Tag Archives: Microsoft

Is Change Really That Hard?

I’m going to let you all into a little secret. Technologies changes.

Phew … thank goodness I was able to get that one off my chest. It has been eating me up ever since I got involved in technology in education all those years ago!

Ok, tongue firmly in cheek but you would be surprised the looks I get when I say that. People will start with tales of woe and regret from where they have seen schools to scared to change, failing to plan to change, or constantly changing for no discernible reason.

Talking with many IT Support colleagues I tend to hear anecdotes where a school has failed to plan for change and set suitable targets for measuring the impact of the change. We all know that some change is inevitable and outside of our control, such as the demise of support for an operating system or the end of a period of warranty.

Recent changes from both Apple and Microsoft seem to be strongly discussed right now, whether when I visit schools, on twitter, blogs or EduGeek.net. Yet there is a lot of information out there to support schools with the changes which are coming in or are already available.

For Microsoft, the big change hitting schools right now is the advent of Office365. As well as the benefits you can get from the existing Live@Edu service there are other features including LyncOnline and SharepointOnline. The questions I tend to see at the moment are technical and operational so I usually point people to the UK Education Cloud blog or to people like James Marshall (@Jamesbmarshall on twitter and EduGeek.net), but I really wanted to highlight a set of training videos for those dealing with the technical setup more than anything else. If you haven’t been following the UK Education Cloud blog then have a look at this post.

Where Can I Get Office 365 For Education Deployment Training?

And then we get those facing the prospect of putting in more to their Apple ecosystem. The growth of iPads / iPods in schools has been a drive for this and rather than get involved in the argument about whether this is a good thing or bad thing, I want to be pragmatic with helping people realise that if the kit is being purchased then you have to get on a deal with it.

I tend to recommend that schools work with an Apple Solutions Expert as this can give access to best practice, links in with Apple Distinguished Educators to ensure that education is central to the project and also to think about getting the right level of expertise with the school support staff or from contractors you bring in. As part of this I want to point people to the range of seminars that Apple now run online..

https://edseminars.apple.com/seminars/ are a little US centric but can be invaluable for when working with partners to deploy Apple solutions.

There are plenty of good CPD events out there available for people looking to change how the technology is deployed or used within their school, both on a technical and educational level. These will range from weekly Google Hangout sessions with the likes of Leon Cych, the educational chats on twitter, course run via VITAL.AC.UK or simply spending time reading threads on EduGeek.net.

If change is going to happen … no … scrap that … *when* change is going to happen then you should be ready, have a plan and see how much it makes a difference.

Opening up your options…

In these days of strain budgets, restricted investment and and tough decisions we have a bit of a bidding war to get the attention of schools. With Google Apps for Education being heavily pushed through grass roots and national projects we now see some of the counter-blow from Microsoft.

It was interesting to see today the report on the Microsoft UK Schools Blog, about the announcement from Kirk Koenigsbauer – Microsoft Office Division, which looks at changes to the price plan and offerings with Office365. In the UK we tend to still view it as Live@Edu  as the changes to Office365 had not really hit us here. The price plans have been a concern to some schools in various countries, especially when they start comparing them to other offerings out there which come out as no licence / subscription cost. It appears that Microsoft have listened to this.

The previous price plan meant there a was some cost for staff and if you wanted the extra tools then there was a cost for staff and students. Now, the A2 plan is free. This gives you the email and calendars, online storage, online share point, online web apps, IM and presence … and with it you now get Lync for video conferencing. Yes, there are still other add-ons which will have a cost, such as integration with your PBX, voicemail and so on.

This now puts it back into real contention with schools and I can even see a variety of specialists now offering to help deliver this into schools in a similar manner you get certified teachers / trainers with Google. Add branding, integration with your school Directory Services, pre-designed SharePoint templates … all of which you can do yourself, of course … and it becomes an interesting prospect.

