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January, 2010 - 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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January, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft at BETT 2010 – the world’s largest Education IT exhibition

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    As you’ll know, the BETT Show in January is a major event for schools in the UK, and also a major event from Microsoft too. After months of planning, it’s all over in four days, and we then get a chance to recuperate from the week. After the show, it’s my job to write an internal review of the BETT Show for the Microsoft UK staff. Given that so many of you will have been to BETT, I thought I'd take the risk of sharing a big chunk of the review with you, so that you can see what BETT means to us.

    To be honest, I’ve hesitated to share this for a week now, because I don’t want to be seen as showing off about what BETT means to us. But I think that there’s information in here that will interest most of the readers on the blog, so hey, publish and be damned!

    DEEP3743 (Large)

    As well as being Microsoft UK’s largest event of the year, the BETT Show is the largest education ICT trade show in the world, with 30,000 visitors in 4 days. So our appearance at the show is the result of months of planning, and massive amount of team work right across the UK business. For example, with a core education team of 15 people, it takes a huge effort from an extended education team, and volunteers from right across the company, to get up to 50 staff for each day at the show – including the ever-popular Saturday. I noticed somebody on another blog calling it an ‘army of staff’ and being critical of the fact we had so many. But with 6,000 visitors a day heading to our stand, it is amazing how busy everybody gets in the peak times of the day!

    This year, with plenty of new products to launch, every one of the 200 square metres was busy all day, and with a mix of demonstration pods and a theatre holding up to 200, we were able to get through the usual volume of show visitors. Our research has shown that of the 30,000 visitors, 80% visit the Microsoft stand, and either see an individual demonstration or sit in one of our theatre presentations – from both Microsoft presenters as well some of our customers. Alongside the BETT show main stand, we also carried out 25 press briefings, for education, technical and mainstream media. This year we had a broad spectrum of individual briefings, for journalists from the Times Education Supplement and Education Executive, to the BBC and The Register.

    In addition to the BETT exhibition, the UK team were also deeply involved in Becta’s Learning and Teaching World Forum (LATWF) and the Education Leaders Briefing (ELB), events which were events for senior education ministers and policymakers around the world. LATWF is hosted by the UK government, and we are a sponsor, whilst the ELB is Microsoft hosted, and involves delegates from 48 different countries, and also brings in UK customers to present good practice examples. And finally, over 50 international visitors headed off to the New Line Learning Academies in Kent, to see an example of how education could be transformed by effective ICT.

    It was also the first time that we’d used the new brand at an exhibition, and the design of the stand was very different from the conventional Microsoft branding used before.

    DEEP3844 (Large)

    So with a bright orange stand, and 50 Microsoft staff, how did it go?

    • In our on-stand theatre we had seating for 60 people, but regularly packed in 180-200 people who were standing around the edge and in the exhibition aisles. With 18 presentations a day, all 20 minutes long, we presented some of our new products and solutions to more than 7,000 people.
    • The 20 individual demo pods gave us the chance to show off many of our existing and new products, including many of the things that schools can get for free. In addition to Windows 7, Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, we also promoted DreamSpark (free technical software for students), AutoCollage (free to teachers), Bing Maps, Live@edu, Education Labs and a few specialised partners (Prodigy Learning for IT Academy, Comet for Home Access and HP for MultiPoint Server)
    • We were joined on the stand by 13 school customers, who we were giving an insight into how they use our products on the demonstration pods as well as in the theatre.
    • Launches included two new products - MultiPoint Mouse and Kodu – as well as a new Partners in Learning competition for teachers.
    • We completed 25 press briefings in 3 days – with all kinds of journalists, from the mainstream press (like the BBC, T3, and the Financial Times) to IT trade press (like the Guardian, PC Advisor, ZD Net, Microscope and The Register) to specialist education titles (like the Education Executive, ICT in Education, and the TES). Some of the stories have already appeared, whilst some will be appearing over the next few weeks.
    • As well as UK customers, we hosted visitors on the BETT stand from 43 other countries (Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Libya, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA)

    Of course, all of that work will be most valuable when it helps customers to understand what it is that we offer to the UK Education market, and helps them to consider using of our products and services in their teaching and learning. So in addition to the 1,000 customers who have asked for a follow up from us, we’ll also be surveying a random sample of UK education customers through an independent school research panel. By using an independent panel, we can check the difference in views of Microsoft and our products between those who came to BETT and those who didn’t, and also those that came to the Microsoft stand and those who didn’t.

