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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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April, 2013

  • FE blog

    BYOD in Education: Why go BYOD?


    Excerpt from our BYOD in education eBook written by Ollie Bray.

    imageGenerally speaking there are three main reasons why you may decide to develop BYOD within your school or education institution. These reasons are described below:

    Student familiarity

    If you own your device it is very likely that you will know how it works and what it can do. In short, this means that, from a learning perspective, you lose less time getting students to understand and wrestle with the hardware and gain more time on focused learning

    Bridge between formal and informal learning

    Most people agree that one way of improving education is to progress towards a model where students can access learning anytime and anywhere. This is one of the components of holistic education transformation mentioned previously.One of the barriers to this adoption is that many students perceive there to be a difference between learning in school and learning at home.

    This is not always helped by the fact that on-line learning content within formal education is often confined to the domain of the school network and therefore often the school computer lab.

    Cloud computing and cloud storage (including services like Office 365 Education) has started to change this. Learners can access their content and a range of online tools from any Internet enabled device.

    Cost and sustainability

    The adoption of BYOD obviously also includes the possibility for cost savings and we should not be ashamed to admit this. In the modern world we simply have to do ‘more’ for ‘less’. In most cases BYOD has the potential to quickly convert your school into a 1:1 Learning environment, where there is an average ratio of one Internet enabled device for each learner.

    However, it is also worth noting that most schools that have been successful in BYOD have often found that their actual costs have not really been reduced. They do, however, have extra resources available to redirect towards network
    configurations, staff professional development and other technology projects. These efficiency savings can also be used to fund devices for learners who are not fortunate enough to have their own device or who are not allowed to bring it into school.

    The important thing to remember here is that BYOD can improve learning and may reduce costs. For other cost saving ideas for education see our popular eBook on ‘Cost Savings in Education’.

    To learn more about BYOD in education, download or view our full eBook below:

  • FE blog

    Exciting Learning: Interactive lessons


    For the students of today, technology is highly captivating and engaging. It makes learning exciting, creates a buzz about lessons and work assignments and supports both you as a teacher and your students as learners. We encourage the use of technology in education, but ultimately understand that a good education comes from good teaching and learning. We don’t want technology to be a distraction, but instead want students to see it as a fun new aid to make their learning easier.

    The exciting learning series which you will see over the following weeks will help you to introduce technology into your lessons, and enhance the good teaching you’re already doing. Instead of flooding your classroom with technology, we will guide you to make the right investments for the right reasons because there is a need for it.


    Every day the Bing home page shows stunning, new and creative imagery from around the world, which, as well as being beautiful and worthy of a discussion in its own right, has hidden ‘hot-spots’ within the image. These can be great to form questions around for your students, and can provide a fun and interactive starter. If students have their own smartphones, tablets or personal laptops, they can use these to find out the information using Bing Search, rather than leaving this powerful technology switched off in their bags. As well as being a pretty picture, the image usually has some direct relevance to something that is going on in the world. This is a great way to teach students about current affairs, world cultures and other countries in a fun and engaging way, and may even spark up a conversation outside of the classroom.

    If students take interest in the home page image and current affairs connection, Bing Social Search can also be useful to show them what people are talking about. Using Twitter’s trending topics, Bing Social Search shows the topics which are trending from across the web, in addition to showing public updates. Rather than browsing these in Twitter and opening another tab to search, students can search the trends straight from the social search. One feature I’m particularly keen on in this tool is the ability to see recent tweets on a map. Using this, you can search for tweets by location or landmark, keywords and people. Seeing the regions and countries which are talking about certain topics can be thought-provoking for students, as they can discuss why some trends are more important to specific areas and people.

    Skype/Real time interaction

    Skype, a new Microsoft acquisition, and Lync, part of the free Microsoft Office 365 for education service, are real-time interaction and web video conferencing applications which can bring people from anywhere around the world into your classroom. There is no doubt that bringing an expert into your classroom via video will capture your students’ imagination and create an engaging lesson.

