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December, 2013

  • FE blog

    What a Year it’s been with Microsoft Education

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    Guest post by Education writer Gerald Haigh

    In the various blogs and articles I’ve written during 2013 I have concentrated, perhaps inevitably, on devices and systems – tablets, hybrids, Windows 8, the various features of Office 365, SharePoint. In the process, I’ve learned from some fascinating people. So I thought at this, the turning of the year, you might allow me to mention one or two of them again, without having to dwell too much on the techie things that they taught me. But where do I start? Or rather, with whom?

    Why not with Kirsty Tonks, E-Learning Director at Shireland Collegiate Academy? If you want someone who knows how to put learning first, with technology in support, then look no further. She fizzes with enthusiasm for learning, is ever ready to talk about it, and has as complete an understanding as you could find of what technology for learning is all about. A phone conversation with Kirsty is as good as a CPD course I’d say.

    She started her career, I notice, in primary, and as a one-time primary person myself I’d say that it shows. I’ve met numerous secondary heads over the years who have spoken about the value of bringing teachers on board from the primary sector. But then, it probably works the other way too. There are secondary teachers who have a lot to offer in primary classrooms and staffrooms. Maybe school leaders need to be a bit more adventurous about appointing from other sectors – and teachers a bit bolder about applying.

    Kirsty’s one of a number of people I spoke to during the year about some of the quite dramatic changes that are happening to technology in school. We’re moving to a world of one-to-one devices, software on tap from the cloud, anytime anywhere learning, transformation of communication, all neatly delivered with Office 365.

    prev_prev_Skype13_Photo_School-Friends.jpgAmong other Office 365 enthusiasts I ought to mention Tom Mannion of St Birinus School in Didcot. Tom’s role is to lead colleagues through the school’s implementation of Civica’s Office 365, SharePoint 2013 –based ‘Cloudbase’ learning environment. As an Advanced Skills Teacher he has an interesting and, I guess, slightly unusual job, a mixture of coaching, troubleshooting, motivating, supporting, persuading – very much centred on people rather than technology. Although he certainly has to know about the technology and what it can do.

    What I liked about Tom was the amount of confidence he shows in his colleagues, encouraging them to take ‘no blame’ risks with ICT in their lessons. There’s a fine line to tread here, because if people experience failure it can make them reluctant to try again, but I just get the feeling from Tom that he’ll carry people along, convincing them that everything will be fine, and if it isn’t, no worries, he’ll help them to sort it out.

    Another enthusiastic evangelist I came across isn’t a teacher at all. Angela Bingham is Admissions and Customer Service Manager at West Suffolk College. In the highly competitive Further Education world, her combination of responsibilities is a very big deal – Angela looks after the enrolment of 2,500 students each year, and her main working tool is one of the Surface tablets that the College chose instead of iPads. She takes hers to meetings, constantly using OneNote to keep her notes and action points organised. Now she’s convincing everyone she meets that Surface is the tablet they need.

    ‘I’m not a techie,’ She says, in the blog I wrote back in April, ‘I was a notebook and pen person. With the ‘Surface RT’ you need only limited training and then you’re ready to go.’

    Quite a few FE Colleges have taken to Windows 8 tablets. Liverpool Community College, for example, bought a large number of Lenovo tablets, and I talked to one lecturer – John Bainbridge in Business Studies -- who found that his new ability to record video and audio of students talking about their work was making a huge difference to the assessment process. His excitement on the phone was a real pleasure to experience.

    ‘Some students who were going to fail will pass. Some who were going to pass will get merits. Some who were going to get merits will get distinctions, ’ said John.

    What better testimonial could Microsoft and Lenovo have than that?

    The biggest delight of all, of course, has been meeting students. They’re always well ahead of the game when it comes to technology. What a pleasure it was, for example, to see the Kodu Kup competition, in July, won by an all girl team from Afon Taf High School, whose presentation included an impassioned plea for more gender equality in the programming industry. The teams were wonderfully looked after at Thames Valley Park with lots of child-centred refreshments.

    ‘Put your hand up if you had four chocolate lollies’, said Microsoft's Stuart Ball whose good-humoured hosting was great to see. I love the fact that he took all the entrants out for a walk while the judges conferred.

    Then there were Kodu experts at Dunstall Hill primary in Wolverhampton, competing to create the most ferocious game they could manage.

    ‘It’s called “Mission Impossible”, because it is,’ one child said, of his friend’s creation.

