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

    Windows Azure in Education: Target Tracker Case Study

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    Part of Essex County Council, Target Tracker develops software for schools. Its Primary Target Tracker application—which provides information to support learning—ran on Microsoft Excel. To stay ahead of its competitors, Target Tracker rebuilt the solution using SQL Database in Windows Azure. The firm now has an application that scales to meet the needs of thousands of schools in England and overseas.

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    To learn more about their journey to Windows Azure and the benefits Target Tracker have enjoyed since making the move, view or download the full case study below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    ICT Professional Apprenticeship Scheme Workshops

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        Places are limited so please make sure to book your place soon!

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    The launch of the UK Hour of Code: Microsoft support teaching students to code

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    Guest blog post by Rebecca Moore, Development and Platform Evangelism, Microsoft

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    This week's Hour of Code is an initiative that asks schools, teachers and parents across the country to help introduce students to computer programming. It fits in the long term mission of Code.org, giving every student the opportunity to learn computer science, the belief that every 21st century child can benefit from learning this foundational field. To coincide with the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, Code.org's launch of the UK Hour of Code was at Westminster City School on Monday 3rd March. Microsoft, being an established partner and advocate of coding in the UK, were there to support the event.

    Hour of Code highlights that anyone can learn programming. It aims to demystify computer science for students across the country by taking them through introductory tutorials that can be completed online, on a smartphone or even unplugged. Code.org offers online tutorials authorised by numerous educational groups and is challenging teachers, parents and even employers to encourage students of all ages to engage during Computer Science Education Week. Code.org's own tutorial has been created in collaboration with engineers from Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook. Designed as a game that teaches basic coding principles, it will feature guest lectures by technologists including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and artwork from games like "Angry Birds" and "Plants vs. Zombies".

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    Children at the Westminster City School launch were enthused by various coding activities on the day. Activities included 'The Hour of Code live', 'The Kodu Game Lab', 'Computing without computers' and 'The Great British Code Off'. Michel Van der Bel, Managing Director of Microsoft UK spoke on the importance of the Hour of Code and children getting excited about coding, as well as a future career in IT. He highlighted the importance of understanding computers at work for the future generation. He identified the importance of bridging the gap between the 1.3 million people employed in the IT industry and those vacancies still available, with people not trained to fill them. Avid Larizadeh, Hour of Code, also presented. Avid has background in programming and engineering, and runs her own fashion business - leading both the development team as well as the creative direction of the site. The idea that you can combine both engineering and creative skills is what Avid hopes will inspire both boys and girls to get involved in coding.

    Microsoft has been an enthusiastic supporter of the move the change the IT curriculum to a Computer Science one for many years. Microsoft have two ambitions when it comes to supporting the education community and computer science: that every school leaver sound be computationally literate, and that 80% of all jobs that require computer science knowledge should be able to be filled by a UK graduate. This includes careers in finance, engineering, bio-chemistry, pharmaceuticals, advertising, aerospace, retail. Microsoft want to help as many teachers as possible get ready for the new curriculum, and see enhanced life opportunities for young people in the UK.

    Josh Naylor is a Computer Science student at The University of Hull. "Yesterday I was fortunate to be involved with the UK launch of Hour of Code. Many know that programming is a tough and challenging task to do well. Demonstrating the concept to parents, teachers and students in a fun introduction across the nation will hopefully lead to an inspired young generation of students going into skilled STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses and eventually jobs.

    "I was involved in The Great British Code Off, demonstrating Project Spark. 13 year old developer Ross Lowe and I were setup attached to two large screens in a one hour 'code off'. We were invited up on stage to pick a theme each out of an envelope. Ross selected "Retrieve the treasure" and I selected "Escape the evil". We started to code our games live on Project Spark, as attendees wandered round and watched what we were doing. I was very pessimistic until the last five minutes, thinking I had set myself too large a task though I managed to pull something playable together.

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    "The judges were three Microsoft employees including Gary Carr, of Lionhead Studios. I was fortunate to be crowned winner, though it was a very tight call. Ross and I showed young students the games we had created, and a basic walk through of how we had made them. The students were very excited by our games, it had opened their eyes to what can be achieved with knowledge of computing. The balance is making sure the idea of coding is attractive and accessible, without dumbing down a technical concept too much. I hope on the day this is what we managed to achieve.

    You can find about more on how you can be involved in the UK Code.org. Also find out more about Microsoft tools for developers for all ages.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Primary school trials resources developed for the new computer science curriculum

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    Henwick Primary School are a one and half form entry primary school in the heart of Eltham. For the past year they have been trialling Microsoft's Switched On units, developed in collaboration with Rising Stars, in preparation for the new computer science curriculum being brought into primary schools in September 2014.

