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November, 2012 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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November, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Khan Academy is in the Windows Store


    Originally posted on the Next at Microsoft Blog.



    A great addition to the Windows Store last week – the official Khan Academy app. For those not familiar with the Khan Academy, it’s an online phenomena that enables you to learn almost anything. For free. It's the focus on a story on titled One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education that notes Khan Academy videos have been viewed more than 200 million times int the past two years.

    The Windows 8 app includes the Khan Academy’s complete library of over 3,400 videos covering a huge number of topics, including K-12 math, biology, chemistry, and physics, the humanities, finance and history. To quote from the app itself

    Spend an afternoon brushing up on statistics. Discover how the Krebs cycle works. Learn about the fundamentals of computer science. Prepare for that upcoming SAT. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, learn how fire stick farming changed the landscape of Australia.

    It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology; Khan Academy's materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.
    Head over to to learn more.

    The app allows you to download videos – either individual or entire playlists to watch offline and integrates with the search and share charm as you may expect.

    Bill Gates is a big fan so what’s not to like? Go grab it.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 in Education eBook: Education and Productivity Apps


    Excerpt from our Windows 8 in Education eBook.

    Windows 8 comes with a number of Apps as standard, but you can also download a growing selection of Apps from the Windows Store. Remember that as long as you have logged in, your Apps will follow you around to whichever device you use.

    Key Apps that come built into Windows 8 include:

    Internet Explorer 10:

    Internet Explorer 10 is a new browser, built for Windows 8, that is fast and fluid and perfect for touch.




    This helps you manage your contacts (and classes). It links duplicate contacts and also allows you to quickly see your contacts updates on Twitter and Facebook. For the educators building personal learning and support networks on services such as Twitter, this can be a great support for CPD.



    Messaging provides a powerful unified communications tool that links seamlessly to Windows Live Messenger and Facebook, and offers teachers and lecturers an easy way to collaborate. Students, of course, will take to it like ducks to water!


    This is a highly efficient example of its type, proven in Bing Maps, and now with the additional seamless efficiency of Windows 8. As well as a geographical resource, Maps is a wonderful tool for enhancing stories that include journeys and adventures.


    This is a great looking App, with forecasts and statistics in graphics and figures against an atmospheric background. Wonderful for climate study and also for a wide range of data handling projects using Office tools within Windows 8.



    The full Windows 8 in education eBook can be downloaded via our SlideShare account, or alternatively, can be viewed in full below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft in Education: Infographic (updated)


    The final version of our Microsoft in Education Infographic is now available to download or view in full below.

    From helping teachers to connect and share best practice with peers to creating more emotional connections with learning through our gaming technologies, Microsoft is committed to helping students and educators throughout the world realise their full potential.

    With this in mind, our new Infographic offers an overview of some of the products and programmes that academic institutions are embracing to help raise attainment and transform the delivery of teaching and learning.

    Did you know all of the 8 things about Microsoft in education covered in the Infographic? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Surface reviews from IT education staff



    Following the recent release of Microsoft Surface, we were really keen to find out how Surface is working out in an education environment. We interviewed Ian Mills from Bolton Metropolitan Council and Mike Richardson from Stockton Borough Council. Both these guys work in local authority roles that support schools with the use of IT. Here’s what they said after some time exploring the new Microsoft Surface device:


    Surface is a really easy out of the box tablet, the manual is tiny manual and its simple to set up and start using. I was really impressed with the touch interface, having used an iPad in the past, I felt the Surface touch element was really good.

    I have other Windows 8 devices including a home laptop and a work laptop. I love the way that Windows 8 brings all those devices together. I really like the remote desktop app, so I was able to use Surface as a primary device. I am working on Surface now in place of my laptop – I haven’t used my laptop for days! Initially  I was concerned about not having Outlook, but the Mail app allows me to do everything I want across all my email accounts.

