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August, 2009 - 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, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    At last, the UK Education website gets a makeover


    I’ve got two daughters who think that the best things on TV are reality makeover programmes (our TV at home seems to alternate between Grand Designs and Gok’s Fashion Fix), but they didn’t get as excited as I did about our makeover project – taking the Microsoft UK Education site and adding a pile of new features to it.

    This is what the site looked like before Friday:


    And since Friday morning, it has looked like this:

    New website design

    Whilst the new look and feel is nice (and has had some good feedback in its first four days) there are some much more important changes to the navigation and design that are important to me.

    • We’ve added specific sections for Schools, Further Education, Higher Education, Teachers and Students
      The previous design did indeed have a colourful tab bar for sections, they only got you to a single page. None of the rest of the content (for example the products section) was separated. Which means that Schools were seeing products only suitable for Higher Education, or vice versa. We’ve got further improvements planned for each of these sections – but obviously content changes had to wait until they existed!
    • There is better linking between this blog and the website
      For example, you can now click on a blog story in the website, and read it right there, without having to jump across to the blog (on a different website)
    • We have tags to help find relevant information
      The whole website is enormous, and sometimes impenetrable to navigate. And even the little bit sitting under the UK Education site was becoming unwieldy – with over 140 pages of content to navigate. So now we have added tags to the home page, allowing you to jump straight to key content, without having to search through the menu structure. “Licensing” is a good example – it is one of the most often-read sections, but was previously buried in the menus.
    • We have updated some of the content
      But, to be honest, we have plenty of content updates to do still. Most of our focus has been moving to the new site structure, and now we hope to get lots of content updates between now and the start of term.
      (A note on the “we” in the last sentence – the team’s not as big as you might think – it’s me and Gordon who’re responsible for keeping this all going and up-to-date, with others dropping by to help! K
      eeping the content up-to-date is like painting the Forth Bridge – we’d never have managed to get it all updated before we moved, and so we’d never have moved. It is easier on the new site for us to make small changes quickly, without having to get a big project kicked off)


    Go and visit the site – and then let me know what you think – either by adding comments here, or drop me an email, including any thoughts about what you’d like to see, based on how you use the site.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference – Sept 29 in London


    This is probably something for local authorities, who’re running big datacentres, but there are likely to be readers of this blog that are either in that role, or are running big datacentres in their school. And given the size of some of the transactional databases in schools today, this might apply to you…

    SQL Server 2008 Grid v I’ve just heard that the first ever Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Conference is being held in London on Tuesday September 29th.  Although it is not an education-specific event, there is a good agenda with excellent presenters that could be of use to you if you are running complex databases. It’s obviously useful for IT managers, and information managers, database administrators and architects will find real value to add to their knowledge of how to get the most out of SQL Server.

    The agenda focuses on some of the major data management challenges that we know SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition is more than ready to handle: high-performance and scalability, robust security, virtualisation, data warehousing and business intelligence.

    The cast of presenters includes:

    • Donald Farmer & Mark Linton from the SQL Server Development team
    • Mark Whitehorn, independent consultant and author on databases and data management
    • An array of Microsoft technical expertise on SQL Server, data management and Business Intelligence

    The agenda includes specific topics on using SQL Server in heterogeneous data environments (i.e. Oracle) and SQL Server as the data platform of choice for business critical applications such as SAP. It also includes a closer-look at the SQL Server 2008 R2 functionality in a presentation by Donald Farmer from the SQL Server development team.

    The full agenda, which includes a choice of tracks for the afternoon, is available on the website

    The event is free, and given that effective database management is top of the list for many organisations, you may want to book your place as soon as you can.

    You can book directly on the Microsoft events website, or register by phone on 0870 166 6670 (quoting event reference 4125)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Where are all the freebies now the budget's cut


    I received this query by email from an international colleague:

    “I heard that MS UK Education team created a DVD with all free products/links to Microsoft web sites that are potentially beneficial to teachers and students, and that you shared this with your education audiences. Can you point me to the folder where the DVD content is?”

    And after I answered it, I then thought I should share the answer, because if somebody in Latvia is interested, it’ll probably be interesting to somebody in Luton too, given the state of education ICT budgets.

