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August, 2012 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
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August, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft Press ebook: Programming Windows 8 Apps (free eBook)


    Great eBook about writing Windows 8 style apps for Windows 8 using HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

    You can download the Second Preview (PDF only) here (13.5 MB).

    And you can download the Second Preview’s companion content here (64.9 MB).

    The full original version of the eBook can be viewed below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Getting your hands on the new Windows 8 RTM code



    We have a number of programs that provides various audiences early access to the Windows 8 RTM code to help prepare for Windows 8 as it enters the marketplace this autumn, and offers a great way to ensure your institution is ready to embrace the benefits of our new OS ready for the start of the new academic year:

    • August 15th: Developers will be able to download the final version of Windows 8 via your MSDN subscriptions.
    • August 15th: IT professionals testing Windows 8 in organisations will be able to access the final version of Windows 8 through your TechNet subscriptions.
    • August 16th: Customers with existing Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through the Volume License Service Center (VLSC), allowing you to test, pilot and begin adopting Windows 8 Enterprise within your institution.
    • August 16th: Microsoft Partner Network members will have access to Windows 8.
    • August 20th: Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) receive access to Windows 8.
    • September 1st: Volume License customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 8 through Microsoft Volume License Resellers.

    In the meantime, if you’d like to give a pre-release version of Windows 8 a test-run, feel free to download the Windows 8 Release Preview!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Managing "BYO" PCs in the enterprise


    Originally posted on the Building Windows 8 Blog back in April 2012. Some of the references have evolved since this was originally posted, but is a great post in case you missed it the first time around.


    With more and more people providing their own hardware for work, the "bring your own" PC is becoming more commonplace and IT Pros want to have the confidence that they can support their clients who follow this trend. The presence of BYO does not change the need for IT Pros to manage, secure, and remain accountable for the network assets of an organization, and we all know that written policies can only go so far.

    This post focuses on managing WOA PCs, which are designed with this "consumerization of IT" in mind. PCs of all form factors built on x86/64 architecture have the full complement of management tools available to them, especially those supported by third-party code running on the system. Since WOA PCs only support third-party code through the Windows Store and WinRT-based applications, we set out to develop industry-leading management capabilities that support BYO or company-deployed WOA PCs. This post was authored by Jeffrey Sutherland, a program manager lead in our Management Systems group.


    One of the major trends in IT in recent years has been the drive towards “consumerization of IT,” which is a term describing how consumer technology, from phones to PCs, is bleeding into business organizations in all forms and fashions. And increasingly, the devices that are showing up are owned by and liable to the employee rather than the organization they work for. We see this most notably in the smartphone device category, but more recently also in tablets or other portable PC form factors that are increasingly showing up in the workplace. As organizations embrace consumerization, IT must consider how much control they can exert over a user’s personally-owned device, and how much management is “good enough.” These questions were top of mind for us as we began our journey to Windows 8, and particularly, as we built Windows for the ARM processor architecture. Our focus has been on how we can continue to deliver PCs and software that users need, like applications and data-access on any device, with enough IT control to assert that the device is trustworthy, while avoiding any compromise of the user’s privacy on their personal device.

    In Steven’s earlier blog post about Windows on ARM, or WOA, he talked about how the bulk of the Windows experience remains the same on ARM as it is on x86/64, and the products share a significant amount of code. So, while this post will focus primarily on WOA, many of the features discussed are equally applicable to both processor architectures. In addition, this post covers the capabilities on the PC, itself, not the overall management infrastructure and tools used by IT. Also, please keep in mind all the security capabilities built into Windows that come with WOA from the basics of networking all the way through drive encryption.

    Line-of-Business applications and the WOA management client

    Demand for access to the business apps that users rely on - from email to licensed software from an independent software vendor to home-grown apps developed by IT - is one of the most important use cases for “consumer” devices in the enterprise. We know that developers are going to find it easy and convenient to build elegant Metro style apps that automatically work on any Windows 8 system including WOA, and developers of line-of-business (LOB) apps won’t be any different. But many organizations want to directly control and manage access to their internal LOB apps, including the distribution of the app binaries for installation. For these organizations, publishing their LOB apps to the public Windows Store doesn’t make sense, since there is no reason to broadcast these applications to others or to have their application deployment managed through the Windows Store process. And access to these resources and the data that they expose requires an assurance to IT that the systems accessing them meet an established bar for security and data protection.

    Organizations have been dealing with apps on x86/64 machines for a long time using a variety of tools and methods, including management products like System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune. Management of Metro style LOB apps on x86/64 will be able to leverage those same existing tools and methods and only requires that the client be configured to trust the apps that come from a source other than the Windows Store. For more information on the base capabilities of adding and removing Metro style apps on x86/64, see How to Add and Remove Apps. Developing WOA, however, provided us a unique opportunity to architect how LOB apps can be delivered to users in a way that meets the needs of IT while continuing to guarantee a consistent and reliable end-to-end experience over the life of the PC.

    For WOA, we have integrated a new management client that can communicate with a management infrastructure in the cloud to deliver LOB apps to users. You’ll hear more about this management infrastructure at a later date from our friends on the System Center blog, so this post will focus on the benefits and capabilities of the WOA management client itself.

    There are actually two parts to the WOA management client: the built-in system component, which we’ll call the agent; and a Metro-style app, which we’ll call the self-service portal, or SSP, that the consumer uses to browse for and install LOB apps made available to them. Both parts of the WOA management client are well behaved Windows 8 apps in terms of user experience, power management/battery life, network awareness (for metered networks), and overall functionality.

    The agent does most of the heavy lifting on the client. It configures the client to communicate with the organization’s management infrastructure; periodically synchronizes with the management infrastructure to check for any updated LOB apps and apply the latest settings policies configured by IT for the device; and handles the actual download and installation of any LOB apps that the user wants to install. Finally, if the user or the administrator chooses to remove the device from the management infrastructure, it clears the configuration of the agent itself and disables any LOB apps the user installed from the SSP.

