website stats
April, 2012 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
Home    index of content      about this blog     rss feed     email us     our website

April, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Harper Green School back up to date with Enrolment for Education Solutions (EES)



    Keeping technology and software up to date can sometimes feel like a daunting task – especially when quite often it feels as though the next best, fastest, coolest software is just around the corner.

    When Richard Pycroft began his role in ICT at Harper Green School in July 2011, the school was using Windows XP and Office 2003 as well as running off out of date servers with some kit being over 10 years old. To bring everything up to speed and back up to date, Richard wanted a solution that would be easy to use, help with cost saving and still be able to upgrade as and when software updated.

    Already knowing of the benefits that Enrolment for Education Solutions (EES) could bring, Richard decided that this solution would bring these requirements together.

    Within weeks after starting at Harper Green School and signing up to EES, Richard was able to roll out Windows 7 and Office 2010 across the school and although there is an on going cost element to have EES, the benefits which include having the option to upgrade as and when the software updates, is something that Richard really likes.

    ‘’We can push technology as and when we feel necessary with no pressure’’

    At the same time as signing up to EES, Richard also upgraded 20 of the school servers to Hyper-V, with the assistance of Microsoft Gold Partner Lanway and Bolton School ICT Unit again saving money by having all virtual servers for example, not use as much air conditioning to keep the server room cool. By integrating Virtual Machine Manager 2012 with this, Richard then had a management solution for the virtualized datacenter, enabling him to configure and manage the school’s virtualization host, networking, and storage resources in order to create and deploy virtual machines and services to a private cloud.

    And Richard hasn’t stopped there. Also installing Lync 2010 and Exchange 2010, Threat Management Gateway 2010, which differentiates between the staff and pupils using the internet so that for example, only the staff can search for sites such as YouTube and finally looking to ask a third party to build a SharePoint site for the school, in just under 12 months, Harper Green School has not only kept up to date and can continue to do so with EES, but also ensure that the students have the software and technology to assist them with their education.

    The biggest benefit for Richard is the overall cost saving that will be seen over the next few years. Richard explained to me that because of the drop of birth rate in the area over the last few years, the number of pupils coming through the doors of Harper Green School will reduce. By looking at ways to cost save now, the shortfall that will come with the reduction of pupils will help balance this out.

    All in all, Richard and with the help of others has managed to roll out and up date new systems within the school in less than 12 months. With the flexibility behind EES, Richard has confidence that the option to upgrade the school’ technology as and when needed can be done easily and efficiently.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    DreamSpark for students – here’s what you can do


    Imagine you want to build your own house; you’ve managed to acquire your piece of land, got your planning permission and grabbed a few raw materials. Now, do you grab your trowel and bricks cementing away with just a vague idea of what you want your finished house to look like? Of course you wouldn’t. Or at least I hope you wouldn’t. A similar concept applies to creating websites, applications and software, although there is obviously a much better chance of your website development succeeding that your house building endeavours without design. There is a distinct reason that my university lecturer created an entire module around design patterns and why Facebook considers designers the ‘key to the company’s long-term strategic success’.

    Design is important.

    expression studio 4

    Good applications, websites and software start at the design stage. We understand how important design is in the process of creating something that is going to lead the market by being beautiful, user-friendly, ground-breaking and unique, so we’ll tell you about something that may lead you in that direction. But firstly, let me ask you the same question that I ask at all of the presentations that I give, to all of the audiences that I encounter; have you heard of DreamSpark?

    DreamSpark is a comprehensive selection of the tools that professionals use to build real apps, real games and real solutions and it is absolutely FREE for students. If you’re a budding designer or you’re an avid software developer then download the Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Ultimate suite which gives you access to:

    · Expression Web 4 for creating compelling websites visually

    · Expression Blend 4 for creating rich web experiences, games, desktop apps and more

    · Expression Design 4 for creating sophisticated vector graphics

    · Expression Encoder 4 Pro for your video production needs

    If you need a little inspiration or help in getting started and using these tools there are lots of resources available for you.

    To learn how to use Expression Studio there are courses and tutorials available for you to get stuck into once you’ve downloaded the tools.

    Windows Phone is an amazing technology to start developing with if you’ve not done much development before or even if you’re a seasoned developer. Expression Blend is a great accompaniment to developing for Windows Phone as it enables you to do most of the design easily in an intuitive and simple user interface, especially using tools such as SketchFlow which comes included in the Expression suite. To learn how to use the Expression suite to design Windows Phone apps take a look at this video featuring Celso Gomes and Peter Blois.

    If it’s a bit of inspiration you’re after then have a look at ubelly’s interviews with designers who’ve worked on our top phone apps including IMDB, Twitter, Facebook and Shazam. There’s plenty more where that came from if that’s not enough here.

    Start designing some amazing stuff today!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Djanogly Learning Trust bringing e-Learning and traditional learning closer together


    In August 2003, Djanogly City Academy opened its doors as one of the first of a new type of specialist, state-funded independent school. The Academy replaced the oversubscribed City Technology College (CTC) and the former Forest Comprehensive School.

