Building on the white paper we released in summer, we are excited to announce the availability of our School in a Box eBook.
The aim of this eBook is to present a new concept for ICT delivery within schools and to support the idea that there is an empowering alternative for school leaders in how they use IT to deliver next generation learning experiences.
ICT has the ability to give life and energy to a schools curriculum, streamline administration, improve leadership and revolutionise communication and collaboration. We passionately believe that well delivered ICT can make a real difference to both engagement and achievement.
With the introduction of School in a Box, there is a new way to deliver your schools IT provision both in the short term and for the future.
School in box describes a collection of software and services that’s tweaked and tailored to specifically meet the needs of your school, and ready to use – yes – “out of the box”.
The full eBook can be downloaded via our SlideShare account, or accessed below.
We would love to hear what you think about the concept of School in a Box in the comments below. Alternatively share your views via Twitter using the hashtag #siab
A month or so ago we described the continuing development of LP+4, the latest version of the LP+ cloud-based SharePoint based learning platform from Learning Possibilities. Now, a major milestone has been reached in the form of the official product launch, which was hosted by Microsoft at their Reading campus on 22nd November.
LP+4 a uses a range of Microsoft technologies in interesting and innovative ways, and the importance of the partnership was underlined by supportive video and Skype contributions to the event from the USA by Larry Nelson, Microsoft’s Worldwide Primary/Secondary lead, and Anthony Salcito, Vice President Worldwide Education.
Maintaining that Microsoft presence in Reading was Microsoft UK’s Strategic Partner Lead, Mark Stewart, who opened the launch by painting a picture of a cloud-based global data revolution in which consumers will increasingly call the shots.
“The schools market is changing and we’re moving to the concept of the student as the customer.”
Among the Learning Possibilities team there was huge optimism and a palpable sense that they’ve created, not just a new version of an old friend, but something completely new. As LP CEO Mehool Sanghrajka said in his introduction,
“We’ve fundamentally changed the product and we believe that LP+4 will redefine the learning platform market.”
They’ve done it, over an intense eight year period, by first listening to learners and teachers, and then using Microsoft’s technology – and particularly SharePoint 2010 -- to the full.
The listening bit has been really important. There’s a clear implication that the developers of earlier learning platforms didn’t do enough of that. As a result, said Mehool, there was a tendency to take what teachers already did well and make them do it through a machine. Unsurprisingly, there was resistance.
“We’ve tried to change that paradigm. Now that technology has come of age with SharePoint 2010, we’ve come to understand that we’re here to enhance learning, not to automate it. The difference is that the process is led by educationists not technologists. The technologists have the task of making it work, taking the technology from the commercial world and making it relevant to education.”
The result is a product that looks very different, with a personalised home page, friendly looking buttons for different functions and an emphasis on “social” web 2.0 features like blogs and wikis. The familiar constant presence of the Microsoft ‘ribbon’ also means that, for example, everything the learner writes is supported by the functionality of “Word”.
The simple fact that Professor Stephen Heppell is Chairman of Learning Possibilities is reassurance enough that this product is going to be all about learning and the learner. In a Skype link up with late-night Melbourne, Stephen brought the launch to life with a typically enthusiastic and visionary picture of the exponential growth of a world of learning that’s driven not from the top down but by the voices of the learners.
“We don’t know where it’s going, but it’ll be the trip of our lives, and LP+4 will jump start it. This is a global company, a global product, for children all around the world.”
Appropriately enough, there were children at the launch, Year 6 at Little Harrowden Primary in Northamptonshire, again via Skype. We caught them just a short time before the end of their afternoon, keen to queue up for the camera and tell us what they like about LP+4 and particularly about how easy it is to use and personalise.
“You can have your own personal Wiki, and update your status.”
“It’s easy to go down to the bottom and click the buttons and change the theme.”
Year Six teacher Matt Coleman endorsed the enthusiasm of his class, and the way they use wikis,
“They’ve really taken to wikis. They’re using them right now in class as we speak, collaborating on ideas, and sharing thoughts.”
