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July, 2011 - 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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July, 2011

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Serco Pioneer Days


    The following has been written by Gerald Haigh, Freelance Writer for Microsoft:

    Towards the end of June I went to Sandringham School in St Albans. I was looking in on one of a series of “Pioneer Days” being run by Serco for the 25 schools which will be the first to adopt the new “Progresso” Management Information System. The schools have been selected from existing Serco customers, users of the existing “Facility” MIS. Together they represent all sectors (primary, secondary, academy and independent).

    “Progresso”, built on Microsoft’s SQL Server 2008 R2, is a new and potentially very strong contender in the school MIS market. Developers have done a lot of listening to teachers over many months, and this latest development phase will peak in October, when the pioneer schools start to adopt the system. They’ll be working with Serco to ensure that the product really does what both sides wish for.

    So just what are the waiting users hoping for, I asked?

    One common theme is a desire to have all of the school’s management and administration functions in one place. Simon Chappell, for example, ICT Director at the Wellington Academy, says “I’m looking to Progresso to be the hub of the academy, the first stop for everything. I don’t want people to have to create their own spreadsheets and use different applications.”

    The same thought comes from Andrew Daly, Deputy Head at Swavesey Village College. “The analogy for me is that ‘Toys R Us’ slogan – Everything under one roof.”

    Combined with an easy-to-use point of entry, this kind of integration makes it possible for teachers – whether classroom specialists or senior leaders – to collect rapidly the information they need on any student or group. That’s vital when a school’s focussed on improving life chances for students. As Andrew says, “We’ve done a lot of school improvement work with other schools as well as our own, and really the need is to keep things simple – straightforward data at peoples’ fingertips. We see a real opportunity to provide that with Progresso.”

    In many of these schools, key players will be form or group tutors each with a direct responsibility for monitoring the overall learning progress of groups and individuals. As Tim Murphy, deputy head at Sandringham explains, “The role has changed dramatically over the years, from the traditional pastoral tutor to the academic mentor.”

    And yet, of course tutors are also classroom teachers with full timetable commitments. So, Tim continues, “I want it to be a system that any form tutor can use easily no matter how reluctant they are with technology.”

    Even better, he says, he’s hoping for “pushed” information – alerts that something’s changed and needs to be looked at. “Wouldn’t that be great? The tutor gets an automatic alert saying, ‘These students underperformed in a Geography assessment’. So she can say, ‘What happened in Geography then?’ It changes the whole nature of the conversation.”

    Central to this ease of use is the concept of the “dashboard” – the first point of entry to the system. The pioneers I spoke to very much liked the Progresso dashboard, a strong feature of which is, that as well giving access to the MIS, there’s the prospect of single-sign-on integration with web services and email through Live@Edu.

    Simon Chappell says, “When I saw that first dashboard with sms, email and the noticeboard all in one place, a communication hub that we can set up to suit us, I thought. ‘Wow, this is going to save us so much development time’.”

    Andrew Daly feels the same way, “I’m excited about communication – SMS, Exchange, Calendars. All students have an Outlook Exchange account I see lots of opportunities for link with Exchange. That’s a key win for us.”

    Interestingly, although Progresso is a cloud-based product, with data hosted by Serco, few of the pioneers raised issues about this. And Serco’s Head of Product, Paul Harrington remains relaxed about customers’ responses. He clearly feels that cloud is the future, with all the increasingly well known cost and convenience benefits, but he points out that Serco’s happy for customers to host Progresso on their own servers if they prefer.

    “To me you’re either comfortable with cloud hosting or not,” he says.

    Of the pioneers I spoke to, the one who spoke most strongly about cloud hosting was Tim Murphy at Sandringham, who’s looking towards cloud hosting not only for the school MIS, but for their VLE, and to the implementation of Office 365 “I see cloud as where we’re going as a school. We intend to take all our learning into the cloud environment. The days of school based servers should be on the way out.”

    For some pioneers, though, the biggest buzz comes from the prospect of smartphone access to Progresso, currently being developed across every smartphone system iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 and others. Far sighted ICT leaders see great possibilities of this for anytime, anywhere access, and it’s already suggested that some users, at least, will be able to do all they need to do on Progresso through their phones, without opening a laptop. Stewart Bendon, ICT Manager at Fulston Manor School in Kent, says,

    “I’m very excited about the mobile apps. The majority of the staff here have some form of smartphone that they use in school.”

