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  • FE blog

    Learning at the edge of chaos


    By Aimee Riordan, March 20, 2014

    Imagine a school without walls, textbooks or teachers, where children are inspired to learn by their own sense of wonder. That’s what Sugata Mitra dreamt when he first placed a computer into a hole in a wall in a Kalkaji, Delhi slum.

    In doing so, Mitra, now a professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, discovered something extraordinary: Without any outside instruction, the students used the computer, and its connection to the Internet, to teach themselves about the world around them.

    What’s more, they taught each other.

    Fifteen years later, Mitra is embarking on an ambitious mission to bring the School in the Cloud and the Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) to students around the world. And he’s using Microsoft technology to make it happen.

    Mitra won the 2013 TED Prize, from the nonprofit devoted to cultivating ideas about Technology, Education and Design. This week, at a TED conference in Vancouver, B.C., he’s announcing the opening of five School in the Cloud labs in India and the United Kingdom and launching the accompanying digital platform, made possible by Microsoft, which enables anyone anywhere to host cloud-based learning.


    The man behind the social cloud watches Sugata Mitra, watches a self organised
    learning environment on Skype.

    Mitra calls self-organized education “learning at the edge of chaos.”

    “There is a space in between the complete order and the complete chaos, where something strange happens, the kind of environment that causes dust devils to form,” he says. “When you look at children learning by themselves, it’s so non-intuitive. It struck me that if you create a chaotic learning environment with children, a situation with just the right amount of chaos, you get spontaneous order.”

    Mitra recalls a SOLE session in the UK where he wrote a quadratic equation on the board and asked the students, none of whom had ever been exposed to algebra, to answer this: What is the value of “x”?

    “They came back 15 minutes later and said, ‘That is algebra. That’s a quadratic equation. And x doesn’t have one value. It has two.’ That coming from 12-year-olds was too much for me.”

    While we think of traditional learning happening over months or years, in self-organized learning, it happens in minutes, Mitra explains. “When children work in groups in the presence of the Internet, SOLE acts as a lens, a magnifier of intellect.”

    imageThe School in the Cloud is a unique Microsoft effort, not only because of its groundbreaking philosophy, but also because of its reach. With Skype, Office, Azure, Bing, Xbox, Surface and OEM partners, the project touches nearly every corner of the company.

    Wendy Norman, director of social good at Skype, calls it an unprecedented cross collaboration.

    “Many areas of the company are reaching out as they hear about this and wanting to be a part of it,” she says. “This is truly one of the largest One Microsoft deployments around social good.”

    Students use Skype to connect with each other and with retired teacher volunteers the children call “Skype Grannies.” They employ Bing for search and Office products like PowerPoint to help them distill and present what they learn. Ultimately, Xbox or Surface, with Skype built in, may house the entire experience.

    Mitra says he uses Windows because students like the operating system and find it intuitively easy to learn. He adds that Skype was a natural fit because of its video presentation capabilities.

    School in the Cloud fits squarely within the mission of YouthSpark, Microsoft’s corporate citizenship initiative, says Akhtar Badshah, senior director, citizenship and public affairs at Microsoft.

    It’s another example of how technology can transform lives.

    “This is a great partnership that allows us to bring our resources and our technology to a platform that may have global impact,” Badshah says, adding that the School in the Cloud will likely evolve in ways we can’t yet imagine.

    It could become a tool to teach children the basics of programming, for example. “Not about just writing code, but fundamentally changing the way people learn,” he says.

    Microsoft funded construction of the platform: a website intended to connect and extend the community. It features information about how to get started and guidance for asking the big questions while searching the Internet. “This is what children want,” says Skype’s Norman. “They want to solve big problems. They don’t want to be talked to. They want to be a part of it.”

    School in the Cloud is a great equalizer, she adds. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the richest area of the world or the poorest. Children can still gain value.”