    BETT Press Coverage

    Some of the press briefings won’t appear in print for quite some time, but you can get an idea of the kind of coverage from what has appeared already:

    The Register

    Microsoft tells UK schools: buy our software, save money

    ZD Net

    Building Windows 7 into free home PCs

    Integrating Microsoft with Moodle

    The Times Education Supplement

    Off-the-wall ideas for a brave new world of global connections

    The Guardian

    School online services - for free

    The Guardian Technology Blog (Jack Schofield)

    BETT 2010: Trend spotting products

    MJO Online

    BETT 'knackeration' and 'Top 10 Money Saving Tips'

    Softpedia

    The Microsoft “Innovid” video competition is opened to teachers in the UK

    PublicTechnology.net

    Minister: Private/public partnerships vital to educational success

    Microscope

    BETT attracts major IT players targeting education







  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 9 – Stop your email servers

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    Part nine of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation

    imageWhen the DCSF issued their "Securing our Future" Discussion Guide (download the PDF version), it was accompanied by dire headlines in the papers warning of the need to save £750 million pounds in school budgets. Although the headlines were strong, the advice in the document was focused on practical things that schools could do to save money.   And there were a number of examples of ICT driven savings, including the example of the London Grid for Learning:


    London schools have reduced their ICT costs by adopting shared ICT services through London
    Grid for Learning (LGfL). In addition to broadband and learning platforms, shared services now
    include remotely hosted email accounts and personal server space for all staff and students, thus
    removing the need for schools to host their own exchange servers. Compared to school-hosted
    email services, schools save upwards of £10 per user per year – more than £11 million for London
    in total.

     

    Which leads me directly my Money Saving Tip Number 9 - endorsed by the civil servants of Whitehall (okay, that’s a bit cheeky, but hey, this is a blog!)

    image

    Switch off your email servers!

    Did you know that instead of running your own email servers, or paying somebody to run an email service for you, you could simply just switch to our free cloud-based Live@edu service? In the past we've offered this to local authorities and to your Regional Broadband Consortium-which is exactly why it's been featured as a London-wide solution - the LGfL switched last year.

    Here's the bullet point version of what it is:

    • Provides a co-branded hosted Exchange solution at no cost with Outlook Live (10GB mailbox per user)
    • Equip your students for the real world with Microsoft tools
    • Help to keep your students’ data private and promote online safety
    • Excite students with 25GB of free file and document online storage on Windows Live SkyDrive
    • Simplify online collaboration and document sharing with Office Live Workspace
    • Give your school a reliable and easy-to-manage Microsoft solution with enhanced security
    • Supported on all popular browsers on Windows or Mac, including Firefox and Safari

    And now you can sign up your school individually, and not have to go through your local authority. So if you're spending money on email for your students (or not using email as much as you want with students because of the cost implications) then here's what you do:

    • You register for a trial on our website
    • We'll then setup the system for you, with an Exchange sever in Dublin doing all the work,  
    • You can then access your email. from the web (using the 2010 version of Outlook Web Access), or from your existing email client (such as Outlook) or from other devices (like your mobile phone)
    • You can keep your own email address and domain (like head@excellentschool.countyshire.sch.uk)
    • And if you like it, you just keep using it. Free. Forever.

    It really is that simple.

    Now I reckon at this point you'll have some questions. So let's see how well l do at answering them!

