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February, 2013 - 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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February, 2013

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Lenovo Windows 8 Tablets at Liverpool Community College


    Guest post by Gerald Haigh. Gerald is a freelance education writer for Microsoft.


    Picking up my quest for great Windows 8 stories after the New Year I learned from Microsoft FE Business Manager Mike Morris about exciting news unfolding in Liverpool Community College. It’s going to make a brilliant Further Education case study, and I’ll be travelling to the College soon to chase it up. Meanwhile, just to whet the appetite, here’s the news that Ken Ryan, the College’s Head of Information Technology has just taken delivery, from Microsoft Partner Gardner Systems, of 600 Lenovo ‘Tablet 2’ devices with Windows 8, for distribution to teaching staff. This particular Lenovo device has been impatiently awaited by potential users, and according to Mike,

    ‘Liverpool Community College might well be the first educational institution in the UK to have them.’

    Mike’s particularly pleased because the decision to go for Windows 8 tablets was directly inspired by advice he gave to colleges in the Summer.

    Mike suggested that if a college was about to buy tablets, they ought to hold off until W8 devices were available. Ken was going to buy Android, but he got in touch in response to Mike’s approach. Mike went in to the college and talked through Windows 8. Based on those conversations, and a subsequent evaluation process within the College, Ken decided to go with Windows 8 as his mobile platform of choice.

    After looking at Hardware options, Ken decided to buy Lenovo Tablet 2s.

    ‘The specification was hard to match,’ he says. ‘Brand new Intel Atom processor power, 64Gb hard drive, USB connectivity, true 16:9 format display, only 565 grams and a massive 10 hour use on a single battery charge.’

    For Ken, though, the real draw was the ability to run Windows 8 Professional.

    ‘It makes the tablet a true corporate device – network log on, the ability to run Microsoft Office applications including Outlook and Lync, all making the tablet easy for staff to use and adapt to in a work environment.’

    Microsoft Partner Gardner Systems helped him to make the hardware decision and will be helping with the configuration roll out and staff training whilst in a new partnership, ‘Softcat’, the Tablet supplier, will be working with the college to provide an accessories supply portal for direct staff access via the web.

    Ken is looking to use the tablets to rejuvenate the use of technology by teaching staff.

    At the moment, he says,

    ‘Teaching staff have desktop PCs, some have laptops, but no matter what software you put on there, it still comes down to being tied to a desk with box and a monitor. What’s needed is something to get staff excited about mobile technology.’

    He envisages a real effect on teaching style – ‘It’s more intimate,’ he says. ‘The tablet frees the lecturer from the PC at the front of the room and enables them to get among the students with the device, letting them drive the presentation.’

    So far, people who have seen the new Lenovo devices are excited not just by the excellent ‘consumer’ touch screen features but by the obvious advantages of being literally in touch, on the move, with all their familiar Microsoft technologies. But, of course, it’s early days, and now Ken and his team are engaging with the College’s ‘Enhanced learning’ groups in order to run a series of lunchtime sessions, exploring ways of using the tablets to improve teaching and learning.

    The next step is for me to attend one of those sessions in order to explore, understand – and report here – how Lenovo tablets and Windows 8 are being received and used in a go ahead FE College in the go ahead City of Liverpool. Once again, ‘Watch this Space’.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Bett 2013: Presentation slides from our Microsoft Learn Live Theatre sessions


    Thanks to those that joined as on our stand and at the Microsoft Learn Live Theatre at Bett 2013. To those that couldn’t make it, you can catch up with all the happenings right here on the schools blog.


    Here are the slide decks from our sessions Head in the Cloud, Feet on the Ground and Top 10 tips to embracing the cloud.

    Head in the Cloud, Feet on the Ground

    How the Harris Federation built a unique “Private Cloud” solution for their academies, to both save money and improve teaching and learning. 

    Speakers: James Penny, Harris Federation & Mark McManus, Microsoft.


    Top 10 tips to embracing the cloud in the classroom

    When it comes to the cloud, Tom and Janet (both Primary School Head Teachers) know what is going to improve learning and what is just hot air. The session offered 10 powerful and practical tips to help you more effectively embrace the cloud in your classroom. Also details about the Hwb project in Wales, which is going to connect all teachers and students across the country in a pioneering national cloud service.

