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June, 2011

  • FE blog

    Open Government – Westminster Council and Microsoft Competition to Transform Data into Apps

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    Originally posted by Leighton Searle on the Microsoft UK Government Blog

    All local authorities hold significant volumes of data, from information about population to the location of parking spaces, for example. The challenge is knowing how best to use the data that is available in useful ways to improve citizen satisfaction with public services . Westminster City Council and Microsoft have teamed up to run a competition for anyone who works, lives or studies in Westminster to come up with ideas for smartphone apps or websites that use publicly available data from Westminster Council, and other sources, to innovate and contribute to improving life for residents, businesses and visitors.

    Check if you are eligible to enter, then all you have to do is simply tell us:

    • What your idea is
    • How your idea will improve life in Westminster
    • How it’s different from anything else available
    • What data your idea needs
    • Whether it would be a website, smartphone app or something else entirely?

    The closing date for entries is Monday 18th July. All applications will be considered by a judging panel from Westminster City Council and Microsoft.

    In addition to the kudos of potentially seeing your idea put into development, the winner will receive an Xbox 360 and Kinect and the Runner-up will receive an Arc keyboard and mouse.

    All entries will be winners in the respect that your contributions will help us to understand the types of data that you would find useful if it were published. The competition is part of our transparency agenda to publish information on council spending and other data that is of interest to residents, businesses and visitors.

    Full details of the Westminster City Council and Microsoft ‘Smart Data’ challenge can be found here.

    We encourage you to get your creative heads on and come up with your ideas before the competition closing date of July 18th.

  • FE blog

    Interesting Links

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    We all, I am sure, come across interesting links as we surf the internet during the week. With this in mind, we thought it might be useful to share a selection of some of the content we stumble across on a weekly basis on this blog.


    While we all love those videos of piano playing cats etc, the links we share here will be focused on technology in education from both a teaching and learning and traditional IT perspective.

    To kick start this weekly series of posts, here are 5 links that caught my eye over the last week. 

    Have you come across anything interesting online over the last week? If so, it would be great if you could share it in the comments below. I will then update the post with a selection of those shared.


    Have a great weekend!

    Tim

  • FE blog

    Intellect Education Group Seminar - Key Technology Challenges in FE

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    After being based in and around Russell Square for the last 5 years during my time at ULCC, yesterday I found myself back in familiar surroundings for the Intellect Education Group seminar, which have their offices directly on Russell Square.

    With speakers including Lynne Sedgmore (157 Group), Clive Hill (Birmingham Metropolitan and Matthew Dean (AOC), the morning promised to be an informative 'must-attend' session, and I was not wrong. 

    Run under Chatham House rules, which means I can't really give a blow by blow record of some of the great content delivered during the session, I thought it would still be useful to share some of the core points raised during the seminar.

    The core focus of the seminar looked to address the use of technology in FE, what the key challenges are and how suppliers can best assist institutions meet their objectives.

    Focusing on the use of tech and the key challenges, in particular, the core points covered during the session included the following:

    • Now is the time to really shape the future of FE. FE plays a key role in facilitating links with the private sector and both schools and HE and now, more than ever, is the time to see how technology can improve this collaboration and improve the learner experience. With this in mind, never have the words of Peter Drucker been more appropriate – ‘the best way to predict the future is to create it together'. In order to shape the future, the education and private sectors really need to work closely together to best define the FE institution of the future!
    • Market forces will either push FE to the fringes, or a more collaborative approach with the private sector can make it more relevant
    • Curriculum & innovation - curriculum delivered through technology, and the efficiencies this can bring, is at the forefront of the agenda for FE
    • Job Outcomes and Skills - tracking the learners activities, using technology, will be a core focus for many colleges. Does the current funding model need to change to embrace this?
    • Services such as catering and security are outsourced within most FE institutions. Why is it not more common for IT to be outsourced, also? Trying to hold onto control is maybe a core reason preventing the widespread outsourcing of IT. Is this a legitimate reason, though, for slowing the pace of innovation within FE and helping to bring efficiencies? Food for thought...
    • Core technology opportunities and barriers within FE include:
      • Cloud - huge opportunities but need to be thought about in conjunction with bandwidth and connectivity. At this time, hybrid models seem most attractive
      • Personal devices - students typically have better technology (smartphones and laptops) then the technology provided within their college. Facilitating their desire to bring their own devices on campus, while still maintaining a secure network is a core challenge. 'Technology downtime' is a major complaint for many FE students
      • Shared Services - integration is important for this to work
      • Remote Access - again, a barrier to widespread provision of remote access for students and staff is bandwidth and connectivity
      • Virtualisation - VDI, in particular, is high on the agenda for many FE institutions
      • Web Learning Materials - providing anytime, anywhere learning is important, but needs to be considered in conjunction with eSafety. This area is a core topic of contention for many academics and IT staff!
      • Digital Divide - equality of access continues to be a challenge. Can the Get Online @ Home project potentially help with this?
      • eSafety is a barrier to learning - practitioners want to use Facebook and YouTube for teaching and learning, but have these sites blocked in many cases. Is there an opportunity to safely allow access to these sites for learners?
      • SharePoint has successfully replaced the staff and student intranet for many institutions. Taking this resource to the next level is on the agenda for many FE institutions
    • The pedagogical use of technology needs to change, but legacy issues are impacting this. The FE sector needs to focus on breaking down these legacy barriers to maintain relevancy moving forward
    • Sharing best practice and replicating this across the sector should be firmly on the agenda for FE

