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

    Common reasons why Learning Platforms fail – Mike Herrity's view


    At the Learning Gateway Conference today, I listened to Mike Herrity talking about the Twynham School’s Learning Gateway, and specifically about how they got people in their school community using it.

    On one of his first slides, there was a statistic that proved they have been doing things right:


    During the two February snow days, 94% of our staff and 86% of our students logged in to their Learning GatewayEndquotes

    Five common reasons for poor adoption

    Then Mike gave his view of the common reasons why Learning Platforms fail to be used widely (and perhaps, why they often don’t meet expectations). And as these are from the perspective of somebody who’d made this successful, they’re worth repeating:

    1. Schools use the term VLE excessively and indiscriminately
    2. The school thinks that the purchase of a Learning Platform will cure world famine and global pandemic
    3. The school spends hundreds of hours deciding which VLE to buy and no hours asking the end user how they would like to use it
    4. Lack of ambition (typified by “we’re going to start small”)
    5. Ignoring the positives and focusing on the negatives

    Whilst I know that there are some excellent examples of Learning Platform use in schools, I’m willing to bet that a large proportion of the Learning Platforms aren’t yet realising their full potential.

    Mike talked about many aspects of their Learning Gateway - such as its use for the Options process, parental engagement and revision. One of his comments was about the improvement in their exam results - from 61% to 72% to 78% - and how their 'Revision Gateway' had been used most by the C/D borderline boys, and as Mike put it "their CVA is now through the roof".

    Mike has published on his blog so much about the journey that Twynham School have been on, the changes that they have made, and the lessons that they have learnt, as well as spending a lot of time touring the country to share them with other schools. Whether you’re interested in the technology side of a Learning Platform, or the lessons on getting people to successfully use a one, then Mike’s blog has something there for you.


    As soon as Mike’s presentation is available online, I’ll post a link too

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 release dates for education


    Our Worldwide Partner Conference was on this week, and there has been a flurry of announcements. I’ll summarise those that are important to schools over the next few days, but if you can’t wait then go over to our PressPass site.

    One of the most important things mentioned at the conference was the imminent release of Windows 7. The Windows 7 team immediately added some more info to their blog, to give a bit more detail.

    The most important thing is that our customers who have a School Agreement, or another agreement with Software Assurance, will be the first to get access, and it looks like that’s in the middle of August.

    So the race is on to be the first school to deploy Windows 7 widely this summer! (And there’s at least six schools in the race)

    Here’s the verbatim from the Windows 7 blog:


    As previously stated, we expect Windows 7 to RTM in the 2nd half of July.

    Once Windows 7 is complete, how do I get it?

    The answer depends on who you are:

    • MSDN & TechNet Subscribers: Subscribers will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 a few weeks after we announce RTM.
    • Volume License (VL) Customers: Customers with Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 Enterprise a few weeks after we announce RTM. As announced today by Bill Veghte during his WPC09 keynote, customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 7 through Volume Licensing on September 1st.
    • Consumers, Enthusiasts, & Beta Testers (Everyone else): The retail version of Windows 7 will be available in stores October 22nd. If you pre-ordered Windows 7, it should be delivered sometime around the October 22nd timeframe (depends on the retailer).
    • On New PCs: OEMs are expected to start shipping new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed on them around October 22nd.  Endquotes
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Licensing parents for SharePoint – what’s free and what isn’t


    I got a question from Mike Herrity yesterday, asking me about the ways that parents can be given access to SharePoint/Learning Gateway, and explicitly whether they needed their own SharePoint licences.

    As an aside: Mike Herrity is a deputy head at Twynham School down in Dorset, and is a great SharePoint user. And what I like about Mike is that he’s a prolific sharer – both his SharePoint in Education blog, and his new Netbooks in Education blog are required reading if you’d like to get ideas about what you can do in the future to support your school to build a connected learning community. Mike’s also one of the people I follow from my Twitter account

    So back to the question:

    “Do I need extra licences for parents to login to SharePoint for online reporting?”


    Obviously, because it’s a licensing question, there’s a bit more to it, but hopefully easy to understand:

    If your students are licensed for your Learning Gateway/SharePoint - eg you have bought Client Access Licences (CALs) - then we automatically extend the rights to their parents too (and the parents will normally have their own logon).

    You won’t be surprised to learn that we have a document called “Licensing – Parental Access” that lays all of this out (but perhaps not quite as clearly as above!), and an additional document which you can download to keep with your licensing records:

    Additionally, if you have a School Agreement and have licensed all your students and all of your staff with CALs, then you can also automatically be granted rights for prospective students, alumni & students/staff at collaborating academic or government institutions.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Engaging Parents – Does your school have a good story to tell?


