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

  • FE blog

    Crimson Consultants Webinar CRM


    With ever increasing access to the latest trends in technology in the classroom and the lecture theatre, students' and teachers' expectations of the learning experience at College are at an all-time high. In order to meet this expectation, it is becoming essential for Colleges to promote and integrate both commercial capabilities and a business-oriented learning experience into the service they provide, which demands a strong and integrated management information system.

    For most Colleges the initial experience with CRM implementations over recent years has been largely unsuccessful. And yet, as mentioned previously, Colleges are faced with challenges, such as improving the student  experience and becoming more commercially oriented, that a successful CRM system would greatly assist with.


    To help institutions realise this, we are delighted to offer the opportunity to tune into a webinar conducted by CRM experts Craig Abbott, Business Development Manager and Lee Parton, Business Consultant of Crimson Consultants. Craig and Lee generously share their expertise on strategic implementation of CRM in Colleges, why so many fail and how to deploy Microsoft Dynamics CRM effectively in College.

    Crimson Consultants specialises in the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the post-16 education sector and has a number of existing customers within FE and HE.

    To find out more about how to manage your CRM system more effectively and build a strong foundation in your institution, check out a recording of Craig and Lee's webinar here

  • FE blog

    Education Empowered: 'Education shouldn't have to settle for duct tape'


    Showcasing multitasking, the power to create content across all the devices you care about and the ability to run multiple profiles on a single device, the series of Education Empowered videos on the new site share some useful themes that are important to consider when looking at the technology that you are looking to deploy within your institution.

    A selection are shown below. The video featuring Turbo is my personal favourite!

  • FE blog

    Education Empowered: 'Built for education'


    Continuing with the series of Education Empowered themed posts, I just wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the 'Built for Education' related content on the site.


    Whether it's showing how Windows 8 can help make learning more personal or how Office 365 education is helping students to connect with whomever, wherever, the 'Built for Education' pages give a great overview of how a combination of Windows 8, Office 365 education, Apps and Devices are helping to transform learning and built 21st Century Skills.

  • FE blog

    Education Empowered


    We are excited to announce that our new online resource for students, educators and IT professionals, Education Empowered, is now available.


    Education Empowered is packed full of hints, tips and advice around how technology can make the biggest impact within your institution. New stories and tips will be added on a regular basis and the site also includes a useful set of comparisons to help you choose the right service or device for your needs.

    From a personal perspective, my favourite part of the new site are the videos. With great video stories from educators discussing how they are using the Surface Pro, for example, to inspire over 400 learners and some fun content showing some of the unique features of Windows 8 in education (got to love Turbo), we look forward to developing and enhancing the content on the site over the coming weeks and months.

    Be sure to bookmark the site and let us know what you think as we add new content aligned to Windows 8, Office 365 Education and more.

    A couple of the videos mentioned are shown below and we will be posting additional video material from the site to the blog over the next week.

  • FE blog

    Storage Spaces: A simple and elegant backup management solution within Windows 8


    Regardless of whether you are an educator, student or IT professional, backing up and securing your data is key. Within Windows 8, there is now a great new feature, called Storage Spaces, that allows you, via a simple UI, to create, manage and maintain your backup environments. Both internal and external drives can be used with Storage Spaces and the short video below demonstrates how to setup your first Storage Space, create a Storage Pool, create two Storage Spaces, and more.

  • FE blog

    Windows Phone 8 Development for Absolute Beginners (great for educators and students starting out on their Windows Phone 8 app development journey)


    Originally posted on the Windows Phone Developer Blog.

    We initially launched Windows Phone 7 Development for Absolute Beginners back in November 2010 with the intent of providing the completely new developer with information about the basic tools necessary to build a meaningful Windows Phone app. We hadn’t expected it to become one of the most popular series we’ve ever produced on Channel 9! Time and again, we’ve heard from beginners and experienced developers alike, that the series does an amazing job of laying out Windows Phone development in a way that’s useful for developers at many different stages in the learning cycle, not just beginners.