    Speakers: Tom Rees, Simon de Senlis Primary School & Janet Hayward, Cadoxton Primary School.


    We will be posting the slide decks from the other sessions we delivered in our Learn Live Theatre over the next week or so.
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Kodu at Wolverhampton Dunstall Hill school


    Guest post by Gerald Haigh. Gerald is a freelance education writer for Microsoft.

    A couple of weeks before Bett 2013, I visited Dunstall Hill Primary in Wolverhampton to see Year Five children using ‘Kodu’ on their Intel ‘Classmates’, creating their own games. We all, by now, surely get the idea that children should be learning to program. What teachers want to know, though, particularly in primary, is how to tackle it. And that, at least in Wolverhampton, is where the Local Authority support team comes in. They’ve been working with Dunstall Hill as a pioneer school for programming in the authority, and also for an associated project to develop a Programming Module launched at BETT by digital learning provider ‘Espresso Education’.


    The school visit was a great experience. It was good to see a class of cheerful, well-behaved, completely engaged youngsters working in pairs to explore the possibilities of Kodu, pushing forward to create more adventurous and challenging games as they grew more confident. All were eager to show their games to me on their ‘Classmates’ and also on the classroom’s interactive whiteboard. They had lost no time in finding all the possibilities of the software, creating a wide variety of challenges. One impressive and ferocious game that I saw allowed the player one minute to navigate a course filled with scary hazards.

    ‘It’s called “Mission Impossible” said a child, smiling ruefully, ‘Because that’s what it is.’

    I particularly enjoyed sitting with the children as they told me how they plan their games carefully on A3 paper – a crucial part of the process, and the move on to coding on the ‘Classmate’. As pupils Zak and Brwa said

    ‘You can make anything you want, any objective. So it’s easy at first, and then it becomes more advanced and gets harder.’

    They explained, too, how they could load their games on the school’s LP+4 learning platform and either continue coding or spend some time playing – and rating – each other’s games.

    Their Year Five class teacher Helen-Marie Navratil, who is Dunstall Hill’s ICT coordinator is really pleased with their progress,

    ‘The children were very quick to learn, and excited to be in control of their games. They’ve quickly learned to save earlier versions of their games as they go along so they, and the teacher, can follow the process and pick up errors.’

    She’s enthusiastic about being an important part of this Wolverhampton project, which will eventually see programming rolled out across the City’s schools under the leadership of the Learning Technologies team.

    ‘We were approached by the authority to help us embrace programming,’ says Helen-Marie. ‘So we were the first school in Wolverhampton to take it on. I was doubtful to begin with -- it’s something that people don’t feel confident teaching, but I spent a few sessions working out how to use Kodu and really it was very easy in the end.’

    If you keep up with these blogs, you’ve met Wolverhampton’s Learning Technologies Team before, with their head teacher consultant David Whyley. On 24 July Tim Bush posted on the Schools Blog my account of how David and his colleagues had led the installation of the SharePoint based LP+ learning platform in all 80 Wolverhampton primary schools and a growing number of secondaries.

    Now, the introduction of programming with Kodu looks set to follow a similar course.


    David Whyley tells the story,

    ‘We got our heads together to see how we could support our schools in implementing the programming aspects of the new curriculum. We looked at ‘Scratch’ and then

    went to see Mark Reynolds and Stuart Ball at Microsoft who showed me Kodu. That looked absolutely ideal, and we wondered if it could be used in primary.’

    Initial tryouts with schools last Summer looked promising. The team established that Kodu would run successfully on the Intel ‘Classmate’ and went on to develop a very comprehensive, very teacher and child-friendly set of support material. This includes a ‘Kodu Notebook’ explaining the game-building process step by step, graphics for the main Kodu characters, and a planning sheet both for the teacher to use on the interactive whiteboard and the children on their devices. There’s also a guide on managing the introduction of programming in terms of class management and relating the work to the curriculum

    At the same time the Woleverhampton team was approached by ‘Espresso Education’ with a view to developing a programming module. As Dave Whyley explains,

    ‘Espresso Education is subscribed to by all primary schools in the LA with a co-ordinated LA deal. We have a past track record with Espresso for producing content and they asked us to partner with them in the production of this resource.’

