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  • FE blog

    Welcome to Office 365 for education

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    Starting today, Microsoft Office 365 for education is available, providing the world’s best productivity, communications and collaboration experiences to schools at no cost.

    The cloud and online learning are key trends transforming education today. Office 365 for education delivers a holistic collaboration platform that will change the game,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president of worldwide education, Microsoft. “As schools face ever-tightening budgets and the pressure to innovate, we are offering enterprise quality technology for free that will modernize teaching practices and help prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.”

    At BETT 2011 we announced that Office 365 would be coming to our education customers – an upgrade for the current Live@edu service used by over 22M users worldwide. Over the last few months some of our early adopter customers, including University of Dundee, Westminster University and The Schools Network (formerly SSAT) have been deploying this upgraded service and they’re really happy with the results.

    The university selected Office 365 over Google Apps because it gives us a robust enterprise-class platform for developing a radical new approach to collaboration and communication that goes far beyond email

    Tom Mortimer, Director, Information and Communication Services, University of Dundee

    As of right now education institutions can sign up for the Office 365 for education 30-day trial for free via the Office 365 website.

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    Classrooms Without Boundaries

    Office 365 allows schools to teach from virtually anywhere*, reach more students, teach software skills employers are looking for and provide enterprise-class tools that reduce IT costs.

    Students can engage in ad-hoc instant messaging or video chats to collaborate on class projects in real time, regardless of where they are working or on what device. They can create documents with Office Web Apps that provide the same features as the desktop version of Microsoft Office, share class notes by synchronizing OneNote notebooks, and create digital portfolios.

    Teachers can create curriculum, record lectures and publish them on online class sites in the cloud where students are able to view, open, produce, edit and share their homework. Office 365 provides new ways to extend classroom teaching time and distance learning, tutor students online, and whiteboard ideas.

    Educational institutions and parents will get peace of mind knowing students’ content and personal data are protected and won’t be scanned for advertising purposes, thanks to a rich set of privacy, security and protection capabilities that adhere to federal laws.

    School IT departments can save money and free up more critical time by counting on Microsoft to manage routine tasks such as applying server updates and software upgrades. With the influx of digital content, datacentre demands and lessened and with 25GB mailboxes, people won’t be forced to purge files.

    *An appropriate device, Internet connection, supported browser and/or carrier network connectivity are required. Data charges may apply.

    What should I do now?
    Go over to the Office 365 for education site and sign up for a 30-day trial!

    http://education.office365.com

    Education institutions currently using the Microsoft Live@edu platform will be upgraded to Office 365 beginning this summer.

    Originally posted on UK Education Cloud Blog

  • FE blog

    Windows 8 in Education Launch Day

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    With the launch of Windows 8 now only a day away, the excitement is building as we countdown to the general availability of our new OS. The ads are prepped and ready to go (if you haven't had a chance to see any, check out an example below), our partners have created an inspiring selection of devices to suit every requirement and the orders for Surface are coming in thick and fast. The 26th is going to be an epic day!

    With all this excitement around our consumer launch, though, what about the Windows 8 in education launch? Well, let's just say we are not being left behind…

    Tickets for our launch event at QPR sold out in days and promises to be a brilliant afternoon looking at Windows 8, devices and apps through an edu lens. With prize draws and a rumoured appearance by a QPR first team player, it's going to be quite the afternoon. Walking on the pitch of Loftus Road is going to be a highlight, for sure!

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        In addition to this, our Schools Business Managers, Mark Reynolds and Sean O'Shea, are embarking on a race against the clock tour of SE London to visit 8 schools in a day as part of '8 in a Day'. The goal of '8 in a Day' is to visit 8 schools and share some insight into Windows 8 and how it can make a difference to teaching and learning and help raise attainment.

        Students at the 8 schools have been invited to submit a response to the question 'how would having your own device at home make you more effective at school'. All entries will be entered into a prize to win an RM laptop (huge shout out to RM for supporting this activity!) and we will be sharing the best quotes via the blog at a later date. Really looking forward to see what all the students come up with!

