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  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Money Saving Tips Update - Bristnall Hall Technology College


    At the end of 2009, I worked with a group of schools, and with Gerald Haigh (an ex-head teacher and educational writer) to create the Money Saving ICT Tips, which was used for a presentation at the BETT 2010 show, and also for a series of later case studies looking at the numbers in more detail. The original idea was to identify ways in which ICT leaders in schools could save money, in both their own budget, and in other budgets around the school. The total saving possible for a secondary school was over £300,000 in 3 years – more than an average school’s three-year ICT budget.

    During this year, we’ve continued this work, with a number of new case studies providing a lot more detail on schools’ approaches to projects like power saving and server virtualisation. Recently, Gerald has been out to visit some schools who’ve followed up on some of the ideas. Here’s what he found at Bristnall Hall Technology College:

    imageBack in January, I contributed to Ray’s discussion of cost saving ideas. One of the schools I referred to was Bristnall Hall Technology College in Sandwell, where ICT and network manager Phillip Wakeman was working to encourage and develop the use of SharePoint for publishing and sharing documents. So as the 2010 Summer Term ended, and as Sandwell’s not far from me I took a trip over to Bristnall Hall to see how Phillip was getting on.

    What I found was a knowledgeable network manager who’s still very focussed on cost saving.

    “In fact,” he says. “It’s one of our constant preoccupations.”

    Both cash and time are in short supply at Bristnall Hall. The four-person IT support department I visited in January is now down to three because one who left hasn’t been replaced. The annual budget’s been reduced too, with further cuts to come. And just to add insult to injury, says Phillip, Bristnall Hall is one of the Sandwell schools that’s missed out on a planned BSF rebuild. As a consequence,

    With very little capital and little in the way of budget we’ll have to compete with schools on each side of us that have had new buildings.

    The first priority after my initial visit had been to develop the school’s SharePoint learning platform, and Phillip tells me that during the Summer term the school’s made huge progress with it. Where there were documents and folders stored in various places on the school network, they are now properly available on the Learning Platform. They’re easily available to share, or to project in class, without printing, and accessible as appropriate to teachers and students from anywhere in school and from home, and to parents.

    The use of SharePoint has grown sevenfold since Easter,” says Phillip. “We’re already seeing the effects on printing, and that should really take off in the Autumn.

    Philip has also made the move – seen in so many of our cost-saving case studies – to virtualised servers. He’s looked at virtualisation in the past, but the availability of the free download version of Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 has made it possible to go ahead, and where he had 20 physical servers he now has 2, with all the well-documented cost benefits to come from reductions in both energy use and hardware replacement.

    Phillip’s very aware of the hidden costs of wasted time, especially since his team’s been reduced, so he’s interested in any software that will make his job easier. He points to Office Communications Server, for example, as a tool for cutting down on the simple business of walking around the school to find people.

    If it only saves ten minutes at a time, that soon adds up.

    Phillip made a strong case to me – and no, he needed no prompting – for sticking to Microsoft products. It’s a policy, he says, that saves valuable time.

    We don’t have to train staff. They come in and find that we’re using packages that are familiar to them.

    So, although the staff member he’s lost was responsible for developing SharePoint, the nature of the software means that everyone’s coped.

    I suppose it’s because SharePoint is easy to use. Once you’ve shown someone what to do they don’t forget it. We do a few training sessions, and then we can point people to the ones who can help them.

    There’s the students to consider too. Wherever they go in the future will need to have used business standard products

    Of course there’s always the cost of licensing, but this, too, is an area where Phillip’s been able to find the most efficient answer for the school.

    In April 2010 we went to the Schools Agreement. It costs us £21,816 a year for 600 desktop machines, about 10 different servers and includes 1,100 Schools Agreement Student Option licences (which gives every student their own copy of Office for home use too). When I told the bursar, it sounded like a lot, but I pointed out that if we’d wanted to buy licenses outright I would have been asking for £100,000, and probably the same again in less than four years time.

    The reason for the projected request for more money is that no school that wants to provide its students with the latest ICT experience can really leave its software alone for five years. Schools agreement recognises this through built-in software assurance that provides for upgrades as and when they arrive.