The final part of the launch was a straight demonstration of the product by Tom Rees, Learning Possibilities Director of Learning (Tom’s on secondment to LP from the headship of Harrowden Primary)
Afterwards I asked some of the teachers in the launch audience how they felt about what they’d seen. All were impressed. Steve Thompson, for example, Head of Science and IT Champion at the independent Portland Place school in central London, felt that the functionality and ease of use of LP+4 would be sufficient to win over those of his colleagues who’d been slow to see the point of a learning platform.
“If it works in my school like it has done here, it will certainly be used,” said Steve, and went off in search of someone who could reassure him and tell him just how soon he could have the product installed. (The answer is January 2012 – which, in terms of school life at this time of the year, means imminent.)
Another person at the launch with a strong interest in the future of LP+4 was Phil Broadbent, parent governor at Little Harrowden. Phil’s presence is reminder of just how important and influential is a supportive governing body to a school that’s bent on improvement and innovation.
“We can see the head’s vision,” he said, “And we’ve pushed to see the school on the IT map nationally.”
He’s no armchair governor either,
“I was in Year Six today and the children were all working on their wikis connected with their class topic. They’d all personalised their home page and working quite happily. But then children do know how to use things don’t they?”
Steve Thompson’s other caveat, of course - “If it works in my school like it has done here” -- was a general one. Everyone, from Y6 pupil to teacher, to network manager, to LP engineer knows that consistency of performance, ease of use, stability of connection are vital. A couple of technical failures in front of a restless class can damage a teacher’s confidence not only in one product but in classroom ICT generally. At this point all that can be said is that everything about this product and the support structure behind it is designed to ensure that it’ll be there when it’s needed. Soon though, we’ll be reporting from schools that have it in place, in their classrooms. As we’ve said before, watch this space.
Event report contributed by Gerald Haigh, Freelance Writer for the Microsoft Education Team.
The education team are big fans of Kinect for XBOX 360, not just for gaming, but for its innovative uses across the education and health sectors, also.
Building on the amazing Kinect Effect video that we showcased earlier this week on the blog, our colleagues in the XBOX team have just released an interesting infographic that charts the phenomenal growth that the Kinect has seen since its launch only a year ago.
We are obviously really proud of the Guinness World Record , but its the sparking innovation globally section I find particularly impressive. I can’t wait to see what the community can come up with in another year with this technology!
Are you using Kinect within your institution? If so, we would love to hear your stories in the comments below.
What a year!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since the last BETT show in London – even scarier still to think that it’s just a few weeks until I, and the rest of the team, will be there again for BETT 2012!
Way back in January we published our latest worldwide statistics for Live@edu – over 15 million users taking advantage of the service up from 11 million 3 months prior. Today, over on the Microsoft Blog Anthony Salcito announced that there are now more than 22 million people using Live@edu worldwide – representing a 100% year-on-year increase!
Here in the UK, we’re exceptionally proud that over 6.5 million teachers and students in the United Kingdom are on Live@edu! We’ve grown over 1.5 million users just over the summer. In fact, of the higher education institutions in the UK who use hosted email, nearly 90% do it through Microsoft.
Looking ahead to Office 365 for education, Microsoft UK is proud to say that we’ve got some of the world’s first customers including Dundee University, and East Norfolk Sixth Form College.
Now, I can probably guess what you’re going to ask next: when can I get Office 365 for education for my institution? It’s a great question, and we’ve taken a very deliberate approach to rolling out Office 365 to schools and universities. Academic customers are already able to obtain Exchange Online today, Lync Online later this year and the entire Office 365 for education offering in 2012. This approach is designed around the customer, ensuring they are ready for the transition and can get the most of the significant new capabilities we are introducing.
Live@edu is available today, for free, and it takes just a couple of minutes to sign up and start using the service. Every user gets a 10GB Exchange mailbox, as well as access to a 25GB SkyDrive and the Office Web Apps. If you’re interested in getting a free Live@edu Deployment & Marketing Kit for your institution drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your details and we’ll be in touch!
We’ve also got some free materials for download – feel free to share http://aka.ms/LiveAtEdu with your colleagues.
