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  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Surface RT Promotion FAQ's (UK)


    Since we launched the offer in the UK on the 19th June, it has been great to see the enthusiasm from institutions looking to equip their faculty, staff and students with the Surface RT device.

    Surface RT is an awesome tool for teaching and learning and the feedback we have had from students and educators regarding the device has been fantastic. 

    With great battery life, Microsoft Office Home and Student RT and over 20K education focused apps in the store, the Surface RT perfectly supports our mission in education is to help schools, universities, students and educators realise their full potential. 

    With this in mind, we have taken this opportunity to share some of the common queries we are receiving from customers regarding the device and the selection of accessories currently available. 

    If there is anything we have missed, please do not hesitate to leave your question on the comments below. We would love to hear from you. 


    What version of Office does the Surface RT ship with?

    Included with the Surface RT is Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT, providing access to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote – all optimised for a touch screen.  Furthermore, with the upcoming free Windows RT 8.1 update, Outlook 2013 RT will be included for email, calendar, tasks and more.

    Does the Surface RT come with a power supply?

    Yes, the device comes with a power supply and is shipped in the same box as the Surface RT device.

    Will the Surface RT ship with Windows 8.1?

    No, the device will not ship with Windows 8.1 but can be downloaded for free via the Windows Store when it officially launches later in 2013. Windows 8.1 will offer a plethora of new features and refinements, one of which will include Outlook 2013 RT.

    Additionally, Windows 8.1 will include features such as Mobile Device Management to support Microsoft and third party management solutions, improved VPN support and more. 

    Is there an upper limit in the number of devices I can purchase?

    No, there is not a limit on the number of devices your institution can purchase, although orders are processed on a first come first served basis leading up to the 31st August, 2013, when the offer expires.

    How can my institution place an order?

    If you have any questions regarding the offer, or would like to place an order, please contact Please note that this offer is exclusively available direct to institutions, and not to students or educators directly. The full order form is available to view/download below. 

    Will any shipping costs be added to the final invoice?

    No, the shipping costs are included in the price of the device(s).

    Can a credit card be used to purchase the Surface RT device(s)?

    No, credits cards are, unfortunately, not accepted. A completed order form, with PO number, would be needed to secure an order.

    Surface RT (32GB) Promotion Pricing

    • Surface RT (32GB) - £133 + VAT
    • Surface RT (32GB) with Touch Keyboard Cover - £168 + VAT
    • Surface RT (32GB) with Type Keyboard Cover - £196 + VAT    

    What is the battery life of the Surface RT  

    The Surface RT (32GB) offers up to 8 hours battery life and is equipped to get students through a full day of lectures and study groups. 

    What is the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT?

    Windows 8 comes in three versions (Home, Pro and Enterprise) and runs on Intel x86 chipset. Windows RT comes in one version and runs on the ARM chipset. Windows RT devices are lightweight, have thin form factors, and better battery life.

    Windows 8 x86 devices can run legacy software and software requiring intense processing power as well as the new modern Windows 8 apps. Windows RT ARM devices can run applications like Microsoft Office 2013 RT and the new modern Windows 8 apps exclusively from the Windows Store. Windows 8 x86 devices running Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise have enterprise level security and manageability features.  

    Thanks for your interest in the Surface RT (32GB) and, as mentioned previously, if there is anything we have missed just let us know in the comments below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Home Access Suppliers 2010 – recommended Home Access suppliers


    When the Home Access Programme was first announced by Becta, in January 2010, there were six suppliers on the scheme, where parents could spend their grant cards. And Becta have recently announced an additional four suppliers. Which means that your parents have ten different suppliers they can turn to.

    However, it’s unlikely that a parent who doesn’t have a computer is going to want to shop around ten different websites or call ten call centres, or visit ten shops, in order to decide which computer is best. Especially as many of the suppliers focus on gigabytes and gigahertz, rather than talking in language that first-time computer buyers will understand.

    I’ve spent some time trawling through the different Home Access suppliers’ websites, and come up with my recommendation of the best Home Access Suppliers. Although there are ten suppliers, each offering between one and four base models, there are only seven different computers – although some offer a different software specification, or purchasable options.

    What makes the Home Access Suppliers different?

    Before I give you my recommendations, let me explain some of the reasons I’ve chosen them, which are important to parents choosing a first home computer for their children, to support their school work. I’ve given a great big green tick to specific suppliers for the following reasons:

    • See it in store, and take it away: Only Comet offer this, but I think they’ve hit the nail on the head. Walk into a store, look at your new computer, and then take it home straight away. Although some other suppliers have high-street partners where you can see one of their computers, you still have to order and wait for it to be delivered. So I’ve given Comet a bonus mark for having made the right decision. And I’ve also unilaterally given XMA half a bonus point, because you can see their devices in T-Mobile stores nationally, even if you can’t take it with you.
    • Windows: Although they all come with Windows, I’ve noticed that some suppliers are offering computers with Windows XP still. I don’t think that’s a good idea for a brand new computer, so I’ve put them lower down the list.
    • Microsoft Office: Of course I’m going to believe that it’s right to have a copy of Microsoft Office on the computer. It’s what students use in the classroom, and it’s what their parents will use in the workplace. And it is what they’ll need for homework.
      And more importantly, if it’s the same computer, at the same price, and one supplier includes a copy of Microsoft Office, and the other doesn’t – which one would you choose?
    • Home Learning Package: We’ve put together a suite of additional applications, and even programming tools, for students. Some suppliers are pre-installing it free. So that’s a good thing. Why wouldn’t your parents want more free software?
    • Microsoft Security Essentials: All of the Home Access computers include anti-virus protection. But if they’ve chosen the Security Essentials, then it means that the parents won’t ever have to fork out for an anti-virus subscription in the future. Whereas some of the others will cost money in 3 years time.

    The Home Access computer choices

    • Laptops: Across ten suppliers, there are just 4 models of laptop – Acer Extensa 5235, Toshiba L450, Samsung R519 or Lenovo G530.
    • Netbooks: There’s only one netbook on offer, offered by nine of the ten suppliers, which is the Samsung N130. But four of the suppliers only supply it with Windows XP, whereas the rest supply it with Windows 7 – at the same price. So if you’re going to choose a netbook, make sure you get a Windows 7 one!
    • Desktops: There are just two desktops on offer currently – a Zoostorm tower, and an MSI AP1900 All-In-One. Personally, I think a laptop is a better choice, as families have more choice about where to put/use it, and students can also use it at school in the future.

    So based on everything above, here’s my recommended Home Access suppliers list

    1. imageComet – because you can go into one of their 200 stores, take your computer away with you, and they’ve put all of the things above on it – Windows 7, Microsoft Office etc etc. They’re the only supplier offering the Acer laptop too (although that’s the only one they offer).

      • imageXMA – all of their models include Windows 7 and Office, Microsoft Security Essentials and the Home Learning Package. And you can go to a T-Mobile shop to see it in the high street (but unfortunately, have to then wait for delivery). The good news is that you’ve got a choice of 2 Samsungs and a Toshiba (and they do put Windows 7 on the Samsung netbook).
      • NS Optimum, Misco  and DA Computers – They have all the right software on their computers, including Windows 7, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Security Essentials and the Home Learning Package. And they all offer a desktop option too. Unfortunately NS Optimum & Misco are phone/web only, but DA do have a couple of stores in Leicester and Rugby.

        • Stone Computers – all of their models include Microsoft Office, and the bigger laptops include Windows 7 too. One small snag is that their Samsung N130 netbook has Windows XP, so I’m rating them a little lower Sad

        • Although it may seem unfair lumping everybody else together, these are the suppliers who have Windows XP on some computers, and don’t include Microsoft Office within the grant-value computer. Or all the other free software mentioned above. These are Centerprise, BLi, Micro-P and Positive IT.

        Note that this is done by trawling through suppliers’ Home Access websites - I’ll try and keep it up to date as I see/hear of changes. It’s probably not foolproof or completely error-free, but the only way to not make a mistake would be to not write this blog post!

        imageQuickly find all the other Home Access Programme posts on this blog

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Shift Happens/Did You Know?


        Over the last few months, a PowerPoint presentation has been doing the rounds, which has a strong message for educational audiences. It works as an opener for conferences or events where the future of education and learning is under discussion, or where you want to provoke a discussion about learning.

        • Karl Fisch, of Arapahoe High School in the US, conceived and created the first version of this presentation for a staff development day. And published it on the web via his website. He released it and gave permission for others to modify it under a Creative Commons licence.
        • Scott McLeod modified it, to make it more relevant to an audience in a wider context. And published it on the web with a Creative Commons licence
        • After conversations with Karl & Scott, I modified Scott's version to include UK-relevant content (it was quite US-centric)
        • And then Jeff Brenman, of Apollo Ideas, applied the creative design to Scott's version. And published it on the web via SlideShare where, incidentally, it won the competition for the "World's Best Slideshow"
        • And finally, with Jeff's permission, I modified his with the UK context. And published it on the web 

        (This Shift Happens download has become one of the most popular resources for people searching for the Shift Happens presentation, and especiall the Shift Happens UK Version)

        There are two versions available here:

        • For an easy to use version, then download the movie which includes the soundtrack - then you can embed it into your PowerPoint presentations or play it directly in Windows Media Player etc
        • Alternatively, you can download the PowerPoint presentation, which can be modified as you wish.

        Right Click and "Save Target As..." to download either file

        If you modify this version, and following the norm of the Creative Commons Licence, we’d all ask that you share it on the web too, so that others can benefit.

        Update: Since the original version created by Karl Fisch, it is likely that over 2,000,000 people have seen variations of his presentation, including this one. Karl has posted a very detailed reflection on the content on his blog, which analyses the sources and his original intentions for publishing. Some of the sections/slides he refers to aren't in this UK version, but there is very interesting comment from him worth reading if you are interested in looking into the presentation more deeply.

