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July, 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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July, 2007

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Talking about "Today, Next Week and Next Year" with the DCSF


    Earlier in the year, a small group from the DfES (as it was then) visited a number of high-tech companies in the US, in order to evaluate how technology would impact and support learning in the future. As a follow on from that, Microsoft were invited this week to present a summary of that information to a wider group from the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). In the spirit of openness, we thought that it would be good to share with you the subjects we covered. We used a theme of "Today, Next Week and Next Year".


    Shift Happens

    We started with the Shift Happens presentation - a thought provoking look at changes happening all around us, at a global and local level, and the current situation within education.

    Shireland Language College

    We were then joined by colleagues from Shireland Language College, who are using the Microsoft Learning Gateway to support both their students, and students in other schools.

    Sir Mark Grundy, the head teacher, talked about their Learning Gateway, and the improvement in standards and achievement that they were seeing in both their school and their partner schools. One thing that really struck me as amazing is that they get 1,000,000 hits per term on their Learning Gateway, demonstrating how critical it is to their learning environment in the school, and 15,000 hits per month on their Family Portal. 

    Then Kirsty Tonks followed with an overview of how this helps in the classroom, in both Shireland and their partner schools - and talked about some of the content created, and the collaboration work between the schools.

    Jon Nowicki talked about the college's plans for the future of the Learning Gateway, and their use of more devices for students, to widen access to the Learning Gateway.

    Download Shireland's slides

    Visit the Shireland Learning Gateway

    Next Week

    Building Schools for the Future

    My colleague Chris Poole, our Business Manager for the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme talked about our work on BSF, and demonstrated the BSF Showcase.

    Download Chris's slides

    Watch a video of the Microsoft BSF Showcase

    Visit Microsoft's BSF website

    Next Year

    We finished with a quick peek into the technologies around the corner, which may have an impact on education.

    Rather than giving you the slides, here's some links to some of the sites where you can see more:

    Microsoft Surface will allow you to transform the interaction with a computer. We looked at some of the internal research videos (sorry, can't share those!) and then looked at the product which has just been released in the US using a completely new way of interfacing to a PC. You can visit the Microsoft Surface website for more information on this, and to see the product in action.

    SeaDragon is a way of interacting with massive amounts of information - for example, huge photograph databases, or multiple databases of printed information (complete works of Shakespeare on a single page anybody?). I'd recommend watching the first 5 minutes of the video on the TED website, where Blaise Aquera y Arcas demonstrated it, to get a true understanding of what's possible.

    PhotoSynth is an amazing way of arranging photographs of a place - creating a three-dimensional model using photographs - allowing you to "walk around" places like St Mark's Square in Venice, or inside the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Start by watching Blaise's demonstraion video, and then visit the PhotoSynth website, or look at the BBC collection of UK locations.

    Popfly was last - a way of creating 'mash ups' of data between different sources. I used the example of taking my photo library from Flickr and publishing it as a book where I can turn the pages on-screen. Watch my live demonstration (less than one minute from logging in, I've created a 3D book. Sorry there's no sound on this, as I talked about what I was doing. Equally, there are no tricks - this is a straight screen recording in real time!) or read more about Popfly on this blog.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Long Eaton - delivering a new model of learning


    I've written about Long Eaton School, in Derbyshire, before, and listening to Alan Richards today, it was interesting to hear of their plans for September. Year 7 will be moving to a curriculum where 50% of their learning will be delivered online using their Microsoft Learning Gateway - a target which the school recognises as "taxing". The reason for setting an adventurous target is that in order to make step changes they believe you need to push the boundaries hard and mandate change on users! Pupils will have other big changes too. Year 7 students will no longer have their own My Documents on an "H:" dive, or shared folders on their "G:" drive, and will instead use their Sharepoint My Sites to store all of their files, and to collaborate. Just one of the benefits is that students will have access to all of their files from home as well as in-school.

    The plan is also to get parents more engaged with the school, by opening up Learning Gateway access for all parents of Year 7 students, so that they can look at live attendance, assignment and attainment information.

