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

    European Safer Internet Day- 9th February 2010 - Free Parents Internet Safety Presentation


    Like you, Microsoft believes strongly in the importance of ensuring the Internet is a safe place for young people and adults alike.

    My colleague Karina leads a lot of our work on online safety. As well as being part of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), we’re also a partner of CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) and a number of our staff are trained by CEOP as volunteers to visit schools and educate children through presentations, using the Think You Know resources.

    Through doing this work, we’ve realised that there’s a big gap in knowledge amongst parents, and that they need a lot more help. This year, in addition to the CEOP trained volunteers, we also have other volunteers who are invited by schools to talk with parents.

    European Safer Internet Day

    To support European Safer Internet Day and the launch of the new digital code for children “Zip it, Block it, Flag it” Microsoft is offering all UK schools the opportunity to host their own parents awareness session. These virtual sessions offer your school the opportunity to host a parents evening with a presentation led by a Microsoft volunteer to inform and educate parents on the technology their children are using and how they can keep them safe when online.

    Digital safety rules - Zip it, Block it, Flag it

    About the Presentation

    The presentation will be a live webcast that you can join from your school at no cost.  All you need is to connect to the Internet on a screen or whiteboard and your parents will be able to see the presentation and you can submit questions from them should they have any.

    The presentation itself talks about the benefits and safety concerns of the Internet as well as introducing basic information on how technology such as social networking and instant messaging is used by young people.  It is designed to build confidence for parents in understanding the technology as well as a providing guidance and practical advice to safeguard their children and where to go for help.

    The presentation will take place on the 9th February 2010 at the following times:

    • 12.30-13.30
    • 15.30-16.30
    • 16.30-17.30
    • 18.00-19.00
    • 19.30-20.30

    Running A Session

    The session will be streamed over the internet, when you sign up you will receive the following:

    • Detailed guide to on how to join the presentation (including information of a short practice session)
    • Parents guide to Microsoft technology and parental controls
    • CD ROM for parents showing how to set up parental controls
    • Sample letter to use to invite parents

    How to Sign Up

    To book to host a virtual parents presentation for your school please book a place by January 28th 2010 by calling Karina Gibson on 0118 909 2803 or drop her an email email stating which session you would like to join.

    If this date doesn’t work for you, but you know that you’d like to do something for your parents, then it’s worth dropping an email to Karina. Although we don’t have volunteers all around the country, and they are stretched quite thinly, we are always willing to see if we can accommodate requests for talks to parents or students.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using Windows 7 Direct Access to connect teachers to your school network securely


    Ever since Windows 7 was launched, I’ve had a steady stream of people asking me if I know of schools who have implemented Direct Access.

    Direct Access allows you to setup your staff laptops so that teachers can always have secure access to your school network wherever they are, but without forcing them to use a VPN connection. There are a number of benefits for schools & staff:

    • Unlike a VPN connection, it only reroutes some network access through the school network connection, not all Internet access. Which means it doesn’t slow down or filter normal Internet access at home from the laptop.
    • It is transparent to the user – so they just access a network share or VLE folder as they normally would, just as if they are in school.
    • It can be used with two-factor security (eg a smartcard) so that it meets Becta’s requirements for remote access to sensitive MIS data
    • It minimises the amount of sensitive data that your teachers put on their laptop. This could save you getting into hot water with the Information Commissioner’s Office if a laptop goes missing.

    Although I use it myself (and as a user, I’m a big fan of it, because VPN access used to be slow, and I’d avoid VPN’ing as much as possible) I don’t know of any schools that have implemented it fully.

    So I thought that perhaps I should share some resources to help people who are experimenting.

    A short video introduction to Direct Access

    There’s a 2 minute video demonstration of it which you can download, which shows how very simple it is for the user.

