Last Saturday I went to a Microsoft Innovative Educator seminar. Six hours of Microsoft Office 365 show-and-tell. Good stuff. Office Mix, OneNote, Office 365, Window 10, Sway, and some other miscellaneous odds and ends. Way too much stuff way to fast but enough to give an idea of what Office 365 is all about. The seminar could easily be a two day event. I went to the event just to see if Office 365 is something my teachers could use. We are a Google school and although the price is right Google is missing some major feature Office 365 has. I was hoping to get enough understanding to be able to pass on what I learned to the staff that would be willing to use this stuff. The seminar was too brief for that. Even after such a fast show-and-tell I could see huge possibilities for the techie teachers. Those that feel comfortable using tech tools. OneNote, Office Mix and Class Notebook could be big for some teachers. I really appreciate Microsoft for putting on these free seminars but they can be a bit frustrating. They are teasers. They show just enough to see the incredible possibilities but do not give enough time to actual learn or practice with the tools. Missoula County Public Schools (not me, I am the private school) hosts a Google Fest every year. “Best practices for using Google Apps” kind of thing. It is not free but there is still a big turnout. Microsoft needs to jump on this band wagon. At the moment there are just not enough people in Montana familiar with Office 365 to hold a self-driven event. Earlier this year I attended a two day seminar on Creative Coding with Games and Apps. Enough time was spent actually working on TouchDevelop to get a good idea on how to use it. Office 365 needs something like that. With some promotion and training Office 365 could bury Google Apps.
After the seminar I hurried back to school with the intent of at least getting Office 365 set up for the school. I wanted the students and staff to be able to use the free Office 2016 download. I managed to get my domain verified with Microsoft. Not a big deal other than getting a magic number to the company that manages my domain name. After the verification I dug through the Office 365 site and could not locate the download. I contacted MS tech support (submit the request and 2 minutes later I get a phone call) and after some looking and trying the tech suggests I call sales. I sent a help request to sales and 5 minutes later I get a call. I have to have some kind of not free volume purchasing agreement with Microsoft to have access to the Office 2016 download. Crash and burn. Some day the administration really has to cough up some money for something like this. I will be retired before that happens.
Although I am disappointed I could not get the Office 2016 for the kids I have learned quite a bit in the last few days. The first is Microsoft has really fast, and I mean really fast, tech support response. The second is that Office 365 has some really cool tools for education. And third (and I should know this from experience) there is no such thing as a free lunch.