website stats
February, 2010 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
Home    index of content      about this blog     rss feed     email us     our website

February, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free anti-virus protection for staff and student owned computers


    I was suprised to discover I hadn’t blogged this before. So if you’ve renewed an anti-virus subscription for your home computer since last October, when this was launched, then I’m sorry!

    We have launched a free anti-virus programme, Microsoft Security Essentials, which is for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, and comes with lifetime updates. It’s simple to install and very easy to use. And free.

    The “free” bit is restricted to home users, because we don’t believe that this is the right solution for a school-wide anti-virus. For school, you need a centrally managed anti-virus solution, where you can force settings so that all of your machines are updated automatically all the time, and that your users can’t switch off updates. For school use, there’s Microsoft Forefront, which is a cost-effective managed protection system (free trial here)

    Here’s the official blurb:

    Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

    Microsoft Security Essentials is a free* download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.

    Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times.

    You can download Microsoft Security Essentials free from

    If you’ve got students in your school who are bringing in files on a memory stick, or uploading things to your Learning Platform, then it’s in your interest to help them get protected, to reduce the risk of virus infections on your school computers.

    Here’s a banner and link that you could put onto your school website or learning platform:

    And there’s also an image that you could use for your noticeboards in school for staff or students.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Kodu Game Lab – using gaming to interest students in programming


    I know it’s half-term, and therefore most teachers aren’t in school. But then, there’s more time to play with new stuff in half-term! So I thought I’d blog it anyway.

    There aren’t enough students studying computing subjects – this PC Pro article’s chart shows just how bad it is expect to get – and at least part of that is that their is a disjoint between computing and real-world ICT. However, there’s also the issue that it has become increasingly difficult to engage students in programming, especially when they are younger – leading them to want to study computing at A-level or for a degree.

    imageThis explains just two of the reasons that we’ve been working on a visual programming language for a few years now. In January, we announced Kodu for PC, which is designed specifically for children to be able to create games. And made it available as a free Technical Preview. It’s described as “an end-to-end creative environment for designing, building, and playing your own new games”. Originally, Kodu was just for the Xbox, but now there’s a PC version, you can run on it on a standard classroom PC. And then your students can share it on your school network, so that other students can play (and learn).

    As the Kodu team describe it, it’s all about using programming as a creative medium:

    The core of the Kodu project is the programming user interface. The language is simple and entirely icon-based. Programs are composed of pages, which are broken down into rules, which are further divided into conditions and actions. Conditions are evaluated simultaneously.

    The Kodu language is designed specifically for game development and provides specialised primitives derived from gaming scenarios. Programs are expressed in physical terms, using concepts like vision, hearing, and time to control character behavior. While not as general-purpose as classical programming languages, Kodu can express advanced game design concepts in a simple, direct, and intuitive manner.

    It’s already being tried out by some schools in the UK, and there are a number of projects in education worldwide:

    • In the USA, in Detroit, the Explorer Elementary school has been running the Explorer Kodu Club.  Children are showing up early for school to work on their Kodu projects while learning about programming, design, and narrative development. 


    imageYou can find out all about Kodu, and download the free Technical Preview version for PC at the Kodu Game Lab

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Home Access – tell your parents NOW


    I read earlier in the week that Becta have had more than 180,000 enquiries for the Home Access programme, and have sent out 132,000 application forms for the free grant.

    Quick summary: Disadvantaged children (think: who qualify for Free School Meals) in KS2 and KS3 can get a free computer and broadband connection, fully funded by a Home Access grant card. Parents apply for the grant on 0333 200 1004 , receive a special Barclaycard, and can then go and spend it on specific approved computers with specific approved suppliers. And it’s England only.

    There are only 270,000 computers/grants available, and the scheme is allocating them on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you’ve not yet sent anything out to your parents yet, then now’s the time to get moving. If it keeps going at this rate, all the grants will be gone by the middle of March.

