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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

    Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) at


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

    School IT budgets are under pressure. Many schools have an ageing estate of laptops or netbooks, either allocated to individuals or in laptop trolleys. On the flip side, students and teachers now have access to better and cheaper technology at home than ever before. A spot check of the average 15 year-olds school bag is likely to reveal a heady mix of mobile phones, laptops, games consoles, iPods, cameras, and more power packs and cables than your average branch of Dixons.

    It’s therefore not surprising that schools are wondering whether these two trends can be combined. Is it really possible to allow students and staff to be productive in school, using technology they’ve brought in themselves? Can the school save money buying or replacing hardware, by utilising the devices which have often been banned from the network? Will staff and students actually work harder and be more engaged in their learning and teaching, if it’s all happening on a device which they enjoy using? Or is BYOD nothing more than a headache for school IT staff, a massive security risk, and a fad based largely on the head teacher being in love with their new iPad?


    You’ve probably heard of It’s a fantastic school down in Cornwall where head teacher Isobel Bryce has built a strong platform for her staff and students to succeed. Their most famous son is Dan Roberts, whose Recharge the Battery project won a Microsoft Innovative Teacher award in 2009. Tim Bush and I went down there last month, and in addition to some organic vegetables, we brought back a great story about how BYOD could be put into practice. So the interview for this blog post was not with Dan and was not about chickens. It was with Adam Ledger, the schools Network Manager. Adam explains their approach to BYOD:

    “Our network has about 300 fixed desktops and 300 netbooks, all built on CC4 (their network management platform from RM). We also have about 100 teacher laptops, which are vanilla windows and 30 Macs in a suite for Media. So we’ve got about 700 school owned devices, but in total have over 1700 devices which have joined the network.”

    The 1000+ “unmanaged” devices are a huge range of laptops, netbooks, smart-phones, iPads, iPods, kindles, nintendo’s and anything else which staff or students want to bring in. To be honest, I nearly fell of my chair at this point, because although I’d been to many schools who allowed guest wireless access of some kind, I’d never come across anything on this scale. Adam explains that has always had this approach, ever since students started asking:

    “Trust always is the starting point. Trust the kids and they will reward you with good behaviour. We say yes to everything, as long as they come and ask us. I can only think of 3 or 4 instances of misuse of the system, and one of those was a member of staff. I know we are lucky with the kids and that it might not work in every school, but it works for us. We enable access on peoples on devices which they WANT to use, and so we have happy customers. They know we can block or remove access if we need to, but they value the trust we put on them and they’re glad to be learning in a way that suits them.”

    So from a technical point of view, how do they keep it secure and manage the process?

    “If you want to bring in your personal device, you bring it to see us (the IT team). We register their mac address, version of anti-virus, make and model, and the serial number of the device. We then use the software that comes with our wireless network to enable that mac address in a whitelist. The same software we use for whitelisting can also do the blocking by mac address (blacklisting) – which it does for any “unknown” mac address, or for any device that needs to be banned from the system. We also periodically they clean out the DHCP databases, and run a very short lease on the IP address given to a wireless device. We want people to have freedom of access, but also want to know what’s on our network.”

    And that, really, is that. They give wireless access to devices they know about and they block anything they don’t. It is then down to the teaching staff to manage the way students use those devices when they are in school. That is one for Dan Roberts to explain, which we’ll do in another blog post. Just walking round the school though, that feeling of trust and mutual respect is noticeable. I can only assume that the same respect students have for their teachers, they have for the freedom they are allowed when it comes to technology. They’re enjoying their learning, and feel able to use the technology that suits them.

    Microsoft is planning to make the management of BYOD networks much easier, with the launch of System Centre 2012. Not only will System Centre offer the best possible management of your existing Windows network, but it will also offer support for management of iOS and Android devices too. There is a public beta available already, which you can read about and download here.

    Additionally, for more thoughts on BYOD and the Consumerisation of IT in Education, download our paper via SlideShare. Alternatively, the full paper can be read in full below:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    OneNote and SharePoint 2010: Online Collaboration and Social Independent Learning (part 1)


    First in a series of guest posts from Adrian Edgar, Independent Education Consultant. Director of ICT and SMT at Culford School for 7 Years.