    Cloud-based learning may be the only classroom for a student in rural India. While, in an American city, it might enable an after-school program to offer more than just playtime in an open gym.

    “This is taking the simplest thing about children, that insatiable curiosity, and bringing it to life,” Norman says.

    imageAmy Dickinson has seen this happen first hand. She’s head of design, technology and art at the UK’s George Stephenson High School, home to the first School in the Cloud lab.

    There, the children “have the opportunity to use SOLE to develop their collaboration skills, independent learning styles and give them the love of learning and curiosity they need to be successful in school and beyond,” she says.

    Dickinson adds that students are much more engaged when they are allowed to be in control.

    “It’s unique. It’s simple. It’s for the kids by the kids,” she says. “It allows them to explore, share information, and there is no threat of failure. They motivate each other.”

    Suneeta Kulkarni, the India-based research director for the School in the Cloud Project, agrees that allowing children to discover an idea and arrive at their own conclusions is a “tremendous motivating factor.”

    Kulkarni says the broader impact of the School in the Cloud initiative will likely be seen 5, 10 or 15 years down the road, but she notes that there is already anecdotal evidence of the approach’s success.

    One student, who participated in a 2008-2009 SOLE in Hyderabad, India and continued to be mentored by a Skype Granny, is now studying medicine in the Philippines.

    “And it’s not just a question of what he’s studying,” Kulkari says, “But the way it has impacted his orientation, the way he learned to see life and the acceptance he now has for many different cultures and ways of thinking.”

    Sugata Mitra in front of one of the newest School in the Cloud labs in Korakati, India.

    Sugata Mitra in front of one of the newest School in the Cloud labs in Korakati, India.

    The UK- and India-based schools in the cloud are part of a three-year research project during which data will be collected on reading comprehension, ability to search the Internet and overall problem-solving skills.

    As the results become known, Mitra hopes governments will be inspired to fund more of these brick-and-mortar extensions that bring self-organized learning to remote areas of the world.

    In the meantime, anyone with an Internet connection can conduct a SOLE using the platform released this week. Its availability is uniquely in step with an evolving theory of how children learn.

    “As we continue to drive education forward, we're going to see the learning environment evolve from a physical location to an anywhere, anytime experience,” says Anthony Salcito, vice president of worldwide education at Microsoft. “A cloud-based school is one example of how we're taking that step beyond the classroom, into an environment where students can learn the 21st-century skills that will be critical to their success."

  • FE blog

    Interactive Classrooms at Naace 2014


    Written by Mark Yorke, Managing Director, Tablet Academy

    It's just over a week now since the NAACE Conference at East Midlands Conference Centre where myself and my colleagues from the Tablet Academy had the pleasure of supporting Microsoft on their exhibition stand, plus the opportunity to lead a workshop on the benefits on Windows 8 tablets in education.

    The event was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues, share ideas and meet teachers making use of technology in new and innovative ways. After a slow start and a few discussions I began to realise many people dismissed the Microsoft stand due to pre-conceived opinions like "It's Microsoft, I know what they do, they're all about the infrastructure and office..."

    I found this frustrating until we ran our hands-on workshop around 'Using Windows 8 tablets in the classroom'. For me these hands-on workshops make people realise that Windows 8 tablets do offer a complete solution for education, enabling teachers to use existing IT practices, software and resources whilst offering access to new Apps enabling changes in pedagogy.

    imageWithin the interactive workshop we only had time to cover the operating system, CreateBook (for producing eBooks) and Kodu (teaching the computing curriculum), but after the workshop and a keynote presentation from my business partner Steve Molyneux people could see why we were confident to recommend Windows 8 Tablets to schools.


    (Images:Screen shots from ebook creator CreateBook)

    A number of delegates taking part in the workshop introduced themselves afterwards as IT consultants supporting schools to embed the use of IT into the curriculum. Many confessed they had dismissed the Windows 8 Tablets but the workshop had now convinced them that actually there is more than one tablet solution on the market. One delegate even ordered a Toshiba Encore online as they walked out of the workshop, if that's not a result I don't know what is.