Interested in Office 365 for education? Please work with your partner or reach out to us and we can help you decide which service is right for you.
Already using Live@edu? That’s awesome! Why not leave us a comment below and let us know how Live@edu has helped you!
Many of you may have seen the recent blog post about Rebecca Rickwood from Sawtry Community College , Microsoft IT Academy who came out on top as World Champion in Microsoft Excel 2007 at the 2011 Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office and I had the pleasure of meeting her at a recent visit I made to Sawtry last week.
In the short time I spent with her, it became clear that not only is Rebecca extremely academic but also a talented flautist. In the week before the World Finals, in May 2011, she was in Berlin playing in the County Youth orchestra. After the tour, she flew home, repacked and flew straight out to San Diego to the competition!
I asked Rebecca if she would be happy to conduct a short interview over Lync which I could then share with you, her actual experience of the competition, how she felt about it all and what she is planning to do with the well-earned prize money!
[EJ] What were your perceptions of IT before you joined the competition?
[RR] I thought IT was something that would be hard to get into and that in order to do IT as a subject, you had to be good at it already. I also knew that IT was a broad subject covering many areas’.
[EJ] -How did you get involved in the competition?
[RR] Sawtry runs the MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) exams which I was invited to join after school. Here you work through Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint before taking actual exams which then automatically enters you into the competition
[EJ] Why did you want to get involved?
[RR] It sounded interesting and I had not heard of the exams before so they stood out.
[EJ] What was your experience of the competition like?
[RR] Really good. I enjoyed it as I was able to talk to people from Microsoft and other participants and made friends from around the world including Singapore, New Zealand and the US. Many of whom I am still in contact with now.
[EJ] What would you like to do next?
[RR] I’d like to go to sixth form and then onto university to do a maths degree as I really love maths! Or Computing and IT is another option however not sure exactly yet.
[EJ] How did you receive support from Sawtry?
[RR] My teachers were really good. The after school classes helped me with preparation of the exams and they let me borrow a laptop with the MOS software loaded on. Sometimes exams were during lessons and my teachers let me out to complete them but all other prep was done after school.
[EJ] How does you feel the certificate will help you in education/work in the future?
[RR] I think it helps you to stand out from others as it’s different from just having A levels and a degree. You have the skills already, and really know the Office software which is applicable to all companies. I think you would really stand out to them if you went for an interview and had these skills
[EJ] Did the competition pose any challenges to you?
[RR] I thought it was harder than what I had done before, especially in the actual excel exam. I had to slow down and make sure I took time during the exam to really understand the question before answering however the school and Pam had given me enough prep beforehand for hard questions and although the questions were hard, I had enough time to answer all of them.
[EJ] Would she recommend MOS to others?
[RR] Yes definitely! It was really good and I’ve gained skills I wouldn’t usually have had. I can also put this on my CV which will make it stand out. I also found the whole experience really interesting.
On that positive note, I ended the interview with Rebecca however before I went; I wanted to know what she would do with the prize money. And without hesitation, Rebecca told me she had bought a new flute. Something very much earned.
And it seems Rebecca won’t be the last student at Sawtry to gain a qualification in the MOS exams. During my visit to Sawtry last week, I stuck my head into the classroom where students were practicing the exams before taking the real ones. Pam Kitchen, Microsoft Certified Trainer told me that these were becoming more popular with the students and many classes were full! They had recently given the chance for some year 8 students that had shown interest to come along during their lunchtime.
Without a doubt, Sawtry are very proud of Rebecca as I am sure she is herself. I really believe she will go far.
Well done Rebecca!
You can find out more on IT Academy and future ready technology skills here
Originally posted on the Microsoft UK Faculty Connection Blog.
Learn to programme in C# over the course of 24 episodes, our friend, Bob Tabor from www.LearnVisualStudio.net, will teach you the fundamentals of C# programming.
Learn the skills and concepts applicable to video games, mobile environments, and client applications.
The following tutorials and videos walk you through getting the tools, writing code, debugging features, customizations and much more! Each concept is broken into its own video so you can search for and focus on the information you need.
