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July, 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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July, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    LP+4 in Wolverhampton

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    Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education series of blogs.

    Mid July is frantically busy for primary schools, and I guess the last thing heads and teachers want is somebody like me strolling in to drink their tea and gaze around asking questions. So I was more than grateful for the warm welcome I had at Northwood Park , a two form entry primary in Wolverhampton, just before the end of term. My mission there was to ask them about their work with the LP+ learning platform from Learning Possibilities, and particularly the upgrade from LP+ to the SharePoint 2010 based LP+4.

    image

    We reported the formal launch of LP+4 at Microsoft HQ in Reading in November last year, by which time we’d already reported early experience with the Beta version in two Northamptonshire Schools.

    Now, LP+4 passes a very significant milestone as it rolls out in Wolverhampton where all 80 of the Authority’s primary schools, and a growing number of secondary and special schools, are already using LP+.

    So, before I went to Northwood Park Primary, I reported in at the offices of Wolverhampton’s Learning Technologies Team, where I was brought up to speed by Headteacher Consultant, Dave Whyley, and eLearning Consultant, Gavin Hawkins. They explained to me how, starting from their deep understanding of how classrooms work, they have built a collaborative network in which each school’s LP+ platform is linked to the authority’s SharePoint based ‘Engage’ gateway https://www.wolverhampton-engage.net .

    The presence of ‘Engage’ in every school is symbolic as well as practical. As Gavin Hawkins says, `It’s important to us that officers of the authority should be using the same technology as the people in school.’

    In fact, as I found at Northwood Park, the school’s own LP+4 platform is so well integrated with that of the local authority that teachers simply call the whole thing ‘Engage’.

    That led me to suggest to Dave Whyley that having developed ‘Engage’, the team might have gone on to offer schools a locally developed SharePoint platform – ‘Engage for schools’, maybe.

    That, however, as Dave pointed out, would saddle the Authority with a whole lot of unwanted baggage around upgrades, data security, e safety and the rest. So the chosen solution, in 2008, was to go with LP+.

    ‘Learning Possibilities is a medium-sized, agile, business that could respond to our needs,’ says Dave Whyley, ‘And the presence of Stephen Heppell as Chairman weighed heavily with us.’

    It says a lot for schools’ relationships with their Authority and with the Learning Technologies Team in particular, that once the decision was made to go with LP+, each of the 80 primaries spent their own money on the platform and bought into a service agreement for support. The result is that there’s a high degree of integration between schools and between schools and the authority. So, in a very real sense, the Learning Technologies Team has effectively created an authority-wide learning platform, with a host of advantages for training, support and collaboration.

    ‘For example, we do have a lot of teacher and pupil mobility in Wolverhampton, and LP+ makes it easy for someone to move from one school to another, taking their work and planning with them,’ says Dave Whyley.

    Dave and Gavin showed me some of the individual school platforms, and it was possible to see how important will be Web 2.0 features in LP+4 – wikis, blogs and discussions, all accessible from each individual class site.

    The idea of blogging is attracting a lot of attention among teachers at the moment, as they see the value of giving their children the opportunity to engage and interact with a wide audience. LP+4 really scores here by providing, a secure and easy-to-use environment without the need to use a separate blogging platform. (There’s a fuller exploration of blogging with LP+4 on the Microsoft Schools Blog)

    To illustrate the points he’d made, Dave took me to Northwood Park where I met Stephanie Butler, eLearning co-ordinator and leader of Foundation Stage and Key Stage One. She showed me how well her six year olds grasp the opportunity use the tools on their class site to share their ideas.

    ‘Class sites’, which provide each class with a secure environment for blogs and discussions are clearly going to a big hit for LP+4. Well led school classes are close, warm and supportive communities where children learn about sharing, appreciating individuality and listening to each other. Extending this into online version of the class that continues beyond school is bound to be a winner. The use of photographs, too, easily uploaded, and displayed as thumbnails in a gallery on the class site is a further bonus that Stephanie’s children are already appreciating.

