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  • FE blog

    What we learnt from the recent SharePoint Conference for Education


    With Office 365 an every changing and evolving platform and new features being added at least every 90 days, it’s important to understand these changes and what is happening to the service and how it is being improved and upgraded.

    There are a few different areas to check which include

    The Office Blogs where when new features are shown for the first and explained as well as early previews to up and coming updates.

    Office 365 System Requirements Wiki and Office 365 Administrator Task Wiki give you information to ensure your computers and server that are working with Office 365 have the latest patches as well as technical changes required to your tenancy.

    The other and most recent was an event held by Microsoft called the SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas earlier in March.


    Here Microsoft announced several new features including

    Office Graph and codename Oslo which is about mapping of users, what they are doing, viewing and creating in Office and Office 365 to then connect them to other people within their Office 365 tenancy.

    Yammer integration into Office Online so conversation can be made when working together on a document for a project and providing feedback.

    Increase of SharePoint Online site collection quota restrictions raise the amount of data that can be held from 100GB to 1TB of SharePoint sites, lists and libraries.

    While attending the conference I was able to get some air time on SPCTV talking about how Office 365 Education is changing as well as having a few others on the panel to talk about their experience of cloud solution.

    All sessions from the conference are now available so you too can learn about some more of the changes to Office 365. Here are my top 5 sessions to watch.

    Using SharePoint as the canvas for student creativity and inspired solutions

    Here Louise Zulli Jr (Partners in Learning: Global Innovative Educator) talks about how students who have been doing computer coding for many years are developing solutions for the school on their SharePoint environment. This real showed where coding could go in education.

    Shireland Collegiate Academy: moving from private cloud to Office 365 for Edu

    Hear how Shireland Collegiate Academy are using Office 365 Education and their migration story moving over 1TB of data to the cloud service.

    UW: Students and teachers store, sync and share - OneDrive for Business in EDU

    Listen to how the University of Washington in the US are using OneDrive for Business (formally SkyDrive Pro) with their students

    Introducing the New Office Video Experience

    New video capabilities coming to Office 365

    How to become a Yammer Power User in 75 minutes

    Learn more about Yammer which is being added to Office 365 Education in Spring 2014

  • FE blog

    College and Career Readiness – Students Say it Best


    During February’s “College and Career Readiness” virtual event, Kathy Schmidt, a teacher at Kalama High School in Kalama, WA, shared how the town of 2,500 is on the tech-skilling fast track at the high school level, thanks to IT Academy. Watch this clip to hear Kathy’s tips on teaching with MOS certification and keeping students motivated.

    Also hear from James Willman, a Kalama High School junior who won the 2013 FBLA National Championship for Microsoft Office 2010 Excel Core and Expert, about the confidence he’s gained through certification.

    “Certification has given me an amazing amount of confidence,” James says. “I go out and apply for jobs that I never would have applied for. I’m certified and I’m confident.”

    Watch more interviews, discussions and presentations on our YouTube channel. And be sure to register for our upcoming monthly webinars—live virtual events where IT Academy team members and special guests provide insight into skills development, certification, employability, and job opportunities for college and career-bound students. 

  • FE blog

    A student/intern review on Windows 8 Notebook devices in education: featuring the Asus X102 Laptop 10.1"


    Choosing devices in education can be tricky when there are so many to choose from!

    Some of the thoughts that might be going through your mind are what form factor should I go for, how heavy will it be, will the students like using it, especially if you are purchasing online without the chance to sample the device for yourself.

    So, in the spirit of our brand new Devices in Education e-book refresh, we thought we'd share our thoughts on a range of Notebook PC's which we've had fun playing with and trialling out.

    Today's piece will focus on the Asus X102 laptop 10" device. Although the 'laptop' reference in the name refers to it as a PC, we are classing it as a Notebook due to its small size.



    My first impression, which I was pleasantly surprised by, was how light, yet sturdy the device is. To put this into context, you wouldn't anticipate a primary student having to shuffle guiltily to their teacher with a shattered screen hidden behind their back if they dropped the Asus notebook, yet it's light weight would suggest differently.

    Modern interface including Office 365!

