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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

    The new Office 365 Education is here!


    Originally posted by James B Marshall on the UK Education Cloud Blog.


    Yesterday Microsoft launched the next generation of Office 365, but did you know this included Office 365 Education as well? We first launched Office 365 for education last June and since then we’ve heard inspiring stories from our customers including Kilmarnock College and the University of West London about how they’re succeeding with Office 365 Education.

    Microsoft’s Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Education, has written about how the new Office 365 Education puts teachers in control, today.

    As part of Microsoft’s commitment to education, Office 365 Education is available for free. Schools can access all of the features and benefits of Microsoft Office – apps and services – simply by signing up at With free access to the transformative innovations built in to Office 365, teachers are unleashed to fully embrace the possibilities offered by technology. Educators who once felt boxed in by the rigid demands of their curriculum can now explore new ways to engage and motivate their students. And perhaps most important, young people can have at their fingertips the tools they need to become productive global citizens, using a platform that has already been embraced by universities, businesses and governments around the world.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    5 tips to help your students transition from college to IT


    Guest post by MCP community member Matt Griffin, Technology Analyst @ Apparatus – originally posted on Born to Learn.


    I’ve had many people ask about my jump from school into working full-time in IT so I’d like to give you 5 tips from my experience that will help you make the transition.

    Work while in school. If this isn’t possible do hands on work in your spare time. Its college, I know you have spare time.
    I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am not a normal college student. I worked two degree-related jobs at the same time I was in school alongside studying. By doing this, I was able to hone in on the exact thing I wanted to do in IT. I realized web development was not for me as I enjoy the Managed Service aspect with client/servers a lot more. I could not be happier with the result, having taken that route through school. Over the years I learned the best thing you can do to achieve good grades in school (other than studying) is working with it hands-on, and when you are paid to work with it hands-on, it becomes a lot more enjoyable.

    Network, network, network! For goodness sake, network!
    Now you will hear constantly while in school that the most important thing to do is network. They recommend that you go to career fairs and talk with recruiters; I personally can’t say anything specific about that because I never attended a career fair, but I do know a recruiter at my current company who hits career fairs very hard to find new students that are eager to work. The way I focused on networking was being involved at work, and I’ll be honest I didn’t do a very good job networking until my last year of school when I went to a Microsoft TechEd event on a grant from my Nina Mason Pulliam Scholarship. After I went to Tech Ed I got involved with The Krewe and met tons of great people who were invaluable assets not just as friends but as resources who help me if I run into a problem at work and have no idea what’s going on.

    Get certified! Even if it is something minor it’ll show motivation.
    One thing that I thought was pointless at first was certifications. While I worked at University College Technology Services at IUPUI I had the opportunity to become certified by having a couple hours a week dedicated to study and they offered to pay for the exam. I’ll admit I never took this super seriously until a pay raise was involved because I figured I would just end up with a certificate that says I can do my job. Well that is exactly what it is and I never realized the value in that until I became certified and realized how many doors it opens in your employability. Once I passed my first exam, I was hooked. It became like a drug and I wanted to keep getting certifications. In fact, within the last two years I’ve passed 11 exams and I already have the next few exams I want to take lined up and just need to dedicate time to studying.

    Make sure your resume is sound! Get advice from multiple people and take that advice.
    I did take writing my resume very seriously throughout college because I knew that was everyone’s first impression of me, so I always took feedback on my resume and improved it accordingly. I actually have to thank my current job to a class I took while in school for Career Enrichment. The class helped build resumes, work on interview skills and required I do a mock interview at a local company.

    Be prepared to be interviewed at all times.
    In that Career Enrichment class, we also had to do a mock interview and I was lucky enough that in my mock interview I had enough experience and apparently good enough interview skills that I was asked to come in for an actual interview. A couple weeks later I became an Apparatus employee. I’ve thought about this experience many times and I guess my major take away from this is that you need to always be prepared to be in a real job interview even if it is just for a grade at the time. I don’t mean wear a suit everywhere but you need to be presentable and most importantly an advocate for yourself.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 at Shireland Collegiate Academy


    Guest post by our freelance education writer, Gerald Haigh.


    Do you know what a ‘Stuck PowerPoint’ is?

    No, neither did I when Kirsty Tonks, e-Learning Director at Shireland Collegiate Academy in Sandwell first mentioned it.