    Direct Access webcast


    View the TechNet Direct Access webcast home page

    In this webcast, John Baker from the TechNet team focuses on the Direct Access feature in the Windows 7 operating system, which provides secure anywhere access on the network. We explore how Direct Access makes it easier for IT professionals to manage the network infrastructure and how it helps reduces IT costs. We also discuss how Direct Access works and how to set up and configure Direct Access in the network infrastructure. The session includes demonstrations on how to setup and configure Direct Access on Windows 7-based clients and the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system.

    Networking Enhancements Whitepaper

    There’s a whitepaper, called (takes deep breath) “Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Networking Enhancements for Enterprises” which takes a detailed look at new networking technologies in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, with particular emphasis on enhancements to improve connectivity for a mobile workforce. New features and enhancments including DirectAccess, BranchCache, VPN Reconnect, mobile broadband device support, URL-based QoS, DNSSEC, and support for green computing.

    There’s a lot of technical details on Direct Access (and a lot of acronyms like IPv6, IPsec and 56-bit key encryption) on page 5-6 of this whitepaper

    Infrastructure and Planning Guide for Direct Access

    The TechNet site has a growing series of Infrastructure Planning and Design Guides for all kinds of areas – virtualisation, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server, Online Services and the Optimised Desktop. The one that’s relevant is the IPD Guide for DirectAccess in Windows 7.

    Want more on Direct Access?

    Head to the TechNet Direct Access page, for a big bundle of further documents and information that will help.

    And if you’ve implemented it in a school, then drop me a line or add a comment, to share your story.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 reasons Office 2010 is good for schools


    I’ve been using Office 2010 for a few months now, and over time I’ve realised that there is a lot of clever stuff hidden inside this new version.

    When I say “hidden”, I mean that in a positive way. One of the big things with Office 2010 is that there are a huge number of things which don’t change – things like the Ribbon menu and all of the new file formats which arrived with Office 2007. The benefit of this is that it is easier for users to migrate, but as a user, it has meant it’s taken me a little while to find the things which are very new.

    One of the underlying things is that all of the applications work much more effectively in an Internet connected world – and use that to improve users’ ability to save and share information.


    There’s more to life than the Save icon

    imageIt’s going to involve some user re-education, but if you can persuade people to hit the “Share” button, instead of the “Save” button, things are going to get interesting for your learning community.

    Your students and staff will easily be able to share their work in lots of different places and ways.

    Reason One: Save to SharePoint allows them to use shared sites, or their MySite, to store and share documents. And because it is so easy (no more do I have to save a local copy and then go and upload it to SharePoint separately) it will encourage everybody to store their documents where other (authorised!) people can find them.

    Reason Two: Save to SkyDrive is one step further by connecting your users to their 25GB of free storage on the SkyDrive site. And because SkyDrive allows you to have private folders, shared folders and public folders, each user can easily control what’s visible to others, and available via any Internet connected computer.

    Reason Three: Create PDF Document is something I have used quite a bit since discovering it – I can now take my Word document and turn it into something which is perceived to be more ‘professionally published’ because it’s a PDF. And it’s dead easy to use.

    imageReason Four: PowerPoint knocks down the classroom walls by adding a new “Broadcast Slide Show” option, which takes your presentation and presents it live on a web page – with all the fancy animations and everything else. So now, if you’re delivering a remote lesson, everybody can be looking at the same thing, in high resolution and real time, without needing an extra fancy software. All you do is share a weblink, and you’re ready to teach the world! You can find out a little more on this on the PowerPoint blog

    image Reason Five: Your teachers can become YouTube stars with the new sharing option in PowerPoint, that allows you to turn a presentation into a video. Up until now, if you wanted to share a PowerPoint presentation as a video, you either needed extra software (like Camtasia) or you had to save the files as individual pictures, and then put them together into a lovely movie with PhotoStory or MovieMaker. Now you just select ‘Share>Create a Video’ and you’re off. You can create low-res videos for YouTube or your Learning Platform, or High-Def videos for other uses. This means that your teachers can unlock some of their existing PowerPoint content for your students – making it available in places and ways they’re likely to be comfortable with – like YouTube.

    If you want an idea of how powerful this can be, take a look at this video, created completely in PowerPoint 2010.

