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March, 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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March, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Cloud computing for education checks


    For IT professionals and leaders in education, there is a lot to consider when choosing to take advantage of cloud services. Yes, it’s cost saving, time saving and has lots of other great benefits, but there are important things to check with your service provider to make sure you get the best out of your cloud services for education. Here are a few points that you should research with your service provider when considering cloud computing for education:

    • How quickly will the service be recovered in a major incident? What are the SLA targets?

    • Portability. How easy will it be to move your data? Or share it?

    • Does your Cloud provider offer security for the service?

    • Do you have enough bandwidth capacity? Colleagues may be accessing multiple services at one time

    • What options are available for offline productivity?

    Save money with Office 365 for education

    As well as fulfilling the points above, we also want to be cost efficient for education institutions to use. And that’s where we use the power of the cloud to bring these tools together in Office 365 for education. We have SharePoint Online and the Office Web Apps for true anywhere access, and we integrate this with Exchange Online, and Lync Online to bring it all together.
    We’re making our best services available in the cloud, helping to drive down the cost of managing hardware, negotiating versioning and upgrades, as well as giving you the ability to scale quickly and efficiently to meet the needs of your students, faculty, and staff.  Office 365 for education represents everything we know about the productivity tools people love to use, available at scale in the cloud.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    New Computer Science GCSE will teach students to develop gaming, web and mobile apps


    Great news for education professionals and students - AQA have announced details about the new GCSE Computer Science. The unique curriculum includes some exciting advances, such as development of mobile apps and web technologies, as well as learning computing theory and essential programming skills. These innovative skills will be significant for GCSE students to address the demands of the IT industry and other employers.

    The new curriculum that will be taught from September is aligned with the existing Microsoft Technology Associate Qualification. This means that students are set up to achieve an industry-recognised qualification which will bridge the gap between full-time education and the business world, as well as offering a breadth of progression routes to higher level Microsoft certifications. 

    Furthermore, schools can leverage the current benefits within the IT Academy programme to support the adoption of the award including:

    1. Teacher Starter Kits: 20 FREE MTA exam
      voucher to help teachers skill up on concepts and curriculum
    2. Free MTA Study Guides: for both students
      and teachers to assist with curriculum adoption
    3. Microsoft Certified Trainer Membership:
      MCT membership gives access to a global network of over 18,000 expert technical
      teachers supporting each other as well as additional lesson plans and resources

    The course, which has taken over 18 months to develop, covers programming fundamentals such as how to interpret and create simple algorithms, develop prototypes and code solutions to a given problem. The practical element of the syllabus gives students the chance to create an appropriate software solution, which could take the form of a gaming, web or mobile application.  They will put this learning into practice and design, by making and testing their own applications.

    This announcement follows Michael Gove’s recent call for schools to teach ICT qualifications which are relevant to employers.  

    Geoff Coombe, Director of General Qualifications Development at AQA, said:

    “Our new Computer Science GCSE gives students the chance to gain the latest computer programming skills and will stand them in good stead when competing for jobs in the future. Computer literacy still has its place, but we hope this innovative qualification will help take students’ abilities to a whole new level.  The syllabus we’ve created is designed to take the growing importance of mobile and web technologies into account and ensure that students aren’t left behind.”

    Steve Beswick, Director of Education at Microsoft, commented:

    “As a business, Microsoft needs British school-leavers with programming and design talents not just for the jobs we need to fill now, but also to future-proof against careers which don’t even exist yet. Working with hundreds of schools and thousands of talented teachers through our IT Academy programme and Partners in Learning network, we know that computer science lessons have the potential to be experimental and genuinely engaging, but schools need the right type of curriculum to get results.’’

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Why enterprise and entrepreneurial skills are important for young people


    Guest post from Claire Young, TeenBiz. This content was originally posted on MyDaughter.

    An entrepreneurial mind-set has been proven to deliver an improvement in academic performance, confidence and all round aspiration. I believe that enterprise can be taught across all subjects and is not just restricted to the business studies classroom. An enterprising mind-set is about students gaining critical skills needed for the workplace and ultimately helping them gain their first step on the ladder. Students need to leave school with qualifications and also the skills to make things happen – without those skills, their qualifications are not enough.


