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.
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.
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.
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 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
Battery Life 10
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I am a firm believer, if you give a student the right tools, their creative side will show through. Recently we have seen this through our schools social network – Yammer in the recent months, proving the value of communication in the school. Yammer itself was probably a bit of a gamble in the school market, my previous school did not see the value in it, however at Wymondham they took the risk. Russell Boulton was aware of what Enterprise Social meant and how we could manage any risk. So Yammer was born in January 2014.
Initially usage was limited to our Sixth Formers. However word soon got round ‘socially’ and numbers started to pick up. Then our IT teaching staff started to investigate is use and started teaching e-safety through it, things like:
how to setup your profile
what information do you want to make public
what posts are applicable
This has been rolled out to different year groups during the year, with some students ‘getting ahead of the game’ before hand! Some of our Wymondham High O Team leaders interviewed some students about ‘life before and life after’ we moved to Office 365 & Yammer.
What I found interesting is the need to communicate, we are a big school (well in my eyes we are) and the ability for students to communicate with teachers without having to spend a lunchtime looking for them has been a real plus. The students in the video talk about being able to communicate with teachers – its important to them.
Of course we have teachers who embrace the idea and are happy to utilise Yammer to its upmost. For example MFL teacher Kay Southgate has been a leading light on using Yammer and OneNote in the classroom with her Year 7 classes. Kay’s group on Yammer can only post in French (that’s the rules), but there are some superb conversations happening all the time. Of course the social media term of a ‘Like’ has almost replaced the traditional team point system from the past!
So students enjoy using the technology, and it proves a complete benefit in finding out what goes on in a school the size of ours. The next step however surprised me also. We started seeing students create different groups such as My Poetry, My Drawings, Your Creations and a story-writing group where students began to showcase there work to others in this social showcase that they now had. This was not run by teachers but by students and have become very popular, remember this isn’t homework its just children being creative and being able to do so by having the right toolset to achieve those goals.
So here is a great example in the Story writing group, taken a few days ago. This group has been started by a group of Year 7 students and now has a healthy membership and as you can see Yammer has enabled the students to feedback and evaluate others work. These are fairly early days but shows the potential of an Enterprise Social network in school as a tool for students to self evaluate the work of others !
Yammer initially to me was all about improving communication using mobile devices as the end point, and this has certainly been the case for us, as you can see. These are our stats from the Yammer dashboard for the past 30 days. Social, as a form of communication is certainly the chosen method for students. As a school its dawning that Yammer is the quickest method of communicating to students !
Yammer also fills a great arena of e-safety for Year 7s but also allows us to collaborate effectively with other high schools and feeder schools using this familiar technology. I would always regard Yammer as Work in Progress as the only limitation on its use as an educational tool will be how creative our students want to be.
Yammer Enterprise is free for Office 365 subscriptions for education. For more information follow me on Twitter @kevin_sait
It was a year ago I first met with Aron Whiles, who was then the new head teacher of Old Buckenham High School. Our first conversation went something like..
we want to do something with out technology in school!
The rest is history as the say, here is a summary of what can be achieved in a year. Its certainly work in progress and I am sure in 2015 there will be a lot more to tell.
Old Buckenham High School is a small size high school based in South of Norfolk, and has been at the centre of village life since opening in 1938. Today OBHS (as its known) has about 600 + students, and has recently been involved in the journey of transforming the use of technology in the classroom. OBHS over the past years has not been able to invest openly in the ‘technology’ which we see in a lot of bigger ‘academy’ schools in the area, but has more recently has played catchup and now will have overtaken a lot of other Norfolk schools with its use of technology entering the classroom.
The teaching vision was to allow students access to mobile devices to facilitate their learning , utilising Microsoft Office 365 as a content and learning platform. The great part of this story is how the school went around thinking about there ‘mobile first’ strategy, instead of simply buying devices and then deciding how to use them in the school, they looked at the ‘technology vision’ and worked its way backward leading to the right decision in the hardware choices.
The first part of the journey has been well documented on this blog The first part of the journey was to ensure the school had the correct infrastructure to support the schools vision of using Office 365 in the classroom. The school implemented an upgrade program of the core and perimeter switches, and brought a new server running Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 r2. As headteacher Aron Whiles said,
there is no point in having a fast car if you have not got the road to run it on!
From a non technical perspective, that statement from Aron Whiles, showed great understanding of the situation. It is really important to make sure that any infrastructure is upto dealing the workload it will be required for. There is no point in deploying Office 365 into computer rooms with slow internet connections as the experience would not be pleasurable for teacher or student!
