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June, 2011 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

June, 2011

  • Education

    Education Revolution in Action 4 Conference


    I was invited to present one of a pair of keynotes at the Education Revolution in Action 4 conference yesterday, at John Paul College in Queensland. The 300 attendees were from schools - state and private - from across Australia and New Zealand, and were a mix of practising classroom teachers, school leaders and ICT managers.

    It’s always a bit tricky to find a story that works for all of the different groups - too much technology, and you can turn off the teachers, and too much pedagogy and you can bore the ICT managers. But I thought I’d got the balance about right, but that was before the agenda started to overrun, and I had to make the decision that every speaker hates - do I stick to my allocated 50 minutes, and eat into the coffee break by 20 minutes - or do I rush through a 50 min presentation in half an hour? If you’ve already been sitting for an hour and a half, coffee breaks become pretty important, so I went for a third option, of delivering the first half of my presentation, and leaving out the rest (fortunately, my presentation came in two handy halves!)

    And even more fortunately, the blog allows me to share the slides that I couldn’t present (although they may not make as much sense without my commentary Smile).

    Workplace Revolution in Action

    Given the conference theme of Education Revolution in Action, what I chose to talk about was the Workplace Revolution in Action - the way that people will be working in the future, and the implications from a technology and skills perspective. I used our ‘2020 Vision’ video, which looks at the workplace of 2020, and then continued by deconstructing the technology behind the video – to look at what exists now – either in research labs or in real life - and how the components might build to get to the vision described for the future. It always then leads into a conversation about the skills needed for the workforce of the future, where the workplace is a very different one from today.

    Unfortunately, I can’t share the whole presentation (I used a multimedia, interactive piece of software to present it), but I can share the short video that I used as the introduction, which is the starting point for the story I told. It's the Productivity Future Vision on YouTube here

    I finished up the session with just one slide from my original presentation, which I’ve found to be a useful way to talk about the tension that is created for ICT people in education.

    I’m going to write about it, and put it on a separate blog post, a little later today. And I’ll also post up all of the slides that I didn’t get to present, just in case any of the attendees wanted to know what they may have missed.

    Now all posted - and available here

  • Education

    Business Intelligence in Education - What can we learn from supermarkets?


    Part One of a series - and a bit like chapters in a book, chapter one doesn’t tell the whole story, but gets the journey started!

    Puzzle piecesFor years we have been collecting data on students. In the beginning, it was data created and collated by individual teachers - in students’ own workbooks and teacher markbooks. And then in early student information systems, we started to collect information on statutory tests, and then increasingly in-school tests. But still, in most schools, data is distributed across lots of different places - information is stored in students’ own workbooks, teachers’ markbooks, teacher spreadsheets, the student information system and in other databases (sometimes held at a teacher or department level, sometimes at school level). Oh, and then there’s the data aggregated and held outside of the school by curriculum authorities, state education departments, and assessment agencies.

    But having collected all of that information in different places, and different ways, we haven’t yet reached the stage of using the data to consistently support learning for individual students. Of course, there are some shining examples of where it is being used, but the key word in the sentence is ‘consistently’  - all of the data, connected and used in every school to support learning.

    So, the million dollar question is, as John Davitt put it:

      Why does a supermarket know more about my frozen pea buying habits than my children’s school knows about their learning?  

    What happens in retail?

    Compare the experience of collecting and collating data in supermarkets to the story above. As consumers, we’ve been conditioned by the big supermarkets to share our data, and supermarkets have built central mechanisms to collect and use the data. There’s even a benefit paid for sharing your data. Here’s how it works:

    • Supermarkets sell thousands of products to thousands of consumers, every minute. And that generates a stream of information (What’s selling today? What isn’t? What’s running out of stock? Which shops are making a profit?)
    • To connect that information to individual consumers, they have persuaded us to use a loyalty card every time we shop. Now they can link their generic data to individuals (Who’s buying nappies? If they buy nappies, do they also buy wet wipes? What’s the trend on a consumer’s spending? Are they likely to be shopping at other supermarkets too?)
    • We individually decide to opt-in to sharing our data (by signing up to the scheme, and handing over our membership card every time we shop)
    • In order to encourage us to share our data, the supermarkets have offered us a small incentive - points, air miles, fuel discounts etc

    The data that’s collected is potentially massive - and insightful. Everything from what paper you read, to what meat you buy for your BBQ. And by linking that to external data sources, they can go one step further - what products do customers buy when the temperature gets over 30⁰. Where do you live, shop and fuel your car?

