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Microsoft BETT Announcements

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on Unified Communications & Collaboration


Microsoft BETT Announcements

By: -
22 Jan 2018

Thanks Microsoft.  I thought you’d send me a Win10 convertible 2-in-1 today on my birthday, but instead you decided to make a little eensie-weensie announcement at BETT about everything you’re doing in education markets.  I’m going to put all those free birthday offers from Starbucks and the local taco shack on hold while I parse this announcement.  

Put succinctly, from the Microsoft press release:

“New Windows 10 and Windows 10 S devices from Lenovo and JP, starting at just $189, providing more options for schools who don’t want to compromise on Chromebooks. We’ll add new capabilities to our free Office 365 for Education software, enabling any student to write a paper using only their voice and making it easier to access Teams via mobile devices. And we’re making STEM learning fun with a new Chemistry update to Minecraft: Education Edition and new mixed reality and video curricula from partners like PBS, NASA, Lego Education, Pearson and BBC Earth.”

The gist:

  • Two new Lenovo devices
    • The Lenovo 100e, a new Intel Celeron Apollo Lake powered PC, starts at $189.
    • The Lenovo 300e, a 2-in-1 PC with pen, starts at $299.
  • Two new devices from JP, a partner in emerging markets
    • The Classmate Leap T303, starts at $199.
    • The Trigono V401 2-in-1 starting at $299.
  • Updates coming to Office
    • Microsoft Learning Tools will be updated in February, adding dictation in Office to help students of all abilities (particularly those with special needs) write more easily by using their voice. Immersive Reader functionality will also expand to Word for Mac, iPhone, Outlook Desktop, OneNote iPad, and OneNote Mac with support for many new languages.
    • OneNote Class Notebook, which I’m told has added more than 15 million new student notebooks since the beginning of this school year, will now include assignment and grade integration with the most widely used School Information Systems in the UK (SIMS Capita) and U.S. (PowerSchool).  Class Notebooks will enable teachers to lock pages as read only after giving feedback. And OneNote will support embedded Desmos interactive math calculators, a set of popular applications for STEM teachers.  That’s Science Technology Engineering and Math for the uninitiated.

OneNote Class Notebook

    • Microsoft Teams, meant to be a digital hub for the classroom much like Google Classroom (or SMART amp or Cisco Spark), is now accessible on iOS and Android so teachers and students can keep track of their assignments and classroom conversations on their phones or tablets.  Somebody in Redmond is muttering “Take that, Google!”
    • And here’s one we like: PowerPoint will now allow teachers to record their lessons including slides, interactive ink, video and narrations and publish to their Stream channel in Teams classrooms. This way, students can view flipped content from anywhere in advance of class, letting class time can be used for discussion and other learning activities. MS Stream will also add automatic captioning to the videos to make them more accessible to all learners.
  • Other stuff that will appeal to some on the bleeding edge in teaching STEM subjects:
    • MakeCode, which today announced a new Cue Education app, available first on Windows, new curricula for Computer Science with MakeCode for Minecraft, and a new MakeCode for micro:bit Windows 10 app.
    • Coming this spring, a Chemistry update will enable teachers to use Minecraft: Education Edition and game-based learning to engage students in chemistry.  Students can experiment building compounds and investigate topics like the stability of isotopes.  Who knows, maybe a 6th grader in Des Moines discovers a viable superconductor in Minecraft!  On a device instead of in a chem lab!   And just think of the crazy explosions kids will learn to make and then bring into class!
    • The release of Windows Mixed Reality immersive VR headsets that start at $299 – note that price folks!

HoloLens Anatomy Lesson

  • To support that effort, Microsoft has announced three program updates:
    • In March, Pearson will begin rolling out curriculum that will work on both HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality immersive VR headsets. Six new applications will be available.
    • Microsoft is partnering with PBS and NASA to expand its mixed reality curriculum offerings with the popular "Bringing the Universe to America's Classrooms” series. 
    • Starting today, and I note it’s my birthday, Microsoft is making available a limited-time academic pricing offer for HoloLens. To take advantage to the limited-time academic pricing offer, educators can visit  Tell ‘em Alan the Wainhouse Elder sent you. 

Other partnerships include one with LEGO Education, offering a new free online Hacking STEM lesson plan that has students use the Pythagorean Theorem to explore and measure topography in 2D/3D space.  Starting this March, Microsoft also will be partnering with BBC Earth to bring Oceans: Our Blue Planet to classrooms and museums around the world.

What do I think?

Well, one has to compare and contrast Microsoft with Google, for starters.  Microsoft certainly has advantages around Office 365, depth with mixed reality including selling an actual device, focus on STEM, the integration of Streams and PPT, 3D Paint in Windows, and Minecraft.   That OneNote ClassNotebook’s not too shabby either.  The ability to share a single notebook and ink and drop in content means Microsoft has an answer to Google Classroom, SMART amp, Promethean Classflow, and their ilk.

Where is Microsoft still playing catch up?  While the laptop and 2-in-1 prices are compelling, Microsoft still has some work to do to catch up to Chromebooks, which as a category has a multi-year head start in 1:1 initiatives.  As of last spring, Chromebooks held a 42% share of classroom devices, according to an Education Week survey, followed by PC laptops (almost 15%), PC desktops and iPads (almost 13% each, respectively), and Apple/Mac laptops (not quite 9%).  Teams and Streaming are so new and unproven, Microsoft has some branding and more to the point, implementation work to do to ensure it all hangs together and starts to get traction.

Meanwhile, Cisco, Amazon, and others are aggressively targeting K-12 as well as higher education.  We live in interesting times.