    Last week I was lucky enough to be part of the Microsoft Education team at BETT 2012. I spoke on the subject of using OneNote 2010 and SharePoint 2010 MySites. In this blog post, I’d like to recap some of the key points and show some of the great ways we have developed use of the software.


    OneNote addresses the three core aspects that underpin effective learning. Pupils can capture their thoughts quickly and record their work. This could be typed notes, pictures, drawings or indeed, written notes. As long as pupils get in to the habit of using their OneNote notebook as their central portfolio, collecting and organising work becomes second nature. Rarely can you say that a piece of software aids organisation in such an effective manner.

    Finally, and the most important aspect is the ability to simply share work and collaborate. This could be two or more pupils discussing work, but it is just as likely to involve the other key players in the process. Teachers and Parents can be given rights to read or contribute to the notebook and if you link this to a SharePoint library or SkyDrive share, the opportunities are endless.

    Rather than focus on the core aspects of OneNote I’d like to discuss the fantastic way we can integrate the use of SharePoint Libraries, Outlook scheduling and tasks in order to help pupils plan and organise their time.

    The first part of the process is to share the notebook and then grant contribute rights. In this example, I’m going to use SharePoint 2010 My Sites.

    • Create a shared library
    • Assign permissions
    • Grant collaboration rights

    Create a shared library in SharePoint 2010

    First step is to create a new document library under the students My Site pages

    1. Start by making sure you are in the My Content section before you begin the process

    2. From My Sites, click on Site Actions and Select New Document Library

    3. Follow the instructions to complete each section as shown below

    4. Click on Create to complete the process. You should see the new library created on the left hand tool bar. The new document library should open and display the library toolbar ribbon

    5. It’s at this stage you can assign the correct permissions to the library

    Assigning Library Permissions

    Now that we have our new homework library, I’m going to make sure the correct people have permission.


    Once you have created your new library it should open with the Library Tools ribbon as shown. If not, simply look for the ribbon tab on the left next to Site Actions and click on Library.

    1. Look for the Library Permissions icon on the far right. Click on this icon.

    2. More than likely, this library will inherit permissions from the level above. Simply click on the Stop Inheriting Permissions button and agree to the dialogue box.


    3. Now you can remove all the permissions you don’t need and add your own.

    Be careful when you do this. Make sure you keep your permissions to the library. The example below uses a fake student called Lucy Jones.


    4. Tick the boxes next to the permissions you want to remove and then click on Remove User Permissions.

    5. Now you can add permissions for the teacher to contribute to the library. This will assign permissions to any document uploaded to that library.

    Granting Collaboration Rights

    The final stage of this section is to assign collaboration rights to the teacher. For this example we are going to use the name, Mrs T Green.

    1. With the same Library Permissions ribbon open, confirm that you can see the indicator stating that the library has individual permissions. If not follow step 2 above.


    2. Click on Grant Permissions on the Permission Tools ribbon. The dialogue box below will open.


    3. In this example I have allocated Contribute permissions to Mrs Teresa Green. I could have also used any of my Active Directory groups and assigned permissions to all staff.

    4. Scrolling down the page, I have the opportunity to personalise a message explaining the permission I have granted.


    5. Click OK to complete the process. The SharePoint server will email your welcome message.

    In the next part of this post I will show you how to go one stage further now and set up a sharing collaboration process between teacher and pupil.

    In the meantime, the slides from the OneNote session at BETT 2012 can be viewed/downloaded below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Building School Networks for the Future - with System Centre and Hyper-V


    One of our (many) friends over at EduGeek has recently done some work with Marine Academy Plymouth taking over their systems in May 2011. We have now a series which charts the process of systems modernisation from analysis, to planning, then implementation before finally evaluation. This first article will deal with a summary of that analysis; and the ones which follow will cover Stuart Wilkie’s (IT Manager) decisions and how he put them into practice.

    Marine Academy Plymouth is the UK’s first Marine Academy. It’s a state-funded specialist secondary school with three sponsors - University of Plymouth , Cornwall College and Plymouth City Council

    The Marine theme is not just about Marine Science. One of the common questions (and EduGeek had a few at a recent open evening), is why “Marine Academy”? You immediately think, do I need to grow fins, have a boat, swim even…? Well actually it’s none of those things. All the careers that we currently pursue from a land-based concept can feasibly be accessed in association with the sea and marine. Careers in areas such as engineering, tourism, medicine, catering, building and agriculture – just to start with!