    As a result, the implementation of Kodu in Wolverhampton primaries, and the creation of the Espresso module have gone hand-in-hand. Both are now reaching fruition. The extensive pilot work at Dunstall Hill is about to be followed by phased rollout to other schools, and the new Espresso Computer Programming Module will be launched on the Espresso stand at BETT. David Whyley and the team are clearly delighted with the way Kodu has taken hold with the Dunstall Hill children.

    ‘The children love Kodu because the finished game looks like any game the children would expect to see,’ says David.

    ‘When they made their first games they uploaded them to the learning platform and the first night they all downloaded each others’ games.’

    He gave me a glimpse of the Espresso module, which covers ‘Scratch’ as well as Kodu, and has a number of lively videos for children and for teachers as well as planning and peer assessment materials. (Dave sees Scratch, Kodu and other programming resources such as Alice, all working together to cover a range of abilities and ages.)

    It’s an engaging project, and should be welcomed with open arms by teachers looking for a way of tackling programming with upper primary children.

    Wolverhampton’s Learning Technologies Team is really something special. They’ve demonstrated so often how well they’ve kept the trust and support of their schools at a time when tight budgets might have affected that relationship. We’ve seen, too, how they can build useful links – last year with schools, Microsoft and Learning Possibilities (for LP+4) and now with Microsoft, Espresso Education, and, once again, forward looking primary schools.

    The schools certainly recognise this. Dunstall Hill staff and children are very aware of, and grateful for, their pioneering role, and Head Bethan Francis said,

    ‘It’s a privilege to take on this project as the first school in Wolverhampton to be involved. When I come into the classroom it’s wonderful to see the children all engaged and enjoy their comments, and I’m grateful for the support of the local authority.’

    Espresso Education’s Computer Programming Module ‘Produced in partership with Wolverhampton City Council’, was launched on the Espresso Education Stand (D90) at BETT 2013 – did you catch it?

    Details of the module here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Surface and the new Windows demo video from Bett 2013



    The Microsoft Windows 8 stand at Bett 2013 (E270) has a large range of Windows 8 and RT tablets and laptops, including Microsoft Surface, Toshiba, Asus and Acer for you to come have a look at. Everyone is welcome to our stand to have a go on the devices, and our team are on hand to show you the features of Windows 8, Surface and our partner devices, and what they can bring to education.

    In the meantime, this Surface demo video from Bett 2013 shows you just some of what you can do with the new Windows in education. Come and see more on our stand at Bett!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Bett 2013: The Odessa Steps, a nice sit down, the janitor’s brooms and Anthony Salcito


    Guest post by Gerald Haigh, our education freelance writer.

    OK, let’s get the ‘Do like the new venue?’ question out of the way first. My answer, I guess like most, is ‘Not sure yet.’ Mind you, what I did not enjoy was arriving at the bottom of that giant staircase at the Excel’s West Entrance. It reminded me of the Odessa Steps sequence in ‘Battleship Potemkin’. I half expected to meet a baby’s pram bouncing down pursued by Cossack soldiers.


    The Royal Docks – home of the new Bett venue, ExCel London.

    You hadn’t finished walking when you got up there either, so by the time I arrived in the Hall I was ready, as they say, for a cup of tea and a nice sit down. As always, though, any grumpiness was dispelled by the kindness and good humour of everyone I met – press office staff, PR people who arranged my meetings and, of course, the tireless folk on the stands, whose energy never fails to amaze me.

    The Microsoft Stand, for example, was permanently crowded with enquirers. There was huge interest in Windows 8, and in ‘Surface’, and as I listened in to conversations and questions I realised that the penny really is dropping about the value of a tablet that will be truly connected and manageable, an integrated part of the institution’s IT, whether it’s Surface or any of the growing number of third party Windows 8 devices.


    Early before the show opened.