    ‘Discussions are the big thing on our class site,’ says Stephanie Butler. ‘We started a discussion on the Titanic at Easter and it’s still going. And recently, after the children saw a rehearsal of the school production, some were already writing up comments before school next day. They love the photographs, too, and the opportunity to use them in their work.‘

    As we talked and looked at Stephanie’s class site, we were joined by music co-ordinator and Year Six teacher Dan Jessel, who’s been working on using Wikis for homework tasks.

    ‘It’s great for getting children to use the platform at home. I can give instructions, links to websites and Powerpoints. Children are supportive to each other, too, keen to see each other’s work. It can be marked online, too.’

    At Northwood Park, the real push into those SharePoint 2010 features with LP+4 is going to start across the school in September, after the staff are fully up to speed.

    Engaging teachers with a learning platform has, at times, been an uphill task in schools. Head teacher Gill Morris explains that the key at Northwood Park when they started with LP+ was to use it for all communication. The write-on whiteboard in the staffroom -- the standard information centre in many schools -- was taken down, and a system where children went round with messages was discontinued. Now, teachers have to log on to the learning platform morning and afternoon to find out what’s happening.

    That said, Gill confesses to a faux pas of her own, when she didn’t at first realise that her daily ‘Heads Message’ was readable by the children as well as the staff. So, she recalls, children’s expectations were raised when they read a cheerful message from her (partly intended to encourage teachers to log on) to the effect that chocolates were available in the staffroom.

    Northwood Park –‘Good with Outstanding Features’ in Ofsted terms, is very focussed on ICT for learning. At the same time there’s a strong commitment to creativity -- it was heartening to encounter Gill Morris carrying a violin, hotfoot from rehearsal – and there’s no doubt that there’s a real desire to use LP+4 to motivate their lively children, releasing their ideas and abilities.

    I left Wolverhampton with the realisation that I’d had a glimpse of just how effective technology can be when it’s picked up and applied by people with real understanding of its potential. What we have here in Wolverhampton is Microsoft SharePoint 2010 given educational focus and context by Learning Possibilities, then guided into action by a highly responsive and innovative Learning Technologies team. From there it’s picked up and applied in the classroom by creative heads and teachers like Gill and Stephanie and Dan. And the final essential link is provided by the children who, as always, are going to find ways of using the technology that nobody has thought of.

    The Northwood Park story will be repeated across all 80 Wolverhampton Primaries, and there are strong signs that a significant number of the authority’s 26 secondaries will eventually join the four which already us LP+.

    All this means that in the heart of the UK there already exists a critical and growing mass of school SharePoint 2010 users. The success of LP+4 is a prime example of how Microsoft’s partners, in the words of Strategic Partner Lead Mark Stewart, ‘…make what we do relevant’.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Yammer – the next step for social networking in schools?

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    Yammer, the enterprise social network and one of Microsoft’s most recent acquisitions, allows you to collaborate, communicate and share your thoughts within your network, be it a school or business. Think ‘The Social Network’ and Facebook’s origins, where students at Harvard University could communicate with one another via a private social network. Yammer creates a newsfeed based on updates from your co-workers, all of whom are responding to the simple question: “What are you working on?”

    clip_image002

    One of the first things I couldn’t help but notice was the Facebook-esque design of the home page, where you can view your newsfeed, create a poll and comment on updates from people within your organisation.

    However, when you start to look a little deeper, the features also echo those of Twitter. With hashtags, mentions and followers, as well as the ability to update your Yammer from Twitter using #yam, it would seem that the founder, David O. Sacks, has taken all of the best features from our known and loved social networks. He’s then combined them to create the one site which allows you to communicate with your colleagues easily and securely.

    So now you know some background, you’re probably wondering how it would help in a school environment. The exchange of short, frequent answers to that one key question allows teachers to learn about other departments, get tips and tricks from other staff members and gain insight into the overall operations and activities within the school. The instant feedback which is received creates a more productive workforce, increases collaboration and engagement, and, most importantly, reduces the amount of needless emails for you to check throughout the day. The infographic below shows Yammer’s effect upon its users.

    clip_image004

    In my opinion, Yammer could create a whole load of new opportunities, not only in relation to staff communication, but also for students. Here are some ways I think Yammer could improve the teaching and learning in schools.

