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The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

  • Education

    PhotoMath: Should you ban Windows Phone in the Maths classroom?

    • 1 Comments

    Remember when calculators were banned in the classroom, because it made calculation too easy? Well, in the same spirit there’s going to be a maths teacher somewhere that will decide to ban their students from having a Windows Phone in their maths classroom. And all because of PhotoMath and how it makes it too easy to solve mathematical expressions.

    It’s really simple to use….

    Point your phone at a maths equation:

    Photomath (1)

    PhotoMath shows you the solution:

     

    Photomath (2)

    ..and the steps to solve it:

    PhotoMath (3)

    OneNote and stylus to the rescue for creating complex equations!

    Thanks to OneNote, I’ve also found it can solve complex equations…

    First, I hand wrote the complex equation that I wanted straight into OneNote (with my Surface Pro 3 stylus)…

    image

    …then I used the OneNote “Ink to Math” function:

    image

    ..and OneNote inserted it into my document as text:

    image

    …which I then (maybe bizarrely) scanned and solved with PhotoMath

    Apparently, X = 5 over 2, with 11 steps to a solution:

    PhotoMath (4)

    There are three thoughts running through my head now:

    1. I’m actually going to be able to help my daughter with her HSC maths homework (but I’m never going to reveal how!)
    2. We’re hitting Arthur C Clarke’s Third Law:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”
    3. If you’re a maths teacher and your students discover the app, what are you going to give them to do as homework? Maybe you’ll ask them to create mathematical expressions that they can solve, but PhotoMath can’t?

    Learn MoreLearn more about PhotoMath or just download it straight to your Windows Phone here

    Footnote: The microblink team behind PhotoMath have also released an SDK for Maths Equation Solving, so I can imagine we might see this functionality being built into other apps too!

  • Education

    How OneNote helps students with assignment, notes and getting organised

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    Yesterday I shared a video (How OneNote makes a classroom difference) from Carey Academy in North Carolina, who shared how they were using OneNote to support new ways of teaching and learning. Today, I’m going to share the next part of the story, which is their students’ perspective on how they use OneNote to support their learning through things like note-taking and helping organise assignments.

    The thing I noticed in this is the way that the students talk about how it helps them to take control of their own learning – like the student who talks about handing in their homework assignments:

      imageYou can just do your homework. You don’t even have to turn it in. They [teachers] can just look at it at 8 o’clock in the morning when it’s supposed to be due.  

    And the other student who’s taking advantage of the fact that OneNote syncs your notes and content across all the different versions, as it runs on Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android phones (and even watches):

      imageI have OneNote on my personal computer, my school computer, my tablet and my phone.  

    Here’s the full video:

  • Education

    How OneNote makes a classroom difference

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    I spent some of this weekend with the Microsoft Expert Educators from Australia and New Zealand, as they gathered together to discuss the future of teaching and learning (to see some of the things they talked about, take a look at their #mseduweekend conversation on Twitter). One of the tools they kept coming back to was OneNote – as a note taking tool, as a learning tool and as a presentation tool.

    There’s a bunch of developments happening with OneNote at the moment, and before I write about those, I thought it would be helpful to share a couple of videos on OneNote, and how schools are using it. The video below is less than 2 minutes, and provides a good introduction to the ways that OneNote can support new ways of teaching and learning.

    Learn MoreGo to the OneNote for Teachers website for useful resources for teachers

  • Education

    Research says the pen is mightier than the keyboard – and other useful education research nuggets

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    Like to talk about pedagogy and 'research driven education', but don’t want to read all those long academic research papers?

    Well, here's some really important academic research, but in TL;DR format:

    First, the reason that my colleagues and I often talk about pen input on Windows tablets:

     

    Students who used laptops to take notes learned less than students who used paper due to a more mindless and word-for-word style of note-taking.

