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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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  • FE blog

    Equip your students with the tools and skills they need for Microsoft Certifications


    Great new flyer from our friends in the IT Academy team on how a combination of Student Advantage, IT Academy Training and Certification can help provide the tools, training and support learners need to secure a job.

    To learn more, view or download the full flyer below:

  • FE blog

    Windows Azure in Education: Target Tracker Case Study


    Part of Essex County Council, Target Tracker develops software for schools. Its Primary Target Tracker application—which provides information to support learning—ran on Microsoft Excel. To stay ahead of its competitors, Target Tracker rebuilt the solution using SQL Database in Windows Azure. The firm now has an application that scales to meet the needs of thousands of schools in England and overseas.


    To learn more about their journey to Windows Azure and the benefits Target Tracker have enjoyed since making the move, view or download the full case study below.

  • FE blog

    ICT Professional Apprenticeship Scheme Workshops




        Places are limited so please make sure to book your place soon!

  • FE blog

    The launch of the UK Hour of Code: Microsoft support teaching students to code


    Guest blog post by Rebecca Moore, Development and Platform Evangelism, Microsoft

    Article Image

    This week's Hour of Code is an initiative that asks schools, teachers and parents across the country to help introduce students to computer programming. It fits in the long term mission of Code.org, giving every student the opportunity to learn computer science, the belief that every 21st century child can benefit from learning this foundational field. To coincide with the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, Code.org's launch of the UK Hour of Code was at Westminster City School on Monday 3rd March. Microsoft, being an established partner and advocate of coding in the UK, were there to support the event.

    Hour of Code highlights that anyone can learn programming. It aims to demystify computer science for students across the country by taking them through introductory tutorials that can be completed online, on a smartphone or even unplugged. Code.org offers online tutorials authorised by numerous educational groups and is challenging teachers, parents and even employers to encourage students of all ages to engage during Computer Science Education Week. Code.org's own tutorial has been created in collaboration with engineers from Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook. Designed as a game that teaches basic coding principles, it will feature guest lectures by technologists including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and artwork from games like "Angry Birds" and "Plants vs. Zombies".

    Article Image

    Children at the Westminster City School launch were enthused by various coding activities on the day. Activities included 'The Hour of Code live', 'The Kodu Game Lab', 'Computing without computers' and 'The Great British Code Off'. Michel Van der Bel, Managing Director of Microsoft UK spoke on the importance of the Hour of Code and children getting excited about coding, as well as a future career in IT. He highlighted the importance of understanding computers at work for the future generation. He identified the importance of bridging the gap between the 1.3 million people employed in the IT industry and those vacancies still available, with people not trained to fill them. Avid Larizadeh, Hour of Code, also presented. Avid has background in programming and engineering, and runs her own fashion business - leading both the development team as well as the creative direction of the site. The idea that you can combine both engineering and creative skills is what Avid hopes will inspire both boys and girls to get involved in coding.

    Microsoft has been an enthusiastic supporter of the move the change the IT curriculum to a Computer Science one for many years. Microsoft have two ambitions when it comes to supporting the education community and computer science: that every school leaver sound be computationally literate, and that 80% of all jobs that require computer science knowledge should be able to be filled by a UK graduate. This includes careers in finance, engineering, bio-chemistry, pharmaceuticals, advertising, aerospace, retail. Microsoft want to help as many teachers as possible get ready for the new curriculum, and see enhanced life opportunities for young people in the UK.

    Josh Naylor is a Computer Science student at The University of Hull. "Yesterday I was fortunate to be involved with the UK launch of Hour of Code. Many know that programming is a tough and challenging task to do well. Demonstrating the concept to parents, teachers and students in a fun introduction across the nation will hopefully lead to an inspired young generation of students going into skilled STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses and eventually jobs.

    "I was involved in The Great British Code Off, demonstrating Project Spark. 13 year old developer Ross Lowe and I were setup attached to two large screens in a one hour 'code off'. We were invited up on stage to pick a theme each out of an envelope. Ross selected "Retrieve the treasure" and I selected "Escape the evil". We started to code our games live on Project Spark, as attendees wandered round and watched what we were doing. I was very pessimistic until the last five minutes, thinking I had set myself too large a task though I managed to pull something playable together.

    Article Image

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    "The judges were three Microsoft employees including Gary Carr, of Lionhead Studios. I was fortunate to be crowned winner, though it was a very tight call. Ross and I showed young students the games we had created, and a basic walk through of how we had made them. The students were very excited by our games, it had opened their eyes to what can be achieved with knowledge of computing. The balance is making sure the idea of coding is attractive and accessible, without dumbing down a technical concept too much. I hope on the day this is what we managed to achieve.

    You can find about more on how you can be involved in the UK Code.org. Also find out more about Microsoft tools for developers for all ages.