    For more up-to-date information, there are some key web pages listing free resources


    Does that help anybody else too?

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    When was the last time you checked out Microsoft Downloads?


    image Mark A’Bear is one of our resident ‘amateur’ geeks in the education team. His job isn’t to be a full-time geek, as he’s our Education Partner Manager (and from my days of working at Microsoft partners, I know he’s pretty good at that). But he’s also a closet geek, and he has many moments of geekery – like when he talks about his home network, and his Home Server. Home Server! That’s geekery.

    Within the team, he sits somewhere in the middle of the geek-tree, with me waaay down towards the bottom, and Ben Nunney sitting in the top of the tree. (Ben’s our specialist for Live@edu, as you’ll see on his blog).

    Mark also blogs for UK Education Partners, but he keeps it low profile, which means I can occasionally steal content from his blog posts. (If you are a UK Education Partner, and you want to know where Mark’s blog is, email him). This week, I read one of his blog posts and thought it would be useful for network managers up and down the country (who, let’s face it, are the only people in school and reading this blog this month).

    So, in Mark’s own words:


    I subscribe to a weekly notification of top new downloads from The reason I do this is to keep track of all the great new content that appears on a daily basis. To encourage partners to regularly check out these resources I’ve listed a few that have appeared in the last week or so:

    1. Windows Live Essentials – the suite of applications such as Messenger, Live Writer, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker have all been updated – and so has the Windows Live Toolbar

    2. Online Services Guide – a comprehensive guide to Microsoft’s online services including product offerings and licensing models

    3. Geneva Beta 2 – this is going to be an important technology for delivering user access and single sign-on solutions

    4. Windows Automated Installation Kit (Beta 2) - The Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) is a set of tools and documentation that support the configuration and deployment of Microsoft® Windows® operating systems.. By using Windows AIK, you can automate Windows installations, capture Windows images with ImageX, configure and modify images using Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management (DISM), create Windows PE images, and migrate user profiles and data with the User State Migration Tool (USMT).

    5. Windows Azure Platform Training Kit - The Windows Azure Platform Training Kit includes a comprehensive set of technical content including hands-on labs, presentations, and demos that are designed to help you learn how to use the Windows Azure platform. Endquotes

    The Geneva identity beta is potentially quite wide-reaching – as Becta reported on their ‘Emerging Technologies for Learning’ site in May.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Another take on qualifications – have you thought about the Microsoft IT Academy?


    IT Academy Programme 2 b If you’re running the ICT systems in your school, and NOT running the curriculum ICT, then you may want to forward this onto the ICT Co-ordinator, or to the Deputy Head in charge of Curriculum Development. Although it’s got ‘IT’ in the title, the IT Academy is actually all about curriculum development and helping your students/staff to gain commercially valuable qualifications.

    Don’t tell the curriculum side, but it’s also a great way to get your school an inclusive MSDNAA and TechNet Plus subscription if you’re having difficulty getting it paid for otherwise!

    imageI’ve spent a few hours in the company of the team who promote the Microsoft IT Academy scheme in the UK. Basically the scheme offers schools the chance to deliver Microsoft’s IT training and qualifications to your students, staff and even your wider community. The qualifications that you can deliver will help your students (or parents in your community) raise their skills to prepare for business roles, or potentially for technical employment as web developers or systems administrators.

    The chart on the right (click on it to see the BIG version) shows the routes to the qualifications that students can attain. And because the qualifications are instantly recognisable in the commercial sector – like MCSE qualifications – it is an instant help with preparing for employment.

    But this isn’t just about student qualifications – it can also be used to provide training and qualifications for the wider community, and this is exactly how some of the current IT Academies use it – which is either helping to generate a revenue stream, or to increase parental engagement.

    Once you’ve signed up to be an IT Academy, the scheme includes:

    • Free Microsoft eLearning (over 300 courses)
    • Free Microsoft Software Licences
    • Massive discounts on Microsoft Certifications and Courseware
    • Free MSDNAA & TechNet Plus Subscription
    • Free Microsoft Certified Trainer Membership

    Currently about two-thirds of UK colleges and universities offer the IT Academy programme, and hundreds of schools. So it could be that your school is already doing it (in which case you might have some of these benefits already).