    Last year, we worked with four schools across England to create a series of videos and case studies that described how these schools tackled nine different areas of school reform, such as change management, student experience, learning outcomes, use of ICT, and so forth. And we then made these materials available on our Innovative Schools website.

    ispIn addition to being seen by thousands of teachers and leaders in schools across the world, Jim Knight (who was Minister for Schools at that point) used three of the videos to open the BETT Show in January, and the schools also received a letter from him thanking them for their participation in the project. They are featured on Microsoft’s worldwide Innovative Schools Web site, and are shown to education audiences all over the world. The schools have since received visits from Microsoft executives from the US, government officials, teachers and school leaders from many other countries.

    Now we’re in the process of launching a new project with the DCSF to showcase schools who are using technology in innovative ways to engage parents in their children’s learning. As a part of this project, we will be creating a new set of video case studies and supporting materials with a new set of example schools. We are in the process of selecting these schools right now, and rather than go to the same schools we work with all the time, we thought we’d ask you – What is YOUR school doing?

    If you think your school is doing creative things using ICT to better involve parents, let us know. Email Kristen Weatherby (who leads our Partners in Learning programme) to let her know what you’re doing. At this stage she won’t need tons of details, just an overview of how you’re engaging parents to support their children’s learning. I know some of the gaps that the research shows up include:

    • How do you ensure that parents understand what you’re saying to them?
    • How do you get them engaged with their own children’s learning at home?
    • Can you be sure learning continues outside the school gates?
    • What’s the role of technology in supporting that?
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft licensing for schools – a new option appears from the crowd


    A year ago we started conversations with OGC and Becta to refresh our licensing schemes, with a goal of adding in some more flexibility for individual customers, and responding to changes in the way that all public sector organisations use ICT. With OGC (now known as Buying Solutions) we looked at the whole of public sector excluding education. And with Becta we looked solely at education.

    Across the rest of the public sector that resulted in the new Public Sector Agreement (or PSA09) which introduces more flexibility over the choice of product packages and subscription arrangements – matching up with the Chancellor’s statements in the budget that public sector organisations should review carefully the need to own assets. And Angela Eagles, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury ‘praised’ the new agreement as it could save £75m over the next five years.


    This new agreement will contribute to the Government’s efficiency targets in support of its Operational Efficiency Programme, and clearly demonstrates the huge benefits that can be achieved through collaborative procurement. Endquotes

    Now it’s the turn of education

    Today, we’ve announced the outcome of our discussions with Becta, and are launching a pilot programme for a new licensing option, specifically for UK schools.

    It’s a bit of a mouthful, as it is called the ‘Subscription Enrolment for Schools – UK Pilot’, so let’s call it SESP for now! It gives you a mid-way option between the Select Agreement and the School Agreement. Here’s the simple bullet points for SESP:

    • It’s a subscription agreement - you pay an annual subscription, based on what you choose to license
    • You can choose to either license some/all of your students, or some/all of your computers
    • If you choose to license by students, you also get the rights for those students to use the same software at home free (eg if you license Office 2007, then every student can also install it on their home computer too)
    • When we release new software versions, you’re automatically covered to use them (think Windows 7 & Office 2010!)
    • Because it is a subscription, you’re only renting the software. So if you cancel your subscription, you have to stop using the software (or convert the licences to perpetual licences by doing something called a ‘buy-out’)

    When is it likely to be helpful?

    There are some clear scenarios when this could be helpful to you in a school, for example:

    • If you have previously bought Select licences, and you want to upgrade some of your software (to either move towards subscription, or reduce your up-front cost). For example, you decide that to meet the Information Security guidelines from Becta, you want to install Windows 7 to get BitLocker and BitLocker To Go – to encrypt all of your laptop disks and USB memory keys.
      You can use SESP to get upgrade just your teachers’ licences
    • You have a current School Agreement covering all of your computers, but 20% of them don’t use Office.
      You can ‘downgrade’ to SESP to only license those that do use Office. But don’t forget you’ll need to make sure the other computers have the right perpetual Windows upgrade (eg Windows Business) to run on your school network.
    • You want to allow students to bring in their own laptops, but want to have the same software on them that are on your school computers, eg Windows Business to connect to the network, and Office 2007
      With the student option, you are licensed for the computer the student uses, whether you own it or they do, and whether it is at home or school.
    • Your IT technician is bored, and wants more paperwork to deal with.
      Only joking…a bit. If you have a current School Agreement, all you have to do today is count all your computers, once a year. With SESP there will be more work to record which groups are covered under which licences, so will mean more record keeping. But that’s worth it if you want to have lots of different configurations of software packages across different machines/users.