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        With Friday being the start of 1/2 term, it's going to be quite the challenge to get around all 8 schools in a single day as it’s a short school day. You can follow their antics on Twitter via the hashtag #8inaday. Mark and Sean will be tweeting their thoughts, stories and pictures as they go. The full route is shown below. It's going to be tight!

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        To keep up to speed with the Windows 8 in education launch day in general, follow us on Twitter at @microsofteduk. Drop us a note, either in the comments below or via Twitter, and let us know what you are looking forward to most with Windows 8!

      • FE blog

        Virtualisation at South Tyneside College

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        A major FE college radically improves its level of IT support for learning, leadership and administration with the aid of Microsoft technologies, particularly Microsoft Hyper-V for server virtualisation.

        South Tyneside College is a large Further Education institution on two sites in South Shields, on the North East Coast of England. It has about 11,000 students enrolled on a full range of courses. A strong and historic specialisation in Marine studies means that the college draws students from around the world as well as from the local area and across the UK.

         

        College Front

         

        IT at South Tyneside

        In the FE environment, a high quality user experience of IT is essential for success and growth. At South Tyneside College this is recognised by the creative and forward looking deployment of a range of technologies in which Microsoft products strongly feature, including Hyper-V for server virtualisation,

        The importance of that user experience is well demonstrated by the annual student enrolment process. At South Tyneside College between three and four thousand students will enrol between the last week in August and the second week in September.

        Head of IT Services Craig Scott explains how this works.

        ‘All our enrolments are entered into our student records system in real time, with the student sitting in front of a member of staff who is typing in their details, putting them on the correct courses. Obviously during this two to three week period, reliability and performance are key factors. Big delays or technical problems during enrolment can lead to students walking out the door and enrolling at another college.’

        Clearly, then, the very wide range of users – administrators, managers, students, teaching staff and others, within College and beyond – expect, as of right, a level of service that’s fast, unobtrusive, reliable, consistent and responsive to rapidly changing circumstances. Meeting those demands from a new data centre brought on line during the Summer of 2012, Craig Scott and his team deploy and support technologies that include Microsoft Desktop Applications which are in constant use across 2000 desktop and portable device. There are also numerous business applications fundamental to the efficient working of the College, such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Data bases, and proprietary finance systems and student records (including pastoral records).

        Most importantly, however, all the College’s mission-critical business systems are provided within a private cloud, hosted by servers virtualized with Microsoft Hyper-V, chosen after initial experience with both Microsoft technology and VMWare.

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        The South Tyneside College Virtualisation Journey

        The College’s ambitious and innovative move of its IT infrastructure from a large number of single-purpose physical servers to a fully virtualised environment has been achieved over some five years by the College IT team, led by Head of IT Services Craig Scott . The aim, throughout, has been to stay ahead of growing demand and expectations with the best and most cost-effective user experience.

        Craig and the team embarked on virtualisation technology in 2006/7, using two Microsoft Virtual Servers, and one VMWare server. Then a year or so later along came Windows Server 2008, which came with Hyper-V. Craig and his team installed this on a spare server and in the course of exploring its features they found it to be the best option – more efficient, easier to use. The fact that Windows 2008 and Hyper-V included Windows Failover Clustering further confirmed that Microsoft’s Hyper-V route was the one to take. So within six months of the release of Windows Server 2008, Craig had migrated eight existing virtual servers, including Exchange and SQL Server, to a Windows Failover Cluster hosted on two physical servers.

        From that point, there was steady progress, The upgrade in 2009 of Windows Server 2008 to 2008 R2 brought a new version of Hyper-V, which was now installed on a Windows Failover Cluster grown to five servers, to which all existing virtual servers were now migrated. The process continued through the rest of 2009 until by December the failover cluster had expanded again, to seven servers into which fifty physical servers were now migrated.

