The Surface RT (Surface) Tablet for the Classroom – One Year Later…

Looking back to December 2012, my first post on the Windows Surface RT explored the potential strengths and challenges of the Surface RT tablet in the classroom. Well, a lot can change in a year and it presents an opportunity to now reassess and see what the RT has to show since that first blog post.

Windows 8.1

Updating the Surface RT to Windows 8.1 provided some critical improvements to the overall experience of the tablet. Battery life and overall performance has improved significantly on the Surface RT (now the Surface) tablet and for many, this update brought new life into the Windows tablet. The addition of a “Start” button and the improvements to the user interface were all welcome improvements. For me personally, these changes go on to make the argument that the “metro” or “live tile” interface is indeed the future of Windows and the days of the aging Windows desktop are definitely numbered.

What's new in the Windows Store?
What’s new in the Windows Store?

Windows RT Apps: A Source of Hope and Frustration

With the Windows RT platform, it is all about the apps or applications. Although the number of apps offered in the Windows Store have increased, there is still a lot to be desired in the overall quality of apps available. This is especially true of compelling, creative applications for the classroom. Having said that there are a few apps that I have stumbled across that may be of value to the classroom.

  • Novamind Mind Mapping (Free, $14.99) – A mind mapping application that is worth checking out if this is a learning activity that you would like to move to the tablet.
  • Record Voice & Pen (Free, Paid Upgrades) – Draw, write, annotate and record on your tablet. A nice interface, but not as fully featured as Explain Everything.
  • Photo Editor by Aviary (Free) – A solid photo editor for the Windows tablet.

Of course there are also some big name apps like Twitter, WordPress, Evernote Touch and now Flipboard that are available to the RT user. However, there are still a couple of critical apps that I have been waiting for since the launch of the RT. Just having these apps available for the Surface RT (or Surface) would go a long way to secure the Windows RT tablet as a compelling classroom tablet.

  • Google Chrome / Google Drive – Having access to these Google services and applications would be huge.
  • MovieMaker – Why is it taking so long to have a native video editor for the RT?
SkyDrive has enjoyed some nice improvements.
SkyDrive has enjoyed some nice improvements.

SkyDrive is HOT, Skype is NOT

Better SkyDrive integration was a critical and most welcome improvement on the Surface RT and Windows 8 in general. Back in the summer of 2013, Microsoft improved the integration of SkyDrive on the RT operating system and essentially made the cloud storage service much more seamless with the overall experience of Windows 8. Combine that with the ability to have the SkyDrive app installed on your iOS and/or Android device and you have now got another compelling choice for online storage.

Skype on the other hand has had a rough year as it continues to try to establish its place of prominence in the Microsoft ecosystem. The integration of instant messages in Skype marked the shutdown of the popular Windows Live Messenger and with it an increased scrutiny over how this transition would play out. Unfortunately, the transition did not come without glitches and headaches which were quickly vented to the world. Skype is an important piece of the Microsoft ecosystem and it will be interesting to see where this conversation goes over the course of another year.

Microsoft Buys Nokia – More RTs on the Way?

Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia back in the fall of 2013 added to the speculation surrounding Microsoft’s move toward the future. Around the same time, Nokia released the Lumia 2520 – a tablet running Windows RT. Although nothing has been announced to suggest a surge in more RT tablets, those who are looking to have more variety in Windows RT hardware may be hopeful that the acquisition of Nokia will help make that happen.

So that is pretty much the year for the Surface RT (or Surface). With rumours already swirling around the 3rd generation of this tablet, it will be interesting to see what another year will bring. Stay tuned…

– K. Takahashi

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