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September, 2012

  • FE blog

    8 things you didn’t know about Microsoft in education (Infographic)


    Our new ‘8 things you didn’t know about Microsoft in education’ infographic is still work in progress, but thought it would be fun to share the current version via the blog. It is Friday, after all Smile 

    We will have our final version available in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, we would love to hear what you think. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

    You can download the draft infographic via our SlideShare account. You can also view the full infographic below:

  • FE blog

    Cost Savings in Education eBook


    Building on the launch of our new Exciting Learning eBook yesterday, we are excited to make our new Cost Savings in Education eBook available via the blog for the first time.



    The eBook is packed full of great examples of how schools, colleges and universities are saving money using a wide range of our technologies.

    We will be sharing some of these examples via the blog over the coming weeks, but if you want to get a head start on how best to save money within your institution, the full eBook can be downloaded via our SlideShare page. Alternatively, you can view the eBook in full below.

  • FE blog

    Exciting Learning eBook


    After a summer of hard work from Ollie Bray and members of the Microsoft Education team, we are thrilled to make our new Exciting Learning eBook available via our blog for the first time.


    The new eBook aims to address the following:

    • Enhance the understanding of the benefits of ICT and technology across the curriculum including literacy, numeracy, technology, personal, social and health education
    • Provide practical information on how technology can be used to increase student motivation and enhance learning
    • Give teachers the confidence to use technology in class as a learning and teaching methodology that reaches across all subject areas and age groups
    • Reinforce the importance and place of ICT skills for productivity and the 21st century skills agenda
    • Encourage teachers to consider using games design and other technologies with students to help children become creators rather than consumers of content
    • Improve advice on how teachers and school leaders might tackle some of the common challenges encountered when trying to develop the use of technology in schools

    The full eBook can be downloaded via our SlideShare Profile. Alternatively, the eBook can be viewed below.

    We hope you find it useful and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


  • FE blog

    Windows 8 for Education – is there more than ‘touch’?


    Guest post from Daley Robinson, Stone Group.

    With the imminent arrival of Windows 8 on 26th October 2012, there are undoubtedly a number of educational institutions anxious to understand what Microsoft’s next generation operating system offers. With a fresh, clean interface also comes significant new advantages and benefits. Windows 8 for education now offers students a completely new experience, providing intuitive access to digital content alongside a fully functioning suite of learning enhancing tools that allow for more productive teachers, more engaged students and enhanced interaction and collaboration.

    So aside from the well publicised benefits for touch screen devices, what makes Windows 8 better than its predecessor? We’ve highlighted some of the benefits that the upcoming Operating System can bring you as a school or academy for any PC, whether it is touch-enabled or not. :

    Enhanced Security to improve e-safety

    Secure Boot is a feature enabled by UEFI, which replaces the traditional PC BIOS found in previous version of Windows. Within education particularly, security features are exceptionally important and the risk of losing data because of malicious viruses etc can prove to be catastrophic from an e-safety perspective. The enhanced security features of Windows 8 brought about by Secure Boot are designed to prevent such viruses and unsolicited programs initiating on your PCs before Windows and all of its built-in safeguards are launched.

    Improved Start Up times to get pupils ‘on-task’ quicker

    One major change to Windows 8 is the improved start up times and faster performance. This will allow students and staff alike to get on task and lessons far quicker than previously, reducing the amount of wasted valuable teaching time waiting for the system to load up.

    There are various user reports online testing the performance of Windows 8, showing boot times of 12 seconds with a HDD, or 8 seconds from an SSD – a notable improvement on Windows 7.

    Personalised Learning with User Roaming Profile

    User Roaming Profile has been devised to address the challenges in today’s multi-user and multi-device environment. User Roaming Profile allows you to synchronise your pupil or teachers’ profiles, settings and apps so that regardless of where they are, they’ll still get the same end user experience. When the user logs in to another device with the same ID, the settings are downloaded from the cloud and synchronised with the local machine – this means that students can experience a single, unified personalised learning experience. All settings, wallpapers, apps and so on are available to any Windows 8 device offering the ultimate in flexibility.

