Microsoft CEO Prioritizes Tools for Schools

After Satya Nadella’s first year as Microsoft CEO it is clear that education is a higher priority for the company. Customers and employees are hearing him loud and clear through a bunch of cool stuff for teachers and students.

One platform. Like education, the shift is on at Microsoft to cloud first, mobile first. And unlike the other guys, Microsoft is converging on one operating system. Windows 10, out this fall, will be a convergence of Xbox, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8 (and, for most users will be a free upgrade).

With the emergence of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) in secondary and postsecondary education, Microsoft and partners provide a continuum of devices and a continuum of experiences on one platform.

When Microsoft thinks about productivity in education it means collaborative, mobile, natural, intelligent, and trusted.

Free tools. Microsoft provides Office 365 for free to schools. And the Office ProPlus benefit makes it free for teachers and students in eligible schools to download Office 365 ProPlus on up to 5 devices. Over 35,000 institutions have signed up to benefit from the officer.

Microsoft Office suite, available on the Windows 10 Technical Preview, is designed to transition seamlessly across mobile devices.

Productivity. In the last decade, business analysts began making productive use of business intelligence software but other than the most sophisticated institutions, they weren’t widely used in education. These days computational intelligence is built in across the “Office graph” making it easy for students, teachers and administrators to quickly and easily analyze data sets and spot trends.

Microsoft was late to cloud storage but the new Office 365 makes it easy to produce and access content on any device.

Delve surfaces information from across Office 365 combining Dropbox functionality with a Facebook-like user community improving discoverability.

Identity management. Administrators know that safely and efficiently enrolling students in various apps can be tedious. Azure Active Directory makes it easy and secure to push identities to cloud.

In the past, Microsoft partners had to build custom hooks for every customer category. These days Microsoft is encouraging partners to embed Office 365 into their apps and Microsoft integrates with customers regardless of where data stored: SQL, onsite, or cloud.

Authoring. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could easily make interactive online presentations? Office Mix for Education is a free add on for PowerPoint that makes it easy for teachers to add video, narration, links, polls, and interactive tasks. Teachers could use it to power flipped and blended classrooms. Students could use it for storytelling and project presentations.

OneNote makes it easy to create and share notes. Teachers can create and share a Class notebook. Students can take notes, build a portfolio, and submit assignments in OneNote. Teachers and students can clip and share the web and use it anywhere. Many Educators will find the OneNote Class Notebook Creator to be a great and easy-to-use tool for setting up OneNote environments for their classes.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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