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January, 2012 - 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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January, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using a BlackBerry with Office 365


    Originally posted on the Live@edu blog.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if you could use your BlackBerry to access Office 365? Well, now you can! Yesterday RIM officially announced that BlackBerry Business Cloud Services was available for Office 365 customers.


    Key features:

    • Wireless synchronization with Microsoft Exchange Online email, calendar and organizer data from a BlackBerry smartphone
    • BlackBerry® Balance™ technology, which presents a unified view of work and personal content on a BlackBerry smartphone while keeping the content separate and secure
    • An intuitive web-based console for IT administrators to provision, manage and secure BlackBerry smartphones from anywhere
    • Online access to employee self-service smartphone security functions, allowing users to easily reset a device password or remotely lock or wipe a device in the event of loss or theft

    The service is available today in over 50 countries. Customers can go to to get started.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference - Core Points and Conclusions (Part 2)


    Part 2 of my Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference summary.

    Last week I attended the Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference. My post yesterday introduced my initial 3 (of 5) core points gained from the conference. My final 2, and a short conclusion, are presented in this post. As mentioned yesterday, this only skims the surface and I would highly recommend viewing the video content from the conference when it is made available on the conference website. Some amazing content was presented!

    Point 4: Conrad Wolfram (Wolfram Research Europe)

    Conrad Wolfram, the founder of Wolfram Alpha , spoke about, with some passion, the subject of Math(s). He argued that there is currently 2 subjects relating to maths. Maths in society, that is more popular than event, and maths in education, which is more despised that ever.


    Maths in education is currently mostly about calculation. In digital age where most people have access to powerful computers in their back pockets, this approach is out-dated and unappealing to most students.

    Maths is important for a number of significant reasons. It is the foundation for most technical jobs and also encourages logical thinking. Furthermore, maths is ultimately about asking the right questions and knowing how to find the right answer.

    Pure calculation and making students into 3rd rate computers is not going to develop students who can do and offer these things. Maths is bigger than that!

    The current efforts to improve math education is not working. Conrad argued that better deployment of the wrong subject (pure calculation) is not the way forward for maths curriculum. Instead, maths, even at an early stage, needs to be made more relevant. Working out by how many friends you are separated on Facebook, for example, is going to engage more students than the current approach seen in maths education.

    Conrad went on to say that computers are dumbing maths down and needs a radical overhaul to ensure its relevance and value moving forward.

    Its hoped that initiatives such as the Wolfram UK Programming 2012 Challenge will help raise awareness of these requirement and help inspire the changes needed.

    Point 5: Mark Surman and Michelle Levesque (

    Mark and Michelle gave a very interesting talk on the topic of making as learning, or more specifically, web making as learning.

    In an effort to inspire and build the next generation of web makers, Mozilla have been pairing film makers and other members of the creative industries with developers to create unique digital first versions of their movie content.


    The web is like Lego, building blocks that are designed to be pulled about and used to create new things. Mozilla's project is all about embracing the concept of the web being like Lego and encouraging folks to remix!

    I love the analogy of comparing the web with Lego and will be watching their efforts in this area closely.


    All in all, and as mentioned in the opening to this post, Learning Without Frontiers 12 was an amazing conference. Great speakers, inspiring ideas and an opportunity to be exposed to new and often conflicting perspectives made LWF12 one of the best conferences I have attended for some time.

    That being said, though, I am not sure that it took full advantage of the opportunity to address the future of education. There is no doubt that the conference had the opinions and ideas needed to start making a difference. I can't help but think, though, that delegates will have left Olympia wondering how they can take some of the ideas they heard and start making a difference in their schools, colleges or universities. The conference lacked the practical elements required to drive change and, with the odd exception, was very heavy on the theory. I appreciate that this is the aim of the conference, but its time to stop talking and actually start doing.

    It seems like the will is there and there is pockets of great work being carried out, although I think the community needs to now come together to start mapping out the practical next steps needed to stimulate and drive a Napster like shift in the education sector.

    All members of the community, from government to newly qualified teachers, now need to embrace the challenge that is presented to us and be bold enough to define what the future of education looks like.

    I hope that Learning Without Frontiers, as custodians of this community they are building, considers what happens between now and the next conference to encourage the practical realisation of the ideas presented at the conference.

    I am passionate about this topic and look forward to playing my part in the future of learning.

