Monthly Archives: December 2010

I’m sure I had some budget left?

Let’s face it … we have all had this thought in our heads at some point in the school year. We may have even said it out loud in front of the Bursar / Business Manager as we try to sneak an order in for something. We may be at the point of having to work out what we can’t do until the next financial year and hoping that we can at least do a little bit of what is needed, or buy essentials.

Well, I hate to break it to you but it is not going to get any easier. Whilst the CSR might have been reasonable to schools, you will find that the extra money will not come the way of any form of technology (I am not going to get into the political debate about whether there is actually an extra money. There will be for some and not for others … presume the worst, hope for the best!) This means that all those posts you might have read from Ray Fleming and Miles Berry are more relevant than ever.

If you haven’t read them then go and do so … don’t stop to read this drivel … read and read!!!

Oh … you are back … good show!

Where was I. Oh yes, budgets. All those out there who have a long term school development plan which take care of development of technology in the curriculum, how to fund it and when to change it please pass go and collect £200 … oh yes … there goes Paul Haigh and Mike Herrity … and a few more. Good to see you again chaps. And not forgetting Elaine Brent … actually … quite a steady stream of people going past now …

Ok, and let us see who is left. Ah … as I thought … still too many of you.

Let us see what we can do to deal with some of the problems. Have you looked at the LGfL/Becta Budget Planner? I know that it is a bit old, but still perfectly serviceable. You may have to use a bit of lateral thinking for virtualised servers and it doesn’t quite cover cloud services (not all of which are free) but it is a good starting point, and it will be a huge improvement on having nothing to help in planning your costs. There may even be someone who fancies putting this into a series of Google forms to help people in their planning, or it could be incorporated into your Sharepoint setup …

This is presuming that you know what kit you have got. I’m not going to start a rant again about inventories, configuration management databases, definitive software library … most people will have read my earlier posts about how important this is, how they are important to supporting FITS and how IT Support can struggle without them. There are plenty of good discussions on software to gather most of this for you, whether it is open sources (GPLi / OCS NG, etc) or built in with other tools (SSCM, NetSupport DNA, etc) and there are others out there with far more hands-on experience to review the software … so I will let you make up your own mind. Just remember that you cannot plan what you are going to use technology for, or look at what technology you need unsless you know where you are starting from.

And then we hit the big snag … not a small one … or even a middle sized one … but a dirty great big one that means you could have to delve into your god-like powers again. Surely you have heard the motto of the IT Manager who has stuff dropped on them days (or hours … or even minutes) before it is needed.

Miracles I can do today … for the impossible please give 24 hours notice … and some pizza … and coke … and chocolate … and a bit of time off afterwards … and did I mention the chocolate?

Yes, the White Paper means the goal posts are shifting once more. Some of you will be in schools who are not that bothered. You may have SLT who are strong enough to recognise that the goal posts always shift and so you adapt or just create your own … sticking two fingers up to the world of politicians and they know what they do is good for the kids. For others … you might find that the targets of the last few years (or perhaps the last few months) are now out the window.

The first thing I would recommend you do is to take stock of what you have (darn it … I’m talking about the inventory again) but not just the physical aspect … but the functionality too. What software have you got? Office suite? Stuff for graphics and art? CAD/CAM? Programming? Numeracy? Go on .. delve down into that long forgotten cupboard of old software and check the licences on them?

Now, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to try and find out what the educational need is for the school. Are the school going to change any of the courses they run? Perhaps drop Media or Music Technology (well … you didn’t need those Macs you were planning to buy, did you?) and concentrate on English and traditional music courses (let’s all get classical).

Well … some English courses are now very media laden, so check out about cross-over of kit. Did you know that those Macs you did buy for the fancy sampling also have tutorials for playing the piano? Why not look at things like GigaJam to make the use of them for teaching the local community to teach themselves keyboards, etc …

You get the idea … if you have a tool to do 1 thing then try to find 3 other things to do with it.