    I’ve had some interesting feedback from schools too. The kickstand has been very popular because it means that the pupils don’t have to hunch over the device like they did for the iPad, which was causing their posture to suffer. The kickstand is also robust so it’s perfect for schools.

    Microsoft Office on Surface is a huge advantage for teachers and pupils, as it allows them to easily create all the documents they need to. The battery life was also brilliant, lasting for the whole school day.

    I actually gave my Granddad a Surface and a Kindle Fire to play with, to see which would be more suitable for him as a Christmas present. He couldn’t understand how to use the Kindle at first, but he was able to start surfing the web immediately with the Surface device.


    One of my favourite features of Surface included the ability to print. I connected to my wireless HP printer at home immediately for really quick and easy printing. I also liked the multi-tasking option to ‘’snap’’ to multiple apps running simultaneously to the screen.

    Something else I liked that will be key for schools is the flexibility, particularly with the saving to areas. The ability to save work on a school network or Skydrive will be great for schools.

    I was able to run my wireless mouse and keyboard straight away using the USB which was really impressive. This will give different working style options for schools, as well as the touch screen option. The solid design of the tablet and the kickstand is also absolutely ideal for the school environment.

    I think that OneNote is excellent for the classroom, and I really liked the Skype app too.

    I gave Surface to a 6 year old, and she was able to access all the apps and games easily and said the Surface was her favourite device.

    Another big deal for schools is the ability to use Flash sites. This means there are hundreds of playable games that can be accessed from Surface. Some sites do need to be ‘’whitelisted’’ by the IE team for them to work though, but most games are easily accessible.

    The start screen is something else I really love, it’s so simple but displays so much information on the front screen. I like the information that is fed to you from the LiveTiles, which has encouraged me to look further into the live information being displayed on the tiles.

    I think overall Surface has a fresh design and the wow factor.  


    Both Mike and Ian interact with schools on a daily basis regarding IT and so they really understand the benefits that Surface RT can bring to Education.  They also mentioned that they are really looking forward to Windows 8 Surface.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 in education video


    In Windows 8, for the first time we have an operating system which is multilayered and capable of running on a range of devices from traditional laptops to tablets. It is culturally relevant to young people, slick to use and integrates with some of the best of breed cloud productivity applications (including Microsoft Office 365 for education).

    Combined with appropriate pedagogical processes, good leadership and sensible network management, perhaps we have finally reached a time in our short history where technology can have that transformative impact on young people and students that it deserves.

    Take a look at this video to see what you can do with Windows 8 in education.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Skype for Windows Phone 8


    It's been an exciting few weeks for the team at Skype. We've launched our new fast, easy-to-use and beautiful Skype for Windows 8, and updated Skype for Windows desktop which features the beautiful and modern design Windows Phone users have come to love while, like Skype for Windows 8, delivering the best of what you've come to expect from Skype.

    Skype for Windows Phone 8 isn't just about the design - we've built a completely new app from the ground up to be an important part of the Windows Phone experience. Here's a preview of some of the exciting capabilities coming with Skype for Windows Phone 8:

    Always Reachable
    Just like on Windows 8, Skype for Windows Phone 8 enables you to receive chats and notifications for voice and video calls even if you've navigated away to another app or have your phone on lock, so you can stay connected with your contacts whatever you're doing. Best of all, this all happens with limited battery drain.

    For the first time, incoming Skype calls arrive using the familiar incoming call screen from Windows Phone. We have also included useful new features such as call waiting, so switching between a Skype call and a regular mobile call is fast and easy.

