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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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June, 2007

  • FE blog

    SharePoint 2007 - want to really know what it can do for you?


    My colleague, Phil Allen, who's our resident educational-techie, has provided me with a document of links to really good SharePoint resources. Bless him, he wants to help you all find good stuff, but 7 pages of document, with each page containing long link lists! Phew, I think it might take a while working through that.

    Here's the full list, - feel free to take a look

  • FE blog

    Shift Happens/Did You Know?


    Over the last few months, a PowerPoint presentation has been doing the rounds, which has a strong message for educational audiences. It works as an opener for conferences or events where the future of education and learning is under discussion, or where you want to provoke a discussion about learning.

    • Karl Fisch, of Arapahoe High School in the US, conceived and created the first version of this presentation for a staff development day. And published it on the web via his website. He released it and gave permission for others to modify it under a Creative Commons licence.
    • Scott McLeod modified it, to make it more relevant to an audience in a wider context. And published it on the web with a Creative Commons licence
    • After conversations with Karl & Scott, I modified Scott's version to include UK-relevant content (it was quite US-centric)
    • And then Jeff Brenman, of Apollo Ideas, applied the creative design to Scott's version. And published it on the web via SlideShare where, incidentally, it won the competition for the "World's Best Slideshow"
    • And finally, with Jeff's permission, I modified his with the UK context. And published it on the web 

     Right Click and "Save Target As..." to download Shift Happens UK version (25MB)

     The best way to show it is with a sound track (lasting 6 mins, 3 seconds).



     If you'd like to know where I got my audio track that we used on the day, please drop me an email (ray.fleming@microsoft.com

    If you modify this version, and following the norm of the Creative Commons Licence, we’d all ask that you share it on the web too, so that others can benefit.

  • FE blog

    Mash Up anybody?


    I've been hearing all about Web 2.0 for quite a while now, and seen it increasingly used within education to reflect a change that's happening to the web and the way that users interact with it. No sooner have I become comfortable with that idea, then along comes the concept of "Mash Ups", which were pretty meaningless to me (as a non-programmer) until this...

    The Popfly service, which is in beta at the moment, allows users to create Mash Ups without needing programming skills (a mash up allows you to pick up data from one website or service, and lay it onto a service on another. For example, to pick up a collection of photos from Flickr and display them on a world map to show where they were taken). It's far more difficult to write about than it is to show, so here's some links to get an understanding of it:

    • The Popfly videos -  watch the whole 15 minute Popfly video...
    • The Popfly website - to sign up and give it a try yourself, and then you can also watch the "Mash Ups in 30 seconds" video!
    • And, my first Popfly mashup - see below. Made by linking one of myFlickr photo sets to a carousel display. Once you've seen it, you won't believe that it only took me 5 minutes to create it!

    Ray's first Popfly

    (There will be a short delay the first time the pages above load, while Silverlight downloads. All of this is using the new Silverlight technology, which is cross-platform browser plug-in to create rich, multimedia web applications)

    None of the examples on the Popfly website are specifically based on education scenarios, but the potential to make really vibrant web pages using this technology is wide. How about linking some geo-specific data to Live Earth, and creating an interactive, visual map. The possibilities are there. If you want to post a link to your first Popfly mashup too, add it into the comments.

  • FE blog

    Office 2007 - Free online training courses


    Helping your users get up to speed with Microsoft Word and the Office 2007 System

    When you first open Word 2007, it looks very different to what you may have become used to, because it has been designed to make your life a whole lot easier.

    So here's a training course, where you will learn the best ways to use the new Ribbon in Word, which highlights all of the most popular functions you need day-today. It will also introduce you to the Mini toolbar, which displays formatting commands within your documents, right where you want to use them. Plus you will learn the new Quick Styles; ready-made styles that give your document a professional makeover in no time at all.

    Review the Word 2007 demo, or get started straight away on the course

    Other resources to help staff migrate to the Office 2007 system include:

    • A simply but brilliant visual and interactive Word 2003 to Word 2007 Command reference guide
      This is worth having as a shortcut on the desktop for new users. Any time you want to find where menu options went to in the new version, then run this, point to the menu item, and it will tell you how to access it in Office 2007's Ribbon.
    • The Office 2007 System Training Centre, designed for everyone from beginners to advanced users - from things like "creating your first presentation" to "getting started with Pivot tables".
  • FE blog

    Handheld Learning Conference 2007


    What do Stephen Heppel, Stephen Crowne & Marc Prensky all have in common? Well, they along with a range of others, will be speaking at the Handheld Learning Conference this year.

