials.
How to Zoom In On A PC Screen
If you are using Windows 7 or later, you can take advantage of the screen magnifier tool. This is built-in to the operating system so no additional software is required. So, here’s what you need to know:
Hold down the Windows key and tap the plus sign repeatedly to zoom in.
Use the Windows key and the minus sign to zoom out.
To exit the screen magnifier, hold down the Windows key and press Escape.
When working with the Magnifier tool, there are three viewing modes to choose from – Full Screen, Lens or Docked. Each have their own uses so feel free to experiment to see which one will work best for you. You can also customize the amount that you zoom in when you first activate the tool. For more information on the Windows Magnifier tool, read this support document from Microsoft.
How To Zoom In On A Mac Screen
Mac users have a couple of options for zooming in and out of their screen, depending on whether they want to zoom with keyboard shortcuts, or with the trackpad on your Macbook.
To zoom with the keyboard:
Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
Check the box that says Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom
Hold down the Command and Option keys, then tap the plus sign to zoom in
Hold down the Command and Option keys and tap the minus sign to zoom out
To zoom with the trackpad:
Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
Check the box that says Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom
Hold down the Control key and scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.
Both options work well, but the latter is the one that I prefer because it is much smoother. Some versions of Mac OS X will let you choose the zoom style. This is also found in System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom. Itlets you choose to zoom in on the whole screen, or just a framed area, (similar to the Lens view on Windows). Learn more about zooming your screen on Mac in this Apple support document.
How To Zoom In On An iPad Screen
Can you zoom your screen on an iPad? Indeed you can. In fact, it is one of the many reasons why special education teachers like the iPad as an accessibility device. However, it is great for demonstrating new apps too. Here’s how it works:
Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom and flip the Zoom switch on.
Then, double tap on the screen with three fingers to zoom in or out.
When zoomed in, drag three fingers to pan around the screen to pan and move.
You can change the zoom percentage by double tapping with three fingers and dragging up and down on the screen (it takes practice, but it does work!)
On the same settings screen you will find additional options like the maximum zoom level and the ability to do a full screen zoom or a window zoom. There is even a neat on screen controller that you can use to zoom and pan without the three finger taps.
How To Zoom In On A Chromebook Screen
Chromebook users need not feel left out because Google has a built-in screen magnifier for Chrome OS. As you may have guessed by now, the option lies in the accessibility settings. Here’s how to find it.
Go to Settings > Show Advanced Settings > Accessibility
Check the box next to Enable Screen Magnifier
Hold down Ctrl and Alt, then use the brightness up and down keys to zoom in and out.
Alternatively, you can hold down the Ctrl & Alt keys and then scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.
BONUS: How To Zoom In On A Desktop Browser
This is a well-known trick, but if you only need to zoom in on a web page, you can do so without using any of the options above. This works with all major browsers. Simply use Ctrl and the plus sign (Cmd + on a Mac) to zoom in, and Ctrl and the minus sign (Cmd – on a Mac) to zoom out. To reset your screen to the original size use Ctrl and the zero key (Cmd 0 on a Mac).
On March 31, 2015, Microsoft announced the Surface 3. It’s smaller, and less expensive than the Surface Pro 3, but it still does all the things that you would expect from a tablet PC that runs the latest version of Windows. The base model is priced at $499, the same price as an entry-level iPad Air 2. So, the obvious question is, can the Surface 3 succeed where other tablets have failed and actually overturn Apple’s dominance in tablet based classrooms? I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go hands-on with one of the new Surface 3 devices, and I am already a seasoned iPad user, so here are my thoughts and first impressions on how they compare.
On paper, both devices are very evenly matched. The Surface 3 is a little heavier and a little thicker than the iPad, but it does have a larger screen that will help account for some of that weight. The battery life is identical, as is the amount of RAM in each one, but the Surface has more storage, more ports, and a better front facing camera. You can see a full comparison of the specs between the two devices in the table below. The device I was sent from Microsoft was a 64GB Surface 3 with 4GB RAM.
Of course, spec sheets only tell half the story. After all, if you are thinking of investing in a device like this for your classroom, there are other things you will want to know like how durable will it be, and can you count on it to do what you need, when you need it?
