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Posts Tagged ‘microsoft

Last week, several outlets carried the news that Microsoft finally retired Internet Explorer. While some might wonder what that even is, those of us who were around when the World Wide Web started soaring know the bane of MSIE.

While most government agencies seemed to create MSIE-compliant webpages, most other users of the web seemed to think of MSIE as a means to an end. It was useful for downloading better web browsers. 

I am glad to see the back of MSIE. Its demise is a funeral that attendees can sing and laugh at. It was not just the product was terrible. MSIE shaped blind practices around it. 

Various agencies backed MSIE and its protocols as a standard instead of reading the writing on the Internet wall. Other browsers were more nimble in that they were patched often and customisable with extensions. 

The top-down and we-know-better-than-you approach of MSIE flew in the face of responsive design and customisable functions. When it tried to change, it was too late. Microsoft current browser is Edge (which is based on open source Chromium) and it has a market share of just 9%.

There is a parallel that I would like to happen in schooling and education. The reduction of command-and-control schooling that is deaf and slow, and the dominance of education that is open, nimble, and meaningful to all learners. 

It took MSIE about 27 years from birth to death. It might take a lifetime or more for my wish to come true. But I hold on to hardworking hope that I might again say good riddance to bad rubbish.

The tweet below reminded me about some email attachments that I receive.

Not only can computer viruses masquerade as Microsoft Office attachments, they are also a statement of privilege.

The Office suites used to be one-time purchases but have been subscription-based for a while now. The cost for both systems are prohibitive unless you work for an institute that pays for site licences. If you leave that organisation, you lose access unless you cough up for a personal subscription.

So if I receive a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet to complete, I know that the senders are out of touch with their students. Why? Because they do not empathise with how many more people do not have access to the tools that they take for granted. 

A little empathy can inform technology-mediated pedagogy. As the tweet above implores, educators can use free and open tools for course documents and student-led content creation spaces. These tools force a change in approach to teaching from centralised delivery to distributed discourse and discovery.

Microsoft Word and Google Docs are not just different word processing tools. They are come with different costs and have different philosophies of use. The former was dominant but still embedded firmly in the past. The latter is more common now and meets the needs of the present and near future. Mark my words: Which you choose to use reflects your mindset and expectations.

See the world as it is… and defy it. -- Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

I got the quote above from this interview.

Taken out of context, the words of Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, might sound like a call for chaos.

Change might resonate or disrupt. But it rarely starts with getting permission first. It often starts with defiance to norms that feel wrong or could be elevated.

People with business acumen might watch the video below and focus on the numbers, i.e., how much the companies stand to make by capturing the education market. They might also view this as a competition, but they are only partly right.

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Prudent schools and educational institutions have learnt to be brand agnostic. Players like Google and Apple seem to recognise this. For example, you might have iPads deployed in classrooms, but users might prefer Google Drive to iCloud, so the two giants co-exist like parents.

I have worked with both in the past and realise that their representatives put their money where their mouths are. I recall Google Education folks toting Macs and Apple representatives not minding my approach to using the Google Edu Suite during a workshop proposal.

All this was a few years ago and the goal posts might have shifted. But I doubt they have moved so far that they try to blow the competition out of the water and risk destroying opportunities.

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The video above on the best Microsoft flops reminded me of a principle that applies both in implementing innovation and managing change.

It does not matter so much if you have a better idea. It matters more if you share or do it at the right time and in the right place.

By the way, don’t feel too bad for Microsoft. It is neither micro nor soft.

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I have not played Minecraft in a while. This is because my son has not played the game in that time. The game is beneath him as he is into various Steam games now.

Our Minecraft server resides in a Mac in the living room, but the software has not been updated. I checked and saw that the Java files sit in a folder dated January 2016 and the actual JAR file is from May 2015.

The Minecraft app on my mobile devices updates every blue moon, but I do not launch them. There is also still a bit of Minecraft paraphernalia in my son’s room, but it is covered with dust.

