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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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November, 2011

  • FE blog

    Kinect Effect Infographic

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    The education team are big fans of Kinect for XBOX 360, not just for gaming, but for its innovative uses across the education and health sectors, also.

    Building on the amazing Kinect Effect video that we showcased earlier this week on the blog, our colleagues in the XBOX team have just released an interesting infographic that charts the phenomenal growth that the Kinect has seen since its launch only a year ago. 

    We are obviously really proud of the Guinness World Record , but its the sparking innovation globally section I find particularly impressive. I can’t wait to see what the community can come up with in another year with this technology!

    Are you using Kinect within your institution? If so, we would love to hear your stories in the comments below.

    Tim

  • FE blog

    Windows Azure Bootcamp - Powered by Tech.Days, Edinburgh 11th November 2011

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    If you are a developer looking to take advantage of cloud computing, but you haven’t yet taken the plunge, this free day of training is the quickest way to get up-to-speed with Microsoft’s offering; Windows Azure. We’ll take you from knowing nothing about the cloud to actually having written some code, deployed it to the cloud service and made a simple application available on the public Internet. You’ll get all the information you need to get up to speed with Windows Azure in a packaged and compressed form, ready for your consumption, without having to trawl through books, blogs and articles on your own. There will be experienced people available to guide you through each exercise. Once you have the basics in place, you’ll be off and running.

     

    If this would be of interest to you, you can register your place here

  • FE blog

    Consumerisation of IT in education: Be prepared…

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    Consumerisation of IT in education hasn’t happened overnight, it has evolved over a period of time and is largely down to three things:

    · Choice – a greater variety of devices, form factors and operating systems

    · Cloud – many more services running in the cloud

    · Connectivity – we are connected most of the time, wherever we are

    As with all new IT Initiatives Consumerisation introduces a host of new acronyms. COIT (Consumerisation of IT), BYOC (Bring your own computer), BYOD (Bring your own device), BYOPC (I am sure you can guess this one) to name but a few.

    The move to support consumerisation is being discussed in many of our education institutions in the UK, many of whom are already embracing consumerisation and seeing the benefits.

    With a groundswell of passionate students, academics and admin staff looking to embrace the COIT, if you haven’t already had the conversation, be prepared…

    To help prepare for the consumerisation of IT in education, we have put together a short document that shares come of our thoughts and ideas around the concept of COIT. The full paper can be viewed below or downloaded from our SlideShare account.

    How are you embracing consumerisation of IT in education in your institution? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

    Tim

  • FE blog

    Baby Steps into the Cloud: ICT as a service for education

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    The education team are busy working on a number of new eBooks that will be launched on this blog over the next couple of months. Keep an eye on our Twitter account (Microsoft_ed_uk) to be one of the first to know when they are available.

    In the meantime, though, we thought you might find one of our earlier eBooks ‘Baby steps into the Cloud’ interesting. The document can be viewed below, or downloaded via our Slideshare account.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Education Webcast on Hyper-V 8th November recording

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    For those of you who were not able to attend the Microsoft Education Webcast on Hyper-V last week, as promised, here are the links to all the slides and presentations.

    Migrate your virtualisation solution from VMware to Hyper-V and save money

    The slides are now available here

    - Mark Doyle' Infrastructure Engineer at Carmel College Blog

    - The Microsoft Privat Cloud Whitepaper

    If you have any questions or require any information please don’t hesitate to contact Richard Lane

  • FE blog

    Partner in learning Global Forum, Washington 7th-10th November 2011

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    At this year’s PiL Global Forum, over 700 of the most innovative global educators from over 75 countries came together in Washington D.C to share and and celebrate creativity in education.

    One element of the Forum is to recognize teachers excellence and how by using technology in their teaching and how this then impacts student learning.

    UK teacher, Gareth Ritter from Willows High School in Cardiff won a Partners in Learning Global Forum award for his music project made by students for students.

    The reason I love this story so much is because Gareth gave his students the opportunity to take control of their own learning using technology and make it relevant to them. Take a look at this interview with Gareth as he explains how by using Microsoft technology, the students in his class went from creating a soundtrack for themselves, sharing their project on YouTube to receiving over 27,000 hits .

     

    We also have a couple of other videos you can check out.

    Dr David Christian on his impressions from partners In Learning Global Forum.

     

    Educator Ken-Wei Hsu of Taiwan on his innovative use of Microsoft Photosynth to capture 3D imagery of plants.

    You can read more great stories about the award winners via the Partners in Learning Blog

  • FE blog

    Consumerisation of IT in Education: Software as a Service

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    One of the key enablers for Consumerisation of IT in Education (COIT) is the growing number cloud based applications and services.

    Much of the software available from Microsoft is now available as a cloud hosted service. A great example in Education is Live@Edu which provides free email, calendaring and collaboration functionality and is completely free to education organisations.

