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

February, 2012

  • Education

    The Office Add-in for Moodle - free software for teachers in February

    • 5 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Free Microsoft Office Add-in for Moodle

    Office Add-In for Moodle banner

    If you use Moodle, you may be familiar with grumbles from staff about the number of steps involved in creating documents and getting them onto your Moodle site. Teachers often create their teaching materials, and student materials, in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. And then they have to save it somewhere, then log into Moodle, find where they want to put it onto Moodle and then upload it. So why shouldn’t it be as easy as saving the file to your desktop, or your SharePoint?

    That’s exactly what the Office Add-In for Moodle does - adds a “Save to Moodle” and “Open from Moodle'” button to all of your Office applications.

    Uploading files to Moodle has never been easier. The Office Add-in for Moodle is an add-in for Office 2003, 2007 and 2010, that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications. With the Add-In, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications. You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.

    Office Add-In for Moodle - screen shotIt doesn’t require anything to be installed on the Moodle server. Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the Add-in and access their documents. Once installed, there are two menu items ‘Open from Moodle’ and ‘Save to Moodle’ (see right) under:

    • the File menu in Office 2003
    • the Office Button in Office 2007
    • the File tab in Office 2010

    In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the Add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in. Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in. Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

    We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodle come from teachers.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Step-by-step instructions to help setup the system, as well as how users will use it, are on the Moodle.org website.

    Where do I get Office Add-In for Moodle from?

    Either go to the Office Add-In for Moodle page on Education Labs, or download directly from this link

  • Education

    Photo Story 3 - free software for teachers in February

    • 2 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Microsoft Photo Story 3

    Photo Story 3If you remember Photo Story from the Windows XP days, well you’ll be glad to know it's back and working with Windows 7 (as well as Windows XP). If you don’t know, then you’re in a for a surprise when you give this a try!
    imageYou can quickly create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add animations and special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalise them with titles and captions. The whole thing is then wrapped up into a ‘photo story’ - a video with a small file size that makes it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your interactive whiteboard, TV, your computer, or your smartphone!

    For an example of the results, watch the video "Remember the Ladies” from the Department of Classics at Furman University.

    It’s difficult to describe how easy it is to use, without stepping it through with you step-by-step, but it is so simple to use that the easiest way to see it is to try it!

    It’s a great way for students to create a piece of work, and makes a fantastic break from the usual PowerPoint presentations that they produce - and introduces a whole new set of skills for students to think about.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    You may not need much help, as the software is easy to use. However, Pat Pecoy at the Department of Classics at Furman University has created a series of Photo Story 3 tutorials here.

    Where do I get Picture Story 3 from?

    Like every other piece of software in the ‘February Freebies’ list, it’s free. You can download it directly from this Microsoft Downloads link for Photo Story 3. (BTW although it says it’s only for Windows XP, this link contains the updated version that works on Windows 7 too)

  • Education

    I’m Out of Office - and so is my email inbox

    • 2 Comments

    This week, I’m actually in the States at our Global Education Partner Conference in Seattle (right up on the left hand side of the US map). As usual, I tried to be a little creative with my Out Of Office Reply:

     

    Oops! Looks like I’m not here, keep reading…

    I'm over in the States from 6th February until Tuesday 14th February at the Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit. During this time, I'll be able to check my emails during the night Sydney-time, but will be attending business meetings all of the working day, so will be slow and limited in how I can respond (and let's face it, after flying back overnight, I'll probably be slow and limited on the 14th too!)

    I will be fully online again on Wednesday 15th February.

    If there is anything absolutely desperate that you'd need to escalate, the Education team and the Enterprise Partner Team are still around.

    Regards,

    Ray

     

    But I discovered that I have some much more creative colleagues (but not in the sarcastic way of some of the Best Out of Office replies from Dave Duarte). Jason Trump is a colleague from our APAC team, and his out of office reply is awesome:

     

    Where am I?

    This one is an easy one!  The Starbucks empire of more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries started here from a modest store located directly across the road from Pike Place Market.

    The world’s largest online bookstore Amazon.com is also headquartered in this city.  Boeing assembles several of their commercial aircraft in several plants around the city including the Dreamliner 787 which is assembled at the Everett Factory.

    You probably guessed that I’m in Seattle, Washington State, USA.

    This business trip is for partner events related to the Global Education Partner Summit (GEPS).  Held annually at the Executive Briefing Centre building at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, GEPS is a 4 day event especially for our top education partners. I’m also attending a pre-meeting and additional side-meetings during the course of the week.

    I will have regular email access throughout the day so there shouldn’t be a significant delay in responding to urgent messages, except for the time difference.

    Please try to refrain from calling my mobile as the timezone will likely mean you’ll be calling me at an hour when I should be sleeping (but probably won’t be thanks to jetlag!). If it’s urgent though, go ahead +xxxxx.

