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  • FE blog

    SharePoint Search for education


    Continuing on from recent posts around Data Management and How many ways you can use SharePoint 2010, Alex Pearce, Most Valuable Professional (MVP), has written a guest post on his thoughts around using SharePoint Search and how this can benefit you in keeping your information and documents stored and then again easily found.


    For me, Search is a great tool. I use it all the time when I’m on my computer. From finding that e-mail in a folder, the document sat a folder to, how to fix that issue that is troubling my network.

    The ability of search in SharePoint 2010 is endless.  There are 3 different versions available in SharePoint 2010 including Enterprise Search and FAST Search.

    But most schools I have visited are not likely to understand the real benefits of having their own custom search within their school. So what are the benefits within your school and how can they help the school, teachers and students to find data?

    What SharePoint Search can do?

    clip_image002SharePoint Search isn’t just searching your own SharePoint environment for documents. It can search external environments such as your old legacy intranet websites, network file shares, personal documents and internet websites bring the accessibility of all your environments into one.


    Schools can have a lot of data stored across a network ranging from anything from 300GB to 5TB of data meaning there are a lot files and folders.  To look for an individual file is just too time consuming.  So why not search for it using a search engine which is SharePoint Search.

    SharePoint Search

    Any bit of data that is entered in SharePoint can be searched for, including the file name and the content of the file, each page of text including wikis and blogs and the discussion forums. If you are implementing any of the social network features you can also search profiles to find the best teacher to talk to about Romeo and Juliet or that tricky bit of homework.

    Internal websites and VLEs

    You may still be running that old intranet website that you or a member of staff created using Microsoft FrontPage but only a single member of staff is using it and they can’t let it go because of all the great amount of work they put into creating it. There must also be some web pages on there that has content that could be useful to teachers who have started at the school since it was implemented and don’t know that these great resources are available as they can’t find them. SharePoint Search can be used to find data on this intranet website so when searching the content is available to the user.

    Or maybe you have a VLE in your school which is great, being used to it’s extreme and not wanting to move away from it,  why not just use SharePoint for its search facilities and have your own search engine for the whole school?

    School website and the Internet

    Before visiting a school, I always visit their website to see what the school is about as it gives me a good impression of the kind of people I meet and the characteristics of the school. Some school websites include curriculum information so parents can see homework, worksheets to help their children and what they are studying at that time.

    If you have a number of websites you use across the school, these too can be searched by SharePoint and search from a single location. These may include the history blog or the wiki page on an external website however pupils can only find this information if it has a high search engine result or if they know how to get to the website. SharePoint Search allows them to find it within their school environment.

    If you are going to implement this feature, I would advise that you only let it search websites that you need it too, otherwise you will need some big drivers to store every bit of information from the internet!

    Network or Personal Share

    Many schools are making the shift of moving their documents from their shared drive to SharePoint so they can be meta-tagged and file away in a website that is easy for students to find. With SharePoint Search you can search your network and personal shares to find documents. No more looking through endless folders to find that file. Just open a web page and type in what you are looking for. If you are worried about security on those folders and students accessing them, don’t as SharePoint is clever and knows the folder and file permissions so when the user searches they only see the files they have permission to see.


    SharePoint Search is just one feature and if you only use SharePoint as part of your EES license for Search you will feel the difference is the accessibility and findability of the files and information from other websites, VLEs and your internal data.

    Useful Links

    Here are a few blog posts I have created in the past that might help you to configure and understand this more.

    Using SharePoint Search in Education and Schools: Part 1

    SharePoint Search for Education: Part 2 Search Centre

    Configure SharePoint 2010 Search to crawl internet sites

    Configure SharePoint 2010 Search to crawl file servers

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Virtual Academy: Investing in your Future


    With so much buzz around cloud services and architecting your business for the cloud, it’s easy to feel left behind. Don’t fret; there are plenty of ways to keep up with the latest and greatest news, information and training.

    If you’ve not heard about the Microsoft Virtual Academy before then you’re in for a treat! Quite simply, it’s free on demand training on a range of IT Professional topics. Furthermore, the content is in the cloud and you can access it as and when you need it!

