Students working off Windows 10 based tablet computer in classroom

Windows 10 Adoption Opens New Avenues for Teaching

1 May 2018 by Debbie Malone

This article originally appeared on Nov. 29, 2016, and has been revised to bring our readers the most up-to-date technology information

Microsoft transformed its end-user experience with the launch of Windows 10 in 2015. The faster, more secure and feature-stocked operating system marked “the beginning of the more personal computing era in the mobile-first, cloud-first world,” according to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella.

One workforce, in particular, Microsoft hoped to impress was educators. Microsoft’s ramped-up focus on education tools and applications plays a major role in the new generation of Windows. So what does that mean for schools?

In need of a technology refresh, Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) in Northern Arizona began its adoption of Windows 10 with the rollout of new devices for its teachers. Educators could exchange their outdated devices for either a Dell laptop — running Windows 10 — or a MacBook Air.

These devices would become integral tools for presenting lessons, grading assignments, or using in conjunction with projectors or digital whiteboards. But with nearly 1,000 teachers on staff, the district decided to implement a slow rollout, assigning devices to teachers a couple of schools at a time rather than all at once.

The upgrade to Windows 10

For Mac users, the operating system was largely the same, with only a few key differences. Dell users, on the other hand, faced a bigger hurdle.

“They went from Windows 7 to Windows 10. That was a big shift,” says Technology Integration Coordinator Heather Breedlove, who was part of the team that oversaw the rollout. To help teachers get off to the right start, she offered voluntary, one-hour “Getting to Know Your Dell” training sessions.

During the sessions, Breedlove showed teachers how to navigate Windows 10, adjust their settings, manipulate the buttons on the trackpads, and use other basic features of the operating system and laptop hardware. The district also curated resources to create a self-service website teachers could go to for information on Windows 10 in case they needed help with their laptops.

“The biggest challenge for teachers was, ‘I don’t know where my stuff is,’” Breedlove notes. Some teachers were confused by changes to the Start menu. For instance, All Programs is now labeled All Apps, and Documents, Pictures and Music folders are now accessed through the File Explorer menu option. Additionally, some teachers didn’t realize they could customize their Start menu tiles, Taskbar options and Desktop shortcuts.

“The added piece for them between Windows 7 and Windows 10 was that Start menu, and a lot of them were like, ‘I don’t like it at all. It’s got all this stuff on it.’ And part of that — my training — was, ‘Well, let’s see if you do like it because we’re actually going to customize it to what you need, what you want,’” says Breedlove. “A majority of them — once they went through a training with me — were like, ‘Oh! OK, I can take off all the stuff that it comes with and make it my own. I kind of like that.’”

Keeping the familiar

One of the big difficulties in making Windows 10 teacher-friendly was in balancing innovation with familiarity. “[Microsoft] focused on including education as part of the system, so that meant including education apps … and making sure that people were really comfortable with Windows 10,” says Tony Franklin, a partner sales executive at Microsoft.

It’s no secret Windows 8 ruffled some feathers after its release. Users either loved it or hated it, and many schools skipped its adoption altogether. So with Windows 10, Microsoft set out to create a computer operating system that would offer the best of both innovation and familiarity. And as Franklin can attest, seeing is believing.

“Once teachers see Windows 10 in action, once they see things like Office 365 in action, the conversation is really easy because it’s familiar to them. So that was one of the things [teachers] always wanted — a familiar OS. Windows 8 was a bit of a shock to them. So Windows 10 really addresses that very well,” he says.

Insight Education Account Executive Jennifer Bucich agrees. “Windows 8.1 wasn’t the most user-friendly, and it can be tough to convince teachers that the district wants to make yet another OS migration. Educating teachers and staff on the benefits to Windows 10 and helping them to understand the familiarity they will feel when using Windows 10 is the first step,” she says.

“Seeing and touching and feeling is always better than just talking about it for our teachers because once they do see that Windows 10 is actually designed for education and actually has a familiar feel to it, the barriers to using Windows 10 really go away,” Franklin adds.

New apps, new possibilities

Windows 10 adoption is steadily building momentum in schools, but it offers such a diverse assortment of features that many educators just haven’t had a chance to realize its full potential.

“Inking is still gaining traction, so apps like Windows Ink and FluidMath often get overlooked. Collaboration Space, Skype in the Classroom and Minecraft Education Edition are also amazing tools that should be getting more focus as they really open the door to a more modern approach on the classroom environment — and students are probably already using this to some level at home,” Bucich notes.

Windows Ink works with the Microsoft Edge browser. “Right in the browser, I click the button. I can then circle, I can highlight, I can annotate on the screen, and then I can share those annotations,” Franklin explains. “There are some simple, kind of nice features that are overlooked that … provide a lot of value [and] save a lot of time,” he adds.

One such feature is Cortana, the digital assistant for Windows 10. “I can speak to the Windows 10 device and say something like, ‘Hey Cortana, open up the math quiz component,’ without ever touching a key,” he says. He also points out that from the other side of a classroom, teachers can ask Cortana to queue up a PowerPoint presentation or schedule a meeting without having to walk back to their desks.

Beyond the traditional classroom

For some teachers at FUSD, Windows 10 adoption is an opportunity to implement new, more effective teaching strategies.

“The people that came to my trainings aren’t the power users. They’re the ones that need that extra support,” Breedlove says. “Honestly, I think the people that just never even showed up to my training, those were the ones that were like, ‘This is cool. I’m using all these little features.’”

Other teachers are flipping their classrooms to provide instruction through video, she notes. In a flipped or inverted classroom model, students can watch lecture videos at home, then come into the classroom ready to practice, do projects or work in small groups. The main benefit is the teacher is available to provide one-on-one instruction if students have questions or need help.

“Teachers record themselves writing down notes or talking through something or doing a math problem. Then they take that video off the document camera software, and they just post it on their class website or on YouTube,” Breedlove explains. “My own son is doing that with his math class, so that’s kind of cool.”

Communication made easy

“Another big change for our teachers was Skype for Business,” Breedlove says, referring to the instant messaging client available with Office 365. “That came with more features, so in my eyes, that’s pretty awesome because now it has a video component [and] a screen-share component. For teachers, I’m just trying to get them on it, but I hope in the future we can use more of those features.”

She also plans to offer professional development sessions showing teachers how to use Skype to take students on virtual field trips. This seems to fit perfectly with how Microsoft has envisioned Windows 10 adoption might expand classroom boundaries. Tools such as Skype in the Classroom give teachers access to live learning activities, virtual field trips, expert guest speakers and more.

“The goal of Microsoft and Windows 10 was to offer the best platform for teaching and learning,” Bucich says. “They had a great understanding of the challenges that teachers face today so they built a platform that allows more access to inking tools, faster and easier setup for shared devices, as well as easier ability to collaborate and orchestrate tests.”

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