    At the beginning of this academic year (2011-2012), Djanogly Learning Trust was formed as a multi-academy sponsor responsible for  Djanogly Northgate Academy (primary) and Djanogly City Academy (secondary), therefore providing education from foundation stage through to Year 13.

    Now nearing the end of Djanogly Learning Trust’s first academic year, Jon Marshall, E-Learning Leader, gave me his view on how e-learning has addressed the skills gap for students and the surrounding community and how it will continue to grow in the education sector alongside existing traditional approaches to delivering GCSEs and A-LevelsDjanogly

    ‘’My position as the E-Learning Leader is a multifaceted role. I promote the use of a variety of e-learning software and the use of mobile technologies within teaching and learning. I organise and provide staff training and encourage the adoption of new ways to learn. Over the last year, 130 Microsoft Office Specialist certificates were awarded to our staff who had taken this exam. I am also involved with helping to reduce the digital divide and have successfully bid for grants from the E-Learning Foundation to purchase new computing equipment and Internet connections so that all students studying at our secondary academy have the chance to own a new computer at home. I also refurbish older laptops that have been replaced by new equipment so that our students and community groups have the chance to own a computer.’’ – Jon Marshall

    What were the main reasons to set up Djanogly Leaning Trust?

    Becoming a multi-academy trust enabled us to offer 3-19 provision and facilitates continuity of education and sharing of good practice across age phases for the benefit of both learners and teachers. Through much closer collaboration within a single employer organisation, members of staff are building on previous successful partnership working and finding new ways to ensure that a child’s transition from Year 6 to year 7 is as seamless as possible. The primary phase benefits from greater access to specialist facilities and more subject specialist staff; whilst secondary phase colleagues are able to learn more about effective cross-curricular and child-centred approaches. Also we can better resource early intervention for certain pupils at primary school, which will allow them to attain their full potential when they reach secondary education and beyond.

    What type of work are they doing for students?

    Djanogly Learning Trust provides a high standard of education for children and young people in the local community from reception all the way through to the sixth form. We ensure that our students leaving the secondary academy have the necessary computing skills, including those in familiar Microsoft industry standard applications, in order to meet the demands of the marketplace, be that for Higher Education or employment.

    How has Djanogly had an effect on the surrounding community – parents and teachers of the students?

    Djanogly Learning Trust works very closely with our local community. We provide computing courses for adults to improve their IT skills, and for those that are not employed, we provide them with a wider range of skills for their curriculum vitae. We also bring together local groups to support improvements to the way communities work together in the Hyson Green, Forest Fields, Sherwood Rise and neighbouring areas of Nottingham City so as to improve aspiration, achievement, life chances, cohesion and social capital for the people who live in the community. We achieve these aims through sharing ideas, learning from each other, working more closely, developing projects, planning events, building a directory of what is available locally, and developing volunteering opportunities.

    We also bring together local groups and encourage them to communicate their ideas and events via an online blog. We foster good links with our parents using a parent portal that has been provided using Microsoft SharePoint technology to share information about timetables, attendance, results etc.

    Djanogly City Academy has been awarded Investor in People status for over 10 years and was recently successful in gaining the coveted Bronze Award.. We have an allocated session for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) each week and have IT- related CPD each week for staff to up-skill to ensure that they can provide our students with the best possible education.

    How has Djanogly built students’ confidence in IT?

    We are fortunate to have the best facilities for our staff and students to use. Our student to computer ratio is approaching a ratio of 1:1, which is exceptionally high for any type of educational institution. Our students enjoy a higher than national average of computer ownership in their homes with over 90% of them having a computer with access to the Internet. We incorporate computing tasks into learning wherever appropriate to ensure that our students are IT literate from an early age. The access to Microsoft software and the secure network running on File Server Edition has helped both our students and staff to become confident in using software and computing facilities.

    How is the skills gap of students addressed?

    Student skills are assessed throughout their time at Djanogly and ICT is a compulsory curriculum subject. The access to extensive computer equipment and training allows our staff to feel confident with delivery of all aspects of ICT and thus helps students bridge the skills gap to ensure that they have the necessary skills in order to get the best from their education here. We have implemented an online system in SharePoint so that staff can request one-to-one ICT training, including in-class support for them to use and try out new technologies with their students. Also we are fortunate to have Multimedia Specialists who help with delivering more technical aspects of ICT and regularly help the students learn how to create Apps, gaming design, 3-D environments, high quality video and audio productions.

    What actions and teaching advice have been put in place in order that students get the most from e-learning?

    We have an in-house e-learning centre (called the Beta Centre) that teachers can book students into so that they can benefit from the Multimedia Specialists’ expertise and the latest specification computing facilities. Teachers are encouraged to continually improve their ICT skills as having teachers with a higher level of skills allows their knowledge and expertise to be transferred to their students. We also encourage our students to be independent learners and provide learning opportunities that extend past the teaching that takes place in the classroom.

    Has ITA helped?

