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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

    The Chickenman flies the nest


    Blog taken from ChickenmanThe Teachers Blog 

    Today marks the end of an era. For those that have followed this blog over the past few years you will know of the active involvement and support of Dan Roberts from community school in Cornwall for Partners in Learning. Dan aka @chickensaltash is moving on to bigger things and today is his last day at his school.

    Dan has been an avid supporter of Partners in Learning and Microsoft education and has illustrated time and time again how the work we do adds value for teachers and learners.

    We have shared many adventures of the past 5 years, many we have shared on this blog and others, well the least said about those the better Smile . On behalf of myself, Microsoft UK Education team and your Partners in Learning friends and colleagues around the world. Thank you Dan, it’s been a joy and a pleasure. Keep in touch.

    Please join me in wishing Dan all the best in his future endeavours, either leave a comment on this blog or tweet him @chickensaltash with the hash tag #msftpil

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Computer Science in schools is changing, with the help of business and industry


    As children are surrounded by technology more than ever, the way computers are taught will need to change. This was reflected in a recent government announcement by Michael Gove around reforming and updating the computer science curriculum.

    So how will this be achieved? Well, businesses are getting involved to enhance learning techniques when it comes to computer science. For example Microsoft and and AQA have partnered to create a new GCSE in Computer Science, which includes the design of mobile and web apps.

    In the video below, BBC Click explores how teaching computers is changing, so that children can be better equipped for today’s technology based economy. During the video Steve Beswick, Director or Education at Microsoft, talks about how we need to do more in computer science for schools. He explains how children need to understand how hardware and software works and develops, and learn the fundamentals of computer science at a young age. This can help them understand if they have a passion for technology early on, and give them the opportunity to become our computer scientists of the future.

    Available until 2:59PM Mon, 25 Mar 2013

    Play video in iPlayer

    Work has already begun to help inspire young future scientists.  The video shows a school using Kodu, a Microsoft visual programming system which allows children to to build simple games using a child-friendly icon driven interface. It also features .NET Gadgeteer, a project developed by Microsoft Research that has been utilised in schools and involves using modules to make electronic devices such as digital cameras and computer games.

    The video also covers more technology news.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Announcing Visual Studio Achievements: Bring Some Game To Your Coding lessons

    Visual Studio is a ideal set of tools for schools, colleges and Universities to better equip and inspire future developers. To enhance the experience, Microsoft has released Visual Studio Achievements, which helps to recognise the students achievements and talents as they perform various coding feats. With Visual Studio Achievements, students can  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) and 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. The 6 different categories are as follows:

    The Six Categories of Achievements


    Learn More About Visual Studio
    Visual Studio is a powerful tool with a wide range of 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

    Executive Briefing for Schools Event


    We’re supporting Outsourcery, one of our partners, at a great event exclusively for the schools sector on Thursday 19th April in Manchester. The event, which is free to attend, will include some informative presentations and demos about Microsoft solutions such as Office 365 and Lync. At the event we will showcase how Microsoft solutions in conjunction with Outsourcery, can increase efficiency and productivity in schools.  

    During the session we will also be presenting the Microsoft ‘School in a Box’ solution. School in Box describes a collection of software and services that are ready to use and tailored to specifically meet the needs of your school. You can read more about this concept in our eBook below.

    For further information about the event and to register click here.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Saving money in schools with Microsoft MultiPoint Server 2011


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh, freelance writer. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft blogs.

    What does a primary school do when it’s keen to bring its ICT infrastructure up to scratch, in line with pupil and teacher expectations, but on a limited budget? One answer, it seems, lies in the deployment of Windows MultiPoint Server 2011.


    We’ve already described one example from Wales, where Cadoxton School in Barry has its classroom computers running on free electricity supplied to its MultiPoint Servers from solar panels.

    Now, just to show that if you’re using mains electricity you still make very substantial savings with MultiPoint Server, we hear of an installation at the 200 pupil Devoran Primary School in Cornwall, by Microsoft Partner NCI Technologies.

