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July, 2009 - The UK Higher Education Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
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July, 2009

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Good Blogging Guide - PDF version now available

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    After a little bit of prompting, and a few requests, I’ve pulled the chapters of the “Good Blogging Guide” into a complete PDF booklet.

    You can now download the whole thing as a PDF and read it at your leisure, and share with colleagues.

    Chapter One – Writing for your audience

    Chapter Two – Have an objective

    Chapter Three – Getting onto page one of Google

    Chapter Four – A blogging Code of Practice

    Chapter Five – No lawyers please

    Chapter Six – When (if) things go wrong

    If you prefer to still read it online (which does make it easy to disagree or add your own thoughts via comments) you can get to all via this Good Blogging Guide page.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    A comprehensive list of what's new in Windows 7

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    image

    I’ve just finished scanning an excellent series of articles on TechNet, about what’s new in Windows 7. Whilst not every feature is critical for education, there are some areas which are answers to current challenges in education ICT.

    And there’s plenty more on AppLocker, Biometrics, Print Management, Search, etc etc.

    Read the full set of articles on TechNet

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft Develops Plug-in for Moodle to Aid Teachers, Students

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    This is a very exciting announcement and one that I’ve certain will be welcome from many in the education sector and also an important step in Microsoft’s Education Product Group strategy as we release the Microsoft Live Services plug-in for Moodle.

    (see video http://channel9.msdn.com/posts/NicFill/Education-Labs-release-Windows-Live-Moodle-Plug-in/)

     

    As the name suggests, the plug-in allows some live services to be accessed from within Moodle.  To help Microsoft’s live@edu customers gain access to and understand this functionality, we are releasing the full source and accompanying documentation to the plug-in.

     

    Specifically, the plug-in integrates to Outlook Live email, calendar, Live Messenger, Live Alerts and Bing Search directly into Moodle.  This means that students, teachers and faculty can quickly communicate, collaborate and conduct learning based research directly inside the Moodle learning management system.

     

    For more information, please go to Michael Golden’s blog posting

    and for access to the plug-in please view the education labs

    http://www.educationlabs.com/pages/default.aspx

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Integrating Moodle with Microsoft Live services

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    Who’d have thought it, not only would I be looking for the Moodle logo for the blog, but other strange things have been happening this week:


    • We’ve released two projects under the open source GPL v2 licence for the first time ever
    • Following on from the experimental OfficeLabs project, we’ve launched Education Labs, to allow ‘quick’ projects to release helpful applications (or more likely ‘applets’) specifically to support teachers and learners
    • We’ve released software development kits to allow programmers to connect our Live services into other applications (like web portals)
    • …and it is only Thursday

    The background

    Let me go back to the beginning…

    • Moodle is an open-source virtual learning environment used in the majority of universities and colleges in the UK, and in a minority of schools. (More on Moodle at moodle.org)
    • Universities typically either implement Moodle as a stand-alone web portal, or use the SharePoint webparts for Moodle as one way of integrating it with the rest of their ICT systems. And in many universities, Moodle is something that has been adopted at departmental level, often bypassing the university-wide VLE of choice.
    • GPL is the licence scheme that most open-source software is released under. We don’t normally use it, because once something is released under this licence, control of it passes over to anybody who wants it. It’s different to the usual licences we use, where we retain the rights to the software – eg to modify it, or to introduce a fee for it.
    • OfficeLabs was started a year ago, to share some of the projects we work on internally, that produces prototypes products (a bit like ‘concept cars’). Previously these projects would have been used by Microsoft staff, but only the occasional product would make it out in the big wide world. But OfficeLabs allows the release of small projects which can add to the Office experience, even without them being fully engineered products. It’s come out with things like PPTPlex for PowerPoint (which completely transforms presentations from being a start-on-the-first-slide-and-go-all-the-way-to-the-last-slide experience) and the Forgotten Attachment Detector for Outlook (which looks out for key words like ‘attached’ in your email, and reminds you when you’ve actually forgotten to attach the document in your email). Oh, and it’s free.
    • Education Labs is the new equivalent for education projects from Microsoft. If you imagine Microsoft as a car factory, then Education Labs is the guys around the corner building a Go Kart – it’s the fun, hobby side of the team.

