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September, 2010 - 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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September, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    West Hatch High School saves £12,000 a year with virtualisation


    imageIf you’re a regular blog reader, you’ll know that I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about cost saving – and the ways that your ICT could contribute to saving your school money. With the pressure on school budgets, and the big investment made in ICT over the last decade, then I think it’s a good time to use ICT to help manage costs.

    At the moment, my “Top ICT Cost Saving Ideas” page has a running total of savings of over £350,000 for a secondary school over the next three years, and I am always on the look out for further savings.

    And, of course, some of that is about managing the cost of ICT itself.

    It's always rewarding when case studies from the UK get published to a worldwide audience on the website, because it means that their story of sucess is being held up for the world to learn from. We’ve just published the story of West Hatch High School in Essex, where Alan Richards, the Information Systems Manager, has been concentrating on improving the reliability, long-term sustainability and cost of their ICT infrastructure. Like many secondary schools, they have a large network – five IT suites for general use, two for media and music, and three for business – and lots of desktop and portable computers.

    When Alan arrived at West Hatch he also found 24 servers, of varying ages, which he’s been able to reduce to just nine through virtualisation. This has helped the school save a lot of money - £36,000 over the next three years, and even more importantly, it’s contributed to an improvement in the reliability of the school’s network.

    Alan’s saved his school £7,000 a year on hardware costs, and a further £5,000 on electricity and maintenance – which has also contributed to reducing the school’s carbon footprint.

    And not only does it give staff a more reliable IT system for teaching and learning, Alan says the saving “amounts to half the salary of a newly qualified teacher”.

    I’d recommend reading the fully detailed case study on the West Hatch virtualisation project, which describes Alan’s approach, and the school background.



     Read the full list of ICT Cost Saving Ideas for Schools

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Philip Morant School in Office 2010 case study


    We seem to be having a run of good luck with UK schools being held up as worldwide examples of good practice at the moment – with a number of case studies appearing on the global Microsoft website – at


    The latest is the case study of the use of Office 2010 by Philip Morant School and College in Essex. With 1,650 students, including 245 sixth-formers, the school is quite large, and has been rated by Ofsted as “Good, with significant Outstanding features”.

    I have known staff at the school for at least a decade, as they have always been at the leading edge of using ICT to support their school’s teaching and learning strategy. As one of the first schools to deploy Office 2010 in the classroom, they continued their habit of early adoption of technology. As Simon Brennand, Deputy Head*, says:

    We know that if we adopt IT early, we’re more likely to find our own solutions. It reaches beyond IT and applies to everything we do, including the mindset and motivation of our colleagues and students. We measure every tool we use based on its impact on learning.

    Simon, who’s a keen technology user outside of school as well as within, signed up to the early Microsoft Technical Preview of Office 2010, which then helped him to plan the introduction into the school.

    Inviting employees to road test the product has been a valuable strategy for us. We want our staff to have the same confidence as student users of ICT.

    Why is Office 2010 good for schools?

    According to Maths teacher Gareth Staines “PowerPoint 2010 is a mainstay in my classroom. In the past, it was tricky to put equations into PowerPoint, but with this version it’s easy. It provides the same equations editor you find in Microsoft Word. That may seem a small thing, but mathematics teachers will appreciate it”. And Simon said “The most useful feature of the suite is the broadcast option for PowerPoint 2010, which makes it easy to share a presentation on the web. It’s great for interactive learning and will make it easier for teachers and students to engage with a lesson when either of them is stuck at home—for example, due to bad weather.”

    Like all secondary schools they handle large amounts of student performance data, and the challenge is to make sure that the hard work of doing this is reflected in student learning. That means being able to analyse data and provide leaders of learning with summaries of appropriate data. Staff at Philip Morant School have seen at least two new ways Excel 2010 will help them with data handling. One is the implementation of Sparklines—tiny graphs that can sit inside a data cell and show trends at a glance. Gareth Staines said: “I love Sparklines. They’re a snapshot indicator that will save time by quickly showing trends.” The other is the improved and simplified ability to produce pivot tables - summaries of relevant data drawn out from the mass of background data.


