Guest post by Gerald Haigh. Gerald is a freelance education writer for Microsoft.

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Picking up my quest for great Windows 8 stories after the New Year I learned from Microsoft FE Business Manager Mike Morris about exciting news unfolding in Liverpool Community College. It’s going to make a brilliant Further Education case study, and I’ll be travelling to the College soon to chase it up. Meanwhile, just to whet the appetite, here’s the news that Ken Ryan, the College’s Head of Information Technology has just taken delivery, from Microsoft Partner Gardner Systems, of 600 Lenovo ‘Tablet 2’ devices with Windows 8, for distribution to teaching staff. This particular Lenovo device has been impatiently awaited by potential users, and according to Mike,

‘Liverpool Community College might well be the first educational institution in the UK to have them.’

Mike’s particularly pleased because the decision to go for Windows 8 tablets was directly inspired by advice he gave to colleges in the Summer.

Mike suggested that if a college was about to buy tablets, they ought to hold off until W8 devices were available. Ken was going to buy Android, but he got in touch in response to Mike’s approach. Mike went in to the college and talked through Windows 8. Based on those conversations, and a subsequent evaluation process within the College, Ken decided to go with Windows 8 as his mobile platform of choice.

After looking at Hardware options, Ken decided to buy Lenovo Tablet 2s.

‘The specification was hard to match,’ he says. ‘Brand new Intel Atom processor power, 64Gb hard drive, USB connectivity, true 16:9 format display, only 565 grams and a massive 10 hour use on a single battery charge.’

For Ken, though, the real draw was the ability to run Windows 8 Professional.

‘It makes the tablet a true corporate device – network log on, the ability to run Microsoft Office applications including Outlook and Lync, all making the tablet easy for staff to use and adapt to in a work environment.’

Microsoft Partner Gardner Systems helped him to make the hardware decision and will be helping with the configuration roll out and staff training whilst in a new partnership, ‘Softcat’, the Tablet supplier, will be working with the college to provide an accessories supply portal for direct staff access via the web.

Ken is looking to use the tablets to rejuvenate the use of technology by teaching staff.

At the moment, he says,

‘Teaching staff have desktop PCs, some have laptops, but no matter what software you put on there, it still comes down to being tied to a desk with box and a monitor. What’s needed is something to get staff excited about mobile technology.’

He envisages a real effect on teaching style – ‘It’s more intimate,’ he says. ‘The tablet frees the lecturer from the PC at the front of the room and enables them to get among the students with the device, letting them drive the presentation.’

So far, people who have seen the new Lenovo devices are excited not just by the excellent ‘consumer’ touch screen features but by the obvious advantages of being literally in touch, on the move, with all their familiar Microsoft technologies. But, of course, it’s early days, and now Ken and his team are engaging with the College’s ‘Enhanced learning’ groups in order to run a series of lunchtime sessions, exploring ways of using the tablets to improve teaching and learning.

The next step is for me to attend one of those sessions in order to explore, understand – and report here – how Lenovo tablets and Windows 8 are being received and used in a go ahead FE College in the go ahead City of Liverpool. Once again, ‘Watch this Space’.