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

October, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Preparing for our future – the need for critical thinking


    Guest post by Dave Coplin, Director for Bing UK, Microsoft.



    We live in incredible times.  Today, many of us walk around with more computing power in our pockets than used to sit on our desks just a few short years ago. We are more connected, more engaged and more in control of our lives than ever before and yet, incredible though it is to believe, we are still right at the very beginning of our society’s journey with technology.

    We have learned to love (or in some cases, tolerate) the power of social media and the increasingly real-time nature of our world. The power of the internet and mobile technology has enabled us to live with and access an incredible range of data, information and services that offer us the capability of augmenting all of our real-world experiences, joining the digital and analogue worlds together, in order to help us to become greater than the sum of our own parts.

    There has been much discussion in the UK recently about the importance of getting the right approach to the role of technology in schools.  Many have used this as the opportunity to reinforce the need for greater emphasis on the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with further focus being given to the need to create a new generation of “kids who code”.  Whilst this on its own is an incredibly important initiative, it is vitally important to continue to remind ourselves that it is still just a subset of the overall duty of care we have as technologists to ensure that every single aspect of society is empowered by technology.  Yes that means having great software, and as such brilliant computer scientists, but more importantly it means ensuring that every single member of society knows how to make the best use of technology whatever their societal role – this is our modern equivalent of a “PC on every desk”.

    Over the next twenty years, the increasingly connected nature of every action and every “thing”, combined with technological developments like the incredible prevalence of screens, e-ink and display surfaces and natural interfaces (those that use a range of human interaction from typing and mechanical devices like the mouse through to more natural methods involving gestures, speech and even thought), will take us to a new level of reliance and integration of technology. However, there are still some crucial obstacles that remain in our way, blocking our ability to take advantage of the advances on offer.

    Some of these challenges exist at a cultural level, with privacy being perhaps the most fundamental of all such sociological debates. However, often hidden beyond such issues are significant barriers pertaining to the spread of knowledge and literacy that, if left unheeded, weaken the very foundations of our society (and economy).


    None of these challenges are new, in fact a great deal can be learnt from our past. As such, the four key challenges we face should be familiar:

    • Helping others exploit the potential of access to unlimited knowledge
    • Providing equality of access
    • Curating the wisdom of others
    • Preserving our knowledge heritage

    Within our brave new digital world, one of the most important skills we must learn is “critical thinking” a concept that rather incredibly, dates back to Socrates over 2000 years ago, but after being “recently” updated in the 20th century for a modern society by many great scholars, it provides a powerful framework for our internet age as every single day we are bombarded by millions of signals of data, information and content, and the quantity of information we are exposed to grows exponentially.  These days we are still looking for the needle, it’s just that now it’s in one of a billion haystacks.

    Most of us use critical thinking every day and for most of the time, we are barely aware of it.  Every time we read a newspaper article, watch a documentary or look something up on Wikipedia we are aware of a whole range of biases, influences and emotions that may interfere with the validity, accuracy and overall conclusion of the content and, if we’re doing our job properly, we take all of that into account as we parse the information, reflect on it drawing in a range of other context and ultimately use it to draw conclusions and make decisions.

    Fortunately for many of us, we’ve had years of practice and experimentation to get this right but in this new digital age, where children and young people have so much access to an incredible world of information but have yet to develop the skills to know how to deal with it becomes something we simply cannot take for granted.

    From an early age, we need to ensure that anyone using the internet are able draw upon critical thinking skills to:

    • Search efficiently and effectively – depending not solely on the search engine’s view of relevancy but able to navigate and adjust the query to ensure the most appropriate results.
    • Distinguish kinds of sources and analyse a source’s validity and reliability – from basic differentiation of primary vs secondary sources through to deconstructing domain names and URL’s to learn more context about the source.
    • Make a habit of cross checking facts, even from reliable sources – we know from experience that even “authorities” can mislead and experts make mistakes so wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.
    • Conscientiously and properly attribute the words and ideas of others – the internet has made plagiarism a lot easier, but thankfully, easier to spot. Students need to know the basic rules about when and how to quote others’ words and how to properly attribute the ideas that are not their own.
    • Stay safe on the internet – these are some of the most important skills of all, from not giving out personal information through to taking care about the kind of conversations they enter into on-line, staying safe is absolutely paramount
    • Interact with others online honestly, respectfully, fairly and clearly – the anonymity, immediacy and lack of proximity presented by the internet can lead to anti-social behaviour, sometimes with devastating consequences. Learning how to speak honestly, fairly, and with respect, clarity and brevity along with understanding why this is important in a society, especially a democracy, is crucial.