    Topics covered include:

    • Clustering
    • Hyper-V
    • Private Cloud
    • Public Cloud
    • Security
    • SQL Azure
    • System Center Virtual Machine Manager
    • Virtualisation
    • Windows Azure

    Everyone has their own learning style. So with this in mind, there are a range of different learning materials on offer, such as whitepapers, webcasts, training videos and access to experts. The site has been set up in a game based learning style with points for modules. As you pass each module you gain points which are then ranked both globally and locally.

    Alongside the training materials, there are some great opportunities to gain assistance from Microsoft through events such as the 6 Weeks of Azure programme of events. The sign up for this is available now!

    All in all, this is a NO cost approach to learning, which in the current economic climate means that you can still get trained up on the latest technologies no matter what your departments budget is.

    Learning is something that every good IT professional does throughout their career, so this is a great opportunity to hone those skills and be at the very top of your game.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Lync 2010 at De Montfort University, Leicester.



    It’s becoming increasingly clear that Lync  can be a real game-changer for universities. Among the higher education institutions we’ve talked to about this recently is De Montford University (DMU) in Leicester. There, the Information Technology and Media Services (ITMS) team, led by their Director, Michael Robinson, is engaged in a Lync implementation that will enable staff and students to engage and work more productively, efficiently and cost effectively. To the existing choice between a phone call an email and a visit, will be added the possibilities of audio and video conferencing , instant messaging and desktop sharing, all from within each user’s familiar software, at work, home, or with a mobile device.

    Driving change

    De Montfort University is strategically committed to enhancing teaching and learning and management through technology. There are, though, two immediate drivers of the current adoption of Lync 2010.

    One is the approaching need to replace the University’s current telephone system, which is nearing the end of its life. The other is the move, completed in 2011, of the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery from an outlying site to a new home at the Edith Murphy Building on the main campus. This has involved a major building refurbishment and rather than commit budget and resources to equipping the new premises with the existing telephone system, the decision was made to install Lync for about 100 users, at first for phone service only, working in parallel with the legacy system. This first installation, completed in September 2011, was the first step leading towards a roll-out of full-feature Lync across the whole institution completing in August 2012. Leading the project is Michael Robinson, Director of Information Technology and Media Services.

    Planning the roll-out

    The preliminary installation in the Edith Murphy building was designated as Phase One of the University’s Lync implementation. It acted as a pilot for Phase 2, the full roll-out.

    Phase 2 is organized into a number of workstreams, individually led but closely inter-related, covering all technical, training and project management aspects of the Lync adoption and its integration into the overall management and leadership of the University.

    Two of the workstreams will deal with, respectively an upgrade from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010  and the setting up within Lync of the University’s Contact Centre.

    The Exchange upgrade is necessary in order to gain the full functionality of Lync including voicemail, but will also provide improved email archiving and integration into SharePoint.

    The Contact Centre, taking calls from outside, has to meet considerable variations in demand at the time of university clearing for example, when anxious students (and schools and families) phone in. It has to be robust and at the same time capable of returning detailed statistics. DMU’s Contact Centre, the key first point of contact, will be up and running by April 2012.

    The core mission

    The main drive of the Lync project is to successfully introduce Lync to several thousand users across the campus.

    The need here is for flexible response to varying needs.

    “It’s not just about deploying technology. We need to consider how to communicate changes to staff that things can be carried out in different ways.” For example phone call forwarding and pickup is now configured in the Lync software client rather than directly on the phone. Another would be to collaborate on documents on-line rather than sending them around via email.’’ Michael Robinson

    A key preliminary is a comprehensive audit of the way the current telephone system is used. Users will rightly expect that they’ll be able to do what they did before, at least as well and preferably better. They will, though, also need to be shown, by training and example, that Lync is much more than a straight replacement for an existing phone system. It has the potential to streamline working practices – instant messaging instead of email for example, and the possibility of collaboration through web conferencing or the sharing of documents.

    In all of this, some users will need more help than others, and training plans encompass a wide range of approaches, including the deployment of “champions”, lectures, online help, demonstrations and one-to-one sessions.