    Like many others I admit if you had asked me about using Windows 8 tablets in the classroom eight months ago I would have dismissed the idea, but since the new generation of tablets have entered the market including the Dell Venue Pro, or the Toshiba Encore, the market has definitely changed for the better. Schools should be sure they make an informed decision when purchasing tablets, it's now a competitive market.

    Thanks again to Graham, Anthony and the Microsoft team for the support and opportunity to be part of NAACE 2014. I'd also like to pass on a special thanks to Promethean for their support over the two days at the event, I enjoyed the ClassFlow demo and am looking forward to getting involved more in the future.

    Find out more about the Tablet Academy and their teacher training.


  • FE blog

    Office for iPad Tutorial Videos


    To complement some of our recent posts on Office for iPad, we have created some top level training materials on some of the key aspects of the new apps, such as activation and formatting to name a few.

    Activate Office for iPad: Are files opening as “read only” for you in Office for iPad? Then you need to activate the apps with an Office 365 account. This training video shows you how to activate them with a home, work, or school account.

    Open files from the cloud: Open workbooks from OneDrive for Business (for your work/school files) or OneDrive.com (for your personal stuff).

    Open email attachments: Open, edit, and send back email attachments using Excel for iPad

    How saving works in PowerPoint for iPad

    Select stuff in Word for iPad: Select text and pictures expertly with your finger in Word for iPad. This training video helps you move from the mouse to the touchscreen

    These videos are just a selection of those that are available on the Office.com website.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Azure in Education (New Infographic)


    Build the apps and workloads you want and give educators, researchers and students the performance and freedom they need to speed up collaboration and data-intensive processing.

    Learn more about Microsoft Azure could help your institution discover the modern cloud by viewing/download our new infographic below:

    If you have any questions, or would like to learn more, visit www.windowsazure.com and sign up for a free trial. Alternatively, leave us a note in the comments below and we will get straight back to you.

  • FE blog

    Office for iPad: Some Common Questions Answered


    Further to our recent announcement that Office for iPad is now available, I just wanted to take this opportunity to share some additional information that hopefully addresses some of the queries I have been receiving via email and Twitter over the last week around both the apps and how best to license them for your faculty and students.


    Reading, viewing and presenting your content is available for free and if you have a valid Office 365 ProPlus license you can also create and edit Office documents on your iPad. This license is part of the A3 SKU and the Student Advantage SKU within Office 365 Education so you can now provide this to your faculty and students. The following deck below gives an overview of the various options available.

    Office for iPad has been written specifically for the iPad and takes full advantage of the unique features of the device that are perfectly suited for keyboard and mouse free use. The Office for iPad apps have a familiar look and feel, though, and content created using the apps will look amazing across all your devices.

    Furthermore, much like Office on a PC or Mac, collaboration and review sits at the heart of Office for iPad. Multiple people can work simultaneously on the same document. Just make sure that its saved to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint so that others can access your document.

    The Office for iPad apps can be downloaded directly from the App Store and can be run on up to 5 devices. Faculty and students will need to be running IOS 7 on their devices.

    For a full overview of Office for iPad in action, take the time over a coffee to watch the video below that discusses the array of Office experiences now available across multiple platforms - including Office for iPad. The whole video is worth checking out, but if you want to just watch the iPad related content, just jump to the 10 minute mark.

    So, as mentioned previously, if all you are looking to do with the apps is view content or present your PowerPoint material to colleagues, you do not need any additional licensing. Just download the apps for free from the App Store and you are up and running.

    If, however, you want to open your documents from OneDrive for Business, edit or format content on the go or save back to any of our cloud based storage options such as OneDrive or SharePoint, you would need to look into the additional Office 365 subscription options.

