Finally passed my Google Certified Trainer exams

Well today brings a sense of victory. Since the beginning of September I have been working towards becoming a Google Educator Certified Trainer. For me to be able to become one I would have to take 4 core Google Apps exams and one nominated exam. Today marks the day where I have finally finished my 5 exams with a PASS grade.

The next step for me now is to apply to Google to become a Certified Trainer but this can’t be done until the 7th October so until then I will be celebrating passing these 5 exams.

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The iPad Pro

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Today Apple announced the release of the iPad Pro and people are already saying its a competitor for the Surface Pro 3.

The specs of the new iPad Pro do sound good but why would you want an iPad that big and at that price. Apple now do give you the option of using a stylus and a keyboard so you could become more productive using one. The biggest flaw for me is that its still running an iOS. For me Apple would of been better to release this with a version of Mac OS.

Comparing the iPad Pro to a Surface Pro 3 is just silly in my eyes. The Surface would always come up better as its running a full blown OS rather than a mobile version.

It will be interesting to see how well they do on sales and I’m sure there will be a lot sold due to the Apple branding. Will the purchase of one be good value for money? Suppose we will wait and see.

Windows 10 – First Thoughts

Well I haven’t done a blog for a while as I’ve been busy with other things but with Windows 10 now out, I thought I should give my first opinions on it. I have been running Windows 10 on my Surface Pro since the first technical preview and have loved it. People are saying its the best operating system that Microsoft have ever released and I think they could be right. Since the early previews it has come on a long way and I’ve been able to follow it with every update.

The return of the start menu:
The biggest and best new feature for me is that we have our start menu back. The biggest and major downfall of Windows 8 was the fact that Microsoft got rid of the start menu. With Windows 10 you get the best of both worlds as it has the start menu back but with a twist. MS have updated the start menu and it now has apps and titles included in it which make it look attractive indeed.

Your new best friend Cortana:
With Windows 10 you get a Microsoft’s version of Siri. This allows you to talk to your device and ask it to find something, search online, add something or pretty much anything you fancy. You can also type in Cortana if you don’t fancy sitting there and having a full-blown conversation with your laptop. Cortana is providing to be a power tool within Windows 10.

The Action Centre:
Microsoft tried to create a side bar of options on Windows 8 but there wasn’t much you could do on it and you found your self using the control panel instead. Windows 10 has reinvented that Action Center giving you the options to toggle your wireless, enter tablet mode, toggle your location settings as well as a few other options. Notifications from your apps and programs will also appear here. You can turn these off though in your settings if you wish to.

Explorer:
Windows Explorer has had a little bit of a make over as well with some new icons and a quick access area. In the quick access area you can pin the items you might access often so they are easier to find. The home screen of the File Explorer now includes a recently viewed items as well as being able to see your most accessed. For me this feature is annoying but this is because I like the old way it all looked, as it seemed more organised.

The new Task View:
Windows 10 sees the introduction of whats called Task View. This is a quick way to toggle through the windows you have open. In previous versions of Windows you were always able to hit Alt and Tab to toggle through the windows you have open but now Microsoft have added a new button to the task bar that allows you to see what’s open. Microsoft didn’t stop there, they also added multiple desktops so you can have more than one desktop.

Edge:
Internet Explorer has been a part of Windows since the early days of Windows 95 but with Windows 10 we get a new experience of internet browsing. Edge just looks sharper, performs better and seems like an all round better web browser than IE was. Microsoft have had tough contest with the likes of Google Chrome, Safari and Mozilla Firefox but it seems Edge could well be a good contender against them. Internet Explorer 11 is included in Windows 10 incase some websites don’t work as they should in Edge but I’m sure that won’t last for long. Cortana is well linked with Edge and you also have the feature to take notes now on websites and highlight things.

Other changes have been made in Windows 10 and it sees a much improved built-in apps like the Store, Calendar and Reader. Windows 10, to me, seems like everything Windows 8 should of been and I’m sure Microsoft will want Windows 8 forgotten like Vista has been.

