It’s time for digital (th)inking

In today’s post I want to take a look at the Surface Go, and the reason is two-fold, firstly I have had my Surface Go for about a year now and still love it, but secondly I hear some feedback from people saying the Surface Go just isn’t powerful enough and the fact you need tyrannosaurus rex hands to use the keyboard.   What I wanted to highlight in this blog post is that with the power of the Microsoft Cloud, you can think differently about how you use devices in your day to day world.   To do this today we are looking at making the Surface Pen more configurable and of course dictation in Microsoft Office!

Its time for digital (th)inking !

Everyone knows about the 2-in-1 design of the Surface Pro and the Surface Go – right?    It’s a design that has led other manufacturers to change the way they think about there products, especially Lenovo, Dell, and of course Apple.   The late Steve Jobs intention for the IPad was it was always going to be a tablet only device.  However today, we see the Apple IPad as a device with a keyboard, Apple Pencil, a new IOS about to be launched to give the device more powers like the PC.    Now whichever way you decide to look at this it is good news for the customer, as it inspires a generation of users who work with devices they way the want to work!

So I have covered the art of digital inking in other blog posts before, but today I just wanted to highlight a couple of things on the Surface device.    The first point is that anyone using a Surface Pen should make sure the pen is paired to the device.  Now the pen does not have to be paired to work, it’s just you can get more out of the pen when it is!

To pair your pen it is simply done by writing on the screen for up to 10 seconds. Windows will automatically detect this and offer to pair your pen for you, it’s as simple as that!.   Once this has been done move your way to the settings section (Windows Key + I), go to Device, then goto Pen and Windows Ink.

Here you will be able to set up the button actions for your Surface Pen, for example a single click could launch OneNote so you can make notes really quickly.  Also on this screen you will find setting for if you’re left-handed for example.  Make sure you configure for how you work,  so you can launch any application, popular applications like OneNote, and the new Microsoft Whiteboard.

The important option which is ticked is the Allow apps to override the shortcut button behavior.   This is key and needs to remain ticked as more application begin to make use of the pen. One such example is PowerPoint, which uses the pen button to move through a PowerPoint Presentation (which is quite cool !)

So as we have talked before on this blog Microsoft Office (desktop) version is a pen aware application meaning you can use your pen naturally for editing Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents.  We also have a great range of apps which bring learning to life including Fluidmath, which is available from the Windows Store.   Here is a quick demo from Steve Beswick, Education Business Development Director of Surface which we filmed at the Bett Show this year.

 

So as you can see the pen should really be thought of as part of the device itself, to allow for innovation in the way you work and the way we can use technology in the classroom.

Lets think digital with Surface Go

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this blog, some people have said that the Surface Go is not powerful enough and you will never want to type an essay on the device, due to the small size of the keyboard.   Well if you think digitally with Surface Go you don’t have to.     It is true that the keyboard isn’t full size and it was never going to be for the device size, however, let’s look at another option we can use alongside the pen.

Dictate, Dictate, Dictate

Using the device with the power of the Microsoft Cloud, you can dictate to the Surface Go in Microsoft Office, which means if you have a big document to type you can do it more efficiently ! and after all you don’t need to use the keyboard, which in turn is a device which is designed to slow you down and make you less efficient.

Simply launch Microsoft Word (Windows key + C,  you could always ask Cortana to do it 🙂  and once Word has loaded go to the Home ribbon and look at the far right-hand side, the last option will dictate!  Simply click on it and once you hear the recording beep start talking.    Remember commands like ‘new line’, ‘full stop’ ‘comma’ they all work.

Dictation is available in the following apps

Microsoft Word

Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft Outlook

Office Mobile   Apps   (More about them in the next post)

So why is the keyboard so inefficient?   Well as I mentioned using dictation in Office will stop you using the keyboard, for those long documents.  The QWERTY keyboard was designed to stop the typewriter arms jamming up with people typing to quickly.   If you ever look at when your typing you will notice this!  Early keyboards were a lot more efficient but the downside was the fact those typewriter arms would jam.  However, we have taken the keyboard as the default method of entry no matter how new our tech is and how much processing power we have.