    Note that this isn’t about laptops versus paper – it’s about the fact that students taking notes with a keyboard learn less than those who use a pen (like I do with OneNote and the stylus on my Surface Pro 3)
     

    Source: Psychological Science Journal

    Secondly, evidence that simply encouraging 1:1 or BYOD computers can actually lower student achievement:

      Students who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and students who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not.  

    Source: Computers and Education magazine

    And finally, support for the view that stand-and-deliver lectures should end:

      Undergraduate students in classes with traditional lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, active learning methods.  

    Source: Science Magazine

     

    By Theonlysilentbob (Own work), via Wikimedia CommonsWhat does that make you think about what you normally see when you’re at the front of a lecture hall or classroom that’s full of students?



    Learn More

    For more of this kind of research, take a look at:

    the education category on the Useful Science website
  • Education

    How do other education institutions solve their storage problems? Webinar

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    image

    Education customers have vast quantities of data to be stored – and demand for more storage from users is growing all the time. There are three basic choices:

    • Keep adding storage in-house in your own datacentre (even if you’re a smaller school with a little stack of servers, it’ll quickly grow to become a datacentre!)
    • Push all of your data into the cloud (and when each student gets 1TB of data storage on our Office 365 service, that’s an easy decision for some sets of data)
    • Build a hybrid model, with some data in your own datacentre, and some in the cloud

    Although the hybrid model is the most popular (and let’s face it, that’s what most of your users are doing today anyway, whether or not you’ve sanctioned it) it also creates a new set of management problems as you constantly balance your data between the cloud and in-house services. And you need to keep control over your data wherever it is.

    If you would like to hear how others are tackling this problem, then I can recommend the Hybrid Cloud webinar we’re running in a couple of weeks on 22 October. There’s two reasons and four experts involved that will make this is a good investment of your time:

    St Catherine’s School in Sydney will share their journey to finding the right hybrid cloud solution, and talk about how this has changed what’s possible for the school. The two experts taking part from St Catherine’s are Rathika Suresh the Director of ICT and Graeme Wallace the Network and Infrastructure Manager.

    Microsoft experts Lee Hickin a Data Centre Solution Specialist and Ben Di Qual a Technical Solutions Professional, who will take you and your team through the ways a hybrid cloud storage solution reduces total storage costs and improves data protection.

    There will also be the opportunity to ask questions about how the various options would apply to your scenario, and so it’s better than reading a whitepaper or a website!

    The webinar “Rethink your approach to storage” is on 22 October 2014, at 1PM AEST.

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register here

  • Education

    Sway–a unique way to present ideas and information

    • 2 Comments

    imageYesterday, the Office team introduced a brand new app to the Office portfolio – called Sway, and as the team say on the Sway blog:

      Sway is an entirely different way to express yourself and bring your ideas to life. When your ideas are born, you want to explore, visualize and share them—quickly and easily, wherever you happen to be, and on whatever device you have. You want your ideas to be understood. Sway helps you do just that. It’s a new way for you to create a beautiful, interactive, web-based expression of your ideas, from your phone or browser. It is easy to share your creation and it looks great on any screen. Your ideas have no borders, edges, page breaks, cells or slides. Your mind is a continuous canvas, and Sway brings this canvas to life. Sway helps you focus on the human part: your ideas and how they relate to each other. Sway takes care of the design work—a Sway is ready to share with the world as soon as it is born.  

    There’s a really good Sway video from the team that shows the vision of what they are creating:

    You can read all of the details on the Sway blog, take a look at some sample, and use the links to sign up for the preview version of Sway.

    imageBut to whet your appetite, let me give you an idea of what’s possible with Sway for a complete novice! I created a Sway this afternoon, using a whitepaper I’ve been working on as a starting point. I’ve had no training, but just got stuck in and had a go at creating one. And I think the result is pretty impressive – even more so when you look at it on different devices, and see how it dynamically changes the layout to work on a big PC screen and a small phone screen! I couldn’t imagine how much effort I would have needed before today to create the same high-quality experience.