        The year 2011 brought pressures on funding, and the familiar need to achieve more with less. Reliability and efficiency could not be compromised however, and by now, experience showed that Hyper-V was well up to the task, so Craig and the team decided to establish a second seven-server Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster running Hyper-V. This now gave the College a remarkably robust IT infrastructure. As Craig puts it,

        ‘Once this second cluster was established we effectively replicated a lot of our existing application/front-end servers for business critical systems and used Windows Network Load Balancing to balance the traffic between them on the two clusters.’

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        The Current Picture

        The position now, into the beginning of Academic Year 2012- 2013 is that both of the ‘production’ seven-server Hyper-V clusters are located in the new data centre – a compact installation taking up less room, using less energy than a large number of individual physical servers.

        In addition, underlining the emphasis on reliability, there are also five servers, again running 2008 R2 and Hyper-V, in an auxiliary server room across the campus. These servers host ‘cold’ and ‘warm’ standby virtual machines for all critical systems. As Craig says,

        ‘We’ve been able to facilitate this via Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2012 which we use to back up all the virtual machines from our production clusters and restore them in a dormant state to our standby Hyper-V servers. In the event of a serious issue with one or more of the servers in the primary data centre we can bring the cold or warm standby virtual machine hosted in the auxiliary server room into use within five to ten minutes.’

        It seems that the more experience that Craig and the team have with Microsoft technologies, the more they’re able to put them to work for learners and staff at the college. Their deployment of Microsoft App-V, for example, means that Microsoft desktop applications do not have to be installed on desktops, but are available to users on demand from the virtualised servers via a browser. As a result, any application is available on any PC and when there are short notice room changes, for example, the necessary software for the class is still available. It’s a classic example of ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) running in a private cloud.

        Then there is extensive use of Microsoft System Center as an invaluable platform for managing the network. Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager is used to manage all the virtual machines, and Microsoft System Center Service Manager and System Center Orchestrator are used to streamline the work of the IT Helpdesk. In fact positive experience with System Center has led to its replacing the open source Request Tracker (RT) that had been in use for the helpdesk, enabling some issues to be handled automatically – as Craig says,

        ‘Again helping us to deliver more with less and increase reliability and efficiency.’

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        Reaping the Benefits

         

        1. Reliability

        IT managers know that users want a system there when they want it, instantly, all the time, any time, The record shows that Craig Scott and his team are achieving exactly that for learners and staff at South Tyneside College. In Craig’s words,

        ‘Hyper-v and our private cloud have really helped us to deliver the levels of reliability and performance we need. The combination of Hyper-V, Windows Failover Clusters and Windows Network Load Balancing allowed us to achieve 99.95% average availability on our critical systems and services last academic year (the equivalent of 59 minutes and 57 seconds uptime out of every hour). ‘

        Most would settle for that. But, adds Craig,

        ‘This year we’re aiming for 99.99%.’

        2. Flexibility

        The academic year in a further education college makes widely varying demands on the IT network , not all of them predictable. At the start there’s the enrolment process already described, followed by initial assessments of new students by online testing, and later in the year will come a programme of examinations.

        This is where South Tyneside College’ virtualised IT environment shows its strength because of the ease with which virtualised servers can be moved around to add or reduce capacity in response to demand.

        Without that level of flexibility some activities either just couldn’t happen, or would have to wait for the acquisition of new physical servers.

        ‘There are massive benefits in this,’ says Craig, ‘There’ve been times when we’ve been involved in collaborative projects with other colleges, only to find they’ve stalled because they were waiting for new hardware, where we’ve been able to get a new virtual server up and running in half an hour.’

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        And still to come?

        As the future brings college expansion and growing user expectation, South Tyneside College’s IT team seeks constantly to exploit developing technologies. Plans include –

        Moving mail accounts currently hosted on Google, to Office 365.

        It’s estimated that this will be trialled in the Spring of 2013, with a full migration in July/August.