    What do you think? What do we need to do next? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Bring Some Game To Your Coding lessons


    Originally posted on the UK Microsoft Faculty Connection blog

    Visual Studio is a ideal tools for schools, colleges and Universities for inspiring future developers, to enhance the experience Microsoft has released Visual Studio Achievements, with the achievements students talents and learning are recognized as they perform various coding feats, which unlock achievements and earn badges which can be shared and displayed on social network profiles and web sites.

    Some examples of individual achievements include Regional Manager (have more than 10 regions in a single class), Close To The Metal (use 5 preprocessor directives), Stubby (generate method stubs 10 times) or Interrupting Cow (have 10 breakpoints in a file). All in all, there are 32 achievements awaiting to be unlocked, all of which are listed here. Here's what the 6 different badges look like:

    The Six Categories of Achievements


    Learn More About Visual Studio
    Visual Studio is a powerful tool with tons of features, many of which you may not know about. Earning some of the badges may result in learning about features you didn’t even know existed!
    Download It Download Now
    How It Works

    With the Visual Studio Achievements Extension, achievements are unlocked based on your activity. Your code is analysed on a background thread each time you compile. In addition, the extension listens for certain events and actions that you may perform in Visual Studio, reporting progress on these events to the server. When you unlock an achievement, Visual Studio lets you know visually with a pop-up displaying the award. Each time you earn a badge, a unique page is created with your profile picture, the badge and a description. Students can then automatically tweet about achievements they earn and/or share them on Facebook.

    Get Visual Studio for FREE via DreamSpark


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference - Core Points (Part 1)


    Last week, I attended the Learning Without Frontiers (#lwf12) conference in Olympia. Aside from Olympia now starting to feel like my second home after spending the early part of this month there at the BETT 2012 show, the conference was arguably the most inspiring and motivating I have attended since Thinking Digital a few years ago (FOTE gets a mention here, also).

    Much like Herb Kim of Thinking Digital, Graham Brown Martin and his team have done a brilliant job at curating an amazing line-up of speakers to address the core theme of the conference: The Future of Learning.

    With the underlying theme of trying to create an environment that can stimulate a Napster like shift in education, speakers such as Microsoft's very own Anthony Salcito, Noam Chomsky, Ray Kurzweil, Ellen MacArthur and Conrad Wolfram, to name a few, presented some inspiring and often controversial views and ideas about how to transform education.

    To recap the content from all of the presentations would probably qualify me for the longest blog post in the world award. For the sake of brevity, though, I will try and summarise the 5 core points from my perspective, made from a selection of speakers across the 2 days. This only skims the surface and I would highly recommend viewing the video content from the conference when it is made available on the conference website.

    Also, if you attended the conference, it would be great to hear what you thought where your core points and ideas presented at the event. Leave your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to continuing the conversation over the coming weeks.

    This blog post covers part one of this summary, with part 2 to following tomorrow.

    Point 1: Anthony Salcitio (Microsoft)

    I am not just highlighting some core points made during Anthony's presentation because he is VP for Education at Microsoft. I personally felt that Anthony's presentation was both thought provoking yet practical, and the fact that Sir Ken Robinson referenced it during his summary means I can't be far off the mark.

    Anthony spoke about a number of pragmatic and game changing ideas, but his thoughts around the fact that technology should be used as a service to teachers and students and not be the core focus, really stuck with me.

    Technology to support teaching and learning should be at the forefront of our agendas moving forward. Technology, combined with great teaching, is what is going to drive change and improve attainment for students in the future.

    Technology and bad teaching is going to add little value and has very little scale at a time when learning is no longer a linear process. Students now come to class with content already pre-wired. It is the teachers role to make that content come alive and add meaningful context and discussion. Technology, when used effectively by great teachers, can give real scale and impact.

    The paradigm of learning has changed and simply digitising the old methods of teaching and content delivery is not going to provide the Napster like change the conference was trying to unleash.

    The personalisation of learning and creating an emotional connection to this learning is what is going to create the transformation needed.

    Anthony, during his presentation, discussed a number of different methods and techniques that can help transform and enhance the emotional connection to learning. Gaming, and the gamification of learning, was a core element of this.

    Jane McGonical, in her brilliant TED talk 'Gaming can make a better world', discusses some of these ideas and was referenced by Anthony is his talk. The video is well worth taking the time to view below.

