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January, 2012 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

January, 2012

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - send your lesson notes home electronically

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    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    Send homework assignments electronically

    You know that your students now have enough electronic devices in their pockets to sink a Sydney Harbour ferry - so how about using that as an excuse to cut the cord on paper-based homework assignments? If you’re a teacher using OneNote, then it’s one very small step to share your OneNote documents (eg homework assignments, tests, lesson plans or revision materials) with your students on the web - and because OneNote is also on the web, on the Windows Phone, and available as apps on iPhone and iPad, it means that your students can access it whether they are at home or on the bus home from school.

    I wrote an example scenario last month of how teachers and students could use OneNote to remove the need for paper. Here’s an extract:

     

    The teacher can then share the OneNote notebook with their students, for them to use afterwards

    • If they do this in SkyDrive, they can just set the default for all of a particular notebook to be shared, and keep all their lesson materials in that notebook
    • If they don’t want students to see next week’s lesson, they can set a password on each new lesson page as they start to create it, and then remove it when they teach that lesson - meaning that it’s closed to students all the time they are creating it and until they want it to be available

    The teacher can also publish the homework assignments on the OneNote as well

    • Using the password trick above they can ensure students do see the assignments until it’s the right time
    • They can also set groups in the class differentiated assignments by creating multiple homework pages - and give each group a different password to get to their assignment page

    Students can access their assignments and lesson notes wherever they are

    • The super-keen ones can access it on their iPhones and Windows Phones on the way home on the bus/train (how cool would it be to get your homework sorted before you’ve even reached home?)
    • At home they could access it on their iPad (or more likely, on Dad’s iPad), or their home PC or school laptop with Office installed, or over the web on any computer using Office Web Apps on SkyDrive
    • If they don’t have internet access at home (eg they are one of the 6% of school students without home Internet access) they can use their school laptop with OneNote offline - they just need to sync their laptop before they leave school - eg in the lesson - and then they have all the files available at home, including any embedded videos and graphics
     

    How easy is it to share a OneNote notebook with students?

    OneNote sharing screenshot

    Just pop into the FILE menu in OneNote and click the Share option. That’ll sync your OneNote to your Skydrive (the free 25GB storage folder on the web). And then you can either set it to be shared publically, or just with your students (to do that you’ll need to list the email addresses of the students). And you can either allow them read-only, or give them the option to edit the files.

    That’s it. Now your students can either access it over the web, or use OneNote installed on their phone to read their homework assignments.

    And another trip to the printer or photocopier saved.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - change printer defaults

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    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…
    In some schools it’s the students that use too much paper. They’re doing a project, and then they want to print out a draft of their work (or even a draft of the first paragraph of their work), to see what it will look like. And if they are doing a long-term project, they print out a copy every week to see how they are going. Cutting this out (or reducing it significantly) will make a big difference.

    Change the default printer on student laptops to not be a printer

    So how about letting your students print, but instead of printing onto paper they print onto an electronic document, either as a PDF, XPS or a OneNote document - so they still see the ‘finished’ work, and they can even keep an archive of each stage of the process without stacks of paper. This is especially useful where a student is creating digital work that’s going to be assessed.

    • If your students print to a OneNote document, then it’ll automatically put it into their OneNote document set, and will store it along with all of their other work, revision notes etc. And add a new set of pages next time they print it.
    • If they print to a PDF or XPS document, they could then store this on their own eportfolio, or their SharePoint MySite, USB stick, laptop or network drive.

    In the UK, at Bristnall Hall Technology College in Sandwell, ICT and Network Manager Phillip Wakeman forecast a saving of £25,000 from posting documents on SharePoint, and he has his eye particularly on the printing demands made by ICT exam students.

      Students doing ICT coursework habitually print off the whole lot – and it could be 200 pages for each student – a few times each year. With 200 students in each year group, the amount of printing is enormous.  

    The first step for this is to change the default printer for your users.

    • Print to XPS (a format that locks the file, and allows you to see if any editing has subsequently happened) is standard within Windows 7
    • Print to OneNote is available when you have Office 2007 or 2010 installed
    • Print to PDF needs an extra driver or software application (although ‘Save as PDF is built into Office 2010)

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Bring Your Own Device in schools - one school’s experience

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    School IT budgets will come under pressure, as the DER programme reaches it’s zenith, and overall spending on education continues to be in flux. Although we’ve now reached the point of every Year 9-12 student having a laptop, there’s still plenty of schools where the teachers and students don’t have access to IT whenever they want.

