10 Windows 10 Features for Teachers (and Everyone Else)
The New Windows 10 Features
There is a lot to like about the new Windows 10. For many, it is the best of both worlds whether you are upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8. Why? If you have used Windows for any length of time, there is a lot here that will be familiar to you. However, as with any major new upgrade, there are always going to be some new features to enjoy. What follows are ten of the best from the perspective of a teacher who would be using Windows 10 in the classroom.
1. Web Notes
The new Microsoft Edge browser has some great Windows 10 features for educators. One of the most prominent is the new Web Notes option. With Web Notes, you can use a number of drawing tools to annotate and mark up a website that you are showing your class. Simply tap the pencil icon on the toolbar to get started.
There are twelve colors of pen to choose from and three line thicknesses. There is also a highlighter, a text tool, an eraser and a screen clipper that copies a selection to your clipboard so that you can copy and paste it into another app. All of these tools work well on a SMART, Promethean or other interactive whiteboard should you choose to use them.
Once you have finished your annotations, you can save your Web Notes to OneNote or to the Favorites menu in Microsoft Edge. You can also share Web Notes via email and other apps by clicking the Share menu. This gives you a lot of flexibility over the final home for your Web Notes and means they don't have to live in a web browser that others may not have access to.
2. Reading View
Reading View is another feature from the new Microsoft Edge browser. It lets you click a button and clean up a webpage so that there are no ads, sidebars or other distracting elements. In short, it gives you just the text of an article. To activate it, simply click the open book icon in the address bar of Microsoft Edge.You can adjust the font size and view in the Settings menu for Edge.
Reading View is not a new idea. Mozilla has built it into the latest version of Firefox and there are multiple extensions for Chrome (and Firefox) that do very much the same thing. Microsoft themselves even added a reading view to the modern app version of Internet Explorer 11 in 2014. However, when you are showing a website to students on a projector, reading view comes in handy very quickly. It is also great for struggling readers who need to focus more on the text without other distractions. Check out the example below.
3. Task View
Ever find yourself with multiple applications that are all open at the same time? The new Task View in Windows 10 lets you see everything you have open, and gives you the chance to quickly switch to the program you need. It's an easy and efficient way to get things done quicker and with less frustration. To activate the new Task View, try one of the following:
- Press the Windows key + Tab on your keyboard
- Swipe in from the left-hand side of your screen on a touchscreen device
- Click or press the Task View icon on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen
Any of these methods will zoom you out so you can see all of the open applications on your computer, (see image below). To switch to another app, simply click, or tap, on the one you want to switch to. Task View is a great feature to show students, because no one has more windows open at one time than they do! It is easily one of the best Windows 10 features for those who want to stay productive.
4. Virtual Desktops
Virtual desktops are a way to group programs together so that you can quickly switch to a specific set of applications. They can be extremely useful for a classroom teacher. For instance, you could have your school email and the grade book open in one virtual desktop, a website and class materials in another virtual desktop, and your personal email and the CNN app in a third virtual desktop. You can quickly switch between all of these desktops depending on whether you are teaching your class, catching up in a prep period, or eating lunch. Here's how to set them up.
- Enter Task View with one of the three methods discussed above
- Tap, or click, the +New Desktop icon in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen
- Use a finger, or your mouse, to drag an open application to the desktop of your choice
Once you have everything arranged the way you want it, you can enter Task View at any time and tap on the desktop you want to switch to. The video below shows Virtual Desktops in action.
How to Use Virtual Desktops in Windows 10
In Windows 10, Microsoft included Cortana, a virtual assistant that is very comparable with Siri or Google Now. You can access Cortana via the search bar at the bottom of your screen, or by pressing the Windows key + S. You can even launch her with the "Hey Cortana" voice command if you enable it in your Cortana settings.
However, Cortana doesn't just live on your desktop. You will also find her baked into the new Windows 10 browser, Microsoft Edge. Typing weather, for instance, will quickly summon the latest weather forecast in your area. You can also use Cortana to help with your research. Highlight any word, or phrase on a webpage in the Edge browser, then right-click on it and select "Ask Cortana". This action will prompt a sidebar to appear on the right-hand side of your screen with more information on what you were searching for. You don't have to open a new tab or navigate away from what you are working on, and that is a great feature for Windows 10.
Having Fun With Cortana!
