Surface Pro vs iPad

Recently I’ve been working with MCFAM to create supplementary online learning materials for probability. Tons of people take probability and need to learn it for professional exams, and we’d like to serve our U of M students and the wider community even better. Along the way I’ve been looking at ways to create this content. I’ve made videos of math problem-solving on my own personal iPad in the past, but got the chance to use a Surface Pro tablet at the university… and I like it better!

What’s going on here? I’ve successfully avoided Microsoft products for 15 years. Yes, last time I used Microsoft software regularly was freshman year or so. After that it’s been some Linux or Unix variant all the way, or a Mac. I liked the customizability and power of Linux and the way Macs “just worked.” I did not like all the unnecessary stuff involved with Windows. I never was an office user of computers: I use the web, I program, I do video processing, I type in Latex.

What a change, then, to feel that for recording instructional videos Microsoft products right now “just work”. No, I don’t know how to do scientific programming in that environment, but a lot of what I’ve been playing with recently is in the cloud anyway. And the Surface Pro is a beautiful machine that is made to be a tablet computer. The iPad feels like a toy in comparison, rather than a production machine.

I make PowerPoint slides or pdf files and display them on the Surface, then use Camtasia (a full-featured screen recording and video editing program) to record and then edit. It’s easy to export them to an mp4 and post them to Moodle or YouTube. I’ve made some cool math visualizations in PowerPoint, too. Yes, math equations are still a relative failure in Microsoft-land, but for less heavy probability and statistics I can manage.

By contrast, on the iPad I can record with several programs, but they aren’t very full-featured. I haven’t figured out how to make animated visualizations that I can also write on. The pen is less precise and I can’t get the control of writing that I have with the Surface, and then editing is a whole other question: need to import to another program or not edit, as far as I’ve figured out. Or I can mirror the iPad on my Mac and use Camtasia on the Mac, but then I need a certain wifi set up and so can only record at home, not at the University, and there can be a lag depending on the wifi speed.

I will keep doing research on how other folks record math screencasts, but I’m impressed at the extent to which the Surface Pro “just works!”

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