    We’re now excited to announce a complete refresh to this series: Windows Phone 8 Development for Absolute Beginners! Since we created our Windows Phone 7 course, Bob Tabor has published a course on C#, and this freed him up to create a completely new course entirely focused on teaching a very wide set of the key foundational concepts and developer scenarios behind delivering outstanding Windows Phone apps. This means that if you truly are brand new to software development, you really will want to watch Bob’s series on C# Fundamentals before starting our Windows Phone 8 series.

    We spared no expense in revamping this course. You’ll find the full sample code for the series online now on CodePlex at http://aka.ms/absbeginnerdevwp8, and we’ll also be publishing a full 419-page lab manual that documents the entire course with code samples and screenshots. We’ll update this download location when it’s available.

    The new course for Windows Phone 8 gives you all the basic information you need to build and publish outstanding Windows Phone apps. It will walk you through, in detail:

    • Basics of installing and working with Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Phone, and the Windows Phone Emulator
    • XAML layout and events for Windows Phone
    • How to use many of the phone’s built in features and additional open source libraries
    • Building two complete store-worthy apps
    • Localization for your app
    • Using mapping and location in your app
    • Retrieving data from a web service using the new portable class library version of HttpClient
    • Creating a background agent

    We hope you enjoy this great resource! Happy coding!

    Larry Lieberman

    Tweet to @LarryALieberman

  • FE blog

    UK team from University of Exeter - Crowned World Wide Imagine Cup Winners


    Originally posted on the UK Faculty Connection Blog.

    Thursday 11th July was a proud day for the UK and University of Exeter.

    Team Colinked with their app SoundSYNK competed against top teams from over 190 countries, beating everyone to win the coveted prize of $50,000 and the title of ‘Imagine Cup Winner’!

    The Imagine Cup is a Microsoft Global app competition, bringing together some of the world’s brightest student technologists, who all compete to try and win cash prizes, trophies and the title.

    This year there were over 750,000 entries worldwide, with each country choosing one team that will represent them on the worldwide stage, and those finalist teams then battle it out to win the top prize.

    The UK have never won the Imagine cup thus far in its 10 years of existence, and have rarely made it past the first round. But this year it was all about to change…


    On February 15th, four students came together to form what could be a real game changer in the Windows Store space. It all started at an Imagine Cup regional event. Teams from around the country came together, all hoping to create award winning apps in the space of 48 hours. With a trip to St Petersburg, Russia, and $50,000 at stake, competition was stiff, and teams weren’t taking things lightly. It was at this event that SoundSYNK were born.

    Meet team Colinked and their app SoundSYNK all from University of Exeter (from left to right):

    Jonathan Neumann (Programmer), Masters in History, 4th Year (Erasmus Scheme)
    Robert Parker (Programmer), Computer science and Mathematics, 2nd year
    Alex Bochenski (Business), Business and Economics, 2nd year
    Edward Noel (Business), Mechanical engineering, 2nd year

    Colinked with SoundSYNK started the competition not knowing each other, but all had the dream of learning how to create and deploy an app into store and with the more important aspiration of winning big money! But who knew that just by randomly sitting together at the start of a day, would equal the creation of a dream team! Read the team’s story here.


    Their idea is simple, take a bunch of Windows Phones, link them together, and then play content in perfect harmony across the network of devices. You may think you have seen this kind of thing all before, in the case of the new Galaxy S4 ‘Group play’, or Sono, but SoundSYNK’s app will completely change the way you listen to music as a group. 

    The app utilizes Bluetooth creating a mesh-network that has more bandwidth than simply connecting devices over Wifi. By utilizing their backend- technology and Azure, they can stream music to an unlimited number of devices. In reality, what this means is you could be in the middle of nowhere, listening to all the music you want with as many people as you want in perfect harmony. The team put forward a scenario for you:

    ‘Imagine you were at a festival, you have come back to your tent, after watching some amazing acts, and all you want is for the party to continue. You want to blast some music, but your singular phones are just not loud enough. Imagine if you could play the songs you want, from as many devices as you want in perfect synchrony… Welcome to SoundSYNK’


    The team have come up with some revolutionary technology, and they are sure to be the future Zuckerberg’s of the World. Their app is set to come out on all platforms at the end of August, debuting their app on stage at Reading Festival with Basement Jaxx. They will be throwing their music out to the masses all from one phone! Keep your eyes peeled… This app is the next big thing!

