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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Webinar - Simplifying Windows 7 Migration


    My colleagues in the Government team are running a series of Live Meetings (webinars) together with our partners that demonstrate how new technology can deliver genuine cost-savings and improve the efficiency of public service delivery. This week, it’s all about Windows 7 migration, then next week they are covering Windows 7 Application Compatibility, and after half-term Identity Management.

    Although the content will be designed for a wide range of public sector organisations, not just for education customers, you may be working on a project where the content could come in handy.

    Here’s the info on this week’s session, this Friday:

    The first in this series of Live Meetings addresses how to Simplify your migration to Windows 7 with Citrix and Microsoft (Invitation Code: BAC0F1) and takes place on Friday May 14th from 11:00 – 12:00.

    Taking part in our Live Meeting will provide you with a genuine insight into how to:

    ·        Deliver virtual applications on demand: With multiple ways of virtualising applications, Citrix will set your applications up for Windows 7 by separating them from the endpoint and the desktop operating system.

    ·        Re-use the PCs already installed: Repurpose desktop refresh/upgrade budget to build a desktop as a service infrastructure either running on a virtual desktop in the Datacentre or streamed directly to the endpoint PC or thin client.

    ·        Access Windows 7 desktop from any device, anywhere: Users will be fully productive with all the corporate productivity tools available to them on any endpoint on any network. A simple network connection is all that is required for them to access their corporate desktop.

    ·        Lock down corporate data in the datacentre: By simply removing corporate data from the Windows 7 endpoint, data security concerns are minimised.

    Our Live Meetings are delivered by Microsoft experts and business partners with experience in the Public Sector.  You will have the opportunity to interact with the presenter(s) during the Live Meetings and get answers to your questions.

    imageFind out about the public sector Live Meeting series

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Things I learned this week #2


    1. I learned that satire has it’s place in education ICT

    Have you ever faced a Canute-like colleague, keen to roll back the tide of technology? Or treats technology problems completely differently from any other kind of problem. For example, I’ve often wondered if we’d ban pencils in classrooms if they were invented today, because they have a bad side as well as a good side. Just like ICT.

    I really enjoyed reading John Spencer’s “Pencil Integration” blog, which proves that satire is sometimes the way to go when faced with cyncics. It’s satirising ICT in education, by writing about the introduction of pencils in the classroom. As you read it, change every reference to pencils & books to ICT, and you’ll see how ridiculous some of the ideas sound.

    Three of my favourites:

    • Banning Books – creating a book filtering programme, where students can search for books that are appropriate and banning sites that include inappropriate content. This is too close to real life – I remember a few years ago being asked by a religious schools group if they could filter out all ‘dinosaur’ sites on their school internet feed, because it was incompatible with their beliefs.
    • Wondering if we'll ever go all-out on pencils – I’m sure everybody has their own example to add to this one from personal experience, which could be more appropriately titled “I dropped my pencil, and now it’s broken”
    • Blocking pen pal networks – how to respond to pencil-based bullying. Here’s the quote that makes it for me “If it’s verbal, blame the student. If it’s written, blame the pencils.”

    If you think this kind of thing doesn’t happen with technology today, then take a look at The Angry Technician’s blog post series entitled “Let’s solve everything with Technology

    2. A novel way to reduce sickness

    One college reduced its staff sickness rate by 50%, by changing that way that they cover the lessons for absent lecturers. The Head of Department became the default cover option, meaning that most absent lecturers had their boss taking cover for their lesson. That simple changed halved sickness rates, because staff simply didn’t want their boss to see their class, lesson plans etc

    3. College lecturers and school teachers teach similar hours

    I learnt, at a conference, that the average full-time college lecturer teaches 840 hours per year. Working this out for schools, I think it’s about 850  hours for a typical teacher (at 38 weeks a year, and about 5 hours of teaching a day, less 10% for PPA time)

    4. The Home Access Programme is continuing to run swiftly

    The Home Access Programme has been running since January, and I learnt, in a tweet from Bob Harrison, that so far they have had 400,000 applications for free home computers  - an increase of 70,000 since April.  In total they’ve now approved 200,000 of the grants – which leaves just 85,000 left to hand out.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Network Managers and Teachers have a relationship problem


    We’re thinking about how our activities online (like this blog, our other education blogs, the Partners in Learning Network, and the main Microsoft UK Education website) can be developed to support schools more – and meet the needs of different people within a school. Within our small team we’ve got quite a few years of working in and with schools, but we thought it was an opportunity to ask somebody outside of Microsoft to do some research for us, and tell us some things we didn’t know. The first phase of that research, based on a small number of in-depth interviews with people in different roles in a range of schools, has just come back, and during the debriefing, I took lots of notes on things that I thought you might find useful. Some of it is obvious but there were also some surprises, especially about people’s behaviour.

