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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

    Tablets in Education: Tablets and the BBC ‘B’

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    Guest post by Gerald Haigh, freelance writer. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education Blog(s).

    Do get the feeling that some schools are in too much of a rush to equip themselves with tablets? It’s only human after all, that urge to get the latest technology without much idea of what to do with it. Hand on heart now. Have you never done it?

    But schools? Surely not.

    Well, there are stories around that make you wonder. An article in ‘PC Pro’ on September 11th this year, for example, tells of a school where the head allowed staff to replace their laptops with the iPad 2. They were, apparently, thrilled at the prospect. After all, imagine being able to dump your heavy old laptop and use a smaller and more mobile touch-screen device, instead. OMG! No contest eh?

    But before you read the story, just spend thirty seconds reminding yourself what a teacher’s laptop is used for, and considering what problems they might come across when they’ve swapped it for an iPad. Then take a look at the article and see whether you identified them all.

    http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2012/09/11/the-school-that-swapped-its-laptops-for-ipads-and-wants-to-switch-back/#ixzz26EgTIzV7

    Now, it seems, ‘The staffroom is full of regret’, and Nicole Kobie, who writes the piece, comments, at the end,

    ‘With schools now given complete autonomy to spend their IT budget as they see fit, you have to wonder if headteachers across the country are making similarly bad decisions based on little more than gut instinct, appearances and the latest fad.’

    She’s right to wonder, given the numerous reported examples of schools that have gone for iPads not just for the staff, but for all the students.

    What we read, though, are the high profile stories (or, to be fair, often just the headlines) and it comes as something of a relief to find that when it comes to actual evidence based on more data, the message is that heads and teachers are probably more cautious than that.

    In May this year (2012) the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) published research on the number of tablet computers in schools. They estimate that by the end of 2012, just 6% of all ‘pupil-facing’ school computers will be tablets, a figure that will go up to 22% by the end of 2015. If those quite modest figures hold – and estimates of technology take-up have a track record of being wildly wrong either way – they demonstrate that interest and enthusiasm are tempered by healthy caution.

    In support of this, the same research finds that 72% of schools want more evidence before going for tablets. It’s not so much that anyone thinks iPads, or android tablets, or any of the less expensive educational devices are bad, or inefficient. All of them are great at what they set out to do.

    No, it’s much more a question of first being clear, at least in broad terms, about you want to use a tablet for in school, and then deciding which of them will best do the job. That, I’d say, means moving slowly, doing the research, running a pilot – all the sensible things you’ve surely done right from the start of your technological journey.

    At that point I stopped to wonder why, when I’d never had the experience of introducing tablets into a school, I felt so sure about that cautious approach. Then I realised it was because of what we experienced when I was a middle school head and our first computers arrived all those years ago.

    Let’s just consider how we handled that innovation then, because although lessons from history can mislead, I think there are some resonances with the issues around introducing tablets.

    For one thing, we didn’t acquire those wonderful BBC ‘B’ machines on a head teacher's whim. We all talked and listened and wondered and while we couldn’t always see exactly how they would fit into classroom routine, we could make out the broad outlines. Most importantly, we knew this was the future, a tide that had to be caught. The children and parents were with us all the way, and we were confident enough of our professionalism to know we would fix the details as we went along.

    That said, we kept our heads, and didn’t beggar ourselves to buy lots of stuff at the start. We had just one computer at first, then quite quickly a second one, then we waited. We wanted time, both to get on terms with what we had, and to see what else might become available over time.

    Neither, though, did we push those first two machines into corners as some did, destined for low-level peripheral activities.

    ‘When you’ve finished your work, Darren, you can go and play on the computer.’

    Instead we purposely put them into the hands of those who would fearlessly and collaboratively explore the possibilities for learning and creating. Not just staff (teaching and support), but volunteer pioneers from all sectors – children who revealed previously unsuspected skills and knowledge, and their parents and their parents’ friends, governors, neighbours, folk we’d never seen before. A few were into IT, some had never before clapped eyes on a monitor screen, all were people who could see that something profound was happening. They tried stuff, they talked, they went on courses, they phoned and visited other schools, they linked with the nearby secondary (at one point, with the aid of a magical and ridiculously unreliable gadget that, we learned, was called a modem) and they set up an evening ‘Computer Club’. Every day they knocked my door with news of more exciting developments that none of us had thought of in advance and, yes, we did eventually see learning gains mostly from increased motivation.

