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July, 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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July, 2012

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Schools handed free rein on ICT teaching


    Schools will be given freedom to teach ICT how they choose, after a Government consultation found the current programme "not fit for purpose".

    Education secretary Michael Gove admitted in January that computer teaching needed an overhaul, and following a consultation this spring, the Department of Education will remove all rules around ICT teaching as an interim measure as it works to create a new curriculum by 2014. 

    The subject will continue to be a National Curriculum subject, and between this year and 2014 schools won't be required to change how they teach the subject, but will be free to do so "if they wish", the department said in a report.

    Miles Berry, subject coordinator for ICT Education at Roehampton University  and chair of IT body Naace, told PC Pro the move wasn't a surprise. "We know many teachers are eager to respond to the opportunities this provides to  develop an up-to-date, creative and challenging curriculum tailored to the needs, interests and aspirations of their pupils, perhaps basing what they do on Naace's ICT framework and/or the Computing at School curriculum," he noted.

    "It's interesting that today's announcement comes alongside Gove's rejection of the National Curriculum Expert Panel's recommendation that ICT and D&T  [Design and Technology] be relegated to the 'basic curriculum' in 2014, perhaps recognising that in the third millennium the right to a broad technological education isn't something which can be just left for individual schools to determine," he added.

    The consultation found half of the 333 education experts that responded were in favour of the move; a third were fully against the plans, but  most of those were in favour of some changes to the system.

    "Overall, there was a broad consensus amongst respondents that the existing Programmes of Study and Attainment Targets for ICT were no longer fit for purpose, and many teachers responding to the consultation welcomed the opportunity to develop and deliver more ambitious ICT provision, including computer science," the report said.

    The consultation also revealed a desire for better training for teachers, citing high numbers of "non-specialist" ICT teachers. "Some respondents identified a risk that in some cases a school's ICT curriculum would be based on the skills level of the teacher rather than the ability and interests of the pupils," the report said.

    The Government's proposals around ICT may have been misunderstood, the report  found, with some believing it meant ICT was being "downgraded". "The Government has made it clear that it considers ICT to be an important subject that should  be taught to all pupils," the report noted.

    A follow-up consultation is being run until 11 July

    Read more:  Schools handed free rein on ICT teaching | Education | News | PC Pro

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Interview with Simon Breakspear on innovative education



    Antony Salcito, Vice President Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector Education, interviews Simon Breakspear, consultant, researcher and acclaimed keynote speaker focusing on innovative education.

    To learn more, read

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows Intune in Education


    It seems as if we're right in the middle of a massive shift in technology in education, as we move rapidly towards 1:1 computing and a larger variety of devices appearing in classrooms and IT labs. And that's compounded by the arrival of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in education: students and staff connecting their own devices – phones, laptops, tablets – to your education network.

    If you're a high-tech IT manager in education, then you'll be using our System Center to manage that complexity, letting you manage many different types of devices from one place. But what happens if you're not the kind of institution who'd use something as advanced as System Center? Or you support a whole range of different schools (for example, you're a service partner for multiple schools, providing a managed IT service; or even a high school supporting your local primary schools)?

    That's where Intune might well come in handy, as it allows you to manage devices over the web – without having to control and own them completely. So, for example, you could use them to ensure that your student-owned devices are up to date with virus protection etc, without having to rebuild them with a school-defined computer image.

    The video below gives you an idea of the basics:

    And to get more info on Windows Intune, and it's ability to manage devices, software applications, anti-virus and system updates, take a look at the Intune website. From the site you can also get a 30-day free trial for up to 25 PCs, which might be the easiest way to understand what it can do in your specific scenario.

    Learn MoreFind out more about Windows Intune

    There is also education pricing for Windows Intune, which you'll be able to get from your Microsoft Education partner (and if you haven't got an existing partner, you can search for Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers here)

    By Ray Fleming

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Barnsley Academy Windows Phone Project–Update


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education Blogs.

    Some weeks ago, I reported on a visit I’d made to Barnsley Academy for the launch of their ‘Windows phone in school’ project, a partnership of Microsoft, phone supplier HTC, Barnsley Academy itself and United Learning Trust (ULT).

    We’ll be reporting on the project again as it gathers momentum in the new term, but a brief catch up before the Summer Holidays with Patrick Taylor, the teacher who’s driving the project, was very encouraging. As we talked, it became clear that the Windows phones have arrived at Barnsley Academy at just the right moment to build on what’s been a year of change in the school’s approach to both ICT and computing.