Projectors and IWBs … now I know IWBs have been round for ages but by teaching staff how to use it to save annotations from what they have been doing during that lesson (save as PDF, upload onto your VLE) then you can get revision materials created without having to get a heap of handouts printed out before the exam at the end of the unit / course … another cost saving there …

I think you get the picture now.

Find out what you have got.

Find out how it can be used.

Find out what changes the school plans to make.

Talk with people about making the most use of the kit.

Talk with SLT about buying stuff that will have the most impact for least money.

Be prepared for change … change is inevitable.

Important changes to Microsoft Licences

There have been many folk who have had many a rant about the cost of licences from the various companies out there … whether it is the cost … whether it is the arguments about the suitability of proprietary software (even if it does work and work well too!) … or the complexity about the various options that are out there.

And many of us would agree because *we* are the people who have done that rant … and occasionally there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the last few weeks I’ve had a few interesting conversations with a number of resellers and it was brilliant to to see the news finally come out on Ray Fleming’s blog earlier about changes to Schools Agreement licences.

Full details will be out around BETT 2011 but here is a short extract from Ray’s blog with some important things for you to look at now.

What do you do now?

Firstly, let me remind you that this is advance warning of a change coming on the 1st March 2011. So you can’t get this new agreement now. But here’s some advice on what you can do now:

  • If you are going to renew a School Agreement between now and the 1st March, ask your Microsoft partner whether you’d be best to get a short-term extension for your School Agreement. This would give you 3 months of cover, to take you through until you can switch to EES. Your Microsoft Partner will be able to advise you if this is likely to save you money.
  • If you’re planning to buy any Microsoft software in the next year, then consider coming along to our BETT stand in January, and having a chat with us about your best option. If your Head Teacher is reluctant to sign off a day out of school, then point out how much you might save with the new way of counting (staff, not computers).
  • If you’re not buying your software under a School Agreement subscription already, then take a look at this, and have a chat with other schools locally that are. Although the new EES scheme isn’t the same, you’ll get a good idea of the benefits of subscriptions over other methods, and that will help you to make the right informed choice for next year.

So … go and have a read of the details …

Now, I know many people are against subscriptions … and I have been there too. The idea of buying a perpetual licence sounds good to us all, especially if you don’t upgrade with every new version of the OS or Office Suite when it comes out, so we would all be forgiven for getting frustrated with the cost of upgrades (especially when you don’t get all the features with standard upgrade packages and need to cough up a bit more cash) against an annual cost. However, the new scheme actually comes out pretty good on the prices when you look at the cost of when you upgrade versions of your OS and various software packages … for most secondaries you would find that it wasn’t worth the cost to go to an annual model unless you had some major software replacement needs … but now … it is looking pretty good.

The full figures should be out in Jan (the scheme goes live for schools in March … and is live now for FE/HE) but if you are looking at buying under Select licences (especially if you are using software assurance) then make plans to look at ESS instead.

Your reseller should be talking to you about the changes shortly, but if they don’t then tell them you want more information. If you are already on the Schools Agreement then make sure that you only sign up for an extension and not for a full year. You need to make sure you get your extension in *before* your SA deal runs out. Make sure your reseller gets the forms to you sharpish.

So … there you have it … a major change in the approach to licences from Microsoft … so, they obviously have listened. There will still be those that want it for free, and those who say you shouldn’t use those products anyway … but a reality check here … people are using MS products and will continue to for some time so you need to keep an eye on this.

Will it ever be free? Who knows? All I know is that this is a chance for a lot of my local schools to save considerable amounts of money as well as getting more benefits too.

Isn’t EduBlogs brilliant?!

Yes … the EduBlog Awards are here again and once again it is wonderful to see Ray Fleming’s Microsoft UK Schools Blog has been nominated in the Best eLearning / Corporate Education Blog and I would heartily recommend a well deserved vote for him … but I would also say that all of the other blogs on there are well worth a look too, and go and explore the other categories too …

In fact … when you stumble across the Educational Tech Support Blog category you will spot the absolutely fantastic The Angry Technician’s blog (which I am honoured to syndicate) which truly deserves your votes too.

Go on … you know you want to go and have a look at the other blogs there too. There is something for everyone.

Best of luck to all nominees.