The next stage was a big jump!, the school had no Wi-Fi and it was decided that initially the science block should be enabled. This soon rolled into ‘well lets get a price’ for the whole site. Prices came in from suppliers invited to quote and there was a big difference! to complete the whole school the top price was £52,000, the lowest price was £18,000 , for installing the RUKUS Wi-Fi solution – my obvious advice as a school is make sure you shop around it really does pay!
So over the summer break Wi-Fi was enabled, over the whole school, meanwhile the Network Manager had created the Office 365 tenancy and using the free DirSync tool had created over 600 Office 365 account for staff and teachers.
So we had the infrastructure, we now needed to decide on the device to work with Office 365 and our students working in the cloud. What were we looking for? . Traditionally the Ipad has been the only route forward for schools, primarily being the only tablet device available. However these days we now have both Android and Windows devices to look at, price is always keen for a school in any deployment, so we initially looked at the Google Nexus and the Toshiba Wt8. However though unplanned sometimes a delay in making a decision can be a helpful one..
While we were evaluating tablets, a new range of Windows 8 tablets from Linx http://linxtablets.com was launched, the Linx 7, Linx 8 and Linx 10. These tablets feature full Windows 8.1, a quad core processor and start from just £62.00 + vat.
The super smooth 7 inch tablet from Linx is ideal for students as a personal learning device. It allows students to use all the functionality of Windows 8.1 and Office 365. The quad core processor gives a responsive feel to the product, and with a MicroSD card to upgrade the memory you just cannot go wrong.
The Linx tablets allow the real possibility of increasing our vision of allowing every child in school to have access to a device to accompany their learning journey at school. Using the familiar Windows 8 interface, its a natural progression to the transferring of documents to the desktop PC knowing where everything is.
Also the Windows platform gives us the scalability to look at different models for different needs in the future. Where as a tablet is just a tablet, we may require, bigger screens, full tactile keyboards, or improved inking capabilities which is the great thing about the Windows platform, there are plenty of hardware vendors that can supply a range of devices to meet the school’s needs.
So the school had the vision about how the use of mobile can help with learning in the classroom, it overcame the deployment issues and made the infrastructure sound and then decided on the right technology to inspire the vision. However there was still one thing missing, that was the students! The school started its own digital leader team, whose aims are
to support and develop the use of mobile technology throughout the school.
The team was formed to help other students and teachers understand Office 365 and cloud technologies, as these are skills for students for there future. The team’s first job was to complete a tech day at Wymondham High Academy, with the training team. This focused on some key skills of Office 365, some fun with the Raspberry PI and finally some hands on with Office Sway and gaming solutions like Project Spark.
After a productive day the team changed there name to the OBHS Tech Team, to reflect there aims and the role they are to play in the school. The end of the day also made them more confident with editing pages in SharePoint Online and also supporting users with queries on products like OneDrive for Business.
I think everyone understood the benefits of saving to OneDrive and its flexibility, and once we had looked at OneNote and what can be achieved with Office Lens (mobile app), students were feeling excited about the future of using technology within the school. These students are now working with teachers to develop great SharePoint sites for sharing resources, have established a Yammer presence to collaborate with other schools (and the Digital Leader team here at Wymondham High). These students really are the future about changing the way things happen with technology at school.
In reflection the school (which didn’t have a big pot of money) has been able to establish a policy for enabling students to share, communicate and collaborate using Office 365, been able to offer the first steps for students to use mobile devices in the classroom and create a sustainable BYOD scenario for the future. This has been done with a shared vision of the senior leadership group and the right approach to maximise the investment. Rather than thinking ‘lets buy the devices and then decided what to do with them’ the school started with ‘ what’s the end vision’ and lets map everything back from there. This is now backed up with the Tech Team a core bunch of students with the passion and excitement to transform learning in the classroom.
By JASON BROWN, Wednesday November 26th 2014, 23:15 PM
It’s incredible really. A year ago I was just like any other Year 11 GCSE student: spotty, studying hard for mock GCSE exams and madly passionate about computers and technology. Whilst much of that hasn’t changed (apart from the fact that I’m now 17 and studying for mock AS exams), my life over the past year certainly has.
Today marks a year since I first met Kevin Sait, Head of IT Strategy at Wymondham High and Harry Traynor, who was a Year 13 A level student a year ago but is now an IT technician apprentice at Wymondham High Academy. It’s incredible to think that had I not attended a small meeting in an IT room (N12) about Microsoft IT Academy and Microsoft Qualifications at Wymondham High at 3.00pm on Wednesday November 27th 2013, my life would not be where it is today.
