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

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Recent Education case studies


    I was reading in the paper this week that the Government are considering mandating that all schools make pupil's timetables, assessment results and attendance information available to parents and carers online. Now, I know that some schools are doing that, but it's certainly not the majority, and there is a long way to go before that becomes available to every parent. Many schools are doing it using the Learning Gateway, a group of our technologies which enable ICT systems to talk to each other, share data, and most importantly present it to the user securely - whether that user is a teacher, student or parent.

    One of the easiest ways to see what is possible is to look at what other schools have done. We publish lots of 'case studies' on our worldwide website, and I had a quick look to see how many examples are there for UK Education insititutions, using SharePoint (the core technology that makes Learning Gateway possible)

    The Microsoft Worldwide Case Studies database is where all of our written case studies are stored - they are available to view online, or download in Word format. Currently, there are 93 UK Education case studies in the database, and 35 of them have been produced in the last 12 months. It is pretty easy to search - here's some subsets of the total base of case studies

    For Learning Gateway, one of the best is the Shireland Language College:

    • “Our Learning Gateway is one of the few examples of a manageable extended school delivery model anywhere in the country. Individual schools can access shared ‘portal-level sites’ and improve partnerships with external bodies such as the Careers Service and Fire Brigade. Key personnel from these organisations can then log in, look after their own sites, and communicate with schools and families more effectively.
      Sir Mark Grundy, Head Teacher, Shireland Language College

    In November 2006, talking at the Specialist Schools Conference in Birmingham, Tony Blair described Shireland’s Learning Gateway as “one of the most remarkable ICT systems in the country.”


    Video: Shireland Learning Gateway
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Building Schools for the Future - what does "Transformed Education" look like?


    One of the goals of the Government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme is to transform education. But when the Education Select Committee report was published earlier this month, one of their observations was that there is no common vision about what 'transformed education' looks like:

    "The crucial question what do we want education to be in the 21st century? A clear statement of the national ambitions for 21st century education could help to provide guidance and challenge to the local decision-making process."

    And they went on to say that too often BSF projects are rushed through without sufficient consultation with head teachers and staff in schools:

    "There is a very strong argument that the initial ‘visioning’ phase should be lengthened"

    All of which reminded me to write a little about some of the work that we have been doing in the BSF programme, working with local authorities, head teachers and other stakeholders in the education system. We have been working to help create tools that can be used to build a common vision of 'transformed education' - providing models for groups to create a vision of the future - and guidance for what may be possible in the future. I could write at length about it - but the BSF Guides we've created run to hundreds of pages, but much more compelling is the BSF Showcase.

    The Microsoft BSF Showcase

    We created this to help stimulate a discussion on what learning in the future may look like. When the curriculum is personalised to each learner. Where age isn't the strongest deciding factor on what a student learns next. And where "Subjects" aren't the dividing lines we put into the curriculum. And also, where we look at how students use technology outside of the classroom, and see how it integrates within the educational context. (Anybody with a teenager will know what I mean there. My children come straight home from school and start Messenger, video calls, go into online web communities, and do all of this whilst doing their homework. And although mine haven't reached the stage yet, I have seen how it rapidly becomes the model by which they collaborate and communicate to get their homework done.)

    So the BSF Showcase wraps all these technologies together with a new learning style, and says "What If....?"

    The first video to watch is only 2 minutes long, and it gives you a brief look at the Showcase, and an idea of the reaction of students, seeing it for the first time.

    Video: BSF Showcase Trailer


     And the second video, is a much longer guided tour through the BSF Showcase. It is 20 minutes long, but hopefully the video above has given you the appetite to watch it all! 

