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March, 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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March, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Don’t forget – enter the Innovid competition and win 20 netbooks!


    MP900400665 We know how busy things are for teachers this time of year, and if you’re anything like me the sunny weather is a further distraction. So I wanted to remind you that the deadline for the Partners in Learning Innovid video competition is fast approaching – but there’s still time to remind a teacher or two in your school about it.

    Don’t forget to get your entry in to the Partners in Learning Network before 17:00 on the 29th of March (this month!). All the details you need for the competition can be found in this blog or on the Partners in Learning Network. In addition, Stuart and Kristen have posted a list of frequently asked questions about the competition in this blog, and have updated it in the contest community on the Partners in Learning Network.

    For those of you who are planning on entering, please make sure to complete a contest entry form and submit that along with your video.

    To further entice you, let me remind you that the prize is 20 Netbooks. And Kristen & Stuart have selected the netbooks that will be awarded to the winning teacher’s school – which are 20 N105 Netbooks from Stone. These netbooks come installed with Microsoft Windows 7 and will come with a 3-year warranty from Stone and a protective carrying case. N105_FLS_Win7

    For the full specs on the Stone netbook, go to their web site.

    If you have any questions on the competition, see the Partners in Learning Network. I know that Kristen’s looking forward to seeing your Innovids on the 29th – Good luck!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The NAACE Annual Conference


    For the last three days I’ve been at the NAACE Conference in Blackpool, with over 300 others. NAACE is the “professional association for those who are concerned with advancing education through the appropriate use of information and communications technology (ICT)” – which means that the conference attendees are a mix of local authority IT advisers, private consultants, school leaders, people from government agencies, and also commercial companies.

    You can find out a little more about the conference, and see some of the content, on the conference website.

    Along with Nick Singh, our Schools Business Manager for the north of England, we ran a Microsoft breakout session on Tuesday evening, where we mixed together a story of how people may work in the future, and the technology and learning implications. I  used our ‘Productivity Vision’ video, which looks at the workplace of 2019, and then continued by deconstructing the technology behind the video – to look at what exists now – either in research labs or in real life - and how the components might build to get to the vision described for the future.

    Unfortunately, I can’t share the whole presentation (I used a multimedia, interactive piece of software to present it), but I can share the short video that I used as the introduction, which is the starting point for the story I told.

    Productivity Future Vision

    You can view the video on our Officlabs Envisioning website, and you can also watch a video as Ian Sands, Director of Envisioning, steps through the video scene by scene and describes in greater depth the story behind the people and technology on display.

    Free cloud-based email

    After the story of the future, Nicky briefly talked about our Live@edu service, which is a cloud-based service for school email. It allows you to switch your email services from your own servers to using our servers in our Dublin data centre – but your students keep their email address, and we run the services remotely on our Exchange 2010 servers. And the good news is that we do it at no cost. (As you can imagine this led to a lot of questions and answers after the session. One of the local authorities was good enough to write out their top 10 questions, and next week I’ll post their questions, and the answers). London Grid for Learning switched to using Live@edu last year, alongside a number of local authorities – and recently we have also allowed individual schools to sign up independently. You can find out more about the service on our UK Education website, or for more techie background, read Ben Nunney’s Live@edu blog.

    A big pile of free software

    After the presentation, we had a long discussion about some of the free resources and software downloads available to schools, and I committed to add a list of download links to the blog – so here it is, the list of Ray’s-favourite-fabulous-freebies:

    • pptPlex
      A number of people asked me after my presentation about the interactive tool I’d used for it. And the secret is pptPlex, which is an add-in for PowerPoint 2007. It allows you to build amazingly interactive presentations, and also allows you to move around a storyboard in a completely non-linear way. The public version isn’t quite as fancy as the application I used, but if you want to wow your colleagues/students, then this is a great presentation tool for it. Let me assure you that the learning curve is rewarded massively on the other side!
      Go to the pptPlex site.

          • PhotoStory
            About half the people in the room had used PhotoStory, and whenever I mention it there’s always a buzz generated by people who have used it. It allows you to take a set of photos, set it to music, and then generate highly stylised slideshow with text, animations etc. And the video file it produces is fantastic for display screens or digital photo frames.
            Go to the PhotoStory download page

              • AutoCollage
                AutoCollage is a picture editing tool with a big difference – it works out what to do with your pictures, so that you don’t have to. You point it towards a folder of pictures, and it analyses the contents, using a range of intelligent features, including face detection and saliency filters and uses this to identify interesting parts of pictures. It then uses that analysis to blend your photos and combine them into an AutoCollage.
                Find out where to get AutoCollage free if you’re a teacher/student

