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December, 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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December, 2007

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Low Cost laptops for students


    The announcement of the One Laptop per Child scheme a few years ago - the $100 laptop - stimulated a lot of discussion and debate. Now, a few years down the road, it has also led to an enlarged debate about the right level of provision for students. Do they all need a device, in their hand, all of the time? What is the perfect device? What resources & software do they need access to? What connectivity will they need? (I wonder, if we have reached a ratio of one computer for every four students, are we now almost at the "tipping point" - where we no longer have computers sitting in a room waiting for students to arrive, but instead students each carrying their own device, and linking to learning wherever they are).

    I was prompted to think about this again by this story on the BBC News site, reporting on our plans to trial Windows on the XO laptop (as the $100 laptop is now known). The availability of loss cost, hard-disk-less laptops, makes it more feasible that we'll get to 1:1 access, and it is definitely worth considering what your long-term strategy will be when (not if) you can put a laptop into the hands of all of your students. We're waiting for more announcements of low-cost laptops running Windows software - hopefully just around the corner. The magic moment is when we match the computing power students need, with the a size and weight that makes them easily portable.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    ICT Funding Grants 2008-2011


    At the end of last month, Becta added some information on its website about the Harnessing Technology grant for ICT, being allocated to English local authorities and schools from April 2008. It answers some questions you may have, but leaves out one big question - "How much will I get?". Let's see if I can help clarify a little.

    Becta's information on funding

    The two previous Standards Fund grants (one for 'national digital infrastructure for schools' and one for 'e-learning credits') are being replaced next year with a single Harnessing Technology Grant. You can decide how to spend the grant, according to your own priorities, but there is some guidance highlighting:

    • the upgrade of connectivity bandwidths appropriate to particular circumstances and needs, ensuring learners have good access to internet-based services and resources to support their learning at any time while in school
    • the extension of ICT access and ICT-based services
    • the implementation of learning platforms to enable learners to store and access their work and related information and resources on a secure online space, enabling teachers to share resources and view individual progress more easily
    • systems to achieve better use and integration of information to support learning, including assessment, attendance, behaviour and more regular reporting and updates to parents
    • investment in a range of technologies to support classroom-based learning (for example, interactive whiteboards and related tools, and other technologies like data loggers).

    The grant will be distributed by your local authority, although they can keep 25% of it to "ensure that all schools receive the benefits of aggregated purchasing, including the provision of broadband through regional broadband consortia".

    "So, how much money do I get?"

    Well, actually that depends. Over time, the grant will be more focused on areas of social deprivation. There's a formula for allocation, based on pupil numbers, 'multiple deprivation indicator' (MDI) and sparsity - and each year the MDI proportion gets higher whilst the sparsity proportion gets  lower. And in 2009, there's a drop in the proportion of the grant paid on pupil numbers. So if you're in a densely populated authority with higher deprivation, over the three years you'll expect your funding to rise, whilst sparsely populated areas will probably see their funding fall. The practical result is that Barking & Dagenham's grant will increase by 20% over the 3 years, whilst Hampshire's will fall 10%.

    That's all explained under 'Grant allocation' here, and specific local authority grants are shown on TeacherNet here

    "So, how much money do I get?"

    Fair point, I've still not answered the question. And it took a while to compare various sets of statistics...

    The two previous Standards Fund grants were worth a total £91m in 2007/8, and the new single grant is worth £237m in 2008/9, falling to £200m in 2009/10.

    The overall grant increases by 150% from £91m this year to £237m next year.

    This should therefore mean that your Harnessing Technology Grant, in the Standards Fund allocation for 2008/9 will increase by about 150%. It will vary authority to authority and school to school, but it certainly looks as if you should be building your plans for next year based on a substantial increase in IT budget.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Know IT all - E-safety


    Today sees the launch of Know IT All for Teachers, in conjunction with Becta, the TDA and ChildNet.

    KnowITAllWe've been working with these partners to create a set of valuable resources for e-safety in schools. Called "Know IT All for Teachers", it's a resource pack that provides practical help for trainee teachers, existing teachers and support staff, and offers suggestions and materials on how the subject of e-safety can be embedded in the curriculum both within schools and initial teacher training.

    The resources have been developed by Childnet with the support of the TDA, Becta and Microsoft. The key “Know IT All” training resources used for the materials are Childnet’s “Jenny’s Story” and Microsoft’s “Rome Group” which was created by Microsoft as part of their “Getting to Know IT All” child safety campaign.