    * In true ironic style, at the very moment this case study was being researched, Simon got the great news that he’d been successful in his application for headship, and this term he’s now started as head teacher at Montgomery School in Blackpool – a return to his northern roots. Perhaps we can look forward to a case study from there next year?

    imageYou can read the full Philip Morant School case study on the global case studies database

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Home Access with Assistive Technology–grants still available


    imageAlthough the main Becta Home Access programme has now closed to new applications, there are still plenty of grants for free computers available for learners who qualify for the Assistive Technology scheme.

    These grants are for a child that has severe disabilities or a statement of Special Educational Needs, where they need extra help to use computers and get online. If you have students who are from a low-income family and receive certain benefits (such as Free School Meals) they could qualify for their own personalised Home Access package with Assistive Technology

    Each package is tailored to the learner’s individual needs, so it’s difficult to say exactly what they get, but it could include anything from specialist access devices, such as a mouth-controlled mouse, dedicated software to help them more easily interact with web pages or even touch screen technologies to help them access a computer and the internet.

    Details about the eligibility criteria for Home Access packages with Assistive Technology, the type of equipment on offer and how to apply can all be found on the Home Access website.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Remote IT Solutions webinar - Optimise your desktop–Wed 15th Sept



    The team at Remote IT Solutions, one of our certified partners, are running a webinar on desktop optimisation –  where you can learn about the different components of the solution, and how it can help to reduce support costs for complex ICT infrastructures – like a typical school network. The webinar is hosted by Dave Moore, a Datacentre and Virtualization Technical Specialist who has been involved with complex projects for a range of organisations (and I think that given the range of applications and user mobility in schools, it is likely that your scenario would definitely count as “complex”!)

    The seminar is Wednesday 15th September, from 10:00 – 11:00, and includes live demonstrations. The agenda is:

    • How the solutions fit together
    • Application and Hardware Compatibility
    • Operating System Migration
    • Application Virtualisation
    • Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation
    • Citrix & Microsoft Better Together


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    One way to avoid cheap classroom voting keypads


    What happens when you want voting keypads for your students, but can’t afford the cost? Do you shop around to find suitable cheap voting keypads, or do you wait until you’ve saved enough money. Or do you look for alternative ways of achieving the same outcome?

    The reason that I ask those questions, is that they are the kind of questions that I think are going to come up again and again over the next few years – as we face tougher budget decisions than ever. And we’re probably not going to be able to afford to do things in school ICT in the same way that we have up until now.

    So, electronic classroom voting pads are a good example to look at. When the budget has been there, there’s been the option of buying dedicated classroom voting pads, and adding more interactivity and feedback to lessons – at the same time as matching the need for more formative and summative assessments. But now the ICT budget is under pressure, what are the options for achieving similar outcomes at lower cost?

    • A non-ICT answer
      Mini quiz whiteboards and marker pens for every student, so that you can ask questions and every student holds up their answer. This costs about £40 for a class
      An idea that has been around for a while, and might see a revival after “The Classroom Experiment” is broadcast on BBC2 as part of their school season (Some preview details are in this TES article)

        • A lower-cost ICT answer
          Using Mouse Mischief (a free software add-in for PowerPoint) to add interactive quizzes into lessons, using everyday mice instead of dedicated voting pads. This costs about £50 for hubs, if you’ve already got the mice around.
          This works by using multiple mice with one teacher laptop – either using up those spare mice you’ve got laying around the ICT room, or buying some cheap ones, with some cheap USB hubs. This low-cost approach would mean having temporary cables around the
            • A medium-cost ICT answer
              Use Mouse Mischief with wireless mice. This costs about £700 for a full classroom set - as you’ll need to buy 30 wireless mice, at around £23 each.
              A little more expensive, but it means no trailing wires, and more portability

                • A higher-cost ICT answer
                  Buy another set of voting pads – costing up to £2,000. There’s a good summary of the options, and case studies, on the Hertfordshire website
                  Even more portable and the software tends to allow much more sophisticated assessments.

                    imageIf you’re interesting in finding out more about Mouse Mischief then skip over to the Mouse Mischief website (the software is free, so you just need to find the mice).
                    The easiest way to see what it can do is to watch one of the videos – like this one

                  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                    Handy guide for teachers - Top Ten Tips for Mouse Mischief


                    imageAfter Friday’s post about Mouse Mischief (a free add-in for PowerPoint that allows teachers to create interactive real-time quizzes for students), a colleague from over the pond dropped me a line to tell me about the “Top Ten Tips for Mouse Mischief ” Guide, which is available to download from the Microsoft website.