  • FE blog

    Tablet Pecking Orders


    Blog post written by Education writer, Gerald Haigh

    I’ve just been reading a great blog post by Jaye Richards-Hill ( @JayeRHill ) on her ‘Minimanifesto’ blog, entitled ‘Tablet Pecking Orders ..but it’s now a battle of the Ecosystems’,


    My attention was drawn to it by a retweet from Microsoft Schools Business Manager Michael Jones ( @Mike_JonesEDU ) who, very evidently, also saw its significance.

    bcb19f6e-b4a6-4e87-b92b-eb8a1fd38357_21What Jaye argues in her post is that the received wisdom about a hierarchy of tablets – iPad setting the pace, android next and Windows coming up behind -- is simplistic and inadequate.

    On apps, for example, there’s a common belief that Apple has the good, well established ones, android apps are everywhere in large numbers and Windows apps are still thin on the ground.

    ‘But does this longevity and volume really equate to choice?’ she writes,

    ‘A closer look at some of the increasing number of Windows apps reveals some real quality products, especially when coupled with some of the Windows 8 system features. This is where the Windows ecosystem, can really start to compete.’

    And that understanding of the significance of the ecosystem is always the Eliza Doolittle, ‘By George she’s got it’ moment for educators. The ecosystem is what Windows 8 is all about – the interoperability of multiple applications and devices to produce a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Jaye Richards-Hill goes on to urge that schools must take independent advice on their tablet policies –

    ‘And increasingly I’m finding that the new Windows 8 tablets are a real option that schools should seriously consider…’

    She questions, as so many have, the wisdom of rushing to equip schools with iPads.

    ‘Whilst they are really great pieces of IT kit, going down the iPad route does leave you very isolated and locked into a particular environment.

    By contrast, she points out, the Windows 8 mobile platform offers interoperability with almost everything an education institution needs to do.

    There’s much more in the blog. It’s a good, well balanced, highly knowledgeable read, that deserves a wide audience, and its importance lies in the fact that it comes from a highly experienced educator – teacher, consultant, Scottish Government adviser – with a strong track record in educational technology. Most importantly, she has no particular built-in bias towards Apple, Android or Windows

    ‘I have no particular affinity or real tie to any of the three platforms,’ she writes, and indeed you will find unbiased approval of many technologies in her various posts.

    For myself, the more contact I have with Microsoft, the more I believe they have played a long and wise game with Windows 8, and Windows 8 devices – facing down those early reactions that really amounted to, ‘But it’s not an iPad’, and plugging away at the positives, most notably the interoperability features, and their huge advantage for schools and children’s learning. Now, increasingly, with a broad choice of Windows 8 devices, and deeper understanding of the software, there’s better understanding that, as Jaye writes,

    ‘It’s not just about the apps – it’s about how they actually get used’.

  • FE blog

    Free Training & Certification Guide App for Microsoft Courses & Certifications


    We are pleased to announce that we have just released a new Training & Certification Guide app in the Windows store that is a great tool for both educators and students wanting to look into route maps when it comes to Microsoft technical courses and certifications.

    The Microsoft Training and Certification Guide provides a quick, comprehensive view of our training and certification landscape, and covers all of the training requisites and upgrade paths that lead to modern Microsoft Certifications. Microsoft training helps to improve your technical skills while certification helps further your career by proving your technical knowledge. Use this guide to help you achieve your IT goals.

    imageAlso featuring an interactive chart of our technical certifications mapped by courseware and exam. Clicking on the ‘subway map’ takes you to more information on the different portfolios—details about the training, certifications, etc. Clicking further will then take you to /learning.

    A breakdown of keyword guidance is also included to map keywords to our certifications. The app also includes a ‘view as PDF’ option should users need to print pages.

    To download the free app or simply find out more, follow this link:


  • FE blog

    DreamSpark: Educators and Students we want your feedback…


    Are you an Educator, Head of IT or IT Administrator

    This review of DreamSpark Premium will assist Microsoft in understanding your institutional use of applications, while also assessing the effectiveness and impact it is having on developing student skills and attainment. Most importantly, we would like to understand how effective access to DreamSpark has been in supporting coursework and test results of your students. You also have a chance to let us know about any particularly positive or negative experiences you have witnessed so we can ensure that in the future we are delivering an even better service.

    Just click here (http://dreamspark-edu.questionpro.com) to complete the online questionnaire.


    Are you at school, college or University? Help Microsoft understand and support your use of DreamSpark

    We need to know that you value DreamSpark to be able to win the battle to continue to deliver it for free – help us help the next generation of students.

    We are inviting students to complete a short survey to help us better understand how the DreamSpark programme is supporting your skills development, learning outcomes and career potential. We would like to understand what range of applications and tools have been of use to you, how often you use them and how effective they have been in supporting your skills development. Most importantly, we would like to understand how effective access to DreamSpark has been in supporting your coursework and test results. You also have a chance to let us know about any particularly positive or negative experiences you have had so we can ensure that in the future we are delivering an even better service.

