One of the new programmes included with the Office 2007 System is Groove. It allows you to setup a collaboration environment which is off line, and synchronised across different computers. You can do things like create a shared file folder, which can be used by anybody who has been allowed, whether or not they are on the same network. Which means that you can share files between home and school computers, or with pupils who want to continue working on their home computer.
All of this is designed to be very secure (MOD-type-secure), and none of the data is stored on a server somewhere (unless you want to set it up that way).
I can imagine two reactions to this - "nightmare" or "great". Let's put "nightmare" to one side, because there's no reason to think that students will do anything sillier with this than they would with USB Memory Sticks, CDs and emailed files. So what about the "great"?
In Australia, a pilot in schools has been going on a for a while, using Groove to collaborate between teachers and students at school and from home. The reaction has been very positive, with pupils and parents liking the discussion groups it provides - because the only people able to participate are those invited into the Groove workspace - in this case limiting it to school users. The other big thing that they've liked it for is the easy ability for staff in different schools to collaborate on projects. Traditionally this has been tricky, because each school network has its own security setup, and so collaboration has had to be in a public space somewhere (with all the hassle that entails).
Like most of the new Office 2007 applications, you can download a free copy of the Groove trial from the Office website
PC Pro have been doing some research on the ways that Windows Vista can save power.....come again...save power?
It appears that computers are left on all the time with nobody using them (hmm, let me think about the IT Suite, or some of those odd computers in the back of classrooms). So, if you managed them better, you'd start saving power - and either save money or the planet, depending on your views (of course, you do both). And how does it do this? Well, I'm glad you asked...
Windows Vista has a "sleep" mode, which is automatically activated if you don't use your PC for an hour, or you activate it yourself by hitting your power switch. What that does is move your PC into an ultra-low power state, where only the RAM is powered, everything else is closed down (processor, disks, screen etc). Which means that when you want to switch it back on, it comes back in two seconds (yes, really).
Based on a typical user using that better will save £23 to £46 a PC a year, just by switching the operating system. Now, in a typical secondary school, which according to surveys has 260 PCs, that is more than £10,000 a year in electricity, or over 50 tonnes of carbon emissions. Just by changing some sofware.
Want the evidence? Here's the PC Pro Labs Survey
e-Skills UK and the Parliamentary IT Committee are looking for pupil-led innovative ICT projects that have made a positive impact on your school. Your entry should show the best use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources to the benefit of the school, local community, in the UK or across the world.
The competition is for pupils aged 9 to 11 in all primary schools across the UK, and is organised by the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee (PITCOM) in partnership with e-skills UK.
There's a £1,000 prize for each regional winner, and £3,000 for the national winner. Full details are on the e-skills website
There's a lot of new things inside Exchange 2007 - things like new features in Outlook Web Access and the ability to access e-mail, voice mail, calendar, and contacts from virtually anywhere that you have a connection (telephone and computer). In Exchange Server 2007, people can access their inbox information from virtually anywhere using their desktop computer, laptop computer, a browser window from any Internet-connected computer, their mobile device, and even using a standard telephone when no Internet connectivity is available. For schools, there are lots of different potential uses - especially where you want to provide emergency access to email for staff when they are away from school, or for distributing voice messages to staff via their email (oooh, imagine the fun they can have in the school office!)
But while it is great to hear about this stuff, I'm the kind of person that likes to see it in action. Which means that often I have to wait until someone I know has started to use it. So if you're like me, you might enjoy the new programme of Hosted Trials - and especially the new one for Exchange 2007
Just go to Exchange Server 2007 Hosted Trial and sign up for a demo account. Briefly after that you'll get an email with login credentials which allow you to "feel" the new Outlook Web Access and also "talk" to Exchange Server.Your account will be pre-populated with sample messages, calendar appointments and contacts to help you have a rich experience. You will be able to send and receive mail, schedule meetings, and adjust your options. You can access your account via Microsoft Outlook Web Access, Outlook Voice Access , Microsoft Office Outlook, or an Exchange ActiveSync compatible application.Log in, send mail, create calendar appointments and subsequently phone in to play around with OVA ,Saying "Main Menu" will always take you to the main OVA menu.You can also view Frequently Asked Questions for instructions to setup access to the Exchange 2007 Trial
I've just learnt about a free event - the Microsoft Management Summit - which is aimed at senior IT managers in the UK
Called "Are you in control? How to manage and secure your infrastructure", it is a free single day event in Reading on 1st May 2007
It isn't specifically aimed at the education community, but it is a great opportunity to get access to some of the high level content which is delivered through the worldwide TechNet events.
Full event details:
"Do you have challenges managing your infrastructure, and would you like to understand our latest system management solutions? The popular TechNet MMS UK event “Are you in control?” provides a selection of the most valuable content from this year’s global Microsoft Management Summit event held in San Diego in March. This year, we will deliver a much wider range of essential technical content.This seminar for technical staff will focus on System Centre management tools and Windows Server virtualisation."
Details and Registration are at http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032334551&Culture=en-GB
We believe that the first school in Europe to deploy Office 2007 for all students and staff was in the UK - specifically Stoke College, an independent school in Suffolk (confusingly, not the Stoke College in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire).
They announced their deployment on their website news page on 17th January - straight after the BETT show. The quote that caught my eye was this one, from David Moss at the school:
Our stand at BETT was packed with visitors keen to find out about the new software, and hopefully Stoke's experience will be repeated through other schools in the UK this summer.
When Microsoft has a perfectly good website for UK Education, why don't we just put everything there?
Well, the simple answer is that it is easy to update this blog as things happen, whereas the standard website takes a while to update because the information passes through the hands of many people before appearing. Whereas using this blog, we can tell you things straight away - and also we can tell you things that would only interest a few people. Which is what a blog is all about after all - micro-publishing for specific audiences.
It also allows us, and you, to offer opinion about things, rather than blandly stating facts. Let's face it, we all hear stuff that isn't supportable by statistics, research, facts etc - and some of the little factoids are much more interesting than bare facts. So the blog can celebrate them!