    Which results in retailers being able to collect and collate enough individual information to help them improve their business, through things such as:

    • Using aggregated data to plan their business - eg Where should the next store be built? What product lines can be expanded? How long should stores  be open for?
    • Using individual data to grow their business - eg What’s the next product line to sell this customer? Which customers can I encourage to shop more frequently? Which customers can I switch to more profitable brands?

    And some of this then results in a further incentive for the customers - like offers related to switching brands, or finding that the shop doesn’t run out of your favourite ice cream for the BBQ on a hot weekend (okay, there’s some things that still need working on!)

    Why we shouldn’t compare education to supermarkets’ use of data

    But is it right to compare what is happening with consumer shopping data to what could be happening in education? In some ways it’s an unfair comparison, as the scale is massively different - supermarkets are dealing with millions of customers, and so they can afford to invest the time and money in building big data models. And there’s a commercial imperative to improve, which results in more revenue and profit - it’s not a fixed budget, so investment in improvements pays back with extra cash.

    And there’s also a much more centralised system - for both customer management and data - that results in all of that useful data being seen and used at headquarters, rather than at branch level.

    In education, only some data is shared with the ‘HQ’ - state or nationally - for example, statutory test data, like NAPLAN results. Whereas a lot of it is created and stored by the school. Or just by a teacher for their own use.

    And finally, the money spent on improvements doesn’t necessarily generate more budget for the school.

    The lessons we can learn from supermarkets

    Although direct comparisons are unfair, there are some lessons learnt by retailers that might be useful

    1. Individuals are willing to share data if there’s something in it for them.
    2. Reducing friction on sharing data improves everybody's willingness to share
    3. Everybody in the data chain should receive benefits
    4. Connecting more data sets has an amplified benefit

    If you consider how you use data in your school/TAFE/university, are there frustrations about data use that could be overcome by applying one or more of the retail lessons?

    In my experience, the ‘benefit’ test is a key omission - eg are you asking teachers to supply data, without ensuring that they receive a benefit for it? (Or worse, do they think that sharing data just gives ‘management’ another stick to beat them with?). And reducing friction is also key - eg if a teacher currently stores their markbook in an Excel spreadsheet, can you read the data from there, instead of making them change?

    As I said at the beginning, this is Chapter One. I’m going to come back to this whole subject in a couple of days, but for now, let me leave you with a question to think about (and comment on below?):

    What are the other lessons we can learn from retailers’ use of data? Positive and negative?

  • Education

    Microsoft worldwide Education Partner of the Year


    Microsoft WPC logo

    The World Partner Conference kicks off in Los Angeles next month, and in the build up to it, we’ve just announced the results of the Microsoft Partner of Year Awards for 2011. It’s a tough race, with over 3,000 companies entering from over 100 countries – and the judging process is tough on the entrants.

    Here’s the criteria that the entries are judged on for the Education Partner of Year Award:

      The Public Sector, Education Partner of the Year Award recognizes partners who have exhibited excellence in providing innovative and unique services or solutions based on Microsoft technologies to Education customers. Successful entrants for this Award will demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, as well as consistent, high-quality, predictable service or solutions to Education customers.  

    It’s amazing that a small specialist Australian company, Janison, in Coffs Harbour, NSW, made it to the three finalists for the Education Partner of Year. Of course, it’s a real shame that they didn’t win the award, to add to their bookshelf of other awards for the ESSA Online Science Assessment project.

    The winner that pipped Janison to the post was Desire2Learn, a Canadian-based global company who produce a learning management system that’s a competitor to Blackboard and Moodle (and a company that we work closely with here in Australia too).