    • No, there is no advertising on the email
    • Yes, really, it's free
    • No, your data doesn't take a transatlantic trip we keep it in our EU-based data centre in Dublin.
    • Yes, your students can each have a 10 GB mailbox, not 109B divided amongst them all
    • No, we don't scan the email for targeting adverts (see above!) 
    • Yes, you can set it up so that email is filtered for banned words (or even set it up with a third-party system to do email filtering etc - as LGfL have done)
    • No, we don't charge anything. It's free.

    So what should you do next?

    • If you're in London, talk to LGfL to find out when your school is scheduled to be switched on.
    • Otherwise, you can sign up for a trial (and I'd also recommend in parallel finding out if your local authority or RBC plans to roll this out).

    Go to the website for more information and for a trial

    How much will it save?

    The DCSF Discussion Paper estimated a minimum of £10 per user per year-meaning £11m across London. But it might be different (or more) in your school, so here's the costs you might save:

    • Server licences (Darn it, that's normally Exchange and Windows Server as a minimum!)
    • CALs (if you don’t know the acronym, CAL=Client Access Licence, then I recommend staying blissfully unaware, and leaving it to your network manager!)
    • Server hardware
    • Power for the server (24 x 365 could easily be £1,500+)
    • Cooling for the server
    • Support contract for the server
    • Filtering and spam-handling software
    • Technician time to keep it running and management time too
    • Backup devices
    • Backup media
    • …and I’m sure there’s a bunch of other things

    Instead, we take of all of that stuff (including server maintenance, backup and disaster recovery). If we use DCSF’s £10 per user per year, then that could mean a typical secondary school saving nearly £10,000 a year. And savings of £2,500+ for a primary school.

    What’s not to like? 

    A little bonus - a little later this year will be announcing the addition of new SharePoint Online based collaboration and productivity services tailored for students as part of the Live@edu online service. Based on the next version of SharePoint Online, these new services will be available to customers starting in the second half of 2010. Click here to learn more.




  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    New blog header today

    • 0 Comments

    My colleague Ben Nunney (who’s a Live@edu deployment specialist, a blogger, and a tweeter) sits behind me, and was mortally offended by my suggestion that you could do some nice graphic stuff in PowerPoint, and save yourself some Photoshop grief. I’d pointed out that the blog header was created in PowerPoint, because I could create overlays and gradients in PowerPoint (which I always had difficulty doing in Photoshop). Anyway, Ben’s a frustrated graphics designer, so last weekend he went home and started designing me a new blog header. In a few exchanges (with him sending me ideas mocked up in PhotoShop, and me sending back alterations done in PowerPoint Smile ) we arrived at the new header you see above.

    And now we’ve both right – the final JPG file was created in Photoshop, and the design stage was done in PowerPoint. A nice happy truce. (And according to Ben, a nicer header!).



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    A new way to add interactivity and quizzes to PowerPoint presentations

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    imageA few years ago I bought a keypad set so that I could create polls and quizzes in PowerPoint. But over time, I drifted away from using them, as it became increasingly difficult to set them up. But I’ve come across something that might well re-ignite my interest in doing talks and presentations with interactive questions. It’s a free product that plugs into PowerPoint 2007, called Mouse Mischief, that was launched in beta form at BETT.

    Like all good ideas, the principle is both simple and clever. Basically, you plug lots of mice into your computer (or connect lots of wireless mice). And each one can be used independently to answer questions.

    So, if you’re a teacher, and you’re delivering a lesson, you can pepper your PowerPoint with little questions and quizzes, to make it interesting for your class, and to give you instant formative assessment feedback.

    imageUsing the Mouse Mischief menu you can simply add Yes/No or Multiple Choice questions in your standard PowerPoint slides, tell it which is the correct answer, and then you’re ready. Because it is a standard PowerPoint slide, you can make the answers visual, not just limited to text. And pupils can either work as individuals, or join a team. Oh, and the teacher’s mouse is the one in control all the time (including a special “Freeze Student Mice” option when in quiz mode)!