    Most impressive of all, perhaps, were the presentations made to Microsoft visitors by the young digital leaders at Priory School in Portsmouth last May. The best bit, I’d say, was Robbie, of Year Nine explaining the school’s move to ‘Bring Your Own Device’

    ‘There used to be a “no phones” policy and now laptops, tablets and mobiles are widely accepted,’ said Robbie. ‘We helped with that, and Mr Rogers (a teacher) was the engine to make it happen. It was a matter of convincing everyone, changing opinions.’

    Oh to have been a fly on the wall…..

    Robbie and his friends also told us about the Priory school bench – the only school bench in the world with its own Twitter account (‘ @priorybench I’m in the hall, come sit on me.’) The bench seems to have gone to sleep since May, incidentally, which seems a shame.

    Looking at what I’ve written here, and then at the notes I’ve made on my various jobs during the year, it hardly seems fair that I’ve mentioned so few people. There been so many great encounters you see, with teachers, leaders, support staff, Microsoft friends, Microsoft partner businesses, the list goes on. What a privilege it is to poke my nose into the working and learning lives of our nation’s educators. And what a wealth there is out there of talent, expertise, good humour and dedication to the task of improving the life chances of our young people. All I can do is tell the stories, spread the word a bit. So now I look forward to 2014, and the chance to meet old friends again and make lots of new ones.

     

    From all of us at Microsoft Education we wish you a very Merry Christmas, and look forward to connecting in the New Year.

  • FE blog

    Cost and Energy saving with Windows at West Wycombe Combined School.

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     Guest post written by Education writer Gerald Haigh.

    West Wycombe Combined School, a one-form entry primary school of approximately 200 children, uses Microsoft technology and up-to-date hardware to improve its ICT infrastructure, save money and reduce its carbon footprint.

    If you put in more computers, then your electricity bill will go up and, inevitably, so will your carbon footprint. Isn’t that obvious?

    Well, actually no. If you are replacing old equipment with new and – here’s the key point – if you make the right choices of software and hardware then both the financial and environmental costs can go down even if you substantially expand your computing infrastructure.

    Right from the introduction of Windows 7, through into Windows 8, schools have reported energy savings from their new systems. In the Summer of 2013, a decision by West Wycombe Combined School to renew its IT infrastructure provided the ideal opportunity to gather supporting ‘before and after’ figures on energy use and carbon emissions.

    Help the planet and save money

    Alison Cobb, West Wycombe’s head, was clear from the start that energy efficiency was high on the agenda for the new installation.

    ‘We wanted eco-friendly machines, to minimise noise, and, of course electricity consumption,’ she says.

    The school’s existing provision of 38 desktop machines was eight years old, running Windows XP. A computer suite of fifteen machines served all curriculum needs.

    Over the 2013 Summer holidays, the IT provision was completely replaced by ‘Turn IT On’, specialists in IT supply and support for primary schools. www.turniton.co.uk

    ‘We ordered fifty computers,’ says Alison Cobb. ‘Our site isn’t physically suited to laptop trolleys so we kept the computer suite but with thirty machines instead of fifteen – one for each child. We added a new computer in each of our seven classrooms, and three in the library. The remainder are for administration and staff use. ‘

    By September, IT provision was transformed – a completely new Windows 7 wireless network, with a new up to date Microsoft server, 50 computers instead of 38, including a computer suite with 30 desktops instead of 15. But would the aim of reducing energy use be achieved? And by how much?

    ‘Turn IT On’, always focused on value for money, were confident of the potential of their installation, and contacted Microsoft. As a result, the Microsoft UK Education and Environmental Sustainability team made careful measurements and calculations of both the previous and the new installations.

    The results, make reading that’s both surprising and very encouraging for any school looking at a significant IT upgrade. Headline comparative figures show that West Wycombe’s old system cost £2,164 annually to run while the annual cost of the new system, by contrast, will be £1086. The comparative before and after figures for CO2 emissions are, respectively 12,409 and 5,747 kg.

    Those figures cover the whole of the IT infrastructure, including laptops, projectors, server and routers. In each case, the new/old comparisons consistently show energy costs and emissions halved. As you’d expect, though, the biggest cost is that of the school’s network of desktop computers. Previously, under the old system, 38 desktops were costing £1598 a year to run, accounting for 9,158kg of CO2 emissions. Now, 50 desktops will cost £729 a year, with 3,996 kg of CO2. (A case study with more detail is in preparation. We’ll be giving a link when it’s available.)