    E-safety relates to many parts of the curriculum and the Know It All websites contain links to a range of comprehensive learning resources, information and advice to keep trainee teachers and teachers up to date with child e-safety issues and to provide guidance on managing issues which may arise in the school environment. 

    The materials cover issues such as online grooming, cyber-bullying to the viewing of inappropriate content and plagiarism.

    Know IT All for Teachers includes a free DVD designed for self study in e-safety, including a short film followed by e-safety questions for teachers to consider, and a website which clearly explains the technology, and provides links to further resources on a range of issues. The “Know IT All” for Trainees and Teachers initiative reflects the growing supporting role teachers play, alongside parents, in teaching children about e-safety.   An in-depth research report of 400 trainee teachers also revealed a need for child e-safety training.

    The free teacher’s DVD is available to order from the DCSF Publications Line (details here).

    More details on the Know IT All for Teachers website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Photo Story 3 - The 11th Day of Christmas


    I was reviewing some of my colleagues notes from the World Innovative Teachers Forum in Helsinki, an event that we host annually for teachers and government attendees from all around the world, and saw a note that many teachers there were using Photo Story in their lessons, and were surprised that Microsoft didn't do more to tell teachers about it. And Photo Story is free.


    What it does is allow you to co-ordinate images and music, and turn it into an impressive slideshow, with special effects, narration, titles, captions, and then publish them for viewing on a computer or TV.

    My description simply can't do it justice, so here's an example Photo Story output.

    Go to the web site for information and the free download.

    You may want this for your home computer, but don't forget to put it into the hands of an Art teacher, or PE teacher, or the person co-ordinating the new school trip or extra-curricular activity.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Twelfth Day of Christmas


    Congratulations, you made it through to Christmas. But it's Christmas Eve. Shouldn't you be putting your feet up? Relaxing? Getting ready for tomorrow's festivities?

    Well, I know that in many schools, Christmas, Easter and the summer holidays mean "IT project time". ICT has become so critical to the success of the school, that you're not allowed to switch things off for a bit of maintenance, upgrading and TLC when people are relying on the network for learning, administration, exam entries, exam results, pupil census returns, VLE logins, email etc etc etc. It's great that IT's now "Mission Critical" to the school, and that there are SLA's in place to ensure 24/7/365 access. But it also creates a real challenge for network managers and senior leaders - when is the time to plan the big network upgrade? When do we switch over servers?

    So even though it is Christmas Eve, and most of the staff have gone home, I know there will be some working on school ICT systems today. (And I actually know some of your names, because as I've met you over December you've told me of your plans for your networks this Christmas).

    My last gift of Christmas is therefore for you. Those working in schools on Christmas Eve.

    For the first 3 emails I get on Christmas Eve (using the link below, from your school email address!), I'll send you one of three copies of Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate that I've got sitting on my desk now.

    Just click this link to email me

    Happy Christmas everybody.

    See you next year at BETT!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Live Meeting 2007 in Education – Virtual Classrooms, Remote Learning and more

    This Thursday (6th December), why not join us for a Live Meeting about Live Meeting!

    With the advent of the new version of Live Meeting (2007), functionality has now been implemented that’s been specifically designed for education and training organisations. Live Meeting can extend the reach of education in enhancing the learning experience. Simon Palmer, former Learning and Development Manager for Dell, will demonstrate some of this functionality illustrating how learning styles can be enhanced to improve learning either in the workplace or through educational establishments. Compelling new enhancements such as video, voice, rich media and break out rooms combined with an easy to use interface generates the right virtual environment to capture the pupils attention and will allow them to engage in interactive learning!

    The meeting takes place from 3.30 to 4.30pm, and is presented by Simon Palmer, Technology Specialist for Unified Communications and former Learning and Development Manager for Dell.

    Click: here to put this into your Outlook Calendar, with the joining instructions


    Call: 0118 909 2000 and use participant code: 9395559

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office Offline


    It's coming up to Christmas, and then it will be New Year - and I'll have to write a New Year resolution. So time to start building a habit that I want to break (isn't that how everybody does it?). I've been reading a colleague's Office Offline blog for a while now (David Salaguinto) and he blogs with a 4-cell comic format. Nothing fancy, just a simple four-cell block.

    So, I'm going to shamelessly steal it, and then I promise I'll break the habit at New Year! (Well, after all, it is nearly Christmas)


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Wembley Study Centre - First day of Christmas


    It's approaching Christmas, so here's the first in a list of 12 "Christmas presents" - some free software, some free resources, and details of some of the projects we sponsor in education.