    Skype in the Classroom connects you to other teachers using Skype, allowing you to search for teachers by language, age taught and subjects. In the same way as the Partners in Learning network, you can create some fantastic connections with teachers all around the world using Skype, bringing them into your classroom and sharing lessons and resources with one another. This undoubtedly enhances teaching and learning as you share expertise and experiences with each other.

    Lync online is another tool which can bring people into your classroom through video conferencing, but also offers you an IM connection, a virtual whiteboard, a presentation platform and screen and file sharing. This means that, when video conferencing with an expert or fellow teacher, they can present their lesson slides to your students as if they are really there in the classroom. The IM system allows students to ask questions throughout the presentation without interrupting, and the whiteboard means that notes can be made by the presenter to emphasise points in the same way as they would in a classroom.

    Application development and Microsoft App Builder

    Students are always using technology, whether for work or play, and are constantly thinking of areas in which they could use technology to make their learning more exciting. Many students consider developing an application for certain classes or projects, yet they don’t have the right skill set to do so. Wouldn’t it be great if your students designed an app which allows them to interactively answer questions in class using their mobile phones or tablets? The changes to the curriculum to introduce more Computing into ICT lessons will remove this obstacle, but what about the students who have already gone through the school ranks and haven’t been taught to code and develop. Is it fair that they can’t design an app when the right idea exists simply because they haven’t been taught how?

    We don’t think it is, which is why Microsoft has developed App Builder, a website designed to aid budding app designers through a combination of quick guides, walk-throughs and tools (including DreamSpark for students).

    Once your students have successfully designed an app, encourage them to enter for App Builder Rewards, where they’ll be rewarded for their hard work with goodies such as a wireless Xbox headset, tablets and even a trip to Paris.

    So, next time your students have an idea for an app they could create to enhance their learning, tell them about App Builder and App Builder Rewards. Not only will they get their hands on some cool rewards for themselves, but they’ll also leave behind an application which will help aid future students’ learning.


    DreamSpark (www.dreamspark.com) is a programme introduced by Microsoft that provides students with software design and development tools for free (including Visual Studio 2010 Professional Edition) to help them design and create applications and games to advance their developing talent. The programme now runs in more than 80 countries and is offered within secondary, further and higher education. To register, all students have to do is visit the DreamSpark website and verify their student status.

    Microsoft knows that, in order to make learning more motivating, relevant, and engaging for today's students, teachers require a diverse set of resources. DreamSpark gives educators the resources to ensure their classrooms always have the latest technologies to challenges, motivate, and keep students engaged in new ways.

    If you have any questions about engaging your students using technology, or would like to tell me how you use technology in lessons, get in touch on Twitter @katiehook1

  • FE blog

    BYOD in Education: What is Bring Your Own Device?


    Except from our BYOD in Education eBook written by Ollie Bray.

    BYOD or Bring Your Own Device is the simple idea that young people and school staff are allowed to bring their own Internet enabled device into school and use it to help them work, learn and (if appropriate) socialise.

    The impact of this very simple concept is three fold:

    • Firstly, it increases the amount of devices in schools that can be used to enhance learning
    • Secondly, it avoids unnecessary spending on hardware resources, and this finance can then be re-directed to other areas of ICT development within the school
    • Thirdly, it avoids the ‘doubling’ or sometimes ‘tripling’ up on devices, where a computer is redundant for much of the day because it is either at school, at home or hidden in your pocket

    However, for what may seem like such a simple idea there are a lot of barriers (organisational, pedagogical, technical and cultural) that will need to be overcome to ensure the success of BYOD in schools.

    The big picture (educational transformation)

    When we look at how technology has transformed education, it is useful to look at it in a number of stages. Anthony Salcito, the VP of Education Worldwide at Microsoft, describes this from a traditional (industrialised) approach, through the automated and access age, to an age of holistic transformation.


    In many countries across the world, we will move to ubiquitous 1:1 (one computer per child) learning environments within the next 5 - 10 years. Some countries such as Macedonia, Portugal, Turkey and Venezuela are already amongst the early adopters, and other schools systems will follow in a domino type affect.