    Games based learning requires and builds skill as the game develops, and the gamer creates an emotion connection with the game. With points and reward built in to the game, games based learning essentially creates a new category: the incentivisation of learning.

    When gamers play a game, at the beginning they die a lot. Yet they slowly become an expert at the game as they play more often and learn more about the environment and dynamics of the game.

    This approach to learning could have a massive impact and is in stark contrast to the traditional methods of teaching and learning that focused on content, retention and assessment.

    We must not forget, though, that students and teachers are the future. Not technology.

    I have probably done a really bad job at trying to highlight some of the core points from Anthony's presentation, but will post the video from LWF12 to the blog when its available. I will definitely be watching it time and time again!

    Point 2: Noam Chomsky

    Noam Chomsky, in a recorded introductory video to the conference, discussed some fairly controversial ideas regarding how to positively change the future of learning. I didn't agree with all of them, particularly his views around the impact that technologies such as the internet has had on society. That’s maybe something for another blog post, though.

    Noam's opening remarks covered a fairly wide range of topics, but ultimately focused on curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.

    He discussed that we need to create an education system that encourages creative exploration, independence of thought and the ability for people to push the boundaries forward. He argued that we wont get the economic and technical gains society needs without graduates that can achieve this.

    Noam went onto talk about that significant changes to how the education curriculum is structured are needed to support this goal. He discussed assessment, in particular.

    Noam felt that tests can be a useful benchmark, but beyond this doesn't tell you much. You can study for a test and then 3 weeks later you have forgotten everything. In this sense, assessment managed in this manor is just a set of hurdles and is relatively worthless. Searching and enquiring is more significant than passing tests.

    Noam felt that an education system that rewards discovery and independent thought, not standardisation, was needed to build the foundation for a strong economic future.

    How do you feel about some of these ideas?

    Point 3: Ellen MacArthur

    Ellen gave a motivating talk about her experiences of sailing around the world and the lessons she learnt.

    Sailing solo around the world presents some very unique and dangerous challenges. With a boat that is built for speed, rather than safety, luxuries such as sleep and 'turning off' for a few hours are soon a distant memory when you are 2,500 miles from the nearest port. Extreme concentration and the full awareness and management of the resources available to you are key to survival. On the boat, the battery is like a heart beat and 5 seconds is all it takes for disaster to hit. What is available on the boat is all you have and the management of these is key!

    When Ellen successfully completed her goal, she thought back to the finite resources on the boat and drew comparisons to the earth. Much like on her sailing adventures and the resources on her boat, what we have available on the earth to sustain future generations are also finite.

    This led to Ellen leaving professional sailing and launch the Ellen MacArthur foundation that aims to focus on one thing - all our futures.


    Societies use of natural resources have spiked since WW2 and are clearly fundamental to life, today. These are finite, though, and will eventually be used up. So if these can be eventually used up, what does society do? Use less?

    If this is the case, what are we aiming for as a society. To do less? If so, how do we inspire young people?

    Ellen argued that we need to think differently when it comes to manufacturing the things that we need and use in the future. Designing for disassembly, that would allow for products to be broken down and used to produce the next car or carpet tile, would offer the environmental protection the earth needs combined with new economic opportunities.

    A system level change is needed, though. In the case of the automotive industry, for example, consumers would purchase miles rather than a car. You would essentially lease the miles and then give it back to the automotive company to breakdown into the next car. Bold steps, but arguably necessary given the facts presented by Ellen during her talk.

    A practical expression of this ideology is something called the circular economy, which promotes a continuous circle of production and recycling/re-production of goods.

    With the mission to re-think, re-design and build a better future, the foundation is working closely with governments, businesses and, most importantly, young people to encourage a generation to see things differently and safe guard the future of our environment.

    Part 2 of this Learning Without Frontiers themed post will follow tomorrow.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    SkyDrive and Office Web Apps


    For schools, colleges and universities looking for a powerful tool for their students to help them better collaborate on group projects, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps is the ideal solution.

    Those looking for a web based solution often think about Google Docs. While tools such as this may work well for simple tasks, they may not have the features you need to create professional documents. You can also have formatting issues when you move between these apps and Office.

    You could also use a “file cloud” like Dropbox, but these tools aren’t really designed for collaboration, and they don’t let you work simultaneously with others on a document.