    For a 2 hour event, there was an abundance of great content which, may not come across as well in this generic synopsis of the core points covered. If you get a chance to attend an Intellect event in the future, I highly recommend it.

    Just as a closing request, there were a number of opportunities and challenges raised during the session that would be great to get your thoughts on. I will then share these back with the folks at Intellect and the wider community.

    • How can the legacy issues impacting the pedagogical use of technology be broken down. Has anyone got any great examples of how resistance to new technologies for teaching and learning have been overcome?
    • With this in mind, how can the desire for greater curriculum delivery through technology be realised?
    • How are institutions balancing eSafety with the need to make additional web learning materials available to students?

    Your thoughts on the above would be greatly appreciated (please leave your comments below).

    Thanks in advance,

    Tim Bush

  • FE blog

    Microsoft IT Academy developing student skill sets at Birmingham City University

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    It isn’t only schools nowadays that are feeling the stretch of limited budgets, but also universities around the UK and are looking at ways to save money without comprising  high quality in learning for students and still provide opportunity to achieve industry recognised certification and prepare them for the working world after university.

    Birmingham City University has embedded  Microsoft IT Academy (ITA) into its curriculum, not only as a cost saving way of adding specific and appropriate content to courses, but for students, ITA is a globally recognised programme.

    “We’re able to engage students in achieving industry recognized certifications which will significantly increase their opportunities of employment.” 

    Rehan Bhana, ITA Manager, Birmingham University

    Employability is an explicit priority across the whole of Birmingham City University “deeply embedded into all our courses”, particularly at the Faculty of Technology Engineering and the Environment.

    “It’s achieved by a combination of student support structures, excellent networking with business, and attention to curriculum content, with full use of ‘vendor specific’ programmes including Microsoft ITA”

    Associate Dean Peter Rayson.

    “It’s not just a short-skills based course,” says Rehan Bhana. “It’s a career development plan.”

    A student enrolling for BSc (Hons) Information Communications Technology and Computer Networks, as well as associated professional development programmes, will encounter ITA material within an industry scenario, proving their knowledge and skills to gain awards such as Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP).

    One of fifty across the globe, Birmingham City University was nominated to pilot the delivery of the new MTA program. Around 100 ITA students attempted one, two and some, three separate areas of study. Over 150 exams were taken in the first term of academic year 2010/2011 with a success rate of 60% for a pass mark of 70%.

    “Using the MTA exams as formative assessments has not only increased the value of our globalised curriculum but enhanced the student learning experience by introducing a feedback mechanism from beyond the classroom”

    Rehan Bhana

    By developing their competitiveness in the IT Skills market, students from Birmingham University have found that they stand out when applying for summer jobs and work placements above others with this skills gap.

    “Our students emerge as confident hybrid managers with a unique mix of technical and managerial competency, whose skills are in demand in the IT industry and beyond.” – Birmingham course description.

    With the arrival of cloud computing, having strengths in many area’s of IT is fast becoming more sort after.

    A recent Microsoft White Paper on the impact of Cloud technology on IT careers, (A Guide to the Cloud. Career Opportiunity for ITP ros) suggests that the gap will widen as businesses strive to come to terms with profound change.

    “Put bluntly, the role of the ІT professional іs being transformed, demanding a new set of technical and managerial skills, blurring the lines between business and technical decision making and placing ІT much closer to the heart of business strategy.”