    Group work

    clip_image006

    We know that group work is a great way to encourage students to engage with their peers, but this isn’t easy when they all use different social networks, clouds and systems. By joining Yammer, students can create secure groups via which they can communicate their ideas, ask questions and share files, as well as allowing for their competitive side to come out through ‘Leaderboards’, which show data about who has received the most likes, replies and much.

    Study help

    In addition to letting pupils chat about group projects, they can also post questions about their studies via their updates, which either teachers or other students can reply to. This is invaluable around exam time, and allows students to get a more instant response to their queries. This means that they are able to continue their studies without being stuck waiting for a response from busy teachers.

    Content sharing

    The numerous applications, question and poll facilities and fast feedback means that teachers can share files, news and activities with one another, creating a more unified workforce. The newsfeed also allows for interesting content to be shared amongst staff regarding new technologies and systems in education, which may otherwise be sent out by mass email. With Yammer, your email inbox can be saved only for those important emails. And if you’re worried that having yet another webpage open is just too much, you can update your status, post to groups and send private messages through your email. Learn how here.

    Praise app

    The praise application, found in the ‘More’ drop down menu of the update bar, allows you to praise someone within your network for anything you want. Everyone loves being praised, especially publicly for all their co-workers and peers to see, and it is essential to the learning process for students. Teachers can therefore praise their students for doing well in a lesson, completing a project to a high standard, or simply exceeding everyone’s expectations. Similarly, students can praise staff for an interesting lesson, extra help with an exam or just being really great. This interaction which may not occur face to face will lift morale and motivate both students and staff to perform to their very best.

    clip_image008

    If you would like to know any more information about Yammer and Microsoft, check out our press release.

    By Katie Hook.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Connecting SkyDrive with Office 365 for education

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    As schools and other education customers move to Office 365 for education in Australia (more info here), it provides another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of your technology infrastructure. Office 365 for education provides email, Lync communications, Office Web Apps and SharePoint in the Cloud, giving your students new ways to communicate, collaborate and support their learning.

    skyDrive     office 365

    It also provides another option for where you put your student home drives – it could be on a local server, or in their SharePoint MySite in the Cloud. One of the benefits of putting student storage in the cloud is that will normally reduce your cost of IT – because Office 365 for education is free, it means that you can offload some of your IT infrastructure costs.

    With Office 365 for education, your students each receive a file storage allowance of 500MB free. And now, if you're thinking "Wait? 500MB? These days it seems like that's two multimedia PowerPoints and a couple of videos" then read on!

    You have a couple of extra options for expanding your storage space. One way is to add extra storage into your Office 365 for education service - costs and details are here. The other way is to use the SkyDrive storage - which is the equivalent of a disk drive in the cloud. SkyDrive gives every user 7GB of free online storage, larger than most other free cloud-based storage services. And there are apps available for computers and smartphones to make it easily accessible.

    SkyDrive was included within the Live@edu email service, and there were a number of ways to link this to your user management (eg with syncing to your Active Directory). Now that we've switched from Live@edu to Office 365 for education you'll no longer be managing your users in SkyDrive – instead each student will create and run their own SkyDrive account. But there are some third parties that have developed utilities to help you manage SkyDrive accounts.

    Sky Connector from Xstran
    Loryan Strant at Xstran has developed "DirSync for SkyDrive", which basically lets you connect SkyDrive accounts to your Active Directory. It means you can automatically create SkyDrive user accounts and storage space. And it synchronises passwords between your Active Directory and the SkyDrive, so your students only have to remember one password for both your school network and the storage on SkyDrive in the cloud.

    If your a network manager in a school, TAFE or university, this could be a useful solution to an IT management issue.

    Learn MoreFind out more about Xstran's DirSync for SkyDrive

     

    By Ray Fleming

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Why Wait for Windows 8?

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    Guest post from Mark Reynolds, Business Manager for Schools South.

