I know that many schools get involved in activities with charities, and school employees are often involved in charities in their private lives. Did you know that we run a scheme that allows charities to obtain Microsoft software free? (Well, almost free, as there is an administration charge from CTX who handle the order and supply the software)
The Computer Charity Trust is a charity with a mission to demonstrate how the effective use of technology can improve the efficiency of charities and not-for-profit organisations. As part of that it manages a software donations program called CTX, which enables charities, of any size, to access free licensed software (from Microsoft and a range of other partners). Because the scheme hasn't had wide coverage I think it’s worth a mention here, because it is actually very easy for a charity to get the software through the scheme. There are some limits (from memory, I think there is a maximum of 50 pieces of software of any particular type – eg 50 copies of Office, 50 Windows upgrades) but the scheme is designed to be very flexible, and especially useful for smaller charities.
There’s an easy to understand guide to getting started, and for each software supplier a specific set of eligibility criteria. The Microsoft eligibility criteria for charity donations is quite wide but it does exclude schools already included in the criteria for Academic licensing (yes, I know that private schools are often charities – that’s probably why we had to set the criteria to exclude them!).
There are quite a few case studies on the CTX website, which helps to illustrate what charities can do, and many of them are charities which work with children:
Hope & Homes for Children, in Wiltshire
Country Holidays for Inner-City Kids
Laurencetown, Lenaderg and Tullylish Community Association, in Northern Ireland
Bridge Trust Thames Valley Youth Group
St Martin’s Centre for Health and Healing, in Birmingham
Greenpath Ventures, in Essex
Go to the CTX website for charity software
Twynham School, in Christchurch in Dorset, are a school which tends to be at the leading edge of technology – they are often one of the first schools in the UK to implement a school-wide deployment of new Microsoft releases, and the ICT team in the school always seem to be champing at the bit to take the school’s ICT forward. Twynham have been rated “Outstanding” by Ofsted three consecutive times, are a 'Leading Edge School’, training school and last year they won a Harnessing Technology Award from Becta. So they’ve definitely doing many things right – and have been for a long time.
All of this contributed to them becoming part of the global Microsoft Technology Adopter Programme (TAP) for SharePoint 2010.
We run a TAP for each major product that we develop and release, and normally it’s multi-national corporations, such as big banks, that take part. The TAP participants get very early access to beta versions of the software, and direct support from the developers. It’s definitely good for a UK school to be invited onto the TAP, as it means that the development team get feedback directly about the way that schools will use the technology that’s being developed.
As SharePoint 2010 was launched, they worked with the SharePoint 2010 product team in Seattle to produce an extensive case study, which told an interesting story of their ICT development strategy. I’ve pulled out some of the key information below:
Mike Herrity, an Assistant Head Teacher at Twynham School, talked about the overall goals of building their Learning Gateway based on SharePoint 2010:
To prepare for exams, students wanted to be able to access past exams with model answers, and link to external sites for test preparation and exam timetables. They also wanted to access multimedia files from the school’s digital library, lesson plans, teacher’s notes, and more—whether at school or from home.
Twynham have implemented a Web-based learning portal on SharePoint 2010. Through this portal, users access study materials, lesson plans, assessments, timetables, and more—anytime, from within school or remotely. The portal gives users the ability to design, create, and manage their own sites, with very little assistance from the IT department. And students have the ability to rate portal content, which helps Twynham continue to improve its resources. Even in the early days use has been high, and ready access to resources has contributed to a rise in student exam results.
Twynham had learnt much from their original SharePoint 2007 system, and felt that it could make the experience even easier and more intuitive for its users.
SharePoint 2010 includes many tools that help students and teachers more easily engage with the learning gateway. SharePoint 2010 supports rich editing environments such as wiki pages that students and staff can take advantage of to quickly create their own content. Wikis support inline editing and multimedia management, so users can embed video into their pages. For instance, a teacher can quickly edit and upload a lesson plan page, complete with a video for the lesson. Multimedia file management is also simplified because, in SharePoint 2010, students and staff can view thumbnails and preview video files from the school’s collection. They can also watch videos directly in the browser rather than having to open a separate media-viewing application. Rich metadata tagging capabilities make it easier for Twynham users to find multimedia assets within the school’s extensive collection.