The iPad is an extremely reliable device and, in a decent case, it is able to withstand a fair amount of abuse. The Surface 3 is also a great device and is very comparable in build quality to the more expensive Surface Pro 3. I haven’t seen any protective cases for it yet, but I am sure that there will be some released in the near future. One nice feature, is the 3-position kick stand that is built-in to the back of the Surface 3. It makes typing, with or without the keyboard, much easier. If the stand is pushed too far back, or is accidentally sat on, it will automatically detach to avoid permanent damage, and allow you to re-attach it. The iPad has no kickstand, but many third-party cases do offer this option.
The iPad has access to thousands of high quality educational apps in the App Store, many of which are designed specifically for the iPad and for use in the classroom. The Windows Store does not have anywhere near as many apps, but, on the flip side, the Surface 3 will run anything on the web, including content powered by Flash or Java. What’s more, it will also runtraditional desktop software like Office, Sketchup, Photoshop Elements, Google Earth and just about anything else that was designed for a regular Windows laptop. Professional software like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere will run on the Surface 3, but performance will not be as good as it is on something like the Surface Pro 3 or a high-end ultrabook which is better equipped to handle such tasks.
Almost all of Microsoft’s press images picture the Surface 3 with a keyboard and pen, but it is important to note that it comes with neither. The Keyboard is an additional $130 and the Surface Pen is $50. That takes the base price of the Surface 3 up to $680, but you don’t get a keyboard or a pen with an iPad either and that doesn’t seem to deter schools one bit.
So, is the Surface 3 a realistic proposition without a keyboard and pen? In Metro mode, it works really well. Apps and touch gestures are intuitive and designed to work well with a touch device. In desktop mode, it is less of a success. For instance, if you tap in a text field in desktop mode, the keyboard will not appear unless you summon it manually from the system tray. This will hopefully change when Windows 10 (a free upgrade for the Surface 3) is released this summer, but right now the desktop mode works better with the Type Cover.
I enjoy using the Surface 3 keyboard. It is a little noisy to type with compared to a regular laptop keyboard, but it feels good and isn’t too small for regular sized hands. It is backlit with LED lights and has useful shortcut keys for things like screen brightness, mute and play/pause. It can be used flat or angled for better ergonomics. Nonetheless, I didn’t find the trackpad as responsive as I might like, especially with two finger scrolling, but you can easily add a USB or Bluetooth mouse if necessary. So, minor quibbles aside, it is a nice option to have. I am typing this post on the Surface 3 and I hardly notice any difference compared to the experience on a laptop.
The Surface Pen is the same pen as the one on the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pen is no ordinary pen and is not comparable to any iPad stylus. It has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity and a fine point for precision work. The harder you press, the darker and thicker the line is that you draw. It also has a handy button on the top that will automatically launch OneNote with one click, even if your Surface is in standby. OneNote is ideal for handwritten notes, something that current research is telling us is more effective than typed notes.
In addition to OneNote, Fresh Paint is an app that is ideal for the Surface Pen. It will quickly bring out your inner artist and would be great for sketchnotes or other drawing projects. When the pen is active, it is the only thing that will make a mark on the screen. No onscreen wrist guards or other adaptations are necessary. The pen is available in blue, red, silver and black and is powered by one AAA battery and two watch sized batteries.
The Surface 3 is a more affordable version of the Surface Pro 3. As such, it is being marketed as an ideal device for schools, and in many ways it should be. The Surface 3 is light, portable, it has a front and rear camera, and it runs on a flexible operating system that will run one of the largest software libraries available to any device. In the summer, there will be a free update to Windows 10 that will include specific optimizations for hybrid devices like this. So, look for the Surface 3 to become even more capable than it is right now. The build quality is excellent, it has a great, full HD display, and a battery that should easily last a full school day.
However, as with all new devices there will always be some question marks. For instance, how well will it run three years from now, (as it will likely need to in a budget conscious school environment)? Will the keyboard and pen (and pen battery life), hold up to the rigors of classroom use? Will schools be satisfied with just the tablet version at $499 or is the $680 version with the Type Cover and Surface Pen needed? Will the app ecosystem develop enough educational apps to compete with other devices or will the web suffice?
Personally I really like the Surface 3. I can’t answer any of the questions above because I can’t predict the future. However, I can see a lot of potential in this device for use in the K-12 classroom and I know there are many teachers that would understandably love to get a device like this into the hands of their students.
Are you intrigued by the new Surface 3? Do you have questions that have not been addressed in the review above? If so, feel free to leave a comment below and I will address as many as I can.