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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Computer Science in the National Curriculum – Free ebook now available for download


    An extract from our latest ebook – Computer Science in the National Curriculum.

    In January 2012, education secretary Michael Gove announced that the ICT national curriculum would be ‘disapplied’, giving schools complete autonomy over what they’d teach pupils in ICT, in the hope that they’d make the most of
    the chance to develop rigorous, challenging curricula encompassing much more CS. Computing at School had already developed its own Computer Science Curriculum, and platforms such as Kodu and Quick Basic were starting to attract the interest of a few primary teachers. Later that year, the decision was made to develop a new, statutory programme of study for ICT, subsequently renamed Computing, drawing on the expertise of educators, the IT industry and computer scientists. The new programme of study, which becomes a statutory requirement in September 2014, guarantees an entitlement to be taught Computer Science, IT and digital literacy for all children in local authority primary and secondary schools.

    Whilst some programming had been on the National Curriculum right from the start, the new programme of study raises the expectations significantly, emphasising aspects of computational thinking and an understanding of computer systems as well as coding. The new programme of study has high ambitions. It begins: “A high-quality Computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.” The preamble and aims make clear that this is about much more than children learning to program; for example, one of the aims is that pupils “can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of Computer Science”

    The foundations for this are laid early on, with 5-7 year-olds (Key Stage 1) being taught about algorithms and to use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs, as well to create and debug programs of their own.
    7-11 year-olds should develop their understanding further still, decomposing problems into smaller parts, and using logical reasoning to detect and correct errors in algorithms and programs, in addition to using programming
    constructs such as sequence, selection, repetition and variables, and working on projects that involve controlling or simulating physical systems. There’s also an expectation that pupils understand the internet and the web, and appreciate how search engines like Bing select and rank results. The programme of study, as with the rest of the national curriculum, should be considered the equivalent of building regulations rather than architects’ plans.There’s ample scope for teachers and others, individually or collectively, to develop their own creative, stimulating schemes of work, resources and lesson plans for pupils here.

    Download the complete Computer Science ebook here

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    How will the next Shakespeare create their masterwork?


    Today we celebrate William Shakespeare's 450th birthday, commemorating the life and work of a man whose 36 plays have stood the test of time.

    imageWell, he really wrote 38 plays -- 2 of them were left out of the first edition of his collected work. Actually, make that 40 plays, but we've lost 2 of them. Of course, some of those were collaborations -- and there are a few others we think he might have helped with. And some people think all of his plays were written by someone else

    All that confusion just goes to show you how different publishing was in Shakespeare's day. Shakespeare wrote by hand and worked hard to keep the texts of his plays a secret, so that other theatrical groups couldn't steal them.

    Some of the earliest published versions of his plays were unauthorised knock-offs, written by people trying to copy down his work from memory. When you think about it, it's a miracle we have any of Shakespeare's writing at all.

    It's easy to laugh at the publishing practices of Shakespeare's time. A lot has changed since then. Of course, a lot has changed since the advent of the Web in the 1990s, with more changes coming in the past decade and even the past year. When the Shakespeare of the 21st century creates their masterpiece -- what will their process look like?

    Here's how the next Shakespeare might work:

    Creates in the cloud - Scholars think Shakespeare wrote at least 2 plays that are now lost to us -- Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won. It's not hard to see why -- ink and parchment isn't exactly the most durable of mediums. The next Shakespeare won't have that problem. Writers working in Office 365 have their work saved to the cloud automatically, so they never need to worry about creating a backup copy. Of course, maybe the next Shakespeare isn't a writer. Maybe they're a visual artist or a filmmaker. They're covered too. You can back up all kinds of media files using OneDrive.

    Works when inspiration strikes - Creative people have always struggled with the fleeting nature of inspiration. You can have the most amazing idea while you're sitting on a train, but by the time you get home to record it, it's gone. But the next Shakespeare will always be able to create in the moment. It's easy to jot down a note on a Windows tablet device using Office 365 -- or to take gorgeous photos or videos with Windows Phone. You can capture inspiration on the go and then finish it up at home -- or pick up a Surface with its full keyboard and just start creating right there.