So, what could be the downside. There are still questions about integration with your AD, as there is a cost for FIM I believe, and from a DM I had on twitter I am not sure about where it fits with EES. For many schools these will be moot points, but it could be a swing factor for a small number.

Overall … a good thing, but be prepared for fans of both Office365 and Google Apps to swing into action with why their preferred solution is the best thing. The key is to look at the differences and see which is most important to you.

BETT – Mr Gove’s Speech

It was interesting to finally get to an opening keynote at BETT and it turns out to be Mr Gove, Secretary of State for Education. Having read a few newspaper articles over breakfast most of us knew the basics of what the speech was going to say, but we all know and appreciate that, short of publishing the whole speech in a newspaper, there will always be some element of selective editing … and some important bits can be missed.

I did video the whole speech and will probably do some selective clips in a later post to highlight certain points but the key things (for me) can be drawn out of the full text which is available on the DfE website, which also has a copy of the video.

Over the last few months we have seen a bit of softening from Mr Gove on some parts of technology and ICT. The initial lack of any comment or ideas on technology were disconcerting for many, and the rawness of the demise of Becta, coupled with the scaling back of LA involvement, had hit a nerve with many. Whatever the good reasons for such a rapid change, it was detrimentally viewed due to so many other issues it was causing. The political flags waved on all sides and some tended to forget a key fact … lack of information and unsure direction was having a detrimental effect on schools who were delaying adopting good use of technology often because they were waiting for the next hoop to jump through.

Well, the core of the speech helped solve some of that. Some of the hoops are going. The Programme of Study is going under consultation with a view to being scrapped by September 2012. No hanging around waiting for alternatives to be formulated, discussed, dissected, tested, implemented and reviewed … but a quick change to let schools get on with doing what they know best. There is still a requirement to teach ICT, but no prescription about what / how.

And for the schools who still need help and support? There are plenty of folk who can help with this, ranging NAACE to fellow schools, commercial suppliers through to consultants, and a number of special interest groups. Comments from others at the speech ranged from “About time, we have been giving examples of where it could be better for ages” through to “Oh yes, another chance for people to profit at the expense of schools!”

Of course, it is worth saying that some of what Michael Gove was saying raises even more questions. The repeated bashing on about the ICT curriculum being poorly taught to bored children seems to a little away from demonstrations I saw at the show, from what I saw at the TeachMeet, with what I see in local schools. I am not saying there are not times when it is boring and mundane, and is merely hoop jumping for tick box curricula … we all know that some courses and work can be done that way, but it doesn’t mean that it is *all* done that way … and the knocking of ICT by some to promote other agendas (including Computer Sciences) seems to have been jumped on by our political masters. Of course, we can argue that this would not be done without evidence and cause, but I worry about the good being thrown out with the bad. At least now, after the speech, I can hopefully say that those schools who are still doing good stuff with ICT will continue to do so.

But Computing … that is the next big thing. Lots of reports abound about how we are missing the skills for this and the various groups working on dealing with this are coming from different positions. Ian Livingstone spoke at the recent Microsoft Partners in Learning event about the role of computing and creativity (linked in with the games and creative industries), with STEM ambassadors stressing the link with science … and naturally you will come across many IT Professionals who will push computing / computer science with a greater understanding on the use and management of computers.

I am not saying that any of these are wrong or any is more right than others, but it does come across at times as a bit fractious and people are grabbing for control … sometimes losing some of the benefits of joined up work. Recent discussions on the Computing at Schools group have shown this too me … people annoyed at the perceptions about others possibly charging for access to a robust curriculum, in spite of this being something that Mr Gove was clearly promoting … buying in resources, expertise and structure …

And so we get back to the core of the Speech. Mr Gove says that Computing is important … because lots of notable people and some important reports say so. No direction will be given on exactly how this will turn out but references to work from BCS (actually from CAS, which BCS are helping to co-ordinate, but supported by Microsoft, Google and others), mention of NAACE and talk about commercial firms providing knowledge and expertise.