    Marine Academy Plymouth’s focus is to help to prepare and develop the students’ career opportunities, for today’s traditional jobs and for those that we don’t yet know about, we will achieve this through a commitment to high standards and to sustainability.

    “A modern, reliable, environmentally friendly computer system is key to the Academy in so many ways. Everything we do here has to embody our ethos and beliefs and ultimately empower the learners of tomorrow.”

    Standardisation and a stable platform are the key to the success and development of any system – at least that’s what the experience of time tells me.

    The systems at Marine Academy were a bit of a mix at the start with a wide variety of hardware manufacturers as well as specification. Dealing with the inequality of accessibility would be key to ensuring the consistency of the learning experience.

    The system itself consisted of surprising few servers for the scale of the clients – all 600+ of them! The server platform was powered by two DCs, Exchange, Capita SIMS (Student Management System) and ISA all of which relatively new. There were also a selection of older servers performing legacy file sharing and testing roles such as WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) and the free imaging and management platform “FOG”. The problem was the DCs were also the DFS, directly connected to the SAN , contained all the User Data (everything from Home folders to Profiles and the traditional Staff and Student shared folders) and the legacy servers were exactly that – legacy. There was no redundancy within the system, and the ability to perform any maintenance, or failure, would render parts of the network inoperable.

    imageThe majority of the teaching staff had been issued with laptops, a throwback to the Government “Laptop for Teachers” scheme. There was a wide variety of sizes and specifications. A quick glance at these, and their age/condition presented an issue. Consistency of delivery for one, and secondly, Devon and Plymouth as Local Authorities were insisting on implementation of encryption of all mobile devices which left school and college sites.

    Largely, the desktop fleet was in a good way. Marine Academy has 6 main ICT Suites plus clusters for Technology, Science and Arts. ICT Suites had largely been refreshed the previous year with high not being realised due to downgrading to the older Windows XP Operating System. The administrative and support workstations had also received the same refresh which was slight overkill based on their use. The remainder of the machines comprised of large fleets of either “custom build” dual core machines, older Celeron small form IBMs or RM All in Ones. The majority of classrooms had a single workstation installed to be used with the Interactive Whiteboard and AV facilities available which fell into one of the latter two ranges.

    Returning to the headline intentions, consistency of learning experience, reliability, stability and core to the Academy ethos, sustainability, the question lies, how could it be done?

    Key development intentions:

    • More power was required to bolster the Server Platform to give the failover and resilience, as well as the   flexibility to develop.
    • Security of Laptop Fleet for Curriculum Planning and Delivery, and a decision on the future of laptops or workstations for the “teacher point” in classrooms
    • Workstation modernisation, in those areas which had been “left behind”
    • Consistency of learning/delivery experience, by ensuring that no matter where learners were working – their settings and files followed them, and the environment they were working in was always the same.

    Coming up in the second article in the series, there will be details of how we designed the new server system, what choices we made and why plus the start of the implementation process… so stay tuned!

    imageStuart’s “alter-ego” is TheScarfedOne and as well as being the IT Manager at Marine Academy Plymouth, he fits in being part of the staff team at, with whom Microsoft have a close relationship. is the community for ICT Support and Development in Schools, with a worldwide following. His blog can be found at here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Continuing the Serco ‘’Progresso’’ Management Information System development with Microsoft


    Gerald Haigh, independent writer to Microsoft , has written a couple of blog posts in the past  for us on Serco’s “Progresso” Management Information system including a Pioneering Days and Learning Progress blog. Here, Gerald came back to us on how this is continuing to develop and is now currently being installed in a group of 25 “pioneer” schools, all existing users of Serco’s current “Facility” MIS.

    Microsoft has a strong interest in Progresso as it’s based on Microsoft’s SQL Server 2008 R2 and offers direct integration with other Microsoft technologies such as Exchange and Live@edu. And, of course, it’s cloud-based, which means it’s very much in tune with Microsoft’s own vision of “ICT as a Service”.

    Gerald  had several chats with early adopters all about to go live with Progresso who all  have high expectations of which we will blog about in the coming months.

