A couple of big threads of conversations going through the Montana school techies are Chromebooks and Google Apps. A lot of the schools are looking at or actually in the process of deploying Chromebooks. A number have already deployed them and are have success with them. For schools with limited money and tech support (all schools?) they are a no brainer. The cost can be as low as half of a Windows laptop and they are extremely easy to setup and manage remotely. Although I am not a fan, most of the software I teach with is not browser based, I do have to start looking at Chromebooks for our aging labs.
I have been re-installing Windows 7 on a number of ate up computers lately. So of course I start thinking about what is going on in the world computers and applications in education. (While installing five computers worth of Office, anti-virus, Adobe Reader, etc the mind tends to wander.) Looking through the small view of the world Montana offers I have to say Microsoft is losing the education war, in a big way. The simple comparison between Office (or Office 365) vs. Google Apps is an example. I looked at Office 365 for the school. Not simple, not free. Google Apps is simple and free and it integrates with our free Gmail. Google Drive vs. OneDrive. Google drive automatically works with those free Google Apps. Google drive also has unlimited storage for education accounts. Now on to the tablet wars. The big three are iPad, Android and Windows Surface. For education the iPad is just a royal pain. The handling of accounts for a group of classroom sets is awkward too say the least. Android tablets are almost up to the level of the iPad for apps, are very easy to manage, and each kid can have their own account (browser login) and they are cheap. The Surface was never intended for schools and the price will guarantee they stay that way. Then there is Google Classroom. For the price (free) it is unbeatable for a classroom management system. And Exchange? Why bother? Gmail does the trick, requires no server and is free.
Perhaps the biggest factor is in-service training. In little ol’ Missoula Montana we have in-service Google training offered a couple of times a year. By Google. Getting a Google trainer is not a major issue. Every summer Google comes to town. Google Fests, Chromebook seminars, Google Apps for the Classroom courses, Google for IT people and on and on. Google for Education is the only shop in town and it is pretty good stuff. Microsoft is not even in the picture. We do not even imagine getting a Microsoft education person to give training. As far as I know there is not even such a person. Office 365 might be pretty cool, but we would not know from the amount of effort Microsoft has put into educational promotion at the local level.
I like Microsoft. They make good solid products. They make a lot of really cool stuff that can fit really well with education. I even like their operating system. But so much of what they do is just tossed out there to the education world with the attitude “Here it is, ain’t it cool, do what you what with it but do not bother us about it.” Small Basic, Project Spark, and the Creative Coding course are just three that come to mind. They used to make a Microsoft Robotics Studio that looked really promising as a programming language and simulated environment. It looked great for education. It never seemed to go anywhere and is now retired. As far as I know it was never promoted for education.
I predict that in five years Microsoft Windows will be the second most common OS in schools. Microsoft software will not be the standard. Maybe some Windows servers will still be hanging in there. Looking at my servers the only Windows one I need is DHCP/DNS and if I went Chromebooks I could eventually can that one.
I had better start planning to attend more of those Google seminars.