    My summary table of options

    Here’s my quick summary of the three main options you now have




    School Agreement

    Licence Type





    All-up front

    Annual fee

    Annual fee

    How you license

    One option:

    Buy each licence that you need, when you need it

    Four options:

    Student – count all your students OR a ‘clearly defined’ group that you want to license

    Computer – count all computers OR a ‘clearly defined’ group that you want to license

    One option:

    Simply count all your school computers, and choose what you want to license









    Initial Cost
    per licence




    Ongoing cost
    per licence*


    Same as year 1

    Same as year 1

    Automatic upgrade rights

    unless you also buy Software Assurance



    Where to find out more

    You can read more about SESP (including a comprehensive 11 page FAQ document) on the UK Education website. But the real place to find out more is the education licensing expert at your current Microsoft Education Large Account Reseller. Not only will they understand the nuances, but they can also help you with the pricing.

    Licensing can be notoriously complicated, so can I also recommend a quick read of How to get the best deal on Microsoft software, which pre-dates today’s news, but is a step-by-step guide on how to select the best licence arrangement for schools. (My most important tip is ‘Don’t buy an Open licence without reading it first!’)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    UK Pilot of new Microsoft licensing scheme for schools


    We’ve introduced a new licensing scheme pilot for UK schools this morning, which introduces more flexibility, and potentially some cost savings for some of you. Here’s the summary of it:

    Subscription Enrolment for Schools

    The agreement option sits between our existing Select and School Agreement schemes:

    • The School Agreement (which is an annual subscription) has been chosen by a minority of state schools, when it has suited their need to have a simple, comprehensive licensing programme across all of their computers, where they need to have up-to-date software across all of their computers, and provides a way to license software with a low up-front cost.
    • The Select Agreement (which is a one-off perpetual licence) is chosen by the majority of state schools, as it provides complete flexibility about what can be licensed, and with no ongoing costs. With this, schools pay the entire software licence cost up front.

    The new pilot, the “Subscription Enrolment for Schools – UK Pilot” (SESP), is designed to allow schools to choose a mix of subscription and perpetual licences, by allowing them to choose which computers they want to buy subscriptions for (which means they always have the latest version of Microsoft software). They can then license other computers with Select licences. It also offers options such as ‘per-user’ licensing, which provides extra benefits such as staff and/or students being licensed to use the same software at school and on their own privately-owned home computers. This offers a combination of low up-front cost and increased flexibility

    image There are plenty of anecdotes flying around about school budget cuts, so keep this one ready up your sleeve if you need it! You may be able to use the scheme to save money on software purchases. Although bear in mind that software represent just 5-7% of the overall cost of school ICT spend, according to Becta’s “Managing ICT costs in schools” report. If you’re a network manager, it’s worth taking a look at the report before one of the other senior managers does – you don’t want them jumping to conclusions! For example, if they infer things from seeing this chart from page 6, you’ll want to show them the first bullet in page 7 which says “The annual TCO of ICT (including hidden costs) averaged around £50,000 for project primary schools and around £270,000 for project secondary schools”. And then ask them for some more budget!

    You can read a lot more about SESP on our website, and I’m nearly finished on a longer blog post which summarises all of the detail succinctly – more shortly.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Newcastle event next week - Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 networking


    Jonathan Noble has also let me know that there are still plenty of spare spaces at the free event at Newcastle University next Wednesday (the 8th), which will be looking at Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2 for education. And the agenda includes DirectAccess, BranchCache and XP Mode – all mentioned earlier in the week.

    Find out more on Jonathan’s blog, or just sign up directly at the VBUG site

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Typing in Arabic on a Qwerty keyboard – a simple free download


    In my local library I often pass by the computer section, where people are sitting typing away into Hotmail in languages I don’t understand (I live in rural Oxfordshire, so much of the time I think it’s eastern European languages). And I guess they’ve become fluent in finding the key combinations to create the accents, umlauts etc. But I’d never considered that it would be possible to send an email in Arabic from a qwerty keyboard.

    Microsoft Maren looks ideal for any computer where there may be a requirement for Arabic as well as Roman languages. For example, in a community access suite, or open access areas such as libraries.

    imageLack of access to an Arabic keyboard or lack of familiarity with one are two of the most common problems preventing Arabic users from communicating in their own language.

    But the team at the Cairo Microsoft Innovation Lab have, and they’ve created a simple Windows extension that allows users to easily chat, search, blog, email and create documents in Arabic, by converting it on the fly from Roman characters.

    It’s available as a free download from the Maren website, and there’s also a funky animation that shows how it works.

    Microsoft Maren allows you to type Arabic in Roman characters (Romanized Arabic, Arabizi, Arabish or Franco-Arabic) and have it converted on the fly to Arabic script.