    In a climate where we are very much expected to do ‘more’ with ‘less’, it is likely that many large scale device deployments will be based around the BYOD model. Preparing for the next educational technology paradigm shift must be seen as one of the highest priorities of any school, state or education system.

    However, as we know from failed technology initiatives of the past, the technology itself will not
    be enough to drive the holistic transformation that is needed within many school systems. Infrastructure, good pedagogical practice, school leadership and teacher professional learning are all key ingredients for success.

    For the schools and systems that get this right, BYOD and 1:1 computing has the potential to unlock the wonders of an education future that we are only just starting to imagine, such as data driven personalisation, learning analytics, seamless collaboration, rich meta-tagged content, and technology enhanced reflective practice.

    We hope that within this eBook we can start you on your journey of working towards this future. The full eBook can be viewed/downloaded below.

  • FE blog

    BYOD in education: What’s it all about?


    Excerpt from our BYOD in education eBook written by Ollie Bray. 

    Have you ever thought about what happens to the computers in a school between 4pm and 8am Monday to Friday? Or at the weekends? Or over the twelve weeks of the year when the school is shut for the holidays? Have you ever thought about what happens to computers in your house when you are at work or when your children are at school?
    The answer is simple – nothing happens. The equipment just sits there, and, apart from the occasional automated update it is stagnant, unused and redundant.

    The situation is ironic, as schools these days constantly need more ICT equipment (in particular hardware) to improve productivity, help teachers teach and help learners learn. Many students also sit in classes with powerful little computers in their pockets (their phones) or in their bag (their tablet devices and / or laptops) all of which must often remain switched off during the school day. It is strange that, at such times of austerity, the school is willing to spend valuable resource on calculators and digital cameras.

    BYOD in education

    BYOD or Bring Your Own Device is the simple idea that young people and school staff are allowed to bring their own Internet enabled device into school and use it to help them work, learn and (if appropriate) socialise.


    BYOD is an emerging education technology trend that is gaining in popularity in many parts of the world, and one that needs to be treated more seriously by schools and school systems.

    This practical guide to BYOD (embedded below) has been written and designed to get you thinking!

    Excepts from the eBook will be shared on the blog throughout the rest of the week and the full eBook can be viewed/downloaded below.

  • FE blog

    Deploying a Windows Store App with Configuration Manager 2012 SP1


    By Simon May

    One of a series of videos I’m working on that show how deployment works for modern apps, Windows Store apps, Windows 8 apps, Windows RT apps or Appx packages – whatever you like to call them.

    There are a few ways that you can deploy these types of apps to Windows 8 and Windows RT devices using System Center Configuration Manager 2012 SP1, Windows Intune and Microsoft Deployment Services Toolkit 2012 SP1 (MDT 2012 SP1).

    In this first video I’m take a look at deeplinking an app from the Windows Store and deploying it to a Windows 8 Enterprise device. If you just want to see the client experience jump to 5 minutes.


    A few notes on the technical requirements to make this work, so you can try it out in your lab:

  • FE blog

    Open University new IT facilities and Anywhere app


    Nearly three years since joining the Open University, CIO David Matthewman continues to push a strategic programme to deliver value and innovation.

    After conducting a thorough review of how the university buys IT over the last few years, the highlights of David Matthewman’s tenure have so far included a move towards cloud tools and a shift towards a leaner set-up for applications and infrastructure.

    Now the focus for the next 18 months is supporting study processes and giving a new lease of life to the Open University's (OU’s) core applications, used daily by more than 6,000 associate lecturers and over 250,000 students worldwide.

    “Our business has evolved very rapidly in recent years as a result of new government and funding arrangements. So we have evolved our systems at the same time in ever more innovative ways to ensure we are dealing with the strategic needs of the university for the future,” says Matthewman.

    Meeting student requirements

    The IT team plays an important role in offering new facilities and tools to students as needs and behaviour around study patterns and technology change.

