Microsoft in Education Blog
Students report that the operating system makes it easy to view information without opening applications.
In this week’s Windows 8 Wednesday post the Microsoft in Education blog talks with Heiki Tähis, Head of IT and CIO of the Tallinn Polytechnic School in Estonia, about the school’s adoption of the Windows 8 operating system.
Microsoft in Education: Tell us about the Tallinn Polytechnic School.Tähis: Tallinn Polytechnic School is the oldest and largest technical vocational school in Estonia. The main curriculum includes computers, computer networks, web development, automation, electricity, printing, and photography. Our IT infrastructure is quite large by Estonian standards; we have more than 500 workstations, more than 10 virtual servers, almost 2,000 users and two IT professionals who manage our on-site environment.
Microsoft in Education: Why did you choose to deploy the Windows 8 operating system?Tähis: We had two reasons for this deployment. On the one hand, most of our students are learning IT-related programs and we want to teach them by using the newest technologies. On the other hand, our IT team is small and we needed to simplify management procedures.
Microsoft in Education: Talk about your Windows 8 pilot program. Tähis: On August 15, we got early access to Windows 8 because we have a Microsoft School Agreement and TechNet subscription. That’s when we started our pilot program. We had a deadline of August 27, the beginning of the academic semester. This was an “all or nothing” project because the next suitable deployment timeframe would be the end of December. The main goal of our pilot program was to make sure that applications necessary to the learning process would be compatible. We had to apply minor changes to some application packages. We made those kinds of changes and conducted tests. Everything worked. It was amazing.
Microsoft in Education: Did you use System Center Configuration Manager 2012 to install Windows 8? Tähis: We were able to implement rapidly because of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (SCCM), which is very powerful tool that we used it to simplify application deployments. To be clear, most of our classroom computers are stateless. We don’t migrate or back up data on those machines. All files must be stored on a file server. We back up and migrate data and settings on the teachers’ and staff members’ computers. If you use SCCM, this task is fully automated.
Microsoft in Education: How long did deployment take? Tähis: We finished testing the morning of August 21. The decision was clear: Let’s do it. We had already prepared the images so we were ready to start the deployment process. In eight hours, we had migrated more than 200 computers to Windows 8. This included all the clients in the computer classes and lecture room. This was a bit risky, but we knew that if something went wrong, we could easily reinstall Windows 7.
Microsoft in Education: How has your Windows deployment changed your IT environment?Tähis: The beauty of Windows 8 is that it’s Windows, and everything that was possible to do in previous versions of the operating system is possible in Windows 8. We made only modest changes to our infrastructure. All classroom workstations are identical and feature Windows 8 and various applications. Students use clients that run Client Hyper-V, which makes it possible for them to use virtual machines to operate Windows Server or Linux. As a result, our learning environment is now much more flexible. We also use Windows 8 on staff computers because it’s easier to manage a unified IT environment.
Microsoft in Education: Are you using Windows 8 on touch-screen tablet computers?Tähis: Yes, we use HP EliteBook and Lenovo devices. We have six tablets used by chemistry and automation teachers, who use the touch screen and stylus when they teach drawing and sketching. We plan to purchase at least another 10 devices. We have one Microsoft Surface, which is a fantastic device. We’re waiting for Intel Core-based Windows 8 tablets because they are light and mobile. The touch screen experience has come to be normal and expected, but Windows 8 is a very good operating system without it.
Microsoft in Education: Are you working with any Windows 8 Metro apps?Tähis: Most of our users prefer to use the Mail app. In December, we will begin deploying Microsoft Office 2013. At the moment, the Estonian Public Transport application is very popular.
Microsoft in Education: How is Windows 8 helping increase productivity?Tähis: Most of our students and teachers like the user interface. We use mostly high-definition monitors in classrooms and Windows 8 makes it much easier to view applications; you don’t even have to open them to get the necessary information. Users like that and report that it saves them a lot of time. The improved multi-monitor support means that our teachers can lecture more efficiently when using a monitor and a projector.
Microsoft in Education: How is Windows 8 helping enhance computer security and control?Tähis: We use BitLocker and BitLocker To Go drive encryption, available with Windows 8, to manage workstations and tablets. This is very important because we work with personal data. Another nice feature that Windows 8 supports is the Estonian smart card, which works without installing additional drivers. Our users use this card to log in to a learning management system and this is a very critical service for us. It works seamlessly.
To conclude this blog we want to keep with the theme of highlighting an app every week and this week it is Khan Academy. This site has something for everyone to challenge the mind whether it’s math, science, history and more. Khan Academy is perfectly matched for the features of Windows 8. With Windows 8 you can bring multiple environments together seamlessly and learn in a dynamic way. For example, while watching a video tutorial online or downloaded and used offline, students can take notes on their computer or multitask on another project. Khan Academy for Windows 8 is designed to meet the learning realities of students head-on.
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I’m interested in MCTS certification, but I’m unsure as how to get there. Does it require any previous education? Would an associate’s degree in Information Technology be useful? Or would a bachelor’s degree be better? Any other prior degrees to consider? Are there any online universities/colleges in the US that offer courses on MCTS certification? Does Microsoft offer such courses online?