    Connecting to the management infrastructure

    Let’s explore some of these elements in more detail, starting with connecting the client to the management infrastructure. In truth, this step begins with the IT admin who specifies the group of Active Directory (AD) domain users who are authorized to connect devices into the service. The admin also has the option to specify the maximum number of devices allowed per user. For authorized users, the actual steps to connect a device are quite simple. Using a new Control Panel applet on their WOA device, the user supplies their company email address and password, just like they do to set up an Exchange email account. The agent then performs a service lookup to locate the organization’s management infrastructure based on the user’s email address.

    Control Panel System window overlaid with dialog for entering company credentials to access company apps and resources
    Connecting to your management infrastructure is as easy as entering your company email address and password

    Once the agent has found the right address, it establishes a secure connection to the management infrastructure using SSL Server Authentication and authenticates the user. If the user is successfully authenticated and has been authorized by the admin to connect devices, the service issues a user certificate to the user who initiated the connection. This certificate is sent back to the agent along with the organization root certificate and instructions for the agent, which it uses to configure its ongoing communications with the management infrastructure. All of this happens in a matter of seconds and typically requires no further interaction from the user. Once complete, the user is directed to install the SSP while the agent completes the connection in the background.

    Control Panel System window overlaid with Connecting dialog

    Control Panel System window overlaid with dialog showing user is connected to company network

    Completing the connection

    Next, the agent automatically initiates a session with the management infrastructure, using the user certificate to authenticate. This session and any subsequent sessions are performed using SSL Mutual Authentication to ensure the security of the connection. This initial session completes the registration of the device with the service by supplying some basic device information such as the make and model, the OS version, device capabilities, and other hardware information. This allows IT admins to monitor what types of devices are connecting to the organization, so they can improve the apps and services they deliver to users over time.

    Following the initial session, the agent initiates communication with the management infrastructure in two circumstances:

    • First, as a maintenance task that runs daily at a time that the user can configure on the client. The activities performed during these maintenance sessions focus on reporting updated hardware information to the management infrastructure, applying changes to the settings policies for the device, reporting compliance back to the management infrastructure, and applying app updates to LOB apps, or retrying any previously failed LOB app installations initiated from the SSP.
    • Secondly, the agent will communicate with the management infrastructure anytime the user initiates an app installation from the SSP. These user-initiated sessions are solely focused on app installation and do not perform the maintenance and management activities described in the first case.

    Regardless of whether a session is initiated automatically by a scheduled maintenance task or manually by the user, the WOA management client continues to behave well relative to the state of the battery on the device and its current network conditions.

    Settings policy management

    As already discussed, access to LOB apps typically requires systems to comply with basic security and data protection policies. From the management infrastructure, the IT admin is able to configure a set of policies that we believe are the most critical to give IT the assurances they need without seriously affecting the user’s experience with their device, including:

    • Allow Convenience Logon
    • Maximum Failed Password Attempts
    • Maximum Inactivity Time Lock
    • Minimum Device Password Complex Characters
    • Minimum Password Length
    • Password Enabled
    • Password Expiration
    • Password History

    Although our new WOA management client can only connect with a single management infrastructure at a time, we may decide to add other policy sources before we release Windows 8 and so we’ve architected the policy system to handle this. In the case where more than one policy exists for the same Windows 8 device, the policies will be merged and the most restrictive configuration will be selected for each. This resultant policy will apply to every administrative user on the Windows 8 device and every standard user with an Exchange account configured. Standard users who do not have an Exchange account will not be subject to the policy, but Windows 8 already restricts those users from accessing data in other users’ profiles and from privileged locations, thereby automatically protecting your corporate data.

    In addition to the configurable policies described above, the agent can also be used to automatically configure a VPN profile for the user, so that WOA devices easily connect to a corporate network without requiring any user action. Finally, the agent can also monitor and report on compliance of WOA devices for the following:

    • Drive Encryption Status
    • Auto Update Status
    • Antivirus Status
    • AntiSpyWare Status

    Leveraging this compliance information, IT admins can more effectively control access to corporate resources if a device is determined to be at risk. Yet once again, the user’s basic experience with the device is left intact and their personal privacy is maintained.

    Before we move on, let’s consider a couple of the policies listed above and how they practically affect a Windows 8 system. First, we’ll look at Allow Convenience Logon. Windows 8 offers users convenience login features, like biometric login or the picture password feature. These options maintain a high level of security for Windows 8 devices, while solving one of the biggest headaches for users and IT alike: forgetting your password. Yet some organizations may require additional time before they are ready to embrace these alternative logon methods, so the Allow Convenience Logon option lets IT manage when to allow convenience logins in their organization.

    Secondly, let’s look at how drive encryption and Maximum Failed Password Attempts work together. You probably know people who’ve picked up their smartphone only to find that the device has wiped itself after their young child was playing with it and inadvertently entered the wrong password repeatedly. Nothing so severe will happen with your Windows 8 devices, fortunately. Windows 8 provides strong data protection already out of the box. So, when a user exceeds the password entry threshold, Windows will instead cryptographically lock all encrypted volumes and reboot the device into the Windows 8 recovery console. If your device has been lost or stolen, this effectively renders the device unreadable. But if you’re simply the victim of your young son or daughter trying to get to Angry Birds while your device is locked, you can easily recover with the use of a recovery key that Windows 8 can automatically store on your behalf in your SkyDrive account. This way, you are able to get back up and running without enduring a lengthy wait to re-install all of your apps and copy down all of your data.

    LOB app management

    The features we’ve covered so far are obviously focused more on the mechanics of the management client and infrastructure along with the needs of the IT admin, but ultimately the entire solution exists to benefit the end user by enabling access to their LOB apps. Without such a benefit there's little reason a user would go through the trouble of using the enterprise management infrastructure. So let’s dig deeper into LOB app delivery on the WOA platform.