    If your Office 365 subscription ends, don’t worry. You will still be able to view your Office documents with Office for iPad and the data on your device is not lost. You will not, however, be able to create and edit content on your iPad until the subscription has been renewed, and this can easily be done by signing back in with a valid Microsoft Account etc.

    The table below may also be useful in terms of helping you understand the additional functionality that can be unlocked with an Office 365 Education subscription.


    If you have any questions about how best to license your faculty or students for Office for iPad using Office 365 Education, please do not hesitate to leave us a note in the comments below.

    Alternatively, drop your reseller a note and they will be delighted to help you with your query. You may also find the UK Cloud Blog interesting for additional Office 365 Education related content.

  • FE blog

    The Hour of Code launch video is here!


    Recent launch of Code.org

    Last month, the UK welcomed the launch of Code.org, a not-for-profit initiative aimed at inspiring young people to get into coding. The founders of Code.org created the initiative with the intention of firing up young people's enthusiasm for computer science by engaging them in an hour of code, for example coding their own Flappy game in class.

    Tools for teachers to use in college!

    Not only can Code.org help school teachers implement Computer Science in response to the national curriculum changes in the UK as of September this year, the Code.org initiative provides proactive resources for professors in colleges to implement in their classes, to get beginners following Computer Science courses on their way!

    The passion behind the initiative

    You might be asking yourself what the background to the Hour of Code initiative was? You'll see in our video below that the UK Code.org lead, Avid Larizadeh, has been using her coding skills in the most innovative and creative fashion. She hasn't used her Stanford University degree in Telecommunications Engineering (which involved Computer Science modules) in the most typical way, disproving the 'sitting away coding until 2am with pizza' stereotype which dimly sputters into young people's minds when they hear the word coding. No, conversely, Avid is a great role model for creative and glamorous career-seeking young women, as she has used her coding skills to propel her entrepreneurial visions into her own global fashion business, Boticca, the world’s luxury bazaar of fashion accessories.


    Avid shares her thoughts..

    Having the ability to understand and use computational thinking is invaluable in today's world as almost everything around us relies on technology and will continue to do so exponentially. No matter what a teenager dreams of becoming from a schoolteacher, a doctor, or a farmer, to a banker, designer, or a musician, he or she will be far more prepared and empowered to effect positive change by understanding and leveraging technological tools. Feeling empowered to innovate in whatever field you are in is not only motivating but it is also fun and the sooner young people feel this way the better it is for their future and everyone else's.Avid Larizadeh

    The number of engaged coders is rising!

    You can see that just in under a month since we blogged about the UK launch of an Hour of Code, the number of people around the globe who have completed an Hour of Code has significantly risen by just over 3 million!

    10th March 2014


    3rd April 2014


    Check out our video!

    To hear Avid talk and get your own glimpse into the UK launch of Code.org, have a look at our video!

    As a female intern at Microsoft, once afraid of technology for the very stereotype I outlined before, I empower you to share this blog and video with the girl students in your classes so they can see how attractive a career in IT really can be for women.


  • FE blog

    Office 365 for iPads in Education


    Announcing the Office you love, now on the iPad

    Reposted blog by John Case

    Today in San Francisco, we made some exciting announcements about our company’s mobile first, cloud first approach. Office played a big part in today’s news. Over a billion people on the planet use Microsoft Office to get more done at work and at home. Every day we hear from you how important it is to have a great productivity experience on all the devices you use. We take that very seriously – we know that means you want the authentic experience of Office, made right for the device you’re using.  Whether you’re creating an Excel spreadsheet on your tablet, authoring a Word document in the browser or making edits to a PowerPoint on your phone, you want the great Office experience you love, everywhere you are. Today, we unveiled Office for iPad® – specifically Word, PowerPoint and Excel. But this isn’t simply Office on another device. We thought a lot about what people want to do when they’re on their tablet, iPad functionality, and touch-first when we were building Office for iPad. We reimagined Office on the iPad, while retaining what people love about Office. We hope you’ll be as pleased with the results as we are. In the future, we will bring Office apps to the Windows Store and other popular platforms. In addition to Office for iPad, we’ve gone a step further in our mobile first and cloud first approach, and like Windows Phone, we’ve now made Office Mobile for iPhone and Android phones available for free.  You can read more about how we’re expanding Office across devices below.