    Patrick came to the school as a newly qualified teacher in September 2011from systems management in industry. From the start, he was determined to ensure that young people would be better prepared for what lay in store out there in the world.

    ‘I realised that the skills we were equipping our learners with were far from adequate,’ he says. ‘And so my first task was to re-design the ICT curriculum at Key stage 3.’

    That, as he says, was just the start. In fact, the year has seen the development of a multi-point strategy designed to raise motivation and achievement in KS3, ultimately giving students a better start for their ICT and computing in KS4. One expected result will be a greater take up for, and better results in, computer studies at exam level.

    It’s very much a radical change, and what’s significant is the degree to which Microsoft products and services are playing their part. In KS3, students have really enjoyed using creative tools from Microsoft Dreamspark ( ) and Kodu ( ,and what’s equally important is the way their enthusiasm has improved the confidence of members of staff who were doubtful of the changes and concerned about their own skills.

    ‘Behaviour management is easier, and students are better engaged,’ says Patrick.

    That’s by no means all on the Microsoft front. Next academic year will see Year Eight students attempting the Microsoft Digital Literacy qualification – Basic, Standard or Advanced according to their ability

    ‘This qualification will allow our learners to complete the GCSE ICT qualification more effectively and hopefully yield better results,’ says Patrick.

    At Year Nine, students face the choice of either the computer science or the ICT route, and in order to help with this, Patrick’s department ran, in the Summer term, a five lesson ‘no strings’ taster course covering mobile app design, with resources drawn from the Microsoft Technology Associate materials. The hope was that high ability science and maths students would be tempted towards computer science in Year Ten. This seems to have borne fruit, for 28 students have signed up for computer science next year.

    That, then, is the background into which the HTC Windows phones were launched, and they’ve made an impact already.

    ‘We’ve experimented with ‘Touch Develop’, Microsoft’s tool for creating apps directly on the Windows phone,’ says Patrick. and we feel we can get every class in Year Nine using it, so it’s written into the scheme of work, starting in the second week back in September.’ ( )

    Meanwhile, according to Vice Principal Mark Aveyard, the phones have been winning friends among senior staff. ‘It far outperforms the iPhone,’ he says. The functionality and usability of the operating system makes day to day use easier.’

    As Patrick says,

    ‘This is a great move forward in regard to senior management embracing these phones into their management activities.’

    So, already, at the end of the school year, only two months on from the HTC Windows phones coming out of their boxes, Barnsley Academy is now poised to do some really ground breaking work with and around them and there’s going to be lots to report, especially on the detail how the phones are embedded into the computing curriculum.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Lesson plan: Explore point of view through aerial photography


    In this lesson, students are introduced to the idea of point of view through aerial photography. They will write a story about what the character Amelia the Pigeon would see if she flew over their school or home.



    Students will be introduced to aerial photography and the idea of different points of view.

    Learning outcomes

    • Students read the story of Amelia the Pigeon and imagine her point of view.
    • Students view actual aerial photographs of their school and home.
    • Students write a story describing what Amelia the Pigeon would see if she flew over their school or home.

    Lesson procedure


    Imagine our school. You know what it looks like when you walk in the front door, right? Now imagine that you are sitting on a cloud high above our school and looking down on it. How does it look now? What’s different? What can you see that you couldn’t see if you were just walking on the ground?

    As you sit on that cloud high above, take a look around. Can you see the neighborhood the school is in? Can you see your house? What else can you see from this point of view?

    [Show students an aerial map of the school on Bing maps. Type the school address in the Search box. When the road map of your school neighborhood appears, point to the Globe icon at the bottom of the map, and then select Aerial. Next, zoom in.]

    Here is a photograph of the school neighborhood taken from an airplane. This is called an aerial photograph. What can you see from this point of view? What can’t you see from this point of view? [If no aerial photograph of your neighborhood is available, show students an aerial photograph of a famous location.]

    Let’s take a closer look from this point of view. Right now we’re looking at a basic aerial map, which is made of photos taken from the air. [Point to the Aerial View icon on the bottom of the map, and then select Bird’s-Eye.] Here’s another aerial map. This one is called a Bird’s-Eye map. This is also made up of photos taken from the air, but instead of looking straight down, the camera looks from above at an angle. That little shift in the angle of the point of view can give you a better view of what’s on the ground. What can you see from this aerial view that you couldn’t see from the first one, looking straight down on our school? [Switch back to the aerial view to show them the difference.] Both of these aerial views give us a lot of information that we don’t get by looking straight ahead at the things around us.

    Can you think of any reasons why someone might need or want an aerial photograph of a neighborhood or a location?