    Read the Long Eaton case study online

    If you'd like to find out more, then drop an email to Alan Richards at the school (the contact details are published on their website). Alan is always happy to share his school's story, and what they've learnt, with other schools.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Data security in schools


    Listening to the news this morning, my attention was grabbed by the Information Commissioner, on the subject of data security, as he said "Data is being stolen too easily. Laptops, containing personal information and databases, being stolen when they are taken outside of the workplace without proper data encryption."

    This issue also affects schools, although today it's a relief that we haven't had a high profile incident. Many teachers have laptops that they use in school and take home for preparation and marking. And if you take a look at the data on them, you'll find some limited data, typically marks and assessments in a spreadsheet, class lists, and perhaps parental contact lists left over from the last trip. However on many laptops you'll find some extremely sensitive information, such as pupils' special needs statement and IEPs. This is exactly the kind of information which you would want to safeguard.

    And on some laptops, in some schools, you'll find copies of the entire pupil database, with lots of detail, including home addresses and contact details etc. Typically these will be on the laptops of the Leadership team, but in some schools, all teachers may have a copy of the database for their classes.

    So what should you do?

    1) Do a quick review.

    Take a look at a couple of laptops to assess what kind of data are being taken out of school. Maybe a typical classroom teacher's and perhaps (if you're brave!) take a look at the data on the SENCO's laptop and whoever in the leadership team is responsible for timetabling and assessment. The databases they are using for that are probably at the extreme end of the scale!

    2) Ensure you have some basic security requirements covered

    Start with the basics, for example: What is your password policy and is it being kept to?

    Take a look at our Security Tools and Resources guide on the UK Education website, which includes a link to the Security Risk Management Guide on TechNet.

    This guide helps you to plan, build, and maintain a successful security risk management program. In a four phase process, the guide explains how to conduct each phase of a risk management program and how to build an ongoing process to measure and drive security risks to an acceptable level. The guide is technology agnostic and references many industry accepted standards for managing security risk.

    3) Plan your next move

    When you move to Windows Vista, plan to implement BitLocker Drive Encryption included within Windows Vista Enterprise Edition. This will ensure that all data on your laptops are encrypted to highly secure, government standards. This may be the easiest way to ensure that every bit of data on your laptops remains secure permanently. (Watch the BitLocker video)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Philadelphia School of the Future on BBC News


    In the UK we have Building Schools for the Future - and in the US, there's the "School of the Future" - a collaboration between Microsoft and the Philadelphia School District. A completely new school has been built from the bottom up, bringing together education, technology and business management techniques. It is a vision of learning in the future which is different to the model being planned for the UK BSF programme, but there are many similarities:

    • ICT bridging the gap that exists between home and school
    • The school is over-subscribed (9,000 appplications for 175 places!)
    • Identity management systems providing access to the school, automated registration and as a payment system for catering
    • The use of pervasive ICT to deliver the curriculum

    If you are thinking about learning in the future, it is yet another source of information on others' visions. BBC News 24's "Click" programme focused on the school at the weekend - you can read the story and watch the whole programme on their website. To find out more about the school programme, and resources for planning your own futue, at our School of the Future website.


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Know IT All - keeping students safe on the Internet


    My two children, 7 & 11, are leading lives which are increasingly online, and I am aware that their use of the Internet brings them a great opportunity to access information to help their learning, as well as opening them up to contact with friends, and potentially other people that they have not met before. Rather than adding unreasonable controls on their use of the Internet, I want to ensure that they have the information that they need to use the Internet safely - giving them some easy to understand rules about what they are allowed to do, and what will help them to be safe online.

    image The website that I rely on is Know IT All. This is a website, or a CD set, created by ChildNet International with support from other organisations (including the DfES DCSF). During this summer around 1 million copies of the CD will be distributed to parents through PC suppliers like PC World. There are sections for parents, teachers and students. This resource may be useful when planning for your new intakes in September, or a link to send home in your last newsletter of the year, before your students go home for the summer break. Given this summer's weather so far, there's a good chance they might be spending their summer on Instant Messenger and the web!