    Where we need help now is not in the squabbling on the frontline of the digital/analogue boundary debating about which tools we should be teaching but is instead around the core principles of extending knowledge and literacy in a modern society, ensuring that, like our ancestors before us, our greatest knowledge assets (both digital and analogue) do not succumb to the ravages of time; that people can find relevant information in a vast ocean of content – ultimately finding a needle in a billion haystacks; ensuring that our children and every other member of our society are equipped with the cognitive capability and skills that enable them to harness the incredible potential that technology brings us. It should not just be a case of feeding them with the basic tools that will become obsolete tomorrow, but instead teaching them to “fish” in a growing digital pool and ensuring that every single member of our society, regardless of location, background, skills and wealth, can benefit from all that is on offer.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows RT or Windows 8 devices for your school?


    Guest post by Sean O’Shea

    With the upcoming Windows 8 launch happening tomorrow (Friday 26th October), I recently did a keynote speech at an event with one of our partners. We had a great turn out including head teachers, deputy head teachers and ICT leads from primary and secondary schools. It was overwhelming how much positive response we got from the audience about Windows 8, and we had some excellent feedback and questions from the education staff who attended.


    I’ll go into these in more detail later on, but in a nutshell the main things people at the event got excited about were:

    · The choice of hardware available with Windows 8 and Windows RT

    · Windows 8 is able to run legacy apps

    · Compatibility in the classroom – USB slots on both Windows RT and Windows 8 (you can find a good compatibility matrix for Windows 8 and Programs/Devices here)

    · Office Home and Student on Windows RT

    · If pupils are embracing BYOD or taking devices home, the availability of Windows 8 and Windows RT family safety settings are really valuable. Parents can even set controls on what rated apps children can download

    So it’s great that teachers and IT staff are already seeing the possibilities of Windows 8 and Windows RT for their schools. Although one thing that struck me after my discussions with the education staff at the event, was the number of people asking about the differences between Windows RT and Windows 8. Deciding which devices and OS to work with in schools is a big decision, so I understand the importance of schools leaders and IT decision makers needing to know what features they will gain from each Windows OS version.

    Before I separate the two, I just want to say that the teachers and ICT leaders at the event seemed to clearly spot the key advantage of both Windows RT and Windows 8 - the choice of devices. There is such a large range of devices available with these two operating systems, which means you are not limited to just one piece of hardware, and you can really tailor a device that’s right for your school. You can find just a few options for hardware here.

    Detailed below are some of the main features of both Windows RT and Windows 8, which seemed to be most important to education staff at the event.

    Windows RT

    Window RT devices use an ARM processor. This includes many features that are important when using a device in the classroom.


    Quick on / fast boot

    With Windows RT devices booting up in seconds, no class time is wasted. The Samsung Ativ Tab, for example, is ‘always ready to go!’ with a quick boot up time.

    Thin and light
    Windows RT devices are portable and easy for pupils and teachers to transport to, from and around school. Devices fit in a school bag easily without weighing it down. Surface with Windows RT, for example, weighs just 676g and is 9.3 mm thin.

    Battery life

    With most Windows RT devices having a battery life of at least 8 hours or more, this is enough for the duration of a full school day. Therefore there’s no need to worry about lesson interruptions from low battery life.

    Multiple user profiles

    As mentioned above, with and increasing amount of pupils using BYOD for school and taking devices home, it’s vital that internet safety is practiced. With the option of multiple user profiles on Windows RT, parents can monitor and set what apps and content children can download.

