Sam Millar

Sal McKeown on a student whose Excel skills won him a trip to the US and a cash prize

It seems that in Britain we are good at quite a few things, and one of them appears to be a spreadsheet – Microsoft's Excel. Sam Millar, a 22-year-old student at University of St Andrews in Scotland, was recently named the Silver Medallist in Microsoft Excel – and picked up $3,500 prize money – at the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California.

Stanford students

Summer travels took Bob Harrison to one of Silicon Valley's intellectual engine rooms — Stanford University

It was that time of year when I pack my bags and fly to Silicon Valley to be a reviewer for the Stanford Graduate School of Education Masters Degree course “Learning Design with Technology”. On either side of highway 101 from San Francisco to San Jose you can find the homes of many of the household technology names — like Google and Apple — that support our busy and digitally connected lives.

Stanford is in esteemed company, and it makes the most of it with its Learning design with Technology course. It’s a unique blend of blue skies, venture capital and the intellectual property and innovative ideas that gush out of the growing Stanford Campus in Palo Alto.

Children working with tablets

Government pledges raise hopes of better support for technology for learning

After seven years of almost total government neglect of schools ICT, the Department for Education (DfE) is finally showing signs of developing the political will to create a policy for its schools and colleges.

It has just conducted three stakeholder meetings with representatives of the education community and sent senior civil servant Emran Mian, director of strategy and social mobility at the DfE to deliver a clear message: "We have been more absent in this space than we should have been, but there has been a shift in leadership in the DfE and we have had a very clear and strong steer from the Secretary of State. Now there is alignment between political leadership and civil service leadership on this issue."

Sports day in Nepal

Who best to help teachers? Other teachers. Even during the summer break!

London teacher Catherine Steel travelled to Nepal over the weekend (July 30) with 23 other UK teachers to help support local teachers and improve learning for their children. It’s part of a global teacher movement called Limited Resources Teacher Training (LRTT)).

“There’s an extra challenge for me,” said Catherine Steel before setting out. “ICT is integrated in my teaching so I’ll have to be extra flexible with local resources and connectivity to share our exciting UK experiences with Nepalese colleagues. I’m hoping to report back with pictures on my blog, Catherine Rambles On."

Kensington roof garden flamingos

Could the Government finally be waking up to ICT for learning? Or is it just a dream? Bob Harrison reports

A sunny barbecue amid the greenery and flamingos of the Kensington Roof Gardens might have tempted me to forget “austerity” and England's schools funding crisis. But I was present as a panellist at a briefing by the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa) for its members, and they want the facts rather than the ideology — the window dressing — particularly as the Department for Education (DfE) finally appears interested in creating a policy for ICT for learning (see below).

Trade associations are diplomatic when it comes to politics, but I have no such concerns. My role was to deliver a short presentation on the policy vacuum around the use of technology in teaching, learning and assessment in schools and colleges, and the implications for suppliers of technology and services.