    Everything you need to know, and all of the multimedia resources and videos, are available on the website at

    (If you want bulk copies of the CD, you can order them to distribute to all of your pupils. Details on the website)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office 2007 compatibility pack


    If you're using Microsoft Office 2000, XP or 2003, you may need to be able to open, edit and save files in the new file formats of Microsoft Office 2007.
    Newly launched is the Microsoft Updates and Compatibility Pack, which will enable you to work with these formats quickly and easily. This is especially useful if you will end up with a mixed set of software in September, or to let your pupils know for compatibility with their home PCs.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Dysg e-Learning Conference


    I had a great time at the Dysg e-learning conference today, sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government. The sessions throughout the day looked at what colleges and schools were doing to take e-learning forward, with a large focus on virtual learning environments and collaborative working between schools and colleges.

    My presentation, at the end fo the day, was about four aspects of transformation - technology, the lifestyle of students, new attitudes to schools and the way that information flow needs to be more connected and visible; it summarised the changes which we are being affected by, and how things might look in the future.

    So, for those who attended and others who may have an interest, here's the links to the slides and other resources that I used:

    Transformed Learning PowerPoint presentation (Right Click and "Save File As...")

    Shift Happens - the introduction (instructions & details on the webpage)

    Microsoft Surface - unfortunately the video I used isn't available publically, but there are other video resources on the Surface website

    And finally a short video trailer for the BSF Showcase (Right Click and "Save File As...")

    And, because there was much discussion about Moodle, let me also point towards other posts on this blog about Moodle integration with SharePoint.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Schools Mobility Day


    We held a "mobile" day at our campus on 10th July (no, it wasn't a moving-around-type-of-mobile day, but a day all about the use of mobile computing in education). There were some good external speakers, talking about their practical experiences in the use of all kinds of mobile devices - handhelds, phones, ultra-mobile PCs, tablet PCs etc.

    The presentations are now available for download (Right Click & Save As...)

    Jason Langridge of Microsoft

    Graham Brown-Martin of Handheld Learning

    Paul Butler of SMIS (Sandwell)

    Aidan Prior of Steljes

    Sheila Crew of Bristol local authority

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft IT Academy - IT training for students, local businesses and staff


    Looking for new ideas for 2008? Perhaps you've got IT skills on your list of development areas for your staff? And also "raising funds for school" is one of the action items that's been on your list for a while?

    Well, those are basically some of the ideas behind the Microsoft IT Academy. With almost 600 IT Academies in colleges and schools around the UK, the programme has become very established.

    One of the first IT Academies in the country was Sawtry Community College. As well as addressing the needs of their students and the wider community, Alan Stevens who is an Associate Principal at the college, explained that they're also addressing other issues:

     “It is essential that we improve staff IT skills. We wanted to take charge of maintaining our online curriculum and offer more information across the school using the portal. This reflects the Training Development Agency’s change in emphasis from merely training teachers to school-wide staff development reforms.”

    Once you have Microsoft IT Academy certification, you are able to provide courses and qualifications to students, staff and the wider local community (where the "Microsoft" certification helps get your message spread widely).

    You can read about Sawtry's experiences at our worldwide case studies website and find out more about the programme at the IT Academy UK website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Basic Digital Literacy Skills for Staff and Students


    If you or any of your staff - or even friends and family - need help getting started with computers then you might find the Digital Literacy Curriculum will be useful for you. It is free of charge and has 5 modules, available in 12 langauges. When completed. you can choose to take a test and print a pass certificate.

    • Computer Basics
    • The Internet and World Wide Web
    • Productivity Programmes
    • Computer Security and Privacy
    • Digital Lifestyles

    You can make this available in-school or at home, or through libraries and community centres.  You can either just link to the site or you can download the materials and use them on your own systems. For full details click this link.

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