How does Office dictation work?, well simply it’s using the Microsoft Cognitive Services that power Cortana. So, in turn, your Surface Go device is connecting to the Microsoft Cloud and transcribing what you say.

So the next time someone says “Surface Go ! I can’t type my essay on that”  point them to the dictation option!

Isn’t it time to “Get them digital (th)inking!”

 

 

 

 

Digital Inking on the Microsoft Surface

Making the hardware decision these days for schools these days is normally driven by the budget.    What is the best we can get for the budget? Should it be 1-2-1 or shared devices?  Well here is my case that the technology you buy shouldn’t necessarily be brought on budget alone (but it is important) but how you can innovate in the classroom from both the teacher and student perspective.

Why does this mean you should buy a Surface?

Of course it doesn’t – however, I would like to explain the fundamental difference between Microsoft as a hardware manufacturer and its partners out there like Dell, Lenovo, and Asus.    The Microsoft manufacturing partners are amazingly important in delivering a range of great devices for Windows 10 to run on.    Whereas the manufacturing arm of Microsoft (Aka Surface) is an opportunity for engineers to innovate with hardware designs, to allow for innovation and for people to work in a way they are familiar with

The prime example is the Surface Pro and the Surface Go as the 2-in-1 device of choice with the Surface pen!    Back in the day of Windows XP Tablet Edition,   the pen was almost an add on interface to the device.   Allowing for limited handwriting, the size was big and bulky, battery life was limited

 

However with the advent of Surface (starting with the Surface Pro 3) then pen and digital inking are absolutely at the heart of using Windows 10 in a way to innovate.

The Surface Pen

The writing with the Surface Pen is now in its 5th generation since the launch of the Surface, which in turn shows the importance of digital inking within the Surface environment.     Digital inking is available throughout Windows 10, including the new Sticky Notes app, and Microsoft Office 365.  Let’s have a look at some of the best ways you can use your Surface device with the Surface Pen.

First of all, use your Surface the right way!

 

If you are a Surface owner, you have the ultimate 2-in-1 device,  be it a Surface Book, Surface Pro or Surface Go, and using the Surface Pen should be the most natural experience.

 

With a stylus, you can choose to use the pen with the screen in the natural upright position. Users will tend to hold there hand back from the screen.   This means writing is not accurate at all, and making notes almost impossible!

With the advent of applications like OneNote which has been built on digital inking, means devices can be used in a more natural way.

On a Surface, Pro or Surface Go simply unplug the magnetic keyboard and then rotate the device so it’s like an A4 page.

Next, rest your palm on the screen, and then the device will only sense the nib of the pen, allowing the use of the device in a natural way

With the screen separated, the tablet nature of the Surface allows you to treat the device as a piece of paper and resting your palm on the screen allows you to be a lot more accurate in making notes. Applications like Microsoft Whiteboard, or even Sticky Notes, allows you to get the best from the Surface pen, make sure you try them out.

You can also expend the natural pairing of the pen and the device by going to Settings (Windows Key + I) and choosing Devices, then Pen & Windows Ink.  Here you can fine-tune the experience of your Surface Pen.

Choices such as are you left or right-handed, really show the design thought that has gone in behind the use of the pen,  you, of course, choose how the button reacts when pushed, see the diagram below.

 

Deciding what you want the pen button to do when pressed can save time for the Surface user!  Click once, Double Click and Press & hold can all be configured independently.   So if you are a OneNote user simply get into your notes by single-clicking the pen button can save you mountains of time

Now we are comfortable with the position of our device for inking, lets launch Microsoft Word and see how we use digital inking on an application we would traditionally use only a keyboard.

This really shows how integral the Surface Pen is to make the device as productive as possible with the Microsoft 365 suite.