    Where to get more details on Home Access 

    A word of advice for your parents: Each supplier chooses what computer they supply. Whilst some are providing free computers with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office, some others are providing computers with only Windows XP and Open Office. My recommendation is to send your parents to one of the following suppliers:

    • Comet – because they are the only ones where you can go into the store, see their range, and take it away with you that day.
      And every Comet computer has Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007, as well as the Home Learning Package, which includes theDigital Literacy Curriculum

    • XMA/T-Mobile – because you can place your order in their high-street T-Mobile shops, and they’ll deliver to you at home within 10 days. 
      And every XMA computer has Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007, as well as the Home Learning Package, which includes the Digital Literacy Curriculum

    • Misco – because they’re the only supplier currently with a desktop. You can only order from Misco over the phone, although you can find details of the products online.
      And every Misco computer has Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007, as well as the
      Home Learning Package, which includes the Digital Literacy Curriculum 

    Act now

    I know it’s nearly half-term, but I’d recommend getting something out right now to the children who qualify for free school meals, urging their parents to call the grant line (0333 200 1004) to register for the application form. Before they run out of grants.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Ofsted report The safe use of new technologies


    According to the BBC News this morning:

    Blocking pupils' access to unsuitable websites does not encourage them to take responsibility for their safety online, Ofsted inspectors say.

    "Managed" online systems were more successful than "locked" ones at safeguarding pupils' safety, they said.

    In a report, Ofsted said the area most in need of improvement was online safety training for teaching staff.

    The report was published in E-safety Week, which aims to raise awareness of some of the dangers of technologies.

    Ofsted inspectors visited 33 primary and secondary schools, a special school and a pupil referral unit and found e-safety was outstanding in five, good in 16, satisfactory in 13 and inadequate in one.

    The five schools judged outstanding for online safety all used managed systems to help pupils become responsible users of technology.

    Where the provision for e-safety was outstanding, the schools had managed rather than locked down systems

    Key Findings

    In the report, they identified a number of key findings, which included that outstanding schools shared responsibility for e-safety across the school, and that pupils in the schools that had ‘managed’ systems had better knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe than those in schools with ‘locked down’ systems. They also noted that pupils were more vulnerable overall when schools used locked down systems because they were not given enough opportunities to learn how to assess and manage risk for themselves.

    The weakest aspect of provision in the 35 schools visited was the extent and quality of their training for staff. Typically, it didn’t involve all the staff and was not provided systematically. Even the schools that organised training for all their staff did not always monitor its impact systematically.


    In addition to three specific recommendations for the DCSF, working with Becta, CEOP and local authorities, Ofsted also identified 7 recommendations for schools. (Is it me, or is that a little unfair – just 3 recommendations for the whole government, and 7 for each school?)

    Ofsted said that schools should:

    • audit the training needs of all staff and provide training to improve their knowledge of and expertise in the safe and appropriate use of new technologies
    • work closely with all families to help them ensure that their children use new technologies safely and responsibly both at home and at school
    • use pupils’ and families’ views more often to develop e-safety strategies manage the transition from locked down systems to more managed systems to help pupils understand how to manage risk; to provide them with richer learning experiences; and to bridge the gap between systems at school and the more open systems outside school
    • provide an age-related, comprehensive curriculum for e-safety which enables pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies
    • work with their partners and other providers to ensure that pupils who receive part of their education away from school are e-safe
    • systematically review and develop their e-safety procedures, including training, to ensure that they have a positive impact on pupils’ knowledge and understanding.

    You may want to download Ofsted’s full report “The safe use of new technologies (PDF)” and send it on to the right senior manager in your school.

    For some help in identifying good curriculum e-safety resources, a great starting place is the Think U Know website, which has specific teacher resources for each age range.


    imageQuickly find all the other Internet Safety posts on this blog

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 12 – Save money on upgrades


    Part twelve 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 contain 14 Top ICT Money Saving Tips. So there’s more to come after this one

    If you don’t spend all of your time obsessing about licensing, then it is pretty easy to decide that it is too complicated (and I’m definitely not just referring to Microsoft licensing!). And amongst all of the licensing detail, it is sometimes a little difficult to see the wood from the trees – or to stop and take a few minutes to work out if a big change to the way you license software would be a good thing or not.