    It was created by Duarte, who are professional presentation designers, and they’ve shared the template for this whole presentation (plus some lessons on how to achieve the effects) within the PowerPoint 2010 beta. It’s an amazing demonstration of how you can combine good graphics and some of the clever new animations and transitions in PowerPoint to produce an amazingly professional result.

    Cut and Paste will never be the same again

    imageReason Six: Paste has less hassle involved now that you can choose easily whether to paste in information with its original formatting, or no formatting (or merged formatting), simply by clicking the right mouse button. You get this little menu to the right, and it means you can say goodbye to little irritations caused by doing things like pasting in a bit of text from an Internet page – and seeing your whole page design change.

    image Reason Seven: Paste has less hassle forever too, because you can change the default Paste behaviour. So you can always set Word to paste text in unformatted – losing all of the purple fonts so beloved of Year 7! I’m told this is a very good thing.

    image Reason Eight: You can paste animations from one object to another. This is already saving me hours in PowerPoint, and just might encourage my ten-year-old to use consistent animations, not a new animation for every piece of text! Now, once I’ve perfected my dead-cat-bounce on my latest clipart triumph, I can copy it across all the other bits of the slides by using the Animation Painter. It works just like Format Painter (the little yellow paint brush in Office 2007), but potentially saves a lot more time in PowerPoint.


    Reason Nine: PowerPoint’s new video features will genuinely make teachers smile, because it just makes working with video easier, so that teachers can include video in their lesson plans more easily. There are 3 parts of it worth noting:

    • imageYou can now trim the parts of the video to display – selecting when to start and stop the video automatically. It’s a doddle, just using the ‘Trim Video’ option, and dragging the markers to the start and end position. This is brilliant if you’ve got a long video in your library (eg a TV programme) that you want to only show 2 minutes from.
    • Videos are now embedded in your presentation by default, meaning that your one PowerPoint file has all the bits it needs to run, rather than having to remember to copy all the video files.
    • image And finally, you can now easily insert a video from websites like YouTube and TeacherTube just by clicking ‘Insert>Video>Video from Web Site’ and pasting in the embed code from the video.

    And finally, for the minute, it’s free

    image Reason Ten: Because the Office 2010 Beta is free and downloadable nowwhich means you can play with it as much as you want (and, if you’re shallow like me, use a few of whizzy new animation features in PowerPoint to show off in front of colleagues/students who haven’t yet seen them). Have fun!



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Kristen and Stuart get an EduBlog nomination for Teaching Ideas and Resources blog


    Talk about hiding your light under a bush. I’ve just found out, through reading the pages of EduBlog awards site, that our Teaching Ideas and Resources blog, written by Kristen and Stuart, has been shortlisted in the “Best elearning/corporate education blog 2009” category.

    If you’re not sending staff in your school to their blog, then you probably should be – it is full of good stories about enhancing learning using ICT, and they have a regular pot of software giveaways that will appeal to classroom teachers.

    First, take a look at their blog, and if you think it is worthy, give them your vote in the EduBlog Awards?

    Neither Kristen nor Stuart have mentioned this nomination, so it seems I have to do their plugging for them…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Are teachers really losing confidence with ICT?


    Earlier in the year, BESA reported that teachers confidence with using ICT had fallen by 10%. Which sounds dramatic, and was described by some writers as ‘alarming’. But is it?

    Well, here’s the data for the last 11 years – from research done by the old DfES until 2004, and data from BESA from 2002. The reason the two lines don’t match in the overlap period of 2002-2004 is probably because DfES used to ask head teachers “What proportion of your teacher are confident”, whereas BESA asks individual teachers “Are you confident?”


    Although you can use the data to produce a headline like “Teacher ICT confidence down 10 per cent”, it’s unlikely that average teachers confidence with ICT is the same as it was in 1998. After all, in 1998 we weren’t using the Internet in many classrooms, or using any of the fancy multimedia resources that you see in the majority of classrooms today.