        Using the cloud for disaster recovery. Craig Scott says, ,

        “We’ve got some funding from the Association of Colleges to look into cloud based disaster recovery solutions, and will evaluate Azure as a possible option”

        Developing the use of SharePoint. Craig Scott says,

        ‘We use SharePoint for our intranet and document management solution, and plan to develop the electronic document management side of this further this academic year’

        In the immediate future (before Christmas 2012) there will be trial deployments of Windows Server 2012 particularly to evaluate the enhancements to hyper-v and other new features such as data duplication. Following on, consideration will be given to upgrading one of the Hyper-V clusters from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows 2012.

        More with less

        Our education blogs have many examples of virtualisation with Hyper-V as a cost saver, because it can radically cut spending on servers, maintenance and energy use. In each case, however, there have also been considerable efficiency gains and it’s clear from the experience at South Tyneside College that in an enterprise-scale installation what matters most isn’t so much cost saving as cost-effectiveness -- the radically improved service to a large and varied population of users.

        ‘More with less’, as Craig Scott puts it.

      • FE blog

        Office 365 for Education case study video

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        Great for academic institutions that are ready to take advantage of the cloud. Office 365 offers free email, instant messaging, group video and voice chat, and online document viewing and editing.

        We’ve got a great video that shows how Office 365 for education has enabled the University of Massachusetts and the National University of Ireland to work together in a curriculum environment.

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        You can view the video here.

      • FE blog

        Day three at ALT-C 2012

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        So the third and last day of ALT-C 2012 came around pretty quickly, what with so much exciting stuff so far from the conference. Day three was no exception, filled with lots of inspiring sessions and conversations.

        The main theatre kicked off with Mark Stubbs, Head of Learning and Research Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University. He was talking about transforming the curriculum, mainstreaming learning technology and improving student experience.

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        Mark has pioneered overhauling the structure of the university to improve student experience. His research found that the university staff were claiming that ‘’we can’t do anything, because we’d have to change everything’’, for example changing one thing might affect many other systems and processes within the institution. The answer to this, so that MMU could improve student experience, was ‘’lets change everything!’’ Which is what Manchester Met have now done, with successful results.

        The University has made many changes including their curriculum, admin systems and setting up a new VLE. Mark talked about how they achieved ‘’wrapping the institution around the learner’’ and gave examples of how students might want their calendar to work in the same way a familiar, personal web-based calendar they already use would, and be able to sync this to personal devices.

        Next up was Sarah Porter from JISC. Sarah talked about the many forthcoming changes that are happening within JISC. She showed us some detailed market research results, which included quotes from existing customers such as ‘’help me deal with real term cuts’’ and ‘’help me to stay ahead of changes in education technology’’.

        Sarah explained that a new, simpler organisational structure will be put in place with new communications, customer support and community engagement. She finished by saying that JISC must strive to be innovative - in everything – to add value to the customer and the community.

        The final keynote at ALT-C 2012 was from Professor Richard Noss from the University of London with a session entitled TEL research – who needs it?

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        TEL stands for Technology Enhanced Research Programme and Richard spoke about the below 12 key themes:

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        One of the things he talked about was how we should exploit the power of devices and explained that devices that support our human behaviors are good for social and cognitive development. Richard told us that we are going to see artificial intelligence research for emotional engagement in teaching and learning.

        After giving lots of great examples (including some complicated mathematical ones!), Richard ended with saying that the reality was that circumstances, rationale and representations for learning have changed – lets confront it.

        We had a really lovely time at our first ALT-C, and met some great people and saw many interesting and innovative speakers. Thanks to ALT for having us, and I hope we’ll be back next year in Nottingham as it sounds like you’ve got some nice stuff planned!

