website stats
June, 2010 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
Home    index of content      about this blog     rss feed     email us     our website

June, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Microsoft software for schools, from the Fun and Free Friday event


    Today, we had a fantastic day at the office, when we hosted the “Fun, Free Friday for Schools”. Just over 100 schools attended, and we had an absolutely packed agenda, as we demonstrated lots of the free Microsoft software available for schools to use.

    All of the links to the various downloads we mentioned during the day are below. During the day we asked people to share ideas of how they would use the software to enhance their curriculum teaching, but we didn’t get the chance to write them all down – so if you attended the day, we’d appreciate it enormously if you’d add a comment to the blog to say how you hope to use one or more of the resources you saw on the day. And if you were one of the lucky ones who won a copy of Office, then go here to find out how to get the Office 2010 upgrade under the Tech Guarantee programme.


    Bing Maps

    Bing Maps is so much more than just maps and directions. Bing Maps delivers a truly immersive experience that connects people to the world and a growing number of useful and valuable applications. Whether you want to find and view photosynths, see Twitter feeds, explore environmental projects or just explore the world; Bing Maps is a great resource for educators and students to enrich their learning experience.


    Photosynth is a tool that takes your photos, mashes them together and recreates a 3-D scene out of them that anyone can view and move around.

    Community Clips

    Community Clips is a free download from Office Labs that allows you record activity from your computer screen, narrate that activity and save it as a video file. This makes it ideal for recording simple instructional videos and to record student computer activity for assessment purposes.

    You can download the Community Clips screen recorder at -

    Worldwide Telescope

    Worldwide Telescope is a free download that enables you to access a huge collection of stunning images of the universe from the Hubble Space Telescope and many other space and earth observatories . These can be used to engage students, and to support teaching and learning in Maths and Science. It is a great tool to encourage students in research and project based learning around the planets, the solar system and the stars and to give them an appreciation of the scale, complexity and beauty of the universe.

    Worldwide Telescope can be downloaded from



    Pivot is a visual way of presenting and analysing data, from Microsoft Live Labs. It’s very difficult to describe in words, so perhaps the best way to see what it can do is to watch this video from the TED Conference 2010

    You can download Pivot from the GetPivot website, and use it straight away with the Pivot Collection – or if you’re technical, you can create your own Pivot collection, either in Excel or from a data source. (I used the Pivot Collection Tool for Excel for the SIMS example)


    DeepZoom allows students to create image compositions that can be viewed at different resolutions. Photos can be embedded within one another making it an ideal resource to develop thinking skills and digital storytelling.

    A great example of the use of  DeepZoom technology can be found at the Hard Rock Café - (You will need the Silverlight plug in to view this)

    To make your own Deep Zoom compositions, download a free copy of DeepZoom Composer

    You can find a series of tutorials about how to use DeepZoom Composer on the UK Teachers Blog


    Outsource your email and collaboration solution using this free offering – give all of your staff and students a 10GB Exchange mailbox, 25GB storage and collaboration space, access to the office web app – oh – and it works on almost any platform and in almost any browser, too.

    SkyDrive and Live Sync

    SkyDrive is 25GB of online storage that you can access from any PC to store your files and either keep them private, share them with friends or make them public.  It’s at

    Windows Live Sync is about to get an update to keep your PCs and web storage in sync.  Giving you 2GB of web storage space and the ability to sync content between multiple PCs, Live Sync is a great way to tool to keep you files and photos up to date. Unfortunately it is still in beta but will be part of the updated Windows Live Essentials – keep an eye out at

    Office Web Apps

    The Office Web Apps have just launched this week. They’re at and they provide free, lightweight editing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents through the browser.

    Windows Live Messenger

    More than just instant chat! Live messenger can be a great way of engaging your students in a more exciting and innovative way of learning. It’ll help save money with free simple video conferencing, and to take the pressure away from email - file sharing becomes instant. You can download it as part of Windows Live Essentials

    Bing Translator

    Ever been stuck with a bit of text or a website that’s in a language you don’t speak? Needed to get something across to a teacher across the seas? Or wanted to have an IM conversation that wasn’t limited by language barriers? Bing Translator bridges the gap between languages, so whether you’re chatting to someone or reading an article, you’re covered.

    Windows Live Writer

    Live Writer is a programme that allows you to write blog posts offline, and then upload them onto your blog (and it works with all kinds of different blog platforms, like WordPress, Blogger, Community Server, SharePoint, Live Spaces, and lots of others). You can find out a little more about it in my “I love Live Writer” blog post, and download it free with Windows Live Essentials.

