Microsoft debuts a flurry of new edtech products, including Minecraft: Education Edition


Microsoft has announced a slew of new and updated products, including Minecraft: Education Edition, already gearing up for the new school year in September.

A new cloud-based application and device management service will be rolled out called Microsoft Intune for Education, which offers management in shared learning environments. Windows 10 devices will also start at the same price as Chromebooks, at $189, and will be available from Acer, HP and Lenovo. Many of the devices will feature Windows Ink, which allows users to jot down ideas with a pen or touch-enabled device.

According to the company’s blog, more than 90 percent of schools currently use shared devices, which all come with their own set-up and management instructions.

Intune allows IT directors and administrators, as well as teachers, to easily access Windows 10 devices and manage shared devices, and then not have to adjust them for the rest of the school year. Formerly known as Windows Intune, Microsoft Intune is a cloud-based desktop and mobile device management tool.

Intune has an express set up feature allows administrators to establish and customize more than 150 default settings and policies for all the devices, and then assign them to students and apply them to hardware, apps, browsers, the start menu and more. The settings follow the student to any device when they log in.

The program automatically creates groups based on school roster data, and any change in the roster will be reflected automatically. “For example, if a student is added to a photography class in the school roster, they will automatically be added to the group in Intune for Education and get the relevant apps,” according to the blog post.

“Because Intune for Education is based on Microsoft Intune, larger school districts or schools with large, full-time IT departments can take advantage of cross-platform support to manage iOS and Android devices and integration with System Center Configuration Manager, if they choose,” according to the blog.

Intune for Education will be widely available in spring at $30 per device.

There is also the widely anticipated update to Minecraft: Education Edition, which is used by more than 75,000 students and educators from more than 100 countries.

The upgrade offers new features like Global Pause, which helps teachers and students transition to a new activity, and text-to-speech for in-game chat. There is also an updated user interface for managing game settings and new features in the game “like igloos and Polar Bears in snowy biomes,” according to the blog.

There are also 60 new Global Minecraft Mentors who help teachers navigate the game. The new edition is available here.

“It’s exciting to see the impact technology can have on their learning, the creativity it can inspire, and how it can connect students and educators all over the world,” according to the blog. “We have much more underway for students and educators and we look forward to sharing more details in the coming months.”

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