    Office Home & Student 2013 is included with Windows RT

    Windows RT includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote – all essential apps for the classroom.

    USB 2.0 slot

    Connect external peripherals such as external hard drives for extra storage and backup.

    Printing compatibility

    You can print documents in the classroom with Windows RT.  Dell and Hewlett-Packard have published a compatibility list of printers for Windows RT.

    Keyboard option on many devices

    Touch screen is great, and it provides a really immersive and engaging experience, but when it comes to typing you can lose half the screen with a touch keyboard. Lots of Windows RT devices have detachable keyboards or a keyboard dock (some include battery charging) for flexibility of type or touch, and the option of a fully viewable screen whilst typing.

    Windows 8

    Legacy apps

    You can bring all the apps that you use in Windows 7 over to a Windows 8 device. So all your learning tools you currently use in the classroom can still be used exactly as they are in Windows 8 (any Windows 7 application win32 .exe will work).

    Join to your domain

    With Windows 8 devices, schools are able to join to their domain. The main advantage of this is that schools will be able to manage devices in a traditional way such as doing updates, managing security and deploying software.

    Like a PC

    Windows 8 devices are built to work like your desktop PC, including inbuilt drivers. They are designed with the power and capability of an ultrabook, in a tablet form. Think space saving in the classroom and working outside of the classroom. Consider the flexibility of working on Windows 8 devices - they are much more portable so pupils and teachers can work anywhere, anytime, with all the functionality of a desktop PC. Take your class outside, on a trip, or around the school - with devices in tow.

    Stylus Support

    Some Windows 8 devices offer stylus support. Stylus accessories are great for pupils to take written notes with a device pen, which can then be digitized into documents. An example is the Asus Vivo Tab.

    Windows To Go

    Windows To Go enables the creation of a Windows To Go workspace that can be booted from a USB-connected external drive on PCs that meet the Windows 7 or Windows 8 certification requirements, regardless of the operating system running on the PC. This provides efficient use of resources for alternative workplace scenarios. This is all about mobility. Schools are looking at ways to provide mobile solutions for pupils. If a school wants a teacher or a pupil to have access to their school desktop and school network (apps, settings etc) from home, it’s easy with Windows To Go. At the moment schools might look at complicated solutions such as VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure). Windows to go will provide an incredibly simple alternative that will allow pupils and teachers to experience their full windows 8 school desktop at home with just a USB drive.

    Flexible price points

    It looks like there’s going to be some really great deals coming for Windows 8 devices, so again the choice of hardware design relative to your budget is huge. A nice example is the Acer W510 which is reportedly going to be priced at around $500.


    I hope that gives you some valuable information on Windows RT and Windows 8, as well as some help with choosing devices for your school.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 in Education eBook - Now Available


    Our new Windows 8 in Education eBook is hot off the press. Written by leading practitioners, the eBook can get you started and inspire you about many of the great features of Windows 8 from an education perspective.


    The eBook is in sections. One is for hands-on educators, teachers and lecturers, while another is directed at network managers, the people who will have to stay one step ahead and make sure that educators and learners have the best Windows 8 experience. There’s also a section that covers ‘top Apps’. The Windows 8 Apps are key feature of Windows 8, and you’ll find quite a lot about them in various places in this eBook.

    Finally, we include a short section on App development with Windows 8. As we know, this is going to be a key feature for education. Young people are great App users, but they don’t want to leave it there. They’re increasingly keen to develop their own Apps, and the way it can be done with Windows 8, the Windows Store, and Microsoft development tools, offers them an absolutely unrivalled opportunity to be ahead of the game, alongside professional developers. Teachers are going to seize this aspect of Windows 8 in a way that has the potential to transform and re-energise ICT teaching in schools, colleges and universities.

