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November, 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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November, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A plain English Guide to Data Protection


    I keep an eye on the Information Commissioner’s Office press releases on their website (in the hope that we’re not going to see schools appearing too often), where I suspect they have a busy Press Officer producing a constant stream of news (last 2 weeks : Recruitment firms fined; mobile phone customers record sold illegally; Primary Care Trusts break the law; One third of data security breaches result from burglary and theft).

    On Thursday I saw that the ICO announced that it’s latest publication “demystifies data protection”.

    It even quoted Stephen Alambritis, Head of Public Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses:


    Small businesses do not have time for pages and pages of jargon and gobbledegook, but getting data protection right makes good business sense. Data protection lapses cost reputations and can affect the bottom line. But, many organisations tell us that data protection law is difficult to understand. This new
    no-nonsense guide will help the business community to understand and comply with the lawEndquotes

    image It even promised to demystify plainly wrong stories, such as “It is illegal to take photographs of your children in their nativity play at school.” (It points out “The Data Protection Act does not prevent parents taking photographs of their children and friends participating in school events.”, but it doesn’t say anything about what the Head might prevent!)

    Well, after all the mystery that has surrounded information security in schools, I jumped straight over to the new guide, and downloaded the PDF version, with high hopes.

    As a positive, it’s definitely written in plain English. Which is a relief after so many migraine-inducing data protection documents.

    And there are many specific examples which are really useful to help understand it all. So if your job gets close to protecting data, then this is a must read.

    But it runs to 92 pages. 92 pages for an easy-to-understand guide? One to pass to the Head I think!

    Also a great source of facts to shout at the telly/newspaper with next time you see one of those idiotic data protection stories…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    £750M of savings in schools – and some ideas to get started


    imageYesterday, at the SSAT Conference, Ed Balls took to the stage to talk about the need for more efficient resource management in schools. The Guardian kicked off the coverage this morning, with their dramatic headline “Ed Balls tells schools to make £750M savings” (probably NOT the headline he wanted to see as he faced 2,000 school leaders in Birmingham).

    And at the same time, the DCSF website announced the matching discussion paper ‘Securing our future: using our resources well', which contains a series of ideas for schools to save money, and provides some case studies. When it comes to ICT, there’s a strong point that is made:


    The huge investment of the last 12 years in information and communications technology in schools is an important area for review. In  many schools the benefits realised from ICT are limited. Becta’s Harnessing Technology survey shows that only a quarter of all schools are using ICT effectively across all their business functions. Many schools use technology imaginatively in some areas of their work such as tracking pupil progress, teaching in some subjects or communicating with parents. But in spite of some good practice, many schools are not deriving the full benefit. Becta’s self-evaluation framework gives schools a ready tool to help plan their use of technology more effectively to improve outcomes and efficiency.

    16,000 schools have accessed the framework, and significant numbers are making progress. But better exploitation of ICT across the  system would yield better outcomes at lower cost, especially where schools use it as a shared resource. Endquotes

    So, in a nutshell, ‘We’ve put billions into ICT, but still aren’t seeing consistent benefit across all schools’.

    Case studies – how to do things differently

    And to help illustrate the potential, the discussion paper then highlights examples of ways to save money and resources, with two case studies which are (a) replicable and (b) are based on our products & services (self-interest declared!):


    London schools have reduced their ICT costs by adopting shared ICT services through London Grid for Learning (LGfL). In addition to broadband and learning platforms, shared services now include remotely hosted email accounts and personal server space for all staff and students, thus removing the need for schools to host their own exchange servers. Compared to school-hosted email services, schools save upwards of £10 per user per year – more than £11 million for London in total.Endquotes

      As it’s a DCSF publication, probably too much to expect that they would mention that it’s our free Live@edu service that’s doing it. So I will say it, and you can find out more on our main UK Education website


    Twynham School in Christchurch, Dorset has developed a Learning Gateway for all its students, available within the school or online at home. The Gateway includes lesson plans for every lesson, allowing revision and catch up for any pupil. Among the supporting resources there are 10,000 digitised videos that students can access at any time. Each subject area has 5 key internet links that have been quality assured by staff members, giving pupils access to high quality internet material. There is a parallel Revision Gateway supporting pupils’ revision for GCSE. The school is collaborative and supports other local schools in the area, giving them access to its materials. During the school’s closure as a result of snow early in 2009 50 per cent of the school’s pupils logged on to the GatewayEndquotes