    This research isn’t a huge, representative sample, but I think that the information is definitely worth sharing, as it may help you to get an insight into what’s going on in other schools. I’m sure your school doesn’t suffer from the tension between Network Managers and Teachers that we’ve picked up on through the research, but are you aware of other colleagues suffering the similar problems?

    The tension between teachers and Network Managers

    One of the themes that came out of the research was that there is a tension between teachers and Network Managers, which was highlighted by informal comments from both groups.

    Secondary school teachers told the researchers that want somebody to help them mediate with their network managers, to help overcome the tensions and barriers!

    In secondary schools, teachers commonly complained about the difficulty of getting curriculum resources installed onto the school network, with some reporting that “the network manager doesn’t trust my choices”. This may be compounded by Network Managers who told us that "installing new software is a low priority" for them, and some said “we hate doing it”.

    There were two quotes that clearly illustrated this tension, from both sides. One teacher, talking about getting curriculum software installed in school, said:

    I've had to learn enough about the network that I can stop the network manager bluffing to block me

    And a Network Manager, talking about teachers, said:

    Teachers don't have time get innovative. If they can't get to grips with the basics, how on earth are they going to cope with the new stuff?

    For phase two of the research, we’ll look to see if there’s more information on this tension (and possible solutions).

    ICT Strategy

    Primary schools have a more unified approach to ICT. The ICT Co-ordinator tends to see a whole school view, whereas in secondary schools ICT development is more likely to be driven by keen members of staff, and there are wide departmental disparities in ICT adoption.

    Secondary schools were described as "more cynical", and with more tension in role differences between ICT staff and teaching staff

    Primary schools ICT strategies tend to place more emphasis on pupils' ICT use whereas secondary schools focus on teachers' use of ICT. (The researchers wondered if this reflected a learning-centric versus teaching-centric approach in the school?) And because primary teachers learn skills for one curriculum area, and then apply it across the rest of their teaching, they felt that there was much better cross-curriculum use of ICT, compared to the ‘islands of best practice’ reported by staff in secondary schools

    Teachers face huge time pressures, and regard their time as very precious. So time to use and explore ICT is therefore an issue. And in secondary schools they also reported that they find lack of access to IT equipment a big pressure (coupled with big departmental discrepancies in access).

    ICT Budgets

    Secondary schools have what the researchers described as “complex budget workflow”, compared to primary schools. Mainly this results from fewer decision makers in primary schools.  In secondary schools, it’s not just a discussion between a Network Manager and the Head Teacher, but also involves many different members of the Senior Leadership Team, and with many curriculum departments involved. Partly this is because Network Managers like decisions about curriculum resources to come through them, to ensure compatibility and so that they can plan implementation of new resources.

    However, the researchers found, after the complex budget process, once the budget is actually allocated, it's left to the IT team to spend it - and they can more or less spend it anyway they want (eg change the plan and the priorities during the year)

    The role of Network Managers

    Network Managers see the goal of their job as to maintain a constant service for students, and also staff. But they referred mainly to students - even more so at primary schools. As one Network Manager said "It doesn't matter how good your network is, if it doesn't help with learning, it's worthless".

    Only a minority see training, such as making sure everyone knows how to use ICT, as a critical part of their role.

    Most Network Managers use EduGeek as their online professional community

    Teachers sharing curriculum resources online

    Every teacher interviewed said "I don't want to reinvent the wheel", and wanted to use other teachers' good resources. But few teachers actually took action about finding other teachers’ work online, preferring to use one or two sites created by publishers or similar organisations, and only a miniscule proportion were actually sharing their work with others online.

    The main online place primary teachers go to get teaching resources primary schools was quoted as the free Primary Resources website, whilst in secondary schools, teachers start from their favourite search engine to look for teaching resources.

