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June, 2008 - 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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June, 2008

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Podcasting Kit for SharePoint 2007


    A few days ago, the Podcasting Kit for SharePoint was released on CodePlex (our open source project hosting web site). For schools, it’s an opportunity to move into a multimedia, web 2.0 world, without losing control of either information, or users.

    Up until now, many of the ways that people have used podcasting, and many other web 2.0 technologies, has led to a fragmentation of information – with podcasts being hosted on external sites, and made available to anybody. But what do you do if you only want your podcasts available to your own students or their parents, or only to a specific class group. Not everybody wants to publish all of their materials straight onto the Internet for anybody else to download/distribute!

    PKSBigThe Podcasting Kit for SharePoint is a solution which allows you to retain control over information, and still make it widely available to those who have the right to it. By basing your podcasting system on SharePoint, you link it to your school’s user management through Active Directory – which means that you’re not creating yet another data store/identity list, and users can be given access to resources according to their role etc

    You can provide a facility for all of the school staff and students to distribute audio and video podcasts within the school, and directly integrate that into the rest of your ICT infrastructure painlessly. Most schools in the UK either have, or are deploying, a learning platform, and by deploying it on SharePoint, you not only have single identity and access management, you can also integrate solutions such as these within the same environment.

    The features of the Podcasting Kit for SharePoint are:

  • Listen and watch audio/video podcasts, anywhere on your PC or mobile device or MP3 player
  • Share content by allowing staff and/or students to produce their own audio/video podcasts and publish them themselves.
  • Easily find the most relevant content using the five star rating system, tag cloud, search engine and comments
  • Get automatic podcast updates by subscribing to RSS feeds fully compatible with podcasting devices
    • Simple RSS feed based on a defined podcast series
    • Simple RSS feed based on a person
    • Dynamic RSS feed based on search results
  • Play podcasts in real-time using Silverlight
  • Retrieve instant usage metrics with the ability to track the number of podcasts downloaded and/or viewed, instant feedback via rating system and comments, and subscribers via the RSS feed
  • Access the richness of SharePoint to extend the solution: workflow, community sub-sites, access rights, editorial etc
  • Customize the look and feel to match your own university’s style

    This release is the beta, which we don’t recommend deploying it to production systems, and the full release is in September.

    You can find out more, and download the kit from CodePlex. There’s also a short presentation which runs through the kit, available as a download.

    We’ve been using it within Microsoft for the last 9 months, and it has demonstrated (1) how robust it is and (2) how much it improves communication between a community of 150,000+ people! I use the RSS feature on my mobile phone to keep up to date with any new podcasts published with the “education” tag.

    And because it’s all on CodePlex, the community is already working on other projects to enhance it – like a very smart-looking mobile phone client to enhance the user experience. I can imagine that might be a hit with my eldest – because she seem to have her eyes glued to the tiny phone screen most of the time!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What does next decade’s PC look like?


    NapkinPCYou may recall me blogging the ‘Next-Gen PC’ competition last year, aimed at getting people to think outside of the (beige/black/silver) box for computer design. Well, the winners have been announced, and the amazing Napkin PC is the winner. It uses the metaphor of a paper napkin (“great ideas often start on a napkin…”), which is the US cultural equivalent of our “back of the envelope”. The blurb says “The Napkin PC is a multi-user, multi-interface, modular computer designed for creative professionals to collaborate and bring their greatest ideas to life.”

    The design comes to life with the use of e-paper to allow you to interact with, and then retain images - imagine, you get an image/idea you like, you just pin that on the wall, and grab a new piece of e-paper to carry on.

    NapkinPCCollaborateThere were 20 finalists, and all of them are on the site to browse. I think that there’s plenty of good lessons in here – from the designs and different challenges being addressed, to the professional presentation styles. For example, take a look at the 10 slides for the winning design, to see how they move from idea to concept, through to addressing specific issues such as environmental sustainability.

    I was led onto thinking about how something like this could be used in education. Ever since I saw (and played with) the Microsoft Surface PC, I’ve wondered how we can use a different computer interface to more effectively share, discuss and analyse data and information. How can we make it easier for people to sit around a table and discuss issues face-to-face, without having to resort to all facing a screen or whiteboard. If the Napkin PC comes to life, then it’s definitely something I’d want at home, to sit down and work together with my children on a piece of paper, rather than leaning over a desk to point at a screen. And maybe I’ll be able to spend less time sitting staring into one.