    As time went on, we grew bolder. We bought more computers, empowered by having gathered enough knowledge and experience to choose the devices and the software that would do the best job for us. (At that point, the young teacher who had emerged as the leader of it all was poached by the local authority to act as an adviser. Now, he and I meet to sing the songs of yesteryear and tell war stories of those ground-breaking days. Although that’s another story.)

    Where was I?

    Yes, tablets. Much the same applies, I’d say. So don’t waste time wondering whether they are coming to your classrooms, because, one way or another, they surely are.

    But just as in those heady early days of school computing, that doesn’t mean rushing to get class sets, or even one for every teacher, and do everything at once. This is a still-unfolding story, with unwritten chapters. Best concentrate on looking at what’s available, acquiring samples if you can and giving them, as we did, to the young or old but always the bold, who will push the devices to the limit, exploring all the angles. Above all, whether you can afford or can beg and borrow the samples or not, it’s a case of doing the online research, asking all the questions and, above all, talking to as many people as possible, in schools, in the industry, in adviser organisations.

    All the time, though, you may want to bear one or two things in mind.

    Firstly, that if you don’t feel the need for one tablet per student, or can’t afford them, the ability to run multiple profiles on each one might be useful, so they can share their tablets.

    And secondly, you probably want your students to have the option of creating excellent work with their tablets, at school or at home, using a suite of productivity software with which they are very familiar and will be using whenever and wherever they move on.

    Take another look at that PC Pro article to see what I mean, and then at this, also from PC Pro.

    http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/education/374944/schools-waiting-for-windows-8-before-buying-tablets

    Let’s just say, if you are among those who have waited, you might be very glad you did…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free HTML 5 and JavaScript Training & Certification

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    For a limited time, you can get free online training and certification on HTML 5 and JavaScript from Microsoft Learning

    Whether you are interested in creating the next Angry Birds game or want to try your hand at creating a Windows 8 App for your school, this training course will give you a solid start in getting to grips with HTML 5 and developing Windows 8 Store Apps.  The training is delivered through the popular ‘Jump Start’ virtual classroom with Microsoft experts.  Even better, you can get a free certification voucher for Exam 70-480 (Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3), which counts towards the new MCSD accreditation for Windows Store Apps.

    Register for the virtual course here. For more information on the free training and resources for schools through the IT Academy programme, including free new courseware for HTML 5, Gaming and Mobile, please go to www.microsoftitacademy.com.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 Hands on Labs with Tech Showcase

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    Are you interested in learning more about the latest technologies from Microsoft like Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8? 

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    Microsoft Learning Partners across the UK are running a full range of free first look clinics across the country covering:

    • Windows Server 2012
    • Windows 8
    • SQL Server 2012
    • Visual Studio 2012
    • Exchange Server 2013
    • SharePoint 2013
    • Lync 2013

    These sessions are run by expert Microsoft Certified Trainers who will help you explore and discover the new technologies and help you lead the way in your institution. Click here to find an event near you and book a seat.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    RM Technical Seminar, Birmingham 9 November 2012

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    Guest post by Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft blogs.

    I really look forward to RM’s regular regional Technical Seminars. The many sessions – which aren’t all highly technical by any means – deal with real and current issues, the educators and IT staff who attend are thoughtful, keen to learn but also with lots to offer. A huge amount gets covered in one short day, but nothing seems rushed, and that’s largely because the RM people, back stage and front, are efficient, helpful and always kind.

    The one I attended this year, in November, at Birmingham’s National Motor Cycle Museum, included sessions on The Cloud, Classroom Control, BYOD , and Microsoft Exchange. Running parallel was an Educational Seminar that covered topics on, for example, Creativity in the Classroom, Podcasting, Windows in the Classroom and e-safety.

    Like all good events, though, one of the main features is the opportunity to mix, mingle and just go up to people to talk. RM recognise that, and the big main space of the National Motor Cycle Museum conference suite was devoted to breaks, lunch and general milling about. Along the edges were exhibition stands from a number of suppliers including Meru Networks, HP, Toshiba, Apple and, of course, Microsoft.

    The 120 or so teachers and network managers who attended were interested in all the stands, but simple observation showed that Microsoft consistently drew by far the most interest.

    You don’t have to guess why that was. Just think ‘Surface’ and ‘Windows 8’ and you’ll get the idea. Everyone was keen to look, try for a chance to touch (which has a particular meaning in this context of course) and ask lots of questions – and this is the kind of event where the questions are good ones. It’s in the nature of the products, though, that the answers were good ones too. Network managers and teachers who see ‘Surface’, for example, are very quick to catch on to the significance of its creative potential and manageability. It’s very clear that the presence of ‘Surface’ at functions like this, together with Windows 8 devices from other suppliers, will do much over the coming weeks and months to reinforce the view not only that tablets are set to make a big impact on teaching and learning, but also that the debate about which device to use is a long way from being over. The Microsoft presence at BETT 2013, you feel, is going to open many eyes.