    This download isn’t just for education institutions – you can also point students to the site if they want to download it for their home PCs.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 networking enhancements for education



    I’ve just finished reading the whitepaper about networking enhancements that are included within Windows 7, which are especially powerful when combined with Windows Server 2008 R2. Although I’m not the most technical person in the team, it made sense to me, and a couple of key features jumped out at me as being particularly useful in schools:

    DirectAccess for academic staff to replace VPN connections

    The scenario of VPN which the whitepaper describes matches my own use of VPN.

    When I’m working from home, I avoid using a VPN connection when I can, because all of my internet traffic is re-routed through it, and slows down downloads and other web access (VOIP is sometimes lower quality too). And if my machine goes into sleep mode temporarily, I have to go through all of the quarantine and security checks again when it wakes up. So I tend to ‘batch up’ the things I need to VPN for, logon, do them, and then logoff VPN again.

    But as a user, it means that if I get internal SharePoint links in email, I can’t click straight through. And I can’t quickly update my own SharePoint wiki etc. (And, similarly, the IT support team can’t automatically deploy critical updates or Group Policy changes until I next VPN in). I’m guessing that you have the same situation on campus.

    With Windows 7, the inclusion of DirectAccess means that teachers can have the same experience (and access) when they work at home (or from another remote location, like a wireless hotspot) as they would when they’re in school. So they can access your internal SharePoint, other intranet sites and any internal applications and data remotely. But it doesn’t re-route their general Internet traffic, so they still have full-speed web access. Unless you decide to change that too – which might be the case if you use the same methodology for laptops that you let students take home. For example, you could use this same technology to insist that all school-owned devices go through the school firewall and filters for all Internet access, even when used at home.

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

    Better synchronisation for offline files and slow connections

    Windows 7 adds enhanced support for synchronising files between your own PC and a network share – with more sensitivity to bandwidth for broadband and WAN connections, and invisible background synchronisation of offline files. This will be particularly useful where staff keep master files on their local machine (like their curriculum delivery plan) but you want to protect them from losing it all by ensuring it is synchronised to a network connection.

    Well, the alternative is to implant the I-must-make-a-backup-every-day chip in your colleagues!

    Better support for saving money on electricity

    With the wider use of wireless and laptop trolleys around schools, you’ll be pleased to hear that Wake On Lan has been extended to wireless too – allowing you to use a more aggressive power-saving profile on your laptops and desktops, without compromising your ability to manage them.

    Don’t underestimate how much money this could save you. PC Pro put the potential power savings at nearly £50 a computer if you switch from Windows default power settings to the most energy efficient. With an estimated 1/2 million university-owned computers across campuses, that’s a big bundle of money. (I know that you don’t pay the power bills from the IT budget, but perhaps there’s an opportunity to get some contribution from the facilities teams to support the changes!)

    Have a read of the whitepaper – there’s a lot of straightforward and clear advice

    And bonus materials…

    As a bonus, there are more detailed technical documents on DirectAccess which are also useful:

    • DirectAccess Technical Overview
      Covers the functional and architectural aspects of DirectAccess, a technology introduced in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to enable mobile workers to seamlessly connect to enterprise network resources when connected to the Internet.
    • Next Generation Remote Access with DirectAccess and VPNs
      Compares DirectAccess with VPNs and describes the scenarios that are most appropriate for each.
    • Using DirectAccess to provide secure access to corporate resources from anywhere
      Case Study: Although broadband services and Wi-Fi have dramatically improved, the connectivity experience for remote corporate users remains largely unchanged. Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) is adopting the DirectAccess feature in Windows® 7 and in Windows Server® 2008 R2 to enable employees to gain seamless remote access to corporate applications and data. The solution, which only requires Internet connectivity and credentials, significantly improves productivity and can be an important cost-saving mechanism.
    • DirectAccess Early Adopter’s Guide
      This guide introduces DirectAccess concepts, defines new terms, explains requirements for installation, discusses how to design DirectAccess architecture, and then steps you through installation and deployment.
    • Direct Access Step-by-Step Guide
      Step By Step Guide: Demonstrate DirectAccess in a Test Lab
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Windows 7 Release Candidate download will end shortly



    This isn’t specific to schools, but as it hasn’t got much coverage worldwide, I thought it worth a mention. If you’re thinking of experimenting with Windows 7 in the summer holidays – eg testing some of your old educational software using the XP compatibility mode – then you may want to know that the free download of the Windows 7 Release Candidate will end on 15th August.

    The Release Candidate (RC) is our last public release before Windows 7 is finalised and actually released as a full product. The RC version is free to use until Spring next year, and although the download won’t be available after 15th August, you can run it right up until March 2010 without interruptions.

    Visit the download site to get a copy and a licence key

    It’s handy if you want to install a copy for:

    • Testing software compatibility
    • Seeing whether it runs on old cronky hardware (see this if you want an idea)
    • Running on one of your non-mission-critical computers whilst waiting for the final release
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