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February, 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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February, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Get off Facebook, Dad, I need to finish my homework


    At BETT we issued a press release on parental views towards ICT, at home and at school. This was suppored by research done during December 2009 and surveyed 500 parents of secondary-school age children, so it is recent, and it will be representative.

    I’ve held back on publishing it on the blog, until the BBC covered it - you can read their story “More studying on home computers” here

    There seems to be a common misconception that children only use their computers at home to play games or connect to social networks. However, the research seems to suggest that instead the connection gap between the home PC and schoolwork comes not from students but from the parents who are using home PCs for social networking and uploading photos and videos. The culture of learning is changing and parents need to keep up and I can imagine across the country children are saying, ‘‘Get off Facebook, Dad, I need to finish my homework!”.

    I think that due to the way that children are using PCs, there is an increasing blurring between learning-time and leisure-time and so computers in the home are becoming as important as those in the classroom.

    The way that students are consuming information and engaging with each other and their teachers is constantly changing, as is the way that they learn and are motivated. There is a need for parents as well as teachers to adapt to this changing behaviour through the use of technology and programmes like Home Access. Getting parents on board, with the right skill-set to support and engage with their children effectively at home, is essential. It was good to see that two-thirds of parents felt they needed to improve their ICT skills to keep up with their children.

    Here’s the start of the news release, and below I’ve put a copy of a summary of the key findings, some of which may be useful for you in conversations in school – as well as with parents!

    Parental attitudes towards home PCs as a learning tool will enhance the success of the Home Access Programme

    LONDON – 13 January 2010 – Microsoft has today released the findings of a recently-commissioned survey that highlights the importance of parental engagement alongside getting PCs into the hands of children that currently do not have computers at home.

    The study explored the attitudes of parents of secondary school age children (11-18 year olds) across the UK and revealed that making IT in education a success is more than just about access to the right technology. In order for children to truly benefit, there must be parental understanding of PCs as a learning resource as well as effective parental engagement.

    512 parents participated in the research, conducted in December 2009 and released today. The study shows that 9 of 10 children use their home computers at least once a week for educational reasons – the same percentage as those who use a school computer for study during the same period of time. The survey also found that 4 out of 10 children use their home computers for study every day, which is more than the 3 out of 10 who use computers daily at school.

    Headline findings

    • The view among parents is that computers provide a key learning resource, although the lack of availability and quality of computers in the school setting poses some questions.
    • Parents are heavy computer users, with a majority describing using a computer as one of their favourite activities.
    • It is clear, however, that parents have certain concerns about IT and feel that it is their responsibility of the parent to learn about technology.
    • Fathers appear more concerned about IT and how it impacts on their children and consequent parental relationship

    IT as learning tool

    • While we are all aware that to younger generations computers are hugely important, the survey illustrates the extent of computer use not simply as recreational tool for gaming or networking but as a genuine educational resource.
      • 11-18 year-olds are clearly hugely enthusiastic about their computers: for 71% it is among their favourite activities and almost all (94%) enjoy using them.
      • The big surprise is the number of children using their home computers for study. 90% use their home computer for study at least once a week: the same percentage as those who use a school computer for study. 37% use their home computer daily for study (against 30% at school).
      • 97% of parents believe computers have at least some value for their child’s learning, with 39% describing them as ‘crucial’.
      • The home computer is highly valued: 82% of parents think that their child’s computer at home is better than the one at school.
      • Almost a third of parents worry that their does not get enough access to computers at school. 27% think their child’s learning is being ‘hindered’ by their school’s poor IT resources.

    Parents and their computers

    • Some of the enthusiasm for IT demonstrated among kids is likely to rub off on their parents. We found that a majority for parents are as keen, if not more, than their children on computers, and use them for a wide range of activities:
      • 99% of parents enjoy using computers, and for 65% it is among their favourite activities. A fifth say it is their favourite activity.
      • They are using their computers for a range of multimedia and social networking activities: 73% of parents have a Facebook account, 53% have uploaded photos to a website, and 28% have uploaded YouTube videos.