    So what’s going on?

    I think that what’s happening is that the data is reflecting the journey through the learning curve. We all start any learning journey in the “Unconsciously Incompetent” box – ie we don’t know what we can’t do. And normally progress through to being “Consciously Incompetent” (ie we find out what we cant do), before continuing through to “Consciously Competent” (a feeling of relief from knowing that we can do it!). And, in the perfect world, we end up “Unconsciously Competent” (ie we aren’t even aware that we’re competent at something, like riding a bike").

    The journey looks something like this:image And I think the reason that we don’t see a continual increase in teachers’ confidence with ICT is two factors:

    • The first reason is that because things keep changing, it means that we all end up moving into the between the “Incompetent” and “Competent” boxes. In fact, it always seems as if the IT industry is waiting for me to get competent with something before it changes! Only yesterday I discovered the my favourite page on Amazon had changed the way it worked, and I had to re-learn how to do things.
    • And secondly, I think that the majority of teachers are surrounded by people who appear to be more fluent with technology than they are – hordes of little people who’ll happily load a video onto YouTube before breakfast, and IM all day long. In that environment, where you’re surrounded by people who seem to know more than you, wouldn’t you feel less confident? And I don’t think this existed in 1998 – the majority of people didn’t have a home computer, and so everybody was on a level playing field.

    Which means we’re unlikely to see an increase in Confidence, even though there’s a continual increase in Competence

    Teacher ICT competency is up

    My view is that that teachers’ ICT competency is going up, even though the research says their confidence with ICT is going down. What I think is happening is that the gap between teachers’ and students’ competency with ICT is growing. Not in the conventional ‘can-you-master-a-complex-spreadsheet’ way, but in a ‘I-use-ICT-to-solve-my-life-goals’ way. The way that you see students tackling new things with technology, even if they’re not sure how.

    The chart probably looks like this:


    Which means we’ve got a different kind of problem to the headlines from the research. The gap between the way that students and teachers use ICT, and the multiple competencies that are being developed with different kinds of ICT, is leading to a growing gap between the students and teachers, even though teachers are continuing to increase their ICT competency.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A plain English Guide to Data Protection


    I keep an eye on the Information Commissioner’s Office press releases on their website (in the hope that we’re not going to see schools appearing too often), where I suspect they have a busy Press Officer producing a constant stream of news (last 2 weeks : Recruitment firms fined; mobile phone customers record sold illegally; Primary Care Trusts break the law; One third of data security breaches result from burglary and theft).

    On Thursday I saw that the ICO announced that it’s latest publication “demystifies data protection”.

    It even quoted Stephen Alambritis, Head of Public Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses:


    Small businesses do not have time for pages and pages of jargon and gobbledegook, but getting data protection right makes good business sense. Data protection lapses cost reputations and can affect the bottom line. But, many organisations tell us that data protection law is difficult to understand. This new
    no-nonsense guide will help the business community to understand and comply with the lawEndquotes

    image It even promised to demystify plainly wrong stories, such as “It is illegal to take photographs of your children in their nativity play at school.” (It points out “The Data Protection Act does not prevent parents taking photographs of their children and friends participating in school events.”, but it doesn’t say anything about what the Head might prevent!)

    Well, after all the mystery that has surrounded information security in schools, I jumped straight over to the new guide, and downloaded the PDF version, with high hopes.

    As a positive, it’s definitely written in plain English. Which is a relief after so many migraine-inducing data protection documents.

    And there are many specific examples which are really useful to help understand it all. So if your job gets close to protecting data, then this is a must read.

    But it runs to 92 pages. 92 pages for an easy-to-understand guide? One to pass to the Head I think!

    Also a great source of facts to shout at the telly/newspaper with next time you see one of those idiotic data protection stories…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    £750M of savings in schools – and some ideas to get started


    imageYesterday, at the SSAT Conference, Ed Balls took to the stage to talk about the need for more efficient resource management in schools. The Guardian kicked off the coverage this morning, with their dramatic headline “Ed Balls tells schools to make £750M savings” (probably NOT the headline he wanted to see as he faced 2,000 school leaders in Birmingham).