    Chris Cook, ICT Co-ordinator at Devoran, says,

    ‘We had eight desktops in the library, all four years old and needing replacement. We’d heard of thin client and it seemed to be a sensible option for us and we approached NCI Technologies. Now we have two MultiPoint Servers running five desktops each.’

    The cost saving for Devoran over any other installation is significant. Andy Trish, Director of NCI Technologies makes two points here. First, that thin client solutions mean desktops cost less and can be used for longer – in some applications, apparently out-dated equipment can be brought back into use. (Though at Devoran new thin-client desktops were needed).

    As Andy says,

    ‘Devoran School’s solution not only saved them in hardware purchasing costs of close to 30% initially but long term it is estimated that 60% of their new solution won’t need replacing for 15 to 20 years.  This is a massive saving to future budgeting.’

    Andy’s second point is on energy use.

    ‘The power consumption used by the new solution also reduces their energy bills on their IT suite by 70%.  Multipoint has changed the way the school now thinks about its future needs and provides for growth and cost savings.’

    That last part is certainly true. Leadership at Devoran, an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ school, has budgeted wisely for its ICT, and the decision to go with MultiPoint Server has freed up money that’s now used to enhance ICT provision generally.

    Says Chris Cook,

    ‘As well as our ten workstations in the library, we now have 24 laptops dotted around the school and some tablets as well.’

    Quite clearly, a good MultiPoint Server installation well answers the needs of many schools. Chris Cook sees no downside to what they now have at Devoran.

    ‘We’ve got Windows 7 and a good wireless network. We’ve saved quite a lot of money, and its given us a bit more space. The reduced energy use also helps us with the green agenda.’

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Shireland Collegiate Academy uses online learning tools to support education


    Shireland Collegiate Academy in Smethwick is taking advantage of the opportunities provided by e-learning to improve the education of its pupils.

    Lord Jim Knight went to see the facility alongside Doug Brown, director of global advisory organisation Step A International, in order to find out the ways it has used technology to support learning.sir_mark

    Shireland principal Sir Mark Grundy claimed the school has been "at the forefront" of using innovative developments to enhance education, which can promote efficiency among teaching staff and boost the academic prospects of students.

    He said he has spoken to many organisations and governments all over the globe and is "delighted" to come back to the academy to see "the latest world-beating work".

    The Express and Star reported Lord Knight and Mr Brown saw year seven pupils aged 11 to 12 utilising PlayStations as part of a virtual learning environment, as well as children a year older than them studying the Crusades with Microsoft software.

    Lord Knight was also shown an e-learning website developed by a small number of maths students that could support the understanding of this subject by other young people.

    In the week since it first launched, the online learning tool has been visited almost 200 times.

    E-learning director at the educational establishment and lead teacher of the Young People's E-learning Network, Kirsty Tonks told the publication that e-learning helps students to show their work to a global audience rather than just their teacher.

    She added: "I was so proud to host Lord Jim Knight and Doug Brown here at Shireland. As ever, our students were wonderful ambassadors for the academy."

    Ms Tonks has also been commended by the E-learning Foundation Home Access Awards, where she was crowned the Secondary Teacher of the Year 2011.

    She has utilised internet technology to help teachers share good practice recommendations and has tried to tackle issues such as pupil absence linked to religious beliefs.

    More information on this story was published through Express & Star

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Virtualisation saves big money at Wootton Bassett School


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh, freelance writer. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Blog(s).

    In the process of researching our forthcoming new Cost Saving eBook, I decided to catch up again with Steve Gillott, IT Manager at Wootton Bassett School. Steve, I remembered had virtualised his school’s servers some time ago, anticipating significant gains in cost and efficiency, and I wanted to know how things were progressing.


