Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Go Imagine with Microsoft Surface Go

Last week Ben and I were invited to the Microsoft Go Imagine event in Covent Garden, which was run in partnership with John Lewis to celebrate the launch of the new Surface Go. This was a fantastic opportunity to get creative with the Surface Go during workshops and I also got to attend a very interesting panel discussion.

Creativity and Imagination

The main focus of the event, other than the launch of the Surface Go, was the importance of creativity and imagination in children's development. This topic was explored during a panel discussion based around a new study by Microsoft Surface which revealed that the majority of UK parents believe creativity and imagination are just as important as the core subjects. The panel was led by presenter Ben Fogle, who was joined by Gilly Binks, Surface Category Lead from Microsoft, William Jones, Head of Buying Technology from John Lewis, Britmums Co-Founder Jennifer Howze and Cath Prisk, an Education and Outdoor Play Expert.

Just like the 84% of parents in the study, the panel, who are all parents too, agreed how important it is to let kids be imaginative and encourage their creativity. One of my favourite quotes of the day came from Ben Fogle who said, "once you have creativity, you can do anything". I completely agree with this statement, creativity drives problem-solving; if you can think creatively and use your imagination and initiative you can always find a solution.

The discussion kicked off with the question, "What is creativity?" to which there were some great responses but was best summed up by Gilly Binks who said, "creativity is about imagination and bringing ideas to life". She went on to talk about how parents believe children are the best creators in the family and we need to fuel this creativity and give them the tools to bring it to life.

Technology Fuelling Creativity

This lead to the role that technology plays in inspiring and aiding creativity in kids and it was agreed that it compliments traditional childhood education in a positive way. As Cath Prisk said, "technology is a tool to help and facilitate". We can not only use technology to entertain our kids by playing games and watching videos, but we can use it to help inspire them through the exploration of ideas found online in blogs and guides for things to do or places to visit. It is also a wonderful resource that is readily available which allows parents to be informed and retain our "clever cred" when asked the endless, inquisitive questions children throw at us. Just ask Ben Fogle about the time he was caught secretly looking up how to light a fire using flint and steel on YouTube after being asked to demonstrate it at a school camping event.

From a practical point of view, technology allows us to be creative and imaginative on the go, letting learning continue whenever, wherever we are. Being able to get creative without the mess is also a big bonus. While everyone recognises the importance of messy play, sometimes parents simply don't have the time or want to face the huge clean up which inevitably follows a painting session with their little budding artists. Rather than saying no to a child's request to drag out the paints, glue sticks and glitter, technology can come to the rescue and allow children to get creative using Paint 3D or one of the many amazing apps available.

Parental Controls and Safety Online

Trusting your kids to give them enough independence to explore and do things on their own is something every parent faces, whether that is letting them walk to the shop on their own, explore the woods or go online. Every child is different and parents seem to instinctively know when their child is ready to take on these challenges by themselves. Just like making the decision to let your child head off to explore the park by themselves, it is reassuring to know that you can make that decision with technology too. Gilly Binks explained how the Surface Go can be used in 10S mode which allows only pre-approved trusted content so you can be happy your kids are safe online and not accessing any apps or content they shouldn't be. You can also set timers and usage limits to keep screen time within your desired limits for your child.

Getting the Balance Right

The big question a lot of parents have is how do you get the balance right between technology and traditional play and learning? Cath Prisk told us how we should not see a division between technology and nature. Technology is a seamless part of children's life these days and, as Jennifer Howze said, you find the right balance through parenting which will be different for every family. Creativity is not just about arts and crafts, but maths and science too and the fun ways we can play and teach kids problem-solving without them even realising they are doing so. Kids learn best when they are having fun and the more creative education can be, the more effective and better the outcome will be.

I have seen this first-hand this summer with my three children who have been using an app called DoodleMaths where they compete with their classmates to be top of the class Hall of Fame and earn stars which allows them to design and accessorise their own pet or robot along with "doodling" and creating pictures. They love the creative side of this app along with the competitiveness which has resulted in a massive improvement in their math skills over the last 5 weeks but best of all, I haven't had to ask them to do it, they just want to play and are learning so much as a result.

The conclusion of the discussion was that education should be creative and utilise technology to make that happen. Technology can make learning more fun and effective if used correctly. The aim is to marry creativity and achievements together. Bridging indoors, outdoors, education, home life and parenting in a careful balance and measure, and tablets can be that bridge. 

First Impressions on the Surface Go

So what did I think of the Surface Go? I like the size and how light it is which makes it a perfect family friendly travel companion device. I love the pen interaction and the keyboard is great as it would enable someone like me to work and blog on the go. The integrated kickstand makes it ideal for watching movies and from what I've seen of the camera, the quality is really good.

The Paint 3D workshop run by artist Paul Kercal was a fantastic way to showcase not just how creative kids and families can be with the Surface, but also what a powerful tool this tablet is for someone who needs to knock up whizzy graphics and presentations quickly and easily for work. The pen interactivity makes the creative process feel so easy, allowing you to have maximum control over your design. I do wish I had one to save always having to rely on my laptop.

I was asked to sum up the Surface Go in three words after using it and fun, creative and portable sprung to mind. It is a perfect family-friendly tablet. It allowed me to creatively collaborate with my son during the workshop, we shared ideas, worked together and most of all had a lot of fun and laughs while doing so - especially at the crazy end result of our mashed up multi-eared creature.

After using it, do I want one? Yes, absolutely but I would also want the pen which is an additional accessory priced at £99.99 but is worth the extra cost in my opinion. I'd also need to check out the selection of kid-friendly cases that are available as we all know what kids are like with tablets.

The Surface Go starts at £379 for the basic model which is, in my opinion, a fantastic price for a family-friendly tablet that is powerful enough to meet the needs of everyday work and play. For further information on the Surface Go head here.  


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