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August, 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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August, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Your invite to the UK Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010


    Find out more and register

    Apparently we've had well over 1,000 registrations since we announced it. I'd recommend putting yourself on the wait list.
    Sorry. I'll work on a list of alternative events/webcasts to attend 

    From now through to January, it’s going to be a season of launches. And the kick-off event for the whole series is the UK Technical Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, which is going to a big event at Wembley stadium on the 6th October.

    The agenda is packed – with a ‘desktop’ and ‘server’ stream (time to make it a team trip?), and we’re also expecting the event to be packed too – with a thousand spaces available.

    The theme for the event “The New Efficiency” is something we’ll be talking about more during the year, as it’s something that fits in with the current budget climate in education.

    Wembley Stadium Join us on 6 October in the conference rooms at the spectacular Wembley Stadium to hear from Microsoft's technology specialists on the new efficiency of the server and desktop. We have two tracks of content for you to choose from, one covering Windows 7, and the other covering Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. If you can't watch it all on the day - don't worry, all the content will be available online after the event.

    For those who couldn’t make it to the Windows in Education event last week, this is a good alternative. Although it isn’t specifically for education, we had some of the same speakers – James & Gareth – and I know that there will be plenty of things covered which fit into your IT thinking.


    If you only do two things before you head off for the Bank Holiday weekend, I’d recommend:

    • Register for your place (before all those other people get back from holiday Too late, they're back. You can now add yourself to the Waitlist for a place) 
    • Add it to your Calendar (to stop anybody inviting you to a dull meeting on that day)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Another take on qualifications – have you thought about the Microsoft IT Academy?


    IT Academy Programme 2 b If you’re running the ICT systems in your school, and NOT running the curriculum ICT, then you may want to forward this onto the ICT Co-ordinator, or to the Deputy Head in charge of Curriculum Development. Although it’s got ‘IT’ in the title, the IT Academy is actually all about curriculum development and helping your students/staff to gain commercially valuable qualifications.

    Don’t tell the curriculum side, but it’s also a great way to get your school an inclusive MSDNAA and TechNet Plus subscription if you’re having difficulty getting it paid for otherwise!

    imageI’ve spent a few hours in the company of the team who promote the Microsoft IT Academy scheme in the UK. Basically the scheme offers schools the chance to deliver Microsoft’s IT training and qualifications to your students, staff and even your wider community. The qualifications that you can deliver will help your students (or parents in your community) raise their skills to prepare for business roles, or potentially for technical employment as web developers or systems administrators.

    The chart on the right (click on it to see the BIG version) shows the routes to the qualifications that students can attain. And because the qualifications are instantly recognisable in the commercial sector – like MCSE qualifications – it is an instant help with preparing for employment.

    But this isn’t just about student qualifications – it can also be used to provide training and qualifications for the wider community, and this is exactly how some of the current IT Academies use it – which is either helping to generate a revenue stream, or to increase parental engagement.

    Once you’ve signed up to be an IT Academy, the scheme includes:

    • Free Microsoft eLearning (over 300 courses)
    • Free Microsoft Software Licences
    • Massive discounts on Microsoft Certifications and Courseware
    • Free MSDNAA & TechNet Plus Subscription
    • Free Microsoft Certified Trainer Membership

    Currently about two-thirds of UK colleges and universities offer the IT Academy programme, and hundreds of schools. So it could be that your school is already doing it (in which case you might have some of these benefits already).

    But the key question I asked the IT Academy team was about cost. Because although they describe everything above as ‘free’, I’d assumed that the annual fee would be prohibitive. The actual answer is that it costs less than £600 for a school to become an IT Academy, and (thanks to the agreement with the SSAT earlier this year), it’s cheaper for Specialist Schools. Especially if you factor in the cost of an MSDNAA & TechNet Plus subscription, this is a great deal.

    Although there’s tons of information about IT Academy on our education website, I think there’s probably too much info there, so instead of reading it all I’d recommend giving the Prodigy team a call, or dropping them an email, to get them to explain it to you in plain English. (Just like buying software, IT Academy works the same way – you get access through our partners, rather than directly from us. In this case the partner is Prodigy)

    Email the IT Academy team or call them on 0845 3991553.

    Any lingering doubts? Take a look at the two case studies from current IT Academies - President Kennedy School and Sawtry Community College

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How they sell a 'laptop for students' scheme Down Under


    In Australia, the New South Wales government have committed to provide 200,000 students with their own laptop – and over the next few months they’ll be rolling them out at 5,000 a week. You can read more about their approach on ZDNet. And soon every Year 9 to 12 student in NSW public schools will have a wireless laptop – with the Year 9 students getting theirs by the end of the year.

    Obviously it’s a big-budget programme, and I was fascinated to see that the Education Department in NSW have created an appropriate big-budget video to talk about the programme. It appears to be designed to sell the idea to students, and just as importantly to parents, to ensure it gets off to a good start.