    To learn more about their experiences, view the full video case study below:

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Unplugged at the Hour of Code launch (Guest Post)

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    Originally posted on Claire Lotriet’s ‘Teaching, tech and reflections’ blog

    This week, 3rd–9th March, is the UK Hour of Code week (as well as Book Week, bad timing, anyway…) with the main aim being to get everyone – ‘ages 6–106′ – coding for an hour using the tutorials available on the site. As a teacher, I really like the approach the organisers of the Hour of Code have taken: the tutorials require almost no preparation on my part, they’re free and they aren’t going over the top in terms of their aims – you will not be a coder after your 60 minutes is up, as the initiative leader, Avid Larizadeh, makes very clear:

    “It won’t make you into a coder but it will expose you to the fun of creating things and making things”

    I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch event hosted by Microsoft on Monday and took along some of my very enthusiastic digital leaders to run an activity. As the only primary school invited, we decided an unplugged activity, which means one involving no computers, might be a good way to go. So, my digital leaders modelled how computer networks can sort data more quickly than one computer alone using parallelism – seriously – and all they used was a bit of tape and some numbers written on paper. This sorting network activity is just one of many from the brilliant csunplugged.org - bookmark that one now.

    Being a computer network isn't easy...

    Being a computer network isn’t easy…

    Whether or not you go unplugged or online, I would definitely recommend doing an Hour of Code this week. I came back to school from the launch event to find some of our Year 1s doing their Hour of Code in the ICT – 6 to 106 indeed.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Tablet Pecking Orders

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    Blog post written by Education writer, Gerald Haigh

    I’ve just been reading a great blog post by Jaye Richards-Hill ( @JayeRHill ) on her ‘Minimanifesto’ blog, entitled ‘Tablet Pecking Orders ..but it’s now a battle of the Ecosystems’,

    http://mimanifesto.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/tablet-pecking-orders/

    My attention was drawn to it by a retweet from Microsoft Schools Business Manager Michael Jones ( @Mike_JonesEDU ) who, very evidently, also saw its significance.

    bcb19f6e-b4a6-4e87-b92b-eb8a1fd38357_21What Jaye argues in her post is that the received wisdom about a hierarchy of tablets – iPad setting the pace, android next and Windows coming up behind -- is simplistic and inadequate.

    On apps, for example, there’s a common belief that Apple has the good, well established ones, android apps are everywhere in large numbers and Windows apps are still thin on the ground.

    ‘But does this longevity and volume really equate to choice?’ she writes,


    ‘A closer look at some of the increasing number of Windows apps reveals some real quality products, especially when coupled with some of the Windows 8 system features. This is where the Windows ecosystem, can really start to compete.’

    And that understanding of the significance of the ecosystem is always the Eliza Doolittle, ‘By George she’s got it’ moment for educators. The ecosystem is what Windows 8 is all about – the interoperability of multiple applications and devices to produce a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Jaye Richards-Hill goes on to urge that schools must take independent advice on their tablet policies –

    ‘And increasingly I’m finding that the new Windows 8 tablets are a real option that schools should seriously consider…’

    She questions, as so many have, the wisdom of rushing to equip schools with iPads.

    ‘Whilst they are really great pieces of IT kit, going down the iPad route does leave you very isolated and locked into a particular environment.

    By contrast, she points out, the Windows 8 mobile platform offers interoperability with almost everything an education institution needs to do.

    There’s much more in the blog. It’s a good, well balanced, highly knowledgeable read, that deserves a wide audience, and its importance lies in the fact that it comes from a highly experienced educator – teacher, consultant, Scottish Government adviser – with a strong track record in educational technology. Most importantly, she has no particular built-in bias towards Apple, Android or Windows

    ‘I have no particular affinity or real tie to any of the three platforms,’ she writes, and indeed you will find unbiased approval of many technologies in her various posts.

    For myself, the more contact I have with Microsoft, the more I believe they have played a long and wise game with Windows 8, and Windows 8 devices – facing down those early reactions that really amounted to, ‘But it’s not an iPad’, and plugging away at the positives, most notably the interoperability features, and their huge advantage for schools and children’s learning. Now, increasingly, with a broad choice of Windows 8 devices, and deeper understanding of the software, there’s better understanding that, as Jaye writes,

    ‘It’s not just about the apps – it’s about how they actually get used’.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    One hour of code, Two Students with Apps! (Guest Post)

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    Originally posted on Ray Chambers Blog

    So yesterday I was fortunate enough to go to London to the launch of the UK hour of code. I was invited down to present coding to a group of students in a flash mob style. It was very exciting and over 50 students went away with some coding experience. I really enjoyed the day and there will be a follow up later on today about the day.