6. The Start Menu
It's back! If you upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8, one of the more glaring omissions was the removal of the beloved Start menu. In Windows 10, Microsoft brought it back and added a new twist to ensure that it was in keeping with a modern operating system. There are two parts to the new Start menu - a scrolling list of apps on the left hand-side, and a more vibrant, modern, tile-based selection of apps on the right-hand side.
The Start menu is completely customizable so that you can now find everything you need quickly and efficiently. You can add (or remove) apps at will and group tiles into like-minded sections that hold your favorite programs and services. So, in the classroom, you might have all your Office apps grouped together and some news and weather apps in another group. Some apps have live tiles that will show you up to date information like new emails, latest headlines, or the weather forecast. Take a look at the video below for a hands-on demonstration.
How to Use the Windows 10 Start Menu
Okay, so this one is not new to Windows 10, but it is a useful feature nonetheless and Microsoft were good enough to include it in this version of Windows. Magnifier is a desktop app that lets you zoom in on areas of your screen so that you can draw people's attention to a certain area, or make something small look a lot bigger. It is included in Windows as part of the accessibility options, but in the classroom, the Magnifier app is perfect for students at the back of the room who may not be able to see everything you are showing on your LCD projector.
To find the Magnifier app, simply type Magnifier into the Windows 10 search box. Once launched, you will find the ability to select how much you want to magnify your screen by, as well as three different views - full screen, lens, and docked. Moving your cursor around the screen lets you choose the area you want to enlarge. If you use Magnifier a lot, pin it to your taskbar, or add it to your start menu. Read more about the Magnifier app here.
It's happened to all of us at one time or another. Your computer is connected to a projector and you get a pop-up notification from your email client that reveals more than you might want to the students you are teaching. Thankfully, Windows 10 lets you choose what notifications you want to see, and also gives you the ability to mute them all with the click of a button.
To set which notifications you see on your device, open the Settings app and search for Notifications & actions. Here you can choose some global settings for notifications, as well set notification rules for specific apps. If you want to quickly silence all notifications, open the Action Center in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen and select Quiet hours. This will mute all notifications until you deselect this option later in the day.
Do you have a 2-in-1 laptop or a Surface tablet? If so, Continuum is perfect for you. It fixes one of the most confusing features of Windows 8 and makes your hybrid device a lot easier to use. With Continuum, Windows 10 will automatically switch between desktop and tablet mode depending on the hardware that you have connected at any one time.
So, if you are using a Surface tablet and have a keyboard attached, you will get a desktop mode that is optimized for a keyboard and mouse. Once you detach the keyboard, Windows 10 will offer to switch you over to tablet mode. In tablet mode, everything is optimized for touch. For instance, you will get a full screen start menu and an on-screen keyboard.
In the classroom this is ideal for teachers who want to be mobile and walk around the classroom. With Continuum, you still have full functionality over your device and are able to access all the apps that you need quickly and easily. When you return to your desk and attach your keyboard again, Windows 10 will automatically return you to dekstop mode.
A Demonstration of Continuum on Windows 10
10. Wireless Projection
The ability to project your screen wirelessly was first introduced in Windows 8, but it remains a useful feature in Windows 10 so let's take a quick look at how you do that. Microsoft uses Miracast technology to wirelessly project your Windows device, and one of the easiest ways to take advantage of that is with the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter or a ScreenBeam. Once you connect either of these devices to a projector or HDTV, you will gain the ability to project your display to that screen while retaining the freedom to walk around the room.
If you already have a desktop connected to a projector, and want to be more mobile with a 2-in-1 laptop or Surface tablet, you can also try AirServer. This inexpensive solution lets you project the image of your tablet direct to your desktop computer, which will then display it on the big screen because it is already hooked up to a projector.
Being wireless in the classroom has a lot of advantages for a teacher, not least because it lets you take full advantage of Continuum. However, it also gives students the ability to project their screens and show what they have learned. To connect to a wireless display, open the Action Center and click or tap on the Connect tile. Windows 10 will then connect to the Miracast device you set up, and your screen will be available for all to see on the projector or HDTV.
Project Your Screen With the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
How to Connect Wirelessly With ScreenBeam
The Future for One Windows
Going forward, Microsoft has said that it plans to put Windows 10 on as many devices as possible. That means phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and even Xbox gaming consoles. With one operating system on all these devices, you can expect much more continuity and familiarity regardless of which device you are using. You will also start to see apps that work across all these platforms. For consumers and educators alike, this should make life a lot easier when working between devices and give you more ways to share and work on the content that matters most.
What is your favorite new feature in Windows 10?
© 2015 Jonathan Wylie