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September, 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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September, 2009

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 meeting for early adopters on 7 October



    Mike Herrity, at Twynham School, is hosting a meeting for schools who have adopted Windows 7, to allow early adopters to share their experiences, and the lessons that have been learnt over the last 5 weeks since it was released for Volume Licence customers.

    Instead of having to head down to the south coast, I’ve offered to provide a meeting room here in Reading, at the Microsoft Campus, on Wednesday 7th October.

    There’s space for 20 people available, so if you’d like to attend, zip over to Mike’s excellent blog, or just drop Mike an email. He’s managing the attendee list, I’m just providing the room and the free lunch!

    If you have started deploying Windows 7, this is going to be a valuable day, and I am pretty sure it will save you more than a day of your time in learning from other people’s experiences.

    However, if you haven’t started deploying Windows 7 yet, then Mike will be aiming to write up lessons from the day to share with others, so keep an eye on this blog later for when it’s published.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The summer's most popular blog posts


    For those of you who didn’t hang around to upgrade your networks, grapple with new furniture, install audio visual equipment, or enjoy the blissful student-free corridors, welcome back.

    What did you miss? Well, whilst your back was turned I managed keep on blogging at an increasing rate – and whilst not every post is worth going back to, here’s a list of the most read posts from the summer holidays:

    1. What does Windows 7 run on
      A runaway winner, thanks to links from all kinds of Windows forums
    2. Shift Happens UK download
      Will this ever make it’s way out of the blog hit parade?
    3. Slides from the Windows 7 in Education event
      Actually, the event invite got more readers, but it’s history, so better to look at the slides
    4. Do you work during your holidays?
      A look at the “Out of Office” phenomenon
    5. We’re going on a Quango Hunt
      Making light of the CPS report, and giving you a poll to quash a quango
    6. Where are all the freebies now the budget’s cut
      An update on where to find Microsoft’s free stuff
    7. How fast can Windows 7 go?
      Only posted yesterday, but already in the top posts list

    If you want to read the rest, you’ll have to look for them yourself – just click on the “+” sign next to “Archives” in the left hand bar, and you can see them all. I’ve just noticed a wrote 32 this summer.

    But my favourite (to write) wasn’t in the Top 10. It was actually “A week in Atlanta – Technology, Cheese and Soda” – about a visit to the World of Coke. I suspect that it’s not in the Top 10 because most people have more sense!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How fast can Windows 7 go?


    Earlier in the week PC Pro ran an article stating that Windows 7 is “already used on 1% of PCs”. This was lifted from some Internet metrics measured by NetApplications. It’s easy to do – each time you visit a website, your browser tells the website what version it is, and what operating system it is running on.

    imageGiven the buzz this summer about Windows 7, I thought I’d have a quick look at the stats for this blog. And the answer has truly surprised me. (Or at least it did once I’d learned from Wikipedia that Windows 7 reports itself as Windows NT 6.1)

    What this table shows is the last 10,000 visitors to the blog – and 1 in 5 are running Windows 7!

    Now I reckon that this is partly because the readers are more technical, and there’s been quite a buzz about Windows 7 – and lots of early deployments in schools. Given that there have already been half a dozen schools who’ve told me they’ve rolled out Windows 7 to all their desktops, perhaps Windows 7 is going to overtake even Windows 95 in it’s speed of adoption.

    I was genuinely surprised at what I saw. Are you?

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Online learning is better than face-to-face learning?


    The US Department of Education sponsored the Center for Technology in Learning to look into the effectiveness of online learning – and to specifically compare the effectiveness of using online learning compared to face to face learning. The results, published in May, are on the website, for all to see.

    What I’ve seen of the reporting seems to take the simple line that “online learning is better than face-to-face learning”. Hmmm, having read more than the first highlighted sentence in the abstract, I think there’s a lot more to it!

    The inescapable conclusion is that with students changing, and their lives changing, methods of supporting online and blended learning are not only more convenient for many different types of students, but also more effective at ensuring that the student achieves the required learning outcomes.