    2 weeks ago, I was presenting to a group of Headteachers in Cambridge. They had asked me to go in and tell them about Windows8, before deciding whether to roll out a large batch of iPads. At the end of the presentation, they asked the usual question people ask when you’ve shown them something cool, which is; “How Much?”. I said that I could not answer that and that they’d need to wait and see what our OEM partners like Samsung, Dell, Toshiba, RM or Viglen came up with – because, I said (and I can still see these words hanging in the air) “Microsoft doesn’t make hardware”.

    Then, on literally the next working day, came the breaking news from LA, that Steve Ballmer (our CEO) had just announced that  Microsoft are releasing our own devices for Windows 8, and they’re called “Surface”. When the emails came in from the Cambridge Heads, asking “why didn’t you tell us this on Friday?” – I could honestly say to them that I didn’t know. This highlighted two things for me: a) I am clearly not high enough up the food chain at Microsoft to get told the important stuff, and b) the world of IT moves pretty fast. One week we don’t make tablet PC’s, the next week – we do.

    clip_image002

    So, whilst we all wait to get our hands on a Surface, I thought I would share some key reasons why its vital for schools to understand all their options before launching into a large scale tablet rollout. The question I’ll try to answer is – Why Wait for Windows 8?

    First up, here are the facts about our timescales:

    • The official release date for Windows 8 has not yet been announced
    • We have not seen all of the exciting new hardware that our OEM partners are going to release for Windows 8
    • We can’t tell you exactly when our own Surface tablets will be released, or indeed – how much they will cost
    • You will almost certainly NOT be able buy and deploy Windows 8 tablets ready for the new term in September

    Secondly, here are some facts about the most common tablet device schools are looking at deploying this summer, the iPad. Instead of me writing these and being accused of iPad bashing, I asked Paul Newman from the Girls Day School Trust for his view. Paul said:

    The GDST has bought over 200 iPads due to a demand from the schools to use them. We have spent over 3 months with a senior architect working full time on integrating them into our infrastructure. Conclusions are:

    • They are a consumer device
    • They can only be used on a 1:1 basis
    • They cannot be audited to control who is doing what
    • They do not integrate with our infrastructure

    Windows 8 solves all of our problems; we will certainly be deploying these in place of the iPad and have asked schools who can to wait until Windows 8 is available.”

    Can you really afford to do both?

    One key thing which all Schools should think carefully about when considering Tablet PCs, is what can they really be used for? Whilst iPads make a great consumption device, you would not want to write an essay on one – and, last time I checked – both students and teachers often have to type more than 100 words, or design a PowerPoint, or use an application which is simply no good on a small screen. So that means, if you give people iPads, you will have to give them a second device too! This could mean upgrading or extending your existing Windows Network – or, in the case of teachers specifically – buying them all an iPad AND a laptop. I’ve not been to many schools recently who can afford to buy their teachers both.

    “They are cool” is not enough reason to roll them out

    If you are the Head Teacher, and you just want one, then just buy one. Use it to show your elevated status at SMT meetings, to view your email and calendar, to take notes, and to browse the web on the sofa. Do NOT think that it can somehow magically transform your Schools IT provision overnight – or, more importantly, raise attainment.

    I have spoken to countless schools and academies who have invested in the iPad and found them to be a “square peg in a round hole”. One of those is James Penny from the Harris Federation. James is absolutely not “anti-Apple” – in fact, he delights in producing his MacBook Air every time he comes to Microsoft – but even with their excellent technical team, cannot integrate iPads into their school networks in the way they need to:

    “Ipads are a delightful consumer device, but therein lies the challenge! Managing several hundred of them in a large secondary school so that pupils can access their stored work, most of which is done in Microsoft Office, is not what they were designed to do. Moving to scale in a secure way has many hurdles. The new surface device with Windows 8 combines the now expected touch interaction with the enterprise scale management and security that schools have come to expect. We can’t wait!”

    So, enough about iPads (for now) - how is Windows 8 different?