 

 

Inking in Microsoft Office

You will notice on any version of Office 2016 & above you now have a Draw menu

 

So as you can see in the Pens section you have a range of pens including glittery pens which are ideal for younger students! To get writing its simply a case of selecting your pen (and with your device positioned for you) just start writing.     Once you have started writing or drawing you can have your drawing played back to you by using Ink Replay.     This is ideal when drawing an example or even showing off how to form letters for handwriting.

 

Ink to shape allows the production of perfect squares and ellipses when you are drawing freehand. Just make sure your shape joins up and the AI helper behind the scenes will do the rest for you.

Ink Editor allows you to edit /review your documents in a natural way, check out the video below to see some of the functionality from the Ink Editor

So as you have seen, getting started with digital inking is simple with the Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface.  As we move forward to show you other pen aware applications, you begin to see Surface Pen is integral to allow innovation in the classroom.

Next steps

Check out the following research https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325792070_Laptop_versus_longhand_note_taking_effects_on_lecture_notes_and_achievement

Find out more about Surface by checking out our Surface Resource pack here at https://aka.ms/surfaceresource

So what is the Windows Mixed Reality platform?

Do you remember the hype over the Windows Mixed Reality platform?  I certainly do !  That’s what made me go an order one on the day of launch, and I have got to say that after it arrived I was left fairly deflated with what I had just spent my money on. However with the arrival of my Surface Book2 I finally got it  and since then I have become a bit of an addict.

Tip one – get the right device to run WMR

Biggest tip for sure is get the right device to run Windows Mixed Reality!  When I first got the headset, I had heard the WMR would work on a Surface Pro 4, but plugging the device failed the WMR hardware test.  So I tried on a Surface Laptop, that too failed.   So I then brought a Lenovo laptop which met the criteria, I spent about £600 on the device, and though it ran it was very buggy.   For example the speed of setting the environment took upto 10 minutues easily.  Moving around was very a painful experience, yet the device met the requirement of WMR.  So the frustrations of a middle aged man came through and I packed it up and stored it underneath my bed.

Lets fast foward into October 2018 when I start my new job working with the amazing team in Surface in the UK supporting education customers on there journey. This meant I could get my hands on a Surface Book 2 !, with an 8th gen Intel processor and chipset I thought it would be an ideal candidate for WMR – and it was !

The Surface Book2 amazingly useful all round device but the powerhouse behind getting the best from WMR

 

Before I could use Surface with WMR of course I needed a new USB C to HDMI connector, so a swift purchase from the Microsoft store fixed that.   Plugged in the headset and boon we were away, in the same room which had taken 10 minutes to setup, we were ready to go within 10 seconds, I could use the WMR controllers to navigate around swiftly and easily from the comfort of my chair.

Tip two – think outside the box !

My job role is mainly based from home, which is good in some respects and bad in others.   The distraction of the being located near the coffee pot and in short range of the TV remote control can be a bit distracting.  However with WMR and my Surface Book 2 I created my virtual office, which would give me access to all the information I require.  I can :

  • Access my files
  • Using desktop applications
  • Use the Windows Store to add apps
  • Use Teams to make calls as require
  • Listen to music

So here is a quick look around my office

 

As you can see my various screens are set up!  Didn’t have to purchase four super large screen and put them in my office at home, I simply look and use the screen I want to.  As you can see my Mail app is open on the left hand side and on the right is my calendar.

How about typing?

Well typing is as easy for me as texting with the controllers. However with more applications like Microsoft Office, having inbuilt dictation I made not need to use them in the future.  Also the Immersive Reader application is now available in WMR also which allows for accessibility in using these headsets as it does across the rest of the Microsoft platform.

There aren’t many views like this – the view from my window !

It may sound bizarre in a world of open plan offices  and commuting to work, but having a view like this is quite therapeutic !  It means I can take some away from the screen as I would do in the physical world, listen to some music for example.

