An exciting year lies ahead

Its always interesting this time of the year, winding down for christmas gets you thinking about the past year and whats happening in the new year !   20 has seen more innovation from Microsoft, with Office 365 adding more functionality for both business and education, and the ability to turn PC deisgn on its head with the Surface Studio, we have seen all but the death of Windowsphone, but Microsoft never does anything without purpose and thats why I am looking forward to 2017.

Lets take a look at Windows 10 mobile, as you know W10 mobile has been a big part of the Windows 10 direction since it launch.  Dont get me wrong Windows 10 on my Lumia 950 was not a pleasureable experience from the start, but a few builds later my Lumia has truly become my ‘small work PC – with the ability to make calls’.    The big sell was of course UWP or the Universal Windows Platform the ability for apps to be created with one common code base and and for them to work seemlessly across Windows 10 devices.  No mobile store and desktop store  simply one Windows store.

However with the new developments released in W10 mobile during 2016, we have also seen Microsoft pull out of the Lumia range of devices ,  this was replaced with the Elite x3 from HP.  So just whats happening ..   Well the important message going forward in 2017 was released a few weeks ago and that is Windows 10 on ARM.

'Office 365 Love' and Metro Central demonstrated on Surface RTs at the WyConf 2014.
The first attempt of Windows on ARM was the Surface RT – in 2017 it will be a whole new ball game for schools.

So lets wind the clock back to 2013 and the original Surface RT that emerged from Redmond.  Surface RT was Microsoft’s first foray into ARM. Windows RT was a version of Windows 8 that runs on an ARM processor.  However the Surface RT could not utilise any existing software and would only use a really limited number of Apps from its store – so really it limited you to running Microsoft Office on the device.  Manufacturing partners did not see the value of Surface RT against sticking with traditional Windows devices

So Windows has traditionally been based in the Intel x64 platform and when you take a look at the range of processors available these start at the low end Intel Atom  all the way upto the Core I7 processor which is available in high end devices like the Surface Pro / Book.     The Intel Atom though very cheap, really is an uber entry level chip which has been seen in small tablets like the Linx 8.      So where does ARM fit in?   well ARM chips are found in the smartphones and now other devices. ARM was a subset of the Acorn Computer business when its first start producing its RISC based chips in the Acorn Archimedes back in the late 80’s.   Where Acorn stalled and eventually collapsed, ARM simply went on strength to strength producing processors for all the major smartphones on the market.

win_20160914_13_28_20_pro

The Lumia 950 with Windows 10 (right) is really step one in redefining the mobile experience  market. Windows 10 on ARM with the ability to run Win32 will be the games changer of 2017.

So ARM chip are amazingly powerful and amzingly low powered for the price compared with Intel’s offering. ARM chips offer LTE built in (4g connectivity), fast charging  amongst other features,   At that point you realise the gravity of the statement that Microsoft can now get full Windows 10 to run on ARM, this includes UWP but also includes Win 32 applications as well.   So when I talk about Win32 applications, I am really talking about ‘legacy applications’ so things which dont orginate from the Windows store.  So for example Adobe suite on the PC is a Win32 application, so infact its any software which you might have installed from a CD / DVD  in the past.

So what is this meaning for us, (especially ‘us’ in education)? Well  imagine a device, with a touch screen and with a Surface style ‘Pen’, that runs full Windows 10 including your apps & your existing software, (doing so much more than a Chromebook does just in the browser) which has say 15 hrs of battery time in between charges. Good so far? well continue imagining that device with the ability to ‘super fast charge’ by plugging in for 5-10 mins and getting a couple of hours of use from it, plus adding LTE communications ‘built in’ and all this for a price point under £200 – well thats whats coming in 2017.

USB quick charging will give Windows 10 on ARM devices many hours of use from a 5 min charge.
USB quick charging will give Windows 10 on ARM devices many hours of use from a 5 min charge.

So if your a school and your thinking Chromebook for 2017 because they are affordable and they look cool, well my advice for 2017 is  ‘hang on’ for this new range of devices hitting the market. These days its about spending what money we have in education wisely and an ARM based Windows 10 will be that ‘wise’ moment.

So is Windows 10 mobile dead? no !  I believe Windows 10 mobile will be the ‘light version’ in the mobile space with its UWP support. Then you will full Windows 10 on ARM giving you the functionality of Windows 10 now running the range applications but on ultra thin devices. Of course the Intel based devices like Surface will exist for the power user moving forward.

As we enter 2017, Microsoft are re-positioning the ‘mobile-space’ away from Google and Apple.  However I would expect both companies to follow Microsoft’s lead in the next two years.

Remember if you are a school and are looking at refreshing devices in 2017 – hold on .. it will be the best decision you will make !

To find out more come and see me at the Microsoft Stand this year at the BETT Show in London’s ExCel arena.

 

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In case you hadn’t heard .. Windows 10 is coming

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.

Windows 10
A more organised 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

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.

Welcome to Cortana digital assistant to help personalise learning
Welcome to Cortana digital assistant to help personalise learning

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!

spartan1

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.

Windows Hololens

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.

Scalable Windows

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.

Surface 3

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.

Conclusion

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.

graphic

 

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!

 

 

 

These are exciting times.. again..

There are only a few times in education that have excited me with technology, the first was the launch of the ‘home micro-computer’ in the early 80’s.  Computers like the Sinclair Spectrum and the BBC Model B had a systematic change on a generation of students with using the technology and programming (as we called it then).

 

Remember when devices like this changed the way we work?
Remember when devices like this changed the way we work?

However I now believe we are back in those exciting times, which again means the advent and use of the technology in the classroom can really affect a generation and beyond. The power of cloud computing has the means and reach to affect everyone, and believe it has the same potential as those days in the 80’s when home computing took off.

Now we all probably use ‘the cloud’ on a daily basis, shopping on Amazon, playing on an Xbox One. However students are now seeing the ability in school to ‘work in the cloud’ using Office 365.   Who thought that a student would start a document in an IT suite, save it to OneDrive for Business, and then open it on an IPad  when they got home, and not have to reformat it, and then ‘share it’ with the teacher instead of printing – truly transformational times – using key 21st century skills in doing so.

We have seen teachers utilise the power of OneNote, the true hidden gem in Microsoft Office.   The idea of digital paper in the classroom, and the ability of those teachers to use OneNote Class Notebook Creator to look at student work and give dynamic feedback in the form of audio and video. Again who would have thought that these technologies would be available in  the classroom?   No more would teachers have to load there car up with textbooks to mark at home, simply by opening the Class Notebook the marking can begin.

Indeed who would have thought the big PC only companies like Microsoft, would be offering these technologies on Apple and Android platforms. Visionaries like Satya Nadella and Anthony Salcito are shaping Microsoft into a company that innovates across a complete generation of users.   A great example of this is the Microsoft Office 365 Proplus benefit, which means students, and teachers can download (for free) the latest version of Microsoft Office for use at home.  Suddenly the playing field is being levelled with the technology, allowing schools to get on with creating innovative teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom.  Do I see other companies affecting change like this ?  No I do not.

So you would think I live in this Utopia world of changing technology in the classroom?   Well kind of!.  At our school we use the cloud to give our students the best opportunities, however teachers still use desktop PC’s connected to IWB’s and only some students bring there own devices into the classroom.      So the final part of this jigsaw really is the hardware, aka the device, aka the tablet.

I've found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.
I’ve found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.

Up until now there has only ever been one device on the market which schools have adopted.  A truly revolutionary piece of technology and certainly has its place in the technology timeline.    Schools today especially primary schools still refer to a tablet as an Ipad, but lets look at how it really fits it into the classroom.

A true tablet, has an on screen keyboard, which when in use reduces the screen display (not good for typing that all important essay), or just trying to see the screen.   There is no natural typing position on the tablet, so you either lay it flat, or have to buy a carry case with a stand built into it.  Also the tablet tends to runs the same mobile operating system,  which again has some limitations in day to today use in the classroom.

Students should have a device that has the power of a desktop pc, the portability of a laptop and the flexibility of a tablet wrapped in one device. That is why as a school, we have decided to deploy the new Surface 3 from Microsoft in the classroom.

The Surface 3 fulfils all the needs of education and home
The Surface 3 fulfils all the needs of education and home

Why ?

We all need a why? in our life don’t we?    Why do we do the things we do!   Let me explain the why behind our decision of the Surface 3.

