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February, 2009 - 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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February, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Reminder - Free Office 2007 classroom posters

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    It’s been a little while since I offered these on the blog, but we still have a few hundred of our Office 2007 poster sets for the classroom. They have been going out of the door regularly (although sometimes they’ve been a little late, because I’ve forgotten to pass the request onto James to pop them in the post). The good news is that now you can email Mir directly, things will be faster.

    Poster-Excel Poster-PowerPoint

    He has a pile of poster tubes, just around the corner, containing 8 of these posters (2 of each for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook).

    Poster-Word Poster-Outlook

     

    If you’d like to get a set, just email Mir with your name, school name and address.

    (If you just can’t wait, and you want to download the PDFs, then click here to get them from my SkyDrive. Or if you’re attending the NAACE Conference next week, drop by our stand and pick a set up)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Keeping your teachers safe online

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    imageA teaching friend spent the half-term hobbled by the fact that their computer had been infected by a worm. And as it was half-term, they’d not been able to get support from the IT team at school, so they had spent a lot of time trying to fix their laptop themselves. What is odd is that it’s a school-provided laptop, so I would have thought it should have Auto-Updates, up-to-date anti-virus etc. But the worm attack seems to have been through a loophole closed by an update 6 months ago – which means they’ve not installed Windows updates since then.

    I assume you probably manage your teachers’ laptops more closely, but here’s a timely link that you may want to share with your staff, because they probably have home computers that may not be kept to the same high update standards as yours. In the vast majority of cases these days, simply keeping a computer up to date with Windows Updates (and using up-to-date virus software) will protect you.

    Protect your computer: Beyond the basics

    This is a simple guide to handling computer viruses, written to help you learn how to prevent and remove malicious computer viruses, and keep your data safe

    (The friend told me all about this as they were just about to take it into their technician yesterday morning. Probably saved my weekend from ruination! Mind you, we could have had a crack at the £180,000 reward)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Microsoft freebie list

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    I have a colleague, Daniel Good, in the US, who runs a blog which exists purely to aggregate information from other Microsoft blogs. With the volume of information we publish regularly, it is sometimes tricky to find the right source of information but often there’s a blog out there, written by the team that are completely focused on the thing you want (like this blog, solely focused on information for UK Schools). So it makes a good starting point to go looking for specialist information.

    imageThe blog is called “Blog MS – Official Microsoft Team Blogs”, and as of today indexes 214 Microsoft team blogs (ie written by a team responsible for something, rather than a single individual). Every week Daniel produces a summary of what’s been published on those blogs, so if you have a need for information this Monday morning, then you know where to go.


    One of his interesting posts is the “Guide to Free Microsoft Software and Online Services”, which he’s assembled from information provided by colleagues. If you want to find some free Microsoft software, or a free online service, then this post is the place to go. It’s a long, long list, so if you want to find a freebie, make it your starting point.

    (Assuming you haven’t found it first on the Microsoft UK Education site’s Free Stuff list)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Two blogs you should read regularly

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    I don’t use the phrase “you should” lightly – it smacks of a My Mum (especially when it came to giving me advice about bring up our children. You know the kind of thing “You should put them to bed at 6pm” and “You should keep them quiet”). But in this case it’s a no-brainer to say “you should” because you will learn genuinely useful information to your school, and pick up practical ideas and tips.

    image Mike Herrity’s “SharePoint in Education” blog is a great read if you want ideas on where to go next with your own school Learning Gateway, or if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Mike’s busily sharing what they have been doing at Twynham school – this week he’s been writing all about Student Collaboration – and it is full of ideas that you could (a) steal and (b) consider for your own school.


    image And Alex Pearce’s SharePoint blog has a pile of really useful tips on a regular basis. What I like about Alex is that he answers the “How do I do that?” questions, based on what he’s actually doing himself at Great Barr School – like “How do I add a banner on my site” or “How do I integrate Moodle”. And his blog has lots of step-by-step instructions with screen shots.

    Put the two together and you’ve got a combination of good input for both “where next” and “here’s how to do it”.