    And at the same time, the DCSF website announced the matching discussion paper ‘Securing our future: using our resources well', which contains a series of ideas for schools to save money, and provides some case studies. When it comes to ICT, there’s a strong point that is made:


    The huge investment of the last 12 years in information and communications technology in schools is an important area for review. In  many schools the benefits realised from ICT are limited. Becta’s Harnessing Technology survey shows that only a quarter of all schools are using ICT effectively across all their business functions. Many schools use technology imaginatively in some areas of their work such as tracking pupil progress, teaching in some subjects or communicating with parents. But in spite of some good practice, many schools are not deriving the full benefit. Becta’s self-evaluation framework gives schools a ready tool to help plan their use of technology more effectively to improve outcomes and efficiency.

    16,000 schools have accessed the framework, and significant numbers are making progress. But better exploitation of ICT across the  system would yield better outcomes at lower cost, especially where schools use it as a shared resource. Endquotes

    So, in a nutshell, ‘We’ve put billions into ICT, but still aren’t seeing consistent benefit across all schools’.

    Case studies – how to do things differently

    And to help illustrate the potential, the discussion paper then highlights examples of ways to save money and resources, with two case studies which are (a) replicable and (b) are based on our products & services (self-interest declared!):


    London schools have reduced their ICT costs by adopting shared ICT services through London Grid for Learning (LGfL). In addition to broadband and learning platforms, shared services now include remotely hosted email accounts and personal server space for all staff and students, thus removing the need for schools to host their own exchange servers. Compared to school-hosted email services, schools save upwards of £10 per user per year – more than £11 million for London in total.Endquotes

      As it’s a DCSF publication, probably too much to expect that they would mention that it’s our free Live@edu service that’s doing it. So I will say it, and you can find out more on our main UK Education website


    Twynham School in Christchurch, Dorset has developed a Learning Gateway for all its students, available within the school or online at home. The Gateway includes lesson plans for every lesson, allowing revision and catch up for any pupil. Among the supporting resources there are 10,000 digitised videos that students can access at any time. Each subject area has 5 key internet links that have been quality assured by staff members, giving pupils access to high quality internet material. There is a parallel Revision Gateway supporting pupils’ revision for GCSE. The school is collaborative and supports other local schools in the area, giving them access to its materials. During the school’s closure as a result of snow early in 2009 50 per cent of the school’s pupils logged on to the GatewayEndquotes

    Aah, somebody at Twnyham (Mike?) has got the gift of the gab, because there is no end of praise running around the system for what the team have achieved. Of course, the Learning Gateway started out as our idea, but what Twynham have done with it takes it into a whole new century! Read more of their story on this blog, go and see their beautiful Sixth form website and find out more about Learning Gateway here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 multi-touch at BETT


    One of the nice features in Windows 7 that’s not had much coverage is multi-touch. I think this is mainly because few of us have multi-touch laptops or screens. However, when you see it in action, it’s the kind of thing that makes you think “I want one of those”. Last year we had a Surface on the stand, which created lots of interest, but I always knew it would be quite specialist – after all, the idea of spending £10,000 on a single device was only ever going to be sensible for a small number of situations (no matter how transformative it might be).

    You can get an idea of what multi-touch allows on the video below (one of my colleagues, Andrew Fryer, recorded this at home with his nephew).

    View this video on the YouTube site directly

    So the idea of adding the same kind of multi-touch capabilities to a standard classroom PC, for a small amount of extra cost, is interesting. And that’s what we’re going to set out to demonstrate at BETT, using a Dell multi-touch monitor on a standard PC. But there are quite a few ways of adding multi-touch capability in the classroom:

    Add a multi-touch monitor to a standard PC

    imageWe’re going to have some Dell SX2210T multi-touch monitors on the stand, running on standard PCs. I’ve not played with one myself yet, but getting multi-touch on a sub-£300 monitor (£277 ex-VAT currently) seems like an affordable solution. Can’t wait for them to arrive in the office.