    Engagement with ITA brings benefit not only to IT students but to all students and staff, because it makes a very comprehensive range of Microsoft software available. With the wide menu of available programmes and qualifications makes it possible to deliver significant areas of staff Career Professional Development (CPD) efficiently and cost-effectively.

    “The University has made significant savings,” says Rehan Bhana going on to explain that on two recent occasions the ITA delivered in-house CPD for both academic and technical staff in the area of MS Project Server Microsoft Project Server and Windows 7. The overall commercial value of these courses would exceed £30,000, delivering the programs in-house has reduced this cost by 30-40%.

  • FE blog

    Increase student computer access at a lower cost – Introducing Windows MultiPoint Server 2011

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    A little note from Richard Lane, Education Account Technical Strategist

     

    Today, more than ever our schools and colleges in the UK are faced with dwindling budgets – and are looking for new and innovative ways to modernise and improve their teaching and learning experience.

    Student access to computing resources has long been a concern for many organisations, but changing the pupil to pc ratio can be a stretch too far for many organisations.

    A great solution which can help is Windows MultiPoint Server 2011.

    In a Nutshell…..

    MultiPoint Server 2011 is a Windows based solution that is designed specifically to give every student individual access to PCs. By allowing multiple users to simultaneously share one computer – and still providing a rich independent Windows experience, it is a cost effective way to get more technology into classrooms, computer labs and libraries.

    The savings can be quite substantial, typically organisations see up-front technology savings of between 35%-50%. There are then the energy savings and on-going management savings too.

    So if you are about to kit out a new computer lab or classroom – I would certainly recommend at least looking at Multipoint Server in a bit more detail.

    The Teacher Experience…..

    The teachers’ management console is a simple to use, yet powerful tool – providing complete control over the students’ screens – ensuring the class stay focused and productive.

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    Ok I get it – tell me more about the technology……

    Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 is the second version of the product, the original version Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 was released in February 2010.

    The first question most people ask is, what sort of devices to students use to get their Windows experience?

    Typically each student will have their own screen, mouse and keyboard – which can connect to the host PC in one of three ways:

    • Directly to the host PC – In this option the host PC has multiple graphics cards – each student screen plugs in directly to the host, mouse and keyboard usually plug in via a USB hub
    • Via a Multi Function device – which offers screen, keyboard and mouse connectivity via USB
    • From a networked device – such as an existing PC / or thin client (this is a new feature with 2011) – this can be old or donated kit – as the session is delivered via RDP – you still great a great Windows 7 experience

    Register for the webcast to learn more

    Thursday 9th June 10.00-11.00

    Upon registration you will receive a calendar appointment.

  • FE blog

    MICROSOFT EES/LICENSING WORKSHOP FROM VIGLEN - ROYAL GRAMMAR SCHOOL HIGH WYCOMBE, 22nd July 2011

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    Do you want to know more about EES (Enrolment for Education Solutions)?

    Do you need to know more about Microsoft licensing, including:

    • Client/Server Licensing
    • Work @ Home / Home Use Programme
    • Student Licensing
    • Software Assurance & Other Benefits
    • OEM & Operating System Licensing
    • Virtualisation – impact on licensing
    • Product Activation
    • Downgrade Rights
    • Licence Transfer
    • Step-Up Licences
    • Re-imaging Rights
    • Desktop Optimisation Pack
    • Licensing products to use with the Apple Mac
    • VLSC (Introduction to)
    • Online Services
    • Multi-user licensing (i.e. Multi-Point Server licensing)

    What can Viglen do to help you?

    As one of the top licensing resellers in the UK as well as an OEM, we are well placed to understand the licensing needs of our customers. 

    Therefore we have designed a training course, covering all the above subject areas, to help customers understand how Microsoft licensing works and how you can get the best return on your investment.  Our trainer has over 20 years’ experience of software licensing and is regarded by many in the education sector as one of the primary experts on Microsoft licensing in the UK.

    If you wish to attend, please complete the attached Booking Form at the earliest opportunity. If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us – email softwarelicensing@viglen.co.uk or telephone 01727 201890

    Venue

    The Royal Grammar School
    Amersham Road
    High Wycombe
    Buckinghamshire
    HP13 6QT

    Course timings:

    0930-1000               Coffee & Registration
    1000-1115               Training Part 1
    1115-1130               Coffee Break
    1130-1300               Training Part 2
    1300-1345               Lunch (& opportunity to discuss issues with your peers)
    1345-1500               Training Part 3
    1500-1530               Q & A Session / Close

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