I’ve read two articles (Australian, ZDNet) today mentioning a rather large deal between the Queensland Education, Acer and presumably Microsoft around the deployment of Acer Iconia W701 tablets to students within schools. This news is of interest to me because although I now live in Victoria, I grew up in Queensland and actually worked for the Department of Education there as a teachers aide (focused on IT administration/network support).
This deployment is significant because I think it is fair to say that Apple has quite a bit of the mind share around deployment of hardware into the hands of kids. This deployment of Windows 8 onto convertible tablet devices shifts the deal significantly towards Microsoft’s offering.
After a quick search, I found this PDF file on the department’s web-site which outlines some setup instructions for students which lists the pre-installed software (predominantly desktop app focused). One of the interesting things that I picked up was that they have deployed “SCCM” or System Centre Configuration Manager. This is a piece of agent software that the department can use to manage the fleet of devices. In particular this could be used to push out native Windows 8 applications when the devices connect back to the education network.
I hope that the department is strongly considering the deployment of native Windows 8 applications which take advantage of the impressive hardware that they are deploying.
One of the obvious applications that needs to be constructed is a native application which acts as “folio” for homework where files can not only be saved, but also shared with the teacher for marking. In fact this could be integrated with the report card processes. Further, I think that major eBook vendors with existing native offerings should consider updating their software so that it can “connect” to an educational account where student textbooks can be distributed in electronic form. There are literally hundreds of awesome things that could be done here to help students.
At Readify I’ve been doing a lot of work recently on approaches for designing and building Windows 8 applications for use inside organisations. The same design principles for internal line-of-business applications applies to software that will be used by students and teachers. Personally I am excited by what kinds of applications we could bulid that target students, teachers and even parents which help the educational process not to mention the side effect of technical literacy.
Back when I was a teachers aide there was some concern that technology like this would be unevenly distributed, and whilst that is a concern I don’t think that should stop Australian schools pushing forward with technology deployments like this. The future of this country depends on the quality of our education system and the ability for these kids to participate in an advanced technology society with intelligent use of our natural resources. Right now Australia has the edge in that this technology is within reach, but if we don’t invest when we have the opportunity the only place we’ll go is backwards.
Hats off to the Department of Education in Queensland. I hope that this is the beginning of a sustained deployment of assisting technology to support our students and educators.