    “There’s a balance.  It’s about working with people and not frightening them. It’s possible to throw too much technology at people, too soon. We want to bring them along, to give support.”

    In this, the ITMS team is able to build on a number of growth points, supportive groups and individual advocates or champions. The University has a Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology CELT, along with eLearning champions within the faculties, all keen to support ITMS in making the most of the Lync rollout.

    Crucially for innovation and change is the degree of enthusiasm and tangible support coming from the top.  Michael and his team are pushing at an open door, because the Vice Chancellor (on Twitter, @DMUVC) and the Executive Board are entirely signed up to the potential of technology in general and Lync in particular.

    “The Chief Operating Officer has Lync on her PC and she’s looking to use it to improve the way the people use meeting time.”


    Lync is seen as a ‘‘game changer’’ as not only  does it support existing patterns of learning and collaboration with virtual meetings, document sharing and one-to-one contact but also creates possibilities for entirely new kinds of connections and encounters between individuals and groups.

    “Once you start the deployment, people will find creative ways of using it, ” says Michael.

    So, for example, there’s the prospect of using Lync for contact with students away on year-long placements. Lync, with video and desktop sharing could improve contact with both employers and students.

    Cost saving

    “The structure of our Microsoft Campus Agreement means that the cost of deploying is approximately fifty percent of the cost of a traditional PABX system.”

    There are also some savings to be made through not replacing handsets one-to-one.

    “Many people are happy to use laptops with Bluetooth headsets, or mobile phones.”

    Lync can reduce the need for travel, saving time, money and carbon emissions. So although DMU is housed on a compact campus, the conservative estimate is that it will save 10percent of current travel costs.

    There are also clear efficiency savings by reducing misunderstandings, shortening the time spent in meetings and making draft policies and documents more widely and quickly available for consultation.

    “Integration with Outlook and with SharePoint will bring huge benefits as we move to a more collaborative working model.”

    Lync working with strategic change

    We’re seeing profound changes in the way that higher and further education institutions are led and managed. There’s a move to the use of project teams working across hierarchies and between departments.  Technology, creatively used, will both support and encourage such developments, reducing the need for face-to-face meetings, and providing easier access to draft documents and policy papers. DMU is no exception to this.

    “We’re seeing more multi-disciplinary and collaborative working, with virtual teams sitting across the structure. We’re looking at modernising many systems to go along with that. putting Board papers on SharePoint for example, and using mobile devices in meetings. “

    The same kind of change is affecting the way students work and communicate.

    “People don’t work alone on courses. There are group projects and assignments, and Lync is fantastic for supporting that.”

    Microsoft education team are going to have both presentations and demo area’s dedicated to Lync and how it can be effectively used in learning in the classroom. If you would like to find out more, ask questions and see for your self, we are at BETT 2012 on stand D30 and D40 where we would love to see you!

  • FE blog

    BETT 2012 here we come!


    Happy New Year! Hope you all had a great festive season!

    With the holidays now behind us, its now all go to get ready for BETT 2012. After months of preparation, I can't believe its now only a little over a week to go! More will be revealed over the next week on the blog, but we have some exciting plans for our stand at BETT 2012.


    Once again, Microsoft staff will be joined by a group of inspiring and motivating teachers on the stand who will be helping us demonstrate how  both our technologies and programmes can make a real difference within your school.

    For those readers of the blog who are familiar with our stand from previous BETT shows, we will be keeping the same format. In addition to a demo stand where will be showcasing a wide range of our technologies and answering your questions, we will also have a theatre stand.

    Within the theatre, we have a packed schedule of punchy 25 minute sessions where you can hear a selection of motivating stories about how teachers are using Microsoft technologies in innovative ways to enhance teaching and learning and improve the efficiency of their schools. Microsoft staff will also be sharing the stage and offering a unique insight into some of our new products, services and programmes. More information on the full schedule of talks can be found on our dedicated Microsoft at BETT 2012 microsite.

    As mentioned previously, we will be sharing more information about the specific products and services we will be showing on the stand over the next few days on the blog, but one of the additions for BETT 2012 that we are particularly excited about is our Gaming in Education showcase zone.

