New back-to-school tech tools, Xbox at gamescom and turning playtime into profits — Weekend Reading: Aug. 19 edition

| Susanna Ray

Summer ended this week for some North American kids and teachers, but the week also marked the arrival of new technology to help ease those back-to-school blues – and what’s especially nice is it’s free.

Office 365 Education, which is free for students and teachers, has a bunch of new features for the coming school year. Microsoft Classroom will help educators manage their administrative tasks so they have more time to spend with their pupils. Microsoft Forms helps with creating custom surveys, quizzes, questionnaires and registrations. OneNote will unleash a student’s inner Picasso with new rainbow ink colors, while setting the stage for a math revolution by recognizing equations that are drawn in ink and showing learners’ thought processes to help teachers plug any gaps in understanding.

And kids can enjoy field trips from their desks as their classrooms connect with Antarctic penguins, Central American baby sloths, the Intrepid Space Shuttle and a thousand other amazing destinations around the world through Skype Virtual Adventures.

And teachers, don’t worry – there’s training available to get you up and running quickly.


Next year, you’ll be able to use your personal computer to escape reality (like that whole back-to-school thing) when Microsoft releases an update to Windows 10 that will enable mainstream PCs to run the Windows Holographic shell. That will create “an entirely new experience for multi-tasking in mixed reality, blending 2D and 3D apps at the same time,” Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, announced Tuesday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Intel and Microsoft are collaborating on PCs and head-mounted displays that are ready for mixed reality, to build a broad range of devices for consumers and businesses. Stay tuned!

If watching the Summer Games inspired you to get out and move your body this week, then here’s another motivational tale you’ll love: Climber Maddie Miller set a new record Sunday by finishing the 50 Peaks Challenge – climbing to the highest points in 50 states – in just 41 days, 16 hours and 10 minutes, far ahead of the 50-day goal. The journey of Miller and her mentor, renowned climber Melissa Arnot, was marked by storms, wildfire, exhaustion and above all, resolve, as they drove 19,000 miles across the country and hiked on snow, desert and scree in their race against time. They were helped along the way with Microsoft technologies, including Bing Maps, OneNote, OneDrive and Microsoft Band.

Gamers’ eyes were on Cologne, Germany, this week for gamescom, the largest consumer gaming event in Europe. The event welcomed more than 800 exhibitors and 500,000 visitors from 50 countries. Microsoft announced two new Xbox One S bundles for FIFA fans in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S., along with a great list of Xbox One games for Windows 10, including “ReCore,” “Forza Horizon 3,” “We Happy Few,” “Gears of War 4” and “Halo Wars 2.”

For all the Xbox news from gamescom, visit Xbox Wire.


Speaking of games and realities, new and veteran Crafters alike will be delighted to learn that they can experience Minecraft in a whole new way now through virtual reality on Oculus Rift devices. With the free update released this week for Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta, fans can customize their VR experience and still retain their traditional Minecraft experience exactly as it was when they left the real world to enter the realm of VR Minecraft.

Your adventures can continue in the hit episodic game “Minecraft: Story Mode,” which now has seven playable episodes available in the Windows Store. The latest features Jesse and his crew in a world controlled by PAMA – a sinister “thinking machine” determined to command everyone and everything in pursuit of optimal usefulness and efficiency.

Once you’ve worked with a new ally to free the population enslaved by PAMA, head over to “Scalebound” to customize your dragon and learn how to work together with him in combat.

And then really get ready for some hard-hitting competition by starting the football season early with “Madden NFL 17,” where you’ll get a chance to win two tickets to the Super Bowl.


This week on the Microsoft Twitter page, we featured Steven Johnson, an author of books on innovation that have landed on The New York Times best-sellers list. Through a 10-part podcast series in partnership with Microsoft, Johnson explores the incorporation of play within work environments in order to boost productivity. “Play is a very profound predictor of future developments,” he says.

Dona Sarkar and her team photographed on the soccer field at The Commons on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash. on August 8, 2016. The team includes (from left) Joe Camp, Cheryl Sanders, Blair Glennon, Tyler Ahn, Dona Sarkar, Derek Haynes, Thomas Trembly, Manik Rane (kneeling), Ursula Hildenbrand, Joan Steelquist and Seth Rubinstein. Photo by Dan DeLong

On that note, we highly recommend that you go spend your weekend making a toga to wear to work or school on Monday, or perhaps climbing as many peaks as you can to achieve your own personal record, and then check back here after your productive week for the latest edition of Weekend Reading.

Posted by Susanna Ray

Microsoft News Center Staff


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