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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

    BETT 2010 Freebies list


    imageIt’s only a day away – and still a lot to do to get ready! However, I have managed to get together the freebie list from our stand – mainly because I know that there are some people who plan their BETT visit around scooping up the freebies, so here’s the list (in all cases, you’ll find these things on the main Microsoft stand, just inside the Grand Hall).

    • USB Memory Sticks: We’ve got 10,000 USB memory sticks which we’re going to give away on the stand as they have the details of the competition we’re running as part of our Partners in Learning programme. The competition is for teachers to create short videos of how they use our technology to support learning, with a prize of 20 netbooks for the winner’s school.
      Just head for the demo area labelled “Partners in Learning”
    • DreamSpark: Did you know that your ICT students can get free copies of most of our technical software? It means that if you’re teaching something in class that uses programming tools, or some of the high-level graphics tools, that you can let them use it at home free (even if you don’t have a licence in school!)
      Just head for the demo area labelled “DreamSpark”
    • SharePoint Photo Gallery: Twnyham School, who are SharePoint whizzes, are on our stand all week, showing off their home-built Learning Gateway, and Mike Herrity has announced that they’re going to give away their SharePoint Picture Gallery webpart. If you’ve got a learning platform based on SharePoint, you can use this to turn photos in a document library into a slideshow carousel. Brilliant!
      Just head for the demo area labelled “SharePoint 2007 - Twynham School”
    • AutoCollage: Another freebie from the Partners in Learning programme – free licences for AutoCollage for education use.
      Again, just head for the “Partners in Learning” demo area.

    Not coming to BETT? I’ll grab a pile of each of these on the first day of the show, and get them out to the first 100 people from the UK that drop me an email with your name and address*

     While you're here, let's have your thoughts in the Comments - What has been the best ever BETT freebie?

    * Give me a few days to get it all in the post – it ain’t going to happen this week!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 2 – Cutting your electricity bills


    Part two of the money saving tips, based on my BETT 2010 presentation

    Yesterday, I covered saving money by server virtualisation. Today, let’s go outside of the server room and consider all of the computers right around you school. With the rapid growth in the number of computers (an average secondary school has more than 300 according the recent research) has also come a rapid growth in the electricity bills associated with them. However, that’s often invisible to the ICT team in the school, because the energy bills come from some other budget in the school, not from the ICT budget (I can imagine a few of you saying “Phew!” at this point)

    But what about making some changes to reduce the energy usage – because not only would it help your overall school budget – and perhaps use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that an investment in parts of your ICT budget can save significant amounts of school budget.

    The tip is to use upgrade your workstations to a later version of Windows – if you upgrade to Windows 7, you will find that you can typically save between £23 and £46 per computer per year. So an ‘average’ secondary school is going to save up to £10,000 a year, and a primary school up to £3,000.

    The reason is that within Windows 7 the standard configuration of Windows is set to use the power saving features more often, and especially during periods of low or non-activity. For example, Windows 7 makes more use of:

    • Switching off the display after inactivity, reducing the monitor power usage
    • Using Sleep mode, to put the PC into an extremely low-power mode, but with rapid restart
    • Using Hibernate mode, to put the PC into a zero-power mode, with rapid restart

    And within Windows 7 it is easier to manage this across your whole set of PCs at once – as a network manager, you can make a Group Policy change on power settings (eg changing how many minutes of inactivity to allow before switching off the display) to every machine in the school with one setting change. In Windows XP you may have to visit every single machine to make a change.

    Dave Coleman at Twynham SchoolDave Coleman, Network Manager at Twynham School, has worked to minimise the electricity bills in his school using Windows 7, and is potentially going to save this promises to pay back the decision to upgrade very quickly. In Dave’s case, he found out the energy usage of his PCs and monitors from a bit of Internet searching, but perhaps an easier way is to pop into B&Q or Homebase and pick up a power monitor plug. They typically cost a tenner, and if you plug it into the wall, and plug your computer and/or monitor into it, you can very quickly see how much money they cost to run on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. A couple of days of research should help you to estimate your potential savings.