SharePoint Server 2010 also provides tools for students and staff to tag, rate, and comment on content in the learning portal. For example, if a student finds a learning resource (such as a previous exam paper or a presentation) particularly useful, the student can rate the resource with five stars, making it easy for other students to identity valuable resources. Teachers can also see how students have rated each learning resource (based on a one- to five-star rating system), and can use this information to develop new resources. Users of the learning gateway can also visit an individual’s My Site, a personal Web site that provides students and teachers with a central location to manage and store documents and photos, contacts, and profile information and social networking tools, to see which content the student or teacher “likes” or has rated as potentially “useful” to others.
Twynham School has already enjoyed so much success that it was asked by Dorset to build an authority-wide portal. As Mike Herrity said:
Twynham made the solution available to the vocational programs at all 22 schools in Dorset, and now, students can access tools, lessons, mentoring materials, and records, and maintain discourse with their instructors, remotely.
Twynham has used their learning gateway to strengthen the school community, making it easier for students to connect with each other, with teachers, and for parents to fully engage in the learning process, and according to Mike “as importantly, it has helped us engage with the Christchurch community.” Twynham built a community portal, to foster the Christchurch Learning Partnership, through which Christchurch residents can keep up-to-date with the school’s activities and schedules. As Mike put it:
If you want a quick peek at some of the work in progress at Twynham School, the team have created a simple SharePoint 2010 site with external access at http://ict.twynhamschool.com
Read the full Twynham School SharePoint 2010 case study
In the ‘good old days’, whenever school leaders were presenting their school stories at conferences, they would always include the proportion of children on Free School Meals – if the number was high, it was shorthand for saying “We’re in a challenging area”. Now, I’ve noticed that people are proudly proclaiming the number of languages their pupils talk at home, and the proportion of pupils for whom English is a second language.
When I saw the new version of the Microsoft Translator tool, I realised this will therefore be really useful to many of you. It’s free, and it translates webpages into 30 languages
Basically, it’s a little web widget that sits on your website or learning platform, and allows visitors to translate your website with a mouse click into one of 30 languages. You don’t have to do anything except add a small piece of code to your website (or Learning Platform or SharePoint etc).
You can try it using the blue widget at the bottom of the page (you will need to view this post on its own page – if you can’t see the widget below, then click here to see it) which will translate this web page for you. Imagine if you can add it to every page on your learning platform – how pleased would your teachers be?
It’s really simple, and really easy to use. But most appealing of all, you can make yourself look really good to the rest of the senior leadership team in the school – because it’s something they’d like, but might never have thought to ask for.
The evil approach to this: Plant the idea of website accessibility and inclusion in a management meeting. Ask if they’d like you to investigate the possibility of doing something with the school website. Wait for a sunny day, and take the IT technician down the pub for an afternoon of “EAL Website Planning” Next morning, do steps 1-4 above. Bask in the glory
The evil approach to this:
Last week we ran a pair of Windows 7 Live Meetings "Deploying Windows 7 – Best Practice Deployment Methods to Save You Time and Money". Over 200 people attended, but I’m guessing that there will be others who would have liked to attend and couldn’t make the time. So the Live Meeting is now available as an offline download.
The session was jointly presented by Richard Lane, from the Microsoft Education team and Design & Management Systems (DMS) who have helped many education customers deploy Windows 7 effectively – including The Maplesden Noakes School in Kent.
The session was a good mix of slides and demonstrations, and covered best practice tools and methodologies to help in all stages of the project from planning right through to deployment.
If you weren’t able to make it, you can now view or download the 54 minute recording from the Live Meeting website.
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