Over the summertime, one of the jobs was to roll-out Windows 8.1 to over 700 devices in school. The reason behind this roll out was two fold:
Earlier in the school year we had taken part in the Microsoft Education promotion for the Surface RT. After upgrading them to Windows 8.1 they proved immensely popular with students in the classroom and around the school. Therefore we wanted the desktop PC’s to reflect the same user interface. One of the key visions we have is to level the playing field in IT giving students and staff alike the ability to run the same software that we run in school. We have done this through Microsoft DreamSpark and Microsoft Student Advantage,
We also noticed that the majority of students on Windows 7 were not interested in working there way through the All Programs menu to find the application they want to work on, but instead they tended to Search for it. Windows 8.1 federated Search facility allows students to quickly find application or documents and get started into a lesson a lot quicker than before.
We upgraded the whole site using System Centre Configuration Manager which deployed all the machines within a few days. The great news was all of our curriculum based applications would run quite happily on Windows 8.1 (testing is highly recommended!). Added to this with our Microsoft Dreamspark store, students could now download Windows 8.1 at home as well.
Logon times have also improved by approximately 30 % this means students can get into a lesson more quickly.
As for the future we we are already looking at moving some of the in-house network actions into the cloud using the Microsoft Live ID. We are planning to sync user environments directly to the desktop (teachers first!) using Live ID, and the enlarging that to allow students to sync there ‘school’ environments to any other Windows 8.1 device they log onto. The initial tests are very encouraging.
Students have started developing Apps using Project Siena ( Windows Store App for free) as an initial step into Computer Science, though not strictly computer programming, it does teach the logical thought process into designing apps.
The second reason is the school has a desire to push technology forward. For so long we have seen technology move on around schools, with students and there smartphones, new devices at home, new devices in the workplace, this is matched with a distinct possibility that a school may be running an older versions of Windows or Microsoft Office. As educators we are enabling students hopefully with the correct skills in the job marketplace in may be 5 to 10 years time, so I believe the school has almost a moral obligation to give students great experiences using the latest software.
Also the next generation of secondary school pupils will be on us soon who have been brought up with the tablets, touch devices and smartphones, to those pupils technology in the classroom will be even more of an expectation. Did you know 2.2 million tablet users in the UK are between 3-11 ? How does the education system react to this ? Probably with teachers with books instructing students with traditional teaching methods unless we make moves forward by matching education technology with the world around us.
I believe Windows 8.1 to be a truly ‘creative operating system’ allowing users to shape and develop their own learning, and it may just be the first step on the way to catering for the next generation of learners coming to our schools.