    The Live Services plug-in for Moodle

    What we’ve released on Education Labs this week is a toolkit that allows you to integrate the Live@Edu services onto your students’ Moodle homepage. Live@Edu is our hosted mail and collaboration service for students, which provides a free 10GB mailbox, 25GB of general online file storage, and additional 5GB of online document storage for collaborative projects. A large number of UK universities have started using it – with budgets so tight, the idea of outsourcing student email to a free provider is looking more attractive!

    What the plug-in does is allow a student to see their live, real-time inbox and calendar on their Moodle home page, via a single login. And it also allows lecturers to do things like send out student alerts – things like “Your homework assignment is due in tomorrow” with an easy step, and the system will handle the delivery of it to students (through email, mobile phone etc).

    When I saw a brief demonstration of it yesterday, the bit that impressed me was seeing the email inbox on the home page of Moodle – not just a link to it, but the actual emails themselves. It is another step towards making your school Learning Platform the core of everything that your students and staff do.

    You can download the Moodle plug-in from Education Labs, or watch the video of it on this page.

    With this project, you’ll need the technical skills to get it working (but then you’ll have needed those to get Moodle working in your university too). But if you are using Moodle already, this project is a step in the right direction to help integrate a range of your ICT services together, and builds on the work we did a couple of years ago to help the integration between SharePoint and Moodle.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 release date announced – 7th August for most UK universities

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    The Windows Team have announced, via The Windows Blog, more information on the various availability dates for Windows 7. Whilst the consumer product launches on 22nd October, it will actually be available earlier for customers using our ‘volume licensing’ schemes – like the Campus Agreement and Select Licensing.

    The very good news in their blog post is that customers who have bought their existing Windows licences with Software Assurance – which includes every University with a Campus Agreement – will be able to get the full released version on 7th August. (Whilst the rest will have to wait until at least 1st September)

    This ‘thank you’ to Campus Agreement customers means that some universities can start to roll out Windows 7 during this summer holiday, whilst some will have to wait until Christmas or beyond, when the classrooms are quiet enough.

    Full details of all of the dates are on the Windows 7 team blog

    It may seem adventurous to roll out a brand new operating system very early, but this time things are very different – over 2m downloads of the Windows 7 beta, and millions of people running it means that we’re releasing a pretty mature product which has already had significant amounts of real-life testing. The old adage of “Wait for Service Pack 1” doesn’t seem to apply in the new release model, where the Beta and the Release Candidate are both widely available for public use.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 Deployment resources

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    After my last post, I got a couple of immediate emails asking for sources of deployment advice for Windows 7. So here’s a brief set of links to resources to read (perhaps wait until term’s over at the end of the week?)


    How to start a Windows 7 deployment
    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd744251(WS.10).aspx

    Deployment Tech centre (including chance to sign up for beta of new deployment tools)
    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/desktopdeployment/default.aspx

    Deployment training video on Win 7 DISM, from MS Learning:
    http://www.microsoft.com/learning/_silverlight/learningsnacks/win7/snack07/Default.html

    And finally, how about signing up for beta programme for the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010?

    Get ready to deploy Windows® 7 and Windows Server® 2008 R2 with the newly released Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 Beta 2. MDT 2010 is the next version of Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, a Solution Accelerator for operating system and application deployment. New features such as flexible driver management, optimized user interface work flow, and Windows PowerShellTM will help simplify deployment and make your job easier. As a member of the Beta review program, you will be asked to provide feedback about the tools that the Solution Accelerator includes.

    https://connect.microsoft.com/content/content.aspx?ContentID=12463&SiteID=14

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 release dates for education

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    Our Worldwide Partner Conference was on this week, and there has been a flurry of announcements. I’ll summarise those that may be important to you over the next few days, but if you can’t wait then go over to our PressPass site.

    One of the most important things mentioned at the conference was the imminent release of Windows 7. The Windows 7 team immediately added some more info to their blog, to give a bit more detail.

    The most important thing is that our customers who have a Campus Agreement, or another agreement with Software Assurance, will be the first to get access, and it looks like that’s in the middle of August.

    So the race is on to be the first university to deploy the release version of Windows 7 widely this summer!

    Here’s the verbatim from the Windows 7 blog:

    Firstquotes

    As previously stated, we expect Windows 7 to RTM in the 2nd half of July.

    Once Windows 7 is complete, how do I get it?