    The full eBook can be downloaded from our SlideShare account. Alternatively, the eBook can be viewed in full below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 in education launch event at QPR FC


    With the release of Windows 8 now only a matter of weeks away, we have some exciting education specific activities planned for launch day and beyond. BETT 2013, in particular, is going to be a great opportunity to learn more about the exciting new capabilities within Windows 8 and take some of the innovative new devices for a test drive. There are quite a few that we can't wait to get our hands on :)

    Focusing on Windows 8 launch day (26th October), we are hosting a Windows 8 in education event with our friends from Lenovo and QPR. The event will be held at Loftus Road, QPR's iconic stadium in West London, and will offer a unique insight into how our new OS can excite students and help them realise their full potential. Lenovo will also be on hand to discuss how their new range of Windows 8 devices can provide unique, flexible and cost effective learning experiences across both touch and keyboard and mouse.

    Microsoft and Lenovo senior executives will also be presenting their views on the key trends currently impacting the education sector, such as BYOD, 1:1 computer programmes and how to embrace a new era in digital learning. Should be a great afternoon!


    Furthermore, for those football fans, no trip to Loftus Road is complete without a tour of the ground. With this in mind, we are planning to round off the afternoon with a tour of the ground, and more specifically, a visit to the clubs education centre (sponsored by Microsoft and Lenovo). During this element of the tour, we will see students from local schools putting Windows 8 through its paces. The kids don’t know it yet, but there will be a surprise visit from a first team player where one or two of the kids attending will be presented with a Windows 8 device.

    The day will end with a few drinks and nibbles where you can connect with colleagues, play with some of the devices or ask some of the Microsoft or Lenovo staff more specific questions about Windows 8 in education.

    We are just fine tuning the afternoon, but the current details are as follows:

    Date: 26th October, 2012

    Venue: Loftus Road Stadium, London, W12 7PJ



    • Registration: 2.30pm - 3.00pm
    • Welcome (Microsoft): 3.00pm – 3.10pm
    • Introduction to QPR (QPR): 3.10pm – 3.20pm
    • Windows 8 in education Overview (Microsoft): 3.20pm – 3.40pm
    • Windows 8 Devices in education (Lenovo): 3.40pm – 4.00pm
    • Windows 8 education App showcase (Speaker TBC): 4.00pm – 4.10pm
    • Loftus Road Tour – including Education Centre visit: 4.10pm – 4.45pm
    • Drinks & Networking: 4.45pm – 5.45pm

    This event is aimed at Head Teachers, Teachers, Lecturers and IT professionals working within education. With only 70 places, tickets are going to go quickly. To secure yours, sign up today via the our EventBrite page.

    More information will be shared, both via the blog and email (to those who have registered), over the next week. We look forward to seeing you on the 26th!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Warwickshire County Council move 185 schools to the cloud


    You might remember a guest post by Mark Reynolds earlier this year about how Warwickshire County Council were moving their schools to the cloud. Well six months on, here is a detailed story by Harvey Woodall (Warwickshire E-Learning Adviser) about why this project came about, the migration to Office 365 for education, positive feedback from the 185 schools subscribed, and future plans.


    Through a PFI project known as We-Learn, Warwickshire schools have had access to a centralised ‘Learning Platform’ since 2004. At the start of this project the Learning Platform product provided by a Microsoft partner was not really fit for purpose and offered no real benefits for schools. This is not a criticism of the partner, but rather a reflection of the software and technologies available at the time. The Learning Platform did improve significantly throughout the eight years of the PFI project and although never perfect, became an important tool for communication, collaboration and learning support within a large number of schools and indeed across the authority.

    Although the option to continue with this Learning Platform was available at the end of the We-Learn contract (August 2012), the pricing (without PFI subsidy) was beyond what most schools would be prepared to pay. As such, the search for a replacement product started in April 2011 with a significant number of meetings with all of the main VLE/Learning Platform suppliers. It became clear that most of the products were very similar in what they offered, many were over-complicated by too many features and toolsets and prices varied very considerably. Our experiences over the last seven or so years had demonstrated that schools wanted a product that was simple to use with an effective range of communication, collaboration and storage tools. They specifically didn’t want VLE –type functionality with the ability to assign work to pupils, take it back in and mark it electronically. This had been available in the previous partner product and had been little used. Integrated email was an additional requirement as was the ability to ‘plug’ in other third party products or content in the future.