    Aah, somebody at Twnyham (Mike?) has got the gift of the gab, because there is no end of praise running around the system for what the team have achieved. Of course, the Learning Gateway started out as our idea, but what Twynham have done with it takes it into a whole new century! Read more of their story on this blog, go and see their beautiful Sixth form website and find out more about Learning Gateway here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 multi-touch at BETT


    One of the nice features in Windows 7 that’s not had much coverage is multi-touch. I think this is mainly because few of us have multi-touch laptops or screens. However, when you see it in action, it’s the kind of thing that makes you think “I want one of those”. Last year we had a Surface on the stand, which created lots of interest, but I always knew it would be quite specialist – after all, the idea of spending £10,000 on a single device was only ever going to be sensible for a small number of situations (no matter how transformative it might be).

    You can get an idea of what multi-touch allows on the video below (one of my colleagues, Andrew Fryer, recorded this at home with his nephew).

    View this video on the YouTube site directly

    So the idea of adding the same kind of multi-touch capabilities to a standard classroom PC, for a small amount of extra cost, is interesting. And that’s what we’re going to set out to demonstrate at BETT, using a Dell multi-touch monitor on a standard PC. But there are quite a few ways of adding multi-touch capability in the classroom:

    Add a multi-touch monitor to a standard PC

    imageWe’re going to have some Dell SX2210T multi-touch monitors on the stand, running on standard PCs. I’ve not played with one myself yet, but getting multi-touch on a sub-£300 monitor (£277 ex-VAT currently) seems like an affordable solution. Can’t wait for them to arrive in the office.

    Buy a specific multi-touch PC

    image HP have jumped enthusiastically into touch computers, with a line of TouchSmart devices, including all-in-one PCs and TouchSmart laptops. We’ve got a couple of HP TX2’s on the way to try out, so I’ll let you know what they’re like. (Harry Fryer was using a TouchSmart All-in-on PC in the video above)


    Use a multi-touch interactive whiteboard

    When I was chatting with Promethean last week I discovered that their current whiteboards allow for multitouch (your existing boards might need a firmware update), which means that you can use the same capabilities on a teacher’s classroom whiteboard. Which seems to me like an ideal opportunity to re-energise some teachers to use discover new ways of using their whiteboards (I’m guessing we all still know too many times when we see them simply being used as a big projector, with no interactivity).

    Or make your own multi-touch interactive whiteboard/wall/anything using Johnny Chung Lee’s ideas

    I’m guessing you’ll need a geek-factor to be interested in doing this, but how about playing around with some of Johnny’s ideas (he’s the man who created the Wiimote multi-touch interactive whiteboard/wall for £50)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How to make a beautiful school SharePoint site


    On Monday I shared some UK Education SharePoint websites that I described as beautiful, and which had been created by UK education establishments. And the opinion around the office was that the Twynham School Sixth Form website was the most astonishing one (in fact, half a dozen times I was asked by Microsoft colleagues “Are you sure that was done in SharePoint?”).

    My colleague, Ben Nunney, who’s an ex-teacher, paid it a massive compliment when he said on Twitter “I know I'm too old to go back to school, but if I could I'd go here - PURELY based on their amazing website

    Mike Herrity from Twynham School talks a lot on his SharePoint in Education blog about all of the things that they’re doing with ICT in his school, and it makes a useful resource if you’re thinking of doing some SharePoint work yourself.

    Twynham School's VI Form website

    But he hadn’t mentioned to me that he was also writing a series of articles about how they have created the Sixth Form site, which are being published on The series (not all there at this point) actually walks through the whole process, and describes the challenges (including the need to convince the Leadership Team in the school that you can make a good looking site in SharePoint).

    If you are in any way involved in using SharePoint in a school, I think it is a must read series, either for you, or for whoever is providing/developing your SharePoint.

    How we did it: Twynham 6th form Internet facing website using SharePoint 2007 - Part 1

    How we did it: Twynham 6th form Internet facing website using SharePoint 2007 - Part 2

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Putting an interactive map onto your school website


    A little while ago, Microsoft acquired Multimap (which I liked, because Multimap was my favourite way of getting directions and decent maps). And you may have noticed over the last few months that Multimap and Bing maps have been getting closer together, and now they’ve become the same thing, and the ways to display a map have improved dramatically.

    The options now (see below) are the standard Multimap-style map or an Ordnance Survey map. And in London you can also have the A-Z streetmaps style, and even lay the tube lines over the top.