    Locked down off-site access to the school’s own image with Windows-to-Go

    One of the most innovative features in Windows 8 is Windows-to-Go. A more admin-focused personalised learning tool, Windows-to-Go ultimately gives educational institutions the ability to provide the full experience of Windows 8 on a machine other than that within the school’s local area network (e.g. a home PC) by directly booting from a USB drive. Once the instance of Windows 8 is initiated, it functions and is maintained by the usual Microsoft system administrator tools such as System Centre Configuration Manager and Active Directory group policies.  Windows-to-Go can transfer any PC running Windows 7 or above to offer the same Windows 8 experience to a pupil as they are accustomed to whilst at school, giving them the benefits associated with a single unified interface and platform to enhance their learning potential.

    With student files saved on Windows Live SkyDrive, Office365, or a third party cloud based VLE your school can enable true anytime, anywhere learning.

    Windows Bitlocker – ensure you meet your data security obligations and avoid costly ICO files

    Another major benefit of Windows 8 as Windows 8 Bitlocker now comes as standard on all Windows 8 Pro devices. For PCs that have TPM (Trusted Platform Module), of which most of our PCs come with TPM as standard, there is now an ‘out of the box’ software encryption solution to make data security a priority in all educational institutions. With the Information Commissioner’s Office having the power to hand out fines of up to £500,000 for data security breaches, with a recent UK public sector fine of £325,000 for one NHS trust, Windows BitLocker as standard in Windows 8 Pro offers schools a cost effective way to make sure their reputation or their finances aren’t significantly damaged.

    This will mean you can send teachers home with their laptops safe in the knowledge than any rogue locally stored files won’t be to the detriment of your school’s data security policy.

    Universal Sharing – maximising creative ICT opportunities across multiple applications

    One of the more advanced features to Windows 8 is Universal Sharing. This allows the student to be working in Photoshop, for example, and drag images into a PowerPoint presentation, add some cool animation and drag it straight back to another application, such as the Virtual Learning Environment - where it can then be posted and submitted for assessment without the hassle of opening and closing multiple applications separately.

    Windows 7 Compatibility – don’t lose the use of your existing software assets

    Everything that runs on Windows 7 will also be capable of running on Windows 8 too meaning that you won’t need to upgrade your ICT suite just to accommodate Windows 8.

    Whilst many may still be cautious about the upgrade to Windows 8, it is set to bring a no-compromise experience across all PC devices. It will give students the functionality and skills they need with enhanced learning tools and a solid, secure framework on which to move forward with your vision for ICT in the classroom.

  • FE blog

    Day three at ALT-C 2012


    So the third and last day of ALT-C 2012 came around pretty quickly, what with so much exciting stuff so far from the conference. Day three was no exception, filled with lots of inspiring sessions and conversations.

    The main theatre kicked off with Mark Stubbs, Head of Learning and Research Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University. He was talking about transforming the curriculum, mainstreaming learning technology and improving student experience.


    Mark has pioneered overhauling the structure of the university to improve student experience. His research found that the university staff were claiming that ‘’we can’t do anything, because we’d have to change everything’’, for example changing one thing might affect many other systems and processes within the institution. The answer to this, so that MMU could improve student experience, was ‘’lets change everything!’’ Which is what Manchester Met have now done, with successful results.

    The University has made many changes including their curriculum, admin systems and setting up a new VLE. Mark talked about how they achieved ‘’wrapping the institution around the learner’’ and gave examples of how students might want their calendar to work in the same way a familiar, personal web-based calendar they already use would, and be able to sync this to personal devices.

    Next up was Sarah Porter from JISC. Sarah talked about the many forthcoming changes that are happening within JISC. She showed us some detailed market research results, which included quotes from existing customers such as ‘’help me deal with real term cuts’’ and ‘’help me to stay ahead of changes in education technology’’.

    Sarah explained that a new, simpler organisational structure will be put in place with new communications, customer support and community engagement. She finished by saying that JISC must strive to be innovative - in everything – to add value to the customer and the community.

    The final keynote at ALT-C 2012 was from Professor Richard Noss from the University of London with a session entitled TEL research – who needs it?


    TEL stands for Technology Enhanced Research Programme and Richard spoke about the below 12 key themes:


    One of the things he talked about was how we should exploit the power of devices and explained that devices that support our human behaviors are good for social and cognitive development. Richard told us that we are going to see artificial intelligence research for emotional engagement in teaching and learning.

