BETT 17 in Review – Part 1 – Microsoft

After spending 3 days at BETT 2017, I feel like I have walked up and down the aisles of the excel centre too many times to count. But was it worth it?

First things first, BETT is not a trade show, if used right – the seminars and meetings it creates are all about how to utilise technology better in education. Sure, some solutions you might not know and want to buy afterwards, but the show is firmly focused on how to enrich teaching and learning by IT. There is actually very little infrastructure presence at the show, and on the hardware side, I don’t actually think I saw any stands just selling bog standard PCs.

I am going to be writing a few blogs, including about the future of Capita SIMs, their apps and a few other bits from them, as well as VR and it’s place in education – but this blog is focusing on Microsoft @ BETT

This year I managed to sit in on a range of seminars, mostly at the Microsoft Education stand. I remember when I went to BETT a few years ago, I always avoided the MS stand. Microsoft made windows and office. I knew about it, and how it worked.

Apart from I didn’t, and to be fair, I am still only scratching the surface. The developments Microsoft are making in terms of their software, and how they can be used in education are immense. I have talked about One Note before, and it appears I haven’t even scratched the suface of what it can do, but the collaboration options in office online, the safe space that is Yammer, Microsoft Forms, Sway. Office 365 and One Drive itself are all incredible bits of software, that I don’t think many schools are really embracing yet. We certainly aren’t.

 

 

There are lots of reasons for this, that I have tocuhed on in other blogs – but briefly they come down to the fact teachers have priorities now that don’t make trying new things easy and as a team, we have been tasked with growing our support base and the service we offer to more and more schools.

In fact, the vast majority, of what staff should be using and doing on a PC can be achieved in the MS products.

Windows 10 is a key link in this, but the fact is, MS products can be used over a whole host of devices and operating systems, utalising the cloud, but working well with onsite solutions. I know there are plenty who will want to compare with Google solutions, but, I don’t think you can when it comes to user satisfaction and adoption. In my case, moving to Google apps would cause that much disruption, that in the current climate, I simply wouldn’t be able to do it. But apps such as One Drive, One Note and their online variants and built in to the current eco system, and therefore use of them is so much easier to enable right now.

But these tools are not just tokens or one hit wonders,  they are incredibly powerful, Microsoft have really stepped up a gear, and I am totally, unashamedly, buying into their ecosystem. All the products are linked, the familiar layouts being replicated allow the wealth of indepth new features to be useful and used without even realising.

Another huge benefit is as a school these are being part of our EES subscription and that makes them a cost effective solution.

The thing is, these tools are moving so fast, but my users are still thinking about using Smart Notebook or Active Inspire – they still rate them as being great pieces of software – when if you look at the software coming out of MS, and the speed of developments – they are missing so much.

So I have come away from BETT thinking about how important it is to make sure staff get the CPD they need, all year round, non stop. Not just when they have a spare hour on the TED day or a new system.

Without this, we can’t expect staff to take advantage of the new software available to them and therefore use IT better in the classroom. Simply put – thats not on their agenda right now – so we have to make it so easy for staff to get and pick up these skills – in small chunks that make a real difference and makes their day to day life easier – if we are to get them adopted.

Being able to use One Note and class pages to decimate information, mark work quicker and easier on any device, to allow and support less able children to get more from their class work. To make lessons more engaging that behaviour issues are reduced. To make staff excited about using the tech again, and making it just work on any device is key.

That’s why I am going to be offering regular CPD for staff at all the schools, with an ever changing catalog of skills. Staff will be encouraged to become Microsoft Innovative Educators with our support and the fantastic MIE website and we will offer inhouse training on lots of other software.

That is why I am going to take a step away from tickets, and focus on skills development in schools. By building staffs confidence in trying new things, they will need support less. But if we are focusing solely on tickets, that simply wont happen because schools need us to drive the new technology.

So there we are. I think that made sense. I am pretty tired!