    Faced with these choices, many people decide to work independently and email files back and forth. This makes it hard to know if you’re working on the latest version of a document, and sometimes you can run into attachment limits. It also can take a lot of time to piece together different Word documents or PowerPoint presentations from multiple email messages.

    With SkyDrive, you have a better option. Students can store all their files in one place, so everyone can access the latest version. They can also use free Office Web Apps for basic editing from any browser.

    More specifically, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps allow you to more easily manage the following:

    • SkyDrive and Word let students work together on the same document from different computers
    • Let everyone in the group work on the same presentation file – even at the same time – from any PC, Mac, or just a web browser with the PowerPoint Web App
    • Easily share the presentation and let everyone see it the way it was intended to look by uploading the file to SkyDrive and viewing it with the PowerPoint Web App
    • Access and collaborate on files in almost any web browser even if Office isn't installed on that computer
    • Spend more time actually working on a spreadsheet or model and less time reformatting or organizing it
    • With OneNote, keep notes synced across all of your computers and even your Windows Phone or iPhone
    • Easily open and print your documents from the library or computer lab at school

    SkyDrive and Office Web Apps make sharing easy. Learn more about how your students can start embracing these powerful tools, also offered as part of Live@edu, today.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Trending the verbal network at BETT 2012


    Post written by Mark Reynolds, Schools Business Manager (South)

    (At the time of writing) It’s the Friday after BETT. Last week, I was in the middle of Olympia, for the last BETT Friday ever (assuming that the EXCEL London move works out). The Microsoft stand was incredibly busy, which is brilliant. I didn’t get to talk to everyone I wanted to, but did have hundreds of great conversations with a huge range of people; and whist trending on Twitter is all well and good, I thought I’d try and sum up the trends I spotted by talking to people face-to-face, in a totally unscientific brain-dump of BETT 2012.

    So, what was trending on the verbal network at BETT?

    1. Computer Science and the teaching of IT. After Gove’s speech on the Wednesday, we had loads of people come on to the stand, asking how we could help them re-write their ICT curriculum. Some were big Local Authorities who are planning things centrally, and some were individual IT teachers, who, quite frankly, looked a mixture of terrified and excited about the need to introduce some “proper” computing into their classrooms. We had some amazing teachers on the stand who could help them start straight away, like Ray Chambers from Lodge Park and Nicki Maddams from Hartsdown Technology College. They were showing off the amazing Kodu for game programming and also showcasing the software they’d written themselves for Kinect. Microsoft has been campaigning long and hard for the computing in schools agenda, and it’s great to see that work recognised – but my view is that we also need to retain some balance. Do people still need to know how to use Office properly? Of course they do. Kids need to learn how to format their CV, track their budget with a spread sheet, or build an exciting presentation - but that can definitely be achieved at an earlier stage in their learning than it is today, either with in-app games like Ribbon Hero or with industry recognised qualifications like MOS. I think it’s a really exciting time to be involved in Education IT, but teacher CPD will get more and more important as we push things forward in a new direction.


    2. BYOD, and iPads in particular. Yes, this is a Microsoft blog that’s going to talk about iPads. Shock horror. It may amaze you to know this, but most of us at Microsoft are pretty pragmatic types. We are very excited about the launch of Windows 8, and wish we could have told you more at BETT – but we’re also seeing lots of schools buying iPads and also visiting the stand, waving their iPads at us, mostly asking things like: “can I use this with your Cloud” or “can you help me manage these on my network”. So for me, there are two parts to this: user experience and management. When schools use our Live@Edu email service, they can sync mail and calendars to their iPads very easily and have a great experience. We even have apps for SkyDrive, OneNote and Lync on iOS. Most teachers I spoke too seem to use their Windows PC for planning lessons, writing documents and doing the bulk of their admin – then use the iPad to carry around to meetings or browse the web on the sofa. Therefore, using Cloud technology like SkyDrive which lets you easily move files around is a big benefit, and we showed just that during our “School in a Box” presentation. As for device management, we encouraged the technical people who came on to look at the beta of System Centre 2012, which for the first time will allow schools to manage iOS and Android devices. There were many raised eyebrows and confused looks – but we said yes, as long as you’re using Windows Server and Exchange for email, then BYOD and teacher iPads are just about to get a lot less scary and hopefully help schools avoid any nasty “SIMS data/iPad/left on bus” type moments.