    The MS IT Academy has proven really valuable for members of staff wanting to improve their IT skills and hence become more effective and efficient within their roles, be they teaching staff wanting to improve their ICT skills so that they can pass on their knowledge to our students, learning support staff seeking new ways to facilitate individuals’ progress, or other support staff involved mostly with administrative functions.

    Having the opportunity to study a huge range of Microsoft technologies using e-learning gives users the flexibility to do so at a time and place to suit them. It is not always convenient to allocate a fixed time per week so this model of learning is more suitable for the majority of people. Also, providing students with the opportunity to learn skills that will make them more employable is really beneficial for them. With the job market being so competitive, having additional industry standard skills can set you apart from the rest of the other school leavers.

    How do you feel e-learning will grow in the education sector? Is this something more schools should look at other than the existing traditional approaches to delivering GCSEs and A-Levels?

    E-learning is becoming more prevalent within all sectors of education, which is due to the support that it provides within the classroom and the obvious advantages it provides to students wanting to learn independently, and interdependently. Students can now access the Internet from a variety of different devices and as the Internet is the natural medium of providing e-learning then many different opportunities can be provided to students, thus ensuring that they receive the best possible education.

    All schools will inevitably adopt e-learning as a way to support their current offering of qualifications but it is unlikely to replace their qualifications.

    Michael Gove has catalysed a revamping of the current ICT qualifications, replacing them with a flexible curriculum, to include computer science, from September 2012. The MS IT Academy will help ensure that both students and staff here at Djanogly Learning Trust’s secondary Academy are fully supported with up-to-date and relevant learning materials to help ensure that this transition phase happens smoothly and to the benefit of our students.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Thoughts on European JRC report on Future Learning


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

    Do you think all the attention being given to systems, types of schools, local authorities, inspection regimes, exam structures and the rest, is a distraction from what really matters, which is what our young people are learning in and beyond the classroom?

    When I suggested as much to a friend, he directed me to this paper, published towards the end of last year by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) . As my friend pointed out, the fact that it attracted relatively little notice in this country when it came out actually makes my point.  ‘We’ve all been far too busy arguing about academies and free schools to read a paper about learning,’ he said.


    And sure enough, this really is a solid read, 80 pages plus, on the urgent need for patterns of learning to change if young people across Europe are to survive, and more importantly to thrive, in a largely unpredictable and scary future .

    ‘This report,’ it says, ‘Aims to identify, understand and visualise major changes to learning in the future.’

    The key, say the report’s authors, lies with personalisation, collaboration and informalisation. It’s acknowledged that these aren’t new ideas, but now they have to move centre-stage, and become guiding principles for the whole of life-wide and lifelong learning – ‘A central learning paradigm…shaped by the ubiquity of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)’

    The aim is to produce citizens who are, ‘..lifelong learners who flexibly respond to change, are able to pro-actively develop their competences and thrive in collaborative learning and working environment.’

    And so, ‘Problem-solving, reflection, creativity, critical thinking, learning to learn, risk-taking, collaboration and entrepreneurship will become key competencies for a successful life in the European society of the future.’

    Again, we’ve heard that before. What’s new here is the sense of urgency. Educators at every level are called on to respond both to individual learners’ needs and to fast changing requirements from the labour market. The inevitable conclusion that almost everything we assume about schools -- which skills are important, how they’re learned and taught, where, when and by whom, and how they’re assessed – will have to change. Along the way, there are big challenges which include tackling multicultural integration, reducing early dropout, fostering individual talent, promoting fluent transition from education to work, helping re-entrance to the labour market for the long-term unemployed, and providing career-long opportunities for updating skills and competencies.

    That’s just a taste of a paper which puts up a wide-ranging, cogently argued case for a Europe-wide rethink not just of what future education might look like, but of what it will necessarily have to become. And, of course, at the heart of it as a driver, facilitator, motivator, there’s ICT.

    The Report specifically mentions some ICT applications and possibilities, including targeted online courses, recognition of informal learning, flexible time schedules, online networks and collaborative tools (including peer to peer and intergenerational models), virtual learning environments, games and simulations.

    So after I’d read the paper once, I went through it again, thinking this time about the technologies that we have available in today’s schools and other learning institutions here in UK, and wondering whether we’re anywhere near being ready to surf this particular zeitgeist.

    The quick answer is that the major global and national technology developers and suppliers, of which Microsoft is a prime example, are entirely in tune with the JRC message. The growth of cloud services, ‘anytime, anywhere learning’, personal devices, games-based learning, advanced tools for communication and collaboration all ensure that UK education ought to be well equipped to step up to the plate.

    All that’s necessary is the right mindset. And there, as Hamlet said when his own train of thought hit the buffers, is the rub.

    Because for a long time, perhaps understandably, all of us, from government to lecture theatre to classroom, have stayed in our comfort zones, working the way we know so well, and regarding ICT as teacher’s little helper. That’s how we were taught to use it after all, when computers first arrived in school.

    ‘Think of it as just another tool,’ our new IT advisers said, ‘Like a blackboard or the library.’