Price – I use a Surface Pro 3 in my day to day work. It has the power of a laptop in the size of a tablet and  simply changes the way I work.  I can run all of the enterprise software I expect to run, use a full size keyboard and have the added bonus of the Surface Pen with OneNote. However for a school the price point has been  simply to high for a mass rollout.  School principal Russell Boulton and Vice Principal Jonathan Rockey now use Surface Pro 3 for all aspects of school life, teaching, assemblies, management meetings – Surface is at the heart of it.

Surface is used by the management of the school
Looking beyond the tablet – Surface allow you to do so much more in school and out.

However Surface 3 addresses this  by coming in at a price point which is cheaper than a comparable  Ipad.

Size – smaller  and lighter than the Surface Pro3  we have noticed how students can simply fit the device straight into the school bag.

Typing position – Surface 3 has a three position kick stand, ideal for typing in the classroom, or using with the pen to take notes in OneNote. With the positive touch Surface keyboard  means Microsoft have learnt from the original type covers which took quite a bit of getting use to.

Windows 10 promises to bring a change in direction for Microsoft, and also technologies such as Hololens a real reality
Windows 10 promises to bring a change in direction for Microsoft, and also technologies such as Hololens a real reality

Its Windows 10 ready  – Surface is future proof, it doesn’t run a cut down version of Windows (goodbye Windows RT) or a mobile operating system, it runs a full version of Windows.  Install whatever software you are running on a PC,  Microsoft products, Adobe products, all enterprise grade software which students should have access to.

Also Surface 3 is Windows 10 ready, so in the home environment, you gain connectivity through to Xbox One  and are able to stream games  direct to you Surface.  After all its important to have down time as well.

Using the Surface Pen, students can take notes in real time as if they were writing into a text book
Using the Surface Pen, students can take notes in real time as if they were writing into a text book

The Surface Pen has been at the heart of many blogs.  In education we recognise the importance of the pen in the classroom.   It has been proven that the pen is ‘mightier than the keyboard’ in the fact the you will retain more by taking notes with a pen. Your brain will filter then information you need to jot down, rather than typing like for like.    The pen also allows you to brainstorm, annotate in no other way.     Added to this the superior inking technologies that have been available since the launch of the original Surface Pro, and in Windows 10 you can now annotate a webpages directly and share it through Project Spartan really means it establishes this device in the education arena for a new way of working.

Computer or Tablet?   like its big brother simply its both,   remove the keyboard, its a tablet. Want to type the essay, click, its a computer. Its simply the best of both worlds at an affordable device.

So remember Surface 3 is a great device for education, its not the holy grail. Simply go and buy loads of devices for your school does not mean results will improve or attendance will go up (as some companies will have you believe), its a part of the strategy of teaching and learning for your school. Added to services such as Office 365 in the classroom, and preparing students for a world where employers are looking for Microsoft Office skills for there high paid jobs – Surface 3 connects all of this with your students at an affordable price.

These are the reasons why Wymondham High Academy, have chosen the Surface 3 in the classroom, this has been done in starting at our end goal of improving teaching and learning in the classroom through technology – our device of choice is the last step.

surface 3 3

It would be wrong to say our journey will ever end however Surface 3 has just made it a whole lot better for students and teachers.  These really are exciting times.

 

Catch me at this years E2 Educator Forum in Redmond from the 28th April, or follow the Wymondham journey with Surface by following @kevin_sait

 

 

How Can Microsoft Technology Help Your Revision?

By JASON BROWN, Saturday April 11th 2015

Being an International Microsoft Showcase School and myself being a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassador representing Microsoft in Education at Wymondham High Academy, we are always keen to show off how Microsoft products can be used to help students and staff with their educational life, whether that be planning their day, completing their homework, messaging colleagues in school, taking notes in class and most importantly of all at this time of year, revision.

Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.
Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.

For those of you unfamiliar with the UK education system, every child in the UK is required to take GCSE examinations at the end of Year 11 when they are 15 or 16 years old, and those who choose to go onto further education (A levels) also take exams at the end of Year 12 and Year 13. The exams are in May and June, and so April is definitely ‘revision month’ for many teenagers and young adults in the UK! At Wymondham High Academy we have students taking their GCSE and A level exams each year and suggesting methods of revision to these students is absolutely vital to ensure that they do well in their exams.

Traditionally revision could be done in a number of ways. A lot of students were encouraged to make ‘flash cards’ with questions and answers on them to help test memory and key points as well as to put posters around their bedrooms with key points and of course make notes from the text books. These methods still work and they are all effective, though I found making notes from textbooks more effective than the other methods. However, with technology come some new methods of revision. We’ve written a few articles about Microsoft OneNote from both the students’ and the teachers’ perspectives on this blog. Have a read of those articles and it will be clear to see how OneNote can be used to help with revision.

Microsoft OneNote stores your notebooks in OneDrive, meaning that you can access them on any device, such as a smartphone (pictured). Notice the notes displayed on the phone are the same as the ones shown on the Surface in the header image?
Microsoft OneNote stores your notebooks in OneDrive, meaning that you can access them on any device, such as a smartphone (pictured).

From a students’ perspective, all of your notes are in one centralised place and are accessible on any device. This means that so long as you have an internet connection you’ll be able to access your notes on your laptops, desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets. Even your games console if you want! Having all of your notes in one place means that you can save time trying to find notes and avoid accidentally ‘losing notes’. This means that revision can ‘travel with you’ because you’re not having to taking lots of revision books or files full of paper notes. It’s true that you need periodic breaks from revision to ensure that what you are learning is sinking in and to rest from working, but whilst in the car or sitting there in bed on the night before your chemistry exam wondering what the pH value of rain is, you can quickly pull out your phone and check on your notes on OneNote. You can also periodically test yourself with questions whilst out and about and then check your knowledge using OneNote on your phone or tablet – rather like ‘digital flashcards’. One reason why I think handwriting notes out from the textbook used to work really well for me was because the pattern and the physical action of my writing went into my head and the knowledge was retained. If you are using OneNote on a tablet or a device with a touchscreen you can easily make drawings and handwritten notes. I’ve already written an article explaining how OneNote and a tablet can replace paper as a medium for recording notes and how the Surface Pro tablet is a perfect device for doing this (though that doesn’t mean it is the only device you can use – there are plenty of tablets that OneNote can run on which I’ll get to in a minute!) and the same applies for revision. When I was revising for my mock GCSE exams in November 2013 I was going through notepads and notepads and writing pages and pages of notes. By the end of my revision periods my hands were aching and the ink in my pens was often depleted. However, with OneNote you can an infinite amount of ‘paper’ and not worry about your tablet’s pen or stylus running out of ink and you can still handwrite notes if you really want to. I have found that using OneNote on my Surface Pro is really helpful for geography revision (drawing diagrams) and using the Surface pen and OneNote has introduced me to the idea of using ‘spider diagrams’ for revision to highlight key points.

I've found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.
I’ve found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.

This is especially useful for economics because I can quickly, easily and clearly show how changing one factor (eg inflation) needs to another factor changing (eg price level changing as a result of increased inflation) which in turn changes another factor (reduced consumption, for example, which could then lead to unemployment). Using a pen on a tablet with OneNote makes during diagrams and charts much easier which helps to aid revision. You can of course choose custom colours for ink which is very good for revision because it has been proven that one of the things your memory associates things with colours (sound, smell and imagery are the others) which can help you remember your revision notes. From a teachers’ perspective, OneNote Class Notebook Creator can be a very helpful tool for helping your students with their revision. We have mentioned this fantastic tool several times on this blog, so please take the time to look at this article. The Content Library section in the Class Notebook is an area where teachers can post links to resources to help with revision (for examples news articles) or post information, for example exam techniques or the subject specification. Students however cannot edit this section of the notebook by default. The Collaboration Space is where resources for revision can be shared between the teacher and all of the students who have access to the notebook. Students can post helpful revision resources for the teacher and other students in the class to look at (and vice versa!) Each student has their own section in the OneNote notebook where they can do their revision. Other students cannot access other students’ sections, but the teacher can. This means that you can check up on who is using OneNote to do their revision and have solid proof that they have been doing revision. Of course, you couldn’t use this to see who hasn’t been doing revision because not everybody is going to want to revise using technology, however it’s a good way to see what your students are actually revising and how they are revising.

Using a stylus in OneNote makes marking very easy! You can also use a stylus to 'draw' onto documents in Word too.
Using a stylus in OneNote makes marking very easy! You can also use a stylus to ‘draw’ onto documents in Word too.

