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December, 2007 - FE blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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December, 2007

  • FE blog

    What are 21st Century Skills?


    A colleague and I were engaged in a debate recently, in a team meeting, when we were discussing plans for BETT 2008. For the show we've added three themes to Microsoft's "Realising Potential" message. Those three themes are:

    • Raising Standards
    • Personalising Learning
    • 21st Century Skills

    The first two didn't lead us into debate, but the third did. We got locked into a deep discussion about 21st Century skills - is it about the IT skills you need in the workplace or other skills, such as collaborative working, communication, leadership, project management etc?

    My viewpoint is that it is both, not one or the other. And that as an employer, these are the skills I'm looking for in new employees, with far less importance on "traditional knowledge" (the ability to deliver facts & specific domain knowledge). What I think of as "traditional knowledge" is what gets you invited into the interview room, but it's these other skills that differentiate you from other candidates.

    I was reminded about the debate when I read stories from the BBC website today.

    The first was an interview with Bill Gates called "The skills you need to succeed", where he said:

    "The skills you need to succeed

    A solid working knowledge of productivity software and other IT tools has become a basic foundation for success in virtually any career.

    Beyond that, however, I don't think you can overemphasise the importance of having a good background in maths and science.

    If you look at the most interesting things that have emerged in the last decade - whether it is cool things like portable music devices and video games or more practical things like smart phones and medical technology - they all come from the realm of science and engineering."

    That certainly puts the "new" and "traditional" skills onto the same platform. And then I read another story "Computer knowledge undervalued", prompted by research of 500 business leaders completed by Microsoft, that puts IT skills as the seventh most important workplace skill.

    "Computer knowledge 'undervalued'

    Computer skills are still undervalued in the UK board room, according to software giant Microsoft. It surveyed 500 UK business leaders and found that a knowledge of information technology (IT) was seen as the seventh most important workplace skill.

    Instead, team working and interpersonal skills were seen as the core factors, followed by initiative.  Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said IT skills were needed from the shop floor to the chief executive."

    So what does this mean? That the move to diplomas and the reform of the curriculum is well overdue? That we need to be sure that these moves don't get undermined by media attitudes towards "traditional learning"? (I always ask "What will the Daily Mail say about this?"). And, critically, for learners today, that we're going through a period of rapid change. We'd better be ready for a turbulent journey!

    Want to talk more about this? Come along and talk about it at the BETT show in January...

  • FE blog

    Live Meeting: Live @ Edu


    My colleague Matt sends details of a Live Meeting event he's hosting online next Tuesday:

    Microsoft Live @ Edu is a secure, reliable infrastructure that provides educational institutions with a range of beneficial services that are consistent throughout the lifetime of a student or alumni.  With one ‘@edu’ address users get access to powerful web based experiences – mail, on-line storage, real time collaboration and much more. 

    Microsoft Live @ Edu is a free service, hosted by Microsoft and you can find out more by attending one of our Live Meeting presentations on Tuesday 18th December at 1pm or 4pm.  To register, simply click here and request an invitation for either session.

    If you can't make the meeting, then head to our website for more information on the Live @ Edu service

  • FE blog

    Ergo's BETT Competitions


    Ergo One of our education partners, Ergo, have just told me about the competition they are running at the BETT Show in January. If you visit their stand (B100) in the main hall, you can enter their college prize draw to win an Ergo SecureDesk.

    Of the 30,000 visitors to the BETT show, only about 1,000 are from colleges - and this prize is only for them. So if you are going to the show, then the odds are probably good! I haven't heard about other competitions (yet) at BETT, but I think this has got to be worth including on your "must visit" BETT list.

    More details on the Ergo website

  • FE blog

    Windows Vista SP1 is coming...


    One for IT Managers: We've announced that Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista will be released in the Spring Term 2008 2008, which is good news for those who are waiting for this before doing widescale deployments of the new operating system across your college. In advance of that the Beta is available now on MSDN and Technet (if you have a Campus Agreement, you've got a free subscription to MSDN AA). Now the full details of what's in the release are on TechNet, but here's a shorter highlight list, taken from the InsideMicrosoft blog:

    • Improves power consumption when the display is not changing by allowing the processor to remain in its sleep state which consumes less energy.
    • Improves power consumption and battery life by addressing an issue that causes a hard disk to continue spinning when it should spin down, in certain circumstances.
    • SP1 addresses issues many of the most common causes of crashes and hangs in Windows Vista, as reported by Windows Error Reporting. These include issues relating to Windows Calendar, Windows Media Player, and a number of drivers included with Windows Vista.
    • Removes the delay that sometimes occurs when a user unlocks their PC.
    • Improves wireless ad-hoc connection (computer-to-computer wireless connections) success rate
    • Improves Windows Vista’s built-in file backup solution to include EFS encrypted files in the backup.
    • Adds full support for the latest IEEE draft of 802.11n wireless networking.
    • Improves the performance of browsing network file shares by consuming less bandwidth.
    • Improves the speed of adding and extracting files to and from a compressed (zipped) folder.
    • Improves performance over Windows Vista’s current performance across the following scenarios:
      • 25% faster when copying files locally on the same disk on the same machine
      • 45% faster when copying files from a remote non-Windows Vista system to a SP1 system
      • 50% faster when copying files from a remote SP1 system to a local SP1 system
    • Improves the time to read large images by approximately 50%.
    • In specific scenarios, SP1 reduces the shutdown time by a few seconds by improving the Windows Vista utility designed to sync a mobile device.
    • Reduces the time it takes to return to the user’s session when using the Photo screensaver, making it comparable to other screensavers.

    And finally...

    • Users are now required to enter a password hint during the initial setup of Windows Vista SP1. This change was made based on feedback from top PC manufactures that many customers frequently do not remember their password and because the administrator account is turned off by default on Windows Vista, these users do not have a way to access to their PCs. A password hint helps avoid this frustrating scenario.
      This has got to make life a little easier for all of those people, like me, who get asked by neighbours/friends/students - How do I find out my password? - hopefully there will be less forgotten ones!

    I have to say that I've been using Windows Vista since October 2006, as a typical user, and have seen very few of these problems being fixed - I especially like the further improvements in power consumption, reducing further the carbon footprint of a Windows Vista computer over a Windows XP system.

  • FE blog

    Know IT all - E-safety


    Today sees the launch of Know IT All for Teachers, in conjunction with Becta, the TDA and ChildNet.  It's designed for use with trainee teachers, as well as current teachers.

    KnowITAllWe've been working with these partners to create a set of valuable resources for e-safety in schools. Called "Know IT All for Teachers", it's a resource pack that provides practical help for trainee teachers, existing teachers and support staff, and offers suggestions and materials on how the subject of e-safety can be embedded in the curriculum both within schools and initial teacher training.

    The resources have been developed by Childnet with the support of the TDA, Becta and Microsoft. The key “Know IT All” training resources used for the materials are Childnet’s “Jenny’s Story” and Microsoft’s “Rome Group” which was created by Microsoft as part of their “Getting to Know IT All” child safety campaign.

    E-safety relates to many parts of the curriculum and the Know It All websites contain links to a range of comprehensive learning resources, information and advice to keep trainee teachers and teachers up to date with child e-safety issues and to provide guidance on managing issues which may arise in the school environment. 

    The materials cover issues such as online grooming, cyber-bullying to the viewing of inappropriate content and plagiarism.

    Know IT All for Teachers includes a free DVD designed for self study in e-safety, including a short film followed by e-safety questions for teachers to consider, and a website which clearly explains the technology, and provides links to further resources on a range of issues. The “Know IT All” for Trainees and Teachers initiative reflects the growing supporting role teachers play, alongside parents, in teaching children about e-safety.   An in-depth research report of 400 trainee teachers also revealed a need for child e-safety training.

    If you are a teacher training establishment, the details are here to order copies of the DVD.

    More details on the Know IT All for Teachers website

  • FE blog

    Ultimate Steal Update


    Things are still going strong on the Ultimate Steal website (Office 2007 Ultimate for students, for £38.95 - as long as they have a .ac.uk email address). Over the last couple of months this special offer has made the news in quite a few colleges & universities, and the web has been abuzz about the offer. Many establishments have made announcements to their students about the deal, through their VLE or email system, and we noticed a surge of orders when it was mentioned on StudentBeans.

    As part of the Ultimate Steal purchase process, we're encouraging students to answer a short survey about their buying habits - one of the reasons is to see whether we're attracting students to the latest version of Office, and whether they would have bought it anyway.

    Some of the responses made me smile, so here's a typical set:

    Why did you decide to purchase today? (please choose all that apply)

    "I wanted OneNote for tabbed work."

    "Could not have afforded it any other way"

    "I was avoiding writing my essay"

    What suggestions, if any, would you like to provide on the purchase process or program?


    "Thank GOODNESS this finally happened. There's only so much Open Office one student can take!  This is a great idea - no student is going to buy this at full price so everyone's stuck with either Open Office or an "obtained" copy - or MS Works.... Instead of having 1 person in 10 pay out at the higher price you've now got 10 of 10 paying out at the lower price which a) makes you money and b) makes us thinking we're saving money and c) stops any of us doing anything illegal.  You should tell the TV Licence people your good idea."

    "Would like to see the same deal for Windows Vista Ultimate"

    "A free pen!"

    Ah, the refreshing honesty. The thoughtful comment. And  the fact that a free pen can cause a change in behaviour...

    Even more reasons to tell your students about the Ultimate Steal

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