    The answer depends on who you are:

    • MSDN & TechNet Subscribers: Subscribers will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 a few weeks after we announce RTM.
    • Volume License (VL) Customers: Customers with Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 Enterprise a few weeks after we announce RTM. As announced today by Bill Veghte during his WPC09 keynote, customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 7 through Volume Licensing on September 1st.
    • Consumers, Enthusiasts, & Beta Testers (Everyone else): The retail version of Windows 7 will be available in stores October 22nd. If you pre-ordered Windows 7, it should be delivered sometime around the October 22nd timeframe (depends on the retailer).
    • On New PCs: OEMs are expected to start shipping new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed on them around October 22nd.  Endquotes
  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft cloud delivers education services

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    If you went to an education technology conference that didn’t mention the word ‘cloud’ then you’d be in the wrong place today.  Everyone is talking about the possibilities but there are only a relatively small number of institutions that have done much more than provide email or file sharing.

    So along comes Microsoft with the Azure platform and all of a sudden the possibilities have extended far beyond most peoples expectation.  What is Azure?  It’s like Windows in the cloud with the full development platform and server components that many institutions have in their own data centre;for more information look here and this picture will perhaps help a little.

    image

    Last night, I read an article in the Seattle Times (on-line, the printed version doesn’t yet reach Sheffield) and this article caught my attention.  It describes how 250,000 laptops will be rolled out to school children in Ethiopia running on Azure.  The solution provides teachers with the ability to manage curriculum and monitor student records and data securely across the education system without the requirement to build a large-scale infrastructure.

    I believe this is a great leap forward in education capabilities and look forward to further announcements from Microsoft and more stories like this.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    From the mouth of Chichester

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    I’m now going to ignore Ray’s comments on good blogging guide because all this post is intended to do is link directly to the words of the University of Chichester and what they have to say about their experience of live@edu.  My colleague, Ben Nunney, handed over his blog to Chichester for this article and I’m pleased he did – great work.

    http://blogs.msdn.com/ukliveatedu/archive/2009/07/13/from-the-horse-s-mouth.aspx

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Good Blogging Guide for education

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    original[1]Last year, the UK Schools blog won the Computer Weekly Public Sector Blog of the Year award, and the blog has proudly sported the badge since!

    As a result, I’ve run a few blogging workshops for internal colleagues, and followed that up with workshops for people within education who are thinking of taking up blogging, or want to discuss taking an existing blog further. Following on from a blogging workshop I gave in London, I thought I should sit down and turn all of my slides and other information on good practice in blogging into a series of blog posts. And I’ve finally managed to get them up and published on the UK Schools blog. Rather than repeating them here, either go and look at The Good Blogging Guide page, or use the individual chapter links below.

    Bear in mind, these are all personal opinions - you may find that some of the things I outline don't work for you, or you disagree with their aims, so feel free to take the bits you think are useful, and ignore the bits that aren't! Hopefully, some of it will be useful.


    image_thumb[1]

    Chapter One: Write for the audience
    How to select an audience and focus on it. To help I share the profile of the person I’m writing for when I sit down to write the UK Schools blog.


    image_thumb[1] Chapter Two: Have an objective
    Two simple rules which help you to stay focused on what you want each blog post to achieve, and to know what to write.


    image_thumb[1] Chapter Three: Getting onto page one of Google
    Also known as SEO in plain english, or ‘search engine optimisation for blogs’, this gives you four simple  rules to get your blog noticed, and found by people searching for your subject.
    NB: Chapter 3 1/2 shows what happened when I used the rules on Chapter 3


    image_thumb_1[1] Chapter Four: A blogging Code of Practice
    Advice on how to construct your own blogging guidelines, if you’re part of an organisation. With examples from the Civil Service, Microsoft, my own team’s guidelines, and a council code of practice for education bloggers.


    image_thumb[3] Chapter Five: No lawyers please
    I have a personal dislike for people that write in language the rest of us can’t understand. Hence “No lawyers please”, with quick rules on writing style and some tools to help you to understand your own.


    image_thumb[1] Chapter Six: When things go wrong
    Not the use of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Some advice about how to deal with tricky situations, and how to get your organisation on your side when things don’t quite go to plan!


    Chapter Seven: The best tools
    Okay, I admit this is still in the works. But it’ll be here soon, and then I’ll come back and add the link.

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