    OS Map


    Adding a Bing map to your website

    I’ve never tried to embed a map like these onto a website, and I was surprised to find out how easy it is. (I had mistakenly assumed that it was difficult, or somehow copyright-limited, to embed a map like these onto another website). So now I’ve discovered, here’s my simple guide to embed a Bing map:

      1. Get the map you want up on screen in Bing maps
      2. Click the share (envelope) icon in the bottom left of the screen image
      3. Copy the code below the text that says “Embed in a web page”) and paste that into your web page
      4. Or, you may want to click the ‘Customise & Preview’ link first – for example, change it into a static map, or change the size, or change the style

    Embedding a map on your website is much better than simply putting an image in, because your website visitors can then zoom in and out (especially if you have school visitors that don’t know the area), and move around. (To show this, the top two maps are the same place, but two different styles. The second one allows you to pan and zoom, whilst the first one doesn’t. Handy if you want to see more of the area. The third one is just an image – so you can’t do anything to it)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Making a beautiful SharePoint site for a school


    I know that lots of people are using SharePoint in their school – or have it provided to them by their local authority. When you install SharePoint “out of the box”, it is fair to say that it isn’t something that whacks you between the eyes shouting out “I’m beautiful. Look At Me!”. But that’s perhaps not surprising where people have many different uses for it, and almost everybody that sees it comes up with yet another use for it schools.

    Thumbnail of the web album But there are some common uses, such as providing a document storage and collaboration system, or supporting the workflow for a learning platform (you may not realise it, but many of the Becta certified Learning Platforms run on top of SharePoint, as it invisibly handles all of the workflow underneath). And now schools are turning to it to run their public-facing websites too – because you can use exactly the same skills to control the content on a public website as you do for your internal SharePoint. Which means that a well-designed website can be updated by non-technical users (making it easy for the staff in the school office to update the announcements, or publish newsletters and notices).

    And so the inevitable question that gets asked is “Can I make it look better?”. And to help, I’ve put together a “Good Looking Education SharePoint Websites” album from UK sites.

    The latest one that I’ve seen is the Twynham School VI Form in Dorset, where they’ve had professional designers creating a look and feel that is just stunning – and then the programmers in school have turned it into a reality.

    Twynham School's VI Form website 

    If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at the album, and then go and explore your favourites – the URLs are shown at the bottom of each picture.

    If you don't have access to SkyDrive in your school, then you can download a PDF version of the album

    Do you know of another one to add? Just drop me an email with a URL
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Scaling up Innovation


    The Microsoft UK Education team has a dozen people in it (surprised?) who are focused full-time on education – across schools, colleges and universities. Which means that we’re awfully busy and spread across many, many things all the time. But fortunately we have the help of other similar teams around the world, and a much bigger team in our offices in America. Sometimes we produce work for the rest of the world (like the Innovative Schools case studies, focusing on journeys of innovation and the lessons that innovative schools have learnt on their way), and sometimes the work flows the other way – towards us.

    One of the things that has been done as part of the worldwide Partners in Learning programme is The Scaling Framework – an interactive tool that helps analyse how you move an innovation from being something done by 1 or 2 people, to making it widespread.

    imageIt made me think of two specific cases where today there is a challenge of scaling innovation. The first is Learning Platforms, where it is proving to be difficult to take good practice from one teacher/department/school to the whole system. And the other is taking an innovative ICT initiative and spreading it to other schools.

    The Scaling Framework is a simple interactive tool that explains the five dimensions of scale, and then digs down into areas such as “Traps to Avoid” and “Next Steps to Explore”.

    You can either us this as an individual, or pop it up on your whiteboard next time you’re holding a leadership team meeting, and explore interactively.

    Take a look at the interactive Scaling Framework, and see if it can help you

    I was interested in the “Spread” dimension – and the trap to avoid: “Developers should realise a somewhat less powerful innovation that reaches much greater numbers of use is a step forward”.  We were talking about this at lunchtime today, discussing a new piece of software for teachers which may only appeal to innovators, meaning that the majority of users won’t be affected by it. So is it better to try and promote something a little less innovative, but likely to be used by more people?



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Planning for BETT 2010


    image BETT is the big event in the education ICT calendar, not just for you but for us as well. Knowing that 30,000 people will flood through the doors of Olympia in about 7 working weeks tends to focus our minds on making sure that we put on a good show for them/you.