    Phillip Wakeman purchased his School Agreement licences from Insight UK, a Microsoft Gold Partner and Education Large Account Reseller. Insight's Marketing Director, Paul Bolt, explains, 

    We understood that Phillip was looking for cost savings on licences. We began by producing a 'cost comparison', which revealed that a schools agreement over a period of five years would cost two thirds of what they would have to pay to buy the licences outright.  We were able to achieve this cost saving, whilst still reaching Phillip's requirements in terms of the software upgrades which were required.

    Do the maths, and it’s clear that’s a potential saving of at least £30,000 over five years – although Phillip acknowledges that having laid out £100,000 for licences, he simply wouldn’t have had the money to spend on all the upgrades. Schools Agreement has transformed that picture:

    Up to this Summer we had Office 2003 in school, where students and staff were using 2007 at home. Now, we’ll be able to upgrade everything.

    So, still to come this Autumn, is a roll-out of Windows 7, and the introduction of Office 2010, and SharePoint 2010, as well as number of other upgrades.

    According to Insight, some schools are still reluctant to sign up for an annual commitment, but, a spokeperson there says:

    The figures are quite compelling, and where schools are in competition for students they need to show that their ICT is as up to date as possible

    It’s all going to add much needed support to a school which is focussed on success (last year it was named the most improved school in Sandwell) and which is tackling the after-effects of BSF cancellation.

    Phillip’s very clear about how ICT contributes to the school in terms of interactive lessons, support for SEN students and much more.

    The way to convince any doubters would be to invite them in to see what we do, and then show them what happens if we switch everything off. Everything that happens here is IT driven. There’s nothing we’re not involved in.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Parental Engagement–from vision to practicalities


    Last year we worked with the DCSF and a group of schools to record their stories of parental engagement, and what they were doing to build a stronger relationship with parents in their school community.

    As well as the written case studies on three secondary schools (Blatchington Mill School, Monkseaton High School and Twynham School) and two primary schools (Hawes Side Primary School and Clunbury C.E. Primary School), each school made two videos – in the first they talk about what they did, and in the second, how they did it.

    You can find all of the case studies and videos on our Engaging With Parents webpage

    And, of course, one of the discoveries is that behind every technology driven process, there’s an awful lot of manual processes that need to be cleaned up first! Gerald Haigh has been talking to schools about some of the very practical day-to-day issues of linking parents into your learning platform or Learning Gateway:

    Organise your parent contacts before you try to engage them online.

    How many contacts do you have on your phone? Do you look at any of them and think, ‘Did I ever know this person? Who is it?’ Are any of them on there two or three times, once with a first name, once with an initial, once under their business name? And if so are the phone numbers the same each time? Do you sometimes think, ‘Must tidy up these contacts when I have a bit of time.’

    Well, maybe you’re much more organised than that, but my guess is you at least recognise the problem. If so, you’ll also see why, when it comes to connecting parents with your school online, you might just need to do a bit of housekeeping on the family contact data. My recent conversations with teachers and network managers about parental engagement have made me very aware of this.

    Your school necessarily keeps a record of each child’s parents or carers, and often a list of other contacts for when the top ones aren’t answering. (Some of these are marginally useful, “If mum out, ring Tesco and ask for Margaret”) They are captured when a child enters the school and updated perhaps by an annual letter home. But is the list accurate and up to date? Especially in a big school where more than one person might enter contact details, and brothers and sisters join the school at different times, they can end up each with separate, slightly different contact details. Let that slide, and it becomes a problem when the time comes to identify who is to have password access to their children’s data.

    Tidying up the data is relatively simple, but it needs to be done and it’s also an opportunity to ensure that everything’s up to date – phone numbers, addresses. One school I spoke to found during this process that a quarter of their parental contact phone numbers were out of date. That’s the kind of thing that goes unnoticed until a child’s waiting for an ambulance, and someone is trying to raise mum or dad on the phone.

    Probably the most sensitive part of the shared data is that on behaviour. Here, too, it’s common to discover that schools have had to do some housekeeping before making the information parent-accessible. As a parent you’d be taken aback to log on and read about, for the first time, a serious issue that you’d expect to have been consulted about in person. Then there’s the contentious business of mentioning the names of other children. An entry on John Jones’s record like, “Had a fight with Chris Smith in Year 8” clearly can’t go out to Mr and Mrs Jones without the Smiths knowledge. So again, it’s either a cleaning up exercise, followed by staff CPD, or a fresh start with no access to historic data.