    To be fair, Kirsty was giving me lots of information at the time, and this is one of those schools where there’s so much going on – all of it focused on children’s learning – that any visitor finds it a challenge to keep up. My visit on this occasion, then, on a snowy late January day, was to gain an overview of the Academy’s plans for making the most of Windows 8.


    For over sixteen years, Shireland’s staff and students under the leadership of Executive Principal Sir Mark Grundy have shown how technology, carefully chosen and wisely deployed, can transform teaching and learning. A Learning Gateway built on SharePoint, for example, lies at the very heart of all that happens in the school, driving collaboration, teamwork, open management and anytime/anywhere learning. I knew, then, I’d have a positive response when I asked about thoughts and plans around Windows 8.

    So there I was, in a conference room with Sir Mark, Kirsty and other colleagues, rattling away making notes on my netbook, when I found myself typing the phrase ‘Stuck PowerPoint’. The image that came to mind was of an embarrassed presenter in the midst of a technological meltdown.

    ‘Sorry, PowerPoint’s stuck’.

    I quickly realised it wasn’t that, but the light didn’t dawn fully until I was on a tour of the school and it was explained to me by Year Seven students Jihad and Omar, experienced hands at making things clear for visitors.

    They led me across their classroom to a 23 inch Acer touch screen PC with Windows 8.

    ‘If you’re working on a topic and you get stuck, you come here and there’s a Stuck PowerPoint to help you,’ they explained.

    The penny dropped.

    ‘Right’, I said.‘A Stuck PowerPoint. That would be it then. A PowerPoint to use when you’re stuck.’

    The school has had Acer touch screens for some time. Those in classrooms were planned as ‘Information Points’ for children to use when they needed more help with a topic – a further aid to independent learning within the cross-curricular ‘Literacy for Learning’ (L4L) Key Stage 3 Curriculum.

    The idea has only really come to life, though, with the arrival of Windows 8 with all of its new functionality. Now, touch screen capability, the start-screen ‘tiles’ and the availability of a wealth of school-developed resources together mean that Jihad and Omar and all their fellow students can rapidly find what they want. They showed me how, within a theme called ‘Going Green’, they could go in seconds from the full start-screen to a Stuck PowerPoint on ‘Green Energy’ and then through further options to a page about wind farms. All of the information exists within the school, but now Windows 8 is going to make everything more immediately accessible. The performance of Photosynth, for example, which the school uses extensively to exploit a vast collection of curriculum-related photographs, moves up several gears on a touch screen.

    Of course, the ‘Stuck PowerPoint’ is only one of many ways in which Kirsty and her team will make the most the many features of Windows 8. It is, though, an excellent illustration of the general principle, which is to make existing tools and resources more easily and widely available and more coherent in style.

    Back in the conference room, for example, Dave Green, Head of Mathematics, showed me how Acer touch screen PCs are being used in department meetings to open up information and promote discussion –

    ‘We’ve developed an interface that sits in front of existing management tools, making the key bits available, in the clean Windows 8 style.’

    And as Kirsty pointed out,

    ‘Often, development plans are hidden away in a word document. Here, they’re on the screen in peoples’ faces. Not only that, the departments can look at each other’s management sites, sharing ideas across subjects.’

    It’s still relatively early days for Window 8 at Shireland, but the vision of what’s possible is already exciting. There’s an appetite for the development of in-house Windows 8 apps, for example. Already there’s progress in that direction, and there’ll be much more to come. And towards the end of our meeting, talk turned to Windows 8 tablets and the level of interoperability compared with other tablets. Sir Mark expressed a frequently heard view when he said.

    ‘We love iPads. We’ve all got them at home, they’re great fun, but they’re not so good for formal learning. You lose the structure around marking and sharing, where a Windows 8 device seamlessly links with everything else.’

    Right at the end of our meeting, Sir Mark, keen as always to help, asked me if we’d covered everything. My answer had to be cautious, because there’s just so much to report from this deeply interesting institution. So now, at Shireland, as with other Windows 8 pioneers I’ve blogged about here, I need to let things move on a little, returning further on in the year to write about some of these developments in more detail.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Give your students the chance to design a Chimpact character for Windows 8 and Windows Phone game



    Here's a chance for your students (or you!) to design a brand new character for the popular game Chimpact. The winner’s character will feature in the next Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 version of the game and get a credit - but just as importantly, the winner gets bragging rights over all their mates! The winner also gets a trip to the Yippee Studios to see their design turned into a real game character.