    Windows Live Photo Gallery

    Organise and find your photos really fast by date, descriptive tags or people tags.  Richard demonstrated how you can make your photos look better by tweaking exposure, colour or detail.  And then it allows you to share your photos easily by publishing to various online services such as SkyDrive or flickr.
    You can download the current version as part of Windows Live Essentials

    Windows Live Movie Maker

    Import your existing photos and digital videos and create great looking movies which can be burned to dvd or published to online services such as SkyDrive or YouTube.
    Add impact to your movies with stunning visual effects and soundtracks. Create an animated movie by displaying lots of still images at speeds of up to 33 frames per second.
    You can download the current version as part of Windows Live Essentials


    Singing in the shower is so last year – get your students creative juices flowing across the entire curriculum using Songsmith - a quick & easy way of creating songs, raps, rhymes and tunes out of whatever comes into your head. Although normally you’d pay for SongSmith, it’s free to education in the UK via the Partners in Learning Network

    Maths Worksheet Generator

    If you spend a lot of time searching for worksheets with practice problems to give your students, then you'll like Maths Worksheet Generator. You can easily create your own in just a few seconds with the Math Worksheet Generator. This is a tool that generates multiple maths problems based on a sample problem you provide, and then creates a worksheet that you can distribute. By analysing the initial problem you provide, or one of the built-in samples, the generator determines the structure of the expression and provides similar problems. And it tacks on an answer sheet too.
    You can download it from EducationLabs.

    Photostory 3

    Photostory 3 allows your pupils and students to create videos from still images. They can add narration, music and special effects. It is ideal resource to use in all areas of the curriculum.

    Photostory can be downloaded for free at - . You will also find this resource on Digital Storytelling in the classroom useful.  -

    Microsoft and Moodle

    If you’re using Moodle, you don’t have to miss out on some great free tools – using our Office for Moodle plugin you can open from and save directly to a Moodle site, and with the Moodle Plugin for Live@edu, you can get your recent mail and calendar items right within your Moodle learning environment.


    Autocollage allows you to take a group of photos and turn them into exciting collages with the click of a button, which can then be printed or emailed.
    Autocollage also interacts with Windows Live Photo Gallery for a seamless connection to your extisting photo libraries. It's a great time saver, for example when you've got photos from a school trip, or you need to get students to create a mood board. There's a video demo on the Microsoft Research site. Although AutoCollage is normally sold as a product, if you're in UK Education (teachers or students) you can download it free from the Partners in Learning website.


    Kodu is a visual programming language for creating games designed to be accessible for children and an ideal way to ignite an interest in computer science whilst teaching other skills such as cooperation, logic and creativity.


    DreamSpark is a programme designed to give all students access to Microsoft tools and training materials at no cost.

    Digital Literacy Curriculum

    This is the home page for the English version of the Digital Literacy Curriculum – which is available in 34 languages – including Welsh!   It’s a lovely set of curriculum resources with an interactive interface which allows people to study at their own pace and in ways that suit their own learning style!   It’s available online and it’s also FREE !!   The goal of the Digital Literacy Curriculum is to teach basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use computers in everyday life.  Modules cover Computer Basics; Desktop Applications; the Web; Safety and Security; and Digital Lifestyles.  Once you have completed all five modules, you are ready to take an Entry Level 3 qualification with OCR or City and Guilds and you have the foundations for a journey to higher level skills which could provide a real boost to your employability.


    Office Ribbon Hero

    The new prototype Office Ribbon Hero is designed to test the effectiveness, feasibility and appeal of delivering Office training in a game-like setting.  The heart of Ribbon Hero is a set of challenges that users play right in the Office applications. These challenges expose users to features that they might not be aware of and which can help users get their work done faster.

    In addition, Ribbon Hero awards points for using both basic features, such as, Bold and Italic, and for using the features introduced in the challenges.  Ribbon Hero does some analysis of the person’s usage patterns to prioritise the order in which it presents challenges. And then to add the competitive element, Ribbon Hero integrates with Facebook so you can share your success (or in my case, failures) with your friends.

    You can read a little more, and download Office Ribbon Hero, from my earlier blog post.

    Mouse Mischief

    Want to keep your students' attention? Try a little Mischief. Mouse Mischief is a tool that Microsoft makes available free of charge, and that allows teachers to work with Microsoft Office PowerPoint to make interactive presentations. Mouse Mischief integrates with Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, enabling teachers to insert questions, polls and drawing activity slides into their lessons. Students can actively participate in these lessons by using their own mice to click, circle, cross out or draw answers on the screen.

