Windows tablets in education: They plug right in

Windows tablets in education: They plug right in

Summary: Like any other enterprise, large educational institutions have existing computing infrastructures which are likely built around Windows networks. Adding Windows tablets to them is far easier than adding iPads or Android tablets

The Dell Latitude 10 with dock, keyboard, monitor and mouse

iPad is both the stereotype and much of the reality of technology in education. It's far from the whole story. Many school systems and universities have chosen Windows over the years, and now some are choosing Windows 8 tablets over iPads. There are good reasons for doing so.

Last week I spoke with two education technology chiefs who chose Dell Windows 8 tablets for their deployments. They're happy and they say their students are too.

From the school IT's point of view, probably the most appealing feature of Windows tablets is that they plug right into the existing infrastructure. When you introduce iOS and Android into an enterprise network you need to create a new, separate management system for them. These products are generally known as mobile device management (MDM), and you can do a lot with them, but they are completely separate from the rest of your user and network management.

Windows tablets, on the other hand, are PCs; they can be managed with System Center or any other of the usual network management tools. (This goes only for real Windows devices, not Windows RT, which is not network-manageable.)

At the same time, being Windows devices, Windows 8 tablets can run the Windows software that the institution probably already uses, most importantly Microsoft Office.

The Clear Creek Independent School District near Houston (and home to NASA's Johnson Space Center) is in the middle of a rollout of Dell Latitude 10 tablets. Every student in the grade 4-12 district of 40,000 students will get one of the devices, and they expect to be fully deployed in 2 years.

Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale is starting their rollout of Latitude 10's with incoming freshmen and faculty. They hope to deliver the devices to all 2700-2800 students and 500 faculty and staff quickly. They've written a suite of programs for them and are digitizing all their materials.

I have a Latitude 10 and one of the things I love best about it is that Dell makes a docking station for it to which you can attach a wired network and monitor. Combined with wireless mouse and keyboard it easily turns the tablet into a full desktop PC.

Students don't get these accessories or cases, but SIU has an on-campus store where they sell these accessories and others and the proceeds help to finance the tablet program.

Dell didn't do everything right with the Latitude 10; the device cries out for a clamshell keyboard case like the one it made for their consumer Windows RT tablet. The company has addressed this deficiency in their recently-announced Venue tablets.

In light of the problems the Los Angeles Unified School District recently had with their iPad deployment, I asked both schools about their attitude towards locking down student devices. Obviously it's more of an issue for Clear Creek than for SIU which only has college students. Clear Creek is applying more restrictions for younger kids than for older kids, but overall both schools say they aren't especially locking the systems down. Both Clear Creek chief technology officer Kevin Schwartz, and SIU chief information officer David Crain, say that part of the idea of the program is to teach students to be good digital citizens.

Schwartz and Crain say that, for a variety of reasons, the total cost of ownership for the Latitude 10s was millions of dollars less than iPads. And they don't think that they "settled" for the Latitude. They did a "bake-off" between the Latitude 10 and iPad, and Dell clearly won.

Much of the software they use, even the online software, doesn't work on the iPad. Combined with the inclusion of Office (especially OneNote — they love OneNote) and the low-friction addition of the tablets to the schools' infrastructure, and it's clear that Windows 8 is a better solution for them. 

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Education, Windows 8

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  • Well of course they do!

    Microsoft "Just Works!" (TM, Mike Cox...but P.S., Microsoft, I will gladly license that to you, my benefactress!). I'd also like to thank my rep for helping put me on the trail of this singularity that is the reason for Microsoft greatness and success over the last decades. If it didn't work, and didn't "just work", it wouldn't have locked up the desktop market share that it did! And that "just workiness" has helped me make mega-Mike-Cox-bucks! Enough so that I am off to lunch soon at Herman's Crab Shack. More greatness to follow.
    • It "just works" untill ....

      It gets infected by some form of malware and then either slows down, holds you to ransom or steals your bank details.

      And how come I need to know about "Network Binding Order" to resolve a loooooong process of indecision while it decides which network to hook up to.

      Whoever decided this was the ideal OS for my 85yr old mother wants shooting.
      • 2000 wants their windows virus jokes back...

        2y with win7, 1y with win8 ; no big slow down in any of them..
      • Yawn.

        ZZZ. ZZZ. ZZZ.
    • Mike, is that really you?

      We've missed your insight! :)
  • Common themes

    Folks seem to be happy when they deploy a device and OS that is similar to what they are using today. Duh. I have nothing against iOS or Windows devices and think both can be used effectively and efficiently in education and business, although iOS more limited in business. As for Android devices, the OS is clumsy and cheap looking as their devices are and suffer from botware, viruses, large fragmentation and overall a poor user experience. So if I were in any of these lines of business from education to the factory floor, I would put way more emphasis on Windows and iOS based devices and ecosystems. Yes, open source has its advantages, but I don't think it is longed for a professional business world and will eventually shrink back down to more of a "lab setting" OS/platform/ecosystem or embedded in devices where users have little to no interaction with it.
  • A positive story on MS & its partner's tech?

    A positive story on MS & its partner's tech? Somebody stop the press! This moment needs to be recorded in history.