    After giving lots of great examples (including some complicated mathematical ones!), Richard ended with saying that the reality was that circumstances, rationale and representations for learning have changed – lets confront it.

    We had a really lovely time at our first ALT-C, and met some great people and saw many interesting and innovative speakers. Thanks to ALT for having us, and I hope we’ll be back next year in Nottingham as it sounds like you’ve got some nice stuff planned!

  • FE blog

    Devices in education: it's all about improving outcomes


    eduOriginally posted on the Teacher Network Blog as part of the Guardian’s Technology in Schools Week.

    When looking at the use of technology in education, it's important to focus on improving outcomes.

    When reviewing some of the recent projects across the sector, I often see decisions based on a single device, with teaching and learning wrapped around it, rather than first thinking about what actually needs to be done with that device. Sadly, it seems academic outcomes are not always the key objective with these decisions, regardless of how well intended the decision may be.

    Surely outcomes, not necessarily the device, are what is important here? Achieving increased attainment, improved student engagement via personalised learning and immersive engagements, access to content anytime, anywhere and workforce readiness to increase employability, are all key and should help inform which device to embrace and deploy.

    To complement this list of outcomes, factors beyond the device are also important to consider. For example, it's important to ask yourself what support programmes are in place to assist students, faculty and IT professionals to maximise their investments and meet their objectives, regardless of whether it's about saving money or improving academic attainment.

    Plus, the presence of a robust partner ecosystem to assist with both solution deployment and development can often make the difference between success and failure when it comes to the roll out of a technical solution and should definitely be front and centre of any decision making process.

    Additionally, access to apps that are critical to effective learning, such as virtual learning environments (VLEs) and content management systems, are a significant pillar and should, again, help inform any future buying decision. The ability to embrace legacy apps to leverage prior investments should also be considered.

    In my view, it's only when these three considerations - outcomes, apps and support - are embraced should decisions around devices be made. This more holistic perspective gives institutions the best chance for success, regardless of chosen outcome(s), and allows for a more informed device choice to be made.



    So with a strong foundation now in place, it's time to think devices. I am sure I will miss a few, but core requirements for devices within institutions would most likely include the following:

    • Convenience and mobility - great battery life, for example
    • Connected
    • Engaging and fun
    • Productivity and compatibility - offers a compelling content consumption and creation experience
    • Security and safety
    • Integration

    With this in mind, solutions that tick all these boxes within a single device have the potential to offer better value for money, be both a companion and primary device and deliver a great content consumption and creation experience. If you can also add to the mix enhanced security, virtualisation and enterprise level management, you'll have a compelling offering for your institution and something that your IT team will feel confident about.

    So the key takeaway here is to ensure that a strong foundation is in place, based around the three pillars of outcomes, apps and support, and base your device choices on what is most effective from both a content consumption and creation perspective. With budgets within institutions being tighter than ever, it's important to start thinking more holistically about your devices strategy and think beyond any single device. Food for thought.

  • FE blog

    Windows Server 2012: The definitive Cloud OS


    Are you evaluating Server 2012 yet?  Forrester Group thinks you should be.  We will be working with JISC to deliver a “learn and Learn” Webinar about Server 2012 in late October so please look out for the invite. 


    From: http://blogs.forrester.com/richard_fichera/12-09-05-microsoft_announces_windows_server_2012

    Microsoft Announces Windows Server 2012

    By Richard Fichera

    The Event

    On Tuesday, September 4, Microsoft made the official announcement of Windows Server 2012, ending what has seemed like an interminable sequence of rumors, Beta releases, and endless speculation about this successor to Windows Server 2008.

    So, is it worth the wait and does it live up to its hype? All omens point to a resounding “YES.”

    Make no mistake, this is a really major restructuring of the OS, and a major step in function capabilities aligned with several major strategic trends for both Microsoft and the rest of the industry. While Microsoft’s high level message is centred on the cloud, and on the Windows Server 2012 features that make it a productive platform upon which both enterprises and service providers can build a cost-effective cloud, its features will be immensely valuable to a wide range of businesses.