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        How to get the best deal on Microsoft software in Education


        As you probably know, Microsoft sells our software through partners - just like consumer goods manufacturers, or people who make cars, we appoint a range of partners to supply our various products to our customers, including education.

        However, there are different types of partner - and knowing about the differences will help you to get the best deal when you are buying academic licences. Let me explain a bit more in a minute, but first I'll explain what our different licences are...

        Now, because this is me writing this, without a lawyer over my shoulder, then you can take this as a general guide, but to check anything specific you'll need to consult an official source - start with the Licensing information on the UK Education website, or talk to your Microsoft partner. And all of this info is specifically written with schools in the UK in mind - if you're not from a UK School, you'll definitely need to check with your usual Microsoft partner.

        The Windows licence supplied with a new computer

        When you buy a new computer there is a standard licence for Windows, which is provided to you by the computer manufacturer.

        COAEvery PC you buy should have a Windows licence provided with it (you can easily check to see, by looking for the Certificate of Authenticity (we call it a COA) stuck to the case. You'll need to have this licence to buy Academic upgrades for your Windows, for example to add a Windows Vista Business upgrade, or to move to a higher version (eg from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows Vista Enterprise Edition). The reason that I've included the last bit, is that it is normally more cost effective to buy a Windows Home Basic/Premium licence with your new PC, and then upgrade to Windows Vista Business or Enterprise through the Select licence scheme (below).

        Types of licence - for your other Microsoft software

        Step One: For use in an education establishment, always buy an Academic licence.
        This is sold at a significantly lower cost than normal commercial licences - normally saving you about 80%. I'm 99% certain you already buy Academic licences, especially if you're buying a few at a time. But it is worth checking if you're not sure.

        Step Two: Decide whether you want to buy perpetual or subscription licences.
        'Perpetual' licences are exactly what they say - you buy them, and keep the licence forever. You are only licensed for the version you have bought. So if you buy a licence for Office 2003, you can't run Office 2007 without buying another licence.
        'Subscription' licences are where you pay to use the software for an agreed amount of time, usually a year. Of course, this costs less up-front, but more over a number of years (but does come with the automatic right to upgrade to newer versions).

        Perpetual Licence types
        For schools there are two main types - Select and Open licences.

        Select Licence
        This is normally the best deal of these two types, but there's a catch to be aware of (wouldn't you know it!). Select licences are designed for customers who normally buy lots of software - typically people with 250 PCs or more. In the rest of the world this isn't much of a problem, because local or central governments buy in bulk, on behalf of schools. But here in the UK, each school has complete choice - so you mostly buy individually. Secondary schools are normally large enough to buy Select licences, and most do. But for primary schools, it is normally difficult to reach the minimum purchasing quantities, so what you should do is identify whether you are able to join up into somebody else's Select agreement. For example, if your local authority education team have one (what's called a Master Select Agreement), which you can then buy through. This could save you quite a bit of money. There are other organisations that have these master agreements, like the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), so if you're a member, you can buy through their agreement.

        Open Licence
        This scheme is normally more expensive than Select, but is handy if you want to just buy a single bit of software quickly, with a copy of the disks etc, and you don't have a Select agreement already in place. For example, if one member of staff needs a copy of Microsoft Project to help plan the new Sports Hall, and you need it now...

        Subscription Licence Types
        Or more accurately, subscription licence type - because for schools, the subscription is called School Agreement. This is a one year or three year option, where you decide which software you want (maybe a licence to upgrade all of your computers to Windows Vista Enterprise Edition, plus Office 2007 and licences to access a Windows Server and SharePoint server). You then count up all of your computers, and pay a fixed fee for them each year of the agreement. If you increase the number of your computers every year, you pay for those extra ones too. One of the best things about this is that you automatically have the right to upgrade yourself to the latest version - so schools that currently have an Agreement can start using Office 2007 from day one, without having to pay more. But bear in mind, that at the end of the agreement, you either have to continue with a new one, or stop using the software - because you've only paid for the right to use it for a set period of time, not forever. (If neither of these options sound appealing, you could also opt for "buy out" licences - where you convert from a licence for a set period of time to a perpetual licence. The info on that is here)

        Phew, we've got this far. Let me summarise:

        • You need a Windows licence with your new PC, which is normally provided by the manufacturer. Consider Select licence upgrades to get from basic versions to the advanced versions of Windows.
        • For all of your other Microsoft software, your best option is to buy a Select licence or a School Agreement licence.

        The "Partner" bit

        There are two main types of partner that can sell you Academic licences.