    Another stand that interested me was that of Meru Networks. I first met the people from Meru some years ago, quite by accident, with Merlin John of ‘agent4change.com’, at St Pancras Station. We spent a long time with them, and concluded that this was, to say the least, a product with a future in education, given the hugely increasing demand on school networks. And so it seems to have turned out, for Meru are installing managed wireless networks in schools at an ever-increasing rate. It’s another reminder that the first priority for any school that’s looking at BYOD, or one-to-one computing, or just expanding their resources is to pay attention to the network that’s at the heart of it all.

    Much as I’m always tempted to spend all my time talking to people, and although there were inevitable timetable overlaps, I did get to some sessions. ‘The Cloud Explained’ was the kind of good basic introduction that clears things up for people who’ve always been reluctant to ask the obvious questions. Another that particularly interested me was Simon Ansell’s on ‘Preparing your network for BYOD’ in which he talked about ‘squaring the circle’ of accepting any device on to the school network and reaping the benefits of learning while at the same time protecting the infrastructure. It’s the kind of challenge that will send some network managers running for the hills, but we know from experience that it can be done, and Simon is one of the people who can show schools how to do it – albeit slowly, methodically and one careful step at a time.

    RM were showcasing some interesting new products, too. ‘RM Unify’ provides single sign-on access to all of the many cloud services that school users would otherwise need to log on to separately, including RM’s own cloud services such as RM Books, and Microsoft Office 365 for education which is increasingly becoming significant as so many services and products move to the cloud.

    When I first heard about RM Books I wondered just how necessary it would be, but it turns out to be another of those products that you need to spend a few minutes looking at before you realise its implications. In effect it’s a way of supplying and managing electronic textbooks in school online. Having had the experience over the years of managing stockrooms full of rapidly deteriorating (and sometimes disappearing) textbooks, trying to find money to replace them or bring them up to date, attempting to retrieve them from students before they left or went to live in New Zealand, I’d have been more than grateful for something like RM Books, assuming that Tim Berners-Lee had been born a little earlier. Above all, like all online services it provides that all-important audit trail – who had what and when, and where is it now? If textbooks fall anywhere within your sphere of interest or responsibility – and that covers a lot of teachers – I’d say do as I did and take a careful look at RM Books.

    The last session I attended was ‘Microsoft in Education’ presented by Education Partner Lead Mark Stewart, who’d spent the day providing the answers to those ‘Surface’ and Windows 8 questions on the stand.

    With so much to talk about, Mark chose to focus on the Microsoft vision and strategy for future learning. He mentioned the New Line Learning Academy in Maidstone – a real showcase for future learning and for embedded technology that’s worth a visit http://www.futureschoolstrust.com/New-Line-Learning/We-are-NLL

    He also reminded the audience about Microsoft’s Partners in Learning network http://www.microsoft.com/education/ww/partners-in-learning/Pages/index.aspx

    Mark also drew attention to the global ‘Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills’ initiative, led by Melbourne University and co-sponsored by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft.

    http://atc21s.org/

    Mark’s look to the future hit the right note. The people who attend education events often spend much of their time solving immediate problems, and they surely welcome the chance to glimpse the more strategic picture.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Azure IT Pro Camp (free 1 day training event)

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    This is a Microsoft delivered training day, hosted by Salford Software in Manchester on Monday 10th December 2012.

    It’s a technical hands on introduction to some of the IaaS Cloud Services that Microsoft is now offering to Academic organisations.

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    The camp will be led by an Azure specialist and is aimed at the IT Professional. On it you will build and deploy an entire SharePoint infrastructure with a dual-machine server-farm, Active Directory Domain Controller and SQL Server. On the road to that infrastructure you will create a dual-server, load-balanced IIS website, a WIndows Azure Virtual Network in to which you will deploy the Active Directory Domain plus all the member servers (SQL and SharePoint) and you’ll also learn how to generalise your images and add them to your library of images to make future deployment simpler.

    All running in the Cloud!

    You will walk away with a complete – Cloud based – service that you will be able to continue to use, further develop and show colleagues following the camp.

