Rapidly Deploying Windows 10 Devices Via Modern Deployment Methods

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:

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:

microsoft-tries-expelling-chromebooks-from-schools-with-intune-app-and-low-cost-pcs

Intune for Education dashboard.

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:

  1. Reset Windows 10 to factory (see above) or use a brand new device.
  2. Insert a USB key with the Set Up School PCs App configured on it. This will:
    1. Install the initial provisioning package
    2. Install a selection of pre-selected applications
    3. Join the device to AzureAD of the pre-selected Office 365 Tenant.
    4. Enroll the device into Intune of the pre-selected Office 365 Tenant.
  3. Sign in as an Office365 user (this could be a student, teacher or ICT administrator)
  4. Intune (or Intune for Education) will start to push the remaining required apps and settings to the device immediately.
    1. 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.
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The Set Up School PC App (SUSPC App) start screen.

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.

Conclusion:

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.

Using AzureAD Groups To Quickly Populate Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the new digital classroom platform from Microsoft and I’ve already reviewed the key features recently here, but if you’re unfamiliar with it here is the official overview video:

I have recently been asked by a few secondary schools and tertiary institutes what is the quickest way to populate students into a Team. You can, of course, use the official Student Data Sync tool which will take information from your Student Management System (SMS) and populate the relationship between teachers, students and classes in a very tidy way (full guide available here)

However, if you’re after a super quick way and you’re already using AzureAD Security Groups then it’s a 5 second job to add all your students into a class. Follow the instructions below to learn just how easy it is!

Teams2

You need to start by looking at your existing Groups in the Admin Portal and making sure that you have one that reflects the students/teachers that you want to add to your Team. In the above example this is a mail enabled security group called “Demo Students” with an alias of demos@educationgate.school.nz

Teams1

Next. go to your Team in question and by clicking on the Team name (in the above example, 11 History) you will see in the above example there are only three members of the team: 1 owner and two members.  You will also see the “Add Member” option on the right

Teams3

Once you have clicked “Add Member” will have the chance to add either individual students/teachers by searching for their name directly OR you search for your AzureAD Group name – in this case “demos”. You need to select this and hit “Add”

Teams4

Note that it automatically recognises that there is four members of the group and that it will add each of these members to your Team in one go.

Teams5

Confirmation that all four members from the AzureAD Group “demos” have been added to the team.

This is a real time saver for situations where schools are already using AzureAD to populate Groups with their students/teachers. In these examples, you can add an entire class of students as easily as adding a single student.

UPDATE: A keen reader reminded me that the above method is a one time import of the Members of the AzureAD Group – it will not keep them in sync if the membership changes dynamically (to achieve this, SDS is the better option). So the above is certainly a time saver in situations where you want to do a one off import and are prepared to add/remove additional members manually at a later date.

Aotearoa Awaits – Māori In Minecraft

The following Minecraft content has been posted with the permission of it’s creator Lt_Peanut.

It seems almost every day I’m having conversations with schools or education partners about Minecraft and how this can be creatively used to teach students across a wide range of curriculum areas.

Today I was super excited when my colleague pointed out to me this story on the Minecraft.net website showcasing the work of Minecraft & Twitter user Lt_Peanut:

Minecraft5.jpg

Lt_Peanut explained their creation in Minecraft on this Minecraft Forum posting in both Te Reo Māori and English:

Maori:

Kia Ora, Ko Taylor toku ingoa, i kore anake toku tamataraa mo Octovon engari ahau hanga ano hoki tenei hanga te reira rite te kanohi o te tikanga Māori. Tatou Maori, ko te iwi Kiwa taketake o Aotearoa. hiahia ahau ki te tohu Aotearoa ki tenei whakairo i roto i tūmanako o te faaururaa iwi ki te ako e pā ana ki to tatou tikanga. Tenei hanga whakaatu he rangatira Māori, mau ana Korowai me te piupiu me te hapai i te taiaha i roto i te ngahere tikitu Aotearoa. Kua tamata ahau ki te waihanga i tētahi tikitu waho te whakamahi o te rakau kia rite ki e haere ki tua atu i te rangi i nga rakau, pera hei utu kua hanga e ahau te manu taketake o Aotearoa, te Kiwi, me te ponga, to tatou whakato tino tohu, e hua te koru.

Te ti’aturi nei e ahau ki a koutou katoa oaoa i.

English:

Hello, my name is Taylor, this build was not only my trial for Octovon but I also created it as a representation of the Maori culture. We Maori, are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. I wanted to represent New Zealand with this build in hopes of inspiring people to learn about our culture, as recent studies have shown that fewer than one million Maori people are on our earth today. This build showcases a Maori chief, wearing his Korowai, piupiu and wielding his Taiaha in a New Zealand rainforest. I have tried to create a rainforest without the use of trees as the trees would go beyond the build limit, so instead I have created the native bird of New Zealand, the Kiwi, and the silver fern, our most symbolic plant, that produces the koru. To represent a New Zealand rainforest instead.

I hope you all enjoy the build. 🙂

In my mind, this is a classic example of how students can connect their passion for their heritage and culture with their creative passion in Minecraft and then share this with their community online (both school and wider users). Providing an explanation of the motivation such as Lt_Peanut did above deepens the learning and allows for cross-subject applicability and even potential assessment opportunities.