    I am launching the UK’s first start up scheme for teenagers called TeenBiz to provide young entrepreneurs the potential pathway to starting a business. In order for enterprise to have some longevity there needs to be a sustainable programme and TeenBiz aims to provide this. launched 1st November. 

    Top Tips for Starting a Business

    • Get the basic set-up right
      Ensure you have a good accountant and set up your company properly. Some people dive off with the exciting stuff like the website, logo etc and forget about the important basics.
    • Have patience
      Be realistic – businesses don’t boom overnight and you’ll need some patience to build an empire. There will be many hurdles, be robust, develop a thick skin and don’t quit! You need to create a brand and your reputation.
    • Create a brand
      You need to be clear of your USP (unique selling point) and the core value of your business ethos i.e. dynamic, creative, loyal. Brainstorm and form a ‘word bubble’ –something usually jumps out – sometimes the brain just needs a bit of warming up!
    • Don’t be a scatter gun
      You need to define your target consumer and enter their world with a marketing plan. What do they read? Where do they go? What social media do they use? Your brand needs to be in front of them. Talk to your consumers and do research, it may save you a lot of time and money. Self-promotion is critical to any entrepreneur, no matter what the industry is!
    • Cut your cloth to suit your budget
      When starting out, watch your overheads as every penny you spend eats into profit. When I first started out I worked from home, then rented an office a year on when we were busy and growing. Work within your budget and remember any additional add-ons such as phones, amenities and rates. Working for yourself can be lonely at times so looking into sharing office space, there are often many schemes available – particularly for start up businesses.
    • Fail to plan, Plan to fail
      Be realistic and brutally honest about your business plan! There is no point in cutting things out and ‘fudging’ the numbers – you are only misleading yourself. I work on the premise that it’s always better to under promise and over deliver. Include all costs, no matter how small, and be conservative with sales forecasts – that way you will avoid any issues or disappointments.

    Claire Young – Entrepreneur, writer, media personality, passion for enterprise! Founder of TeenBiz UK’S first start up scheme for under18s, Founder School Speakers and Director Girls Out Loud.,,

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    New to subscription licensing? Get 50% off your first year…


    For schools running Windows XP and old versions of Microsoft Office we are now offering schools a HALF PRICE trade-in agreement, letting you both get up-to-date this summer and get 50% discount off your first year. The “UTD” (Up To Date) offer is available to any school who has never had a subscription license agreement before (either EES or School Agreement).

    You pay an annual fee based on your staff count and can then upgrade all of the school owned PCs and laptops, with no need to count your computers again! As an example, an “average” primary school with 25 Full-Time Staff pays just £1125 per-year to get access to a huge range of applications.

    So, what is included?

    Modern IT, Modern Curriculum

    The Modern Education Desktop offers new and exciting opportunities to engage students, transform teaching and learning and improve the operational efficiency of your institution.

    Bold claims, for sure, but we believe that the right technology and programmes can help empower every teacher with the tools and resources to understand and engage every student at their own pace, in the right place, and in a way that allows them to achieve their greatest potential. The Education Desktop is a key aspect of achieving this goal.

    By utilising apps such as Office 2010, Windows 7, SkyDrive and Learning Suite, schools can provides an agile and powerful environment that is more able to adapt to current and future needs as the іmagіnatіons of educators and students demand.

    Our webcast below gives more information on the concept of the Education Desktop.

    For more information on the UTD Offer, and to start off on the journey of Modernising the Education Desktop, please contact your Microsoft reseller. Alternatively, to learn more about EES or to select a Microsoft licensing resellers, please refer to the resources below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    KODU in the Classroom: Final 2 Assets


    To complete our series of KODU in the Classroom posts, the final 2 resources are now available to view/download below. How are you using KODU in the classroom? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Musical innovation in the classroom


    Originally posted on BBC News School Report.

    Music teacher Gareth Ritter, who has just returned from Washington DC, where he was awarded the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award, tells School Reporter Georgia all about his "exciting" teaching style.