    Steve’s response was so complete that I got permission from him to use it as it stood. It’s an object lesson in what an imaginative and expert IT manager, committed to the core teaching and learning mission, can do for a school.

    Steve Gillott writes

    ‘ I believe we were one of the first schools to virtualise our servers about four years ago, and at that point we reduced 13 physical servers to just 3 virtual host servers. The decision to virtualise came at a point when we were looking to replace the hardware for those servers anyway. Instead of spending all that money on hardware, we decided to invest in virtualisation after consulting with our Microsoft Partner, ClarITy Instead of spending £52,000 on new hardware, we spent £14,000, saving us £38,000 in hardware alone. We recouped the cost of the consultancy and much, much more from the savings on maintenance contracts on the 10 servers we didn’t buy. Over the next couple of years, we saved £14,500 per year on the maintenance contracts for the 10 servers.

    This is just the financial side of things – we also benefit from high availability of the servers (if one of the cluster host servers stops working for whatever reason, Hyper-V silently migrates all the virtual servers that were running on that host over to the other two hosts, and we hardly notice anything has happened).

    ‘Four years later, and IT hasn’t stood still. We are now commencing on a project to replace our existing Windows Server 2003 network with a brand new one running Windows Server 2008 R2. After considering what we wanted to achieve, we will need to end up with at least 34 servers (Domain controllers, file servers, print servers, SharePoint Farm, Exchange 2010 Farm, Lync Farm, TMG, and all sort of other things) – quite a fair amount! We work on a four year replacement cycle, so our original virtual hosts are due to be replaced again this year. So, with the same amount of cash per server (£4000), we can buy much better hardware for some new virtual hosts - 4 Dell R720s at £16,000 – to run the 34 servers, which, if they weren’t virtualised, would cost us around £136,000 – a saving of £120,000!

    Well, in reality they probably wouldn’t as the school could never afford to do such a project, but virtualisation has opened up this opportunity to do something that we want for a fraction of the cost that we would have needed to spend otherwise. Plus, I can almost pay for those four new servers from the £14,500 I’m still saving per year!

    So, in summary, although it was a few years ago now, I’ve saved money from the original project, been able to replace the host servers this year with much better hardware to support running more servers than we did before, and that has allowed us to expand our network provision immensely! This can only benefit teaching and learning – something we would never have been able to do if we had not virtualised. I call that a win!’

    And a win it certainly is, Steve. For us as well, because it enables us to share an excellent story, straight from an excellent school, that may well inspire others to do similar things.

    Wootton Bassett School, in the Wiltshire town of Royal Wootton Bassett, has 1400 students aged 11 to 18.   At the last Ofsted Inspection (November 2010) It was designated ‘Outstanding’ in every category.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft Lync 2010 at Benenden School


    Guest blog post from Gerald Haigh. freelance writer. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft blogs.

    We’ve already described the impact of Lync 2010 in three universities – Nottingham Trent, De Montfort University and the Open University. In each case it’s proving to be a real boost to efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Now, though, we have an excellent example of a school that’s adopted Lync 2010, improving communications and saving lots of money at the same time – exactly the combination of benefits we are always looking for.


    Benenden, in Kent, is a girls’ boarding school with 530 students aged 11 to 18 and 300 teaching and support staff. IT Services Manager, Wade Nash, describes a network fully up to the demands of a rigorous curriculum and the high expectations of staff and students.

    ‘We’re pretty much a Microsoft house, fully virtualised with Hyper-V and we have a resilient campus wide fibre and wireless data network.’

    The school’s Nortel PBX telephone system, however, was a different matter, and last year, when planning for the completion of our new science building, it was evident that the obsolete system couldn’t continue to cope and would run out of extensions.

    At that point, Wade and his team began a long search for a replacement. By Autumn 2010, they’d explored a number of options including Avaya, Mitel, Shoretel and Cisco and actually come close to settling on one of these, when they began to hear about the emerging Microsoft product called Wave 14 (later to be known as Lync). Wade made enquiries at Microsoft, discovered what was planned, and was pointed to a preferred Microsoft voice partner, Modality Systems of St Albans.

