First thoughts about CrEdge (ium)

After listening to the very popular Windows Weekly podcast curtesey of Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley and Paull Thurrott, I thought I would take the new Chromium based Edge browser for a spin.    As Leo suggested in the podcast it didnt take to find a safe download ( as the browser has not been realeased yet), but I have now installed it on my Surface Go and have been really please with the results so far.

Up until CrEdge I have always used the current Edge version plus Google Chrome on my device,  as certain website would prove laggy or not open completely.  Now I am no web developer  but the new Edge seems very responsive and quick on all the website I have used so far.  However using Chrome has always been a bot of a processor hog to say the least.

So whats changed.

Well quite simply Edge has become a Chromium browser, instead of using the Trident rendering engine. This really means for the end user that …. it simply works and works well now.   Of course the frontend at present looks very much like Google Chrome, but I suspect this will evolve as it gets to release.

A clean clear cut view of the Chromium Edge browser

Whats works now is that you can use your Microsoft Account to sync information accross devices, you can also utilise the extensions from both the Microsoft Store and other 3 rd party stores.  So if you have your favourite Chrome extension, you can use that in the New Edge.   Other features that have made it accross are the Read Aloud feature, which offers the ability for students to get an accessible reading view of any webpage they are looking at.

The new Edge browser allows extensions to be installed from the Google Store

The other great thing is that it isnt just for Windows 10,  New Edge will be available for Windows 7 devices as well, giving compatability in browser technologies for companies moving to Windows 10 in the future. This is really important as we draw near the end of support for Windows 7 in Jan 2020.

So at present this becomes my default browser on my Surface, and I am super excited that the browser is this good this early on.    In this identity centric world we have I am also keen that I only need to manage my Microsoft Account, not having to manage a Google account on my device to.

A final word of warning

When the new Edge becomes available and you get to make it your default browser expect to see the warning message

You are replacing Edge with Edge? Do you want to make Edge your new default browser ?

 

Man I love humour in IT !

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Further adventures with Surface Go

My Surface Go  has proven its worth since purchasing it last year.    I now have standardised on the Surface Go whenever I am out at a customer site, as  discussed before at 1.15lbs its simply the lightest devie to pop in a rack sack and take with you.   My Surface Go is now running 19H1 (or 1903 in old money) version of Windows 10, so I can talk about the best of whats coming to WIndows in the future.

So as I pack the bag today for another client visit, I thought I would take a moment to talk about whats in the bag these days, and how I use some of the new connectivity with apps like Your Phone to get the best from my day to day to life with Surface Go.

So the first thing I have done to my Surface Go is to give it some body armour, really to protect from the day to day travels and knocks.  So I have invested in a Kensington case for the device.   This is great as it does not put to much weight on to the device, and concentrate on protecting the corners of the device in case it should slip out from your bag.    I would certainly reomend anyone looking at the device for daily out and about use or even a school looking at 1-2-1  the body armour is eesential!

The Surface Go with the durable Kensington body armour

The other greay thing about the Kensington case is that it leave the kick stand free, so you still get to use all of the Surface Go’s frictionless kickstand to get the best angle for use.    The case also has a pen holder for the Surface pen which is quite nice as you are not reliant on the magnetic strip to keep your pen close to you !

The only down side I have found with the case is the power connector, which can now be somewhat of a tricky operation to connect, event though its magnetic!  However a small price to pay in comparison to a new screen !

The space for the power connector can be a bit fiddly to get to

Now of course you may be aware that Surface Go has a USB-C connector, which can connect you to a massive list of accessories.   You can even charge your Surface Go via the USB, this is really handy if yoiu are travelling light and you only have your phone charge with you.   To use USB charging on the Surface Go, you need to have a charger that kicks out at least 15 watts of power, likewise if your looking to charge from a battery pack, you really need to ensure you have a USB-PD pack and cable,  this will enable the Surface Go to ‘Fast Charge’ from the pack . USB-PD stands for Power Delivery by the way !

The main adpater I plug into to USB-C is a USB-C to HDMI connector, allowing me to connect to HDMI displays (£34.99 from all good Microsoft Stores). This makes it easy to simply connect to any HDMI ready source via cable, however on the odd occasion where a cable doesnt reach etc I also carry a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter ! (Please remember to make sure that you keep your adapter firmware up-to-date).

Your Surface Go can be charged on the USB port

So thats what I take with me on my travels, however with the bi-annual updates to Windows, its the functionality that truly allows me to achive more with my Surface Go.

