Future of Microsoft Technologies in Schools: The IT Mans Challenges

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It has been a strange few years for me as I’ve looked to bring in a new company which evolves itself around an ever changing platform called Office 365. Having spent years working with SharePoint and Microsoft technologies in the education space, I’ve been able to build a good understand of how the two work together. This has helped the business to stay innovative and stay with times as new feature continue to be added to Office 365 Education.

This post is more about getting people who work in the education sector thinking more about how other Microsoft technologies are moving and changing like Microsoft and Office 365 and the challenges we have at keeping up with the times.

Office 365 as a cloud platform under the control of Microsoft has completely changed the way of IT Change Management. Over the past 20 years we have been able to install our preferred version of Windows, Office and other selected software needed for classroom monitoring and teaching and learning. This has helped to maintain a strong and robust network where we can train staff to a certain level and keep it at that, something I did as IT Manager in my previous schools. Windows XP was very mature at this point and Office 2007 had just come out. We didn’t want to go Windows Vista as it wasn’t really ready or suit our hardware requirements and to get all the staff laptops in and upgrade them seemed to be a bit of a time waste.

Office 365 has changed this way of thinking and I’m glad I cottoned on early and have spent some time thinking and forming a business around it. Now before you start thinking it’s only an issue with Microsoft technologies, it’s not! Google is the same and so has any other solution you have which is hosted externally, you are in their control.

Windows 10 and Office client through Office 365 Pro Plus brings a new level of change management to schools which we have to support for our learners which we may not be able to control. With the increase of BYOD for students, Windows 10 and Office 365 Pro Plus will be updated with no control from ourselves.

Windows as a Service means that new updates will come to the OS without us having to wait for a service pack or the next version of Windows. As Windows 10 may be the last OS we implement, this brings several questions and challenges to us working in the education sector.

  • How do we keep change under control with our network?
  • How do we stay innovative giving our students and staff the latest features they hear about on social media?
  • How do we keep managed devices within school at the same level as BYOD?
  • Are our skills ready to cope with fast updates and implementation?
  • Do my school support me in these changes and why my network might look a bit different next week after the latest update?
  • How do I keep myself trained to the highest level of Windows 10 ready for those updates?

 

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This is the same for Office 365 Pro Plus. In recent weeks we have seen updates to Outlook where Office 365 Groups can now be navigated and created from the client instead of the browser. This again is change we can control but will come to the client eventually as the only way to give the new feature to our learners. Another change we have seen through Office 365 Pro Plus is through the name change from the Lync client to Skype for Business. How did you communicate with staff that these changes have come, the change of icon but no actual feature changes or improvements?

These changes would have come on the day for Office 365 Pro Plus users on their own device or where you have deployed them where you aren’t controlling the updates.

So is it time that we get innovative to support our students and teachers. If we are teaching coding to students as they will need them for employment, how do we support that with the latest and being competitive towards Mac, iOS and Android? Do we need to do this to be more competitive for places at our school? How many of you advertise that students and teachers get Office for free as part of being a student?

As a final thought, look at how technology is being used in your school, do you fit the change of the world and how to get yourself personally trained to support the needs of a 21st student.

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