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May, 2012 - 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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May, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Can the UK win the World Championships in Microsoft Office……AGAIN?


    Posted on behalf of Kevin Ryan from Prodigy Solutions 

    Last year the World Championships in Microsoft Office attracted over 228,000 students from 57 countries around the world. In recent times the competition has been dominated by participants from many of the Asian countries. With competitors from China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan reeling off title, after title, after title…

    That was until last summer when 15 year old student Rebecca Rickwood, from Sawtry Community College in Cambridgeshire, took the World Finals in San Diego by storm. Rebecca scored a perfect 1000 in the custom build Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam and won a $5000 cash prize and the coveted title of World Champion in Microsoft Office – watch the video.

    Rebecca’s exploits received worldwide coverage on her return from San Diego with articles on the BBC, Telegraph and Metro.

    Well, it’s this time of year again and the search is already on. This year the winning entrants will win an all-expenses paid trip of a lifetime to the World Finals at the BELLAGIO in LAS VEGAS.

    Do any of your students have what it takes to become World Champ?

    To find out more about the UK competition and how your school can participate click here.

    Keep updated through the UK Competition Facebook Page.

    Visit the worldwide competition website:

    For competition rules and more information email



  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Schools Network Gains Greater Messaging Resiliency and Flexibility at a Lower Cost

    Originally posted by Why Microsoft
    Organizations, schools and businesses all over the world are considering potential benefits from cloud solutions, as they support employees and partners, and seek to increase their impact. Today we will learn how The Schools Network selected Microsoft Office 365 and benefitted through their move to the cloud!

    "We would have had to invest thousands to have ensured the level of uptime and support that Office 365 for education provides as a standard service. There was never a question of us matching that level of support ourselves. There was simply no budget to do that."

    -- Julian Elve, Head of Information Services, The Schools Network

    The Schools Network
    The Schools Network is in the business of transforming education around the world. Over the past 25 years, this London-based, not-for-profit organization has partnered with business and the community, building a network of innovative, high-performing schools and academies. It works with schools and academies in the United Kingdom, China and Abu Dhabi. The Schools Network’s work results in better teachers, better student achievement scores, and students who are better-prepared to make a difference in the future.

    The Schools Network found that changes to government policy meant that it would generate less income from grant-funded projects. The network needed to become more commercially-focused. It needed to find new ways to work effectively, streamline processes, and cut costs, without impacting programs that were leading to better outcomes for so many schools and students.

    IT Challenges
    Over the course of its 25-year existence, the organization's entire technology infrastructure had grown and expanded in a manner that was more spontaneous and organic than planned and cultivated. The email infrastructure with its aging servers was particularly challenging to maintain. Travelling employees accessed email securely with virtual, private, network technology, but often only after a call to the service desk for help. In addition, the infrastructure tended to break, leaving some 500 users around the world with no way to communicate easily. The Schools Network realized that a cloud-based, messaging solution which was managed and maintained by an external partner, could be compelling and cost-effective.

    IT Solution and Benefits
    The Schools Network examined cloud-based messaging solutions from Microsoft as well as several, other vendors. The Schools Network soon determined that the Microsoft Office 365 for education offering best-suited their needs. Microsoft Office 365 for education combines the Microsoft Office desktop suite with Exchange Online, Lync Online, Office Web Apps, and SharePoint Online. Not only did Office 365 for education provide features and functionality needed to support its dispersed employees, but Office 365 for education works with Microsoft Office Outlook 2010, which users were already familiar with.

    The Schools Network worked with Perspicuity, a London-based Microsoft Network Gold Partner, to help in their migration to Office 365 for education. A team of users put the solution through its paces in a pilot. Then, over a weekend when users were offline, The Schools Network moved its 300 users over to Office 365.

    The Schools Network needed to streamline its infrastructure, reduce operating expenses, and improve the availability of email—and it accomplished all these goals by migrating to Office 365 for education. Familiarity with the Outlook interface made transitioning to the new mail system virtually transparent to users, and they noticed they had better availability and responsiveness.

    In addition, they found that streamlining the infrastructure with Office 365 reduced their IT overhead and their capital expenses. "When we projected the savings we'd gain from using Office 365 for education, we projected freeing up two days of IT personnel time per month, just from not having to manage email servers," says Julian Elve, Head of Information Services. Because Office 365 for education is available on a subscription basis, there are no upfront server and licensing costs. That alone saved The Schools Network more than £34,000.