    Our challenge, every year, is to get a balance between whizzy new technology and being realistic about ICT in the classroom – because the pace of change means that technology appears to be moving faster than the pace of change in the classroom. Some people are always looking for things to change rapidly (you only have to look at your students’ attitude to the release of the latest game) whilst others see change as something that disturbs the natural rhythm of things. And in your own school you will probably have staff on both ends of the spectrum.

    This year, we have got lots of new products to launch (or which have been launched in the last few months), which will create a bit of a buzz. Windows 7 is out there, and in use by the innovators, but for many schools it may be the first chance for them to see it in detail. For some teachers, Office 2007 will be ‘new’, while some others will want to look at the next version – Office 2010. SharePoint is in a similar position – with some schools pushing the limits of the current version, and some who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the Beta version of SharePoint 2010.

    So the plan this year is to dramatically increase the number of demonstration PCs, so that we can show all of our new things, and still explain how we can help schools get more out of what they’ve already got.

    Our draft list of “demonstration Pods” looks like this at the moment (bound to be some changes between now and BETT)

    • Windows 7 (and also the multi-touch facilities, which are exciting to demo)
    • Office 2007 (and a new add-in product to be launched, which I can’t yet tell you about yet)
    • Office 2010 Beta – more here
    • SharePoint 2010 – more here
    • Home Learning Package – more here
    • Semblio – more here
    • …and a nice little bundle of 3 other new products to be announced on the first day of the show

    Oh, and we’re just finalising this year’s freebies!

    See you in January!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office 2010 Beta Available



    Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Project 2010 and Visio 2010 have all reached the Beta milestone and are now available for download.

    Remember how sometimes you felt smug when you were running Windows 7 Beta at least 6 months before everybody else in school? Well, you can feel it once again!

    What’s new in the Office system?

    On Monday 9 November, Microsoft Exchange 2010 became the first product launch in wave of innovation across the Office system. The first half of 2010 will see this wave continue with the release of Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Project 2010 and Visio 2010 .

    • Microsoft Office 2010 provides rich and powerful new ways to deliver work. New features include enhanced tools, customisable templates, photo editing and the ability to work with multiple people from different locations at the exact same time using new co-authoring capabilities. By offering more ways to access files from virtually anywhere, Office 2010 gives users greater control. Learn More
    • Microsoft SharePoint 2010 enables organisations to connect and empower people through an integrated set of rich features. SharePoint 2010 facilitates business collaboration in its broadest sense and helps colleagues, partners and customers to work together in new and effective ways. Learn More
    • Microsoft Project 2010 provides teams and organisations of all sizes with the right project collaboration tools, and a pathway to step up to more advanced Project and Portfolio Management capabilities as their needs evolve. Learn More
    • The advanced diagramming tools of Microsoft Visio 2010 help you simplify complexity with intuitive and professional-looking diagrams, dynamic and data-driven visuals and new ways to share these on the Web in real-time. Learn More

    In addition, with this beta we are unveiling several new features and products:

    • Office Web Apps for business customers, available through SharePoint Server, allows SharePoint sites to host browser-based Web Apps accessible from virtually anywhere.
      To me, this is one of the most significant developments of SharePoint 2010 – you can provide Office applications, from your SharePoint server, to your students whether they are in-school or at home. Which means they can start a piece of work using Office on their school computer, and then continue it at home using their web browser.
    • Outlook Social Connector, a new feature that brings communications history and social networking feeds into the Outlook experience.

    Happy downloading

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 building up steam in schools


    You may remember a while ago I mentioned that almost 1 in 5 readers of this blog are running Windows 7.

    To be honest, that’s nagged at me for a while. Because I’ve worried that it means that I’m only “preaching to the choir” – ie the readers of the blog are only the super-keen Microsoft lovers. Although some of the emails I get would prove that wrong :-)

    So I thought I’d check elsewhere, and asked Chris at EduGeek what their statistics were showing. EduGeek is a big community of network managers and technicians from schools in the UK (and latterly in other countries too). His answer (after duly consulting the web logs) was 14%. Not quite matching my 19%, but considering that it is a much more diverse community, its still a surprisingly good number.

    The whole table was:

    Windows XP 56%
    Windows Vista 17%
    Windows 7 14%
    Mac OS 7%
    Windows 2003 2%
    Ubuntu 2%
    Linux 1%

    You can read the EduGeek statistics on their website – and if you don’t know EduGeek already, then it’s worth considering popping onto their website more regularly.

    There’s something that I don’t get in this table (and it was the same in my earlier version) – 2% are browsing the web using Windows Server 2003. Must be a statistical oddity – or there’s more going on the in the school Server Room than we all think!

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