    By the end of 2011 we had focused our attention on developing a solution around Google and were working with a third party to pilot this in a number of schools. Around the same time, Microsoft approached us with an offer of some support and a recommended partner (BFC Networks) to look at an in-house SharePoint 2010 solution. Proof of concepts for both the Google and a SharePoint solution were developed and presented to schools at a series of meetings in early 2012. Feedback from schools was positive for both solutions. However, there was recognition that the familiarity of the SharePoint solution (the previous Learning Platform was based on SharePoint 2007), together with the improved functionality in SharePoint 2010 had particular benefits for our schools. The SharePoint solution was therefore developed further and in particular to create ‘template’ sites for both primary and secondary schools which could be used as a starting point for each school’s Learning Platform site.

    As the solution development continued, the decision to concentrate on SharePoint 2010 was further supported by Microsoft’s decision to make the Office 365 for education A2 plan available to schools free of charge. Our focus had to change slightly as there are differences and some limitations with SharePoint in Office 365 for education when compared to a local installation. The final solution was actually to combine a local instance of SharePoint with the Office 365 for education cloud service, with the local instance being available to provide the facility to integrate code which otherwise would not have been possible in the cloud. Warwickshire has the benefit of a single active directory that contains all school users. This provided the basis of a federated solution with the required Office 365 for education active directory. Warwickshire had provided a hosted school email system based on OWA for a number of years. The move to Office 365 for education provided the opportunity to migrate this older mail system across to the cloud service.

    In May 2012 presentations were again made to schools demonstrating the Office 365 for education SharePoint sites as well as the new email system. At this point, schools were asked to commit to a two year subscription to the service. Certain third party products including Purple Mash and Autology were bundled with the subscription to add value and given this, the subscription price offered represented an exceptionally good deal. We had anticipated between 100 to 150 schools would subscribe; to this point 185 schools have committed with the majority being primary. Most of the school’s SharePoint sites required were created prior to the end of the summer term with administrator access available to allow their customisation.

    image    image  
    Learning Blogs created and ready to go                                                                      
    Telford infant school

    Over the holiday period a great deal of very complex work went into ‘breaking’ our dependencies with the original system and creating the required users in the Office 365 for education environment. There were significant challenges along the way, but by the first day of the new term we had migrated all but a handful of the required 85,000 users to Office 365 for education and provided access for them to email. It took a further three weeks to make the sites available to all school users and work is still on-going with some of the single sign on integrations to third party products. Advisers have been busy supporting schools in customising their SharePoint template sites; many of these are shown on our twitter page ( Additionally, a number of schools have undertaken the customisation and building process themselves using just basic help guides. The simplicity of the template together with the range of tools and features available within Office 365 for education SharePoint has helped to make this process very accessible.

    The start of term was particularly challenging because of problems relating to password re-setting and, yes, there are minor bugs that are only just coming to light as the SharePoint sites are starting to be used more. However, the feedback from schools that have started to use their new Learning Platform has been very positive. On the whole users are finding it simple to use and easy to configure/customise to meet the needs of their individual schools. Future developments to the platform will provide accounts for parents and a method of surfacing basic MIS information in a secure but cost-effective manner. Further integrations are expected with other third party products and we are now also starting to look at the implications of SharePoint 2013.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    New Lenovo Windows 8 tablets and laptops


    Originally posted by Ray Fleming

    A month ago I wrote about a dozen new Windows 8 devices – laptops, tablets and All-In-Ones running Windows 8 and Windows RT – that were being previewed before the big day on 26th October when Windows 8 is officially released. It means that as a education user thinking about what devices teachers and students could be using for next academic year, there's a huge range of possible choices that are popping up. It means that you can choose your priorities based on each student groups' specific needs – for example, for younger students you might want tablets with great touch interfaces, and for older students you may want a traditional laptop design, and then for high-school and university students, perhaps you're looking for a convertible that's equally capable as both a touch tablet and a keyboard-driven laptop. And there's also choices available depending on what software choice you need for your users – for example, do you need to run all of your existing Windows software, or would your choice be to have a device that will only need to run the new Windows 8 software?

