April, 2011 - Microsoft UK Faculty Connection - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

April, 2011


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    FREE Microsoft Certification for Students via http://www.dreamspark.com ends 30th June 2011


    Students - Time is running out!


    To ensure you  have enough time to prepare for your academic exams and gain Microsoft professional certification.

    Take advantage of the free certification offer ASAP and sit your professional certification exams now!

    Simply go to http://www.dreamspark.com

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Research the power of Parallel Programming, Dyrad and Windows Azure


    Microsoft Research are doing some interesting things with parallel programming and service called Dyrad: A general purpose distributed execution platform.

    What were excited about in the academic arena is the use of Windows Azure and Dryad as the combination of both these resources offer the novice parallel programmer access to a massive amount of compute power.

    The combination of the the two services will leverage a huge amounts of processing power, the services can easily scale to thousands of computers running thousand instances for an hour on Windows Azure. This would be very interesting and were really excited to see that can be achieved.

    Microsoft Research There is a talk here from 2007 which explains the ideas behind Dryad. So if you’ve involved in parallel programming, think about the opportunity of the cloud and Windows Azure and visit the MS Research site for more information on Dyrad.

    They even have an specific academic download of something called DryadLINQ.


    Dryad: A General-Purpose Execution Platform


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    WP7 Marketplace Reaches 15,000 Apps and has NO Signs of Stopping.. are you starting to think about WP7 Curricula?



    The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace has now over 15,000 applications.

    Total Apps In Marketplace

    Apps By Category

    Free vs Paid

    Total Apps By Price

    Huge thanks to Sreenu Bojja http://www.wp7appexlorer.com for the graphs.

    This is amazing news as a little over six weeks ago, we were celebrating 10,000 apps in the Marketplace. Just think about that: 5,000 new apps in six weeks.

    Windows Phone 7 was growing pretty rapidly before, but MIX '11  definitely had to be a strong influence on developers and the opportunity of Windows Phone 7 application development.

    Additionally Student resources such as DreamSpark now provide students with a FREE AppHub accounts and the ability to upload 100 Free apps and a unlimited number of chargeable apps. The number of app created by Students have really increased the adoption of Windows Phone 7 development.

    With the release of Mango the Windows Phone 7 apps will be getting a huge overhaul, with help from the new Mango toolkit as the next update provides tighter integration between the OS and apps than ever.

    Additionally for academic’s wanting to teach Windows Phone 7 within their curriculum, Microsoft has released a number of curricula resources which are available to freely download from the Microsoft Faculty Connection. There are additionally lots of Free advice, guidance and best practice available from Microsoft AppHub Site.

    So it's the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon!

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Monthly Update on STEM - Science Technology Engineering and Maths in Education April 2011


    Skills News

    Demand for ICT labour and skills outstrips supply for first time since 2008

    The latest e-skills Labour Market Bulletin shows that demand for ICT labour and skills in the UK outstripped supply for the first time since the end of 2008, as the volume of advertised positions on offer marginally exceeded the number of 'ready candidates' in the labour market in the third quarter of 2010.

    Other encouraging findings included the unemployment rate for ICT staff falling to 3.1%, compared with a comparison figure of 8.3% for the workforce as a whole.

    In a survey of 408 business leaders by education company Pearson only 16% thought that the education system taught the right mix of academic and practical skills.

    82% warned that the recovery would fall flat unless investment was geared towards vocational learning. 80% thought young people should be taught practical skills alongside academic subjects such as Maths and English. Just 3% thought traditional academic subjects alone were most important to the UK's economic development

    BESA Daily News: EU publishes education benchmarking report

    The European Commission has published a report detailing and comparing the education systems of each member state in relation to benchmarks set for 2010. The benchmarks cover areas such as school dropout rates, participation in upper secondary education and literacy.

    The report also establishes Europe-wide benchmarks for the year 2020.

    For more detail please see the European Commission press release linked here

    Government Bills & Acts News

    The Education Bill committee has completed its scrutiny and the amended Bill has now been published and passed back to the Commons for third reading.

    The Committee has also published a consolidated version of all the written evidence submitted in the course of its proceedings.

    Shadow Education Minister Andy Burnham has said that Labour‟s review of education policy will look again at 14-19 curriculum reform and how to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum.

    The review group - including Pearson UK president Rod Bristow and Professor Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University - will consider:

    o What knowledge and skills does the next generation need to be successful?

    o How can we continue to improve standards in English, maths and science, but also provide a balanced curriculum that meets the needs of all children?

    o What influence and control do parents want over local schools and education?

    o How can we create the most professional teaching workforce in the world?