    In our previous blog post about WOA, we told you that “consumers obtain all software... through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update.” Now, with the addition of the WOA management client, we’re adding a fourth trusted source of software for the WOA platform. As mentioned, the Metro style self-service portal app, or SSP, is the day-to-day interface for the corporate user to access their management infrastructure. Here they can browse to discover LOB apps that have been made available to them by the IT admin. There are actually four different types of apps that IT can publish for users in the SSP:

    • Internally-developed Metro style apps that are not published in the Windows Store
    • Apps produced by independent software vendors that are licensed to the organization for internal distribution
    • Web links that launch websites and web-based apps directly in the browser
    • Links to app listings in the Windows Store. This is a convenient way for IT to make users aware of useful business apps that are publicly available.

    Since the user specified his or her corporate credentials as part of the initial connection with the management infrastructure, the IT admin can then specify which apps are published to each user individually, based on the user’s AD domain user account, or as a member of AD user groups. As a result, the user only sees those apps that are applicable to them in the SSP.

    Woodgrove Center SSP app, with dropdown filters for categories and names; buttons for Aps, My Devices, and IT Center; apps available for download: Woodgrove Supplier, Woodgrove Asset Request, Woodgrove Expenses, etc.

    Browsing for LOB apps in the self-service portal (SSP) for a fictional company called Woodgrove
    NOTE: This screenshot shows an early prototype of the SSP and may not reflect the final product.

    Before any LOB apps can be delivered through the management infrastructure, there are two things that happen on the client. First, an activation key is issued by the management infrastructure and applied to the WOA device to allow the agent to install apps. Second, any certificates used to sign the LOB apps must be added to the certificate store on the device. In most cases, both the activation key and the root certificates are automatically applied during the first session after establishing the connection with the management infrastructure. Otherwise, they are automatically deployed during a subsequent session after the IT admin has turned on the feature in the management infrastructure.

    When the user chooses to install an app from the SSP, the request is sent to the management infrastructure and a download link is provided to the agent. The agent then downloads the app, verifies the validity of the content, checks the signature, and installs the app. All of this typically occurs within seconds and is generally invisible to the user. In the event that an error occurs during any part of this process (e.g. the location of the content is unavailable), the agent queues the app for a retry during its next regularly scheduled maintenance session. In either case, the agent reports the state of the installation back to the management infrastructure.

    Details page for Woodgrove Expenses includes: Publisher, Category, Description info, and Insall button.
    details page of an app in the SSP, where the user can initiate installation
    NOTE: This screenshot shows an early prototype of the SSP, and may not reflect the final product.

    As part of its regular maintenance sessions, the agent will inventory which LOB apps are currently installed and report that information back to the management infrastructure so the IT admin can effectively manage their LOB apps. Only Metro-style apps that were installed via the SSP and the management client are included in this inventory from a WOA device. Apps installed from the Windows Store are never reported as part of the inventory.

    Anytime the IT admin publishes an update for an app that has been installed on a WOA device, the agent will automatically download and install the update during its next regular maintenance session.

    Disconnecting from the management infrastructure

    Finally, let’s look at how to disconnect a device from the management infrastructure. Disconnecting may be initiated either locally by the user or remotely by the IT admin. User-initiated disconnection is performed much like the initial connection, and is initiated from the same location in the Control Panel. Users may choose to disconnect for any number of reasons, including leaving the company or getting a new device and no longer needing access to their LOB apps on the old device. When an admin initiates a disconnection, the agent performs the disconnection during its next regular maintenance session. Admins may choose to disconnect a user’s device after they’ve left the company or because the device is regularly failing to comply with the organization’s security settings policy.

    During disconnection, the agent does the following:

    • Removes the activation key that allowed the agent to install LOB apps. Once removed, any Metro style apps that were installed via the SSP and management client are deactivated. Note, however, that the apps are not automatically removed from the device, but they can no longer be launched and the user is no longer able to install additional LOB apps.
    • Removes any certificates that the agent has provisioned.
    • Ceases enforcement of the settings policies that the management infrastructure has applied.
    • Reports successful deactivation to the management infrastructure if the admin initiated the process.
    • Removes the agent configuration, including the scheduled maintenance task. Once completed, the agent remains dormant unless the user reconnects it to the management infrastructure.

    Given the trend towards “consumerization” of IT and our introduction of WOA with Windows 8, we wanted to rethink the way systems management is done. We worked to strike a balance between the sometimes competing needs of IT admins and the consumer who uses the device on a day-to-day basis. With the new WOA management client connecting to a management infrastructure in the cloud, we believe we’ve accomplished those goals, and we hope you’ll agree when you see it all in action.

    -- Jeffrey Sutherland

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How Windows 8 Will Work for Your Business


    Originally posted by Erwin Visser on the Windows Blog.

    Today at TechEd North America, we’re talking more about how Windows 8 is enterprise-ready, by design. As I was getting ready for this conversation, I found myself reflecting on the hundreds of customers my team and I have met with over the past several months. We have talked to companies in just about every industry and every area of the world. They’ve told us their implementation plans, some already demoed early business apps, and gave us feedback on how these innovations built on Windows 8 will be valuable to their organizations.

    Since the last time you’ve heard from me on Windows 8 for the enterprise, I thought it would be important to share three customer stories on what enterprises are already doing with Windows 8 at TechEd and then here on the blog as well.

    One of my favorites is what PCL Construction, the sixth largest contractor in the United States, is doing to ensure its team of 3,700 full-time professional staff has the tools they need to get the job done right.

    PCL Construction recognized an opportunity with Windows To Go and how it could enable the work styles of its employees. Working with Windows 8 Release Preview versions of Windows To Go, PCL Construction employees can carry their entire managed corporate desktop and bring it along with them on a small bootable USB drive wherever they go – on the jobsite, from a field office, or from the comfort of their own home computer. They decided on an early implementation of Windows 8 to get feedback from users quickly and in an effort to remove any potential adoption barriers when Windows 8 rolls out to all employees.