    Microsoft values the partnership with Serco, and is taking a keen interest in the way Progresso uses the Microsoft software “stack” to produce an innovative and responsive management tool for schools. So we’ll be following the progress of these pioneer schools, here on the schools blog, over the next few months.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    South Korea to go ‘all digital’ for textbooks by 2015


    A recent blog post from Ray Fleming that I thought would be worth sharing on the UK schools blog:

    The South Korean government have announced that by 2015, they will move from physical textbooks across to digital content, and will move their national academic tests online too. The plan is to digitise all primary school subjects by 2014, and high schools by 2015. That’s not the only disruptive activity planned - they also plan to encourage students to take the ‘University Level Program’, allowing students to take higher level courses, and also run after-school programmes using IP TV to teach foreign languages, multiculturalism and other subjects.

    It’s a big bold step - early research has shown that simply handing out eBooks and digital texts to students isn’t necessarily going to improve things - so it will be very interesting to watch what happens.

    Read the original story on eSchool News

    I’ve noticed my laptop backpack has been getting lighter recently (my new laptop gives me an all-day battery, so now all I need to carry is my laptop, wireless mouse, and paper notepad), but I’ve also noticed that my daughters’ backpacks are getting heavier. It’s because they now have a school laptop, alongside all of their exercise books and text books - as well as lunch, water and sports gear. Some days their load weighs more than 10 kilos. So perhaps what’s being proposed in South Korea is part of the answer - to replace some things with other things, rather than to merely keep adding things.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide People’s Choice Award – Go Vote!



    Imagine cup.png

    The Microsoft Imagine Cup brings together students from all over the world and asks them to use their creativity and passion for technology to help solve the world’s toughest problems. This year, more than 350,000 students from 183 countries and regions registered to compete and, from July 8-13, the finalists (more than 400 students from 70 countries) will meet for the Worldwide Finals in New York City.

    Beginning today, people around the world will have the opportunity to get involved in the excitement through the Imagine Cup People’s Choice Award.

    And we want to ask for your help.

    Please go to the People’s Choice Award site and vote – and then ask your friends, family and network to vote. The more people learn about this, meet the students, and see the projects, the more they see how innovative our technologies are and how they can be used to truly change the world.  

    Here are some of the examples of our technologies in action through Imagine Cup: 

    · It’s not just the phone that’s smart: Windows Phone7 is the most commonly used technology with 47% of the project teams (53 total) creating WP7-based solutions ranging from finding the nearest recycling center to helping disaster victims broadcast their location.

    · Head in the clouds: 46% (31 teams) of Software Design teams are using Windows Azure in their projects – whether it’s aggregating crowd-sourced data, overcoming geographical boundaries or integrating satellite data.

    · Students take the lead on new technologies: 10 projects feature Microsoft Kinect technology ranging from physical rehabilitation to educational engagement.

    · No need to ask for directions: 30% of project teams (34 total) integrated Bing Maps into their solutions – ranging from showing malaria outbreak locations to helping with traffic management to helping cities become more accessible.

    · Bringing it all together: 16 of the projects use Azure, Windows Phone 7 AND Bing Maps with solutions ranging from finding carpools to predicting disasters due to water flow. 

    The People’s Choice Award is just one component of several competitions and prizes at the Imagine Cup. From creating apps and videos to building Web sites and embedded solutions, students are truly helping to change the world with Microsoft technologies. Please take advantage of YOUR opportunity to  support these students to realize their full potential, helping them grow academically, start companies that thrive, and have an impact in their communities and around the globe.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    NAACE Fun, Free Day–downloads for you




    Thank you to all those who attended the NAACE Fun, Free day on Friday 1st July. Below is a list of all of the software solutions, some of which were presented, many of which are free that Microsoft have to support learning in the classroom.

    SkyDrive and Office Web Apps

    Get online@home


    Windows Live Movie Maker 2011

    Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011

    Bing Maps

    Bing Search

    Bing Translator

    Community Clips

    Worldwide Telescope

    Small Basic

    Partners in Learning Network

    AutoCollage – sign up to PiL for free download!

    Office Ribbon Hero 2



    Deep Zoom Composer


    Windows Live Writer




    Mouse Mischief

    Microsoft EES Licensing

    Microsoft Learning Suite - more free downloads

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