    With the email infrastructure in the cloud, personnel from The Schools Network can access email at any time, from anywhere, without difficulty. Moreover, the security and reliability Office 365 offers through regional datacenters delivers a level of protection not necessarily attainable from an in-house installation.

    Read the full case study.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The Sunday Papers Edition: 5th May


    A round-up of this weeks posts:

    Have a great Sunday!


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    OneNote Tip: Record audio and video in OneNote


    OneNote is a great tool for use within the classroom and beyond. The ability to record and add both audio and video to your notes is a great feature and the following, snipped from the OneNote blog, gives a nice overview of how easy this is.

    Record Audio

    Want to record your lecture and add it to your class notes in OneNote? All you have to do is place your curser at the spot on the page where you want the audio, then on the Insert tab, click Record Audio. You can also move the file around on the page once the recording is done.

    Click the arrow to the left of the recording to play it:

    Or you can play it back using the controls that appear at the top of your page:

    Record Video

    Maybe you also want to capture your professor's lecture on video. The steps to recording a video are the same as recording audio--except you click a different button. On the Insert tab, click Record Video.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Brandon Generator


    Powered by HTML5, the Windows Internet Explorer Brandon Generator project is written by Edgar Wright, also responsible for the popular films Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. The interactive animation is a unique graphic novel bought to life with Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9. The all-star lineup continues with narration by Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh) and animation by Marvel and Lucas film illustrator Tommy Lee Edwards, plus music from David Holmes.

    This all-encompassing movie, game and comic book is a web experience to enjoy and immerse yourself in. Brandon is a writer who has writer’s block and passes out after drinking too much coffee. After he awakes, he finds himself surrounded by creativity he doesn’t remember. Viewers are invited to submit their thoughts on what those writings might look like, and using a mixture of comic-book style animation, video and sound, the site displays the suggestions.


    The story has been designed to showcase the most stunning, visually rich and immersive experiences possible using IE9 and web standards-based HTML5 technology. HTML5 is the newest mark-up language for the web, and makes this production viewable on all modern browsers - although it’s best viewed in IE9. HTML5 is the fifth version of the standard first created in 1990. The aim of HTML5 is to improve support for the latest multimedia, whilst keeping it readable by all computers, devices, web browsers and apps.

    Computer games in schools

    Like lots of other games, when used with effective teaching practices, Brandon Generator can bring many important factors to education such as play, fun, rules, goals, problem solving, story interactivity, outcomes and feedback – all of which are significant features in learning. There are a number of ways that games can be used in schools including supporting existing educational outcomes, as a stimulus for thematic learning and also to get young people creating content rather than just consuming it through computer games design.

    There is a growing body of research to suggest that Games Based Learning has a real pace in the 21st Century Education Systems. However, Games Based Learning has the most transformational impact when it is combined with good learning and teaching. In a classroom setting games should not be just used as rewards or for entertainment but as a whole new approach to learning.

    You can follow Brandon on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the action. To access exclusive content and have Brandon's story within easy reach, consider switching to Windows 7 and IE9.


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft System Centre 2012: Datasheet


    Microsoft System Center 2012 transforms the way you deliver IT and application services to your institution, optimizing resources
    across public and private cloud, managed from a single pane of glass

    System Center 2012 cloud and data center management solutions help you: 

    • DELIVER FLEXIBLE AND COST-EFFECTIVE INFRASTRUCTURE USING WHAT YOU ALREADY OWN:Integrate heterogeneous data centers and pool your data center resources into a private cloud. Give business users self-service access to infrastructure while you retain control of your IT assets.
    • PREDICT APPLICATION SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENTS (SLAS ) WITH CONFIDENCE: Gain deep insight into what’s happening to applications inside your servers and virtual machines to address issues faster.
    • MANAGE PRIVATE AND PUBLIC CLOUD COMPUTING IN ONE PLACE: Build your own hybrid cloud, exercising your choice of where to run application workloads, whether in your private or public cloud. Then manage both from the same screen.

    To learn more about System Centre 2012, our data sheet can be viewed/downloaded below:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Helping educators use technology in learning: new Partners in Learning Teaching with Technology Curriculum


    Educators who want to progress their skills in the use of technology in learning can be assisted with the new Partners in Learning Teaching with Technology Curriculum.

    What is it?

    The new Partners in Learning Teaching with Technology Curriculum helps educators develop competencies in the use of technology in teaching and learning.  Based in pedagogical best practice, the curriculum first assesses current competencies and helps fill learning gaps using engaging E-Learning. Focusing on areas of needed learning means educators engage only with the content relevant for them, saving precious time.