    Modality were able to help Benenden meet their requirements, realising the benefits of Lync while at the same time fully integrating it with the existing PBX system during the migration, and completely replacing it by the end of 2011.

    ‘We started the roll out Lync in November 2010, as soon as it was formally released, starting with the IT department, Facilities, and the Accounts departments, looking at people who would really use it and give it the best possible test.’

    The key features soon started to show themselves:

    ‘The ability to quickly add new physical extensions. Before, we had people sharing phones, and now they are all able to have their own, either physical or virtual. And it’s now so easy to move phones and extensions around internally when people move offices, classrooms or simply job share.’

    The work of the receptionist has been transformed, too, with a headset and a 26inch touch screen she can now quickly see if people are at their desks and are able to receive calls, or divert calls to their voicemail if necessary.

    Mobile staff, who move from room to room or who are working offsite, are now in complete control of the way they want to be contacted on a minute to minute basis.

    Other features, such as video conferencing are starting to take root. Core examples are for interviewing prospective staff applying from abroad, and increasingly for governors’ discussions and meetings.

    ‘Now that it is installed there are many real savings with Lync, however, as many are as a result of it enabling us to change the way we work many are difficult to quantify,’ says Wade.

    But the real cost saver was on the capital cost of buying the system. Wade says that the two systems they were looking at before they discovered ‘Lync’ were finally quoted at £115,000 and £125,000 after extensive negotiation, much of that being for licensing at up £95 per user for each full unified messaging mailbox. Lync, however, came in at £65,000 on a like-for-like basis, most of the costs being accounted for by handsets and initial consultancy. As the Lync software licenses were already included within the school’s existing Microsoft licensing agreement the software costs were minimal.

    With the full rollout complete by Christmas 2011, and the legacy system off to the recycle bin, Benenden now has a state of the art unified communications system. To begin with, though, as far as most staff were aware, their beige Nortel phones were simply replaced by a black Polycom ones. It was only when staff had become comfortable with the change they were then introduced to the additional advanced features of Lync. Wade thinks that hitting them with all of the features of such a powerful system in the beginning would have been counter-productive. Although, Lync was initially being used primarily as a telephone system replacement, its advanced features are now being extensively utilized by an increasing number of staff within the school.

    Prior to working in education, Wade previously designed and managed large multinational corporate communications networks and, from his experience in industry, he immediately realised Lync’s full potential. Wade believes, in fact, that for the best uptake by schools Lync should be marketed to them more on the basis of being an effective telephone system replacement rather than as a full collaborative communications environment. He suggests that many of the senior management teams (and budget controllers) in public and independent schools today have difficulty in understanding the real value of investing in a unified communications platform until after they have seen it in operation within their own school environment. Wade had previously been trying to justify the costs of implementing a unified communications environment within the school for several years without success as the value of instant messaging, presence, video conferencing, meetings on demand and desktop sharing are difficult to convey to people who have no previous experience of them. With Lync, Wade was able to replace an obsolete phone system whilst also providing the school with a full unified communications system at no additional cost.

    Next step is to give Lync unified mailboxes to all of the students in their boarding accommodation through their personal PCs, tablets and mobile phones. Technically this is easy to do, but the challenge is providing it in a way that does not compromise child safety. The increased communication capability is potentially a real issue in an 11-18 all-girls school and Benenden is currently working in the internal procedures required to ensure that students are fully safeguarded against unwanted calls before Lync can be released to students.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Valuable education technology information and resources via our social media channels


    Whether you’re a teacher, IT Manager or an Education Professional, following our social media channels is an easy way to keep up with what’s going on in the technology and education sector.  By following us you can also learn about valuable tools, technologies and resources for your institution.

