IT News

Windows 10 to Get Education Makeover

Microsoft will be introducing new education-useful features into Windows 10, including a quick device set-up app, an imaging and configuration tool, a utility to simplify Windows 10 devices for testing and enhancements to Windows Update.

The update news comes out as Microsoft has been crowing about data from Futuresource Consulting that reported domination of Windows as the top global platform for mobile devices in K-12. Microsoft holds 43 percent of market share on the worldwide K-12 segment; in the United States, that's 22 percent.

Alongside the Windows 10 updates, the company is releasing Microsoft Classroom, which provides course management operations.

The new functionality will appear in what Microsoft is heralding as its Windows 10 Anniversary Update, due this summer.

The set-up app enables a school staffer to set up classroom PCs in three steps:

  1. Saving a setup file to a USB drive;
  2. Turning on the classroom computers; and
  3. Putting the USB drive into the device.

For school IT staff, an updated Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer tool will let them set-up shared devices in bulk for class scenarios where students share devices.

A new "take-a-test" app locks down the browser to secure the device for online assessments. For summative exams, students won't have copy and paste privileges, access to files or the ability to do other activities outside of the testing environment. For formative testing, the app works with whatever assessment website the teacher uses.

Windows Update now includes "active hour" policies, which IT people can set to update devices outside of class times.

The updated release of Windows 10 will also offer Windows Ink, a technology that enables the user to write on his or her device as if it were paper. That feature will be available through Office applications and Microsoft Edge, the company's Windows 10 browser.

And the company is promoting the use of Cortana in the classroom, to help students do queries without special log-in when the device isn't in lockdown mode.

At least one district has bought into the use of Windows 10 for its student device program. Kent School District, located about 25 miles south of the Microsoft main campus, has been piloting Windows 10 in four K-12 schools over the last year. Recently, the district began installing Windows 10 on PCs in its elementary school libraries and committed to implementing the operating system on all 24,000 district devices by the start of the next school year.

The Kent school system, which uses Office 365 Education, has also installed Windows 10 on older computers, finding it to be a means to getting "extra life" out of its devices. "It's not intuitive to think you can put a newer operating system on an older computer and it will actually run better," said Kent School District CIO Stosh Morency, in a Microsoft blog article. "Because of some of these benefits, we've extended our four-year refresh cycle to five years for some of the devices."

"We've seen tremendous gains in a few specific students," added Aubrey Buerstatte, a technology integration and library media specialist at Kent's Horizon Elementary. "One girl was always late. She slept through class, had difficulty with her handwriting, and was performing below grade level. Then her teacher helped her set up a OneNote folder and start doing her work on a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10. She was able to organize and keep track of her assignments and compose without worrying about her handwriting. The touch screen and Surface pen were also large factors in getting this student engaged in her learning. Now she is excited to do her work, her test scores have improved dramatically, and she is on target to finish the year above grade level."

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