Nothing on Open Source, other than an oblique reference in a section heading … no real mention of what it means and even possibly mis-representing how open source products can be collaborated on with developmental forks and code being rolled back into a single project … in fact the opposite of what he says about things being in a single document. Nothing explicitly about examples of collaborative sharing. In fact … you could say that this opportunity to mention the Big Society seems to have been missed as well …

So where does this leave us? Or rather where does it leave IT Professionals working in schools?

If computing is going to have a larger role in schools then we have to make sure that schools have ready methods of allowing computer studies / computing / coding to take place. There have been a number of comments to me that teachers in some schools (thankfully a small number but still over 100 in the last 2 years) have experienced problems with their IT Support staff blocking changes. Yet I know of many schools where teachers and children code on a regular basis. When asked about this at the NAACE conference last year I had to explain that there is no standard way of saying to schools, “this is how you do it” … because there is no standard for IT facilities in schools … not even in those with managed services under BSF.

And after the speech we know that there will be a number of different ways of enabling the different options for computing to take place in schools … in fact it is an important part of the speech … no central prescription … schools choose what they think is best. So the only way it will work is if IT Support staff and companies become even more flexible. It means ensuring that you are actively talking with other staff in school now about what they are planning, it is all about instead of saying ‘no’ to something tying to explain what the issues are, what compromises can be made and making people aware of the legal requirements which you have to comply with no matter how important the educational needs are. It is about talking to other schools in the same position. It is about taking part in the planning of the curriculum as well.

One comment that has stuck with me, from Miles Berry (Senior Vice Chair of NAACE), was that IT Professionals in schools are in a pretty unique position to work with teaching staff. Their wide experience of technical expertise, planning, scripting and understanding of UI almost makes them perfect to help develop what happens with computing in schools …

So I look forward to the next 12 months and what it brings to IT Professionals in schools and the impact of Mr Gove’s speech. hopefully it also brings more professional recognition as well as fostering closer working between them and teaching staff.

BETT 2012 – The Summary

It may seem a little strange to write a summary without having written the other posts … but best to keep things short and sweet.

There will be more posts, but rather than the initial splurge of activity post-BETT I thought I would share ideas, opinions, what I saw, conversations I had, etc … but over a longer period … and it also means that I have the benefit of looking at blog posts from others too … and this year there are a plethora of posts!

I am pretty sure I can summarise the event pretty quickly …

From the point of view of a regular visitor / exhibitor … a few new things, not much of a change of emphasis (i.e. no sudden swings to IWBs, VLEs, tablets, content, $new_revolutionary_tech, etc) but more emphasis on showing use in classrooms / the difference it makes to a school.

Strategy … a fair chunk of the show was taken over by the idea that schools have to make the decisions now (a good thing) because there is no-one there to help them. I felt this is not quite true as there are a raft of people around to help schools … LAs still exist, communities of other schools are collaborating more, there are plenty of formal groups ranging from The Schools Network and NAACE through to think tanks and special interest groups such as Computing At Schools, and this is before we get to the amount of support and sharing going on via the exhibitors at the show. To some extent Mr Gove’s opening speech covered the importance of taking control of your own destiny and so on … but more on that in other posts.

Networking … for many this is the key to the show. We are not talking about the movers and shakers meeting in closed rooms, but innovative and exciting teachers / senior leaders / IT Support having a chance to meet with others of the same ilk, sharing ideas and projects. These range from people from the K-Team through to fellow EduGeek members. Sometimes it is a mutual friend who introduces people, sometimes it is the fringe events giving chance for people to find new connections (Collabor8 4 change) and sometimes it is the exhibitors joining the dots.

So, a hectic 4 days followed by a few weeks of picking through the various notes I made, videos and pictures taken, emailing new people I met and keeping in contact with old friends.