    Within the Gaming in Education showcase zone, we will be demonstrating some of the new Playful Learning titles and also, utilising the impressive K-Team, showing how the Kinect SDK is being used to engage learners in exciting new ways. Be sure to visit the stand to see the Kinect Effect in action for yourself!

    We look forward to welcoming you on the stand at BETT 2012!


  • FE blog

    Windows Intune Webcast


    Windows Intune is an elegant management solution for academic institutions of all sizes.  Whether you look after a single school or college, or manage a large group of schools, Windows Intune allows institutions to remotely perform PC management and security tasks in the cloud.


    From a single console, you can see at a glance the status of your organisations PCs and easily establish whether the latest software updates are applied or the anti-virus definitions are up to date.  

    Furthermore, Windows Intune gives you central control to define policies, deploy software and even run anti virus scans, all from a secure web based console.

    Windows Intune works on a subscription model so there are no upfront costs for a management infrastructure.

    Watch the recent webcast recording to understand more. Alternatively, come and visit us on Stand D30 & D40 at BETT 2012.

  • FE blog

    BETT 2012: Microsoft Licensing & EES


    Have some questions about our licensing and, in particular, EES? We can help!

    Visit our stand at BETT 2012 and let one of our licencing specialists walk you through the best options for you and your institution. Get answers to the following questions, and more:

    • Who can buy education licences?
    • The different types of educational licences available
    • Types of licences available for schools, colleges and universities
    • Best licences for staff and students

    Find us on stand D30 & D40. In addition to finding out the answers to your licensing related queries, we have a packed schedule of presentations that address everything from gaming in education to School in a Box. We hope you can join us!

    In the meantime, the deck below walks you through a top level overview of the different types of education licensing that is currently available.

  • FE blog

    BETT 2012: Gaming in Education


    As mentioned earlier this week, a core focus for us at BETT 2012 is gaming in education. With a dedicated showcase area staffed by the K-Team and inspiring daily presentations by the always motivating Ollie Bray, our stand at BETT 2012 promises to be an essential pit stop for those interested in learning more about how gaming can help engage learners of all ages!

    More specifically, the gaming in education showcase area will be featuring real examples of how applications developed using the Kinect SDK are improving the attainment of students. Visit the stand to see how the creators of the applications personally demonstrate how they have embraced the SDK to create learning experiences that challenge the status quo.

    Additionally, if you are planning your visit to BETT 2012, Ollie Bray’s presentation titled ‘Gaming in Education: Playful Learning’ is scheduled for 10.30am and will then be repeated at 3pm. If you haven’t seem Ollie present before, I highly recommend a visit to the stand to see his session! 



    Additionally, if you are keen to learn more about how games are being effectively used in the classroom, our Kinect Adventures in the Classroom eBook has some thought provoking content that you can implement within your institution today. The eBook can viewed below or downloaded via our SlideShare account.

    We look forward to welcoming you on stand D40 & D30 at BETT 2012. 


  • FE blog

    So what exactly are the Microsoft team showing off at BETT 2012?


    I can honestly say that the last couple of months has kept me extremely busy with organising the Microsoft stand at BETT 2012! With everything from staff, to entertainment, to presenters and presentations, demo kit right the way through to the colour of the polo shirts (dark blue as apparently Steve Beswick doesn't suit pink…) I knew that we had to make our stand exciting, interactive and fun for you guys coming to see us. And some of the demo pods, you can actually have a go, handle and try out the products too!

    So, just for a bit of a taster and hopefully entice you to come and pay us a visit (we’re the big stand in the middle of the Olympia), I asked some members of the team to write down a few words of what you can find at their demo pod.


    Playful Learning – Ben Nunney, Academic Developer Evangelist thumbnail

    ‘’Games aren’t just the thing you do once you’ve done your homework – they’re proven to enhance the classroom experience, drive home learning objectives, and can serve as an engaging and inspiring plenary. Microsoft had done amazing things over the past 12 months with Kinect which, using an array of sensors, makes you the controller. By connecting the Kinect up to your PC you can bring the Kinect Effect to your classroom. At BETT 2012 this year, we’ll have a whole bunch of demos for you to play with, and see what a touch of gaming can do for your school!’’


