Tech-savvy Australian school gains speed and flexibility with Windows 10 in S mode

By taking advantage of Windows 10 in S mode, Werrington County Public School gives students and teachers speed and versatility—in and out of the classroom. The move is part of the school’s big push to improve education through technology.

Werrington County Public School hosts approximately 450 rambunctious kindergarteners through sixth-graders who live in this fast-growing suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. The school is located between the rugged Blue Mountains and the curling surf of Australia’s southeast coast. It’s an area rich in scenery. Today Werrington County Public School looks to inspire the young minds of its students.

To achieve that, Andre Monardo, Technology Coordinator and Assistant Vice Principal at Werrington County Public School, has made it a mission to ensure that his young charges have access to the best technology possible. Students work with 148 laptops running Windows. That gives them access to modern technology tools at a price Werrington County Public School can afford.

A seamless switch to Windows 10 in S mode

For the past year, the school’s laptops have been running Windows 10 Pro. In late 2017, in conjunction with the school’s technology partner—Sydney-based One Education—the school ran a trial of Windows 10 in S mode. One Education is a non-profit company that builds an affordable, colourful, and powerful laptop called the Infinity:One, designed specifically for younger users. Along with laptops, One Education provides charging racks for multiple devices, software support for Windows 10, teacher training, and more.

Rangan Srikhanta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of One Education, says that Windows 10 in S mode intrigued him because of its promise of high performance on a fairly simple device such as the Infinity:One, which runs on an Intel Atom processor. Running some tests in-house made a good impression, so Srikhanta decided to find a school that would help with a trial. “Werrington is one of our more engaged schools, and Andre has a technical background and likes to do some tinkering, so when we reached out to him, he put his hand up and said, ‘Yeah, let’s give it a shot!’”

The switch was easy. “We could just put in a USB key and provision the devices in 10 minutes each,” says Srikhanta. “Pull out the key, turn the device on, and in 10 minutes we have Windows 10 in S mode.”

For Monardo, it was obvious that Windows 10 in S mode would work well in his school. It’s a streamlined version of Windows, designed to run on a wide variety of devices, offer excellent security, and work closely with apps such as OneDrive so students can easily save their schoolwork. “The biggest advantage of Windows 10 in S mode for us is its speed,” says Monardo. “It has a fast time to load and fast internet browsing. Kids get frustrated when things take time, so the quicker something loads up and we can get on with the lesson, the better it is for teachers and students.“

As part of the trial, One Education and Werrington County Public School also deployed Microsoft Intune for Education to create a central dashboard for managing the devices and pushing out apps. Says Srikhanta, “That showed how Windows 10 in S mode, along with Intune for Education, could really compete with the Chrome operating system and its administrative console.”

Says Monardo, “What Rangan has provided for our school is phenomenal. He’s given us access to low-cost Windows devices that perform well, along with service and support. And it’s all just a phone call away. When he came in for the trial with Windows 10 in S mode, it was right before Christmas and a busy time of year. But One Education got the devices deployed in no time and everything worked great.”

With the trial completed and deemed a success, the next step may be to roll out Windows 10 in S mode to the millions of One Education devices found in Australian schools. “That’s possible,” says Srikhanta. “This trial went well, and I think Windows 10 in S mode would be a good choice for our Infinity:One program. If we make that decision, other schools will follow.”

The biggest advantage of Windows 10 in S mode for us is its speed … The quicker something loads up and we can get on with the lesson, the better it is for teachers and the students. Andre Monardo, Technology Coordinator and Assistant Vice Principal, at Werrington County Public School

Technology helps school meet the future

Meanwhile, Werrington County Public School is considering rolling out Windows 10 in S mode for the long term as part of its digital teaching strategy, replacing Windows 10 Pro, which has served the school well. Over the past several years, the school has gone from a computer lab of 30 desktop computers to a nearly one-to-one ratio of devices to students in most classes. “We have a big emphasis on ‘future-focused’ learning,” says Monardo. “We’ve tried hard to go digital, and teachers now use OneNote to mark work and provide quick, effective feedback. Our teachers have found that now they don’t have to carry around loads of books—they can access kids’ work at school, and they can access it at home.”

Sway, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft tools help the Werrington students create presentations and get quick feedback on the quality of their writing. And the school is running a pilot test of Minecraft: Education Edition with the hope of installing it on all student devices so students can learn to code.

Monardo believes that use of the laptops has helped his students become more engaged with school and learning. “Better access to content and school assignments definitely helps, as does actually participating in their work rather than a chalk-and-talk,” he says. “And the kids pick it up right away—that’s the world they live in.”

Moreover, Monardo says, with his students’ Windows 10 laptops, they can enter a learning environment that is the equal of any school in Australia.

Like educators everywhere, Monardo hopes to set his students on a path to success. “I’m really trying to instill a belief that kids can achieve anything,” he says. “I want them to be positive, set their minds to things, and get the most out of life that they can.”

Werrington may be a somewhat small school near the edge of the huge Australian continent, but with Windows 10 in S mode, it is launching its students on a path toward a big role in today’s connected economy.