Past papers are a great method of revision. They are the ultimate way of testing your knowledge. However, with 20 pages per paper and wanting to complete as many as papers as possible, printing off past paper upon past paper upon past paper can end up costing a lot of money in paper and ink very quickly. It wouldn’t be so bad if you were to keep the papers or if they served some useful purpose once you had finished your exams, but you end up just throwing them in the bin, or if you’re like me you give them to your Dad to use as mousemats! A year on and he’s still using my old GCSE papers as mousemats! Anyhow, you can download PDFs of the exam papers from the exam board websites and you can also download the markschemes. You can answer the question papers in OneNote and you can also mark them in OneNote using a pen on a tablet if you access to one. If students do their papers in their sections in Class Notebooks then teachers can look at their answers and help to mark their papers and add comments and feedback. Moving on from OneNote, I want to talk about how I revised for my GCSE exams and my AS level mock exams. After having killed my hands after filling notebooks full of revision notes for my GCSE mocks, a friend of mine suggested to me that I typed my notes into PowerPoint presentations instead. Typing the notes into slides on PowerPoint presentations was good because I was limited to how much information I could put on one slide and typing my notes was much faster than handwriting them – and of course no paper was consumed! This worked well and of course using OneDrive and SharePoint you can share PowerPoint presentations and collaborate with people in real-time when making adjustments or revising in groups.

Sway makes it easy to create professional presentations for the web and mobile devices. Simply add 'blocks' to the presentation and adding content such as pictures is as easy as searching on Bing!
Sway makes it easy to create professional presentations for the web and mobile devices. Simply add ‘blocks’ to the presentation and adding content such as pictures is as easy as searching on Bing!

However, last year Microsoft Sway came along and it impressed me. We’ve written an article about Sway before, so check that out, but for those of you who don’t know what Sway is it’s like an online version of PowerPoint but much sleeker and more refined. You can customise your Sways using a number of pre-set designs, much like you can in PowerPoint, but the difference is that Sway’s themes are much more pleasing to the eye, and you can also integrate multimedia content such as Tweets and YouTube videos to enhance your revision notes. The beauty of Sway is that it encourages you to make your presentations look pretty, which is great because as mentioned earlier you remember thing based on colours and pictures. Adding photos of real places really helps bring geography ‘revision Sways’ to life and gets you really thinking about what you reading! Please do take a look at some of the Sways I have created for my revision by clicking on the links below:

AS level Computing: Sway 1 | Sway 2 | Sway 3

AS level Geography: Urban (1) | Urban (2) | Rivers (1) | Rivers (2)

Revision notes made in Sway can easily be shared via something like Yammer by posting the links to your Sways.
Revision notes made in Sway can easily be shared via something like Yammer by posting the links to your Sways.

The beauty of Sway is that when I have finished creating one, I can just get a link for the Sway presentation and then post it in a Yammer group or in the Collaboration Space of a OneNote Class Notebook so that the other people in my class can benefit from my notes. To get started with Sway all you need to do is visit sway.com and sign up, and that’s it! Get Swaying! Of course, Sway is a great alternative to PowerPoint and can also be used to deliver engaging and interactive presentations. I use it a lot to present ideas and meeting presentations to my Student Digital Leader Team. Here’s what one teacher had to say about how he thought my Sway presentations looked in comparison to his lesson PowerPoints.

“Your Sways look great, better than many of my lesson PowerPoints.”

– Andrew Howard, Computing Teacher

OneNote and Office 365 is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.
OneNote and Office 365 is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.

The best thing about using Microsoft technology to help you revise is that it is all free. OneNote is now free to download and comes pre-installed on every computer with Windows 8 anyway and Sway is a free tool that you can use. Staff and students at Wymondham High Academy are also entitled to download 5 copies of the latest Microsoft Office 365 software at school so that they can have the same version of Office at home as they do at school which makes the transition between the two seamless. Whilst I am definitely a fan of running Windows and Microsoft software on Microsoft hardware, not everybody is, and that’s fine because Office 365 and OneNote can be downloaded and installed on any Windows, iOS or Android device meaning it runs on a huge variety of hardware ranging from a £100 Windows 8.1 tablet to a £1200 Surface Pro 3 to a £400 iPad or to a £200 Google Nexus. This makes working very flexible and you can the use the platform that best suits you.

To conclude, revision isn’t all about handwriting notes. You can now make something that is eye-catching, informative, helpful, very accessible and easy to share with peers thanks to Microsoft technology.

I wish everybody who is taking exams this year the very bust of luck! Hopefully this has been a helpful article!

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter to hear my views on Microsoft products from a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors’ perspective: @JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Why the Surface Pro is the ‘most perfect’ device ever made

By JASON BROWN, Saturday 14th February 2015, 15:12 PM

With it being Valentine’s Day and all, I’d thought I’d share my new-found love with the Surface Pro and explain why I think it is simply the ‘most perfect’ device ever made.

The original MacBook Air of 2008 is generally said to be the ultrabook that started the trend for slim and portable laptops.
The original MacBook Air of 2008 is generally said to be the ultrabook that started the trend for slim and portable laptops.

What do consumers look for in a laptop or portable computer in 2015? Portability, long battery life and power are definitely three things that consumers want for computing on the go. Since the MacBook Air first came out in 2008 revolutionising the concept that having a stylish, portable computer with a great battery life was possible, everybody’s been onto it. Over the years the shortcomings of those early utlrabooks such as the first generation Air and early attempts by HP, Lenovo and Dell have been ironed out, but truth be told: ultrabooks are becoming a thing of the past. Put simply, they’re a little stale.

Whilst having a slim computer with decent specs and good battery life was great in 2008, the world has moved on since then. There is a new ‘ultrabook’ on the market now – and has been on the market for several years. And I’m using one to type this very article up on. I give you: the convertible tablet (sometimes called a ‘hybrid’).

Why are hybrids becoming the ‘new ultrabooks’ then? It’s simple really. Where an ultrabook offers great portability, good battery life and usually a high resolution display, they do have their limitations. Whilst many of them come with touchscreens these days, where is the pen? What happens if you want to save even more weight by detaching the keyboard or want to walk around with your device and use it as a tablet? You just can’t do it with an ultrabook – so is an ultrabook really as portable as the manufacturers make them out to be?

There are a great deal of hybrid devices on the market these days with Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell, ASUS and Acer all offering their products, so the choice is not limited, but the ones I have been most impressed by are Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices.

The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!
The Surface Pro I have runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!

I’ve owned an original Surface Pro for a few months now and from the very moment I first turned it on I could see how for school it was going to be much better than my ThinkPad L540 – you can already ready my article about the Surface Pro in education here if you are interested. I still feel that the original Surface Pro was one of the most pioneering devices ever made because it was the tablet that started the trend for hybrid tablets. Simply put, the Surface Pro was, and still is, a tablet that can replace your tablet. It had an i5 3317U CPU which was more than enough grunt under the ‘hood’ and paired with 4GB of RAM and an SSD of 64GB or 128GB, it ran, and still runs, just about anything perfectly. The 1080p display is one of the best I’ve seen and is crystal clear. I want to talk about the pen, but I’ll do that later because I think that is the biggest selling point of the Surface Pro and is the secret behind what makes it the most perfect device ever made.

If you ask me, the Surface Pro was, and still is, quite simply nearly perfect. There are only few ways in which I feel it could be improved and Microsoft listened to their customers and fixed these in the Pro 2 and Pro 3. For a first generation device, the Surface Pro absolutely nailed it and I love mine.

Of course, the Pro 2 came out with a newer CPU, the option to have 8GB of RAM, the option for 256GB and 512GB models and a three-position kickstand which was great. I have never used a Pro 2 but secretly I wish I had bought one instead of my Lenovo for school, but I have a Pro now which is a very similar device.

The 12" Surface Pro 3 is noticeably bigger than its 10.6" predecessors but is not really any heavier.
The 12″ Surface Pro 3 is noticeably bigger than its 10.6″ predecessors but is not really any heavier.

The Pro 3 has been the ‘new kid on the block’ since July 2014 and what can say other than ‘this is the most perfect device ever made’? It genuinely is. Of course I’m no stranger to the Pro 3, I’ve played with a few and I see them around school everyday because several (lucky!) people I know own them, but this is the first time I’ve had on ‘review’ to test for any length of time – and let’s say I am absolutely smitten.

