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May, 2007 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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May, 2007

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Building Schools for the Future Conference

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    We've just had confirmation that the Partnerships for Schools presenter is Steve Moss, who will be presenting with us at our second annual Building Schools for the Future conference at the British Library in London on 15th June.

    Steve's views on the role of ICT in the BSF programme, and his disarming openness in presentations, will make his session highly useful for delegates - there always seems to be some hidden messages hidden between the lines of Steve's words - really helpful for long-term planning!

    Check out the full details, and register for the FREE event.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Moodle Web Parts for SharePoint 2007 released

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    When I last wrote about the Moodle integration with SharePoint, it was only with SharePoint 2003.

    The new web parts developed to help you to integrate Moodle into a Learning Gateway based on SharePoint 2007 have been released, and are now fully available on the CodePlex Moodle page, our "open source project hosting website". CodePlex is an initiative for 'communities'n building solutions using our technologies. You can download work from current projects, join existing project teams, or start your own new project. Although it is Microsoft that has kick started CodePlex, there are an increasing number of non-MS projects starting up.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    No more school

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    Projects are like this all the time - you set out to create one thing, and end up creating something completely different. But in the case of the Government's "Building Schools for the Future" programme, you would think that the name of the programme says it all...that it's all about "Building Schools". But of course it isn't - it is actually about creating a model of transformed learning for the future. Addressing fundamental questions about how we move from an "industrial" age of learning to an "individual" age.

    So the article No more school as council opens 'learning centres' in The Independent makes interesting reading. To quote a couple of parts:

    "Knowsley Council in Merseyside, which - for years - has languished near or at the bottom of exam league tables, has abolished the use of the word to describe secondary education in the borough. It is taking the dramatic step of closing all of its eleven existing secondary schools by 2009. As part of a £150m government-backed rebuilding programme, they will reopen as seven state-of-the-art, round-the-clock, learning centres..."

    "Youngsters will not be taught in formal classes, nor will they stick to a rigid timetable; instead they will work online at their own speeds on programmes that are tailor-made to match their interests. They will be given their day's assignments in groups of 120 in the morning before dispersing to internet cafe-style zones in the learning centres to carry them out.

    "Madeleine Cotson, the headteacher of Bowring, said: "Provided they can show they have developed their learning, there is no reason why they couldn't do some of their learning from home."

    "Let's stop right now building new old schools," said Nick Page, who is in charge of transforming children's services in Knowsley. "We're building for the next 25 to 50 years and 25 years is a hell of a long period if we get it wrong."

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows Vista this summer?

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    A number of schools have started deploying Windows Vista, some for pilots or evaluation, and some right across the school (eg Long Eaton). And so, I wondered whether you would need any additional information or help..and at the same time my colleague Phil Allen was writing the first part of a series (so he tells me!) of articles for schools on whether and how to deploy Windows Vista in a school context.

    I've placed Phil's article onto a separate page, as it goes into some depth on your considerations and options. If you'd like Phil to write more, then please just add a comment to this post, or to the page itself, and I'll feed it on to him.

    ps Phil's also working on a more detailed deployment guide for schools - if you'd like an early copy of that, add a comment too

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    SharePoint 2007 - want to really know what it can do for you?

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    My colleague, Phil Allen, who's our resident educational-techie, has provided me with a document of links to really good SharePoint resources. Bless him, he wants to help you all find good stuff, but 7 pages of document, with each page containing long link lists! Phew, I think it might take a while working through that.

    So I've done some of the hard work, and looked for the stuff that I think you might like. If you want the full list, then feel free to take a look

    Ray's edited SharePoint link list

    A nice easy start, with an introductory SharePoint Flash Demo

    Warmed up? How about installing a trial version of SharePoint 2007

    Specific resources for education include the SharePoint Learning Kit (a free, community source toolset we've developed which helps you construct course structures for content delivery, and automate some of the teaching management process)

    We've developed SharePoint to be a vital component within the Microsoft Learning Gateway, and if you want to build one yourself, then you can find get the technical resources for Learning Gateway 2007, and join up with the Learning Gateway Community. And the final education piece are the Moodle web parts to help you integrate their virtual learning environment into your SharePoint 2007.

    And some final technical stuff - a technical 'deep dive' on SharePoint search and the TechNet Centre for SharePoint - a good point to start looking for all the other stuff!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Harnessing Technology - a white paper to reality

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    A few years ago the DfES published the e-strategy guide "Harnessing Technology" - a view of how technology would be used to support learning, raise the engagement between home and school, and to contribute to raising standards across all schools. If you don't want to wade through the 71 pages of the guide, and would instead prefer to see a practical example of what is possible, then why not read the Shireland Language College story. Read how they created a Learning Gateway for themselves and their partner schools, and used it to connect with their learners, parents and the wider community. It was described last year by Tony Blair as "one of the most remarkable ICT systems in the country", and so it makes a great exemplar.