    Take for our example our Slideshare Presentation eBook on Computer Games in Education. This is a really informative eBook about using and making computer games in the classroom.  It provides practical information on how to increase student motivation and enhance learning. Also we have just released a great series of KODU Game Lab presentations where you can learn about teaching with Kodu - a new visual programming language that runs on Xbox made specifically for creating games. This classroom resource is designed for classes and after-school clubs who want to introduce Kodu in a single session.

    We also have various blog sites which are regularly updated. Each education level has its own blog site categorised into schools, further education, higher education and teachers.  We post lots of useful information and tools for the education sector to our blogs, from new technologies to free resources for schools. Some of our popular blogs have included posts about Learning Suite (apps used for education) and cost saving in schools advice.

    By following us on Twitter you can be notified of all our latest blog posts, slideshare content and any other handy information around education and technology. We also retweet lots of industry experts and content we think you’ll like, so it’s great for an all-round education news and information feed.  You can interact with us on Twitter and ask us stuff, or share our content with your followers by retweeting us. We tweet from many events too such as BETT, so you can keep up with all the latest education event information.

    If you use Facebook, we have a page that we update much the same as Twitter. Although in addition, our Facebook page is also updated with more teacher specific content and items from our Partners in Learning team. For example details about free teacher training camps and PowerPoint presentation ideas. Our Facebook page is great for sharing information with your colleagues and friends.

    We have recently set up a Pinterest profile too which we’re loving! If you don’t know Pinterest too well, it’s a pinboard style social photo and video sharing website. As well as looking pretty, Pinterest is a great way to organise things you love, and useful tools and information. Follow our Pinterest profile and you will find technology education information, education news, exciting products and anything else we like the look of.  You can share our pins or boards with your followers too. One of our latest pins shows an image of an arcade console made by .NET Gadgeteer – an awesome tool used in schools to learn programming and electronics.

    If you are a Google+ user, you can find our updates on our brand page Microsoft Education UK, with links to good presentations and blog posts. We post our online content here, as well as other updates such as World Maths Day including a link to maths resources for teachers.

    We’ve just started using LinkedIn groups too. Our first one is Cloud Computing for Education, where you can discuss using Cloud Computing services in education with others in the education sector.

    So that’s:

    Slideshare -
    Schools, further education, higher education and teachers blogs
    Twitter - @microsoft_ed_uk
    Facebook -
    Pinterest -
    Google+ -
    LinkedIn - - Cloud Computing for Education

    See you there!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    BBC iPlayer in Education


    As part of the on-going enhancements to the Xbox Live experience on Xbox 360, the BBC's iPlayer video-on-demand service is now available to all users in the UK.


    The iPlayer service is a great way to catch-up on missed episodes of Doctor Who and the Apprentice (the new series starts this evening!), but what about its use within teaching and learning?

    The iPlayer offers free access to a wealth of educational content, such as documentaries and current affairs programmes, all of which are made available on-demand via the service. The service also includes access to a plethora of radio content. With features such as the ability to 'Star' favourite shows and have them saved automatically, the service offers a flexible and easy way to access content and discover new material that may be relevant to a specific course or subject.

    Jeremy Paxman's new series, Empire, for example, would be a great piece of content for sociologists, human geographers and historians alike, and can be easily consumed when and where the students chooses via the app, particularly if they have a smartphone device.


    The beauty of the Xbox 360 application, though, is that it combines the ability to access content via the iPlayer service within a device that students love, and is a good example of the power of the consumerisation of IT in education.

    Integrating the iPlayer experience within the Xbox 360 allows learners to access learning materials via the TV's in their living rooms or bedrooms, which ultimately enhances the overall impact and appeal of the content.

    Furthermore, with the Xbox 360 iPlayer service being compatible with the Kinect, which allows for the app to be controlled via gesture or voice, great learning material is now only a swipe away.

    As part of our focus on the consumerisation of IT in education, we will be watching the use of the iPlayer, and similar apps, closely.

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