Here is another shot from the back of my office !   Seriously early days but being connected to the Microsoft Cloud services, Windows Mixed Reality allows me to be fully exploit the functionality in the comfort of my own home without the distractions.  Don’t get me wrong the WMR headset is not on my head all day but it does focus me my taking out the distraction of the space around me.

Where might this go?    Much as it did back in the 1960’s where someone invented the “open plan” office for striking collaboration and communication in teams of employees (which didn’t quite have the desired affect), students we are teaching could find this as a common way of working in the future. Certainly in school students with educational needs can find there own space and still take part in lessons.

It may well have been off to a slow start and overshadowed by the HoloLens device, but don’t under estimate the power of Windows Mixed Reality from Microsoft.

The buzz phrase is AutoPilot

Well, its all finished for another year – BETT 2019 that is, and what a great show it was.  This was my fifth year of speaking at the show and my first as a member of the Surface Education team.   It was very much four full on days with lots of questions about the Surface product range and especially the new Surface Studio 2.

The Surface stand in full swing at BETT 2019 with the new Surface Studio 2 nearest. The Surface Studio 2 has recently been released in the UK  (available 7th Feb) and contains an Intel 7th Gen I7 processor, 1TB full SSD storage as well as improved graphics processing and screen brightness, all bundled with the ever-popular 28-inch screen which can be lowered into ‘canvas’ mode.

The new Surface Go was also very popular amongst visitors – and it’s ever more popular in the 1-2-1 device rollouts, which really led to the most popular question – “can you tell me more about the Windows AutoPilot deployment”

Well, the short answer is Yes we can! – AutoPilot deployment is a new modern deployment solution available for Surface in the UK.

How does it work?

When you the customer orders a number of devices from a reseller, they are supplied with a Hardware Index File.  This file contains information about the machines you have ordered. When the devices have been delivered all you need to do is open the box and finish the Windows setup, type in your Office 365 account details and the machine will be ready to go (normally within 6-7 mins).   I am sure you will agree this is better than imaging machines and of course quicker for the IT Team!

What do you need to use AutoPilot?

Well you need the following checklist

  • Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD Premium)
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Office 365 tenant
  •  or everything above included in the Microsoft 365 A3 license (And more)

You will also need

  • A reseller that us using the AutoPilot service.

First steps

The first steps are to make sure you are working with a partner that supports AutoPilot.   When done so the partner (through the Microsoft Partner Centre) can request permission to have the role of adding devices to your Azure Directory. Simply put this means that when you order machines they can add them to your Azure Active Directory.

Next using the Intune blade in Azure you can create a deployment profile for new AutoPilot devices, here you can specify the Out of Box Experience for your users, for example skipping the EULA, deciding if the user should be a local admin etc.   Remember to brand your Azure Active Directory at this stage to personalise the experience even more for the end users.

Then the last step is to deploy setting and apps from Intune into the deployment group so that when a user unboxes the device and turns it on all they have to do is :

  • Set the default language
  • Sign in with Office 365

The machine will then configure itself according to the deployment policy.

We have created a simple process document as your starter with AutoPilot for your deployment of devices in schools.

The modern IT Pro toolkit

Windows AutoPilot is a key tool for the modern IT Pro, along with Microsoft Intune, and the Education Store. AutoPilot transforms teacher time as it rapidly allows for the deployment of Surface devices in the classroom.   Windows AutoPilot uses the functionality of Windows 10 to allow IT Pro’s to leverage the power of the cloud in the modern environment,   Legacy technologies such as disk imaging, have become a thing of the past.

Windows AutoPilot and Azure Active Directory allow you to take full control of your cloud connected device, delivering a Modern Desktop Experience to your users.

 

Microsoft Surface Go Part 2 – out in the field

So it has been 4 weeks into using the Surface Go as my main machine – and I thought it was time to share with you how this has gone.    One of my roles in my working week is to manage the IT infrastructure and IT Strategy at Old Buckenham High School in Norfolk.   Now traditionally my work machine for this role has been my Surface Pro 4 however, I thought I would see if the Surface Go would be able to take on the role of the  Pro 4.