    Collaborates easily - Shakespeare's collaborators never get any respect. That's partly because Shakespeare has a way of soaking up all the glory, but it's also because those collaborations were never very smooth. Shakespeare and his partner would each work on different scenes and then put their work together to make a whole play. Shakespeare's collaborators did their best to mimic his style, but the resulting work still tends to be disjointed. Today's Shakespeare doesn't have to go it alone. They can work seamlessly with anyone in the world, even tinkering with the same sentence at the same time, using Office 365. 

    The 21st century will give rise to its own Shakespeare, who will create cannon a work that will echo down the ages. Technology will empower that person in ways that even Shakespeare's wild imagination could never have conceived. Maybe that person is out there, right now. Maybe they're just starting on their breakthrough work. Maybe it's you.

    What are you creating today?

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    New e-book: Computer Science in the National Curriculum.


    An extract from our latest e-book: Computer Science in the National Curriculum.

    These are exciting times for Computer Science Education. In Great Britain, the US and an increasing number of other countries, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in developing pupils’ understanding of how computers work, how they’re programmed and the fundamental ideas underpinning computation. The work of Computing at School in the UK,the campaign and the number of universities offering Computing for non-specialists courses in the US, great on-line resources for learning about Computer Science (CS), such as the Microsoft Virtual Academy, and some brilliant programming tool-kits that make it easier than ever for users to take control of their computers have all played their role in this. There are several reasons why this trend should be welcomed:

    There’s an economic argument, at both national and individual level more programmers in the workforce makes it easier for technology companies to recruit locally; it might mean more tech-based start-ups and might also improve the chance of managers making sound decisions when it comes to technology. At an individual level, a grasp of coding opens up pathways to further academic and vocational study as well as career options in, and beyond, the IT industry: it’s certainly not just programming jobs where the ability to program is useful. The demand for those with a sound grasp of current IT systems and programming languages, acquired through academic courses, apprenticeships and courses leading to industry certification seems to be ever increasing, with many positions unfilled due to a lack of training and certification. There’s an opportunity here for the education system to teach more relevant and job-related skills.

    There’s also an argument around empowerment: ‘program or be programmed’ as Douglas Rushkoff memorably puts it. Given the role that digital technology already plays in our lives and society, those who understand how computers works, and who can program computers themselves, almost inevitably enjoy greater autonomy and can be more active, and indeed critical, participants in an increasingly digital society.

    Download the Computer Science in the National Curriculum e-book.

    For more free e-books & education technology resources visit our Slideshare Channel.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows apps for teachers: Register your class wherever you are, with up to the minute information for both teachers and parents.


    Written by education writer, Gerald Haigh

    Taking a register with your mobile device is becoming routine. But what if you are beyond reach of the school’s broadband – at the far end of the playing field, or on a trip? That’s less straightforward – unless, that is, you’re one of the 25,000 teachers able to use Groupcall’s well known ‘Emerge’ mobile app.


    Already well established for IOS and Android, Emerge is now available as an app for Windows 8.1 devices, further extending Microsoft’s support for management and administration.

    When my friends at Microsoft said I should take a look at this development, I didn’t need much encouragement. I’ve encountered ‘Groupcall’ numerous times since its beginnings in 2001 as a system for enabling quick emergency contact, by text or call, between schools and parents, particularly important if there’s doubt whether or a not a child is, or should be, in school.

    Now, Groupcall has evolved and ‘Emerge’, together with its more recent self-explanatory extension ‘Emerge for Parents’, is part of a portfolio of products focussed on the home-school relationship.

    I talked about these developments and particularly about the ‘Emerge’ app to Groupcall Sales and Marketing Director Stuart Abrahams, who pointed out that compared with the huge choice of curriculum-centred apps, there aren’t many designed to help with administration, and yet the speed and flexibility of a mobile app provides great support for a busy teacher. As Stuart says,

    ‘Schools tell us that it can take up to eight minutes to boot up a laptop to take an electronic register, whereas a mobile device can be ready in thirty-five seconds. If a teacher is taking a register five times a day, this really adds up to a significant time saving.’

