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December, 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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December, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using Windows 7 Direct Access to connect teachers to your school network securely


    Ever since Windows 7 was launched, I’ve had a steady stream of people asking me if I know of schools who have implemented Direct Access.

    Direct Access allows you to setup your staff laptops so that teachers can always have secure access to your school network wherever they are, but without forcing them to use a VPN connection. There are a number of benefits for schools & staff:

    • Unlike a VPN connection, it only reroutes some network access through the school network connection, not all Internet access. Which means it doesn’t slow down or filter normal Internet access at home from the laptop.
    • It is transparent to the user – so they just access a network share or VLE folder as they normally would, just as if they are in school.
    • It can be used with two-factor security (eg a smartcard) so that it meets Becta’s requirements for remote access to sensitive MIS data
    • It minimises the amount of sensitive data that your teachers put on their laptop. This could save you getting into hot water with the Information Commissioner’s Office if a laptop goes missing.

    Although I use it myself (and as a user, I’m a big fan of it, because VPN access used to be slow, and I’d avoid VPN’ing as much as possible) I don’t know of any schools that have implemented it fully.

    So I thought that perhaps I should share some resources to help people who are experimenting.

    A short video introduction to Direct Access

    There’s a 2 minute video demonstration of it which you can download, which shows how very simple it is for the user.

    Direct Access webcast


    View the TechNet Direct Access webcast home page

    In this webcast, John Baker from the TechNet team focuses on the Direct Access feature in the Windows 7 operating system, which provides secure anywhere access on the network. We explore how Direct Access makes it easier for IT professionals to manage the network infrastructure and how it helps reduces IT costs. We also discuss how Direct Access works and how to set up and configure Direct Access in the network infrastructure. The session includes demonstrations on how to setup and configure Direct Access on Windows 7-based clients and the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system.

    Networking Enhancements Whitepaper

    There’s a whitepaper, called (takes deep breath) “Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Networking Enhancements for Enterprises” which takes a detailed look at new networking technologies in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, with particular emphasis on enhancements to improve connectivity for a mobile workforce. New features and enhancments including DirectAccess, BranchCache, VPN Reconnect, mobile broadband device support, URL-based QoS, DNSSEC, and support for green computing.

    There’s a lot of technical details on Direct Access (and a lot of acronyms like IPv6, IPsec and 56-bit key encryption) on page 5-6 of this whitepaper

    Infrastructure and Planning Guide for Direct Access

    The TechNet site has a growing series of Infrastructure Planning and Design Guides for all kinds of areas – virtualisation, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server, Online Services and the Optimised Desktop. The one that’s relevant is the IPD Guide for DirectAccess in Windows 7.

    Want more on Direct Access?

    Head to the TechNet Direct Access page, for a big bundle of further documents and information that will help.

    And if you’ve implemented it in a school, then drop me a line or add a comment, to share your story.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 reasons Office 2010 is good for schools


    I’ve been using Office 2010 for a few months now, and over time I’ve realised that there is a lot of clever stuff hidden inside this new version.

    When I say “hidden”, I mean that in a positive way. One of the big things with Office 2010 is that there are a huge number of things which don’t change – things like the Ribbon menu and all of the new file formats which arrived with Office 2007. The benefit of this is that it is easier for users to migrate, but as a user, it has meant it’s taken me a little while to find the things which are very new.

    One of the underlying things is that all of the applications work much more effectively in an Internet connected world – and use that to improve users’ ability to save and share information.


    There’s more to life than the Save icon

    imageIt’s going to involve some user re-education, but if you can persuade people to hit the “Share” button, instead of the “Save” button, things are going to get interesting for your learning community.

    Your students and staff will easily be able to share their work in lots of different places and ways.

    Reason One: Save to SharePoint allows them to use shared sites, or their MySite, to store and share documents. And because it is so easy (no more do I have to save a local copy and then go and upload it to SharePoint separately) it will encourage everybody to store their documents where other (authorised!) people can find them.

    Reason Two: Save to SkyDrive is one step further by connecting your users to their 25GB of free storage on the SkyDrive site. And because SkyDrive allows you to have private folders, shared folders and public folders, each user can easily control what’s visible to others, and available via any Internet connected computer.

    Reason Three: Create PDF Document is something I have used quite a bit since discovering it – I can now take my Word document and turn it into something which is perceived to be more ‘professionally published’ because it’s a PDF. And it’s dead easy to use.

    imageReason Four: PowerPoint knocks down the classroom walls by adding a new “Broadcast Slide Show” option, which takes your presentation and presents it live on a web page – with all the fancy animations and everything else. So now, if you’re delivering a remote lesson, everybody can be looking at the same thing, in high resolution and real time, without needing an extra fancy software. All you do is share a weblink, and you’re ready to teach the world! You can find out a little more on this on the PowerPoint blog

    image Reason Five: Your teachers can become YouTube stars with the new sharing option in PowerPoint, that allows you to turn a presentation into a video. Up until now, if you wanted to share a PowerPoint presentation as a video, you either needed extra software (like Camtasia) or you had to save the files as individual pictures, and then put them together into a lovely movie with PhotoStory or MovieMaker. Now you just select ‘Share>Create a Video’ and you’re off. You can create low-res videos for YouTube or your Learning Platform, or High-Def videos for other uses. This means that your teachers can unlock some of their existing PowerPoint content for your students – making it available in places and ways they’re likely to be comfortable with – like YouTube.

    If you want an idea of how powerful this can be, take a look at this video, created completely in PowerPoint 2010.

    It was created by Duarte, who are professional presentation designers, and they’ve shared the template for this whole presentation (plus some lessons on how to achieve the effects) within the PowerPoint 2010 beta. It’s an amazing demonstration of how you can combine good graphics and some of the clever new animations and transitions in PowerPoint to produce an amazingly professional result.