    And yet students and teachers now have better and cheaper technology at home than ever before. A spot check of the average 15 year-old’s school bag is likely to reveal a heady mix of smartphones, laptops, games consoles, iPods, cameras, and more power packs and cables than your average branch of Harvey Norman.

    It’s therefore not surprising that schools are wondering whether these two trends can be combined. Is it really possible to allow students and staff to be productive in school, using technology they’ve brought in themselves? Can the school save money buying or replacing hardware, by utilising the devices which have often been banned from the network? Will staff and students actually work harder and be more engaged in their learning and teaching, if it’s all happening on a device which they enjoy using? Or is the idea of “Bring Your Own Device” nothing more than a headache for school IT staff, a massive security risk, and a fad based largely on the principal being in love with their new iPad?What devices do students carry around in their backpacks?

    Two of my UK-colleagues Mark Reynolds and Tim Bush have recently been talking about the issues/opportunities created when students have their own IT devices - and how one English school - saltash.net - accommodates them through their school network. I’ll let them pick up the story from their original blog post:

     

    saltash.net is a fantastic school down in Cornwall where head teacher Isobel Bryce has built a strong platform for her staff and students to succeed. Their most famous son is Dan Roberts, whose Recharge the Battery project won a Microsoft Innovative Teacher award in 2009. We spoke with Adam Ledger, the schools Network Manager. Adam explains their approach to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD):

    “Our network has about 300 fixed desktops and 300 netbooks. We also have about 100 teacher laptops, which are vanilla windows and 30 Macs in a suite for Media. So we’ve got about 700 school owned and managed devices, but in total have over 1,700 devices which have joined the network.”

    The 1,000+ “unmanaged” devices are a huge range of laptops, netbooks, smartphones, iPads, iPods, Kindles, Nintendos and anything else which staff or students want to bring in. To be honest, I nearly fell of my chair at this point, because although I’d been to many schools who allowed guest wireless access of some kind, I’d never come across anything on this scale. Adam explains that Saltash.net has always had this approach, ever since students started asking:

    “Trust always is the starting point. Trust the kids and they will reward you with good behaviour. We say yes to everything, as long as they come and ask us. I can only think of 3 or 4 instances of misuse of the system, and one of those was a member of staff. I know we are lucky with the kids and that it might not work in every school, but it works for us. We enable access on peoples on devices which they WANT to use, and so we have happy customers. They know we can block or remove access if we need to, but they value the trust we put on them and they’re glad to be learning in a way that suits them.”

    So from a technical point of view, how do they keep it secure and manage the process?

    “If you want to bring in your personal device, you bring it to see us (the IT team). We register their mac address, version of anti-virus, make and model, and the serial number of the device. We then use the software that comes with our wireless network to enable that mac address in a whitelist. The same software we use for whitelisting can also do the blocking by mac address (blacklisting) – which it does for any “unknown” mac address, or for any device that needs to be banned from the system. We also periodically then clean out the DHCP databases, and run a very short lease on the IP address given to a wireless device. We want people to have freedom of access, but also want to know what’s on our network.”

    And that, really, is that. They give wireless access to devices they know about and they block anything they don’t. It is then down to the teaching staff to manage the way students use those devices when they are in school. That is one for Dan Roberts to explain, which we’ll do in another blog post. Just walking round the school though, that feeling of trust and mutual respect is noticeable. I can only assume that the same respect students have for their teachers, they have for the freedom they are allowed when it comes to technology. They’re enjoying their learning, and feel able to use the technology that suits them.

     

    Microsoft is planning to make the management of BYOD networks much easier, with the launch of System Centre 2012. Not only will System Centre offer the best possible management of your existing Windows network, but it will also offer support for management of iOS and Android devices too. There is a public beta available already, which you can read about and download here.

