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

    Interactive Classrooms at Naace 2014


    Written by Mark Yorke, Managing Director, Tablet Academy

    It's just over a week now since the NAACE Conference at East Midlands Conference Centre where myself and my colleagues from the Tablet Academy had the pleasure of supporting Microsoft on their exhibition stand, plus the opportunity to lead a workshop on the benefits on Windows 8 tablets in education.

    The event was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues, share ideas and meet teachers making use of technology in new and innovative ways. After a slow start and a few discussions I began to realise many people dismissed the Microsoft stand due to pre-conceived opinions like "It's Microsoft, I know what they do, they're all about the infrastructure and office..."

    I found this frustrating until we ran our hands-on workshop around 'Using Windows 8 tablets in the classroom'. For me these hands-on workshops make people realise that Windows 8 tablets do offer a complete solution for education, enabling teachers to use existing IT practices, software and resources whilst offering access to new Apps enabling changes in pedagogy.

    imageWithin the interactive workshop we only had time to cover the operating system, CreateBook (for producing eBooks) and Kodu (teaching the computing curriculum), but after the workshop and a keynote presentation from my business partner Steve Molyneux people could see why we were confident to recommend Windows 8 Tablets to schools.


    (Images:Screen shots from ebook creator CreateBook)

    A number of delegates taking part in the workshop introduced themselves afterwards as IT consultants supporting schools to embed the use of IT into the curriculum. Many confessed they had dismissed the Windows 8 Tablets but the workshop had now convinced them that actually there is more than one tablet solution on the market. One delegate even ordered a Toshiba Encore online as they walked out of the workshop, if that's not a result I don't know what is.

    Like many others I admit if you had asked me about using Windows 8 tablets in the classroom eight months ago I would have dismissed the idea, but since the new generation of tablets have entered the market including the Dell Venue Pro, or the Toshiba Encore, the market has definitely changed for the better. Schools should be sure they make an informed decision when purchasing tablets, it's now a competitive market.

    Thanks again to Graham, Anthony and the Microsoft team for the support and opportunity to be part of NAACE 2014. I'd also like to pass on a special thanks to Promethean for their support over the two days at the event, I enjoyed the ClassFlow demo and am looking forward to getting involved more in the future.

    Find out more about the Tablet Academy and their teacher training.


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft & CAS form ground-breaking £334,000 partnership to train & support up to 50,000 teachers across the UK


    With the new Computing curriculum coming into force across UK primary and secondary schools in September, Microsoft and Computing at Schools group (CAS) are joining forces to help teachers inspire a new generation of young people. Backed by a £334,000 investment from Microsoft, CAS is holding a series of ‘Back to School’ training sessions to show teachers how they can take the complexity of Coding and Computer Science and make it engaging to the touch screen generation.

    “How do you explain an algorithm to a class of 6 year olds and make it fun? We have a real opportunity here to excite and inspire the next generation of games developers if we get this right. But we need to move fast to bring the curriculum to life and grab the interest of kids in that very first term.“ Claire Lotriet, ICT Coordinator, Henwick Primary School.

    The ‘Countdown to Computing’ programme will see Microsoft and CAS create two training courses for teachers; one for primary and one for secondary, together with supporting classroom resources that teachers can use in their first term. Using the CAS hubs, experts including the CAS master teachers* will deliver face-face training across the country with 2,500 local events. There will also be more flexible training options via Skype so that all teachers can make the most of the training and resources available.

    “In 2009 a 9 year old boy from Singapore built an app that has been downloaded more than 800,000 times, in 2013, a seven year old girl from Philadelphia became the youngest person to build a mobile game app. If we want the next success story to be based in Britain then we need teachers who have the right skills and the confidence to inspire, support and enable them to do so. That’s why, as part of Microsoft’s ‘Countdown to Computing’ programme, we have partnered with CAS to deliver a series of personal training sessions across the country as teachers get ready for that all important first term.” Michel Van der Bel, UK MD Microsoft.

    imageWe know from talking to teachers that the new computing curriculum is pretty daunting if you’ve never taught it before, and September seems very close. 