I will also try to link to specific blogs and articles I have found of interest during or post event … and looking forward to reading a lot more of how other felt about the show.

(Also posted via EduGeek Blogs)

Tech Support – By Schools, For Schools

I know some of you might already recognise the phrase including in the title, as it is a central tenet of the ICT Register, but the same ethos is wide spread within the education community. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about school staff getting together at TeachMeets, having in-depth discussions via twitter though things like #ukedchat, online communities such as EduGeek.net or more local groups such as NorthantsBLT the growing role of schools taking ownership of their advice and guidance and how they share it with others is a very important part of how schools need to react to recent changes which have come out of DfE.

Many of the above are free … well, when I say free I really mean that they are paid for by people and schools using their own time for the benefit of others because they get the same sort of response back, or it is a bit of educational philanthropy on the part of others. This is brilliant in many ways, but can make it difficult to plan for sustainability. Also, there is nothing wrong with paying for advice, guidance, ideas, expertise, etc. There is often a saying used, “you get what you pay for!” and this is very true. People forget that the payment is not always cold, hard cash, but time and your own expertise … and when time, expertise, capacity and ideas are running short then people face the reality that paying for something is almost inevitable.

And this is one of the areas where I think some schools do it wrong. It shouldn’t be that paying for something in cash is the last option, it should be considered an option from the very beginning when you are planning what you need, what your goals are, how your school will develop / deliver things like CPD, technical support, parental engagement, etc.

Technical Support is a perfect example of where failing to plan can result in staff in the school, both techie and teacher, having to scrabble around to find information and guidance. I have been preparing a number of reports around the use of Framework for ICT Technical Support (FITS) within Northamptonshire schools and conversations with schools who have staff trained and accredited against FITS has shown what a difference planning makes. Except that it doesn’t just stop at the school gates. A number of schools are actively involved in supporting other schools. This will range from Lodge Park Technology College being actively engaged with the ICT Register and Microsoft’s Partners In Learning, Sir Christopher Hatton School providing support on Microsoft training courses and technical support to local schools, Wrenn School providing technical support to local schools and staff being active in online communities such as EduGeek.net, and both The Duston School and Southfield School for Girls providing staff time and expertise to chair local working groups such as the Schools Broadband Working Group and NetworkNorthants (the local IT Community for technical staff in schools and school support providers). Some of this is for free (i.e. no charge to others) but some of it does have a cost and is well worth it.

Having another school cover your tech support or provide advice around it has some major benefits. This can range from educational understanding and expertise, through to experience of deploying some education specific technologies. Couple this with easy access for teachers to talk with teachers, SLT to talk with SLT, you can having a winning combination.

So I was please to see, over the weekend, a tweet from a friend on the south coast. Tim Dalton is the IT Consultant at The Wildern School, the school which runs its own TV Studio (BBC Schools Report), has previously run YouTube style services for other schools, has developed advice and guidance on using media technologies in schools … and much more. Tim put a tweet out letting his PLN know that they are doing it again, taking their expertise and bundling it up for others. This time it is is punnet; a support, development and advisory service for other schools. Whether it is hands-on, regular tech support, development of software and applications for schools or advice and guidance around classroom use of technology and school strategy, Wildern hopes to be able to cater for your needs.

Yet another example of By Schools, For Schools …

Do you have more examples? Are you involved in similar to the folk at punnet or the other schools mentioned? Have you spoken with other schools to share ideas, expertise, tools and goals? Go on … now is your chance.

SharePoint Saturday UK

It is lovely to be around folk who see the benefit of spending a bit of their own time being part of something larger, and SharePoint Saturday is a perfect example of this.

For those who have never been to this sort of user event before it generally consists of a combination of noted speakers for the beginning and end of the event, with a number of sessions from respected peers sharing their knowledge and ideas with delegates. And Saturday was no exception … This is a short summary and I will try to give a longer post when slide decks are available.