    Skype call.png

    We've set out to bring Skype to Windows Phone 8 with a clean, beautiful and modern interface. When you first open the app, your most recent conversations and chats are the first thing you'll see. From there, you can pan over to your contact list or the newly added Favorites screen (more about that below) or see your entire contact list.

    home screen.png

    Windows Phone 8 has allowed us to bring new, resizable Live Tiles to Skype, so you have even more choices for making Skype a part of your Start Screen. On Windows Phone 8, Skype will show a count of your unread messages on all tile sizes - and with the largest size tile we show you a preview of the last message you received. The Live Tiles will help you to stay in touch with your friends and family, faster and easier than ever.

    windows phone screens.jpg

    You will now be able to see what's going on inside Skype without being in the app. Skype notifications can be added to the lock screen to appear alongside missed calls, unread emails and text fmessages, so there's no need to unlock your phone to check if you've missed a message or call in Skype. You can also see Skype notifications at the top of the screen when you're in other apps, so keeping up with the conversation has never been easier.

    windows phone screens 2.jpg

    Your People At Your Fingertips
    Just like Windows 8, once you sign in to Skype on your phone, your Skype contacts are automatically added to your Windows Phone, making it possible to call the people who matter to you via Skype right from the People Hub.


    Once you're in the app, you can set up Favorites to keep the most important people right at your fingertips.


    And finally, just like on Windows and Mac, if you have linked your Skype Name and Microsoft account, you can now see and chat with your Messenger buddies on Skype, making it possible for you to connect with more people than ever. And with the family of platforms Skype is available on, including PCs, iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Androids, Macs and even TVs, doing things with your friends and family whenever you are apart has never been easier.

    windows phone screens 3.jpg

    We're hard at work finishing up Skype for Windows Phone 8 and looking forward to bringing Skype to the Windows Phone Store soon.

    To get the latest Skype news and tips about how to make your experience with Skype better than ever, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or join us on the Skype Support Network.

    Originally posted on the Skype blog.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A Windows 8 tablet built for teachers


    Ergo have come up with a great tablet that can be used in education environments, with lots of nice features for teachers. The Ergo Hybrid is the first model in the new range of sleek, slim, Windows® 8 compatible Tablets.


    Unless you’ve been hiding in a cupboard somewhere, you might know that Windows 8 was launched on Friday 26th October 2012. Windows 8 is helping bring about a new era of technology both inside and outside of the classroom. Windows 8 has been re-imagined for learning and is optimised to bring learning to life, enabling students to consume, collaborate, and create in new and exciting ways.

    Ergo are embracing Windows 8 with this new tablet that seems to meet the needs of teachers in the classroom. With a price of only £599 (+ VAT), it’s cost effective too.

    There is a dock available (with keyboard and additional battery for £75), which enables teachers to be mobile and have more functionality if they need it. With a longer battery life as well, it means that teachers can use their tablets for a full working day without having to charge it.

    The tablet has a large screen which provides easy access to programs, which is important for teachers to find apps quickly. There is full support for touch, mouse and keyboard, so teachers have a choice of how they want to work.

    If you’re worried about your confidential information, the Ergo Hybrid table has enhanced security with Trusted Boot, so you can be sure that your data is secure.

    Here is a more detailed spec of the tablet:

    • 11.6” LED Touch Panel (10-point touch)
    • Docking station with a full QWERTY keyboard
    • Intel Pentium 967 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 64GB SSD
    • Integrated Wireless & Bluetooth
    • 1.3MP Front Camera / 2.0MP Back Camera
    • 2 x USB 2.0 / 1 x USB 3.0 Port / 1 x Mini-HDMI port 
    • Battery - up to 8 hours with docking station
    • Weight - 990g (with 3G)
    • Dimensions - 198mm (w) x 13.5mm (d) x 300mm (h)  
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Get inspired, get skilled, get a job - 'Get On' launches today


    Get On - a new initiative from the Microsoft

     Get On launches today, Wednesday 7th November!

    Get inspired, get skilled and get a job

    Get On is a new project from Microsoft to help 300,000 16-24 year olds in the UK get inspired, get skilled and get a job over the next three years, through a combination of education and training, apprenticeships and work experience.

    Because Get On is about and for young people, Microsoft’s own team of interns play an important role by sharing experiences and knowledge. As Microsoft's youth, we know just how hard it can be filling out application forms, getting through interviews and finding a job. That’s why we want to help 16-24 year olds get inspired by telling them about our experiences, giving CV and interview tips and conducting free workshops on how best to get a job.

