Microsoft revamps back to school offerings

Eight new and refreshed tools are available for teachers and students to use in the coming school year.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Microsoft has refreshed its back to school line with new tools for students and teachers.

As our world more heavily relies on technology and digital skills, the classroom has altered to compensate. It has not been a rapid process as school budgets, timetables, teacher training and inclination have all played a part, but slowly, technology including tablets, smart whiteboards and more consistent PC use has spread across Western classrooms.

Launching schemes including offering cheap or free tablets to schools, low-cost apps and coding tools do not just give teachers an additional set of tools in their arsenal, but also familiarize students with particular brands and operating systems -- which may, in turn, entice them to become future customers of technology firms.

Therefore, companies including Microsoft, Apple and Samsung run such projects -- and Microsoft is now offering a refreshed lineup of tools for the new academic year.

On Tuesday, the Redmond giant revealed new and updated software solutions designed to enrich learning. If you have a valid school email address in the United States -- and elsewhere later this week -- you can sign up for a simplified, free plan for schools. In total, eight new resources are now available for both teachers and students:

  • Office 365 Education users can now access OneNote Class Notebook & Staff Notebook, a platform which allows teachers to integrate and better control app use in the classroom.
  • Skype in the classroom field trips are ready for this year's school intake. Teachers can take their students on an adventure in their own classroom by signing up for a virtual field trip with Skype.
  • Sway, Microsoft's digital storytelling app in the Office portfolio, is now no longer on preview and can be used by educators worldwide.
  • Snip is a new screen capture tool which allows users to link images and recorded audio before sending across email or to a digital whiteboard.
  • Microsoft YouthSpark Hub, now open for business, various resources and programs for students to learn digital skills and computer science.
  • Microsoft Imagine tools and resources are available to teachers for free to help their students learn the fundamentals of coding through projects and games.
  • Microsoft Virtual Academy has extended its free student-based computer science courses. Suitable for all age ranges, the courses also include lesson plans and tips for teachers on how to integrate the resources within their courses.
  • Creative Coding Through Games And Apps is also now available. The free platform offers a new computer science curriculum designed to spark interest in teenagers -- and teachers -- for computer programming, whether or not they have any background knowledge of the field.

There are many back to school deals still on offer from well-known technology firms. Apple is offering discount PCs with free Beats headphones, the DellStudent Computing Initiative (SCI) offers students heavily discounted systems and Adobe is once again accepting students who wish to subscribe to Creative Suite software with strong discount incentives.

See also: Back to school 2015: Student tech deals and discounts

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