Starting of with a session from the excellent Todd Klindt talking about why IT Pros and Developers need to learn from one another, and swap skills … but the important thing was to try stepping out of your comfort zone. As an IT Pro he has a a fantastic podcast (which actually covers a good amount of his keynote) so I would heartily recommend you have a listen.

There were many streams I could have gone to, but I opted some more familiar things (in spite of what Todd suggested). As a Business User (my predominant role around SharePoint now) I am always interested in ways to encourage adoption. Kanwal Khipple gave a grounded session on how to drive up adoption of your SharePoint platform, ranging from ensuring project sponsors do more than just sign off the money through to using Sharepoint Heroes to be your evangelists on the ground.

Next was a visit to Alex Pearce‘s session about how to introduce Power Users to SharePoint. A whislte-stop tour around making the most of a SharePoint site around a particular function (in this case around managing invoices) it showed using creating lists, views, the importance of data in content types, using lists to fill in documents … and the best bit was making use of QuickParts in Word for filling in information into a document template.

After a short break I was in with Matt Hughes (the instigator of SP365.co.uk) where he talked about SharePoint branding and some of the tips and tricks around modifying your own master pages, what you should and shouldn’t touch (especially since some of the master pages will get replaced on patching / applying service packs … but those SysAdmins who have had to compile drivers themselves know of that problem anyway!) and where to find some good, free SharePoint Master Pages … including those from Kanwal Khipple from the earlier session.

After lunch (where there was a better chance to chat with some of the exhibitors / sponsors … many of which were a bit bemused about why a Business User / Power User would be interested in talking to them … especially one without a budget!) I opted to sit out the sessions for a chance to chat with a few of the other delegates … and some of the conversations where enlightening … whether they were around controlled assessment, the missing EduGeek site through to a good, long catch up with some friends.

A good portion of the afternoon was spent talking with Richard Willis of SalamaderSoft (aka @rpwillis), Sam Dolan (aka @pinkpetrol) and Alex Pearce (aka @alex_pearce) about developments in education, sharing war stories, etc …

Ok … it was a chance to just relax and chat, but you still pick up a heck of a lot in these conversations, from barriers to adoption or integration with other services, how to manage relationships with users and clients, changing trends or simply good, old-fashioned ways of making things work.

I did miss out on having a proper catch up with Dave Coleman (@davecoleman146) and Alan Richards (@arichards_saruk) and missed their sessions (which clashed as well …) but their blogs will have their slide decks shortly (if not up already) and they both regularly speak on webinars as well. For those in schools I would heartily recommend listening to Alan talk about the cost savings made through the strategic choices and use of technology. Those who have already read Dr Don Passey’s report on the Evaluation of the Implementation of the Learning Platform LP+ Across Wolverhampton will see many similar points. They’ll both be at BETT in January 2012 if people want to talk with them about many of the items in their blogs, or simply drop them a line if there is something you want to ask them.

Steve Fox’s session at the end looked at Windows Azure, integration with Sharepoint 2010 and some Windows Phone stuff … a fair bit around Business Intelligence really and showing how SharePoint Online is quite a powerful option … if you read some blogs about the session (or some of the tweets) you can see a number of folk questioning why people would use Google with this amount of options to hand.

Having started to come down with the lurgy, I decided to miss out on the SharePint and head home …

A fantastic day, well worth the early start and looking forward to watching some of the webinars which are coming up soon.

Well done to all involved with the organisation, the exhibitors / sponsors and to all those who presented.

But Sharepoint Is a Business Thing … We Are A School

Originally posted at Sharepoint365 – http://sp365.co.uk/2011/07/but-sharepoint-is-a-business-thing-we-are-a-school/ 

After reading the various blog posts from the great and good of the world of SharePoint you don’t need me to talk technical, about the architecture of the servers, about the importance of design and branding, about particular functionality in an education or business environment … so what on earth am I going to write about?

