Under the MicrosoftEDU guise, the tech giant Microsoft recently announced several new hardware, software, and services for classrooms and students. Interestingly enough, none of the announcements involved Classroom, the direct Moodle competitor.
Here are the key announcements. (Prices mentioned are Microsoft estimates, likely to apply in the US only.)
Windows 10 S
Either standing for “students” or “stripped down”, the “S” flavor of the operating system will cater to K-12 schools and students. Resembling attributes from Google’s Chromebooks, it seeks to dent their boastful 58% dominance in the K-12 device business. This comes with some restrictions, most notably the ability to install apps only from the Windows Store. While it looks like an attempt to inject lifeblood to the store, 10 S can be upgraded back to the regular Windows 10 Pro edition for $49 UDS. 10 S will only be available preinstalled on laptops, starting at $189 USD. It will come with a year of Office 365, but schools can get Office 365 for Education for free.
The latest hardware offering from Microsoft, the Surface laptop is a $1,000 USD balance of processing and battery power that will run Windows 10 S. Lightweight and “beautifully designed and crafted,” the notebook matches the specs and price of the Apple MacBook Air.
An AR service purported to work even on laptops running Windows 10 S and regular webcams, Mixed Reality adds an animated layer to live screencasting. No information or demonstration of real software was available as of the writing of this post.
Minecraft: Education’s Code Builder
Through several programming interfaces, including the playful Scratch, students have yet another “introduction to coding” service, this time with the allure of Minecraft. A one-year license of Minecraft: Education including the Code Builder will come in Windows 10 S and select Windows 10 devices bought by schools. In September of 2014, Microsoft acquired Minecraft developer Mojang.
Intune for Education
This institutional USB-based device management service offers simple integration with Windows 10 S devices. Teachers can set up their classroom settings from their computers and download them to a flash drive. Windows 10 S devices will then recognize this drive when connected and automatically customize and download software, thus streamlining bulk device setup.
Office 365 for Education includes Teams
A collaboration and productivity tool with similar interfaces, Teams features file and content management and live communication. It is designed to help teachers design and implement lessons. Android and iOS apps are also available. It is worth noting that Office 365 for Education includes Classroom, Microsoft’s take on Moodle and other LMS, but it was not mentioned at any time during MicrosoftEDU. In fact, no announcements for the software have been made in over a year.
LMS office integrations. Moodle is not the only LMS currently busy with giving users quick access to office application suites and files natively. Norwegian company itslearning announced integration with Microsoft Office 365, as well as Google G Suite bundles. A click on a Word icon opens an online editor, THE Journal reports. Another LMS, Canvas, has offered office integration since December.
“Developing workforce ready skills in Office Online” course. Part of a growing offer of training for educators, this course provides a Microsoft-based approach to technology-based collaboration and workforce readiness in teaching.
Microsoft Innovative Educator programs. A gamified offering of training and certification, similar to that of Google, this program aims to “recognize global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes.” Joining the programs is free.