‘Teacher-inspired’ education updates coming for Windows, Office, Minecraft

Vu Anh Nguyen

Microsoft has had quite an active history in the education sector, with more recent initiatives including Bing in the Classroom, Office 365 University, and even employing one of its more playful acquisitions, Minecraft, to teach coding to young students. Microsoft has now highlighted all of its newest educational initiatives, encompassing Windows, Office and Minecraft, in a post on its TechNet blog. Let’s check them out.

First of all is the red hot stuff, Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Turns out it brings a lot of education-inspired features along with just general Windows 10 improvements. Among the highlights is “Set Up School PCs” that lets teachers set up shared devices in their classrooms in only three steps taking minutes; schools with IT support can opt for the updated Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer tool with the same effect. Classroom computers are usually not very high-end, and Microsoft is promising significant performance improvements for these device types, with average first logins taking a mere 26 seconds and subsequent logins only 6 seconds.


There is also a new app, called ‘Take a Test’, that can provide standardized testing for a classroom or the whole school. Windows Store for Business in Windows 10 is also education-ready, offering even more choices for interactive teaching apps like FluidMath, Kno or Staffpad, and bulk app deployment. Even other new Windows 10 Anniversary Update features like Windows Ink or an improved Cortana can make sense in an educational settings. A new ‘active hour’ policy for Windows Update will ensure that computers only update during out-of-class hours.

Of course, Windows’ biggest role is setting the stage for other software to thrive, and Microsoft also takes the opportunity to announce a slew of new features coming to two of its other big products. First of all, Office 365 Education welcomes a “new experience” in Microsoft Classroom – an academic environment for student and teachers to manage class-related things like assignments, grades, calendars, announcements and more.

“It’s your whole classroom (lesson plans, materials, assignments and student work) in a digital binder with tools for communication and collaboration!” – an educator;

“It simplifies our digital classroom management and frees up our teachers so they can spend more time with students and less time managing administrative access to class materials.” – Rob Dickson, Executive Director, Information Management Services of Omaha Public Schools on Microsoft Classroom.

Now part of Microsoft Classroom, OneNote Class Notebooks is also getting more than 25 Learning Management System partners for its assignment and grading integration, including big names like Edmondo and Moodle. The addition should help boost its already impressive usage statistics of over 10,000 notebooks running per day. Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) and Microsoft Forms are also new tools to help with bringing information  from students and classroom to teachers and vice versa; the latter of which is in public preview for Office 365 Education, starting today.

The new Microsoft Classroom, with OneNote Classroom Notebooks
The new Microsoft Classroom, with OneNote Class Notebooks

Fnally, something that will certainly get student’s attention much more than teachers, is the introduction of the new Minecraft: Education Edition. Basically, it allows teachers to use Minecraft as an educational tool for teaching everything, from science and math to arts and poetry. Thousands of teachers have reportedly joined the testing period, and starting from June this year, it is official open for free for early access to all Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan-using educators; an Office 365 Education account is needed.

All in all, these efforts solidify Microsoft’s position as a leader in one of the currently booming markets, which is the education sectors. The company certainly have a lot of leverage to pull with its owning of the most popular productivity software, desktop operating system, and game, and we can’t help but be excited for what Microsoft will come up with in the future.

Image credits: Microsoft TechNet