      • FE blog

        Accessibility in Office 365 for education

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        The Microsoft Accessibility team  run a wide range of initiatives, including a global network of Accessibility centres, an online Accessbility tutorial programme for Windows, Office and Office 365, which includes Office 365 for education. They also publish a comprehensive range of general guides for specific types of impairments:

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        Accessibility in Office 365 for education

        The precise details of the accessibility features available to you will depend on which components of Office 365 for education that you use, and which web browsers your users select, but I've summarised the accessibility for the key components and features below:

        • Accessibility features in Office Web Apps
          Office Web Apps provide screen reader support, keyboard accessibility, and high contrast modes. Office Web Apps run in a web browser so you can also use your web browser's accessibility features to improve the readability and accessibility of Office Web Apps, such as screen zoom, colour and font controls.
        • Support for assistive technology products in Word and PowerPoint Web Apps
          The Word Web App and PowerPoint Web App have display modes that make them accessible to screen readers. If you use assistive technologies, such as a screen reader or speech recognition software, you will have the best experience in Office Web Apps if the assistive technology that you use supports WAI-ARIA.
        • Accessibility in Lync Online for instant messaging, calls, and meetings
          Lync provides many accessibility features including keyboard navigation, high contrast, keyboard shortcuts, sharing notification, and screen reader support. You can setup Lync to hear incoming messages read aloud, as well as using keyboard shortcuts to make it easier to navigate and move between active windows
        • Accessibility in SharePoint Online for team document collaboration and websites
          SharePoint Online includes More Accessible Mode, keyboard shortcuts, easy tab navigation, and help for web managers who want to ensure the webpages created are accessible.
        • Accessibility in Exchange Online for email and calendaring
          With Exchange Online, you can listen to email on your desk or mobile phone, manage your calendar, and use familiar keyboard shortcuts when you are managing email and your calendar online.

        There's plenty of detailed information on the Microsoft Accessibility website but perhaps better still, a handy downloadable handout, "Accessibility in Microsoft Office 365" for education, to share with colleagues who are starting to use Office 365 for education.

      • FE blog

        24 schools in 24 hours: Windows 8 Launch around the world in education

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        Originally posted on the Daily Edventures Blog.

        Wow, what an edventure the last 24 hours has been!

        It has been a phenomenal day.

        To celebrate the launch of Windows 8, I’ve just completed 24 events in 24 hours across 24 time zones, visiting with thousands of educators and students via the Microsoft Education Skype-athon (#MicrosoftEducation #Windows8).

        During this whirlwind of activity, I spent time in classrooms, stadiums, and auditoriums across the world – showing off all of the amazing things Windows 8 can do for educators and students, answering great questions and sharing my excitement about how it can make a difference to teaching and learning.

        It was extremely inspiring for me to spend time with these students, our future leaders.  They have a thirst for knowledge and they have genuine enthusiasm about new technology.

        Their energy kept me going for 24 hours (plus Dr. Pepper and Sour Patch kids).

        We started in New Zealand yesterday at Botany Downs Primary School, then over to Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Russia, Europe, an awesome event with 700 students at Eunice High School in South Africa, South America, and the US, finishing up here in Seattle with an in-person event at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart.

        What a fabulous journey.  Some of my favorite tweets @anthonysalcito that kept me going all night long are:

        • #microsofteducation is going to start a revolution and change the world
        • All I want for Christmas is #Windows8!!!#microsofteducation
        • Don’t pilot a device…pilot a pedagogy@anthonysalcito
        • @anthonysalcito emphasizing that education is not about the gadgets but the learning it enables.

        It’s been an amazing 24 hours, and a journey I won’t soon forget.

        I’m so excited to show how Windows 8 is helping bring about a new era of technology both inside and outside of the classroom. Windows 8 has been re-imagined for learning and is optimized to bring learning to life, enabling students to consume, collaborate, and create in new and exciting ways — all with no compromises.

        The personalization and productivity experiences in Windows 8 will bring new life to the classroom and I can’t wait to see what it will do to help re-invent education for the 21st century!

        I want to thank all the phenomenal educators around the world that welcomed me into their schools and shared with me all the innovation they’re creating in their classrooms each day.

        I’ve found some real leaders in education that I hope I can showcase here at http://www.dailyedventures.com in the coming months.