    Certainly that’s the view of the hardware suppliers. On my whistle stop tour of the Show, I called on Lenovo at Stand F140 and spoke to Education Sales Manager Michelle McGeoch about Liverpool Community College’s recent purchase of 600 Lenovo Windows 8 tablets.

    ‘We’re obviously delighted with that,’ she said. ‘And it’s clearly the start of something really exciting for us and for Microsoft’.

    Michelle promised to keep me up to speed with further Window 8 tablet stories, and I’ll be following up on that.

    A little further along the Hall, there were good reports, too, on stand F241 at Ergo Computing where Higher Education specialist Simon Beeby told me that their new Windows 8 Hybrid has already been taken up by two UK universities. I have no doubt that on my next foray into the show I’ll find similar stories, because it’s very noticeable that as you look around from any point in the Hall away into the distance you can see, on stand after stand, that distinctive Windows 8 Start screen.

    I had two longer meetings on that first day. One was on Stand D180 with senior people from Advanced Learning, new owners of Serco Learning, and so also owners and continuing developers of cloud-based MIS ‘Progresso’ which makes extensive use of Microsoft technologies. I’ve blogged about Progresso since it first appeared a couple of years ago, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it develops. Advanced Learning is an established Microsoft Partner, and it’s clear that they believe Progresso will fit well into their plans, offering mutual benefits and providing reassurance to users. Sales and Marketing Director John Parkinson intends to find me a school user, so this is another story I hope to follow up on.

    My other ‘sit down’ meeting (why do I like those?) was on Stand B238 with Harvey Sanchez, CEO of ClickView, provider of an enormous range of video resources for business and government as well as for education. Based in Australia, ClickView make extensive use of Microsoft technologies and last year in fact, won the Australian ‘Microsoft Partner of the Year’ Award. They’re a particularly heavy user of Azure for cloud storage, says Harvey.

    ‘In fact we’re probably closer than anyone else to using a petabyte of storage.’ (No, I didn’t know either. It’s a thousand terabytes, or a number with fifteen zeroes. Rather more, in other words, than I had on my Sinclair Spectrum.)

    Harvey’s a real enthusiast for learning, which seems half the battle for any educational technology supplier. But he’s a realist, too, and it was he who said,

    ‘Money’s tight in education. I’m not just competing with similar businesses, I’m competing with everybody here. In fact I’m competing with suppliers of janitors’ brooms.’

    That thought, he claims, came from a school principal who told him she had to spend money on brooms, to which he replied.

    ‘Buy my software and I’ll bring you a complete set of brooms.’

    Whether he did or not, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

    Harvey has 800 school users in UK so far, so I feel another school contact coming on. We’ll see.

    On the subject of learning, the interview given on the RM Stand (C160/170) by Antony Salcito, Microsoft’s Vice President for public sector education worldwide was, for me very significant. Interviewed by RM Education MD Mike Allen, Antony Salcito strongly emphasized the way that technology isn’t just a tool for making it easier to do what we do already.


    Anthony Salcito with some of the Microsoft and Dell team.

    ‘Some school leaders start with the technology,’ he said. ‘It’s the easiest part to fix. You can weigh it, measure it, evaluate it.’

    What this comes down to, he went on, is an approach that says,

    ‘We’re going to get the stuff. Then we’ll take what we used to do and use the new stuff to help us to do it.’

    But what’s needed, of course, he says, is to make learning the starting point, to go back to the beginning and use the power and freedom that technology bestows to think of learning, and school itself, in a different way.

    ‘Never before have schools had such massive access to content, such ability for students to learn from each other….That creates a new dynamic.’

    The possibility arises, for example of challenging the whole notion of a fixed school day, or a school calendar (meaning ‘timetable’ to us I’d say.)

    In the context of BETT, what Antony Salcito says raises, for me, this question.

    How many of the products on show have the potential to create that new dynamic – a different approach to learning, to the idea of a class, even to the notion of what is a school? And how many will continue be seen as something to make it easier and quicker to do what’s being done already?

    That’s quite a thought, and with Tim’s permission I’d like to develop it a bit in the aftermath of BETT. Meanwhile, if you still haven’t been, or you’re going again, it’s a thought you might like to keep in mind as you go round. I’ll be there Saturday. Say hello.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What’s been happening at Bett 2013 so far?