Entry sign to Old Buckenham High School
Old Buckenham High School is a typical rural school in Norfolk and makes great use of the Microsoft Cloud

Lets run through a typical school day 

My day starts at home at about 6.30 when I get up and get sorted, a black coffee is soon followed by BBC Breakfast to see how the world is performing since I went to sleep. Generally, I will use the Office 365 admin to check the school’s tenant is functioning as it should be.   The Office 365 admin app is available for free from the Microsoft Store and gives you a health check on the status of your tenant.  

My Surface Go on the lounge table with a cup of tea next to it.
The day starts with using my Surface Go to check the Office 365 status

Next, I will arrive at school approx. 8.30 get into the office.   

Once I arrive in the office and click the kettle on, we spark up the Windows Mail application and check the email of the day. Now I am sure this is a daily ritual for many people, however I only see 14 overnight emails, this is primarily down to the use of Microsoft Teams in the school.  Microsoft Teams is the collaborative centrepiece of Office 365 for Teaching and Learning and has seen us reduce the use of email – instead of using the social media based in the Teams to communicate.

Next up is a visit into one of the IT Suites at the school, and the requirement to reset a few passwords for the new Year 7 students.    Though my Surface Go is running in ‘S Mode’, which means I cannot install Win32 apps, I soon download the Microsoft RDP client from the store, and RDP into the server to connect to the User and Computers snap-in to allow me to reset the student’s passwords.

Windows 10 “S Mode” v Windows 10

‘S Mode’ – In Windows 10 like the Surface Laptop the Go comes with Windows 10 running in ‘S mode’.   ‘S mode’ looks and feels like Windows 10 Pro and can access any of the Microsoft Store Apps including Office 365 Pro Plus.  As Microsoft Store apps effectively run in a sandbox environment, this helps ensure a day 1 – day 1000 experience on the device, also ‘S-Mode’ devices authenticate against Microsoft Azure AD, not local AD.    ‘S mode’ doesn’t support fundamental IT Pro’s tool such as PowerShell and Command prompt, so you may wish to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro or Edu.

I still use ‘S mode’ as its quicker to start up and I like the cloud management (more on that later) if I need PowerShell I simply either RDP into a Server or more recently an Azure VM that is connected through to our infrastructure.

Back in the Office, I use the Go with the Spotify app, and my £25.00 JVC Bluetooth headphones while I have lunch, and get on with a few more areas on our staff drive into there new homes in SharePoint online as we continue to move the school on its journey with the Microsoft Cloud.

As the bell goes a Teams notification pops up requesting some help on Microsoft Forms, so as we continue to move more services into the cloud it frees my time up from firefighting the technology to be able to support teachers to achieve more in the classroom.

So a quick pop into room 10 during the free period in the afternoon means we can offer support to the teacher so she can now build a quiz for students that auto marks itself.   Using the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter in the classroom means that I can simply “connect” to the projector to show what I am doing on the board.   After 20 mins of running through Forms, I simply swipe from the right, chose Connect and then Disconnect from the display.

Finally, the last job of the day is to do some routine maintenance on our Azure AD joined cloud devices using Intune for Education.  The Intune for Education portal is designed to admin your estate from any web-connected device, but with its full-size keyboard, I don’t eat into the screen real estate when I am on the move, unlike my iPad which was my companion device previously.

The Intune Education portal makes it simple to refresh a device overnight and also add a new science web app for deployment, so tomorrow, when they sign in kids, will have access to the resource.