    Parents as IT guardians

    • Despite their enthusiasm for computers, many parents are worried about their own IT skills. This derives from a need to ‘keep up’ with their kids’ often quite advanced knowledge and also the more traditionally parental instincts of nurturing and guardianship. They want to protect their children and ensure that they are getting what they need from IT.
      • Although parents already seem to be fairly technologically advanced, they still want to broaden their skills: 63% would like to know more about technology than they already do.
      • This is, at least in part, driven by their desire to help their kids: 86% look for ways to help their children in their education and, as we’ve seen already, 97% believe that technology is a benefit to their child’s learning.
      • As such, it should come as little surprise that 80% agree that it’s a parent’s responsibility to be conversant on computers.
      • 58% worry about what their child is doing on the internet, and an even higher proportion, 91%, believe that it is their responsibility to monitor what their child sees and does on the internet. Concerns about the dangers of the internet are still clearly top of mind for parents, and a key driver of their involvement with their kids’ IT activities.
      • Above and beyond concerns about skills and security, there is a not insignificant group of parents who are worried about the impact a gap in IT skills could have on the parent/child relationship. 40% agree that “The IT gap between parents and their children is harmful to the relationships of those parents and their children.”

    Variance by Age and Sex

    • We see some significant differences between the populations when we look at variance by age/gender etc.
      • Men are more likely to worry about what their children are doing on-line, 63% compared to 52% of women.
      • They also are more concerned about the impact that an IT gap between parents and children can have. 47% of men feel such a gap can be harmful to relationships, compared to only 32% of women.
      • Younger parents, despite typically having greater levels of expertise and knowledge of IT and the internet also worry more about their children on-line. 64% of under 34s with children compared to only 43% of over 55s are concerned about what their children are doing on-line

    You can read the full press release as a PDF here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 11 – Part Two of Saving Students Money


    Part eleven of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.
    Good news, my counting was hopeless, and my Top 10 tips actually contains 14 Top ICT Money Saving Tips. So there’s more to come after this one

    Thanks to those of you who’ve asked me to ‘get a move on’ writing up these. With so many other things which need doing, it’s important to get the occasional chivvy along, as it proves that somebody wants these tips!

    Today’s tip is the second one for your students – it’s not going to save you money, but it could save some of your students a packet.

    Free technical software for students

    Under the DreamSpark scheme, schools can register with us, and then have the ability to give students free access to a range of technical software – programming tools, design tools and games development tools – for their own use at home. The idea is simple – if you’ve got Computer Studies or Design students, then they may want to use the same software at home as you use in school, but it tends to be quite specialist, and can be expensive.


    The steps to get DreamSpark for your students are easy:

    • Register your school on our website
    • Verify your school (eg we ask you to fax us something that shows you do represent your school!)
    • We then send you your student access keys – and they use these to download the software from the DreamSpark site for home use.
    • Err, that’s it.

    Of course, if you want the complicated version, then feel free to read our whole FAQ for the school scheme

    So, if somebody in your school is a budding programmer, designer or robot builder, you can now make their day.

    Find it all at:

    I’m sure you don’t need reminding to forward this onto your ICT Co-ordinator in school!

    Small Print: I knew you’d look for this! Some things worth knowing are:

    • This is available to your students for home use, whether or not you buy this software for your school too
    • You are responsible for distributing the access keys to your students – you don’t share any student information with us
    • If you want to buy this software for your school, look at MSDN AA in Money Saving Tip #8 for the best way

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows Azure in four minutes


    This blog post is definitely for the techies amongst you!

    Things are changing very rapidly in the way that ICT services can be delivered and used in schools. Although most of these developments aren’t specific to education, they are addressing needs of schools.