    Office for iPad

    We know you’ve been wanting it, and starting today, you can download Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad from the App Store.  The apps have the robust capabilities and familiar look and feel that is unmistakably Office, while offering a fantastic touch experience built from the ground up for iPad.  With the free versions of the apps, you can read your Word documents, view your Excel data and present with PowerPoint. Your documents will look as good as they do on your PC and Mac®, and better than ever on your iPad.  With an Office 365 Education A3 or A4 subscription, you can edit and create new documents with the iPad. When you edit a document, you can be sure that content and formatting will be maintained across Office on PC, Mac, tablet and phone. And, you always have access to your up-to-date documents in OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.

    Your Office 365 Education A3 or A4 subscription not only gets you the Office for iPad apps installed on up to 5 tablets, but also 5 copies across Office for your PCs and Macs.  With one subscription all of your devices are covered, so you can work the way you want.

    Speak to your reseller for more information on subscriptions.

    Office Mobile for iPhone and Android phones free

    Just like Office Mobile for Windows Phone, we are making Office Mobile for iPhone and Android phones free for everyone. With Office Mobile, you have the ability to view and edit your Office content on the go.  Office Mobile is available in the App Store and Google Play.

    Office documents look better than ever on iPad. They look just as they do on your PC or Mac. In Word, images, tables, SmartArt, footnotes, equations are all there, perfectly formatted. Formulas, charts, sparklines, conditional formatting, and filters in Excel help you make better decisions. PowerPoint presentations pack a punch with transitions, animations, speaker notes and much more. When presenting, you can even use a built-in laser pointer, pens and highlighters to get your point across.

    Excel on iPad

    A familiar Office experience designed for iPad. What makes these apps unique is that they strike just the right balance between being unmistakably Office and being designed for the iPad. If you use Office on a PC or Mac, the iPad apps feel very familiar, so you are comfortable and confident using these apps right away. The Ribbon layout and experience is familiar, with the most common commands under Home, and Chart commands automatically show up when you select a chart.

    PowerPoint on iPad

    At the same time, these apps were created from the ground up for iPad. The large touch areas on the Ribbon and in overlay menus make it simple to create, edit and format documents using only touch. Resize and rotate objects like pictures with touch-friendly handles. When you hold and move the objects, text flows smoothly around them. No keyboard and mouse required. You can even use iPad features like voice dictation to draft a Word document or AirPlay® to project a presentation wirelessly on a TV screen.

    Edit, create and collaborate with confidence. When you edit documents with the Office for iPad apps, you can be sure that you won’t lose any content or formatting. Documents will look exactly how you intended in Office on PC, Mac, tablet and phone – regardless of which device you used to make the edits. Moreover, the apps have a remarkably rich feature set to create beautifully designed documents.

    Office on iPad

    In addition, the apps make it easy to work together. Simply share your content with others thanks to OneDrive and then work simultaneously with multiple people on the same document or presentation.  And, reviewing documents is now great on the iPad.  Word documents can track changes, have threaded comments and easily accept or reject edits all right on the iPad.

    Word Author Collaboration on iPad

    Made for the cloud and Office 365. Since educators want to be able to get things done everywhere, the apps are seamlessly integrated with Microsoft’s cloud services. The apps let you access up-to-date documents in OneDrive, OneDrive Pro and SharePoint. It’s easy to pick up from where you left off, because the apps know what documents you were working on last, no matter what device you were using. Even if you don’t have an Internet connection for a while, you’ll still be able to work on the documents you’ve recently used on the iPad.