    Government Budget News

    The Budget and the accompanying Plan for Growth set out measures to achieve the government‟s four economic ambitions, including: “a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe”.

    Stronger promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills, including

    · Support for the Careers Profession Alliance to improve training for careers professionals in subject-specific specialisms;

    · More support for STEM promotion activities, including through STEMNET and its STEM Ambassadors programme and through industry-school visits.

    An expansion of the new University Technical Colleges programme, to establish at least 24 UTCs by 2014.

    £180m for up to 50,000 additional apprenticeship places over the next 4 years, including 40,000 places to support the young unemployed; and 10,000 places created by business consortia setting up advanced and higher apprenticeship schemes.

    Support for a new degree-level Higher Apprenticeship, providing a route for apprentices to achieve professional accreditation.

    100,000 additional work experience placements for young people to develop key work skills and get on the employment ladder.

    Technology News

    In a survey of 669 executives involved in cloud computing initiatives, five immediate benefits were identified.

    · Increased agility: At big companies, IT systems often impede rapid change. 60% of respondents said that the cloud‟s speed, flexibility and responsiveness would be its greatest benefit in the near term.

    · Lower costs: 70% said they expected it to help them keep costs under control, including through fewer data centres; saving on IT staff and energy costs; and the elimination of upfront IT, particularly for start-ups.

    · Better collaboration: centrally accessible processing power and common methods of finding and entering data helped to improve collaboration for 67% of respondents.

    · Better customer connections: Blogs, microblogs and fan pages on social networks are among the mechanisms that companies have used to reach customers. Companies can also mine massive amounts of customer data at high speed and low cost.

    · Development of new services: cited by over 60% of respondents.

    Government Bodies News

    Chief inspector Christine Gilbert is leaving Ofsted at the end of June, 4 months before her contract is due to come to an end in October. Ms Gilbert has headed the watchdog since 2006.

    A report by the education select committee says Ofsted is too big to function effectively and should split into separate organisations inspecting education and children‟s care, with more inspectors having an education background.

    Two new positions should be created within the Department for Education – a chief education officer and a chief children‟s care officer.

    Education Secretary Michael Gove has launched a review of teaching standards, which he feels are too vague and don‟t focus sufficiently on improving teachers‟ skills.

    The review also aims to put a greater emphasis on skills to combat bad behaviour and support low-achieving pupils, and to have a clearer focus on the importance of improving grades in English and maths.

    In a 2010 survey, two out of five teachers believed the current standards made no difference to the way they taught. A third said they failed to define competence.

    Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of the Young Foundation, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of NESTA from June.

    Stephen Marston, formerly director general for universities and skills at BIS, has been appointed vice-chancellor of Gloucestershire University from 31 July. His post at BIS was abolished in November, but he has been leading on the HE White Paper, now due out in June. He was previously director general for lifelong learning and skills in the Department for Education & Skills, where, among other things, he set up Train to Gain.

    In a 12-minute video, journalist Mike Baker talks to experts from three different continents about what the „interconnected world‟ means for education.

    Does the curriculum need to be changed to ensure we are really preparing young people for a world where they may study abroad; work for transnational companies; connect online with colleagues and friends in different continents; and be world citizens?

    School and Academy News

    The DfE has started publishing data on how every secondary school in England performs in each GCSE subject.

    Schools can be ranked by: the number entering each GCSE subject; the number getting certain grades in a particular subject; the number and proportion achieving five A*-C including English and maths, with and without GCSE equivalencies; the number and proportion taking each component of the English Baccalaureate and grades attained.

    Research by Kings College London, highlighted in an OFQUAL report, questions the reliability of the PISA international education league tables often quoted by Ministers.

    The differences between countries‟ performances are not that large and are usually statistically insignificant.

    The rankings are not that meaningful, partly because the constituent comparators change from study to study and from year to year. “Overall, and over time, England‟s performance is not that worrisome.”

    A number of assumptions are made about such studies: that they are an objective measure of what is best; that the pupils involved are a balanced representation of all learners at that stage of education; and that pupils in each country are equally motivated to perform well.

    The West London Free School - set up by the writer Toby Young – is the first to sign a funding agreement with the government and be given the go-ahead to open in September.

    So far, there have been 258 applications to set up free schools. Of these, 40 have now been approved to move to business case, and 9 have passed to the „pre-opening stage‟.

    Another 162 schools in England became Academies in March, bringing the total up to 629, compared to 203 at the time of the election.