    However before then, Gerald has continued with following Serco and how their Progresso Management System has developed. One was with Mohamad Djahanbakhsh, Managing Director of Serco Learning and Tim Rocke, who commissions IT services at Telford and Wrekin Authority who selected Progresso in a recent tender.

    Mohamad has led and nurtured Progresso through its long development process. Tim is also leading and nurturing, although with him it’s about working directly with schools some of them pioneers, others just being introduced to Progresso.

    What interested me mostly was how similar are the key messages coming from Tim and Mohamad.

    Tim, for example, remembers Progresso people spending time in Telford schools long before the product appeared.

    “They spent some time with our schools a year or more ago talking to them about their day to day work,”

    That phrase, “day to day work” seems to be the key to Progresso’s long development phase. There’s been a real attempt to produce something responsive to real school life. Mohamad described some of that effort to me.

    “During the time we had both with pioneer schools and others we observed how users interact in their own environment, how they take different reports and distribute them, and how often. We looked at organisational structures, and all the bottlenecks. Some bottlenecks were unique to individual schools, but some were common to the majority,”

    From that period of observation have come many of Progresso’s features, such as the automatic generation of reports based on key data, attendance, for example, and behaviour and their distribution to the appropriate members of staff.

    “Many schools spend a lot of time producing and distributing printed reports, but through our innovative use of SQL Server Reporting Services, Progresso can generate and distribute reports automatically on a scheduled basis. So key information is sent in a timely manner, to the people who need it, saving time and money.”

    Mohamad is clearly proud of the way the design team have concentrated on ease of use, something that’s not always been achieved by other systems.

    “If you look at MIS throughout all industries, not just education, you see people still downloading stuff into Excel and not really making use of the MIS. It’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because the process is so convoluted.”

    Tim Rocke, who has been demonstrating Progresso to all of Telford’s 72 schools, not just the authority’s two pioneers (one primary, one secondary) is finding that ease of use is striking chords.

    “The feedback we have had is that people think it looks intuitive and flexible and they like the idea it’s accessible from anywhere. The conclusion is that it offers the real possibility of putting data directly into teachers’ hands. We’ve all been moving along that road, and Progresso puts in place the tools to make that a reality.”

    When I asked Tim what questions had been raised by school leaders when he’d shown them Progresso, he confirmed Mohamad’s views on the need to be in tune with real life in school.

    “All schools have particular ways of doing things day to day, and so the questions were framed with that in mind – how do we record behaviour events, how do we mark a register or record an assessment and analyse the results.”

    That said, when it comes to using new management software with enhanced features, there’s the possibility of not only supporting existing practice but of doing things differently.

    “I (Tim Rocke) was particularly encouraged by the number of people who realised that they could look at changing some of their processes, finding a better way.”

    In this regard he mentioned the welcome given to Progresso’s automatic scheduling of reports, already highlighted by Mohamad.

    “One very popular aspect was scheduling information reports, or emails at a specific time, or alerts and notifications triggered by a certain number of occurrences. In most schools that’s a much more manual process, so this is something that would save them a lot of time.”

    Senior leadership team members were also impressed by Progresso’s personalised dashboard.

    “….powerful information on the screen in front of them, in real time without the need to run a report or ask for one.”

    Now, both Tim and Mohamad are looking at next steps. For Tim the question is how to build on the experience of the pioneer schools.

    “What’s in my mind is to ask the senior leaders in the pioneer schools to talk to the heads of other schools. It’s very powerful if they can learn from colleagues about tangible benefits.”

    Mohamad is looking further along the development line than that.

    “We’ve started a clear product vision for Progresso which will be enhanced and informed by what our customers have to say and our customers’ customers, learners, parents, governors; a continuous feedback loop.”

    So far, Progresso is being developed and initially introduced within the Serco family, to existing users of Serco’s Facility MIS. The challenge, of course, is to go beyond that user base and start capturing market share.

    “I just hope that there are open minds,” says Mohamad. “That people will give it time, have a look at what it’s got.”

    He points to Progresso’s strong Microsoft underpinning and integration as a good reason for potential customers to show interest.

    “A great many of them will be Microsoft customers already, so why not come and see how the power of Microsoft has generated something which is easy, intelligent, and efficient? As the Microsoft tools have become more collaborative and integrated, we’ve created a platform that takes advantage of that collaboration and integration.”