    Office 2010 also embraces the cloud with a great combination of software and services. It is worth exploring this in more detail. As with previous versions, Microsoft Office 2010 is still installed locally on your PC, this provides all the rich functionality you have come to expect from Microsoft Office and works equally well with or without internet connectivity. In addition there are now Office Web Apps – which are lightweight web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The Office Web-Apps have the same look and feel as their fully installed counterparts (albeit with less functionality) but they work in the browser, with most major browsers supported. When we combine these versions of Office with a centralised storage service such as Windows Live SkyDrive or SharePoint, it opens up a plethora of possibilities.

    Let’s look at an example…

    As you are probably aware, Windows Live SkyDrive is a completely free storage and collaboration service which provides users with 25GB of online storage and the ability to create folders and share them by defining access permissions.

    So let’s imagine 2 students, Peter and Jane who are working together on a project. Peter is working on his own laptop at home, running Windows 7 with Office 2010 installed locally. Jane uses a Mac with no MS Office installed.

    Starting the project, Peter creates a new folder on his SkyDrive with and also grants Jane the read and write permissions on the folder.

    He then creates an Excel workbook using his locally installed rich client, and uses functionality including pivot tables, pivot charts and sparklines. Peter saves the document to the project folder he created on SkyDrive.

    Interacting with SkyDrive, shared storage is integrated into Office 2010. From the File menu, under Save & Send, there is an option to Save to Web. This connects directly to the users SkyDrive account and shows the file structure directly from the cloud.

    image

    The file is now saved on SkyDrive and can be accessed by both Peter and Jane.

    Working on her Mac, Jane accesses the Excel workbook via her browser – and importantly even though she is using the Excel Web App – with the lighter weight feature set, full fidelity viewing is preserved.

    In the screenshot below, Jane can alter the cell values – and the Sparklines (in Column H) will update and reflect the changes made – even though Jane cannot create Sparklines directly in the Web App.

    image

    The following day, they both need to work on the document at the same time. Jane is at home and opens the Excel workbook from her Safari browser. Peter is working on a shared computer in the library, Microsoft Office is not installed – so he opens up SkyDrive in his browser and opens the Excel workbook. They can now happily co-author this document at the same time across a range of technologies.

    image

    Excel Web App – showing 2 people co-authoring a document

    The future of cloud based applications is looking very strong. Office 365, a recent addition to the Microsoft Portfolio, includes Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online and Lync Online. An education specific version, aptly named Office 365 for Education, is expected soon and will add additional functionality to those found in Live@EDU. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is also available online which provides customisable and powerful relationship management in the cloud. Many Education ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) are now providing their solutions as hosted alternatives to their on premise offerings.

    We are passionate about the cloud and its ability to help institutions and students realise their potential.

    To learn more about our thoughts around the Consumerisation of IT in Education, our paper on the subject is now available for download from our SlideShare account or can be accessed below.

  • FE blog

    Steps to the Cloud with RM

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    hdr_logo

     

    Chris Munday, Head of Proposition Development, RM  has written a guest post on his thoughts on the benefits of Cloud and which steps to take to get there, of which will be further discussed at BETT

     

    When you think about what Cloud computing can offer within education, the possibilities are really exciting.

    However, I appreciate that at this point Cloud won't be right for everyone and can even seem daunting or not relevant for some schools. How do schools relate this new world of Cloud to the everyday challenges that they face in ensuring that their ICT provides the things that their teachers and learners need?

    Let's start with what Cloud means, as there are many hugely varying perceptions associated with it and, in some cases, they can just be plain misleading and confusing. I like to think about the way things are heading as "ICT as a service" in that it is really about having parts of your ICT hosted, delivered and maintained by someone else. Just like any other service, you could pick and choose the bits that were right for you - "I'd like backup, storage and email delivered as a service but I'll keep my learning environment on site as that will enable me to do what I need to, most effectively for now". That for me is the essence of what Cloud will mean for schools; let someone else do the donkey work and just enjoy the benefits of the services you have chosen.

    Now, it might sound clichéd or a bit "X Factor" but moving to the Cloud will be a journey. There are a number of steps for schools to take, each with tangible benefits so they can take it at their own pace, on their own terms. Go as far along the journey as you need to, to realise the benefits that you're looking for

    So what are the main benefits of Cloud? To my mind, it is mainly about three things:

    • Anytime, anywhere, any device learning. Allow learning to continue using the same resources outside the school gates and after school hours, embrace any devices you choose to use or that your users own, and allow all your apps (including legacy ones) to be run on any device.
    • Making the life of ICT and other staff easier. Don't worry about managing aspects of your ICT that can be looked after by others, e.g. managing tape backups and taking them off-site, and free your time up to spend on the really important stuff. Remove the headache of refresh cycles and owning and maintaining hardware, and no longer worry whether your software is up to date and patched; that's all taken care of for you.
    • More efficient ICT. Make the most effective use of the ICT you've got, access ICT services when you need them and only pay for what you use. Could you share services with other schools or even become a service provider for other schools in your area and generate revenue?