    Video: Microsoft UK's Building Schools for the Future Showcase

    You can download these videos from our main UK Education website, as well as read more about our work on BSF.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Getting students and staff started with Office 2007 - some handy help


    Even amongst those schools who are moving to Office 2007 this summer, one common fear is whether students/teachers will be able to quickly transition to the new Fluent interface in Office 2007. (From talking to schools that have already made the move, this wasn't an issue, and any new software actually re-engages students in a process of discovery that they look forward too). If you want more help, then I've just come across these brilliant add-ins for Office 2007. Basically, it adds a new menu bar to your tab called "Getting Started".


    This is the tab for Word 2007, but there's also ones for Excel and PowerPoint 2007. And it adds on an interactive guide to find commands, links to online training, video demonstrations for overviews and getting started, and even links to the online discussion forums. If you're installing this summer, then perhaps this is another thing you can do to help your staff and students to get started quickly on the first day of term...

    Download the new tabs using the links below:

    Word 2007 Add-in: Get Started Tab

    Excel 2007 Add-in: Get Started Tab

    PowerPoint 2007 Add-in: Get Started Tab

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Child online safety – how Warwickshire upgraded their services


     Internet security is high on Local Authority agendas, especially highlighted since the government launched a major e-safety initiative designed to protect children online in 2006.

     Following enhanced government guidance to all local authorities in 2006, Warwickshire County Council decided that they needed to increase their Internet monitoring and filtering capabilities to improve security and to meet new accreditation standards for Internet filtering and monitoring. “We needed a technology solution that would help us implement an effective Internet child-safety system in the schools,” says Chris Page, Technical Development Manager, ICT Development Service (ICTDS). “For example, if a child was in an online chat room and was being targeted by a child predator, an Internet filter would not stop that. We needed an easy-to-monitor system to work alongside filtering to detect and report these types of events. We didn’t have anything in place to do that.”

    What they wanted was user authentication to enable logging; category-based URL filtering to block inappropriate and unknown sites; and client-based monitoring to capture the creation and display of inappropriate content in any application. With a new security solution, based on ISA Server 2006, they have simplified deployment and centralised their IT security management capabilities. The solution also reduces costs for the Local Authority and provides virtual private networking capabilities, as well as solid integration with its existing IT infrastructure. 

    There's a lot more to read about in the case study, which contains useful information whether you're thinking at a local authority level, regional broadband level or just as an individual school.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Would You Like To Know More About Unified Communications?



    Exchange Tour Unplugged 2007

    09:30 – 16:30

    Monday 17th September
    Microsoft Campus, Reading

     This isn't for everybody, but if you are involved with running the ICT in a big or multi-site secondary school, the technologies underlying this could help you to imagine a completely different way of enabling communications between staff, and potentially using Windows Mobile devices to link back to your communications as well as your IT systems. I've seen some schools that have already implemented systems like this - and it has changed that way that staff are able to work together and collaborate - and made life easier for the office team too! 

    This is your opportunity to get the inside scoop on Exchange Server 2007,  Office Communications Server 2007 and the rest of the Unified Communications platform.

    Microsoft UK’s Unified Communications (UC) specialists will all be there to guide you through Exchange Server 2007, Office Communications Server 2007,  Mobility and the rest of the Unified Communications stack. You’ll learn, first-hand, how Exchange 2007 has changed in response to customer feedback,  how to migrate from your existing solution to a unified communications solution and how Office Communications Server 2007 can help your users communicate more effectively.

    Sessions will include:

    • Exchange Server 2007 including SP1, an architectural overview and details on how it integrates into the rest of the UC suite.
    • Real world experience from a customer.
    • How to migrate from your existing platform to a new UC platform.  It’s not just ‘move mailbox’.  This section will cover other essential parts of migration including storage, public folders and hardware.
    • How email and voicemail are coming together in Exchange 2007 in Unified Messaging. Also covered in this section is how Outlook Voice Access give can give you another way in which to interact with your inbox.
    • Mobility and how Windows Mobile,  Exchange 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007 provide secure and scalable communications such as email, calendaring, presence and IM across an array of mobile devices.
    • Office Communications Server 2007. Communication can be seen, typed or heard.  Hear about the latest entrant into the Unified Communications stack and how it will change the way in which people will communicate forever.

