Are Computer Labs Necessary in Today’s Schools?

Are computer labs necessary in today’s schools?

According to Cengage author Mark Frydenberg, the answer is yes, but not in the traditional way.

As BizEd Magazine reports, in 2017, “students have their own laptops, so they no longer need a place to connect to the internet or write papers. Instead they need spaces where they can experiment with new technologies.

That’s why, in 2011, Frydenberg spearheaded the development of Bentley University’s Learning & Technology Sandbox, also known as “CIS Sandbox,” for the computer information systems department.

He tells BizEd, “When I was asked to take over the lab in 2010, I was reluctant because it wasn’t a place where I wanted to spend my time. But then I started thinking about what the future of computer learning could be.”

The Sandbox replaced the old computer lab, a traditional space with 40 computer stations, gray carpeting, gray furniture, and no windows, as described by BizEd. With the help of University funding, the space underwent a complete renovation, “replacing the computer stations with six U-shaped tables with monitors for group work, wall-mounted display monitors, and soft chairs for lounging.”

How is the CIS Sandbox used? Frydenberg says it provides IT tutoring, exposes students to new tech, and hosts speakers, workshops and other programming, and gives students a place to study and socialize.

It’s popular, too. The article notes that more than 3,000 students spend time at the Sandbox each semester, and the admissions office, who once said “every school as a computer lab, so no one’s going to come to Bentley because of that space,” has now put the Sandbox on the tour for prospective students.

“Our mission at the Sandbox is to create a space where students can explore technology in a social way,” Frydenberg tells EdBiz. “Giving them the ability to play with the next up-and-coming technological tools or program an app—it’s a pretty powerful thing.”

Tell us what you think – Is a Sandbox the computer lab of the future?

Leaked Preview Hints at Option to Pause Windows Updates

If you’re using the Home edition of Windows 10, you know that you cannot defer the automatic system updates. However, according to leaked preview builds of Windows 10, Microsoft will soon release a new option to pause updates for up to 35 days.

The Professional, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10 already allow users to defer updates, delaying upgrades for 30 to 180 days, depending on whether it’s a feature update, or a quality update.

Microsoft faced criticism over their handling of Windows 10 in 2016, with some accusing the company of “tricking” Windows 7 & 8 users to upgrade.  Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela owned up to this during the Windows Weekly Podcast, admitting to aggressively pushing users to upgrade to Windows 10.

What do you think of Windows 10 updates? So far, so good? Or are there other unresolved issues you think Microsoft should address?

MindTap Integrates Live Virtual Machine Labs for IT Students

Further preparing students to succeed in the high-demand field of computer and information technology (IT), Cengage and Practice Labs, a London-based edtech company, announced the integration of live virtual machine labs into MindTap last week!

Employment in the computer and IT space is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024 – faster than the average for all occupations. With Practice Labs integrated directly into MindTap, students are able to work with live servers and networking hardware from their web browser without leaving the MindTap platform, giving them the hands-on practice needed to develop and master skills that are immediately transferable to the workforce.

“Students love that they are working in a live environment with real servers and networks that they can explore, fail, try again until they succeed. Instructors love that the labs are already built and tested – and that they map to the certification objectives, the Cengage text, and their curriculum.,” said Ricky Doyle, CEO of Practice Labs.

To learn more about Practice Labs, and to see which MindTap courses have live virtual machine labs integrated into the Learning Path, click here.

Microsoft’s LinkedIn Acquisition to Close Soon

Microsoft announced today that they have received all necessary clearance for their acquisition of LinkedIn, and that the deal is set to close “in the coming days.”

The European Commission was the last to approve the $26.2 billion buyout, after the US, Canada, Brazil and South Africa.

Microsoft said they had the opportunity to review the acquisition with government officials and regulators in “considerable detail,” thus formalizing several commitments regarding Microsoft’s support for third-party professional social networking services.

Why does Microsoft want LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a key tool for professionals. With 433 million members, it’s safe to say that most adults in the US use LinkedIn for finding jobs, and general networking. That said, it’s important to note that Microsoft has more than 1 billion Office users, but has no social graph, or representation of the interconnection of relationships in an online social network, of its own and until now, has had to rely on LinkedIn or Facebook to provide that connection.

In an internal memo, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explains, “This combination will make it possible for new experiences such as a LinkedIn newsfeed that serves up articles based on the project you are working on and Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you’re trying to complete. As these experiences get more intelligent and delightful, the LinkedIn and Office 365 engagement will grow. And in turn, new opportunities will be created for monetization through individual and organization subscriptions and targeted advertising.”  

Read more about Microsoft’s LinkedIn acquisition here.

Microsoft Joins the Linux Foundation

In an attempt to encourage and drive developers to make more use of the Microsoft Ecosystem, Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation.

The Microsoft Ecosystem is designed to make resources available to a wide variety of technology companies so that they can build solutions around Microsoft technologies. In this case, Microsoft wants to drive more use of Azure, Windows 10, and Office 365.

Linux is an operating system platform that is classified as a free and open-source software. This means that anyone is freely licensed to use and change the software in any way, resulting in an operating system that is widely utilized to power servers, desktops, Android smartphones and other devices.

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By joining the Linux Foundation, Microsoft is allowing developers to use more tools regardless of their preferred platform, making the Microsoft Ecosystem platforms more desirable for building cross-platform applications and solutions. In other words, Microsoft wants developers building apps for its Ecosystem whether they’re working in Linux or in Azure.