    I’m sure you’ll find your own light bulb moment too, amongst the winners and finalists on the competition’s web site.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Information Security - it's all go now...


    DatasecurityYesterday I pointed out that the updated Becta advice appeared to ban schools from removing student data from the school, but that the advice wasn't very clear. Since yesterday, they have updated their advice to schools, and now give much clearer, and much stronger, guidance.

    Firstly, they have been clearer on what "personal data" is (ie that which cannot leave school), it "is defined as any combination of data items that identifies an individual and provides specific information about them, their families or circumstances. This includes names, contact details, gender, dates of birth, unique pupil number (UPN) and so on, as well as other sensitive information such as academic achievements, other skills and abilities, and progress in school. It may also include behaviour and attendance records."

    Secondly, they have said that they will publish full guidance in August 2008, including best practice on encryption, audit logging and acceptable use.

    Thirdly, they have said, about protection and encryption "The Information Commissioner’s Office recommends that data controllers ensure that any solution meets the current standard of FIPS 140-2 approved encryption products". Wikipedia is useful on FIPS 140-2, although it raises a few more questions, and BitLocker built into Windows Vista is FIPS 140-2 certified (according to Michael Howard, a self-described "simple software security guy at Microsoft").

    They've also said that the requirements of the Cabinet Office's Hannigan letters haven't yet been published, but they'll publish the link when they know.

    And finally, they say "There are many changes forthcoming on information security and data protection as both the DCSF and Becta guidance is currently being updated."

    All of this might be good advice, and technically accurate, but I'm not sure it's going to mean much to a primary school data controller (ie the bursar/secretary). The directive is clear - if teachers take home their laptops containing pupil data, then there's a problem. But I guess we're all going to have to wait for further information until we can give you advice about how to meet the guidelines, and keep your data safe and secure.

    If you want to find out a little more, then take a look at the replay of the Live Meeting hosted by Bill Orme in January - it was for central and local government IT people, but has become relevant to us all now! It's the first link on this page. There is sound, but it doesn't arrive until 2 minutes in!

    This is looking like a very thorny, and potentially complex issue. I'll keep watching the Becta advice, and see if I can bring you more down-to-earth interpretations


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Information Security – information so secret, nobody’s heard of it…


    Datasecurity Last week I wrote that the Becta advice on “Information Security Guidance for Schools”  had been updated, effectively banning schools from taking student data out of the school. A few readers commented on the news –‘impossible’ and ‘worried’ came up – and so I’ve been looking for a little more information. Nobody seems to have heard much more about what’s going on, and what the eventual final advice for schools is going to be, so I’ve been stalking the web for info…and that’s drawing blanks too!

    The Becta advice urges schools to “review their existing data security policies and update them to include the specific requirements of the Cabinet Office’s Hannigan letters”, and they also refer to meeting “the July 2008 Hannigan timeline”,  so I’ve been looking at what that means.

    Well, they’ve really got me now – there appears to be no such thing as the Hannigan letters – the only reference on Live Search and Google is back to the same Becta page. It’s pretty rare to find a web search that only turns up two pages!

    However, the Becta reference to the “July 2008 Hannigan timeline” also produces the same trick!

    There is an interim Hannigan report of December 2007, from the Cabinet Office, which barely mentions education: “The Department for Children, Schools and Families has reminded all staff about their data and information security responsibilities” (page 7), and err, that’s it. The interim report promises a further Hannigan Report in “Spring 2008”, so I guess it is just around the corner.

    So, if anybody from Becta is reading, help! Let us all into the secret info we need to be able to manage information security in schools!

    I’ll keep you updated – sometime in the next 14 days it looks like there’s a stringent set of data protection rules coming. Ever since I wrote the blog item last week, there's been a daily story in the news of government data and information being lost, so I guess it'll be on quite a few priority lists now!