    Windows Azure logo blOne of the developments is the Windows Azure system, which is designed to allow you to run services and develop applications for a cloud-based system, instead of having a big pile of servers within your school.

    Unless you’ve got a pile of developers in your school (and some of you do!) then I guess you aren’t going to be buried in the detail of how these services work – because it will mainly be used by your suppliers, as they think about moving some of their applications to the cloud.

    The official summary blurb for Azure describes it thus:

    The Windows Azure platform offers a flexible, familiar environment for developers to create cloud applications and services. With Windows Azure, you can shorten your time to market and adapt as demand for your service grows.

    Windows Azure offers a platform that is easily implemented alongside your current environment.

    - Windows Azure: operating system as an online service
    - Microsoft SQL Azure: fully relational cloud database solution
    - Windows Azure platform AppFabric: makes it simpler to connect cloud services and on-premises applications

    But I’ve found a short video that provides an overview of Windows Azure in a much more digestible form. Having watched it, I can now describe it to other people much better (and now fully appreciate why it’s a good thing!). It’s a good video if you’re a school network manager, or perhaps for IT Co-ordinators as a teaching resource.

    The best simple introduction I’ve seen for Windows Azure

    If you can’t see the video above, then here’s a direct link. However, as it’s a YouTube video, it may be blocked by your school filter – unfortunately I couldn’t find a copy anywhere else.

    Fascinating fact: Steve Marx has blogged about how he made this video - using just PowerPoint & Community Clips. I’m envious of his talent.

    If this is a bit lightweight for you, then you may prefer to read the Introducing Windows Azure whitepaper (PDF) – just one of many whitepapers on Windows Azure

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Looking for school customers to share opinions on licensing


    Each year we have about 80-90 interns that join Microsoft for a year, normally after their second year at university. They work all over the business, and each year we have two that work in the education team. One of last year’s interns, Mitch, worked on support for education licensing (Oh, I can hear the jealous cries now!) and now that he’s returned to university for his final year, he’s doing a business project as a replacement for a dissertation. And he’s chosen to work on a customer satisfaction project with education licensing. We benefit too, as he’ll present back the results of his work to Microsoft as well as his university lecturers (although individual responses stay anonymous).

    And he’s asked me if I can ask for your help:

    Microsoft Education Customer Satisfaction (Research)

    My name is Mitch Phypers; Between June 2008 and July 2009, I worked as an intern at Microsoft specifically within the UK Education Licensing team providing licensing and operational support to Microsoft Partners.  I am now in my final year of university studying Business with Operations and Project Management.

    Instead of a dissertation, I have had the opportunity to work with a university colleague on a consultancy project for a company.  We have decided to focus the consultancy project on Microsoft’s education customer satisfaction, looking directly at licensing satisfaction specifically in Schools.

    Would you be willing to take part in a telephone call with myself at some point during February?

    I would be really interested to hear about your personal experiences with Microsoft and your honest opinions/views of the current licensing processes in place (including licence management, product licensing, licence documents etc).

    If you would be willing to participate in a telephone interview (15-30 minutes max), that would be fantastic.  If you could please let me know by emailing a confirmation to (This email has been created for our project purpose only).

    We hope to hear from you soon.

    Mitch has already done a batch of research with some of our education licensing partners, and he’s now keen to get some impressions from the ‘other side of the fence’! If you’re willing to give him a bit of your time, then drop him an email and let him know. I’m guessing that some of you who read the blog would have an opinion to share?

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Blog giveaway – Being Human - Human-Computer interaction in the year 2020


    imageWhen Microsoft Research sponsored a conference on Human-Computer interaction they produced a fantastic book called “Being Human” (view PDF) that looked into the future, and gives an idea of what human-computer interaction might look like in a decade. It doesn’t just look at it from a Microsoft perspective, but considers a wide range of products today and research across the world that is building that future.