    • Windows 8 will give schools a no-compromise tablet, that allows both great app experiences and full productivity – play Angry Birds on the Sofa, then run a SIMS report
    • It will be managed on school networks just like your current Windows PCs are. You’ll log on with your normal school account, and all your Windows 7 software will work on Windows 8
    • When you save your work, it will be stored on the server and you won’t need to find a “fudge” like emailing things to yourself
    • Schools with a Microsoft EES licensing subscription will be covered for the upgrade when it is released
    • The Microsoft OEM community such as Samsung, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, RM, Viglen etc, will all have exciting new Windows 8 devices on the market soon
    • Microsoft have just announced an exciting new PC platform which has been designed and manufactured by Microsoft – which is huge news for us, and, we hope, for you too…

    What can you tell me about Surface?

    What we know so far, is that there will be two models in the Surface family – Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro.  We don’t have a release date yet but to keep up to date with information please visit www.surface.com.  There is a very cool launch video which you can see here

    Don’t Jump Too Soon

    We know this is a hard thing to ask – but we really believe that schools will be better off waiting to see what Windows8 will deliver, before making any big jumps on Tablet computing. We also know that many will, or have already jumped – and think that in a years’ time, there will be a lot of Head teachers who commissioned very expensive “experiments” which have simply not worked.

    A final thought, from the coal face

    Mark Compton-James is the IT Director for ARK Schools. When I asked him for his view, he summed it up brilliantly, with his usual brand of straight talking and pragmatism – based on many years working in School IT;

    “Apple don’t make or sell technology – they brand a lifestyle and then sell the accessories to it. They make no bones about it. As a business they have far more in common with Tommy Hilfiger or Gap that they do with Microsoft, Oracle or any of the other big IT hitters. Nothing wrong with that but a lot of schools don’t get it. So they buy these highly priced, beautifully designed lifestyle devices built to consume content. Now these devices don’t lend themselves to integrating into a school network where IT security, sustainability and compatibility are real issues. Schools end up shoe-horning the device onto the network and using it in the same way they would a PC. This reduces functionality, increases support costs and irritates users - a heady cocktail. If only some clever people could come up with a platform that provides the usability of an iPad and a functionality of a PC on the same device? Oh hang on … they already have. Windows 8.”

    The best way to keep up to date with Windows 8, and anything else from the Microsoft Schools team is on Twitter or on our Schools Blog. There is also a set of slides about Windows 8 here.

    The full deck can also be viewed/downloaded below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    RM Technical Seminar in Birmingham by Gerald Haigh

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    Gerald Haigh is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for the Microsoft Education Blogs.

    Towards the end of April I went to Birmingham, to one of the nine Technical Seminars which RM ran in venues around the country this Spring.

    They were primarily dealing with technical challenges schools face and how their ICT management product ‘Community Connect 4’, can help network managers solve them.

    image

    RM have been holding these seminars for twenty years now, covering successive generations of RM schools networks. At first they were small affairs, held in informal venues (yes, it’s true that some pubs were involved). Now they’re major events for over a hundred people at a time, and are often oversubscribed. So, you’d guess, they’re probably getting something right.

    That’s certainly the opinion of the people I met in Birmingham, many of whom attend the seminars regularly.

    (‘They’re not just about knowledge, I find them inspiring, ‘was the verdict of one network manager who’s been attending for ten years.)

    Gill Rhodes, who manages the networks for three neighbouring primary schools in Oxfordshire puts it like this.

    ‘In effect they give cut down versions of their courses – the kind of brief overview which is what you often need. They bring you up to date, and add some of the latest tips. I always pick something up – and then there’s meeting people of course, and speaking to experts face to face.’

    They’re also, it must be said, very friendly gatherings. As they’ve developed over the years, RM organisers and presenters have done a quite remarkable job of hitting and keeping just the right balance of information, informality and expertise.

    Unsurprisingly, the people I met were all convinced of the advantage of using RM’s Community Connect to manage their networks. Ian Wilson, Assistant Head at Manor High School in Leicester says,

    ‘We know that a plain vanilla Microsoft network will deliver a lot of what’s required, but in my view Community Connect adds a set of education-specific tools which allow the network team to concentrate on high value education activities and not so much on lower value network activities.’

    The case becomes even clearer when the network team is small and overstretched.

    ‘If you have a small network team, Community Connect makes life much easier,’ says David Greengrass, Network Manager at Uppingham Community College.

    Gill Rhodes agrees.