    So that’s what we did, and technology became absorbed into a style of working that had, in all essentials, been around for a century. We believed ourselves to be at the cutting edge through discovering that, for example –

    Electronic registration is a lot better than paper registers for tracking attendance and catching truants.

    Online pupil data improves on traditional reports.

    Whiteboards are an improvement on blackboards.

    Management information systems improve, well, er, management information.

    Learning platforms are more convenient to handle than textbooks and folders of work.

    Games enliven lessons.

    Personal devices ease the pressure on the computer suite.

    ‘Anytime/anywhere’ learning means an overlap between homework and schoolwork.

    In other words, we treated ICT as one useful tool of choice in appropriate circumstances, and failing to notice that it had the potential to become the very environment in which we live and work.

    Well, maybe that’s unjust, and you will hasten to say I’m describing the Eighties and Nineties, and you’re way ahead. And of course there really are exciting things happening, as Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers’ Network shows us, to say nothing of the schools we showcase here on these blogs. Here, we’ve seen Oldham College rejigging its whole management structure to take advantage of the collaborative possibilities offered by SharePoint and Project Manager, ,universities using Lync 2010 to transform the way they engage with students, and, very recently Cadoxton primary realising that its new MultiPoint Server network implies a rethink of the whole curriculum.

    The JRC report, though, sees quite a lot further than that. Its emphasis on ‘lifelong’ and ‘life-wide’ learning actually challenges the very notion of what we mean by words like ‘classroom’, and ‘lesson’, even ‘school’ itself. In fact the Report suggests that currently emerging technologies – including ‘cloud’ – imply

    ‘a seamless education continuum that is centred on the student not the institution.’

    Is any of this even on the radar for other than a far sighted few? Do the schools that embrace cloud technology see it as a good and cost-effective way of receiving an efficient ICT service, or are they looking to a time not so far off when the technology will enable them to become something entirely new and different – ‘flexible, open and adaptive infrastructures , which engage all citizens….’?

    And if not, then why not? Is it because, as I suggested at the start, we’re thinking too hard about top-down structures and not hard enough about what learning is, what it’s for, where it’s going?

    The great thing about these blogs, mind you, is that if I’m wrong about this, you’ll be pretty quick to let us know.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    DreamSpark – your questions answered


    Since its introduction in 2001, students and educators around the world have utilised DreamSpark to support and advance their learning and skills through technical design, technology, maths, science and engineering activities. This software equips them with the tools they need to succeed during their academic experience and the skills they will need after graduation.

    DreamSpark can also be used by educators  as they have access to the top technical development and design products on the market just like their students. Teachers can teach classes on web development using Expression Studio.

    Students today get excited about seeing technology in action, and not just simply learning the fundamentals. With access to products like XNA and Visual Studio, educators can build exciting applications that demonstrate the power of technology.

    Here’s a helpful Q & A for you to learn about what DreamSpark is and how it can be used.  

    Q. What is Microsoft DreamSpark™?

    A. Microsoft DreamSpark ™ is a program that provides no-cost access to Microsoft designer and development tools for verified students around the world, to support and advance their learning and skills through technical design, technology, maths, science and engineering activities. This program equips tomorrow’s developers with the professional tools to inspire and create today.

    The program has two primary goals:

    1. Give no-cost access to Microsoft products and platforms: DreamSpark subscriptions give students access to virtually every Microsoft product and technology, helping ensure they have the right technology choices for all current and future educational opportunities.
    2. Deliver outstanding value: These subscriptions give outstanding value through inexpensive cost of membership, and convenient management of licenses on a per-user basis, removing the complexity of licenses across multiple environments.


    Q. What is DreamSpark Premium?

    A. Advanced software applications can take years to develop, a costly investment that is often reflected in the purchase price. Microsoft makes these highly desired, advanced programs available to students far below the retail cost of any one program in the list. With this subscription, students can access a free online portal through e-academy that provides them with instant and easy access to all DreamSpark titles while also ensuring that institutions will not need to add internal resources or overhead to manage the DreamSpark software program.

    Q: What are the benefits of the DreamSpark program?

    A: Much more than a software subscription, membership includes:

    1. DreamSpark software subscription that includes Microsoft platform, server and developer tools software as well as betas, new releases and tech support.
    2. Special license rights allowing a department to install DreamSpark software on any number of departmental lab machines for instructional and research purposes.
    3. The ability for students taking at least one credit course offered by the member department to install the software on their personal machines for use in coursework and personal development projects.
    4. Instant online access to all DreamSpark content.
    5. No-charge access to e-academy’s License Management System (ELMS) for automated distribution of software and product keys to eligible users via the Web.

    Q: What happened to Developer AA?

    A: Developer AA isn’t gone—it’s simply been renamed to DreamSpark Premium. All of the titles that were previously available to you are still available. If your school had a Developer AA subscription through MSDNAA, you’ll continue to access software titles as you did before.

    Q: What happened to Designer AA?