    As part of today’s launch, we have some very exciting goings on in London, all of which will be delivered directly to your newsfeeds via Twitter and Facebook. Brighten your Wednesday with fun facts and a real VIP appearance later today. And today is just the beginning...

    Follow the updates on Twitter using #GetOn or like our Facebook page.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Virtualisation at South Tyneside College


    A major FE college radically improves its level of IT support for learning, leadership and administration with the aid of Microsoft technologies, particularly Microsoft Hyper-V for server virtualisation.

    South Tyneside College is a large Further Education institution on two sites in South Shields, on the North East Coast of England. It has about 11,000 students enrolled on a full range of courses. A strong and historic specialisation in Marine studies means that the college draws students from around the world as well as from the local area and across the UK.


    College Front

    IT at South Tyneside

    In the FE environment, a high quality user experience of IT is essential for success and growth. At South Tyneside College this is recognised by the creative and forward looking deployment of a range of technologies in which Microsoft products strongly feature, including Hyper-V for server virtualisation,

    The importance of that user experience is well demonstrated by the annual student enrolment process. At South Tyneside College between three and four thousand students will enrol between the last week in August and the second week in September.

    Head of IT Services Craig Scott explains how this works.

    ‘All our enrolments are entered into our student records system in real time, with the student sitting in front of a member of staff who is typing in their details, putting them on the correct courses. Obviously during this two to three week period, reliability and performance are key factors. Big delays or technical problems during enrolment can lead to students walking out the door and enrolling at another college.’

    Clearly, then, the very wide range of users – administrators, managers, students, teaching staff and others, within College and beyond – expect, as of right, a level of service that’s fast, unobtrusive, reliable, consistent and responsive to rapidly changing circumstances. Meeting those demands from a new data centre brought on line during the Summer of 2012, Craig Scott and his team deploy and support technologies that include Microsoft Desktop Applications which are in constant use across 2000 desktop and portable device. There are also numerous business applications fundamental to the efficient working of the College, such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Data bases, and proprietary finance systems and student records (including pastoral records).

    Most importantly, however, all the College’s mission-critical business systems are provided within a private cloud, hosted by servers virtualized with Microsoft Hyper-V, chosen after initial experience with both Microsoft technology and VMWare.


    The South Tyneside College Virtualisation Journey

    The College’s ambitious and innovative move of its IT infrastructure from a large number of single-purpose physical servers to a fully virtualised environment has been achieved over some five years by the College IT team, led by Head of IT Services Craig Scott . The aim, throughout, has been to stay ahead of growing demand and expectations with the best and most cost-effective user experience.

    Craig and the team embarked on virtualisation technology in 2006/7, using two Microsoft Virtual Servers, and one VMWare server. Then a year or so later along came Windows Server 2008, which came with Hyper-V. Craig and his team installed this on a spare server and in the course of exploring its features they found it to be the best option – more efficient, easier to use. The fact that Windows 2008 and Hyper-V included Windows Failover Clustering further confirmed that Microsoft’s Hyper-V route was the one to take. So within six months of the release of Windows Server 2008, Craig had migrated eight existing virtual servers, including Exchange and SQL Server, to a Windows Failover Cluster hosted on two physical servers.

    From that point, there was steady progress, The upgrade in 2009 of Windows Server 2008 to 2008 R2 brought a new version of Hyper-V, which was now installed on a Windows Failover Cluster grown to five servers, to which all existing virtual servers were now migrated. The process continued through the rest of 2009 until by December the failover cluster had expanded again, to seven servers into which fifty physical servers were now migrated.

    The year 2011 brought pressures on funding, and the familiar need to achieve more with less. Reliability and efficiency could not be compromised however, and by now, experience showed that Hyper-V was well up to the task, so Craig and the team decided to establish a second seven-server Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster running Hyper-V. This now gave the College a remarkably robust IT infrastructure. As Craig puts it,

    ‘Once this second cluster was established we effectively replicated a lot of our existing application/front-end servers for business critical systems and used Windows Network Load Balancing to balance the traffic between them on the two clusters.’