    If you’re going to tackle this, or help your SIMS Administrator to do so, then there’s an Edugeek thread, “Siblings in SIMS”, from last year that describes the data cleanup problem exactly (It’s worth reading before you get started, so at least you know that it’s not just you…)


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The TES goes all ICT today - and drives the cost saving agenda


    It’s not often that the TES reports on ICT – apart from a couple of pages tucked away towards the back of the magazine. But today they’ve splashed articles about ICT on the front page of the main newspaper and on the front page of the magazine. Unfortunately, in keeping with ‘good news is no news’, you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s dominant because of the bad news on ICT.

    In the main newspaper, they focus on the cut in the Harnessing Technology Grant to schools (something I wrote about on 7th July – does that mean I scooped a paper by nearly a month?) and the impact it will have on local authorities and schools.

    Raid on IT budgets doubles to £100m

    Experts warn of disaster as Gove plunders technology pot to fund free schools
    Read the full article

    And in the magazine, a similar dramatic start gives you the flavour of the whole article:

    Byte the dust

    Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent on ICT equipment every year, but there is growing evidence that school cupboards are brimming with unused and obsolete kit that should never have been bought in the first place.
    Read the full article

    So is that it? Are we back to the turn of the century, when only bad news allowed ICT to creep out of the special termly ICT supplement? Well, despite the gloomy headline, the magazine article does give both sides a voice. And I think that means that there’s a chance to look on the positive side.

    There is no doubt that budgets will be challenging. And if you’re an ICT leader in a school, you should expect a much, much more difficult set of questions about your ICT investment plans going forward. But don’t get downhearted. There are so many ways that ICT can make a contribution to the success of a school – not just in learning, but in teaching and minimising other costs, that you could actually come along like a knight in shining armour to save your school money.

    I’ve been working steadily on the Top ICT Money Saving Tips for the last six months, continuing to add more detail and to identify additional case studies of schools that have actually implemented the savings. And I’ve also carefully questioned and checked all the claimed savings. What started as a list of Top 10 ICT Savings has turned into 14 ways to use ICT to save money from the school budget. And for a secondary school, the savings quickly mount up – to a potential saving of up to £350,000 over three years.

    I don’t expect you to believe me straight away. I expect you to challenge the numbers, and look for the evidence. But I’ve approached the whole exercise with your head teacher’s perspective. I’ve imagined them asking ‘Prove to me that this saves me money’.

    And I hope that my latest version of the Top ICT Money Saving Tips for schools does exactly that. Please take a look – it just might help you if somebody in your school has read this week’s TES!


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Things are changing fast


    Two numeric examples of how fast things are moving forward in education ICT these days:

    Windows 7 is being rapidly adopted in schools

    The chart below shows the visitors to this blog this month. Which shows just how fast Windows 7 is being adopted, and displacing Windows XP (the Windows Vista number has been dropping a little, with people moving to Windows 7, but the Windows XP users are moving faster)


    As most readers of this blog are from UK schools, and most network upgrades happen over the summer holidays, I’m guessing we’ll see Windows 7 beating Windows XP by the start of the new term.

    Microsoft’s cloud is being rapidly adopted across education, around the world

    I saw this Tweet yesterday evening:

    Tweet "Dow Chemical, Hyatt Hotels and University of Georgian select Microsoft to evolve to the cloud"

    The press release it links to lists a few of the numbers around the move to cloud services. Outside of education, 13 of the top 20 global telecom firms, 15 of the top 20 global banks, and 16 of the top 20 global pharmaceutical companies are now using Microsoft’s cloud services. And over 10,000 customers in more than 40 countries have chosen the Windows Azure platform in just nine months.

    And in education, over 10,000 universities, colleges and schools in more than 130 countries are now using Microsoft’s Live@edu cloud-based email and collaboration service, serving 11 million students, staff and teachers worldwide. Today’s announcement was about the University of Georgia, which is moving 85,000 students, faculty and staff to our cloud based email, calendar and documents service. Dr. Barbara White, chief information officer at the University of Georgia, put the reasons pretty clearly:

    With Live@edu, we believe we will have a best-in-class communications and collaboration infrastructure including full-featured e-mail, increased storage space, better spam protection, and mobile phone integration, Live@edu will help us transform the campus learning environment by connecting our students, educators and staffers through the cloud. This transformation of our infrastructure will also provide capabilities to our students that they will use in their educational pursuits as well as in their future careers.


    imageFind out more about Live@edu


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What does SIMS Learning Gateway mean to parents?


