Microsoft offer Office 365 to all students for free

bnr-office365-cloud (1).png

Microsoft have been losing students left right an centre over the last couple of years as they walked away from Office and Windows in droves for alternatives such as iPads, Google Apps and Chromebooks. 

However today Microsoft have announced that students worldwide will gain access to a full version of it's very impressive and to be totally honest the best available productivity suite for free.

This is a great offer which will initially be available to US students but released worldwide in the near future.

Full details can be found here.  Now go and get it.

Large collection of Windows Apps for Education

The all conquering Windows platform which dominated technology for the last thirty years has had a pretty rough time of it over the last decade.  Further to that it has probably seen no bigger loss of market share than in education where low cost innovative devices such as the iPad, tablets and Chrome books have proven enormously successful with teachers and students.

The fact is that Windows is still a dominant player in education by sheer sales numbers alone, even if we are not seeing a great deal of educational support and innovation coming from Microsoft.

Anyone who has used a Surface tablet will sing it's praises as an excellent hybrid device with a great deal of unique opportunities to offer teachers and students.

The Windows store is an ever improving space for education and technology and I have come across this excellent resource from Microsoft Australia which organises windows apps into areas relevant to teachers.  Take a look at it here and see what is available particularly if you haven't used a windows PC since the old XP days.  You may be pleasantly surprised... Enjoy.

Install multiple apps on new school computers with a single click.

Setting up brand new school computers can be a complete drag.  Install, reboot, update and so on... repeat hundreds of times.

These two websites will definitely save you a great deal of time and frustration and are a no brainier when setting up a new PC or Mac.

ninite.com will cover all your Windows applications, and there are plenty to choose from.  Simply select and the auto install package will take care of the rest.

getmacapps  will cover all your OSX installation needs just the same as ninite.  Just as easy too.

Good luck

Over 450 Windows & Surface Apps for busy teachers

Transient

Over the last few years education has been crying out for alternatives to the traditional Windows PC environments that dominated education for the last three decades. 

I would be the first to admit it probably gets overlooked a little more than it should for a platform that still dominates market share of all computing devices.

Design Learn and Empower have not forgotten about Windows and have put together this great collection of Windows Apps by curriculum area.

It is very current, with the vast majority being available on Windows 8 and surface and there are some great ideas around implementation in the classroom.

I would strongly recommend taking a look at this if you want to get more out of your windows PC's and devices in schools. Access it here.

101 ideas for using technology in the classroom

Transient

Sometimes it is difficult to put the technology in your classroom into an educational context.  This document contains many ideas for using a PC or mac in education.  

Unfortunately much of it was written prior to the uprise of the iPad so there is no reference to it but nonetheless there is plenty of relevant content for teachers and students. 

Many of the ideas come from the Victorian department of Education, Australia and can be downloaded here. 

Has the iPad Peaked in Education?

As we, and I assume many other schools around the world prepare to buy computer resources for 2013 and beyond it is been apparent that 'The must have tool in Education"  for the last 18 months is the iPad.

This comes with good reasoning too as it has refreshed our view of learning technologies and really freed us from the shackles of desktop computing and showed many a fresh alternative to windows.

The question I find myself asking now as we look at three year lease programs is has the iPad Peaked in education?  Barring a few software tweaks and faster processors is this as good as it gets?  The more I speak to others in education and start to look at alternatives I am increasingly seeing that the iPad's future is not as bright as Apple would like to have us think.

For example Last month we had the sales and Education reps come in from Apple Australia and woo our region for a day about 'How the iPad has been  the saviour of education' and that we should not doubt the ingenuity and creativity Apple has been responsible for in changing the direction of technology for the last few years, and furthermore we should not question this continuing in the future.

The problem I found with the barrage of iOS worship from cool guys in black skivvies and T-shirts was that for the first time, nearly everybody in the room had heard it all before.  And some of the statements about the iPad we heard were so desperate to grab our attention I definitely sensed they were shooting the iPad down more than pumping up its tyres.

Statements such as "No one will be carrying wallets by the end of the decade thanks to iOS 6's passbook"  were just plain embarrassing and insulting for anyone who has used it.

The second point for consideration I began to wonder after seeing some educational workshops regarding Garageband and iMovie in the classroom I had seen twice before now is, what is Apple planning for the future in Education?

Next, we got a 10 minute lecture on how brilliant iTunesU is for teachers to create content for their kids to access on their iPads only to be instantly shot down by the fact that in fact teachers cannot currently do this unless you are a lecturer at a University. So it's great but 95 percent of teachers cannot access this.

Just last month Apple released the iPhone 5 and try as you might to upsell how great a phone it actually is at the end of the day it is esentially an iPhone 4 with another row of icons and a faster processor.  It's not the kind of innovation we have become used to from Apple, and I can't see this changing anytime soon as Apple now seem a little hamstrung by an environment they have created.

I don't feel Apple are asleep at the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, it is more of a case they have played 5 years of winning hands in the tech stakes and they are now left holding a number of minor cards, whilst their opposition begin to rollout both similar and even more innovative tech solutions for education around them.  It has happened in every form of industry for decades.

Another point of consideration is the fact the iPad has always had a mixed relationship in education in the sense that kids and teachers loved it because engaged kids and had thousands of great educational apps that could be downloaded and used instantly. But it definitely has it's shortcomings as a genuine enterprise learning tool.

Let's not hide fact the iPad is fatally flawed by its association to the mess that is iTunes and iCloud. It cannot connect to existing 96% of school networks running windows, it cannot print to an enterprise network with any great success and has nothing close to Microsoft Office when you tire of playing math swipe games and actually need something substantial for a presentation, project, want to do some web design or use any of Adobe's creative tools such as Photoshop beyond removing redeye or cropping.

I own an iPad, my wife kids and I love it, but hate what it can't do too and I get the feeling many others are finding this too.

With Windows 8 only days away and a monsoon of both cheap and expensive tablets already available for it.  And the diversity of Microsoft's own surface tablet which at this point appears to do everything an iPad can as well as offer 100 percent functionality of a windows PC too our school regions are beginning to think Windows 8 tablets have a great deal to offer teachers and students over the iPad.

I would love to hear your thoughts about what your schools are doing now and looking into the future when it comes to putting the best piece of hardware in front of our kids to offer the best learning opportunities.

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.

Great tech support site for teachers and students

Tech Ease is a great resource for teachers and students to learn about computers and basic tech support.  It is is broken down into Mac, Windows, and accessibility uses.

Under each, there are subtopics such as using computers in the classroom, images, file sharing, chat, videos, email, hardware, the internet, and much more. There are ideas on using technology for accessibility with disabled students also.

Tech Ease is easy to navigate and has a huge amount of information available for educators. This is site you should definitely share with your colleagues and students.