Download the entire series' source code
Watch all 24 Episodes
Contribution from freelance writer, Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft UK Education blogs.
I graduated from the Open University, I’m proud to say, as a member of the very first intake – the “Class of ‘71”. Earlier this Summer we were royally treated to a celebration at the Milton Keynes Campus that few of us had ever seen before. You see, it’s a feature of the Open University’s brilliant use of distance learning techniques, constantly updated over forty years, that students are hardly aware of an actual university campus.
Sure enough its there, though, with over 3500 academic and administrative staff. An additional 1500 also work in 14 National and Regional Centres across the UK. It’s clear that efficient communication between these people, and beyond, is vital if the level of service to the university’s quarter of a million students is to be maintained.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that when the OU IT Infrastructure Team looked to update the university’s internal communications, they decided to take a leap beyond a straight like-for-like replacement of the existing phone system. Instead, they went for a 21st Century solution in the form of Microsoft Lync Server 2010, which offers fully interactive integrated communications, including voice, instant messaging, conferencing, meetings and shared desktops, all from a single interface.
Why go with Lync?
With the University’s current PABX system up for renewal or replacement at the end of 2012, there were some clear options. One was to take an upgraded version of what was already in place. Another was to look at integrated communications systems from Microsoft, and others. However, for Adrian Wells, the OU’s Assistant Director of IT Infrastructure, the decision to go with Lync wasn’t difficult. Not only would the system provide the right kind of integrated support for the OU’s project teams, it would also, says Adrian, be substantially more cost effective.
“We believe,” says Adrian, “That the cost saving will be in the order of £2million over five years.”
The key lies in the ease, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of installing and running Lync as compared with either updating the existing system or changing to a competing VOIP provider.
“We’re a mainly Windows-based organisation, so the software was included in our Campus Agreement. And Lync offers strong integration with our MS Office 2010 platform, SharePoint and Windows desktop, in a way that another system wouldn’t.”
Making it happen
The story began with a trial in 2009 of Lync’s predecessor, Office Communications Server (OCS), as a possible replacement for the existing phone system, which was coming to the end of its life.
“We were looking at functions such as working from home, and team working using instant messaging and integrated email.”
Spring 2010 saw a limited further roll out of OCS, but Adrian and the team knew that Lync, with increased functionality, was on its way. So rather than face two major changes, it was decided to wait for Lync, and roll it out during 2011, beginning with Instant Messaging and “Presence” (which indicates a user’s level of availability) and moving to full enterprise telephony for the whole campus and national and regional centres. The aim is to have the existing telephone system completely replaced by early 2012.
By comparison with OCS, says Adrian, “Lync’s additional features closed the gaps, especially with provision of resilient services to our 14 national and regional offices.”
A roll-out of this nature is a management challenge. It’s often a matter of finding a balance between bringing keen early adopters on board on the one hand, and working methodically through the structure of the organisation on the other. It’s a fine judgement for an IT leader to make, requiring deep understanding of the institution and its people as well as mastery of the technology.
Describing his approach to the roll out of Lync enterprise voice, Adrian says, “We quickly had 100 early adopters. We then began to turn down requests from individuals and went into a systematic overnight roll out, floor by floor, building by building.”
That process, which began in May 2011, went on at rate which saw 35 handsets installed each night, four nights a week. Each handset was left with a short A4 booklet with the top tips and feature differences for the new system aimed at getting users up and running in a short time. Next morning, the newly installed area was covered by a small team of trouble-shooting “floor walkers” -- 2 for every fifty handsets for about two hours each morning. This, says Adrian, can actually be all the training that some users need.
One of the attractive features of Lync, after all, is that it’s easy to use and makes fewer demands on the IT team when, for example, users move offices or desk. At the same time, it’s important to ensure that everyone understands just what it can do for them.
“We’re doing a series of workshops on how to get the best out of it, some aimed at mobile users,” says Adrian. “We also use a lot of Microsoft’s own videos. But we find a lot of the knowledge spreads by word of mouth, as people learn how to interact with colleagues. Quite quickly you reach a critical mass of users.”