    Learn More

    The UK team have created a Consumerisation of IT in Education whitepaper, which you can download from Slideshare
  • Education

    Education pricing for Kinect for Windows

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    I am one of the latest of the 18 million people who’ve bought a Kinect sensor for my Xbox (one of the Microsoft CES announcements - the 18m number, not the fact that I’m a user) 

    imageIt seems I’m a laggard when it comes to gaming and home entertainment technology, having only just setup my Xbox and bought a Kinect this Christmas. The two things I’ve discovered and never used before, is the voice control feature, and the ABC iView app on my Xbox, which means that we can now watch catch-up TV on our TV, rather than having to watch it on a laptop computer. So over the holiday the whole family have become re-addicted to Spooks. I feel silly not having set this up before, because I’d thought of it as a gaming box, rather than a home entertainment system.

    Anyway, just as I’m catching up with Kinect on the Xbox, the world has shifted again with the CES announcement of Kinect for Windows. From the outside, the sensor looks the same, and works in the same way, giving you control over your computer via your hand and body movements, but unlike the Xbox version, it’s now optimised for close-up use - from 50cm away rather than having to stand a couple of metres away. That means that it will allow people to use Kinect while they are sitting in front of a desktop setup.

    What we’ve announced is that this new Kinect sensor hardware and software will be available from the 1st February, and it’s been priced at AU$299. The even better news is that later this year there will also be special education pricing for Kinect for Windows, bringing the price down (I don't have an Australian price yet, but in the US it's planned to come down to $149). You can read all the details on the Kinect for Windows blog here.

    Because Kinect is able to do full body tracking, and now has it’s new ‘near’ mode, I can imagine a heap of scenarios that it will be useful for in education:

    • Replacing interactive whiteboards with a Kinect, to reduce the hardware cost and allow more to spent on teaching resources
    • Giving special needs students the ability to interact in new ways with IT, without needing to use the keyboard or a mouse
    • Creating simulations - eg science  experiments - where students are able to control virtual equipment and manipulate them

    imageWith the education pricing for Kinect around the corner, I guess the KinectEDucation community is going to get even busier in the near future, with teachers and developers collaborating on new teaching and learning ideas for Kinect.

  • Education

    Ideas for using Kinect for Windows in education

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    Kinect - it’s amazing to think what one small sensor could do for teaching and learning. Yesterday I wrote about the education pricing for Kinect for Windows that’s due later in the year, and mentioned some examples of how it might be used in schools, TAFEs and universities. And I also mentioned the KinectEDucation website, which is a community of developers and teachers who are working on projects to use Kinect in education.

    For some more ideas, take a look at the video, from the KinectEDucation team, with some more inspiring scenarios:

  • Education

    Schools Workforce in Australia - Productivity Commission Report

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    Teacher iconIn November the Australian Productivity Commission produced a draft report on the Schools Workforce in Australia. It’s a draft because they are looking for comments and feedback by the middle of February. I’ve only recently had time to read it, and I thought I’d share a quick summary, because it’s (a) interesting and (b) a draft that they want comments on.

    Why look at schools workforce issues?

    The report emphasised that overall, Australia’s schools deliver good outcomes, due in large measure to the efforts of the schools workforce. Global assessments of student performance consistently show that the foundation skills of the ‘average’ Australian student are at the upper end of the country rankings, whilst spending is around average. However, performance in international tests has been reducing, relative to other countries, since the beginning of the century.

    Looking forward, DEEWR are projecting that in the next decade we’ll see student numbers in Australia rise by nearly a million students - an increase of 26% on the 2010 numbers. That growth is especially strong in Queensland and WA, where it’s forecast to be 40%+. Put that alongside the likely reduction in the number of teachers, caused by more teachers retiring than joining the profession, and there’s a challenge coming up.

    The Productivity Commission was asked to look into the whole education and training workforce, across early childhood development, schools and VET (Vocational Education and Training) sectors, and provide advice for the short, medium and long-term - especially around building the capability and effectiveness of the workforce.

    Draft Recommendations of the Schools Workforce report

    There’s a list of a seven draft recommendations, starting on page XXXV - or page 39 if you’re reading the electronic version

    Why, in these days of PDF publishing, would you use a numbering system that starts with 39 pages numbered in the historic Roman numbering system, and then re-starts at page 1, on the 40th page of the document?).