    What the researchers did

    The researchers looked at 1,000 pieces of research, over the last 12 years, of online learning. After throwing out those pieces that didn’t compare online and face-to-face learning, or didn’t measure the impact on student learning, or didn’t take a rigorous approach to the research, they were left with 51 pieces of research – which is a large enough group to make effective comparisons.

    Then they crunched all the conclusions together from all of the reports, to arrive at an overarching conclusion – answering the question “What do we know about the effectiveness of online learning compared to conventional, face-to-face learning?

    The headline conclusions

    The simple conclusion was:


    students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction Endquotes

    Which is the bit that has been reported widely.

    But read on a little further, and the report went on to say:


    The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes…was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-faceEndquotes

    Which is saying that a combination of online and face-to-face learning (ie blended learning) is more effective than online learning alone.

    Although there are some provisos around this finding – eg theories that blended learning often includes additional learning time and additional face-to-face learning not included in standard courses – it is still significant.

    Key Findings

    Further in (starting on page xiv, if you’re following along) are some key findings that are good summary conclusions:

    • Few rigorous research studies of the effectiveness of online learning for K–12 (school) students have been published
      "K-12" is ‘Kindergarten to 12th Grade’, which is American for "schools"
      Of all the research completed, there was none on school use of online learning between 1994 and 2006 that met their quality criteria, and only five in total up to 2008.
      Personally, I think in the UK we need to improve this situation. We’re mandating online learning platforms in every school in the UK, without there being a robust set of research to prove that it works?
    • Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction
      This conclusion speaks for itself
    • Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction
      Which may result from the approach a teacher takes – do they feel more engaged too, when the learning is mixed?
    • Studies in which learners in the online condition spent more time on task than students in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning
      I’d suspect this is a factor of students being able to each learn at their own pace, and pause or repeat sections of their learning – something that’s all but impossible in face-to-face learning.
    • Most of the variations in the way in which different studies implemented online learning did not affect student learning outcomes significantly
      I suspect that if we had the data for all e-learning in UK schools we’d see something similar – that the biggest difference in learning outcomes is achieved by a decision to support blended online learning effectively, however that happens. The two factors that did make a difference were the use of blended learning (as opposed to online only) and the amount of time students spent on task.
    • The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types
      Although, because the schools research sample was so small, there are few strong conclusions for school-age learning specifically.
    • Effect sizes were larger for studies in which the online and face-to-face conditions varied in terms of curriculum materials and aspects of instructional approach in addition to the medium of instruction
      ie don’t just put your existing course materials onto a website – you need to plan to deliver your course differently

    In the US, and I would guess that’s it also true for the UK, online learning—for students and for teachers—is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology.

    The US National Center for Education Statistics (2008) estimated that the number of US school students enrolling in a technology-based distance education course grew by 65 percent in two years between 2003 to 2005, and after some recent research it’s been estimated that more than a million school students took online courses last year.

    You can read the full 93-pages of the report on the US Department of Education website (although you may want to re-read your “Dummy’s Guide to Statistical Analysis” before you start!)

    It’s also interesting to read the Comments debate on the New York Times website, which started when it reported the findings.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 – in Tony Hart mode


    This collection of videos is very clever – as you work your way through it, you’ll see that you eventually end up with some screencasts showing particular features of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. But what is riveting on the journey is the way that you navigate your way around the videos – using hand drawn animations and hotspots on each video to give you a route to learn more.

    It comes from the team of DeepFat and JamesOne (some of you will have met James at our Windows for Education event) who are part of our evangelism team. They have been exploring the features of Win7 and WS2008 via the medium of art, some YouTube annotations and then some screencast videos. You can start here and then click through to the stuff you're interested in.

    I wonder if this has also got potential for revision gateways and other learning resources – basically linking a series of videos together, with some navigation – rather than the conventional channel/menu approach.

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