    But, if we can help them to hit the ground running in the first week, capture kids natural enthusiasm for technology in that first lesson and allow them to grow at their own pace, it’s amazing what they can create.

    - Simon Peyton Jones, Chair of CAS. (Pictured right)

    Microsoft’s partnership with CAS will deliver training and resources for roughly one in every five primary school teachers in the county and at least three specialist teachers in every secondary school. Part of the British Computer Society, CAS is a grassroots organisation chaired by Simon Peyton-Jones from Microsoft Research Cambridge and they have been at the heart of the Computing curriculum reform. CAS is the Government’s partner for teacher training through the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science (NoE) and the Barefoot Computing programmes, both of which are run by CAS and funded by the Department for Education (DfE). The partnership was forged given CAS’s huge involvement in the education community with a network of 103 regional hubs, where teachers meet face-to-face to share ideas and feedback on what works best in the classroom.

    Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon George Osborne MP:

    “Making sure our children are equipped with the right skills for the future is a key part of our long term economic plan. The new computing curriculum teaches students not just how to use computer applications but how to write them too, and we need skilled teachers to deliver it. So with a field that moves as fast as technology, it is absolutely right we work in partnership with industry. It is great to see Microsoft and the Computing at Schools group backing our new computing curriculum and providing this level of support for teachers.  Together, if we encourage more of our young people to be producers, not just consumers of digital content, we will keep our technology sectors booming and help build a more resilient economy.”

    Microsoft is additionally supporting the CAS bid for matched funding from the Department for Education which will extend the programme further.


    Simon Peyton-Jones and teachers at Westminster City School during a CPD training event, where the partnership was announced.

    Russell Hobby, General Secretary, NAHT:

    "The new computing curriculum fills teachers with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Excitement because they know that this subject is a gateway to opportunity for their students. Trepidation because many fear they lack the skills to deliver it. Industry support from companies like Microsoft will help build confidence and is both timely and welcome."

    The ‘Countdown to Computing’ programme is part of Microsoft’s long term ambition to ensure that every school leaver in the UK is computationally literate and that 80% of all jobs requiring computer science knowledge are able to be filled by a UK graduate by 2025. Earlier this year, the company launched a brand new suite of materials, aimed specifically at primary school teachers in partnership with educational publishers, Rising Stars. Nearly 30,000 Switched On Computing materials have been distributed to teachers across the country with the aim of helping teachers develop computer science skills in children as young as five.

    To find out more head to:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office for iPad Tutorial Videos


    To complement some of our recent posts on Office for iPad, we have created some top level training materials on some of the key aspects of the new apps, such as activation and formatting to name a few.

    Activate Office for iPad: Are files opening as “read only” for you in Office for iPad? Then you need to activate the apps with an Office 365 account. This training video shows you how to activate them with a home, work, or school account.

    Open files from the cloud: Open workbooks from OneDrive for Business (for your work/school files) or (for your personal stuff).

    Open email attachments: Open, edit, and send back email attachments using Excel for iPad

    How saving works in PowerPoint for iPad

    Select stuff in Word for iPad: Select text and pictures expertly with your finger in Word for iPad. This training video helps you move from the mouse to the touchscreen

    These videos are just a selection of those that are available on the website.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft Azure in Education (New Infographic)


    Build the apps and workloads you want and give educators, researchers and students the performance and freedom they need to speed up collaboration and data-intensive processing.

    Learn more about Microsoft Azure could help your institution discover the modern cloud by viewing/download our new infographic below:

    If you have any questions, or would like to learn more, visit and sign up for a free trial. Alternatively, leave us a note in the comments below and we will get straight back to you.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office for iPad: Some Common Questions Answered


    Further to our recent announcement that Office for iPad is now available, I just wanted to take this opportunity to share some additional information that hopefully addresses some of the queries I have been receiving via email and Twitter over the last week around both the apps and how best to license them for your faculty and students.