    Private Cloud – Andrew Fryer, IT Pro Evangelist

    ‘’What on earth is a Private Cloud and why does it matter to schools at all? The idea is actually very simple;   it’s the adoption of the techniques that are used to deliver the online services we all use like Hotmail, Amazon etc but inside your own school or network of schools.  The key to this approach is extreme automation and standardisation to provide services as and when schools need them.  You could be forgiven for thinking is all about saving money, but the real benefit is agility, allowing schools to innovate and adapt as they need to.’’


    Public Cloud – James Marshall, Live@edu Specialist

    Come and see where it’s really happening, over on the public cloud pod! We’ll be showing off the latest and greatest technology Microsoft has to offer including Microsoft Office 365 for education, Live@edu, Windows Intune, and more!
    Find out how you can harness the power of “the cloud” to provide the most awesome and up to date technology to your students and staff and save your institution money at the same time!

    So, spare a few minutes and prepare to have your negative nephological notions nuked by our team of experts!


    Get Online @ Home  - Clare Riley, Group Manager, Education Relations

    ‘’If you have students in your class, or your school, who don’t have access to a PC at home, then THIS is the pod for you.  Prices start below £100 for a Windows 7 PC.  Come and see the Get Online @ Home refurbished desktop and laptop computers which come with Windows 7; Security Essentials;  and a starter version of Microsoft Office.  This is a great offer to share with parents and with the management team in your school.  You can help families access this offer themselves , or you can encourage your school to use Pupil Premium funding to provide computers for disadvantaged students.’’


    Productivity  - Andy Downs, Schools Internal Business Manager

    ‘’Seamlessly communicate more effectively and efficiently than ever before within your Institution (and beyond) from a single user interface.
    Today’s world demands the ability to work real-time wherever and whenever with no boundaries…

    An integrated Windows based platform (Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Office) enables such abilities as: Instantly scaling from an email or an Instant Message to a complete Audio/Video Conference; Working collaboratively on shared documents in a central area and even driving towards a paperless environment.

    Immediate savings in time and money are easily recognisable, but there are many other compelling benefits for your Institution - including positive impact on your Green Agenda!’’


    Windows Phone – Simon Ibbitt, Further Education Business ManagerNokia-Lumia-710-Nokia-Lumia-800

    ‘’Think you know about Smart Phones!?! Think again! This year at BETT Microsoft will be showcasing the latest Windows Mango Smart Phones, buy HTC Nokia and Samsung.

    Microsoft really are ‘putting people first ‘. The Smart Phone is  now part of the class room for both teachers and students alike. We can show you the power of Skydrive, the One Note and Lync integration and Office 365 for your phone. Or, perhaps you would like to see one of the hundreds of Apps, specially designed for education?’’

    So come find us at BETT and see how Microsoft really gives you ‘'anytime, anywhere learning for all'.

    Curriculum – Stuart Ball, Partner in Learning Manager

    ‘’The UK Partners in Learning Network connects teachers and educators across the globe, and unlike many other ‘teacher networks’, it actively contributes to teacher’s professional development through events and resources. At BETT 2012 this year @innovativeteach and @chickensaltash will present in their inimitable style and demonstrate some fantastic new resources such the Microsoft  Learning Suite, Partners in Learning School Research and the new Partners in Learning Network site. This along with examples of how being part of the Partners in Learning Network has changed the way teachers think and have improved the learning opportunities for students, makes this session one of the most impactful you could attend.’’

    MultiPoint Server – Steven Goddard, Senior Programme Manager

    Windows MultiPoint Server is a simple, cost-effective way for more students and teachers to gain access to the latest technology, improving learning and helping students prepare to compete in a global economy. With Windows MultiPoint Server, a single computer supports multiple users at the same time, each working independently using their own monitor, keyboard and mouse and with a familiar Windows computing experience. Schools can provide more students with access to the latest technology, even with limited budgets.


    Many of these demo’s are also going to be presented in much more detail from both Microsoft staff and teachers already using some of these products in their classroom that will be shown throughout the 4 days on our theatre stand. So, if you would like to come have play on the Kinect, experience a new innovative way of communication via Lync or just pop by and say hello, we look forward to seeing you next week on stand D30 and D40!