    Here’s the blurb from the site on the winner, Desire2Learn:

    Desire2Learn is recognized as a global eLearning solution provider with the most complete, scalable and adaptable suite of enterprise software products and services to power any institution’s learning infrastructure. All solutions are customized to reflect each school’s unique learning methodologies and branding needs. Desire2Learn currently has over 500 clients worldwide across Schools, Colleges, Higher Education, State Departments of Education, as well as government, corporate and healthcare organisations. The scalability of their solution and global presence provides Desire2Learn with the ability to connect schools and provide a borderless environment in which to teach and learn, today more than 6 million learners reap the benefits of Desire2Learn’s applications. The Desire2Learn Environment is a complete web-based suite of easy-to-use tools and functionality built exclusively on Microsoft Windows and SQL Server. Other Microsoft technologies integrated, or soon to be integrated, in their products include: Live@edu, Windows Phone 7, Lync, Office 365, and SharePoint.

    If you’re planning to extend e-learning in your school/TAFE/university, then you’ve now got two of the world’s best partners here to work with you in Australia.

    Learn More button

    See information on the Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards

    Read more on this blog about the Desire2Learn Learning Management System

    Find out more about Janison’s ESSA project

    PS As I wrote this, I discovered I’d not already written about the Janison project on this blog – so expect me to rectify that over the next few days

  • Education

    By 2020, all schools, universities and TAFEs in Australia will offer online virtual education


    Icons_light_blueThe Australian Government has set a series of eight Digital Economy Goals - which are being used to drive the economy and public planning forward. They relate to use of technology at home, in business, in health, in government and in education.

    Digital Economy Goal for Education

    The Digital Economy Goal for Education is quite audacious:

    By 2020, Australian schools, TAFEs, universities and higher education institutions will have the connectivity to develop and collaborate on innovative and flexible educational services and resources to extend online learning resources to the home and workplace; and the facilities to offer students and learners, who cannot access courses via traditional means, the opportunity for online virtual learning.

    Taken literally it means learners will be able to choose to learn online from their own school, TAFE or university.

    Now, if you're used to reading Government targets you'll spot the get out clause, which is that the institutions have to have the facilities to offer it - it doesn't actually set the target that they must offer it. But let's ignore that for the moment.

    There are two parties to this target:

    • The government is accountable to ensure that education has the connectivity and the facilities and things like the DER and NBN are both moving in that direction
    • Every school, TAFE and university is accountable for providing ways of delivering learning online for their students

    I would guess that most institutions have a way of making some learning resources available online today - but do they all have a roadmap that gets them to the point of delivering a full traditional course by online virtual means?

    And if you are in a school, TAFE or university, do you feel accountable for the goal?

    Australian Government Digital Economy Goals

    FYI here are all of the Australian Government Digital Economy Goals. The goals are that by 2020:

    • Australia ranks in the top five OECD countries in the portion of households that connect to broadband at home.
    • Australia ranks in the top five OECD countries in relation to the percentage of businesses, and not for profit organisations, using online opportunities to drive productivity improvements, expand their customer base and enable jobs growth.
    • The majority of Australian households, businesses and other organisations will have access to smart technology to better manage their energy use.
    • As identified in the National eHealth Strategy endorsed by the federal, state and territory governments, 90% of high priority consumers such as older Australians, mothers and babies and those with a chronic disease, or their carers, can access individual electronic health records. Through the government’s investments in telehealth, by July 2015, 495,000 telehealth consultations will have been delivered providing remote access to specialists for patients in rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas, and by 2020, 25% of all specialists will be participating in delivering telehealth consultations to remote patients.
    • Australian schools, TAFEs, universities and higher education institutions will have the connectivity to develop and collaborate on innovative and flexible educational services and resources to extend online learning resources to the home and workplace; and the facilities to offer students and learners, who cannot access courses via traditional means, the opportunity for online virtual learning.
    • Australia will have at least doubled its level of teleworking so that at least 12% of Australian employees report having a teleworking arrangement with their employer.
    • Four out of five Australians will choose to engage with the government through the internet or other type of online service.
    • The gap between households and businesses in capital cities and those in regional areas will have narrowed significantly.
  • Education

    Vicdeaf using Lync to help improve communication between deaf colleagues


    I was watching deaf people using their mobile phones to communicate via video sharing this week, (during ‘An Idiot Abroad’ Karl Pilkington got sent to Cairo, and ended up in a KFC run by deaf staff).