I remember going to the meeting in N12, meeting Kevin Sait and telling him that I was interested in programming and interested in taking a Microsoft Technology Associate exam in C# Software Development Fundamentals at some point in my life at Wymondham High. There weren’t many people at the meeting. I remember there were maybe two A level students, myself, Harry Traynor, Kevin Sait and Mr Dickerson (Head of IT/Computing teaching), who didn’t stay around for very long, and that was about it. The two other students left quite early after they had discussed with Kevin the pathway they wanted to take with their MTAs. Whether they did them or not, I don’t know, but what I do remember is Kevin being absolutely overjoyed that a student [me] was taking a keen interest in the IT facilities at school and I remember him getting me signed up onto Yammer before you could say ‘let’s get you on Yammer’. I also remember excitedly setting up Office 365, SkyDrive Pro (now OneDrive for Business) apps on my Nokia Lumia 710 Windows Phone 7.8 device and generally being elated about the whole thing. Then he told me about DreamSpark, which a friend of mine who went to another school had, and before the day had ended I had already downloaded Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 from there and Windows 8.1 Pro. At that point in time, DreamSpark and the free software was the big thing for me.
Normally on a Wednesday evening I would attend a GCSE Media Studies lesson with a friend of mine, but on that particular night I had excused myself from the lesson to go to this small meeting. I remember walking out of the meeting at around 4.15pm to be greeted with the stunning sunset that is the featured image for this article. This sunset was one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen in my life and this photo that I took on my Nokia Lumia 710 and then processed in Photoshop Lightroom 5 when I got home really reminds me of the evening that I met Kevin Sait and Harry Traynor.
When my friend came out of the Media Studies lesson, we walked home together and I remember her saying as I unlocked my bike in the freezing cold, ‘you’re in your element’. And indeed I was.
I went home and told my parents who were also absolutely amazed. My father in particular, who is a self-employed IT technician, was very pleased to hear about all of these IT opportunities that I’d be getting at school. And back then I wasn’t talking about visits to Microsoft or becoming a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassador or rebuilding the IT infrastructure of the school over the summer holidays or even getting a job out of it at the end. I was just talking about doing Microsoft exams and being able to get my hands on a free copy of Visual Studio!
So, a year on and what am I talking about now?
I’ll answer that question in a bit, but I’ll briefly go through what has happened over the past year in terms of my personal experiences in being part of student involvement in IT at Wymondham High Academy.
Although I joined Yammer a year ago today and this was when it all really started, from November to April it was all about drawing up plans with Kevin and talking about how we could use technology in school. My first post on this blog was all about becoming a Microsoft IT Academy and was published on February 17th 2014. You can read it here, and on the Microsoft Education Blog too because it made it to there, too!
The exciting stuff really kicked off in April when I had to create something to promote Office 365 in our school for my O Team application. I decided to make a video about the benefits that Office 365 brings but in a fun and fast way, quickly demonstrating some of the things it could do. My target audience were Year 7s who have the attention span of a fish! The whole video only took two days to create and at first I thought it was solely for application purposes, but man was I wrong! Little did I know when I was sitting there creating it, that this video would eventually be shown to the whole school in assemblies through May 2014 and I’d receive feedback such as ‘I am inspired’ and ‘I’m going to use this!’ and better still used to open a Microsoft Education Conference in Canada in May 2014. You heard me correctly there!
After the success of the video, and presumably a good interview, I became a member of the O Team in May 2014. I had been friendly with A level student Harry Traynor prior to me becoming an O Team member, but over the coming months a strong friendship would develop. Becoming a member of the O Team meant the world to me. It meant that I’d gain real-world IT experience in school and also be able to build great links with Microsoft and above all work with Kevin Sait, Harry Traynor and Paul Harvey in managing the school’s IT.
On May 22nd I took part with several of our Student Digital Leaders in a worldwide K-12 YamJam on the Yammer YCN network. After having sat a GCSE Geography and English Literature exam on that day, it was lovely to be able to do something fairly relaxing, simply talking about what I loved to other schools. It was a great feeling to represent the school’s use of technology on a worldwide scale.
Although I still haven’t gotten round to doing my C# MTA, after some studying and hard work, I passed my Outlook 2013 MOS exam on May 28th 2014 with 100% in two areas of the exam, 92% on one and 77% on the other. This was the first Microsoft qualification that I gained, aged 16. I am hoping that this qualification gives my CV the edge over competition because it is a a unique qualification to have.