    The recommendations include:

    • longitudinal research into teacher effectiveness amongst cohorts of recently appointed teachers
    • postponing the introduction of a performance-related national bonus scheme for teachers until their design and impact are better understood
    • share with schools more research about the school workforce, through AITSL
    • evaluating whether paying teachers incentives helps to encourage people to join, or stay in, the school workforce
    • balance the approach to giving more autonomy to schools with more support for school leaders and governance arrangements
    • evaluate the current programs and policies aimed at tackling educational disadvantage
    • review, in 5 years’ time, ACARA and AITSL to consider how they contribute to improving access and evaluation of:
      • data on student outcomes
      • data on the school workforce
      • research on workforce policy
      • performance of the workforce

    What do I make of it all?

    I was interested to read the full report because of two specific issues:

    The Australian teacher shortage

    I’d been referring to the future teacher shortage a few times recently, but had only grasped it in the sense of the current system - with the current number of students. If we’re expecting a shortage based on today’s student body, then things are going to be far worse if the shortage is actually going to be made worse by a 25% increase in the number of students! And this will become a greater issue in states like WA where they’re expecting 40% more students in the next decade.

    Either we need a lot more teachers*, or a more fundamental review of how teaching and learning take place (ooh, there’s the technology angle)

    Improving access and evaluation of data on student outcomes

    Although there are some exceptions, one of the things that I’ve noticed with the Australian education system is that it doesn’t automatically use data to help support improvements in student performance in the same way that other education systems do. I noticed it before I arrived in Australia, when looking at the MySchool website. It was good to see all of the performance data for a school in one place, but I was surprised by the limitations it imposed on people using the data, which seemed to fly in the face of what most parents would want the data for. And in spending more time with Australian educators, I’ve been surprised by the number of times that they’ve been forced to work without a simple but comprehensive view of student performance data - for their own students, or to compare their students against national performance. It seems that the key point where really good public data is available is at the point of leaving High School, when it’s too late for schools to do anything with it that will impact the performance of the students that are the subject it!

    The proposed review of how ACARA and AITSL contribute to improving access to data could be a significant step forward on this, to help schools better serve their whole student cohort, and help them tackle educational disadvantage too.

    Learn More

    You can download the full Schools Workforce draft report from the Productivity Commission website. If you want to make a submission to the consultation, then you can do that on the same page, until 17 February.

    * If you’re one of the teachers in England who reads this blog, perhaps there’s a ‘Get Yeself Down Under’ message here! And you could do a lot worse than the beautiful landscapes of Western Australia or Queensland

  • Education

    The most popular blog posts on the Office in Education blog 2011

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    Office in Education blog

    I keep an eye on the ‘Office in Education’ blog, which is run by the team that create Microsoft Office over in the States. If you’ve got a list of blogs you read through an RSS reader, it’s worth adding their RSS feed to keep in touch with their news and ideas. For an idea of the kind of content they publish, here’s a list of their 10 most popular blog posts:

    1. How to insert symbols and special characters into a Word document
      I’d never known about this until I read the blog post. You can quickly add symbols or special characters by using the Maths AutoCorrect feature in Word. So next time you need an infinity symbol, or an unusual currency sign, follow the instructions on this handy blog post.
    2. Microsoft Word formats bibliographies for you
      A time saver for students and academics - instructions on how to use Word to create bibliographies in a range of common formats
    3. Tackle your math homework with Microsoft Mathematics
      A full-featured, and free, graphic calculator for Windows
    4. Windows Phone 7 and App Hub — build apps and get paid!
      Near the top of the ‘most read list’ probably because students realise that they can make money writing phone apps
    5. Solve equations and plot graphs in Word and OneNote (video)
      Another free add-in - Microsoft Mathematics - to help students write and then chart visualise formulae
    6. The secret to converting your presentation into a video
      I use this often, so that I can then upload presentations onto YouTube or share them with others
    7. Windows Phone 7 comes with OneNote Mobile
      Possibly the best way to sync notes, lists and even lesson plans between devices
    8. Free gradebook template for Excel 2010
      Just one of the hundreds of education templates on the Office website
    9. Blinded me with science: Introducing the Chemistry Add-in for Word
      Did you know that you can use Word to create molecular images and chemical formulae with a free add-in
    10. How to create your own class blog or website for free
      A quick guide to creating class blogs, and also info on how to get the free Windows Live Writer, which is an excellent (and free) blog-writing tool that’s part of Windows Live Essentials