    One in six of England's secondary schools is now an Academy. 272 are „old-style‟ Academies set up by Labour as a way of raising standards in disadvantaged areas. 82 primary schools have become Academies.

    A poll of 1,471 heads by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) found 46% had converted to Academy status or intended to do so.

    Nearly three-quarters of these were driven by the belief that it would help the school financially.

    34% of those who took part in the survey were undecided about becoming an Academy and 19% had no plans to convert. Of them, half said there was not enough to gain from Academy status and 40% were concerned about the effect on other schools locally.

    Some heads felt it was becoming increasingly difficult not to convert because of the number of schools likely to convert in their area.

    Research by the London School of Economics suggests that turning a school into an Academy improves its performance, as well as that of neighbouring schools

    The researchers only examined Academies created by Labour, which were underperforming schools in deprived areas. However, they found that increased autonomy and flexible governance may have sharpened incentives to improve performance.

    The effects of conversion were largest for the 158 comprehensives which became Academies, and went from having little autonomy to lots. Converting schools with more freedom to Academy status had weaker effects.

    There was “a strong relationship” between improvements at Academies and at local schools – even though higher-achieving pupils started leaving other local schools to go to the new Academy. The researchers put this down to the market effects of increased choice and competition.

    A study of data tracking thousands of adults from birth to 53, has found that attending a grammar school made no difference to social mobility for working-class children.

    It did improve their chances of earning slightly more than their parents, but that was also the case for children from middle-class homes who went to grammar schools.

    Across the sample, the advantages of going to a grammar school were cancelled out by the social disadvantages experienced by those who went to secondary moderns.

    BESA Daily News: Consultations opened on schools and academies funding

    The DfE has opened two parallel consultations on the funding system in maintained schools and in Academies. The consultations stem from the Schools White Paper published last November.

    Both consultations close on 25 May 2011.

    Further details, including links to the consultations, are available from the DfE press release here.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Silverlight Pivot Viewer



    Silverlight PivotViewer makes it easier to interact with massive amounts of data on the web in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun. By visualizing thousands of related items at once, users can see trends and patterns that would be hidden when looking at one item at a time.

    Because PivotViewer leverages Deep Zoom, it displays full, high-resolution content without long load times, while the animations and natural transitions provide context and prevent users from feeling overwhelmed by large quantities of information. This simple, inviting interaction model encourages exploration and longer audience engagement times, and applies broadly to a variety of content types.

    The Silverlight PivotViewer control is available now and can be accessed by developers and designers to begin creating collections and deploying solutions.

    For more information and demos visit http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/pivotviewer/


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    UK Imagine Cup Winners





    UK Final takes place at Microsoft HQ, announcing who will represent the UK at the worldwide final

    On Wednesday 20th April, the UK hosted its local Imagine Cup finals at Microsoft Campus in Reading. UK finalists from both the Software Design and Embedded Development categories of the Imagine Cup competition came along and showcased their entries to a panel of industry leading judges who, after much deliberation, picked a winner and runners up for each category. Winners not only travel to the worldwide final in July, but received a Windows Phone 7 device and a HP netbook to help them on their way!

    Software Design Winner

    Winning the Software Design category in the UK was ‘Project OVE’ from the University of Manchester. Project OVE is a solution that aims to bring together world problems and people that volunteer to solve them in a fresh and innovative way, using the latest Microsoft platforms and an interesting twist on peer-to-peer networking.

    Project OVE (Open Volunteering Exchange) is a distributed platform to enable volunteering organisations to exchange volunteers. It was created by a team of students from The University of Manchester.

    The aim of Project OVE is to enable people to quickly organise events requiring a group of volunteers with diverse skills. When this can be achieved it could be used to realise some of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

    'We entered the Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition as we thought that this year’s theme (i.e. the solving of the United Nations Development Goals) presented an interesting project relevant to the challenges of the world today, and as we are all in the School of Computer Science it would also provide us with experience in real-world applications. One of the benefits of our project's unique design is its reliability, which is particularly important when volunteers need to be rapidly mobilised in times of emergency. We are using a peer to peer (P2P) based system: if the network is affected adversely, peers who are still online can still communicate with each other, allowing volunteers’ information to continue to be exchanged. By taking part in the Imagine Cup we have been given the opportunity and support from Microsoft and the University respectively to transform this original idea into reality.' Team Project Ove

    Project OVE is made up of Sam van Lieshout, Damo Walsh and JP Lacerda. Due to unfortunate personal circumstances, only Sam van Lieshout was able to attend the UK final – and given the fact that they won in spite of being undermanned, huge credit goes to Sam for his outstanding presentation on the day.