  • FE blog

    BETT 2012 – QR Codes & MS Tags


    With only 3 days to go until BETT 2012, the education team is busy putting the finishing touches to getting everything ready for 4 days of fun and frolics at Olympia. Not long to go now!

    One of the things we are trialling on the stand this year is the use of QR Codes and MS Tags. Scanning these codes on the stand will give access to a wide range of useful and valuable content that supports the products, services and programmes we are showcasing on the stand.

    There will be 7 codes in total across the stand and, as mentioned previously, will give access to great content such as eBooks, brochures and more.

    Specific content areas are as follows:

    • School in a Box eBook – The future of ICT management within schools
    • Learning Suite Overview – Overview of Microsoft’s new free suite of applications for students and teachers
    • Virtualisation eBook – Insightful overview of how Alan Richards, West Hatch High School, has used Hyper-V to save money and enhance his IT infrastructure
    • Get Online @ Home Overview - offer now includes £169 laptops and the cheapest broadband in the UK
    • Windows 7 in the Classroom – useful guide to help demonstrate how Windows 7 can help enhance teaching and learning in the classroom
    • Gaming in Education eBook – Kinect in the Classroom
    • Theatre Schedule – full access to the theatre presentations schedule


    Windows Phone devices have QR Code and MS Tags reading functionality built-in and, if you don’t already have one, readers for iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices can be downloaded for free. I imagine that QR Code and MS Tags will be used extensively across BETT 2012 so is well worth being prepared with your favourite app before you hit the show floor.

    There are a wide range for free apps to choose from, but here are a couple of suggestions:

    We look forward to seeing you at BETT 2012. Stop by our stand, D30 & D40, and say hi.

    In the meantime, for more information about Windows Phone’s built in QR Code/MS Tag reading capabilities, check out the video below.


    • FE blog

      Why schools should get behind GetOnline@Home, by Microsoft's Clare Riley


      Originally posted on Agent4Change.net


      One of the wonderful things about working for Microsoft is that innovative ideas bubble up every day. Even if they appear to undercut our core business, if they are good ideas they will take root. That’s what has happened with www.GetOnlineatHome.org – a website offering the lowest cost, good quality PCs you might ever find in the UK.

      BBC research shows the cost of a PC can be a significant barrier to getting people online at home. With this in mind, we worked closely with our partners, such as Race Online, The Post Office and 3, to help make getting access to the internet a reality for all, regardless of financial situation or technical ability.

      The GetOnline@Home offer was launched at the National Digital Inclusion conference, and since then we’ve sold thousands of refurbished desktops for under £100. If you think about it, you’re paying about the same price for this PC - which comes with a flat screen, Windows 7, a range of Microsoft software for documents, emails, messaging, pictures and Microsoft Security Essentials and Accessibility software – as you would for couple of computer games from a high street store. It’s something we are immensely proud of!

      Since the summer, though, we have had a stream of great ideas about our offering from customers, partners, schools and suppliers – and so I am thrilled that we have been able to grow and extend the offer and to relaunch the website in time for Christmas.

      GetOnline@Home offer to include £169 laptops and cheapest broadband

      The new site, accessible at www.GetOnlineatHome.org, offers a range of exciting new developments and offerings. First of all, we’ve been able to include laptops. These all have webcams, perfect for Skype or Facebook chat, and come with new or replacement batteries and guaranteed power-up times.

      The new laptops all come with the same support as the desktops – with a warranty and a telephone helpline – and the price includes VAT and delivery. Charities – or anyone receiving any of the benefits listed in the pop-up box on the home page – can get a laptop for only £169. Everyone else would pay £199 – still a great price!

      Clare Riley

      Clare Riley: 'thrilled' by growth

      The second, and very exciting, development is our partnership with Simplify Digital, the only OFCOM-accredited price comparison website for the provision of broadband. The friendly team on the phone at Simplify Digital will help determine the best service to suit you and your family, and also offers an extra £25 discount on any service you choose to buy. This will be the lowest price broadband you could get anywhere in the UK. Other than being an amazing offer, it also has the comfort factor of stepping you through the order process and sending confirmation in the post. They will even come round and set it all up for you!