Reaping the benefits
It’s clear that the benefit curve of Lync, plotted against the working pattern of an institution like the OU, just keeps going up as people start to use advanced features.
There are obvious cost savings, for example from having licensing within the Campus Agreement.
Most impressive, though, is the direct saving of £2m over five years that Adrian estimates comes from not having to replace hardware and by the elimination of third party maintenance of the previous system.
The availability of Microsoft Active Directory also means, says, Adrian, “We’re make substantial savings by doing the roll out ourselves. We have help from Dell, but really most of it is down to us.”
Then there are the efficiency savings within the IT team and beyond. Routine maintenance becomes easier. And observation during the pilot, for example, indicated that travel for staff between OU centres and the main campus could reduce by at least five to ten percent.
“Lync supports remote workers much more effectively,” says Adrian. “Integration of email and voicemail is very powerful, and so is Presence, especially with Office 2010. And Desktop sharing is great even for people in the same office building.”
And beyond, of course. Adrian describes a typical scenario in which an urgent document was created by people working in Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Sweden.
“It couldn’t have been done any other way.”
Working at home, too, with all the savings that brings, also becomes much more feasible, with Lync’s “Presence” indicator removing the psychological barriers that could make colleagues reluctant to call.
For the future
The immediate target is to finish the roll out of enterprise voice across all fifteen OU sites. It’s envisaged that the integration of the other sites will increase the current low use of desktop video conferencing.
Also for the immediate future will be the addition of a client for Mac users within the OU, which will bring a further set of efficiency gains.
When you think about what Cloud computing can offer within education, the possibilities are really exciting.
However, I appreciate that at this point Cloud won't be right for everyone and can even seem daunting or not relevant for some schools. How do schools relate this new world of Cloud to the everyday challenges that they face in ensuring that their ICT provides the things that their teachers and learners need?
Let's start with what Cloud means, as there are many hugely varying perceptions associated with it and, in some cases, they can just be plain misleading and confusing. I like to think about the way things are heading as "ICT as a service" in that it is really about having parts of your ICT hosted, delivered and maintained by someone else. Just like any other service, you could pick and choose the bits that were right for you - "I'd like backup, storage and email delivered as a service but I'll keep my learning environment on site as that will enable me to do what I need to, most effectively for now". That for me is the essence of what Cloud will mean for schools; let someone else do the donkey work and just enjoy the benefits of the services you have chosen.
Now, it might sound clichéd or a bit "X Factor" but moving to the Cloud will be a journey. There are a number of steps for schools to take, each with tangible benefits so they can take it at their own pace, on their own terms. Go as far along the journey as you need to, to realise the benefits that you're looking for
So what are the main benefits of Cloud? To my mind, it is mainly about three things:
We've identified a number of steps on the journey and we'll be talking more about this at BETT but here’s a flavour:
Much of what I've mentioned above is available now; a hosted Learning Platform, hosted MIS system, Cloud backup being used by customers, and we're working on proof of concept systems for other Cloud services. These are helping us to understand where the real value will be for education and our thinking is evolving as we learn more. What remains as a guiding principle throughout this process though, is that the answer must be based on the benefits delivered to schools, rather than being driven purely by the technology. The benefits are there and my goal is that everyone who speaks to us at BETT about Cloud and their school will leave having clearly mapped the benefits that they want to achieve onto what technology and solutions they need to implement. Cloud demystified, now that would be a silver lining!
If you would like to find out more about Cloud and how it can work for you, you can visit both the Microsoft stand (D30 and D40) and the RM stand (C60 and D60) at BETT
Microsoft has offered Session virtualisation (aka presentation virtualisation) for many years. Initially, through Terminal Services and more recently with RDS (Remote Desktop Services). RDS Remote App allows for a centrally managed and server hosted application to be presented to remote users via a simple RDP client. RDP Clients are widely available across a range of platforms and devices, thus removing the need for clients to be using a specific OS version.