    What It Does

    The reviewers guide for Windows Server 2012 is over 220 pages long, and the OS has at least 100 features that are worth noting, so a real exploration of the features of this OS is way beyond what I can do here. Nonetheless, we can look at several buckets of technology to get an understanding of the general capabilities. Also important to note is that while Microsoft has positioned this as a very cloud-friendly OS, almost all of these cloud-related features are also very useful to an enterprise IT environment.

    • New file system — Included in WS2012 is ReFS, a new file system designed to survive failures that would bring down or corrupt the previous NTFS file system
           (which is still available). Combined with improvements in cluster management and failover, this is a capability that will play across the entire user spectrum.
    • Deploy and manage at scale WS2012 (an abbreviation that is probably not approved by Microsoft) is designed to make it easy to deploy multiple copies of the OS on geographically distributed systems. Obviously this is a good feature for cloud platform, but is of use to almost any enterprise IT group. Improvements in application development and deployment promise the ability to deploy any WS2012 application to any location(s) from a centralized deployment server.
    • Vastly improved Hyper-V, virtual networking, and associated tools WS2012 has many improvements to Hyper-V, including features to improve HA/DR
           provisioning, enhanced virtual networking, and improvements to the size of individual VMs. Microsoft’s new management solution, Systems Center 2012, offers deep integration with Hyper-V for advanced management.
    • Heavy emphasis on multi-tenancy A fundamental for deploying clouds, either as an internal private cloud or as a service provider offering shared cloud services, the ability to securely and efficiently handle multiple tenants on the cloud is a fundamental requirement. WS2012 has multiple features to enhance this capability, most of which will also be potentially useful for traditional enterprise IT environments as well. Security across the entire OS is integrated with these enhancements as well.
    • Client and remote office functions Improved management of client devices to allow centralized control of data and enhanced audit and compliance. Improvements in Branch Cache remote file services will allow tighter and more efficient management of data served to remote offices.


    What Does It Mean For IT And I&O?

    There is no doubt that this is the most significant jump in OS capabilities since Microsoft first introduced Windows as a server OS. It appears to me, based on numerous contacts with Microsoft and conversations with several Beta users, that this is essentially a complete rewrite of the OS, involving 1000s of developers over at least five years and probably somewhere between 40 and 50 million lines of code. So should everyone rush out to deploy it widely across your company? Heck no. It’s new, will have bugs, and like any major release, will certainly need some updates to stabilize it (that said, my impression from Beta users is that this is the cleanest OS release Microsoft has ever done, so I may be being overly cautious regarding early production deployment).

    But, and this is critical, you must begin to evaluate and pilot it even if you are still completing your rollout of Windows Server 2008, as many Forrester clients still are. My guess is that WS2012 is the future of Windows OS, and will probably serve as the core of Microsoft’s strategy for the next decade. I doubt their ability to produce a radical upgrade to this in the next four or five years, and even the next version of the OS is likely to look like WS2012. This implies that you need to understand how this new OS will change and enable your strategic IT road map, particularly since the new OS has features and capabilities that, if properly exploited by you (or by your competitors), could generate real competitive differentiation such as the ability to deploy applications more rapidly, manage them more efficiently, etc.

    How Does This Change Competitive Industry Dynamics?

    Aside from an impressive array of new features, this OS could have the same transformative impact on the industry as the first release of Windows server did, directly addressing Microsoft’s strategy to become a major player in the cloud (both enterprise and public), and changing the dynamics of the emerging competitive battle with VMware as both attempt to become the center of what VMware has begun marketing as the "software-defined data center” (look for an upcoming research note from me
    on this topic). The vision of the software-defined data center, a term which I believe will assume some general currency as a description of a fully virtualized network, server, and storage capability that allows easy definition and deployment of complex virtual infrastructure that spans enterprise and public execution spaces as required, will become the locus of competition between Microsoft and VMware as well as other vendors over the next two years. I&O groups should expect continued innovations from both vendors, along with attempts by each to subsume the management of the other’s VMs in an effort to become the end-to-end enterprise virtualization framework.

