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  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Learning at the edge of chaos


    By Aimee Riordan, March 20, 2014

    Imagine a school without walls, textbooks or teachers, where children are inspired to learn by their own sense of wonder. That’s what Sugata Mitra dreamt when he first placed a computer into a hole in a wall in a Kalkaji, Delhi slum.

    In doing so, Mitra, now a professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, discovered something extraordinary: Without any outside instruction, the students used the computer, and its connection to the Internet, to teach themselves about the world around them.

    What’s more, they taught each other.

    Fifteen years later, Mitra is embarking on an ambitious mission to bring the School in the Cloud and the Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) to students around the world. And he’s using Microsoft technology to make it happen.

    Mitra won the 2013 TED Prize, from the nonprofit devoted to cultivating ideas about Technology, Education and Design. This week, at a TED conference in Vancouver, B.C., he’s announcing the opening of five School in the Cloud labs in India and the United Kingdom and launching the accompanying digital platform, made possible by Microsoft, which enables anyone anywhere to host cloud-based learning.


    The man behind the social cloud watches Sugata Mitra, watches a self organised
    learning environment on Skype.

    Mitra calls self-organized education “learning at the edge of chaos.”

    “There is a space in between the complete order and the complete chaos, where something strange happens, the kind of environment that causes dust devils to form,” he says. “When you look at children learning by themselves, it’s so non-intuitive. It struck me that if you create a chaotic learning environment with children, a situation with just the right amount of chaos, you get spontaneous order.”

    Mitra recalls a SOLE session in the UK where he wrote a quadratic equation on the board and asked the students, none of whom had ever been exposed to algebra, to answer this: What is the value of “x”?

    “They came back 15 minutes later and said, ‘That is algebra. That’s a quadratic equation. And x doesn’t have one value. It has two.’ That coming from 12-year-olds was too much for me.”

    While we think of traditional learning happening over months or years, in self-organized learning, it happens in minutes, Mitra explains. “When children work in groups in the presence of the Internet, SOLE acts as a lens, a magnifier of intellect.”

    imageThe School in the Cloud is a unique Microsoft effort, not only because of its groundbreaking philosophy, but also because of its reach. With Skype, Office, Azure, Bing, Xbox, Surface and OEM partners, the project touches nearly every corner of the company.

    Wendy Norman, director of social good at Skype, calls it an unprecedented cross collaboration.

    “Many areas of the company are reaching out as they hear about this and wanting to be a part of it,” she says. “This is truly one of the largest One Microsoft deployments around social good.”

    Students use Skype to connect with each other and with retired teacher volunteers the children call “Skype Grannies.” They employ Bing for search and Office products like PowerPoint to help them distill and present what they learn. Ultimately, Xbox or Surface, with Skype built in, may house the entire experience.

    Mitra says he uses Windows because students like the operating system and find it intuitively easy to learn. He adds that Skype was a natural fit because of its video presentation capabilities.

    School in the Cloud fits squarely within the mission of YouthSpark, Microsoft’s corporate citizenship initiative, says Akhtar Badshah, senior director, citizenship and public affairs at Microsoft.

    It’s another example of how technology can transform lives.

    “This is a great partnership that allows us to bring our resources and our technology to a platform that may have global impact,” Badshah says, adding that the School in the Cloud will likely evolve in ways we can’t yet imagine.

    It could become a tool to teach children the basics of programming, for example. “Not about just writing code, but fundamentally changing the way people learn,” he says.

    Microsoft funded construction of the platform: a website intended to connect and extend the community. It features information about how to get started and guidance for asking the big questions while searching the Internet. “This is what children want,” says Skype’s Norman. “They want to solve big problems. They don’t want to be talked to. They want to be a part of it.”

    School in the Cloud is a great equalizer, she adds. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the richest area of the world or the poorest. Children can still gain value.”

    Cloud-based learning may be the only classroom for a student in rural India. While, in an American city, it might enable an after-school program to offer more than just playtime in an open gym.

    “This is taking the simplest thing about children, that insatiable curiosity, and bringing it to life,” Norman says.

    imageAmy Dickinson has seen this happen first hand. She’s head of design, technology and art at the UK’s George Stephenson High School, home to the first School in the Cloud lab.

