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April, 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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April, 2010

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Home Access Suppliers 2010 – recommended Home Access suppliers


    When the Home Access Programme was first announced by Becta, in January 2010, there were six suppliers on the scheme, where parents could spend their grant cards. And Becta have recently announced an additional four suppliers. Which means that your parents have ten different suppliers they can turn to.

    However, it’s unlikely that a parent who doesn’t have a computer is going to want to shop around ten different websites or call ten call centres, or visit ten shops, in order to decide which computer is best. Especially as many of the suppliers focus on gigabytes and gigahertz, rather than talking in language that first-time computer buyers will understand.

    I’ve spent some time trawling through the different Home Access suppliers’ websites, and come up with my recommendation of the best Home Access Suppliers. Although there are ten suppliers, each offering between one and four base models, there are only seven different computers – although some offer a different software specification, or purchasable options.

    What makes the Home Access Suppliers different?

    Before I give you my recommendations, let me explain some of the reasons I’ve chosen them, which are important to parents choosing a first home computer for their children, to support their school work. I’ve given a great big green tick to specific suppliers for the following reasons:

    • See it in store, and take it away: Only Comet offer this, but I think they’ve hit the nail on the head. Walk into a store, look at your new computer, and then take it home straight away. Although some other suppliers have high-street partners where you can see one of their computers, you still have to order and wait for it to be delivered. So I’ve given Comet a bonus mark for having made the right decision. And I’ve also unilaterally given XMA half a bonus point, because you can see their devices in T-Mobile stores nationally, even if you can’t take it with you.
    • Windows: Although they all come with Windows, I’ve noticed that some suppliers are offering computers with Windows XP still. I don’t think that’s a good idea for a brand new computer, so I’ve put them lower down the list.
    • Microsoft Office: Of course I’m going to believe that it’s right to have a copy of Microsoft Office on the computer. It’s what students use in the classroom, and it’s what their parents will use in the workplace. And it is what they’ll need for homework.
      And more importantly, if it’s the same computer, at the same price, and one supplier includes a copy of Microsoft Office, and the other doesn’t – which one would you choose?
    • Home Learning Package: We’ve put together a suite of additional applications, and even programming tools, for students. Some suppliers are pre-installing it free. So that’s a good thing. Why wouldn’t your parents want more free software?
    • Microsoft Security Essentials: All of the Home Access computers include anti-virus protection. But if they’ve chosen the Security Essentials, then it means that the parents won’t ever have to fork out for an anti-virus subscription in the future. Whereas some of the others will cost money in 3 years time.

    The Home Access computer choices

    • Laptops: Across ten suppliers, there are just 4 models of laptop – Acer Extensa 5235, Toshiba L450, Samsung R519 or Lenovo G530.
    • Netbooks: There’s only one netbook on offer, offered by nine of the ten suppliers, which is the Samsung N130. But four of the suppliers only supply it with Windows XP, whereas the rest supply it with Windows 7 – at the same price. So if you’re going to choose a netbook, make sure you get a Windows 7 one!
    • Desktops: There are just two desktops on offer currently – a Zoostorm tower, and an MSI AP1900 All-In-One. Personally, I think a laptop is a better choice, as families have more choice about where to put/use it, and students can also use it at school in the future.

    So based on everything above, here’s my recommended Home Access suppliers list

    1. imageComet – because you can go into one of their 200 stores, take your computer away with you, and they’ve put all of the things above on it – Windows 7, Microsoft Office etc etc. They’re the only supplier offering the Acer laptop too (although that’s the only one they offer).

      • imageXMA – all of their models include Windows 7 and Office, Microsoft Security Essentials and the Home Learning Package. And you can go to a T-Mobile shop to see it in the high street (but unfortunately, have to then wait for delivery). The good news is that you’ve got a choice of 2 Samsungs and a Toshiba (and they do put Windows 7 on the Samsung netbook).
      • NS Optimum, Misco  and DA Computers – They have all the right software on their computers, including Windows 7, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Security Essentials and the Home Learning Package. And they all offer a desktop option too. Unfortunately NS Optimum & Misco are phone/web only, but DA do have a couple of stores in Leicester and Rugby.