    From a tactical perspective, I don’t expect large numbers of users to abandon their investment in VMware and march to Hyper-V and its shiny new tools and capabilities, because migrations between functionally similar platforms are generally an inefficient investment of resources. However, because the two platforms are now much more functionally equivalent under WS2012, VMware will face a resurgent competition from Microsoft for new workloads and major infrastructure transformation projects. Consumers of this technology can expect to maintain lively and intense competition between two capable suppliers, which is always good for users' pocketbooks as well as serving as a goad to continued innovation.


    As noted above, there is no need to derail migrations to WS2008, but just about everyone who uses Windows should evaluate this new release. For those whose migration plans are scheduled for next year or later, WS2012 may be the target platform, depending on how aggressively Microsoft can garner support from ISVs. As with WS2008, consider running older OS and software stacks within a VM, particularly given the improvements to the overall Hyper-V environment. For users contemplating a major new cloud or virtualization project or initiative, WS2012 should be the platform of choice, and any preconceived notions about Microsoft versus VMware for the virtualization layer need to be re-examined.

  • FE blog

    Day two at ALT-C 2012


    Another excellent day was had by Microsoft at ALT-C today, with lots of great sessions and  discussions.


    In the main theatre, the day started with Kirstie Coollin from Nottingham University, talking about ePortfolio for employability. Kirstie began by explaining how the Centre for International ePortfolio Development (CIEPD) supports students, including giving them access to placements and internships, experience, and access to employers, SMEs and social enterprise.

    Students from Derby were quoted “ePortfolio is a tool for marketing ourselves to differentiate us to employers’’. Kirtsie then went on to describe what students and employers want, and how employer engagement is important.

    Next up was probably my favourite session of the day from three guys (sorry didn't catch your full names!) from Bridgend college. Their presentation was about using Facebook to create learning communities without the cost of a hosted solution.

    The college are using Facebook groups as an alternative to Moodle to communicate with students, and they described many reasons why this works for them. They explained that all of their students were Facebook users anyway so they were familiar with the platform and were logged on regularly. Closed Facebook groups were the best way for the college to use social networking.


    The advantages included that there was access to the Facebook groups 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it is a free platform. There is great availability from mobiles and devices which means that the groups are really accessible for the students.

    Bridgend college create the groups in a way that there is no friending needed between students and teachers (a concern for many), and the groups are managed by tutors to make sure they are being used in the correct way.

    The college said that in some ways using Facebook was better than face to face as it meant continuous learning, and less vocal students in class could express their opinions more comfortably within the online groups. They also showed a nice video of a student saying how the Facebook groups had worked for him.

    There were some passionate discussions following questions from the audience, but in general I think everyone agreed the college showed that social networking works really well in education.

    Brian Mulligan followed with Open learning Badging. He started by explaining that education assessment is currently weak and that grades don’t guarantee competency. He showed  examples of the badging system and explained that employers are driving this concept. They like it because of the ease of verification, the detailed info they can get and that it is mastery / competency based.

    Another great session before lunch was Guy Saward from the University of Hertfordshire on integration of social media in to learning environments – desire, opportunity or threat? Guy has implemented a lovely system where he has connected VLE to social media feeds to give information to students in a place they are regularly present, for example Facebook and Twitter.


    Guy gave us a cool demo on how this works using RSS feeds and dlvr.it, which then sends the information to social networks he has set up on Facebook and Twitter, which students regularly view. It was a brilliant demo and another nice example of how social media is working in learning environments.

    After lunch, Natasa Milic-Frayling from Microsoft research gave a keynote speech on Network analysis - why it matters, how we do it, and what we can learn from it. Natasa is a qualified mathematician and is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research.


    Natasa made some excellent points about social media and how building social networks requires good hardware infrastructure as well as human engagement. She showed lots of ways in which networking is measured and how we can extract networks. She showed us how we can analayse Social Media Networks withNodeXL and gave us a good example of how networking works on social site Flickr.

    The Microsoft sponsor session in the afternoon was led by Mauli Arora from the University of West London. Her presentation was on UWL’s journey into the cloud.  She explained how the university had completed an excellent rollout of Office 365 for education, and she started with a product demo of Office 365 for SharePoint, a portal used by the university.

    Mauli also showed us my site, which is a personalised website for students where they can access their own email, blog, marks and more. They can also have links to ‘my school’ which sends them directly to content about what they are studying.