    Watch the video

    And in a major achievement, they’ve managed to avoid too much technical or pedagogical language – making it seem much more real.

    I noticed too that there’s a NSW Public Schools channel on YouTube. Not just for technology, but for all the things they want to talk to parents about – such as cyber-safety, a parent’s guide to Facebook etc. And every parent of primary age children will understand why their Head Lice video is second in the “most watched” stakes.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    When was the last time you checked out Microsoft Downloads?


    image Mark A’Bear is one of our resident ‘amateur’ geeks in the education team. His job isn’t to be a full-time geek, as he’s our Education Partner Manager (and from my days of working at Microsoft partners, I know he’s pretty good at that). But he’s also a closet geek, and he has many moments of geekery – like when he talks about his home network, and his Home Server. Home Server! That’s geekery.

    Within the team, he sits somewhere in the middle of the geek-tree, with me waaay down towards the bottom, and Ben Nunney sitting in the top of the tree. (Ben’s our specialist for Live@edu, as you’ll see on his blog).

    Mark also blogs for UK Education Partners, but he keeps it low profile, which means I can occasionally steal content from his blog posts. (If you are a UK Education Partner, and you want to know where Mark’s blog is, email him). This week, I read one of his blog posts and thought it would be useful for network managers up and down the country (who, let’s face it, are the only people in school and reading this blog this month).

    So, in Mark’s own words:


    I subscribe to a weekly notification of top new downloads from The reason I do this is to keep track of all the great new content that appears on a daily basis. To encourage partners to regularly check out these resources I’ve listed a few that have appeared in the last week or so:

    1. Windows Live Essentials – the suite of applications such as Messenger, Live Writer, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker have all been updated – and so has the Windows Live Toolbar

    2. Online Services Guide – a comprehensive guide to Microsoft’s online services including product offerings and licensing models

    3. Geneva Beta 2 – this is going to be an important technology for delivering user access and single sign-on solutions

    4. Windows Automated Installation Kit (Beta 2) - The Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) is a set of tools and documentation that support the configuration and deployment of Microsoft® Windows® operating systems.. By using Windows AIK, you can automate Windows installations, capture Windows images with ImageX, configure and modify images using Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management (DISM), create Windows PE images, and migrate user profiles and data with the User State Migration Tool (USMT).

    5. Windows Azure Platform Training Kit - The Windows Azure Platform Training Kit includes a comprehensive set of technical content including hands-on labs, presentations, and demos that are designed to help you learn how to use the Windows Azure platform. Endquotes

    The Geneva identity beta is potentially quite wide-reaching – as Becta reported on their ‘Emerging Technologies for Learning’ site in May.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Where are all the freebies now the budget's cut


    I received this query by email from an international colleague:

    “I heard that MS UK Education team created a DVD with all free products/links to Microsoft web sites that are potentially beneficial to teachers and students, and that you shared this with your education audiences. Can you point me to the folder where the DVD content is?”

    And after I answered it, I then thought I should share the answer, because if somebody in Latvia is interested, it’ll probably be interesting to somebody in Luton too, given the state of education ICT budgets.

    For more up-to-date information, there are some key web pages listing free resources


    Does that help anybody else too?

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference – Sept 29 in London


    This is probably something for local authorities, who’re running big datacentres, but there are likely to be readers of this blog that are either in that role, or are running big datacentres in their school. And given the size of some of the transactional databases in schools today, this might apply to you…

    SQL Server 2008 Grid v I’ve just heard that the first ever Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference is being held in London on Tuesday September 29th.  Although it is not an education-specific event, there is a good agenda with excellent presenters that could be of use to you if you are running complex databases. It’s obviously useful for IT managers, and information managers, database administrators and architects will find real value to add to their knowledge of how to get the most out of SQL Server.

    The agenda focuses on some of the major data management challenges that we know SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition is more than ready to handle: high-performance and scalability, robust security, virtualisation, data warehousing and business intelligence.

    The cast of presenters includes:

    • Donald Farmer & Mark Linton from the SQL Server Development team
    • Mark Whitehorn, independent consultant and author on databases and data management
    • An array of Microsoft technical expertise on SQL Server, data management and Business Intelligence

    The agenda includes specific topics on using SQL Server in heterogeneous data environments (i.e. Oracle) and SQL Server as the data platform of choice for business critical applications such as SAP. It also includes a closer-look at the SQL Server 2008 R2 functionality in a presentation by Donald Farmer from the SQL Server development team.

    The full agenda, which includes a choice of tracks for the afternoon, is available on the website

    The event is free, and given that effective database management is top of the list for many organisations, you may want to book your place as soon as you can.

    You can book directly on the Microsoft events website, or register by phone on 0870 166 6670 (quoting event reference 4125)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Slides from the Windows 7 in Education event in Reading


    We had a Windows in Education workshop at our main offices in Reading today, with about 50 IT managers and network managers. We spent the whole day talking about how and why schools, colleges and universities might roll out Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. It was quite a geeky day and also quite relaxed – plenty of opportunity to dive into deep questions about particular things, and to compare notes between different establishments. Some people had already implemented Windows 7 and Server R2, whilst others were planning for the future

    All of the presentations are available to download below (or you can download from the SkyDrive folder directly).