    Pic. Microsoft's Emanuele Ognissanti, Sam van Lieshout and Microsoft's Ben Nunney 

    Embedded Development Winner

    No stranger to the Imagine Cup, this year’s Embedded Development winner in the UK was ‘Cycling Into Trees’ from the University of York. The team’s project is ‘Child Sleep Safe’ which, using a mixture of embedded hardware, software, and home automation systems, aims to reduce cot death numbers by monitoring a baby whilst sleeping.

    In the team’s words: “Every year thousands of babies die during the night as their temperatures are not correctly monitored and maintained. We live in a world where technology can do amazing things – it’s about time we used it to address this life-changing issue.”

    Cycling Into Trees is made up of Kevin Pfister – a one-man team who has previously been a UK and worldwide finalist. This year marks the last year that Kevin will be able to compete.


    Pic.  Microsoft's Ben Nunney, Kevin Pfister and Microsoft's Emanuele Ognissanti, 

    See you all in New York City!

    Ben Nunney
    Microsoft UK



  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Student Tech Clubs



    There are many ways to learn technology around the world. We realize that sometimes the way students can master professional tools is on their own time with your friends.

    Microsoft goal is to support them with the access to tools, training and a platform to connect.

    Student Tech Clubs are communities of students, problem solvers, challenge seekers, people who love to discover everything they can do with the latest technology.

    The program is there to help student to start and run a Student Tech Club at your University or to help support existing student computer societies.

    Tools like surveys, member administration, newsletters, invitations to events, event calendar, support materials created by Microsoft Product Groups, access to speakers and resources are some of the features that you can take advantage today using this.

    So if you or your institution are interested in promoting the opportunity of Microsoft Student Tech Clubs on your campus please see the following presentation which contains all the information and advice.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    University of York Student Kevin Pfister. Two times winner of Microsoft Imagine Cup UK Final 2010 & 2011




    Microsoft UK would like to offer huge congratulations and recognition to Kevin Pfister. Kevin is now a two times Winner of the Imagine Cup UK Embedded Design Competition.

    Kevin whom recently completed his MSc at the University of York was successful in winning the UK Final in 2010. Kevin then had the privilege of representing the UK at the World Wide Final in Embedded Development at the Imagine Cup in Poland. Kevin effort in the Imagine Cup 2010 gained him a place within the final six constants which is awesome achievement.

    Watch Kevin in action at the 2010 World Wide Imagine Cup Final with his project SENSES

    We wish Kevin the best of luck in the 2011 Final.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Imagine Cup UK Final 2011 The winners are..




    The Imagine Cup is an annual competition sponsored and hosted by Microsoft, which brings together young technologists worldwide to help solve IMG_0222some of the world's toughest challenges.

    The Imagine Cup comprises of five major technology competitions, including Software Design, and four challenges. All Imagine Cup competitors create projects that address the Imagine Cup theme: “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems”

    IMG_0207Started in 2003, it has steadily grown in size, where in 2010 more than 325,000 competitors representing 100 countries and regions registered for the Imagine Cup with 400 finalists coming to the Worldwide finals in Warsaw, Poland. In 2011 the worldwide finals will be in New York, USA.
    Only the Software Design and Embedded Development competitions are judged with the UK, with finals taking place in countries around the world to decide who goes on to the worldwide final.

    IMG_0223The Software Design competition challenges students to use technology to solve what they consider to be the toughest problems facing the world today. Using Microsoft tools and technology, competitors create software applications. Students develop, test, and build their ideas into applications that can change the world.

    So what is the Imagine Cup

    Microsoft UK is proud to announce the 2011 UK Winner


    The Embedded Development competition allows students to go beyond the desktop to build a complete hardware and software solution that addresses global societal problems.

    Microsoft UK is proud to announce the UK 2011 Winner is


    For both Software Design and Embedded Development, the main prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to the Imagine Cup Worldwide Final, to be held in New York City from July 3rd to July 18th 2011.

    If that wasn’t enough, first place winners each received a HP Mini Netbook, a Windows Phone 7 device, a certificate and an Xbox 360 game.


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Azure and Windows Phone 7 in Education

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Ground breaking work at Southampton University. Working with BizSpark partner Segoz, this group of innovators developed the ASTRA weather balloon to carry a Windows Phone 7 into the stratosphere - as high as Concorde. On returning to earth, data captured by the phone was fed into a Windows Azure based application.


    Not just for fun, but to help Southampton University’s scientists understand how the upper atmosphere affects the Earth’s climate. 

    Now that’s Cloud Computing!

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