Verdict:
As I said in the opening paragraph I think it is safe to say this is the best ever operating system Microsoft have made. Microsoft have also slim lined the OS as it seems to take up a lot less hard drive space than its predecessors did. The best thing about Windows 10 is that its fast, easy to use and just works like its supposed to.

My New Toy – HP Stream 7

Had to buy it!
A couple of weeks ago I was told about an offer that the Microsoft store had. They were selling a HP Stream 7″ tablet for £49.99. I couldn’t miss out on this so had to purchase one my self.

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Bing Edition:
The tablet comes with Windows 8.1 Bing edition. Some people might wonder what the Bing edition of Windows 8.1 is? Well there is no real difference between the core version of Windows 8.1 and the Bing edition. Manufacturers get the Bing edition of Windows for free so they don’t have the added costs of the core edition, which means it brings the costs down of the device. The catch for the manufacturers is that the default search engine has to be Bing.

The device:
Before purchasing I had read reviews that the device was quite heavy. For a 7″ tablet it is on the heavier side but I like the feel of it as it feels like you have something in your hand rather than a feather weight flimsy tablet. The size of a 7″ is great but it can be a bit fiddly at times to press on certain things using the desktop version of Windows. It does sit great in your hand and is perfect for browsing the internet and using the apps.

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The spec:
The tablet comes with a quad core Atom 1.33Ghz processor and 1GB memory. The hard drive size on the tablet is 32GB, I was a little worried about using up that space but it also comes with a micro SD slot so you can add another 32GB. There is only a micro USB 2.0 port on the tablet but this seems to be the standard for a 7″ tablet. It charges using this USB port which I was happy about as it means I don’t have to carry around another charger.

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Office 365 Personal:
The HP Stream 7 comes with a free 1 year subscription for Office 365 personal. This gives you the advantage of using the full Office 365 package and having 1TB of space using OneDrive. This usually costs £59.99 per year.

My final thoughts:
If you didn’t already know I’m a mad football fan and a keen player of the Football Manager series. To put the tablet to the test I installed the latest Football Manager game via steam and started a season. I wasn’t to disappointed at all with the performance of the game but it was a bit hard to navigate due to the touch screen being 7″ but it was playable.

Overall I have been really impressed with the HP Stream 7 and for only £49.99 its an absolute bargain. I never been the biggest fan of Windows 8.1 but on this touch device it works brilliantly.

Lenovo Yoga 11 – My Thoughts

Last week I was on an installation job where I was installing a Microsoft server 2012 R2 along with 25 Lenovo Yoga 11’s. Prior to the school buying these Yoga 11’s I was a bit unsure if the 11″ screen would be big enough.

Once I opened up one of the boxes and got my hands on one I saw that the screen was a good size and should be perfect for the schools needs. They seemed very hard wearing and sturdy. Recently I’ve worked with other Lenovo laptops that weren’t very good quality and the mouse on them was awful. The Yoga 11 build quality was so much better and I had no issues with the mouse. I found the touch screen very accurate and I kept catching my self using it rather than the mouse.

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These laptops came shipped with Windows 8.1 professional but I still rebuilt them as I was also installing a server. The Lenovo website was very useful as it had a download which included all the drivers that were needed. This is a very rare thing from manufacturers and saved me a lot of time as usually I’m searching around for that one driver that’s not been installed.

A thing I liked about these laptops is that the screen flips all the way round so the laptop changes to an almost tablet like form.

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As you can see from the pictures I could rotate the screen round and have it sat on the desk or I could rotate it fully round and hold it in my hand like a tablet. I found if you wanted to use it solely as a touch device moving the screen round and putting the laptop in a tent like position worked the best.

The spec of the laptops aren’t the best in the world but I was impressed with the performance of the celeron processor.

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Overall I thought these were great value for money and would definitely recommend them to anyone. They retail at just under £400 so aren’t the cheapest option on the market. I liked them and actually surprised my self with using the touch screen along with the keyboard and mouse.

Here’s a few more pictures of the Yoga 11

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Google Apps or Office 365

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I keep getting ask whether a school should go down the Office 365 route or Google Apps and which is better?

There isn’t really a right answer for this as both products have their advantages. Its really down to personal preference and what you feel would work best in your school with enhancing the students learning and aid the schools teaching.

