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.

 

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Say hello to Surface Go ! Part 1

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

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

First impressions

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

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

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

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

So what Windows do you get ?

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

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

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

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

Beauty is only ‘Screen Deep’

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

Have you said Hello to Windows Hello?

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

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

Surface Go is small and lightweight for work on the go

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Educator Community – its your best weapon!

You want your school to be the best right?, you want it to be innovative amongst its peers, above all you want to engage students, and give teachers the confidence that they can use technology in the classroom effectively. School leaders want to see that the investment from ever decreasing budgets in technology will be use to bring beneficial out comes in the classroom.  So how do we bring this all together and stop the ‘ we need to buy that mentality’, which we have seen where schools put the technology first and then decide what to do with it after.

Well I would like to bring your attention to the new  Microsoft Education Community   http://education.microsoft.com .  Chances are you might not have heard about it before.  I guess this is really the vision of Anthony Salcito from Microsoft who has created this resource as a one stop shop for transformative change at all levels in schools.  This resource is only a couple of months old and is packed with numerous resources, built by educators, for educators.  It is also the centrepiece for Skype In The Classroom, the ability for educators to connect with other educators or organise virtual field trips to pretty much any location in the world.  Above all its free ! – you don’t have to buy a Microsoft product to use it – but it will be beneficial to everyone in education

As educators we are very much aware of the range of devices in the classroom, we know students can bring there own, (and probably already do in your school), but where we allow this technology and then simply overlay traditional teaching methods means there is no benefit to students or teachers.

Check this video clip about becoming an innovative school

As you can see the simple part is the technology, how we use the technology to the benefit of teaching and learning and those all important outcomes is the end goal.   This is why the resources at the Microsoft Educator Community are so important.   Its not a sales pitch, its educators telling educators how to get the best from the software they are using.

However the community doesn’t just cover educators in the classroom, technology strategy is driven from a teaching and learning strategy, it doesn’t lead it.  So there are some awesome resources which ask key questions from School leaders about moving there school forward.

mec 2In the Technology planning resources you will find information on things like ‘Establishing your vision’, absolutely crucial to working out what technology you need to buy!

As school leaders this section will show how to implement 21st century pedagogies in the classroom can be achieved through effective planning before hand.

Again this is all mapped with real world examples of schools which have already on the journey and completed it.

There is also a section about the Microsoft Showcase Schools program. This is now in its second year and expanding, Showcase Schools partner with Microsoft and have unprecedented access to resources and the mainstay  of the Microsoft Innovative Educators in the UK.

There are four courses on the MEC which relate to the UNESCO ICT Framework certification, giving educators the confidence in what they can deliver with technology in the classroom.  These courses are

  • Teaching with Technology Basics
  • Teaching with Technology
  • 21st Century Learning Design
  • Microsoft in the Classroom

However there are also courses on OneNote, Sway, Social Media, Flipping the Classroom which you can learn anytime and anywhere.

For educators we recognise that a day on a computer course when you have so much else going on is not productive for anyone.   So MEC course are broken down into easy bit size chunks of learning, giving you the opportunity to put into practise the bits you learnt.   Courses you complete in the MEC are aligned to digital badges so you can show colleagues the amount you have completed.

mec badges

Here are the badges I have earned so far in the short time I have been on the MEC, the third one is for being part of the Skype-a-thon earlier this year!

The Skype-a-thon was arranged in the MEC, connect with other global educators at a convenient time and introduce your students to different cultures, or maybe  collaborate on a project, or indeed be part of a virtual field trip.

The value for students to connect with other students and understanding different cultures has been well documented elsewhere.

Now we have the ability to take part in virtual field trips and talk to explorers and authors directly to get first hand access to topics that the students are studying.  By choosing Find A Lesson in the Educators section you can easily find your self transporting your class to a field trip in the South Pole.

mec 4

Click on register for the virtual field trip is what it takes to be part of the action of this field trip for the Arctic Live 2016.

Of course you may wish to share your knowledge with other educators, so you can upload your resources and share them with other educators around the world.

I hope this small insight into this super educational resource is enough to make you sign up and explore more, from Senior Leaders planning for transformational change to teachers taking kids on virtual field trips – its all at your finger tips.

To sign up goto http://education.microsoft.com    connect with me !

Remember  be brave – make change in you school – join the Educator Community today

 

A year in the life of Harry Traynor – Global Student Ambassador

There is only a certain amount of times you can use the term ‘right hand man’ in these kind of blogs, but that is how I would describe Harry Traynor who is one of our Microsoft Global Student Ambassador’s here at Wymondham High School.

Harry is 18 and we have been working together on the rollout, deployment and ‘crazy ideas’ to do with IT both in and around the school. I first met Harry as a Year 13 student along with Paul Harvey, back in September 2013, and we first started talking about Microsoft certifications, this soon expanded into Harry’s passion of building computers and generally playing with technology when he had the opportunity.    To me this blended in well with the vision of scrapping the VLE in school and replacing it with Office 365, who better to help me to launch this to students?

It soon became obvious to me, that there was a different message to come from a students mind than there was an adults!  Harry & Paul soon offered to manage the rollout to the 6th form students, overseeing organising assemblies, initial training and troubleshooting any user issues.

OneNoteShakeSpeareOne day we were joking in the office about marketing our campaign, and soon after I came back to my desk to find the first Office 365 poster that Harry had created.  These unique posters blending curriculum, with technology soon started to generate interest around the school – again a great example of the student mind overtaking the stayed mind of someone older !

By Christmas, Harry (& Paul) were leading the charge with Office 365 & Yammer in the school.  Harry had also offered to develop our SharePoint site after feedback from students.

So by now Harry’s free slots on his timetable were taken up with showing me what he had found on SharePoint, and how we could roll this out to other years.

As we moved through 2014  the Harry’s role grew into a position of complete trust from both the IT teams perspective and that of our staff.  Students would tend to prefer asking another student for help, and staff were quite happy for students to come and assist them.

We started running regular CPD sessions for staff, and I gave Harry the opportunity to host them, and again his presence (at the age of 17) was fantastic, highlighting to teachers how students work.  Our relationship with Microsoft really was the catalyst for Harry’s other passion to come to light, that of video production, we were soon getting calls from different people from within Yammer and Microsoft to see if we can create a promo video for them.

April time was when I approached Russell Boulton (Principal) with the view to keeping Harry on in the school via an apprenticeship scheme.  He nature and enthusiasm really meant we did not want to let him go and luckily he decided to stay.

In September we have been working with Old Buckenham High School, an it really is second nature to take Harry  into a training session knowing he has the skill set to deliver  great knowledge to staff. We have done various presentations to other schools on our work with Office 365 in the classroom and where possible I get Harry to run those session with myself on the sidelines!

Resized-9196
Harry Traynor talking about the Surface Pro 3 at Bett 2015

 

This work culminated in Harry being asked to present at the Bett Show at EdExcel with members from the Surface team from the states – and again never ceasing to amaze me with his level of professionalism at the age of 18 delivered some stellar presentations with Jacqueline Russell.

Team Yellow in action pose Bett 2015
Team Yellow in action pose Bett 2015

 

This year Harry is being invited to the E2 Conference in Seattle, to talk about his Minecraft  development with students at Wymondham High . I have been privileged to build some great stuff over the past 18 months, and cannot press home the value of working with students to help shape their future. I am sure 2015 will be another exciting year for the Global Student Ambassadors here at Wymondham High.

 

 

 

First thoughts on becoming a Windows 8.1 school

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.

wytraining Win8

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.