    Brett and Harry add pupil voice

    Two of West Wycombe’s year six pupils, Brett and Harry have done their own analysis, adding detail to the conclusions by providing costs related just to the computer suite and making environmental comparisons.

    ‘New PCs use about half the power of our old PCs,’ they conclude, pointing out that the new suite, with 30 computers, will cost £667 a year, which is less than the £694 cost of the 15 machines in the old suite. Brett and Harry have also usefully put the CO2 emission figures in proportion with a number of examples. In one, they demonstrate, for example, that the old suite of 15 machines was responsible for one whole car’s worth of CO2, almost twice as much as their new suite of 30.

    Click here to view Brett and Harry’s presentation.

    How it is achieved

    There are two related factors at work. One is that Windows 7 and 8 were developed with power-saving in mind – they process data more efficiently, using less electricity than any of their predecessors. They also incorporate power management features, ensuring that devices are switched off when they’re not being used. At the same time, the latest hardware is more energy-efficient than the equipment that’s being replaced. Added together, the impact on a school which, in common with all schools is both highly budget-conscious and environmentally responsible is very significant. West Wycombe’s saving of £1078 a year is a welcome teaching and learning bonus of £154 for each of its seven classes. ‘Turn IT On’ Commercial Manager Nigel Starkey says,

    ‘This project has clearly demonstrated how new equipment with the right level of support and training can not only raise standards of teaching and learning in a school, but also save schools significant sums of money year on year."

    The impact

    West Wycombe’s new system, quite apart from saving money and being eco-friendly, is having a significant effect on teaching and learning. As Alison Cobb says, a computer suite of 15 desktops, with two children working together on each can work, but there is very little leeway.

    ‘The suite was four years old, and there were times when some didn’t work and so there would be three on a computer. Now, teachers say it is a joy to teach with each child on their own machine. It is definitely impacting on teaching and learning.’

    ‘Turn IT On’ www.turniton.co.uk

  • FE blog

    Excitement for 300 schools at the Tablet for Schools Conference 2013!

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    Monday morning madness

    Monday 9th December welcomed a peaceful morning, with Winter sunshine lazily falling through the windows of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, gilding the Microsoft Education stand. With the Tablets for Schools Conference just an hour from commencing, the Microsoft Education team logistically (and mentally) prepped themselves for what was soon to be an exciting, and, admittedly, slightly frenetic buzz of activity.

    By 8.30am, half an hour before the conference officially started, the queue of schools lining up at the Microsoft stand was impressive, and would have potentially challenged that of a Euro Disney roller-coaster ride at the same time in the morning…

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    And round the corner…

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    Why the queuing?

    We are delighted to announce that for the first time, just under 300 schools attending the Tablet for Schools Conference were each given a free Surface RT, complete with touch keyboard, by Microsoft Education to take back to the classroom. You might be asking yourself, why would Microsoft gave away FREE devices? After all, there's no such thing as a free lunch!

    Well as it happens, there can be, and the reason is simple - educating the young and talented leaders of the future. We strongly believe that technology can empower students from a young age to have a more equal education, appealing to all the different learning styles, and therefore inspire more young people to grasp opportunities in higher education and pursue fulfilling careers.

    To expand, Microsoft Education have heavily invested in providing students around the UK with opportunities to enhance their learning at schools, with resources such as Education Apps to engage learning across the curriculum, Kodu, simple game-creation software using image coding to design games, to DreamSpark which provides students with professional-level coding and programming software to build apps for the Windows 8 store and create games. These resources are simultaneously, importantly designed for teachers to use to populate lessons with fun and engaging tools.

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    With an abundance of free solutions available to students and teachers, we are passionate about providing students and teachers with a suitable platform to be able to bring to life these resources in school and beyond, via our flexible work/play Surfaces and Windows 8 devices.

    The beauty of the Surface RT and Surface 2 is that not only do they come with great features such as Windows 8/8.1, Office 365 and its fantastic apps (Lync, Word, Excel, OneNote etc), but the tablet will support programmes such as Kodu and Touch Develop for students to directly code and design apps from their Surface. So no longer is there a need to have two devices to work and play!

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    The Conference

    The Tablet for Schools Conference welcomed in teachers from schools from all over the UK to provide them with practical experience for using tablets in the classroom.

    Tablets for Schools have spent two years researching and providing thought leadership on the use of tablets in schools, and their recent Stage 3 report examines their impact.

    The conference provided a variety of speeches from the likes of Rt Hon David Blunkett (former Secretary of State for Education), insightful workshops and exhibitioners to educate teachers on the diverse and practical ways that tablets can be used in the classroom and the importance they play in Education today.