    Add them to your RSS feeds…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Avoiding being PowerPointless

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    The title is a reminder for me, not you!
    It is amazing the number of times I see PowerPoint being used badly – especially in long and dull meetings – but a school visit normally perks me up, because I often see it being used by a teacher in the way it was probably intended – to be an aide to good communication, rather than a crutch for a bad communicator. You know what I mean – things like the way some people read the words from the slide, or spend their time making the slides look good and forget to spend time making sure they are actually communicating something.

    Having said that, it’s always nice to have a good looking presentation!

    imageI found these slide templates last night, and I think they’ll help with both issues. This image is from one of the templates (Static Text Effects) – apparently clear Perspex text floating in space – and I think it helps out because not only does it look good, but there’s no way you could use it for a 20-bullet-point-list slide. It forces you to reduce the words on the slide (and therefore think more about what you are going to say).


    imageOr this image from another template (Static Picture Effects), where a simple right-click on the image allows you to select ‘Change Picture’ and use the template with your own images. It only takes the same time as dropping 3 pictures onto a slide, but the results are a lot more pleasing on the eye. And as with the other slide, it encourages you to think about what you say, because it’s clear the slide is there to give a picture for people to look at while they listen to your words of wisdom!


    You can download all of these templates from the Office website. Why not give your teaching colleagues a little present to help them through the next half of the term? (Or, keep quiet until you’ve had a chance to impress people by using them yourself. Or if you’re coming up for a Performance Review, why not help the Head to use them in assembly next week and then share with the teachers!)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Making your teacher’s lives a little easier - the neat web part

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    You probably know that the UK Education team have a number of different blogs (I’ll share a bit more detail later, but the list includes blogs for teachers, universities, colleges, live@edu users, and Chris Poole, our BSF Business Manager is taking his first tentative steps on his new “Where is School?” blog).

    The Teachers blog, which is written by Kristen & Stuart (Sounds like the beginning of a good joke “An American, a Welshman and an Englishman start a blog…”) is written specifically for classroom teachers, which means it has a different focus to this blog – where the audience is mainly non-teaching staff who are responsible for running the ICT systems in schools, or taking strategy decisions on school or local authority education ICT systems.

    Sometimes there are things that are relevant for more than one blog, but there’s normally a different perspective. Take this post from Kristen on the Teachers’ blog:

    FirstquotesMaking your life a little easier - the Innovative Teachers Network Web part

    We have been talking to schools and teachers all over England, Scotland and Wales about the Innovative Teachers Network. We've been recruiting new members and working with teachers and partners to start new communities and post new content that we hope will be useful to all of you when you're teaching with technology.

    One of the things we've been reminded of during our conversations with teachers is just how little free time you have. We both knew this, of course, having been teachers. But when you're in a job where you can go to the loo whenever you want and on most days have more than 10 minutes to cram down your lunch, it's easy to forget some of the restrictions you face as a teacher every day.

    We also know that many of you are required to log on to your school or authority's virtual learning environment each morning, and that you seldom go to any sites other than that during the day. (For those of you in Scotland, this will soon be GLOW, if it isn't already.) You may be restricted as to which sites you can search on the Internet while at school, thus limiting your search for lesson plans or learning activities you can use with your students. (Of course, this is assuming that you actually have time while at school to do any planning for future lessons...)ITNWebPart

    Taking all of this into account, we've created a Web part of the Innovative Teachers Network itself, which can fit into  any SharePoint-based virtual learning environment. This enables you to log in to the ITN and search for resources, communities or professional development without leaving your VLE. (Here's what it will look like in your VLE.)

    This Web part is available FREE, of course, and it can be downloaded from our partner Hunterstone's site HERE. You're going to have to contact your IT director or other person in charge of IT to make this happen, but Hunterstone has very kindly agreed to support them in this installation if they run in to any problems.

    We hope this will make it easier for you to access the resources, communities, discussions and other teachers on the ITN that we talk about all the time. Let us know if your school or authority decides to use it.