    3. Skype/Lync and the Video Conferencing 2.0. A few years ago, video conferencing in schools meant that you had to buy big expensive dedicated kits, with plasma screens, wall mounted cameras and complicated software. Now, we all use Skype at home and the whole idea of video conferencing is more accessible and widely accepted as a non-speciaist subject. We had a brilliant presentation on our stand by Joe Dale, sharing some inspired ideas from Skyping Santa to sleepover Skype nights in the school hall! We got feedback that some Local Authorities or RBC broadband services block Skype – which we’ve taken on board and will hope to discuss with those people in the coming months. Now this is, of course, often for reasons of e-safety – but with current budget restraints and the huge pull of Skype from people's home lives, we have to find a way to help schools embrace it safely. Joe advocates the teacher leading a Skype call at the front of the class – to a teacher leading their class at the other end, Skype in the Classroom is not about student-student conversations. Where things got really interesting at BETT, is when people realised that the “managed” world of Video Conferencing (using Lync integrated with your Active-directory, Exchange servers and Office apps) would, in time, merge with the “consumer” world of Video Conferencing. This will allow me, on my Microsoft provided Lync client, to call my wife at home on Skype. Not to mention me calling my 8 year-old on his xBox! The possibilities are mind-blowing, but for a whole host of reasons, from distance learning, to cost-saving, to international collaboration – it’s time to re-visit Video Conferencing in your schools and explore the possibilities.

    I was once told that you should never tell people more than three things at once, so that’s my lot. Anyway, I still have 158 unread post-BETT emails in my inbox. See you next year at EXCEL.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Cool new devices for schools at CES


    Originally posted on Anthony Salcito’s Education Insights Blog.

    I’m back in the office after a quick trip to Las Vegas for CES. I love to walk the show floor each year to see all the new gadgets, not just because it’s fun to tinker with new technology, but because I like to get a first look at the new innovations that could be most useful when applied in education. There are a lot of new Microsoft products that are available to schools now or very soon. Surface 2.0 has just shipped, the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) and a Kinect for Windows sensor are coming on February 1st, and Nokia phones built on Windows Phone are out now.

    Our hardware partners are building some cool PCs and Windows 7 runs super-fast and super-long on them. They’re building rich input devices, with mice, keyboards, and pen inputs – some go from a laptop to a tablet in just seconds -- satisfying those students who want the best of both tablets and PCs in one. There are also a lot of new form factors designed to appeal to students that are lightweight with rich screens, and that are very flexible with support for gaming and use things like voice and touch commands to enable a very immersive experience. Ultrabooks were the star of the show. You can see the latest Windows 7 devices here and in the embedded video below.

    I am really excited about all the choices schools have when it comes to determining what device they want to bring into their institution. As we know 1:1 learning is going to become more rampant with the shift to digital content and the need to make sure kids are prepared for college and career. We’ve learned a lot about technology’s effectiveness in schools and in 1:1 programs in particular, and I encourage school leaders to think holistically about the learning environment before they jump to buy technology for technology’s sake. I met with JP Sa Couto and Critical Links at CES. They help schools think about all aspects to create the most effective learning environment. They have done a lot of research and investment in looking at everything from the school furnishings to lighting to looking at ethnographic studies to literally determine how a device best fits into a school.

    Schools want devices for different activities….reading digital textbooks, taking notes, creating presentations and papers, the ability to plug in an array of peripherals and 3rd party solutions, and centralized IT management and security. And as data-driven education improves, schools need to be able to analyze what students and teachers are doing with the technology and link the outcomes to assessments and personalized lesson planning through business intelligence and learning management systems.

    There are a lot of great new tablet PCs and laptops designed especially for education that can withstand the rigors of heavy use during the school day, including getting thrown in backpacks and dropped on the playground.

    At CES, Lenovo was showing off the newly released Lenovo Classmate + . It’s a rugged PC laptop that converts into a tablet, sports a drop resistant exterior, spill proof keyboard, reinforced steel hinges, 10.1 inch touch display with pen (optional HD), 10 hour battery life, multiple USB ports and VGA or HDMI output to monitor. The Lenovo X130e is also a good choice for K12 schools made rugged with rubber “bumpers” and reinforced hinges to take a long school day.