    ‘I do a lot of my work remotely when I’m in one school and another has a problem. I couldn’t do what I do without Community Connect.’

    The partnership with RM is also worth a great deal – everyone spoke well of the quality and promptness of their support.

    The optional seminar sessions themselves – nine in all – covered a range of issues. Some, like the one on ‘Troubleshooting: Drivers’ were no-nonsense technical sessions obviously responding to specific needs. By no means all were like that, though. ‘Developing an Effective AV and Classroom Technology Strategy’ was very much about senior leaders and network teams picking their way through the forest of available technologies towards a position where effective classroom AV is at the core of teaching and learning. And in ‘Negotiation Techniques’, Gethin Nichols dealt with what can sometimes be an elephant in the room – the importance of building an effective relationship between the network team and the leaders of learning in a school.

    I was particularly interested in two sessions that dealt particularly with CC4. One, ‘CC4 Management Tasks’, run by Matt Edwards, might have been a bit technical for me in parts, but I thought it a very clear statement of what Community Connect, and particularly CC4, is all about, which is making the network team’s life easier.

    Matt started by listing eighteen basic network management tasks, common to virtually all schools, ranging from ‘checking backups have worked, through ‘resetting passwords’ and ‘fault diagnosing computers’ to ‘creating and supporting package installation’.

    He then set about methodically looking at teach task to see how, with CC4, it can be made easier, or automated, or are effectively administration tasks that someone else could be doing. Talk to any seasoned CC4 enthusiast and they’ll soon tell you that the ease with which they can manage routine tasks is in fact one of the main attractions. At BETT this year, I shot a short video clip showing Darren Williams, of the Abbey School, Reading, making exactly that point. In the clip, Darren, who has his own school’s Management Console open on his laptop as he speaks, uses the same phrase that was the main theme of Matt’s presentation.

    ‘It’s made my life much easier’.

    (You can see the video on Merlin Johns ‘Agent4Change’ site at http://www.agent4change.net/people/five-things/1339-gerald-haighs-five-things-to-think-about-1.html

    The other CC4 session I was interested in was ‘CC4 The Future’, also run by Matt Edwards. Here, Matt was keen to emphasise the ‘future-proofed’ nature of CC4,

    ‘The focus of CC4 is very much in line with what’s going on in the industry,’ he said. -- To support BYOD (bring your own devices). To support remote access to services. To support use of new software and hardware technologies.’

    Part of this approach, he explained, is to offer a subscription model for users, whereby licenses are paid for annually rather than up front.

    As well as reducing the up-front expenditure, Community Connect Subscription customers will be entitled to future product enhancements, new server and client operating systems when available, CC4 updates, maintenance fixes and future Community Connect versions. They will also be able to add clients or

    servers to their network without having to increase their subscription.’

    (Quite like Microsoft’s own subscription licensing models in fact, was the thought that crossed my mind as Matt spoke.)

    For me, though, what was most exciting about Matt’s look into the immediate future was the prospect of CC4 working with Windows 8. Matt has clearly made himself very familiar with Windows 8 and spent some time showing its features to his audience. Developments are still going on in this area at RM, but there’s a clear determination to make sure that all of the innovative features of Windows 8 including the Start Screen, Metro Apps, ‘Swipe, Slide and Zoom’, are exploited to the full. And just to comfort those in the audience whose brows were furrowing by the second, he said,

    ‘The key to using Windows 8 in my opinion is to get your head around the concept that the Start screen (Metro look) has simply replaced your old fashioned Start button.’

    image

    As Matt went on with his description of Windows 8, a question was forming in my mind, and just as I’d decided to tackle him with later, he answered it like this.

    ‘Although I do not currently have a great deal of detail on how the new Start screen will work with CC4 policies and security, I can reveal at least one little Windows 8 CC4 secret - we are currently developing CC4 specific Metro apps that can give you fast, direct access to management areas of your CC4 network.’

    In other words, as network manager you’ll find specific CC4 functions accessible via individually labelled CC4 apps on the start screen.

    He was able to show one example – an app called ‘RM Users’ which will come up on the Start Screen and allow direct access, without going to the management console, to all CC4 user groups.

