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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

    Why Wait for Windows 8?


    Guest post from Mark Reynolds, Business Manager for Schools South.

    2 weeks ago, I was presenting to a group of Headteachers in Cambridge. They had asked me to go in and tell them about Windows8, before deciding whether to roll out a large batch of iPads. At the end of the presentation, they asked the usual question people ask when you’ve shown them something cool, which is; “How Much?”. I said that I could not answer that and that they’d need to wait and see what our OEM partners like Samsung, Dell, Toshiba, RM or Viglen came up with – because, I said (and I can still see these words hanging in the air) “Microsoft doesn’t make hardware”.

    Then, on literally the next working day, came the breaking news from LA, that Steve Ballmer (our CEO) had just announced that  Microsoft are releasing our own devices for Windows 8, and they’re called “Surface”. When the emails came in from the Cambridge Heads, asking “why didn’t you tell us this on Friday?” – I could honestly say to them that I didn’t know. This highlighted two things for me: a) I am clearly not high enough up the food chain at Microsoft to get told the important stuff, and b) the world of IT moves pretty fast. One week we don’t make tablet PC’s, the next week – we do.


    So, whilst we all wait to get our hands on a Surface, I thought I would share some key reasons why its vital for schools to understand all their options before launching into a large scale tablet rollout. The question I’ll try to answer is – Why Wait for Windows 8?

    First up, here are the facts about our timescales:

    • The official release date for Windows 8 has not yet been announced
    • We have not seen all of the exciting new hardware that our OEM partners are going to release for Windows 8
    • We can’t tell you exactly when our own Surface tablets will be released, or indeed – how much they will cost
    • You will almost certainly NOT be able buy and deploy Windows 8 tablets ready for the new term in September

    Secondly, here are some facts about the most common tablet device schools are looking at deploying this summer, the iPad. Instead of me writing these and being accused of iPad bashing, I asked Paul Newman from the Girls Day School Trust for his view. Paul said:

    The GDST has bought over 200 iPads due to a demand from the schools to use them. We have spent over 3 months with a senior architect working full time on integrating them into our infrastructure. Conclusions are:

    • They are a consumer device
    • They can only be used on a 1:1 basis
    • They cannot be audited to control who is doing what
    • They do not integrate with our infrastructure

    Windows 8 solves all of our problems; we will certainly be deploying these in place of the iPad and have asked schools who can to wait until Windows 8 is available.”

    Can you really afford to do both?

    One key thing which all Schools should think carefully about when considering Tablet PCs, is what can they really be used for? Whilst iPads make a great consumption device, you would not want to write an essay on one – and, last time I checked – both students and teachers often have to type more than 100 words, or design a PowerPoint, or use an application which is simply no good on a small screen. So that means, if you give people iPads, you will have to give them a second device too! This could mean upgrading or extending your existing Windows Network – or, in the case of teachers specifically – buying them all an iPad AND a laptop. I’ve not been to many schools recently who can afford to buy their teachers both.

    “They are cool” is not enough reason to roll them out

    If you are the Head Teacher, and you just want one, then just buy one. Use it to show your elevated status at SMT meetings, to view your email and calendar, to take notes, and to browse the web on the sofa. Do NOT think that it can somehow magically transform your Schools IT provision overnight – or, more importantly, raise attainment.

    I have spoken to countless schools and academies who have invested in the iPad and found them to be a “square peg in a round hole”. One of those is James Penny from the Harris Federation. James is absolutely not “anti-Apple” – in fact, he delights in producing his MacBook Air every time he comes to Microsoft – but even with their excellent technical team, cannot integrate iPads into their school networks in the way they need to:

    “Ipads are a delightful consumer device, but therein lies the challenge! Managing several hundred of them in a large secondary school so that pupils can access their stored work, most of which is done in Microsoft Office, is not what they were designed to do. Moving to scale in a secure way has many hurdles. The new surface device with Windows 8 combines the now expected touch interaction with the enterprise scale management and security that schools have come to expect. We can’t wait!”

