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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

    A free tool for creating SCORM learning materials yourself

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    image

    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

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    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, saltash.net 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 http://uk.partnersinlearningnetwork.com



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Handy guide for teachers - Top Ten Tips for Mouse Mischief

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    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 Office.com
      You can upload your own lesson resources to Office.com, 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

    The best way to save schools money?

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    Identifying ways that you can contribute to budget savings in your school is important to me. Which is why I've written 35 separate ICT Money Saving articles on this blog. The definitive article, Top ICT Money Saving Tips, identifies a series of strategies to save a secondary school up to £350,000 over three years. To put that in perspective, that's a saving that's twice the size of an average secondary school's ICT budget over the same period. And these Money Saving Tips aren't just about reducing your ICT spend, but about the considerable savings that a school can make using the ICT you already have in place (such as reducing the 1-2 million sheets of paper a typical secondary school uses every year).

    So I noticed that the North West Learning Grid (NWLG) published a report on saving money in ICT budgets at the end of last week. The basic premise is "switch to Open Source to save" - which means it's a re-heated version of Miles Berry's Open Source manifesto - which Miles said was originally inspired by my Top ICT Money Saving Tips list.

    Whilst there are some obvious inaccuracies in the report (such as Page 6, where it says "most of your students use Open Office at home", which simply isn't the case), my real issue with this kind of report is that it simply says "change product X for product Y which is free" (eg switch Office for Open Office), as though that's an answer. It doesn't get to the fundamental of "how can we use ICT to make this school more effective and efficient" - whether that is about reducing cost, or about improving the processes. (And as a small aside, Becta found that the software cost accounted for around 5% of the total cost of ICT, so simply switching to cheaper software isn't going to make a big impact)

    Any contribution to the ideas of cost savings in schools budgets is a good thing, but I think the work I've done already goes way beyond simplistic savings about product purchase, and instead looks at the money saving value that ICT can deliver right across the school - which is why it has identified much larger savings that are possible.

    A lot of the cost savings that I've identified - from saving IT budgets, energy budgets, staffing costs or paper costs - are supported by case studies from schools that have done exactly that (you can see all of the examples on this page). Over the next few months you will see more case studies from us, as cost savings projects carried out this summer deliver savings this school year.

    Really save money in school budgets

    But let me be absolutely blunt - I do not believe that exclusively using free software is a strategy to deliver long-term cost savings, or effective ICT, for schools. Sure, it might save a bit on the ICT budget, but it's likely to increase costs elsewhere (for example, in staff time and training). I think that the answer is to decide what ICT solution is best for the job, and then using it.

    Because my cost saving work has been supported by case studies, from real schools doing real projects, then let me support my argument with a quote from a school case study published on the same day as the NWLG report,  from Bailey Mitchell, who is the Chief Information Officer for Forsyth County Schools:

    When we returned to Microsoft Office after our experience with OpenOffice, you could practically hear a collective sigh of relief, across the entire district.

    You can read the full case study on our worldwide case studies website. And if your head teacher rushes in waving the NWLG report, and telling you to cut your budget, then you might want to share it with them, along with the Top ICT Money Saving Tips article, and the 35 other ICT Money Saving articles. And then offer to genuinely - and positively - save the school money.

    Learn MoreQuickly find all the other Money Saving Tips on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 deployment advice for school network managers

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    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

    Using interactive maps in history–the Battle of Britain

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    In August, I wrote about using DeepZoom photograph technology to explore historical maps and Churchill. Well, after the success of those, the developers (Shoothill) have created an interactive guide to The Battle of Britain resource, on MSN – with another TimeMap, allowing you to view today’s satellite images, and overlay it with Luftwaffe maps used to pinpoint targets for the bombers. You can actually see the images of the maps as well as original aerial reconnaissance photos, and see that German pilots had British maps with carefully drawn outlines of strategic targets – water works, power stations, gas works, docks and a spark plug factory (there’s a GCSE question all on its own!).

    image

    It’s also got a fantastic archive photograph, hidden within a DeepZoom image of St Paul’s Cathedral – so as you zoom in on the photo, thousands of further images are revealed. And finally, a set of Photosynths of Battle of Britain planes, which you can explore in 3D, with fantastically zoomable images.

    All of these projects are really powerful ways of using interactive media in the classroom – and make excellent use of historical archives as well as today’s multimedia resources. I wonder if it will be long before this becomes the standard way to release historical resources?

    Learn MoreOpen the Interactive Guide to the Battle of Britain



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    One way to avoid cheap classroom voting keypads

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    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
            desks.
            • 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

                    Home Access with Assistive Technology–grants still available

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                    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

                    Start the term with new Office templates for teachers

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                    Am I the only one who gets bored with a document format after a few months, and then wants a completely different design? That PowerPoint that looked so smart last year looks a bit clichéd this term. A document which looked professional when you first published it, doesn’t look quite so good when it comes up on the screen this year.

                    Well, if you, or your staff, have that feeling, then time to explore the Academic Templates Collection on the Office website. The Office team are spending a lot of time getting good templates and training materials ready, and have released a big batch of templates that are specifically designed for teachers and schools, in a massive range of categories:

                    • Award certificates
                    • Calculators
                    • Calendars
                    • Design slides
                    • Diagrams
                    • imageFlash cards
                    • Forms
                    • Letters
                    • Lists
                    • Maths tables
                    • Notes
                    • Notebooks
                    • Outlines
                    • Papers
                    • Planners
                    • Plans
                    • Presentations
                    • Quizzes and tests
                    • Reports
                    • Schedules
                    • SmartArt Graphics
                    • Surveys

                    How many hours could you save colleagues by pointing them towards just one of these categories (like Award Certificates), or using our templates as a basis for creating your own school template, with your logo etc.

                    You can find them all over on the Office Academic Templates Collection

                    My daughter arrived home with her first certificate, handed out in assembly last Friday. It’s the first time either of my children have received a certificate for “Good Meringue Making”. But there wasn’t a ready-made template for that.

                    Learn MoreQuickly find all the other Free Stuff posts on this blog



                  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                    The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit

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                    I've been away at the corporate mothership this week, over in Seattle (on the left, up near Canada) - the weather has been wetter and colder than at home this week, but when you spend four days in a windowless conference room, the weather's not critical! During these visits, I always learn a big pile of new things which will pop up on the blog over the next few weeks/months.

                    I think the logo designer obviously watches CSILike today. I discovered that we have a "Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit" (no, they are not the people who created Clippy). They are a team of lawyers, investigators, technical analysts and other specialists working in cooperation with the Trustworthy Computing and Global Corporate Affairs groups at Microsoft to combat digital crime, including crimes against children. In the UK, we work closely with organisations like CEOP, whilst in the US it's collaborating with Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, the co-founders of the  Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA) to find new ways to put technology to work protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

                    You can read more about the work with DNA Foundation, and the Digital Crimes Unit, on the Microsoft PressPass site.

                    * If you think the logo is a bit CSI-like, then take a look at this info about how we use PhotoDNA

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