    We've identified a number of steps on the journey and we'll be talking more about this at BETT but here’s a flavour:

    1. Review and upgrade your connectivity. Good connectivity is essential for Cloud services and could be a real barrier to Cloud adoption. This could be a lack of availability of necessary Broadband speeds, prohibitive costs for the required level of service and factoring in redundancy for your connectivity. Have a look at what your current service is and we can help you to understand the level you'll need for different services.
    2. Sort out your infrastructure and local network. Make your ICT as efficient as possible and working as hard as it can for you. Virtualisation makes an eventual move of those servers to the Cloud easier but gives benefits in the short term (more efficient utilisation of hardware, consolidation of physical boxes, for example). Remember that even when many of your services are in the Cloud, local infrastructure will still be really important to enable access to those services.
    3. Choose the right devices - Choose the right tool for what you want your teachers and learners to achieve. What is the strategy for the school and how would this support or conflict with Cloud? Is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) high on your agenda? Cloud can open up your options but means there are more to consider.
    4. Open up access to your network. Host your own private Cloud in your school to give access to your network to students and teachers at anytime from anywhere, or start to embrace other parts of your community. Alternatively, just give access to applications that you host so your students can run curriculum software easily from home and continue their work and learning.
    5. Move services to the Cloud. Start moving services to the Cloud that will give you the greatest benefit and the least effort. For example, could you be taking away the hassle of backup tapes by backing up to the Cloud, cater for your future data storage requirements by securing extra storage in the Cloud that is easily accessible from anywhere, or move your MIS to the Cloud to take away deployment, management and accessibility concerns?
    6. Full Cloud. Move your remaining services (that make sense) to the Cloud. In the foreseeable future, we believe that schools will need some level of on-site provision to cover the bandwidth intensive services, as well as being a cost effective solution to connectivity redundancy.

    Much of what I've mentioned above is available now; a hosted Learning Platform, hosted MIS system, Cloud backup being used by customers, and we're working on proof of concept systems for other Cloud services. These are helping us to understand where the real value will be for education and our thinking is evolving as we learn more. What remains as a guiding principle throughout this process though, is that the answer must be based on the benefits delivered to schools, rather than being driven purely by the technology. The benefits are there and my goal is that everyone who speaks to us at BETT about Cloud and their school will leave having clearly mapped the benefits that they want to achieve onto what technology and solutions they need to implement. Cloud demystified, now that would be a silver lining!

     

    If you would like to find out more about Cloud and how it can work for you, you can visit both the Microsoft stand (D30 and D40) and the RM stand (C60 and D60) at BETT

  • FE blog

    Consumerisation of IT in Education: Opportunities with Virtualisation Technologies

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    Continuing with our Consumerisation of IT in Education series of posts, virtualisation technologies can also help organisations embrace CoIT. Virtualisation technologies provide us with the ability to run applications or full school desktops on a wider range of device types and operating systems.

    Presenting Software to Users

    Microsoft has offered Session virtualisation (aka presentation virtualisation) for many years. Initially, through Terminal Services and more recently with RDS (Remote Desktop Services). RDS Remote App allows for a centrally managed and server hosted application to be presented to remote users via a simple RDP client. RDP Clients are widely available across a range of platforms and devices, thus removing the need for clients to be using a specific OS version.

    An alternative to session virtualisation is application virtualisation which Microsoft provides through App-V. The key difference being that session virtualisation is server hosted, while App-V applications run on the client device (although they are not installed in the traditional sense). App-V has all the benefits of centrally managed software combined with the benefits of removing any application conflicts on the clients. App-V is part of MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack). App-V applications can also be extended to non-windows devices through partner tools such as Citrix XenApp.

    Presenting Desktops to Users

    Desktops can be presented to users via both session virtualisation and VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). They are quite similar technologies, the key difference is that instead of presenting the user with a shared computing session from a server, VDI users are presented with a full desktop from a virtual machine. This provides users with a fully customisable and personal computing experience. A VDI server typically supports fewer users than an RDS environment. Storing numerous large VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) Images can also take up valuable disk space, although some VDI solutions make use of sophisticated differencing technologies to save space. VDI desktops are also presented to users via an RDP client. Presenting a full desktop experience to users via RDP is a good way of providing a school standard desktop and applications regardless of user device type or location, distance learners for example.

    For more information on our thoughts around the concept of Consumerisation of IT in Education, download our paper on the topic via our SlideShare account. Alternatively, the full paper can be viewed below.

    Tim

  • FE blog

    Want to programme Kinect, Windows Phone, Gadgeteer & other Microsoft Technologies with C#

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    Originally posted on the Microsoft UK Faculty Connection Blog.

    C#

    Learn to programme in C# over the course of 24 episodes, our friend, Bob Tabor from www.LearnVisualStudio.net, will teach you the fundamentals of C# programming.

    Learn the skills and concepts applicable to video games, mobile environments, and client applications.

    The following tutorials and videos walk you through getting the tools, writing code, debugging features, customizations and much more! Each concept is broken into its own video so you can search for and focus on the information you need.

    Download the entire series' source code

    Watch all 24 Episodes

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