    Whilst I was away from my school, Uppingham Community College, two of my students were completing apps for teachers. To my surprise, when I got back, my inbox had two published Touch Develop apps which could be used in other teachers lessons. We must remember when these students are learning to code, we need to give them purpose. In life, have we ever done things just for the sake of doing it? We do it so that we can apply it. Giving these students real school problem gives them a voice and allows them to be part of something bigger. The touch develop scheme of work used for this has now flipped the learning and put the control in the students hands. This is why two of these apps were able to be finished without me even being in the room. Congratulations guys!

    screenshot_08232013_113532 The first app was developed by 13 year old William Rhodes. He is in year 8 and he produced an app last year which made the windows store. It was a P.E G.C.S.E application which helped P.E teachers with examining Muscles. The students could use it as a revision guide. Since this was released it has received over 300 downloads, more feedback than I could ever give him. This is fantastic! Click on the image or click on this Link to download it from the windows store.

    screenshot_03032014_195650 His recent app was something which was suggested by his history teacher Mrs Ballance. She wanted an app which would help students investigate the Emily Davison Mystery. She was a lady in the history curriculum who had died, however there were a lot of mysterious circumstances around her death. The idea of the application is that you can click on the evidence pieces and it will tell you some information about the events around it. It is quite fun and you can swipe the screen to clear it. Click on the image or click here to download this from the Windows store.

    screenshot_03032014_204036 Our second app was developed by 12 year old Evan Jones. He is also in year and he produced an app after speaking to history teachers. The idea of this app was that students could find out about famous figures in history. So many people forget important facts about people such as Queen Victoria and Henry The VIII. This app was developed to be used as a reference piece and will help students in lower years with revision or homework pieces. Click on the image or click on this link to download it from the Windows store.

    Both of these apps are now in the windows store and I look forward to showing some more applications near the end of the week…… I hear that there is one girl doing a Korean application!

    Are you taking part in the hour of code!? Click here to find some of our resources or go to http://uk.code.org and sign up all of your classes now. Give students a taste of what it’s like to code and maybe even take part yourself!

    Here are links to the KS2 Curriculum and the KS3 Curriculum used for these apps.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free Training & Certification Guide App for Microsoft Courses & Certifications

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    We are pleased to announce that we have just released a new Training & Certification Guide app in the Windows store that is a great tool for both educators and students wanting to look into route maps when it comes to Microsoft technical courses and certifications.

    The Microsoft Training and Certification Guide provides a quick, comprehensive view of our training and certification landscape, and covers all of the training requisites and upgrade paths that lead to modern Microsoft Certifications. Microsoft training helps to improve your technical skills while certification helps further your career by proving your technical knowledge. Use this guide to help you achieve your IT goals.

    imageAlso featuring an interactive chart of our technical certifications mapped by courseware and exam. Clicking on the ‘subway map’ takes you to more information on the different portfolios—details about the training, certifications, etc. Clicking further will then take you to /learning.

    A breakdown of keyword guidance is also included to map keywords to our certifications. The app also includes a ‘view as PDF’ option should users need to print pages.

    To download the free app or simply find out more, follow this link:

    http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/app/cebcb8be-d6c0-48dd-bace-1a916f3f5f12

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    DreamSpark: Educators and Students we want your feedback…

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    Are you an Educator, Head of IT or IT Administrator

    This review of DreamSpark Premium will assist Microsoft in understanding your institutional use of applications, while also assessing the effectiveness and impact it is having on developing student skills and attainment. Most importantly, we would like to understand how effective access to DreamSpark has been in supporting coursework and test results of your students. You also have a chance to let us know about any particularly positive or negative experiences you have witnessed so we can ensure that in the future we are delivering an even better service.

    Just click here (http://dreamspark-edu.questionpro.com) to complete the online questionnaire.

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    Are you at school, college or University? Help Microsoft understand and support your use of DreamSpark

    We need to know that you value DreamSpark to be able to win the battle to continue to deliver it for free – help us help the next generation of students.

    We are inviting students to complete a short survey to help us better understand how the DreamSpark programme is supporting your skills development, learning outcomes and career potential. We would like to understand what range of applications and tools have been of use to you, how often you use them and how effective they have been in supporting your skills development. Most importantly, we would like to understand how effective access to DreamSpark has been in supporting your coursework and test results. You also have a chance to let us know about any particularly positive or negative experiences you have had so we can ensure that in the future we are delivering an even better service.

    Win a XBOX ONE

    prev_XboxOne_Consle_Sensr_controllr_F_TransBG_RGB_2013We are only looking for a few minutes of your time and all responses remain anonymous. Just to give you a little more of an incentive to help us gather this data we are offering one lucky student an Xbox One. Just click here (http://dreamspark2014.questionpro.com) to complete the online questionnaire.