    Update One: Alan Richards has been asking Becta too, and he's had a partial answer - which he shares on his blog. In a nutshell, the Hannigan letters that you're asked to comply with haven't yet been published, but Becta will provide a link when they are.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Office 2007 classroom posters


    I bet you can’t wait until the end of term…because either you’ll be getting a well earned rest, or because you’re itching to get your next IT project started, once all of the teachers and students have stopped using your network.

    I’ve been working in education ICT for 20-odd years (yes, some of them very odd), and can still remember the days when closing down the system for a few days in term-time was still allowed. Now that 24x7 computing is a reality in schools, I know that it’s almost impossible to perform major system changes even during the weekends or summer holidays. But still, the summer break is still the key time for the networks to be upgraded, expanded and generally polished up.

    And this summer, I know that there are lots of schools planning to upgrade to Office 2007 – and some have been asking for posters to go up in the ICT and Business Studies rooms. The good news is, they’ve just arrived!

    Poster-Excel Poster-PowerPoint

    I have a pile of poster tubes, just around the corner, containing 8 of these posters (2 of each for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook).

    Poster-Word Poster-Outlook


    If you’d like me to send you a set, just email Mir with your name, school name and address. Let me know if you’re already using Office 2007 in the classroom, or if you’re rolling it out this summer, and then I’ll get them in the post ASAP.

    (If you just can’t wait, and you want to download the PDFs, then click here to get them from my SkyDrive)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Where does being an "Innovative Teacher" get you?


    Teachers who join the Innovative Teachers Network never know what might be the outcome of taking part in a professional development programme. They can guarantee a transformation in the way they use technology in the classroom, but not many could have imagined sharing their work with Bill Gates himself. This is precisely what just happened to a secondary school science teacher who teaches in Torfaen in Wales, Alessio Bernardelli.


    At the World Innovative Teachers Forum in Helsinki , Alessio won one of the 12 awards distributed, for his Virtual Classroom tour titled “Creative Science Investigations”. All award winners at the event received a personal invitation from Bill Gates to visit the Microsoft campus, near Seattle, to share their experiences  using technology to enhance teaching and learning.

    Alessio is on Bill’s right, back row, with the other Innovative Teachers who joined Bill Gates

    Alessio’s work can be seen on the Innovative Teachers Network at  The ITN already contains over 150 other examples of innovative uses of technology in classrooms and schools, along with CPD resources, communities and discussions.

    The Innovative Teachers programme is all part of the Partners in Learning initiative, where we work with government agencies and groups of schools to enable the use of ICT to enhance teaching and learning.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Data Security in schools – rules tightened


    I’ve written about data security a few times recently, prompted by the various incidents of data loss in other government departments. One of the web pages I’ve been watching is the Becta advice page on “Information Security Guidance for Schools”. And I’ve noticed that it was updated last week, and the guidance has been tightened up. I’ve highlighted in bold the changes from the original version (which you can see here). Things like changing recommend to must, and removing phrases such as ‘where this is available’. They are reviewing information security guidance, and have said:

    FirstquotesIn the meantime, school management teams should take urgent steps to ensure information asset owners in their institutions follow this guidance:

    • All data should be kept safe and made available only to those who are authorised to access it.
    • Do not remove sensitive or personal data from the school premises unless the media is encrypted and is transported securely for storage in a secure location.
    • When data is required by an authorised user from outside of the school premises – for example by a teacher working from their home – they must have secure remote access to the management information system (MIS) or learning platform.
    • Protect all desktop, portable and mobile devices, including media, used to store and transmit personal information using approved encryption software.
    • Securely delete (over-write media and shred paper) sensitive or personal data when it is no longer required.
    • Ensure that your institution’s security policy covers how personal information is stored, transmitted or processed and that it is managed and protected accordingly. Use Binding Corporate Rules and best practice methodologies such as the International Standard ISO 27001.
    • School leaders should ask their support providers or technical staff to ensure that Endquotestheir institutions are fully adopting and using the ICO, Hannigan and international best practice standards.

    Sadly, there’s no link to the Hannigan recommendations (this was the inquiry set up after the 27 million HMRC records were lost on CD), so you may have to wait until there’s more info published on that (the web doesn’t really turn up much that’s substantive on this, and the interim report doesn’t say much for education).

    What does this mean?