    In this activity you will look at your world from a new point of view—an aerial view from up above in the sky—and write a story about what you see.

    Student activity

    Follow the steps below to guide your students through this lesson plan. See student handout link at right.

    • Step 1: "Read the story of Amelia the Pigeon and imagine what she sees"
    • Step 2: "Look at online aerial photographs of your school and home"

    • Step 3: "Write a story about what Amelia sees"

    ​Lesson extension activities

    Ask students to draw pictures of what Amelia the Pigeon would see if she flew over their school or home. See student handout link at right.

    Ask students to explore perspective further by doing the following:

    Take three digital photographs of an object: one from directly in front of the object, one from directly above the object (aerial), and one from above the object but at an angle (Bird’s-Eye View), and then comparing what they see. What features and dimensions of the object appear in each perspective? They can insert the photos and their descriptions into a Microsoft Word document.

    Draw one object from each of the three perspectives and then write about what features and dimensions of the object appear from each perspective.

    Ask students to read some or all of the remaining chapters of “Amelia the Pigeon.” They can use Bing maps to look at some of the places described in those chapters, such as a park or a zoo.

    Ask students to research the life of Amelia Earhart and write a story about something she might have seen from her airplane cockpit.


    Assess students on the story they write describing what Amelia would see if she flew over their home or school. Viewing the pictures on the Bing maps website should help inspire some creative writing.

    Software and materials needed

    Point of view student handout

    NASA’s Amelia the Pigeon website

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Schools waiting for Windows 8 before buying tablets


    Windows 8

    Many schools are postponing a decision on whether to purchase tablets for their pupils until the release of Windows 8, according to the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA).

    A BESA survey of 500 British schools found that 6% of all "pupil-facing computers" will be non-Windows tablets by the end of this year, a figure that is expected to climb to 22% by the end of 2015. One of the reasons schools are holding back is Windows 8 will offer a unified platform on slates and desktops

    However, BESA warned that many schools are still taking a cautious approach to tablets, with 85% of schools worried about the management and security of such devices, and 71% concerned about the installation and purchase of apps.

    In particular, schools are concerned that the investment they've already made in Windows software is lost when buying Android tablets or iPads. "One of the reasons schools are holding back is Windows 8 will offer a unified platform on slates and desktops," BESA director Caroline Wright told PC Pro.

    BESA also found that the majority of primary schools are waiting for the Government to back the adoption of tablets, even though schools were granted the autonomy to make their own ICT buying decisions in 2010, following the dismantling of BECTA.

    Education secretary Michael Gove has espoused the educational benefits of tablets, telling the 2011 Schools Network Annual Conference that "as we move to a world where we expect every child will have a tablet, the nature and range and type of content that can be delivered will be all the greater".

    By Barry Collins on PC Pro

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Connecting SkyDrive with Office 365 for education


    As schools and other education customers move to Office 365 for education in Australia (more info here), it provides another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of your technology infrastructure. Office 365 for education provides email, Lync communications, Office Web Apps and SharePoint in the Cloud, giving your students new ways to communicate, collaborate and support their learning.

    skyDrive     office 365

    It also provides another option for where you put your student home drives – it could be on a local server, or in their SharePoint MySite in the Cloud. One of the benefits of putting student storage in the cloud is that will normally reduce your cost of IT – because Office 365 for education is free, it means that you can offload some of your IT infrastructure costs.

    With Office 365 for education, your students each receive a file storage allowance of 500MB free. And now, if you're thinking "Wait? 500MB? These days it seems like that's two multimedia PowerPoints and a couple of videos" then read on!

    You have a couple of extra options for expanding your storage space. One way is to add extra storage into your Office 365 for education service - costs and details are here. The other way is to use the SkyDrive storage - which is the equivalent of a disk drive in the cloud. SkyDrive gives every user 7GB of free online storage, larger than most other free cloud-based storage services. And there are apps available for computers and smartphones to make it easily accessible.

    SkyDrive was included within the Live@edu email service, and there were a number of ways to link this to your user management (eg with syncing to your Active Directory). Now that we've switched from Live@edu to Office 365 for education you'll no longer be managing your users in SkyDrive – instead each student will create and run their own SkyDrive account. But there are some third parties that have developed utilities to help you manage SkyDrive accounts.

    Sky Connector from Xstran
    Loryan Strant at Xstran has developed "DirSync for SkyDrive", which basically lets you connect SkyDrive accounts to your Active Directory. It means you can automatically create SkyDrive user accounts and storage space. And it synchronises passwords between your Active Directory and the SkyDrive, so your students only have to remember one password for both your school network and the storage on SkyDrive in the cloud.