    Mr Ritter teaches his students at Willows High School in Cardiff how to record instruments and encourages them to post videos online. He has also started a website where teachers can contact him with questions about using technology in the classroom.

    His innovations have helped improve motivation and attendance, which has subsequently led to more technology being introduced in other departments throughout the school.

    School Report is an annual BBC project which helps young people make their own news reports for a real audience.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    With the release of LP+4 comes new opportunities to unleash the power of blogging using SharePoint 2010

    clip_image006Schools in the UK are riding the crest of the blogging wave, using a range of different often free or open source tools to publish work and ideas and capture the power of ‘audience’.  Whilst this approach to blogging is clearly having a great impact in some schools, it is often limited to the public domain.  Whilst public celebration and collaboration is one way to promote children’s learning in areas such as writing in schools, in order to create a sustainable online blogging environment, more thought and development needs to be paid to the tools and how they are structured and managed for students.  The administration of hundreds of users in a school owning blogs and the approval/monitoring of these can cause headaches for teachers and administrators, as do the questions around tools which are suitable for teachers to enjoy the buzz of global collaboration but are not appropriate to be handed over to individual students to use and administer. These are some of the reasons which have led Microsoft partner LP+ to integrate the SharePoint2010 blog so heavily into their new online offering, LP+4.


    LP+4 Blogging in action on SharePoint 2010

    5 Reasons why SharePoint 2010 is a now great tool for blogging:

    1. Simple, familiar interface  – The SharePoint 2010 interface is easy on the eye and offers familiarity to users of all ages through the Office Ribbon that appears when users are writing.  You can edit text and content in the same way you do using any other Microsoft Office product and the funky designs make these spaces ones which children and teachers enjoy and associate with.

    2. Add Rich Content & Media Quickly - It’s now a doddle to add in content such as pictures, links and videos using the ‘insert’ tab.  No longer do you need to upload your media somewhere in SharePoint first and then link in pictures from there. 

    3. Structure and Workflow – Arguably the biggest advantage of using the LP+4 SharePoint Blog tool is the management and structure.  Through auto provisioning from a school’s MIS, blogs are automatically created for users, classes, subjects and other sites within a school and all permissions and approvals set.  This means that children and staff can access different blogs through their own accounts and approval workflows built in for publishing depending on a school’s needs. 

    4. Collaborate or go public! – By building the blog tool into collaborative schools spaces; children, parents and teachers can collaborate safely and securely within their school environment using.  The nice thing on LP+4 is that there is now custom code written so that blog posts can ‘Go Public’, if schools want to allow their bloggers to post through to a public audience.  This means that blogging is now both a private collaboration tool and one to share and celebrate work and news in public.

    5. Belt and Braces Security – Although blogging is predominately an ‘individual’ art, there are issues around data ownership, security, back-ups etc. which can make Head teachers and schools hesitant to embrace this type of technology across a school.  LP+4 Blogs are hosted in a tier 4 data centre with profanity screening, item level restore and all the other requirements to satisfy Acceptable Use Policies, eSafety guidelines and Data Protection legislation.  This way the blog tools allows both the ‘individual’ experience of web 2.0 and the ‘institutional’ management and safeguards to make it safe and sustainable. 

    LP+4 is now live in schools across the UK and growing into a number of Local Authorities and other global territories.  To see LP+4 in action, visit and look out for the roadshows in the summer term via @tweetlpplus

    There is also a video on blogging with LP+4.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    New Lower Prices for Office 365


    As the opening sessions at UCISA 2012 come to a close, and the social festivities are about to kick off, there doesn’t seem to be a more appropriate place to be to make the following announcement. The post below from our Microsoft Office blog explains the announcement with much more clarity then I could, but in essence, in line with our longstanding commitment to education, we our making our “A2” service plan free to not only students, but also to faculty and staff. Exciting news!

    “Customers continue to give us fantastic feedback on Office 365. Since we launched last summer, we've been happy to serve great companies like JetBlue, Patagonia, Campbell Soup Company, Groupe Marie Claire, and Tata Steel Europe. We're regularly delivering new value in the service, releasing updates now monthly, and recently brought Office 365 to another 22 new markets to grow our global footprint to 64 geographies - with more to come!