                    1. Encourage class discussions by using “polling” slides
                      A polling slide is a multiple choice slide where there isn’t a correct answer, but a series of options to be discussed once the results are shown.
                    2. Use Drawing slides to give students hands-on experience with ideas and relationships
                      With a small group of students, you can get them each to draw something with their mouse on the slide (all at the same time)
                    3. Use the alignment options to accommodate different scripts or differently shaped objects
                      If you end up using different pictures to represent answers, you can line them up neatly
                    4. Manage mouse hardware effectively
                      With advice, based on other schools’ experiences, for managing lots of mice in one classroom
                    5. Create a slide “parking lot” or resting space for student mice pointers
                      This shows a way to avoid students constantly moving their mice around when you’re talking
                    6. Create Mouse Mischief game rules
                      More tactics to avoid chaos when you’ve got lots of mice out
                    7. Encourage teamwork by creating class presentations to play in Team mode
                      Ideas for getting students working together in small groups
                    8. Have your students create multiple-mouse slides
                      Turn the class into quiz masters
                    9. Put Mouse Mischief into students’ hands
                      Going further, by encouraging them to write quizzes for the rest of the class (something they can also do at home)
                    10. Share multiple-mouse presentations through
                      You can upload your own lesson resources to, as well as downloading resources other teachers have shared

                      And here’s my own idea for Top Ten Tip number 11:
                    11. Get teachers wanting to use Mouse Mischief by running a staff quiz with it, either formally at your next INSET training, or informally as a pub quiz.


                    imageFind out more about Mouse Mischief

                  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                    Windows 7 deployment advice for school network managers


                    Sometimes we publish so much information on a subject, in so many different places, that it’s tricky to find the wood from the trees – and that problem is as big for me as it is for people outside of Microsoft. So I’m always happy to find a resource where somebody applies an editorial approach – making judgements about the key resources to publish, and structuring them together, so that you can easily find the right needle in the haystack*

                    Which makes the TechNet Springboard site for Windows 7 definitely useful. If you’re thinking about Windows 7 in any way (either because you’re going to deploy it in the next couple of years, or because you’ve already deployed it), then this is a site to add to your bookmarks. Not only does it contain the definitive guide to resources for network managers, it also groups them into three key stages:

                    Which means that you can easily find the resources that apply to you at the moment, whether your planning for the future, getting ready for an imminent deployment, or want resources to help you manage an existing Windows 7 network.

                    And on the home page, you’ll also find some key introductory documents, such as:

                    Find out more about Springboard for Windows 7

                    Windows 7 Resource Banner
                    Discover and Explore Windows 7 Resource Banner Pilot and Deploy Windows 7 Resource Banner Manage Windows 7 Resource Banner

                    * I just won a packet of Smarties from a colleague, for getting two metaphors in one paragraph**

                    ** Childish, I know Smile

                  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                    A free tool for creating SCORM learning materials yourself



                    Have you heard of the free Microsoft Learning Content Development System? We’ve just updated it to version 2.5, which now supports more complex content, and is Firefox and Silverlight 4 compatible. It is a free tool that lets you create high-quality, interactive, online courses, and publish them in SCORM 1.2 packages (exactly what your Learning Platforms like to consume!).

                    It allows you to publish e-learning courses by completing the easy-to-use forms that seamlessly generate highly customised Silverlight-based content, interactive activities, quizzes, games, assessments, animations, demos, and other multimedia. And you can create a course structure that is easily rearranged at any time.

                    It’s the system we use internally to create all of the courseware for our various Microsoft qualifications, including the Microsoft IT Academy courses, and we also make it available free of charge for customers to use.

                    If you are looking for ways for your staff to create structured courses for their curriculum materials, and make them available on your learning platform or SharePoint system then it is worth investigating. And you can also use it to create standalone learning packages, that can be distributed on websites, CDs or memory sticks.