    Most teachers did have other sites that they used in addition to their first choice. Other free sites used are TES Connect, BBC BiteSize and the discontinued BBC ReviseWise. And a smaller number of teachers use subscription sites for resources, such as Education City and Espresso.

    One strange and interesting piece of feedback from the researchers was that teachers prefer resource sites that look home-grown "If a site looks too professional, they think it isn't for them" (I did wonder if the researchers meant "corporate" rather than "professional").

    Teachers also said that if a resource was made available through their local Regional Broadband provider, then they’ll trust it more than other content, because they assume that somebody has reviewed it, and made the judgement that it is better than other resources.

    Based on this, I’m sure as we go into Phase 2 we’re going to find out some more interesting stuff!

    NB: Feel free to add comments to the blog - to prevent spam, anonymous comments wait overnight for checking

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Things I learned this week #1


    Last weekend, Doug Belshaw’s “Things I learned this week #17” mentioned this blog (although with some fake reluctance), and the post that contained the What’s new in PowerPoint 2010 for teachers video. I often read Doug’s blog, as well as listening to the EdTechRoundUp podcast, which Doug takes part in weekly. The thought hit me (belatedly!) that “Things I learned this week” is an excellent way to share some of the snippets of news that aren’t quite important enough to make a blog post all of their own, but lumped together they may make interesting reading.

    So, thanks to Doug’s idea, here’s my first “Things I learned this week” list:

    Things I learned this week

    • I have known for some time about the Microsoft Education Competencies, which was designed by teachers, and is used in a number of countries for professional development and career planning by teachers.
      What I learned this week is that one of the 39 competencies is Humour, and just like every other competency, there are a series of level statements that can be used to describe progression:
      Microsoft Competencies > Humour

    Level 1: Basic Level 2: Intermediate Level 3: Advanced Level 4: Expert

    Generally uses humour in a positive way

    Uses humour to bring people together

    Knows exactly when and where a joke or story will be effective

    Can see humour in almost everything

    Is conscientious about timing and setting for humour

    Uses humour to boost morale or decrease tension

    Has a great sense of timing

    Sought out by others for guidance in this area

    Tries to diffuse tense situations with appropriate humour

    Uses humour to make for a more relaxed and productive atmosphere

    Realises when and where humour will backfire, and withholds

    Uses humour as a uniting dynamic across a range of situations

    Can laugh at self and others

    Allows others to be funny

    Understands that laughter makes a more comfortable meeting, classroom, etc

    Recognizing and appreciates a great sense of humour in others

    And like all of the other competencies, there are sections on improving proficiency, interview questions, learning opportunities and even a recommended reading list.
    (Honestly, it took me half an hour to satisfy myself that this wasn’t some kind of April Fool’s Spoof)

    Thanks for the inspiration Doug

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    On your blogs…get set…Go


    Yesterday in discussions about what content goes onto this blog, and the others I write, I promised somebody I’d write a list of Microsoft team blogs that I’d recommend reading. The discussion was started by the question “Does your blog contain everything that’s relevant to education and Microsoft?”. And the answer is definitely “No” – I only have the bandwidth to write about the bits I think are really important or really interesting to people interested in Microsoft news on education IT. There are lots of other related blogs that focus on specific products or technologies.

    Saying I’d write a list turned out to be easier than doing it, but here is, finally, a list of blogs that you might want to consider reading/subscribing to.

    Microsoft Education Blogs

    Firstly, in addition to this one, there’s five key UK specific blogs, written by members of the Microsoft education team here in Reading

    Then there’s some worldwide ones, written outside of the UK

    Other Microsoft team blogs

    Product team blogs



    Other Microsoft product blogs


    There are thousands of blogs written by either Microsoft teams, or individual employees, so if you’re looking for something specific, the best way is to search on the Microsoft Communities page (which maintains a list of 1,686 blogs today – but that’s still only a small proportion of the total)

    imageSearch the blogs list to find others

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 releases – and a UK school is first to deploy


    Overnight the full released version of Office 2010 appeared on the Volume Licensing Service Centre, and I’ve already seen a few comments from people who’ve been busily downloading it.

    As well as Office 2010, we’ve also released SharePoint 2010, and I was really chuffed to read a blog post from the team at Twynham School, as they celebrated implementing the final version yesterday. I believe that they are the first school in the world to roll out the released version of SharePoint 2010, and partly this is because they have been involved in our official TAP (Technology Adoption Programme). As Dave Coleman, the Twynham Systems Manager says:

    This has been a long journey for the team at Twynham, as we have been on the TAP programme for SharePoiint 2010 since December 2008 - this means that we have gone through the Alpha, Beta and on to the release candidate and now the RTM.