    And once the answers are in, you can display the results on screen, including a little feature which shows who gave the first correct answer.

    It’s a great resource for whole-class or small-group teaching, but either way you’ll need to go looking for some more mice! But I’m willing to bet that you’ve got more spare mice around your school than you have spare polling keypads.

    Read an overview of Mouse Mischief here. Unfortunately the beta programme has now closed, so you've got wait a little while for full product release (not long, I promise!)

    In small groups, around a PC, then mice plugged into a USB hub will be the answer. Across a classroom, then wireless mice will be the answer (which will cost money, but still be a lot cheaper and easier to buy than wireless polling keypads)




  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 8 – Stop buying so much software

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    Part eight of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation

    Yes, the one you thought you’d never see from me in this list of Top 10 ICT Money Saving tips! But here it is…

    Did you know that you can buy a subscription called the MSDN AA (Trivia: MSDN AA stands for Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance). And the schools version is called High School AA. (Move along, no comedy to see here)

    In a nutshell, what it allows you to do is use a range of software for teaching and learning purposes in IT, design, art, maths and science, without having to buy the licences individually. And the software includes Expression Studio 2 (including Expression Web, Web, Blend, Media and Design), Visual Studio Professional and SQL Server [Detailed list]. AND you can provide it to your students for their homework assignments.

    All for £145 a year.

    image

    At this point, I should reinforce the five words above “for teaching and learning purposes”, so you can’t take use it for your SQL Server for MIS. It’s for teaching and learning only. And, Yes, we have understood that a school is all about teaching and learning, but I guess you’ll realise that we’ve written the rules in a very specific way to make sure that what we’re supporting is classroom use, not you running your whole school ICT system on MSDN AA software.

    The scheme also provides a range of support and training resources for teachers on the MSDN AA Faculty Connection web site. (To save you using your Babel fish, I’ll point out that K-12 on this US site means ‘schools’)

    So if you are licensing any of the software above, or you’re using an alternative product (pretty likely with the Expressions Design or Expressions Web suite), then there’s a potential (big) saving for you.

    You can find out more about MSDN AA on the Microsoft website.

    And a final bonus. If you already have a School Agreement subscription, then you’ve already got a free subscription to MSDN AA included! You may just need to activate it on the website



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    School Closures, Snow Days and Learning Platforms.

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    Over the last few weeks, the papers have been full of stories about school closures across the UK – naturally so, as half of all schools were shut down for at least a day by snow and ice. And it’s given impetus to the important issue of how a school that has to close can keep its children working, in contact with each other and with their teachers? Can they keep the learning going?

    The answer, surely, lies in the use of a good learning platform (and some were quick to point out that it was the ideal time to switch to virtual learning using the learning platforms that the majority of schools have in place). Not all schools, though, are equally up to speed with their anytime/anywhere learning strategies. So I think what’s important is that there’s a pooling of experience by schools that have at least made steps towards keeping their students on task. It’s in that spirit that our friends at the 1,600 student Twynham School in Christchurch, Dorset, are sharing their experience of a one-day snow closure earlier this term.

    Twynham has long used SharePoint as a support for learning, and since 2006 has been using, and constantly developing, its own learning platform – the Twynham Learning Gateway – using to the full the features of SharePoint 2007.

    Assistant Head Mike Herrity and his team spoke about their SharePoint Learning Platform on our stand at BETT. He described particularly the snow day experience, and he’s written his own document for use within the school, and been kind enough to share it with me. These are his key points.

    Mike starts by setting the scene:

    On Tuesday 5th January a notice was sent to all students during tutor time and the last lesson of the day when it became clear poor weather was likely…our commitment was to make a decision and post a notice by 7 am on the website

    The website, says Mike, was to be the definitive place for information. Radio, he points out, isn’t always reliable and prompt because of the sheer number of schools involved. Text messaging is fine -- but only if the list of numbers is complete and up to date. Twynham’s research, though, shows that broadband availability in the school’s community is nearly at 100percent

    Mike’s figures show that as the weather deteriorated, hits on the website climbed from its normal 3,000 daily hits eventually up to 21,000 on the day of closure itself, which was Thursday 7th January.