    Reading, viewing and presenting your content is available for free and if you have a valid Office 365 ProPlus license you can also create and edit Office documents on your iPad. This license is part of the A3 SKU and the Student Advantage SKU within Office 365 Education so you can now provide this to your faculty and students. The following deck below gives an overview of the various options available.

    Office for iPad has been written specifically for the iPad and takes full advantage of the unique features of the device that are perfectly suited for keyboard and mouse free use. The Office for iPad apps have a familiar look and feel, though, and content created using the apps will look amazing across all your devices.

    Furthermore, much like Office on a PC or Mac, collaboration and review sits at the heart of Office for iPad. Multiple people can work simultaneously on the same document. Just make sure that its saved to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint so that others can access your document.

    The Office for iPad apps can be downloaded directly from the App Store and can be run on up to 5 devices. Faculty and students will need to be running IOS 7 on their devices.

    For a full overview of Office for iPad in action, take the time over a coffee to watch the video below that discusses the array of Office experiences now available across multiple platforms - including Office for iPad. The whole video is worth checking out, but if you want to just watch the iPad related content, just jump to the 10 minute mark.

    So, as mentioned previously, if all you are looking to do with the apps is view content or present your PowerPoint material to colleagues, you do not need any additional licensing. Just download the apps for free from the App Store and you are up and running.

    If, however, you want to open your documents from OneDrive for Business, edit or format content on the go or save back to any of our cloud based storage options such as OneDrive or SharePoint, you would need to look into the additional Office 365 subscription options.

    If your Office 365 subscription ends, don’t worry. You will still be able to view your Office documents with Office for iPad and the data on your device is not lost. You will not, however, be able to create and edit content on your iPad until the subscription has been renewed, and this can easily be done by signing back in with a valid Microsoft Account etc.

    The table below may also be useful in terms of helping you understand the additional functionality that can be unlocked with an Office 365 Education subscription.


    If you have any questions about how best to license your faculty or students for Office for iPad using Office 365 Education, please do not hesitate to leave us a note in the comments below.

    Alternatively, drop your reseller a note and they will be delighted to help you with your query. You may also find the UK Cloud Blog interesting for additional Office 365 Education related content.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Thoughts on Civica’s Education Conference &


    Guest Post by Education writer Gerald Haigh

    I never had stabilisers on my first bike. Not sure they existed in those rather more gritty days. My dad ran along holding on to the saddle, until the day I turned round and saw he was two hundred yards behind me, at which point I fell off.

    However, according to Ollie Bray, speaking to forty or so educators in Sheffield at the Civica Education Conference, my dad had the right idea. Stabilisers, said Ollie, do nothing to help a child learn how to balance.


    For years we have taught people to ride bikes wrongly because we thought it was the right way.’

    Now, it seems – and Ollie had some great video to illustrate the point – tiny children are given small bikes with neither pedals nor stabilisers and sent off to zoom down mountains.

    Ollie, Head teacher at Kingussie High School in the Cairngorms, was delivering the Conference keynote address, on ‘Embracing risk to empower teaching and learning’ .

    Ollie is well known to us, of course, not least for his contribution to the library of our Microsoft e-books, including ‘Using 1:1 to Unlock Learning’.

    In his lively talk, he supported his message by reference to numerous examples of bold innovations – Monkseaton School’s cutting edge building, schools across the world that have classes of 120, taught by teams of teachers and support staff in flexible learning spaces.

    As you’d expect, much of what he had to say was about what technology can do to encourage and support creativity and innovation.


    ‘We don’t make enough of web-based video conferencing in schools,’ he said. ‘There are lots of technologies that can be used to link schools and classrooms across the world, enriching the lives of children’.

    Importantly, though he was clear that the teaching and learning come first, and it’s necessary, before introducing technology – such as tablets, and ‘bring your own device’ -- to go back and understand what problem it’s intended to solve.

    ‘The challenge for schools and heads is that they don’t always know what problem they are trying to solve.’

    Ollie also mentioned the Naace ‘RiskIT’ campaign, by which schools are encouraged to set aside a specific week during which teachers will, in the words of the campaign, ‘Use something “ICT” you have not used before.’