      The website and the refurbished PC offer is a great team effort. Partners such as the Post Office, BT and UK Online Centres are raising awareness across the UK and we have a growing band of refurbisher companies supplying the PCs: two new suppliers joined this week and they bring with them the great experience of delivering the Home Access programme PCs last year. My job is to keep momentum in the project – and that has included the delightful role of being the site photographer! You’ll find, on the GetOnline@Home website, six photographs and stories from families who bought PCs in the first wave.

      Let's take Bria, aged 11, and her mum, Christina. In the summer, Christine went to an induction meeting for parents at the secondary school where Bria would be moving to in September. The teacher asked if she had access to a computer and, if not, could she get one. In their secondary school, they explained, the school’s online learning gateway would be the main source of information. Christina was shocked: “What parent wants to see their child put on the back foot on day one of their secondary schooling?” But then she saw a small newspaper item about the “GetOnline@Home” computer offer.

      At first it seemed too good to be true. She told me that she “asked around to see who else knew about it, and then I phoned up".

      'It’s been brilliant. I’m really chuffed with it'

      Bria and mum Christina

      Bria and Christina: 'It's been brilliant'

      "I wasn’t going to part with my money without speaking to a human being. It seemed too good to be true. but they reassured me and said I was eligible for the discount price.” She was doubly delighted when the computer turned up promptly and in full working order after only a week. It was set up in time for the new school term, and Bria was off to the same start as her classmates.

      Christina also has an email account now, and though she says has no time for social networking, she does use the internet to keep in touch with what’s happening in the local area. She searches for money-saving opportunities and finds that the computer is a real help in cutting spending. She’s a keen user of Martin Lewis’s www.moneysavingexpert.com money saving website which has shopping vouchers. “He’s my guru,” she says.

      Christina was clearly delighted with her computer and with the scheme as a whole, which I think shows in the photograph (right) I took that day in south London! “It’s been brilliant. I’m really chuffed with it – affordable, effective, and does what it says on the tin.”

      Adding laptops and boosting the capability of the site is very exciting – and I’m pleased that we have done it before BETT, the educational technology show at Olympia, London, in January. We will have desktop and laptop PCs on show on the Microsoft stand and people to help and advise. Just think what we could achieve if all 30,000 visitors took the opportunity of GetOnline@Home back to their classes and their schools. On the website there are leaflets and posters to share with students and families – and clickable links which can be dropped into the school portal to keep the offer in the public eye.

      Schools can support the offer – and share it through the Pupil Premium

      Simply sharing the news might help individual families embrace the offer and level the playing field – at the moment it is only 5 per cent¹ of students who don’t have access to a PC at home. But schools can embrace this offer too. One of the things they can spend their Pupil Premium money on is PCs for students who don’t have one at home: we know that the Department for Education regards ICT access projects as being “within scope” for spending the Pupil Premium.

      The 5 per cent of students with no access to a PC at home statistic comes from the final evaluation of the Home Access programme – and I was very struck by something one of the teachers in that evaluation said: "The majority of students do their best work out of school hours, where they can concentrate for extended periods and follow up any creative ideas they have been inspired by.

      "Without a computer at home, students at this level are really missing out. Though they can use the study area before and after school, it's very easy to tell who hasn't got a computer at home because of the quality of the work."

      I’ve spent the funds Microsoft gave me on setting up the site and creating the offer – and have nothing left for big awareness campaigns – so I am trusting word of mouth. If people like what they see, they may feel encouraged to share the news. Do go to www.getonlineathome.org and see if there is anyone you know who would have a brighter Christmas and a better 2012 for having one of these PCs.

      As Linda, who got her PC for the family over the summer, says: “This is a great deal, and it’s only right that other people should know about it.”

      Clare Riley is group manager for education relations with Microsoft in the UK

      More information

      Microsoft Education on Twitter

      Microsoft Education Facebook page

      BETT logoBETT 2012, January 11-14
      Olympia, London
      Microsoft: stand D40 & D30

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