Microsoft Release New Surface Pro

Overnight Microsoft announced the new Surface Pro device, replacing the previous model Surface Pro 4. With this new model it appears that the numbering has gone, i.e. this is not a Surface Pro 5, rather it is simply known as a Surface Pro.

These are available for pre-order today from as low as NZ$1214,10 including GST for the entry level unit with student/educational pricing and this gets you an Intel Core M3 CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. Here are some details from the ordering website:

Description

• Transforms from PC to tablet to Studio Mode

• Powerful Intel Core processor

• Create, study, work, and play virtually anywhere

• High-resolution PixelSense Display touchscreen

• Up to 13.5 hours of battery life²

• Ships by 15/6/2017

I know that a lot of schools were looking to replace the aging Surface 3 device and the above could be a great option for that. I’m particularly excited to see the 13.5hr battery life as that is something that students/teachers are demanding now in any device – all day battery life.

There has also been a focus on getting the device even flatter with the kick stand going to a “Surface Studio-like” degree for easier writing/drawing on the Surface Pro’s screen.

You can read the full release from Microsoft here

New Surface Pro Pen Video

Additional announcements relating to Office365 and tight integration with digital inking and touch, especially the Surface Pro range of devices, were announced in a separate blog that you can read here.

OneDrive Files On Demand – Perfect for BYOD

ssd-vs-hdd

Credit: TechoFAQ

Over the last couple of years it has been evident that increasing numbers of BYOD laptops have transitioned to Solid State Disks (SSD) which is terrific since they are significantly faster than traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDD), have lower failure rates and also improve battery life.

However, due to their higher price point, the actual available storage volume of SSD is often markedly lower than equivalently priced HDD.  This means students are faced with the difficult decision around what content do they store locally on the their device versus using selective sync in the OneDrive cloud and/or storing on an external USB drive.

Selective Sync effectively allows you to upload content into OneDrive that you don’t access frequently, and then download it when you do need it. Critically, however, this content will not appear in your local File Explorer browser so you can’t “see” it unless you log into OneDrive via a web browser and choose to sync it locally to your device.

OneDrive Files On Demand Coming In Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

This is why the announcement last Friday at the Build 2017 conference was so exciting. A new feature will allow you to see all of your content in OneDrive in your File Explorer, irrespective of whether it is stored locally on your device, or only in OneDrive in the Microsoft Cloud. Then, if you want to access any content that is only in OneDrive it will automatically be downloaded “on demand” when you click to open the file/folder.

You can optionally choose to then “always keep on this device” if you are going to be requiring regular or off-line access to this file.

Read the full blog post about this here.

Here are some images from the original blog post to show you how this works:

1

Note that the selected folder takes up 1.37TB of storage in the OneDrive cloud, but that locally in File Explorer it shows 0 bytes on the local device.

2

The various status of each file and folder is shown in the “Status” column, indicating whether it is in the OneDrive Cloud only or stored locally on the device. Right mouse clicking allows you to choose to “Always keep on this device”

3

If a file is not stored locally, simply double clicking on it as you normally would to open a file will immediately trigger a download to open the requested file.

My Point of View:

I see this as being a massive aid for schools, helping both teachers and students maximize the performance of their devices. Getting more SSD into teacher and student devices will drive longer battery life, lower failure rates and faster accessing of content. However, by being able to seamlessly see what is in the Cloud and what is stored locally removes any barrier or confusion around the location of content for end users.

With many BYOD devices starting with 64GB of storage, this opens up the vast OneDrive storage capacity to students and teachers in an easier, more seamless way, meaning there is even less reason to use USB hard drives for storing content.

This feature will be available in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update as well as new OneDrive features for iOS/Android devices.

Digital Inking – Improves Teaching & Learning

Inking.PNG

I have visited a number of schools recently and demonstrated many of the natural hand gestures for editing and Ink Replay available in Office365 and the response is always very positive from teachers and students alike.

I have recently found the above infographic showing independent research from Sharon Oviatt, an expert in human centered and multi-modal interfaces and use of pen inputs on computers. I find that the numbers in the infographic resonate with teachers that I’ve been working with who are using Digital Inking to prepare student work, provide feedback and mark assessment.

When I was still at St Andrew’s College I recorded an interview with the Head of English and she explained how she marks English assignments using her Surface Pro 3 and digital ink:

DigitalPenUsageThere are many and varied compelling reasons to try Digital Inking and with a wider range of devices now supporting this, from entry level OEM offerings through to the newly announced Surface Laptop,  there is bound to be a device that meets your budget and requirements.