    As Shane Crawford, manager of infrastructure with PCL Construction, shared with us, “Windows 8 affords PCL Construction many ways to meet the needs of our diverse and mobile workforce from secure access touch-enabled applications that help improve jobsite safety to meeting the needs of executives and field staff working from multiple PC’s with Windows To Go.”

    Another great example of an early customer case is a Windows 8 app developed by national furniture retailer Rooms To Go. This business app for tablets allows the company’s sales associates to offer a more intimate and immersive customer service experience without leaving the customers’ side.

    Russ Rosen, CIO of Rooms To Go, stated, “Windows 8 provides Rooms To Go the ability to develop a custom point of sale application that takes advantage of continuous connectivity, and provides a natural touch interface to allow for a cost-effective experience for our sales associates across 175 stores.”

    Finally, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, through their partner Sparked, is planning to outfit their employees with custom line-of-business applications accessing a Microsoft SharePoint backend on Windows 8 tablet. These applications allow prosecution officers to remain effective and productive whether working in an office, courtroom or while mobile.

    “Due to the sensitive nature of the information presented to prosecution officers, it’s crucial that the data and devices be protected from viruses, malware, theft or compromise of data,” said Dr. Edwin C. Mac Gillavry, deputy director, Bureau for Criminal Law Studies, Dutch Public Prosecution Service. “The BitLocker solution with Windows 8 will protect our data, something that would be difficult to realize with other tablet platforms without extra costs.”

    A few more items I want to touch on: yesterday at TechEd, we announced that the next release for Windows Intune is available here. My colleague Eric Main has a more in-depth description on updates and new features of the PC management and security software from yesterday’s keynote at TechEd North America.

    While there are a lot of exciting new changes in this latest release, there are a couple that I would specifically like to call out. One is a new feature to better manage and secure your environment using mobile device management, which will be valuable to IT Pros who travel frequently, or have multiple locations to manage. Second, the latest release of Windows Intune includes upgrade rights to the latest version of Windows, which means businesses using Windows Intune will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise when it becomes available.

    Finally, my colleague Karri Alexion-Tiernan has an update on several Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) products, including: the availability of betas for Microsoft BitLOcker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM) and Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM), an upcoming beta for the newest addition to the MDOP family – User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), and a release candidate for the Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 8.

    Have an exciting implementation plan for Windows 8 in your business or have thoughts on the Windows Intune and MDOP announcements? Share your story with us in the comments section and you may be reading about it in a future blog post.

    We look forward to traveling to Amsterdam later this month for TechEd Europe and you can look for more updates from my team here on the Windows for your Business site. In the meantime, we encourage you to download Windows 8 Release Preview and test it in the business environment, available at

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    IDC White Paper - Mitigating Risk: Why sticking with Windows XP is a bad idea


    Interesting White Paper from IDC titled ‘Mitigating Risk: Why sticking with Windows XP is a bad idea’. The full paper can be viewed/downloaded below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 Release Preview Guide


    With Windows 8 now at RTM and General Availability for our new operating system scheduled for October 26th, now is a great time to become better acquainted with the Windows 8 Release Review.

    To help guide you through  some of the new features of Windows 8, and the Release Preview in particular, we have produced an overview document that you might find useful.

    The full document can be viewed/downloaded below:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Learn all about Windows 8 at one of our Camps during summer


    Originally posted on the UK Faculty Connection Blog.

    Want to get up to speed on Windows 8 during the summer holidays? Here is a list of camps for you to attend. There are limited numbers at each event so if you want free training, app support and to get ahead of the curve with Windows 8 then you should sign up now!

    What to expect:

    The Windows 8 Camps have been designed to show you how to build a Windows 8 app. You can tailor the day to make it as personally productive and rewarding as possible. You can work on your own projects with assistance from Windows 8 experts, network with others and also have the option of attending short tutorial sessions on Windows 8 related topics.

    The Windows 8 Camps will cover an introductory overview session as well as a range of short tutorial sessions. Short tutorial sessions will include topics such as the basics of the OS and interaction with the OS, Metro style UX with examples in Store apps, The Store and the developer opportunity, the high level view of the platform - i.e. WinRT and the choice around implementation technology, and the tooling - the role of Visual Studio and Expression Blend. In addition, you will learn how you can publish your Windows 8 app into the Windows Store in advance of general release through the Windows 8 App Excellence Labs at this camp.

    The Windows 8 Camp will kick off at 9am and officially finish at 6pm, or 9pm for the hardcore attendees

    Before you arrive, please ensure you have downloaded:

    1) Windows 8 Release Preview installed and running on your machine
    2) Visual Studio 2012 Express RC installed

    Lastly, please let us know as soon as you can if you cannot make the camp as there will be many developers who are keen to take your spot. Please let us know (via written email) at least 2 days in advance if you are unable to attend the camp or a £20 administration fee will be charged. Please respect the trainers and your fellow delegates by turning up if you have registered and committed.

    Thank you and we look forward to seeing you at the Windows 8 Camp. Click here to register for an event near you!

    Don't forget we have lots of Windows 8 curricula resources available and additional resources see

    Curricula resources via Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 Camp in Box

    Creating your first Windows 8 Metro Style Design Game

    XNA Developers and Windows8

    Get up to speed on Windows 8 in 6 weeks

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Saving money with Office 365 for education


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft education blogs.

    Office 365 for education is much more than a money saver. It has the potential to change and streamline communication and collaboration across the whole of an institution. It’s important to set that out at the start.

    However, short term cost saving is high on the agenda in schools and colleges, and the fact that Office 365 for education is free (for plan A2) to academic institutions, needs no on-site maintenance, and has the strong potential to make considerable efficiency savings is bound to attract attention.


    So, even though it’s early days with Office 365 for education, IT leaders have to look ahead, and I decided to look at some of the stories and case studies that are already coming from early adopters.

    Immediately, it became apparent that invariably it’s the availability of free cloud-based email that’s the initial attraction. For The Schools Network (formerly the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust) for example, Office 365 for education solved the problem of how to replace an ageing email system in a climate of much-reduced funding. The removal of upfront server and licensing costs saved over £34,000.