        • Stone Computers – all of their models include Microsoft Office, and the bigger laptops include Windows 7 too. One small snag is that their Samsung N130 netbook has Windows XP, so I’m rating them a little lower Sad

        • Although it may seem unfair lumping everybody else together, these are the suppliers who have Windows XP on some computers, and don’t include Microsoft Office within the grant-value computer. Or all the other free software mentioned above. These are Centerprise, BLi, Micro-P and Positive IT.

        Note that this is done by trawling through suppliers’ Home Access websites - I’ll try and keep it up to date as I see/hear of changes. It’s probably not foolproof or completely error-free, but the only way to not make a mistake would be to not write this blog post!

        imageQuickly find all the other Home Access Programme posts on this blog

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Kodu for PC – a teacher’s tutorial


        Kodu for PC is a (free) visual programming language which was launched earlier this year. In the past it’s been available for Xbox, but now there’s a PC version, and it gives you another way of developing programming skills in your students. And as it uses games as the core, it helps to keep your students focused for longer. (More on Kodu for PC here)

        Stuart Ridout, who’s head of ICT at Stantonbury Campus School recorded a tutorial on it, and popped it up onto YouTube. Although you can plug an Xbox controller into your PC, his tutorial is recorded just using the keyboard and mouse, so anybody can do it once they’ve downloaded Kodu. And all in under 8 minutes from blank screen to a simple game.

        Stuart Ridout’s Kodu tutorial

        If you can’t see the video above, then use this link

        Once you’ve seen it, you may also be interested in his next two videos – as he started to re-create something like PacMan, in 3D, in Kodu – see Part One and Part Two.

        And for further inspiration from Stuart, take a look at his “Visualising revision help” poster – an absolutely brilliant idea and something I’d like to see on my fridge at home when the GCSE years arrive in the Fleming household.

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        What’s new in PowerPoint 2010 for teachers


        Now that Office 2010 is so close to the release date, I thought it would be a good time to start sharing a little bit more about the improvements and changes that are most relevant to education. Of course, there’s a pile of written fact sheets and guides – which I’ll share soon – but I thought you might like to actually see it in action. So I’ve roped in a few colleagues to record short demos of the bits they think are most likely to appeal to teachers.

        I think I struck lucky in the random draw, as I had to make a video of PowerPoint 2010. Here’s my video – eight and half minutes to try and whizz across some of the key new bits.

        A brief look at what's new for teachers in PowerPoint 2010

        This is the first time I’ve ever tried to record something like this, and it was very tricky. My first attempt was 20 minutes long, and the second attempt had more “Ums” than you’d believe. This version is attempt number 3. As my wife once said to me “You’ve got a face made for radio, and a voice made for writing”. Judge for yourself!

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Fun, Free Friday for Schools – a free event at Microsoft UK on 11th June 2010



        We're running a free Microsoft "Fun, Free Friday for Schools" at the Microsoft Campus in Reading on 11th June 2010.

        A lively Q&A after the second Microsoft briefing at the NAACE Conference in Blackpool has led to the Microsoft UK team running a free event for schools on the 11th June 2010, called “Fun Free Friday”. It’s for any staff working with and within schools, so that they can find out all about the free software and resources that Microsoft produces that support teaching and learning.

        The agenda for the event runs from 9:30am to 2:30pm with breaks to catch up with colleagues from other schools, and chat with Microsoft staff.

        It’s for any staff working with and within schools, so that they can find out all about the free software and resources that Microsoft produce that support teaching and learning.

        It will be a fast-paced and fun event, with 3½ hours of rapid demonstrations, featuring a dozen presenters and lots of different free Microsoft software programmes that schools can download and start using in the classroom, school office or IT suite.

        Fast paced demonstrations

        To keep the pace moving rapidly, no demonstration will last more than 15 minutes, and although it won’t be a PowerPoint-free zone, we’ll keep to a limit of a maximum of 2 PowerPoint slides per presenter!

        Free software for every attendee

        During the day we will be demonstrating at least 20 pieces of software that can help you to deliver teaching and learning, and absolutely every single one will be free for you to download.