    Dave’s promised that they are going to make a demonstration site available shortly, so that you can see what they have done with it (which is typical of Twynham’s attitude towards sharing the lessons from their work).

    They are also running a free event on 14th May 14th June at our campus in Reading, all about SharePoint 2010, and they and other early adopter schools are talking about their experiences. You can register for the event by emailing Mike Herrity at Twynham School.

    imageFind out more about, and book for, the Twynham School SharePoint 2010 event

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    it’s learning moves towards the cloud with Microsoft



    There’s a new press release on the it’s learning website. it’s learning are a Becta approved Learning Platform provider, and have recently signed an agreement with us to offer their customers our cloud computing services, via our Live@edu service. That means that if you are an it’s learning customer, you’ll be offered a range of internet-based services which fully integrate with the it’s learning platform – such as cloud-based email through Outlook Live, and online versions of SharePoint and the Office Web Applications. With Outlook Live it means that students can get their email through a browser, on their mobile phone, or through Outlook.

    I think over the next few months you’re going to see more announcements about this kind of partnership – where a specialist supplier of services, like learning platforms, integrates hosted services from Microsoft (like email) within their service. It means that we take on the task of running a mega data centre, supporting standard tasks, whilst the specialist supplier concentrates on customising a complete system for a school, college or university. Learning platforms are a really good example of why this model works – it’s good to have email fully integrated into the learning platform, but it’s not good (or necessary) for every supplier to build their own version of an email system. So instead, they can provide that function in a fully integrated way (ie invisible to the user) through an external service. The same thing is happening in local authorities and individual schools, where they continue to run their own core ICT infrastructure, but move some services to an integrated cloud-based system, like Live@edu.

    Here’s the detail of the it’s learning announcement:

    it’s learning adopts Microsoft platform for cloud based educational services

    On the 12th April 2010 Microsoft and it’s learning, an international learning platform provider, signed an MOU to jointly provide products and services that will transform teaching methods and advance next-generation learning. The agreement represents the first Education Partner Alliance where the Microsoft cloud computing services are adopted to develop a fully cloud based, integrated offering to the education sector.

    The Partner Alliance means that Microsoft Outlook Live, SharePoint Online and Office Web Applications will be integrated into the it’s learning platform through the Microsoft Live@edu service. This means it’s learning can now deliver the best suite of online communication tools to improve productivity and collaboration in education. Students and teachers will be able to securely upload, easily share, and collaborate on Office documents from anywhere with internet access, including mobile devices.

    Dylan Jones, Managing Director, it’s learning UK said “it’s learning has chosen Microsoft’s cloud services for education allowing current and future customers to benefit from Outlook Live and Microsoft’s web applications. We took this decision because students and teachers are familiar with Microsoft’s rich, high-quality communications products which will keep up with their changing needs. Microsoft not only provides the leading platform, but is also a fantastic partner for it’s learning because it is an enterprise company which has experience with large organisations and has a strong heritage in working with local authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia in the UK and internationally.”

    Steve Beswick, Senior Director of Education, Microsoft Ltd said “We are delighted that it's learning have decided to integrate the Microsoft platform and partner with us to provide future customers the best learning experiences. As students become increasingly tech-savvy at a younger age and demand more technology services from their schools, we believe that our technology offers the familiar, rich solutions and flexible platform that will best support their learning and help them develop the skills needed by today’s employers.

    imageFind out more about it's learning and their learning platform

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What’s new in the Office 2010 applications



    I’ve indexed all of the different product guides for the new Office 2010 applications. There are two separate documents for most of the products – the Overview version is a short two-page summary, and then there’s a detailed Product Guide which goes into much more detail.

    The Overview document is ideal for a quick staff introduction, to stick on walls, and for leaving around the staff room and IT rooms – as well as for summarising the key points to help you to decide when you should consider upgrading your school computers.

    The detailed Product Guide is really useful for preparing training materials, or handouts to staff when you are starting to deploy Office 2010. It may help to enthuse them to use some of the new things where Office will help in their lesson delivery - and to get them over the “Oh no, things have changed” reaction. Some of these Product Guides have more than 100 pages, so there’s no shortage of details. I also like the fact that they talk about new things that Office 2010 can do, and then show screen shots of the difference it makes.