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Why schools should get behind GetOnline@Home, by Microsoft's Clare Riley


    Originally posted on


    One of the wonderful things about working for Microsoft is that innovative ideas bubble up every day. Even if they appear to undercut our core business, if they are good ideas they will take root. That’s what has happened with – a website offering the lowest cost, good quality PCs you might ever find in the UK.

    BBC research shows the cost of a PC can be a significant barrier to getting people online at home. With this in mind, we worked closely with our partners, such as Race Online, The Post Office and 3, to help make getting access to the internet a reality for all, regardless of financial situation or technical ability.

    The GetOnline@Home offer was launched at the National Digital Inclusion conference, and since then we’ve sold thousands of refurbished desktops for under £100. If you think about it, you’re paying about the same price for this PC - which comes with a flat screen, Windows 7, a range of Microsoft software for documents, emails, messaging, pictures and Microsoft Security Essentials and Accessibility software – as you would for couple of computer games from a high street store. It’s something we are immensely proud of!

    Since the summer, though, we have had a stream of great ideas about our offering from customers, partners, schools and suppliers – and so I am thrilled that we have been able to grow and extend the offer and to relaunch the website in time for Christmas.

    GetOnline@Home offer to include £169 laptops and cheapest broadband

    The new site, accessible at, offers a range of exciting new developments and offerings. First of all, we’ve been able to include laptops. These all have webcams, perfect for Skype or Facebook chat, and come with new or replacement batteries and guaranteed power-up times.

    The new laptops all come with the same support as the desktops – with a warranty and a telephone helpline – and the price includes VAT and delivery. Charities – or anyone receiving any of the benefits listed in the pop-up box on the home page – can get a laptop for only £169. Everyone else would pay £199 – still a great price!

    Clare Riley

    Clare Riley: 'thrilled' by growth

    The second, and very exciting, development is our partnership with Simplify Digital, the only OFCOM-accredited price comparison website for the provision of broadband. The friendly team on the phone at Simplify Digital will help determine the best service to suit you and your family, and also offers an extra £25 discount on any service you choose to buy. This will be the lowest price broadband you could get anywhere in the UK. Other than being an amazing offer, it also has the comfort factor of stepping you through the order process and sending confirmation in the post. They will even come round and set it all up for you!

    The website and the refurbished PC offer is a great team effort. Partners such as the Post Office, BT and UK Online Centres are raising awareness across the UK and we have a growing band of refurbisher companies supplying the PCs: two new suppliers joined this week and they bring with them the great experience of delivering the Home Access programme PCs last year. My job is to keep momentum in the project – and that has included the delightful role of being the site photographer! You’ll find, on the GetOnline@Home website, six photographs and stories from families who bought PCs in the first wave.

    Let's take Bria, aged 11, and her mum, Christina. In the summer, Christine went to an induction meeting for parents at the secondary school where Bria would be moving to in September. The teacher asked if she had access to a computer and, if not, could she get one. In their secondary school, they explained, the school’s online learning gateway would be the main source of information. Christina was shocked: “What parent wants to see their child put on the back foot on day one of their secondary schooling?” But then she saw a small newspaper item about the “GetOnline@Home” computer offer.

    At first it seemed too good to be true. She told me that she “asked around to see who else knew about it, and then I phoned up".

    'It’s been brilliant. I’m really chuffed with it'

    Bria and mum Christina

    Bria and Christina: 'It's been brilliant'

    "I wasn’t going to part with my money without speaking to a human being. It seemed too good to be true. but they reassured me and said I was eligible for the discount price.” She was doubly delighted when the computer turned up promptly and in full working order after only a week. It was set up in time for the new school term, and Bria was off to the same start as her classmates.

    Christina also has an email account now, and though she says has no time for social networking, she does use the internet to keep in touch with what’s happening in the local area. She searches for money-saving opportunities and finds that the computer is a real help in cutting spending. She’s a keen user of Martin Lewis’s money saving website which has shopping vouchers. “He’s my guru,” she says.

    Christina was clearly delighted with her computer and with the scheme as a whole, which I think shows in the photograph (right) I took that day in south London! “It’s been brilliant. I’m really chuffed with it – affordable, effective, and does what it says on the tin.”