    Please register at the site below:

    http://www.salfordsoftware.co.uk/content/it-professional-azure-camp

    Agenda:

    Windows Azure IT Pro Camp

    Time

    Topic

    09:00 – 09:30

    Registration

    09:30 – 10:00

    The Windows Azure Platform

    10:00 – 10:30

    Windows Azure Virtual Machines

    10:30 – 10:45

    Break

    10:45 – 11:15

    Lab: Windows Azure Virtual Machines

    11:15 – 11:45

    Windows Azure Virtual Networks

    11:45 – 12:15

    Lab: Windows Azure Virtual Networks

    12:15 – 12:45

    Lunch

    12:45 – 13:15

    Active Directory in the Cloud: Windows Azure Active Directory, Running a DC in Windows Azure

    13:15-14:15

    Lab: Running an Active Directory Domain Controller in Windows Azure

    14:15 – 15:00

    SQL Server and Sharepoint in the Cloud

    15:00 – 15:15

    Break

    15:15 – 16:45

    Lab: Running a complete infrastructure in the cloud (Sharepoint, SQL Server, Active Directory)

    16:45-17:00

    Wrap-up and Review

    You will need a working Windows Azure subscription and you need to have applied for and successfully been granted access to:

    § Windows Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks – for the IT Pro camp.

    There is a video that describes how to apply for these features here.

    Any working subscription is suitable; paid or free.

    You can get a free trial subscription. This grants you access to certain resources free for 90 days. You will need a Windows Live ID and a Credit Card to register. The spending limit on the free trial account is set at £0.00. When the free trial period of 90 days has passed you will be asked if you’d like to remove the spending limit and from that point on treat it as a standard paid subscription.

    If you use more than the free allocation of resources in a month, you will also be asked if you’d like to remove the spending limit. There is no perpetually free subscription available for Windows Azure. There are also free trial subscriptions available to certain MSDN subscribers, BizSpark partners and MPN members.

    Details of the free trial accounts are here:

    IT Pro camp pre-requisites

    As an IT Pro who uses a laptop, you’ll almost certainly have the required software already installed. You will need:

    • A working Windows Azure subscription – see details above. You need to have successfully applied and been granted access to the Windows Azure Virtual Machines preview.
    • A wireless-enabled 64-bit laptop with Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 8 RTM. The camp is written with Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 users in mind. If you are using Windows 8 there will be variations in the way the UI is described.
    • Bring the power supply: you will be using the laptop all day.
    • A basic knowledge of the Windows infrastructure stack (Windows, Windows Server, Active Directory, Web, Security, SQL Server etc) to the level required by an IT Pro.
    • Perform the following software setup:

    1. Log in to an account that has full administrative privileges on the 64-bit machine. This is the account you will do the machine setup from and also the lab-work. It’s essential to ensure you use the same administrative account for both setup and lab-work to avoid permissions problems. By far the biggest problems on this bootcamp are to do with permission problems on machine setup.

    2. Install the Windows Azure Powershell Cmdlets by following the instructions on this page:

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windowsazure/jj156055

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How much do I need to know about Windows Azure to attend this Camp?

    You don’t need any prior experience or knowledge about Windows Azure to attend this Camp. The purpose of the event is to provide you with the basic skills and knowledge to get started with learning about Windows Azure.

    Who can attend the Camps?

    Students, developers, technologists, IT Pros, architects, hobbyist, technology enthusiasts. Everyone is welcome! All we ask is that you are ready and keen to learn about Windows Azure.

    How much does it cost to attend this Camp?

    Your luck’s in – it’s free.

    What do I need to prepare in advance to make the most of the Camp?

    There are a basic set of things you should prepare before attending the Camp, listed above. Please make sure you are prepared so you can make the most of your day at the Camp.

    What if I have registered already and cannot make it on the day?

    Please let us know as soon as you can if you can’t make the camp as there’ll be plenty of people who are keen to take your spot. Please respect the trainers and your fellow delegates by turning up if you have registered and committed. Thanks!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    University of Bolton take steps to improve their CRM

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    The University of Bolton are taking a new approach to managing their relationships and engagement with current and potential business customers, implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

    Luke Stansfield, Information Systems Developer at the University, explained. “We had no real system to manage relationships and interactions with our customers and business contacts. This was identified as a real risk which could potentially damage the excellent business relationships we had developed. We knew that if we could improve the effectiveness of our Continuing Professional Development marketing campaigns, these could provide a valuable source of additional income.

    We also wanted to effectively manage the diversity of relationships between individual companies and different parts of our organisation.”