    The website notice reminded students and parents that the Twynham Learning Gateway would remain available for study support during closure, and the real story, for my money, is how remarkably well that worked. On average says Mike, the Gateway sees about 900 logins per day, in school time, on school computers. On the snow day, with school closed, and therefore no school computers in use, there were no fewer than 774 logins. As Mike says:

    This is an astonishing 86% of the average logins on a normal school day. What is clear is that students see the Learning Gateway as an integral part of their learning

    That last sentence says it all. Once a school’s Learning Gateway is “an integral part of their learning”, they can surely claim to be using technology to transform the way that their students engage with their work.

    You can see more about Twynham’s strategy in our ’Engaging with Parents’ case studies, which includes the stories of 5 schools, and looks beyond what they are doing to also at look at how they have done it.

    Here’s the introduction video for Twynham:

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Click here to follow the link if you can’t see the video above

    One of the great things about Twynham School is that Mike Herrity doesn’t ever seem to stop sharing his experiences, and the what/how/why of their work, on his SharePoint in Education blog. I’m sure more details of the Snow Closure experience is just around the corner!



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Download the Office 2010 Beta and find out what makes it good for the classroom

    • 1 Comments

    image

    The Office 2010 Beta is available for free download from the Microsoft website, and it’s something that you could install on one of your school computers to see what’s in it, and how it helps your staff and students.

    Remember how sometimes you felt smug when you were running Windows 7 Beta at least 6 months before everybody else in school? Well, you can feel it once again!

    Why trial the new Office system?

    In the past, when we released new software, you had to wait to see what it will do, and whether it is the right thing for your school. But now, with our new approach of releasing very public Beta versions, you can actually download an early versions months before release, and try it out with some of your staff and students, as well as trying it out from a technical installation perspective. With Office 2010, there’s a bunch of new features which are going to be especially useful for schools, such as:

    Save to SharePoint allows students and staff to use shared sites or their personal site on your Learning Platform more easily. This is because a majority of the learning platforms in use in schools has SharePoint running underneath it. Which means it removes all the hassle of having to save to your local disk, and then leave and upload the file to your learning platform.

    • Let’s face it, anything that makes it easier for teachers to use the learning platform in school is a good thing, given the research that says lots of schools have them, but not enough use them.

    Save to SkyDrive is one step further by connecting your users to their 25GB of free storage on the SkyDrive site. And because SkyDrive allows you to have private folders, shared folders and public folders, each user can easily control what’s visible to others, and available via any Internet connected computer. This is also the way to activate the Office Web Applications – once you’ve saved something on your SkyDrive it can be opened in the web version of Office 2010.

    • This is really important for teachers, because they can save a homework assignment, and know that all children can do it, whether or not they have Office on their home computer. Mind you, anecdotally, it appears that students are more likely to have a current version of Office on their home computer than the version at school, and we’re working hard to make sure that students that receive a free Home Access computer get Office on it too.

    Create PDF Document is something I have used quite a bit since discovering it – I can now take my Word document and turn it into something which is perceived to be more ‘professionally published’ because it’s a PDF. And it’s dead easy to use.

    • Although it’s probably not something used for homework assignments, it’s great for the leadership team when they’re publishing newsletters and school policies on the website.

    PowerPoint has a new “Broadcast Slide Show” option, which takes your presentation and presents it live on a web page – with all the fancy animations and everything else. So now, if you’re delivering a remote lesson (or you’ve been hit by snow!), everybody can be looking at the same thing, in high resolution and in real time, without needing any extra fancy software. All you do is share a weblink, and you’re ready to teach the world!