    So, enough about iPads (for now) - how is Windows 8 different?

    • Windows 8 will give schools a no-compromise tablet, that allows both great app experiences and full productivity – play Angry Birds on the Sofa, then run a SIMS report
    • It will be managed on school networks just like your current Windows PCs are. You’ll log on with your normal school account, and all your Windows 7 software will work on Windows 8
    • When you save your work, it will be stored on the server and you won’t need to find a “fudge” like emailing things to yourself
    • Schools with a Microsoft EES licensing subscription will be covered for the upgrade when it is released
    • The Microsoft OEM community such as Samsung, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, RM, Viglen etc, will all have exciting new Windows 8 devices on the market soon
    • Microsoft have just announced an exciting new PC platform which has been designed and manufactured by Microsoft – which is huge news for us, and, we hope, for you too…

    What can you tell me about Surface?

    What we know so far, is that there will be two models in the Surface family – Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro.  We don’t have a release date yet but to keep up to date with information please visit  There is a very cool launch video which you can see here

    Don’t Jump Too Soon

    We know this is a hard thing to ask – but we really believe that schools will be better off waiting to see what Windows8 will deliver, before making any big jumps on Tablet computing. We also know that many will, or have already jumped – and think that in a years’ time, there will be a lot of Head teachers who commissioned very expensive “experiments” which have simply not worked.

    A final thought, from the coal face

    Mark Compton-James is the IT Director for ARK Schools. When I asked him for his view, he summed it up brilliantly, with his usual brand of straight talking and pragmatism – based on many years working in School IT;

    “Apple don’t make or sell technology – they brand a lifestyle and then sell the accessories to it. They make no bones about it. As a business they have far more in common with Tommy Hilfiger or Gap that they do with Microsoft, Oracle or any of the other big IT hitters. Nothing wrong with that but a lot of schools don’t get it. So they buy these highly priced, beautifully designed lifestyle devices built to consume content. Now these devices don’t lend themselves to integrating into a school network where IT security, sustainability and compatibility are real issues. Schools end up shoe-horning the device onto the network and using it in the same way they would a PC. This reduces functionality, increases support costs and irritates users - a heady cocktail. If only some clever people could come up with a platform that provides the usability of an iPad and a functionality of a PC on the same device? Oh hang on … they already have. Windows 8.”

    The best way to keep up to date with Windows 8, and anything else from the Microsoft Schools team is on Twitter or on our Schools Blog. There is also a set of slides about Windows 8 here.

    The full deck can also be viewed/downloaded below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Yammer – the next step for social networking in schools?


    Yammer, the enterprise social network and one of Microsoft’s most recent acquisitions, allows you to collaborate, communicate and share your thoughts within your network, be it a school or business. Think ‘The Social Network’ and Facebook’s origins, where students at Harvard University could communicate with one another via a private social network. Yammer creates a newsfeed based on updates from your co-workers, all of whom are responding to the simple question: “What are you working on?”


    One of the first things I couldn’t help but notice was the Facebook-esque design of the home page, where you can view your newsfeed, create a poll and comment on updates from people within your organisation.

    However, when you start to look a little deeper, the features also echo those of Twitter. With hashtags, mentions and followers, as well as the ability to update your Yammer from Twitter using #yam, it would seem that the founder, David O. Sacks, has taken all of the best features from our known and loved social networks. He’s then combined them to create the one site which allows you to communicate with your colleagues easily and securely.

    So now you know some background, you’re probably wondering how it would help in a school environment. The exchange of short, frequent answers to that one key question allows teachers to learn about other departments, get tips and tricks from other staff members and gain insight into the overall operations and activities within the school. The instant feedback which is received creates a more productive workforce, increases collaboration and engagement, and, most importantly, reduces the amount of needless emails for you to check throughout the day. The infographic below shows Yammer’s effect upon its users.