    I was at Capita’s SIMS Annual Conference in Nottingham in June, talking about the future of technology, and how it will impact the workplace over the next decade. I’ve been invited to give this presentation at a wide range of conferences this summer, partly because it is one way of thinking about the world that we’re preparing students for (especially as the majority of students starting a new secondary school this September will be joining the workforce in a decade). Of course, talking to a conference full of people who deal with masses of real student data every day is a little intimidating, as many of the concepts for the future are based on emerging trends, rather than empirical data, but I think I got away with it…

    Unfortunately I could only make it to the second day of the event, and Gerald Haigh (who was there the whole time) told me I’d missed a great story from a primary school, where they’d spoken about how they were using the SIMS Learning Gateway (which is based on SharePoint) to enhance parental engagement.

    Here’s Gerald’s summary of what I missed:

    Ray missed Harry Weightman’s Conference presentation. Harry’s head of Easington Colliery Primary in County Durham, and he’s top value at any conference. I feel great affinity with him. He’s a Northerner, a primary head, as I once was, and very much in tune with his children and his community as I tried to be. And like me, he’s a person of a certain age trying hard to keep up with technology. So when he speaks, I sit up, ready to learn.

    The point about Harry, though, is that he talks not about technology or statutory obligations, but about people – children, teachers, TAs, parents. And he speaks of them with real familiarity and affection. He illustrated his talk at the SIMS Conference with some video clips that make the complete case for online parental engagement. All of the talk to camera, by teachers and parents, is about real children in the classroom, and I’m pretty sure that I only once caught the word ‘data’. You can view the clips here.

    Take parents Barbara Archer and Kristian Burnett for example, in clips 3 and 4.

    imageYou’ll notice there are slightly different takes on engagement on show here, reminding us that there’s really no such thing as a homogeneous group called “parents”. Barbara Archer is your typical juggling working mum, diverting into the Learning Gateway on her laptop at work when a gap opens up in a meeting.

    “I can suddenly tap in if we’ve got five minutes free and I can have a little look and see what mischief or what good points are coming up….It means I feel a lot closer to what’s going on in their daily life. It really works for me.”

    Then there’s Kristian Burnett, the archetypal proud dad, whose bursting enthusiasm and love for his six year old daughter shines from the screen. “She’s reading, she feels proud, and I can give her a little treat.”

    By choosing Barbara and Kristian to showcase his Learning Gateway – cheerily informal, and focused on their children’s overall well being in school rather than solely on the minutiae of their performance -- Harry demonstrates his own values and priorities. For their part, though, Barbara and Kristian, are clear that they don’t just want a one-way relationship with the school. Both say they want to be able to feed comments back, perhaps in quite simple terms to start with.

    “Then at least the school could feel that we are using it and not just reading it,” says Barbara Archer.

    Harry Weightman strongly agrees, but believes that the feedback issue isn’t straightforward.

    “The picture that’s emerging is that various feedback channels are needed. For example there’s the obvious one where the parent wants to respond back to a particular person. Then there’s the more general type about a broader issue in school, and we need to signpost to parents who are the key people to approach about particular areas of school life and work.”

    What particularly interests him, though, is the growing call for a feedback route that, as he puts it, “bypasses the school and is parent to parent.”

    What he means, of course, is the parent forum, where, says Harry, “They can contact each other and say, ‘I haven’t a clue how we can make this Roman fort, can anybody help.”

    And the great advantage of using SharePoint, of course, is that all these features are well within technical reach, and will emerge as parental engagement evolves.

    Finally in his conference presentation, Harry reminded the audience of not just his priorities, but of the reason why we’re all doing the jobs that we do, by showing us a clip in which young Jordan explains how the SIMS Learning Gateway works. (Clip 5)

    Jordan’s sign-off, I fancy, raised more than just a laugh. Did I detect a sense of guilt among the educators in the room when he said?

    “It’s a good invention. They should do it more often for more schools. They should have thought of it earlier.”