If you are interested in further research and information from Sharon Oviatt on the “power of the pen” then I encourage you to check out this blog from the Microsoft In Education team where it goes into more depth about the impact of computer interfaces on learning.

You can read the full blog post here.

Device Based Activation for Office365 ProPlus – Great For Education

UPDATE:  a reader of this blog pointed out the following step by step guide to using Device Based Activation  that I would encourage you to read as well in conjunction with the Microsoft guide below. The above link also contains additional details for SCCM and GPO if that is relevant for your environment too.

I wrote a recent blog post with the best practice guide to how to deploy Office365 ProPlus in various scenarios. Some of the feedback on that post was how would this work in a shared device environment such as a school computer lap or shared laptops in a COW (Computers on Wheels).

Activate OfficeThe guide does have a link specifically referencing shared environments, however a number of schools did raise the downside that a student would still need to activate the Office365 ProPlus installation from time to time when they say this prompt on the right.

After asking around internally I have now been shared an alternative method of installation for Office365 ProPlus licensing that was build specifically with schools in mind and you can read the entire guide, along with step by step video tutorials by clicking the following link:

Office365 ProPlus Device Based Activation

What I see from this resource is there are a few main benefits for schools taking this approach:

  • The student never sees the Office activation prompt because the device has activated Office365 ProPlus and not the individual user
  • There is an included tool to automatically un-install the MSI Office2016 version that may have been installed with Volume Licensing
  • This Device Based Activation method can be automated using MS SCCM or Group Policy.
DBA1

An Office Mix video showing the requirements and advantages of Device Based Activation

DBA2

The different components in the Device Based Activation process

From an education perspective, this will help keep school/staff devices running the same version of Office365 as the students who typically download their own copy from a network share or the Office Portal. Given that updates and new features come to the subscription based ProPlus version much faster it is worth having a consistent user experience across all devices / users in your school.

This is a useful link outlining the differences between Office365 and Office 2016 and I’ve highlighted the key differences here in terms of updates/functionality:

compare.PNG

The other major benefit of Office365 ProPlus is that it can be installed on up to five other devices.

It’s time to recognise that there is a wide range of options when it comes to deploying Office365 in education. To maximize the value of the subscription based approach, along with the regular updates and new features, using something like Device Based Activation, or one of the other methods from the best practice guide, will ensure that you’re always using the latest and greatest of Office.

 

Limitless Learning: Four Key Learning Styles

Many moons ago I came across VARK Learning Styles,  a website that acknowledged the different learning styles of students and provided a questionnaire to help learners identify their strongest / preferred learning style.

Today I was introduced to the Limitless Learning website put together by Microsoft NZ that acknowledges students learn in four quite different ways:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Tactile
  • Kinaesthetic

Limitless Learning.PNG

As teachers work towards increasingly differentiated and personalised lessons for students, the above website is a great resource to assist them in planning lessons and ideas that cater to all the learning styles of their students.

With additional teaching resources and guides for schools and parents in choosing the right device for their student, the website is a great resource to check out.

ANZAC Reflections – We Will Remember

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch in the lead up to Anzac Day 2017

It’s not often I write about things other than technology and education on this blog, however one of my other great passions is, in fact, history. I was privileged to teach history for four years at Linwood College and Catholic Cathedral College when I first started teaching after leaving my first career in the ICT sector.

When I moved to St Andrew’s College in 2012, my job as the Director of ICT was full time, precluding me from continuing to actively teach history, however I was fortunate to be given a number of opportunities to speak at the weekly Chapel services the College held. It was at two of these that I researched former students and staff members and their roles in World War 2 and then shared their stories with students. I recount all of this because tomorrow, April 25th, is ANZAC Day in New Zealand and for those unacquainted with this, this public holiday commemorates the war time services of the Australia, New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who first served together during the ill fated Gallipoli Campaign in World War 1.

Barry Martin

Laying a virtual poppy for Barry Martin at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph

I was thrilled, therefore, to learn that at the ANZAC Memorial Service that will be hosted at the new St Andrew’s College Centennial Chapel tomorrow, a video will be shown of the College’s World War 2 Memorial Tour of Europe that happened in January. During this trip, each student was required to research about an Old Collegian and then a wreath and College thistle was placed at the grave site. You can see the video showing this tour here:

Keen observers will have heard two names mentioned:

  • James Samuel Cartwright – a former teacher who was killed days after the D-Day landings when his destroyer, HMS Boadicea, was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel
  • Barry Martin – a student of the Preparatory College who was a navigator in Stirling Bombers and was shot down and killed over occupied Europe (his plane crashed near Rotterdam).