                    Here’s the link to find out more and download the Learning Content Development System. If you want to talk to others about their experiences, and to connect with other users, there’s a user forum here

                    It’s another one of those free bits of software we make available, that very few people know about – and which I think could be incredibly useful to schools.

                    imageQuickly find all the other Free Stuff posts on this blog

                  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                    The UK Microsoft Innovative Education Forum–30th November



                    I want to let you know about the Innovative Education Forum in Manchester on 30th November. Last year was the first chance I’d had to attend one, and I came away buzzing with new ideas.
                    If there’s a teacher in your school that is an advocate for ICT, then lobbying the head for them to be given the chance to attend this event. The speakers – Michael Furdyk & Sugata Mitra – are massively inspirational, and with other sessions being run by UK teachers, it will be a great opportunity for real professional development. (If you can’t get out of school, and you are local to Manchester, take a look at the Innovative Teacher Meeting on the evening before below)

                    The 7th Microsoft Innovative Education Forum is a one-day conference, free of charge to all teachers and educators who wish to attend and will look to address the theme of ‘Connecting Learners, Connecting Teachers.’

                    This forum connects Teachers with Teachers, allowing you to share expertise and learn from each other. It’ll give deep insights into how you can connect your students with technology and connect them with their learning.

                    This year the Forum is being held at the Hilton Deansgate Hotel in Manchester on the 30th Nov.

                    img6img4There’s a packed agenda with Keynote speakers at the event will be the world renowned Prof. Sugata Mitra famous for his ‘Hole in the wall’ project and Michael Furdyk, CEO of the young person’s online community  ‘Taking IT Global’.

                    In addition, Delegates will be able to choose from a range of practical workshops covering areas such as using free software and Web 2.0 technology, games based learning and managing innovation in schools.

                    Workshop 1- TakingITGlobal - Mandeep Atwal, TIGed UK

                    Workshop 2- Outdoor learning & technology - David Rogers, The Geography Collective

                    Workshop 3- From the cloud to the classroom, making innovation stick! - Guy Shearer, Head Teacher, Lodge Park Technology College

                    Workshop 4- Creative use of technology in the classroom - Dan Roberts, community school

                    Workshop 5- Office 2010 in the Classroom – Stuart Ball – Microsoft Partners in Learning

                    Workshop 6- Kodu Games based learning - Nicki Maddam, Hartsdown Technology College, Margate

                    Find out more details about each workshop here>>image

                    An evening of TeachMeet-style fun

                    If you can’t get out for the 30th, then there’s an alternative social gathering. For the first time we are also holding an Innovative Teacher Meet, on the evening of 29 Nov. at 7:30pm

                    Join us for drinks, canapés and a series of TeachMeet style pitches from leading teachers at Hilton’s vibrant Cloud 23 bar, providing 360-degree views of Manchester.

                    Share with like-minded teachers in a series of 3-minute open pitches.

                    Also, find out who are Microsoft’s 2010 Award-Winning Innovative Educators. The awards will be presented at this event, to teachers who have submitted projects that illustrate the innovative use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. Not only will they receive award recognition, but have the chance to be invited to The European Education Forum being held in Moscow next year. These project will be on display at the event.

                    Don’t miss out, register today

                  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                    What you don’t see is what you get–running a broadband consortia


                    imageI’m meeting up with the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) later this week. It seems like being a Regional Broadband Consortia is a pretty tough gig these days, what with the DfE cutting the capital budgets in the Harnessing Technology Grant, and some people misunderstanding that all they do is provide an (expensive) basic Internet connection.

                    So this morning I was just doing a little bit of homework to prepare for the meeting. I knew that the page on their website called “Getting Started” was a good place to begin. I liked the way that they described their service (and the nice safety-pin analogy), but pretty soon I was scratching my head about one of the headlines - “What you don’t see is what you get”. What on earth could that mean?

                    After I’d spent five minutes reading the PDF version of the Introductory Guide to your new Schools Internet Service (linked from this page), I understood where they were coming from.

                    What you don’t see is what you get

                    It’s a good way of explaining that all of the things they do in the background are just as important as all of the things you see. And the background jobs actually make your life easier by preventing more serious problems and annoyances for all of your users. There were three SWGfL statistics in the document that jumped out:

                    • SWGfL blocks 6,500,000 spam emails every day

                        • SWGfL blocks 15,500 viruses every month

                            • SWGfL handles 483,000,000 web-page requests every week

                            That means that they are stopping nearly 2.5 billion spam emails and 200 thousand viruses from reaching staff and students every year. All the while, letting students and staff get to 25 billion web pages every year.

                            It’s like a invisible protection cloak for the schools they support across 15 local authorities.

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