    Public customer service email: DreamSparkSupport-EM@eu.subservices.com

    All EMEA Service Center details: https://www.dreamspark.com/Support/RSC.aspx#Europe

    For further information on Microsoft DreamSpark, please visit our website:

    http://www.dreamspark.com

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Two Apps for Teachers, Made by Teachers

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    Guest post from Ray Chambers, Uppingham Community College.

    So recently I had the pleasure of going to BETT, yes it seems like it was a while ago now….

    I was invited to present the work that my students had been doing around App development. Our students at Uppingham Community College had been coming together at Lunch times to build apps to help lessons. My students had come up with ideas which benefit lessons and they produce the apps to help the learning.

    groupic While at the BETT show I had the pleasure of meeting some great teachers. It was great to meet Claire Lotriet @OhLottie. Claire had helped develop the switched on computing curriculum for primary schools and had been doing a lot of work with Kodu and explained to teachers how simple coding can be. Many teachers didn’t know that there were still creative items in the new curriculum and it was really settling for them to hear from someone in the same boat. She explained how simple it could be to break down an algorithm into something as simple as baking bread. She also shared a whole host of resources. If you’re interested in finding out more about switched on computing then you can visit this link.

    Another particularly interesting presentation was from Jon Tait. He explained the mystery you can add into your classroom with the tool Skype. For example, It’s as simple as finding a classroom, arranging a time and sharing your story. It was so inspiring that I decided to try this just last week and achieved some good results. Many of my students loved the surprise of not knowing who was going to be on the other side of the camera. They were all very keen to share what they had learnt in the lesson.

    Since BETT I have worked more with my students and some of them have come up with more ideas and some of these apps are going to be published in the Windows Store very soon. They have almost finished a computer science app for labelling computer parts and they have also created a mystery app for investigating a history subject.

    frontpage Although my students are now independent with the usage of TouchDevelop.com, I still like to keep my own brain ticking over and using an idea from a fellow teacher Dave Anderson, I decided to make a homework app for teachers to use. Teachers don’t always have time to set creative homework’s and sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate tasks. The idea is simple, it’s a takeaway menu…. but the spicier the homework, the more difficult it is. Your students or teachers can download the app and pick a homework based on the subject they have just learnt. It doesn’t end there, if you want to add your own homework onto the specials menu, you can do this. Later on, you can press the generate button and this allows you randomise the task your going to do or set. You can download this from the windows store here.

    captureofaqa Another app that I have recently developed is for the Computer Science Curriculum. The AQA computer science G.C.S.E maps into the Microsoft Technology Associate exams. This gives your students the opportunity to learn the content of the G.C.S.E and sit extra qualifications. It was because of this that I created a free mapping tool. You download this tool and it tells you what exams are available to take based on the course content. This is the first edition and on top of the mapping, the tool will allow you to have access to programming and computing science resources in the future. You can download this from the store here. There are likely to be video tutorials to be added to this in the future as soon as all of the videos become available and it will be a worth while tool to have even if you’re not going to do the MTA exams. It will be a growing resources library.

    Both of these apps were developed using the tool TouchDevelop. They both run on the Windows 8 Devices. You can access TouchDevelop by going to the following address: http://www.touchdevelop.com I will be doing something very soon with the hour of code and TouchDevelop, so watch this space… I started using TouchDevelop about a year ago, after being invited to a teachers Appathon. Since using it I have been addicted to it. I use it with my KS3 and KS4 students and it seems to be a lot more engaging with the students. They learn a text based language or they can cater it to simple clicks. It’s as difficult as you want to make it which makes it a great tool for differentiation. There are other languages out there but I think my students love the idea of going home and continuing their apps on the computer. They will log on and access all the files and images through the cloud and continue the development. Isn’t it brilliant when students are inspired to continue learning without us!

    If you’re interested in finding out more about Touch Develop, you can access content here…… watch this space for some TouchDevelop Hour Of Code materials coming your way….. :

    KS2 Curriculum – I’ve developed a simple introduction for primary schools using the turtle.

    KS3 Curriculum – This is slightly more advanced and there are optional lessons on algorithms to fit in with the national curriculum.

    Touch Develop – Video tutorials developed to help aid the curriculums

    Touch Develop Hour Of Code – Official Tutorials from the TouchDevelop team.

    Touch Develop Challenge – A series of lessons developed by Simon Johnson to get students building games and apps.

    Games4learning – Created by David Renton (Extended Lecturer in Games Development: Reid Kerr College, Scotland) A series of YouTube tutorials which introduce students to game design using Touchdevelop.

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