        • Education Large Account Resellers (or EdLARs)
          Stop. Just before you think "I'm not a large account" and skip this bit, read on!
          These partners are our largest education partners, and they can sell you any of our Academic licence types. We call them "Large Account Resellers" because they are our largest resellers, not because you have to be "large account" to buy from them. So even the smallest primary school should get a quote from them!
        • Authorised Education Resellers (or AERs)
          These tend to be partners that are either much smaller, or where education customers are just a small part of a bigger business. They can only provide some of the Academic licences I've mentioned above. So you can get a School Agreement or Open Licence from them, you can't get a Select Licence (which is the lower priced of the two perpetual licences).

          I can hear you thinking "So, if AERs can't always sell me the lowest cost licence, why would I buy from them?". Good question.
          Well, back to the example of a small primary school - you may prefer to deal with a bigger company, because you think that's how you get the best value; or you may prefer to deal with a local company, just around the corner, because you think that's how you get the best service. So if you wanted a couple of computers, with the software installed for you, and an agreement that they'll pop around and fix any problems, you could got to a local company, who is a Microsoft AER, and will supply you with Academic licences under the Open scheme. It might cost a little more, but you may be willing to pay for that to get a local supplier. It's your choice.
          You should always check that you get the licence paperwork - for example, the original software CD and the licence key - when you buy an Open Licence, and especially if the software has already been installed for you. If you don't get this, you'll have no proof that you own the licence for the software you are running on those computers.

        Okay, let me summarise again:

        • I'd recommend that you always consider buying your Microsoft software from an Education Large Account Reseller, because they can offer you all the possible licence types, including the Select licence option, and therefore can offer the most cost effective one for your circumstances.

        Finding the right partner

        The UK Education website contains the lists of partners.

        EdLARs all work nationally, so there's a page with all of their contact details (at the time of writing, there's 20 to choose from)

        AERs tend to work more locally, so you can search in your local area by county or town, or by company name

        Licensing can be complex, but it is worth spending a little time to understand a little more - you could save your school money.

        Let me ask you a question now - Did this article help you at all? Did it make licensing easier to understand? If I hadn't written this, would you have noticed? Please add a comment to the blog or email me, and let's talk about it... 

        Remember what I said at the beginning - because this is me writing this, without a lawyer over my shoulder, then you can take this as a general guide, but to check anything specific you'll need to consult an official source - start with the Licensing information on the UK Education website, or talk to your Microsoft partner. And all of this info is specifically written with schools in the UK in mind - if you're not from a UK School, you'll definitely need to check with your usual Microsoft partner.


      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Data Security in schools – rules tightened


        I’ve written about data security a few times recently, prompted by the various incidents of data loss in other government departments. One of the web pages I’ve been watching is the Becta advice page on “Information Security Guidance for Schools”. And I’ve noticed that it was updated last week, and the guidance has been tightened up. I’ve highlighted in bold the changes from the original version (which you can see here). Things like changing recommend to must, and removing phrases such as ‘where this is available’. They are reviewing information security guidance, and have said:

        FirstquotesIn the meantime, school management teams should take urgent steps to ensure information asset owners in their institutions follow this guidance:

        • All data should be kept safe and made available only to those who are authorised to access it.
        • Do not remove sensitive or personal data from the school premises unless the media is encrypted and is transported securely for storage in a secure location.
        • When data is required by an authorised user from outside of the school premises – for example by a teacher working from their home – they must have secure remote access to the management information system (MIS) or learning platform.
        • Protect all desktop, portable and mobile devices, including media, used to store and transmit personal information using approved encryption software.
        • Securely delete (over-write media and shred paper) sensitive or personal data when it is no longer required.
        • Ensure that your institution’s security policy covers how personal information is stored, transmitted or processed and that it is managed and protected accordingly. Use Binding Corporate Rules and best practice methodologies such as the International Standard ISO 27001.
        • School leaders should ask their support providers or technical staff to ensure that Endquotestheir institutions are fully adopting and using the ICO, Hannigan and international best practice standards.

        Sadly, there’s no link to the Hannigan recommendations (this was the inquiry set up after the 27 million HMRC records were lost on CD), so you may have to wait until there’s more info published on that (the web doesn’t really turn up much that’s substantive on this, and the interim report doesn’t say much for education).

        What does this mean?

        Well, depending on what is included within the definition of ‘sensitive or personal data’, it could mean that teachers and senior managers are no longer permitted to remove pupil data from school on their laptops, unless it’s encrypted and is “transported securely for storage in a secure location”. Looks like the timetablers are going to be tied to their desks this year, or move house to Fort Knox!

        And it also seems to put the onus onto the technical staff (you!) to ensure that your school is fully adopting the ICO, Hannigan and international best practice standards. Whoa!

        There’s some advice about encryption on this blog post, and my colleague, Jerry Fishenden, who is Microsoft’s National Technology Officer, has a handy hint for encrypting data on a USB memory stick using Vista’s BitLocker feature.

        I’ll keep an eye out for further developments – especially if there’s more advice on what constitutes ‘sensitive or personal data’ and ‘secure remote access’ from Becta or DCSF.