Google Apps
Google Apps comes with GMail, Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides. GMail is a great emailing system which is very user friendly and easy to use. Drive does as you want and makes sharing easier although the new interface isn’t as easy to navigate as before, but the ability to add folders that are shared with you to your own drive space makes it more organised than OneDrive. The “office” package of Docs, Sheets and Slides is just as good as the familiar MS Office and does pretty much everything you would need it to do. The Sheets app doesn’t allow you to do such things as conditional formatting or macros but it does a brilliant job of your basic formulas. You do have the ability to convert your documents so they open in Google Apps and most of the time the conversion works perfectly but you are sure to get that odd spreadsheet or document that doesn’t have the same layout as it did before.

The big offering that Google Apps has is Google Classroom. This is a great way to move learning and teaching into the cloud and allows that interaction with your students. It is such an easy setup and works just how you want it. You hand out the work, the student completes the work and hands it back in. When the student hands their work back in you get a notification that its been completed. It also allows students to interact with each other in a blogging sort of way. Another advantage of GApps is Google Forms. As a company we have used this a lot and its a great tool for schools. You can quickly make a form with multiple questions and these questions could be one word answers, drop down answers, multiple choice or pretty much any sort of answer format. The results are all recorded in a spreadsheet which offers the ability to be converted into charts or graphs.

There are lots more apps and features of Google Apps and to get the full use of it I’d highly recommend investing in Chromebooks. They are great affordable devices!

Office 365
With Office 365 you get OneDrive, Outlook, OneNote, Delve and Yammer. We are all familiar with Microsoft products and MS Office. Office 365 has the exact same feel and look. Word, excel and powerpoint look exactly the same as your normal MS Office suite does and it has all the same functionality too.  A good thing Office 365 offers over Google Apps is that Google Docs doesn’t have the templates like you get within Word, so you can quickly make that brochure or flyer within the Word app using the predefined templates.

The outlook app is probably the leading mail app whether its the desktop version or the online version. With its sleek appearance and easy to use layout a lot of people prefer it to GMail. OneDrive has the same simplicity as Google Drive but I feel the shared with me part isn’t as well organised. OneNote is one of the main selling points in O365 and is often over looked. Its a great tool for taking them quick notes or you can use it in the classroom to good effect. Using OneNote Classroom Creator you can transform the way you teach and work with your students. It really is a powerful tool when used right. Each student has their own OneNote along with a collaborative part. The students don’t get to see each others own OneNote but the teachers see them all in one OneNote document making it easy to see what your students are doing and it easily managed.

Yammer is a fantastic way to communicate and is basically a broken down version of Facebook. The look and feel of it is exactly the same but it has safety when of being within your school domain. It takes away that back and forth of emails and allows instant conversations to start. O365 also includes the use of Sharepoint which is quite tricky to get setup but once its up and running it provides a good base and structure for your school. The use of document libraries are a brilliant way to store files and documents for classes and subject groups.

I think once Windows 10 is released and your able to login with your Office 365 account then we will see a bigger uptake on O365. The price of Windows devices has shot down to compete with the likes of Chromebooks and I feel now the Windows tablets with snap on keyboard really do compete very well.

Verdict
So as you can see both have really useful tools and apps. I’ve only scratched the surface of what both can do but I’m sure over time I will post more about the apps and features of both. Both are FREE for education use so I would encourage anyone to take a look at both and see what they like the look of for their school. Which ever you choose you will be sure that the competition between the two is always happening. The most recent change to Office 365 is that they adapted the collaboration that Google Apps used and in both you can now work on a document with someone else at the same time. The biggest down fall of Google Apps is that it doesn’t include all the features that Word and Excel do but you may prefer its simplicity.

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my blog. I’m not sure on how successful this will be but I will be posting about all things technical and some of my findings. All the posts I put on here will solely be my opinion.

For the people that are reading this and don’t know who I am. I have worked as a computer technician in education for over 10 years with the last 4 years of that with EasiPC Services Limited. In that time I have moved from being Installations Manager to now Technical Manager.

I hope you enjoy reading my blogs and find them useful and informative.