Your Phone

I have been an Android user ever since my trusty Windows Phone  was put into retirement. Currently I am running a Galaxy S8 device, but I connect that to my Surface Go with the Your Phone app. Your Phone was part of the 1809 release of Windows 10 and allows you to connect to your Andorid phone and retrieve the last 20 photos from the device and also send and receive texts.   So frequently when I am travelling on the train, I can text directly from Surface GO, sometimes I will leave the phone in my bag.    To setup Your Phone simply launch the app from the Start Menu, follow the instructions to text the link to your phone  and then download the companion app on the Android device and you should then be linked.

Get the Your Phone app up and running on your Surface Go

Where next for Your Phone ?  Well you may have caught the latest version of Your Phone now supports Android screen mirroring.  This means you can see your Android phone screen and use directly in the Your Phone app.    So using any of the Android apps ie Snapchat (if you need to)  to booking your next hotel for your business trip can now be completed on your Surface.   Note this is not running the app natively in Windows (however I suspect that may be in the a not to far distant release) but simply mirroing the screen, but its a great start in the world of truly mobile working accross devices.

19H1

With the next version of Windows 10 just receiving the finishing touches, I would also recomend the new Office webapp, which is a part of the new build. This Progressive Web App, connects you through to your Office 365 subscription in one click. Its incredibly useful as it gives you a great summary of where you are in the day.

Office PWA opens your world !

Select from your favourite apps, online apps and documents from one screen.  You can customise this space to meet your needs and requirement. Its a great imporovement on the previous version and is coming in the 1903 release of Windows 10.

In summary

Have you ever sat on a train, looked around you and seen everyone with there laptops tapping away on Excel for example?   Well this is the world of mobile working that embraces the highest paid office exec to first line worker.  However devices like the Surface Go empower this at an affordable price by giving you more functionality with Windows 10 and the power of the Microsoft Cloud.  Surface Go has truly established its place in the modern workers rack-sack of life.

I am now using the Surface Go as my out and about machine.  Listed above are just a few things that fine tune my working experience, but at the end of the day I have a full blown PC, which is extremely powerful when paired with the Microsoft Cloud for the Modern Workplace.

Take a look at Surface Go in the Microsoft Store – if your a student sign in with your EDU account to receive a student discount.

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.

 

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.

 

Gallery

TEDxNorwichED: My take on thinking differently about education is about why schools need to embrace technology!

What is education? Its about teaching students to learn for the outside world.. It doesn’t get better than Jason Brown’s story

Jason Brown

By JASON BROWN, Friday April 1st 2016

All photographs in this article (apart from any screen captures from Twitter) were taken by James Neale who photographed TEDxNorwichED unless otherwise stated. See the whole album on Flickr here

All links to go said person’s Twitter page.

‘Technology in education’ is kind of what I do. I’ve been a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassador for Wymondham High Academy since November 2014 and since then have had some great experiences such as presenting about how technology can be used to make a positive impact in education at the Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Seattle, USA and at the Microsoft in Education UK Redefining Learning event at the Microsoft offices in Cardinal Place, Victoria, London. I’ve made some fantastic friends as a Student Ambassador, one of whom, fellow Student Ambassador Ghina Kanawati from Beirut, Lebanon, I speak to every day. I have been put in…

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Welcome to the Wymondham High SDL Team Blog!

Wymondham High Student Digital Leader Blog

It’s back! We’ve not had a blog for the Wymondham High Student Digital Leader team since the dark days of November 2013! There’s new life and new blood in the SDL team at Wymondham High. The SDLs are ready to take on anything that comes in their path… if it means they get a snazzy OneNote Avenger cape in return of course!

They’re lead by me, an 18 year old A level student and Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassador with a passion for all things computers, technology, education… and chocolate, and Tom Alabaster-Williams, a 17 year old A level student who also has a passion for all things computers and technology… even though he currently owns a MacBook which he describes as ‘slow’ right now.

The SDLs themselves are a group of 17 students at Wymondham High, a comprehensive high school in Norfolk, England, who also share a passion for all…

View original post 125 more words

Welcome to the BBC Micro:Bit

Its 1982 and its the year of Information Technology,   the BBC Model B is the must have computer device for a generation of students getting their head around the idea of ‘programming a computer’.   As a student of the 80’s one of my favourite programmes was the BBC’s ‘The Computer Programme’ with people like Ian McNaught-Davis and Chris Searle taking people on a journey into the technology ahead.

Those students like myself had come from days of building Lego, possibly playing Pong on a Binatone games console, so the idea of the technology, and especially the idea of programming a computer was a real fascination. Computer Studies was a ‘sort after topic’ by my classmates, and lines of code were produced which gave us the idea and concepts which have stayed with me throughout my working career.