    John Galloway said of last year's conference:

    "the key element in London's recent Handheld Learning conference was not the tools but the ethos behind them. It covered more than one technology - in fact anything you can easily carry, including personal digital assistants (PDAs), iPods, tablet PCs, mobile phones, and even games consoles. These are not new technologies, and the speakers weren't saying anything they hadn't said several times before. However, it seems the message - that these devices can fundamentally change learning - is beginning to be heard more widely."

    Normally it would cost you £295 to attend the conference on Wed 10th October - Friday 12th October in London, but I have in my hands a voucher code that would allow you to register for only £195. To get this price, simply enter the code "hl07 microsoft" onto the registration page when you register.

    If the feedback from last year's conference is repeated this year, it's going to be a thoughtful and insightful look at how learning can be changed through the use of all kinds of mobile devices. In fact, the message from the conference is that there are all kinds of ways that you can transform learning using all kinds of mobile technologies - you just need to decide what fits with your college's strategy and get started.

  • FE blog

    Open XML - and Shakespearean insults!


    Well, it got your attention didn't it! You may wonder about the link between the two, so I'll point you to the answer...

    Jason Matusow is a Microsoft Senior Director of Corporate Standards and Interoperability, and often writes in his blog about the current debate on Open XML (by the way, have you expressed your opinion yet?). Which means that people often take the chance to throw the occasional derogatory comment in the direction of his writing. He's provided his readers with a more eloquent way to do this, by pointing them towards a "Shakespearean Insult Generator" (Instructions for Insulting Me).

    How useful would that be the next time one of the lecturers reports a wireless network problem but fails to notice they've switched off the wireless with the little switch so many manufacturers are adding to laptops these days. How about "What trick, what device, what starting-hole canst thou now find out, to hide thee from this open and apparent shame?" (Henry IV) or "Thou hath not so much brain as ear wax" (Troilus and Cressida)

    Anyway, I digress (perhaps my brain is as dry as...). The debate over ratifying Open XML will continue over the summer, and if you want to express your support for extending a standard, then now's the time to contribute your opinion. Although ODF is already one standard agreed, there's place for more - and there are a number of holes when it comes to compatibility between ODF systems (ODF doesn't define a standard for formulae in spreadsheets, for example - which seems a bit too open if you ask me!)

  • FE blog

    Genie - Grid ENabled Integrated Earth system model


    Whenever I hear about 'cluster computing' I think about high-tech, whizzy projects which are designed to address theoretical problems. Then today, I came across Genie, and thought again. I'd often seen the headlines about air travel's impact on climate change, but had never considered that somebody, somewhere must have done an awful lot of calculations before coming up with the answers. And reading this, told me more...

    Genie is accelerating understanding of the Earth system by unifying the work of climate-change specialists from different fields of expertise. This encompasses studies of the oceans, the atmosphere, sea ice, marine sediments, marine biogeochemistry, land surfaces, vegetation, and soil and ice sheets. Each contributor to the Genie project uses Earth System Modelling (ESM) to create hypotheses and simulations of the effects of human activities and natural variations in the Earth system.

    Scientists Raising Public Awareness
    It is much easier for researchers to raise awareness of discoveries with governments and the general public when they can answer specific questions. The new framework can help to encourage faith in the capabilities of science to predict outcomes. As Cox says: “If the media wants to know how many miles of air travel it takes to create a negative impact on the environment, we can offer more accurate estimates and understand what it would take to minimise that effect.”

    What's it all about?

    Genie is a project created by the Natural Environment Research Council to consolidate the work of scientists and researchers operating in different areas of Earth system study. The people involved in Genie use applications based on Windows and Linux to conduct simulations.

    However, it is difficult for the scientists at Genie to share research. Each of the contributing scientists works on applications created for different operating systems. Some use Linux and Oracle to configure and manage the data from various simulations, while others use applications created in a Windows® operating environment. Not everyone involved in the Genie project is a technical expert, so performing calculations and carrying out complex modelling scenarios can be time-consuming and frustrating.

    To merge the cross-platform applications for conducting these simulations requires a great deal of contributors’ time and effort. With this in mind, the Genie technical team created a virtual framework that links all applications and data, regardless of the system used to create them. The solution — based on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 and .NET technology — is making collaboration easier, improving research productivity and increasing insight and public awareness.

    Simon Cox is Professor of Computational Methods at the University of Southampton and Technical Director for Genie. He led a team of experts from the universities of Southampton and East Anglia to create a proof of concept for a high-performance framework linking HPC modelling systems—based on Windows® and Linux—from all universities contributing to the Genie project. The framework is based on Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 and uses Microsoft® .NET technology, Windows Workflow Foundation, and Windows Presentation Foundation. The solution also includes a Microsoft SQL Server™ 2005 database to manage data.