    Well since last month the news has continued to trickle out from other manufacturers about what's coming, and overnight it was Lenovo's turn to take to the stage with panache.

    Lenovo Convertible modesThey've announced a quartet of 'convertibles' – where the screens can flip around 360 degrees, so that you can run them in tablet mode, laptop mode, 'stand' mode and 'tent' mode. In a classroom, that would give lots of different ways of using them for individual students at a desk, on a table, or on their lap; collaborative learning tasks; or teaching small groups.

    And the other big news for education users is that battery life has taken a big jump – up to 16 hours on some of these new devices!

    The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga has two different versions:

      Yoga 13 -  a 13.3" screen, with Intel i7 processors, and which runs full Windows 8. This has got a battery life of up to 8 hours.

        Yoga 11 – an 11.6" screen, and an ARM-based processor, which runs Windows RT. The battery life on this one is up to 13 hours.



        And then there's the IdeaTab Lynx, which is a tablet and a laptop together – as a tablet, you have an 11.6" screen and an Intel processor, running full Windows 8. In this mode, you'd basically run in full touch mode. But if you add the keyboard dock, you've then got up to 16 hours battery life (because the dock contains an extra hidden battery) and a full keyboard – so you can run it as you would any normal laptop too.


        You can read the Lenovo press release here, but for more product details, I'd recommend reading the product info on the Lenovo website, where they show the product features side-by-side, so that you can see all four models together on a single page.


        Learn MoreRead more about other new Windows 8 devices, from my previous blog post

      1. Microsoft UK Schools blog

        The ICT curriculum - what are the biggest barriers to progress?


        Guest post from Janet Murray on behalf of the Education Innovation Conference. 

        The ICT curriculum has been widely criticised for being out of step with developments in technology. But with the subject currently under scrutiny, as part of the National Curriculum review in England, there is an opportunity to develop a syllabus that is a much better fit for today's learners. So what are the biggest barriers to progress? Speakers from the upcoming Education Innovation conference have their say.

        Layout 1


        Michael Shaw, deputy editor of the Times Educational Supplement (TES)

        The big issue must be how teachers can harness the true potential of ICT for learning - not to carry on using tech as simply a flashy, digital version of the same teaching tools schools have used for centuries. Quite extraordinary results are being achieved where pupils are learning on their own online. That raises big questions about the role of teachers, and some will find those questions scary. I do believe we will always need teachers - but, to quote the futurologist David Thornburg, ‘Any teacher who can be replaced by a computer deserves to be’.

        Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

        The biggest challenge around ICT is the increasing ‘digital divide’. There are still too many young people without access to technology or without adequate training on its use, which impacts on ability to do homework, learn IT skills required for the modern workplace or search online for jobs or training courses. As these young people often come from lower socio-economic groups, the digital divide widens as technology moves on and they’re left behind.

        Maggie Philbin, TV presenter and co-founder of Teen Tech, an organisation that provides one-day careers events to give young people an insight into careers in science, technology and engineering

        I think it's an exciting but very challenging time for teachers who want to do their best by students but may feel guidance is coming from many directions.

        It's vital our education system responds to the demand for digital skills, which should be seen as a tool across all disciplines and not a separate subject area.

        In a fast moving subject like ICT maybe we should encourage more student/teacher collaborative explorations of topics.

        We probably need to look closely at Maths and how we can encourage more students to study the right kind of maths for longer.

        Emma Mulqueeny, co-founder of the Coding for Kids movement

        Parents and teachers are wary of exposing children to the perceived risk from paedophiles and may struggle to allow their children the freedom to learn online – the only place they can pick up some of the digital skills necessary for them to practice advanced programming.

        Often, the solution to the digital renaissance is to close, protect and hide pupils and educators from the digital unknown, but this approach will fail in a digital world.

        Simon Humphreys, co-ordinator, Computing at School

        We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a decisive and lasting change to our children’s education in ICT. The consensus is that we need to refocus computer science as a proper, rigorous, high-status, school subject, on a par with other sciences.

        We need to focus not on the technology, but on the underlying discipline – and balance the need for computer science in schools with the demands for digital literacy and IT. 

