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July, 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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July, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    INSET training materials and videos for September 09 – Part One


    It may be a little early to write this, but I’m aware that some of you will be starting to think (perhaps subconsciously) about starting next term well. And for many schools this will mean the day before the pupils arrive – the INSET day.

    For the benefit of readers outside of the UK, INSET stands for “IN-SErvice Training” – a day when the school is open, but the pupils aren’t in, and it is used for whole-school staff training. They’re also known as “Baker Days”, named after Ken Baker, once the Education Minister, who enshrined the right for teachers to get these training days.

    Somebody in your school will be thinking about how to engage, enthuse and inform everybody in your school, and I thought that I’d share a few of the resources we have available.

    Today, video downloads for INSET

    It’s easy for me to forget all of the videos that we have made (and it’s certainly easy to forget where they all are!) so here’s a list of videos that might make excellent INSET training materials.

    Videos with a technology theme

    1. Shift Happens Shift Happens UK Education Version (6 mins)
      It’s old, it’s been used at many education conferences, but there’ll be some people who will see this for the first time and be wowed.
      And as an alternative, there’s a version made by Sony, for a conference, which doesn’t have the UK Education content, but is much more interactive.

    2. Still from Future of Productivity video The Future of  Productivity (6 mins)
      This video is a look into the future of work, and it does provide an excellent way to introduce a discussion about the skills sets needed by pupils when they leave school – as it illustrates what their working lives might be like. Although it might seem very futuristic, a pupil starting in reception in September will enter the workforce in 2030!
      This is also a great conversation starter if you want to start a “What are we hear for?” debate!

    3. Video still The Future Vision Montage (2 mins)
      This video is a montage across a range of different scenarios – the banking, health, manufacturing and retail – looking at the future role of technology. It is another video which is great to start a discussion about the world students are going to be working in.

    Videos with an education technology theme

    1. Broadclyst Innovative School video snapshot Innovative School case study videos (37x4 mins)
      This series of videos, from September last year, features staff, students and parents from four schools from around England, talking about the strategic use of ICT in their schools. There are chapters about change management, the student experience, learning outcomes, parents’ experiences, school administration, the view of their local authority, how ICT fits into their strategy, and the schools’ future aspirations.
      There are case studies from one primary school (Broadclyst) and three secondary schools (New Line learning, Bowring and Shireland).
      In total there are 37 videos to choose from.

    2. image Surface in the classroom (5 mins)
      This video, filmed at Churchend Primary School in the UK, shows how new technologies like Surface, might be used in the classroom – and the reaction of teachers and pupils.
      I’m not suggesting this because you might be considering a Surface for your school, but to use to open teachers thinking to other ways of using technology in the their lessons.
      (We were quite chuffed to see this video make it to one of only two videos featured on the worldwide homepage)
      There is also a “behind the scenes” video about the production of this.

    3. Vision for Technology in schools Vision for technology in schools (4 mins)
      This video was produced by the American Microsoft team to demonstrate how today’s technology might be integrated together to deliver a future learning experience.
    4. Marsh Academy video Marsh Academy’s 1:1 story (5 mins)
      If you’re starting a 1:1 laptop scheme for your students this autumn OR are wanting to get a head start on thinking about how you benefit from next spring’s Home Access programme. There are two videos – an overview and the main story. There is also a written case study on Marsh Academy too

    Videos with an education strategy theme

    1. 6i video still 6i Development Process
      An introduction to the six-stage process which can be used to guide decision-making when you’re planning to build a new school, restructure an existing building or classroom, or work on another type of large project. There’s more about the 6i process at the Innovative Schools website.

    This list is of video INSET training materials – in a few or so I’ll do a list of presentation and other materials which you might find useful too.

    If you need high resolution versions of any of these videos, then drop me an email or send me a tweet and I’ll see what I can do

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Monkseaton High School – using OneNote to build a Connected Learning Community


    Following on from the Sunday Times article last week, and my post about the written case study three weeks ago, I’ve now also got a copy of the video that was made a few weeks ago.

    Monkseaton High School and OneNote

    This video explains some of the background to the Sunday Times story, and you can hear from teachers and students about the way that ICT is supporting their learning, and helping to connect teachers more interactively with students – in ways which allows students to connect and work collaboratively with other students.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Good Blogging Guide - PDF version now available


    After a little bit of prompting, and a few requests, I’ve pulled the chapters of the “Good Blogging Guide” into a complete PDF booklet.