    This is a brilliant opportunity to hear about the technologies that make up the Unified Communications stack and shouldn’t be missed.

    Register to attend this free event at our main campus in Reading

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Online file storage - Windows Live SkyDrive


    500MB of free online storage that can be private, shared or public.

    This has been coming for a little while, and then when it arrived, it was initially only for users in the US. But now, it has been activated for customers in the UK. And this has some really useful applications in education. SkyDrive gives users 500MB of free online file storage - password protected by their Windows Live ID. And they can be stored in private, shared or public folders - allowing you to decide who has access to each folder.

    What could you do with it? Well, things like...

    • Backup up important files, using personal folders.
    • Access files from any PC with Internet access - making it easy to move files between home and school - for you or your students.
    • Work on a project with colleagues or amongst students, using shared folders.
    • Publish files, so that students can read them, but control their access so that they cannot add files or delete them - useful for homework assignments?

    Some of the features added to this Beta version are:

    • An upgraded look and feel – new graphics to go along with your new features!
    • “Also on SkyDrive” – easily get back to the SkyDrives you’ve recently visited
    • You can see thumbnails of your image files
    • Drag and drop your files right onto your SkyDrive, using the handy applet
    • Embed your stuff anywhere – with just a few clicks, post your files and folders anywhere you can post html

    Sign up for your personal SkyDrive here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft Education Content and Publishing Futures Conference - September 2007


    Did You Know...                                                                                              .

    • Currently 3000 new books are published every day ... half of a three year degree is obsolete before the course is completed
    • 40 exabytes of new information will be created this year ... more than the previous 5000 years
    • Technical information is doubling year on year ... and predicted to be doubling every 72 hours by 2010

    As a nation, we’re on a journey to realise the vision of personalised learning for every pupil where each child has all the resources they need, where ever they chose to access them.  The conference is an opportunity for commercial content publishers to join us to explore the future of academic content publishing, as education embraces personalised learning, virtualisation and mobile computing.

    Thursday 27th of September in Central London.

    · What’s changing in educational content publishing and why?

    · How will this change your business model?

    · What hope does technology hold for a brave new future?

    · Leading edge case study

    If you're a commercial content publisher, then to register click here or call 0870 166 6680, Ref: 8200

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Learning Gateway and Accessibility


    There's already quite a lot that you can do with Learning Gateway, and explicitly the SharePoint components, to increase accessibility to users, across devices. And this news item I read promises more:

    Shared-source software kit will advance the accessibility of SharePoint-based solutions for people with disabilities

    July 31, 2007 — HiSoftware , a leading provider of software, services and managed operation solutions that monitor and optimize Web content governance, quality and regulatory compliance, today announced an agreement with Microsoft to develop the Accessibility Kit for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. The kit will provide templates, master pages, controls and Web parts along with technical documentation to advance MOSS accessibility for people with disabilities. All of the source code will be provided via the Microsoft Permissive License and will be available on CodePlex ( later this year for customers and other Microsoft partners to download, reuse and extend.

    The Accessibility Kit for Office SharePoint Server will include site templates, Web parts, documentation, instruction and tutorials enabling partners and customers to develop Web sites that conform to the guidelines set out in the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The solution will also provide accessibility updates for Office SharePoint Server templates and Web parts for Web publishing, corporate intranet, team and project collaboration sites and more. This allows users to create a site and replace “out-of-the-box” MOSS components with accessibility kit templates, reusable Web content and Web parts.

    As part of the testing for the kit, HiSoftware will work with Microsoft, key stakeholders and early adopters to maximize value and functionality, including organizations in the UK and worldwide.

    Accessibility Community for Office SharePoint Server
    As part of this initiative HiSoftware will provide an extensible platform with an open API and SDK, on which other Microsoft partners can build, collaborate and extend. HiSoftware will lead a partner and customer community to share thoughts, solutions and strategies for enhancing usability and accessibility across MOSS deployments.