    The case study is published on our world-wide case studies website


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free software for UK charities

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    I learnt this week that one thousand charities have so far benefited from free software through one of our most successful charity partnerships. The Computer Charity Trust manages a software donations program called CTX on our behalf, which enables charities, of any size, to access free licensed software. Because the scheme hasn't had wide coverage I though it worth a mention here, as I know that many schools get involved in activities with charities, and school employees are often involved in charities in their private lives.

    There's an important note at this point: the scheme's small print means that it cannot be used by independent schools, and there are limits to the amount of software any single charity can apply for - The Computer Charity Trust website has more information

    This year Changing Faces was one such charity who were able to upgrade their whole system thanks to the scheme.

    Each year, around 3,000 children are born with cleft lips, craniofacial conditions or birthmarks. The NHS sees 40,000 people with burns or scalds; a similar number are treated for cancer of the head, neck, mouth, throat and skin. Changing Faces is the UK national charity that supports people who have disfigurements of the face or body – whatever the cause, helping people to develop high self-esteem and self-confidence and have access to the very best health and social services throughout their lives.

    Christine Muskett is Head of Operational Support at the organisation, which has 21 members of staff including two based remotely in Scotland and Wales.

    “There was little consistency to the software being used across the organisation,” explained Christine.

    “We don’t have the budget to consider a routine 3-year upgrade cycle, so had a mix of software versions running, all needing support and troubleshooting.”

    Charities often naturally struggle to find resources to invest in back-office efficiencies. Here it was no exception – the upgrade was an opportunity that simply wouldn’t have been available without CTX and Microsoft. "The project wouldn’t have been on the agenda,” notes Christine. “We’d have just had to get by. As it was, we upgraded the whole charity for the money that we might have spent on three, maybe four users. That was an incontrovertible financial argument.”

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Long Eaton School - the first school to deploy Windows Vista and Office 2007?

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    I'll start with a proviso on this - I don't know if Long Eaton were the first school to do a widespread deployment of Windows Vista and Office 2007, but the easiest way to find out is to make the bold statement, and if you know better email me or add a comment to this blog!

    When I went to Long Eaton recently (blog) I saw a school that was highly focused on working out how they were going to support their overall objectives with the use of ICT, and had a driving belief that investing in ICT was a key to transforming learning.

    My colleague, Lucy, who came along with me, wrote an article about their story, and describing some of the aspects of their technology. Read the article.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Come and visit our campus for the SharePoint Applications Showcase for education – 25th June; Thames Valley Park

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    My colleague, Mark A'Bear ran a SharePoint day in March, for schools to hear from different companies that were developing software sitting on top of the SharePoint web portal. In all, 120 schools attended, and he's now running a second day, involving a further 20 partners. They'll be showing examples of Search, MIS, ePortfolio, VLE and Library Management applications on SharePoint. The event will focus on ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’, and there's plenty of chance to talk to people in more detail - either from the software partners or from Microsoft. Oh, and it's free!

    It's on the 25th June, at the Thames Valley Microsoft Campus in Reading. To register call the booking desk on on 0870 166 6680, and quote the event reference number, (big breath) 1032338563, or register online

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Grava - what's in a codename?

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    Is it me, or is there a random code-name generator somewhere in Microsoft. A but like those big clunky ones that sit in the cellars of the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall? (Okay, I know it's not true, but hey)

    Today's code name is Grava - something which shouldn't really have a codename at this point, because (a) it's public information and (b) we talked about it to lots of people at the BETT show in January.

    "Grava" is the code name for a new set of tools from the Microsoft Education Products Group (based over in Redmond in the States) that is designed to allow the education community to create and assemble interactive materials that will increase discovery and allow learners to go at their own pace and learning style.

    It's a great thing to go with your virtual learning environment (whichever one you choose), and the reason I thought I'd mention it now is that I've heard that you can sign yourself up for the early adopter programme (the CTP programme) on the Connect.microsoft.com website. This means you can play around with it, see what it does, and decide whether it's going to be something that will help your students and staff.

    The "Grava" tools that are scheduled for release later in 2007:

    • "Grava" Player—The "Grava" player enables users to view the rich interactive content created in "Grava" Authoring.
    • Developer Tools—The "Grava" SDK is built on Silverlight (aah, not a code word but a real name - the code word for Silverlight was WPF/E) and provides a programming model and tools for building rich educational experiences.
    • Authoring—"Grava" Authoring allows users to create interactive and stimulating non-linear projects to view in the "Grava" player.
    • Services—"Grava" provides an array of services which complement the authoring, SDK and player components. These services include the ability to do assessments, log results, and create intelligent learning solutions.
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