These names were two of the men that I had researched whilst at St Andrew’s College and shared their stories at Chapel services. At the time, I wrote a blog post showing off the considerable technology that went into researching and presenting these stories, including a Skype video call with the 92year old surviving sister of James Samuel Cartwright.

It seems appropriate at this time of ANZAC commemorations to revisit these presentations and, through the retelling of their stores, we will not forget the ultimate sacrifice these men made.

James Samuel Cartwright:

Barry Martin:

Technology is certainly enabling new generations to learn more about their forefathers’ service in both The Great War and World War 2 and it seems the fascination with new stories from this period are not diminishing. I read with interest this story in the press today, this story in the press today,  bringing a degree of closure to a 93 year old Kiwi who piloted Lancaster bombers during the WW2.  A great resource for New Zealander’s looking to find out more about relatives that have served (as far back as the Boer War), is the Auckland Museum’s Online Cenotaph:

Online Cenotaph

The Online Cenotaph allows visitors to search up known information on former soldiers, contribute additional information if they have it, as well as lay a “virtual poppy” on the cenotaph.

For those interested, I have read the following history books over the last few months – they may be of interest to you as you pause and reflect this ANZAC Day:

Major OneNote Class NoteBook Announcement: Sharing With Parents

onenote-class-notebooksOne of the things that has really impressed me over the last couple of years has been the responsiveness from the Microsoft Education team to the requests of teachers and how they want to use OneNote in their classes.

Today, in a new blog post that you can read here, the OneNote team have announced four new features that make it even easier for teachers to securely and flexibly share the learning of students with parents at home.

The four new features announced are:

  1. Parent or guardian access to Class Notebook (read-only links)
  2. Parent or guardian access APIs (e.g. if you have a Parent Portal or LMS that you want to generate these links automatically from)
  3. Permissions in the Collaboration Space (control which students can see which sections in the Collaboration Space – great for Project Based Learning)
  4. Delete student content when removing permissions (keep it tidier when removing students from your Class Notebook)

Of these, the first is the biggest “win” for teachers in my view as this allows them to achieve a feature request that has been around for a while – bringing the parent/guardian “into” the digital classroom by selectively and securely sharing the relevant sections with them.

Another scenario where this could work is if you have a teacher aide that wants to see a student’s work in a particular class, they could access it in read only through this method.

To see how easier it is to achieve this, have a look at the following animated GIF:

OneNote-Class-Notebook-updates-include-read-only-parent-or-guardian-access-and-collaboration-space-permissions-1b

From the original blog:

Teachers now can quickly and easily generate read-only links to both the Content Library and individual student notebooks. A parent or guardian can click the link to open OneNote on the web and view their student’s notebook. The teacher can also easily remove these notebook links if desired. This new capability is located under the Manage Notebooks area of the Class Notebook. To try the new parent and guardian features, a school simply needs to have guest access enabled for their Office 365 site. Find additional details here.

The other major point from this update is the ability to control the Collaboration Space more effectively by assigning students in groups to sections. Again, from the original blog:

OneNote-Class-Notebook-updates-include-read-only-parent-or-guardian-access-and-collaboration-space-permissions-2

Teachers can now sub-divide the Collaboration Space—based on student permissions that the teacher assigns for each section—into groups allowing project-based learning (PBL), among many other new scenarios. This new permission, located under the Manage Notebooks area of the Class Notebook, enables a teacher to create specific sections in the Collaboration Space assigned to specific students.

For example, say you have four groups of six students each. The teacher assigns each group of students to a specific section. Group 1 can work together in the Group 1 section, but cannot see that the Group 2, Group 3 or Group 4 sections exist in the Collaboration Space. This is similar to how in Class Notebook students cannot see each other’s private notebooks.

Don’t forget to check this out in it’s entirety by going to the original blog post here, and better yet, given that these updates are available immediately, go and have a play with them.

Finally, I know there will be a lot of happy teachers with these announcements as I’ve had numerous discussions over the last few months with teachers trying to work out how to create ePortfolios for their students/parents to access and now this gives that functionality in a very simple, controllable manner.