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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

    European Safer Internet Day- 9th February 2010 - Free Parents Internet Safety Presentation


    Like you, Microsoft believes strongly in the importance of ensuring the Internet is a safe place for young people and adults alike.

    My colleague Karina leads a lot of our work on online safety. As well as being part of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), we’re also a partner of CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) and a number of our staff are trained by CEOP as volunteers to visit schools and educate children through presentations, using the Think You Know resources.

    Through doing this work, we’ve realised that there’s a big gap in knowledge amongst parents, and that they need a lot more help. This year, in addition to the CEOP trained volunteers, we also have other volunteers who are invited by schools to talk with parents.

    European Safer Internet Day

    To support European Safer Internet Day and the launch of the new digital code for children “Zip it, Block it, Flag it” Microsoft is offering all UK schools the opportunity to host their own parents awareness session. These virtual sessions offer your school the opportunity to host a parents evening with a presentation led by a Microsoft volunteer to inform and educate parents on the technology their children are using and how they can keep them safe when online.

    Digital safety rules - Zip it, Block it, Flag it

    About the Presentation

    The presentation will be a live webcast that you can join from your school at no cost.  All you need is to connect to the Internet on a screen or whiteboard and your parents will be able to see the presentation and you can submit questions from them should they have any.

    The presentation itself talks about the benefits and safety concerns of the Internet as well as introducing basic information on how technology such as social networking and instant messaging is used by young people.  It is designed to build confidence for parents in understanding the technology as well as a providing guidance and practical advice to safeguard their children and where to go for help.

    The presentation will take place on the 9th February 2010 at the following times:

    • 12.30-13.30
    • 15.30-16.30
    • 16.30-17.30
    • 18.00-19.00
    • 19.30-20.30

    Running A Session

    The session will be streamed over the internet, when you sign up you will receive the following:

    • Detailed guide to on how to join the presentation (including information of a short practice session)
    • Parents guide to Microsoft technology and parental controls
    • CD ROM for parents showing how to set up parental controls
    • Sample letter to use to invite parents

    How to Sign Up

    To book to host a virtual parents presentation for your school please book a place by January 28th 2010 by calling Karina Gibson on 0118 909 2803 or drop her an email email stating which session you would like to join.

    If this date doesn’t work for you, but you know that you’d like to do something for your parents, then it’s worth dropping an email to Karina. Although we don’t have volunteers all around the country, and they are stretched quite thinly, we are always willing to see if we can accommodate requests for talks to parents or students.

  • 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.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 1 – Server Virtualisation


    Each day I’ll write a short piece about each one of the money saving ideas in my BETT 2010 presentation.

    Are you old enough to remember the first time that you realised that you needed a room to put the server in? Rather than just leaving it in the corner of a classroom or the technician’s office?

    Those days are long gone now. Every secondary school has now got a Server Room, some of which are converted broom cupboards, whilst others are purpose-built, purpose-cooled spaces. And the average secondary school has probably got ten servers sitting inside them, because they’ve simply grown like topsy.

    imageThat’s exactly what Steve Gillott at Wootton Basset School had – 13 physical servers, with 13 support contracts, and 13 lots of electricity and cooling usage. And recently, Steve’s been saving money by turning 13 into 3 – by running virtual servers instead.

    The bit that makes it very worthwhile to read more is the savings that he’s made through doing it:

    • 10 support contracts = Save £5,600 this year
    • Not replacing 10 servers = Save £24,000 this year
    • Electricity on 10 servers = Save £18,144 this year

    In total, it saves £47,744 this year, and £23,744 every year after. Which is the equivalent of an NQT every year.

    Which school wouldn’t want to save that kind of money?

    You can read all about Steve’s project case study on the website of Clarity Advisors, who are his Microsoft partner.

  • 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

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


    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!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 6 – Stop buying every laptop


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

    Okay, the first five tips have concentrated on the idea of you making a ‘switch’ in the way that you do things.

    • Tip 1, on virtualisation, is saving Wootton Bassett School over £80,000 over three years
    • Tip 2, on desktop power management, could save a typical secondary school about £30,000 over three years
    • Tip 3, on low energy PCs, could save a further £15,000 over three years, as old computers are replaced
    • Tip 4, on switching the way you communicate, is saving Wootton Bassett School £160-£180 per day, per supply teacher
    • Tip 5, on changing remote access systems, will save Dean Close School £15,000-£25,000 on software

    imageAnd we’ve so far only covered one of my three strategies – Switch – and hopefully we’ll find some more savings in the Stop strategy.

    Tip 6 – Stop buying every laptop in your school

    Although some schools have already taken this step, for the majority of schools, I think this is something to think about for a medium term strategy. The basic principle of this cost saving idea is to think about how you can take advantage of the fact that most of your pupils already have a device – home computer, laptop, mobile phone – and that they are constantly getting more powerful. And we are just about to enter a new stage of this growth, as the government continues to promote the idea that having a computer is pre-requisite for learning.

    Jim Knight, in September 2008, as Schools Minister said:

    Having a computer with internet access should be seen as equally essential as having a school bag, uniform or pen and paper….It is unacceptable that the digital divide is growing with 35% of families having no access to the internet and around a million children having no computer at home.

    At university, over 95% of students now arrive on campus with a laptop, and the majority of universities now provide some form of network connectivity for them, to allow students to use their own laptops to support their learning. It has meant that universities need to buy less computers for every day tasks, and instead they can focus on specific needs for computers – eg in design or programming courses and in resource centres. Would that same model also work in schools in the future?

    What are the potential savings?