    PowerPoint’s new video features will genuinely make teachers smile, because it just makes working with video easier, so that teachers can include video in their lesson plans more easily. You can now trim the parts of the video to display – selecting when to start and stop the video automatically. It’s a doddle, just using the ‘Trim Video’ option, and dragging the markers to the start and end position. This is brilliant if you’ve got a long video in your library (eg a TV programme) that you want to only show 2 minutes from. Videos are now embedded in your presentation by default, meaning that your one PowerPoint file has all the bits it needs to run, rather than having to remember to copy all the video files.   And finally, you can now easily insert a video from websites like YouTube and TeacherTube just by clicking ‘Insert>Video>Video from Web Site’ and pasting in the embed code from the video.

    • I read in the Times today that schools are considering spending up to £10,000 a year on a filtering system for YouTube that stops the comments and related films showing up. I guess this is a cheaper alternative! Because you embed the YouTube video you want in your PowerPoint, and nothing else. Job done – no comments, no related films. Fixed.

    There’s plenty more (if, like me, you live in your Outlook Inbox, there’s tons there that will make you happy too!). But the easiest way to discover what it can do is to download it, install it and give it a whirl. That way, you can work out whether it is something you want to build into your summer deployment plans (especially if you have a School Agreement, and you’re covered for new releases – it can help you to plan your free deployment!)

    image

    I wouldn’t advise you to do something I wouldn’t do myself. I’ve been running the early versions of Office 2010 since last September, and this beta version since November. It’s given me the confidence that it works – which is why at BETT 2010 two weeks ago we only installed Office 2010, and ran everything on it. If you’re standing up in front of 200 people and presenting, it’s nice to know that it works well!

    PS If you’re going to do install it, can I highly recommend installing the Ribbon Hero too – and giving it to one of your least-innovative teachers (the one that’s glued to their Office 2003 Menu, and doesn’t like the new Office Ribbon menus). Ask them to try it for a fortnight with Ribbon Hero, and see if they’ll go back!

     




  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 7 – Stop printing so much

    • 1 Comments

    Part seven of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.

    Late last year, I was chatting with a group of senior leaders in schools about the amount of paper that is used in a typical school (it had been partially prompted by me, when I realised that I almost never print anything at work any more, and our new smart-card driven, location free printing actually deters me from printing!). But in schools it’s a different thing altogether – astonishing amounts of paper are gobbled up and spat out from lasers, inkjets, photocopiers and all kinds of reprographics machines. And also gobbled up are tens of thousands of pounds of school budget. And although it’s not always the ICT budget (although I bet you get hit for toner & ink), there’s a huge saving to be made from reducing the volume of printing, and ensuring that volume copying is done in reprographics, and not on your classroom printer.

    Some back-of-an-envelope calculations seemed to agree that it’s likely that a large-ish secondary school is going to print over a million copies of paper a year. And it was Mike Herrity, of Twynham School, actually went to the trouble of finding out what his school used. And his astonishing finding was:

    image

    Of course, it didn’t involve fag-packets, instead it was a quick check to see how much paper was delivered to the school in a typical year (Go on, down to the office with a packet of chocolate digestives, and I bet you come back with the answer after looking up the ESPO invoices). If the answer you get is about 1,000 sheets per pupil per year, then you’re not unusual. And other schools have backed up the number too – with typically between 1 and 1.2 millions sheets of paper per secondary school. Depending on which side of the Atlantic you prefer, that’s either 1 Nelson’s Column of paper, or 3 Statues of Liberty

    But why should it still be so huge, when we’ve got all of the ICT around, and I’m sure you’ll remember the great “Paperless Office” promise of the 90’s? At this point, I’m going to let Gerald Haigh, one of our writers, take over, as he’s been looking at the use of SharePoint (on which most schools’ learning platforms are based) to help:

    Is the “paperless school” a half-imagined myth, the Bigfoot of ICT? Surely it didn’t ought to be. If there’s ready access (at appropriate levels) to the school’s SharePoint-based learning platform, for students, staff, governors, parents and other stakeholders, such as the local authority, then it’s possible to glimpse the possibility of doing without a great deal of paper. Lots of commercial organizations have managed it after all.