    But that’s only part of the story.

    "We would have had to invest thousands to have ensured the level of uptime and support that Office 365 for education provides as a standard service," says Head of Information Services Julian Elve. "There was never a question of us matching that level of support ourselves. There was simply no budget to do that."

    It was a similar story at the 1,900 student East Norfolk Sixth Form College where IT Services Manager Eric Stone took the opportunity, with help from Microsoft, to be an early adopter of Office 365 for education last Autumn. They, too, faced the need to increase storage capacity for their on-site email system.

    “One of the main drivers for changing to a cloud based product was the saving on storage and backup,” says Eric. “We believe we saved in excess of £5000 in capital expenditure for additional storage, whilst providing the students with an improved user experience, simply by moving the email accounts over to Office 365 for education.”

    There’s a pattern emerging here which shows that Office 365 for education isn’t just a marginal cost-saver, a tweaker of the balance sheet, but is actually opening up new pages in the account books by helping institutions to make improvements that they otherwise simply couldn’t afford.

    Take the story of the 5,500 student Kilmarnock College, for example. There, the ICT Service team had looked at upgrading the Exchange Server that was providing staff email and found they’d have to find £15,000 for hardware, £10,000 in deployment costs in the first year, and then an annual maintenance cost of at least £2,000 per year. None of this was at all feasible, so moving to Office 365 for education both eliminated those costs and vastly improved the level of service.

    But each of these innovators know that taking on Office 365 for education in order to reap the efficiencies and cost benefits of email is just a first step. All the other Office 365 for education applications are there to be used. At Kilmarnock College, for instance, there are plans to use SharePoint Online, included in Office 365 for education to complement and enhance their existing online content management system. IT Service leader Brad Johnston doubts whether, with their existing staffing levels, they could have deployed on-site SharePoint in the same way. And Brad’s also working on introducing users to Lync Online,

    “We’re now telling our users that the emphasis on phones is no longer there because you have this whole communication tool built into Office 365,” says Brad. “It’s a million miles away from where we would be without it.”

    Eric Stone, at East Norfolk Sixth Form College is adopting ‘one step at a time’ strategy, so although the whole of Office 365 for education will be available, from September, administrators in the College will stay with the familiar Office 2010 suite for now. As Eric says, there’s nothing to be lost by waiting,

    “And students will certainly use Office 365, saving themselves some licensing costs.”

    So is there a catch? Apparently not. Reliability of service, for example, is typically better than with an on-site system. Eric Stone says,

    “I believe we’ve exceeded Microsoft’s best estimate. In the whole year we lost connection for just five minutes on one afternoon.”

    More of these stories will emerge, and as they do it will become increasingly clear that the most significant cost savings of all will come from increased efficiency – better communication and collaboration, more effective deployment of technical staff, instant and effortless availability of the most up to date software. In this regard it’s well worth taking a look at a significant report on cost saving with Office 365 for education prepared for Microsoft in June 2011 by Forrester Consulting, looking at Total Economic Impact (TEI) of Office 365 on small and medium sized businesses. It reports dramatic savings, with a return on investment (ROI) of 321%, and while the many areas of potential saving that it lists aren’t all applicable to schools, many of them certainly are.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    “For learners it is very important to see that their work is valued by others, and they will respond to the challenges that sharing knowledge and skills with others involve by creating great work!”


    Originally posted on the Daily Edventures blog.


    Alessio Bernardelli is quick to attribute his success as an educator to those who shaped him along the way, in particular Stuart Ball (Director of Microsoft Partners in Learning Network U.K.) who was
    instrumental in his development as an innovative educator. “I was able and fortunate enough to have great role models who helped me step up and face a global audience through the development of my personal blog and personal learning network on Twitter,” Bernardelli notes. That act of sharing his ideas with a wider audience led to an opportunity for him to make an even bigger impact through his work as science lead at TES (billed as “the largest network of teachers in the world”). Bernardelli also tweets as @tesScience and promotes innovative resources and practices from the TES website, which has over two million members worldwide. Here, Bernardelli shares his pride in educators he’s mentored, the wonders of mind-mapping, and lots of practical tips and free tools for creatively integrating technology in the classroom.

    What has changed as a result of your efforts?

    My efforts have undoubtedly made me a more reflective and confident educator, who is willing to take calculated risks to push the boundaries of conventional practices and employ technology to inspire and enthuse others. As a result of my efforts, a number of teachers, both in my school, with the local authority and from my Personal Learning Network have started using technology in innovative ways with their learners. Quite a few of these practitioners went on to win regional, national and international awards. In particular, three teachers I mentored were in the UK Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Education Forum top 10 projects, two of them were selected to compete in the European Forum and one won an award at the Partners in Learning Global Forum. These three Educators are James Allan (Westmonmouth School, Pontypool, Wales) who was in the top 10 UK projects, James Kent (Torfaen LEA) who was in the top four UK entries and attended the European Forum, and Gareth Ritter (Willows High School), who won an award at the global forum.

    How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

    The greatest challenges I have faced when trying new ideas in education were usually the lack of resources and the restrictions that sometimes are in place in local authorities in terms of access to websites and social media. Many Web 2.0 tools, for example, are often blocked and it is not always easy to get around these blocks. It needs to be said that this is not always due to the unwillingness of local authorities, or schools’ senior leadership, as in many cases they can be really supportive and excited about the opportunity to showcase innovative teaching and learning in their establishments. But in some cases the tools you want to implement require, for example, quite a few ports to be kept open, or take up quite a lot of bandwidth, and that can be quite disruptive for school networks, etc.