    Learn MoreThere are 11 different Office blogs from the main team - including one for each of the main products in the Office suite

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - using tech to meet parents where they are

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    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    For a break I thought you’d like some ideas that don’t come from me. Instead, I thought it’s worth highlighting ideas from Chris Wejr, a school Principal for Kent elementary school in Canada. He’s written on his blog about the way that his school uses technology to connect with parents. As well as being full of ideas that would help to cut down on paper use in school, it actually helps to increase the level of connection with parents. His tips include a list of ways that they connect to parents in his school:

    This is a pretty impressive list for a single elementary school to have achieved. And almost all of them can be done at no additional cost.

    You can read Chris’s blog post in full here

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Microsoft Education Case Studies from Australia

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    Education Case Studies iconOne question that I’m asked frequently about new projects is:

    Who else is doing this?

    In some cases, what people (partners/customers) are looking for is confirmation that they’re going to be at the innovative edge - and that what they are doing hasn’t been done before. And other times, they are looking for reassurance that somebody else has taken the journey before them.

    So I thought that I’d try and collate a list of public case studies and examples from within Australia, which will help answer the question. What’s interesting to note is that there are some areas where there have been lots of case studies published, and yet others where there have been few or none (despite the fact I know of examples, they just haven’t been published anywhere that I can find).

    Even though the list below isn’t exhaustive, there’s a fair number of education case studies from Australian education institutions - both Microsoft published case studies, as well as those published in the media and by our partners.

    If you pop your mouse over each of the links, you’ll see a few more details on each of the examples.

    Case Study Subject

    Schools

    TAFE & Vocational

    Higher Education

    Dynamics CRM

     

    Box Hill TAFE

    Australian Technical College

    Tennis Australia

    Curtin University

    Melbourne Business School

    Business Intelligence

    Brisbane Catholic Education

    John Paul College

    William Angliss Institute of TAFE

    UNSW

    Macquarie University

    University of Canberra

    SharePoint

    Marist College

    Catholic Education Office Paramatta

    Drummond Memorial Public School

    Abbotsleigh

    Cranbrook School

    John Septimus Roe

    Box Hill TAFE

    Australian Institute of Fitness

    Melbourne Business School

    Education websites built on SharePoint

    Abbotsleigh School

    Trinity Grammar School

    Brisbane Catholic Education

    John Paul College

    Hale School

    Gordon Institute of TAFE

    Bendigo TAFE

    Australian School of Business

    Lync for unified communications

    Tasmanian Polytechnic

    Scotch College

    Tasmanian Polytechnic

     

    Windows Azure - Cloud case studies

    NSW DEC ESSA tests

     

    Curtin University - 1

    Curtin University - 2

    Curtin University video

    Virtualisation

    St Leonards College

     

    University of Canberra

    Office 2010

    Luther College

    Prince Alfred College

    Varsity College

    Immanuel College

    Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College

    NSW DEC

    NSW DEC

     

    Live@edu

    Redlands School

    Prince Alfred College

    Brisbane Catholic Education

    Prospect High School

    South Australia TAFEs

    Western Australia TAFEs

    Curtin University

    Office 365 for education

     

     

    Curtin University

    Others…

    St Margaret’s (IAG)

    Dallas Primary School (Kodu)

    Lakelands School (Photostory)

    Proserpine State High School (Songsmith)

    Peter Moye School (Windows 7)

    Miller Technology High School (AutoCollage)

       

    If you know of other case studies, let me know and I can add them to this page for others to see and read. It doesn’t need to be formally published information like an article or case study - it could be a story told in a newsletter or other place - as long as it’s in the public domain on the web.

  • Education

    Manage the student lifecycle in Higher Education with Dynamics CRM

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    I’ve just been watching a video case study I thought was worth sharing, of Liberty University, in the US, who have been using the Dynamics CRM system to manage their student lifecycle - from recruitment, to their time on campus, and then through to alumni.

    It’s interesting to hear the university staff talk about the student lifecycle, for example - how they are able to manage students at-risk of dropping out - by tracking interactions and their academic progress, and to then intervene before there are issues that get worse. They also talk about how they are able to present the right profile of the university to students, to match their interests and goals.