    You can download Mouse Mischief, and see a demo video, on the UK website


    Create online personlised revision materials for your students and pupils. These flashcards can contain images and audio, making them an ideal resource for language and special educational needs teaching. The Flashcards give feedback on how well students and pupils are doing, allowing them to identify the areas they need to improve. Go to EducationLabs to find out more and to create your own Flashcards.

    Internet Explorer Accelerators

    With Internet Explorer 8, Accelerators reduce the time it takes to do simple tasks, such as find an address, translate a word, or perform other routine tasks online? Until now it was likely a series of cutting and pasting information from one webpage to another. Now there's a better way. The new Accelerators in Internet Explorer 8 help you quickly perform your everyday browsing tasks without navigating to other websites to get things done. You can find out about, and download Accelerators here


    pptPlex is a free add-in for PowerPoint that makes it simple to present non-linear content and interact with your slides more dynamically – it’s a very different way to present.


    XNA is a games development platform for Windows OS, Phone and Xbox 360. It is an ideal way to engage your most enthusiastic students and teach them some core programming skills applicable to all Microsoft platforms.


    Innovids are a series of instructional videos created by teachers for teachers as part of the UK Partners in Learning Network programme. Using community clips and Moviemaker, teachers have recorded how they use a range of Microsoft applications in the classroom. These include Office 2007, as well as applications such as AutoCollage and Bing. Each video shows not only how to use the software , but a context in which to use it effectively to support learning across the curriculum.

    You can access and download these Innovids from the UK Partners in Learning Network - or the UK Partners in Learning YouTube Channel -

    Partners in Learning Network

    This a global community of teacher who value innovative uses of ICT that improve and support learning. By joining the UK Partners In Learning Network, you can:

    • Create or join communities & discussions
    • Find lesson plans and activities, as well as share your own resources
    • Download free software such AutoCollage and Songsmith
    • Collaborate with like-minded colleagues, to develop best practice  in your own classroom and community

    Our UK Teachers Blog supports this  Network, with all the latest developments, ideas and news that we think can help and support teachers.

    UK Teachers Blog -

    UK Partners in Learning Network -


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    One third of head teachers don’t know how much they spend on ICT


    Continuing my “Things I Learned This Week” series – this week, Part Eight

    This week I’ve been continuing my reading of the Harnessing Technology survey from Becta. Buried deep in the data tables, and summarised on the analytical report, is some interesting information about Information Communications Technology (ICT) spend in UK Schools.

    1. 33% of head teachers don’t know how much they spend on ICT

    In the main report (the “School Survey Analytical Report”) it has an interesting analysis of ICT budgets, starting on Page 19 (Section 3.24). They asked school head teachers, from primary, secondary and special schools, to estimate what proportion of their total school budget they spent on ICT.

    Although the report only shows the breakdown for each school type, the background table show the summary across all schools, which is what I’m going to use.

    An astonishing(?) 33% didn’t know the answer to the question.

    2. 44% of head teachers say they spend more than 5% of their budget on ICT

    • For primary schools - 41%
    • For secondary schools - 53%.

    After taking out the “Don’t Know” category (which have unhelpfully been included in Becta’s breakdown), you end up with the following profile, for all schools responding to the question:

    “Please indicate what percentage of your overall budget spend is on ICT”

    Proportion of budget spent on ICT Percentage of schools
    1-5% 56%
    6-10% 24%
    11-15% 9%
    15%+ 11%
    Which leads me to What I Learned This Week factoid number 3

    3. 11% of head teachers say that they spend more than 15% of their budget on ICT

    Surprised? I am. I simply don’t believe it. An average school spends 75% – 80% of the school budget on staff, so even if there are a few exceptions that have made massive investments in ICT this year, it still wouldn’t get us to 11% of all schools.

    I suspect the answer is that perhaps in their head, most of those saying above 10% read the question as being about their resources budget, rather than their whole school budget. And the other data published on school ICT spend doesn’t support 15%+

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    School carbon emissions targets - Things I Learned This Week #6


    1. Schools create 2% of UK greenhouse gases, and have a target of a 53% cut in energy emissions by 2020

    imageAccording to the government’s carbon management strategy for schools, "Climate change and schools" on Teachernet, the government target for schools is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% below 1990 levels by 2020 - and, because schools’ energy use has gone up since 1990, this equates to a 53% cut on current emissions. (This is higher than the 2008 Climate Change Act, which set a target of a 34% reduction for the UK). Now the good news is that the government believe that new school capital programmes (like BSF and the Primary Capital Programme) will lead to a 44% reduction compared to current levels.