    Aligned to the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, Technology Literacy Approach, educators using the curriculum will develop competency in six core areas:

    1) Understanding how technology integration and government Education Policy connect

    2) Curriculum and Assessment

    3) Pedagogy

    4) ICT/Technology Tools

    5) Organisation and Administration

    6) Professional Development

    The curriculum enables educators to move beyond learning technology tools to develop a deeper understanding of how ICT integration can enhance the teaching and learning experience, enable 21st century skill acquisition, aide in their own professional development, and create efficiencies in the administrative work required of today's educators. 

    EDU2011_4681-Matt_Jessica_rgb (1024x683)

    Why is it important?

    Research shows that innovative teaching practices, supported by the ubiquitous of technology in the classroom, strongly predict students' acquisition of 21st Century Skills. In order for teachers to illicit those skills from students, they need to understand not just how to use the technology, but when to use it, why to use it, and how to choose which tool will best meet the learning objective.

    How can you access it?

    Available now via our IT Academy website and coming this summer to the Partners in Learning Network.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Deciding on a virtualisation scenario for your school


    Taken from our Virtualisation with Microsoft® Hyper-V eBook (available to view and download below).

    Here’s a look at a typical small scale scenario:

    You are a school with only 4 servers, one of which is your Active Directory server, maybe a setup like the one below.


    For this scenario you could quite easily use one server for your virtualisation host with lots of diskspace and end up reducing your servers from 4 to 2 as shown below.


    While this would work and be relatively low cost to implement it does fall down in a two key areas:

    • Future Growth – As your needs for more servers may increase it will put more strain on the resources of this single host and ultimately this may have a detrimental effect on your end user experience.

    • Redundancy – If your host fails then all of your virtual servers will fail as well as all the virtual hard drives are stored on your single server. You can imagine the effect of this.

    A better solution is shown below. This one gives you redundancy and the ability to grow your virtualisation environment in line with increasing needs.


    So how is this scenario so much better than our first one?

    • Future Growth – While initially this scenario   may seem like overkill what it does allow you to do is grow your environment as your needs   change, without buying more equipment or completely changing your setup.

    • Redundancy – Because all the virtual hard   drives are stored on a central storage system   the failure of one host will not affect the
    running of your virtual servers. Failover clustering will take care of the transfer of services between hosts automatically and your users’ experience will not be affected.


    You can view and download the full Virtualisation with Microsoft® Hyper-V eBook below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What can we learn from the business world’s approach to BYOD?


    Guest blog post from Gerald Haigh, freelance writer. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft education blogs.

    ‘Bring your own device’ (BYOD) is capturing a lot of attention at the moment. Mark Reynolds blogged about it earlier this year, with particular reference to the success of the policy at community school. Mark also drew attention to the way Microsoft’s ‘System Centre 2012’ technology will support schools wanting to move to BYOD and also to our publication ‘Embracing Consumerisation of IT in Education’. More recently, Tim Bush added a further blog on System Centre 2012, drawing attention to a webcast overview of the subject by Gordon McKenna of Inframon.

    At the same time, I’ve been looking around to see if we can learn lessons from business, where BYOD is also a hot topic.

    There are multiple BYOD headaches for businesses. Upward pressure from employees is almost irresistible, for example, and yet the community of users is likely to be diverse, geographically dispersed, and not particularly amenable to regulation. At the same time, illicit invasion or passing on of business intelligence can put at risk major deals, or even the viability of the whole business.

    The online edition of CIO (Chief Information Officer) magazine recently ran a story about a business executive whose smartphone, loaded with sensitive data on customers, fell into the hands of a man who rang the firm offering not to use the information in exchange for $50,000. The same publication reports on a survey of 600 businesses which shows that over half have had security breaches as a result of BYOD.

    At the same time, it’s true to say that the prospect of letting end users pick up the hardware bill themselves is just as attractive for businesses as it is for schools. That’s why a company like Cisco, for example, has seen its BYOD count grow 52 percent in one year and now has well over 50,000 personal devices on its network. Cost savings have been around 20percent.

    "We don't pay for it, and our users are happier," says Lance Perry, Cisco’s vice president of IT. "Isn't that a beautiful thing?"

    My pursuit of information on BYOD in business began with a blog on the subject by Brandon Faber on the IDG Connect site. Like all good blogs, it’s replete with links and references, including the ones I’ve already quoted, and all of which are worth following up. Just in case you haven’t time, however, here are some of the points I picked up along the way, together with my thoughts on what lessons there might be for schools.