        Save money with Microsoft

        We know that you’d like to do more with ICT, but that budgets are tight. That’s exactly why we’re putting on this event – to give you inspiration and ideas to take back to share with everybody in your school. Ideas that will appeal to teachers, IT Co-ordinators and the senior leadership team.

        This free event is for advisors, classroom teachers, IT specialists, and school leadership teams. We’ve scheduled this event for the summer term 2010, in time for planning for next academic year.

        Agenda for the Fun, Free Friday

        Here’s the detailed timing of the day, so that you can plan your trip.

        9:30 Registration

        10:00 Morning sessions

        12:00 Lunch and networking

        13:00 Afternoon sessions

        14:30 Close

        We won’t issue an itemised agenda, but some of the products you can expect to see on the day include SkyDrive, Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live PhotoGallery, Bing Maps, Photosynth, Pivot, XNA Game Studio, Visual Studio Express, Chemistry Word Add-In, Flashcards, Autocollage, Songsmith, Worldwide Telescope, Windows Live Writer, Maths Worksheet Generator, Office Moodle Add-In, Office Web Apps, Office Ribbon Hero, Bing Search, Microsoft Security Essentials, DeepZoom, Live Sync, Kodu, Digital Storytelling Curriculum Guides, Mouse Mischief, DreamSpark, Microsoft Robotics Studio, Live Family Safety Settings, Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum, Windows Live Translator, IE8 Accelerators, PhotoStory 3, Community Clips, Virtual Earth, pptPlex and Live@edu.

        And continuing the free theme: if you arrive by public transport, there’s even a free bus from Reading Station to the Microsoft offices.

        imageBook your free place now 

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        How and why students use the internet


        There’s some fascinating data in the latest Ofcom “UK Children’s media literacy” report, which gives an insight into the lives of children between the ages of 5 and 15. Rather than being a survey which lumps all children together, this report breaks down the data into three age ranges (5-7, 8-11 and 12-15), which roughly correlate to the English Key Stages 1-3. Which means that if you’re a primary school Key Stage 2 teacher, you can use it to understand a little more about the media and ICT use of your students at home.

        If you’ve got a burning interest in this area, then you’ll probably want to read the full 84-page report (and appendix), but if it saves time, here’s some of the headline points for 8-11 year olds, and 12-15 year olds.

        I’m sure that some of this will come in handy as you discuss parental engagement, and long-term ICT strategy planning – especially as things like the Home Access Programme work to narrow the gap for those who don’t have access to ICT at home.

        Before the table of data, here’s my headlines:

        • 82% of children have access to the Internet through a computer at home, and this is still 69% for low income households
        • Only 1% of children never use the Internet
        • 60% of 8-11 year olds use the Internet for homework weekly, increasing to 84% of 12-15 year olds
        • Time spent using the Internet is still catching up with TV time

        PowerPoint fodder

        A handy table of statistics for your next INSET/parents evening PowerPoint slides!



        8-11 years old

        12-15 years old

        Lower income households

        Internet access at home through laptop/PC





        Children who never use the Internet




        Not available (n/a)

        Children who only use the Internet at school





        Children who have Internet access in their bedroom





        Children who access the Internet from their mobile phone





        Regular use of the Internet (almost daily)





        Do schoolwork on the Internet at least once a week 1





        Use a social network at least once a week 1





        Hours per week watching TV 1

        16 hours

        16 hours

        17 hours

        17 hours

        Hours per week using the Internet 1

        9 hours

        8 hours

        14 hours

        10 hours

        Text messages sent a week





        Internet control/filtering software in use at home 2





        1 These percentages are from those who have Internet/TV at home

        2 The main reason quoted for those who don’t is that they trust their children to be sensible/responsible (70% in the case of 12-15’s). And only 14% didn’t know how to do it, or didn’t know it was possible.