Lets fast forward  a few years –  the ethos changes from programming a computer, to using a computer. Using application like spreadsheets, desktop publishing.   The art of computer programming in the younger generation had almost been wiped out. As an education system, teachers were teaching the IT curriculum, those people with computing skills were carving a career in industry to become the developers of tomorrow.

Let move forward again, I think it was at the Bett Show when Michael Gove the then Minister for Education, declared the Computing (Science) was back on the curriculum! Hurrah a generation of computer programmers will be created to power the economy forward.   That statement sent shock waves through education as we suddenly realised that the majority of the IT teachers in schools had little or no programming skills. Mixed with this a generation of students who have been brought up on technology, these are indeed different times.

Yammer in the classroom
Its different from the first Computing generation – students have been brought up on technology, and computer programming has to be ‘a real sell’ to get students engaged on building the apps of the future.

We have seen the arrival of organisations such as CAS (Computing at Schools) who have done a superb job of upskilling hundreds of teachers with computing skills.  With teachers teaching Scratch, and more recently Python in the classroom, however I have yet to see ‘inspired’ children at the keyboard.   Indeed I get a bit worried when I still see business looking for good Microsoft Office skills in potential employees, rather than computational skills.

However this week I had my first hands on play with a device that may well be pivotal in being able to pick the programmers of the future out of the class – that is the BBC Micro:bit

I will have to admit I am a big fan of the Raspberry PI, and we have had great projects at Wymondham School using the device.   However the Micro:bit is very personal and students get very excited about the visual tangible results from such a small device in their hands. If you can excite students then that’s 80% of the job done, natural curiosity carries the rest.    Also unlike the PI the device does not worry about displays like HDMI etc – it simply plugs in to your existing PC’s through USB.

The Micro:bit is a computer developed by the BBC and in conjunction with Microsoft, and will be delivered to Year 7 students for free this academic year.  Not a typical computer with a keyboard etc, more a computing device,  it is packed to the gunnels with programmable buttons, accelerometers, motion detectors etc.  Its is programmed from any PC using the Micro:bit website, and I believe in the future will be able to be controlled from your mobile phone.

One side of the Micro:bit looks like this, with two programmable button and an programmable LED display.

The LED grid on the Micro:bit
The LED grid on the Micro:bit

At the bottom you see a number of I/O pins that can be used to get tactile input from the operator.  For example

When Pin1 is touched, light up the LED panel

OMG – was that just an algorithm ?  This device really gets you hooked just thinking about it.  On the flip side is a map of all the sensors to give the student the idea of how the device is connected and flows.

http://microbit.co.uk

The website is where the action take place.   My advice is to get yourself registered to have a look its great.  Once you have logged onto you will see the environments in which you can code effectively.  The first is Code Kingdoms JavaScipt,  then Microsoft’s Block Editor and finally Microsoft’s TouchDevelop.   However teachers with there head buried in Python will be please to know the Micro@bit will be able to be controlled using Python very soon.

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There are a different range of environments to code your Micro:bit

So we spent an hour getting the LED panel to light, sending messages etc.  In its simplest form the website shows the Micro:bit in an emulator so you can test your code before sending it on to the device.

In its simplest form I have just turned on an LED
In its simplest form I have just turned on an LED

I can now compile my code and send it to my Micro:bit if I had it connected to my device.   The Micro:bit connects through a Micro USB cable, and then appears as a drive on your machine.  Simply drag the compiled file to that drive to execute it.

WP_20151001_10_15_05_Pro
The Micro:bit working on my Surface 3 device.

This device gives students a real tangible result in their hand; the I programmed it, and it does this scenario.  Instead of children simply dragging script blocks into place on a screen. The future is built around being able to control devices, with skills  sets in using IoT device coming to fruition, the Micro:bit is a catalyst to start a generation in how to code and create programs.

It may well reignite an interest in those who wish to carve a career in Computing /IT.  I am not a believer in ‘everyone is a coder’   Though the Micro:bit with its small size and development backed by Microsoft, BBC and other organisation is a truly a device to inspire a generation of students.

A call to arms from me to you.

Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity of a Micro:bit for every Year 7 student in this years intake. If you haven’t you still have time to register here https://bbcmicrobitschoolregistrationform.co.uk/english.html

Check out the http://microbit.co.uk website, register and get coding your first program to control your device.

Then  wait for your device to be delivered in December and begin to inspire your students with some hands on physical coding.

Follow me @kevin_sait

 

 

 

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