    You can find out more about the SIMS Learning Gateway on the Capita Children’s Services website.

    imageQuickly find all the other Learning Gateway posts on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What happens now that BSF has gone–the Rotherham story


    Well you can be sure that up and down the country, the question “What do we do now?” has been asked in lots of schools and local authorities since the DfE announced the end of the BSF programme. I’ve heard lots of different opinions on the future in the last two weeks (and have even seen some people cycle through the five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Negotiation, Depression and Acceptance).

    Tom OrmerodLast week I had the chance to chat with Tom Ormerod, the BSF ICT Project Manager at Rotherham MBC about their plans going forward. They have been hard hit by the BSF announcement, as they were due to go ahead in their first phase with 5 secondary schools, 1 primary school and 3 Special Schools, and the DfE announcement means that it is likely that they’ll all be shelved. There may be a small reprieve for one primary, and one secondary which may go ahead with a rebuild as it becomes an Academy. The challenge for Rotherham is that their newer PFI schools in the borough are of a much higher standard than the rest, and they were hoping that BSF would bring all of their schools up to the same standard.

    Tom described their reaction to the cancellation as:

    Shocked. Although everyone knew that there were going to be cuts and challenges, nobody expected such a dramatic and absolute end to the programme. It’s especially tough when our two neighbouring authorities are going ahead to the conclusion of their current programme.


    Of course, everybody – especially the Head Teachers and their teams - were deflated by it, but Tom described a sense of camaraderie that developed – with people aiming to make the best of a bad situation. Through the BSF planning Tom had formed a core group who’d defined an Output Specification and were ready to meet the suppliers to take it forward. And the critical issues was that BSF wasn’t just about the buildings, or just the ICT – it had been seen as a route to transform learning in Rotherham and to develop teaching and learning across all schools. Their attitude became “Just because BSF has ended doesn’t mean the work stops”. Which led to inevitable question of what could be saved from their plans

    So where next now that BSF has gone?

    Although there isn’t yet a full plan for how to move forward, what Tom’s ICT group has done is accept where they are, and see how much of their planning so far can be developed and implemented. For example, one of the team’s biggest challenges in the BSF model was to ensure that ICT teams in schools saw the positive benefits of the BSF process. Having focused on that, it would be a shame to lose momentum, and drop into a void.

    Tom is focusing on some of the current provision – for example the Rotherham Grid for Learning (RGFL) broadband provision – which was due to transition as BSF came in. Tom described them as being “lucky to have fantastic high speed broadband connections to and between schools, and we want to continue to develop that”. In the past this had focused on Internet connectivity – with a 10MB link to the web – but now they are looking to completely refresh the whole infrastructure – networks, hubs, new servers – and implement new central services to help schools. For example, they plan to deploy the Live@edu email system across the whole authority to replace their existing central email service. With the new system, they will be using Forefront Identity Manager and ILM to make it easier for schools manage users, and they’ll also provide much larger mailbox sizes, the central solution will provide more flexibility to schools than their traditional central system.

    OCG will be working with Rotherham’s joint venture partner, RBT, supporting Tom by implementing Single Sign On for the users – staff and students – which creates one RGFL account. That gives them a central learning portal account, which also acts as their internet, filtering, email and SharePoint login.  And by integrating the account provisioning directly from the SIMS systems in each school, it means that as soon as a new student or staff member is added into SIMS, they will automatically get their new email account and SharePoint login setup. SharePoint 2007 is implemented across the borough for all of their schools, and Tom’s recently seen the usage jump up, to the extent that they are now working with 87 schools and service teams within the borough – allowing them to develop more effective collaboration.

    As always though a few of the secondary schools will continue to opt out and run their own Exchange server. But the new plans has changed the view of some schools - two schools that had their own mail servers have changed their mind, and have decided to opt-in to the Live@edu service – bringing more schools back on board to the central service. As Tom says “That might increase further as more pressure arrives on budgets, and the schools realise that they can save money by switching to a hosted system.”

    Of course, money is tight - the double whammy impact is that the Harnessing Technology Grant has been cut too – but Tom and the team are continuing to make the best of it. For example, although their original plan was to deploy Office Communications Server to improve collaboration and communication, they are now looking at how Windows Live Messenger, through Live@edu, can help them to achieve some of the planned goals.

    Moving forward in the future

    As Tom says:


    It doesn’t mean doing all things centrally, but doing the right things centrally, and using the collaborative power of the schools to make better procurement choices.

