Guest post from Microsoft UK Education Partner Lead, Mark Stewart.

I had the recent pleaclip_image002sure of attending the ICIT Oxbridge event, held at LegoLand Windsor and presenting Microsoft’s key education story and specifically why Windows 8 in education.

It was quite interesting to see the diversity of activities laid on, certainly capturing my attention was the professional Lego building classes, where delegates got to assemble (with expert tuition) lego cars and race them on a track for the converted prizes on offer. But amongst all this creativity and fun, was some key exhibitors, including HP, Dell, showing off some great devices and really demonstrating all the aspects Universities need to consider when dealing with Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD).

This leads me nicely to the Microsoft story we shared and I would like to share some of these points now in this post too. You can view/download the presentation in full below.

I didn’t just want to rush into a Windows 8 demo, that came later, but to set the scene and get everyone thinking, I shared what we believe to be critical areas all Universities need to consider.

Developing 21st century skills leads to employability and allows us to compete in the global economy

clip_image004Microsoft is investing in 21st century skills research and working in partnership with Cisco, Intel and University of Melbourne establishing a number of worldwide pilots and best practices for the use of technology in education (http://atc21s.org/). If we take the ICT Sector as a leading example, one in four IT related jobs are unfilled at any point in time. We need look no further than the Microsoft Technology Partners here in the UK, where across the 34,000 partners, we have some 400,000 unfilled posts. Universities play a key role in developing these skills, not just to serve the IT industry, but to better integrate technology into all disciplines. In the modern world technology is a vital part of the way we work; collaboration, creativity, marketing, analysis, and so on. The research from ATC21s tells us that developing 21st century skills leads to employability and allows us to compete in the global economy. What is Microsoft doing in this space to support this requirement? Microsoft’s IT Academy is a great training and certification resource that institutions can deploy to enable those critical, technology based skills for the 21st century.

Disruption through personalised learning and demand for content impacts us all

Closely connected with 21st Century skills are the leading innovations in education that are transforming the way we teach and learn. I would go further and say, the expectations on education are significantly changing and increasing. Microsoft’s vision and strategy in education is summarised by “Anytime, Anywhere Learning for All”. With the rise of mobile devices and therefore increasing demand for content and rich experiences, it really is anytime, anywhere learning, but personalised on the terms of the learner more than ever. It was interesting to share our observations regarding the rise and interest of Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and institutions like MIT, Stanford who are expanding courses into global regions using “flipped classroom” concepts. The ability to self-serve and consume content using personalised devices (tablets) is an interesting area and has significant ramifications on the traditional University teaching practice/experience. There is much controversy regarding the real impact of MOOCs, a lot of which is sceptical, but nonetheless it’s yet another phenomena that is re-shaping teaching and learning in the 21st century.

How can we go from lofty concepts like MOOCs and personalisation to Windows 8, well interestingly, quite easily! The rise of tablet devices and the demand for content, when and where I want it, are key aspects of what education both demands and wants to understand going forwards. The real interesting thing, and very topical for the event I attended, is how do Universities embrace this? How do they apply the lens of technology and management to delivering a 21st century teaching and learning experience?

So first up, was our insight around how you choose the right device to meet the needs of students, but also your staff?

Here are 10 great hints and tips on what it takes to make that decision. The bottom line is; what will it take to achieve the variety of outcomes education institutions need to fulfil? This is not a simple question, there are many layers, or perspectives that describe success, be it educational outcomes to financial outcomes for the institution! Following these top tips, we hope, will help us pause, and take stock of the different elements we need to consider.

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We believe there is an alternative, a no compromise, single device for consumption and productivity!

clip_image008Whether you are looking to create rich content, reports or leisurely take in the latest web-site news story, you should be able to do this using the same device. This clearly makes economic sense and if the device works well for both scenarios, it must be a winner; saving money, time and possibly offering wider opportunities to bring productivity and consumption scenarios closer together. For example, integrating great content with a lesson plan for tomorrow’s lecture!

There are great devices in market that offer this No Compromise alternative!

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Increasingly you are being spoilt for choice, take a look at Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Asus and many more. Windows 8, brings both touch and traditional keyboard and mouse to a variety of devices, offering choice and price points to suit every need, be it in the home, on the move or classroom. It is an exciting time to be in the technology industry and the innovation continues to push forwards at a pace, which is simply breath taking.

But why is Windows 8 the way it is?

clip_image012There is a lot of coverage and comment about the way the new Start Screen looks, indeed, why has the familiar start button been withdrawn? For those who want an answer to this question, then I highly recommend setting aside an hour to take a look at this presentation by Jenson Harris. In the meantime, why not ask the question as to where you were when Windows 95 launched? The concept of the Start button was conceived as far back as 1992! Does familiarity mean we continue to stay the course, or do we have to try something different? Adapting to the demand for devices that indeed allow us to fulfil the promise of Anytime, Anywhere Learning? The new Windows 8 start screen is all about embracing these new demands! Personalised experiences through application tiles, acting as launchers, switchers and widgets, all providing a step change in productivity, but at the same time, a new way to find, and engage on applications and content that matters.

Institutional applications a new opportunity

clip_image014The availability of the new Windows 8 AppStore and the ease with which applications can be built is a fantastic opportunity for Universities (and other institutions too) to promote and share resources with students, parents and prospective students too. The examples from Stanford University, University of Reading and others, really show what’s possible and these apps are very easy to build, drawing on either traditional Microsoft development or web developer skills, such as HTML5 and Javascript as well as some great templates to get you started:

Certainly a key element that is still important to institutions moving to Windows 8 are those who have Windows XP and legacy apps to consider. The Windows 8 story is the same as Windows 7, and you can leverage resources from Camwood for example to help you prepare, plan and deploy your application migration and Windows 8 upgrade plans.

Windows 8, the best Windows 7 experience

Not that the story ends there, Windows 8 provides a desktop experience that’s even better than Windows 7! All the things users enjoy about Windows 7 are improved;

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More efficient and faster, using less compute and memory resources.

  • Top tip – Access PC management tools quick menu by right mouse-clicking the bottom left-hand corner of the desktop
  • More secure with features like Secure Boot, AppLocker and BitLocker
  • Mobile Broadband/Metered Network aware – safe guarding application internet access and risk against mobile broadband charges
  • Management – Policy based management, whether it’s on premise using System Centre, in the cloud using Windows InTune or deployment and management approaches such as MDOP
  • New Windows 8 Applications deployment using System Centre; Deeplinking & Sideloading approaches.
  • BYOD – Windows to Go (Have your Windows 8 PC anywhere anytime, simply by plugging in a USB device). Implement Virtual Desktop Infrastructure across different and legacy devices

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Windows 8 is an operating system that opens up new opportunities to embrace touch and tablet devices but offers a no-compromise, productivity solution for education institutions. I highly recommend reading this post, from our very own Simon May on why Windows 8 is such a great operating system for your business here.

It was a great day and certainly a privilege to meet many distinguished people from our leading universities. I hope that the presentation and indeed this post touches on some shared imperatives regarding how we equip tomorrow’s students with the skills and right technology to succeed in the 21st century. If you want to learn more about Microsoft in Education then do visit our slideshare site here. To learn more about Windows 8 in Education, then don’t hesitate to take a look at our Windows 8 in Education eBook as well as featured education apps here.