Tino pai rawa atu Taylor!

New: Use PowerShell To Manage Licenses In Windows Store For Business / Education

powershellMany organisations are increasingly using PowerShell to automate routine tasks and schools are no different in this way.

With the recent surge in interest around Minecraft Education Edition (or M:EE for short), many schools have been asking for an easier way to manage, assign and revoke these licenses for individual students. Up until now, this could only be done via the Store itself (see here for a guide).

Happily, there is now a method to use PowerShell to achieve the rapid license management – it is still in Preview Release at the moment but could be worth checking out if you want to do some testing:

Microsoft Store For Business & Education PowerShell Module (Preview)

You can use the PowerShell module to:+

  • View items you’ve purchased – shown in Apps & software
  • Manage licenses – assigning and removing
  • Perform bulk operations with .csv files – automates license management for customers with larger numbers of licenses

It’s great to see even easier ways to manage Education focused apps from the Store through the use of PowerShell.

Microsoft Education Cloud Solution: End To End Guide For Deployment

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2017 has been the year that has seen the various pieces of Microsoft’s Education offerings come together in a more cohesive, end-to-end offering that can now be deployed very easily by schools or their ICT partners.

Naturally, this is centered around Office365 and the power of the Azure cloud identity with Azure Active Directory, combined with the recent Creators Updates in Windows 10 providing a great overall solution for educators and students alike.

To the make the process of deploying this even easier, Microsoft have released a great step by step guide, with accompanying videos. The overview article, and the best place to start if you’re new to all of this, can be found at the following link:

Deploy & manage a full cloud IT solution with Microsoft Education

What is Microsoft Education?

Microsoft Education consists of these new and existing services and tools from Microsoft:

  • Microsoft Intune for Education for simple set up, control, and management of the resources for your school including apps, devices, and settings
  • Office 365 for Education provides online apps for work from anywhere and desktop apps for advanced functionality, built for working together and available across devices, and it’s free for schools, teachers, and students
    • School Data Sync to help automate the process for importing and integrating School Information System (SIS) data that you can use with Office 365
    • OneNote Class Notebook to organize course content, create and deliver interactive lessons to some or all students, collaborate and provide private feedback to individual students, and connect with major LMS and SIS partners for assignment workflow
  • Microsoft Teams to bring conversations, content, and apps together in one place and create collaborate classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with school staff
  • Learning Tools are moving beyond the OneNote desktop app and is now available in Office Lens, OneNote Online, Word Online, and Word desktop
  • Whiteboard to create interactive lessons on the big screen, share and collaborate real-time by connecting to Class Notebook and Classroom
  • Windows 10, version 1703 (Creators Update) which brings 3D for everyone and other new and updated Windows features
  • Minecraft: Education Edition which provides an open and immersive environment to promote creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving

I’ve collated the following video guides from the individual instruction pages which are all worth checking out, with the goal of having a “one stop shop” for school IT admins to be able source all the help they need to deploy and maintain Microsoft Education.

In the following walkthrough videos, we’ll show you the basics on how to:

  • Acquire an Office 365 for Education tenant, if you don’t already have one
  • Import school, student, teacher, and class data using School Data Sync (SDS)
  • Deploy Microsoft Teams to enable groups and teams in your school to communicate and collaborate
  • Manage apps and settings deployment with Intune for Education
  • Acquire additional apps in Microsoft Store for Education
  • Use the Set up School PCs app to quickly set up and provision your Windows 10 education devices
  • Log in and use the devices

So, let’s get started with the setup process!

Set Up An Office365 Education Tenant

(full instructions here)

Use School Data Sync To Import Data

(full instructions here)

Enable Microsoft Teams For Your School

(full instructions here)

There is no video for this one, but the step by step instructions on the link above are very easy to follow along with.

Configure Microsoft Store For Education

(full instructions here)

Use Intune For Education To Manage Groups, Apps, and Settings

(full instructions here)

Set Up Windows 10 Education Devices

(full instructions here)

There is no video for this one either, however the above link shows you how to use the free Set Up School PCs App to quickly deploy new devices and join them to Azure Active Directory (AAD) – this process usually takes less than 5mins for a brand new device out of the box.

Finish Windows 10 Device Setup & Other Tasks

(full instructions here)

Conclusion

It’s now easier than ever before to quickly set up a feature rich educational environment using the Microsoft cloud offerings of Office365 combined with Windows 10 devices.

I hope the above guides help but if you have further questions, drop them in the comments section below.

Guest Posts: Modern Methodologies For Classroom IT Management

I am going to link back to a series of five upcoming blog posts that are aimed at helping school ICT administrators manage and secure their environments more effectively. The five blog topics are as follows:

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Using the cloud is a great way to protect school data

The first blog post has a number of great links within it, including information about cyber security risks faced in schools:

As each of the posts are published I will update the links at the top of this post to provide a central point to access them.

Story Remix In Windows 10

Video

Story Remix is a free tool in Windows 10 that will allow students to quickly and creatively generate awesome video content as well as introduce 3D visual effects to really make their work stand out.

I have been playing with Microsoft Paint3D lately and I can see how Story Remix will take this to the next level. I can’t wait for this to arrive.