    The trick is to try something different, not necessarily a different tool, but a different approach! An example is the ‘EM Spectrum TV Show’ that I created with my 14 to 15 year-old learners in 2009. The original idea was to develop a number of activities that would form a 30 to 40 minute TV show. Each group worked on a different activity and they all chose the tool and type of resource they wanted to produce. So, we ended up with a brilliant news report, a number of visual podcasts, web-tours to showcase useful games and websites to revise the EM Spectrum, revision songs, etc. We wanted to broadcast the show live from the school using our online TV Channel on Livestream, but the service was blocked by the local authority because to broadcast live we would have needed almost all the ports open and that was not possible. So, I decided to pre-record the learners’ work using mainly Community Clips and I then broadcast the whole show live from my house at 8.30 p.m. This meant that my learners could sit at home with their parents and watch the show. They were also using the chat on the channel page to interact with each other and with me as I broadcast their work. So, at first I thought I might need to call the whole project off, but with a little initiative we could turn a stumbling block into a stepping stone for success, as the involvement of the learners’ parents was something quite unique and very meaningful for these students. You can find all the details of this project as well as tips and tricks to support anyone who wish to try something similar in this resource shared on the TES website. I have uploaded many resources on the TES website and other teachers can use my profile page to access other innovative projects and tools.

    How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

    When I was the Head of KS3 Science (11 to 14 year-old learners), I used Office Web Apps to create a collaborative spreadsheet that contained the names of all the learners in year 7, 8 and 9 (equivalent of grades 6 to 8) and the assessments that each class was undertaking. Each teacher in my team could then upload their levels for each learner simultaneously, which meant no duplicate versions of the same spreadsheet, which could have caused data to be lost or missed out, less emails to update the team on the overall outcome of the department and it also meant that each member of staff, including myself, was held accountable for uploading their pupils’ levels. This, in turn, allowed me to identify needs and underachievement and act upon them more promptly.

    I have been using iMindMap for the last four years or so and, although I used mind mapping before with software like OneNote and using the Drawing Tools in PowerPoint on my tablet PC, my mind mapping skills have improved considerably since then. The simple interface and quick ways to add daughter and sibling branches in iMindMap are so useful that I can take notes in meetings directly as a mind map, which is a really great advantage, as it gives you an overview of all the issues discussed. Most of my planning is done on iMindMap and I often create presentations of great effect thanks to the 3D view presentation mode. I have used iMindMap with my students, too, and they found it really useful for their learning.

    I have been using the excellent TES website to develop my portfolio of resources and to share innovative ideas and teaching activities. The rating system allows all members of the community to leave a comment and a one-to five-star rating for the resources they download. This feedback is very valuable to me and to all the contributors on the website for various reasons. Firstly, they can act on resources that people have found problems with and improve them. This encourages users to become reflective practitioners who constantly aim to improve their impact in education. Secondly, seeing the comments and the number of downloads and views is really rewarding for a teacher who spent time and effort to create great resources and upload them on the website. This not only encourages them to upload more resources, but it also allows them to develop their own professional portfolio of evidence that can be used in their CV and with potential employers. A great example of this is Gerwyn Bish, who was a Post-graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) student this year. Gerwyn uploaded some really great resources and I started to notice his work, so I would regularly give five stars to his resources and promote them through the @tesScience twitter stream, as well as on the TES Science newsletter. Gerwyn used the evidence from his resources, i.e., the comments and ratings from the TES Panel, in his professional portfolio and he completed his training with great praises from his tutors and got a job as a Newly Qualified Teacher starting in September. I have also invited him to join my TES Science Teacher Panel and inspire others to use the TES website to develop professionally and as a space to interact with other innovative educators. You can see Gerwyn’s professional portfolio here.

    I use Twitter to promote the best resources from the TES website and from the website (TES sister website for the US) and to engage with the science community of educators and science communicators. I also engage in twitter chats like #asechat which is the chat for science educators in UK where a topic is voted by the contributors and then discussed for an hour each Monday evening. I have moderated the chat a few times.

    I used Livestream and WordPress when I worked with NGfL Cymru (National Grid for Learning in Wales) to set up the NGfL Cymru Live channel to broadcast the professional development events we organized for the educators who could not attend, or who would be too far to get to the venue. I also developed the NGfL Cymru Blog to promote the work of the network. The blog received over 10,000 views in the first three months since its launch and both the blog and the Livestream channel are still the NGfL Cymru’s main assets to reach out to teachers in Wales and beyond.

    What is great about all these tools and innovations is that they didn’t cost my establishments anything, as they are free tools! In fact, you can upload as many resources as you want on the TES website and build your lifetime portfolio, which shows your progression and development as an educator free of charge. This also allows you to have a portfolio that is not attached to a local environment, like any virtual learning environment from a college, school, etc. So, if you move schools, you can still bring with you the experience you built on your TES portfolio.

    What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

    I think the biggest obstacle I encountered was in my first years of teaching when laptops where not as popular yet and most schools had computer suites full of PCs. But the disadvantage with those was that most of the time these rooms were timetabled for the IT Department, so I had classes that I could often take to use the PCs and others that I could never take, because the room wasn’t available at the time I taught them. But in my last school I was fortunate enough to have a set of 30 laptops in the science department, which was great, because we now didn’t even need to move from the science lab to use a computer and we could run experiments and record our findings in innovative ways using a laptop. I remember a group of girls using Photosynth to show a beautiful 3D display on
    circuits they had made or a group of boys explaining their circuit using Photo Story 3. Having laptops in the science lab opened up a wide range of learning experiences that my learners didn’t have the chance to explore previously.

    What is your country doing right to support education?

    The greatest innovation in Wales to support education, I believe, was the introduction of the Skills Framework 2008, which gave clear guidelines on the importance of developing thinking, communication, ICT and numeracy skills. The framework became also the underlying principle of the new national curriculum in Wales, which shifted the emphasis from a content driven curriculum to a skills-based one. That gave freedom to teachers to become more creative and develop schemes of work that addressed their learners and community needs more adequately, i.e., learning became more personalized. However, not all institutions made that step and some carried on doing what they had always done, but the principle of the framework was right.