    The Current Picture

    The position now, into the beginning of Academic Year 2012- 2013 is that both of the ‘production’ seven-server Hyper-V clusters are located in the new data centre – a compact installation taking up less room, using less energy than a large number of individual physical servers.

    In addition, underlining the emphasis on reliability, there are also five servers, again running 2008 R2 and Hyper-V, in an auxiliary server room across the campus. These servers host ‘cold’ and ‘warm’ standby virtual machines for all critical systems. As Craig says,

    ‘We’ve been able to facilitate this via Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2012 which we use to back up all the virtual machines from our production clusters and restore them in a dormant state to our standby Hyper-V servers. In the event of a serious issue with one or more of the servers in the primary data centre we can bring the cold or warm standby virtual machine hosted in the auxiliary server room into use within five to ten minutes.’

    It seems that the more experience that Craig and the team have with Microsoft technologies, the more they’re able to put them to work for learners and staff at the college. Their deployment of Microsoft App-V, for example, means that Microsoft desktop applications do not have to be installed on desktops, but are available to users on demand from the virtualised servers via a browser. As a result, any application is available on any PC and when there are short notice room changes, for example, the necessary software for the class is still available. It’s a classic example of ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) running in a private cloud.

    Then there is extensive use of Microsoft System Centre as an invaluable platform for managing the network. Microsoft System Centre Virtual Machine Manager is used to manage all the virtual machines, and Microsoft System Centre Service Manager and System Centre Orchestrator are used to streamline the work of the IT Helpdesk. In fact positive experience with System Centre has led to its replacing the open source Request Tracker (RT) that had been in use for the helpdesk, enabling some issues to be handled automatically – as Craig says,

    ‘Again helping us to deliver more with less and increase reliability and efficiency.’


    Reaping the Benefits

    1. Reliability

    IT managers know that users want a system there when they want it, instantly, all the time, any time, The record shows that Craig Scott and his team are achieving exactly that for learners and staff at South Tyneside College. In Craig’s words,

    ‘Hyper-v and our private cloud have really helped us to deliver the levels of reliability and performance we need. The combination of Hyper-V, Windows Failover Clusters and Windows Network Load Balancing allowed us to achieve 99.95% average availability on our critical systems and services last academic year (the equivalent of 59 minutes and 57 seconds uptime out of every hour). ‘

    Most would settle for that. But, adds Craig,

    ‘This year we’re aiming for 99.99%.’

    2. Flexibility

    The academic year in a further education college makes widely varying demands on the IT network , not all of them predictable. At the start there’s the enrolment process already described, followed by initial assessments of new students by online testing, and later in the year will come a programme of examinations.

    This is where South Tyneside College’ virtualised IT environment shows its strength because of the ease with which virtualised servers can be moved around to add or reduce capacity in response to demand.

    Without that level of flexibility some activities either just couldn’t happen, or would have to wait for the acquisition of new physical servers.

    ‘There are massive benefits in this,’ says Craig, ‘There’ve been times when we’ve been involved in collaborative projects with other colleges, only to find they’ve stalled because they were waiting for new hardware, where we’ve been able to get a new virtual server up and running in half an hour.’


    And still to come?

    As the future brings college expansion and growing user expectation, South Tyneside College’s IT team seeks constantly to exploit developing technologies. Plans include –

    Moving mail accounts currently hosted on Google, to Office 365.

    It’s estimated that this will be trialled in the Spring of 2013, with a full migration in July/August.