    Learn MoreView my Sway on Student Attrition in Australian Universities here

     

    What could you do with Sway? Publishing lesson notes? Getting students to create Sways instead of PowerPoints of their work? Publishing university research in a consumer-friendly format?

  • Education

    Reimagine - a briefing about change and digital disruption

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    Here’s a chance to attend a high level Microsoft briefing called Reimagine, in Melbourne on 9 October and Sydney on 29 October:

    • The Melbourne Reimagine event is at the Convention and Exhibition Centre, from 9AM-12:30PM
    • The Sydney Reimagine event is at the Royal Hall of Industries, from 9AM-12:30PM

    These events aren’t specifically for education customers, however nearly every time I speak at events, I find that education customers are learning from the experiences of transformation happening in other industry sectors, so I’d highly recommend these events as a way to hear stories which can act as signposts for change in your school/TAFE/university!

    image

    During the briefing, we’ll share the Microsoft vision for platform and productivity – how we will empower people and organisations to do more and achieve more. But technology is only part of the story, because as the impact of technology changes so does the role of IT itself. And the IT people within an organisation become responsible for a digital transformation, and working with others to support the cultural change that technology enables (and requires!).

    This challenge exists with every organisation, whether it’s a big bank, an electricity company, or an education organisation like a school or university. And so we’re seeing new job roles emerging – like Chief Digital Officer and VP of Student Experience. These new roles are often being filled by people with a deep understanding of technology, backed by the skills to effectively manage visionary change.

    At the event, three invited speakers will share their stories of change:

    • Ben Issa, Head of IT Strategy at ING Direct, is one person who is leading change. Having pioneered the Bank in a Box solution, Ben will share his story of delivering a drastically modern innovation platform for banking.
    • Anthony Stevens, Director of IT Operations from KPMG, will share how their business has empowered its people to be more mobile, more responsive and more productive in order to create great experiences for their customers.
    • Belinda Thompson, BDO’s Chief Information Officer, will share how the company is using the cloud to support its people and better connect with its customers – and what it all means for her team’s relationship with the business.
    • In Sydney, Ben’s replaced by Sean Elwick, Head of Information Services at Aurecon, who will share his view on the disruption to the role of IT, and how he personally lobbies for digital change within his organisation.

    To find out more and register for either of the Reimagine events, then use the links below:

    Melbourne Reimagine – 9 October

    Sydney Reimagine – 29 October

  • Education

    Delivering Office 365 on your different screens and wrist

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    The Office team have also been busy creating plenty of new scenarios for using Office on a range of different devices (it seems as if every month there’s a new format of device appearing that can support a scenario with one of the Office apps). If you still think of Office as being an app that you install on your PC, then you might be surprised by some of the recent announcements:

    OneDrive for Business for Android, which allows you to seamlessly access your 1TB of Office 365 storage from an Android phone or tablet.

    Lync enhancements for iOS released last month included the ability to have the Lync Gallery View and up to four live video streams on your iPhone or iPad screen. Both of which make online meetings more interactive and visual.

    image

    There’s been a recent dash of enhancements to OneNote too:

    OneNote on Android watchOneNote for Android Wear, so that you can now talk to your wrist and start dictating notes that get synced into your OneNote notebook – and onto any other devices you’re also running OneNote one.

    Handwriting support in OneNote for Android tablets now allows you to write or draw with a stylus or your finger, so now you can easily create drawings, annotate on top of documents etc

    OneNote for Windows 8 has received updates that focus on student features such as ink highlighting and better support for printing and inserting files. These features will help the Windows 8 version of OneNote to catch up with the features of the full desktop version of OneNote. I actually use both versions on my Surface 3, depending on what I’m doing, and whether I want a simple ‘notebook’ setup for handwritten notes, or I want the full-blown mode for extensive editing etc

  • Education

    Developing education solutions in Office 365

    • 2 Comments

    With so many education customers using Office 365 globally (now in the tens of millions of education uses), there's continuing interest by developers in creating services for customers, running on top of Office. This could mean developing an app for Word, Excel, PowerPoint; or could be developing a system that uses the Office 365 cloud service to deliver an integrated solution.