Well, I specialise in facilitation, introducing people and things, suggestions about how people can approach new technologies … oh dear … I am starting to sound like a special advisor to a Minister of the UK Government.

So where do we start with SharePoint? Well, I can tell you what it is not. It is not a Learning Platform. It is not a replacement for an aging file server. It is not a cheap way of getting Office applications. It is not a complex system. It is not a solution to the lack of ideas you have about how to manage your life and your work. It is not the only tool in the world that allows for collaboration. Ok … one of those statements is correct … and it is the last one.

Sharepoint is a complex, powerful, wide-ranging tool that can address a number of areas in your school … if you just sit and think for a few minutes. Go on … I’ll still be here.

Done?

Over the next couple of posts I will look at simple tools and simple ideas about how Sharepoint can be used to make a difference in how your school manages school business, and where possible I will make direct reference to blog posts that have already appeared to help you get a wider picture. Today I am going to talk about team sites.

What is a Team Site?

Well, we all work in teams in one form or another. We all tend to generate stuff during that work. Files, conversations, lists of information, meeting dates, minutes of meetings, lists of jobs / tasks … it can go on, and on, and on, and on … and whilst we all have years of experience of emailing stuff to one another, forgetting to email stuff to one another, emailing the wrong versions, emailing the wrong people, writing meeting dates in a paper diaries and then forgetting to change the dates when a meeting has to be rescheduled resulting in you being the person that turns up 3 hours early to a meeting and wondering if you have no friends because you are in a room all by yourself … go on, admit it, we have all been there.

So what is a Team Site?

Out of the box a Team Site has all the generic functionality you come across a Sharepoint site. It is a blank canvas, and one which is handy to play with to learn how to get around Sharepoint. But it is only as useful as you make it. So let us look at the needs of an average secondary school department, having a quick thought about a few important functions which go on behind the scenes and away from the classrooms.

Let us consider coursework for GCSE English. The co-ordinator will always have a massive job to do. This will involve the recording of coursework as it is completed, unit by unit, by each student, which teacher marked it, whether it has been moderated, who by, does it meet all the required criteria, have the results been passed to the Exams Officer, has it been selected for external moderation, has it been sent off, and so on. To make sure this happens there will be guidance documents on what each unit of work entails, where it ties into schemes of work and resources, staff training on particular units and resources, staff training on moderation, feedback sessions between senior teachers in the department and other teachers …

Where does this fit into Sharepoint then? And let us keep this as simple as we can to start with (no InfoPath or workflows yet).

The Team Site is available to those who teach GCSE English and to other key staff such as the Exams Officer and SLT. This gets you looking at permissions. It also means you are looking at who the data owners are (in data protection speak) and ensures accountability.

The Calendar is a shared calendar which can be used instead of a sheet of paper passed round with deadline dates. It contains the meeting times, dates and locations. The meetings can also include relevant documents just like an email attachment … but we will mention that again later. The meetings can have alerts so you know when work is due to be completed prior to meetings.

Now most logs and records of coursework and marks will be on paper or spreadsheets. It is the work of a moment to use a spreadsheet to create a list. The spreadsheet already has the information you want, or at least the headings. This then allows for records to be created or amended for students as their coursework as it is completed and then marked. The spreadsheet is viewable by all and creates an open atmosphere between staff as they look at who is late completing the work. It also allows senior teachers in the department to provide additional support to staff who are not meeting the targets or deadlines.

Document libraries will contain files, videos, etc from the exam board or versions of work to use for moderation comparison. These can be linked to within the meeting appointments rather than attached (see, I said we would come back to it).

And this isn’t even looking at Wikis … a fantastic collaborative tool for sharing best practice. And we also haven’t covered the use of discussion forums to allow for healthy and private discussions between the team without it being all email traffic and the risk of emails being spread outside of those who need to be involved.