    A few years ago I wrote a blog post called “How to get the best on Microsoft Software in Education”, and it has been in the Top 10 posts ever since. It just steps you through the decisions you need to take one by one.

    So here’s one key element of it, which is absolutely critical, and especially worth reviewing in the months coming up to a major product release.

    Subscribe or buy?

    There are two basic ways of buying Microsoft software. One is to buy a perpetual licence, and the other is to buy a subscription licence.

    • 'Perpetual' licences are exactly what they say - you buy them, and keep the licence forever. You are only licensed for the version you have bought. So if you buy a licence for Office 2007, you can't run Office 2010 without buying another licence.

    • 'Subscription' licences are where you pay to use the software for an agreed amount of time, usually a year. Of course, this costs less up-front, but may cost more over a number of years; however it does come with the automatic right to upgrade to newer versions.

    For schools, the subscription licence is called either a School Agreement or an SESP agreement, and basically it involves counting up your computers, and then you license all of them for the software you need (often that means Windows upgrades and Office).

    So how does a School/SESP Agreement save money?

    There’s a number of tricks to thinking about your subscription:

    • If you like to upgrade to the latest versions of software as they are released, your subscription means you can do that without having to buy new licences. And these days, with technology moving so fast, the upgrade cycle is pretty much every 3 years for both Windows and Office

    • If a new release is due shortly (as in the case of Office 2010) a subscription automatically covers you for it. If you buy a perpetual licence for Office 2007 now, you aren’t entitled to upgrade to Office 2010 without buying a new perpetual licence.

    • The School Agreement is based on you counting your computers once a year. If you count them all in March, and then add 100 new computers in April, they are automatically covered without you having to pay more in that year’s subscription. You only have to start paying for them from the next year’s count. (SESP is slightly different, as you have an option to license a number of PCs or a number of users)

    • The annual cost of a subscription is lower than the up-front cost of a perpetual licence. Which means that if you’re budget is being squeezed, you can help reduce this year’s cost, at the same time making next year’s cost predictable.

    Let’s say you’re just about to open a new BSF school in March, and you’re going to use this year’s budget to buy 200 Office 2007 Professional Plus licences. You’ll pay about £37 each for the licences under the perpetual Select scheme (Source: Pugh). And if you want to upgrade to Office 2010 in September, you’ll need to buy new licences – which may be another £37 each.

    Alternatively, if you’re covering all your computers with a School Agreement, then you’ll pay about £14 each for the licences on subscription (Source: Pugh). And the subscription includes the upgrade to Office 2010. Now, because it’s a subscription, next year, you’ll pay again to continue it. But you can perhaps see that if you’re a frequent upgrader, or there are new versions due, it saves you money if you buy using a subscription agreement.

    Over 3 years, you’d pay £42 for Office 2007/2010 Enterprise on a subscription licence (eg School Agreement), or £74 for Office 2007/2010 Professional Plus on a perpetual licence (eg Select Licence). Of course, after 3 years you still have a subscription to pay, which you don't for a perpetual licence, it does reduce your upfront cost, and makes your budget planning more consistent.

    The other thing about the subscription schemes is that you automatically receive the Enterprise versions of the software – in the case of Office, that means you get OneNote and Groove (See table). Or in the case of Windows 7, you get the Enterprise version that includes BitLocker Drive Encryption, AppLocker, Windows XP mode and a pile of other things (See table)

    To find out if it will save you money, then you should either give your Microsoft Education partner a call (just like I did for the pricing quoted above!), or read more about our licensing on our UK Education website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Upgrading and virtualising to save money


    imageThe Microsoft worldwide case studies site always throws up some interesting things to read. But a couple of weeks ago I noticed that a new case study of a UK school had been published by our services team, in partnership with Dell. It’s from Lodge Park Technology College, in Northants, and tells the story of their adoption of Windows 7 and the virtualisation of their servers – and how that saved them money.