    Office Dev Centre logoThe team responsible for this at Microsoft are very busy releasing new information and features for developers. You can read about these in the constant updates from the Developer stream on the Office Blogs. And to help a little more, here’s some of the key bits of news that I’ve noticed recently:

    On Demand Training for Office 365 developers 
    I’m a big fan of the Microsoft Virtual Academy, as it contains some excellent technical training that is free and available at any time to technical users and developers. There’s a new course, Introduction to Office 365 Development available, which contains modules on developing Apps for Office and Apps for SharePoint, and a session on the Office 365 APIs that are available for developers to use to more closely integrate to Office across different devices.

    Office 365 APIs Starter Projects for Windows
    There’s a series of samples that the team have created which allows developers to quickly spin up projects that interact with Office 365 using the standard APIs. It lets you do things like create, read, update and delete events in a user’s calendar (so you could add an assignment reminder function to an LMS, to automatically put the assignment into the student’s calendar, and that will then show up on their PC/phone etc). Similar samples allow you to create, read, update and delete files on their SharePoint site

    Office 365 Developer Podcast
    If you want to keep up to date with less reading, then there’s the Office 365 Developer Podcast, where Jeremy Thake talks with people involved with developing Office 365 apps – both within and outside of Microsoft.

    The Office Dev Centre has also been completely updated, with easier access to resources, recordings of events and code samples.

  • Education

    Digitise everything - Office Lens and teachers.

    • 1 Comments

    The Office team have been doing some great work recently with adding new features to the Office suite of products, that are especially useful for teachers and students.

    OneNote has been getting a lot of attention on mobile devices including for iOS, Android and Windows phones. For example, this week we released OneNote support for Android Wear watches (yep, you can appear to be a spy whilst you whisper into your wrist “Take a note. Buy paint from Bunnings”) and we also announced the Share extension for OneNote on iOS 8 devices (so you can clip a web page or photo straight into your OneNote notebook from your iPad or iPhone).

    But that seems like nothing compared to what the Office Lens team have been up to.

    What's Office Lens?

    imageOffice Lens is a simple app that allows to snap a picture of a document, drawing, whiteboard etc, and it then frames it and pops it into your photos folder, and your OneNote, as a straightened, adjusted image. It’s ideal for students for lectures, or for staff at meetings, because if you take a picture of a whiteboard from an angle, it will straighten the image as though you were right in front of it. And because it pops it into your OneNote it means it's automatically synced across your devices - take a picture with your phone, and see it in the OneNote on your laptop later.


    Scan a scanned document into Word or PowerPoint

    What the team released on Tuesday is an update of Office Lens for Windows Phone that now means that it goes even further. Now you can take an image, and it will turn it into a Word document or a PowerPoint slide. And not just a picture in a Word document, but it will actually do an OCR scan of the page, and drop the text and formatting into a Word document!

    Office Lens word

    It will do the same for PowerPoint - take a picture of a diagram drawn on a whiteboard, and it will turn it into a slide where the individual hand drawn lines that make up the drawing can be edited as drawing objects. So if you want to change the colours, or the size, or remove a few stray lines, and add more details, you can do it. Even months after you’ve wiped it off the whiteboard!

    Office Lens whiteboard

    Like any amazing technology, this is almost indistinguishable from magic!

    To see it in action, take a look at the video below

    If you’re always being given hand-drawn diagrams by teachers who want somebody to turn them into a PowerPoint slide, then it’s now a snap job to make it happen. I was talking to a university team who have a bank of people currently digitising learning resources for staff, to make them available online. This is probably their dream tool. And it’s free - all it needs is a phone and off you go. Hopefully that’s the end of document projectors in classrooms and lecture halls…

    Learn MoreRead more about Office Lens and what we've done here

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