An alternative to session virtualisation is application virtualisation which Microsoft provides through App-V. The key difference being that session virtualisation is server hosted, while App-V applications run on the client device (although they are not installed in the traditional sense). App-V has all the benefits of centrally managed software combined with the benefits of removing any application conflicts on the clients. App-V is part of MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack). App-V applications can also be extended to non-windows devices through partner tools such as Citrix XenApp.
Desktops can be presented to users via both session virtualisation and VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). They are quite similar technologies, the key difference is that instead of presenting the user with a shared computing session from a server, VDI users are presented with a full desktop from a virtual machine. This provides users with a fully customisable and personal computing experience. A VDI server typically supports fewer users than an RDS environment. Storing numerous large VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) Images can also take up valuable disk space, although some VDI solutions make use of sophisticated differencing technologies to save space. VDI desktops are also presented to users via an RDP client. Presenting a full desktop experience to users via RDP is a good way of providing a school standard desktop and applications regardless of user device type or location, distance learners for example.
For more information on our thoughts around the concept of Consumerisation of IT in Education, download our paper on the topic via our SlideShare account. Alternatively, the full paper can be viewed below.
One of the key enablers for Consumerisation of IT in Education (COIT) is the growing number cloud based applications and services.
Much of the software available from Microsoft is now available as a cloud hosted service. A great example in Education is Live@Edu which provides free email, calendaring and collaboration functionality and is completely free to education organisations.
Office 2010 also embraces the cloud with a great combination of software and services. It is worth exploring this in more detail. As with previous versions, Microsoft Office 2010 is still installed locally on your PC, this provides all the rich functionality you have come to expect from Microsoft Office and works equally well with or without internet connectivity. In addition there are now Office Web Apps – which are lightweight web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The Office Web-Apps have the same look and feel as their fully installed counterparts (albeit with less functionality) but they work in the browser, with most major browsers supported. When we combine these versions of Office with a centralised storage service such as Windows Live SkyDrive or SharePoint, it opens up a plethora of possibilities.
Let’s look at an example…
As you are probably aware, Windows Live SkyDrive is a completely free storage and collaboration service which provides users with 25GB of online storage and the ability to create folders and share them by defining access permissions.
So let’s imagine 2 students, Peter and Jane who are working together on a project. Peter is working on his own laptop at home, running Windows 7 with Office 2010 installed locally. Jane uses a Mac with no MS Office installed.
Starting the project, Peter creates a new folder on his SkyDrive with and also grants Jane the read and write permissions on the folder.
He then creates an Excel workbook using his locally installed rich client, and uses functionality including pivot tables, pivot charts and sparklines. Peter saves the document to the project folder he created on SkyDrive.
Interacting with SkyDrive, shared storage is integrated into Office 2010. From the File menu, under Save & Send, there is an option to Save to Web. This connects directly to the users SkyDrive account and shows the file structure directly from the cloud.
The file is now saved on SkyDrive and can be accessed by both Peter and Jane.
Working on her Mac, Jane accesses the Excel workbook via her browser – and importantly even though she is using the Excel Web App – with the lighter weight feature set, full fidelity viewing is preserved.
In the screenshot below, Jane can alter the cell values – and the Sparklines (in Column H) will update and reflect the changes made – even though Jane cannot create Sparklines directly in the Web App.
The following day, they both need to work on the document at the same time. Jane is at home and opens the Excel workbook from her Safari browser. Peter is working on a shared computer in the library, Microsoft Office is not installed – so he opens up SkyDrive in his browser and opens the Excel workbook. They can now happily co-author this document at the same time across a range of technologies.
Excel Web App – showing 2 people co-authoring a document
The future of cloud based applications is looking very strong. Office 365, a recent addition to the Microsoft Portfolio, includes Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online and Lync Online. An education specific version, aptly named Office 365 for Education, is expected soon and will add additional functionality to those found in Live@EDU. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is also available online which provides customisable and powerful relationship management in the cloud. Many Education ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) are now providing their solutions as hosted alternatives to their on premise offerings.
We are passionate about the cloud and its ability to help institutions and students realise their potential.
To learn more about our thoughts around the Consumerisation of IT in Education, our paper on the subject is now available for download from our SlideShare account or can be accessed below.