    There aren't any more details available yet, other than what's in the HiSoftware press release, but look out for the first releases in the autumn! And when I know more, I'll post it here.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How do your governors like it when you ask for more money for IT?

    Yes, I thought so!

    One of the frustrations for those leading ICT developments in schools is the reaction that they get every time that they need to invest more in their ICT. It is sometimes frustrating to have to convince others that keeping up-to-date with technology is important.

    One of the ways to manage this is to license your software resources intelligently. With Microsoft's Academic licensing schemes, you can choose to buy a perpetual licence, or an annual subscription licence.

    • With the Perpetual option you pay a one-off fee and receive a licence to use a specific version of the software forever. The recommended scheme for education is the Select Licence, which offers the largest savings in return for an agreed volume of licence purchases. (Although there are a minimum number of licences, even small schools can qualify for the Select Licence by purchasing through their local authority agreement.) So if you bought Office 2003 using this scheme, you'll always have a licence to run that specific version. But when a new version comes out, you need to buy a new licence for the new version.
    • With the Subscription option you pay a lower annual fee and receive an annual licence to run software, with the right to upgrade to new releases. At the end of each subscription period, you can either renew, pay to convert your licences to perpetual ones, or stop using the software. So if you subscribed last year, you were licensed then for Office 2003, and were automatically licensed to upgrade to Office 2007 with no additional cost as soon as it was released.

    (Now, the downside of this is that with the subscription, you have to continue paying your subscription or either stop using the software or pay to convert the licences to perpetual ones, but on the upside you pay a lower annual cost, and can upgrade automatically. You can compare the pro's and con's on this web page. )

    What made me think about this all again is listening to Alan Richards at Long Eaton School talk in this video, where he says "..and I don't have to go back to governors to every time Microsoft release a new product.". It's a bit like funding the school library - if your school subscribes to a county library service to supplement your own stock, it's regarded as a basic service, and paid every year. Nobody ever goes back and says "What, you want more books this year?". Instead the library service turn over the stock in conjunction with the librarian, and you pay an annual subscription. Of course, if you don't pay, you lose your books. But nobody ever debates the cost of the service, because it's in the budget on day one.

    Whereas, when you come along asking for more ICT money every year....the story can be quite different.

    Around a third secondary use subscription schemes for their software, so perhaps it's something to consider? There's lots more info on our website to help decide, and understand the implications.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Out in the blogosphere...good education blogs


    Okay, like "mashup", "blogosphere" is another one of those made up words. So I promise to return to the English language when everybody gets back to school in September. But for the moment, I reckon it's just me and you reading this - and you're likely to be a network manager in during the summer holidays, upgrading networks and doing all of those other projects that can't be done while the staff and pupils are in. Until then, geek-speak will reign!

    I thought I'd share with you a few of the newer blogs that I've come across that make interesting reading.

    Firstly there's Alan Richard's blog, from Long Eaton School. Alan is a network-manager extraordinaire, in that he seems to calmly juggle significant ICT projects in his school, and is happily sharing his experiences. His latest projects include Windows Vista & Office 2007 migrations, SharePoint 2007 and Exchange 2007.

    Then Free the Teacher, by Dughall McCormick from Kirklees local authority, is all about mobile devices in education.

    Chris Pratley's blog is all about OneNote - one of the least well-known programs in the Office suite, but one of the most interesting for education.

    For technical readers, there's Michael Greene's blog - a colleague of mine over in the US who writes about new Microsoft products, and relates them to education.

    And finally, with no education content at all, but great for keeping current with mobile happenings, then there's nothing better than Jason Langridge's blog. He's the Microsoft man that gets to play with all the newest gadgets, and has his ear very close to the ground. So often, you'll read it on Jason's blog first. Be prepared for gadget envy!

    And if anybody has any more, let me know and I'll add them to this article...

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