    What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

    The mindset of teachers needs to move towards a more collaborative approach to education. That is why sharing resources and ideas through platforms like TES is very important, as it allows teachers to interact with other educators worldwide and learn new and effective ways to teach their subjects.

    Wales is a very small country and schools compete to be the best, so teachers are often under pressure to perform better and better and to outperform the schools in their clusters. This can sometimes lead to the situations where teachers don’t want to give away their “secrets” and can become reluctant to share good practice, because, at the end of the day, they need to get their school at the top of the band.

    What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

    I believe the best opportunity for innovation in education is using the learners’ skills and enthusiasm to drive the curriculum. Projects where the learners are given the opportunity to decide how and what they want to learn turn them into more independent learners. We need to help our students to become creators of knowledge and not just consumers of knowledge. So projects like this, where learners are actively involved in developing and delivering innovative learning activities, and this one where learners became educators of teachers by producing video tutorials to show how to use certain features of a particular software, or the ‘EM Spectrum TV Show’ where learners became responsible for the education of students worldwide by developing a revision TV show to share with students online, gives children ownership over their own learning and that of others! The development of Web 2.0 tools, video storing websites, and platforms like the TES, which allows you to reach an active network of over 2 million teachers are the ideal tools to provide students with a real audience of monumental proportions. For learners, it is very important to see that others value their work and they will respond to the challenges that sharing knowledge and skills with others involve by creating great work.

    What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

    Start blogging and reflect upon your teaching inviting others to join you in your journey. If you develop your personal learning network on the TES website and twitter, you will always find someone to help and give supportive advice and you will never feel isolated, even if you work in an unsupportive school.

    What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

    The popularization of self-created video content and blogging is having a great impact in students’ progress and development of skills. In fact, many cannot just find a pool of great video content online, but they are more and more encouraged to develop their own content and share it with the world. In this respect there are two examples I am particularly fond of.

    The first one is my 13 year-old nephew’s homework on the Spanish Armada, where through a clever use of images, sound effects and humor, he created a very professional looking video. In the development of this video he used a wide range of higher-order thinking skills, as well as ICT and communication skills. The technologies he used enabled him to be creative and address his audience in a very effective way.

    The second example is a teacher (Gavin Smart) who asked his granddad to Skype with his 6th grade class to explain the causes and effects of acid rain. Gavin recorded the Skype conversation and edited the video by adding useful visual aids, and uploaded the video of his granddad here. I got so excited about this project that I wanted to reward this granddad by making his efforts as visible as possible, so I started the #mygrandadvideo hash tag on twitter and encouraged as many teachers as possible to see this inspiring project. This Skype session was very valuable for the learners because they could access real life experiences from someone who worked as a hydrologist and could share details and information their classroom teacher might not have come across, but it was a really
    valuable experience for the granddad, too, because he could still offer an important contribution to education and the school community. The video got over 2400 views in less than two days and that was another confidence booster for this very generous pensioner.

    Having mentioned blogging, I have experimented with an 11th grade class by setting a series of tasks where the learners had to write a blog/resource about the physics in their curriculum and I invited a primary school teacher to get her children to read and comment on the blog posts. The idea was that my students should try to make the information they were trying to explain accessible to their very young audience and, in my opinion, that was a really useful exercise, because in order to simplify complex physics topics like photon absorption and emission, they needed to first really understand the process thoroughly and then create mental models that could be used to teach these concepts to a 10 to 11-year-old learner. Modeling scientific processes invariably leads to better understanding and retention of those processes.

    Another attempt to blogging with young learners was setting up my eldest son’s blog. Matteo (7) is a very reluctant writer, but he gets excited about the comments he receives on his blog and seeing new spots appearing on his world viewers counter and that is good encouragement for him to continue writing.

    A trend that is getting in the way of learning, in my opinion, is teaching to the exam. Again, this is a consequence of the growing pressure to improve performance, but there is the risk that teachers become more and more reluctant to try new approaches to learning and teaching, new technologies and collaborations with other schools. I have witnessed teachers actively discouraging their learners from digging deeper into a topic they were interested in, because “You don’t need to know that for your exam!” I think these trends are becoming more and more popular in the teaching community in UK.

    If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

    I would give a tablet to every child, whether it is an iPad, an Android, or a Microsoft Surface, it doesn’t matter, but I believe the flexibility and enhanced interactivity a tablet is offering (especially to young learners) makes them a very effective learning tool. I have seen some excellent practice with iPads, but I am really excited about the potential of the Microsoft Surface, because I have always believed the lack of a way to effectively take handwritten notes on Android and Apple tablets is a great disadvantage. I have used tablet PCs for years and they have been one of the most useful tools in my teaching. For example, having the ability to add handwritten notes, diagrams and drawings in OneNote has been a very powerful learning and teaching tool. If I could get hold of a Microsoft Surface I would certainly promote its potential in education and explore the advantages of the stylus and of the Windows 8 OS, which brings this tablet much closer to a more powerful laptop, or PC, which is what has been missing in other tablets available on the market.

    But what makes tablets really useful and exciting is the fact that they can just be picked up and used with no delay due to loading time. Also, the integration of back and front cameras, together with their size and weight, makes them a very creative device. So, learners have a much wider and more creative choice when it comes to create their own notes and work. In fact, they can decide to create and edit a quick video on energy resources, for example, or use one of the many free apps for note taking and mind map drawing. Many of these also allow them to save and share their work online. So, merging these exciting features with more traditional and excellent software like Office and an operating system that is completely compatible and integrated with your PC/laptop could be the solution that many have been waiting for so long and the Microsoft Surface seems to offer that solution. So, exciting times ahead for learners and teachers!


