Keeping up on the Home Access Programme? Am I making sense so far? Wondering what’s next? Asking what exactly we’re going to do about it? Wonder no longer!

Along with a number of other companies, we’ve been involved in the Ministerial Task Force for the Home Access Programme over the last year and a half. I don’t know the exact reasons for choosing us, but I’m guessing it’s because we are involved in education, and also involved in the consumer world of IT, and we’re intricately involved in the way that young people use IT in their social life (If you’ve got a teenager, you already know about that it’s easier to IM them down for tea than shouting up the stairs).

And so we’ve been thinking about the programme for a while. We work with organisations involved with learning in schools, online safety, ICT skills for families and students, and a whole range of other things. So it seemed obvious to bring all of this work together to create what we’ve called the Microsoft “Home Learning Package”. In a nutshell, it means that a parent choosing one of the Home Access computers can opt for a software suite which has all of the key items pre-installed. And ‘key’ in this context means the things that pupils are using across their learning and social life (or, to fit with the trendy marketing moment, their “digital lifestyle and digital workstyle”).

The package contains the Ultimate edition of Office 2007 (the version that includes Access and Publisher, which is handy for secondary-age pupils) plus the Windows Live Essentials pack, plus access to some of the other key online software and resources (Photosynth, SkyDrive, Virtual Earth, Worldwide Telescope), and then a range of resources to help families who are potentially getting their first online computer:

  • Family Safety Settings – which will allow parents to set limits on their children’s use of the Internet, Messenger contacts, time limits etc
  • Digital Literacy Curriculum – a set of skills training courses covering everything from using word processors, e-mail and the Internet through to digital photography and music.
  • KnowITAll for Parents, a set of award winning resources to help parents keep their children safer online, with a special section for children

Now some of these resources are free to download, but the bit we’ve done as part of the Home Learning Package is to ensure that parents can get them all pre-installed as one simple package, and to be honest I think that’s pretty useful. Whenever I get a new computer, I’m used to downloading my favourite utilities and add-ons, but for most people, having it all in the box to go on day one makes a difference.

I haven’t seen the price of any of these computers yet, because the shortlist of approved suppliers has only just been announced, but I’m hoping that the price will be pretty compelling (fingers crossed that the price will be as good, or better than, simply buying a copy of Office Home & Student, even though Office Ultimate has got tons more in it).

Anyway, the details of our software are on our Home Access section on the Education website, which has got a handy FAQ section too

(If you spot anything missing from the FAQ, let me know and I’ll pass it on to be added)

And if you’re wondering whether having the Home Access Programme really can make a difference, and you’ve got 3 minutes, take a look at the Broadclyst story below – filmed last summer, it’s staff, pupils and parents talking about the way that learning has changed through having access to ICT at home and at school, and how it is connecting up their learning. There are plenty of other stories like this on the Innovative Schools website

Reading in RSS? Download the video on this link