    NOTE: If you show this to your IT director and they are unable to download the Web part from Hunterstone's web site for whatever reason, we can send it to you on a memory stick. Please have them contact Stuart or Kristen directly to request this.Endquotes

    This blog post is obviously entirely relevant to you too – because it is a way that you can help all of your teachers in your school. If you’re running a Learning Gateway in your school, then this web part can help your teachers to easily lay their hands on more teaching resources.

    The difference between the Teachers blog and this one is that Kristen says (in red above) “go and see your IT people to get this done” (ie bottom up) whereas I think if you’re reading this you’re the one who can do something now to help all of your colleagues (ie top down)

    So here’s three things you can do to help your teaching colleagues:

    • Take a look at the Innovative Teachers Network, and share it with your colleagues
    • Add the web part to your Learning Gateway
    • Tell your colleagues about the Teachers blog, as there’s useful things popping up there regularly for classroom teachers
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A little link love for Valentine’s day

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    Merlin John, who’s editor of the NCSL Futures website (and used to be editor of the TES Online supplement), also runs MerlinJohn Online – a good website to keep up-to-date with education ICT news.

    One of the writers is Jonathan Boyle, a deputy head teacher, and to fit in with the Valentine’s Day theme, he’s just written his review of Surface at BETT – and it’s an interesting read as it comes from the perspective of somebody within a school.

    Firstquotes

    Surface 'hands on' is love at first sight

    I recently had a fantastic hi-tech experience. While it lasted only 30 minutes one day and 15  the next, I was mentally uplifted by the Microsoft Surface at BETT 2009.  In simple terms, it's a computer inside a coffee table with a touch-screen on top, but this description does not do it justice. My interaction with the Microsoft Surface prompted a shift in thinking as I contemplated a complete immersion into a new mode of working with a computer.Endquotes

    Read the full article on Merlin’s website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Are you certifiable?

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    image

    Normally by this point in term, with half-term just around corner, then often the answer is “YES”, but with so many schools closed for so many days these last fortnight, perhaps half-term next week doesn’t quite have the same magic as normal. But, just in case you want something to challenge yourself, or a few others in your school with, here’s a competition where the only reward is gloating rights!

    Microsoft Learning have put together a new online game which is designed to help (and encourage!) system managers or developers to consider certification (as in, Microsoft certification, rather than men-in-white-coats-certification. Hmm, I wonder if over the Atlantic, they don’t have that second meaning, as in “Mark is certifiable”)

    Anyway, if you want to find out if you’re certifiable, or you want to set up healthy competition between your IT people in or outside of school (or even amongst your VI Form students?), then this could be for you.

    The game takes the form of a trivia show, and includes a broad range of technical questions geared towards one of two disciplines: Developer, or IT staff. Some of the questions appear to be taken straight from the pages of Microsoft Certification, so it looks like a primer for someone preparing to take a MS Certification exam. I managed some correct answers, but then got caught out by one of the “rogue” questions (does anyone know the nickname of the original Microsoft logo?).

    Choose a character, select your field of expertise, and pit yourself against the entire online tech community in a quest for Tech IQ supremacy, a top spot on the leaderboard — and departmental bragging rights.

    Check out the game at www.areyoucertifiable.com.

    You may also find yourself wandering down memory lane as yet again Clippy makes another satirical comeback. After having been P45’d out of Office a while back, he’s starting to make increasing appearances across various websites, with his new satirical hat on. My favourite places that he pops up is on David Salaguinto’s Office Offline blog, like in this cartoon below, and in “Are you Certifiable” he comes back as a quiz show contestant. All better than those times when he used to pop up and say “You look like you’re writing a letter. Would you like some help with that?”

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A free event in Reading - introduction to our web mapping

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    image 

    Carla, from our Virtual Earth team tells me that they have another free seminar coming up in March, where there’s a chance to get an overview of our web-based mapping solutions. I think this is probably going to be more useful for local authorities than schools, but there’s bound to be somebody out there that will find it relevant to a project. The days has a mainly technical slant, and there’s a session of tips for developers.

    Here’s the details:

    An Introduction to Microsoft Mapping Platforms

    Friday 6th March – Microsoft, Thames Valley Park, Reading

    The Microsoft Europe Virtual Earth team is holding a free one-day seminar to provide you with all the information you require to integrate online mapping into your website to create a user experience that will delight your users. Never before has it been so easy to track resources geographically, analyse information, manage a mobile population (14-19 anybody?), or map a wide range of different locations.