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Then along came this recent video by Vox about the artistic merits of Minecraft post-Mojang and dura-Microsoft. I was almost tempted to restart the game to see what was new.

Almost. I was dismayed to find out that Microsoft had restricted how Minecraft maps were used by others [video segment] [announcement].

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What was previously open for modification and innovation (just like the sandbox that was Minecraft) became walled and gated. A few partner companies of Microsoft survived, but my guess is that they are the exception rather than the rule.

Microsoft can (and did) do this because they bought Minecraft from Mojang. It had to make money like their Office suite. The education version of Minecraft relies on subscriptions.


I still have rose-tinted memories of Minecraft. The edu-Minecraft videos I created a while ago remind me of the fun I had with my son as well as the breadth and depth of learning I experienced. The artefacts and memories are like a diploma that remind me of an achievement.

I have been fortunate to be approached to give advice about leveraging on Minecraft in education. But since these seemed to head down the same dark Pro Bono alley, I decided not to take them because I would have walked out poorer from being robbed of my living.

I heed the ominous warning from the video:

When you’re playing another person’s game, night could come at any time. And then it’s always survival mode.

After reading this article on Microsoft pushing Minecraft into classrooms, I was not taken by the efforts of the technology giant. While they might have an education arm, they do not have an education heart.

Instead I liked Mimi Ito’s description of the game.

Specific educational features of Minecraft — shared virtual world, construction tools, hackability— are not new, but what’s really new is the fact that it has been put together in a package that is embraced at a massive scale by kids, parents, and educators.

The ability to build freely, share what you build, and hack so that you have better tools, effects, visuals, etc., are probably why Minecraft caught on so rapidly. This led to why Microsoft bought it and why schools might embrace it more widely.

The emphasis is on might.

Some progressive individuals already have, e.g., the Minecraft Teacher. This was way before Microsoft jumped on and bought the whole bandwagon as well as the trail and the world it was travelling on.

School leaders and teachers no problem with building. I will resist the urge to describe Minecraft as digital LEGO. Instead I will point out that schools might include Minecraft under the trendy umbrella of making and maker spaces.

Schools might not be so open with sharing. Trump might not have his wall, but schools have long maintained walled gardens to protect their classroom bubbles.

School are definitely not keen on hacking even though it is legal and encouraged in Minecraft. There is a whole ecosystem of customising the game to suit your needs. There are entire servers based on modifications of the Minecraft core that provide different experiences, e.g., even more limited space and resources, Hunger Games-like survival, simple emulations of other games.

That said, schools might reluctantly embrace Minecraft hacking under the trendy identity of coding. Ah, much better.

So I provide my answer to this quote tweet. MinecraftEdu should not be shaped to the classroom because that would be stepping back in time. Case in point (from the same article):

So far, though, not every feature of Education Edition is being met with whoops of joy. For example, Microsoft chose to include in the game virtual chalkboards — a decidedly old-fashioned tool plunked down into a 21st-century game.

Minecraft has the literal and figurative building blocks to go forward, up, deep, and wide more rapidly than schooling can. This movement will be lead by learners from age 4 to 40, and by innovative teachers.

Whenever a larger entity (like Microsoft or Blackboard) buys a smaller company (like Mojang, the makers of Minecraft, or the assortment of setups that Blackboard swallowed up), there is a worry that something bad will happen. That worry is warranted when history repeats itself with acquisitions preceding dissolutions of the smaller groups.

Some people are not worried or critical of Microsoft’s purchase of Minecraft. News seems to be good a year in because Microsoft has a new version, Minecraft Education Edition (current form: MinecraftEDU). I am calling it MEE.

As an educator, casual Minecraft player, and keen observer, I am monitoring this development with some worry.

