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.