The standard Microsoft Surface Pen is great for students that need to draw or handwrite work, but it has several flaws which make it a difficult choice in schools:
- It’s really expensive. A replacement Surface Pen can cost upwards of £100/$100.
- It’s easy to lose — those magnets are not the strongest.
- In the hands of students, it’s not the toughest bit of kit, and the eraser top is very tempting to nibble.
- The nibs are soft and need to be replaced with wear and tear.
- Did I say it’s really expensive?
Fortunately, Microsoft has released the Microsoft Classroom Pen, but you’d be forgiven for never having heard of it. Microsoft has done some good publicity through the BETT Show in the UK and through other EDU channels, but you still won’t find it listed at any retail store.
The Microsoft Classroom Pen is a robust version of the standard Surface Pen designed specifically for schools. The Classroom Pen is machined from a single piece of anodized aluminium, which means it’s really difficult to scratch and has almost no moving parts to be damaged by fidgeting fingers.
At 110mm long, it’s also shorter than the standard Surface Pen, so those with larger hands may struggle, but it’s particularly suited to primary students and Surface Go users.
- Right-click and select button
- Eraser button
- Pen tip
The top of the Classroom Pen doesn’t have the “eraser” style head of the Surface Pen, instead, that function is managed by the click of a button on the side of the Pen. This might seem like a downgrade, but it means no more chewed eraser tips — I’m as guilty of this as anyone.
Drawing & Handwriting
The Classroom Pen uses a hardened plastic tip instead of the softer version in the standard Surface Pen, but it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two in use.
It’s also able to detect 1048 levels of pressure and can detect tilt. In practice this allows you to draw and handwrite accurately, but it is down from the standard Surface Pen’s 4096 levels of pressure detection. But unless your work requires a high degree of accuracy, you won’t notice the downgrade.
Storing your Classroom Pen
This Microsoft Classroom Pen is much easier to store and pocket than its big brother, but the magnets which hold the Surface Pen to the Surface are either extremely weak or not there at all.
Instead the Classroom Pen has a built-in slot for a lanyard at the top. Grab yourself a 50 pack of cheap lanyards on Amazon and your students are set.
Power & Battery
The Microsoft Classroom Pen takes the same AAAA battery as the standard Surface Pen. The obvious follow-on question is, “how long does the battery last?” and the answer is, I don’t know. I’ve been using my Classroom Pen on an off for the last nine months and it hasn’t run out yet
How to buy
The Classroom Pen isn’t available at retail and can only be bought from your school’s computer hardware reseller. As previously mentioned, you’ll need to order a minimum of 20 Pens, but each box includes 20 Classroom Pens, 20 batteries, and 20 replacement tips.
The Microsoft Classroom Pen has to be purchased in packs of 20, and costs between £500 – £600 per box. This makes it difficult to justify if you just want a couple, but if you’re buying a class set it makes perfect sense. Buying in bulk means each Classroom Pen only costs around £25 each, a huge discount from the standard retail price of the normal Surface Pen.
|Dimensions||Diameter: 0.37” (9.5mm) | Length: 4.33” (110mm)|
|Weight||8g without battery, 15g with battery|
|Color and material||Black anodized Aluminum|
|Pressure sensitivity||1048 levels|
|Pen tip||Hardened plastic|
|Buttons||2 on the barrel (Erase, Right Click)|
|Protocol||Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP) 1.0|
|Power||1 AAAA battery|
|Warranty||1-year limited warranty|
|Compatability||Works with all Microsoft Surface devices but optimized for use with Surface Go|
The Microsoft Classroom Pen is a great compromise between low cost, high quality, and function. It does everything that the standard Microsoft Surface Pen does but is much more robust and easy to store. Sure, students are still going to lose them, but it’s much easier to swallow £25 to replace a Classroom Pen than £100+ for a regular Surface Pen.
For older students, the Microsoft Classroom Pen might be more of a challenge to handle, but I know many teenagers who use them perfectly well, and I’ve use one myself regularly without problems.
If you’re using Microsoft Surfaces in the classroom, particularly with younger students, the Microsoft Classroom Pen is a must have. It’s just a shame they can’t be bought in smaller sets or individually.