    Win a XBOX ONE

    prev_XboxOne_Consle_Sensr_controllr_F_TransBG_RGB_2013We are only looking for a few minutes of your time and all responses remain anonymous. Just to give you a little more of an incentive to help us gather this data we are offering one lucky student an Xbox One. Just click here (http://dreamspark2014.questionpro.com) to complete the online questionnaire.

    Public customer service email: DreamSparkSupport-EM@eu.subservices.com

    All EMEA Service Center details: https://www.dreamspark.com/Support/RSC.aspx#Europe

    For further information on Microsoft DreamSpark, please visit our website:


  • FE blog

    Window Store apps A deployment guide for education (Windows 8.1 Update)


    The Windows 8.1 operating system builds on the feature and capabilities in Windows 8. One prominent feature is the Windows Store apps. Educational institutions can purchase or create apps for Windows 8.1 that use the new Windows user interface (UI).

    But Windows Store apps can raise certain questions:

    • What is the best way to deploy Windows Store apps in an educational environment?
    • Do all the apps need to come from the Windows Store?
    • Can you use existing deployment technologies and processes to deploy them?
    • What role does the Windows Store play in the app deployment process?

    This guide offers several examples of app deployment strategies and considerations when selecting among them. It is written for IT pros, school administrators, teachers, and other faculty who are responsible for deploying Windows Store apps on institution-owned or personally owned devices.

    The full guide can be viewed/downloaded below:

  • FE blog

    Can Educators get Yammer for Free?


    Blog Repost, Originally Posted on Ray Fleming’s Education Blog

    imageWe announced recently that Yammer for education customers will be free of charge from 1st April 2014, through your Office 365 for Education subscription (which is also free). Which means that educational institutions are able to have a communication system (through Office 365’s email and Lync service), collaboration and document storage (through Office 365’s SharePoint and OneDrive), and secure social networking and collaboration (through Yammer) – all of which is free.

    The beauty of Yammer is that it can be fully integrated into your user database – so you create a private place for just your users to collaborate and mingle, and can enable and disable users easily. And then within Yammer you can create public and private groups – so staff can have private planning and discussion areas that others can’t access. Or groups of students can be placed into individual communities, for classes, subjects, sports and social groups etc. It also has a range of apps for mobile devices, so your users can access it on the go from their iPhone, Windows Phone, Android phones etc

    Yammer for Education

    There has always been a basic free version of Yammer that users can sign up to individually, and create communities and groups, and some education users in Australia have already been using that for some time (some of them with hundreds or thousands of users). But when you want to have organisational control over your users, then in the past you would have had to paid for the full Yammer Enterprise version. But from 1st April, that’s the version that education customers can get free.

    The major difference between Yammer and other social networking systems is that your Yammer network is private, and controlled by you. You don’t have individual teachers uploading lists of students to third-party websites, and managing them outside of your existing systems. Instead, your IT team have full control over your users in the same way that they do for other systems in your school, TAFE or university. Adding and deleting/disabling users is all done centrally. And you have control and visibility of the content and conversations that are happening.

    Yammer logo

    Some of the key features of Yammer that are relevant for education customers are:

    • Create and participate in groups – you can define groups and assign members, or your users can set up their own groups and invite members.
    • Announcements – for everybody, or just specific groups. This can be used to send out important updates that everybody in a group needs (eg a teacher might use an announcement to send out a curriculum assignment)
    • Praise – users can give and receive recognition, and accomplishments and badges appear on profiles
    • Interact with other users – just like other social networks, you can @mention people, see who’s online, create private messages and share conversations. Plus users can create quick polls
    • File and note sharing – users can upload Office documents, PDFs etc and share them across their groups. You can have user-uploaded content, as well as ‘Official content’, which appears higher in search results and content directories.
    • IT managers will love the user management features, including Directory Sync, custom branding, and Keyword Monitoring (this allows you to track the use of sensitive keywords, and get instant alerts if they are used on your Yammer network)
    What do I need to do to get Yammer Enterprise once it is available on April 1st?

    Once Yammer Enterprise is available, Office 365 Education tenant administrators will receive an activation link in their Office 365 admin portal. You then visit the Office 365 Admin Portal to begin the self-guided provisioning process. There’s a complete Yammer Activation Guide here.  There are also additional resources on activation and provisioning from Yammer.

    Learn more about Yammer

  • FE blog

    Code.org UK Resources and Tutorials


    To assist educators, students and parents find resources to take them beyond the Hour of Code, the Code.org UK website features some amazing resources, tutorials and lesson plans that can be used to inspire the next generation of developers.


    All these resources are fun, engaging and intuitive and are well suited for those students just taking their first steps. There is also a great selection of resources for those who have a little more experience under their belts.

    A selection of the resources include the following (click on the images to access):




    I am definitely going to be giving some of these a whirl over the weekend! Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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