    This could be a great creative project for education, with exciting results for the winner.

    Designing a brand new character for a game like Chimpact is great fun! All you need is your imagination, your tools of choice and a bit of patience – here are just some design ideas before the final version of Chuck was created:


    In order to create a unique and entertaining new Chimp for Chimpact, here's a few things to consider:

    • Take a look at the existing characters and think about what makes them different; the new character needs a strong identity of their own.
    • Be creative with the use of shape and colour.
    • Add distinctive personality by using accessories - hats, glasses and other items may all help you character stand out.
    • And don't forget about your chimp's costume!

    We're not looking for a perfect, highly finished drawing - we're looking for great ideas that are fun! The competition closes on April 12th 2013

    Your entries can be submitted by email in electronic format (JPG, PNG, BMP, PDF or EPS) or on a sheet of paper no larger than A4 and sent by post. Click here for more information.

    The full details of the competition can be found at this website:

    Good luck and have fun!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Learn how to get ahead in your career with the inevitable shift to cloud-based technologies


    Microsoft Learning is running a Cloud Career day on Tuesday 12th March 2013 as a virtual broadcast. Speakers include Mark Russinovich.




    As the cloud transforms IT, the need for qualified IT professionals has never been more urgent, and certification has never been more valuable. Registration is now open for Certified Career Day, an interactive LIVE event for IT professionals.

    Attendees will join a Live Industry Panel Broadcast comprised of industry experts who will discuss how the cloud is redefining IT recruitment and the growing need for certification. Then, Microsoft Product Specialists will host Live Product Sessions—in-depth depth discussions on Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 that will .

    Registrants are eligible to win an Acer Windows 8 tablet. Space is limited, so please register today at

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 8 and Azure at Derby University


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education series of blogs.

    Why are we posting this story, which first appeared on the Microsoft UK Faculty Connect Blog, on our schools blog? It’s about a degree course after all. We think, though, it has real messages for schools about what’s available for those students who want to take computer science beyond school level. Wayne Rippin, the computer science senior lecturer who features in the blog is keen for schools to read it, and says, 

    ‘We are continually trying to get across to schools the message  that Computer Science can be a ‘fun’ subject to study.’

    From what I saw, yes, it can certainly be fun. But it’s rigorous degree level work, too, which produces highly employable graduates. 

    Original Post


    Anyone – teacher, parent, student – who thinks degree level computer programming must be a boring affair should have been with me at Derby University’s Microsoft sponsored ‘Games@Derby Expo’ the other week. Held in the big atrium at the main Kedleston Road site, the Expo featured dozens of games and apps created by students so it’s not difficult to imagine the scene as crowds of students, high on success and enthusiasm, gathered round the big screens.

    My main reason for being there, though, was focussed on one particular screen displaying Windows 8 apps created by final year students of both the Computer Games Programming and Computer Science degrees. The task, one of the assessments for a final year module, was to develop a Windows 8 application that met the Microsoft certification requirements for release to the Windows Store. (Some, in fact, have made it to the store.)

    ‘We left it deliberately open-ended,’ says senior lecturer Wayne Rippin, ‘Challenging the imagination as well as their technical ability.’

    Before visiting the Expo, I had a long talk to Wayne about computer science at Derby. It quickly became apparent that Microsoft technologies have a key role to play in an innovative department focussed on producing creative, enterprising and highly employable graduates.


    ‘It’s important that the tools we give them are the ones they will use in industry once they leave University,’ says Wayne. ‘ Microsoft DreamSpark allows us to do that affordably.’

    In particular, he says, the department’s labs are, as Wayne puts it,

    ‘Set up with the latest Windows technologies. We’re very aware that when the students go out into the world that’s what they’ll be working with. We were among the first with Windows 7 and so we wanted to give students early exposure to Windows 8. For us it’s an implementation platform that enables us to try different techniques in practice as well as in theory.’

    The module has proved a real success, he says.
    ‘Students like being able to use Windows 8 and to have an assignment that allows them to create an app that others can use.’

    As he says, it clearly ticks the employability box.

    ‘Imagine a student with a Windows Store app applying for a job and being able to say, “I wrote that. Would you like to try it out?”’