    You’ll probably want to read the full case study for the details, but here’s the highlights I picked up on.

    Virtualising Servers saves money

    They are saving £6,000-£10,000 every year on hardware by virtualising their servers. As Stephen Peverett, the Network Manager, says:

    I used to work on a four-year lifecycle for servers alone. With 20 servers, we were replacing six servers a year at approximately £2,000 per server. If I can reduce those 20 servers with six machines running virtual servers I’m cutting my costs by more than half.

    I think the savings are actually greater than Stephen quotes – because it will have saved them around £20,000 a year on electricity – because it’s reduced the need for air-conditioning, and moved to six physical servers from 20.

    And the virtualisation also adds a new capability to update and repair servers with no downtime. This issue has become more and more critical in schools, when students and staff are accessing learning platforms and other systems 24-hours a day. There’s not even a mid-summer break when systems can be shutdown for maintenance.

    Upgrading to Windows 7 extends the life of hardware

    The ability to run Windows 7 on older computers will further increase savings.

    We don’t have to upgrade our hardware to run Windows 7. And it works well with both existing and new hardware. The ICT suites equipped with Windows 7 are extremely popular with students. Windows 7 will be a catalyst for collaboration and help our students work faster

    imageRead the full Lodge Park case study on the website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips – 14 – Save your software budget


    So here we are the very last part of the series of Top 10 ICT Money Saving Tips for schools, based on my BETT 2010 presentation.  It’s taken me a while to get all of these written down, because although I know the story behind each of these money saving tips, to actually structure it in a way that makes sense on the web takes longer than telling it as a 20-minute story at BETT. But hopefully it has all made sense so far. So on to the very last one.

    My last bit of advice is to make sure that you’re buying our software in the most cost effective way, by using the right licensing scheme. We have lots of different ones, and possibly the worse thing to do is to walk into your nearest software shop to buy software off the shelf. You’re likely to pay too much for it, simply because most places can’t or don’t want to supply the Academic licences – which is the absolute cheapest way for a school to buy. So here’s my handy step-by-step guide to make sure you’re getting the best deal

    Subscription Licences

    This is easy - if you buy your software under subscription, then that means you should be buying a School Agreement, or using the SESP pilot programme. More on this here. The upside of subscription is that it is normally the lowest cost upfront, but you do have to pay an annual subscription fee.

    Perpetual Licences

    This is where you buy the software licence once, and you can use it forever

    Of course, there’s small print, eg sometimes the licence is linked to the specific computer, other times you can transfer it to a replacement computer in school. But normally it’s forever (hey, that must be why it’s called perpetual Smile)

    We have two main Academic perpetual licence schemes – Select and Open.

    It is always cheaper to buy a SELECT licence, so it’s worth exploring it…

    • Select Licence
      This is normally the best deal of these two types, but there's a catch to be aware of (wouldn't you know it!). Select licences are designed for customers who normally buy lots of software - typically people with 250 PCs or more. In the rest of the world this isn't much of a problem, because local or central governments buy in bulk, on behalf of schools. But here in the UK, each school has complete choice - so you mostly buy individually. Secondary schools are normally large enough to buy Select licences, and most do. But for primary schools, it is normally difficult to reach the minimum purchasing quantities, so what you should do is identify whether you are able to join up into somebody else's Select agreement. For example, if your local authority education team have one (what's called a Master Select Agreement), which you can then buy through (but make sure it is the Academic licence they buy, not a normal government licence, which costs more). This could save you quite a bit of money.
      There are other organisations that have these master agreements, like the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), so if you're an affiliated member, you can buy through their agreement.

    • Open Licence
      This scheme is normally more expensive than Select, but is handy if you want to just buy a single bit of software quickly, with a copy of the disks etc, and you don't have a Select agreement already in place. For example, if one member of staff needs a copy of Microsoft Project to help plan the new Sports Hall, and you need it now...