  • FE blog

    BETT 13 Opening Ceremony Keynote: Anthony Salcito (VP, Worldwide Public Sector - Education)


    Anthony Salcito’s BETT 13 Opening Ceremony keynote on technology, innovation and education.


  • FE blog

    Interview with Scott Lock, National Zoo App Developer


    Guest post from Charlotte Beckhurst, Hartsbrook E-ACT Free School.


    Scott Lock, Windows 8 NationaL Zoo App developer and co-founder of InfernoRed Technology, shares with us his beginnings and experience of app development, his vision for the future of technology and of course a little bit about himself.

    What inspired you to design you National Zoo?
    My kids, no doubt. They wanted to take the zoo cams with them wherever they wanted to go. We love the zoo and there was no app out on any platform at the time for National Zoo. I am also a big fan of Windows Phone and a user group leader who was talking about it all the time. I thought that I needed to build something substantial in order to have some credibility.

    How did you go about making the National Zoo app?
    The app was built on my own time, usually from 10PM to 1AM most nights. It took a while to get everything working while the tools were still evolving. I was very careful to make sure I read the Terms of Use for Smithsonian since this is not an Official Application of the Smithsonian institution. I also wanted it to be authentic so I used publically available material from Flickr and the Fonz.org website for content, background images, etc. The content is all Smithsonian, all I am doing is making it easier for users of Windows Phone to access Smithsonian’s content.

    Did you have any prior development or coding experience?
    Yes, I’ve been building software for over 17 years. Almost exclusively on the Microsoft platform.

    What language/programming tools did you use to develop National Zoo?
    The Windows Phone and Windows 8 applications are written in XAML and C#. I used Visual Studio 2012 on Windows 7 and 8 to do most of the work. I also built the Windows Phone version using a Samsung Focus.

    Aside from programming, what skills are used to create and launch an app?
    Patience and the ability to work on little sleep. Building an app, like most creative processes, takes over your mind and life. Once you start, all you want to do is work on the app. At least that’s how it was for me. I couldn’t wait until I got home to work on finishing a feature or the next feature.

    Do you have any recommendations/advice for people who want to create their own app?
    My advice is “just build something”. I hear so often from developers “I don’t have an idea” or “my idea has already been done”. Just take whatever your concept is and start. Starting is by far the hardest thing to do. Once you get going though you will find that it’s hard to stop.

    Your vision for the future of technology
    In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in technology today?
    No question – mobile technology. Phones, tablets, and the evolution of the PC. Touch and natural user interfaces are the way our children are growing up with technology. I was at the library with my kids and watched how this little 4 yearr old girl use the library computer. It was an older touch screen monitor but she was a natural. She just walked up to it and naturally moved the fruit from the table to a basket in a counting game. No direction, she just did it. Software should be this easy to use all the time.

    What apps would you recommend to use as educational tools?
    National Zoo of course! Besides that I like to use Khan Academy with my kids. They have done such a great job of putting an incredible amount of knowledge on the web and making it easily digestible by young minds. I also like “Flash Cards” on Windows 8. Great tool for teaching basic math.

    Your Educational Background and Contributions to the World of Education
    What drew you to the field you work in? Why is it important to you?
    I’ve always been interested in computers. I used to copy the program from the back of the manual of an old TI-99A when I was kid to see if I could get the “slot machine” program to run before my older brother came in and kicked me out of his room. I can’t explain why I am addicted to technology and information. I’m easily distracted which makes it a tough field to be in as there are so many distractions to choose from. Its important to me to do things that make a difference. I love the fact that sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes the things I build or help build touch someone’s life in a positive way.

