Microsoft Readies Teams and Office Apps for Classrooms

Microsoft is preparing a version of Office for its new Windows 10 S operating system and getting teachers and students on the same page with Teams.

Microsoft Office 365 Education

Microsoft's new Surface Laptop running the Windows 10 S may be all the buzz following yesterday's media event in New York City, but the company also made several new announcement that may have a significant impact on how educators and their students interact with technology at many school districts.

Among them was a preview of Office for Windows 10 S, due to hit the Microsoft Store for Education app marketplace sometime this summer. Windows 10 S, also unveiled yesterday, is a lightweight version of the company's flagship operating system that will only run apps from Microsoft's app store. This restriction enhances security, according to company executives. To run conventional Windows apps on Windows 10 S devices requires that users upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Also this summer, the software giant announced plans to bring its Slack competitor, Microsoft Teams, into classrooms.  

Joined onstage yesterday by Anthony Newbold, the principal of Bear Creek Middle School in Fairburn, Ga., Catherine Boeger, general manager of Microsoft Office and Office 365, announced new features in Teams that that will help the group chat and collaboration solution serve "as the digital hub for teachers and students." In schools, Teams organizes conversations into classrooms and project groups. The interface also provides users with customizable tabs that offers quick access to shared files, OneNote Class Notebooks, quizzes and assignments.

As an early user of the technology in his school, Newbold said Teams enables teachers to enrich their lesson plans with external learning resources that are often out of reach due to budgetary and time constraints.

During a demonstration, he showed how he was able to introduce a new unit to his "World History class by bringing in an anthropologist into the classroom with a video call. This enables students to interact with a professional and seek the information that matters most to them."  

Teams also helps spark discussion among students and increases engagement by borrowing features that kids often use to liven up their text chats, namely emojis, animated GIFs and stickers, Newbold said. If a class clown gets overzealous and starts posting inappropriate content, he said teachers have complete control over conversations, including deleting a message, muting a student or muting the entire class of things really get out of hand.

For budding developers, and in line with Microsoft's focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, the company also announced a new Code Builder module for Minecraft Education Edition.

"Learning to code becomes part of your students' creative exploration in Minecraft, where code is represented as – what else? – blocks that can be used to execute commands and lead to new ways to explore, create and learn," wrote Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, in a May 2 blog post. "Code Builder connects to learn-to-code platforms like Tynker, ScratchX, and a new open source platform we've come up with, called MakeCode."

Code Builder for Minecraft Education Edition, a version of the popular sandbox video game for learning environments, will be generally available on May 22.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...