    You can now download the whole thing as a PDF and read it at your leisure, and share with colleagues.

    Chapter One – Writing for your audience

    Chapter Two – Have an objective

    Chapter Three – Getting onto page one of Google

    Chapter Four – A blogging Code of Practice

    Chapter Five – No lawyers please

    Chapter Six – When (if) things go wrong

    If you prefer to still read it online (which does make it easy to disagree or add your own thoughts via comments) you can get to all via this Good Blogging Guide page.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Good Blogging Guide – Using Twitter for engagement in Government


    Following on from the Good Blogging Guide series last month, I’ve been keeping an eye on things which might change or supplement the advice. Today, I’ve come across something that adds a new dimension to the ‘blogging code of practice’ section.

    The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has a a Head of Corporate Digital Channels – Neil Williams – who has shared some of his advice on the strategy for the use of Twitter by Government Departments. Unlike some of the examples I gave in the Code of Practice, which has 2 or 20 words, it is longer – at 20 pages – but partly this is because it contains more context to the ideas.

    Neil has shared the whole document – including key objectives and measures of success; risks and mitigations – that provides an excellent reference. Although it was written thinking of central government departments, it provides a good starter for educational users.

    As a new Twitter user myself, it also gives useful hints on tools to use to enhance engagement with other Twitter users.

    You can read all of Neil’s advice here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Monkseaton High School making news again – pupils learning at home


    Two weeks ago, I wrote about their new case study that Monkseaton High School had produced with us, and yesterday I opened up the Sunday Times and saw them again, on page 5, under the headline


    School’s out as pupils learn at home on ‘Facebook’ siteEndquotes

    It’s got to be the most unusual way I’ve heard OneNote being described recently, but then one of the challenges we have is that OneNote is so flexible it can be used in so many different ways – making it almost impossible to describe easily. (We have exactly the same problem with SharePoint – if you can almost anything with it, how do you describe it succinctly?)

    image The article is describing the way that students and teachers at Monkseaton used shared notebooks in OneNote to learn within and outside of the classroom, and how it appeals to students because it is as naturally multimedia as they are outside of school.

    Paul Kelley, the Head Teacher at Monkseaton, is quoted in the article as saying:


    Because the pupils use Facebook and MySpace at home, they are familiar with this technology. They take to it like a duck to water and seem to feel more comfortable learning in this Endquotesway

    The article is a very simplified version of their story – we’re producing a video, which should be published very shortly, which shows some of the ideas the article mentions. I’ll post it as soon as it’s ready.

    In the meantime, you can read the article on the Sunday Times website (or in the paper, if like me, it takes you until mid-week to get through it all!)


    If you want to get a feel of what kind of school Monkseaton is, then take a look at their Prospectus or their website – it' definitely demonstrates an image which is radically different from many others.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A comprehensive list of what's new in Windows 7



    I’ve just finished scanning an excellent series of articles on TechNet, about what’s new in Windows 7. Whilst not every feature is critical for education, there are some areas which are answers to current challenges in education ICT.

    And there’s plenty more on AppLocker, Biometrics, Print Management, Search, etc etc.

    Read the full set of articles on TechNet

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Home Access Awards from the e-learning foundation


    image Is your school working on programmes which extend access to learning through ICT at home? You might be interested in nominating yourself for the Home Access Awards, being run by the e-learning foundation. The criteria for the awards doesn’t necessarily assume that you are running a widespread programme to provide ICT for students at home, but does focus on identifying good practice. For example, in the Most Successful Parental Partnership category, it looks for effective parental communications and use of your VLE/Learning Platform to improve partnership with parents.

    The categories are:

    • Most successful parental partnership
    • Most innovative project
    • Most innovative Local Authority
    • Most outstanding personal contribution
    • Most supportive supplier (nominated by schools, not suppliers!)
    • Home Access School of the Year

    You can either nominate yourself, your school, or somebody else you know that is making a difference to student’s access to ICT and learning at home. The deadline is 9th October, with the awards themselves in November.

    Find out more, and enter, on the e-learning foundation website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A week in Atlanta – Technology, Cheese and Soda


    Last week, as Twitter followers will already know, I spent the week in Atlanta, at our internal conference called MGX (Microsoft Global Exchange). As usual it was an amazing week, with astonishing organisation and conference content (could you imagine organising a 12,000 person, 4 day conference, for global delegates?). Of course, we learnt a huge amount, but sadly it’s an internal event which gives us an insight into the direction ahead. Of course, all the secrets are safely locked away in my head!