    I'm looking forward to the Venue Pro 8. I'm almost certainly going to get one by the end of the month. It is certainly interesting to hear pundits brag about the iPad an Android tablets being used in schools and in the work place, when it is so much easier and desirable for companies to get Windows tablets, because of their manageability, backwards compatibility, and their productivity orientation. I believe with the release of Windows 8.1, and finally tablets from OEMs which do not suck (including mini tablets), the PC will stabilize and move forward, and displace iPad / Android experiments in schools and at work. When a Windows store version of Office is released, that is when the PC will start stomping on iPad and Android in all markets, limiting their sales.
    P. Douglas
    • I know of two local schools

      that have instead adopted chromebooks and one that was using ipads got rid of those.
      • My local school adopted Chromebooks.

        They're still using Windows PCs though.

        While notes and research have been shifted to the netbooks, specialized classes like Photography, Programming, and Modeling continue to use the desktops.
      • I know of one school we deal with

        that have dumped the whole "Chromebook Experiment" they tried for the last year, as they really saw no benefit at all.
  • K12's licensing is next to nothing for SCCM also

    basically given away for free with a few token dollars.
  • I actually thought it would be good for education too, then I set it up..

    Pre-installed games, live tiles with inappropriate material, tons of OEM software; some uninstalling through Add\Remove programs in the classic environment, some from the new tiles interface; some uninstalling permanently from all profiles, other stuff hiding until a new profile is setup. It was insane and took nearly 6 hours to get a working usable image. Window s8 has no remove all selected, it's a one by one thing.

    Then imaging was another challenge. Some of the machines were UEFI others using BIOS, not all the machines could be re-imaged. Plus the imaging software we had didn't work, everything had to be done through Windows 8. So the Toshiba laptops we were loading literally had to boot taking 15 minutes to make an initial profile just to restart and reload it anyway because the recovery needed to be done with a default user setup on the drive...
    • You're using it wrong

      You can get a clean Windows 8 image easily. Do a system reset from the control panel, and it wipes everything from the drive and re-installs Windows 8. No more OEM software, or anything for that matter. You spent 6 hours doing something that should've taken 45 minutes or less.
      Jason Joyner
  • custom image

    Jason's right, at least for a large organization. If you're deploying hundreds or thousands of one type of hardware, you create a master image for them and then use tools from Microsoft or others to deploy that image to all of them. (I once wrote a book chapter on this.)
  • Seriously...Let's choose a system because it's easier for our IT folks??

    After is all about what's easier for the IT folks and not about what works best for the kids. If Chrome or Win8 is better for the kids...roll them out. If iOS is...roll that out. IT can't keep being the tail that wags the dog!
    • I agree with UGottaBKidding

      One more thing. It's not just about Microsoft Office. I think as educators we want our students to become more versatile and be able to solve problems, not just teach them one absolute solution. We also want our IT departments to be flexible and look at the educational aspects not just the ease of integration. Teachers have been driven for years by IT departments and submit to their controlled environments obviously to protect the students but also restricting the freedom to learn. If there was something to be ultimately fixed, it would be people who make it impossible for kids to roam in a safe cyber world. That's the reason the some educators have opened up the internet and started educating kids to be good virtual citizens.
    • I agree...

      Except... what is "easier for IT to manage" has actually been the justification for schools NOT choosing Windows computers -- in fact, it's one of the #1 reasons schools are choosing Chromebooks -- because they "don't have to be managed." There is a little problem, however, when you start looking at using them for elementary schools: everything is done "in the cloud", and those cloud-based services tend to have Terms of Service rules that explicitly state children under 13 years old can't use the service. Oops...

      I am using a class set of Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 devices running Windows 8, and for the most part, it has been a great choice -- and I had to fight AGAINST our IT to make this happen. Primary benefits are:

      1) Can run our existing/legacy software (but not Office -- we are using Google Docs/Drive instead. I would love to use OneNote, but Microsoft has insisted on making that a cloud/subscription based thing, so it's a no-go if my 11-year-old students have to have Microsoft Logins)

      2) Can access 100% of websites -- most of the great interactive educational websites require Flash, Java, etc.

      3) Many of these devices have active digitizers, allowing us to effectively write and draw directly on the screen (people claim that can be done on iPads -- it can't. The capacitive stylus and lack of hand detection make it far too clunky and unreliable. You need active digitizer.)

      You can see my website about this Win8 paperless classroom:
    • IT

      Well, considering I'm one of those IT folks that has to set everything up for my school, I think I know why it has to be easier for us.

      We're asked daily to deliver new software, seamlessly, without disturbing anyone to possibly hundreds of machines at a time. We're asked to fix machines and make sure they never brake again during a lesson. We're asked all sorts of impossibilities that we are meant to magically carry out.

      The reason, to some extent, we can is because of Windows. I hate to admit it but without it many businesses and governments would crash due to the lack of functionality. I love android, would I use it for a business, hell no. Same goes for iPads/iPhones.

      Windows is the main stay when it comes to large networks, not because it is the best or fastest, but because it allows us to do the impossible very easily and with fewer people. The world is run by money, so are schools. The less staff you need to run your IT department, the more money can be paid to teachers and go on equipment. Simple as that. Windows offers us that ability with huge arrays of features. Who else has a Group Policy? Who else allows hundreds of machines to be seamlessly connected, (when it works,) to a network with access to hundreds of terabytes of data. Mac nor Android can offer that, that is why Windows is still big in the tech business. They have the features nobody else cares to make that allow me on my own to manage 300+ computers, 30+ printers alongside 3 servers.