    My site helps with collaboration and encourages students to discuss topics in groups online. The feedback from staff and students has been phenomenal, Mauli explained, and she also linked to a nice video about Office 365 at UWL.

    So a very interesting day again, now time for the drinks and the gala dinner awards ceremony!

  • FE blog

    Windows Intune June 2012 Release Getting Started Guide


    Windows Intune is an integrated, cloud-based client management solution that provides tools, reports, and upgrade licenses to the latest version of Windows. Windows Intune helps keep your computers up-to-date and secure, and lets your users more securely access and install targeted licensed software applications and perform other common tasks, from virtually anywhere.

    This guide describes key concepts that can help you start learning how to get the most out of Windows Intune. It includes step-by-step instructions to help you set up a new Windows Intune environment and selected tasks to complete so that you can explore the range of features in Windows Intune.

    The full guide can be viewed below. Alternatively, you can download the guide via our SlideShare account.

  • FE blog

    Improvements to DreamSpark and FREE store access for Windows 8 student developers


    Originally posted on the UK Faculty Connection Blog.

    Today we are announcing the following changes to www.dreamspark.com

    1. An new site design which is the result of improvements to the user experience based on internal and external feedback. Notably creating more clarity around the fact that the DreamSpark program is both a direct to student program and a subscription based program for academic institutions. As a result we have created two hubs with distinctive colour branding through the site to direct users to the right information and software access depending on their role:

    a. DreamSpark for Students – direct access to the individual students experience (www.dreamspark.com/Student/default.aspx )

    b. DreamSpark for Academic Institutions – information about the DreamSpark subscription such as program benefits, EULAs, usage guidelines, and the steps to purchase a subscription etc. (www.dreamspark.com/Institution/Subscription.aspx )

    The site today is going live in English only. Customers selecting other languages will fall back to English UI. The DreamSpark team are working as fast as we can to launch the localized versions. They should become available in the week of 24th of Sept.


    As part of this site redesign we are rebranding the DreamSpark subscription to DreamSpark Standard in response to the feedback received by customers and to avoid confusion with DreamSpark for students.

    2. The new site has shifted from focusing purely on software downloads to bringing tools and resources related to development on our platforms (Windows 8, Windows Phone and Games) and most importantly a new section under Student dedicated to App Development) also accessible from the Student sub-navigation .


    3. A page dedicated to Windows 8 App Development where students can find the resources and tools they need to start developing Windows 8 apps, including a pointer to downloading the getting started guide. .

    clip_image006 clip_image008

    4. Free access for students to the Windows Store: From the Windows 8 App Development page, users will be direct to the Windows Store Access Page on DreamSpark where they can verify their user status and then get a Registration code to use in the Windows Store to register for FREE.

    clip_image010 clip_image012

    Additional Resources

    a. Overview of the DreamSpark program explaining what it is? www.dreamspark.com/what-is-dreamspark.aspx

    b. New Software Deployment guide for institutions, www.dreamspark.com/Institution/Software-Deployment-Guide-en-us.pdf , detailing step by step how administrators can provide software access to students, faculty and labs via a DreamSpark MSDN Subscriber Portal and ELMS Webstores

    c. ELMS overview: www.dreamspark.com/Institution/ELMS-Overview.aspx

    d. DreamSpark Standard usage guidelines page added to academic institution overview section, www.dreamspark.com/Institution/DS-Usage-Guidelines.aspx

    e. DreamSpark Premium usage guidelines page added to academic institution overview section, www.dreamspark.com/Institution/DSP-Usage-Guidelines.aspx

    f. STEM definition page, www.dreamspark.com/Institution/STEM.aspx

    g. New DreamSpark Standard EULA:www.dreamspark.com/Institution/DS-EULA.aspx

    h. DreamSpark Premium EULA page to www.dreamspark.com/Institution/DSP-EULA.aspx

    i. Revised FAQ’s; more information, more relevant to each audience (student, educator, and institution) accessible from top nav bar.

    j. Separation of Student support from Subscription support with two dedicated pages: www.dreamspark.com/student/support.aspx and www.dreamspark.com/Institution/Support.aspx

    k.  DreamSpark for Academic Institution, and the Academic Institution Hub nav bar explaining how access an existing subscription:


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