Truth be told, I actually have this Surface Pro 3 on ‘review’ because apparently there is a problem with the screen where it would flicker occasionally. It actually belongs to my headteacher, Russell Boulton. Since completely removing and reinstalling the latest Intel HD 4400 graphics drivers, I think I have fixed it but I might just lie and say it’s broken and offer to put it in the bin so that I can keep it and get myself a free copy of the most drop-dead gorgeous tablet ever made.

So let’s get to it – why is the Surface Pro 3 the ‘most perfect’ device ever made?

The Surface Pro 3 is well and truly the tablet that can replace your laptop - and your desktop!
The Surface Pro 3 is well and truly the tablet that can replace your laptop – and your desktop!

Microsoft continue to market the Pro 3 as ‘the tablet that can replace with your laptop’. Usually with marketing claims like this you have to take them with a pinch of salt and either laugh and say ‘in your dreams!’ or move on. But Microsoft have truly hit the nail on the head with this claim. The 12″ 2160×1440 display is every bit as gorgeous as the displays you get on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the new Dell XPS 13 (if a little lower resolution) but the Surface Pro 3 has the benefit of coming with a touchscreen as standard and whilst that high resolution on a 12″ display makes for fantastic real-estate meaning that you get the best of both worlds: a stunning display and a small(ish) display which is still perfectly usable.

The original Surface Pro and the Pro 2 being around 10″ maybe make for better tablets but they don’t have as much real-estate as the Pro 3 does so I feel that they aren’t quite as good laptop replacements. The Pro 3 seems to be good blend between a laptop and a tablet. Most premium ultrabooks are 13″ or 14″ but the Pro 3 being around 12″ is more portable and to be honest you don’t need the extra space with the high resolution display.

The keyboard on the Surface Pro 3 is not bad but doesn't quite stack up to a keyboard on a proper laptop.
The keyboard on the Surface Pro 3 is not bad but doesn’t quite stack up to a keyboard on a proper laptop.

Whilst I am not going to lie and say that the keyboard on a Surface Pro 3 can match the world-class keyboards on Lenovo’s ThinkPads and is even really as good as the keyboards on most laptops, it’s not bad and must be half-decent because I’ve managed to write a 2,000+ word article on it! But where the Surface Pro 3’s keyboard shines over the other ultrabook’s is that it can be detached and voila you have yourself a tablet! This makes the Pro 3 an extremely portable and versatile device. Try doing that with a ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Lovely as the X1 is, it’s not as versatile as the Pro 3. But if I am perfectly honest I prefer the keyboard my Surface Pro has (the keys seem to have more travel).

The Surface Pro has always represented being a perfect blend between power and portability. Two years after the original Pro came out, its i5 and 4GB of RAM are still perfectly adequate. The Pro 3 improves on the Pro and Pro 2 by offering a choice of SKUs to choose from. Let’s face it – even the ‘low-end’ i3 model is more powerful than the CPU in an iPad and is perfectly adequate. You can choose from i3, i5 and i7 offerings with the choice of a 64GB, 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD. There is a Pro 3 to fit everybody’s needs and budget. Perfect, eh?

Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario - whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!
Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario – whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!

Let’s now talk about the pen. It’s funny how times change, isn’t it? In the early 1990s, pen computing was seen as being the future. It merely died away for computing and was only seen as being useful for PDAs and early smartphones and ‘Pocket PCs’. In 2007 Apple launched the first iPhone and its biggest selling point was that you didn’t need to use a stylus. Steve Jobs famously said that if a company made a tablet that needed a stylus, they’d ‘blown it’.

In 2015 the situation has changed. A touchscreen tablet without a pen is like a dog without a bone. Even Apple have been forced to admit this which is why the 12″ ‘iPad Pro’ will come with a pen (seem familiar?). The pen has always really been the selling point of the Surface Pro. With apps like Microsoft OneNote in this day and age, it makes sense to use a tablet with a pen – the pen makes note taking so much easier and with handwriting recognition as advanced as it is in OneNote on a Surface Pro, we could be spelling the end of the keyboard (no pun intended, honestly). You can read my article about why OneNote is ‘perfect for education’ here.

The pen on the Surface Pro is a multi-purpose device and the versatile kickstand makes using the pen easy.
The pen on the Surface Pro is a multi-purpose device and the versatile kickstand makes using the pen easy.

It must be understood that the pen is a multi-purpose device. Not only is it ideal for note taking and drawing diagrams in OneNote, it is also fantastic for creative applications. Adobe CC 2014 is designed to work with the Surface Pro and notably make use of pen technology. Designers and creatives love working on their tablets with pens. Who needs a graphics tablet a desktop PC in 2015 when you can just use a Surface Pro which is two in one and portable?

One problem with the original Pro was that its kickstand only had one position. This position was fine for general computing but if you want to use the pen you need to use the tablet flat on a desk (ideally). This works fine but the Pro 2 and particularly the Pro 3 offer much more versatile kickstands that support a variety of positions making it easier to use the pen whilst the Surface is not flat on a desk.

People are worried that one day people won’t be able to hold a pen because nobody handwrites these days. That’s not true at all and we are in a time and a place where we are seeing the rise of pen computing once again. More and more people are seeing how a pen is useful for computing and applying it to many applications. It will be a long time yet before humans forget how to hold pens, I feel.

No matter how you prefer working, the Surface Pro 3 can accommodate it.
No matter how you prefer working, the Surface Pro 3 can accommodate it.

As I said earlier, many ultrabooks come with beautiful touchscreen displays that are high resolution and they are lovely. But I struggle to see why you’d want a touchscreen on what is essentially still a laptop unless it comes with a pen. You want to take your laptop to school or work to take notes – you are still forced to type. You want to draw a diagram in your notes? You can’t quickly draw one. You want to use a pen to draw something in an Adobe app but you are stuck with using the mouse or getting a graphics tablet. The pen is a truly overlooked piece of hardware.

Still not convinced that the Surface Pro is the most perfect device? If there’s one more thing that needs to convince you is the price.

I admit, when the original Surface Pro came out in 2013 I said ‘£700 for a tablet? Are Microsoft being serious?’ but that was before I realised that the Surface Pro was literally a fully-blown PC in a tablet shell. Unfortunately, many people thought like I did and still try and compare the price tag of the Surface Pro 3 to other tablets such as the Nexus line and the iPad. But you shouldn’t compare the Surface’s price tag to the price tag of the other mainstream tablets because the Surface Pro has always been much closer to a high-end laptop or ultrabook than it has been an ‘mainstream tablet’.

Let’s compare prices.

The Surface Pro 3 is likely thinner than the X1 and the XPS 13.
The Surface Pro 3 is likely thinner than the X1 and the XPS 13.

For £1,200 you can have an entry-level Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Lenovo’s premium ultrabook offering. It’s in its third generation now (just like the Surface Pro) and for your hard-earned cash you will get an i5-5200U, Windows 8.1 x64 (non-Pro), a 14″ 1920×1080 TN display (non-touch), 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

For £1,050 you can have a mid-range Surface Pro 3 with an i5-4300U, Windows 8.1 Pro x64, the 12″ 2160×1440 multi-touch display with the Surface Pen that all Surface Pro 3s have, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD with all of the benefits listed above. Add £90 on for the keyboard and the Surface Pro 3 is still a better deal than the X1 Carbon.

You have to spend more than £1,500 before you even get a touchscreen on the X1 Carbon – and even then you are still stuck with an i5, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and Windows 8.1 x64 (non-Pro).

Lenovo's X1 Carbon is a gorgeous notebook, it must be said, but the value just isn't there when compared to the Surface Pro 3.
Lenovo’s X1 Carbon is a gorgeous notebook, it must be said, but the value just isn’t there when compared to the Surface Pro 3.

If you spend £1,500 on your Surface you can get one with an i7 and a 256GB SSD for £1,250 and even if you add £90 on for a keyboard it still comes to around £170 cheaper than the cheapest X1 Carbon with a touchscreen (and that still only has an i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD!)

For £1,550 you can get a Pro 3 with an i7 and a 512GB SSD. Add £90 for the keyboard and this becomes £1,640. Let’s just say that the equivalent X1 Carbon doesn’t exist because Lenovo doesn’t offer a model with a 512GB SSD, but they will charge £1,930 for a model with an i7-5500U, Windows 8.1 Pro x64, a 24560×1440 touchscreen , 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

For £1,050 you can also have an entry-level Dell XPS 13 – Dell’s new premium ultrabook offering. You’ll get a 5th generation i5 CPU, Windows 8.1 x64, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a QHD+ touch screen display. Granted, the resolution is slightly higher on the Dell than the Surface Pro, but what are you missing in the way of versatility by sticking with an ultrabook?