    Adding laptops and boosting the capability of the site is very exciting – and I’m pleased that we have done it before BETT, the educational technology show at Olympia, London, in January. We will have desktop and laptop PCs on show on the Microsoft stand and people to help and advise. Just think what we could achieve if all 30,000 visitors took the opportunity of GetOnline@Home back to their classes and their schools. On the website there are leaflets and posters to share with students and families – and clickable links which can be dropped into the school portal to keep the offer in the public eye.

    Schools can support the offer – and share it through the Pupil Premium

    Simply sharing the news might help individual families embrace the offer and level the playing field – at the moment it is only 5 per cent¹ of students who don’t have access to a PC at home. But schools can embrace this offer too. One of the things they can spend their Pupil Premium money on is PCs for students who don’t have one at home: we know that the Department for Education regards ICT access projects as being “within scope” for spending the Pupil Premium.

    The 5 per cent of students with no access to a PC at home statistic comes from the final evaluation of the Home Access programme – and I was very struck by something one of the teachers in that evaluation said: "The majority of students do their best work out of school hours, where they can concentrate for extended periods and follow up any creative ideas they have been inspired by.

    "Without a computer at home, students at this level are really missing out. Though they can use the study area before and after school, it's very easy to tell who hasn't got a computer at home because of the quality of the work."

    I’ve spent the funds Microsoft gave me on setting up the site and creating the offer – and have nothing left for big awareness campaigns – so I am trusting word of mouth. If people like what they see, they may feel encouraged to share the news. Do go to and see if there is anyone you know who would have a brighter Christmas and a better 2012 for having one of these PCs.

    As Linda, who got her PC for the family over the summer, says: “This is a great deal, and it’s only right that other people should know about it.”

    Clare Riley is group manager for education relations with Microsoft in the UK

    More information
    Microsoft Education on Twitter

    Microsoft Education Facebook page

    BETT logoBETT 2012, January 11-14
    Olympia, London
    Microsoft: stand D40 & D30

  • 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.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Starting a Student-Led Company


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

    Microsoft does a lot of good things for its staff, which is probably why in 2011 we were named as the best multinational company to work for in the “Great Place To Work” survey (beating McDonalds, Google and Coca Cola, to name but a few). Of all the things Microsoft does well, my favourite is the volunteering days. Every year, we get 3 full days volunteering time, to spend on projects in our local communities. Sometimes things are organised by the company (I built chicken coups last year for a local charity!) but you are also free to do things which are more personal to you, and that’s how I ended up mentoring a Student-Led Company at Larkmead School in Abingdon.

    larkmead school logo

    I went to Larkmead from 89’ to 94’ and as you can see from the picture below, sported some pretty fantastic hairstyles during that time (this one was called “curtains”). Years later I met Chris Harris, the current Head Teacher, at BETT, and we have kept in touch ever since. When I found out about the volunteering days I suggested to him that I do something at Larkmead, and after talking through a few options we agreed that I’d mentor a group of students to start their own company. Soon I found myself speaking at their whole-school assembly to a thousand kids and all the teaching staff (teachers I can handle, students were a terrifying audience) and appealing for students to register their interest in coming to job interviews.


    During the speech, I explained that I didn’t have all the answers, and didn’t know exactly what the company would do – but that it should combine the creative skills and resources already in the school (they’re a performing arts college) with my knowledge of the IT market. We left it open to any age group, and asked students to send a one line email to register their interest and explain why they should be considered. The application emails in themselves were fascinating and inspiring. Here are a few of my favourites:

    “I would like to be part of the company because I have got a loud voice.”

    “I haven’t been very good at sports before and my friends don’t believe I can do things but this is my chance to prove them wrong and I think I can do this and I am determined to create something new.”

    “I am legend!”

    We got 65 applicants and ran two group interviews. The group task was to come up with an idea for a smart-phone app. The first group had to make theirs for the 2012 Olympics and the second group got a Christmas theme. I knew they’d talk in the playground and didn’t want the second group having a head start! After the group task, they all got a 3 minute individual interview so we could learn a bit more about them and ask which department they wanted to go for. We used the same system as the Microsoft graduate scheme and divided the company into three sections: Marketing, Sales and Technical.