    As you’d expect, there was quite a buzz about this afterwards, and some network managers were clearly worried about what they saw as a big change from the Windows environments that they’d lived in harmony with for so long.

    But thus has it ever been.

    I guess the very fact that these questioners take the trouble to attend RM Seminars in order to keep up with trends and provide the best possible service to their learners shows that they’ll be quickly won over.

    I have no doubt that there’ll be much more on Windows 8 in the Autumn Technical Seminars.

    Frankly, I can’t wait.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows Intune in Education

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    It seems as if we're right in the middle of a massive shift in technology in education, as we move rapidly towards 1:1 computing and a larger variety of devices appearing in classrooms and IT labs. And that's compounded by the arrival of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in education: students and staff connecting their own devices – phones, laptops, tablets – to your education network.

    If you're a high-tech IT manager in education, then you'll be using our System Center to manage that complexity, letting you manage many different types of devices from one place. But what happens if you're not the kind of institution who'd use something as advanced as System Center? Or you support a whole range of different schools (for example, you're a service partner for multiple schools, providing a managed IT service; or even a high school supporting your local primary schools)?

    That's where Intune might well come in handy, as it allows you to manage devices over the web – without having to control and own them completely. So, for example, you could use them to ensure that your student-owned devices are up to date with virus protection etc, without having to rebuild them with a school-defined computer image.

    The video below gives you an idea of the basics:

    And to get more info on Windows Intune, and it's ability to manage devices, software applications, anti-virus and system updates, take a look at the Intune website. From the site you can also get a 30-day free trial for up to 25 PCs, which might be the easiest way to understand what it can do in your specific scenario.

    Learn MoreFind out more about Windows Intune

    There is also education pricing for Windows Intune, which you'll be able to get from your Microsoft Education partner (and if you haven't got an existing partner, you can search for Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers here)

    By Ray Fleming

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Schools waiting for Windows 8 before buying tablets

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    Windows 8

    Many schools are postponing a decision on whether to purchase tablets for their pupils until the release of Windows 8, according to the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA).

    A BESA survey of 500 British schools found that 6% of all "pupil-facing computers" will be non-Windows tablets by the end of this year, a figure that is expected to climb to 22% by the end of 2015. One of the reasons schools are holding back is Windows 8 will offer a unified platform on slates and desktops

    However, BESA warned that many schools are still taking a cautious approach to tablets, with 85% of schools worried about the management and security of such devices, and 71% concerned about the installation and purchase of apps.

    In particular, schools are concerned that the investment they've already made in Windows software is lost when buying Android tablets or iPads. "One of the reasons schools are holding back is Windows 8 will offer a unified platform on slates and desktops," BESA director Caroline Wright told PC Pro.

    BESA also found that the majority of primary schools are waiting for the Government to back the adoption of tablets, even though schools were granted the autonomy to make their own ICT buying decisions in 2010, following the dismantling of BECTA.

    Education secretary Michael Gove has espoused the educational benefits of tablets, telling the 2011 Schools Network Annual Conference that "as we move to a world where we expect every child will have a tablet, the nature and range and type of content that can be delivered will be all the greater".

    By Barry Collins on PC Pro

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Linking SkyDrive and Moodle together

    • 0 Comments

    Moodle, a popular Learning Management System, is widely used across education. And Microsoft's SkyDrive is also widely used by both teachers and students (although in some government systems, the access is blocked to SkyDrive when in school) as a cloud-based storage drive.

    So you may be interested to know that the Moodle community has developed and released a plugin for Moodle 2.3 which allows students and teachers to save their files into SkyDrive, directly in the cloud, from Moodle.

    image

    You can find out more, and download the SkyDrive plugin from the Moodle website

    I can quickly think of three reasons why this is a good idea:

    • Let your students access work from home or school, on multiple computers, and even phones
    • Reduce the amount of storage capacity you need on your own servers
    • Give teachers more storage capacity (SkyDrive gives 7GB of storage per user in the Cloud), for all of those videos, fancy PowerPoints etc that are eating up your drive space!