    IT, and the services it provides, are just another one of the school essential services. We need the services like we need the other utilities, and we can’t deliver learning without them.

    The schools recognise that the central services are provided to them as part of the cost of the provision of their broadband. And some schools do choose to opt out of some of those services – some schools don’t want mail, some schools choose their own VLE – but the majority of schools choose the whole package of services, and it is more efficient and effective for us to provide those centrally, rather than every single primary and secondary school running their own.

    Primary schools especially need simple central systems which can remove a headache – like making it very easy for them to add new users to the systems, which cuts down school workload and makes their life easier.

    I have the advantage of a group of schools and head teachers that realise the benefit of working together and collaborating. That’s been a positive outcome of the planning that we have been doing for BSF . It would have been great to get shiny new schools, with shiny new kit and professional server rooms. But now BSF has gone we can at least look at saving the ideas we generated.


    imageQuickly find all the other 'Live@edu' posts on this blog


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Slides from the Learning Gateway Conference 2010


    Yesterday, Chris Rothwell, who leads our work on Live@edu in the UK, was talking to schools at the Learning Gateway Conference in London. I asked Chris for the slides from his talk so that I can share them. But first here’s the background from Chris:

    I was lucky enough to speak at the Learning Gateway Conference in London yesterday – in the lovely setting of Church House right by Westminster Abbey. 

    I did a session entitled “A look at Live@edu” which was really well attended – and was a great interactive session with lots of questions about how Live@edu can help individual schools and local authorities deliver communication and collaboration services differently.  If you were there – thanks for coming and making the session lively!  I’ve seen a tremendous acceleration in the adoption of cloud-based services in schools over the last few months, and I think the approach is switching from “why would I?” to “Why wouldn’t I?”.

    The issues that are on people’s minds when they think about procuring a cloud service are often very different from the issues they think of about running their own servers and services.  My session walked through all the reasons that people get excited about cloud services, but then also talked through a lot of the issues that I’ve been describing as “Yeah, but…” and how Microsoft’s approach to the cloud is helping our customers feel good about issues like data, security, integration, support and more.

    If you were there and want to take another look, or if you missed it and want to see more, Chris’s slides can be found here.

    Chris tells me that the dominant topic of conversation across the day was budget cuts, and the impact on IT services in schools.  Lots of people are already feeling the impact directly, others are still very uncertain about what the future holds and what the final impact of the budget cuts and changes might be.  With that context, Live@edu provoked a lot of interest as people look to take advantage of the free services we’re able to provide in order to improve the services they provide to students and make substantial cost savings.

    imageFind out more about Live@edu

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    WebMatrix - making it easier to deploy Moodle, Joomla! and WordPress


    imageI noticed last week that Scott Guthrie announced the release of the beta of WebMatrix. Basically, it’s an easy and free way to get started building Web sites on Windows. WebMatrix is a tool for building, customising and deploying your Web sites in one common, straightforward way. The idea is that WebMatrix can be used by a wide range of developers, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to use it. It brings together a bunch of our resources into a simple install - a Web server (IIS Developer Express), a database (SQL Server Compact), and a programming framework (ASP.NET). It’s a simple free download – just download and install it onto a spare server.

    But the extra useful bit is that you can then use the Microsoft Web Application Gallery to install and customise popular ASP.NET and PHP open source community applications, whilst also seamlessly integrating with our professional development tools and servers including Visual Studio, SQL Server and Windows Server.

    The Web App Gallery contains a long list of free downloads to install on top of WebMatrix, including Moodle, Joomla!, WordPress and a long list of other free apps to install (the main categories are: Blogs, CMS, eCommerce, Forums, Galleries, Tools and Wikis)

    It also includes a new, easier-to-learn syntax for ASP.NET to provide you with a faster way to build standards-based Web sites. The built-in helpers simplify the use of ASP.NET to perform increasingly complex and common tasks like connecting to a database, displaying a Twitter feed, or embedding a video.

    This means that you can have the flexibility and freedom to use the tools you choose, and have an easier way to deploy web servers that fit into your existing IT infrastructure.

    You can get WebMatrix by downloading the Web Platform Installer, and then install additional apps from the Web App Gallery

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Live Meeting–What’s new in Office 2010 for students and teachers



    Following on from the Deploying Windows 7 Live Meeting last month, Richard Lane (who’s our resident techie in the Education team) is hosting a pair of Office 2010 Live Meetings in July. As it is a Live Meeting (or, its alternative moniker, a ‘webinar’), you don’t need to leave your desk, and no travel is needed – you can simply logon to the Live Meeting website, and you can join in, and ask questions as we go along.