    In my opinion, Yammer could create a whole load of new opportunities, not only in relation to staff communication, but also for students. Here are some ways I think Yammer could improve the teaching and learning in schools.

    Group work


    We know that group work is a great way to encourage students to engage with their peers, but this isn’t easy when they all use different social networks, clouds and systems. By joining Yammer, students can create secure groups via which they can communicate their ideas, ask questions and share files, as well as allowing for their competitive side to come out through ‘Leaderboards’, which show data about who has received the most likes, replies and much.

    Study help

    In addition to letting pupils chat about group projects, they can also post questions about their studies via their updates, which either teachers or other students can reply to. This is invaluable around exam time, and allows students to get a more instant response to their queries. This means that they are able to continue their studies without being stuck waiting for a response from busy teachers.

    Content sharing

    The numerous applications, question and poll facilities and fast feedback means that teachers can share files, news and activities with one another, creating a more unified workforce. The newsfeed also allows for interesting content to be shared amongst staff regarding new technologies and systems in education, which may otherwise be sent out by mass email. With Yammer, your email inbox can be saved only for those important emails. And if you’re worried that having yet another webpage open is just too much, you can update your status, post to groups and send private messages through your email. Learn how here.

    Praise app

    The praise application, found in the ‘More’ drop down menu of the update bar, allows you to praise someone within your network for anything you want. Everyone loves being praised, especially publicly for all their co-workers and peers to see, and it is essential to the learning process for students. Teachers can therefore praise their students for doing well in a lesson, completing a project to a high standard, or simply exceeding everyone’s expectations. Similarly, students can praise staff for an interesting lesson, extra help with an exam or just being really great. This interaction which may not occur face to face will lift morale and motivate both students and staff to perform to their very best.


    If you would like to know any more information about Yammer and Microsoft, check out our press release.

    By Katie Hook.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using Bing search in the classroom


    Instant answers and peace of mind, too. Students stop learning when they get frustrated or stuck. Bing can help students move forward on a lesson or their homework when you can’t be there to help.


    Get your formula for success

    Find a square root quickly. Capture the correct spelling, definition or pronunciation of a word. You and your students simply type the maths problem, word, or topic into the Bing search box. Bing offers instant answers to maths, language, and other educational questions.

    Search with confidence

    Bing has security settings to help keep inappropriate content from appearing in students’ search results. Internet access remains productive and educational. And that gives peace of mind to parents, teachers, and administrators.

    Discover a quick, reliable reference

    Bing offers reliable, organised answers from reference experts Wolfram Alpha for geography, chemistry, and more.

    Teacher tips

    • For younger students, use Bing instant answers to help improve their vocabulary. Have students type more advanced words in the Bing search box. Simply type in “Define” followed by the word they wish to learn. Students will get a definition, and often times an audio button will appear so they can listen and learn the correct pronunciation. Bing can also assist with maths equations, and even help with understanding basic graphing.
    • Teach students about the necessity of imports and exports between countries. Assign a different country to each student in class. Have students use Bing instant answers to determine the population, climate, and key resources of their country. Next, have students make a short list of resources their country lacks. Turn the class discussion into a barter session between student “countries.”
  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Possible Xbox 360® COTS games projects


    The use of COTS (Commercial off-the-shelf) games in the classroom has grown in popularity in the UK over the last few years and their potential impact is well documented in the Futurelab report, ‘The impact of console games in the classroom’. The findings of this particular report suggest that well structured and planned gamebased approaches to learning can provide excellent opportunities to engage students in activities which can enhance learning and produce a wider range of educational benefits.

    As well as Kinect™ Adventures, some other Xbox 360 game titles and their broad themes that could be used as contextual hubs for learning are shown in the table below. There are also lots of other games that could be used... you just need to use your imagination!


    Other uses for COTS games in the classroom

    Projects that use games as contextual hubs tend to span several weeks or even terms of work. It is important that playing the game is not seen as a reward but that it is part of the learning experience.