    The potential rewards are considerable, and they aren’t always dependent on going paperless. For example, at Bristnall Hall Technology College in Sandwell, it costs nearly eight times as much to have a worksheet printed in the classroom on a laser printer as it does in the reprographics department. (0.8p as opposed to 6.0p) But because the cheap option means paying a personal visit to the repro department, teachers habitually go the expensive route. SharePoint removes the need to make the trip, replacing with an online ordering system. And lots of printing shouldn’t have to be done at all, says Phillip Wakeman, the school's ICT and network manager – agendas and background papers for meetings only need to exist on SharePoint for example. And perhaps more importantly:

    Students doing ICT coursework habitually print off the whole lot – and it could be 200 pages for each student – a few times each year. With 200 students in each year group, the amount of printing is enormous.”

    What he is hoping for now is that this work will be posted on SharePoint to be developed there, commented on by teachers and revised, and not printed out until the end of the process. Projected savings from use of SharePoint for this, and for meetings, minutes and so on are £25,000 - more if every department adopts best practice. Last year, says Philip, the school overspent its budget by £27,000. On the strength of the current £40,000 budget for printing and reprographics it should be relatively easy to eliminate that. Phillip’s working closely for consultation and advice with Microsoft Gold Partner Network Si who are active in delivering SharePoint solutions to education and business

    Another cost-saver, of course, is to use parent access to SharePoint as a way of cutting down on paper reports and newsletters. Mike Herrity, at Twynham School, is looking closely at this.

    We’re moving towards having all parents on the Gateway and we’re going to start asking if they will take electronic copies instead of paper. Over three years we’re going to move parents of 1,100 students to the Gateway.That’s going to be huge saving. We’ve also cut the budget of departments for photocopying”.

    Mike reckons that ultimately the school will save £50,000 to £70,000 a year on its total copying costs.

    However, Mike goes on to point out that some departments are so certain of the importance of their paper handouts that they continue to use them, if necessary by eating into other parts of their departmental budget.

    And that, of course, is an indication of how old habits die hard, and can slow down some of the gains that are to be had from a learning platform. Several staff interviewed for this study spoke of the difficulty of weaning colleagues away from what Alan Richards, of West Hatch School in Essex, calls “Knee-Jerk Photocopying.”

    Alan used the phrase in describing how, in a previous school, photocopying was brought under control by the introduction of a system which allocated and measured the use of the copying machines around the school.

    They were all connected up, everyone had swipe cards and an allowance of pages. Reports went to heads of department telling them which staff had printed what, and tabulating all the costs.”

    The result of this measure, which was intended to control expenditure, actually saw photocopier use – and costs – increase.

    It was because it was such a simple system to use, and worked all the time. A teacher in a classroom would be showing something good to the students and would just print off thirty copies for everybody.”

    The point of the story, says Alan,

    …is that it’s not so much the technology that counts as changing the culture. The teacher should be saying, ‘I’ll put this on the learning gateway, and you can go there and get it’.”

    The point of Gerald’s story is that whilst it’s likely that the technology is in place, there are habits which need to be changed. Once you’ve reached 1:1 computing, and every staff member and student is walking around with their own laptop, will it change? Probably not. In fact, if Alan’s example is anything to go by, it may get worse. So there’s no better time than now to tackle it.

    If the savings possible are between £20,000 and £70,000 a year, then that’s enough for 1, 2 or 3 NQTs. Or it’s the argument you need to get the senior leadership team support for some of the changes you can enable through effective ICT use in your school.