Now, none of this is exactly rocket science, has been mentioned by many other educational sharepoint enthusiasts, it is flexible enough to allow schools and departments to say “actually … I like the list bit and the discussion bit, but we already meet on a regular basis so no need for that” and it is powerful enough to have more functionality to add as people become more adept at using the team site.

So, there we have it. Team Sites and why a business tool can mean effective and improved management of a secondary school English department.

The Mac FanBoi / Open Source Evangelist goes to Reading.

Most people who take a butchers at my blog, peruse my EduGeek posts, try to decipher my deliberations or are simply mindful of my meandering thoughts, are aware of my use of Apple products and my preference to ensuring Open Source Software is always considered when looking at options.

So I take great delight in mentioning that I have been accepted to join others at Microsoft’s Summer Camp on 23rd & 24th August in Reading, and a big thank you has to be given to Jan Webb and Stuart Ball for running this event again.

I’ve been to a number of Innovative Education Forum / Partners in Learning events now and I am always impressed with the number of ideas you see shared. Now I get a chance to be part of that sharing with a closer group and I hope to come away with a lot more to be able to pass on to schools and contribute to it too, if the output from friends who attended last year is anything to go by.

However, I will always be looking at this with a Geek’s head. I know that some schools have hit barriers when trying to roll out particular software, to make it do certain things or when making sure school systems are not put at risk when allowing children to do certain things. I hope to be able to work through a number of problems around this and give suitably sage advice (You want to give out the admin password to the kids???!!!! AAARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!)

It is fun to see that one of the criteria is to bring along a Windows laptop. I *always* take a Windows laptop with me to Reading … that fact that it is a bit of Apple hardware just makes it more fun … the question is whether I leave it running Windows 7 or downgrade to Windows Vista … just because I can. (Look … I have already said I am a Geek … I don’t *have* to make sense!)

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.

Windows 7 month

You know how it is … you get a reputation for being a fanboi! (ok … I own a few few Apple gadgets) or there are folk who are convinced you are an open source hippy … and then you get those who think you are a Microsoft drone (all descriptions of me from the last 3 months from various online groups / networks).

I’ve always been pretty up front about how I will work with pretty much anything I have access to and through personal choice over the years I have tended to find Apple kit / OS just makes me that bit more productive. I do continue to use a fair bit of open source software and MS software though so feel I have a good balance, but after reading how people are constantly pushing themselves to try different ways of working I have opted to dedicate more time to different systems.

From 1st September I will be working purely on Windows 7 for a month. This will be on a MacBookPro as that is the hardware I have available (I do like running MS OSes on Mac hardware though … I had an install of Vista on one machine that ran like a dream … made me wonder if we were all so wrong about Vista!) but unless I have a very real need to access something on the Mac side then BootCamp will be my friend. Over the coming week I will be looking at a variety of pieces of software to make sure I am as tooled up as I can be, that my files are somewhere secure and my access through various networks is enabled.

From 1st October I will be going down the open source route. I’ll probably set up a VM of Redhat or Ubuntu and using that unless I can dig out another laptop (not enough space to triple boot this machine but can easily run a VM off an external drive). So I will spend that last week in September looking for all the suitable OSS I need.

And then from 1st November I will run solely MacOS and associated software.

Most of my requirements will be for office, web 2 and social network access. I may have to dig into some video / audio editing and perhaps some graphics work, but most of the stuff planned is based around boring work I’m afraid, but I hope to take a bit of time out to try to look at a range of different tools that I may not have touched before and even try my hand at some of the activities I see the software being used for (screen recording them for the general amusement of others).

I haven’t really been bothered enough to this before … when I did my month without Google I ended up discovering that I can do it, it is a bit of a nuisance and that the non-Google stuff I was already doing was what worked well. I am trying to be open-minded about doing the same with this … so if people think I am slipping them please let me know.

I am also happy to read and digest anything that people have from others who have done similar (or if you have done it yourself already) so that I can compare experiences.