    A: Helping students who want to be designers is critical, but we wanted to find a way to make this easier for institutions, so we have changed up the program. Instead of Designer AA membership, institutions can purchase a new DreamSpark membership that gives them access to all of Microsoft’s development and designer tools. If you currently have a Designer AA membership, don’t worry. You can continue to enjoy those benefits until your membership expires. When it’s time for you to renew, we’ll work with you to get you set up with a new DreamSpark membership.

    Product Mapping


    Q: What software will be included in the DreamSpark program?

    Software for Production Use


    DreamSpark Premium

    Operating Systems

    Windows Client


    Windows Server



    Developer & Design Tools

    Visual Studio Professional



    Visual Studio Premium


    Visual Studio Ultimate





    Windows Embedded













    SQL Server



    BizTalk Server


    SharePoint Server


    Q: What is the benefit of the DreamSpark program for educators?

    A: DreamSpark will give educators a chance to learn new technologies and develop courses that will excite students in the classroom. It will also help educators expand their personal and professional portfolios and enhance classroom objectives.

    Q: Why do educators need free developer and design tools?

    A: By providing the latest professional developer, design, and gaming software to educators at no charge, educators will have a unique opportunity to motivate and engage students and support those that wish to pursue a career in programming or design after graduation

    Q: What will students be able to do with this software?

    A: Students using these tools will be limited only by their own imaginations and time.  Use of developer tools in engineering, maths, science and technology activities allow students to program everything from a cell phone to a robot or to create their own Web page. Students will also be able to invent compelling new gaming content and make their dream game a reality by porting their creations to their Xbox 360 console. Design tools allow students to vividly bring their creative visions to life in vibrant new Web site designs and more effective digital content, including animation, imagery and photography. And platform offerings deliver a security-enhanced and reliable environment, reliable and manageable environment for students to more quickly turn ideas into reality.


    Q. When and where will Microsoft DreamSpark be available?
    A. Today, Microsoft DreamSpark is available to university students in 137 countries.

    Q: How do students download software?

    A: Visit and follow the three steps to get verified located on the home page.

    Q. Is this program available to ALL students? What are the limitations?

    A. Yes. The focus of the program is technical students, but it is open to anyone looking to explore the possibilities of Microsoft’s development and design tools. The only limitation is students are only licensed for learning and research.

    Q: Why don’t you provide physical copies of software? 

    A: Providing software by download does not involve the production costs of creating physical copies, so it works well with software being provided at no charge. 

    Q. How many students total will this offer be available to eventually and how did you come up with this number?

    A. According to UNESCO, there are more than one billion university and high school students in the world today.

    Q: Why don’t you provide physical copies of software?  Are you trying to prevent non-broadband students from receiving the software?

    A: Providing software by download does not involve the production costs of creating physical copies, so it works well with software being provided at no charge.  Microsoft is not trying to prevent non-broadband students from receiving the software.  On the contrary, we hope to eventually provide this no-charge software benefit to all students, in all countries.  It will take a concerted, cooperative effort on the part of both Microsoft and academic institutions to connect to areas without existing infrastructure of student databases and server technologies.


    Q: Why are you giving software away?

    A: In giving tech tools away without charge to students around the world, Microsoft is providing future developers and designers with professional-grade tools to create and expand their skills.  We believe that it is very important to equip students with tools that will help to foster their education in technology.  Such tools would typically be beyond the reach of these students even at very low prices. 

    Q. What is the commercial value of this software?

    A. This software is being provided to students for non-commercial use in particular academic activities.  Pricing for commercial uses varies by channel and the associated rights, but products for non-academic use by non-students would typically be hundreds of dollars or more. 

    Student Identity Verification

    Q:  How do you ensure that a student is really a student?

    A:  Microsoft verifies students by using various reputable student databases to confirm student identities.  Students will choose the identity provider that maintains the database (i.e. their school, organization, or other academic-based group) that will confirm their student status.  The Microsoft system will connect with the identity provider, and the student will supply his or her credentials to the identity provider for verification.  Microsoft will then receive confirmation from the identity provider as to whether the student is a current student.

    Q:  If students are receiving the full professional software versions, then can’t professionals just find a college student to obtain the software license from?

    A:  All students receiving free software through this program will need to accept an end user license agreement (EULA) that specifies that the software will only be used by the student for non-commercial use to support and advance their STEM-D learning and skills.  Students will only have rights to one single-user license per verified identity.  If a student were to obtain a valid single-user license and give that license to a non-student that would be in violation of the EULA and the student would no longer be eligible to continue to use the software or to obtain other software under the program. 

    Q:  Why do students need to sign-in?

    A:  The sign-in process allows students to get verified initially once and bypass the verification step for future visits to DreamSpark.  Once verification is completed and if they are signed in, students will be brought directly to the download page.  All students will keep their eligibility for 12 months and will have the option to renew after 12 months. 

    Q: Will you be collecting student information, and using it for other purposes?

    A: Microsoft is not collecting any student information from third-party identity provider databases, other than binary notification of whether the person is a student or not.  When students seek to download the software, they will be asked to verify their student status with a verification source of their choice, and the verification source will request the student’s credentials in order to verify their student status.  The credentials students provide to the verification source are not viewed or tracked by Microsoft – that is, the student is verified externally by their chosen verification method and not by Microsoft, and any exchange of sensitive credentials with the verification source will be between the student and the verification source.  Microsoft will store the general location of students, which assists with download bandwidth efficiencies.