    Sixty five students from the two degree courses completed the app development module, says Wayne.

    ‘The overall quality was very good. At the Expo we’re showing thirteen apps, all of which have met the Windows Store requirements.’

    Leading on from that, second year students are now studying an application development module, the platform for which is also Windows 8.


    A considerable advantage here lies in the cost-effective availability for students of Microsoft’s ‘Azure’ cloud platform see

    As Wayne explains,

    ‘They can have their own webspace, virtual machines, everything in the cloud so we don’t have to deal with web hosting. For example they can have admin access to their own space where typically in a university situation if we provide webspace we can’t give admin access. Azure gives us much more flexibility and ability to do things as in the real world.’

    I had a quick look at some of the student apps shown at the Expo, such as Kevin Chandler’s ‘London Transport Info’ which pulls together published feeds about buses and trains in the Capital, integrating it all into something really useful. A nice touch is the live tile on the start screen that keeps up to date with problems. I also saw Christopher Morley’s ‘Project Smash’, a game which adds a twist by incorporating live weather information as one of the variables to be negotiated. And, too, there was Karn Bianco’s mind-bending ‘Sliding Blocks’ and Luc Shelton’s ‘Meme Factory’ for creating internet memes. I had a chat to Luc at the Expo about his app and he explained that there’s already plenty of activity around memes on the internet, and what he wanted to was to produce something very functional, using the features of Windows 8.

    ‘For example I made use of the Charm Bar – sharing, searching, settings, so that users can customise the experience.’

    Thinking about the independent learning aspect of the task, I wondered if he’d had to ask for help at any point.

    ‘Once, I thought I’d got to email Wayne,’ he said, ‘But I decided I had to persevere on my own.’

    That self-driven approach was evident in each of the students I met, as was the determination to exploit the available technology. Luke Chester’s app, for example, ‘Memory Bank’ is actually a multi-media scrapbook, a place to drop thoughts, ideas, photographs. Like Luc, he’s exploited the Charm Bar as well as Bing Maps and GPS. What makes this app particularly attractive is the Windows 8 feature that allows it to be brought up while another app is being used, so it’s possible to add a very quick thought that occurs as it always does, when you’re in the middle of something else. Luke’s Memory Bank app is now available on the Windows Store -

    The students view

    With schools in mind, I asked some of the students about their back stories. I found that Luc Shelton, for example, had arrived via an FE course that armed him with the right number of UCAS points. Karn Bianco did humanities at school, and kept all of his programming interests to his spare time. Now he’s found what he was looking for.

    ‘I wanted problem solving, and I didn’t get any of that at school.’

    In fact it’s important not to miss the pedagogical lessons that emerge from a course that’s run like the undergraduate programming degrees at Derby.

    ‘There’s no such thing as teaching to the test here,’ says Wayne. ‘We encourage independent learning. The student who sits and just listens to the lectures will pass, but if they want to get a good grade, they have to really demonstrate their ability to learn for themselves.‘

    Open ended assignments play a big part in this, he says.

    ‘We give them the minimum standard they need to pass and then to get the top grade they almost need to wow us. Really there are no constraints.’

    The thought is echoed by Dr Tommy Thompson, who leads BSc Computer Games Programming.

    Describing the project leading up to the Expo, where students had been given twelve weeks to develop a game to show, he says,

    ‘In the real world it would take two or three years. Some of them put in a ridiculous amount of time. There was an interesting moment when students asked me whether I thought I had overworked them. But they conceded that the problem really lay with their own expectations.’

    From the teacher’s point of view, says Tommy, it’s an ideal position to be in,

    ‘They want to be here. They have a passion for the programming.’

    That means, though, that their expectations of teaching are high.

    ‘We have to meet that, and always try to throw something at them that they’re not expecting.’

    I was interested, too, in Tommy’s insight into who are the successful students and the fact that it’s not necessarily about technical ability.

    ‘There are some in all years who, regardless of ability, have a fantastic maturity of general approach to taking the curriculum seriously.’

    Very clearly, what gives the teachers on such a course the necessary high credibility with their students is their record of long-term and continuing engagement with the industry. Tommy puts it briefly and clearly when he says,

    ‘We don’t just look at the application, we look at the code, and we’re people who’ve looked at code for a living.’