    It’s a fascinating read and very well written. And having seen some of the work at their labs in Cambridge, it’s one of the less-scary visions of the future! Of course, it’s got the style of interface we see in the Minority Report, but also some simple ideas which take advantage of the ubiquitous connectivity (my favourite simple idea is the Whereabouts Clock – left and on page 71, which gave me an immediate “I want one of those” feeling that I haven’t had since playing with the Surface in 2008.)

    Anyway, I have 6 copies to give away as a classroom resource. Just drop me an email, with your name and address, and I will stick a copy in the post.

    Sorry, all the spare copies I had have been snapped up. However, I'd recommend the download of the Being Human PDF version, as there are some good sections which would make good curriculum resources.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 10 – Save Students Money


    Part ten of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.
    Good news, my counting was hopeless, and my Top 10 tips actually contains 14 Top ICT Money Saving Tips. So there’s more to come after this one

    So far I’ve talked about saving your school budget directly, but for the next couple of tips, I’m going to look at saving your students money (or perhaps their parents!).

    The first student money saving tip is to ensure that when they’re buying Microsoft Office or other Microsoft software, they are getting the best price. As you know, we have specific education licensing schemes for schools, which means that you pay a lot less for our software than a consumer or a business. But did you know that your students can also buy software under an education licence too?

    What price is Microsoft’s student software?

    Let’s use Office as an example. Not only are there lots of different versions of the Office suite, but lots of different prices:

    • Our retail package, Office 2007 Home and Student, can be bought from a high-street retailer or online store, and typically costs £60 or over.
      Today, it’s £59.99 at Amazon, £69.95 at Dixons, and £70.49 at Misco, and £69.95 at PC World

    • The business packages, like Office 2007 Standard, are sold through most Microsoft partners, and typically start at over £200. (Some parents buy these licences for their children, because they specifically want Access or Publisher, and haven’t realised there are Academic versions)

    • The Academic licence version of the business packages, which is limited to use by education institutions, staff or students. You won’t see them in the high street or at most normal computer shops, as they are only available through our authorised Education partners. Although each of our education partners set their own price, I grabbed a copy of the Pugh catalogue, and their price for Office Standard is £94 under our “Academic Fully Packaged Product”. (For schools to buy these licences for their own use, Pugh quote £52 under our “Open” licence scheme, and £29 under “Select”)
    • For students, we have a small number of partners who run online shops, where students can order Academic versions directly. Normally, after the students order, the partner will ship out a DVD along with their licence key. A quick scan across the sites gives a slim range of prices for Office 2007 Standard Academic Edition:

    • Most students actually buy the Professional or Professional Plus version, so that they get Access and Publisher, and the prices vary on these between the suppliers (but always at a significant saving). It’s worth shopping between the stores depending on what version your students want (Today, the cheapest price on Professional Plus is £44.99 at two of the stores above)

    Should students be buying software for their schoolwork?

    I know there are people that think students shouldn’t have to buy software for their schoolwork. However, the reality is that many of them do buy copies of Office (if you want to know if that’s true in your school, go and ask a typical class how many have Word and PowerPoint at home). And if they’re going to do it, you can help them save money by buying from the right place.

    And I also know that there are people who argue that it shouldn’t be as expensive. Often this is said by people that think that Office costs £100 or more (in a research panel recently, we found that 60% of students believed Office cost over £100 in the shops, when the reality is it’s often under £70 everywhere).

    And there’s another argument that’s relevant for parents:



    A copy of Office will typically last for 3 years before it’s replaced, costs under £40, and will support their children’s learning in lots of ways.



    A copy of Call of Duty will typically last a lot less time, costs more money, and I think it’s difficult to argue that it supports learning of the National Curriculum

    I’m not arguing that parents shouldn’t buy games for their children, but am arguing that there’s a balance to the argument that Office is expensive!

    Where students should buy software

    In a nutshell, to save money when buying Office, your students should go to one of our student partner shops, because they are going to get between 40% and 95% off:

    RM’s Basement



    Pugh’s Student Shop

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