    But the key question I asked the IT Academy team was about cost. Because although they describe everything above as ‘free’, I’d assumed that the annual fee would be prohibitive. The actual answer is that it costs less than £600 for a school to become an IT Academy, and (thanks to the agreement with the SSAT earlier this year), it’s cheaper for Specialist Schools. Especially if you factor in the cost of an MSDNAA & TechNet Plus subscription, this is a great deal.

    Although there’s tons of information about IT Academy on our education website, I think there’s probably too much info there, so instead of reading it all I’d recommend giving the Prodigy team a call, or dropping them an email, to get them to explain it to you in plain English. (Just like buying software, IT Academy works the same way – you get access through our partners, rather than directly from us. In this case the partner is Prodigy)

    Email the IT Academy team or call them on 0845 3991553.

    Any lingering doubts? Take a look at the two case studies from current IT Academies - President Kennedy School and Sawtry Community College

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How they sell a 'laptop for students' scheme Down Under


    In Australia, the New South Wales government have committed to provide 200,000 students with their own laptop – and over the next few months they’ll be rolling them out at 5,000 a week. You can read more about their approach on ZDNet. And soon every Year 9 to 12 student in NSW public schools will have a wireless laptop – with the Year 9 students getting theirs by the end of the year.

    Obviously it’s a big-budget programme, and I was fascinated to see that the Education Department in NSW have created an appropriate big-budget video to talk about the programme. It appears to be designed to sell the idea to students, and just as importantly to parents, to ensure it gets off to a good start.

    Watch the video

    And in a major achievement, they’ve managed to avoid too much technical or pedagogical language – making it seem much more real.

    I noticed too that there’s a NSW Public Schools channel on YouTube. Not just for technology, but for all the things they want to talk to parents about – such as cyber-safety, a parent’s guide to Facebook etc. And every parent of primary age children will understand why their Head Lice video is second in the “most watched” stakes.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Your invite to the UK Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010


    Find out more and register

    Apparently we've had well over 1,000 registrations since we announced it. I'd recommend putting yourself on the wait list.
    Sorry. I'll work on a list of alternative events/webcasts to attend 

    From now through to January, it’s going to be a season of launches. And the kick-off event for the whole series is the UK Technical Launch for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, which is going to a big event at Wembley stadium on the 6th October.

    The agenda is packed – with a ‘desktop’ and ‘server’ stream (time to make it a team trip?), and we’re also expecting the event to be packed too – with a thousand spaces available.

    The theme for the event “The New Efficiency” is something we’ll be talking about more during the year, as it’s something that fits in with the current budget climate in education.

    Wembley Stadium Join us on 6 October in the conference rooms at the spectacular Wembley Stadium to hear from Microsoft's technology specialists on the new efficiency of the server and desktop. We have two tracks of content for you to choose from, one covering Windows 7, and the other covering Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. If you can't watch it all on the day - don't worry, all the content will be available online after the event.

    For those who couldn’t make it to the Windows in Education event last week, this is a good alternative. Although it isn’t specifically for education, we had some of the same speakers – James & Gareth – and I know that there will be plenty of things covered which fit into your IT thinking.


    If you only do two things before you head off for the Bank Holiday weekend, I’d recommend:

    • Register for your place (before all those other people get back from holiday Too late, they're back. You can now add yourself to the Waitlist for a place) 
    • Add it to your Calendar (to stop anybody inviting you to a dull meeting on that day)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Joe’s non-Netbook – another INSET video


    This is a continuation of Friday's blog post about video resources for INSET training

    imageI was looking through a presentation called “The PODs are coming”, which was all about Personally Owned Devices and their effect on schools and learning, when I came across this video, which would make an ideal opening to a debate in INSET training. I can imagine that if you are trying to persuade teachers in your school to make their learning resources available digitally on your Learning Platform, this would contribute to the debate.

    It’s a great tongue-in-cheek demonstration of the way that today’s naturally digital students think.


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