    PowerPoint Recent on iPad

    Finally, here are answers to some questions you may have:

    Q: How much does Office for iPad cost?

    A: You can download the Office apps for free and read, view and present documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  To get the full editing and creation experience, you need an Office 365 Education A3 or A4 subscription. Office 365 gives you always-up-to-date versions of Office across your PC, Mac and iPad, and much more.

    Q: Can I try Office for iPad?

    A: Yes, you can read, view and present documents, spreadsheets and presentations for free.  To get the full editing and creation experience, you can sign up for a free 30 day Office 365 trial at www.office.com/try. Then download the Office for iPad apps in the App Store.  During your trial period, you can use Office across your PC, Mac and iPad.

    Q: What Office 365 subscription plans include Office for iPad?

    A: Office 365 Home, Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office 365 Midsize Business, Office 365 E3 and E4 (Enterprise and Government), Office 365 Education A3 and A4, Office 365 ProPlus, and Office 365 University. The new Office 365 Personal will also qualify when it becomes available later this spring.

    Q: What are the system requirements for Office for iPad?

    A: You need an iPad running iOS 7.0 or later.

    Q: What languages and markets is Office for iPad available in?

    A: We offer Office for iPad in the following 29 languages: Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish , Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish , Brazilian Portuguese, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Spanish , Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian.

    As of today, Office for iPad is available in the following 135 markets: Albania, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Republic of, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Republic of, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Fed. States of, Moldova, Republic of, Mongolia, Montserrat, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, St Kitts & Nevis, St Vincent & Grenada, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.


    Mac, iPad, and AirPlay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • FE blog

    A student/intern review on Windows 8 Notebook devices in education: featuring the Packard Bell Easynote ME69BMP 10.1


    Our final devices in education Notebook blog features the Packard Bell Easynote ME, which is a 10.1" touch screen notebook retailing at a fantastic £259.99


    What a bargain!

    Out of all the Notebooks I've blogged about, the price-point of the Packard Bell EasyNote retailing in at £259.99 is fantastic! Let me explain why: Not only does it provide the full Windows experience for teachers and students, but to sweeten the deal, it includes touch capabilities which has to be one of the most attractive price offerings for a device including touch. Finally, the whipped cream-smothered cherry on the top is thanks to the generous inclusion of Office 365 Home and Student 2013!

    This means you can sign into your Windows 8 account remotely on your notebook after school and access your saved personal settings and preferences. You can also of course access your favourite Windows 8 Education apps and study/work away using your favourite Office tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook with ease, by swiping to browse, and typing to create.


    Great resolution for creative work

    What I particularly enjoyed about the Packard Bell Notebook was that despite its slightly smaller size, the screen resolution is higher than most of the other Chromebooks and notebooks on the market, so when I linked it up to my desktop to do creative work, the picture quality was fantastic. It was a pleasure to use, particularly as my eye sight isn't the best and looking at pixilated work for long periods can be wearing.

    This could be really effective for students who want to link up a PowerPoint presentation or media they've brought in from home to the interactive board at university, college or school. Likewise, for educators presenting to students in class, the Packard Bell Notebook would be excellent.

    The notebook for Computer Science

    Going back to the excellent screen resolution, this would be the ideal mobile device for a Computer Science student to carry around and work from as they could simply link it up to a desktop at college or university and enjoy coding apps and creating games with a fantastic image quality.

    Additionally, the Packard Bell Easynote has a pretty powerful Intel Celebron N2805 Processor which would pack enough punch to support coding activities.


    Ultimately, the Packard Bell Easynote ME along with the collection of Notebooks which I have had fun using for the past week, are a great range of Education-friendly notebooks that I would recommend for students and teachers from Primary up to Higher Education. With Windows 8 and cloud functionality, they provide you with the tools to sign into your Microsoft account and Office 365 credentials and pick up the work you left off on the Windows 8 desktops at school. Finally, their light weight and portability make them easy to carry around, without having to worry about scratching the screen or purchasing any add-on cases.

