One of the cool things in my job is that I get to see a lot of new devices and over the last few months I’ve been spending quite a bit of time figuring out the best way to deploy these in an educational context. I shared the guest blog around Modern Deployment Methods a few weeks back and I thought in this post I would outline some of my learnings from using some of the new Microsoft Education Solutions.
Devices I’ve Been Testing On:
The main devices I have been testing on are:
- Acer Travelmate B118 (also called B1 Spin) great pen and digital inking experience
- Intel Diamond Creek (not officially available in NZ) neat reference design for education, includes touch screen and attached pen for digital inking
- HP ProBook x360 – touchscreen and pen
- Lenovo N23 – rugged device, touch screen
What is really pleasing about all of the above “hero” spec devices is that they all run a minimum of 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD storage making them powerful enough for most classroom uses and with new features coming like OneDrive Files on Demand, cloud storage will make them even more useful.
I’ve also had a look at the new Surface Laptop running Windows 10S but have not been able to do any extensive testing or resetting on with this device.
Modern Deployment Tools:
Firstly, if you’re interested in setting up the full Microsoft Cloud Education Solutions then you really need to read this blog post first, where I’ve collated the key videos and “how to” articles. I’m going to outline the two key tools that make the deployment of Windows 10 super easy and these are:
Through my testing I’ve been using a few temporary demo tenants (check here to set one up if you’re a partner) and I’ve sometimes used Student Data Sync, and other times not. I have reset my above test devices numerous times using the Recovery Options in Windows 10 – if you’re not confident doing this, then the LaptopMag have created a pretty helpful guide here.
The idea behind the above tools is to take a cloud-first mentality in terms of pushing applications to devices and leveraging AzureAD as the key cloud identity platform.
Sequence For Setup:
This is the key sequence for setup in a simple list format:
- Reset Windows 10 to factory (see above) or use a brand new device.
- Insert a USB key with the Set Up School PCs App configured on it. This will:
- Install the initial provisioning package
- Install a selection of pre-selected applications
- Join the device to AzureAD of the pre-selected Office 365 Tenant.
- Enroll the device into Intune of the pre-selected Office 365 Tenant.
- Sign in as an Office365 user (this could be a student, teacher or ICT administrator)
- Intune (or Intune for Education) will start to push the remaining required apps and settings to the device immediately.
- In my testing I’ve settled on pushing apps to the device rather than to the user to ensure the fastest possible login times for students/staff i.e. once the application has been installed on the device it will be available to all users.
In my testing, with the above mentioned test devices, I have found that steps 2-3 above typically takes under 5minutes. The initial login for a new user takes around 20-30seconds, and then subsequent logins of the same user is consistently under 4 seconds.
Step 4 above depends on how many applications you wish to push to the device, how fast the wireless network is etc. I am very confident that I could use the above sequence and deploy brand new devices to playing Minecraft:Education Edition on multiple devices in under 15 minutes.
Guides & Resources:
Learning more about the Set Up School PCs App can be done here but if you watch the below video you will see how easy it is:
The SUSPC App makes it super simple and fast to quickly deploy new (or restored Windows 10) devices and have them connected to your cloud first environment. It also means that the user experience for signing into these devices is fast and remains fast over time.
The second component to complete the deployment of apps and settings (sometimes referred to as policy) is using Intune For Education and you should look here for the full guide or watch the 5 minute video below:
As I mentioned in the sequence for setup at stage 4.1 above, I’ve settled on pushing apps directly to the device rather than to individual users, based on my preference that the apps are available to all users immediately when they sign in. This will, of course, vary from school to school based on how many apps they want on the devices (and available storage space) as well as app licensing considerations or suitability. The good news is that Student Data Sync will give you the granular control of which students (or classes, or year levels) you want to push certain apps or settings to.
If you’re after help or support directly from Microsoft around configuring Student Data Sync (SDS) for your school then complete the request form for personalised support HERE.
These new tools, combined with new education focused devices from hardware partners, showcases just how far Microsoft has come in terms of delivering smarter and more efficient ways for schools to manage their ICT infrastructure. This is, of course, enabled through the power of the cloud and if your school is not leveraging a cloud identity platform like AzureAD it’s definitely time to explore this as an option.
Pleasingly, the above set up makes it easy for schools to have quick and reliable Windows 10 to focus on promoting great teaching and learning outcomes for students and teachers alike. Technology is a great servant to pedagogy, and with modern deployment methods like the above, less time is required to get the ICT equipment up and running, allowing more time for quality teaching and that has to be a good thing.