    As we rapidly add customers, the cost to run Office 365 becomes more efficient. This is the beauty of the cloud where we can deliver economies of scale through our worldwide data centers and economies of skill with our engineers, administrators, and support teams operating the service.

    With these efficiencies, we're able pass on savings to make it even more affordable for customers of all sizes to move to Office 365. So, I'm thrilled to announce that we're lowering the prices of most of our Office 365 for enterprise plans by up to 20%. These changes are effective today at for new and renewing direct customers.

    We are also excited to make pricing changes to Office 365 for education. In line with our longstanding commitment to education, we will make our "A2" service plan free to not only students, but also to faculty and staff. A2 includes the core capabilities of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync and the Office Web Applications. Exchange Online and Lync Online are available today for academic institutions, and we'll launch the full Office 365 for education service starting this summer. You can get more information on our Office 365 for education offering here.

    I want to thank all our customers and partners for making the last eight months a great start for Office 365.

    Kirk Koenigsbauer

    Microsoft Office Division

    For those at the UCISA conference, we look forward to answering your questions regarding the announcement on stand 22. Pop over and speak to Damon, Richard or Stevie. 

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    KODU in the Classroom: Getting Started with the Xbox 360 Controller


    Part 3 of our KODU in the Classroom series of posts builds on yesterday’s post and focuses on ‘Getting Started with the
    Xbox 360 Controller’.

    The full eBook can be viewed/downloaded below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Students get excited about computer science by building their own digital cameras and arcade consoles with Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer


    Making, building, resolving, interacting… Students are excited by hands-on projects where they can increase their problem solving and creative skills using tangible, technical objects. Especially if the final article is something they can actually enjoy using in the real world.

    If students have a personal interest in the end result of a project, why wouldn’t they use all their efforts to make it the best it could be? Especially if it’s an awesome gadget they can show to all their friends and family, and tell them that they built it themselves.

    The Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer can help institutions to provide unique value to their teaching programme and really engage their students. Imagine teachers being able to tell their class that they are going to learn how to make an arcade console, a digital camera or a remote control for a helicopter. Gadgeteer can make that a reality and helps students learn about electronics and computing in a fun way, and encourages them to finish projects both timely and effectively by seeing real-time, usable results. Gadgeteer is an open-source toolkit for building small electronic devices using the .NET Micro Framework and Visual Studio/Visual C# Express.


    The Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a tool that can be used in classes from 12 years up to university level. A challenge in the past with teaching ‘physical computing’ is that it may have needed some level of skill in programming or electronics. Gadgeteer turns that around by making it possible to build compelling projects immediately with simple high level programming skills.

    So what kit is required? At a minimum - an electronics mainboard, a red USB module to connect to a computer and power the mainboard, and some modules to build a your device. Software wise, some free software development tools and some support software for your mainboard and modules will need to be installed. Students are then free to build their first gadget!


    There’s proof that the Gadgeteer has created an interest and passion for learning for students. At the end of January 2012, 70 British students aged 13 to 16 gathered at the Microsoft Research Cambridge Lab to present their final projects and celebrate the end of the first .NET Gadgeteer school pilot project in the UK.

    The enthusiasm and dedication shown by the youngsters and teachers during the school pilot demonstrated the hunger for hands-on computer science in schools. The high level of student engagement was best captured in this message posted by one of the teachers in the pilot’s Edmodo group:

    “First day back at school, the building is cold and miserable but 7 kids have turned up after school to start designing and making their own gadgets ready for 30th Jan! The atmosphere is amazing—two groups, one either side of a mobile whiteboard, planning and drawing their gadgets and code on either side. One group is using polystyrene (and hair slides!) to construct the physical object ready for their code. Loving it!”

    The .NET Gadgeteer pilot project aligns with the UK’s commitment to prioritise computer science education in schools, as spelled out by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, in his speech at the BETT Show.

    We look forward to more schools, colleges, and universities utilising .NET Gadgeteer to unleash their students’ creativity and enthusiasm in technology—in the UK, and beyond.

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