        But it could be worse…

        We could yet end up in the situation of the HMRC, with helpful web pages like this, with advice on “What to do if you suspect or discover fraud”



      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Windows 7 is getting closer



        The Windows 7 team announced it will be available on October 22nd – that’s the date in the stores, so I don’t know if we’ll get the version for education (ie the Volume Licence version) any earlier. Even if it was earlier, I can’t believe it would be in time to roll it out before the end of the summer holidays (shame). Given the positive feedback that seems to be flowing around the current Release Candidate (did you know you can install that and run it free until July next year?), perhaps we could collaboratively build a list of devices people have been running it on – especially some of the entry-level netbooks and laptops.

        As an aside, if you, or a student you know, is going to buy a new laptop this summer – eg all those sixth formers heading to uni – then the Windows 7 team also mentioned that there will be news soon on the Windows 7 Upgrade Option. My understanding is that this is similar to the “Tech Guarantee” we’ve offered in the past, where if you buy a new PC after a certain date, you qualify for a free or low-cost upgrade to Windows 7. More details when I have them…

        What does Windows 7 run on? Share your experiences

        Time for sharing – what devices have you got Windows 7 running on already, and what spec? Add a comment to the blog, or drop me an email via the link above, and I’ll publish a table in a couple of weeks, based on typical experiences of computers that are in schools today. Given the experiences of running Windows Vista on older laptops, the real interest is not going to be “Does it run on what I’m going to buy this summer?”, but “Does it run on what I bought last summer, and the summer before?”

        Here’s my list so far, for my own laptops:

        Manufacturer Laptop Basic Spec Notes
        Lenovo X61 2GB RAM, 100GB Disk My every day laptop - Better performance than Vista
        Samsung R40 1GB RAM, 80GB Disk My demo laptop - Simple install and didn’t require any additional drivers later.


        And finally, my second favourite feature of Windows 7

        After I told you my favourite Windows 7 feature last week, I’ve now decided what my second favourite feature is – you can setup the default printer according to your location.

        imageThis is great for me, as I use my laptop in the office, at home, and out and about. I’d be working at home, hit PRINT, and then realise it was going to a printer somewhere in Reading. And there’s been more than one occasion when I’ve had to ring somebody and ask them to grab something urgently from the printer and put it in the shredder!

        Now, with Windows 7, I have set up my default printers so that at home it prints on my inkjet (connected through my home PC) and in the office, it will print to the nearest printer to my desk.

        Your staff can avoid that awful “OMG, I’ve just printed my CV in the school office” moment!

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Free Microsoft software for schools, from the Fun and Free Friday event


        Today, we had a fantastic day at the office, when we hosted the “Fun, Free Friday for Schools”. Just over 100 schools attended, and we had an absolutely packed agenda, as we demonstrated lots of the free Microsoft software available for schools to use.

        All of the links to the various downloads we mentioned during the day are below. During the day we asked people to share ideas of how they would use the software to enhance their curriculum teaching, but we didn’t get the chance to write them all down – so if you attended the day, we’d appreciate it enormously if you’d add a comment to the blog to say how you hope to use one or more of the resources you saw on the day. And if you were one of the lucky ones who won a copy of Office, then go here to find out how to get the Office 2010 upgrade under the Tech Guarantee programme.


        Bing Maps

        Bing Maps is so much more than just maps and directions. Bing Maps delivers a truly immersive experience that connects people to the world and a growing number of useful and valuable applications. Whether you want to find and view photosynths, see Twitter feeds, explore environmental projects or just explore the world; Bing Maps is a great resource for educators and students to enrich their learning experience.


        Photosynth is a tool that takes your photos, mashes them together and recreates a 3-D scene out of them that anyone can view and move around.

        Community Clips

        Community Clips is a free download from Office Labs that allows you record activity from your computer screen, narrate that activity and save it as a video file. This makes it ideal for recording simple instructional videos and to record student computer activity for assessment purposes.

        You can download the Community Clips screen recorder at -

        Worldwide Telescope

        Worldwide Telescope is a free download that enables you to access a huge collection of stunning images of the universe from the Hubble Space Telescope and many other space and earth observatories . These can be used to engage students, and to support teaching and learning in Maths and Science. It is a great tool to encourage students in research and project based learning around the planets, the solar system and the stars and to give them an appreciation of the scale, complexity and beauty of the universe.

        Worldwide Telescope can be downloaded from



        Pivot is a visual way of presenting and analysing data, from Microsoft Live Labs. It’s very difficult to describe in words, so perhaps the best way to see what it can do is to watch this video from the TED Conference 2010

        You can download Pivot from the GetPivot website, and use it straight away with the Pivot Collection – or if you’re technical, you can create your own Pivot collection, either in Excel or from a data source. (I used the Pivot Collection Tool for Excel for the SIMS example)


        DeepZoom allows students to create image compositions that can be viewed at different resolutions. Photos can be embedded within one another making it an ideal resource to develop thinking skills and digital storytelling.