    This month, it launched OU Anywhere, an application to give students the option to download and access their core module textbooks, videos and other materials through mobile devices.

    This option is being provided in response to the growing number of students using tablets and smartphones as part of their studies. Students will have the option of accessing their course text and media through the app, in addition to the books and DVDs traditionally posted to them at the start of their modules.

    Apprentices bring a wealth of knowledge of how the organisation operates and we are part way through training them up. We’ve put them all through a fairly intense bootcamp to turn them into developers and they are providing great value already

    The IT team also had to intervene when new fee arrangements were enforced late last year. According to Matthewman, changes were needed to process government loans to students. Areas affected included the OU’s web front end, the finance system and links with the Student Loan Company (SLC).

    “The web front end and the underlying database were significantly enhanced to allow students to automatically register with an SLC payment, and a new matching and reconciliation process was created using data from the SLC to identify students and complete the funds transfer,” he says.

    “The university also created its own online eligibility checker to allow the student to self-assess their loan eligibility prior to the SLC opening applications for part-time students."

    He says the links with the SLC are very basic at present, but there are plans to enhance those connections in the near future.

    Read more from David Mathewman here.

  • FE blog

    SimCity in education


    Originally posted on the Higher Innovation blog

    On March 5th 2013, Electronic Arts released the highly-anticipated SimCity for Windows PCs everywhere.  SimCity is an interactive and immersive simulation where you are the mayor of a virtual city with people known as Sims that just want to be happy. As mayor you take the heat or the credit for how your city fares under your leadership and decision-making. It is just a game…or is it?

    Magee City - Mayor Cameron Evans (SimCity)

    Stimulating Learning Through Simulation
    As a learning simulation, SimCity is a rich and immersive experience for students learning the complexities and subtleties of the world we live in.  From the decisions of where to place a road to what your city should have as a specialisation, SimCity makes the complex decisions of our national, state, and local leaders approachable through play.

    Play is an important dynamic. I watched my daughter just “jump in” the SimCity world. She resisted reading the manual, the companion guide, or any text before entering the Sim experience.  Games are like that. You learn through play, as you play, and from your mistakes while you play. Early simple decisions become more complex over time when the conditions of your world change.

    In our schools, we do the reverse of play.  We provide all of the facts, details, knowledge, and concepts so that you will not make a mistake when it comes times to assess your ability. The only learning that comes from mistakes in our traditional approach is—well you do not want to make too many mistakes.

    Relevancy for Next Generation Learning Standards
    What I like most is the contextual introduction of new vocabulary that would otherwise be irrelevant for young learners. Even though you can drop into SimCity without using a manual, there is a substantial amount of reading at varying levels of text complexity. You will not grow your Sim’s happiness or your city without strong reading fluency.

    Surprisingly, the challenges of SimCity can be found in the real world. For example, after dealing with finding a safe place to dispose of sewage in SimCity, our real local news reported on a story about citizens complaining about a sewage being run through their community and waterways. The simulation prompts learners to pay attention to and inspect local real world events. Very few learning simulations provide that scope, context, and relevance for learning.

    There is a substantial amount of mathematics and science in SimCity.  The maths is introduced through the city’s budget mechanism for taxes, expenses, revenues, gifts, and bond projects.  It does not take long to bankrupt your growing city if you are not paying attention to your budget, residents, and businesses.  There is additional mathematics for measurement and data by using the cities various data layers to track everything from pollution and crime to sick residents and unschooled children. Geometry is incorporated in the very design of your city and its various zones. If you build roads too close together, you will lose your ability to establish residents or commercial businesses (read tax revenue). Students also deal with fractions on a human scale. As mayor, you have to decide how much of your population will be “blue collar,” middle income, and affluent class. Those decisions are highly dependent on the industries, education, and specialisations you choose for the city.