    Schools’ emissions from total energy use in school buildings have increased by 24% from 1990 to 2006, with the largest increase being in electricity (up by 31%). The theory is that the increase in electricity consumption has in part been due to the widespread roll-out of ICT, as well as the extension of school hours.

    The document identifies a number of key groups that are stakeholders in achieving the reduction targets. And it does identify IT teams (although they are lower down the priority list than caretakers!)

    Building Managers/Facilities Managers/Caretakers/ICT Technicians
    A highly important group of people, who need to be experts in managing heating, lighting and other systems, and training users of the building. These groups are often active in equipment specification and liaison with suppliers, and may be the key contact for Local Authority Energy/Sustainability Managers.

    You can find the fully detailed report "Climate change and schools" on Teachernet.

    2. In Microsoft Office, 60% of people print more than 60 times per month.

    Yet another proof, were it needed, that the paperless office is further away, rather than closer. And from the same source, another Office 2007 statistic - Insert Picture is the fourth most common command on the Insert tab and is used by nearly one-third of Office users.

    3. Four out of five schools haven’t yet virtualised their servers

    I’ve been writing quite a bit about virtualisation recently, because it is one way of saving money on both your IT and energy budgets (and in the context of the carbon reduction targets above, a big help for that too). And in the latest Becta Harnessing Technology school survey, the data showed that just 21% of schools have virtualised one or more of their servers. The average cost saving being quoted by secondary schools who have virtualised their servers is over £20,000, so there’s potentially a saving of more than £55M possible if all secondary schools were to virtualise their servers.

    The comparison of virtualisation for other parts of schools’ IT infrastructure is:

    • Virtualising Storage – 10%
    • Virtualising Applications – 10%
    • Virtualising desktop environments – 8%
    • Virtualising Networks – 6% (to be honest, I’m not quite sure what this means, but 6% of schools have done it, according to the survey!)

    There’s plenty of other useful information within the Harnessing Technology survey, but it takes a while to find it amongst the tables and the report document, so I’m going to try and put some time aside to dig deeper over the next week or so.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office in the cloud and on the desktop


    I was having a chat with Jack Kenny, a journalist, in the middle of last week, and we were talking about the many different ways that your teachers and students can access Office in ‘the cloud’. As I summarised it for him in our conversation, Jack prompted me to write a more detailed summary too – something which I’ve committed to do with this blog post. So here it is – an overview of the different ways that students and teachers might use cloud-based versions of Office - the Office Web Apps.

    Overview of Office Web Apps

    The suite of Office applications available through Office Web Apps are browser-based, lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. This means that you can start editing a document in Office 2010 on your laptop or desktop computer, and then view, edit and share the document using the web version. You can read a more detailed overview of the Office Web Apps on the Office website. So it means that your students can edit Office documents at home, without needing the full version of Office on their computers. And it works with a broad range of web-browsers, so they don't even need to be running a Windows computer.

    So if your question is "How do I get Office Web Apps?", then there are three answers:

    Office Web Apps in SharePoint 2010

    The new version of SharePoint released this summer, SharePoint 2010, now includes Office Web Apps as part of the package. Which means that your students and staff can access documents directly in the browser on your SharePoint site - they don't need to load Office to preview a Word document, or to do basic editing etc. This is particularly useful if you wan to upload a worksheet onto your learning platform, and then ask students to work on it collaboratively - they can edit it at the same time, and the SharePoint version of Office Web Apps will manage all of the changes simultaneously.
    For a summary of Office Web Apps in SharePoint, take a look at this article. And one of the nice things about the Office 2010 suite you install on your desktop/laptop is that it now has the option to save directly to your SharePoint, making it easier to share documents and upload them onto your Learning Platform (if it's SharePoint-based)

    Office Web Apps in Windows Live

    If you have a free SkyDrive account (which is part of the Windows Live service), then you can also save documents from Office 2010 directly to your SkyDrive. SkyDrive is a 25GB web-based storage area, based in our datacentres. You can store files there for your own use, or share them with specific other people, or save files that you want anybody to access - it's what I use quite a bit to share documents for this blog. If you haven't tried out SkyDrive, then just sign up for a free account at - either using your existing Windows Live ID, or by creating a new one.
    The benefit of this option is that the data is stored in our cloud-based data centres, not on your school server. That's good for some situations (especially for students to access files from home), but it isn't something you'd use for any school data that's sensitive (ie don't go putting your exam performance analysis spreadsheets up there!). Once your files are there - whether that's done by uploading them, or by saving them directly to your SkyDrive from Office 2010, you can then use the Office Web Apps to view, edit, print them etc.
    There are step-by-step instructions to getting started with Office Web Apps in WIndows Live here.