    Q: Is there an approved list of universities? Are only students enrolled in brick and mortar universities included or are online students as well? (i.e. what about 2-year or community colleges)

    A: As this is a cooperative effort with local communities, we are working with local entities within each country to determine who the universities are.

    Q: Are only undergraduates qualified or can graduate students download DreamSpark?

    A: Graduate students are welcome to participate.

    Q:  Why are university administrators being asked to share their student database?

    A:  This program is designed to give students Microsoft technology tools at no charge as long as their student status can be verified.  University administrators hold the keys to enable verification.  If administrators are willing to cooperate and enable their students to verify themselves against the university database, universities will be able to equip them with free professional-level tools. 

    Q:  How can univeristy administrators offer this benefit to the students in their school/country?

    A:  This benefit is available to all students around the world.  However, this program requires all students to have their status verified by an authorized verification source.  Academic institutions or governments may already have all the requirements necessary to verify their students.  Microsoft can help prepare student databases to use the program.  Once institutions determine they have a reliable database of student information, we can help them become an identity provider (IDP). 

    Verification Technology

    Q: Why is Microsoft using Open Source Software (OSS) as part of the student verification process?

    A: Microsoft is pleased to be able to use Shibboleth, an open source authentication and authorization infrastructure product, as one solution for verifying students so they can receive Microsoft DreamSpark program benefits.  Shibboleth is an existing middleware solution that is widely used by universities, and federations using Shibboleth software exist in many countries.  Its use provides access to a network of institutions and students, enabling immediate connection to over 10 million students, with a path for other academic institutions to sign up.  Shibboleth also enables sites to manage the authorization decisions permitting the sharing of specific information between an identity provider database and an external party (such as Microsoft) – such as binary notification of whether the site user is a student or not, without releasing other student information. 


    Q:  Are you trying to flood the market with developer tools?

    A:  Microsoft is putting developer and design software in the hands of verified students to support and advance their learning and skills through technical design, technology, math, science and engineering activities. The student developer population has been growing recently, with many developers coming from fields of study other than computer science.  Even non-technical majors can benefit from using these products.  We want students to grow their capabilities by providing them with developer and designer tools that expand the limits of their imagination.  We’re putting tools in the hands of students that they would typically not be able to afford. 

    Q:  Are you trying to put other developer software companies out of business?

    A:  This program targets students and educators, who represent a fraction of all software developers and designers. Software under this program is only available for non-commercial use to support and advance students’ academic work involving science, technology, engineering, math and technical design activities.

    Q:  Are you embracing the “free software” model by offering development and design tools to students at no cost? Will you make it free for all?

    A: Our design, development and platform tools offer significant benefits for developers, customers and partners alike. Our goal with Microsoft DreamSpark is to ensure that today’s students have even greater access to the tools they need to succeed in their studies and prepare themselves for today’s increasingly competitive business world.

    Q: Is this just a ploy to keep up/compete with open source proliferation in education?

    A: No, Microsoft is not offering students free access to developer and design tools to compete against open source software. This program is targeted specifically at students to provide them with access to the software tools used in business today and help extend the skills of the next generation of developers and designers.  The company has and will continue to make strategic bets on the Windows platform while continuing to support interop and other open source initiatives and partnerships.

    Microsoft products offer tremendous value that is perceived by the marketplace and by our customers. 

    Microsoft is a platform company committed to building technologies that empower communities of developers and partners to deliver compelling software solutions to customers. This approach is reflected in the size and health of the technology ecosystem in which Microsoft participates, including millions of developers around the world who have created a vast array of applications using Microsoft platform technologies such as Microsoft Windows, Windows Live, Microsoft Office, .NET platform, Microsoft Windows Server, and Microsoft Xbox.  Microsoft’s open source strategy is focused on helping customers and partners be successful in today's heterogeneous technology world. This includes increasing opportunities for developers to learn and create across both community-oriented open source and traditional commercial approaches to software development.

    Q: Is this the first step in Microsoft lowering its prices (possibly even free) to compete against open source?  What are the next products that might be included in this program?

    A: Microsoft products offer tremendous value that is recognized by the marketplace and by our customers.  This program is targeted specifically at students in connection with their academic studies to help prepare them as the next generation of developers and designers.  DreamSpark is the latest in a series of offerings for students just as MSDNAA (Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance), Imagine Cup, and other offerings Microsoft provides to academia.  Additional developer tools may be made available to students in the future under this same program, but we do not foresee that other major customer groups or products will be significantly impacted by this program.

    Q:  Do any other companies offer a free software package like this?
    Yes, other software vendors like Adobe and IBM have offers in market to make software available to students at low costs or no charge. However, we believe that Microsoft is leading the way in providing such a comprehensive offering available to the student market at no charge.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Why computer games are so powerful in education


    There are many reasons why using computer games in the classroom are a successful way for students to learn. The use of games and consoles, such as the Xbox 360, are just a natural progression of the playful learning environment.