In June 2014 I was still sitting GCSE exams but this was when the O Team went social. The Twitter and YouTube accounts went live and were both a hit! At the time producing videos explaining how to use Office 365 in school was a great ‘revision break’ which is why a lot of the O Team videos were produced in June whilst I was still sitting GCSEs. Although the channel doesn’t have a thousand videos, we do have a steady stream of subscribers and our most viewed, video, ‘How to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1’, has over 12,000 views.
The Twitter feed has been very successful and is growing day by day. We get around 1 or 2 new followers per week and we are retweeted and favorited by Microsoft, Yammer, Nokia, Office 365 and OneNote a lot! If you want to find out about what we are doing in school in terms of IT, the O Team Twitter is the place to go!
I finished my GCSE exams on June 23rd 2014 and from there I had a long summer holiday that would last for well over 2 months. I could have spent my summer holidays at home being very bored but instead I decided to spend it at school with the O Team refurbishing the school’s IT and deploying Windows 8.1 onto our 700 desktops and 200 laptops.
On June 25th the O Team attended the WyConf teacher training event at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Here, with the Student Digital Leader Team, we told staff members at Wymondham High what we do with Office 365 and how it can be used in the classroom, demonstrating various Office apps on a variety of devices from Surfaces to conventional laptops.
After this most of my work was basically ‘housekeeping’ until the school term ended on July 23rd. This involved helping Harry and Paul support lessons with the Surface tablets, tidy up the Surface trolleys and begin to set up our Training Centre that would open in September to businesses and students.
But how can I forget the most important event in July? The trip to Microsoft HQ in Reading! This was organised in June by Kevin and as an ‘O Team outing’, and a big thank you from Kevin for the work we had done, we were taken out for the day to Microsoft HQ on July 17th to meet some Microsoft employees, mostly notably Mandeep Atwal, Helene Fyffe and Steve Beswick, to learn about career opportunities at Microsoft (big ambition!) and also to play on the Surface Pro 3 which at the time was a brand new tablet device. The day at Microsoft was one of my favourite days of the year and I would love to go back again at some point in the future.
Over the course of July and August we tore the whole school to pieces and pretty much rebuilt our IT infrastructure. This was where the real-world experience in networking, systems management and deployment was had, delivered to us by IT technicians Andy Underwood and James Dunlop. The summer was also when our resident Raspberry-Pi and Minecraft expert, Nick McGee, joined the O Team as a reward of his hard work over the summer helping to deploy Windows 8.1, clean our computers, rebuild our IT rooms and clear out all of our old stuff, as well as lots of other bits and pieces, of course!
The summer also saw several little outings by the O Team. Harry and I had a lovely day out in Norwich taking photos and then editing them with Adobe software back at my house, and August also saw the O Team trip to the Computer Museum in Cambridge where Kevin and Andy introduced the O Team to some ‘tech’ that was a ‘little bit before our day’ (and we thought anything pre-Windows XP was old!) Many of these outings involved a little trip to McDonald’s, most notably a McDonald’s just off the A505 at Royston where I had a chocolate milkshake in a ‘never-ending cup’ as Kevin put it. And of course, GCSE results came out. As you can probably imagine, I was delighted when I got 3 A*s, 8 As and 1 B, including an A* in IT and English (which is probably why I enjoy writing these long articles!)
September saw a new term and an influx of new Year 7s signing up to our Yammer network, perhaps thanks to teachers such as Mr Howard (IT) and Mrs Southgate (languages) running lessons on Yammer. From August 2014 to September 2014 several hundred new users signed up to Yammer with the growth figures being ridiculously high. 500% growth springs to mind! Over the course of the next few months more and more members would sign up to Yammer with the 1,000th member being Charlie Bennett who joined the network on October 18th. Today, we have 1,174 users on our network and this figure is only likely to keep growing. The response we had from new students joining the school was remarkable. As I said in my last blog post, many of them were thrilled about Wymondham High having a social network and offering something a little bit different to other schools. ‘We never had anything like this in my old school’ was how one new Year 7 student put it.
September also saw me starting my A levels at Wymondham High and building great relationships with my teachers. Of course, everybody in my year knows that I am mad about IT and everybody knows that I have a strong connection to the IT team at school and I know how the network works and so on and so on. With this comes positives such as spreading my enthusiasm about this around the year group and getting them to use the services we can provide, and negatives such as people moaning at me when the Wi-Fi doesn’t work or if Python isn’t installed on a computer, but this is the real world. This is what you get when you work in IT and I get this from teachers and students. It’s to be expected! I feel that part of my great relationship with teachers comes from having a passion for the subjects they teach, but also it comes from being friendly and willing to help with IT problems. Whether that’s showing them how to use Yammer, setting up groups or deploying Surfaces in their lessons, I am always happy to help. And I think they see that.