    So, adding a resource like ‘Emerge’ to a Windows device which already has enormous potential for supporting teachers with management and administration, makes a great deal of sense.

    Now, Stuart tells me, he and the Groupcall team are keen to find a school that uses Windows 8.1 devices – ‘Surface’, for example, or similar ones such as Nokia’s 2520 – and are willing to use the ‘Emerge’ app for Windows over a period of time and provide feedback.

    See the Groupcall website for more information on ‘Emerge’ and ‘Emerge for Parents’ – and other Groupcall products. In particular, this piece of video, linked from the Groupcall website is as clear an explanation of ‘Emerge’ as you can find.

    It’s well known that Bob Geldof is a co-founder of Groupcall, and this video of Sir Bob at BETT early this year (2014) shows him expressing some great parent-centred ideas about parental engagement and technology.


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Dell: Connected Learning for Schools


    Dell connected learning for schools is a strategy that brings together every member of the education system so everyone is empowered to play a key role in its success. Dell have specially designed a broad portfolio of customised products and services for education that easily integrate into existing environments, including the classroom, the data centre and the home.

    For a full overview of Dell’s connected learning vision, and the products that align to this, view or download the full programme overview below.  

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Making coding fun with Xbox for Education!



    I challenge you!

    I'm going to kick-start this blog with a little interactive exercise. I challenge you to ask your class to shout out what they think Mark Zuckerberg, Will.i.Am, Victoria Beckham and Oprah Winfrey all have in common (I promise there is a useful educational learning check-point to this celebrity name-dropping).

    I'm going to guess that the most common replies will be that "they're successful" and "they're rich", unless one of your students has heard of a secret skincare regime that they all follow, which I don't know about.


    No, if you scratch beneath the surface, you will find one other fundamental link to their expensively coiffed, blinged out, and generally successful persons: this is none other than technology, specifically coding, which can be brought down about 20 pegs from their level of success to the current educational level of your students, with Xbox for Education! Each and every one of these celebrities has utilised the internet's omnipresence and coding in one way or another. So this is the key bit - they all directly or indirectly use coding for very different purposes to achieve their various aims and goals. Zuckerberg directly created his ubiquitous social media platform, Facebook (need I hyperlink?), by personally piecing together algorithms and lines of code. On the opposite end of the star-studded spectrum, Victoria Beckham's entourage have used code to position her fashion label online so that shoppers world-wide can buy her clothes. So my message here is that careers involving Computer Science don't have to be purely aligned to scientific and technological industries, but can be applied to every industry and business out there, from the most clerical to the most entrepreneurial creative start-ups.

    The Education department at Microsoft are passionate about breaking down the stereotyped barriers that many students still have of computer science careers as being 'geeky'. There are a whole host of solutions and products we provide to help teachers deliver the Computer Science curriculum and one of our latest initiatives, which will certainly be appealing to students, is the new Xbox for Education programme.


    Package 1                                                                               



       Package 2


    What is Xbox for Education?

    Xbox for Education is a programme whereby your school can purchase one of two offerings (see slide below for details) of an Xbox 360 console + a 3 Year standard DreamSpark subscription. What better way to get students excited about Computer Science than by providing them with a familiar games console as a platform for learning coding and development?

    If you're not familiar with DreamSpark, it provides the tools to help students design and create applications and games for Microsoft Xbox as well as Windows Phone and Windows 8. DreamSpark equips students with professional developer software and resources to explore the world of computing and to develop their passions and skills – at home as well as at school. It also equips and supports teachers through the provision of software and lesson plans. It’s the perfect resource for teachers to implement into their lessons to give students the latest and most engaging tools to learn to code with!

    We believe that by making the learning environment more fun and accessible, more students will become interested in coding and learn highly valued skills to pursue exciting careers in the future. With more and more opportunities in Computer Science blossoming around the globe, it's a great avenue for students to pursue to develop rewarding and dynamic careers.