    Product Guide




    Icon_Word10_33x32Word 2010



    Icon_Excel10_33x32Excel 2010



    Icon_PowerPoint10_33x32PowerPoint 2010



    icon_Onenote10_33x32OneNote 2010



    Icon_Outlook10_33x32Outlook 2010



    Icon_Publisher10_33x32Publisher 2010



    Icon_Access10_33x32Access 2010

    Not available


    Icon_InfoPath10_33x32InfoPath 2010

    Not available


    Icon_SharePoint10_33x32SharePoint Workspace 2010



    Logo_MSFTOffice2010_187x54[9]Office Web Apps



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    18th May - Manage the Future - Desktop to Cloud: The best of the Microsoft Management Summit


    This event is recommended for experienced network managers, as it will focus on network management technologies, and is not specifically for education. However, I know there’s quite a bit of interest in the System Center Essentials, so there will definitely be content that’s useful to schools.

    The chances of persuading your senior management team to let you fly over to Vegas for the annual Microsoft Management Summit is pretty slim. So last week’s event went ahead without many UK delegates.

    Fortunately, the UK team have put together a “Best Of…” event, where you can get all of the best content from the summit, packed into a full day’s agenda on Tuesday 18th May in central London. And unlike the Vegas event, which cost $2,000+, this event is free.

    Best of Microsoft Management Summit UK 2010 will provide the best possible opportunity to learn about the latest IT Management products, solutions and technologies from Microsoft and how to apply them in your organisation. With a number of significant management product releases and announcements planned from Microsoft in the coming year, including some early Beta releases, this is an opportunity you won't want to miss!

    This 1-day event will provide you with an understanding of the latest technical updates on Desktop, Datacenter and Cloud management features and solutions from Microsoft. The event will share expert knowledge and information, covering current System Center products as well as Windows platform management solutions for virtualization of servers, desktops and applications.

    The agenda includes:

    • Managing Systems from the Datacenter to the Cloud
      Ryan O'Hara, Director - System Center
    • Configuration Manager v.Next: Overview
      Jeff Wettlaufer, Technical Product Manager - System Center
    • What's New Since the Release of Operations Manager 2007 R2
      Paul Collins & Ellis Paul, Management Technology Specialist
    • Opalis IT Process Automation: Introduction & Technical Overview
      Greg Charman, Opalis Technology Specialist
    • Introduction to Systems Management in Midsized Organizations with System Center Essentials 2010
      Gordon McKenna, MVP - System Center Specialist
    • Technical Introduction to Data Protection Manager 2010
      Anthony Tyler, Storage Technology Architect
    • Service Manager Integration with System Center
      Nigel Cain, Senior Program Manager - System Center

    imageFind out more, including the full agenda, and reserve your free place

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Computing at School – the free 2010 Teacher Conference


    The Computing at School Working Group is an informal group that aims to promote the teaching of computing at school. The membership is broad, and includes teachers, examiners, parents, university faculty, and employers – and the Microsoft Research group in Cambridge are one of the backers. The focus is specifically on computing as a subject rather than ICT generally, so it focuses most of its work on supporting specialist ICT/Computing teachers, by providing them with teaching material and training, as well as encouraging the developments for GCSEs in computing.

    They’ve just announced details of the free Computing at School 2010 Teacher Conference on 9th July 2010 at the University of Birmingham. They’ve got an good line-up of speakers already:

    • Matthew MacLaurin - Chief Developer for the KODU project
    • Peter McOwan - Computer Science for Fun
    • Michael Kölling - Greenfoot
    • John Woollard - Institute of Education, Southampton University
    • Peter Dickman - Google
    • Miles Berry - Roehampton University
    • Rebecca George - BCS Women
    • Matthew Applegate- pixelh8
    • Andrew Herbert - Microsoft Research UK

    And probably the best reason to find out more (or pass on the info to your IT teachers) is this one quote from an attendee last year:

    I learnt more and connected with more interesting people than on any course that my school has previously forked out hundreds of pounds for.

    The conference free to attend, and this year there are also small bursaries available for those who need assistance with travel expenses and overnight accommodation.

    imageFind out more about the 2010 Teacher Conference

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