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July, 2007 - FE blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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July, 2007

  • FE blog

    Dell Student Offers for new PCs


    Dell has re-launched its Student Computing Initiative (SCI) for this year’s student intake. The programme, which provides a choice of PCs with Microsoft Office 2007 Pro, 3 year onsite support and McAfee as a complete and heavily discounted solution, was launched last year. It was successfully adopted by around 20 universities and colleges last year, and has now been enhanced with particular focus on making its deployment and student communication even easier. Although the timing is tight, Dell can still setup new programmes for this year’s student intake and is holding a series of webinars describing the approach. Please contact your Dell account manager for more details or learn more about the SCI solution at www.dell.co.uk/sci

  • FE blog

    Office 2007 compatibility pack


    If you're using Microsoft Office 2000, XP or 2003, you may need to be able to open, edit and save files in the new file formats of Microsoft Office 2007.
    Newly launched is the Microsoft Updates and Compatibility Pack, which will enable you to work with these formats quickly and easily. This is especially useful if you will end up with a mixed set of software in September, or to let your students know for home compatibility.

  • FE blog

    Sheffield College's Microsoft IT Academy


    The Microsoft IT Academy scheme has been around for quite a while now, and with almost 600 colleges and schools accredited, it has been growing quickly recently. The basic idea is that a college can apply to become an IT Academy in order to offer courses and certification to local businesses, and even their own students and staff.

    Skills for Business - the industry training arm of Sheffield College - has a customer base who are mostly SME's - 85% of firms in their local area employ less than 50 people - who were seeking IT training in Microsoft's business packages. So at the beginning of January 2004 they started to provide training courses through the Microsoft-branded IT Academy.

    By delivering the Microsoft Office Specialist courses, student numbers have grown dramatically - to 1,000 trainees in 2005-6.

    Dave Pickersgill, Digital Development Manager at Sheffield College, says: “We have increased numbers of delegates from zero three years ago to become a vibrant and successful part of the college.”

    In both 2005 and 2006 there were one of only 5 to be given the "Microsoft Academic Centre of Excellence" award.

    Your can read more about the Sheffield story on our worldwide case studies website. More information on the Microsoft IT Academy programme is on our main UK Education website.

  • FE blog

    Dysg e-Learning Conference Presentations


    I had a great time at the Dysg e-learning conference today, sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government. The sessions throughout the day looked at what colleges and schools were doing to take e-learning forward, with a large focus on virtual learning environments and collaborative working between schools and colleges.

    My presentation, at the end fo the day, was about four aspects of transformation - technology, the lifestyle of students, new attitudes to schools and the way that information flow needs to be more connected and visible; it summarised the changes which we are being affected by, and how things might look in the future.

    So, for those who attended and others who may have an interest, here's the links to the slides and other resources that I used:

    Transformed Learning PowerPoint presentation (Right Click and "Save File As...")

    Shift Happens - the introduction (instructions & details on the webpage)

    Microsoft Surface - unfortunately the video I used isn't available publically, but there are other video resources on the Surface website

    And finally a short video trailer for the BSF Showcase (Right Click and "Save File As...")

    And, because there was much discussion about Moodle, let me also point towards other posts on this blog about Moodle integration with SharePoint.

  • FE blog

    Using Windows Vista and Office 2007? Tell us why you like it and win...


    Lots of colleges are already using Windows Vista and even more are using Office 2007. And if you are one of those, then here's your chance to tell others why you like it...and win a prize.

    There are two Tablet PCs up for grabs in the competition (one prize for the best Student entry and one for the best Staff entry). And...if you're quick...20 x 2GB memory sticks for the first 10 featured entries in each category...

    All you need to do is answer the question "How have the new features in Windows Vista and Office 2007 helped you with your teaching and lesson planning?". That's it. (Oh, and fill out the contact details).

    This will be a worldwide competition, but I've persuaded my colleagues over the Atlantic that we should give the UK the first chance to enter. So do it now, before everybody else piles in. And both Tablet PCs will go to UK education (when they extend it, they have to find new prizes and keep their mitts off ours!)

    There are two categories - one for staff and one for students.

    Here's the website to enter

  • FE blog

    Open Source and free development tools


    As I was browsing our new website for information on our work with the Open Source community today (at www.microsoft.com/opensource) I came across the link for the free downloads of the Visual Studio Express Editions. This includes

    If you buy your Microsoft software on a Campus Agreement, you will already be licensed for the full versions of these studios, but for those who aren't - or if you want to point your students towards downloads for home use - then the links above are the ones to use to help your budding next-generation web/games/programme developers.