    Here are some factors that simply explain why computer games are so powerful when used in schools and education:

    Play – gives intensity and involvement

    Fun – gives enjoyment and pleasure

    Rules – gives structure

    Goals – gives motivation

    Problem solving – sparks creativity

    Emotion – from games that have a story

    Interaction – gives social groups

    Outcomes and feedback – gives learning


    With these factors considered, teachers have been using games and play in their classroom for the early years ‘play based’ curriculum, as well as using the multiple-choice games and simulations that are found in many secondary schools. Games and play have been key components in education for many years, and all types of play remain incredibly important for recreation, enterprise and education.

    You can view our Computer Games in Education eBook below to find out about tools and practical tips to help you understand more about using computer games in the classroom.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What is DreamSpark?


    DreamSpark is a platform that offers free software and tools to support students - it’s the place to get all our developer and designer tools for free. In this video, students, lecturers and IT Professionals explain what DreamSpark is and how it can be used.


    What is DreamSpark?


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Open University Makes Major Saving over Five Years with Unified Communications


    The Open University (OU)—which specialises in distance learning—is the biggest university in the United Kingdom (U.K.). It needed to reduce costs and improve communication among its 5,000 office-based academic and administrative staff, giving them access to features such as instant messaging and presence awareness. The OU is deploying Microsoft Lync 2010, which will save the university around £2 million over the next five years, as well as substantially cutting travel and subsistence costs.

    To learn more about how The OU embraced Lync 2010 to reduce costs and improve communication, download/view the full case study below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Digital Revolution, and what it means for Education - 5 core points


    I have been invited to speak on a panel at the Education Investor Summit 2012 next week. The panel session is titled ‘The Digital Revolution, and what it means for education’. Should be fun!

    I have spent the morning sketching out some core points to discuss during my slot on the panel. Its a bit of a brain dump, but would appreciate your thoughts. There are many angles I could address during this session, many of which are not covered in the points below. Its a start, though.

    Is there anything you think I should prioritise or leave out? What do you consider to be the biggest impact that the digital revolution has had/will have on the education sector?

    5 Core Points

    A mix of economic, social and technological trends and developments have created the perfect storm to drive change in the education system. Digital sits at the heart of this.

    5 core points to discuss during my panel session slot include the following:

    • Economic pressures are forcing institutions to do more with less, while at the same time the global economy is rapidly changing and requires more from the education system. Education needs to become more relevant. This point is supported with the IDC stating that in the next decade 77% of all jobs will require technical skills, yet there are many countries that are not producing STEM graduates at a rate to fill those jobs. All this at a time when unemployment rates are at staggeringly high levels. Mind blowing!


    • The use of social media and technological developments such as the Cloud and devices that are both light weight and offer great battery life is evolving how teaching and learning could, and arguably should, be delivered. Ubiquitous broadband and eBook readers are facilitating this trend further. Blending formal and informal learning is now the becoming the norm. We still have a long way to go, though. Embracing the digital revolution can enhance this further.

    While the use of technology in education is improving, when you look at its use in more detail, it actually shows us how far we still have to go. Outside of the classroom, students use a variety of digital devices and services. Technology and the internet is a core part of how they live their lives. Within some institutions, though, it’s like getting on an airplane. Devices are turned off for the 'duration of the flight' and its only when you get into the terminal building that you can access the outside world. A cultural change needs to take place in order to change this mind-set within education. This is vital!

    • Much of the advances in technology in education have been around automating age old ways of learning. Devices such as the iPad, and how they are used in the classroom, are a perfect reflection of this. Simply digitising content is not enough and as a result eBooks are not necessarily the 'future of technology in education‘. They are definitely powerful devices, and I personally love my Kindle, but the future of tech in education needs to be less about automation and more about engagement and facilitating an emotional connection with learning. 1-2-1 devices, big data and the cloud offers unique opportunities to achieve this and provide a more meaningful and personalised learning experience.


    • Young learners are attending class already prewired with content that they have discovered online (and if they haven't, they easily could)! The Khan Academy, Code Academy and MIT Open Courseware is a prime example of this. So with great content now freely available online, what about the role of the teacher?

    The digital revolution is definitely bringing about a need for the role of the teacher to change. As a result, the role of the teacher in the digital revolution is now more important than ever. They need to act as a content curator, guide and develop opportunities for young learners to generate that emotional connection with their learning that was discussed earlier. Ultimately, tech and bad teachers has no impact and little scale, whereas tech and great teachers have the ability to both scale and help learners achieve their full potential. An exciting concept!

    • So if creating emotional and personalized experiences using that technology rather than simply digitizing traditional methods is going to be key, what can the digital revolution offer to help achieve this? Data and interacting with this data to visualise problems and challenges is one aspect, but gaming in education has a massive opportunity to create the emotional and personalised experiences needed in education moving forward.

    Gaming focuses on emotion - funny games, scary games etc - I believe that we need to get to this same place with the use of tech in education. Games offer challenge, progression, reward and personalised real-time experiences. From an educational perspective, what's not to like about this mix!