        Now I look forward to getting some sleep!

        Best,

        Anthony
        @AnthonySalcito

      • FE blog

        Evidence that students do better with a PC at home

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        ALL teachers, ALL schools and any parents can use the Get Online @ Home offer so EVERY student can have a PC at home and do better in school and in life!

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        So here’s the evidence that students do better if they have a PC at home:

        •The final evaluation of the Government’s “Home Access” programme showed

        - Students with these PCs at home did better than they were doing before

        - They showed improved ICT skills and confidence

        - There were enhanced opportunity for personal learning – more research and prep Parents’ attitudes towards technology were enhanced

        - The value of a PC at home was summarised by one teacher who said:

        “The majority of students do their best work out of school hours, where they can concentrate for extended periods and follow up any creative ideas they have been inspired by – without a computer at home, students at this level are really missing out. Though they can use the study area before and after school, it's very easy to tell who hasn't got a computer at home because of the quality of the work.”

        •Sutton Trust research on the best way to spend the pupil premium shows that ICT access at home is effective in “closing the gap” and helping kids from poor homes do as well as kids from rich homes

        •The economic case for Digital Inclusion, prepared by the UK’s Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox, shows:

        •Home access to a computer and the internet can improve children’s educational performance: if the 1.6 million children who live in families which do not use the internet got online at home, it could boost their total lifetime earnings by over £10 billion.

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        With Get Online @ Home for students and families receiving certain benefits, the special price is £99 for a desktop and £169 for a laptop. For anyone else, the prices are £149 for a desktop and £199 for a laptop. You can get a further £50 discount if you sign up to broadband internet (£5 per month). You can find out more about the offer at www.getonlineathome.org.

      • FE blog

        How can we make our blog more relevant to your needs?

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        I have a bit of a favour to ask. I want to ensure that the information we share via our blogs is relevant to your needs and continues to add value.

        With this in mind, would you mind taking a minute out to give me an indication of what kind of content you would like to see more of over the coming months by completing the short poll below? We will always look to mix up the content types that we share on the blogs, but if there is a particular type or style of post that you enjoy most, let me know and I can work on ensuring that I post more of this kind of material.

        Thanks in advance, and if there are any specific topics you would like us to address via the blog, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

        Tim

      • FE blog

        BETT 2012 here we come!

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        Happy New Year! Hope you all had a great festive season!

        With the holidays now behind us, its now all go to get ready for BETT 2012. After months of preparation, I can't believe its now only a little over a week to go! More will be revealed over the next week on the blog, but we have some exciting plans for our stand at BETT 2012.

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        Once again, Microsoft staff will be joined by a group of inspiring and motivating teachers on the stand who will be helping us demonstrate how  both our technologies and programmes can make a real difference within your school.

        For those readers of the blog who are familiar with our stand from previous BETT shows, we will be keeping the same format. In addition to a demo stand where will be showcasing a wide range of our technologies and answering your questions, we will also have a theatre stand.

        Within the theatre, we have a packed schedule of punchy 25 minute sessions where you can hear a selection of motivating stories about how teachers are using Microsoft technologies in innovative ways to enhance teaching and learning and improve the efficiency of their schools. Microsoft staff will also be sharing the stage and offering a unique insight into some of our new products, services and programmes. More information on the full schedule of talks can be found on our dedicated Microsoft at BETT 2012 microsite.

        As mentioned previously, we will be sharing more information about the specific products and services we will be showing on the stand over the next few days on the blog, but one of the additions for BETT 2012 that we are particularly excited about is our Gaming in Education showcase zone.

        Within the Gaming in Education showcase zone, we will be demonstrating some of the new Playful Learning titles and also, utilising the impressive K-Team, showing how the Kinect SDK is being used to engage learners in exciting new ways. Be sure to visit the stand to see the Kinect Effect in action for yourself!

        We look forward to welcoming you on the stand at BETT 2012!

        Tim

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