        Equally, we must support teachers as they begin to engage with computer science in their classrooms but lack confidence in their own knowledge and understanding of the subject.

        Education Innovation is being held at Manchester Central on March 8th and 9th, 2013

      2. Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Game based learning at Kilbowie Primary School


        Guest post by Sarah Garcia from Kilbowie Primary School, West Dunbartonshire.

        Sarah is a Primary 7 (11-12 year olds) teacher at Kilbowie Primary School, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She has been teaching for seven years and loves helping children to learn. Sarah really enjoys trying to find innovative ways to get children excited about learning and allowing them to explore a wide range of relevant, purposeful learning experiences, which will prepare them for the future. Sarah is particularly interested in new technologies and game based learning, which is a happy coincidence as that is something the children are interested in too.

        Brandon Generator Project


        I got the idea for developing a Brandon Generator project after seeing the project mentioned on Twitter (a great place for sharing teaching ideas). I watched the first episode and instantly thought my class would love to get involved. I pretty much dropped what I had planned for the upcoming weeks in literacy and looked at how I could develop their skills using Brandon Generator as a stimulus. We worked as a class developing Brandon's story and watching the various episodes, the children were excited to see that similar ideas to theirs had been incorporated into the animation. We discussed writer's style, choice of vocabulary and structure, the writing process (drafting editing etc.), character development, plot.... the children got a real working understanding of the process of  story writing. The children also created their own songs and podcasts of the voicemails they thought would be on Brandon's phone. Additionally, the project allowed the opportunity for philosophical debate about creation, reality and existence which the children really enjoyed.

        I didn't really predict how engaged the children would become with the project. I think the secret ingredient was the opportunity to collaborate with real authors, it gave their writing a real purpose and a live audience - so they really gave it their all. I was really amazed by the quality of writing they had produced; some real authors in the making!

        It was great to see even the more reluctant writers absorbed in their work, scribbling away, taking work home to finish! Some children were inspired to write songs about Brandon and were out in the playground with paper and pencils, leaning on a book and writing songs words together. Brilliant stuff.

        Kodu in the Primary School


        The Kodu project was a cross-curricular game based project, spanning across of curricular areas allowing for the involvement of a wide range of secondary subject teachers . Games were created in the primary schools and each school voted two winning games (one per primary 7 class) to save and take to high school for use in the project. As well as creating the games children took part in a variety of learning activities in the primary school. They took notes during the game making process, developed their Kodu characters and wrote imaginative character descriptions whilst exploring vocabulary: adjectives, adverbs, metaphor and similies.

        They wrote back stories for their games and developed a narrative to go with their game. They also explored different genres and styles of writing and wrote a review of their computer game.

        I only really had to run through a basic tutorial with the children and go over a few key features of Kodu. The children were creating their own games straight away, the programme is fairly intuitive and children were creating and discovering things for themselves as well as teaching me new things!

        The project engaged all the children, particularly those who perhaps are not top of the class in other subjects such as English and maths, they were allowed their moment to shine and designated the role of 'Class Kodu Experts' and helped others to learn.

        Kodu at High School

        Once at the high school the children were put into mixed groups from the various feeder primary schools. The children were given the opportunity to play and review the Kodu games created by the various P7 classes. Each group was assigned a particular game to market and formed their own marketing company. The children came up with their own company names and designed company logos. Within their company they then created task teams, which focused on a wide range of learning tasks such as: creating game websites, game advertising podcasts, writing game reviews, designing promotional materials and launch invites, exploring finance, event planning, photography, film and even providing  catering and hospitality for the parents’ event . The parents event took the shape of a games launch event and the children were able to show parents around the school and share their transition work.

        The children really enjoyed the Kodu transition project, they were so motivated to create the games and were learning so much without really realising it. It was great to see the children teaching their parents their new skills at the games launch.

        If you would like to speak to someone from Clydebank High regarding the Kodu transition project, Hazel McLaughlin the depute head teacher co-ordinated it.