Before the new term the Surface tablets were in their infancy at Wymondham High. Now they’re everywhere, being used by everybody in their lessons as great alternatives to booking an IT room. The geography, maths and science departments probably use them the most and it’s great to see these tablets being used and the students enjoying them. It is the biggest reward we can possibly ask for after having spent months setting these devices up and deploying them.
September and October also saw interest in IT management at Old Buckenham High School and Robert Kett. We have gotten further with Old Buckenham and so during the course of September and October I presented some assemblies about Office 365 which went down extremely well with the students and also attended some open evenings and Saturday training sessions to talk about Office 365.
The audience of the assemblies were shocked when I instructed them ‘to get their smartphones out’ and the saying ‘Jason says’ allegedly went around the school for a week or two after the assembly, with students there allowing themselves to get phones out in lessons because ‘Jason says’. The feedback I had from the assemblies was positive with some staff members saying ‘I could not present an assembly like Jason does’. Looking back at the photos from the assemblies, I could see that everybody in the audience was engaged. It was a truly great feeling going up there and talking about what I love to 250 students at a time. Presenting is what I live for!
In terms of what we’re doing at Old Buckenham, we are managing their IT on a contract-based plan and also teaming up with their Digital Leaders who are visiting the school next week to work on some great Raspberry-Pi projects. This is the ultimate in school-to-school collaboration from a student-lead perspective.
We opened the Training Centre up in September and this was when we began running our Tuesday IT Club. This is a fairly large club of enthusiastic students, with ages ranging from Year 7 to 11 who come down to the Training Centre every Tuesday afternoon to learn about all things IT. We teach them things that they aren’t taught in their IT lessons at school and we give them hands-on experience. We have just spent the past few weeks teaching them all about networking, getting them to ping one another and even build their own cables and set their own networks up, and now they are using this knowledge to learn how to build a Minecraft server, taught by Year 11 O Team member Nick McGee, who said that whilst it was ‘exhausting’ teaching them, it was also ‘great fun and a rewarding experience’.
Throughout October we also recruited new Student Digital Leaders to try and get the younger generation inspired. Interviewing began on November 3rd and ended on November 17th, with the final Student Digital Leaders being selected on November 20th. We have five new Student Digital Leaders – four Year 7s and one Year 9. They will start their roles representing IT from a student’s point of view in January 2015 after their inaugural meeting on December 12th.
The story ends on November 6th 2014 when Wymondham High Academy finally became a Microsoft International Showcase School and Harry and I became Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors. What does this mean? You can read my article about what it means, but in short it means we’ve done it. We had an ambition to use Microsoft technology in school to its full potential, and we’ve done it. And we’re going to carry on. We are now recognised on an international scale as being a leader in using Microsoft technology in an educational institution. And we are mighty proud of it.
So to come back to the question, what am I talking about now?
To say the least, the future is bright. Today we unofficially launched our O Team Venture commercial enterprise. This is the first step in generating money from the O Team. When we talked about these proposals in July at Microsoft they said they were pretty sure that we were the first school in the UK to do this, if not the world. The O Team could go down in history, if it hasn’t done already.
The 2015 Student Digital Leaders have been chosen and in those five we can already see potential future O Team members. We inspire the younger generation and provide them with opportunities that no other school can provide. The opportunities I’ve had over the past year have been out of this world, but the opportunities future O Team members will have will be even better as we continue to develop our links with Microsoft and ‘the big world’.
There is a strong likelihood that thanks to being in the O Team and proving my worth to the right people that I will be able to get an IT apprentice at Wymondham High after my A levels in 2016 to gain even more real-world experience. From here, I intend to go onto Microsoft or another large tech company. For the past year my Dad has been saying ‘you’re going to end up working at Microsoft,’ and I hope he is right!
To conclude, this post is not only an insight into the past year of my life from a student IT perspective, but also a massive thank you to Kevin Sait and the others who have made all of this possible. It is just incredible to think that had I not attended that small meeting on that Wednesday evening, my life could have taken a completely different path. Had it not been for a couple of posters on a few doors in school, I wouldn’t have known about any of this. This just proves that the ‘best gifts always come in the smallest packages’.
My friend no longer goes to Wymondham High, but I still speak to her and see her regularly. If she knew exactly what I was doing and what the future holds for me, I’m sure she’d still say ‘you’re in your element’. And indeed I am.
Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam
The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!): @JasonBrown2K13
Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait