Windows 10 is coming to a desktop near you in the Summer, here are a few pointers on why Wymondham High School will be deploying it to over 700 desktops PC’s and 250 Surface devices in the Summer holidays.
I think the news coming out of Redmond is a lot to get your head round at the moment. These are indeed changing times, and having recently experienced the Microsoft E2 Global Educators Conference, I can definitely say that decisions you put into play now will have positive and far reaching outcomes for both staff and students at your school. For those who don’t know me I am the Head of IT Strategy for Wymondham High Academy Trust and therefore responsible for the strategic direction of IT as a teaching and learning tool for 1650 + students.
We are a heavy Office 365 user in the classroom, with teachers making great use of the OneNote Class Notebook Creator, to enhance classroom activities and making learning more engaging. We were recently one of the first schools in the UK to deploy the new Surface 3 into the classroom. The next ‘Quantum Leap’ for us is to move from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 Education. Our team of students and staff have been involved in testing Windows 10, from some of the earliest builds, and we see it evolve almost on a weekly basis into the OS which will underpin the whole IT strategy of the school.
So from our testing in the field I thought I would take this opportunity to run through why I believe Windows 10 Education is the right choice for education.
A more organised Start Screen
When you look at Windows 8 it was clearly trying to jump the gap between desktop PC and tablet. The Start Menu which has been ingrained to computer users since 1995 was not there! I know some people got to grips with it straight away, however other users have struggled. So its great to see that Microsoft have listened to feedback and developed the new start screen.
So Windows 10 has the full feature Live Tiles, which are awesome for the ‘quick glance’ of the overall picture in your workspace, but also hold the traditional Start Menu items on the left hand side, plus access to the new Settings app. Less of the predictive searching than in Windows 8 to find anything as its all to hand. If like me you use a Surface 3, the new Continuum functionality detects when detach the keyboard, making Live Tiles bigger and the Start Screen covering the whole screen – nice touch! From an administrators perspective, the Start Screen can still be managed with the existing Windows GPO back end technologies – but perhaps now is the time to reduce that management and let users be creative with the OS.
Cortana is an exciting proposition in the world of education. Students have opportunities to become more organised by setting reminders, more personalised searches with integration to their smartphones as well.
Its really early days in this field, by I am sure that the Cortana API development opens up many opportunities for integration of these services in delivering the personalised learning experience for students in the future. How powerful could Cortana be if it were able to look at a student timetable via an MIS. Integration with students smartphones happens now with WindowsPhones, but again this week we hear Cortana will be debuting on Android and IOS another exciting step for the digital assistant.
As a user Cortana really works for me, I have recently started using the excellent location service to remind me to pick up certain items from a shop. For students in the wide world this will be part of their daily routine as things like wearable technologies grow. I can only see Cortana’s role expand in education in the future.
Of course this means Cortana is available across all devices that a student uses in the future, phone, tablet & desktop.
Office 365 has really become our learning platform at school in the past year allowing students and teachers to experience the best of the cloud and access work from any internet connected device. Windows 10 will now let you log in with an organisational account (Office365) much in the same way Windows 8.1 let you sync details via a Windows Live ID. This is great as it enhances the use of Office 365 as a learning platform. Students have already benefited from OneNote, and the Office 365 ProPlus benefit. Organisational account logon will enhance the user experience.
This is a great opportunity for students to sync their learning environment to a home computer and have all the access to the same apps they would have at school. There will be a few school network managers muttering at this degree of openness, but I believe it needs to come if our education system is to evolve.
Windows 10 Education will allow students to download free apps from specific categories in the store. So a school could give students access to the ‘Education’ category so they could pick and chose apps to help their own learning. So a school managed learning app store will be another powerful tool to enhance teaching and learning.
The Power of Spartan
Project Spartan (aka Microsoft Edge) is the new web browser included in Windows 10. Again a lot of thought has gone into Spartan and its underlying technologies. Web pages render extremely quickly through the new rendering engine making browsing on Spartan enjoyable experience again, and your browser becoming a real productivity tool once more. However Spartan also includes inking technologies to allow teachers and students to annotate and share web pages. So imagine a teacher using a Surface stylus to ink directly over a webpage and instantly share that with the class!