This is big news for developers, as Microsoft has built its software empire on close-source proprietary software. The times, they are a-changin’.

What do you think? Is open-source the future of software?

Microsoft Ends Windows 7 & Windows 8 Sales

The lifecycles for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 have come to an end, as Microsoft confirmed last week that they’ve discontinued sales of the operating systems.

“End of sales refers to the date when a particular version of Windows is no longer shipped to retailers or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Examples of OEMs are Dell and Toshiba – PC manufacturers who often preinstall Windows software,” explains Microsoft.

Looking for a brand new PC with Windows 7 or Windows 8? You’ll likely have to look for an OEM who is selling off existing stock.

Although Microsoft will continue to provide ongoing updates support for Windows 7 until January 2020, and for Windows 8 until January 2023, they are likely ending sales in an effort to boost Windows 10 sales, which have been stagnant since their free upgrade offer ended in July.  

For more information, visit the Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet.

Microsoft Launches Teams to Compete with Slack

Microsoft announced last Wednesday that they are bringing together their Office 365 productivity apps, and their strengths, together in a single app: Teams.

As direct competition to Slack, Microsoft Teams is an integrated collaboration app for Office 365 that offers a chat-based approach to communication, along with Office document collaboration and multi-person video chat through Skype.

With Teams, users can add, work, and collaborate in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Meetings, Notes, Planner, SharePoint, OneNote and other Office 365 apps without ever leaving Teams.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella describes, “No two teams are the same, no two projects are the same. There’s no universal tool for teams, but rather a universal toolkit we call Office 365.”

Currently, Slack offers more apps within its directory, but Teams will soon launch more than 150 partner integrations. Right now though, built-in integrations include Asana, Hootsuite, Intercom, and Zendesk.

Also on Wednesday, Slack bought a full page ad in the New York Times to publish an open letter to Microsoft. Read it here.

To read more about Teams, click here.

Microsoft Office Skills Rated Number Four on Most Required Skills List

A new white paper, Keys to the Future: Align Workforce Readiness Skills to Ensure Student Success, looks at the most widely desired skills in today’s workforce, and the skills and competencies that will be most in-demand by 2024. The research, conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) and sponsored by Microsoft, reveals that the top 20 most required job skills include Microsoft Office, which lands at number 4, and Microsoft PowerPoint, landing at number 16.

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IDC analyzed 76.7 million job postings from 2015 to identify the 20 most commonly required skills for these positions, then examined the skills required for 70 positions that are expected to have above average growth and salary potential between 2016 and 2024 – these are called “high opportunity positions.”

This top 20 list represents skills that are most required across all occupations and are considered “cross-functional skills.” IDC categorized these skills into three overlapping buckets:

  • Communication, integration, and presentation skills
  • Entrepreneurialism and related skills
  • Microsoft, Microsoft Office and other software skills

These cross-functional skills suggest that students require “job readiness” and not “job training” for success, as educators should focus on skills with the broadest applicability.

Cengage creates learning experiences that build confidence and momentum toward the future students want. Learn more about our resources for Microsoft Office here.

New Office 365 Creativity Updates

Just in from the Microsoft Windows 10 Event in New York City: Office 365 is getting its own updates for the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update, which Microsoft says will arrive in “early 2017.”

With Microsoft’s updates, Windows 10 and Office 365 can be regularly updated with fixes, and new features, too. So what’s the Creators Update? Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President for Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, explained that the Creators Update features will include 3D and mixed reality, 4K gaming, and in-game broadcasting.

How does this affect Office? The features within the Creators Update will enhance the digital pen user-experience, offering new ways to interact with your documents and expands options for creating rich, interactive content – this is called Inking.

Inking in Office 365

  • Ink Editor – Strike through words to delete them, circle text to select it, and automatically snap highlighter ink to text.
  • Ink Replay control with Surface Dial – Set the pace at which you review instructions, reveal lesson ideas, and more with the new integration of Surface Dial and Windows 10.
  • Digital Ruler – Draw straight lines and align objects with the help of a built-in digital ruler in PowerPoint.
  • Segment Eraser in PowerPoint – Use this new eraser to remove excess ink for more precise in shapes.

Read more about the Creators Update for Office, and Inking here.

New Microsoft Office Updates for iOS

THIS JUST IN: Good news for iPhone and iPad users, Microsoft is working to deliver new updates for Office on iOS.

As part of their September updates, Office for iOS will get support for Edmodo and Tencent, which means iPhones and iPads will now be allowed to store and access documents through Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft Word is getting Smart Lookup which will allow users the ability to look up a word instantly. By simply pressing and holding on a word or phrase, users can search image information, word definitions, and more without leaving the document.

PowerPoint is also getting an update in the iOS platform. IPhone users can now use their smartphones as laser pointers by simply pressing and holding in the notes section while in presenter mode.

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The Mac platform of the office suite will be updated as well. PowerPoint Designer will be getting a bit of a face-lift and will have improved color guides as well as new audio and video trim options.  Additionally, Office 365 subscribers will get access to a new “focus mode,” which is designed to “remove distractions and improve concentration at work.” There isn’t a concrete release date for this update, but it should go live early September.

For additional information on Microsoft updates for iOS, visit their website.