The Surface Go running Intune for Education to manage the school cloud devices

Its only towards the end of the working day you realise the battery life is nearing the end,  Surface Go has up to a 9-hour battery life but in its day to day role in the school, it gets used throughout the day.  Though looking in my bag I realise I have left my Surface charger at home, I don’t have a problem as I get out a USB – C charger for my Samsung Galaxy S8, (which I carry with me all the time!).    With enough charge to last me the rest of the evening I quickly use the Your Phone app (which is linked to my Galaxy S8) to text my wife,  that I am on the way home.

So I am a couple of weeks into using the GO as my main machine and talking to colleagues about their own experiences with the device.   In general, I have been really pleased with what the money buys!   An ideal companion machine for my day to day work, as it been able to all the things I have asked of it  – YES,  do I render high-end quality video and need to use Photoshop to manipulate big images  – absolutely not.

I would say the best aspect is simply the portability of the device and the knowledge of having a fully fledged PC device in your bag which is not going to run out of battery life during the day.  Even it did, you can sleep easy in the fact of being able to use your phone USB charger on the go.    The screen quality I have been particularly impressed with, with its uni-bond construction it means sharing the display with people sitting next to you is no problem.

The Surface keyboard is always a great experience to type on and the size of the trackpad is a vast improvement on the Surface 3 from a few years ago.   I guess my only side is the comparison of the size of the keys against the Pro, for someone like me in my late 40’s who has always used a full-scale keyboard and having middle aged chubby fingers I find at the moment I suffer from hitting the wrong keys when typing sometimes.

Peripherals and extras.

I have invested in the new Surface Mobile mouse from the Microsoft Store, so when I am typing I can be a bit quicker with using the mouse.

The Surface Mobile Mouse

The Surface Mobile Mouse is light, ergonomic and only £29.99 from the store.     Of course, the Surface pen is the best experience and has meant I have used the device in ‘tablet’ mode on several occasions just using the pen to input.   I also very much like the thought of Windows Hello (Face ID) working in portrait mode as well as landscape, so I don’t have to bother about passwords if I haven’t got the keyboard attached.

For the IT Pro or not?

Is the Surface Go the right choice for the IT Pro in school?   Well, it can certainly deal with the pressures of what’s required to admin a network (through RDP) and use in the day to day job.   What’s priceless about the Surface Go is the portability of a full-blown PC with a weight of only 1.15lbs.  Fully functional running Microsoft Office, using Windows inking, using existing 3rd party software and leveraging all of your schools existing investments.

 

How would I rate the Surface Go 

Portability         10

Battery Life       10

Processor           8

Connectivity       9

Keyboard           9

Overall             9.2 /10 

 

My final thoughts

I guess  I would finish with the same thing I would say about any hardware that you buy, is that you need to get the best out of the device from the software or services you decide to run on the device.   It goes without saying by using the Microsoft Cloud, OneNote, Flow, Power BI etc means I get the utmost best from the portability of the device.   If I didn’t and only used it for word processing then any entry-level device would do.   However, as mentioned the portability around the school is absolutely priceless and also as I do a reasonable amount of train travel with my work the ‘lap ability’ factor is completely priceless even against my Pro device.

In the classroom the same is true with service like the Windows Mixed Reality program which allows students to mix the digital world with the physical, on a device for less than £300 means these are truly transformational times in the world of personal computing.

 

Say hello to Surface Go ! Part 1

OK so it arrived yesterday ! – my new Surface Go…  I have got to admit I am getting a bit of a device complex now, having a Surface Book, Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and now the Go.   I have got to be honest not one device does it all, I still find myself taking the Book out to do demo’s, where as I prefer the to use the Laptop for everyday… I was wondering whether the Go will reduce the wait I have to carry around with me on a day to day basis.

So what have I brought… well Surface Go is available in two flavours in the UK first is a 4gb memory 64gb storage version and the second is 8gb / 128gb.   I opted for the big brother.