    There, the children “have the opportunity to use SOLE to develop their collaboration skills, independent learning styles and give them the love of learning and curiosity they need to be successful in school and beyond,” she says.

    Dickinson adds that students are much more engaged when they are allowed to be in control.

    “It’s unique. It’s simple. It’s for the kids by the kids,” she says. “It allows them to explore, share information, and there is no threat of failure. They motivate each other.”

    Suneeta Kulkarni, the India-based research director for the School in the Cloud Project, agrees that allowing children to discover an idea and arrive at their own conclusions is a “tremendous motivating factor.”

    Kulkarni says the broader impact of the School in the Cloud initiative will likely be seen 5, 10 or 15 years down the road, but she notes that there is already anecdotal evidence of the approach’s success.

    One student, who participated in a 2008-2009 SOLE in Hyderabad, India and continued to be mentored by a Skype Granny, is now studying medicine in the Philippines.

    “And it’s not just a question of what he’s studying,” Kulkari says, “But the way it has impacted his orientation, the way he learned to see life and the acceptance he now has for many different cultures and ways of thinking.”

    Sugata Mitra in front of one of the newest School in the Cloud labs in Korakati, India.

    Sugata Mitra in front of one of the newest School in the Cloud labs in Korakati, India.

    The UK- and India-based schools in the cloud are part of a three-year research project during which data will be collected on reading comprehension, ability to search the Internet and overall problem-solving skills.

    As the results become known, Mitra hopes governments will be inspired to fund more of these brick-and-mortar extensions that bring self-organized learning to remote areas of the world.

    In the meantime, anyone with an Internet connection can conduct a SOLE using the platform released this week. Its availability is uniquely in step with an evolving theory of how children learn.

    “As we continue to drive education forward, we're going to see the learning environment evolve from a physical location to an anywhere, anytime experience,” says Anthony Salcito, vice president of worldwide education at Microsoft. “A cloud-based school is one example of how we're taking that step beyond the classroom, into an environment where students can learn the 21st-century skills that will be critical to their success."

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Working together, achieving together – How Tibshelf Community School’s technology came to embody its educational mission – Part One


    •    £14.9m new school project completed in record time with ICT infrastructure at its heart
    •    Over 95% of school’s pupils expected to use BYOD provision
    •    Tibshelf Community School is a state secondary school in Derbyshire, educating 787 pupils between years 7 to 11
    •    A vital learning hub for a number of villages in the surrounding area

    Tibshelf Community School, Derbyshire serves a disparate community of nine villages spread widely across the districts of Bolsover and North-East Derbyshire. The school’s mission is ‘Working Together, Achieving Together’ in recognition of its collaborative culture. This collaborative culture is the nucleus of everything, including the school’s next generation ICT infrastructure.

    “Stone Group has been very committed to making it work for us. They have consistently gone above and beyond what was expected from our new-build project. We really wanted inspiration and an injection of fresh ideas and Stone has given us exactly that. Their collaboration with our building contractor has been exemplary and that is testament to the skilled people they have within the team. Stone is not the cheapest, but their ability to offer a total solution and service is second to none.” -  Brian Fischer, Assistant Headteacher

    The situation: outdated technology and a challenging site

    • · IT infrastructure grown sporadically since the 1980s
    • · All technology at ‘end of life’
    • · SAN 5+ yrs old, Servers 8+ years old
    • · Two Management Information Systems thanks to recent federations
    • · Just four IT suites for 750 pupils
    • · 95% of devices were desktops
    • · No WiFi due to Victorian construction of buildings

    In 2008, Tibshelf federated with another school six miles away that was underperforming and took on additional pupils at their legacy site on the High Street – a location which the school had resided in for over a hundred years.

    Brian Fischer, Assistant Headteacher explains: “Tibshelf Community School was Portakabin City for a couple of years. Our buildings were falling down, with leaks everywhere and plaster coming off the walls. We had prefabricated classrooms built for temporary use in the 1940s that were being held up by pit props! Teachers would look forward to lessons within the Portakabins as they were the best classrooms we had.”