        Things that children do online

        The Ofcom report also asked children a series of questions about online activities, to find out the kinds of activities that they do:

        % of children who have…

        8-11 years old

        12-15 years old

        Setup on page/profile on social network
        Most popular are Facebook, Bebo, Club Penguin and MySpace



        Uploaded photos



        Created an avatar



        Set up own website



        Created and uploaded a video



        Set up a blog



        Signed an online petition



        It shows that in some areas they are creators of content, but the majority are still consumers when it comes to more media that takes more time to create, like videos or blogs.

        I also wondered if anybody had done a similar survey of teachers, to find out the differences between students’ use of ICT and their teachers?

        imageRead the full Ofcom report

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Windows 7 and Vista Explained - A guide for blind and partially sighted users from the RNIB



        The RNIB have announced that their Windows 7 and Vista Explained books for blind and partially sighted users are now available to pre-order, and will be shipped by the end of May. It's a step-by-step guide to Windows 7 and Vista from a non-visual perspective,and is specifically written to empower blind and partially sighted computer users with whatever access technology is being used.

        It may be useful for you because it has been written for trainers and people supporting users with sight loss, as well as blind and partially sighted computer users.

        It’s available in the following formats:


        • Clear print - 14-point Arial, includes clear print images
        • Braille
        • Standard audio CD
        • Multimedia CD - contains full text and audio DAISY with DAISY player, HTML and braille-ready editions

        Images (sold as separate volumes)

        • Braille tactile images
        • Large print images

        Order a copy from the RNIB Online Shop or contact RNIB on 0303 123 9999 to place an order.

        Free Accessibility Resources from Microsoft

        There is also an updated (and free) Microsoft Accessibility Guide for Teachers, which you may find useful

        The RNIB website also gives a handy list of Accessibility Resources from Microsoft too:

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        What’s new in the Office 2010 applications



        I’ve indexed all of the different product guides for the new Office 2010 applications. There are two separate documents for most of the products – the Overview version is a short two-page summary, and then there’s a detailed Product Guide which goes into much more detail.

        The Overview document is ideal for a quick staff introduction, to stick on walls, and for leaving around the staff room and IT rooms – as well as for summarising the key points to help you to decide when you should consider upgrading your school computers.

        The detailed Product Guide is really useful for preparing training materials, or handouts to staff when you are starting to deploy Office 2010. It may help to enthuse them to use some of the new things where Office will help in their lesson delivery - and to get them over the “Oh no, things have changed” reaction. Some of these Product Guides have more than 100 pages, so there’s no shortage of details. I also like the fact that they talk about new things that Office 2010 can do, and then show screen shots of the difference it makes.



        Product Guide




        Icon_Word10_33x32Word 2010



        Icon_Excel10_33x32Excel 2010



        Icon_PowerPoint10_33x32PowerPoint 2010



        icon_Onenote10_33x32OneNote 2010



        Icon_Outlook10_33x32Outlook 2010



        Icon_Publisher10_33x32Publisher 2010



        Icon_Access10_33x32Access 2010

        Not available


        Icon_InfoPath10_33x32InfoPath 2010

        Not available


        Icon_SharePoint10_33x32SharePoint Workspace 2010



        Logo_MSFTOffice2010_187x54[9]Office Web Apps



      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        More Moodle advice – The Moodle on SharePoint white paper


        The team over at the Microsoft Education Labs have been busy over the last few weeks. If you’re new to it, Education Labs was created by the Microsoft Education Products Group to build and release new product prototypes and useful add-ons, specifically for education use.

        Following on from the Office Add-In for Moodle earlier in the week, there’s some further advice and support from the Education Labs team for Moodle that may be useful to you. If you’re either using Moodle, or considering it, then you may want to consider how you set it up. Because Moodle is an open source product, it’s often assumed that it should be installed on an open source server – like a Linux box. But the challenge with doing that for many schools is that it doesn’t therefore easily integrate with their existing ICT systems – for example, managing users and files on your existing school file servers.

