On May 2, 2017, I had the privledge of being invited to attend the #LEARNWHATSNEXT keynote produced by Microsoft. The first of it's kind during Microsoft Satya Nadella's tenure as CEO, the keynote revolved around education and what Microsoft thinks the classroom of the future should look like.
More than 20 educators from across the world representing Pre-K through University studies were invited to attend and meet with representatives from the Education team to share their thoughts about how this new direction for Microsoft can be implemented in their classrooms.
Establishing a Laser Focused Philosophy for the Future
The keynote started off with Nadella telling the story of how his grandfather started his journey into education and helped his father become an educated man. It was a powerful story. “Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is now”. “Todays event is about education and technology . . . more importantly it is about empowering the students today to create the world of tomorrow.”
Throughout the opening remarks Nadella kept referring to Microsoft's top priorities on education. The concept of teachers spending less time focusing on technology and more time doing what they love, is a powerful example of the new direction that Microsoft and it's products will be headed in the future.
One key to Nadella's speech was the focus on making sure that all learners are brought into the conversation. A Focus on students with Dyslexia and students who struggle in reading and writing is clearly at the heart of Microsoft future.
It was very clear after spending 2 amazing days with the team from Microsoft Education that this wasn't just a product launch, rather it was a philosophy launch. The motto of Nadella and the entire Microsoft team is clear now more than ever.
Windows 10 S
This summer, a new education focused operating will be launched called Windows 10 S. What does the S stand for? Some say Safety, Security, Simplicity, or perhaps Streamlined. As it was described at the keynote the S was added because it adds a little bit of Soul to the Windows experience.
Windows 10 S essentially puts a safe and secure shell on an already powerful and robust Windows 10 environment. This means students will experience better battery, better browsing, and a much faster experience logging into their devices. By default Windows 10 S actives the powerful Edge web browser that has also received some notable upgrades such as a Tab Preview Bar and the ability for users to use inking technologies to write and annotate directly on websites and videos.
New Devices For All Ages
New Laptops Starting at $189
There were two big announcements about hardware. The first was the addition of several inexpensive student focused laptops starting at just $189. All of these PC's feature Windows 10 S and a dynamic touch screen experience.
To bring these devices to market, Microsoft teamed up with Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung, and Toshiba.
In addition to the slate of inexpensive touch screen devices, Microsoft closed the keynote with a brand new device called the Surface Laptop. Starting at only $999, the Surface Laptop completes and compliments a very successful line of Windows 10 devices that include the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio. The Surface Laptop provides 14 hours of battery on it's 7th generation Intel Core Processor and comes in 4 beautiful colors (Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold).
I was able to spend some quality time with these computers and in addition to being very lightweight, they were very comfortable to the touch. The trackpad was very responsive and didn't get in the way of the typing the way the new MacBook Pro trackpads sometimes do.
One extremely innovative feature of note was in the way that the speakers are now resting under the keyboard with the sound actually coming up through the keys. This feature provides a very intimate experience that was very noticeable even in a room with hundreds of educators and reporters making noise all around me. This was a very impressive feature for such a beautiful device.
A Commitment to The Future
Hardware and a new operating aside, this weeks keynote event truly pushed Microsofts commitment to education in the front of every teacher, student and parent on the planet. Their commitment to making learning easily accessible anywhere and anytime is at the heart of their online strategy at Education.Microsoft.com and starting May 6 is accessible at every Microsoft Store in the country. This month, Microsoft is launching STEM Saturdays in their retail spaces. Teachers, Students, and Parents are all welcome to attend free Hacking Stem activities for free and learn how to build sensors, robots, and become mechanical and electrical engineers all through the power of Windows 10, Surface devices and Office 365. This is certainly an experience you want to attend with your young learner.
Final Thoughts and Reflections
I want to end this post with a little bit of reflection on not only the experience I had this week, but on some thoughts I have been having about this revitalization from Microsoft.
Growing up, I can remember my dad bringing home our first Windows 3.11 computer. It was big and bulky but I loved every minute of it. In time, we graduated to Windows 95, 98, ME, and yes, Vista. I remember taking over that computer and stripping the parts out of it and rebuilding it over and over with new sound cards, graphic cards, and multiple hard drives. It was a Windows computer where I first learned about design, coding, and publishing.
Am I a Mac Fan Boy? Yes | Am I a Google Fan Boy? Yes
That being said . . . I am a very excited and proud Microsoft Innovative Education Expert that just had the privilege of watching my friends and family at Microsoft Education completely re-innovate the way that teachers are able to create and provide memorable experiences to their students. From hardware, to software, to hands on experiences, the future is big and bright for students worldwide thanks to the hard work and dedication of the entire Microsoft Education team, the thousands of Microsoft Innovative Educators worldwide, and students of all levels and ages.
As the father of 3 year triplets, all who qualify for special needs services, the devices being developed today from each of the three major technology companies are directly having an impact on their lives and for that there are no other words that can be expressed beyond . . . THANK YOU.
If you are an educator looking to learn more about the MIE program, please visit education.microsoft.com and apply for the program before the July 15 due date.