    Earlier this month we took part in the launch of the Wembley Study Centre - A new, state-of-the-art Playing for Success study support centre which provides exciting new learning opportunities for the young people of Brent. The flagship centre, named 'The Learning Zone', is physically based inside the new national stadium and will provide a unique, innovative and inspirational learning environment for young people in the local area during out of school hours. The Learning Zone @ Wembley Stadium is a joint endeavour between Brent Council, The Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and Wembley Stadium. Microsoft – the Stadium's Founding Partner – contributed the software and some hardware for the room which will provide an open and flexible learning environment, using state-of-the-art technology and fun and creative interactive exercises.

    More details at the Wembley website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows Live SkyDrive - Second day of Christmas


    Continuing my run of 12 Days of Christmas, here's my gift for today. 1GB of free online storage

    SkyDriveThis year, USB memory sticks have been a recurring theme - I've given them away at events, I've distributed files on them, and in talking with students, it seems that it's become the standard way to transfer information around universities. But what happens when the memory stick you're using disappears. Well, it happened to me in August, when I lost a key presentation (doh!), and so since then I've been making more use of Windows Live SkyDrive. It's a free service which gives you 1GB of data storage on the web, and it is a doddle to upload and download files (you just drag your files from your Windows Explorer straight onto the SkyDrive window). I'm converted. Now whenever I want to share a presentation, I load it to my SkyDrive and anybody who wants it can take a copy away.

    More about SkyDrive on this blog post , or simply register for your own immediately.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Robotics - Third day of Christmas


    My colleague, Paul Foster, works in the part of our business that talks to developers - both the commercial variety and student developers. One of the things they are constantly trying to do is to find new ways to engage students with the idea that programming is cool and valuable (remember the days when every boy seemed to be writing programmes for his ZX Spectrum or BBC Microcomputer?). Well, today's learners are a little bit more difficult to engage, and certainly have higher expectations, so to meet those Paul is involved with a range of things to do with robotics.

    My Christmas present for you today is that the Microsoft Robotics Studio software is available as a free download for UK Education.

    I asked Paul to tell me a bit more...

    "Robotics provides a compelling activity for pupils of all ages. Today more than ever robotics is accessible to the teacher and student. Modern robot kits like Lego’s Mindstorm NXT, already used throughout schools and in the First Lego League challenge, enable pupils to experience firsthand the elements of KS2/KS3 control curriculum. The First Lego League uses robotics as the motivator to learn more. Each September a new worldwide Challenge is announced relating Robotics to real world issues.

    Participating schools in the UK have from September to the end of November to prepare for one of the Regional Tournaments taking place around the UK. Teams will programme a robot to fulfil tasks relating to the challenge using LEGO Mindstorms technology, and prepare a research presentation on the subject for the year. The subject for 2007 is the Power Puzzle.

    Teams of up to 10 children from 9–16 years will work in out- of- school clubs or within the curriculum on all aspects of the Challenge. They will have to take a cross curricular approach using Programming and Control, Design and Technology, Maths, Web Research, Powerpoint, Strategic Thinking and Teamwork to achieve their aims. Sometimes their fellow students will video the team or write about their work to turn their preparation into a news item for dissemination within the school.

    More details of the First Lego League can be found on the Microsoft sponsored UK organisers site: with more on the global activities

    clip_image001Microsoft’s involvement in the world of robotics doesn’t stop there. In December 2006, we released our Robotics Studio, a development platform providing a single uniform programming solution covering many of the typical robot hardware – from Lego NXT to research robots like the Pioneer 3DX. It also includes a simulation environment incorporating real physics using the AGEIA PhysX Engine, enabling robot development without the need for expensive hardware.

    A robot can be programmed in the simulation environment exactly as it would in the real world – but allowing for safer testing or classroom projects where only a few real robots are available amongst many pupils. Microsoft Robotics Studio is free for non-commercial use and provides support for a visual programming language as well as traditional programming languages such as C#. (Microsoft Visual C# Express is required to run Microsoft Robotics Studio and it is also free to use). Microsoft Robotics Studio is available from

    clip_image002And finally, in next month's PC Plus, there's a special Robot Supplement with an introduction to the world of Microsoft Robotics Studio and robotics in general.

    The supplement provides 6 simple construction projects using real electronic modules cheaply available from UK suppliers as well as articles and interviews on the world of robotic research and development. Plenty of material for the inquiring mind. Presenting a useful first step into robotics for technology teaching staff.

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