    The agenda will consist of:

    - An introduction and overview to Virtual Earth, helping to set the scene and agenda for the day.

    - Informative sessions with a chance to hear from customers and partners who have utilised Virtual Earth as well as technical presentations and the latest updates from the team.

    - A masterclass from Johannes Kebeck highlighting useful tips and tricks for developers, ensuring you get the most out of the Virtual Earth platform.

    - An opportunity to network with other customers, partners and developers as well as members of the EMEA Virtual Earth team.

    The day will run from 9.00am until 4.30pm.
    Places are limited so if you do wish to register please do so by following this link (You’ll need Invitation Code: 5292A6)

    You can also register by phone on 0870 166 6680 (The event reference number is 4015)

    How impressed would I have been if I could have seen the live map of the 300 schools closed in my county this morning, in good time. Rather than having to wait until after 9 for a partly alphabetical list had been uploaded onto the website – after the schools should have all opened. (Fortunately, the 3 big school bus companies phoned the local radio stations at 6:30am to say “no buses today”, which turned out to mean “no school today”)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Analysing data in excel

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    Here’s a way to help your senior leadership team find out about some of the interesting things you can do in Excel. I used Office 2007 for this, but I’m sure you can achieve the same in Office 2003. I find these kind of training examples are sometimes tedious, unless there’s a real purpose. But this example has got a real purpose that your senior managers will like – understanding the relationship between spend and achievement. If you can get them to do this, then I bet you’ll see charts like this popping up at lots of meetings!

    Last week, I read a breakdown of local authority education budgets per pupil. (From a parliamentary answer on TheyWorkForYou). It’s a list of all of the Direct School Grants, per pupil, for all of England’s local authorities. (Because you’ll ask: London authorities account for the top 16, with Tower Hamlets top. Leicestershire are bottom)

    And I wondered what the link was between spend and league tables. And 5 minutes in Excel gave me the answer:

    image

    The chart above compares each individual local authority’s Contextual Value Added score (CVA) to their spend per pupil.
    The trend line shows that overall, the higher the budget, the greater the CVA score.
    But, there are a couple of odd outliers in this chart, but you’ll need to follow the instructions below to see who they are!

    Although I did it at a national level, I bet your head or deputy head would want to do it for schools in your own local authority!

    Comparing School Budgets to Value Added: How to do it

    Here’s my step-by-step guide to how I created the chart above.

    1. Get the spend data: Paste the table from the link above, into Excel (just highlight the local authority rows in the table on the web page, COPY and PASTE into Excel. Then delete the 2007-8 column. 
    2. Now add the League Tables from the BBC website: Highlight the local authority rows on the web page, COPY and then PASTE>SPECIAL>AS TEXT into Excel
      Halfway down this table you’ll need to delete the row that has the England average figures.
    3. Make a single table: Sort both tables so that the Local Authority names match up, then delete a few columns to get them into one single table. (I just kept EM for exam results, CVA for Contextual Value Added, and left one column of local authority names).
    4. image Now you’re ready to create the chart: With nothing highlighted in Excel, choose the INSERT tab on the ribbon, then CHART>SCATTER. Then you need to tell it what data to look for. On the DESIGN tab, choose SELECT DATA. In the popup, select “Add”, and you’ll see the menu on the right. Any old name will do. For Series X values, choose the budget column (without the heading) and for the Series Y Values, choose the CVA or Exam Results column. And then click OK.
      When doing “Series Y Values”, you may need to delete the “={1}” so that the format looks like the box above
    5. Now add the Trend Line: On the DESIGN tab of the ribbon, choose Layout 3, which has a trend line in it.
    6. Err, that’s it folks.

    Here’s a challenge: Who can be first to add a comment to say which way the trend line goes when you compare “BUDGET” and “5 A*-C”? (And only then will I share the SkyDrive link to my version to download)

    And, as a bonus, who can improve these instructions so that you can hover over a dot on the chart, and see the name of the local authority?

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