    Cost-effective too :)

    To add a sprinkling of sugar to your strawberries, you'll be delighted to hear that the two Xbox packages offer at least £135 saving regarding purchasing which makes the Xbox a very cost-effective means of delivering the new UK ICT curriculum to your students.

    Are your students curious about careers in coding?

    Finally, if your students are curious about a career in coding, I urge you to share this article which provides 10 very different indications that coding could be a career for them, from possessing problem solving skills to being a people person. For more information on Xbox for Education, click on the link below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Bringing UK government into the cloud: A guide to cloud computing for the public sector (eBook)


    The UK Government is committed to encouraging public sector organisations take advantage of cloud-based computing. The aim is to drive down cost, improve efficiency, and assist the development of service transformation by taking a Digital by Default approach to public services.

    In 2012, the UK Government launched the “G-Cloud” initiative. This comprised of a Framework for cloud suppliers and the first CloudStore, allowing organisations from local councils to health authorities browse pre- approved cloud products and services.


    In May 2013, the Cabinet Office went a step further and announced its Cloud first policy, mandating public sector bodies consider cloud solutions before non-cloud alternatives. The target is for 50% of new public sector ICT spend to be in the cloud by 2015. There is sound business sense behind this campaign.

    Moving to the cloud not only helps cut ICT spend but enables dramatic reduction in costs in other areas. It has the potential to transform the way the whole organisation works. It can break down barriers, free people to work more efficiently and effectively and enable members of the public to engage government in ways that suits them best. It can also help you become more responsive and agile and allow you to make better decisions more quickly.

    In this eBook we’ll show you, step-by-step, how the cloud could help you cut costs, improve performance, collaborate more effectively and empower the public. On the way, we’ll share some of our experience from helping public sector organisations harness the potential of the cloud.

    You’ll discover how:

    • Wiltshire Council is saving £2 million annually thanks to moving to the cloud and bringing ICT management in-house
    • Local authorities across the country are keeping streets cleaner, while slashing the associated costs thanks to a handy cloud-based Smartphone app
    • How a flexible collaboration tool helped Transport for London staff and volunteers work together to keep London moving during the Olympics.

    If you haven’t already made your first move onto the cloud, this eBook could give you the reassurance and knowledge you need to take the leap with confidence. If you’re an old hand, we hope you will still be able to learn something new.

    Download or view the full eBook via our SlideShare channel below:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Geomaster Plus: Great Geography App for Windows 8


    Geomaster Plus is a great geography app that offers 16 geography themed challenges across a variety of topics ranging from flags, capital cities, seas & mountains.


    With over 40 difficulty levels, the app offers a full screen chromeless experience that takes full advantage of a touch first environment. The app also works really well with keyboard and mouse and in my experience actually allowed me to be a little more precise with my answers to questions that require you to place a pin on a map.

    The app offers something for students off all levels and, even for someone that has a geography degree, can be very challenging in places. In my defence, though, it has been nearly 20 years since I first started my degree ;)

    The app gives a score based on both getting a correct answer and also how quickly the question is answered. These scores are then presented on a scoreboard, which offers a nice gamification element to the app. I spent longer than I would care to admit trying to beat my high score on a number of the different levels. Turns out my knowledge of African countries is nowhere near where it could be…

    The app is free and offers enough variety to be useful tool within classrooms for some time.

    You may want to ask your class to use the app with headphones or with the sound turned down low, though, as there is a 'soundtrack' that could become interesting with 30 devices all playing at the same time. There are also a few translation errors in places, but all in all this is a great app and would be a useful tool for primary and early stage secondary age learners.

    Download the app from the Windows Store. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Power BI in Education - What is it and what can it do for me?


    Following on from our recent blog post on Power BI within Office 365 Education, we have had a number of questions via both the blog and Twitter seeking some additional information on how Power BI can help you take advantage of the data within your institution, big and small.

    For those that missed our previous post, Power BI for Office 365 is a collection of features and services that enable you to visualise data, share discoveries and collaborate in intuitive new ways. Power BI works seamlessly with Excel and allows you to create compelling content, data models and visualisations and then share and collaborate around those insights with your colleagues, teams and study groups.