    The science of SimCity is equally clever. Decisions on how to provide basic services of power, water, sewage, and garbage all have a consequence on the environment. You can place wind turbines to power a small city and reduce air pollution. However, that decision will not hold as the limited amount of real estate for your city and the increasing density of residents, businesses, and industries demand more power. Fossil fuels provide more energy for large cities, but with a cost on the environment and health of your residents.

    Health issues have multiple layers from sick Sims to injured Sims. Sickness brought about through low education, poor sanitation, and improper waste disposal can cause a riot at City Hall. There are so many cross-cutting concepts taught through the simulation that it really pushes the boundaries of learning.

    The final education perspective of SimCity is the collaborative nature of the game. Mayors do not work in isolation. They can invite and partner with other city mayors from the SimCity universe to collaborate on services, specialisations, and even do great works together. Reimagine what project-based learning could be for your students. This is truly a novel way to approach collaborative learning and work in our schools.

    College, Career, and Citizen Ready
    As we prepare our young citizens for the modern world, SimCity provides a great canvas for provocative discussions, reflections on decisions-making, and learning the differences between how our real world works versus the simulations. The approach to the content provides multiple levels of college and career readiness. Moreover, the context provides a deep awareness for citizenship development. Kudos to the team at Maxis from bringing an award-winning franchise to such a modern scale and deep engagement.

    I am not the only one excited about learning through simulation with SimCity. EA and Glasslabs have announced a project to bring SimCityEDU to schools aligned with curriculum, tools, and the Common Core State Standards. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, SimCityEDU may be heading to your schools very soon. You can learn more at http://www.simcityedu.org/.

    In the meantime, you can download a copy of the game from SimCity.com. Or you can go old school like I did and buy a copy from your local retailer (at least some of that money will support your local schools.)  But all of this brings me to my last and very important point.

    An Uncompromising Choice for Learning
    SimCity requires a real PC. It does not run on an iPad. It does not run on an Android tablet. It will not run on a Chromebook or in a web browser. Educators and parents should be mindful that the most immersive experiences continue to be delivered on the most flexible platform there is—the PC.

    The EA recommended experience is a Windows PC with an Intel Core i5 or faster processor and preferably a dedicated graphics card. Why is this important? Schools are making tradeoffs between modern technology, support resources, raises, benefits, and people every day. This is one of those times where you realise that you do not have to compromise or splurge to provide the best for your student’s learning.

    Modern Windows 8 devices provide all the power and performance of a PC in whatever form you want to experience it: tablet, slate, notebook, all-in-one desktop, virtualized desktop, 80” interactive touchscreen, or workstation class device. You choose.

    Choose wisely your honor.

  • FE blog

    Using tablets in education: learn about the key features of Windows 8

    Originally posted by Carlos I. James Gutierrez


    With the upcoming launch of Microsoft’s Surface Pro across 21 markets, customers can more easily edit, collaborate, and get things done from one device that they use from home, the office, and while on the road. As these new computing scenarios bring potential changes to the workplace through BYOD and user mobility, now is a great time to learn about the key Windows 8 features for IT professionals.

    Get started with 4 MVA courses that provide you with a comprehensive and deep understanding of the Windows 8 OS:

    Exploring Windows 8: Covers key topics for IT Pro’s such as Bit-Locker, client Hyper-V, and Managing Client Access for the Windows Store.

    Planning and Preparing for Windows 8: Learn how to inventory apps and hardware, assess compatibility, and conduct a successful pilot deployment of Windows 8.

    Deploying Windows 8: Use proven best practices and the free tools in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit to streamline your deployment in any size organization.

    Operating & Managing a Secure Windows 8 Environment: Explore security and privacy options using technologies like AppLocker, BitLocker, and Windows Firewall.

    Windows 8 delivers experiences users want, offers new possibilities for mobile productivity, and provides IT with a more secure, easy-to-manage infrastructure.

  • FE blog

    Windows 8 in education: Student Demos - Elizabeth


    In the 3rd in our series of Windows 8 student demo videos, Elizabeth shares some insight into how she carries out research using the unique characteristics of Windows 8.

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