It might not surprise you to know that in my line of work I meet a lot of customers who are ready to give me their opinion about Microsoft, its products, and vision. It isn’t always positive, but negative feedback is just as important.
I’m really privileged in being able to work with so many talented and passionate people. I listen to the way they talk about what they do and I wish that I could condense that passion and sincerity down into a 2 minute conversation that I could have with people I meet.
One of the more popular topics for feedback is Windows 8. Luckily, I’ve found this fantastic video from UX Week 2012 where Jensen Harris talks about the story of Windows 8. It’s not a short video, but I’d encourage you to watch it all as it gives a rare insight into just how and why the Windows 8 Modern UI looks like does.
I know this has been around for a while, but the RSA Animate version of Sir Ken Robinson‘s “Changing Education Paradigms” talk is such a good video I thought I’d blog it.
Whenever I need reminding why I stay involved in education, albeit much further away from the front line than I used to be, I watch this video.
I’d love to think that one day I’ll be blessed with such profundity. For now I’ll stick to listening to people who know much more than me about everything.
I spent the last week at the annual BETT technology show in London; my eighth year in fact. I was there on behalf of Microsoft presenting on the concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in education. Specifically, the services that Microsoft has to offer to better support BYOD in reality.
I came up with four key things to consider in order to make BYOD in the classroom successful:
3. Windows to go
The first step towards successful BYOD is by making it easy! It’s as simple as that. What I mean is make it easy to connect external devices to your network. This could meaning opening up a new hotspot to connect using WiFi, or by providing more hardwired network ports for users to connect their devices to. Often, network managers and IT staff are reluctant to open up the network to devices that aren’t under the control of the school (for many excellent reasons), but in order to make BYOD happen you have to make it easy.
Next up, support. As a former network manager for a large secondary school I know what it is like to be presented with a wide range of devices and to be expected to fix and support all of them. Usually it’s the teacher’s personal computer that has broken, and they want it fixed in exchange for a crate of beer. If a student brought me their device more often than not they wouldn’t get any support. For BYOD this has to change. I’m not talking about fixing their home PC when it breaks, but instead helping them get online where necessary.
If your school is providing services via the browser, your users will thank you for helping them get access to them through their own device. Students are far more productive when they use devices they feel comfortable with; not those
super-fast and up to date desktop PCs ancient bits of tin on the desk.
Windows to go
One of the more popular sections of my BETT presentation was on the new feature in Windows 8 called Windows to go. In short, this is a way to provide your managed school desktop environment on a memory stick which can be plugged into practically any PC hardware in order to provide your desktop on their device. There are a few really useful scenarios I can see Windows to go helping:
· BYOD – obviously! Your apps, services, customisations and security settings on an external device, either inside or outside the classroom.
· Programming and ICT in general. It’s still not really that easy to provide a sandbox environment to allow students to build, compile and test their own applications without the IT staff getting nervous that the students are about to create SkyNet. Windows to go can help provide that safe, secure and flexible workspace loaded up with your programming applications in a manner than doesn’t jeopardise the security of the workstation underneath. Simply unplug the memory stick and reboot, and you’re back to your normal desktop.
· ICT administrators. OK, this one is more tenuous, but imagine being able to take your exact desktop with you everywhere. Not roaming profiles, or having to cart your heavy laptop about the place; just take your Windows to go memory stick to any PC in the school and fire up your desktop customised the way you like it, with your administration applications, etc. wherever you go. If I were back in schools today I’d be buying a memory stick right now!
There are probably lots of other scenarios Windows to go can help address, but you at least get the idea of how powerful this innovation is.
This is the bit I do every day, so naturally it’s very easy to say why cloud can help with BYOD. Let somebody else do all the hard work so you don’t have to. It’s like Mr Muscle for IT.
Microsoft provides a whole range of cloud services, many free to education, that are always up to date, always online, accessible anywhere and work on so many devices it isn’t worth counting. It’s a no-brainer to use Office 365 for education if you want to services on everything from a BlackBerry smartphone, through to your beloved iPad, right up to the latest Windows 8 devices.
It’s not hard to get started!
The great thing about pretty much all of the aforementioned topics is that it isn’t hard to get started if you want to try out BYOD in school. If you have Windows 8 enterprise, you have access to creating a Windows to go memory stick, and if you’re a qualifying academic institution you can sign up for Office 365 for education for free right now. You don’t have to make huge changes, or capital investments, in order to make BYOD a reality. In fact, I’d recommend trialling it with a few users to find out what works and what doesn’t.
I’d love to hear from people who’ve implemented a successful BYOD strategy – how did you do it, and what would you recommend to others? Equally, if it didn’t work, what went wrong?
Below is an online version of the slides I delivered during the BETT show.