What we can conclude from this is that people who compare the Pro 3’s pricing to other tablets are misguided. The Surface Pro 3 is actually a very competitively-priced machine and clearly outshines its competitors in the price war. The cheapest Pro 3 starts at £640 and this has an i3, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD which isn’t too bad but it could be argued it is pricey for what you get. The value starts to shine when you get to the i5 offerings. Don’t even get me started on Apple, but they do appear to be better-priced than Lenovo in this market at least.

Don’t get me wrong, the X1 Carbon is a gorgeous laptop, but it is clearly not as much value for money as the Surface Pro 3.

Not convinced?

Persistent perfection: the Surface Pros are beautiful tablets.
Persistent perfection: the Surface Pros are beautiful tablets.

Just look at the Surface Pro tablets. They are all drop-dead gorgeous. I am so bored on the ‘Apple look’ these days that the relatively rectangular look of the Surfaces looks beautiful to me. There is no denying that all of the Surfaces are beautiful tablets and are well-built and turn heads.

So there we go, these are the reasons why the Surface Pro is the ‘most perfect’ device ever made. Why do I love going to school? Every now and then I get to bring home very nice pieces of technology like this to try out!

Ultrabooks are not the future. They just aren’t versatile enough to be considered ‘the future’. The ‘future’ has been on the market for over 2 years now and has been overlooked by too many people to mention – but the future is definitely the Surface Pro and hybrid tablet computing in a world where we are demanding versatility, power, portability and all at a reasonable price.

‘Persistent perfection’ is what a lot of companies strive for. Many do not achieve it because being persistently perfect is not a terribly realistic business concept. But to me, the Surface Pro is persistently perfect. Each generation just keeps getting better and better.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Saturday 14th February 2015, 21:02 PM

My BETT Show Presentation – ‘Bringing Learning to Life at Wymondham High Academy’

By JASON BROWN, Thursday 29th January, 22:24 PM

On Saturday 24th January I was fortunate enough to present with Kevin Sait at the BETT show at the ExCel Arena in London. For those of you who don’t know what the BETT show, it is quite simply the largest technology show in the UK with many large corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Dell, HP and Acer each with stands and presentations. The show is held each January and is approximately a mile from end of the exhibition hall to the other – quite an event!

Kevin and I behind the Microsoft lecture stand at the BETT Show.
Kevin and I behind the Microsoft lecture stand at the BETT Show.

A week or two before the BETT show began on January 21st Kevin and I began creating our presentation. Our presentation was focused around how we use Microsoft technology at Wymondham High to bring learning to life, most notably Yammer, OneNote, Office 365 and Sharepoint and we also talked a little bit how we have helped to deploy Office 365 at Old Buckenham High School and how we offer Microsoft qualifications to students at Wymondham High as well as Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit, of course.

Is it fair that some students are disadvantaged because they cannot afford to buy the latest version of Microsoft Office every three years? Of course not! Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit ‘levels out the playing field’ and allows any student access to five copies of the latest Microsoft Office software.

Jason Brown

If you’d like to read exactly how we bring learning to life using technology at Wymondham High Academy, I recommend reading my article here. You may also be interested in reading all about our Student Digital Leaders here.

Our presentation featured some videos including one about how easy OneNote Class Notebook Creator is to set up for a class and also a video asking students what they use Yammer for in school and how Yammer and Office 365 has allowed collaboration compared to the old system which did not. We hope to have this video on the O Team YouTube channel in the near future.

Here I am in 'full swing' during my presentation.
Here I am in ‘full swing’ during my presentation.

Kevin had already been presenting this presentation several days prior to me present it with him on Saturday. Whilst the crowd was certainly not the largest, it was still a great experience presenting at a show as large as BETT and I felt that the presentation went very well with several members of the audience calling me an ‘inspiration’ and even getting the ‘nod of approval’ from Head of Microsoft Education UK, Steve Beswick who commented after the presentation that he liked the fact that I put my own opinion in (notably about how it’s unfair that students can be disadvantaged by using old software because they cannot always afford the latest releases).

After our 20 minute presentation, I spent the rest of the day looking around the stands and also doing a little bit of ‘shopping’ with our network manager, Andy Underwood, for a new server and some laptop trollies. Watch this space! 😉 I also watched fellow O Team member, Harry Traynor’s presentation on the Surface Pro 3 which was the final presentation at the show. In addition to this, I also enjoyed a lovely foot-long beef cheese-melt sandwich from Subway and I am surprised that didn’t give me a heart attack to be frank (definitely the best bit of the day!) 😉

Here is Kevin in 'full swing' with me 'waiting in the wings'.
Here is Kevin in ‘full swing’ with me ‘waiting in the wings’.
OneNote Product Manager Ari Schorr gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
OneNote Product Manager Ari Schorr gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
English teacher Emma Hicks gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
English teacher Emma Hicks gives a great presentation on Microsoft OneNote 2013 at the BETT show.
Here I am with the 'Steve head' at the BETT Show.
Here I am with the ‘Steve head’ at the BETT Show.
Kevin Sait with the 'Steve head' at the BETT Show.
Kevin Sait with the ‘Steve head’ at the BETT Show.
Here I am underneath the infamous 'Minecraft Tree' at the BETT Show.
Here I am underneath the infamous ‘Minecraft Tree’ at the BETT Show.
Harry Traynor delivers a presentation about the Surface Pro 3 at the BETT Show.
Harry Traynor delivers a presentation about the Surface Pro 3 at the BETT Show.
Kevin experiments with holographic technology at the BETT Show.
Kevin experiments with holographic technology at the BETT Show.
And finally, the kind of expensive handset a poor person like me can only dream of - here's a Nokia Lumia 930 at the BETT Show.
And finally, the kind of expensive handset a poor person like me can only dream of – here’s a Nokia Lumia 930 at the BETT Show.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Thursday 29th January, 22:24 PM

Head to head: laptop or Surface Pro for education – what’s better?

By JASON BROWN, Sunday 11th January 2015, 22:00 PM

At Wymondham High Academy we welcome technology in the classroom and encourage the students to bring in their own devices to work on. Using the power of Office 365 and OneDrive, it is now possible for students to work on the same document on a range of devices, from desktop PCs to smartphones and even games consoles (if you are mad!), it makes more and more sense to buy your own portable device to work on in school and continue working at home either on the same device, or on a different device without the need to worry about transferring the latest version of your document to a flash drive and then deleting or overwriting old versions or having to worry about emailing yourself the latest version.

When choosing a device for school what is the best thing to go for? Are you better off being ‘boring’ and ‘sticking to what you know is tried and tested’ and getting a laptop, or are you better off being adventurous and using a tablet or a ‘convertible’ device for your education?

Option one will probably bring you to a laptop from somebody like HP, Dell, Acer and Lenovo. You tend to get good value for money and can even pick up machines with dual-core Hyper-Threaded i5s for as little as £500 these days which comes across as being great value. There is a wide range of devices to choose from, with screen sizes ranging from a tiny 11.6″ to a massive 17.3″ and processors ranging from the smallest Intel Atoms to the biggest quad-core i7s with some AMD options and i3s and i5s in between.

When choosing a device for school I needed something that was tough, reliable and dependable. It also needed to be fast and able to run Adobe CC 2014 well as well as of Office 365 of course. I also needed a decent battery life and I wanted something with a great display and I wanted something that was fairly portable.

A traditional laptop or a tablet convertible? It can be a tough choice!
A traditional laptop or a tablet convertible? It can be a tough choice!

I ended up spending upwards of £900 on a Lenovo ThinkPad L540. The reason I went with Lenovo and the ThinkPad was because I am a big fan of Lenovo and I owned several ThinkPads whilst they were still manufactured by IBM, so it’s true that you never ‘get over your first love’. For those of you who are not familiar with the ThinkPad line, they are legendarily reliable business machines, with even the most basic models being ‘military-spec tested’ in this day and age. They are not what you call ‘beautiful machines’, being somewhat square and ‘corporate-like’, but I love them because they are quite unique in the United Kingdom where I live and there is something about them that I find very ‘badass’.

Yes, for what you get people told me ‘you’re crazy to spend this kind of money on a mid-range ThinkPad’, but hey, I wanted the ThinkPad, so I went for it.

