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May, 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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May, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How will Windows 7 help schools – Part Five – Learning Resources


    Well, it’s the end of half-term week, and on Monday they’ll be flooding back through the doors, starting up computers that haven’t been used for a week, and then calling you to rush around from classroom-to-classroom again. So enjoy the last afternoon of peace.

    Enjoy your last hours of quiet. (And the good news, if it’s sunny where you are, you can take these “training courses” outside this afternoon)
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The best feature of Windows 7


    I know this isn’t specifically educational, but I just feel the need to share.

    Having been using Windows 7 for a few weeks, the one feature that just knocks my socks off (and seems so obvious in hindsight) is the way that I can easily split my screen to show two different programmes at the same time. Basically, you grab the title bar of the window – like this:


    And then move it over to the left hand or right hand side of the screen. And it neatly changes the window to take up half of the screen.

    This is just brilliant. And so obvious.

    A lot of the time I’m using a widescreen monitor, and working on documents. Now, I can easily put two things side by side – like my Live Writer window alongside a document windows, or comparing two versions of a document, or having an email open whilst I’m following the instructions in another piece of software.

    I had been using Windows 7 for a fortnight before I discovered this by accident. But I use it every day now. Lots.

    Perhaps I should make a bit of effort to find out what other usability things have been added…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    TechNet June Virtual Conference – useful techie sessions for schools


    TechNet Conferences

    This year, all across education, people are finding it more difficult to justify a day out of the school to attend events. UK visitors to BETT dropped, and many others who are running events in education have reported that it is getting more and more difficult for staff to get permission to leave school.

    So this year, we’re going to come to you. Right to your desk. Via the wonders of virtual conferencing. On the 19th June.

    Although all of the materials will be available to watch afterwards, via video downloads, the big advantage of ‘attending’ on the day is that there is a chance to ask your own questions, and get answers from some of the most informed people around then and there.

    There are two different auditoriums* – one which is deeply techie, and one labelled “IT Management”. The content is pretty varied, including product sessions on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Office Communications Server and SharePoint – as well as longer-term strategy sessions, such as ‘How IT will change over the next 10 years’. And I’ve noticed that Andrew Fryer is running a session on ‘Data Protection Manager’, which has got to be a hot topic for education!

    You can find out more, get the agenda, and register at the Technet website

    And there’s also a competition to win one of 500 laptop goody bags. Enter the competition here, but obviously, not before reading the small print here.

    * What do you think - auditoriums or auditoria? I was in two minds, but when I looked it up in the Cambridge dictionary, it said I was allowed to be - apparently both are acceptable in the UK. I went with the low-brow one :-)
    Now, onto peda-gog-y or peda-goj-y?

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How will Windows 7 help schools – Part Four – Getting new computers into a classroom quickly


    Oh, joy. A new batch of computers has arrived in school. There’s anti-theft marking to do, security screws to add, mice to clamp and that’s all before all of the actual deployment has to be done – getting them out to the right classroom, with the right software.

    Well, Windows 7 has invented some new acronyms to help with the software bit. It’s got DISM, which is the natty name for Deployment Image Servicing and Management, which combines the functionality of several image-management tools that were available in Windows Vista. According to the MS Learning team, DISM will help you “deploy Windows images to computer systems efficiently and quickly”. Today’s “Learning Snack” describes the DISM tool and demonstrates some of the commands that administrators can use while preparing and servicing Windows images offline.

    Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7 

    Learning Snack: Deployment Services in Windows 7 

     Might I offer apologies if you’ve been searching for a “snack” on Google (* other search engines are available :-) and ended up on this blog. Perhaps you were looking for this

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Where to get a Windows 7 DVD – all gone now!


    Sorry, they have now all gone. I’ve laid my hands on some ‘Windows 7 Release Candidate’ DVDs. So if you’re interested in spending a little more time understanding what Windows 7 does, and have a spare computer hanging around, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

    Four interesting things about this:

    1. “Release Candidate” (RC) is the penultimate release before we say “Yes, it’s definitely final and released”. Once we’ve done that, we then call it RTM, or Release To Manufacturing. This RC version is free to use for a year, whereas the RTM version is the final one that you pay for. (Of course, at the end of the year, you then need to upgrade to the released version or revert back to whatever your computer was previously licensed for)
    2. Although we generally advise you not to run the Release Candidate for business critical computers, I know quite a few education customers who already run it on their own laptops/netbooks. I have been running the beta (earlier) version of Windows 7 on my demonstration laptop since January, and have just moved my main laptop onto Windows 7. Because we like inventing new words at Microsoft, we call this “dog-fooding” (as in “We eat our own dog food”). Basically, if we think it’s good enough for you to use, then it should be good enough for us to run our business on it.
    3. This is the first time I can remember that the new version of Windows runs on lower spec hardware than the previous release! We’ve dragged a few older laptops out of various storage cupboards (where they’d been put because they ran Windows Vista like a dog slowly) and they all seem to cope quite well with Windows 7. I’ve also talked to a few customers in education who say that it good running on various netbooks, which have definitely been a challenge with Windows Vista.
    4. You should play around with the BitLocker feature, mentioned in the video accompanying yesterday’s blog post, because of the new mode called BitLocker to Go. This gives you encryption protection for USB Memory Sticks (think: ‘personal data loss’) but as I was reading a bit more about it last night, I discovered it also allows you to specify a default that any USB Memory Stick can be read, BUT only encrypted memory sticks can be saved to. This seems really useful in a school – it means that teachers/students can be allowed to bring in their lesson plans/videos/pictures etc from home on a memory stick, but you can stop them copying school data onto it.