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

    “It was the logical choice for us”, said Luke. “We are predominantly a Microsoft-based institution and, unlike some of the alternatives, it offered out-of-the-box installation with the capability to customise it to fit our processes. It also enabled us to complete the project within budget.”

    Recognised for its category-leading capabilities, Microsoft Dynamics CRM helps to increase productivity and create a connected organisation that is equipped to please customers. It provides a powerful set of CRM capabilities within the familiar Microsoft Outlook application, helping to reduce learning time and leverage existing investment on Microsoft Office.

    Maximising cross selling:

    A key part of the new solution was to enable academic staff within all schools to add and maintain their contacts and interactions with external businesses in a central CRM database. This would enable monitoring of the response to enquiries and highlight and escalate those that were not being dealt with within an acceptable time frame. It would also facilitate the cross-selling of services to existing and past customers and allow for the effective management of marketing campaigns to ensure response was maximised.

    With these requirements established, Collabco were able to work closely with key University staff to produce a detailed functional requirement that covered: BSDU, marketing, data migration, security, integration and reporting. This then facilitated a gap/fit analysis together with a comprehensive gap resolution list as the basis for the design of the new CRM solution.

    Managing contacts across the University:

    After implementing a pilot, the full solution went live in March 2011 and since then the University has continually increased the use of the new platform. “We have so far run a number of successful marketing campaigns utilising it”, said Luke. “It has proved its worth and more people within the University are now beginning to see the benefits it can bring.”

    Importantly, the solution will eventually be used to manage contacts across the entire University, something that was identified as an issue at the outset of the project.

    A platform for the future:

    “We have developed a strong working relationship with Collabco”, concluded Luke. “They took the time at the outset of the project to understand the way that we worked and how we wanted to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This gave us the confidence that the final solution would meet our needs, rather than us having to change to meet the software’s functionality.

    “I was impressed with their attitude and professionalism during the actual implementation. On a number of occasions they worked out-of-hours to ensure that project deadlines were met and we came in on time and within budget.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The issue has always been the cost. Until now… Shape the Future launches TODAY

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    Many schools are already seeing the benefits of 1:1 learning. Personalising and tailoring education through the use of ICT supports students in working at their own pace, increasing motivation and improving attainment, regardless of challenges such as language or ability.

    A PriceWaterhouse Coopers report, ‘The Economic Casefor Digital Inclusion‘ interestingly states that if all 1.6 million children in digitally excluded households had access to a computer and the internet at home, it could enhance their potential lifetime earnings by over £10.8 billion depending on how it affects their academic performance, especially at GCSE level.’

    Shape the Future launches today. It’s an innovative, simple and cost effective way to get all your students using 1:1 devices at home and in the classroom. The affordability of this PC and software package is supported by Microsoft’s global digital inclusion programme, in collaboration with RM Education and Intel. Only available from RM Education, this device and software package has been specifically designed to help you provide a great value device programme for all students and their teachers.

    The launch event led by RM Education, Microsoft and Intel is happening today (Monday 5th November 2012). This will launch of the UK’s first Shape the Future project at Shireland Collegiate Academy in Sandwell. This high profile initiative aims to provide 1:1 learning through technology to all students regardless of their background. The speakers include Dr Vanessa Pittard  - Department for Education, Kirsty Tonks - Director of E-Learning and Transition, Shireland Collegiate Academy, Joice Fernandes - Worldwide Senior Director of Shape the Future and Mike Allen - Managing Director, RM Education.

    The launch event is now full, but watch out for tweets, further posts on this blog and the Shape the Future Facebook page to find out about what’s happening on the day.

    Here are just some of the devices included in the package. There are some excellent offers, including Windows 8 tablets which are perfect for students and teachers.

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    Connectivity, Software & Warranty

    • Full Microsoft Office Professional 2010 included
    • Free support and advice for families without a broadband connection – in partnership with Simplifydigital, the
      UK‘s independent digital advice line
    • Innovative educational software is included such as Kodu to support creative teaching
    • Peace of mind with anti-virus protection from Microsoft security essentials for protection at home and in school
    • A variety of warranty options

    Shape the Future can also be combined with school ICT strategies, such as personal device schemes, to ensure learners have 1:1 ICT access at
    school and at home.

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    For more information about this excellent project to get students and teachers digitally included, go to www.rm.com/shapethefuture and https://www.facebook.com/shapethefutureproject

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Skype for Windows Phone 8

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    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

    Easy-to-Use
    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.

    Profile.png

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

    favorites.png

    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

    Roundup of Shape the Future launch

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    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.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

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

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    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.

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