Microsoft has unveiled ‘Windows 10 S’, a streamlined version of its operating system, geared towards low-cost laptops for schools, as it tries to take share from Google’s Chrome OS-run computers. At the same time it announced a new Surface laptop, “engineered to start fast and stay fast”, with a 7th-generation Intel Core processor and up to 14.5 hours of battery life. Aimed at university students, blogger John Gruber commented: “There’s an Apple-esque pride in the design of the internal components as well as the exterior”. The company also introduced a coding feature to its education version of Minecraft.
At its education event in New York, Microsoft unveiled a series of new products and services “inspired by teachers and students designed to take educational experiences to a whole new level”. Windows 10 S is “a new experience of Windows streamlined for security and superior performance”. With Windows 10 S, applications that teachers and students download come from the Windows Store where they are first verified for security, and then locally they each run in a safe ‘container’ which, Microsoft said, will ensure “consistent performance”.
Microsoft emphasised that Windows 10 S will offer full-featured applications, such as Office 365, including Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint. The company said that its browser, Microsoft Edge, will also make it easier for pupils to research and manage school projects, and with support for Windows Ink, users can make notes directly on a web page and share them with a classmate. While Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Online already allow people to co-author documents in real time, Microsoft said that its new Teams feature will “take collaboration to a whole new level”. Available later this year, it will act as a digital hub for the classroom where teachers and students can collaborate and learn.
Together with OneNote Class Notebooks and new assignment and quiz experiences, teachers can easily distribute content, grade work, personalise learning, and communicate with students, parents and staff. Teams will also enable teachers to “bring in rich and engaging content” from the web, guest speakers, and solutions from education partners such as busuu, Canvas, Flipgrid and Kahoot! The Teams app will also help students “develop the communication and collaboration skills they’ll need to be successful in the future”.
Code Builder for Minecraft
Teachers in more than 100 countries are already using Mincecraft to promote creativity and collaboration in the classroom, said Microsoft. It has become a favourite resource for students and with educators who are using it to teach “digital citizenship, inspire creative problem solving and enable student-centered explorations across the curriculum”. Microsoft said that it was “broadening the appeal” of Minecraft: Education Edition with ‘Code Builder’. “This new feature is designed to inspire students to learn the basics and the power of coding by combining the open worlds of Minecraft with popular learn-to-code platforms such as Tynker, ScratchX and a new open source platform from Microsoft called MakeCode”. Players can move around, build and create in Minecraft by writing code. Microsoft also announced a partnership with Pearson, one of the largest education companies in the world, which is working to integrate 3D and mixed reality into its secondary and university level curriculum. By the 2018 school year, Pearson will offer curriculum in health, commerce, history and STEM on Windows Mixed Reality devices.