    Normally everything that happens in the conference centre is away from public view, but at this year’s event a short video was released, of just a few minutes, when Steve Ballmer signed the Windows 7 Gold disk as it was finally released. And yes, I was one of the 12,000 people applauding and cheering it (in a very British way, of course!)

    So if I can’t share anything from the conference, what can I share? Well, I’ve already said too much about the week’s cheese diet elsewhere, so how about fizzy drinks?

    The World of Coke

    imageWell, I though that perhaps I could do a professional job on my visit to Atlanta’s World of Coke – with the “64 soda challenge”.

    Here’s the scenario – they’ve assembled a big pile of drinks machines, containing 64 of the company’s drinks around the room – grouped by continent. I, and Mike (my Government counterpart, and photographer on this occasion) started on Europe, and worked our way through Asia, Latin America and North America. One cup. 64 fizzy drinks. And a burning desire to do this properly!

    Not only did I have Mike with me to record the challenge, but I also took along my notepad, so that I can share with you some of the country highlights!

    imageBut before I tell you about the best, how about some of the highlights!

    • Delaware Punch from the Honduras
      Which tasted just like water from a fish tank (the bit I get every week when I’m trying to syphon it off to clean it)
    • Simba from Paraguay
      Which tasted identical to Irn Bru
    • Inca Kola from Peru
      Which was actually okay, but didn't taste like Cola, and it was lime green.
    • Vegitabeta from Japan
      The label had a picture of a carrot, and a taste to match – like the water you’ve just washed the carrots in it
    • Bargs from North America
      Which tasted like a combination of the stuff you wash your mouth out with at the dentist, with a piquancy of deep heat
    • Fanta Birch Beer from North America
      According to Mike, this smells exactly like the cesspit in the Jorvik Viking Centre. I have no doubt of the accuracy of this, as he was a full time Viking for 6 months - except for weekends, when he had to play a Saxon
    • Mello Yello from North America
      This tastes like it should if you remember the slogan of the 1976 drought ("If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down")
    • Fanta Strawberry from North America
      Exactly like watered down Calpol
    • Vault from North America
      Had the full depth of Lemon Fairy Liquid, and the full taste of cold, fizzy Lemsip
    • Beverly from Italy
      This was odd, as it had almost no taste, apart from a hint that it's arrived through a long garden hose pipe.
    • Fanta Pineapple from Greece
      I think you can make this at home if you drop 5 pineapple chunks in a glass of sugar
    • Fanta Exotic from Uganda
      Like fizzy Umbongo, but the blinding colour of a red traffic light
    • Stoney Tangawizi from Tanzania
      Which not only got a prize for great naming, but had a great taste like Ginger Beer used to taste when you grew it yourself on the windowsill
    • Sunfill Menthe from Djibouti
      Was sweet and fizzy but it had the taste of watered down chewing gum
    • Bibo Candy Pine-Nut from South Africa
      It even had a picture of Pine-Nut on the label, but all it tasted of was desiccated coconut

    imageimage The drink from England was ‘Kinley Bitter Lemon’, which was a bit bizarre, because none of us had heard of it. And similarly, Beverly, from Italy wasn’t familiar to the half-dozen Italians that were with us. There must be a soft-drinks parallel-universe where people sit drinking Kinley all day, and eating Tunnocks Caramel Wafers (‘a million sold every week’) 


    And The Winner Is…

    imageAnyway, back to the important stuff. The most pleasing drink of all, and a clear winner for both Mike and I was the French one – Nestea white peach. I am a big fan of iced tea when abroad, so I think it’s time we campaigned for more availability in the UK too.

    The Soda Effect

    You may be wondering what drinking 60 sweet, fizzy drinks does for you? Well, compare the photo below (the ‘after’ shot) with the photo at the top of the article (the ‘before’ shot).


    It may not surprise you to hear that I found it difficult to sleep that night!