    According to recent BESA research, primary schools spend 41% of their ICT budget on desktops and laptops and secondary schools spend 48%. That’s a potential saving of over £6,000 a year for an average primary school, and £37,000 a year for an average secondary school. In total, that’s over £300M a year for all schools. Whilst it’s not likely that you can save the whole £300M, it is conceivable that half that amount could be saved by switching to allowing students to use their own laptops in school, making a potential annual saving of around £20,000 in a secondary school.

    The Home Access Programme

    On the 11th January, Gordon Brown announced the full roll-out of the Home Access Programme, with the words

    We want every family to become a broadband family, and we want every home linked to a school.

    The BBC ran the story as “Poorer pupils to be given free laptops”, and that’s a pretty clear explanation of the scheme – 270,000 families in England, with children between 7-14 can get a free computer with a broadband connection, if they qualify for Free School Meals. The reason for this targeted group is that the DCSF research shows that almost every other student has already got a home computer.

    If for some reason you’ve not heard about this scheme, you can find out more on the Home Access website. And if you’ve not already notified your parents about the scheme, then you should as soon as possible, as there are less grants than people who qualify. All the details of how parents apply is on the website, but in a nutshell you should encourage all of your parents who qualify for FSM with a child in years 3-9 to call 0333 200 1004 and apply for the grant. If they qualify they get a grant card, which they can go and redeem in specific shops, like Comet, for their choice of certified computer.
    You won’t be surprised to learn that the most common question my friends in the village ask is “What’s the catch?” – and there isn’t one. It’s a free computer, and a free one-year Internet connection. The computer belongs to the family for life – if they want to continue the Internet connection at the end of the year, they can if you want to, or switch/stop.

    Which means that pretty soon, you can make the assumption that every child in your school has a computer and Internet at home. And if you encourage the choice of laptops over desktops, does that mean that in a few years time, you could reduce the numbers of computers you have to buy out of your school budget, and instead allow students to bring in their own and use them on your network?

    What are the implications?

    Of course, there are quite a few implications for making a change like this. For example, ensuring your network and data is still safe and secure. And that students have the right software on their laptops. However, as you plan your strategy for the future, it is possible to make changes that allow students to connect their own laptops.

    • Network security: Now that many schools have Learning Platforms that students can connect to when they are out of school, is there a way to allow that within school in the same way? And what extra protection can you add to your network to make sure that you aren’t compromising your security (eg ensuring that all laptops connected to your network have up-to-date virus protection and the latest operating system updates)
    • Software: Is there a standard set of software that you need your students to have, and are there cost effective ways for you to buy on their behalf? Is there advice you can offer students about the choices they make?
    • Unsuitable activities: What are the kinds of things you need to ensure that students don’t do with their laptops – in school, and at home – and are there safeguards you can introduce to help parents and add further protection in school?

    Obviously this cost-saving idea isn’t for everybody, and many schools won’t have the necessary technical capabilities, or student profile to be able to make this switch. But I think it is something that should feature in your questions about your school’s ICT strategy for the future. Although there’s a cost and time implication for doing this, there’s a significant saving possible which more than offsets it.

    Want more information on how universities are doing this, from a technical point of view? There’s a case study on La Trobe University’s use of Network Access Protection, which includes a video overview too. There’s also a recording of a technical(!) webcast where the Microsoft team talked about how they manage this kind of system within Microsoft

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

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


    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!)


    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
    • 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

    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

    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 – 4 – Switch your communications


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

    So far, the first three money savings tips could save a secondary school over £100,000 over three years (and a primary school £20-£25,000). And this tip doesn’t shirk at saving money either, but I think it has further implications, because it brings opportunities to more fundamentally change the way that things in happen in your school – with lifelong savings and transformation opportunities. But enough waffle, on to the detail…

    Change the way your staff communicate and teach

    By a combination of Office Communications Server, and Office Live Meeting, there are a number of schools who’ve discovered that they can save money, as well as add new facilities in school.

    Here’s my summary of the two systems in a nutshell:

    • Office Communications Server (OCS) gives you internet phone calls within and outside of school, a conference calling system, secure instant messaging within your school and/or local authority and remote desktop sharing.
      Read more about OCS on our website
    • Office Live Meeting adds the ability to deliver training or lesson materials through any software, including PowerPoint, to groups (eg students) who can be anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection.
      Read more about Office Live Meeting on our website

    By putting these two things together, you have a way of managing your school communications more effectively, and it also gives you ways to switch around your teaching resources. For example, you can use it to deliver a lesson to students across a number of schools at the same time (eg where you have small groups of students in individual schools, who are currently moving between schools for courses), or where you have a cover lesson, and an experienced subject teacher is used to start the lesson off, and then the lesson is managed by a cover supervisor.

    The availability of instant messages, but within the secure context of your own school only, means that you can allow teacher-to-teacher messaging, or student support outside of lesson hours, without having to have your staff and students using public systems like Windows Live Messenger. (And because you control the system, you can keep a record of all conversations).

    imageSteven Gillott, at Wootton Bassett School in Wiltshire, used OCS and Live Meeting to improve staff-to-staff communication, allowing staff to choose the right medium – phone, mobile, instant message, email or video conferencing – at the right time. And it also allows staff to quickly escalate a conversation, by bringing in others, or changing from an IM Chat to a full video conference. The school also use it to help deliver more flexible accelerated learning for their students, and the changes that it allows in covering lessons means that they are saving between £160 and £180 per day per supply teacher – at the same time as allowing greater educational continuity.

    Wootton Bassett School worked with Microsoft partner Eurodata Systems to implement their system, and you can read more about it in the case study on their website

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