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.

Microsoft’s May Education Event – Overview

As many readers will have caught up on, Microsoft had a major education event yesterday with the key announcements of a new member of the Surface device family, Surface Laptop, and a new variation on Windows 10, called Windows 10 S.

Keen readers can watch the entire launch event here however the 101 second summary is below:

At this stage, I’ve not got my head across all of the implications for schools from these announcements so I’ll just refer you to the official blog posts here:

For an independent view you can read Dr Joe Sweeney’s initial thoughts on his LinkedIn post here. Joe is an industry analyst for mobility, education and digital innovation and offers an outsiders view of these latest announcements from Microsoft.

If you’re a real device nut and want to see some very cool animations of the internals of the Surface Laptop then this video is for you:

If you’re an ICT Admin in a school and interested in how you can easily manage Win10 devices (including Win10 S) then this might be more for you:

Microsoft is clearly also pushing for affordable STEM resources to support teachers in preparing students for the jobs that “don’t exist yet” – lots of stats about this but some suggestions are that as many as 65% of students will be working in jobs not yet created … interesting stuff! Here’s a video around STEM engagement from Microsoft:

Related to this, of course, is Minecraft Education Edition and with a new release allowing you to integrate third party coding tools (such as Scratch by MIT and Tynker  to teach computational thinking for students, this is a powerful addition to an already great product:

Whilst many schools in New Zealand and elsewhere around the world have already jumped into using the public preview of Microsoft Classroom, we learnt yesterday that this is now going to be discontinued and replaced with Teams for Education:

If you’re a school using Microsoft Classroom and wondering how you will be affected it’s worth reading the below:

1). End-of-support for the Northern Hemisphere school closing July 31, 2017 and for the Southern Hemisphere school closing January 31, 2018.
2). Class structures themselves will not showup in MS Teams. Various data component – files, calendars, OneNotes will be accessible through Office Groups.
3). Classroom experience in MS Teams is expected to be available before the dates mentioned in item#1 above in the respective regions.

Lastly, Mixed Reality gets a boost and focus in education with Pearson Education investing big in this area – have a look at the video below that shows Canberra Grammar School using HoloLens and Pearson Education immersive content:

With more affordable mixed reality devices coming from OEM partners such as Acer and others, schools will be able to utilize this more readily than being required to purchase the more expensive HoloLens.

Clearly a lot to process – exciting times for Microsoft and as I start to get hands on with some of these technologies I’ll be sure to post back thoughts here.

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.

Digital Inking – Get Graphing In OneNote!

OneNote-Graph-inking-GIF

It’s awesome to see the pace of new features coming out for Microsoft OneNote. It was only earlier this week that I was blogging about using Desmos for graphing and then with OneNote Clipping tool bringing the graph into OneNote.

Well, now this functionality exists in the OneNote Universal app natively!

Read the full blog post here from Microsoft

I decided to give this a test myself and see if works, and it did immediately:

maths

As per the blog, there are five steps to digitally inking graphs in OneNote:

Five steps to graph an equation in OneNote

  1. Begin by writing your equation. For example: y=x+3 or y=sin(x)+cos(2x).
  2. Next, use Lasso tool to select the equation and then, on the Draw tab, click the Math button.
  3. From the drop-down menu in Math pane, select the option to Graph in 2D. You can play with the interactive graph of your equation—use a single finger to move the graph position or two fingers to change the zoom level.
  4. Use + and buttons to change the values of the parameters in your equation.
  5. Finally, click the Insert on Page button to add a screenshot of the graph to your page.

For now, this is only available in the Universal OneNote app, not in the OneNote 2016 application that comes with Office 2016. This is a great new feature further highlighting the power of digital inking as well as the speed of evolution of the educational products in OneNote.

Supporting The Literacy of ALL Learners With Learning Tools

One of the most popular features of OneNote Class Notebooks was the “Learning Tools” which have enabled students of all abilities to process content more easily:

The Learning Tools for OneNote help everyone improve their reading and writing skills, including gifted learners, students with learning differences or a combination of any of the broad range of unique student abilities.

As an organisation, Microsoft has a huge focus on accessibility when it comes to enabling everyone to use technology and in line with this vision, some of the best features of the OneNote Learning Tools are coming to new platforms in the Office Suite.

Read the full announcement here from the official Office Blog

Announced in late February, the same features of the Learning Tools will now be built directly into Word 2016 (in the ProPlus “click to run” version), Word Online and OneNote Online. You will be able to access these under the “View” menu and it will be called “Immersive Reader.” As per the blog, the following features are available:

Learning Tools includes a modified reader view that utilizes techniques proven to help people read more effectively, such as:

  • Read Aloud—Reads text aloud with simultaneous highlighting that improves decoding, fluency and comprehension while sustaining the reader’s focus and attention.
  • Spacing—Optimizes font spacing in a narrow column view to improve reading fluency for users who suffer from visual crowding issues.
  • Syllables—Shows the breaks between syllables to enhance word recognition and decoding.
  • Parts of Speech*—Supports writing instruction and grammar comprehension by identifying verbs, nouns and adjectives.

In practice, this looks like the following:

learning-tools-for-word-online-and-onenote-online-now-available-1

These tools are available in numerous languages as well.

Educators should definitely check these out for all students so they can be supported in their literacy.

Great Example Of OneNote Class Notebooks In A School

I’m linking to a great success story from Klein Forest High School in Houston, Texas, which recently deployed OneNote Class Notebooks across subjects in the secondary school.

You can read the full blog post here.

It’s worth reading in detail for the approach and how they opted to roll it out:

To prepare for our summer trainings, we decided to actively “promote” OneNote. We visited PLC meetings, made infographics, emailed the details out and posted on our website. During the summer of 2016, we provided professional development for our staff introducing OneNote and had them participate as students using a Class Notebook that we had created. Most of them fell in love with it on the spot. We also had the teachers who piloted OneNote during the previous year assist with staff development for additional buy-in.

OneNote-Class-Notebook-supports-English-Language-Learners-3.png

Once school started this August, things got off to a slower start than we anticipated. Teachers were falling into old habits. Therefore, we decided to switch our approach from marketing to grassroots. We targeted specific teachers who we felt were catalysts, teachers that would share our sentiments. This proved to be successful because—just like we suspected—it spread like wildfire!

There is also an embedded Sway showing how OneNote Class Notebooks are being used across the various subject areas

What is exciting from this story is that teachers were sharing the benefits with their colleagues directly – almost a viral deployment. I’ve seen this first hand in schools I’ve worked in where OneNote was deployed and when you have teachers creating resources for their colleagues to help them use the tools better, you know you’ve won. From the blog:

Another staff member, an ELL teacher, used it with his students who are new to the country and learning the English language. He was drawn to the Learning Tools add-in. He saw vast improvements in the students’ writing and language acquisition over time. He even made some tutorial videos as a supplemental resource for our teachers ready to jump in.

Once again, do take a moment to read the entire blog post here.