    Another use for COTS games is to compliment and reinforce existing education outcomes. For example, games produce data in the form of high scores, leader boards and times. The challenge for the classroom teacher is to use the data generated from the game as a stimulus to reinforce mathematical concepts. Many young people buy into this methodology as they have generated the data themselves by playing the game. This means that it is authentic and not contrived like in many traditional settings.

    An example of this in practice might be the use of the data generated from a hurdles race in Kinect Sports to drive questions around adding, subtraction, distances, speed and averages.


    For more information on gaming in the classroom you can view and download our eBook below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Frog Conference Report


    Guest post by Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education Blog(s).

    I recently went to Frog’s International Learning Platforms Conference in Birmingham to hear about the newly developed integration of Microsoft Live@edu into the Frog learning platform. For some months now, Microsoft and Frog technical teams have been working on this development, which extends choice for Frog users, providing seamless, single sign-on access through their Frog platform to a range of free cloud products - email, messaging, calendar, online folders – all with the familiar Microsoft look, feel and function.

    Live@edu will be available to Frog users in the immediate future, and a little further down the line this will evolve into integration with Office 365 for education. (There’s a quick preview of Live@edu in the Frog environment on Frog Business manager Adrian Bantin’s blog at )

    There were lots of other good reasons to be at the Conference, which was excellently run in Birmingham’s world-class International Conference Centre. The nine optional workshops, for example, on issues including mobile learning, parental engagement and behaviour, were largely run ‘TeachMeet’ style by teachers and school leaders chosen by Twitter poll. That, it strikes me, is an example that many conferences could follow.

    Then it was good to hear of the developments which make 2012 such a momentous year for the company. In January, CEO Gareth Davies announced that Frog, which he developed in his spare bedroom in 1999, has been chosen to provide learning platform technology for every school in Malaysia – 10,000 schools, 6 million people. Frog in Malaysia will be provided as a cloud service using a new interface and delivered through Malaysia’s nationwide 4G wireless network.

    (A good place to read about these developments in more detail is on Gareth’s own blog )

    The Malaysia venture not only transforms Frog into a global business, but, as Gareth explained at the Conference, carries significant implications for Frog UK. So, for example, this year the new interface will be rolled out to UK Frog users as Frog4OS – not as yet replacing the current Frog 3, but supplementing and enhancing it. And, catching a fast-rising tide, Frog4OS was announced at the Conference as ‘the world’s first learning platform designed specifically for tablets’.

    That bit of news was met with enthusiasm from the almost 900 strong audience, and it became clear in a later Q and A session that there are schools which want Frog on tablets and smartphones sooner rather than later. The vision of a classroom where every student has a tablet is already the reality in a growing number of schools and a ‘Going Mobile’ workshop, led by teachers was well attended.

    It’s not difficult to see how Microsoft’s range of products can contribute alongside Frog to these fast-moving changes in the world of educational technology. The Frog strategy, clearly, is to become the hub of the school – the single point of access not only to the rich resources of the Frog platform itself, but to a choice of key third-party services for communication, collaboration and data handling.

    Just before the Conference I caught Frog CEO Gareth Davies on his car phone and he pulled into a layby for a quick chat about the Live@edu integration.

    ‘We’re delighted with this development,’ he said. ‘It’s a key part of the Frog strategy of extending functionality and choice for users by providing direct access to third party services.’

    From the very start of the Conference, and as it developed, what struck me was the way the Frog vision for learning and that of Microsoft complement each other. Gareth Davies actually said as much as he welcomed Microsoft UK’s Strategic Partner Lead Mark Stewart to the Conference stage for his session. Mark began by underlining the relationship between Microsoft and Frog

    ‘We’re a technology provider,’ he said. ‘And we couldn’t do anything without partners like Frog who make what we do relevant.’