    About Alessio Bernardelli

    Birthplace: Parma, Italy
    Current residence: Cardiff, Wales, UK
    Education: BSc Degree in Physics and Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
    Website I check every day:
    Person who inspires me most: Tony Buzan
    Favorite childhood memory:
    My dad was reading a story from a book and it was so gripping that I ask him to read it again the day after, but he told me he was pretending to read from the book, but he actually made the story up and couldn’t remember it exactly! That was pretty cool and made my dad look pretty cool, too.
    Next travel destination (work or pleasure): West Wales on holiday with my wife and four boys, but we like going back to Italy, too, and visit my mum.
    When was the last time you laughed? Why? Last time I laughed was today when I
    was recreating the story of Daniel in the lions’ den with my boys (we were recording a short animation) and Stefano my second boy kept adding melodies with his voice in different situations. He was really funny and cute!
    Favorite book: The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan
    Favorite music: Pearl Jam, Dire Straits, Paul Simon, Lucio Battisti and Paolo Nutini
    Your favorite quote or motto: “I cannot fail, because in any situation I can learn something!” -Anthony Robbins

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    “I see a lot of disruption get stymied by ‘the system’ or process blocks. Don’t wait for permission; rather seek forgiveness with your awesome results!”


    Originally posted on the Daily Edventures Blog.


    For Ben Betts, a classroom doesn’t require four walls, and in fact, learners may be better off without them. Betts, who is currently completing his doctorate in engineering while leading HT2, his learning technology company, mixes business and engineering acumen with a strong desire to change the status quo in education. The changes he advocates range from how kids learn to how they’re ultimately accredited for what they’ve learned.

    To address needed improvements in the “how” of learning, Betts and team have builtCuratr, a new learning approach based on peer-to-peer collaboration. The tool is free to teachers and worth checking out:

    Betts shared with us his views on what’s wrong with the current accreditation process, and how teachers can get up-to-speed on the latest in e-learning.

    Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

    In online education we’ve been facing a couple of problems. Firstly, it costs a lot to create an online course. For example, MITx is sinking $60m into their MOOC (massive open online course) projects. So we came up with a method that relied more on peer-to-peer collaboration than it did on creating an expensive piece of e-learning – this has helped to radically reduce the cost of creating an online course.

    But participation figures in online collaborative learning are low – often people quote so called “power laws” to suggest that 80 percent of the work will be done by 20 percent of the students. This is a problem as we know that those students who are more active in a learning experience will achieve greater results than those who are passive. So we then worked to create a method that would actively encourage participation in an online learning experience, using techniques like ‘gamification’ to encourage students to try new behaviors.

    The work has resulted in both a new platform (Curatr) and a new method (The Collaborative Learning Cycle). Curatr has won awards in both the UK and USA for its novel approach and it’s implemented at a number of schools, universities and companies to change the way they do education.

    What has changed as a result of your efforts?

    Hopefully we’ve presented a way in which online learning can be both effective and affordable. But to be honest we’re only just beginning. There is a growing acceptance of peer-to-peer learning activities being a great way to facilitate online learning; but this isn’t the result of my work, it is the result of many researchers all over the world coming to the same conclusions.

    How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

    They can use our platform – Curatr is free for teachers. But they can also read and research the techniques in a number of ways – be on the lookout for ideas like Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, Gamification and MOOC’s. In fact, the best way to implement what we’ve learned is probably to take one of our courses or one that’s similar in structure.

    How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

    We now host accredited online courses using our techniques. So instead of using a more traditional LMS (learning management system) if you visit Warwick University online, you might just get to use Curatr. The platform also has a commercial arm and we’re experiencing fantastic growth which has led to our company doubling in size over the last three months.

    What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

    Cost. In the UK, cost is probably the single biggest barrier, especially with fees increasing.

    What is your country doing right to support education?

    The UK is starting to embrace more quality online initiatives and certain pots of funding have been made available to support education using technology – the UFI Charitable Trust is investing £50m to improve adult education through technology, for instance.

    What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

    For me, the keys to accreditation need to be taken away from universities. Any company or person should be eligible to accredit a qualification and given the technology at our disposal, it’s now very easy for students to create and share personal portfolios of their learning as evidence of their education. It makes very little sense for a programmer to be accredited by a university when they could be accredited by Google, for example. But until that system is opened up to disruptive innovation, it is very hard for new avenues of education to open up in the UK that conform to the requirements of the job market.

    What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

    Accreditation – the system is old and outdated. We still award degrees fundamentally based on the number of hours someone spent studying a subject. But we all know that hours spent in a lecture theatre are not the equivalent of hours spent experiencing something in the real world.

    What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

    The Facebook mantra – move fast and break things. I see a lot of disruption get stymied by “the system” or process blocks. Don’t wait for permission; rather seek forgiveness with your awesome results!

    What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

    I think adaptive learning as a trend is probably helping students. Systems like Knewton
    and Grockit are very clever and are starting to do the job of one-to-one tutors. But they remain expensive to build and maintain. So I wouldn’t want us to get too wrapped up in the computer as a tutor – people can still do a better job in person.

    If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

    An smartphone with a data plan.
    As far as I’m concerned, it puts a world of knowledge at your finger tips and gives you the perfect device for creating videos and other media that can show your learning. And of course you can use it as a phone, should you want to talk to someone! You don’t really need anything else.

    About Ben Betts

    With a decade of designing, developing and managing online learning projects, Ben is fast becoming a household name in the E-learning industry. He was named as one of Elliott Masie’s “30 under 30” thought leaders in learning for 2010 and was elected to the board of the eLearning Network in 2010. Betts is a frequent presenter both in the UK and globally, and has published a number of articles for popular industry magazines, including E-Learning Age and Learning Solutions Magazine.

    Birthplace: Nottingham, UK
    Current residence: Oxfordshire, UK
    Education: MBA, final year of PhD at University of Warwick, UK
    Website I check every day: Slashdot, BBC Sport
    Person who inspires me most: Right now? Probably Jesse Schell. You should totally get him to do this.
    Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Marrakesh (pleasure)
    When was the last time you laughed? Why? About a minute ago – my dog, Jasper, constantly makes me laugh.
    Favorite book: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    Favorite music: Anything that I can tap my foot to
    Your favorite quote or motto: One thing at a time, most important thing first, start now.

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