    And then today, I was sent a link to this video from Generation-e, who have been helping the Vicdeaf team to improve communications between their staff and stakeholders. The video demonstrates how Microsoft Lync enables deaf colleagues to collaborate and communicate, with both instant messaging and video calling enabling more interactive, and clearer communication.

    Vicdeaf Microsoft Lync Case Study

    From August, the licence for Lync is being included within the main Client Access Licence (CAL) that our education customers use in Australia – which means that customers who are on subscription licences (School Agreement, Campus Agreement, or the new EES or OVS-ES) will automatically be licensed for parts of Lync. So the example that you see above is more feasible in education establishments across Australia – not just in specialist organisations for the deaf.

    Learn MoreRead other case studies on Microsoft Lync in education

  • Education

    Lync conversation translator for instant message conversations


    imageI just came across a great little free toolkit - the Microsoft Lync Adoption and Training Kit - which is a set of utilities and add-ins for Lync to give it increased capabilities - in addition to the instant messenger, video chat, phone calls and conference calling systems.

    There's 'IM an expert' that allows you to search for people with specialist skills within your organisation (something that would probably be really helpful for HE researchers). But the one that struck me as really useful in education is the Conversation Translator, which does exactly that - two people can have a chat where they both type and see responses in their own language - and the Conversation Translator sits in the middle translating from one to the other - in a choice of 35 languages.

    You could have students in Australia chatting to students in France - and build their confidence using the Conversation Translator, before weaning them off it as their language skills grow.

    Learn MoreLearn More about the Lync Adoption and Training Kit

  • Education

    Power Platform Briefings–SharePoint plus SQL equals Business Intelligence


    I’m convinced that over the next three years in education we’re going to see a massive surge of interest in connecting data together, and turning it into useful information. I know that there is already much happening, but there’s a way to go before we can really say that all of the data that is created and collected in education is being used to improve the learning potential of individual students – whether that’s a student in a high school heading to their HSC/GCE/VCE award, or a university student being able to maximise their own learning journey.

    First there’s the ‘dispersal’ barrier - the way that data is created in education – in big systems, individual spreadsheets and paper markbooks. And then there’s the ‘complexity’ barrier – both from a data analysis and a technology point of view. In fact, we even create barriers with the language we use to describe the issue – ‘business intelligence’ and ‘learning analytics’ aren’t exactly the friendliest phrases to use to encourage others.

    So there will be a group of people who become genuine heroes in this situation – who are able to understand what’s on the other side of the barrier, and are able to carry people across with them, and translate the language so that a classroom teacher can easily grasp what’s possible.

    Power Platform Briefings – next week

    Next week, we are running free Power Platform Briefing events in Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, which are specifically designed to help you to understand how your existing IT systems can help you to turn data into information. They are designed for IT people (IT managers, database administrators and an afternoon for developers) to help you to understand how you can visualise your information more easily – creating data visualisations, maps, SharePoint lists, dynamic Excel reports etc.

    The morning until lunch (9am-1pm) is the ideal session to attend:

    • The first session, will focus on connecting SQL databases and SharePoint together, to produce better reports that make sense to your users.
    • The second session, until lunch, will look at how you can turn structured and unstructured information into valuable information – and how you can start to build a self-service culture for your users (so that you can tap your staff’s naturally enquiring minds)

    The dates and venues are:

    • 27th June – Brisbane – at the new Microsoft offices in George Street
    • 28th June – Melbourne – at the Microsoft offices in Freshwater Place
    • 29th June – Canberra – at the Microsoft offices in Sydney Avenue
    • 30th June – Sydney – at The Menzies Hotel in Carrington Street (our North Ryde conference rooms are currently being spruced up, and are closed until August)

    If you’re coming to Sydney, let me know and we can catch up over coffee to talk about how all this can be applied in education

    Learn MoreFind out more, and register for the free Power Platform Briefings

  • Education

    It’s not just education - Coca-Cola moves to the cloud with Microsoft


    Recently, I’ve highlighted quite a few case studies of education customers moving to the Microsoft Cloud. And generally, I hit ‘delete’ when I get sent case studies of commercial customers (after all, they aren’t like typical education customers, are they?). But I liked the first three paragraphs of this case study article on, which drew me in:


    Some CIOs understandably treat the consumerisation of IT as a plague — a disease that must be stamped out, lest it subvert the standard operating environment they fought so hard to implement.