    The goal of the Genie project is to create a shared platform on which all scientists, researchers, and technologists can easily access the data and insight created by different institutions. Researchers can then apply this data to their own field of enquiry, creating fuller Earth system scenarios. Using the results of comprehensive modelling, scientists can deliver more accurate predictions on future environmental change.

    There is a more detailed case study available, and for more info on Genie, go to http://www.genie.ac.uk/

  • FE blog

    New Digital Portfolio for Microsoft’s Office's SharePoint 2007 - Free event on 21st June


    Winvision, one of our partners in Further Education, wrote to let me know about a free event that they are hosting in June, focusing on helping you to get more from SharePoint, and provide e-portfolio services for your students.

    Winvision Event: New Digital Portfolio for Microsoft’s Office & SharePoint 2007

    • When:  Thursday 21st of June 2007
    • Where: London, Royal College of Physicians,  Jerwood Centre
    • Time:   10.00-14.30

    It’s a very exciting time for learning technologies! The 2007 release of Winvision Digital Portfolio is the first and only solution to deeply integrate with the new Microsoft Office & SharePoint System 2007 (MOSS 2007). Educational institutions worldwide are making the smart choice to integrate portfolio functionality into their Microsoft suite. By making the most of MOSS 2007 with the new Microsoft SharePoint Learning Kit and the Winvision Digital Portfolio you can now easily have a fresh, fully integrated Learning Environment.

    Content management, learning tools, communication & collaboration, assessment and reporting are all key features of this exciting new portfolio environment. Why continue to struggle with expensive, fragmented learning environments and standalone products when the integration with Microsoft SharePoint it is extremely easy to implement, functionally rich and student-centric? 

    Winvision’s Digital Portfolio provides you with a real solution for competence-based education and delivers an effective personalized learning environment for your student community. Scalable, easy-to-use and with the possibility to support Individual Learning Plans, the student experience is greatly enhanced with our flexible and adaptable tools that will support them through their years of study and beyond.

    If you are looking for an alternative to the current course-centered and expensive VLE solutions on offer and you want a real solution that allows you to build a student-centric world, this is an event you must not miss! You will also have an opportunity to discuss how your existing valuable course content and data can easily be migrated without concern.

    On behalf of Winvision, we invite you to a highly informative morning presentation and demonstration of our digital portfolio and learning applications for Office 2007. You will certainly be impressed. Our event will take place on Thursday June 21 in Central London at the excellent conference facilities of the Royal College of Physicians, close to Regent’s Park. We look forward to you joining us as our guest.

    The agenda is as follows:

    10.00    Arrival, Welcome & Coffee

    10.30    Competence Based Learning and Technology – the current state of play

    11.00    MOSS2007 as a new type of Virtual Learning Environment - Presentation

    11.30    Coffee Break

    11.45    MOSS2007 as a new type of Virtual Learning Environment - Demonstration

    12.15    Winvision’s Digital Portfolio for SharePoint - Demonstration

    13.00    Q&A

    13.30   Close & lunch 


    Sign up here
  • FE blog

    The Free Microsoft TechNet Management Summits - June & July


    I've just learnt that we've scheduled some more of these free events - the Microsoft Management Summit - which are aimed at senior IT managers in the UK

    Called "Are you in control? How to manage and secure your infrastructure", they are free single day events in Manchester, Glasgow and London.

    It isn't specifically aimed at the education community, but it is a great opportunity to get access to some of the high level content which is delivered through the worldwide TechNet events. 

    Full event details:

    "Do you have challenges managing your infrastructure, and would you like to understand our latest system management solutions? The popular TechNet MMS UK event “Are you in control?” provides a selection of the most valuable content from this year’s global Microsoft Management Summit event held in San Diego in March. This year, we will deliver a much wider range of essential technical content.There will be a keynote, followed by two parallel tracks of six sessions, enabling you to build your personal agenda. This seminar for technical staff will focus on System Centre management tools and Windows Server virtualisation."

    Details and Registration details are

    21 June 2007, Manchester: Microsoft TechNet Management Summit (UK) - Are You in Control? How to Manage and Secure Your Infrastructure
    22 June 2007, Glasgow: Microsoft TechNet Management Summit (UK) - Are You in Control? How to Manage and Secure Your Infrastructure
    10 July 2007, London: Microsoft TechNet Management Summit (UK) - Are You in Control? How to Manage and Secure Your Infrastructure

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