    If your a network manager in a school, TAFE or university, this could be a useful solution to an IT management issue.

    Learn MoreFind out more about Xstran's DirSync for SkyDrive


    By Ray Fleming

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    LP+4 in Wolverhampton


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education series of blogs.

    Mid July is frantically busy for primary schools, and I guess the last thing heads and teachers want is somebody like me strolling in to drink their tea and gaze around asking questions. So I was more than grateful for the warm welcome I had at Northwood Park , a two form entry primary in Wolverhampton, just before the end of term. My mission there was to ask them about their work with the LP+ learning platform from Learning Possibilities, and particularly the upgrade from LP+ to the SharePoint 2010 based LP+4.


    We reported the formal launch of LP+4 at Microsoft HQ in Reading in November last year, by which time we’d already reported early experience with the Beta version in two Northamptonshire Schools.

    Now, LP+4 passes a very significant milestone as it rolls out in Wolverhampton where all 80 of the Authority’s primary schools, and a growing number of secondary and special schools, are already using LP+.

    So, before I went to Northwood Park Primary, I reported in at the offices of Wolverhampton’s Learning Technologies Team, where I was brought up to speed by Headteacher Consultant, Dave Whyley, and eLearning Consultant, Gavin Hawkins. They explained to me how, starting from their deep understanding of how classrooms work, they have built a collaborative network in which each school’s LP+ platform is linked to the authority’s SharePoint based ‘Engage’ gateway .

    The presence of ‘Engage’ in every school is symbolic as well as practical. As Gavin Hawkins says, `It’s important to us that officers of the authority should be using the same technology as the people in school.’

    In fact, as I found at Northwood Park, the school’s own LP+4 platform is so well integrated with that of the local authority that teachers simply call the whole thing ‘Engage’.

    That led me to suggest to Dave Whyley that having developed ‘Engage’, the team might have gone on to offer schools a locally developed SharePoint platform – ‘Engage for schools’, maybe.

    That, however, as Dave pointed out, would saddle the Authority with a whole lot of unwanted baggage around upgrades, data security, e safety and the rest. So the chosen solution, in 2008, was to go with LP+.

    ‘Learning Possibilities is a medium-sized, agile, business that could respond to our needs,’ says Dave Whyley, ‘And the presence of Stephen Heppell as Chairman weighed heavily with us.’

    It says a lot for schools’ relationships with their Authority and with the Learning Technologies Team in particular, that once the decision was made to go with LP+, each of the 80 primaries spent their own money on the platform and bought into a service agreement for support. The result is that there’s a high degree of integration between schools and between schools and the authority. So, in a very real sense, the Learning Technologies Team has effectively created an authority-wide learning platform, with a host of advantages for training, support and collaboration.

    ‘For example, we do have a lot of teacher and pupil mobility in Wolverhampton, and LP+ makes it easy for someone to move from one school to another, taking their work and planning with them,’ says Dave Whyley.

    Dave and Gavin showed me some of the individual school platforms, and it was possible to see how important will be Web 2.0 features in LP+4 – wikis, blogs and discussions, all accessible from each individual class site.

    The idea of blogging is attracting a lot of attention among teachers at the moment, as they see the value of giving their children the opportunity to engage and interact with a wide audience. LP+4 really scores here by providing, a secure and easy-to-use environment without the need to use a separate blogging platform. (There’s a fuller exploration of blogging with LP+4 on the Microsoft Schools Blog)

    To illustrate the points he’d made, Dave took me to Northwood Park where I met Stephanie Butler, eLearning co-ordinator and leader of Foundation Stage and Key Stage One. She showed me how well her six year olds grasp the opportunity use the tools on their class site to share their ideas.

    ‘Class sites’, which provide each class with a secure environment for blogs and discussions are clearly going to a big hit for LP+4. Well led school classes are close, warm and supportive communities where children learn about sharing, appreciating individuality and listening to each other. Extending this into online version of the class that continues beyond school is bound to be a winner. The use of photographs, too, easily uploaded, and displayed as thumbnails in a gallery on the class site is a further bonus that Stephanie’s children are already appreciating.

    ‘Discussions are the big thing on our class site,’ says Stephanie Butler. ‘We started a discussion on the Titanic at Easter and it’s still going. And recently, after the children saw a rehearsal of the school production, some were already writing up comments before school next day. They love the photographs, too, and the opportunity to use them in their work.‘

    As we talked and looked at Stephanie’s class site, we were joined by music co-ordinator and Year Six teacher Dan Jessel, who’s been working on using Wikis for homework tasks.