        A great example of the use of  DeepZoom technology can be found at the Hard Rock Café - (You will need the Silverlight plug in to view this)

        To make your own Deep Zoom compositions, download a free copy of DeepZoom Composer

        You can find a series of tutorials about how to use DeepZoom Composer on the UK Teachers Blog


        Outsource your email and collaboration solution using this free offering – give all of your staff and students a 10GB Exchange mailbox, 25GB storage and collaboration space, access to the office web app – oh – and it works on almost any platform and in almost any browser, too.

        SkyDrive and Live Sync

        SkyDrive is 25GB of online storage that you can access from any PC to store your files and either keep them private, share them with friends or make them public.  It’s at

        Windows Live Sync is about to get an update to keep your PCs and web storage in sync.  Giving you 2GB of web storage space and the ability to sync content between multiple PCs, Live Sync is a great way to tool to keep you files and photos up to date. Unfortunately it is still in beta but will be part of the updated Windows Live Essentials – keep an eye out at

        Office Web Apps

        The Office Web Apps have just launched this week. They’re at and they provide free, lightweight editing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents through the browser.

        Windows Live Messenger

        More than just instant chat! Live messenger can be a great way of engaging your students in a more exciting and innovative way of learning. It’ll help save money with free simple video conferencing, and to take the pressure away from email - file sharing becomes instant. You can download it as part of Windows Live Essentials

        Bing Translator

        Ever been stuck with a bit of text or a website that’s in a language you don’t speak? Needed to get something across to a teacher across the seas? Or wanted to have an IM conversation that wasn’t limited by language barriers? Bing Translator bridges the gap between languages, so whether you’re chatting to someone or reading an article, you’re covered.

        Windows Live Writer

        Live Writer is a programme that allows you to write blog posts offline, and then upload them onto your blog (and it works with all kinds of different blog platforms, like WordPress, Blogger, Community Server, SharePoint, Live Spaces, and lots of others). You can find out a little more about it in my “I love Live Writer” blog post, and download it free with Windows Live Essentials.

        Windows Live Photo Gallery

        Organise and find your photos really fast by date, descriptive tags or people tags.  Richard demonstrated how you can make your photos look better by tweaking exposure, colour or detail.  And then it allows you to share your photos easily by publishing to various online services such as SkyDrive or flickr.
        You can download the current version as part of Windows Live Essentials

        Windows Live Movie Maker

        Import your existing photos and digital videos and create great looking movies which can be burned to dvd or published to online services such as SkyDrive or YouTube.
        Add impact to your movies with stunning visual effects and soundtracks. Create an animated movie by displaying lots of still images at speeds of up to 33 frames per second.
        You can download the current version as part of Windows Live Essentials


        Singing in the shower is so last year – get your students creative juices flowing across the entire curriculum using Songsmith - a quick & easy way of creating songs, raps, rhymes and tunes out of whatever comes into your head. Although normally you’d pay for SongSmith, it’s free to education in the UK via the Partners in Learning Network

        Maths Worksheet Generator

        If you spend a lot of time searching for worksheets with practice problems to give your students, then you'll like Maths Worksheet Generator. You can easily create your own in just a few seconds with the Math Worksheet Generator. This is a tool that generates multiple maths problems based on a sample problem you provide, and then creates a worksheet that you can distribute. By analysing the initial problem you provide, or one of the built-in samples, the generator determines the structure of the expression and provides similar problems. And it tacks on an answer sheet too.
        You can download it from EducationLabs.

        Photostory 3

        Photostory 3 allows your pupils and students to create videos from still images. They can add narration, music and special effects. It is ideal resource to use in all areas of the curriculum.

        Photostory can be downloaded for free at - . You will also find this resource on Digital Storytelling in the classroom useful.  -

        Microsoft and Moodle

        If you’re using Moodle, you don’t have to miss out on some great free tools – using our Office for Moodle plugin you can open from and save directly to a Moodle site, and with the Moodle Plugin for Live@edu, you can get your recent mail and calendar items right within your Moodle learning environment.


        Autocollage allows you to take a group of photos and turn them into exciting collages with the click of a button, which can then be printed or emailed.
        Autocollage also interacts with Windows Live Photo Gallery for a seamless connection to your extisting photo libraries. It's a great time saver, for example when you've got photos from a school trip, or you need to get students to create a mood board. There's a video demo on the Microsoft Research site. Although AutoCollage is normally sold as a product, if you're in UK Education (teachers or students) you can download it free from the Partners in Learning website.


        Kodu is a visual programming language for creating games designed to be accessible for children and an ideal way to ignite an interest in computer science whilst teaching other skills such as cooperation, logic and creativity.


        DreamSpark is a programme designed to give all students access to Microsoft tools and training materials at no cost.