    Office Web Apps in Live@edu

    In many ways, this option is similar to the Windows Live service above, in that your students and staff will have a Windows Live login to get to their free email inbox, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps. However, it fits more effectively into your school IT infrastructure, as you manage all of your Live@edu user accounts (normally via your own Active Directory). This means that when you add new student on your server, it automatically creates their email account (on your own domain) and their account that can be used for SkyDrive, Office Web Apps etc. You can either read a brief overview of Live@edu, or for a deeper view of the technology and roadmap, take a look at the Live@edu blog

    In a nutshell, what are the differences between the three options?

    • With Office Web Apps in SharePoint, you need SharePoint 2010 in school (or from your Learning Platform provider) and all of the data is stored within your SharePoint.
    • With Office Web Apps in Windows Live, any person can sign up for a free account, and the data is stored in our datacentre - it's basically a consumer-centric service
    • With Office Web Apps in Live@edu, you manage all of the accounts for your school, allocating email addresses, but the data is stored in our datacentre.

    Read the Getting Started with Office Web Apps article to continue the journey... 

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Harnessing Technology Grant–an update


    Last Friday, when the government announced the creation of Free Schools, they also announced that some of the capital funding for them would come out of this year’s Harnessing Technology Grant for schools and local authorities. Cutting ICT grants to fund Free Schools led to a certain amount of commentary from the education ICT community, across Twitter and blogs etc, so I’m going to steer very clear of the emotional side of it, but try and provide a summary of what’s going on to help you to plan ahead if you are in a school, and thinking about your ICT budget.

    Funding for Free Schools results in a £50M cut Harnessing Technology Grant

    Given that it was a manifesto commitment, it’s perhaps no surprise that the new government brought this initiative in so quickly. What was a surprise was that in order to pay for the capital costs of setting up Free Schools this year [1], they decided to dip into one of the few capital budgets that they could – the Harnessing Technology Grant [2]. In total, they’ve shaved £50M from that grant, which is one quarter of the total amount available this year.

    The Harnessing Technology Grant is a 3-year programme, running from 2008-2011 to provide £639M for schools and local authorities to fund some of the capital costs of specific parts of education ICT. This year the grant was £200M, and was allocated out via formula to local authorities [3]. Each local authority was allowed to retain 25%, to fund central costs eg broadband provision, whilst 75% had to be devolved to schools.

    The DCSF/DfE, through Becta, gave very specific guidance [4] on what the grant was for:

    • Learning services: learning platform services, email services, personal storage areas for learners and staff and the infrastructure to access these services. Services need to support the safeguarding of learners, be available for all users inside and outside educational institutions including users’ homes and must be available outside core school hours.
    • High-quality digital learning resources in line with Becta’s quality principles, taking advantage of national and local collaboration opportunities.
    • Integration of learning and management systems at institution, local authority and – where appropriate – regional level so that data is available securely when and where it is required.
    • Parental reporting: online access to reporting systems and information. Schools should provide timely, meaningful and manageable information to parents through appropriate and secure use of management information systems, learning platforms, managed learning environments, messaging services and other suitable online reporting systems.
    • Broadband infrastructure to provide services, appropriate to need and safety, with sustainable plans for further development of local and regional networks to ensure that the necessary capacity and services are available.
    • Simplified sign-on for users: establishing authentication and authorisation infrastructure capable of granting individual learners with secure anywhere/anytime access to educational resources – must be implemented in conjunction with the UK Access Management Federation using Shibboleth, with the local authority or Regional Broadband Consortium acting as identity and service provider.

    And they also spelled out what it couldn’t be used for:

    The Harnessing Technology grant is a capital grant. It can be used to purchase computer software and digital learning resources provided that the resource being paid for can be treated as capital in accordance with normal accounting rules. This can apply to both one-off purchases of software resources, also licenses, depending on the terms of the contract. Subscriptions to services that provide digital curriculum resources on an ongoing basis would normally be treated as revenue, unless the service includes the creation of a capital asset owned by the purchaser. That is, ownership passes to the school or local authority at the end of the service period; or the school or local authority receive a licence to use the resource for a specified time period longer than one year.

    The reality, in some schools, is that head teachers saw it as “the ICT money”, and used that (and only that) as their ICT budget.

    So what happens now?