    Although identifying a specific week provides focus, ‘RiskIT’ ideally becomes embedded in the culture of school, which is what has happened at St Birinus School in Oxfordshire. We told the story of Civica’s Office 365 implementation at St Birinus in at two-part blog in January. Read part one here. Read part two here.

    At the Civica Conference, Jim Fuller, St Birinus deputy head, spoke with his usual huge enthusiasm, telling the story of their ICT journey, and linking their ‘RiskIT’ programme to their BYOD policy.

    The point of RiskIT, he says, is to remove fear of failure.

    ‘You are encouraging your staff to take risks. A lot of the dynamic and interesting stuff gets thrown out when you try to hit tick boxes. With RiskIT you can try what you like and it doesn’t matter if it fails.’

    The key, though, is to provide structure and support through regular CPD providing a constant message about teaching and learning.

    The whole, including the school’s developing BYOD policy is made possible by Office 365

    ‘Without Office 365 we couldn’t do it, it’s so embedded.’

    In one of the optional sessions, Microsoft’s Mandeep Atwal gave one of her lively presentations on what ICT in general, and Microsoft technologies in particular, can do for classroom teachers. It’s a constant source of frustration that many teachers, paradoxically, seem unable to find the time to discover resources that could make the job a little easier. One of Mandeep’s professional missions is to use her presentations to say, ‘How can we help?’, going on to spread the word about the Partners in Learning programme, and give examples of what’s possible with Windows 8 in the classroom, especially within the Microsoft Learning Suite.

    Although I couldn’t attend everything, I was particularly keen to catch a session called ‘Getting the most out of Office 365’, run as a double act by Civica’s Paul Hart and Brendan Murphy. I first encountered Paul as the Civica e-Learning Consultant who worked with Sandymoor School on their Office 365 implementation and I anticipated that Paul and Brendan’s session would be good value.

    And so it was. They began by discussing ‘Flipped Classroom’, which they defined as, when

    ‘..learning is done through work outside of the classroom, and understanding is gained through discussion and collaboration within the classroom’. Although, as Paul pointed out, ‘There aren’t defined boundaries to this. With Office 365 those two elements can happen both inside and outside the classroom.’

    Brendan went on to describe the way that computer use has changed over time, using a graphic to show how we use different devices as the day goes on. Office 365, however, offers a consistent experience, anytime, anywhere. As he went on to explain

    ‘It’s industry standard technology – the same ribbon that everybody knows. It’s flexible, device neutral, secure and all the features are available with one log-in.’

    Paul and Brendan explained the various elements of Office 365, including the Web Apps, and showed examples of how they can promote and support participation and collaborative learning.

    ‘With the online version of Word you can have several people working on the same document at the same time,’ said Paul. ‘And with Lync, they can speak to each other if they want.’

    I was particularly intrigued by Paul’s mention of schools using ‘Reputation scores’ to encourage and reward collaboration.

    Because I knew very little about this, I phoned Paul later to find out more.

    ‘It’s a fantastic feature and a bit of a hidden gem,’ he said. ‘If you create a community site in Office 365 using the site template, you can use the feature to give participants a score for their level of participation, visible on the screen.’

    Civica choose to surface this feature in their Office 365 implementations.

    ‘It’s such a powerful tool for systematic rewarding of participation, and we’ve just drawn a bit more attention to it by switching it on in our release.’

    Paul and Brendan finished their conference presentation by mentioning briefly the possibility of moving beyond ‘on demand’ learning, towards ‘pushed’ learning – information that arrives on your device before you ask for it.

    There was more to the Conference than I’ve been able to describe here (it’s that old ‘being in two places at once’ thing). There was much useful sharing of information and experience on BYOD for example, and I was sorry to miss Mandeep’s ‘Young Voices’ presentation on using technology to encourage open debate among pupils from different backgrounds. I’d like also to have caught Civica Strategic Educationalist Graham Crerar’s advice on ‘Taking a Strategic View’ – something that not all schools have been good at over the years.