    Me? Well, I'm off to the Beginner Developer Learning Centre, to try and understand what it's all about!

  • FE blog

    Data security - safeguarding individual's data


    Listening to the news this morning, my attention was grabbed by the Information Commissioner, on the subject of data security, as he said "Data is being stolen too easily. Laptops, containing personal information and databases, being stolen when they are taken outside of the workplace without proper data encryption."

    This issue also affects colleges, although today it's a relief that we haven't had a high profile incident. Many staff have laptops that they use in college and take home for preparation and other work. And if you take a look at the data on them, you'll find some limited data, typically marks and assessments in a spreadsheet, class lists, and perhaps personal contact lists trip. However on many laptops you'll find some extremely sensitive information about students. This is exactly the kind of information which you would want to safeguard.

    And on some laptops, in some colleges, you'll find copies of the entire student database, with lots of detail, including home addresses and contact details etc. Typically these will be on the laptops of the management team using the data for analysis and reporting.

    So what should you do about it?

    1) Do a quick review.

    Take a look at a couple of laptops to assess what kind of data are being taken out of college. Maybe a typical lecturer's laptop, and perhaps (if you're brave!) take a look at the data on the laptop of a member of the leadership team.

    2) Ensure you have some basic security requirements covered:

    Start with the basics, for example: What is your password policy and is it being kept to?

    Take a look at our Security Tools and Resources guide on the UK Education website, which includes a link to the Security Risk Management Guide on TechNet.

    This guide helps you to plan, build, and maintain a successful security risk management program. In a four phase process, the guide explains how to conduct each phase of a risk management program and how to build an ongoing process to measure and drive security risks to an acceptable level. The guide is technology agnostic and references many industry accepted standards for managing security risk.

    3) Plan your next move

    When you move to Windows Vista, plan to implement BitLocker Drive Encryption included within Windows Vista Enterprise Edition. This will ensure that all data on your laptops are encrypted to highly secure, government standards. This may be the easiest way to ensure that every bit of data on your laptops remains secure permanently. (Watch the BitLocker video)

  • FE blog

    Tools to help plan migrations to Windows Vista


    There are a number of universities and colleges managing wide-scale migrations to Windows Vista this summer - and they've probably already started to upgrade workstations. But if you are planning to do your upgrades later, then you might be interested in some of the software tools we've just started to release to help the process.

    One of these, the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool helps you by simplifying:

    • Hardware Inventory
    • Compatibility Analysis
    • Business Reporting

    You can quickly evaluate whether your existing hardware is ready for Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and it provides guidance on appropriate hardware and device driver upgrades. The auto-generated assessment reports greatly simplify the desktop deployment planning process. With this new 2.0 version, the tool now supports inventory and readiness assessment of networks with up to 25,000 computers per domain or work group, up from 5,000 when it was first released.  The tool will analyse any network station running Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 Professional, and Windows Server 2003 or 2000.

    You can find out more, and download the tool at:  http://www.microsoft.com/technet/wvha

  • FE blog

    Basic Digital Literacy Skills for Staff and Students


    If you or any of your staff - or even friends and family - need help getting started with computers then you might find the Digital Literacy Curriculum will be useful for you. It is free of charge and has 5 modules, available in 12 langauges. When completed. you can choose to take a test and print a pass certificate.

    • Computer Basics
    • The Internet and World Wide Web
    • Productivity Programmes
    • Computer Security and Privacy
    • Digital Lifestyles

    You can make this available in-college or at home, or through libraries and community centres.  You can either just link to the site or you can download the materials and use them on your own systems. For full details click this link.

  • FE blog

    Upgrading this summer to Office 2007? Got some technophobic users?


    It's summer. You've probably got a whole pile of ICT projects lined up. New PCs into rooms, perhaps a new set of network updates to roll out - and then there's new desktop software. Some colleges are planning to install Office 2007 over the summer. Generally they're not worried about training for students, because they'll just jump in and start exploring. However, some of the staff are the ones who don't like their software changing too much!

    And so, to help - and even though this seems to be a step backwards - one company has developed an add-on for Office 2007 which reverts the new-whizzy, easy-to-use, menus back to the old Office 2003 look and feel. It's not something I'd recommend - okay, when it you upgrade you need to spend a while adjusting, but you soon learn how much easier it is to use - but if you've got somebody who doesn't like change, then you'll like this - it switches Office back 4 years...

    Classic Menu for Office 2007 - Access, Excel, PowerPoint and Word

    (This links you to a 15-day trial - the full product costs $29.95 - but perhaps 15 days is all you'll need to convince your staff to learn the new menu....)

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