    After the interviews we shortlisted a group of 30 students, split roughly with a third in each department. All of the students were sent a letter, either with a job offer, or with a letter thanking them for taking part. Saying no to some of them was a really tough part for me, because they all did well, but hopefully even the students who were not successful have learnt something from the process.

    Our first meeting of “the company” was just before Christmas. We don’t have a name yet, or a bank account, or a full list of products and services. So now the fun starts, as we begin to work out all of those things. Once we’re up and running, teams of students from the sales team will be going out to visit local businesses to sell our products or services – either for money, or traded for the products or services that the local company provide. I like to imagine negotiations like “we’ll build you a Facebook page if you mend the sports hall roof” – but already we’ve had questions about whether students will get paid, so it may be that they would rather charge real money. Again, I don’t have all the answers and how the company makes/spends money will be totally up to them.

    The first meeting pointed to them wanting to form becoming a digital-marketing company, doing anything from business cards or company websites, to using social media to plan and deliver marketing campaigns. The students have some real skills in things like social media, which many small business owners do not. Part of my mentoring has been to convince them that not all adults know how to do this stuff themselves, and explain that there is a real market among local small businesses for their knowledge and skills. So far, they’re really responding well and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

    I will keep you posted in a future post, once the company has been named. If your school wants to set up a Student-Led company, or if you like the idea of mentoring one, have a look at the Teenbiz website. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to talk to ask questions or get in touch with the Larkmead staff or students about their project.

  • 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

    Update to Microsoft DreamSpark


    Originally posted on the Faculty Connection Blog.

    We recently made some exciting changes and improvements to DreamSpark, with the launch of a new site and rebranding of MSDNAA to Microsoft DreamSpark Premium.


    DreamSpark is the first step for educators to make learning more motivating, relevant, and engaging for today’s students by providing no cost access to professional-level development, design, and gaming software.

    DreamSpark offers a unique opportunity for both students and educators to use the latest professional development, design and gaming software at no charge and provides a chance to learn new technologies to excite students in classrooms.

    Furthermore, DreamSpark offers access to software and curriculum resources to help develop courses that will enable students to achieve their career goals after graduation.

    The programme also offers opportunities to help educators expand their personal and professional portfolios and enhance classroom objectives.

    For Students

    DreamSpark is simple; it's all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and designer tools at no charge so they can chase their dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology - or just get a head start on their career.  
    Microsoft believes that students can do amazing things if they only have the right tools.

    For Teachers/Academics

    DreamSpark is about giving educators no cost access to Microsoft professional-level developer, designer and gaming software so they can reach, motivate, and ensure their students achieve their greatest potential. DreamSpark gives teachers access to the software and resources to ensure their classroom always has the latest technologies to keep students engaged in new ways.

    Learning must be relevant, exciting, and engaging. DreamSpark is aligned with universities, associations, and employers to ensure that educators are able to discover, create, and deliver courses to students that lead to increased technical proficiency, employability and of course creates the next generation of technical leaders.

    DreamSpark Pricing Model and Usage

    • Free for all students – simply self-subscribe to DreamSpark via
    • Free for all Schools being in the system and setup to provide their students verification solution. This is through domain (you provide), shibboleth, or Live@Edu
    • High schools can request codes and give to their students,

    NB. Licensing does not allow for the products to be used in class, and FREE licensing does not cover educators

    Changes to licensing and costs

    DreamSpark for Schools, College and Universities subscription is now available and priced at $99 FREE for EES customers – This change allows all DreamSpark software to be installed for teaching and learning on Institutional Lab machines (also it now covers educators and students for personal non-commercial usage and is available for all taught discipline, previously this only covered students usage and not licensed for intuitional equipment)

    DreamSpark Premium – Previously MSDNAA so includes more products including Visio, OneNote and Project and is aimed at STEM FE and HE institutions and all IT Academy Subscribers. The cost has been reduced to $499 from £1000+ and it’s a campus license as per EES so you only need to purchase 1 license and not 1 per school or faculty (also it now covers educators and students for personal non-commercial usage and all lab installations)

    Microsoft was started when many of the founders were still students so we know that anything is possible. To make this happen, we are aligning with universities, associations, and other communities around the world to make sure that DreamSpark reaches everyone as fast as possible.

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