    Buy a specific multi-touch PC

    image HP have jumped enthusiastically into touch computers, with a line of TouchSmart devices, including all-in-one PCs and TouchSmart laptops. We’ve got a couple of HP TX2’s on the way to try out, so I’ll let you know what they’re like. (Harry Fryer was using a TouchSmart All-in-on PC in the video above)


    Use a multi-touch interactive whiteboard

    When I was chatting with Promethean last week I discovered that their current whiteboards allow for multitouch (your existing boards might need a firmware update), which means that you can use the same capabilities on a teacher’s classroom whiteboard. Which seems to me like an ideal opportunity to re-energise some teachers to use discover new ways of using their whiteboards (I’m guessing we all still know too many times when we see them simply being used as a big projector, with no interactivity).

    Or make your own multi-touch interactive whiteboard/wall/anything using Johnny Chung Lee’s ideas

    I’m guessing you’ll need a geek-factor to be interested in doing this, but how about playing around with some of Johnny’s ideas (he’s the man who created the Wiimote multi-touch interactive whiteboard/wall for £50)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How to make a beautiful school SharePoint site


    On Monday I shared some UK Education SharePoint websites that I described as beautiful, and which had been created by UK education establishments. And the opinion around the office was that the Twynham School Sixth Form website was the most astonishing one (in fact, half a dozen times I was asked by Microsoft colleagues “Are you sure that was done in SharePoint?”).

    My colleague, Ben Nunney, who’s an ex-teacher, paid it a massive compliment when he said on Twitter “I know I'm too old to go back to school, but if I could I'd go here - PURELY based on their amazing website

    Mike Herrity from Twynham School talks a lot on his SharePoint in Education blog about all of the things that they’re doing with ICT in his school, and it makes a useful resource if you’re thinking of doing some SharePoint work yourself.

    Twynham School's VI Form website

    But he hadn’t mentioned to me that he was also writing a series of articles about how they have created the Sixth Form site, which are being published on The series (not all there at this point) actually walks through the whole process, and describes the challenges (including the need to convince the Leadership Team in the school that you can make a good looking site in SharePoint).

    If you are in any way involved in using SharePoint in a school, I think it is a must read series, either for you, or for whoever is providing/developing your SharePoint.

    How we did it: Twynham 6th form Internet facing website using SharePoint 2007 - Part 1

    How we did it: Twynham 6th form Internet facing website using SharePoint 2007 - Part 2

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Putting an interactive map onto your school website


    A little while ago, Microsoft acquired Multimap (which I liked, because Multimap was my favourite way of getting directions and decent maps). And you may have noticed over the last few months that Multimap and Bing maps have been getting closer together, and now they’ve become the same thing, and the ways to display a map have improved dramatically.

    The options now (see below) are the standard Multimap-style map or an Ordnance Survey map. And in London you can also have the A-Z streetmaps style, and even lay the tube lines over the top.

    OS Map


    Adding a Bing map to your website

    I’ve never tried to embed a map like these onto a website, and I was surprised to find out how easy it is. (I had mistakenly assumed that it was difficult, or somehow copyright-limited, to embed a map like these onto another website). So now I’ve discovered, here’s my simple guide to embed a Bing map:

      1. Get the map you want up on screen in Bing maps
      2. Click the share (envelope) icon in the bottom left of the screen image
      3. Copy the code below the text that says “Embed in a web page”) and paste that into your web page
      4. Or, you may want to click the ‘Customise & Preview’ link first – for example, change it into a static map, or change the size, or change the style

    Embedding a map on your website is much better than simply putting an image in, because your website visitors can then zoom in and out (especially if you have school visitors that don’t know the area), and move around. (To show this, the top two maps are the same place, but two different styles. The second one allows you to pan and zoom, whilst the first one doesn’t. Handy if you want to see more of the area. The third one is just an image – so you can’t do anything to it)

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