        Future Projects

        Game Based Learning

        I will continue to use Kodu as part of ICT. Game design features in the new Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and am keen for children to develop these skills. I also aim to develop a game based project using maths as the focus, using XBOX 360 and London 2012 game is an idea at the moment.

      3. Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Microsoft Schools Programme – October & November training events


        Looking for some great advice, examples and best practice in the use of the wide range of Microsoft technologies and programmes in schools? Then this series of events hosted by some of our school partners could help. Each month we will publishing a list of events being held around the country.

        • Here are the events for October and November, so get booking
        • All events are free to attend.


        To attend any event, please contact the school directly or by the email contacts listed here.





        8th Oct 4pm community school

        Innovative use of mobile technologies

        Ben Rowe

        9th Oct 4pm

        New Line Learning Academy

        PowerPoint – Beyond the basics

        Alan Enfield

        10th Oct 4pm

        Sawtry Community College

        Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum

        Pam Kitchen

        11th Oct 4pm

        Djanogly City Academy

        Microsoft Free Stuff

        Paul Leatham

        11th Oct 4pm

        Calderglen High School

        Microsoft MovieMaker

        Odette Frazer

        15th Oct 4 pm

        Broadclyst Community Primary School

        Using Media across the curriculum

        Jonathan Bishop

        26th Oct 4pm community school

        Bring and Brag – Share your ideas

        Ben Rowe

        30th Oct 4pm

        Calderglen High School

        Using Microsoft OneNote

        Odette Frazer

        5th Nov 10am

        Hugh Christie Technology College

        Office 365 – Email

        Ken Fassum

        5th Nov 12pm

        Hugh Christie Technology College

        Skydrive in the Classroom

        Ken Fassum

        6th Nov 10am

        Hugh Christie Technology College

        Kodu in the Classroom

        Ken Fassum

        7th Nov 4pm

        Sawtry Community College

        MOS accreditation & Self Learning Programme

        Pam Kitchen

        14th Nov 5pm

        Calderglen High School

        Microsoft Free stuff

        Odette Frazer

        26th Nov 4pm

        Broadclyst Community Primary School

        Working collaboratively online

        Jonathan Bishop

        28th Nov 4pm

        Sawtry Community College

        Strategic Leadership of ICT

        Pam Kitchen

        You can find out more about the range of programmes Microsoft Partners in Learning offers by joining for free at

      4. Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Windows 8 Education apps in the Windows Store


         I originally wrote about Windows 8 apps for education a few weeks ago.


        And since last time, that I've installed some more apps, so here's my additional recommended education apps for Windows 8:



        Windows Store link for Mathrathon
        It's a simple maths game – you're shown two numbers along with a simple addition or subtraction sign, and the answer. All you need to do is to click Correct or Wrong. Mathrathon creates 60 random questions (and the most difficult I got was 143-87=22). Sounds simple? Well, turns out it's a lot trickier than you imagine, and it's actually turned into quite a competitive challenge amongst a group at the office.
        As this is listed in Games, not in Education, it's also a reminder to check that category too for great learning games.


        SAS Flash Cards

        Windows Store link for SAS Flash Cards
        This is a flash card app with a great list of additional things that are good for teachers as well as students. Probably the best one is that you can create your own flash cards by uploading a spreadsheet. I could imagine that would make it much easier for a teacher to create flash cards to match their lesson plans. And the second handy addition is that, in Quiz mode, the results can be emailed – so that students could send their results back to a teacher, which would be great for assessment of/for learning.





        Windows Store link for QuickMath
        QuickMath is a simple app for improving your calculation knowledge. It presents you with a calculation of two numbers from 0 to 99 which you have to multiply. After you submit the result the app shows if your answer was correct or wrong. To be honest, this turned out to be quite tricky for me to do, but made me think quite hard for the mental maths tricks I could use to get the answer more quickly.




        Viewer for Khan Academy

        Windows Store link for Viewer for Khan Academy
        This is an independently developed video player for educational videos from Khan Academy, which was developed by Joel Martinez as a Coding4Fun Community Project.

        Learn MoreRead my previous list for additional recommended education apps for Windows 8


        Original post by Ray Fleming

      Page 1 of 3 (25 items) 123