I ordered my ThinkPad L540 in April 2014 with the following spec:

– Intel Core i5 4200M @ 2.5GHz

– 8GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM

– 15.6″ 1080p display

– 1TB Seagate SSHD (Hybrid HDD)

– Windows 8.1 x64

The ThinkPad arrived a few weeks later. In a flurry of excitement I opened it up and fell in love. The laptop felt fast, robust and powerful. I had a full review written of the laptop within a month of owning it which you can read here (if you have the time! Warning – it is long!)

My ThinkPad L540 is a fast machine, but it is heavy and bulking. I struggled to get it in my bag with my books and in the end my bag started to split!
My ThinkPad L540 is a fast machine, but it is heavy and bulking. I struggled to get it in my bag with my books and in the end my bag started to split!

I intended to use the ThinkPad for studies at Sixth Form at Wymondham High, for use in class to type up notes on and to do my photo editing and Adobe work on for. The ThinkPad was ferociously quick, especially after I had replaced the 5400 RPM SSHD with a proper fully-blown Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD (which can achieve reads and writes of 500MB/s without a problem) and the keyboard was amazing for note taking because of how comfortable it was to type on (I don’t think any laptop or tablet can match the keyboards on the ThinkPads – they are world class), but there were several problems with it for me:

– The weight. 2.5KG may not seem like a lot on its own, but unfortunately I also have to cart heavy textbooks to school which alone probably weigh a couple of kilograms. Add the laptop to that and my school bag is very heavy. But it gives my shoulders a good workout!

– The thickness. Originally when I took it out of the box I was surprised – it was thinner than expected. But again, taking it to school everyday, the thickness shows! Sometimes it’s hard to get stuff to fit in my bag because of the thickness of the laptop. The annoying thing is that most of this thickness is the DVD drive that I never really use.

– The battery. It’s not bad, and considering I’m doing stuff like Photoshop on battery I can’t really complain, but I can’t make it through a whole day on a single charge. My school days are typically 8am – 4pm and usually I end up charging the battery in my free lessons, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just means sometimes I have to take the A/C adapter to school (but I usually leave it there during the week and bring it home at weekends).

– The size. It’s a big laptop. I find it’s fine for use in computing and art lessons where I’m in IT suites anyway, but for note taking in geography and economics lessons where I’m in normal classrooms it takes up a lot of desk space.

The laptop was so heavy that it actually ended up splitting my bag and because it took up so much desk space in most of my lessons, I ended up taking my Surface RT in to use in lessons such as geography and economics where I also have folders. But of course the Surface RT was not a great ‘all-rounder’ for me because of the obvious limitations with Windows RT meant it could not run the Adobe suite or Python or Visual Studio for my computing lessons.

Don’t get me wrong, the ThinkPad is one hell of a laptop, if a little showy, expensive and heavy, but sadly the weight was the biggest downfall for me. Eventually my backed ached so much from carrying it and a load of textbooks that something had to be done.

The trouble is that with laptops unless you spend a lot of money it’s very difficult to find a good blend between power and performance. Most ultrabooks that are £1000 tend to have fairly weak CPUs and a small amount of RAM, which makes laptops such as mine seem more appealing and those £500 i5 laptops you see even more appealing.

What I really needed was a device that was small, portable and powerful.

The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!
The Surface Pro I got runs Adobe CC 2014 near enough perfectly and is small and light. Perfect mobility!

Oh, what’s this we have here?

Could it be a Surface Pro 64GB running Windows 8.1 Pro x64 with an i5 3317U CPU and 4GB of RAM? I believe it could be!

The Surface Pro comes in several different variations and is the perfect blend of portability and power.
The Surface Pro 3 comes in several different variations and is the perfect blend of portability and power.

Option two may lead you towards something like this: the Surface Pro is one of many Windows tablets on the market now. The Pro is aimed more for those who want to truly replace their laptop with a tablet, especially the Surface Pro 3 with its i3, i5 and i7 offerings with 120GB, 250GB or 500GB SSDs and 8GB RAM, but you can now get your hands on a 10″ Windows tablet for as little as £150 these days which will run Office 365 and basic apps quite nicely. These cheaper tablets are absolutely ideal if you just want a portable tablet to fling in your bag or carry around to run Office and browse the web – and spend less than the cost of a Surface RT but have the flexibility of being able to run proper Windows desktop apps on it. Many of these tablets have quad-core Intel Atom CPUs and 1 or 2GB of RAM with a 32GB SSD, so the spec isn’t bad at all and for £150 or less the value certainly shines.

I got my Surface Pro tablet from Kevin because he was lucky enough to be given a Surface Pro 3 for free from Microsoft. All I can really is that it seems to me like it is the perfect blend of power and portability.

Yes, it’s not quite as powerful as the ThinkPad and it has an older CPU and half the RAM and yes 64GB of storage is a little limiting when working with the Adobe suite and Adobe Creaitve Cloud (but I did add a 32GB microSD card to increase the total capacity of the device to 96GB which has helped, and let’s be honest – my work is in OneDrive and it doesn’t need to be synchronised to my Surface) and the keyboard has taken some getting used to and yes this thing can run slightly hot at times, but the best thing about the Surface Pro is just the mobility of it. It is fantastically portable, something I can easily carry around in my bag or under my arm.

The pen and touch screen are nice novelties. I’ll be honest I don’t use them that often but Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 is pretty cool to use with a pen and it’s fun showing friends the OneNote ‘Ink to Text’ feature on my Surface. Several of them have been blown away by that, but again they were also blown away by the 180 degrees tilt on my ThinkPad’s display and its fingerprint scanner.

The battery life seems decent. When I owned a Surface RT the battery in that lasted for days but we have to remember that this Surface Pro has a fully-blown i5 in it whereas the RT only has a basic ARM processor, so this Surface Pro is much more like my laptop in terms of battery life. It doesn’t seem to be terribly good at estimating how much charge it has left though. Sometimes it can go from 5 hours to 2 hours in a matter of minutes when just browsing the web, and then it can shoot back up to 5 hours. But I haven’t completely drained it yet!

Side-by-side, the Surface is obviously much more portable than the ThinkPad.
Side-by-side, the Surface is obviously much more portable than the ThinkPad.

The performance is nice. Adobe CC 2014 runs very well on it. The display is nice and bright and with it being glossy the colours really ‘pop’ too so editing photos in Lightroom is good, but my gripe would be that the small size of the display makes working on big documents in programs like Word and InDesign where there is a lot of text quite hard. Mind you, with that being said the 1080p resolution makes good use of the small display and the real estate is pretty good as a result of this.

To conclude, the Surface Pro is a good all-rounder and is the perfect mobile device. I found that each machine has its benefits and each has its flaws, but for pure mobility and power in a tiny package, at the moment I am finding that the Surface Pro is probably the better machine for education. But that doesn’t mean to say that my ThinkPad is obsolete. I could go back to using it if I find more limitations with the Surface Pro.

But what device is best for you in education? It really depends on what you do and what your budget is if you ask me.

If you want something to just browse the internet with and write some documents using Office 365 on, grab a cheap tablet or laptop (it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Windows device, Office 365 apps are available for Android and there are some great low-cost Android tablets on the market too!), but ultimately if you want the portability then a tablet would probably be best. If you store your work on the cloud using OneDrive then storage space doesn’t really matter too much.

If you need something powerful and portable I would highly recommend something like the Surface Pro – look at the i5 Surface Pro 3. It’s the perfect blend of power and portability and for the same cost as something like a Lenovo Y50 or a ThinkPad T540p or a higher-end Dell XPS or HP machine, the Surface Pro 3 is the clear winner if you need power and portability. The other options are big and heavy, especially the gaming-grade Lenovo Y50 which may be able to max out the latest games at 1080p, but is big and bulky!

The bottom line is to think about what you want and need, and buy around that criteria.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Sunday 11th January 2015, 22:24 PM

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Microsoft Global Student Ambassador – Jason Brown

For those who don’t know me, I am the Head of IT Strategy at Wymondham High School in Norfolk.  I have been in post for just over a year, and in that year we have implemented both Office 365 & Yammer as our core software  in the the school, which in turn has empowered students to communicate and collaborate on work projects like never before.  We have also migrated to Windows 8.1 on over 600 PC’s , implemented the Microsoft Surface (over 200 of them), had students gain both Microsoft Office Specialist and Microsoft Technology Associate status. This busy year was topped off by becoming a Microsoft Global Showcase School in early December 2014.