  • FE blog

    Windows Magnifier makes a difference for visually impaired students at Highbury College


    Guest blog post by Mary Anne Davies-Barrett, LSI for the Visually Impaired, Highbury City of Portsmouth Centre

    clip_image001I work at Highbury College Portsmouth with Visually Impaired students, mostly teaching IT courses. I started supporting one visually impaired student and now we have around 18 visually impaired students attending the college learning how to use a computer. We have a specialised classroom full of resources for the visually impaired.

    Easy to use & effective!

    Over the years we have used magnification software and speech software like Supernova, Zoomtext and Jaws.  Unfortunately, this software can be very expensive. When the college upgraded to Windows 7, I discovered the Windows Magnifier.  Windows Magnifier can be accessed by just pressing the Windows key and the plus sign. It has made such a difference to the visually impaired students as they can access this for free. In fact sometimes I make use of the Magnifier myself. So easy to use and can be accessed from any computer wherever you are in the College, at home, in a library and other places. Some students actually prefer Windows Magnifier rather than other magnification software.


    Accessible for students

    They find it easy to use and do not need to spend money on the expensive software. I also personalise the windows colour and appearance to each PC to suit each individual student’s needs.  As Windows magnifier can be accessed from any PC around the college, the students do not have to worry if they are moving from one class to another. We also use the Ease of Access Centre.

    Simple shortcut for teachers to know

    I have also started to train other members of staff around the College how to use this magnifier and make them aware of it as you cannot tell when you are going to need it.  I have trained the Learning Assistants around the college and they were amazed how useful this information is for them when they are supporting students in various parts of the College.  I am also going to train others how to make use of the Windows key and other shortcuts using the Windows key.

    I am passionate about my work with the Visually Impaired and enjoy working with these wonderful people. They are amazing! And I could not do this without Microsoft. So thank you from me and the students.

  • FE blog

    A student/intern review on Windows 8 Notebook devices in education: featuring the HP Pavillion TS 11-e030sa 11.6"


    On with the Notebook tour of devices in education and we’re onto HP today! The HP Pavillion TS 11 is a lovely notebook device which packs the full Windows 8 menu into a work-friendly 11" notebook shell at a price of £329.99. Office Home and Student 2013 can be bought additionally to enhance the experience of studying with familiar tools, in the cloud.


    PC Format

    Some of you may worry that with tablets, they may snap or crack if they are accidentally sat upon or dropped, but the beauty of Notebooks such as the HP Pavillion TS 11 is their protective folding screen/case combo. Many students and educators enjoy the flexibility of hybrid devices where you can click in the screen and use it as both a tablet and laptop, however there certainly is a place for the notebook format: for those of you who are keen to avoid equipment from getting lost, such as sleeves and cases if being shared by students, or for mobility of students being able to work on the go, or on their laps without a kick stand.

    Why buy a notebook over a laptop or tablet?

    The main difference between the notebook and a laptop is the size and weight, which is more adaptable to travel and work in transit. It has the same working features as a PC, although much less memory space, so is best used for note taking and accessing Office and Windows files when away from the school server or the desktop PC at home.

    My tip is to regard the notebook as a device which you use alongside a desktop PC at home and at school. It basically replaces a tablet, serving its purpose as a portable device which students can easily access work and be productive on while in lectures at university or studying in class at school. Once home they can log back into Office with either their Microsoft Account or Office 365 credentials and pick up where they left off. It saves students and educators time from scribbling work and notes on notebooks and then typing up at home and is great for empowering 1:1 learning which you can read more about in our new 1:1 Learning in Education e-book! The main difference with the tablet is that it has the form of a laptop which basically falls down to preferences - do you prefer the detachability of a tablet or the compact PC-style of a notebook?


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