With the lead up to ISTE 2019 (happening next week) in full swing, the updates and announcements are coming thick and fast from the Microsoft Education team! Reviewing them, the best word to sum them up is: inclusive! There is a huge push to ensure that all students and educators have access to the learning content and can contribute meaningfully in the classroom.
I’m not going to go through the features one by one, but will list off where to get the updates here:
- Simpler Sign On into Office365 using your Google Credentials
- Minecraft:Education Edition updates, including ‘join codes’ to control multi-player worlds, and in-game Immersive Reader to support literacy needs.
- Microsoft Whiteboard updates – Read only mode, follow along mode, sticker packs, you name it, it’s here for this great, real-time collaboration app
- All Inclusive Features update summary blog post, showing the key announcements, including the PowerPoint Presentation Coach and other announcements from ISTE
What are the standouts here?
It’s really tough for me to single out the ‘best’ highlights here, but I think there are a number that really speak to what the education sector has been asking for and it’s awesome to see this responsiveness from Microsoft Education delivering on this.
I work with a lot of self-described “Google Schools” who have their entire school user identities set up in G Suite for Education and yet would love to sample elements of O365, especially the Immersive Reader to support the literacy needs of their students. To this end, the announcement of the Simpler Sign On, whilst still in closed-beta, is huge as it will allow them to experience Office365 with a single click – no need to manually provision accounts or run separate usernames and passwords. Whilst many schools have been setting up Single Sign on based on AzureAD as the Identity Provider (IdP), this federation effectively works in reverse, allowing the IdP to remain at Google but opening up O365 to the school. It’s a big one, and I know many schools will be keen to get on the the waitlist for access – click here to sign up for the waitlist now!
Another very popular request is the ability to manage who can enter a multi-player world inside of Minecraft:Education Edition.
Whilst there were previously ways of restricting who can join a world by not broadcasting it on the LAN, the announcement of Join Codes is a more effective and easier way to manage the same outcome for student groups that are wanting to do work collaboratively, but in defined groups. I expect a lot of uptake of this feature! Similarly, the addition of Immersive Reader inside the gameplay of Minecraft:Education Edition is incredible and this was achieved by making Immersive Reader an Azure Cognitive Service, allowing any partner to integrate it into their app.
Finally, the all-up strategy of inclusion is evident in the announcements from ISTE and reading the summary blog post is a great idea because it shows you the depth and breadth of the integration across the M365 Education solutions. Whether it’s a more natural read-aloud voice powered by Neural Text To Speech (Neural TTS), active coaching on presentation skills in PowerPoint Presentation Coach through to the inclusive approach to math in OneNote with automatically generated quizzes based on the equations the student is working on, there is something for everyone here.