    Well, depending on what is included within the definition of ‘sensitive or personal data’, it could mean that teachers and senior managers are no longer permitted to remove pupil data from school on their laptops, unless it’s encrypted and is “transported securely for storage in a secure location”. Looks like the timetablers are going to be tied to their desks this year, or move house to Fort Knox!

    And it also seems to put the onus onto the technical staff (you!) to ensure that your school is fully adopting the ICO, Hannigan and international best practice standards. Whoa!

    There’s some advice about encryption on this blog post, and my colleague, Jerry Fishenden, who is Microsoft’s National Technology Officer, has a handy hint for encrypting data on a USB memory stick using Vista’s BitLocker feature.

    I’ll keep an eye out for further developments – especially if there’s more advice on what constitutes ‘sensitive or personal data’ and ‘secure remote access’ from Becta or DCSF.

    But it could be worse…

    We could yet end up in the situation of the HMRC, with helpful web pages like this, with advice on “What to do if you suspect or discover fraud”



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Digital Literacy Curriculum: Now Available as SCORM Objects


    Great news! The highly successful Digital Literacy Curriculum is now available as SCORM objects that can be deployed in a Learning Platform or as part of a SharePoint/SLK implementation. The resources are free and can be downloaded from:

    There are different versions for Windows XP/Office 2003 (original) and Windows Vista/Office 2007 (version 2). The Word versions are also available.

    Here’s a reminder of what DLC includes:

    Microsoft's Digital Literacy curriculum for the UK is now live – and available at no cost. The goal of the Digital Literacy curriculum is to teach basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use computer technology in everyday life to develop new social and economic opportunities for themselves, their families and their communities.

    The Digital Literacy curriculum is available free-of-charge to everyone wanting to improve their digital literacy skills. The files in these folders have been packaged as SCORM Learning Objects so that they can be distributed, managed and assessed within a Virtual Learning Environment or eLearning Tool such as the SharePoint Learning Kit.

    The Digital Literacy curriculum consists of five courses with a folder for each:

    1. Computer Basics
    2. The Internet and the World Wide Web
    3. Productivity Programmes (Word processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Databases)
    4. Computer Security and Privacy
    5. Digital Lifestyles

    The content is in two formats for Windows XP or Windows Vista as follows:

    · Folders labelled “Original” are XP content versions

    · Folders labelled Version 2 are Vista Content

    · Individual chapters are included for the Productivity Programmes Course, all other courses are in a single package.

    · The Folder labelled NON-SCORM includes all the courses in a non-SCORM format that can be run from SharePoint within a browser. Note: The Original Version doesn’t include the Productivity Course as it is too big a package to load onto SkyDrive.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Invitation to the South Bank for the world of PiL


    On the 25th June, the TDA and our Partners in Learning initiative are celebrating three years of working in partnership on a programme of activities to help teachers, trainee teachers and the wider school workforce to drive innovation and raise confidence using ICT to further teaching and learning. And what better way than a party?

    We’ll show some of the key projects from our work together. Invites are going out to the great and the good, and I’ve grabbed a few extra free tickets for the “great and good blog readers” (that’s you!) for the afternoon reception.

    It kicks off from 3pm on the St Paul’s Roof Pavilion at the Royal Festival Hall, so if you’re in a central London school, you can get out of home time playground duty by telling everybody you’ve got a meeting with the TDA! The windows look over St Paul’s and the City, so I hope the weather’s good.

    Drinks and nibbles will be provided and you will have the opportunity to meet the teachers, pupils and education partners involved in projects that use learning platforms to develop new pedagogies in primary modern foreign languages; use ICT to facilitate collaborative approaches to teaching and learning; promote good evidence-based practice in initial teacher training; provide resources to all teachers around internet safety and security for their pupils; engage pupils and teachers in the development of student-led technical support for the computers at a school, and more still.

    Please join us on Wednesday 25 June from 3:00pm to find out more about these projects.

    To book a place, drop an email to Pippa Hullock and mention the Schools blog.

    Partners in Learning Celebration

    Wednesday 25 June 2008, from 3:00pm

    St Paul’s Roof Pavilion, located on the sixth floor of the Royal Festival Hall,

    South Bank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XT

    (I’ve managed to grab a ticket too, so perhaps see you there)

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