    For Coca-Cola Amatil’s CIO, however, the consumer world is the inspiration for his next steps in the enterprise.

    “Historically, we take the collaborative tools that typically start outside of the enterprise and we figure out how to bring them into the enterprise,” Barry Simpson says. “But by the time we’ve done that, we’ve taken out most of the usable features — all the things that made it great in the home market. Then we try and figure out how to connect back out again. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”


    With 15,000 employees to serve in Australia, Barry had the challenges of managing large capital spikes of investment and of continuing to meet  users’ rising expectations. Oh, and keeping the 69 mail servers running. In many ways, it’s not that different to an education customer. Except that he didn’t have access to the free Live@edu service, so had to choose the commercial equivalent (BPOS) – and make the investment decision of whether to invest in a cloud subscription or an on-premise service.

    Learn MoreRead the full Coca-Cola case study on

  • Education

    Another Social Media Bootcamp in July - B2B Sales & Marketing


    If you missed the chance to attend this first time around, then book early for the repeat visit, at the end of July. Especially as there’s an early-bird rate available until the end of this month.

    imageIf you're a Microsoft Partner, you are eligible to attend the course run by our Partner Development Centre for Asia Pacific. The one-day training events are being run at the end of July and early August in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The focus is on the role of social media in today's sales and marketing environment.

    Here's the details:

    Social Media Bootcamp for Microsoft Partners

    In the Web 2.0 era, 'Customer 2.0' is informed, socially engaged and totally in control of the conversation - Social Media is fundamentally challenging the way that we market and sell.

    In this 1 day  'bootcamp' your team - of up to 3 individuals from your organisation - will focus on creating a framework for a Social Media strategy to suit your unique business needs. In doing so, you will map Social Media workflows to buyer behaviour and preferences.

    To help ensure the successful implementation of the resulting action plan, each team will receive individual follow up from the instructor after the session.

    In this 1 day action orientated 'bootcamp' each team - of up to 3 individuals from one organisation – will:

    • Focus on creating a framework for a Social Media strategy to suit their unique business needs
    • Map Social Media workflows to their buyer behaviour and preferences
    • Receive follow up from the instructor to support strategy implementation

    Cost: $950 per team of up to 3 people

    Sydney – Wednesday, 20 July

    Melbourne – Tuesday, 26 July

    Brisbane – Wednesday, 3 August

    Having attended these kind of events before (but not this specific one) I'd encourage you use it as an opportunity to get a team across your sales and marketing organisation to attend and think about how they work together to help you react to the changes and opportunities that social media gives you as a business.

  • Education

    Tips for reducing help desk calls when upgrading to Office 2010


    CIO magazine published a useful article last week, “Supporting Office 2010: Tips for preventing help desk calls”, which contains four specific tips to make the roll out of Office 2010 easier for users (and therefore for you). The timing coincided with the first anniversary of Office 2010, and the news that it is being rolled out five times faster than Office 2007.

    There four key tips from the article are:

    1. Make training mandatory
    2. Help people with the Ribbon (eg using the Interactive Guide)
      They don’t mention Ribbon Hero, which is great for students
    3. Give people Quick Reference Guides
    4. Customise office (eg add ‘Print’ to the Quick Access Toolbar)

    For me, the last one is perhaps the most important – because if you do something simple like that, you can bring the commands your users use most frequently to the top of the screen. Let me show you how I did it on my Word menu:

    Making Print easier to find in Word 2010


    The menu looks like this to start with – with the Quick Access Toolbar at the top (which stays there all the time) – with just Save, Undo and Redo on it.


    Clicking on the drop-down arrow along side it brings up another menu


    And from that menu, just click the ones you want on the menu


    Hey Presto, you now have Print on the Toolbar – and showing all of the time.
    So, if you add that tweak into your standard Office distribution for teachers and students, you instantly make you life easier!
    And, if you add Print Preview instead of Quick Print, you’ll probably also save a lot of paper and money!

    Learn MoreLearn more about the Office 2010 menus and toolbar

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