    Anyway, if you’d like me to send you a installation DVD, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.


    Small print: When they’re gone, they’re gone!

    Another bit of small print: We have copies for the 32-bit version. Somebody has just asked for a 64-bit, which we don't have, but you can download that from this link:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How will Windows 7 help schools – Part Three – Giving teachers their own laptops


    Continuing my thread of half-term learning snacks, this one’s is shorter (only 7 minutes long), but talks about a feature which you may want to think about to help your teachers.

    Here’s a scenario that may well have happened in your school:

    • You allocate a teacher a laptop
    • They use it in school, and take it home
    • Whilst at home, they use it for school work, and also use it for personal use – like downloading their photos and plugging in their iPod.

      As far as I’m concerned, so far so good – a sense of personal ownership helps teachers to value their laptops more highly, and also helps them to see more possibilities for using it to enhance their teaching. It’s great to walk into a classroom and to see a teacher using music to set the mood for a lesson, or showing a short video clip as a lesson opener, and I think giving teachers ‘ownership’ for their laptop helps this kind of use.

      But it’s when we move from the above, to one of the below that we get a problem:
    • The teacher wants to print something to their printer at home, which is connected to their home PC
    • The teacher wants to download some photos/music from their home computer to their laptop

    It doesn’t take much – okay, it probably only takes 10 minutes and the teacher asking their teenager “Can you set this up for me”, for it turn from a secure school laptop, to an open-for-business home file server – with hard disk shared with every other computer in the household. Next thing you know…

    There are obviously two approaches to this. One is to lock it down, which I personally think removes the ability for the teacher to feel ownership. The other approach is to allow teachers some flexibility and sense of ownership, but making sure that they don’t wander into trouble. (Like accidentally sharing all of their school reports with their children!)

    HomeGroup, in Windows 7, is a new feature which is designed to make things a little easier to manage. As well as enabling easier home networking (at last!), it also means that “domain joined” computers – ie your school laptops – can be connected to their home resources (like printers, and shared photos etc) without compromising the security of the files on the laptop.

    Take a look at the “Creating a HomeGroup” chapter to see what it can do.

    Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7 

    Learning Snack: HomeGroup in Windows 7 

    I used to work for a company which locked down our laptops – we got absolutely no control over software installation, and very restricted Internet access. As a result, most of us spent the time emailing files between home computers and work computers. If I wanted to write a presentation with images, I typically wrote it at home, and then emailed them to myself on my work laptop (even though it was sitting on the same desk). The same happened in reverse if I wanted to print something out. The IT people probably thought they had good security, but our workarounds probably drove a cart-and-horses through it!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How will Windows 7 help schools – Part Two – Stop people doing silly stuff


    Today’s “half-term training session” is the one that will hopefully give the The Angry Technician a reason to smile!

    We both know that although our users are very sensible people, sometimes they do incredibly dumb things with their computers. It can be caused by ignorance, or it can be because they are so keen to get on with teaching & learning, that they throw caution to the wind. Here’s a quick Vox Pop Quiz – see how many of these things have happened in your current school:

    If you’ve ticked any of the boxes, then hopefully the following material will help you feel a warm glow of anticipation.

    The 25 minute lesson covers BitLocker (which you may already know from Windows Vista, but it has added more control for easily securing pesky memory sticks) and AppLockers. It’s AppLocker which I think will make you smile. It allows you fine granularity of control over what software can, and can’t, be installed or run on your school computers. It’s more sophisticated than a “Lock it all down!” approach, and might be a good solution to allow you to devolve more control to teachers over their ‘own’ laptops, without opening the floodgates to a software-installing-and-licensing nightmare.

    Even though I can’t claim to understand what a Hash Key is, I found the level and pace of the material perfect – it tells a very clear story, very well.

    Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7


     Learning Snack: Introducing BitLocker and AppLocker in Windows 7 

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How will Windows 7 help schools – Part One – The Overview


    It's half-term week, so that should mean a quieter time than normal, with less students and teachers wandering into the IT room. So I thought this week might be a good time to share some training/planning resources for Windows 7 with you. I’ve watched a batch recently, and have been very impressed with the way that they explain the principles first, and the need for some of the new features, rather than just jumping straight into the usual “How to do it…” mode

    The Microsoft Learning team have created a series of “Learning Snacks” – 15 – 30 minute videos – which talk through parts of Windows 7, and describe how to manage some of the new features. I know that plenty of you have downloaded and installed the Windows 7 beta onto a laptop, and these resources are just as useful whether you are one of those (gives some hints on what features are worth exploring a bit more), or if you haven’t yet tried it, but want to understand what it might be able to do to grapple with common IT challenges that schools face.

    Today we’ll start with the introduction, which provides an overview of technologies that improve performance, reliability, security, and compatibility. And it also takes a look at how it may help reduce “operating cost” (does that mean giving you a bit more time to do the fun stuff, rather than rushing to classrooms fixing things?)

    Learning Snack - Introducing Windows 7


     Learning Snack: Introducing Windows 7

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using Office in the classroom – Free Learning Essentials download


    Today we are hosting a regular meeting of a small group of schools who are innovative users of SharePoint and the Learning Gateway. As part of the agenda, we’ve been joined by some of our colleagues from the worldwide Education Products Group, and are talking about some of the future developments specifically for education.

    One of the things that often happens when this happens is that we discover that people ask for features to be added to the product that are already there. And that’s exactly what happened this morning. We discussed the need for SCORM creation tools (ie something that allows teachers to create a package of materials that can be put onto their school learning platform) and also for additional support for languages in Office.

    Both of those areas (and quite a few others) are already available free with Office 2003/2007 through the Learning Essentials pack – which is a free download from our website. But of 11 people in the room, on 2 had even heard of it, and only 1 was using it. And yet only yesterday I was demonstrating parts of it to our education partners, to continue raising awareness.

    The conversation turned to blame “marketing” for not doing a good enough job - at which point I slunk out of the room, shoulders hunched, head hung in shame.

    So let me try and right that wrong.

    Learning Essentials is a free add-on for Office, which contains a set of tools to help teachers and students. Things like curriculum templates, and toolbars for Word, PowerPoint and Excel to help students and teachers get started on projects and stay organised during them.

    • Teachers get things like handout and presentation templates, marking rubrics, bibliography tools, maths symbols, and a simple "Create Test" wizard.
    • Students get tools, templates and tutorials to help them get past "Blank Page Syndrome", language tools and templates, and tips and tutorials for managing projects and producing high-quality work.

    It even includes a facility to create SCORM content. At this point I can hear you thinking "Wow" with that slightly sarcastic tone, so let me tell you that is a very good thing, because it's becoming the established standard for content within Learning Platforms, and the Government say we've all got to have one of these, and they want teachers to create learning resources for students available from within and outside of school!

    You can find out all about Learning Essentials on the worldwide Microsoft education website, which includes links to download. It works with Office 2007, Office 2003 and Office XP (that pretty much covers everybody!). If you want to see what it can do, then take a look at the Learning Essentials Tour.

    You can download it directly from the website – choose the International English version of the download, which comes with a range of foreign language capabilities added.

    Note: This works with Office 2007, Office XP and Office 2003!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Lowest cost for Office 2007 - Home Use Programme for schools


    If you’re working for a school that has a Microsoft School Agreement, then read on…

    • If you run the IT in your school, then you’ve got a chance to make your colleagues happy
    • If you’re working elsewhere in the school, then there’s a chance to save some money

    As part of our Software Assurance programme, which is a standard part of a School Agreement, we include a benefit called the Home Use Programme (HUP). This gives employees of the school the opportunity to buy Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 for £12.93. HUP is mainly designed for business users of Microsoft software, to increase employee satisfaction, employee retention, and training and productivity. (I’ll whisper this so that only the IT people hear - It’s also been seen to reduce support costs). The licence allows employees to use the software as long as they work for the organisation, and as long as the organisation is covered by Software Assurance.

    Unlike similar schemes, the employee is the one responsible for correctly licensing (ie you simply have to let them know when they should stop using it, you’re not expected to enforce this). And finally, the system takes no administration from the organisation – the employee places their order online, using their own credit card, and receives the software and support directly from Microsoft.

    For some reason, even though it has been around a while, not that many people have taken it up.

    It is easy to activate:

    • Your EA Benefit Administrator (quick, find a number for the IT department!) goes onto the Microsoft Volume Licensing Services website, and ticks a box to activate the programme (at They will enter an email domain for your school (like and in return will get a program code
    • They distribute that program code around the school – to staff only! 
    • Employees logon to, and enter their email address and the program code – and then just place their order.

    It’s that simple.

    And instead of paying £90 in a shop for Office Home & Student, your employees have Office Enterprise for less than £15.

    We’ve got HUP Information Packs sitting here in the office, with a resources CD to help promote it internally. If you want one, just drop Sam an email

    And finally, there’s also an option where the administrator can order multiple copies on behalf of employees, where the price has been dropped to under £7 if you order 20+ before 15th June. That’s all on too.

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