    The Microsoft Stand

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    At the Microsoft Education stand, we demoed some of our most efficient Windows 8 devices, such as the Surface Pro 2, the Lenovo Yoga ultrabook, the Dell XPS DUO 12, the Acer S7 ultrabook and Acer W510P tablet. The delegates were able to see some of the unique Windows 8.1 features such as the 'Split Screen' feature, enabling students and teachers to have two documents/browser pages/apps open at the same time - ideal for researching while writing essays or reports.

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    Along with the 300 Surfaces which we gave out to schools, we provided our Surface RT User Guide and usb sticks with some great and useful Microsoft Education resources, whose location are listed below in our Starter Guide:

    Opportunities to come and try out Windows 8.1 devices at BETT Show

    Microsoft Education will be showcasing at BETT Show from 22nd-25th January at the Excel Centre, where a vast array of our Windows 8.1 devices, Windows 8.1 apps and solutions will all be on show for you to come and try out for yourself.

    We look forward to seeing you there!

  • FE blog

    Office 365 Education Scenario. Building a portal.

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    Monday morning at Golightly Academy, and a teacher on a mission pops in to see the head.

    ‘Elspeth, Now we have Office 365, I think we could rethink the whole of the school’s online presence. For example, we can have a portal.

    ‘A whatll?’

    ‘A portal. Of you could call it a gateway if you like. I was talking to some of the staff from St Mary’s at the weekend. They’ve got this great thing going. The students log in first thing and there’s their own personalised page, with links they can click on to all sorts of stuff. It has reminders of their timetable, when course work’s due. They can change it to suit themselves, with their own profile, and it looks really good, branded with the school logo and everything. The staff have their own version, with timetables, meeting notifications, anything they need. It all looks great.’

    ‘How do you know?’

    ‘I saw it.’

    ‘What, you went to St Mary’s?

    ‘No, Jack Wilkins, the deputy, showed it me on his phone in the pub.’

    ‘How could he do that?’

    ‘Because the whole thing is on the internet. The users can get to it with their own password with any device that will get them on line – computer, tablet, phone. Students think it’s very cool and 21st Century. Jack Wilkins logs in on the way to school. He has a lift with another teacher so he can sit there getting an idea of what’s going to be happening that day, and adding announcements if necessary. Gives him a great start. Then there’s parent access.’

    ‘That sounds good. Time we improved home-school links.’

    ‘Well, this way, we give parents access to their own part of the portal, so they can keep up to date on their children’s progress and find out what’s going on. We’ll save on efficiency and paper, and generally be much more parent friendly.’

    ‘All well and good, but a bit of a headache for our lot in the IT department. Sounds expensive too. The guys downstairs will be asking for money for new servers and software what have you, and frankly we have little slack in the budget.’

    ‘Now, Elspeth, here’s the good news. We won’t need new servers, in fact we won’t need anything in school, because the whole lot is based on Microsoft Office 365. It’s a cloud service hosted by Microsoft, free to schools.’

    ‘When you say free……?

    Office 365 is free to schools. That saves a huge amount of money in equipment and maintenance. To be realistic, we’ll probably need to pay for consultancy and expertise to get the portal tailored for us.

    That’s what St Mary’s did and they feel it was a good cost-effective decision because what they now have is proving to be a great boost for the students and the staff. They waste less time and work more efficiently. And in the end they’ll save on paper and printing.’

    This scenario was put together with advice from Steve Eyton-Jones, Professional Services Director of Microsoft Partner ‘Novotronix’.

  • FE blog

    Introducing Windows Azure for IT Professionals eBook

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    The folks over at Microsoft Press have created this awesome eBook titled ‘Introducing Windows Azure for IT Professionals’.

    Whether you are new to Azure or already using it within your institution, this eBook is packed full of useful content that can help guide and shape your use of Azure moving forward.

  • FE blog

    Great British Type Off (infographic)

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  • FE blog

    A Schoolboy's App Development Journey…

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    Account written by Ross Lowe, 13 year old developer.

    Initially, when presented with the task of creating an app for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8, it all seemed a bit daunting. Whilst I have been programming on Windows for many years, I recently made the switch from Windows to mac. I also began to develop for iOS. So creating apps for windows required me to first understand Windows 8, then to understand a relatively new programming language.