Therefore I would like to take this opportunity to tell you what an important role The O Team and Student Ambassador Jason Brown has in making this journey a reality.  The O Team is purely student based – no adults, and in that alone has given a unique perspective during the deployment and development of Office 365.

Our two lead members of the O Team are Harry Traynor and Jason Brown. These guys are my work colleagues and

On November 6th 2014 Wymondham High became an International Microsoft Showcase School. Pictured here are Jason, Harry and Kevin in front of the IT Academy plaque on November 13th 2014.
On November 6th 2014 Wymondham High became an International Microsoft Showcase School. Pictured here are Jason, Harry and Kevin in front of the IT Academy plaque on November 13th 2014.

instrumental in  making the IT journey at Wymondham High the success it has been.    I first met Jason over a year ago when I was new in the job, at a meeting about the Microsoft IT Academy.   Out of all the students, Jason struck me as having a real passion about technology. After a brief conversation and finding out how he helps his dad’s  computer business, and had a knowledge of Microsoft products all the way back to Windows 95 – I thought that he has a talent that we can harness at school to help others!

Little was I to guess just how much help Jason could offer.   Now before I go on any further, if your reading this article and are an IT Pro in a school please think about finding your own Jason. Students relate to students and will give you ideas and ways of thinking that as adults you forget how to.   Almost certainly our Office365 offering would not have been as successful if it had been ‘ another IT deployment’ like the previous VLE deployment.  STUDENT INPUT GOES ALONG WAY!

Back to Jason’s story,   both myself, Harry and Paul Harvey wanted Jason to be a part of this newly formed O Team. So Harry and Paul challenged Jason to create something that promotes Office 365, This could be anything and within 24 hrs I was emailed with this

This really blew my mind! A 16 year can produce this inside of 24 hrs, better than any coursework I have seen in a long time!.   Jason was well and truly in the O Team. Jason continued to build a wide variety of learning videos and soon created The O Team YouTube channel which soon picked up by colleagues at Microsoft Education and used to promote Office 365 in other schools. Colleagues at Yammer also picked up on this and asked Jason to use the video  to launch an education conference in Canada . Jason Brown was launched on the world stage.

The O Team has also been working with Aron Whiles Head teacher of Old Buckenham High School to develop IT systems and Office 365 at school. Jason again was inspirational in presenting Office 365 from the students perspective, happy to present to over 650 student over three days, it really showcased the skills of a 17 year old student who was almost born to present.

Jason delivers the third and final Office 365 launch assembly at Old Buckenham High to Year 7 students wearing a Yammer t-shirt on October 3rd 2014.
Jason delivers the third and final Office 365 launch assembly at Old Buckenham High to Year 7 students wearing a Yammer t-shirt on October 3rd 2014.

Jason very much continued the year in developing Yammer and Office 365 in the school.  Jason become a Yammer manager, being instrumental in developing and educating students in the use of social media in school. During August we applied to become a Global Showcase school for Microsoft. Microsoft products were truly a part of everyday life in the school,  we had a natural pathway of students from using Microsoft Office, to Office 365 to getting certified on Microsoft Office products through the IT Academy.

The Global Showcase school membership required us to nominate a Student Ambassador to represent the school from a student perspective.  Jason and Harry were the obvious candidates.    So this culminated on the launch day for the showcase schools n the 5th December at Microsoft’s London Offices, Jason & Harry tirelessly to interviewed a range of Microsoft Innovative Educators, and Showcase school members about there views for the following year.

The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!
The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!

The next stage in the journey for Jason, was to become and instructor in our Tuesday IT group for students.   Jason has been teaching students in topics such as building PC’s, installing software  and building networks, this has been in preparation for some students to complete there Microsoft Technology Associate exam in Networking Fundamentals.

More recently Jason has been working closely with me to develop the new Student Digital Leader team for Wymondham High School.  Having had a meeting with Jason about the role of the digital leader team in school, Jason was happy about taking on the role of managing the team.   This meant Jason worked with Year 11 student (& Microsoft Office Specialist) Jenny Andrews to advertise, interview and recruit new members in the team.  We had our first digital leader meeting  this week, when Jason used the new Office Sway to present an outline of the year to the new team.

 

The 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Excuse the Christmas jumpers - it was all for charity (honestly!)
Jason Brown and his team

As we go forward into 2015 as a showcase school, this will be an exciting year for all.  I can’t stress how much  student ownership can help in the development of IT and technology in the school.  The old days of a Network Manager being the sole ‘knowledge base’ in a school need to be forgotten and its a case for the IT pro to work like a network in school, utilising a student and staff knowledge .  Our students are developing there own 21st century skills, and as educators we need to be there for them.

I would like to finish with saying a bit thanks to Jason for the support in the last year.  Wymondham High would certainly not be a Global Showcase School this year if it was not for his efforts. To the IT Pro I would say go search out your Jason!

Jason will also be on the Microsoft stand on the final day of the Bett Show this year at EdExcel, if you would like to grab sometime with a Microsoft Student Ambassador.

As Jason says ” These are exciting times.”

Jason Brown is on Twitter please follow @WyHighOTeam  and please follow @WyHigh_SDL there is an exciting story unfolding.

Inspiring The Younger Generation: Welcome to the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team

By JASON BROWN, Wednesday 17th December 2014, 21:57 PM

As regular readers of this blog will be very aware, we are very much into ‘student lead’ projects at Wymondham High. Over the past year we’ve had students such as myself, 15 year old Nick McGee and 18 year old Harry Traynor working with the IT team over the summer holidays to update the school’s infrastructure, install new IT suites and turn the school into a Windows 8.1 and Office 365 haven in the space of six weeks. We also introduced the first Student Digital Leaders in late 2013/early 2014. These are a group of younger students, typically aged between 11 and 13 who also work alongside the IT team and the O Team members on projects such as flying Raspberry-Pi cameras and helping out at events showing off the IT capabilities of Wymondham High Academy.

Over the past year the 2013/14 Student Digital Leaders have made students in the school aware of the amazing possibilities that being a Microsoft IT Academy brings (you can learn all about what Wymondham High can offer by reading my articles here and here) and as a result student interest in IT at school has exploded over the past year. You can read all about the interview process for the 2015 Student Digital Leaders here which I summed up quite nicely as ‘the two ends of the school working together’ (referring to some of the youngest students in the school working with some of the oldest). As I wrote in that article, we were simply overwhelmed with responses from new Year 7 intakes who wanted to become Student Digital Leaders. We were extremely impressed by the response and we feel very privileged to be working with a such great team of enthusiastic, keen students with a passion for technology.

We officially appointed these Digital Leaders on Friday 12th December in a lunchtime meeting. I delivered a Sway presentation that I had prepared outlining the course, which you can see here if you are interested.

So without further ado, I am delighted to introduce the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team!

The 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Excuse the Christmas jumpers - it was all for charity (honestly!)
The 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Excuse the Christmas jumpers – it was all for charity (honestly!)

From left to right along the bottom we have:

Tyler Smith (Year 7) – Tyler is a keen user of Yammer and uses it to communicate and collaborate with his friends and work colleagues. He is a keen musician and has some produced some great music using technology.

Lewis Cromack (Year 8) – Lewis was one of the founding Student Digital Leaders appointed last year and is staying on the team for 2015. He is also a keen user of Yammer and Office 365 and has represented Wymondham High Academy on both local and international-scales in Worldwide K-12 YamJams and also at the WyConf 2014 Teacher Training Event in June 2014.

Elliot Joyce (Year 7) – Elliot is a technology enthusiast and has been attending the after-school Tuesday IT Club that we run each week. He is extremely enthusiastic and a great buzz about him!

Toby Petitt (Year 7) – Toby is also a member of our Tuesday IT Club and has been interested in technology for most of his life.

Savina Ghunowa (Year 7) – Savina was recommended to me personally by her IT Teacher, Mr Howard, to be a member of the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. Savina is passionate about technology is looking forward to working on IT projects.

From left to right along the top we have:

Alfie Dalton (Year 7) – Alfie is a confident user of technology and will make a great asset to the Student Digital Leader Team.

Ollie Frary (Year 8) – Like Lewis, Ollie is a founding member of the Student Digital Leader Team. He has also represented Wymondham High’s use of technology on an international and local scale.

– That’s me in the centre – Year 12 AS Student and O Team member who is head over heels in love with technology and dreams of a career at Microsoft who is going to be leading the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team alongisde Year 10 student Jenny Andrews (not pictured).