    At the same time, it’s not a bad thing to come away from a Conference wanting more. For example, I want to know more about ‘Reputation Scores’ and their use in the classroom. Then there’s ‘pushed learning’ – something else that’s bound to be in use out there somewhere. I feel a couple of future blogs coming on, so watch this space.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Hour of Code launch video is here!


    Recent launch of

    Last month, the UK welcomed the launch of, a not-for-profit initiative aimed at inspiring young people to get into coding. The founders of created the initiative with the intention of firing up young people's enthusiasm for computer science by engaging them in an hour of code, for example coding their own Flappy game in class.

    Tools for teachers to use in class!

    As Computer Science becomes implemented into the national curriculum in the UK as of September this year, the initiative provides proactive resources for teachers to implement in their classes, to get their students excited!

    The passion behind the initiative

    You might be asking yourself what the background to the Hour of Code initiative was? You'll see in our video below that the UK lead, Avid Larizadeh, has been using her coding skills in the most innovative and creative fashion. She hasn't used her Stanford University degree in Telecommunications Engineering (which involved Computer Science modules) in the most typical way, disproving the 'sitting away coding until 2am with pizza' stereotype which dimly sputters into young people's minds when they hear the word coding. No, conversely, Avid is a great role model for creative and glamorous career-seeking young women, as she has used her coding skills to propel her entrepreneurial visions into her own global fashion business, Boticca, the world’s luxury bazaar of fashion accessories.


    Avid shares her thoughts..

    Having the ability to understand and use computational thinking is invaluable in today's world as almost everything around us relies on technology and will continue to do so exponentially. No matter what a teenager dreams of becoming from a schoolteacher, a doctor, or a farmer, to a banker, designer, or a musician, he or she will be far more prepared and empowered to effect positive change by understanding and leveraging technological tools. Feeling empowered to innovate in whatever field you are in is not only motivating but it is also fun and the sooner young people feel this way the better it is for their future and everyone else's.” Avid Larizadeh

    The number of engaged coders is rising!

    You can see that just in under a month since we blogged about the UK launch of an Hour of Code, the number of people around the globe who have completed an Hour of Code has significantly risen by just over 3 million!

    10th March 2014


    3rd April 2014


    Check out our video!

    To hear Avid talk and get your own glimpse into the UK launch of, have a look at our video!

    As a female intern at Microsoft, once afraid of technology for the very stereotype I outlined before, I empower you to share this blog and video with the girl students in your classes so they can see how attractive a career in IT really can be for women.


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Kodu Kup Scotland has Launched!


    This is a sister competition to the UK Kodu Kup and gives a chance for schools in Scotland to participate in the UK Kodu Kup and avoid timing issues around the different term times. So if you are in Scotland, join McKodu in Kodu Kup Scotland.

    Organised and run by David Renton , one of our Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts in Scotland.

    The Kodu Kup Scotland is open to anyone from a Scottish school aged between seven and fourteen. Children must be entered as a team of three, forming a mini “game studio”.

    Follow @KoduKup on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook ( to receive regular updates, including dates of free training sessions!
    You can download Kodu Game Lab and other useful resources from


    What Should be Submitted?
    Teachers should enter their pupils’ games using the Microsoft Partners in Learning website and e-mail once they have uploaded them.

    Two files will need to be submitted per team; these include the game itself along with the completed
    documentation created using the template provided.

    The closing date for all entries is Friday 30th May.

    About the Games
    There is no specific theme or audience for the game but it must have a clear storyline,
    and well thought out characters with a detailed playing environment. Schools may wish to link this to current literacy projects already taking place.

    The top ten teams will be invited to the College Development Network in Stirling on the 16th of June and given the opportunity to present their games to a panel of experts from education and the games industry.

    Please contact David Renton on Twitter @drenton72 or email with any questions.

    Join the Kodu Kup conversation

    To download the following teachers guides and entry forms from our Slideshare channel or click on the images below:


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Apps in Education: Physamajig for Windows 8


    Physamajig is a great Windows 8 app for secondary school age students that combines gaming and physics into a fun and engaging package.