    This notebook is perfectly suited for our Windows Education apps to run from, thanks to its touch screen capability, setting it apart from the traditional models of notebooks which have zero touch features. What's more it comes with Office 365 Home and Student 2013, which I think really sweetens the price of £299.95! Picture a student in a hurry to scribble down an important statistic or quote in a lecture, they can quickly snap an Office Notebook app open, alongside their lecture slides, with a couple of swipes rather than scrabbling about with the track pad.


    Modern appearance

    I must say, out of the notebooks I've seen, the shiny cover and thin case makes the Asus perhaps one of the most stylish on the market, well suited for those students and teachers who like tablets and PC's with modern finishes.

    Overall, the Asus notebook is a great device running full Windows 8.1 and Office 365 Home and Student 2013, providing a solid platform for creativity and learning. At a fantastic budget price, available at John Lewis, I would recommend this to Primary schools, colleges and universities!


  • FE blog

    UTC Reading students become Microsoft Technology Associates


    Four UTC Reading students are among the youngest in the UK to become Microsoft Technology Associates (MTA).

    Sixth Form student Reece Puddleplatt and Year 10 students George Osborne, Oliver Wissett and Samkeliso Kimeinyi have become MTA's in seven areas including software development, Windows development, online security and C# programming.

    The MTA programme is a professional qualification from Microsoft that is recognised worldwide. Individuals can build their knowledge and skills in specific areas of programming and can work towards upgrading from Microsoft Technology Associate to a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer in the specialism.

    To gain each accreditation, students sit an online exam to test their knowledge and skills. The focus at UTC Reading is on independent learning, and students who choose to work towards becoming a MTA do so outside of their normal hours up to 10 hours per exam - learning from online resources and taking practice exams.

    Samkeliso said: "MTA training links to what we're learning in class, but has given me a greater understanding of programming and how diverse the field is. My new knowledge was really useful when we developed an app during the Microsoft employer project; we ended up developing a much better app."

    The students are all in agreement that to be able say they are a Microsoft Technology Associate is great for their CV.

    Oliver said: "This will help us to stand out, particularly from university graduates as many won't have this. It shows that we have the real-world skills, as the MTA programme is used by many businesses. It's also a big thing to be able to add to a university application."

  • FE blog

    Stay on top of classes and assignments with myHomework for Windows 8


    I am a big fan of apps that allow me to sync my data across all my devices, and myHomework is a great example of a Windows 8 app that does just that, all within an elegant and clean environment.


    For those of you who are unfamiliar with the app, myHomework is an awesome cross platform student planner that lets you easily track your courses, homework, tasks, projects and lessons. myHomework accounts are free to create and can be setup using either a Facebook login or your email address of choice.

    The Windows 8 app, in particular, has an intuitive interface and supports full Teacher.io integration, which makes it easy to add classes and assignments etc directly to the app. If not, classes can be added manually in a matter of minutes. For example, I added details about some C# and Excel Pivot Table courses that I am currently doing and was literally up and running with all the relevant data in the app and synced to the web interface in no time. Very cool!


    With courses then set up within the app, it was also really straightforward to add any homework I might have for these 2 courses and set due dates etc for coursework I needed to complete. What is nice is that within the app you are then presented with a concise overview of all your courses/homework within a central dashboard. A red flag is then shown against any outstanding actions. Which reminds me, I really must go and complete that IDE class…


    With an interface that is perfect for touch devices, but also works really well with keyboard and mouse, cross device syncing and notifications, this is a great app for students of all ages who are looking to stay on top of their classes and assignments.

    Download the app from the store today and let us know what you think in the comments below. 

  • FE blog

    UCISA 2014


    Microsoft in Education is delighted to be exhibiting at UCISA 2014. We’ll  be on stand 52, sharing details of how students at eligible educational institutions can now take advantage of all that Office 365 ProPlus has to offer, each subscription license will allow you to run Office on up to five devices at no additional cost, all through our Student Advantage initiative.

    Find out more on our Schools blog or have a look at the following guide on our SlideShare Channel.

    Additionally we’ll be showcasing Yammer in Education.
    Adopting a social platform within a learning environment is a recognisable social approach to digital communication, we’ll be sharing information on how Yammer can help speed up communication, unlock information and boost collaboration across your faculty and staff. Read more.