    Here’s some assumptions from me:

    • The money was distributed to local authorities on a quarterly basis, so I’m guessing that the next few payments to local authorities will be smaller by £50M.
    • The money retained by local authorities will probably mostly be already committed to long-term contracts for learning platforms and broadband provision
    • So the cuts will mainly be in the amount passed on to schools – meaning that schools may lose between one quarter and one third of their grants

    Before this news, when the grant was £200M, all local authorities will have told their schools how much grant they will get, and I’m sure that will have been factored into your schools budget at the full amount.

    I think over the next few weeks, as the message gets out, you’ll probably be hearing from your local authority about their plans to ‘claw back’, or limit future payments, on the grant – and this will be somewhere between 25% and 33% of the year’s total.

    But didn’t they say they were protecting school budgets?

    There’s more on this issue on Merlin John Online, but in a nutshell, DfE say that the promise was to protect the revenue budgets (the stuff that pays salaries etc), but that no protection had been guaranteed for capital budgets [5]

    So what do you do?

    Now you’ve got all the facts, what do you do about it? Well, rushing off and spending your budget as quickly as possible isn’t wise (see above!), but perhaps it might be a good time to remind your head teacher about the primary purpose of the Harnessing Technology Grant (for the areas outlined above) and to continue the conversation about the strategic value of ICT in the learning process – not just for the subjects where it is core - like ICT, business studies, media studies – but across the whole curriculum.

    And it might also pay to have a scour of the Top ICT Money Saving Tips, to see if there’s anything there that could help you to save money – not just in your budget, but in other department’s budgets in the school.

    imageQuickly find all the Money Saving Tips on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free classroom posters for Office 2010


    *** UPDATE - apologises, but the Office 2010 posters are now out of stock ***


    Are you rolling out Office 2010 this summer? Or perhaps you’re one of the schools who already has. Well, here’s some good news:

    We’ve just had the new Office 2010 posters delivered, to replenish our stock of Office 2007 posters that had dwindled to zero in the last few weeks. The last set had four different posters, whereas this time we’ve got seven free classroom posters:


    • Office 2010 – an overview of the whole suite
    • Word 2010
    • Excel 2010
    • PowerPoint 2010
    • OneNote 2010
    • Outlook 2010
    • SharePoint Workspace 2010


    If you’d like a set of free classroom posters, then email Ellie Jones, including your name and school address, and she will put a tube full of posters in the mail to you.

    If you just can’t wait, and you want to download the PDFs, then click here to get them from my SkyDrive folder.



    If you’re reading this from outside of the UK, then I’m afraid I can’t post out the tubes – they’re big and heavy. However, you can still download the digital versions above, and you may be able to get alternatives from the Microsoft team in your own country.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Home Access Programme starts to wind down


    Becta have updated the Home Access website to say:

    Last call for application packs to be sent to eligible families...

    The Home Access has been very successful with over 200,000 grants awarded. Based on current application return rates it is unlikely that we will be sending out application packs for the main programme after the third week of June. We would strongly encourage any families who think they are eligible for a Home Access Grant to apply without further delay and anyone with an application form at home should complete it and send it back immediately.

    So it seems that the 270,000 grants for free computers are nearly all allocated – with just a week left for parents to apply to get their application pack (PC Advisor reckons it may close Monday). I wrote an overview of the Home Access Scheme here if you want a quick summary of which parents may qualify, and to help them to act before the scheme closes. And I also wrote a summary of my recommendations for Home Access supplier choices.

    Given the messages about the perilous state of the deficit, it’s a pleasant surprise that the scheme has continued to the end of the original grant amount – but I’m guessing we’re not likely to see an extension, as I would think it would be hard for the Treasury to find the funding to extend it.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Do Network Managers and Teachers have to clash?


    Gerald HaighI’ve asked Gerald Haigh, a freelance journalist and author of a number of educational leadership books, to take some time out to share his thoughts on some of the topical education issues you’ll have seen on this blog or elsewhere.

    This week, he’s been thinking about some research I wrote about last month (Network Managers and Teachers have a relationship problem), where the researchers had uncovered some of the tension that exists between teachers and Network Managers, and started to look at some of causes.

    I’ll let Gerald explain more:

    I’ve been thinking about the survey that you reported on a month or so ago, in a posting called “Network Managers and Teachers have a relationship problem”.

    Now I don’t propose to take sides in this issue. I couldn’t be less qualified to do that. What I can do though, is point out what I’ve seen, and been told, in schools where the relationship seems to be working.