    Richard and I debated the timing for these meetings – should we try and squeeze them in before the end of term – and decided that you’d probably have more time to join once term’s over, and you’ve got more control over your schedule!

    Microsoft Office 2010 introduces rich and powerful new ways to express and share ideas, which matches the way that students are working today, and the needs of teachers. Join this webcast for a demonstration of key features that will resonate with both students and teachers alike.

    • Discover how Office 2010 will enable you to bring ideas to life with advanced video and picture editing, broadcast capability in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, easy document preparation through the new Microsoft Office Backstage view, and visualise data in new ways with Microsoft Excel 2010.

        • See the new Office Web Apps 2010 – online companions to Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote – which enable you to review and edit documents from a variety of web browsers.

            • Understand how students can collaborate better by taking shared notes or co-authoring documents in real-time with a fellow student.

            This session will be mainly demonstration based – there will also be the opportunity to have any questions you have answered.

            Dates and Times

            You can join the meeting on either Tuesday July 27th 10:30 – 11:30 or Wednesday July 28th – 11:00-12:00.

            You’ll need to register in advance here and you’ll then get a confirmation email and joining details.

            What equipment do you need?
            You will need a PC with a web browser and either headphones or a telephone to hear the audio - To save time before the meeting, you can easily check your system to make sure it is ready to use Microsoft Office Live Meeting, using this link

          • Microsoft UK Schools blog

            Saving money by effective power management


            One of the hidden costs of ICT in schools is the power usage of the equipment you’ve got around your school. I call it hidden because it is often not visible to the IT team, and the full energy costs of all of your servers and computers are simply part of the school’s overall electric bill. I’ve written before about the potential for cutting school budgets by reducing energy bills (see the Top Money Saving Tips for all of the details and savings calculations).

            As we release new products, we are doing more and more to help you manage and reduce power consumption. For example, both Windows Vista and Windows 7 reduced the power usage of a typical PC configuration, by reducing the power it uses when in use, as well as better management and use of low-power states such as Sleep and Hibernate.

            On the network management side, we’re making a lot of changes to System Center Configuration Manager, with Release 3 (R3) due this year – this now has power management built within it to help monitor and manage all of your networked PCs.

            For a typical secondary school, the potential savings run into tens of thousands of pounds, so it is definitely worth looking at how you can more effectively manage your power usage. Conserving power at the desktop level translates not only into potential cost savings through power consumption reduction it also has the added benefit of helping to reduce your school’s overall carbon footprint. This will become more important as the carbon reduction targets start to hit you – with a government target of a 53% reduction in school carbon emissions. 

            Power Management in System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3

            While energy-saving desktops and laptops have been available for some time, many organisations are not getting the most cost and energy saving benefits from these devices because power-saving settings are often disabled out of fears of data corruption, to support overnight IT operations, or simply from force of habit.

            imageClient power management with System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 helps you get manage the energy consumption of your hardware by providing a set of power management tools to enable centralised client power management. If you’re using Windows 7 , it allows you to easily optimise power settings on a granular level, and if you’re using earlier versions of Windows, it takes full advantage of the power management capabilities available in them.

            Configuration Manager 2007 R3 tools allow you to:

            • Monitor current power state and consumptions

            • Plan and create a power management policy and check for exceptions

            • Apply power management policy to enforce different power settings for peak and non-peak periods

            • Check compliance and remediate non-compliance

            • Reduce energy costs associated with power and reduces CO2 emissions

            • Report savings in power consumption and costs


            Client power management with Configuration Manager 2007 R3 can yield you potential cost savings with minimal effort and expense.

            Where to find out more about System Center Configuration Manager

            There are three levels of further detailed information:

            1. For an overview of System Center, take a look at the System Center website

                • For the Configuration Manager specifically, take a look at the System Center Configuration Manager section

                    • There’s more detailed specifics still in the Power Management Datasheet

                        • And more detailed still, there’s a quick demo the power management capabilities, on the System Center blog

                            • Read all the above, and want to play with it yourself? Well, you could always download the free System Center Configuration Manager beta and try it on a test server.

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