    A quick ps on the linking ability of Twitter
    On Saturday morning I tweetedLast night managed all 60 soda flavours in World of Coke. Made careful tasting notes for blogging tomorrow (too much time on my hands)”. A bit later I got a reply via Twitter from their WorldofColaCola account saying “@RayFleming glad you enjoyed it! Be sure to pass on your blog post, I'd love to read your review! :)”. Let’s hope they feel the same now it’s written :-)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Integrating Moodle with Microsoft Live services


    Who’d have thought it, not only would I be looking for the Moodle logo for the blog, but other strange things have been happening this week:

    • We’ve released two projects under the open source GPL v2 licence for the first time ever
    • Following on from the experimental OfficeLabs project, we’ve launched Education Labs, to allow ‘quick’ projects to release helpful applications (or more likely ‘applets’) specifically to support teachers and learners
    • We’ve released software development kits to allow programmers to connect our Live services into other applications (like web portals)
    • …and it is only Wednesday

    The background

    Let me go back to the beginning…

    • Moodle is an open-source virtual learning environment used in quite a few colleges and universities around the UK, and in a minority of schools. (More on Moodle at
    • Schools either implement Moodle as a stand-alone web portal, or use the SharePoint webparts for Moodle as one way of integrating it with the rest of their ICT systems
    • GPL is the licence scheme that most open-source software is released under. We don’t normally use it, because once something is released under this licence, control of it passes over to anybody who wants it. It’s different to the usual licences we use, where we retain the rights to the software – eg to modify it, or to introduce a fee for it.
    • OfficeLabs was started a year ago, to share some of the projects we work on internally, that produces prototypes products (a bit like ‘concept cars’). Previously these projects would have been used by Microsoft staff, but only the occasional product would make it out in the big wide world. But OfficeLabs allows the release of small projects which can add to the Office experience, even without them being fully engineered products. It’s come out with things like PPTPlex for PowerPoint (which completely transforms presentations from being a start-on-the-first-slide-and-go-all-the-way-to-the-last-slide experience) and the Forgotten Attachment Detector for Outlook (which looks out for key words like ‘attached’ in your email, and reminds you when you’ve actually forgotten to attach the document in your email)
    • Education Labs is the new equivalent for education projects from Microsoft. If you imagine Microsoft as a car factory, then Education Labs is the guys around the corner building a Go Kart – it’s the fun, hobby side of the team.

    The Live Services plug-in for Moodle

    What we’ve released on Education Labs this week is a toolkit that allows you to integrate the Live@Edu services onto your students’ Moodle homepage. Live@Edu is our hosted mail and collaboration service for students, which provides a free 10GB mailbox, 25GB of general online file storage, and additional 5GB of online document storage for collaborative projects. It’s the service that the London Grid for Learning are using to provide their student mail services.

    What the plug-in does is allow a student to see their live, real-time inbox and calendar on their Moodle home page, via a single login. And it also allows teachers to do things like send out student alerts – things like “Your homework assignment is due in tomorrow” with an easy step, and the system will handle the delivery of it to students (through email, mobile phone etc).

    When I saw a brief demonstration of it yesterday, the bit that impressed me was seeing the email inbox on the home page of Moodle – not just a link to it, but the actual emails themselves. It is another step towards making your school Learning Platform the core of everything that your students and staff do.

    You can download the Moodle plug-in from Education Labs, or watch the video of it on this page.

    Why this isn’t for everybody

    This project will only appeal to a minority of schools – you’ll need the technical skills to get it working (but then you’ll have needed those to get Moodle working in your school too) – and the majority of schools will choose a Becta approved Learning Platform, rather than building their own Moodle system (which hasn’t received the Becta stamp of approval).

    But if you are using Moodle already, this project is a step in the right direction to help integrate a range of your ICT services together, and builds on the work we did a couple of years ago to help the integration between SharePoint and Moodle.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 availability date announced – 7th August for many


    The Windows Team have announced, via The Windows Blog, more information on the various availability dates for Windows 7. Whilst the consumer product launches on 22nd October, it will actually be available earlier for customers using our ‘volume licensing’ schemes – like the School Agreement and Select Licensing.

    The very good news in their blog post is that customers who have bought their existing Windows licences with Software Assurance – which includes every school with a School Agreement – will be able to get the full released version on 7th August.

    This ‘thank you’ to School Agreement customers means that some schools can roll out Windows 7 this summer, whilst the rest will have to wait until Christmas or beyond, when the classrooms are quiet enough.

    Full details of all of the dates are on the Windows 7 team blog

    It may seem adventurous for a school to roll out a brand new operating system very early, but this time things are very different – over 2m downloads of the Windows 7 beta, and millions of people running it means that we’re releasing a pretty mature product which has already had significant amounts of real-life testing. The old adage of “Wait for Service Pack 1” doesn’t seem to apply in the new release model, where the Beta and the Release Candidate are both widely available for public use.

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