    I’ve been in quite a few ICT-savvy schools in the last year or two, usually helping to capture good practice in case studies. And what they all have in common, it seems to me, is an ICT strategy that’s being driven along by a senior leadership team member who has a clear vision of what technology can do for learning. Not a co-ordinator, or a middle leader with ICT responsibility, but a deputy or assistant head with a vision and enough experience and management clout to make it happen. That person will have, of course, really effective support from whoever’s at the top of the technical team, but there’ll be no doubt, to put it bluntly, who’s the boss. Somebody, say, like Simon Brennand, deputy head of Philip Morant School, who’s passionate about ICT for learning and heads a strategic ICT group of senior teachers and technical staff.

    “We see that relationship as fundamental to the pace, breadth and depth of school improvement,” he says.

    Having that very clear lead from a senior teacher does, it seems to me, take away some of the potential for irritability and misunderstanding.

    It was Isobel Bryce, head of Community School Cornwall who first alerted me to the importance of clarity in the ICT management structure. In the case study of I wrote for Microsoft last year, she defines three key staff roles, all of them in place at

    “a strategic thinker in the senior leadership; a strong classroom practitioner at assistant head level, supporting learning; and an effective Network Manager.”

    (And we take it as read that there has to be head teacher like Isobel, who knows what ICT can do for learning.)

    As I visited more schools, I kept that model in mind, and often raised it with the people I spoke to. That, as you’d expect, threw up some questions. Not everyone believes, for example, that you need all three levels in a smaller school. What’s never in question, though, is the need for that strategic lead from SLT level.

    Isobel also mentions the Network Manager. It has to be someone, she says, who understands that it’s all about the learning, and that can be quite hard for someone who’s come up via the technical route. It may be that the senior person has to be assertive in pointing out the priorities. This, of course, is one reason why the strategic leader has to carry authority. (In the army it’s called “Solving it by putting rank on it”.)

    Ideally, of course, there’s no conflict, and it’s all done in a developmental way. Monkseaton High School, for example, famously grows its own technical people. Network Manager Andrew Johnson is a former student who started as an apprentice in the school’s technical team at age sixteen, going on to be mentored by the school through a series of accredited learning milestones. Now, five years on, he’s an Open University graduate, with a highly saleable set of skills and a deep understanding of what ICT can do for students and the school community.

    Another kind of ‘grow-your-own’ strategy featured in a report I did last year on Marsh Academy where, as part of a Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative with the TDA and QCDA, a group of Year 11 students were trained as student technicians, running a real live ICT helpdesk in school. The point here is that most of the training was done by the school’s technical team, who as a result became much more directly engaged with teaching and learning.

    So have all tensions disappeared from these places? Of course not. You still hear grumbles about knee-jerk cries for help from a teacher when a plug comes out, and heavy sighs from the technician sent to help. None of that’s ever going to disappear. But my guess is that once the structure’s right, the roles clarified and the core business of teaching and learning kept firmly in view, the relationship’s going to stay professional, purposeful and progressive. And they probably have some good laughs too.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Can you describe what SharePoint does in one sentence?



    Possibly the most difficult job I get asked to do is to describe SharePoint succinctly.

    It’s not because I don’t know what SharePoint is, and what it does – in fact, I use it extensively myself for lots of different purposes, and I see it in regular use in schools, colleges and universities. But the reason it is difficult to describe is because SharePoint is such an multi-functional system, that it’s like trying to describe the whole of Windows, without using the words “operating system”. In fact, I often resort to saying “Well, SharePoint is to the web like Windows is to the PC – it’s the thing that enables everything else to happen, and it’s designed to help you get a job done, whatever the job is”. It stores documents (like a shared drive and document management system combined), it manages document workflow, it allows you to create websites, wikis and blogs, and hundreds of other things too.

    Gerald Haigh

    That flexibility is part of the reason why it’s now used by 80% of universities in the UK and over half of all schools (either directly, or because their learning platform is based upon it). Sometimes schools run it themselves, and other times it’s provided as a hosted service (like the SIMS Learning Gateway).

    As it’s a topical issue on this blog (especially with the launch of SharePoint 2010), I asked Gerald Haigh, a freelance journalist and author of a number of educational leadership books, to take some time out to share what he’s learnt about the way that schools are using SharePoint. He’d recently spent some time with Tom Cooper in Lewisham, and they are using SharePoint there in the BSF project:

    I’m fascinated by what’s happened with SharePoint in Lewisham schools, because it’s a prime example of schools engaging in their time-honoured tradition of taking ownership of something in a way that wasn’t quite foreseen.