    It has been a great start to the show, with loads of exciting stuff going on around Bett 2013 at the ExCel in London.

    With Microsoft’s VP for education Anthony Salcito's address during the opening ceremony in the Bett Arena on Wednesday, to standing room only in our Learn Live Theatre, Bett 2013 has been a fun and rewarding experience so far for all.


    Some of Anthony’s key takeaways during the opening ceremony included ‘’Technology will always step up to the challenge we need in our classrooms’’ and ‘’A teachers role should expand on reality and connect with their students in different ways’’.

    We’ve had some hugely popular presentations at the Microsoft Learn Live theatre too, with most sessions brimming at the sides with Bett attendees. You can catch most of these sessions (stand E270) during Friday and Saturday if you are coming to Bett.

    One of the sessions to take place in our Learn Live theatre was Head in the Cloud, Feet on the Ground from James Penny (Harris Federation) and Mark McManus (Microsoft). The session covered some interesting points about saving money and time by using a unique private cloud, which improved teaching and learning.  James and Mark made some good points such as  "The cloud enables teachers to spread the class way beyond the reach of the school’’ and "Office 365 enables us to reduce the complexity of our technology."

    Janet Hayward (Cadoxton Promary School) and Tom Rees (Simon de Senlis Primary School) also delivered an inspirational session and gave their top ten tips to embracing the cloud in the classroom. 


    Some key points made by the speakers were "We need to take an educational perspective as opposed to a technological approach to digital learning by training our best teachers to talk about how it benefits them and their classes’’ and "The cloud enables us to achieve transformational outcomes."

    They also talked about HWB, a website for quality learning resources.

    Kristian Still from Wellington Academy and James Marshall (Microsoft) gave their view on Bring Your Own Device in education, talking about the positive impact on Children’s attainment and some ideas about starting your own BYOD project. They explained four key ingredients for enabling students to bring their own devices into the classroom:

    • Make it easy - help students get their external devices online
    • Support - assist them in using their devices online
    • Windows To Go - part of Windows 8 - provides a desktop environment on a portable device. Lets students work within a secure environment
    • Cloud - helps provide a consistent experience for everyone


    James said "Students are much more productive if they can access technology in the way they want’’ and Kristian talked about how SkyDrive helps students share information and collaborate on projects, which in turn makes information more available and accessible. Also Kristian described how Skype helps bring others into the classroom by allowing for interesting experiments between different classes of students or outside influences.

    Yesterday saw our computer science in the curriculum panel session in the Bett Arena which offered a thought provoking perspective on how best to prepare the software and games developers of the future. The launch of the Kodu Cup on the Naace stand was an exciting compliment to this session, also.

    We’ve had three lucky winners each day that have taken part in our Treasure Trail competition. The prizes have included a Surface, HTC Windows 8 phone, £500 to spend with RM and Xbox and more. These prizes have been kindly donated by our partners on the trail who include Civica, Elearing Force, RM, Elearing Force, Joskos and European Electronique, to name a few. You can play again today by getting a leaflet from the Microsoft stand (E270), getting it stamped by our participating partners and returning it to our stand with your details. The draw will take place in our 4pm session at the Learn Live theatre where the prizes will be presented.

    image    image    image

    Our Windows 8 theatre has also had some exciting sessions including a Surface for education demo and Windows 8 app showcases. You can see a large amount of these sessions again if you are coming to Bett over the next couple of days. Visit our stand for a schedule of what’s on and when.

    We’ve been showing off the Surface too, with loads of you coming to check out the devices, as well as our partner Windows 8 devices on the stand. Everyone is welcome to try out the devices and Windows 8, with our team on hand to guide you through the some of the awesome features of the hardware and software.

    With some more excellent content planned for the remainder of the show, Friday and Saturday promise to be engaging for Bett visitors. A mix of teachers, network managers and Microsoft staff will be presenting on how technology can help build 21st century skills and create more emotional connections with learning within our Learn Live Theatre.

    We look forward to a fabulous rest of the show and look forward to welcoming you on our stand – E270.

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