The Guardian goes into detail about MEE and describes various teacher control measures. These are no doubt requested by teachers and even the kid players themselves. After all, who wants to see a painstakingly-built structure vandalised in mere seconds?

Part of me says this is not about education. It is about schooling and tight control. To use Minecraft terminology, I say we do not call it creative mode when it is about command and control. The article says MEE “adds extra functionality for teachers”, but does this also introduce unnecessary barriers for learner-gamers?

I am not saying there should not be technical advancement and better management of the creative spaces. However, rules are not just about one-size-fits-all enforcement. They are also about social negotiation, peer pressure, and persistence. These are skills that can be nurtured from game-based learning.

The Guardian also pointed out that this iteration of Minecraft is the first written in the programming language C++. While this might create new possibilities in the future, it might close a door on an already rich practice and ecosystem developed by Minecraft gamers. I am referring to the “community-made mods, maps, skins and mini-games”.

Will there be a way to take advantage of this creating, coding, and makerspace by providing ways to import such user-generated tools and content? Or will Microsoft remain in command and control mode and create approved add-ons that they then put on sale?

When Microsoft bought Mojang’s Minecraft, it also bought the players of the game. This is like Facebook having WhatsApp and Instagram users whether they realise it or not. Will Microsoft use MEE as a strategic lever to get into the device market like Google (Chromebooks) or Apple (iPads)? Might it seek to carve a lucrative, data-loaded corner out of the cloud-tool space like Google Edu Apps?

You can feel helpless when you realise that you are barely a pawn in big business game. Big fish eats small fish, those are the rules. However, as financially lucrative as the education market might be, the rules in this arena are different. The bottomline has never been about money; it is always about values, skills, and knowledge that are timeless. You can make money out of this, as teachers and administrators do.

Will Microsoft play by the rules, bend them, or break them? Will it be the school bully, the rich kid (Apple?), the supportive IT guy (Google?)?

Thanks to this LifeHacker article, I found out that that I did not have to wait for Microsoft to let me know when my lone PC could have its free Windows 10 update. (The PC is surrounded by Macs and already suffering from an inferiority complex.)

The article recommends doing this:

  1. Back up your data.
  2. Download and run Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool.
  3. Select the “Upgrade This PC” option.
  4. Let the upgrade happen.

As with most things, the process was not as simple as described.

For example, when running the Media Creation Tool, I first had to know if my PC had the 32 or 64-bit version of Windows. I also ran into the vague “Something Happened” error message and the upgrade process stopped dead.

To counter the Something Happened error message, redditors suggested installing all existing Windows Updates first. They also said that changing the default language to US English would help.

My system already had the latest patches so I changed the default language to US English and the upgrade went through its paces.

So here is my suggested sequence to get the free Windows 10 upgrade now instead of waiting in line.

  1. Back up your data.
  2. Install all windows patches by running Windows Update in the Control Panel.
  3. If necessary, change the default language to US English.
    • Control Panel > Region and Language > Administrative tab > Change System Locale > English (United States)
  4. Check the bit version of Windows (keyboard shortcut: Windows key + Pause/Break).
  5. Download the correct bit version of Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool and run it.
  6. Select the “Upgrade This PC” option.
  7. After the upgrade downloads, the tool will ask you what settings you want to keep. Make your selection.
  8. Let the upgrade happen.

I have a very fast Internet connection so the downloading did not take long.

It was the upgrading that took a while. Step 8 took about 90 minutes from the time I made the selection in step 7 and left the device to itself. I had enough time to potter around, leave home to run an errand at a mall, and return home to see that the process was still at 92%.

Happy skipping!

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Microsoft just released a video of their vision of what personal and work productivity might look like in the future.

I don’t mind that the future might be filled with white IKEA-like furniture. Maybe the furniture can assemble itself too.

But I hope that schooling changes so that the girl does not have to practice math like she was still in the 19th century.

I also hope that there is also something for excessive saliva production because I am drooling at all the other possibilities!


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