Smart Classroom

Microsoft Unveils New Devices for Schools, Intune for Ed, Minecraft Ed Updates

Microsoft has unveiled new Windows 10 devices designed to compete with Chromebooks on price; an update to Minecraft for Education; and a new tool for managing classroom devices, Intune for Education.

A cloud-based application and device management service "specially designed for schools who want to put devices in classrooms and not touch them again for the rest of the school year, Intune for Education makes it easy for either IT admins, or teachers playing the role of IT in the classroom, to get up-and-running in minutes on Windows 10 devices and easily manage shared devices," according to a news release.

Features of Intune for Education, debuting at this week's BETT conference in London, include:

  • An express setup tool designed to implement default policies for devices and users in a class, school or district in minutes;
  • The ability to customize more than 150 settings, assign them to a student — who they can follow to any device they sign in to — and then apply them to hardware, browsers, apps, start menus, Windows Defender and more;
  • Teachers and admins can enroll a handful of devices by logging in with an Office 365 e-mail account or enroll many devices using the Set up School PCs app;
  • Integration with School Data Sync that allows Intune for Education to automatically create groups based on roster data and update those groups as roster changes are made; and
  • Integration with System Center Configuration Manager for cross-platform support.

A preview of Microsoft Intune for Education will be available in the coming weeks and more broadly available in the spring. It will cost $30 per device, though volume licensing will also be available.

The new devices being unveiled this week include machines from Acer, Lenovo and JP.IK.

Acer's newest device, the TravelMate Spin B118, is a convertible notebook with an 11.6-inch screen and a 360-degree hinge. Starting at $299, the notebook comes with a stylus to support Windows Ink and features a pressure-resistant screen, rubber bumpers, a spill-resistant keyboard and 13 hours of battery life.

Lenovo has updated its ThinkPad 11e Series. "Available in both clamshell or Yoga form-factors with Windows 10, ThinkPad 11e simplifies software and security management for educators and offers students notebooks that will last longer, even under the roughest handling," according to information released by Microsoft. "Engineered for education, ThinkPad 11e is focused on reliability and productivity, including military standard testing procedures and up to 11 hours’ battery life. The Yoga 11e comes with a pen and support for Windows Ink."

The company is also unveiling the Lenovo N24 with Windows 10 and pen support. The 11.6-inch convertible notebook features 360-degree screen rotation and 10-point touch capability. It is slated for availability by the middle of the year.

JP.IK's new offering, the TURN T201, also features 360-degree convertibility and comes with an active stylus. It is preloaded with Inspiring Knowledge Education Software and features a microlens for use as a microscope and a thermal probe.

The company's Minecraft: Education Edition update includes a global pause feature designed to provide a break for transitioning to a new activity. Other updates include:

  • New accessibility features, including text-to-speech for in-game chat;
  • A new interface for managing game settings;
  • 256 world height for increased building capability;
  • New "mobs," or mobile game entities, and items such as igloos and polar bears; and
  • Expansion of the Minecraft Mentor program to 60 mentors from 18 different countries.

For more information, visit Microsoft's blog post about all the announcements.

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