  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Running the Cloud – statistic overload

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    A few years ago, when we first started the Live@edu email service, it was running on the same system as Hotmail. Since then we’ve moved it onto a completely Exchange-based system, which has actually been running Exchange 2010 for quite some time. And so I’d forgotten about Hotmail. But running cloud services at a massive scale requires quite a lot of work in the background, and I was surprised me when I read the “peek behind the scenes at Hotmail” article, on the Inside Windows Live blog, because there are some stunning stats about how Hotmail is now run:

    • We deliver localised versions of Hotmail to 59 regional markets, in 36 languages*
    • We host well over 1.3 billion inboxes.
    • Over 350 million people are actively using Hotmail on a monthly basis.
    • We handle over 3 billion messages a day and filter out over 1 billion spam messages.
    • We are growing storage at over 2 petabytes a month (a petabyte is ~1 million gigabytes or ~1,000 terabytes).
    • We currently have over 155 petabytes of storage deployed (70% of storage is taken up with attachments, typically photos).
    • We’re the largest SQL Server 2008 deployment in the world (we monitor and manage many thousands of SQL servers).

    And the team go on to describe how they keep all of that running, and how they keep the deployment of new storage and systems ahead of the demand for it. I can’t imagine adding 2 million gigabytes of storage every month. That’s an awful lot of disks!

    Gizmodo have a nice graphic which tries to put a petabyte into scale – 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets, or 13.3 years of HD-TV. And it equates 50 petabytes to the entire written works of mankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages. And there’s three times as much as that in the Hotmail data centres!

    * As I mentioned, our Live@edu service actually runs on a different system. For example, data for UK customers is stored in our new Dublin datacentre, rather than outside of Europe or simply spread over a range of different worldwide data centres



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Safer Internet Day – 9th Feb 2010 – Resources to help prepare

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    imageEuropean Safer Internet Day is coming up very soon – it’s two weeks today – and a wide range of organisations are encouraging all schools to run an activity to link in to the event. Whether that’s an assembly, a message in the school newsletter or a parents talk, there are a pile of resources waiting to help. This year, with the announcement of free family computers under the Government’s Home Access scheme, you are likely to have lots of families in your school who’ll be online for the first time in 2010.

    I’ve already mentioned the Internet Safety Presentation webcast for parents that’s we’re running, which covers basic information on how technology such as social network and instant messaging is being used by young people. The webcast is there to support any other school activity you want to do, and is helpful if you want to bring an external (virtual) presenter in.

    The other place to look for resources is the ThinkuKnow website, which is run by CEOP. There is a special minisite for the Safer Internet Day, and it links to specific resources for lessons, assemblies and parents meetings. On their site, they’ve got a range of ideas of what your school could do to get involved:

    What can you do?

    You can help raise awareness of online safety issues in your community and here are a few suggestions and ideas to get you thinking...

    • Enter the Think before you post’ film competition as a group, class or as a solo entrant.
    • Deliver the Thinkuknow resources to the young people that you work with.
    • View the latest cyberbullying episode from Hector’s World – for 5-7 year olds
    • Download the new CEOP animated resources for 5-7’s with activities for
      pre school, called ‘Lee and Kim's Adventure - Animal Magic’.
    • Hold a Safer Internet Day assembly – we have short films with lessons plans for primary and secondary schools.
    • Advertise Safer Internet Day on your websites, newsletters and publications – download the online banners and SID badge for your website
    • Host a parents awareness-raising session using the Purely for Parent’s presentation.
    • Use CEOP printed resources or create your own to leaflet drop on your local high street.
    • Work with the local or regional media – place an advert, get a journalist to come to your event, take some pics and send them with a press notice to your local paper
    • Set up a stand in a local public space to distribute resources and show the Thinkuknow films.
    • Encourage young people to deliver resources to other young people, with the support of an adult.
    • Encourage local shops (particularly those selling new technologies) to highlight the risks online, by having leaflets by the tills or posters in the window.

    It may not be you who’s responsible for this kind of programme in your school, but perhaps you could pass this information along to whoever has got the assembly for 9th February on their mind!





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