    Note, this plugin doesn't come from Microsoft, but from the Moodle open-source community. There are lots of other resources to integrate Moodle with Microsoft technology on this list

    By Ray Fleming

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office 365 for Education case study video

    • 0 Comments

    Great for academic institutions that are ready to take advantage of the cloud. Office 365 offers free email, instant messaging, group video and voice chat, and online document viewing and editing.

    We’ve got a great video that shows how Office 365 for education has enabled the University of Massachusetts and the National University of Ireland to work together in a curriculum environment.

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    You can view the video here.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Lesson plan: Explore point of view through aerial photography

    • 0 Comments

    In this lesson, students are introduced to the idea of point of view through aerial photography. They will write a story about what the character Amelia the Pigeon would see if she flew over their school or home.

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    Objectives

    Students will be introduced to aerial photography and the idea of different points of view.

    Learning outcomes

    • Students read the story of Amelia the Pigeon and imagine her point of view.
    • Students view actual aerial photographs of their school and home.
    • Students write a story describing what Amelia the Pigeon would see if she flew over their school or home.

    Lesson procedure

    Introduction

    Imagine our school. You know what it looks like when you walk in the front door, right? Now imagine that you are sitting on a cloud high above our school and looking down on it. How does it look now? What’s different? What can you see that you couldn’t see if you were just walking on the ground?

    As you sit on that cloud high above, take a look around. Can you see the neighborhood the school is in? Can you see your house? What else can you see from this point of view?

    [Show students an aerial map of the school on Bing maps. Type the school address in the Search box. When the road map of your school neighborhood appears, point to the Globe icon at the bottom of the map, and then select Aerial. Next, zoom in.]

    Here is a photograph of the school neighborhood taken from an airplane. This is called an aerial photograph. What can you see from this point of view? What can’t you see from this point of view? [If no aerial photograph of your neighborhood is available, show students an aerial photograph of a famous location.]

    Let’s take a closer look from this point of view. Right now we’re looking at a basic aerial map, which is made of photos taken from the air. [Point to the Aerial View icon on the bottom of the map, and then select Bird’s-Eye.] Here’s another aerial map. This one is called a Bird’s-Eye map. This is also made up of photos taken from the air, but instead of looking straight down, the camera looks from above at an angle. That little shift in the angle of the point of view can give you a better view of what’s on the ground. What can you see from this aerial view that you couldn’t see from the first one, looking straight down on our school? [Switch back to the aerial view to show them the difference.] Both of these aerial views give us a lot of information that we don’t get by looking straight ahead at the things around us.

    Can you think of any reasons why someone might need or want an aerial photograph of a neighborhood or a location?

    In this activity you will look at your world from a new point of view—an aerial view from up above in the sky—and write a story about what you see.

    Student activity

    Follow the steps below to guide your students through this lesson plan. See student handout link at right.

    • Step 1: "Read the story of Amelia the Pigeon and imagine what she sees"
    • Step 2: "Look at online aerial photographs of your school and home"

    • Step 3: "Write a story about what Amelia sees"

    ​Lesson extension activities

    Ask students to draw pictures of what Amelia the Pigeon would see if she flew over their school or home. See student handout link at right.

    Ask students to explore perspective further by doing the following:

    Take three digital photographs of an object: one from directly in front of the object, one from directly above the object (aerial), and one from above the object but at an angle (Bird’s-Eye View), and then comparing what they see. What features and dimensions of the object appear in each perspective? They can insert the photos and their descriptions into a Microsoft Word document.

    Draw one object from each of the three perspectives and then write about what features and dimensions of the object appear from each perspective.

    Ask students to read some or all of the remaining chapters of “Amelia the Pigeon.” They can use Bing maps to look at some of the places described in those chapters, such as a park or a zoo.

    Ask students to research the life of Amelia Earhart and write a story about something she might have seen from her airplane cockpit.

    Conclusion

    Assess students on the story they write describing what Amelia would see if she flew over their home or school. Viewing the pictures on the Bing maps website should help inspire some creative writing.

    Software and materials needed

    Point of view student handout

    http://www.bing.com/maps

    NASA’s Amelia the Pigeon website

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