Nia Preston (Year 9) – Nia is going to be a valuable asset to the 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. She is completing her GCSE Computing qualification and has a fantastic understanding of computer programming in languages such as Python and a keen interest in learning other languages such as C#.

Tom Evans (Year 9) – Tom is also going to be a valuable asset to the team. His knowledge of Office 365 and IT is strong and will certainly continue to grow!

In addition to the above we also have (not pictured):

Toby Dunn (Year 8) – Toby was one of the founding Student Digital Leaders. His Office 365 skills have really shown over the past year and we are delighted to have him on the team again.

Will Singleton (Year 8) – Will was also a founding member and uses his Office 365 skills and knowledge to sell the product around the school.

Jenny Andrews (Year 10) – Jenny is my co-leader and will also bring an enthusiastic buzz to the Student Digital Leader Team.

So there’s our 2015 Student Digital Leader Team. I am really looking forward to working with these enthusiastic students and really seeing their skills develop. They will be working as Student Digital Leaders from January to October 2015 and when they will have to reapply and we will be appointing new Year 7s once again.

Seeing the two ends of the school working together is absolutely fantastic and shows great unity. I’ve already made good friends with the Digital Leaders who talk to me on Yammer and even ask me for computer help. It’s relationships like this that allow an 11 year old Year 7 student to communicate a 17 year old Year 12 student and this is what makes the team work. It’s incredible to think that I can’t remember a time in my life without broadband, Windows XP and a mouse, yet these students probably can’t remember a time before smartphones and tablets. I feel that I can learn as much from them as they can learn from me, and this is the mentality that keeps us spinning.

The first Student Digital Leader meeting will take place at lunch time on Friday 9th January 2015. From there, there will be a meeting every other Friday at lunch time where we discuss Student Digital projects (some of which are outlined in the Sway presentation).

I've used this photo many times before, but I'll use it again because it encapsulates perfectly what the Student Digital Leader Program is all about: all ends of the school working together - Year 7 students, A level students and teachers - for technological achievement at Wymondham High Academy.
I’ve used this photo many times before, but I’ll use it again because it encapsulates perfectly what the Student Digital Leader Program is all about: all ends of the school working together – Year 7 students, A level students and teachers – for technological achievement at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Wednesday December 17th 2014, 22:06 PM

Old Buckenham High School a year on….

Old Buckenham Area School circa 1938
Old Buckenham Area School circa 1938

 It was a year ago I first met with Aron Whiles, who was then the new head teacher of Old Buckenham High School.  Our first conversation went something like..

we want to do something with out technology in school!

The rest is history as the say,  here is a summary of what can be achieved in a year. Its certainly work in progress and I am sure in 2015 there will be a lot more to tell.

 

Old Buckenham High School is a small size high school based in South of Norfolk, and has been at the centre of village life since opening in 1938.   Today OBHS (as its known) has about 600 + students, and has recently been involved in the journey of transforming the use of technology in the classroom.     OBHS over the past  years has not been able to invest openly in the ‘technology’ which we see in a lot of bigger ‘academy’ schools in the area, but has more recently has played catchup and now will have overtaken a lot of other Norfolk schools with its use of technology entering the classroom.

The teaching vision was to allow students access to mobile devices to facilitate their learning , utilising Microsoft Office 365 as a content and learning platform.  The great part of this story is how the school went around thinking about there ‘mobile first’ strategy, instead of simply buying devices and then deciding how to use them in the school, they looked at the ‘technology vision’ and worked its way backward leading to the right decision in the hardware choices.

The first part of the journey has been well documented on this blog  The first part of the journey was to ensure the school had the correct infrastructure to support the schools vision of using Office 365 in the classroom.  The school implemented an upgrade program of the core and perimeter switches, and brought a new server running Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 r2.   As headteacher Aron Whiles said,

there is no point in having a fast car if you have not got the road to run it on!

From a non technical perspective, that statement from Aron Whiles, showed great understanding of the situation. It is really important to make sure that any infrastructure is upto dealing the workload it will be required for.   There is no point in deploying Office 365 into computer rooms with slow internet connections as the experience would not be pleasurable for teacher or student!

The next stage was a big jump!, the school had no Wi-Fi and it was decided that initially the science block should be enabled.  This soon rolled into ‘well lets get a price’ for the whole site.   Prices came in from suppliers invited to quote and there was a big difference!  to complete the whole school the top price was £52,000,  the lowest price was £18,000 , for installing the RUKUS Wi-Fi solution – my obvious advice as a school is make sure you shop around it really does pay!

So over the summer break Wi-Fi was enabled, over the whole school, meanwhile the Network Manager had created the Office 365 tenancy and using the free DirSync tool had created over 600 Office 365 account for staff and teachers.

So we had the infrastructure, we now needed to decide on the device to work with Office 365 and our students working in the cloud.   What were we looking for? . Traditionally  the Ipad has been the only route forward for schools, primarily being the only tablet device available. However these days we now have both Android and Windows devices to look at,  price is always keen for a school in any deployment, so we initially looked at the Google Nexus and the Toshiba Wt8.   However though unplanned sometimes a delay in making a decision can be a helpful one..

While we were evaluating tablets, a new range of Windows 8 tablets from Linx http://linxtablets.com was launched, the Linx 7, Linx 8 and Linx 10. These tablets feature full Windows 8.1, a quad core processor and start from just £62.00 + vat.

The Linx 7 inch tablet  a quad core Windows 8.1
The Linx 7 inch tablet a quad core Windows 8.1

The  super smooth 7 inch tablet from Linx is ideal for students as a personal learning device.   It allows students to use all the functionality of Windows 8.1 and Office 365.   The quad core processor gives a responsive feel to the product, and with a MicroSD card to upgrade the memory you just cannot go wrong.

For more information on this superb range of devices look at http://linxtablets.com

The Linx tablets allow the real possibility of increasing our vision of allowing every child in school to have access to a device to accompany their learning journey at school.  Using the familiar Windows 8 interface, its a natural progression to the transferring of documents to the desktop PC knowing where everything is.

WP_20141103_10_46_44_Pro
Windows 8 is supported by a wide range of hardware vendors, making choosing the correct hardware for schools an easy choice.

Also the Windows platform gives us the scalability to look at different models for different needs in the future.  Where as a tablet is just a tablet, we may require, bigger screens, full tactile keyboards, or improved inking capabilities which is the great thing about the Windows platform, there are plenty of hardware vendors that can supply a range of devices to meet the school’s needs.

So the school had the vision about how the use of mobile can help with learning in the classroom, it overcame the deployment issues and made the infrastructure sound and then decided on the right technology to inspire the vision.    However there was still one thing missing,  that was the students!   The school started its own digital leader team, whose aims are

to support and develop the use of mobile technology throughout the school.

The team was formed to help other students and teachers understand Office 365 and cloud technologies, as these are skills for students for there future.  The team’s first job was to complete a tech day at Wymondham High Academy, with the training team. This focused on some key skills of Office 365, some fun with the Raspberry PI and finally some hands on with Office Sway and gaming solutions like Project Spark.

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OBHS Tech Team members getting to grips with controlling a robot arm with the Raspberry PI during the tech day

After a productive day the team changed there name to the OBHS Tech Team, to reflect there aims and the role they are to play in the school.   The end of the day also made them more confident with editing pages in SharePoint Online and also supporting users with queries on products like OneDrive for Business.

I think everyone understood the benefits of saving to OneDrive and its flexibility, and once we had looked at OneNote and what can be achieved with Office Lens (mobile app), students were feeling excited about the future of using technology within the school.     These students are now working with teachers to develop great SharePoint sites for sharing resources, have established a Yammer presence to collaborate with other schools (and the Digital Leader team here at Wymondham High).    These students really are the future about changing the way things happen with technology at school.

 

In reflection the school (which didn’t have a big pot of money) has been able to establish a policy for enabling students to share, communicate and collaborate using Office 365, been able to offer the first steps for students to use mobile devices in the classroom and create a sustainable BYOD scenario for the future.   This has been done with a shared vision of the senior leadership group and the right approach to maximise the investment. Rather than thinking ‘lets buy the devices and then decided what to do with them’ the school started with ‘ what’s the end vision’ and lets map everything  back from there.  This is now backed up with the Tech Team a core bunch of students with the passion and excitement to transform learning in the classroom.

OBHS
The OBHS Tech Team complete there Office 365 tech day with the training team from Wymondham High.