    This, in turn, means that courses are run with a continuing eye on employability. Both degrees are sandwich courses and, says Wayne,

    ‘Some students set up their own company during their placement year. The thing that’s changed for software development is the way the app stores have made it easier and cheaper to publish applications and make them available to a wide audience, so it becomes an interesting exercise to set a goal of producing a publishable app.’

    The enterprise aspects aren’t neglected either.

    ‘A key thing about this university is that a lot of the staff have real industry experience so a lot of the advice we give is not just about the programming. It’s about how to set up a company, creating business plans, and so on’

    This was one visit that gave me a lot to think about. I’m pretty sure, for example, that what’s happening in computer science at Derby, and no doubt at other universities such as UCL (we’ve covered their work extensively already) carries lessons for teachers of every level and subject about independent learning, motivation, creativity, and credible, real-world-relevant teaching.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft IT Academy: Preparing cloud-ready students today for the IT jobs of tomorrow


    Originally posted on the Born to Learn blog

    Cloud computing is no longer the latest buzzword—it’s the new reality for global business. As cloud technology rapidly evolves and matures, enabling innovative products and services, organizations face a critical need for a skilled, cloud-enabled IT workforce. As revealed in a recent Microsoft-sponsored study by IDC, cloud-related skills represent a good portion of the IT growth opportunities worldwide through 2015, punctuating the opportunity—and demand—for the training and certification that Microsoft IT Academy provides to academic institutions.

    Microsoft collaborated with IDC to gauge the correlation between the demand for cloud-related jobs and the gap in IT skills needed to fill the positions. As the research reveals, demand for “cloud-ready” IT workers will grow by 26% annually through 2015, driving 14 million new jobs by 2015 with 7 million IT professionals working in a cloud-related IT role.


    The demand for skilled cloud professionals is coupled with a distinct gap in the skills needed to fill positions—a challenge already resonating throughout the IT industry. IT hiring managers report today that the lack of trained and certified job candidates is the core reason they failed to fill an existing 1.7 million open cloud positions in 2012. Over the next few years, as organizations concentrate technologies in the cloud, solving the IT skills gap will become imperative to stay competitive and to solving the IT skills gap is imperative to reduce costs and stay competitive.

    Training and Certification: the Keystone for Solving the IT Skills Gap

    The IDC study reports that training and certification will play essential roles in preparing IT professionals for the evolving IT organization. In anticipation of the evolution to the cloud, Microsoft recently reinvented training and certifications for Microsoft server and cloud platform technologies, including Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Windows 8, and Office 365. These certifications are providing the cloud-ready skills and validation hiring managers are looking for, both in professionals transitioning to cloud technologies and a new generation of job seekers.

    Microsoft IT Academy is helping to fill the pipeline of new cloud-enabled workforce by providing training and certification for academic institutions worldwide. Microsoft IT Academy program is helping students develop the necessary cloud skills needed to succeed, whether it is the business skills of Office 365 or deeper technology skills. With more than 13,000 IT Academy members in more than 130 countries Microsoft is providing the training and certifications to help over 7.5 million students to obtain the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.

    Read more:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council Case Study


    Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council set up the Dudley Grid for Learning (DGfL) to provide its schools with fully managed information and communications technology (ICT) services. The council’s private sector partner RM Education was chosen to move its email to the cloud with Microsoft Office 365. The council is now confident that it will reduce ICT costs, increase agility, and enhance student learning.

    To learn more, the full case study can be viewed below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office 2013 Quick Start Guides


    A full range of Office 2013 quick start guides are now available to download via the Office Blog. A selection of these can be viewed in full below. These can also be downloaded via our SlideShare account.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Frog Windows 8 App Demo at Bett 2013


    Brief video we shot of the Frog app for Windows 8 on their stand during Bett 2013. Loving the resource bank feature!

    Frog Dashboard is a companion Windows Store app to the Frog learning management platform for education and training organisations. It brings the critical updates from within Frog directly to your Windows 8 Start screen, ensuring you are always up to date with events; such as new assignments, content sharing and site updates (e.g. user comments).

    For schools it allows both students and teachers to get a snapshot of their activity within Frog. View homework set, take pictures via a camera for school projects and upload resources directly from your Windows 8 device.

    More information about the Frog Dashboard app for Windows 8 is available via our Windows 8 in Education Microsite.

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