    Four IT suites were formally structured, with 2 of the 4 being used primarily to teach ICT lessons, giving little opportunity for other faculties to access ICT. Owing to Victorian blue-brick buildings, WiFi within the school was not cost effective limiting options and proving a thorn in the side of ambitious teachers and network technicians.

    Lack of access to ICT was commented on by Ofsted, and was always raised as an issue during parent and pupil surveys. Brian gives an example of the issues: “Science teachers had a lot of creative ideas on how to use technology within lessons. They couldn’t get anywhere near any kit to book out, which meant integrating ICT into lessons was nigh on impossible.”

    The aftermath of Building Schools for the Future

    • · School was a casualty of the demise of the BSF programme
    • · Derbyshire County Council funded and approved new building project after BSF withdrawal
    • · IT budget was reduced by over 80% from original BSF £4m

    With oversubscribed pupils and inadequate school buildings that were falling down, the situation was less than ideal. Tibshelf was awarded priority on the Building Schools for the Future initiative in October 2006.

    Brian continues: “We had been patching everything on a needs-must basis, and that included ICT. We were already a couple of years behind as we weren’t spending anything in anticipation of the windfall BSF would provide our school. This made an already bad situation even worse. The ICT Support Team worked wonders with the little that they had but lack of any new equipment was hindering their progress.”

    However, Michael Gove announced in 2010 that the BSF programme was to cease, and Tibshelf’s situation became more critical.

    Brian explains: “We were extremely far down the line with the BSF project – two months away from diggers arriving on site. The Government put strict rules in place for the projects that could continue and we were only days away from meeting that threshold.”

    With no BSF project, federated pupils and crumbling facilities, the school worked up an alternative plan with Derbyshire County Council. A £14.9m building project was approved in September 2011 with money from the County Council that included £8m from other Derbyshire schools.

    Although the school new-build budget had been approved, the school’s ICT budget had been significantly impacted. With £4m earmarked through the initial BSF budget, the school had to put a strong case forward to secure funds in support of their classroom vision – eventually receiving less than 20% of the figure originally planned.

    It was not just budget that was short on supply. Schools rebuilt through the Derbyshire BSF programme historically had a period of 12 uninterrupted weeks after building had finished to install a new IT infrastructure. Time was also going to be in short supply when it came to improvements to IT, owing to construction deadlines that could not be changed.

    Building the next generation school

    • · Post BSF project changed in budget size and site footprint
    • · Collaborative classroom design with faculty staff
    • · Consultation pushed BYOD high up on the priority list

    Construction on the new-look Tibshelf Community School commenced in September 2012. Although the school had secured vital funds, the project scope had to be altered to accommodate vastly different economic circumstances. The post-BSF project budget was significantly less than it had been and meant the school’s footprint had to reduce by around 50%.

    “This made us re-look at the whole flow of the school in order to ensure we made effective and efficient use of every single square metre,” commented Brian. Tibshelf’s Senior Leadership Team consulted with teachers to answer the fundamental question – ‘What would you want in a new school?’ – and asked them to draw their ideal classroom, knowing this would put pedagogy at the heart of the new-look, accommodating for the different teaching styles of faculty staff.

    Ideas were smart and pupil-focused, for example, access to classrooms would be built outside under canopies as corridors took up vital indoor learning space – a result of the faculty’s desire for nothing to detract from the quality of the teaching environment.

    The school had the starting point of curriculum excellence. With Mark as network manager involved in all stages of this consultation, the role of technology as part of the overhaul to learning spaces was integral.

    A number of overarching themes became apparent:

    · The notion of anytime, anywhere teaching and learning. The Senior Leadership Team and governors wanted the same experience at home for all – students, teachers and admin staff should be just as productive out of school as they are in school

    · Personalised experience – to further the notion of anytime, anywhere, the faculty and students wanted to get the same experience whether working on a smartphone, PC or tablet

    Mark offers his perspective: “This meant that Any Device Learning went to the top of our strategic IT priorities. Considering where we had been with funding historically, our budget for the future and the drive from students and teachers – this made sense for us.”

    Read the second part of Tibshelf’s story here on Thursday 10th April as we discover how the school built an entirely new IT infrastructure and how ‘working together, achieving together’ became more than just a mantra.

  • 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:


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