    Mark went on to speak about anytime anywhere learning, collaboration, communication and interactivity (for example with the growing use of Kinect in the classroom) all of which are easily traced in the DNA of both organizations.

    Another line of development that Gareth is obviously very keen on is the gathering and intelligent use of data – including the ‘soft’ data on children’s attitudes, interests and activities that, in Gareth’s word, ‘Helps teachers understand their children better’.

    Then, towards the end of the Conference we were introduced to Alistair Smith, newly arrived at Frog as Education Director, It’s a significant appointment, not only confirming Frog’s commitment to the ‘learning’ in ‘learning platform’, but also signalling their support for a classroom which is flexible, collaborative, interactive and personalised.

    When I spoke to Alistair on the phone next day he confirmed his belief in the need to move on from using technology to administer traditional classroom practice. This, of course, is an insistent theme within Microsoft Education, as Mark Stewart had reminded us in his Conference session, using a telling pair of pretty well identical photographs of classrooms, with children in neat rows facing the front, taken some seventy years apart.

    (Tim Bush developed this theme in the HE Blog in March _)

    What Alistair wants – and again he’s right on the Microsoft wavelength here – is to see the power of technology harnessed to an interactive style – work shared around, circulated for comment by peers trained to respond, for example, gradually revised and developed.

    ‘Learning is not about the smooth progression to perfection. It is about asking the right questions of the right people at the right time and getting the responses that you can act upon.’

    Really, though, the best way to see what Alistair’s going to bring to Frog and Frog users is to look at the video currently on the home page of his website where he appeals for a system that moves children from ‘Performing’ – trying for correct answers, assessed by the teacher – to ‘Learning’ – making decisions, learning incrementally by trial and error. It’s pretty clear that if Alistair has his way, there’ll soon be some interesting developments at Frog, particularly, perhaps, in the area of assessment.

    And, make no mistake, Microsoft, with world-class products for communication and collaboration, and unparalleled experience of seeing them into service with a range of partners and schools, is very well placed to help bring the new Frog vision to life.

    The 'Frog Vision' video, and Conference workshop videos are at

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Skype in the Classroom–new video


    Skype in the Classroom allows pupils to meet new people, talk to experts, share ideas and create amazing learning experiences with teachers from around the world.

    The folks at Skype have a fun video that offers an overview of the programme that we thought would be good to share on the blog.

    How are you using Skype in the classroom? We would love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments below!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Using Samsung Series 7 slates in the classroom in Australia


    St Catherine's School is a girls school in Sydney with nearly 1,000 students and a 1:1 programme for their students. They are using Samsung Series 7 slates, running Windows and Microsoft OneNote to support learning right across the curriculum. What that means is that they can run all of their existing programmes, including the whole Microsoft suite, and their specialist learning applications in specific subject – and provide a personal tablet device for every student. Their goal is to support their student learning to meet the needs of both the curriculum, and development of their 21st century skills* of collaboration, communication etc

    If you watch the video below you'll get a good idea of how individual students are using their Samsung slates in school, across many curriculum subjects, and how they mix the use of different applications in different subjects. And you also see the way that they use OneNote as a key tool right across the curriculum, for both students and teachers, and as a collaboration tool as well as for individual note taking and revision.


    Paul Carnemolla, the Head of Information Systems at the school, has been responsible for ensuring that there's widespread adoption of OneNote and the whole 1:1 programme. And that's involved identifying key teaching and learning scenarios that can be enabled – for example, the use of audio recording at the same time as note taking, so that students can record their thinking whilst they are completing exercises. This feedback is useful for both students and teachers:

    imageIt's very easy to share OneNote, so a teacher can share a OneNote, so a teacher can share the same OneNote document with all of the other students in the classroom.

    We know that feedback in learning is critical to student successs. The synced audio feature in OneNote enables us to get an insight into learning that we wouldn't be able to without that technology.