    Furthermore, within gaming, failure is seen as a positive thing. Within a new game you die/fail often and improve with time until you become an expert. Why not the same in education assessment? Some changes within the way that learners are assessed definitely needs to follow to support the changes opened up by the digital revolution.

    These are some pretty rough and provisional ideas, and will be fine tuning them prior to the event next week. In the meantime, though, it would be great to get your feedback.

    Thanks in advance!


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    “Fail to prepare… prepare to fail.”


    Advice from Alan Richards, West Hatch High School. Words taken from the Virtualisation with Microsoft® Hyper-V eBook.

    “Fail to prepare… prepare to fail.” - That’s very much the mindset that’s needed by an organisation embarking on server virtualisation.

    The planning phase is vital and demands serious attention. It can’t he overlooked, hurried or entered into lightly. Information technology is core to any business from high street banks to the smallest of primary schools. Should it fail, or is not fit for purpose, then the business could fail. In a school or college that means failing the very people we are all here for – the students.  

    Should you run a trial?    

    Part of being meticulous about planning means you should think about running a trial ahead of full implementation. At West Hatch High School we ran a year long trial. Virtualisation was still quite new to schools and I believed it had to prove its worth.


    Virtualisation is now much more proven. So you may be happy to miss out the trial, and settle for researching what other people have done, and pulling together all of the information available in blogs, white papers and videos. I believe, though, that a trial’s still advisable. It may well save time and trouble later on by providing details about your network and how your infrastructure can cope with the demands of virtualisation.

    How you run the trial will depend on the information you want to discover, and to a certain extent, how much money you want to spend on the hardware.

    The purpose of your trial    

    A simple trial would consist of a single server with enough on board storage to cope with 3 or 4 virtual servers, and network connectivity to service the virtual servers. This type of test will allow you to monitor the loads on your network infrastructure, the actual network cards on the servers, and also allow you to monitor the end user experience.  

    If you have already decided on virtualisation and your trial is going to be used to simply collect data to help in the planning and installation phases, then you could go for a trial setup with a single server and the storage system of your choice.  

    This setup will allow you to collect all the required data but also make the transition to a full virtualised environment a lot easier.
    Whichever method of trial you decide on, the data collected will never go to waste as it can be used to inform your decision making throughout the process of virtualisation.

    Know your starting point

    Do the groundwork. Begin by finding out what what’s already in place and how it is being used. Before you can plan for how many virtual hosts, you need you need to know what servers you are going to virtualise and the load that they are under currently. The load on servers is an important factor in deciding on your virtualisation strategy. For instance, it would not be advisable to place all your memory-hungry servers on the same virtual host.  

    Finding out what you have can include:

    • A simple list of servers
    • Disk utilisation monitoring
    • Network monitoring tools to map out the network load and utilisation
    • CPU load

    All of these factors will help you to answer some of the key questions, which can include:

    • How many virtual hosts do I need
    • What size storage should I purchase
    • What type of storage (iSCSI, fibre channel etc.)

    Having full and accurate answers to these questions will be decisive in determining how well your virtualised environment performs.

    What to virtualise

    A major question you will have to ask yourself is what services you are going to virtualise. Theoretically you can virtualise any server,
    Windows® based or not. But just how far you go – whether you should virtualise everything, for example, simply because you can – is a question that has produced some very heated debates in the IT community.

    Take, for example, Active Directory, one of the core services in any Windows based domain. At its most basic level, it provides the logon functionality for users to access computers and therefore their network accounts. If this service fails, the network is fundamentally compromised, so one argument says that by virtualising it you are providing a level of fault tolerance because it isn’t a physical server. However, the downside here is to consider what happens if you’re virtual hosts are members of the domain and your virtualised domain controller fails. How do you log into your host if it requires a domain account to login?

    Obviously this is an extreme case, and there are ways around it. As a rule it is best practice to keep at least one physical domain controller to provide active directory functionality. You can then have as many virtualised domain controllers as you like for
    fault tolerance.

    The general point we’re making here, though, is that you need to weigh up carefully all the issues around what services you might virtualise.

    Other considerations that might arise include:

    • Physical connection. For example there is no way to connect to external SCSI connections in Hyper-V, such as tape drives
    • Security, both physical and logical (is it, for example, a company requirement to have your root certificate authority server locked away somewhere secure?)

    Microsoft® Assessment & Planning Toolkit

    While there is no substitute for ‘knowing your network’ there is a tool provided by Microsoft that will make life slightly easier for you. The Microsoft Assessment & Planning (MAP) toolkit will look at your current servers and provide you with suggested setups for your virtualised environment.

    But don’t take the solutions it comes up with as definitive answers. Regard them as helpful starting points for your own planning.
    You can download the tool for free from the Download Centre.

    Virtualisation with Microsoft® Hyper-V eBook

    This post has been taken from our Virtualisation with Microsoft Hyper-V eBook. View/Download the full eBook below:

Page 3 of 4 (38 items) 1234