    Cut and Paste will never be the same again

    imageReason Six: Paste has less hassle involved now that you can choose easily whether to paste in information with its original formatting, or no formatting (or merged formatting), simply by clicking the right mouse button. You get this little menu to the right, and it means you can say goodbye to little irritations caused by doing things like pasting in a bit of text from an Internet page – and seeing your whole page design change.

    image Reason Seven: Paste has less hassle forever too, because you can change the default Paste behaviour. So you can always set Word to paste text in unformatted – losing all of the purple fonts so beloved of Year 7! I’m told this is a very good thing.

    image Reason Eight: You can paste animations from one object to another. This is already saving me hours in PowerPoint, and just might encourage my ten-year-old to use consistent animations, not a new animation for every piece of text! Now, once I’ve perfected my dead-cat-bounce on my latest clipart triumph, I can copy it across all the other bits of the slides by using the Animation Painter. It works just like Format Painter (the little yellow paint brush in Office 2007), but potentially saves a lot more time in PowerPoint.


    Reason Nine: PowerPoint’s new video features will genuinely make teachers smile, because it just makes working with video easier, so that teachers can include video in their lesson plans more easily. There are 3 parts of it worth noting:

    • imageYou can now trim the parts of the video to display – selecting when to start and stop the video automatically. It’s a doddle, just using the ‘Trim Video’ option, and dragging the markers to the start and end position. This is brilliant if you’ve got a long video in your library (eg a TV programme) that you want to only show 2 minutes from.
    • Videos are now embedded in your presentation by default, meaning that your one PowerPoint file has all the bits it needs to run, rather than having to remember to copy all the video files.
    • image And finally, you can now easily insert a video from websites like YouTube and TeacherTube just by clicking ‘Insert>Video>Video from Web Site’ and pasting in the embed code from the video.

    And finally, for the minute, it’s free

    image Reason Ten: Because the Office 2010 Beta is free and downloadable nowwhich means you can play with it as much as you want (and, if you’re shallow like me, use a few of whizzy new animation features in PowerPoint to show off in front of colleagues/students who haven’t yet seen them). Have fun!



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Kristen and Stuart get an EduBlog nomination for Teaching Ideas and Resources blog


    Talk about hiding your light under a bush. I’ve just found out, through reading the pages of EduBlog awards site, that our Teaching Ideas and Resources blog, written by Kristen and Stuart, has been shortlisted in the “Best elearning/corporate education blog 2009” category.

    If you’re not sending staff in your school to their blog, then you probably should be – it is full of good stories about enhancing learning using ICT, and they have a regular pot of software giveaways that will appeal to classroom teachers.

    First, take a look at their blog, and if you think it is worthy, give them your vote in the EduBlog Awards?

    Neither Kristen nor Stuart have mentioned this nomination, so it seems I have to do their plugging for them…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Are teachers really losing confidence with ICT?


    Earlier in the year, BESA reported that teachers confidence with using ICT had fallen by 10%. Which sounds dramatic, and was described by some writers as ‘alarming’. But is it?

    Well, here’s the data for the last 11 years – from research done by the old DfES until 2004, and data from BESA from 2002. The reason the two lines don’t match in the overlap period of 2002-2004 is probably because DfES used to ask head teachers “What proportion of your teacher are confident”, whereas BESA asks individual teachers “Are you confident?”


    Although you can use the data to produce a headline like “Teacher ICT confidence down 10 per cent”, it’s unlikely that average teachers confidence with ICT is the same as it was in 1998. After all, in 1998 we weren’t using the Internet in many classrooms, or using any of the fancy multimedia resources that you see in the majority of classrooms today.

    So what’s going on?

    I think that what’s happening is that the data is reflecting the journey through the learning curve. We all start any learning journey in the “Unconsciously Incompetent” box – ie we don’t know what we can’t do. And normally progress through to being “Consciously Incompetent” (ie we find out what we cant do), before continuing through to “Consciously Competent” (a feeling of relief from knowing that we can do it!). And, in the perfect world, we end up “Unconsciously Competent” (ie we aren’t even aware that we’re competent at something, like riding a bike").

    The journey looks something like this:image And I think the reason that we don’t see a continual increase in teachers’ confidence with ICT is two factors:

    • The first reason is that because things keep changing, it means that we all end up moving into the between the “Incompetent” and “Competent” boxes. In fact, it always seems as if the IT industry is waiting for me to get competent with something before it changes! Only yesterday I discovered the my favourite page on Amazon had changed the way it worked, and I had to re-learn how to do things.
    • And secondly, I think that the majority of teachers are surrounded by people who appear to be more fluent with technology than they are – hordes of little people who’ll happily load a video onto YouTube before breakfast, and IM all day long. In that environment, where you’re surrounded by people who seem to know more than you, wouldn’t you feel less confident? And I don’t think this existed in 1998 – the majority of people didn’t have a home computer, and so everybody was on a level playing field.

    Which means we’re unlikely to see an increase in Confidence, even though there’s a continual increase in Competence

    Teacher ICT competency is up

    My view is that that teachers’ ICT competency is going up, even though the research says their confidence with ICT is going down. What I think is happening is that the gap between teachers’ and students’ competency with ICT is growing. Not in the conventional ‘can-you-master-a-complex-spreadsheet’ way, but in a ‘I-use-ICT-to-solve-my-life-goals’ way. The way that you see students tackling new things with technology, even if they’re not sure how.

    The chart probably looks like this:


    Which means we’ve got a different kind of problem to the headlines from the research. The gap between the way that students and teachers use ICT, and the multiple competencies that are being developed with different kinds of ICT, is leading to a growing gap between the students and teachers, even though teachers are continuing to increase their ICT competency.

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