Did I mention that Spartan can manage your reading list as well, so Spartan on a small sub inch tablet becomes your ebook reader.
In Windows 7, & 8 I was a heavy Google Chrome user, due to its size and speed in comparison with Internet Explorer. However since running the Windows 10 technical preview Spartan is now my choice browser. This is a technology replicated to WindowsPhone 10, and I would expect Spartan to evolve onto other platforms in the near future.
A shrewd move is on the cards
While at the E2 conference, we tapped in to the Build 2015 conference which was happening at the same time. The big news I picked up on was the ability for Android and IOS developers to port their apps to the Windows Store. If these developers are keen to reach out to new customers then again the OS generates endless possibilities for education.
Of course another exciting development with Windows 10 is the announcement of Hololens (Holograms). The ability bring augmented reality into the class room using Hololens as enormous possibilities, from Geography, through to DT. Students can model designs in AR, before constructing them, giving them a great insight in industry techniques. In theory trips could almost have a preview visit, or indeed a trip could be run in AR on Hololens giving the student a completely immersive experience in a place they might not be physically able to visit. For those who haven’t seen the Hololens demo at the Windows 10 launch check out the YouTube clip below.
The ability to mix the physical and digital together through developing with Windows 10, means students will be able to create things from a coding / computer science view that are really meaningful and tangible to people. I believe its through this technology that we could generate the all important entrepreneurs of the future. So often students feedback to use with ‘ I bored of moving the cat across the screen’ , now I am not saying its a now thing, but Windows 10 with its holographic API’s built-in will inspire a generation.
For school network managers Windows 10 is a scalable OS that will run on anything from a £65.00 Linx 7 tablet all the way through the schools real estate. Manageable through System Centre, these are not new skills to learn to deploy to your school. However may be the way we do things is beginning to change, gone are the locked down mandatory profiles, and home folders. Say hello to students working and managing there own ‘cloud space’ effectively, public resources in SharePoint online, reducing the overhead to the schools. However this will only happen as a partnership between student, yourselves, SLT and teaching staff, but that’s what education is all about partnership.
As I am writing this blog, I am installing Windows 10 on my Surface 3 device. Wymondham were one of the first schools in the UK to get there hands on Surface 3. An ideal hybrid for using Windows 10, priced affordably, with the benefit of a touch keyboard and pen device. Hook that up with a Microsoft Wireless Display and you have a awesome teaching tool, as our colleagues at Spooner Row Primary school have found out by switching to Surface.
If you haven’t experienced Surface 3 here is a small reminder.
If I am shaping my students for a technology rich future and want to empower teaching and learning in the classroom, our ‘tech’ components shape up like this. Windows 10 Education for its scalability, ease of deployment, Project Spartan, app compatibility. Office 2016 on my desktop and Office 365 in the cloud. Match this with devices, which include a pen then I believe schools have a winning formula at a truly affordable price.
I am only touching the tip of the iceberg.
As you can probably guess I am only touching the tip of the iceberg with the functionality of Windows 10. This really is an Operating System that has been re-thought from the ground up. What would I do next about Windows 10 you may ask? Well if I didn’t have Windows 10 I would get myself to http://insider.windows.com and become a Windows 10 Insider and have a play with it. I have had it running on my Surface Pro 3 for a number of months now and it really is my chosen operating system (I haven’t done that since Windows 7). Start the conversation with your IT guy, or if your the IT guy reading this, start your conversation with some teacher or the SLT of you school
After experiencing the E2 conference this year – I truly believe you need to forget the “Windows of old” and that includes Windows 8! These truly are changing times – don’t get left behind.
Follow the Microsoft Education team on twitter @MicrosoftEdUk for news on Windows 10 events.
Windows 10 will be the Windows you love – you just don’t know it yet!