    Windows Azure has already unlocked learning opportunities for education institutions around the world.

    Whatever your requirements, Azure has the ability to build, deploy and manage a bespoke solution, using cloud based applications. For further information on Azure, our Higher Education Blog has a great ebook you can read or come and chat to us on the stand.

    We would also like to encourage you to join Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft who will be delivering a keynote session at 10am on Friday 28 March. 'Preparing for the world of work'. Click here to view Dave's profile as well as the other speakers from within the conference programme.

    For the most up to date Higher Education news from Microsoft Education, follow our dedicated HE blog

    We look forward to meeting you at UCISA.

    Microsoft Education Team.

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  • FE blog

    Moving forward with Windows 8.1 and those questions answered


    Over the past week we've been publishing a lot of content around the end of support for Windows XP on the 8th April 2014, we know there are many users still attached to this platform, and although we're aware of its high regard with customers it's now time for us to finish up the support we offer for XP and focus our attention to our modern platforms.

    If you are considering moving over to our latest version, Windows 8.1 here is a useful FAQ guide to answer any questions and help you make an easy transition.

    How do I update to Windows 8.1?

    Here's how to update to Windows 8.1 depending on the version of Windows you're currently running:

    If you're already running Windows 8, you can update to Windows 8.1 in the Windows Store for free. For more info, see Updating to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8.

    If you’re running Windows 7, you can buy and download Windows 8.1 using Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant. In Upgrade Assistant, you'll have the option to install Windows 8.1 now, later, or using media with an ISO file or a USB flash drive. For more info, see Upgrading to Windows 8.1 from Windows 7.

    If you're running Windows Vista or Windows XP, you'll need to perform a clean installation with a DVD. Make sure to review system requirements before buying a DVD. For more info, see Upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows Vista or Windows XP.

    Some editions of Windows 8 don't support the update to Windows 8.1 from the Windows Store. For more info, see Why can't I find the update in the Store?

    If you're updating from Windows RT, see Windows RT 8.1: FAQ.

    If you're updating from Windows 8.1 Preview or Windows RT 8.1 Preview, see Update from Windows 8.1 Preview to Windows 8.1.


    How much does Windows 8.1 cost?

    If you're already running Windows 8, it's free. Go to the Windows Store to update to Windows 8.1.

    If you're running a previous version of Windows, you can see current pricing on the Compare and decide webpage or in Upgrade Assistant.

    How much free space do I need to update?

    If you're running Windows 8, you need 3,000 MB of available space for the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1, and 3,850 MB of available space for the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1. If you're running Windows 7, we recommend that you run Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant to check if you have enough available space. If you're running Windows Vista or Windows XP, we recommend you check the system requirements before installing Windows 8.1.

    You need a total of 16 GB (32-bit version) or 20 GB (64-bit version) of space on your hard drive for Windows 8.1.

    This is simply a snippet of the larger FAQ for Windows 8.1 deployment, if you want the full list of questions follow this link.

  • FE blog

    Innovate, disrupt and have fun – An insight into the Global Forum by David Rogers



    Last week I was humbled to spend the week with 250 teachers from around the globe.  The common element was not the flavour of the technology, but a desire to transform the lives of young people. This is an attempt to reflect upon the experience. First a few pointers to dispel with the bonkers position that some hold: only one flavour of technology:

    • I’m an evangelist of what works.  I know it works because I’ve used it in the classroom myself.
    • There is no such thing as an education ‘app.’  Anything can be used to enhance, transform and modify learning from a cardboard shoebox to a space ship.
    • Technology in the hands of a great teacher transforms learning. Technology in the hands of a poor teacher doesn’t transform their teaching.
    • The day that I only advocate one flavour of technology is the day I’m not a teacher but being paid by a technology company to push their stuff.
    • Teachers change the world of learning, not technology.

    Whilst in Iceland, on a school trip and needing to kill some time one evening, I filled out the online application to become a Microsoft Expert Educator.  The rest, as they say, is history. The Global Forum comes at the mid-point of the year long programme (would have been better at the end as a celebration and progress check of what we’d accomplished maybe?).  This post may change, and I’m certain to update it and add further posts.  I believe sometimes it’s worth putting down what you think and getting it out there.

