Operating Systems

Microsoft Intros Windows 11 SE for K–8

The ubiquitous Chromebook faces a formidable new contender in education. Microsoft has announced a new cloud-first edition of Windows 11, designed specifically to run on low-cost devices for use in K-8. Windows 11 SE is an operating system that's intended to provide a distraction-free environment for students and simpler administration of devices for IT.

The OS will run on a family of new student devices, including the Surface Laptop SE, and computers coming from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JP-IK, Lenovo and Positivo. The company said that most of the devices were expected to be available for ordering later this year and into 2022. All will use Intel or AMD chips. The company warned in an FAQ that Windows 11 SE devices probably wouldn't be sold in retail outlets.

Microsoft Intros Windows 11 SE for K8

Windows 11 SE has been optimized for Microsoft 365 applications, supporting both online and offline capabilities. OneDrive, part of the Office apps in Microsoft 365, stores files locally on each device for students to access when they are offline. Once they're back online, the OS will sync the offline changes automatically.

The new education OS also supports web-based learning apps through the Microsoft Edge browser and supports third-party apps including Zoom and the Chrome browser.

Built into the OS are accessibility tools for vision, hearing and speech. One such tool is Immersive Reader, available in the browser, making internet content accessible to more students.

For IT administrators, Windows Autopilot facilitates "zero-touch" device deployment, while Intune for Education enables IT to deploy and manage Windows 11 SE devices from anywhere. When managed via the cloud, devices are always up to date. They update silently, automatically and outside of class time via policies set in Intune for Education to minimize disruptions. To keep the device locked down, only IT admins can download and install apps and services.

Microsoft's new Surface Laptop SE has a starting price of $250. Features include:

  • An 11.6-inch screen;

  • A Front-facing 720p HD camera;

  • Stereo speakers and microphone; and

  • Up to 16 hours of battery life with typical usage.

The company noted that the most components -- display, battery, keyboard and motherboard -- are designed for straightforward repair or replacement by school personnel.

Among the Surface Laptop SE selling points offered by Microsoft are a typing experience that has tuned the sound of the keys "to limit distractions while note-taking on video"; and optimized thermals to keep the device working in different environmental conditions.

"Every detail was considered for Surface Laptop SE to address the urgent needs of the classroom, and we believe you'll be pleased with the value it offers," the company stated in a press release.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.