    I heard the story from Tom Cooper, who is Lewisham’s Strategic Lead for ICT, and for my money one of the most clued up people in the country when it comes to what ICT can do for school transformation. What seems to have happened, give or take some technicalities around procurement, management services and BSF, is that because Lewisham Borough Council as a whole have long used SharePoint 2003 for basic communication purposes, it seemed a good idea for the Borough’s BSF secondary schools to have SharePoint as part of their managed learning environment, along with a VLE and an MIS. They’d then be able to exchange information with the local authority.

    So SharePoint 2007 went into nine secondaries as part of a trust arrangement between the schools and the authority. The idea was that SharePoint would be a sort of overlay, available on the school home page as the Lewisham BSF portal with basic information such as the ICT service desk phone number.

    But what happened, according to Tom, is that when the schools saw it sitting there, there was the collective sound of pennies dropping.

    “One of the first BSF schools, Forest Hill, said, ‘We’ve got a use for this. We think we can put the whole of the school admin up there’.”

    Fortunately, they were talking to the right person, because Tom immediately responded and he and VT Group (his BSF Partner), worked with Forest Hill to set up a web-based SharePoint infrastructure that’s become the main area of communication for students, teachers and the leadership team.

    “Teachers have access to their files from wherever they are. We’ve expanded it to governors and it’s now going out to parents to give them access to the areas that the school agrees they need.”

    At Forest Hill, SharePoint is now completely customised to the school brand. The home page leads to a wealth of information with photographs and video.

    “We’ve been able to reduce the VLE down to the basic teaching and learning tools,” says Tom, “With SharePoint bearing the load for everything else.”

    Now the Forest Hill initiative has been used as a model for the other eight schools, with more to follow as BSF rolls on. I suggested to Tom that the image that comes to mind is of a thin layer of SharePoint being spread over the top of the schools as a convenience for the authority, then the people in the schools looking up and thinking “Hey, that looks useful” and reaching up to pull it down for their own use.

    Tom agrees.

    “Originally we put it in to integrate with the other council departments and the schools picked it up and ran it with and customised it. The bottom line is this has become a really important vehicle, integral to our BSF strategy and with what’s available in SharePoint 2010 it’s going to improve dramatically.”

    imageQuickly find all the related SharePoint posts on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Understanding how Windows 7 improves secure remote access for staff


    With all of the changes in the way that ICT is being used in learning, there’s an increasing demand for staff to have remote access to schools systems, from home or other times when they are away from school. Sometimes it can be enough to provide access to your learning platform, but it is becoming increasingly common that a teacher or member of the leadership team needs to have more comprehensive secure access to the school network. In the past, the single solution for doing this was to implement a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but with Windows 7 there are many other ways to provide secure remote access to school networks – giving you ‘Anywhere Access’.

    There are a number of key parts in Windows 7 that can be used to create anywhere access for staff:

    • Mobile Broadband
      Historically each mobile data card or dongle comes with their own software to manage the connection, whereas now Windows 7 manages the connection in the same way as it handles your WiFi and normal network connections – meaning staff have one consistent way to get online.

        • Direct Access
          Rather than configuring a VPN, Direct Access allows you to create a secure connection between a computer outside of your network, and your servers. It uses features both in Windows 7 Enterprise Edition (which is the version you get on a subscription agreement) and in Windows Server 2008 R2. The beauty of it from a users perspective is that it doesn’t get in the way of a users Internet access from home, only re-routing the traffic that needs to go to your servers. A traditional VPN connection re-routes everything through your servers, and typically slows down Internet access. The other relevant benefit of Direct Access is that you can configure it for two-factor authentication with a smart card, which is required for access to MIS data remotely. 
          I use Direct Access on my Microsoft laptop, so when I’m working at home, I simply insert my Smart Card to get to the Microsoft network, whereas before I had to enable VPN and then watch all the rest of my internet access crawl along as it was redirected through the corporate connection.

            • VPN Reconnect
              If you’re still using a VPN connection, and not yet ready to switch to Direct Access, then you’ll like the fact that Windows 7 has VPN Reconnect built it – basically if you’ve got a temperamental internet connection (either at home, or when using mobile internet), it re-establishes the connection after a temporary glitch without the user being aware.

                • BranchCache
                  This is useful for multi-site setups, eg when you have a community outreach centre, or study centres in different places. In a nutshell, it speeds up access to frequently used information, and reduces the bandwidth use (and delays) when accessing files on the main network.


                imageThe information above is only a brief summary – to read more detail about each of these, then take a look at the Windows Team blog post “Understanding anywhere access with Windows 7”

              Page 1 of 3 (25 items) 123