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.

From The Garage: Presentation Translator

Presentation Translator

The annual Microsoft Build conference is running at the moment and amongst other announcements I saw this one from the Microsoft Garage called “Presentation Translator”

This looks to be a plugin for PowerPoint that will offer some pretty neat features and is described on the website as:

As you speak, the add-in allows you to display subtitles directly on your PowerPoint presentation in any one of more than 60 supported text languages.

Additionally, up to 100 audience members in the room can follow along the presentation in their own language, and on their own phone, tablet, or computer.

There is some obvious scenarios where this functionality will be awesome when you have a multi-lingual audience you’re presenting to, however I can see a lot of value for this within Education as well. One situation would be for students who prefer to be able to read content to deepen their understanding. Having real time transcription (and translation) will certainly be an amazing demonstration of technology that will add real value to students and teachers alike.

This is not an official release yet but you can sign up for the preview here.

 

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.

Guide For Deploying Office365 ProPlus

office-365-appsI am writing a quick blog in response to the confusion I’m seeing in schools around the different versions of Microsoft Office 2016 and the varying ways this can be installed for users. The main reason this is causing confusion and problems is the release cycle of new features, in particular ones that tend to be appealing to schools such as embedding features in OneNote and digital inking options.

A colleague of mine is going to write a more technical overview of this and I’ll update this blog post to reflect this, but thought I would at least point users to the following fantastic overview:

Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus

This is broken down into the following sections:

  • Get Started – an overview of what’s new.
  • Deploy Office365 ProPlus – deploying from a local network directory or use SCCM
  • Manage Updates – choose frequency and source of updates for your users
  • Upgrade to Office365 ProPlus – tips for organisations that are not already on ProPlus and how to manage a smooth upgrade
  • Best Practices For Deploying – key considerations to keep in mind when deploying ProPlus

The key consideration for organisations is whether to move away from the traditional Volume Licensing version of Office, usually pushed out with an MSI package, and instead use the “Click 2 Run” version of Office365 ProPlus. Whilst many schools are simply getting students to download and install Office2016 directly from the Office Portal, when it comes to managing this for staff machines having automated options is important.

The Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus should provide all the information school IT administrators need to make these decisions on how best to get ProPlus onto devices.