    ‘It’s great for getting children to use the platform at home. I can give instructions, links to websites and Powerpoints. Children are supportive to each other, too, keen to see each other’s work. It can be marked online, too.’

    At Northwood Park, the real push into those SharePoint 2010 features with LP+4 is going to start across the school in September, after the staff are fully up to speed.

    Engaging teachers with a learning platform has, at times, been an uphill task in schools. Head teacher Gill Morris explains that the key at Northwood Park when they started with LP+ was to use it for all communication. The write-on whiteboard in the staffroom -- the standard information centre in many schools -- was taken down, and a system where children went round with messages was discontinued. Now, teachers have to log on to the learning platform morning and afternoon to find out what’s happening.

    That said, Gill confesses to a faux pas of her own, when she didn’t at first realise that her daily ‘Heads Message’ was readable by the children as well as the staff. So, she recalls, children’s expectations were raised when they read a cheerful message from her (partly intended to encourage teachers to log on) to the effect that chocolates were available in the staffroom.

    Northwood Park –‘Good with Outstanding Features’ in Ofsted terms, is very focussed on ICT for learning. At the same time there’s a strong commitment to creativity -- it was heartening to encounter Gill Morris carrying a violin, hotfoot from rehearsal – and there’s no doubt that there’s a real desire to use LP+4 to motivate their lively children, releasing their ideas and abilities.

    I left Wolverhampton with the realisation that I’d had a glimpse of just how effective technology can be when it’s picked up and applied by people with real understanding of its potential. What we have here in Wolverhampton is Microsoft SharePoint 2010 given educational focus and context by Learning Possibilities, then guided into action by a highly responsive and innovative Learning Technologies team. From there it’s picked up and applied in the classroom by creative heads and teachers like Gill and Stephanie and Dan. And the final essential link is provided by the children who, as always, are going to find ways of using the technology that nobody has thought of.

    The Northwood Park story will be repeated across all 80 Wolverhampton Primaries, and there are strong signs that a significant number of the authority’s 26 secondaries will eventually join the four which already us LP+.

    All this means that in the heart of the UK there already exists a critical and growing mass of school SharePoint 2010 users. The success of LP+4 is a prime example of how Microsoft’s partners, in the words of Strategic Partner Lead Mark Stewart, ‘…make what we do relevant’.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Continued success for Get Online @ Home computer scheme


    In the UK, a staggering 8.4 million people are yet to use the internet, with 5% of children of school age not having access to a computer at home. Keeping in mind Bill Gates’ vision of “a PC on every desk and in every home”, Microsoft has joined with their partners to create Get Online@Home, an initiative which provides high quality PCs at minimal cost to the consumer. ALL teachers, ALL schools and any parent can use the Get Online@Home offer, allowing EVERY student to have a PC at home and do better in school and in life.

    The simple layout of the website provides advice on whether to choose a desktop or laptop, set up guides and quick start help and internet deals to get customers started. At a cost of £149 for a desktop and £199 for a laptop, they not only get a PC, but are also given the most recent Microsoft software at no extra charge. In addition to this Get Online @ Home is now offering a reconditioned Windows 7 PC for just £99 [£49 to those on benefits] or a reconditioned Window 7 laptop for £149 [£119 to those on benefits], when taken with TalkTalk Essentials Broadband and Phone at an exclusive price of just £5 a month.


    Continued success

    Knowing the difference that having access to a computer and the internet at home can make to a child’s educational development, we have received a great deal of support from a number of familiar faces, including Coronation Street’s Wendi Peters. This support is really important to us in order to escalate the initiative and make as many families and schools aware of it as possible.


    The successful scheme has also had recent continued press coverage from the likes of Yahoo and Mature Times. There have been some local radio competitions as well, featuring the scheme with desktop PCs given away as prizes.  Around 20 local radio stations, including Real Radio Yorkshire, Sunrise Yorkshire, Magic Manchester, 96.4 Eagle Radio, The Breeze Bristol  and Premier Christian Radio, have all been involved in the giveaway.

    If you would like any further information about the scheme, please visit the Get Online@Home website.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How to enrol for Office 365 for education step by step


    The anticipated wait is over and Office 365 for education is now available. So how can you get started using Office 365 in your school, college or university?


    Below you can find a detailed guide of how to sign up for your 30 day free trial of Office 365 for education. Increase productivity in your education institution with free email, instant messaging, online document editing and viewing and lots more. Here’s how to enrol:

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