    MSC13_Surface_03Some say that Windows 8 has 'a steep learning curve', but I beg to differ. Using the Operating System with a mouse was not alien to me, and all previous Windows users should find the transformation a doddle. Sure, it has a new start screen. Sure, some things are different. But many of us have the idea that change is bad - myself, previously, included.

    Despite initially seeing the metro UI and freezing, I got straight to work and downloaded everything I needed. My first idea for an app, a map of space, came to me when watching a TV show on space. From there, I began to code in a language known to me - JavaScript - and after a couple of days created a tiny, working concept with a single planet. A few weeks later I had mapped the entire Solar System and smoothed out the system.

    I had the idea for the second app, 'face the facts', when walking between lessons at school. It was a "wouldn't it be cool if..." moment, and that night I had made an early concept. Thinking about it, it is revolutionary that now even a child can come up with an idea, and after a couple of days bring it to life using the powerful tools provided by Visual Studio - although I have been programming for many years, a complete beginner could write an app in TouchDevelop or ZippApp. And with DreamSpark, teachers can literally provide everything students need to start making stunning content (the next killer app?) in minutes.

    I am still working on my apps, but I am pleased with progress so far.

    It has only been a few weeks, and yet in that time I have learnt Windows 8.1, C#, and partially made two apps. Every child could make an app - I would have been so excited by the concept of making apps in my ICT class and seeing whose got most downloads.

    I am loving every minute of developing for Windows, and whilst this may sound a bit cliché, it is ultimately true: when creating apps for Windows using some of the many tools available, the only limit is your imagination.

  • FE blog

    The Surface RT User Guide

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    getting started

    With Christmas just round the corner, and the promise of a new term on the horizon, we can anticipate that stockings and then school bags and brief cases will be brimming with new devices, perhaps even a Surface RT or two!

    We therefore want to prep you all with a nice and easy user guide to get your Surfaces fired up and to equip you and your students with some great Microsoft Education free tools to make learning fun and interactive.

    kodu logo      Autocollage             Project Spark

    Ultimately, our Surface RT Starter Guide will help you and your students get the most out of your Surface RT's and illustrate the diverse range of Education software and apps that function beautifully on this device. From Kodu to AutoCollage and Project Spark, there are many Education programmes that can make lessons, including computer science, fun and easy for students to learn from their brand new Surface RT’s!

     

  • FE blog

    Friday Blogs Overview

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    We’ve had some great stories and content to share with you this week, which I’d like to recap so you don’t miss any of the good stuff.

    Indulge in some insightful experiences, including a school that has improved collaborative learning with Office 365 Education and Yammer, to an insight from students on how they like to use Office 365 Education in the classroom.

    Enjoy!

    Free Surface Devices for the first 300 institutions attending Tablets for Schools Conference

    What schools need to know about Office 365 Education (and what you can get for free)

    Office 365 Education: Ask the OffPerts

    T&L e-zine: Wymondham High School start using Office 365 and Yammer

    Let the techies do the tech. You, with your colleagues, are leaders of learning

    Office 365 Education: Ask the Expert

     

    Eager Students

  • FE blog

    Free Surface Devices for the first 300 institutions attending Tablets for Schools Conference.

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    We’ve promoted this great conference before but were now thrilled to announce that Microsoft Education UK will be giving away 300 surface devices to schools at the conference.

    On Monday 9th December 2013 Tablets for Schools will be holding their first conference at the QEII in Westminster. The focus will be on providing delegates with practical experience for using tablets in the classroom.

    Register for the Conference Here

    All proceeds from the conference will be re-invested into the next stages of research. Tablets for Schools have spent two years researching and providing thought leadership on the use of tablets in schools, and their recent Stage 3 report examines their impact. 

    If you would like to be in with a chance to receive one of the Surface RT’s on offer please see the note linked here and bring the completed agreement form to the event. Due to regulations we will be unable to give away devices to schools that haven’t completed this form.

    Please see below our list of speakers for the day.

    Rt Hon David Blunkett MP (former Secretary of State for Education)

    Mathew Hancock MP  (Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise)

    Dr. Barbie Clarke (Managing Director, Family Kids and Youth).

    Andrew Harrison (CEO, Carphone Warehouse).

    Sebastian James (Group CEO, Dixons Retail Plc).

    Professor Colleen McLaughlin (University of Sussex and University of Cambridge)

    Professor David Buckingham (University of Loughborough)

    Andrew Percy MP  - Host

    To find out more about the conference and how it could add value to teaching and learning in your school or college visit the website here.

    Check out this fun video for more information about the Tablets for Schools Initiative.

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