    The bottom line is that BYOD can work well for schools. The Saltash experience shows that. In fact you can argue that it’s almost perverse to ignore the devices owned by students and teachers and then spend precious money on similar equipment. At the same time, though, you have to be realistic about the practicalities. So, for example, although BYOD can save money, (As Cisco finds) it’s certainly not a free lunch.

    Another CIO article quotes a survey which says that in the business setting, BYOD can end up more expensive than equipping people with company devices. By no means all of the hidden costs are applicable to schools, but some of which include ensuring security, dealing with data loss, managing multiple platforms (including constant attention to the devices of people joining and leaving) It all adds up to being careful to understand real costs and not gloss over them.

    Then, it’s probably true to say that out there in the big wide world, business leaders and managers like BYOD much more than do IT professionals for the following reasons:

    1. BYOD can mean that IT takes on an apparently limitless ‘help’ burden. The same article says, ‘With BYOD, IT departments are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place: IT doesn't control the actions of the carrier or the devices, yet is still being held responsible to support BYOD employees, even if IT isn't getting additional resources to do so.’

    2. In business at least, IT people worry much more about security than the users do. Brandon Faber’s blog reports a survey of lawyers which found that 78percent of them weren’t seriously concerned about the consequences of losing a device loaded with client data. Brandon puts it more colourfully,

    ‘BYOD puts control into the hands of employees who could not care less about data security – until the proverbial **** hits the fan, followed by lots of begging at IT’s feet to somehow make the pain go away.’

    All in all, there’s a strong sense of caution out there in the business world. Should schools be just as cagy, even pessimistic about BYOD?

    To be fair, there are some differences. A school is a closer knit community. Controls and policies should be easier to define and enforce. It ought to be possible to educate adults and students to the point where all are security-conscious. And on top of that, a straight, ‘Behave, or you lose your access’, ought to be enough. As Mark Reynolds writes, on

    ‘They give wireless access to devices they know about and they block anything they don’t. It is then down to the teaching staff to manage the way students use those devices when they are in school.’

    That’s clearly different from business where a sales manager, for example, certainly isn’t going to welcome the task, on top of everything else, of policing the team’s use of their smartphones. Which means, of course, that IT really will be firefighting when things go wrong, and the damage is done.

    There’s still a lesson for schools, though, about vigilance, not taking anything for granted, and making sure that policies are kept up to date and consistently followed through over time.

    Then there’s the question of the dislocation, in business, of perceptions between IT and end users. That sometimes happens in schools, but our experience is that schools which are ICT leaders and innovators have network managers and technicians who are fully signed up to the vision of learning.

    If that’s not the case, then it’s likely that BYOD is not their only problem.

    Which reminds me that, of course, it’s the vision of learning that counts. It’s not just about getting hardware for free after all.

    For more thoughts on BYOD, view/download our Consumerisation of IT in Education paper.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using Xbox 360 and Kinect in the Classroom


    The Xbox 360 and Kinect™ for Xbox 360 make great additions to the classroom.  As well as being able to play games, you can use the console and Kinect sensor to connect to other classrooms around the world via Xbox LIVE.


    Xbox LIVE has loads of features, and some of the best ones include Video Kinect (a simple but powerful video conferencing solution); the ability to create Xbox Avatars (great for those Internet Safety and Responsible Use Lessons); and you can even use your Xbox 360 to update your class or school Facebook and Twitter pages.

    Kinect Sports allows you to compete with other players at virtual sporting events via Xbox LIVE. This is a great way to develop international education and citizenship in your classroom. When using Xbox 360 in the classroom, it is important to emphasise to students that it is not a games console but a platform and tool that they will be able to use to help improve their learning. Although games and playing games may sometimes be used as a reward, the best use of Xbox 360 in the classroom emphasises that the console is part of the normal learning experience.

    Technical ability and set up
    Technical expertise is a worry for some teachers. But this is more of an exercise in trust. If you don’t know how to set up an Xbox 360, ask one of your class. Many of them will know how to do it and the rest will figure it out very quickly.


    One thing that you will need to do is prepare part of your room to use Kinect™ for Xbox 360 particularly if you want more than one person playing at any time (which you do). One challenge that you may encounter with younger children playing the Kinect™ is that they step out of the play area and the Kinect™ sensor can’t see them. In the classroom, a quick solution to this is to mark the sensor area on the ground with masking tape so that they have a visual reference.

    For more information about using Kinect in education environments, you can view and download our Kinect Sports in the Classroom resource document below:

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