    Dell’s Inspiron Duo continues to win praise from students and teachers alike because its innovative flip hinge design makes it very easy to go from touch to type in seconds. The 10.1 HD multi touch screen, student sized keyboard and rugged design make it the perfect device for schools that want a HD tablet and a laptop in one device.

    For university students who want a computer that’s light, fast, durable and stylish, ultrabooks are all the rage. The video below showcases the latest hardware from Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Choosing the Right Device for your School: Ten Considerations Schools Should Make When Purchasing New Devices


    Today there are a myriad of devices for schools that range from those that are good at doing just one thing to those that promise to do everything. It’s confusing to know which one to choose given your school’s budget, educational goals and existing technology investments.

    In an era when schools are asked to do more with less, school administrators really want to make sure new devices meet the needs of students and drive positive educational outcomes. Schools should ask themselves “What do we want to accomplish with the device?”. The answer usually includes schools wanting a device where students can consume digital content, easily take and share notes, create presentations and write papers, plug in an array of peripherals like microscopes, take a tough and rugged school environment and (oh, by the way) be less than £400.

    Students need to be prepared for life skills they’ll take into higher education and their career. Do the devices prepare them for the creative and collaborative workforce they’ll ultimately join? Will the devices be more distraction than instruction? Do the devices run the software necessary to crunch data, write papers, edit photos and tie it all together in a presentation? 

    There’s a lot to think about. In an attempt to help, we’ve narrowed down ten important considerations schools should make when purchasing new devices.

    View or download the full document below.

    How are you currently managing the decision making around device selection within your institution? I would love to hear your experiences and ideas in the comments below. Thanks in advance!


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Interesting Opportunity for Academic App developers to win some great prizes



    The Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone is now available as a reward with the Windows Phone UK Developer Reward Programme.


    By simply joining the UK Developer rewards programme Educators and Students can get rewarded with loads of other fantastic prizes for building Windows Phone App and publishing it on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

    The programme concludes (Sunday 5 Feb 2012). So There is no better time to start building and publishing your Windows Phone app. It’s incredibly easy with 5 simple steps:

    1. Build your original & unique Windows Phone App and publish on the Windows Phone Marketplace.
    2. Register yourself on this website (
    3. You will be awarded with one point when we have evaluated your app in the Windows Phone Marketplace.
    4. Redeem your points for a range of fantastic prizes and gadgets. When you have earned a point, you are automatically entered into the weekly prize draw with an awesome line up of bonus prizes.
    5. Build more Windows Phone Apps and get the chance to earn more points to redeem bigger and better rewards!

    So download the tools form DreamSpark and Register and start building & publishing your Windows Phone apps today.

    Once you started building apps why not get involved and Make a Difference

    Enter to compete in the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2012 Windows Phone Challenge and create software that can really make a broad impact in the world.


    Get started on your solution today.

    Get your questions ready! Join Windows Phone Challenge Captain Jukka Wallasvaara on 22 February at 15:00 GMT or 23 February at 05:00 GMT via Live Meeting and ask him about competing in the Windows Phone Challenge. Follow these instructions to join Live Meeting. The Live Meeting sessions will be recorded and posted on this page under the Helpful Links. Find out what time it is your country/region.

    Originally posted on the Microsoft UK Faculty Connection Blog.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A turning point for education? Trends to watch in 2012


    Originally posted on Anthony Salcito’s Education Insights Blog.

    Will the year 2012 prove to be a turning point for education? There’s certainly an ever-increasing spotlight on the quality of education and an interest to help improve it from all corners of society. As I travel around the world, I see many technology companies increasing their focus and investment in education. And I think it’s time for the industry to pull together to think not just about winning and losing, but how we can do what’s right for students and make learning better. Salcito Post Pic

    I’m inspired everyday by the work of teachers, school leaders, policymakers, and business leaders who have made improving education worldwide a facet of their lives. As part of Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, we work with more than 9 million teachers in 115 countries, and it’s amazing to me that regardless of local economics or other challenges in their unique learning environments, teachers find a way to make a difference in students’ lives.

    With the ever-changing economic climate, the next year is sure to be filled with both challenges and opportunities. Here are some trends and themes I think we’ll continue to hear more about in 2012.