    The app is free, although you can pay to strip out the ads, and offers students a unique way to understand the core concepts of physics in an interesting and enjoyable way. With a wide selection of built-in sample creations, such as Moon Lander, and, while its not Christmas, Santa Chimney, students can quickly dive into the game and start developing the key fundamentals of physics to apply to other projects and to offer a foundation to start building their own physics orientated games.


    Developing your own physics games with Physamajig is where this app really gets interesting and this is where the learning can evolve to the next level. The games that can be created within the app can be as simple, especially in the case of my first effort, or as complex as you wish and users imaginations are the only real limitation to what can be created.

    The user friendly interface allows you to easily sketch out an idea and translate that into a realistic physics object. You can then add friction, bounciness and joints etc to create a realistic and fun game.

    While the initial black canvas was a little intimidating at first, I found the interface easy to navigate and the excellent online support pages, complete with tutorial videos, got me up and running in no time.

    This is great Windows 8 app and judging from the engaged community sitting behind Physamajig, who are also sharing their creations online, this is definitely going to be a platform that I am going to be monitoring closely as both the game and the community mature and evolve over time. Nice job!

    The app can be downloaded via the Windows Store for free today.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Smartphones and Tablets help children to read


    Originally posted on Bing News, Tuesday 11th March 2014

    Smartphones and tablet computers can encourage disadvantaged pre-school children to read, according to a report.

    Youngsters are more likely to enjoy looking at a book and be reading at the right level for their age if they have access to the new technology, it found.

    imageThe new study, by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) and education firm Pearson suggests there are benefits to young children using both print and a touch screen, compared to reading physical books alone.

    The findings, based on a poll of around 1,000 parents of three to five-year-olds, show that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have access to touch screens - for example through tablet computers - than their richer peers.

    But of those children with access to touch screens, pre-schoolers from lower socio-economic backgrounds are twice as likely to look at stories using this technology on a daily basis than those from more privileged homes (16% compared to 7.2%).

    It goes on to say that children were more likely to enjoy reading if they used both books and a touch screen than reading books alone (77.4% compared to 70.8%).

    The study concludes: "Technology offers a route into reading for disadvantaged three to five-year-old children. Of children who have a touch screen at home, children of lower socio-economic status are twice as likely to look at stories daily.

    "We also found that poorer children who use both books and touch screens to look at stories are less likely to perform below the expected standard for their age than if they only look at books."

    The study reveals that overall, children are still more likely to read using a physical book, with almost all (95.2%) looking at print-based stories on a typical week.

    In comparison, just over one in four (26%) use a touch screen at home to look at stories.

    And it suggests that parents are keen on their youngsters using the latest gadgets, with nearly three quarters (73.7%) agreeing that it was important for their son or daughter to learn to use technology from an early age to help them get on at school.

    The study also looked at the reading habits of parents and found that the more a mum or dad enjoys reading, the more they think their child enjoys the activity.

    Almost half of the parents questioned (46.8%) said they read print on a daily basis, while a similar proportion (45.2%) read on a touch screen daily.

    "The more often parents read either print or using a touch screen, the more likely children are to look at or read print-based stories," the study found.

    It added: "The majority of parents think they are very good readers (75.6%) and the more skilled parents say they are at reading, the better their children's communication and language outcomes at age five."

    NLT director Jonathan Douglas, said: " Technology is playing an increasingly crucial role in all our lives and the ways in which children are learning are changing fast. It is important that we keep abreast of these changes and their impact on children's education.

    "When parents read with their children, whatever the medium, they increase their child's enjoyment of reading which brings life-long benefits. Both practitioners and parents have a vital role to play in supporting children to read from an early age whether they use books or a touch screen."

    The YouGov online survey of 1,028 parents of three to five-year-olds took place in the spring while a separate poll questioned 362 early years workers between May and July last year.

    Davina Ludlow, director of, said: " Our research shows public opinions on the supposed benefits of the use of ICT in nurseries are not in line with today's findings.

    "In a recent poll carried out by, only one in four (26%) of the respondents thought children benefit from using ICT in nurseries.

    "Our poll showed that the majority of people clearly want to see early education and childhood play protected from this technological change."

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