What does Windows 8 mean for schools?

I have been testing Windows 8 on a PC at home for nearly a year and as an experienced windows fan let me say to anyone that has never seen it,  Windows 8 is different.  Real different.  Like I still don't know what I am totally doing different.  Like my wife and family refuse to use it different.

It is the massive sidestep Windows had to take to continue to be the the operating system that is everything to everyone.  A luxury that Apple has avoided as it makes  operating systems exclusively for their limited but massively successful hardware range.

The reason it is so different is because Microsoft wants to create a seamless experience from desktop PC to Tablet to Smartphone.  In that sense it delivers in spades and is already the number two mobile OS way ahead of Android but just lacking some of the polish of Apple's iOS.

It does all this at the sacrifice of of it's 1.7 billion Windows desktop users around the globe and this is the problem that could plague businesses and schools for the next three years if you jump without looking. 

What does this mean for schools I hear you ask, well it basically means three things.


1:  Windows 7 will and should remain your premium desktop operating system for at least the next three years.  It works beautifully in a server based environment, and will only improve further as the vast majority of enterprise and education users will rely on it to get them through the transformational change in computers from PC's to tablets.  Any Windows XP users still out there still?  This is your time to step up Windows 7 without any fear.

2:  Windows 8 will be the best tablet based solution for education bar none.  I love my iPad, but I hate the fact it's not a windows PC with Office, Photoshop and Flash and can print and save to my school network without worrying about iCrap. 

I love my Windows 7 laptop and desktop but hate the fact it's not a super cool tablet with 100,000 apps and heaps of cool gadgets and 10 hours battery life. 

The next generation of Windows 8 based tablets tick all these boxes.  But expect to pay a premium of at least $1000 for an iPad quality tablet initially and $500 for a cheapy.

3:  Your students will inevitably demand that you switch to tablets and the iPad might be a great stop gap for now.  There is no shadow of a doubt that touch based tablet computing is the future of educational I.T for a multitude of reason,s and students will at some point see no purpose in laptop and desktop computers.  But right now, the iPad is the best example of this model and at under $400 per unit it is very appealing to schools and this will be the case for a while yet whilst Windows 8 finds it's feet.

Forget Android:  Honestly what will it offer or do better than the iPad or a Windows 8 Tablet?  You will be holding the Beta max or Ubuntu tablet in two years time if you buy one now.  It is already sub par in comparison and I can't see it catching up.

Windows 8 is still a little bit behind the iPad and iOS currently if you are looking at it through a students eyes and you would not be foolish to wait 2 years when the big guns of computing in HP, Dell and now Samsung have some really aggressive windows tablets in the education market space.

In short, don't even contemplate switching your network over to windows 8 until you have a large number of Windows tablets in teachers and students hands to soften the transition period.  At this time I am sure Apple will have created the next big thing that may make all of this look so 2012.

Apple unveil their vision of Education

With the iPad out now for nearly three years now and already in the hands of millions of teachers and students around the globe their seemed to be a clear void in the purpose for bringing them into a classroom.  This was of course beyond a range of useful apps targeted at specific areas of the curriculum such as some of the ones we have identified in the past.

There was no real connection between the teacher, student and the iPad that was intended by apple to actually enhance teaching and learning. 

Today in New York, Apple went some way to addressing that and will surely start a frenzy of digital publishing to meet their vision as outlined below by introducing three new and / or improved products for the iPad. 

Here is the official and quite corny promo video for all of these products fro Apple with a breakdown of each below it.


iBooks 2

Beyond being that annoying icon on your iPad that you could never put into another folder and iBooks had never really been a great success for Apple who had dominated music and apps because most people who wanted to read an e-book would do so on a kindle which had a monstrous catalogue, much cheaper price point and genuine battery life.

Apple's solution to this was quite innovative as per usual and that is to reinvent the e-book for today's students.  An e-book will look a text book from the 1950's up against some of the example texts Apple have created which you can see below.

This was probably what every company in the world wanted to do with e-books already but didn't already have hundreds of millions of devices in users hands and billions in the bank to develop and refince e-books. 

iBooks 2 looks amazing is packed with multilayered, text images and data which is always up to date with the press of a button and offers students the ability to take notes, images and information and use it as they desire.

Take a look at it here.


iTunes U

iTunes U builds on iBooks but also incorporates Apples own learning management system where teachers, professors, publishers can not only publish great content but also set tasks, projects, lectures and link to any area of the web to develop a purpose for the iPad. 

iTunes U now offers a syllabus, teacher bio and a course description and overview. You can get assignments here, bringing you to specific parts of your textbook. you can also keep tabs on homework and course material, and highlight and take notes on texts.


iBooks Authoring Tool

This is the kicker from Apple that will really accelerate the growth of this platform and make paper and pulp publishers totally rethink what they are doing.  iBooks Author looks to be ( As I have not yet trialled it - I will access it shortly and let you know my thoughts ) a beautiful drop and drag, WYSIWYG publishing tool to turn that 5 kg door stop book on human anatomy into a 21st century text book kids will be excited to open again.  Once again it simplifies the publishing process in the same manner Garageband and iMovie did ten years ago with audio and video.  Take a look below.

Obviously there are many questions still to be answered in the real world about iPad's and education and their worthiness on a book list which we will explore in greater detail in future but there is now after three years a clear commitment, business plan and opportunity for Educational publishers to deliver curriculum like never before.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on Apple's latest keynote and quest for world domination.