    Using the cloud for disaster recovery. Craig Scott says, ,

    “We’ve got some funding from the Association of Colleges to look into cloud based disaster recovery solutions, and will evaluate Azure as a possible option”

    Developing the use of SharePoint. Craig Scott says,

    ‘We use SharePoint for our intranet and document management solution, and plan to develop the electronic document management side of this further this academic year’

    In the immediate future (before Christmas 2012) there will be trial deployments of Windows Server 2012 particularly to evaluate the enhancements to hyper-v and other new features such as data duplication. Following on, consideration will be given to upgrading one of the Hyper-V clusters from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows 2012.

    More with less

    Our education blogs have many examples of virtualisation with Hyper-V as a cost saver, because it can radically cut spending on servers, maintenance and energy use. In each case, however, there have also been considerable efficiency gains and it’s clear from the experience at South Tyneside College that in an enterprise-scale installation what matters most isn’t so much cost saving as cost-effectiveness -- the radically improved service to a large and varied population of users.

    ‘More with less’, as Craig Scott puts it.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Roundup of Shape the Future launch


    Yesterday marked the official launch of Shape the Future in the UK, held at Shirelands Collegiate Academy in Smethwick. Shape the Future is a program aimed at helping governments invest in education technology to create jobs, drive economic growth and increase competitiveness.

    The day began with an introduction from Sir Mark Grundy, the Principal at Shireland Academy. He gave us all something to think about with the following statement:

    “407 years ago, a revolution happened outside parliament. Today, 407 years later, a new revolution could happen.”

    Joice Fernandez, Microsoft’s Worldwide Senior Director for Public Private Alliances, and founder of the Shape the Future programme, kicked off the speeches by introducing the programme and giving us his translation of what Shape the Future means:

    “It's a movement, a cause and a belief."

    A key phrase which Joice repeated throughout his motivational speech was that Shape the Future is not just about technology in the classroom, but about “Empowering the children” and giving them greater control over their own learning.

    Once Joice had introduced us to the basics of the programme, Dr Vanessa Pittard took over to explain the Department for Education’s view on the importance of technological advancements in education.

    She expressed her view of technology as an enabler, and outlined that a strong relationship exists between lack of attainment and a student's background. The important issue of social inclusion was a key part of Dr Vanessa’s speech, and she emphasised the implications behind providing students with technology to enhance and develop their learning. The figures here speak for themselves. 109,000 students, around 20%, of those leaving primary school don’t achieve the national average, with this rising to around 1/3 of those leaving school at 16 (after GCSEs). Finally, she stressed the need for more to be done by government to tell teachers and schools what works in order to improve achievement, for example, technology rich environments lie that at Shirelands.

    Mike Allen from RM was next up, and provided us with yet another detailed and inspiring speech around the impact of technology in education. He began by voicing his belief that it is getting harder to see cause and effect, especially in education, however, continued to say that “technology and careful use of technology can be successful”.

    He detailed how the Shape the Future programme allows more devices to be in the hands of more young people, at lower costs, without jeopardising any of the technology, all through the use of 1:1, which “really fits the way students work and learn”.

    Kirsty Tonks, Director of e-learning and transition at Shireland, finished the day, telling the room how the programme has helped the school develop teaching and learning through technology. She communicated the substantial need to create engagement through technology, not just with the students, but with their families too. On 1:1 devices, she expressed her original scepticism, but explained how she feels that ownership of the devices makes a difference to students, as they do not get distracted by the technology, but instead embrace it and integrate it in their learning.

    Kirsty explained how the technology had no only aided learning, but had inspired creativity by the students themselves, who have developed their own resources for themselves and their peers, such as Further Your Maths, an online revision tool developed by year 11 pupils.

    Finally, she introduced some of the students from Shirelands and other local schools, who gave delightfully refreshing presentations around how they feel software such as Kodu and OneNote have allowed them to work with technology to enhance their education.

    Once all the speeches were finished, the audience got the chance to play with the RM devices which are available to schools, all of which are running Windows 8, as well as demos of Pivot, a tool to help teachers track and analyse attainment, attendance and other key student facts, and a Kodu demo by the students.

    For more information about Shape the Future, follow them on Facebook.

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