        However, there’s a more positive way to deploy Moodle, which is to install it on your existing infrastructure, rather than having to add additional complications. The most powerful bit of your infrastructure to add it to is your SharePoint – because it fills in some of the gaps of a conventional Moodle system. First, it helps prevent data loss. For example, if a teacher deletes a file by mistake and wants to get it back, you’ll easily be able to go into SharePoint and restore it from the recycling bin – rather than it being lost forever. Secondly, you can take advantage of versioning in SharePoint. If a teacher or student overwrites a file by mistake, it can be restored to a previous version from SharePoint.  Finally you can use SharePoint’s search capabilities to search across the content of all of your content, whether it is in your SharePoint file storage, or in your Moodle system (currently there is no equivalent file search capability in Moodle).  Perhaps most importantly, teachers can get these benefits while continuing to use the Moodle user interface they are accustomed to, meaning no new training.

        How do you install Moodle on SharePoint?

        So if it makes so much sense to run your Moodle on top of your SharePoint, how do you do it? Well, we’ve published a white paper that explains how to set up SharePoint as the file system for Moodle. It doesn’t need any special code – if you have SharePoint and Moodle, it is a matter of configuration. 

        You can download the full white paper here (click on the Read It link) which can help you plan your strategy.

        imageQuickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Twynham School and the Learning Gateway – free e-book and web part


        clip_image002Twynham School has increasingly developed a reputation for their use of SharePoint to create a Learning Gateway for their students, parents and staff. They have been using SharePoint since 2007 and in early 2008 the systems team at Twynham School wrote a guide to the work they were doing with their Learning Gateway (which they simply called ‘the pdf’). This showed all of the early work in the first year and, along with speaking at dozens of conferences, has led to over 800 schools contacting them in the last two years to find out more.

        Three years on, Mike Herrity from Twynham, has let me know of a complete update to the e-book – recording all of the their experiences. As Mike put it “With the launch of SharePoint 2010 being just two months away it makes sense to record everything we managed to do with SharePoint 2007”.

        What the e-book is and is not

        The main aim of the book is to give an overview of the development of the Learning Gateway over the last three years. It is not intended to give a detailed account of how and why everything was done. A version with all this detail would be over 100 pages and is perhaps a proposition for another time. The e-book is also not very text heavy and contains over 60 screenshots and is only 6,000 words so it hopefully isn’t too heavy a read. It hopefully shows what is possible for schools who are starting on their journey to SharePoint.

        So now there are plenty of ways of finding out about the Twynham journey, including Mike’s excellent SharePoint in Education blog, and Chris & Dave’s technical SharePoint blog, as well as the e-book download:

        imageDownload the Twynham School Learning Gateway e-book 

        ps Mike also mentions that there is a free Picture Viewer webpart on page 43 of the book, which is handy for anybody who’s running SharePoint already.

      • Microsoft UK Schools blog

        Launch Announcement - New Moodle Integration for Office


        The Microsoft Education Labs team have just launched the Office Add-in for Moodle (or should it be the Moodle Add-in for Office?). This launch builds upon the success of the availability of the Microsoft Live Services Plug-in for Moodle which launched last July. 

        The idea behind the add-in is simple. Now, when you got to Open or Save a file in Office 2003 or 2007, you can select to Open from Moodle or Save to Moodle directly. This makes it easier for your teachers to use Moodle natively, and hopefully will encourage them to make better use of your in-school learning platform. (If you have a SharePoint-based learning platform, you get similar functionality in Office 2010)

        The “Office Add-in for Moodle”

        View Slide ShowUploading files to Moodle is now much easier.  The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 2003 and 2007) that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications.  With the OAM, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications.  You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.

        So what do you need in order to start using the add-in?  OAM does not require anything to be installed on the Moodle server (note we only tested against Moodle versions 1.8-1.9).  Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the add-in and access their documents.  Once installed, the add-in adds two menu items to your File menu (Office 2003) or the Office Button menu: Open from Moodle and Save to Moodle.  In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in.  Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in.  Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

        We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodles come from teachers. We’ve gotten some requests already about adding support for students and assignments, but we want to hear from you.  So check it out, and let the EducationLabs team know what you think and if there’s anything you want them to work on.  In order to get this beta tool in your hands right away and to get feedback before this gets fully locked down, we decided to roll this out before embarking on synchronization with other add-ins and other Moodle functionality. 

        It’s worth browsing on the Education Labs site for other projects recently released

        imageFind out more about, and download, the free Moodle add-in

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