    More specifically, features within Power BI that extend the data-specific capabilities of Excel 2013 include the following:

    Analyse data with Excel: Easily discover and access public and corporate data

    Power Query, a feature of Excel, enables you to more easily discover, combine, and transform data from multiple data sources with the familiarity of Excel

    • Search both public and institutional data
    • Clean and transform data for ease of analysis
    • Merge data from multiple sources


    Visualize and explore

    Power View and Power Map, features of Excel, allow you to create interactive data visualizations to explore and uncover insights and present findings.

    • Bring your data to life with interactive data visualizations
    • Add depth with 3D geospatial analysis
    • Tell stories with interactive data views and tours

    Create powerful data models

    Power Pivot, a feature of Excel, provides powerful analytical modelling. Data is processed in-memory allowing you to work quickly with data volumes in excess of 100 million rows, in split second times.

    • Create relationships, custom measures, hierarchies, KPI’s
    • Analyse data quickly with in-memory processing

    Share and Collaborate with Power BI for Office 365

    Enable anyone to quickly create a collaborative BI site to share data and insights with Power BI.

    • Create Power BI sites to share data and reports
    • View and explore live reports up to 250MB in size

    Keep reports up to date with data refresh

    Keep your reports up to date by scheduling when the data should refresh. The Data Management Gateway allows reports that have been saved to the cloud to connect back to on-premises data sources to refresh data.

    • Scheduled data refresh for your reports
    • Connect cloud based report to on-premises data

    Manage data queries for the team

    With Power BI people can share not only workbooks but also the queries they create using Power Query in Excel. This allows members of the team to build and manage data queries for others to use when creating their own reports.

    • Create and share queries using Power Query in Excel
    • Manage and monitor query usage in Power BI

    Maintain a Data Catalog of searchable data

    Your IT departments can now use the Data Catalog feature of Power BI to make it easier for everyone to find and connect to corporate data. Searching for data with Power Query in Excel will return accessible corporate data.

    • Enable data search for IT managed corporate data
    • Enable data search for data queries saved to Power BI
    • Track data usage across your organization

    Ask questions of your data in natural language

    With the Q&A feature of Power BI people can type questions they have of the data in natural language. The system will interpret the question and present answers in the form of interactive visualizations.


    Stay connected with mobile access to your reports

    Mobile access to reports in Power BI is provided through new HTML5 support and through the Power BI mobile app.

    • Navigate and explore browser based reports in HTML5
    • Access your favourite reports in the Power BI mobile app

    To learn more, and request a free trial, visit out Power BI microsite for more information.

    Additionally, if you are looking to get up and running our 'Getting Started Guide' can be viewed/downloaded below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Accelerate your Insights Live Event – featuring Power BI for Office 365


    Accelerate your Insights

    How data and insights are driving innovation

    All organisations are seeing huge opportunities to use data and insights to create a virtuous engagement cycle with their customers and stakeholders, delivering improved customer value propositions and operational excellence.

    In order to achieve these goals, employees require powerful and easy to use tools to enable them to discover and use insights to make effective decisions, customers want to use personalised, high performance and convenient online services and IT requires a secure, scalable and comprehensive information platform.


    Want to learn more? Join us to see how to drive real-time business, from apps to insights, through a deeper look into the comprehensive in-memory technologies in Microsoft SQL Server 2014, Power BI for Office 365, SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse, and Windows Azure HDInsight.


    Attending this one-day event will allow you to get a running start on understanding the extensive innovations we’re delivering around data that will empower your business with the tools you need to quickly uncover business insights and make smarter business decisions.

    Morning Agenda 9:00 – 12:30

    9:00 – 9:45 Registration and Breakfast

    9:45 – 10:45   Keynote, Quentin Clark CVP Data Platform Group

    Rafal Lukawiecki – Project Botteceli
    Dan Sommer – Gartner Research Director

    11:15 – 12:30, Customer Case Study Sessions
    Jabil – Self Service BI in Manufacturing

    Afternoon Agenda 1:00 – 5:00


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