    Take a look at our main Education website for more information on the Select licensing scheme

    Our Education Licensing Partners

    While we’re here, let me also explain the different types of partners you can buy Academic licences from

    • Education Large Account Resellers (or EdLARs)
      Stop. Just before you think "I'm not a large account" and skip this bit, read on!
      These partners are our largest education partners, and they can sell you any of our Academic licence types. We call them "Large Account Resellers" because they are our largest resellers, not because you have to be "large account" to buy from them. So even the smallest primary school sh/could get a quote from them!

    • Authorised Education Resellers (or AERs)
      These tend to be partners that are either much smaller, or where education customers are just a small part of a bigger business. They can only provide some of the Academic licences I've mentioned above. So you can get a School Agreement or Open Licence from them, you can't get a Select Licence (which is the lower priced of the two perpetual licences).
      I can hear you thinking "So, if AERs can't always sell me the lowest cost perpetual licence, why would I buy from them?". Good question.
      Well, back to the example of a small primary school - you may prefer to deal with a bigger company, because you think that's how you get the best value; or you may prefer to deal with a local company, just around the corner, because you think that's how you get the best service. So if you wanted a couple of computers, with the software installed for you, and an agreement that they'll pop around and fix any problems, you could got to a local company, who is a Microsoft AER, and will supply you with Academic licences under the Open scheme. It might cost a little more, but you may be willing to pay for that to get a local supplier. It's your choice.
      You should always check that you get the licence paperwork - for example, the original software CD and the licence key - when you buy an Open Licence, and especially if the software has already been installed for you. If you don't get this, you'll have no proof that you own the licence for the software you are running on those computers.

    Finding the right partner

    The UK Education website contains the lists of partners.

    EdLARs all work nationally, so there's a page with all of their contact details (there's 19 to choose from)

    AERs tend to work more locally, so you can search in your local area by county or town, or by company name. (And there’s over 500 to choose from)

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Creating school websites – guidelines on usability


    When I wrote the Good Blogging Guide last year, I concentrated on audience, purpose, search and writing like a real person (I hear voices saying “Look at yourself Ray, you’ve forgotten it all already!”). What I spent little time on was the technical side of blogging and the web – navigation, usability, content such as images, and other areas.

    But the COI (Central Office of Information) for the Government have produced an excellent, and easy-to-read, set of usability guidelines for creating usable website in the public sector. It includes technical and design advice, as well as some very good pointers towards writing effective web content.


    If you’re involved in a school website project – whether that’s external for parents, or internal for students and staff, it is a very worthwhile read. Useful too if you’re planning a new SharePoint 2010 project.


    You can download the PDF’s of both guides too:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Finding good practice with ICT around the world


    One of the easiest ways to see what is possible is to look at what other schools have done. We publish lots of 'case studies' on our worldwide website, and I had a quick look to see how many examples are there for UK Education institutions.


    The Microsoft Worldwide Case Studies database is where all of our written case studies are stored - they are available to view online, or download. Currently, there are 35 UK Education case studies in the database, and 14 of them have been produced in the last 12 months. It is pretty easy to search - here's some subsets of the total base of case studies

    And worldwide:

    My favourite case studies of the last year?

    To be honest, I often find myself first reading these because of where they are. And, well, there’s been a pile of case studies of education institutions switching to Live@edu from a wide range of climates, from hot to cold – India to Siberia:

    And then I get drawn to ones in places I’ve been to in my backpacking days, like:

    • Waikato in New Zealand (beautiful town, and also now running Windows 7)
    • Mississauga in Ontario (now solving critical data-centre cooling issues too!)
    • Pune in India (was quite hippy when I was there, but now they are collaborating in the cloud apparently)
    • Melbourne in Australia (which is a very lovely city, and presumably better because of their CRM system)
    • Cairo in Egypt (where the Nile University are not only doing clever things with clusters, but also seem to have a magic phone number “1NILE”)

    I’m sure you’ll find your own favourites on the worldwide case studies site.

    imageQuickly find all the other Case Study posts on this blog

  • 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.

Page 1 of 3 (26 items) 123