        Digital Literacy Curriculum

        This is the home page for the English version of the Digital Literacy Curriculum – which is available in 34 languages – including Welsh!   It’s a lovely set of curriculum resources with an interactive interface which allows people to study at their own pace and in ways that suit their own learning style!   It’s available online and it’s also FREE !!   The goal of the Digital Literacy Curriculum is to teach basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use computers in everyday life.  Modules cover Computer Basics; Desktop Applications; the Web; Safety and Security; and Digital Lifestyles.  Once you have completed all five modules, you are ready to take an Entry Level 3 qualification with OCR or City and Guilds and you have the foundations for a journey to higher level skills which could provide a real boost to your employability.


        Office Ribbon Hero

        The new prototype Office Ribbon Hero is designed to test the effectiveness, feasibility and appeal of delivering Office training in a game-like setting.  The heart of Ribbon Hero is a set of challenges that users play right in the Office applications. These challenges expose users to features that they might not be aware of and which can help users get their work done faster.

        In addition, Ribbon Hero awards points for using both basic features, such as, Bold and Italic, and for using the features introduced in the challenges.  Ribbon Hero does some analysis of the person’s usage patterns to prioritise the order in which it presents challenges. And then to add the competitive element, Ribbon Hero integrates with Facebook so you can share your success (or in my case, failures) with your friends.

        You can read a little more, and download Office Ribbon Hero, from my earlier blog post.

        Mouse Mischief

        Want to keep your students' attention? Try a little Mischief. Mouse Mischief is a tool that Microsoft makes available free of charge, and that allows teachers to work with Microsoft Office PowerPoint to make interactive presentations. Mouse Mischief integrates with Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, enabling teachers to insert questions, polls and drawing activity slides into their lessons. Students can actively participate in these lessons by using their own mice to click, circle, cross out or draw answers on the screen.

        You can download Mouse Mischief, and see a demo video, on the UK website


        Create online personlised revision materials for your students and pupils. These flashcards can contain images and audio, making them an ideal resource for language and special educational needs teaching. The Flashcards give feedback on how well students and pupils are doing, allowing them to identify the areas they need to improve. Go to EducationLabs to find out more and to create your own Flashcards.

        Internet Explorer Accelerators

        With Internet Explorer 8, Accelerators reduce the time it takes to do simple tasks, such as find an address, translate a word, or perform other routine tasks online? Until now it was likely a series of cutting and pasting information from one webpage to another. Now there's a better way. The new Accelerators in Internet Explorer 8 help you quickly perform your everyday browsing tasks without navigating to other websites to get things done. You can find out about, and download Accelerators here


        pptPlex is a free add-in for PowerPoint that makes it simple to present non-linear content and interact with your slides more dynamically – it’s a very different way to present.


        XNA is a games development platform for Windows OS, Phone and Xbox 360. It is an ideal way to engage your most enthusiastic students and teach them some core programming skills applicable to all Microsoft platforms.


        Innovids are a series of instructional videos created by teachers for teachers as part of the UK Partners in Learning Network programme. Using community clips and Moviemaker, teachers have recorded how they use a range of Microsoft applications in the classroom. These include Office 2007, as well as applications such as AutoCollage and Bing. Each video shows not only how to use the software , but a context in which to use it effectively to support learning across the curriculum.

        You can access and download these Innovids from the UK Partners in Learning Network - or the UK Partners in Learning YouTube Channel -

        Partners in Learning Network

        This a global community of teacher who value innovative uses of ICT that improve and support learning. By joining the UK Partners In Learning Network, you can:

        • Create or join communities & discussions
        • Find lesson plans and activities, as well as share your own resources
        • Download free software such AutoCollage and Songsmith
        • Collaborate with like-minded colleagues, to develop best practice  in your own classroom and community

        Our UK Teachers Blog supports this  Network, with all the latest developments, ideas and news that we think can help and support teachers.

        UK Teachers Blog -

        UK Partners in Learning Network -


      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Information Security – more, but not yet enough, advice from Becta


         The Becta Information Security advice page for schools has been updated, and they provide a more detailed document (Keeping data safe, secure and legal) which goes further than their previous advice, but not yet far enough. In fact, if you take the report at face value, you’re going to lock up your registers, and wait for the next set of reports!

        First, the good news

        This latest update is a step towards clarity – helping us all by being clear about what precautions are needed to ensure that data is kept safe (and that this advice applies to data in whatever format – whether it’s on a computer, or written on a piece of paper).  This guidance will get to the top of your senior leadership priority list pretty quickly. The Becta document talks of the various management roles responsible for information security, and then goes on to say…

        FirstquotesAlthough these roles have been explicitly identified, the handling of protected school data is everyone’s responsibility – whether you are an employee, consultant, software provider or managed service provider. Failing to apply appropriate controls to protect this data could amount to gross misconduct or even (lead to) legal action.Endquotes

        And now, the bad news

        Implementing these Becta Information Security guidelines is going to take a while, and a level of technical understanding of what must be done. In fact, given the statement on page 7 “All education ICT systems must be classified for the highest level data processed by the system and automatically labelled at the corresponding level”, it means that you’ve got to assume that almost all of your systems, and all of your staff, are handling highly secure data (in Government-speak “IL3-Restricted”). And that this therefore involves lots of changes to the way you handle, transport and allow access to your school’s pupil data. In stark terms, it says on page 5:

        FirstquotesUntil new technology or enhancements to your existing ICT infrastructure can be put in place, you are likely to need to make operational changes. These may mean that certain types of sensitive data may no longer be accessible away from the school in the short term.Endquotes

        The next set of Becta guides, not yet published, will hopefully spell out what classifications of data need to be protected by which mechanisms - see below. The current advice is almost ‘lock everything down folks’, and that’s not sustainable in the long term. But certainly, if you have a member of staff taking sensitive data home on their laptop – like special needs records, or other sensitive information on a pupil – then you need to take immediate action to safely remove the data from their laptop, or fully encrypt that data and/or their laptop. And if you have remote web access to your MIS and Learning Platform, and it’s not protected by the little SSL padlock in Internet Explorer image, then you’ll need to urgently review/change your systems.

        The guidance covers keeping data secure whilst in school, and on your ICT systems, and also how you must ensure that the data are appropriately labelled encrypted, stored and disposed of. (Eg all documents and screens displaying protected data need to have labels showing that the data is protected, and must be securely destroyed after use). The 6 key bullet points from page 7 of the Becta document are below:


        And finally, more good news

        The Appendix A of the Becta Information Security report is called “Quick wins for data handling compliance”, and I’d recommend taking a look at that (and passing it on up the chain!).

        And there are more documents coming, which will contain really specific, practical advice. According to the current document:

        FirstquotesThere are four accompanying good practice guides:

        • Impact levels and labelling
        • Data encryption
        • Audit logging and incident handling
        • Secure remote access. Endquotes

        Although they are not yet published by Becta, there’s more to come soon – and hopefully these guides will be the ones that spell out specifically what information falls into the different categories, and how it needs to be protected. For example, is a class list something that should be protected by IL-2 or IL-3 mechanisms? And what are the defining bits of data that moves it up from IL-2 to IL-3. For example, is a Special Needs statement automatically IL-3, or IL-2 until it has medical info attached?

        What do you need from us?

        There’s some obvious advice we’ll issue, as soon as the four further guides are published – eg encryption and remote access. But what other advice do you need from us, to help you respond to these guidelines? And at what technical level? Comment now, as what you say now will set the direction of the conversations I’m having with our Government security guys…

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Homework Helper - a new way of using a search engine


        generalknowledge James, a colleague of mine, has just told me about the beta release of Homework Helper he's been working on the project team of. It's a web site which is designed to help 12-16 year old students find the help they need for assignments and homework on the major subjects in England (It works for Wales & Scotland too, but is is tagged to Key Stages and English subjects currently)

        James said:

        Homework Helper is made up of lots of specialist search engines that search the internet by homework topic. We only get results from the best sites for each subject, so you get better answers quicker. Just choose your year, subject, and topic from the drop down menu, enter a search term and we will find the answers and websites that will help answer your homework questions.

        It's still a beta which means it’s not quite perfect yet, but we would like you to help us test it over the summer ready for you after your summer break. There are even some cool prizes for great feedback and suggestions.

        There are prizes of MSN Music Vouchers for submitting new sites to search, or just for providing feedback. (Just thought I'd mention that if you wanted to give your kids something to do during the dismal downpours this weekend!)

        My children haven't left primary school yet, but my eldest is due to leave this year, and so I'll be expecting the level of expertise needed to be a homework-helper to jump up a bit. So this is just in time for me!

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Microsoft offers students at eligible educational institutions access to full Office productivity suite for no additional cost


        As part of our ongoing commitment to education, we are thrilled to announce Student Advantage, a new benefit to qualifying institutions which will make it easy for students to use the latest and best version of full Office at their education institution and at home.


        So what does this mean? From 1st December, 2013, any institutions worldwide that licenses Office for staff and faculty can provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost. As a result, more than 35,000 institutions worldwide are automatically eligible to deliver the Student Advantage benefit to their students. 

        Office 365 ProPlus includes all the familiar and full Office applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and offers the ability for these to be locally installed on up to five devices and available offline.

        Furthermore, when a school combines Student Advantage with our other cloud services - Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online - of which all are available free through Office 365 Education, students have access to the same set of productivity tools and services used by Fortune 500 companies all over the world.

        “Students use Office every day for school work and activities that are most important to them. Office not only helps students stay organised and get their work done today, but at the same time develops skills that will be required when they enter the workforce,” said Antony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Public Sector Education at Microsoft. “We are thrilled to offer Student Advantage to schools across the globe so students have access to the latest, most up-to-date version of the world’s leading set of productivity tools in order to give them a competitive advantage when entering the workforce.”

        To help you learn more about this benefit to your students, we are going to be running a number of Q&A sessions via Yammer and Twitter over the next week. More details to follow via the blog and our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

        In the meantime, if you have any immediate questions or queries, drop us a note in the comments below.

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