First impressions

Well once out of the box you definitely know its a Surface device, the same build quality is evident from the moment you pick it up.   Against the Surface 3 you have the frictionless kick stand (aka Pro 4) which is a great improvement on a budget device.  Now my initial disappointment with the device (seeing that its aimed at students/ edu) is the adoption of a USB C adapter!   What I hear you cry – we have been after Surface devices with USB C for years now and you don’t want one ?    No no no no !  I welcome the inclusion of USB C, especially as I have a USB C phone which means one less charger to carry around,   but I also have a Surface charger  built-in to the device but no USB 3.0 port.

20180830_110402
Up close reveals the Go has a Surface Charger and a USB C  but no USB 3.0

Though we live in the cloud age, and this is a cloud book essentially, I still believe the majority of students would like to see a USB on the device, to plug in there USB stick or device (remember printers … we still use them!)   So perhaps ditching the Surface connector and have replacing it with USB 3.0 may have been a better call.

Powering on the device takes me through the typical Windows 10 setup and of course its great to have a chat with Cortana to tell her about the UK keyboard I need !.

So what Windows do you get ?

Well initially you will launch the device with Windows 10 Home in S mode.   So what exactly is S mode ?    So first lets start with Windows 10 Home – the lowest common denominator in the Windows family, its the ‘retail version’ of Windows so doesn’t come with the functionality of the Enterprise or Professional versions.    S – mode is the cloud variant of Windows 10, which gives you a super fast, super safe environment, looking like and behaving the same as Windows 10.  Imagine it as Windows 10 ‘Cloud’ ideal to work with Microsoft’s Office 365, so you can store your documents in the cloud and share and collaborate with others.  The main difference  is that any software you use will need to be installed from the Microsoft Store – S mode doesn’t support the older software i.e. things that come on a dvd or where you have to click a setup.exe file to get things started. OK  so here is the big deal with S Mode,  it promises to be a day 1 – day 1000 experience for the user, typical things that eventually slow a normal Windows device  down have been removed ensuring the device is always quick to start – no more hour glasses to watch.  Times are indeed changing ..

You know I almost forgot the keyboard !   a vast improvement on the Surface 3 version !  A trackpad that is well proportioned  and very useable and of course the Alcantara  feel makes it as good as the Pro 4 for any spillages  !

20180830_110424
A vast improvement in the keyboard in the GO.  Great feel to the using the keyboard and well proportioned trackpad  makes the device truly portable.

Of course as we continue our tour around the Go we find the MicroSd slot under the kickstand, supporting upto 256gb a quick and easy way to expand the capacity of the device.   I have already added a 64gb card and use it to sync my Onedrive for Business account so I am truly portable with or without internet connectivity (which can be very useful on the way into London on the train).

Beauty is only ‘Screen Deep’

I will be honest I thought I was going to struggle with a small 10 inch screen, however the Pixelsence screen is probably the best on any device. With a resolution of 1800 * 1200 and 10 point multi-touch it really is a pleasure to use – making clarity the top feature will be a key success for people to use the Go on the road. On that basis Surface Go is truly a beautiful device,

Have you said Hello to Windows Hello?

The camera’s are important on the Go to me, first off the front facing camera support Windows Hello. The Go has two camera’s   front facing (5mp) and world camera (8mp).  The rear camera is RGB and therefore support the Windows Mixed Reality platform, allowing students to blend the digital with the real world. However lets talk more about Windows Hello and how that improves the sign in experience. Windows Hello has been around since the launch of Windows 10 but normally on high end devices.  However Go brings you Windows Hello at an affordable price point.    Windows Hello replaces your password allowing only you to unlock your device.

Remember Surface Go is a budget version of the Surface family – and if your directly compare it to the Surface Pro you will be disappointed.  However I am now going to use the Go as my work device and see how I get on with it.

Surface Go is small and lightweight for work on the go

So first thing I notice is instead of taking my ruck sack and I can use my smaller back with the device and a USB C Charger.

In my next post I will talk about how Surface Go can be managed from the Microsoft Cloud and how I get on with the Go on a day to day basis.

We will be back soon with another post on the Surface Go soon.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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