                  • Free Movie Maker(s)
                    You’ve now got a choice of movie making software. Windows XP & Vista have the inbuilt Windows Movie Maker. And there’s now Windows Live Movie Maker, which is the one that we’re continuing to develop from now. The first is good for all ages, and works in a traditional way, whereas the latter is very good for primary age children, and especially good at integrating video and photos, and makes it very easy to automatically upload movies to websites, as well as store locally. (If you’ve moved to Windows 7, you’ll have noticed that neither are built in – you need to choose which to download).
                    Take your pick – download Windows Movie Maker (if it’s not pre-installed) or Windows Live Movie Maker

                      • Photosynth
                        You can use Photosynth to turn regular digital photos into a three-dimensional, 360-degree model. And you can then share your synth with others – who can walk in your shoes through the same place. The technology does the hard work – reconstructing the scene or object from your flat photos – by looking for similarities between images, and using it to estimate the shape of the space/object, and work out the original camera position. And the new Bing Maps Beta actually places your Photosynth on the map, so that others can easily find it too.
                        Find out more about Photosynth

                    • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                      One quarter of Home Access Grants now in parents’ hands


                      I’ve been at the NAACE Conference this week (more to come on that later today), and this morning Terry Piggott from Becta talked briefly about the Home Access Programme.

                      Up to yesterday, 77,058 grants for free computers and internet connections had been issued to parents – which is nearly a third of the way towards the total of 270,000.

                      If you’ve not yet sent info out in a newsletter or other way to parents, then take a look at my previous Home Access post for more information.

                      imageRead the previous Home Access summary post on this blog

                    • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                      The EU Browser choice screen and school networks


                      The browser ballot screen has been rolling out for a few weeks now – and will have been appearing on a screen near you already.

                      Here’s some of the detail, from the official blog post:

                      The browser choice screen software update will be offered as an automatic download through Windows Update for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The software update will be installed automatically, or will prompt you to download or install it, depending on which operating system you are running and your settings for Windows Update. If you do not have automatic updating enabled, you can get the choice screen by going to Windows Update and clicking on “Check for Updates.

                      The browser choice screen, shown below, will present you with a list of leading browsers. In keeping with our agreement with the European Commission, this list is presented in random order. You can also scroll to the right to see additional browsers, which are also presented in random order. The browsers that are listed and the content relating to them will be updated from time to time.


                      What does the Browser Ballot screen mean for schools?

                      Although this is being driven by the need for consumers to have a choice, this does have implications for schools and their networks. If your network uses Windows Server Update Services, then you have control over how this rolls out over your school network. But if you don’t use WSUS, and you’re wondering what levels of control you can have over how it appears in your school, then I’d recommend having a read of The Angry Technician’s blog – he’s gone to great lengths to pull together all of the different information available, and talks you through the steps you can take.

                      Read The Angry Technician’s “The irony of having to block the EU browser choice screen” blog post

                    • Microsoft UK Schools blog

                      Microsoft Further Education Briefing 2010 – London 19th March


                      Does your school have a sixth form? If so, then it’s worth repeating this, in case you may have missed this announcement on our Further Education Blog

                      The booking deadline is approaching for our Further Education Briefing day, which this year falls on 19th March in London. If you haven’t registered yet, then it’s worth taking a look at the agenda, as we’ve built it to make sure that you can get lots of value from the day – whether it is learning about new products that will be covered by an existing Campus Agreement, or it is thinking about the ways that you can use  your ICT strategy to save money across your college.


                      Microsoft will be holding our annual Further Education Briefing on 19th March 2010 at our London offices in Victoria. The agenda for the event runs from 9:45 to 3:00 with breaks to catch up with colleagues from other colleges.

                      As well as getting the latest news on Microsoft’s product roadmap, there will be the opportunity to hear from other colleges and to hear how they are responding to the economic pressures that all colleges are feeling. Of course, this current academic year is full of launches of new Microsoft products, and we’ll be able to use the day to bring all of this into context – explaining the value and relative importance of some of the key new product launches still to come.

                      The event will be suitable for senior managers, whether or not they are involved in IT strategy on a day-to-day basis.

                      Further Education Briefing Agenda

                      09:15    Registration and coffee

                      09:45    Welcome and Introduction

                      10:00    Looking ahead a decade: The future vision of work

                      10:40    Office 2010

                      11:05    Break

                      11:20    Microsoft SharePoint 2010

                      11:45    Live@edu

                      12:10    Lunch

                      13:00    When budgets don’t meet aspirations - Customer case study

                      13:25    Linking Moodle to your Microsoft infrastructure

                      13:35    Introduction to “Cost saving and Revenue Raising”

                      13:40    Virtualisation to reduce costs

                      14:10    Office Communications Server    

                      14:40    The Microsoft IT Academy

                      15:00    Summary and close

                      Amanda Bicknell, the Microsoft UK Further Education Business Manager will lead the day, introducing experts from Microsoft and case studies from our customers.

                      We’ll be holding the briefing at our offices in Victoria, and there will be plenty of Microsoft colleagues available for discussions.

                      You can book your place online now

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