    As Tessa Rep, Head of Biblical Studies at the school says in the video:

    imageYou have a record of everything that you've done. And you're able to collect work efficiently from students. You're able to keep that with you. And wherever you go you have all the work you need.

    Although it's still in the early days for the school, you can get a very clear idea in the video of the many different ways that the Samsung slates are being used across the curriculum – and the many different types of Windows software programmes that the students are using.

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Microsoft "Building skills for tomorrow" programme in Australia
    or find out for yourself in a our hands-on event for school leaders in Brisbane on 20th July

    * In addition to the 21st Century skills traditionally discussed in the Windows in the Classroom projects, I've noticed that there are some new ones I've not spotted before - St Catherine's Holiday Program even includes barista courses Smile

    Originally posted by Ray Fleming

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Lesson plans: Calculating profits from selling virtual lemonade


    You can introduce or augment technology skills with our lesson plans for teachers. They’re ready to use as they are, or you can customise them to fit your specific teaching and learning goals.


    In this lesson, students set up a virtual lemonade stand and decide how many cups of lemonade to prepare, which ingredients to buy, and costs for each cup of lemonade. The game simulates customer behaviour, and students record their decisions and outcomes.


    • Students will employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.
    • Students will understand the basic concept of profits and losses.

    Learning outcomes

    • Students will purchase ingredients for making lemonade.
    • Students will determine the cost to produce one cup of lemonade.
    • Students will assess weather forecasts and customer behaviour patterns to determine how much lemonade to make each day.
    • Students will use an Office Excel spreadsheet to collect data and record outcomes.
    • Students will write a report reflecting on their data and the outcomes.

    ​Lesson procedure


    When you run your own business, you have to make a lot of important decisions based on maths. You have to calculate how many supplies to buy, analyse the data you collect from your sales figures every day, and make decisions about the future based on the conclusions you draw from your information.

    In this activity, you will each set up and run your own business—a lemonade stand. You will make all the business decisions about materials, costs, and how to make the lemonade. You will run the lemonade stand, record your data, and then analyse how much money you made or lost.

    Remember that even if the lemonade you sell tastes really good, you may not always sell a lot. Sometimes the weather affects how much lemonade people purchase. You will get to see a weather forecast, but remember that weather forecasts are not always accurate.

    Before you start playing, you will read directions that will show you how to start and operate your lemonade stand. As you run your business, you will use an Office Excel data collection spreadsheet to record your decisions, your data, and your outcomes. When the game is over, you will write a report about the reasons you made a profit or the reasons you did not.

    Student activities

    Follow the steps below to guide your students through this lesson plan.

    • Step 1: "Run your lemonade stand and record your data"
    • Step 2: "Analyse your profits and losses"
    Lesson extension activities
    • Ask students to use one of the charts in Office Excel to help them visualise and analyse their data.
    • Ask students to write a strategy handbook for running a successful lemonade stand.
    • Ask students to create an ad campaign to attract more customers to their business.


    Assess students on their data collection and their final reflection. They should use mathematical terms and draw conclusions by reviewing their data.


    How a business goes sour

    Ask students to name some factors beyond those included in the game that could affect a real-life lemonade stand. For example, would it matter where the lemonade stand is located? Why? What about the way the staff treats customers and handles complaints?

    Software and materials needed

    Microsoft Excel

    Microsoft Internet Explorer

    Calculating profits student guide

    Excel data collection sheet

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Office 365 for Education case study video


    Great for academic institutions that are ready to take advantage of the cloud. Office 365 offers free email, instant messaging, group video and voice chat, and online document viewing and editing.

    We’ve got a great video that shows how Office 365 for education has enabled the University of Massachusetts and the National University of Ireland to work together in a curriculum environment.


    You can view the video here.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Networking For Teaching Entrepreneurship interview


    Anthony Salcito, Vice President Worldwide Public Sector Education at Microsoft, interviews Amy Rosen, President and CEO of NFTE, Networking For Teaching Entrepreneurship. Learn more at and

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