    If you want to get a little of the flavour of the day, then go and read some of the tweets from the day, from some of the delegates. You can see it all by searching on Twitter for the #eduwin7 tag

    The slides

    My introduction

    The Windows 7 story in education
    From James O'Neill

    Windows Server 2008 R2
    From Gareth Hall

    How Microsoft IT have deployed Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
    From Asif Jinnah

    The experiences of West Hatch School
    From Alan Richards

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Data Protection Act and exam results


    One of the websites I read via its RSS feed is that of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). And you need to read today’s release before your students!


    Students receiving exam results this summer can find out more about their grades by using their rights under the Data Protection Act. Guidance produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) explains how students can access personal exam records. Endquotes

    I saw this through their Press Releases page (honestly, it sounds like ICO press releases would be quite, hmm, boring, but there’s never a dull moment, especially when you think through the implications of some of the things they say for your school!).

    They say more about the issue in their press release (PDF) and in the ‘Youth’ section of their website.


    I notice that three of four tabs on the page have been used, and the orange one is waiting for the next issue to be covered. Worth keeping an eye on…

    As an aside, if anybody thinks that Information Security in your school isn’t important, then you might want to send them the link to the Press Releases page and point out how many they publish a week, and how critical they are of people who don’t adequately protect personal data.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Do you work during your holidays?


    When I take a holiday, I like to really take a holiday. Which means I don’t check my email, I leave my phone off unless I can't avoid it, and I generally try to relax. My boss has just started a 10 week sabbatical* – a very extended holiday – and he’s definitely not checking his email, voicemail etc. But the culture of some workplaces, and of some people, is that if you’re on holiday you still check, just in case. Which means sometimes people’s Out Of Office message is an Out-Of-Office-but-still-in-touch message.

    But today, I laughed when I got an Out Of Office message from a colleague who obviously won’t be checking his email while he’s away:


    I'm now out of the office until Monday 24th August, during which time I will be driving nearly the length of England, as I shall be starting in Poole and ending in the Lake District.  During this time I shan't be checking email or voicemail - partly due to my not wanting to check mail on holiday, and also partly due to the fact that I shall mostly be in the middle of nowhere where I fear that my Windows Mobile Phone may not get signal, or may get me investigated for witchcraft. Endquotes

    I like his style.

    ps just after publishing this post, I was told about this BBC Magazine story about Out Of Office replies. Gave me some more ideas...

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using Windows 7 BranchCache to speed up education networks


    I had the chance to visit Warwickshire last week, and to meet up with Chris Page and the rest of the local authority education IT team. The reason for the visit was to catch up with their work on rolling out Windows 7 to their schools, as they’re part of our official Windows 7 Technology Adoption Programme (TAP) – which is a scheme we run for all new major technologies. Customers on the TAP programme get earlier access to product releases and additional technical help, in return for agreeing to be amongst the first to roll our new product releases to their users. Normally it is commercial customers involved in the TAPs, but we’ve been quite lucky to get some educational customers involved too.

    In Warwickshire the local authority provide a wide range of ICT services for their schools, and are deeply engaged with both the technical and learning strategy for ICT in the county. In a contrast to some authorities, where it is mainly primary schools using the county services, they also support quite a few secondary schools, and in many take an active part in the management of the ICT.

    Being involved in the Windows 7 TAP has given them quite a bit of leeway to experiment with the new products being launched this summer, and they’ve learnt a fair deal as they have been:

    • virtualising their SIMS systems, using Terminal Server
    • deploying netbooks on Windows 7
    • deploying Apples dual-booting on Windows 7
    • building flood-wireless networks, for up to 250 laptops in a single room (a big one!)
    • virtualising their data centre servers

    I think some of this could do with a more technical write up than I could manage (yup, on my list to get organised!) but there was one idea I came across that I simply hadn’t considered before, and that may be of interest. In one of their new secondary schools, they’ve deployed Windows 7 using the BranchCache feature. This is designed for businesses where they have a number of physical branches in different places – it basically creates a duplicate temporary file store locally, but maintains the security and currency of the main network servers. Although I’d realised the potential for multi-site schools, in Warwickshire they’ve also used it with a single-site school. It has been designed to help them to improve network and workstation performance in situations where there is a high student:PC ratio. In each of four main blocks there will be a BranchCache, and when all of the students in a classroom start downloading the same lesson file from their VLE, or the same web page, then the BranchCache will serve a cached version. And hopefully serve them faster.

    It remains to be seen how much faster it will help the network to run (the builders haven’t yet finished the last coat of paint, so the installation hasn’t been put in yet), but it’s a use for BranchCache I hadn’t considered.

    You can find out more about BranchCache through this TechNet video, or read the BranchCache Executive Overview

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