    1. A tighter focus and prioritization on workforce readiness and jobs. This is going to be everywhere. Traditional universities are thinking much more about preparing students for the workforce, immersing students with job skills training earlier. Traditional community colleges, technical and vocational schools will continue to see a rise in popularity and student interest. And even in the K-12 space, schools are doing more to introduce skill-based learning outside of the core subject areas of math, science and reading that students are tested on. This is true globally where the unemployment rate is also at record lows. In countries like Spain and Korea, entrepreneurship is rising in importance and kids are looking to discover and create new industries. Through our Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) project, we know skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity are vital for students as they prepare to enter the workforce. So much so, that The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a worldwide, three-yearly evaluation in OECD member countries of school pupils’ performance – will be including Collaborative Problem Solving as a mandatory component of the 2015 study.

    2. A support for innovative teacher methodologies is critical. There’s a lot of debate whether technology can replace or diminish the role of a teacher in the classroom. At Microsoft, we believe investing in teaching and professional development of teachers is one of the most important investments we can make in education. One teacher can reach thousands over the course of a career, and literally catalyze the future of a community. Between our Innovative Teaching and Learning Research and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there is a lot of research on teacher effectiveness and its impact on student learning. We know the more education a child obtains, the higher their income earning potential is…and now there is a new study out of Harvard and Columbia that shows how just even one great teacher can impact a student’s future earnings. The Partners in Learning Network is a free community resource with networking, educator resources, lesson plans, and invaluable learning content from the world’s best teachers.

    3. 2012 is when the cloud moves from a curiosity to a necessity. While more than 22 million students, faculty and staff are using Microsoft’s cloud services today in education, there is going to be huge growth. Schools will recognize the cloud is a key component to their digital content platform strategy to storage options as it relates to security, identity, back-up, etc., It’s also a way to cost-effectively deliver more technology to more people quickly and so that they can focus their IT resources on projects that really drive improvements to learning.

    4. Real data-driven learning. Another big trend I think you will start to see is more examples of data-driven learning and education taken to the next level. Historically, data-driven education has been a chart taking activity where we get data and display information, but then reaction to the data has been inconsistent. The data collection of students’ progress hasn’t been driving a real opportunity for proactive support. This is where business intelligence (BI) can enable a much richer dialogue with regards helping teachers personalize learning and being able to create individualized lessons for students at different places in their learning.

    5. Gaming and the emergence of Kinect as a PC factor. Yes, I am a gamer…and I blog a lot about how gaming and the mechanics of gaming can and should be brought into education to help drive expectations of students higher. At CES, I had an opportunity to see Kinect applied in very interesting ways. There were vendors showing how Kinect can work with digital whiteboards and classroom navigation, lecture capture, and how voice control can be integrated in very simple and elegant ways. We are starting to see a grassroots effort and more teachers include Kinect as a component of classroom design and a way to motivate students. It’s also a way for schools to save money yet still acquire innovative technology to create rich, interactive experiences. The marketplace for more education solutions will continue to grow after the Kinect for Windows SDK and Kinect for Windows Sensor is released publicly on February 1st.

    6. Change the conversation from the device to learning. I think we’ll see a movement where schools will move beyond 1:1 computing and really focus on digital learning. It will transform from a device conversation to a learning conversation. There will be trends like “bring your own device” (BYOD) that support it, and the proliferation of multiple device types (laptops, slates, tablets, phones) that support the technology environment schools want and need. But then the conversation needs to turn to connecting the devices to curriculum and pedagogy and the assessment models. And all the content needs to be accessible on multiple devices and be available anytime and anywhere.

    7. The rise of digital curriculum and reading. The rise of digital reading is certainly a reality in the consumer space, but textbook providers are just starting to build out next-generation content experiences. I think we’ll finally start to see the transition and some schools like this one in Turkey as early adopters. While many schools will use the opportunity to save money on traditional textbooks to fund devices, schools have to think about this holistically and not just buy a device to replace a textbook. Digitizing textbooks in and of itself is not transformative, but by focusing on the entire learning continuum and how digital curriculum and content created by students and teachers can be connected to back-end systems that can link the student outcomes to assessments, personalized learning and increased student achievement…now that’s transformative change.

    Microsoft is working with more than 150 publishers worldwide, including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Cornelsen, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Santillana to publish and distribute digital textbooks in the cloud. These textbooks and new content will be able to be consumed by students on a variety of devices, from Windows 7 notebooks to tablets and slates, Windows Phone, Xbox, Kinect and Office 365, reflecting the diversity and personalization required as part of the learning experience.

    I think it will be a very exciting year.

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