    Can you tell us about someone who has inspired you?
    My wife Laura has inspired me. Call me old fashioned but we have been through some incredibly difficult times that could have ended completely differently for her and for me. She showed me in our mid 20’s that if we could get through the type of things we had to overcome and be stronger after that anything is possible. I know that sounds campy but until you have gone through life changing and threatening situations, you just don’t appreciate how strong we can all be.

    Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in technology? What has changed as a result of your work?
    I’m not sure that what I’ve done has advanced innovation, but I am proud of the fact that I did something that has touched people’s lives. The National Zoo app was built totally and completely because my wife and kids love the zoo. We go often and they wanted to see the zoo cams every day. I didn’t think that when I built the app for this new platform Windows Phone (and eventually Windows 8) that anyone would actually be interested in this app. After I received a few emails thanking me for building it and then users sharing inspiring stories of how they used it I knew it was something special. The thing that has changed for me is that I now see how much of an impact one idea can have on a large number of people. All it takes is just one person to smile or inspired by something we create to make all of the time work it.

    How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
    I had to overcome a “technical” hurdle recently with the web cams. We have implemented a solution using Wowza media server and Windows Azure VM hosting which I think is cool. Pretty soon all the cameras will be viewable again on both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. I’m excited to get that update out soon.

    How did you get into app development?
    I’ve been developing software for over 17 years. I’m pretty sure it started back in that small house in Erie, PA when I was about 10yrs old hacking on that TI-99A. I was the one that always went to the local K-Mart and typed in 10 Print “Scott Lock” followed by 20 GOTO 10.

    scott lock

    Quick Facts About Scott

    • Name: Scott Lock
    • Job title: Co-Founder
    • Organization name: http://www.InfernoRed.com
    • Twitter handle: @scottlock
    • Birthplace: Erie, Pennsylvania, USA
    • Current residence: Ashburn, VA USA
    • Education: Gannon University, Bach. Of Science, Management Info Systems
    • Website I check every day: Cnn.com, Engadget, USAToday.com
    • Person who inspires me most: My Wife Laura
    • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): San Francisco, Intel Dev Conf
    • When was the last time you laughed? Today when my son was dancing at the pool
    • Favorite book: Angels and Demons
    • Favorite music: All music!
    • What is the best advice you have ever received? Don’t worry about the money. Work hard on something that you are passionate about and the money will come.

    To download the National Zoo App, please click here and here

    You can read more about the National Zoo app on the Microsoft Schools Blog.

    Plus of course, don’t forget to check out the National Zoo website!

  • FE blog

    MOOC Learning and Gamification with Microsoft Virtual Academy


    Originally posted on the UK Faculty Connection Blog.


    Microsoft Virtual Academy ‘MVA’ is Microsoft very own MOOC with over 1 million registered user. MVA is a great way to learn & share.

    MVA is a fantastic way to enable you to learn new aspects and train yourself in how to best use Microsoft software and services and gain accreditation and recognition via online learning and gamification.

    Gamification is the process of employing the integration of game design concepts into non-game scenarios to obtain instant feedback of either products or services offered. Microsoft Virtual Academy executes this in the following ways:

    • Software: All types of software is available to Developers and IT Professionals. You can chose what you want to learn to enable your career and gain access to extensive set of Microsoft Products.
    • Collaborate: Compete against your friends, challenge yourself as you learn tools, software and software development languages . Posting your score or sharing your progress over time with others is a great way to learn.
    • Growing your skills: There is a staggered pathway to building up your skills and competences. The initial learning is easy, but then progresses to become harder as your progress. This allows you to start from the beginning and slowly grow to effectively.
    • Points, Badges & Leader boards: There is a built in feedback loop for all those performing the tests, challenges and assessments there are points awarded for every assessment you perform and finish.

    Badges are obtained via a trophy icon that changes colour from Bronze to platinum the more points obtained.


    • Certification: Once a user has evaluated the software, the user receives a certificate of accomplishment in order to show employers you are skilled in the use of this software or tool.
    • Instant feedback: As you as you go through instant feedback on the software or video is available.
    • Fun: Learning is fun and MVA provides a great starting point for getting to grips with Microsoft tools and technologies.
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