    This isn’t a blow-by-blow account of the week – read my Twitter stream for that.  This is just what stuck out.

    The week was incredible.  Firstly, there’s the perspective.  I was there with a pretty good project.  Others were there with projects about getting clean water in impoverished nations with access to one battered laptop.  Certainly puts perspective on the ‘first-world’ problem of Ofsted inspections.  Indeed, in one region of India all schools are told exactly what to deliver, when and how.  In contrast, UK educators really have some massive freedoms that are perhaps taken for granted?  The highlight of the week (apart from working with the awesome Stu Ball and UK Team) was the most difficult learning experience I’ve ever been through.  That’s right.  Tougher than the week long Mountain Leadership assessments or learning how to fly a plane.  We often spout out the ‘allowing failure’ mantra.  How many have been thrown together with four other nationalities (two of whom have no English) and told to produce a plan to change the world and present it to education experts (including children) the next day? Walking the walk.

    2014-03-14 11.56.252014-03-13 11.09.53

    So, myself, a Kiwi Scientist; an Indian Mathematician; a Saudi Social Studies Teacher and a Taiwanese Artist set out to get children to tell Ban Ki-Moon that some of the Millennium Development goals needed to be better.  I won’t go into detail, except to say that the personal learning experience was immense.  When was the last time you really had to learn?  I wondered about the last time I had to do something rather than a choice.  There are some lessons in there for me to take into the classroom.  I was also pleased that students in the UK contributed through the twitter stream.

    The rest of the week saw the usual (and by now depressingly predictable) keynote speeches that preach to the converted and I find rather too self-congratulatory rather than challenges.  To me, a group of educators of the calibre gathered need to look at what we are doing wrong as well as what we have right.  There are some great new tools shaping up to use in the classroom soon (some of them that are designed for the classroom too…).  Microsoft may have been late to the party, but their stuff looks great.  I’m yet to find something that equals OneNote as a digital, collaborative exercise book for example.  Indeed, if I were in a 1:1 school tomorrow, OneNote would be doing most of the hard work.

    I did enjoy listening to the politicians and princes, and found the Spanish Education Minister’s keynote heartfelt and refreshing.  Spain has over 40% unemployment.

    Another highlight was TeachMeet Europe.

    2014-03-14 00.13.40This is what happens when you enjoy a late night malt with Stu Ball: he convinces me that we could pull off a TeachMeet Europe with a days notice, no room, no technology, no one familiar with the concept (interestingly, no one in the room outside of the UK knew hat a TeachMeet was).  I’m so happy I said yes and compared the event.  We had seven nationalities presenting and had presentations ranging from a modified ‘I have a dream’ speech to close up photographs of stuff to some brand new (to me) online tools.  

    It all goes to show that what I believe: if you throw teachers together and ask them to talk about what they do everyday, you don’t need a plan or technology to leave inspired and full of ideas to try in the classroom tomorrow.  Of course, there was free beer too…..

    I also enjoyed making some extra contacts ad heading to the expert panels.  The second of these, on 1:1 learning, was great as the chair opened up to the floor early and an engaging conversation followed with many making contributions.  One thing I would like to see is a feature where teachers from some of the less developed countries get to post some problems, perhaps ‘barcamp,’ style. Others could see where they could contribute and get involved with trying to solve those issues / build lasting partnerships.

    Things that I will investigate more and get involved are:

    • YouthSpark – a citizenship project that is making real waves.
    • ChronoZoom – like Google Earth but for history – visualising historical events.
    • Hour of Code – I don't think that coding is necessarily about producing software engineers, but the process does develop creative problem solving skills.

    It’s going to take a while to reflect and act upon everything I saw – there are some things that if I were still a head of department I would have put in to place already.  However, there were are few gripes:

    • There doesn't seem to be a master plan to support and grow Partners in Learning between the events: there are many of the same faces which runs the risk of it turning into the technological equivalent of the ‘old boys and gals club’;
    • For an education conference, some of it was excruciatingly impersonalised.  This was accentuated by 250 teachers from around 90 countries being present, all from differing contexts.  In my view, it needed to be put together by the educators involved;
    • There was an almost undetectable undercurrent that we should be selling / championing specific devices / software instead of developing pedagogy and telling stories about what works.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not numpty enough to expect anything but Microsoft being talked about, but there’s a difference (at least in my mind) between a teacher who evangelises a great learning project that happens to use a certain technology and a teacher that evangelises a device;
    • The main message is still content delivery and not content creation.  I would have liked to see some workshops between teachers and Microsoft engineers along the lines of ‘ This is what Microsoft Research are working on right now, how could you use it in the classroom and can we help shape it?’  Then having teachers working together (in a similar way to the learnathon above) in order to adapt / subvert / use the tool.  One of the main issues with new technology is that it takes a while (and often some VERY patient early adopters) to figure out what it does / how it can be used.  I think that Microsoft should be tapping into the community to produce case studies before the product launches.  That way, teachers will get it straight off the bat and the impact would be felt much wider than the attendees.
    • I’m not going to mention (much) about #coffeegate Winking smile

    Having said that, I think Microsoft Education have it right and are heading in the right direction with both their product offering and general approach to putting learning first and supporting teachers.  I would recommend getting registered (for free) on the Partners in Learning Network.  Download and explore some of the free stuff and see how you could use it.  If you find no use, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Saying you won’t look just because it’s Microsoft is failing your children.

    A massive thank you to Stuart Ball and the Microsoft Education Team and to Team UK – you may have shunned my offer of a 10 mile run, but you kept me sane, challenged and will motivate me into well into the future.

  • FE blog

    Windows XP? Don’t become vulnerable to security risks and viruses…


    What is Windows XP end of support?

    Microsoft has provided support for Windows XP for the past 12 years. But now the time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners, to invest our resources toward supporting more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences.

    As a result, after April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC. Microsoft will also stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP on this date. (If you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive antimalware signature updates for a limited time, but this does not mean that your PC will be secure because Microsoft will no longer be providing security updates to help protect your PC.)

    If you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. Also, as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP.

    How do I stay protected?

    To stay protected after support ends, you have two options:

    Upgrade your current PC

    Very few older computers will be able to run Windows 8.1, which is the latest version of Windows.

    We recommend that you download and run the Windows Upgrade Assistant to check if your PC meets the system requirements for Windows 8.1 and then follow the steps in the tutorial to upgrade if your PC is able.

    Download and run the Windows Upgrade Assistant

    Tutorial: Upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows XP


    Get a new PC

    If your current PC can't run Windows 8.1, it might be time to consider shopping for a new one. Be sure to explore our great selection of new PCs. They're more powerful, lightweight, and stylish than ever before—and with an average price that's considerably less expensive than the average PC was 10 years ago.

    What do I get with Windows 8.1?

    Windows 8.1 makes it easy to do all the things you're used to doing with Windows XP while opening up a whole new world of possibilities for you to explore and enjoy.

    Find out about all the exciting things you can do with the new Windows

  • FE blog

    Power BI for Office 365 Education: Unlock the data within your institution


    As both the possibilities around Big Data and the manipulation of this data within the education sector become realised, and the long discussed benefits such as personalised learning become a reality, recent innovations in business intelligence tools are making it easier for institutions to unlock their data to provide key and actionable insights for faculty and staff.

    Through the evaluation and systematic measurement of student performance, feedback and preferences etc., institutions are finding new and interesting ways to provide more relevant, engaging and unique learning experiences for their students.

    Unlock your data

    The key to achieving this, though, is offering a way to easily unlock the data that sits within your institution and being able to interpret this data in a user friendly way. Customers across the sector love Excel for analysing data, but power BI tools are needed to truly unlock the full potential of your institution’s data.

    With this in mind, we have now built Power BI for Office 365 Education directly into the core Excel experience and enabled more people to discover business intelligence through their data.

    Power BI for Office 365 Education


    Within Power BI for Office 365 Education, users can take advantage of ‘Power Query’, which offers the ability to search and access key data sources, both on and off premise, all within Excel. Furthermore, with the addition of 3D data virtualisation tools for mapping and interacting with data, it is now possible for institutions to gain real insight and make faster and more informed decisions. 

    The video below offers a great demonstration of the power of the Power BI and Power Query tools as part of Office 365 Education. If you have any questions, or want to learn more, share your details in the comments below or reach out via Twitter.

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