    You can read a lot more about this in the PC Pro report from 2007, when the power saving settings were first introduced in Windows Vista. And the report will help you to work out your own power savings in your school.

    After all, if you can go to your head teacher and explain that a software upgrade could save you more money in the first year than it will cost, it’s a pretty compelling case!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Ribbon Hero – combining games and learning


    It seems that one of the trendy topics discussed at education conferences these days is the combination of gaming and learning. Most of the time, it’s discussed in the context of the classroom or of students, but I’ve just learnt that we’ve now applied it to product training, in one of our experimental Office Labs releases


    Today Microsoft Office Labs released Ribbon Hero, a free prototype app that works with Office 2007 and with Office 2010 beta. The new prototype is designed to test the effectiveness, feasibility and appeal of delivering Office training in a game-like setting.  The heart of Ribbon Hero is a set of challenges that users play right in the Office applications. These challenges expose users to features that they might not be aware of and which can help users get their work done faster.

    In addition, Ribbon Hero awards points for using both basic features, such as, Bold and Italic, and for using the features introduced in the challenges.  Ribbon Hero does some analysis of the person’s usage patterns to prioritise the order in which it presents challenges.Endquotes

    image And then to add the competitive element, Ribbon Hero integrates with Facebook so you can share your success (or in my case, failures) with your friends.  Ribbon Hero offers to post an update to your Facebook profile when impressive point levels have been reached.  This feature enables you to compare your success with Ribbon Hero with your friends and compete for bragging rights.

    Ribbon Hero is a free download, and has got to be a big step up from conventional training ideas and manuals. Having heard Sir Mark Grundy of Shireland Collegiate Academy talk about the way they get their students learning by having a leader table for educational games, I can imagine the same kind of thing happening with this.

    And timely too, as Office 2010 approaches, it’s another useful tool to help with the migration from Office 2003. (Even if you’re on Office 2003 at school for a while, most students at home will be using the 2007 version, so perhaps a cheeky homework assignment!)

    You can read more about it on the Office Labs blog, or watch the short videos to see how it works.

    And finally, to download free Office 2010 beta visit

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips


    At the BETT Show in London in January 2010, I have the luck of telling the story in our theatre called “Top 10 Money Saving Tips”. Of course, I had a few weeks to prepare, and a lot of help from individual schools who looked at their use of ICT and pointed out how it had helped save their school money.

    The reason for doing the presentation was that we all know that there’s a bit of a budget crunch going on – and 80% of network managers in a recent survey reported that they’d had their ICT budget cut. But I’ve come across many examples of where a bit of spending on ICT had save a heap of spending on another part of the school budget. So I had one really simple goal: To help the ICT team in school to explain to the leadership team how they can help out the rest of the school. And this isn’t chicken-feed stuff – the very first idea I talked about was saving nearly £45,000 in one school. And plenty of the ideas were saving money in other budgets – like knocking up to £20,000 of the school electricity bill, or £40,000 of the reprographics and printing costs.

    I hope that what I’m going to share will help you move the conversation 
    I need £5,000 to upgrade some software
    Can I go on a training course costing £1,000
    If we invest £5,000 now, we’ll save £10,000 by the end of the year
    which is the kind of thing that head teachers like to hear!

    Every day, starting tomorrow, over the next two weeks I’ll share one of the tips each day, and hopefully build up a helpful stock of ideas for you to think of for next year. They are grouped into three money saving strategies:

    imageAnd a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation is that there’s at least £150,000 of real savings to the school budget coming in these tips.

    Here’s the list of what’s coming (they’ll turn into links each day):

    Need the list quicker? Well, see you on the BETT stand every day, at 1 and 4:30!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    School Closures, Snow Days and Learning Platforms.


    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

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


    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.


    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

    A new way to add interactivity and quizzes to PowerPoint presentations


    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

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


    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'


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

    Minister: Private/public partnerships vital to educational success


    BETT attracts major IT players targeting education

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

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



    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!)


    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


    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:


    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.

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