    Kind regards,

    Jason

     

    When I got it, it made me smile, and I learnt something from the links. How often do you get an Out Of Office reply that makes you smile?

    When was the last time your Out of Office will have made somebody smile?

    What would be the education equivalent of an Out of Office that would make the receiver smile and educate them? (This is what Comment boxes were created for on blog sites Smile)

  • Education

    Songsmith - free software for teachers in February

    • 2 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Songsmith

    Songsmith

    Is it possible to teach your class how to sing? Yes. Is it possible to get them to sing well? Maybe. Songsmith is a good start.

    Songsmith is a great way to encourage students to be creative: many music teachers know that sometimes just helping their students “find their spark” is the hardest part of stimulating musical creativity.

    Furthermore, Songsmith can help you teach musical concepts that are sometimes difficult, particularly how chords are used in pop music and how melodies and chords fit together. Using tools like Songsmith to explore these concepts can help connect what students are learning in music class to the music they listen to at home.

    Outside of music classes, Songsmith is a great way to encourage creative approaches to learning. I’ve heard of teachers who got students to write songs about science concepts, and other examples of using it outside of the music curriculum.

    Want an idea of what it can do? Well, there’s 1,450 Songsmith videos on YouTube - including the Songsmith advert, that’s had over 1.5m views, and a case study of the use of Songsmith at the Philadelphia High School of the Future. And for a classroom idea for Songsmith in the history curriculum, take a look at the FDR speech about the Bombing of Pearl Harbour - in Songsmith!

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    The Songsmith site has a complete ‘Help & How-to’ section, which includes online help, a community forum and tutorial videos, along with some good ‘Tips and Tricks’ advice. There’s also a good short article by Stuart Ball on the UK Teachers blog, and he has also uploaded a ‘How to create a song in Songsmith’ tutorial onto YouTube.

    Where do I get Songsmith from?

    You can download the trial version of Songsmith from the Microsoft Research website, but the extra link you’ll want to know about is the ‘Songsmith For Teachers’ page, which lets you download Songsmith free for education use (by you and your students).

  • Education

    Windows Live Messenger - free software for teachers in February

    • 2 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Windows Live Messenger

    image

    Okay, so this definitely is not a new thing - let’s face it, students have been using it for ages at home - and so have many teachers. And it could be easy to take a ‘been there, seen it, done it’ attitude. But hold on, just before you go writing this idea off, consider some uses for it in teaching and learning:

    • Provide homework support outside of school hours
      One school I know of actually ran a ‘homework support’ rota for staff, when they had assigned times online in the evening, in return for time off during the day - giving staff a more flexible working day
    • Language learning
      Have students chat to each other, or with twinned schools, in other languages. Often, this will give the student more time to consider their language, and they’ll find it more engaging that translating phrases with pen and paper. And you can also move on from instant messenger (IM) conversations to video calls.
    • Peer-to-peer professional development and coaching with other teachers
      Because you can have an IM conversation at any time, and often while you’re doing other things too, it makes a good way to have an informal chat with a coach, mentor or trainer
    • Bring an outside expert into the classroom
      If you can’t always persuade people to come and spend time in your classroom - like an author/lawyer/doctor/astronaut/scientist - it may be much easier to persuade them to agree to a half-hour where they’ll answer questions on Messenger
    • Create conversations with historical characters
      Okay, so you can’t bring Ned Kelly into the classroom. But you could create a Live Messenger account for ‘Ned Kelly’, and get somebody outside the classroom to answer questions for him. How about setting up a swap with another teacher, and each agreeing to be a historical figure for each other’s classes?
      And on the same idea, how about giving a junior class a chance to have an Live Messenger conversation with ‘Father Christmas’? (I used to do this with video conferencing systems about 10 years ago, and it was always a fantastic hit)

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    The Learning.live.com websiteOn the learning.live.com you’ll find a Teachers Guide for Using Messenger for Learning, which was created a few years ago, but still contains good specific advice about saving conversations, and setting up separate IM accounts for teachers. There’s also some videos showing how one school used Windows Live Messenger to support learning outside of school hours.

    Where do I get Windows Live Messenger from?

    Windows Live Messenger is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite, which you can download from the live.com website here

  • Education

    Windows Live Writer- free software for teachers in February

    • 1 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Windows Live Writer

    Windows Live Writer splash screen

    At long last, we’ve reached the programme I *love* to use. Windows Live Writer. It’s the most brilliant programme for helping students (and teachers) to blog

    Live Writer is a programme that allows you to write blog posts offline, and then upload them onto your blog (and it works with all kinds of different blog platforms, like WordPress, Blogger, Community Server, SharePoint, Live Spaces, Joomla and lots of others).

    I’ve noticed that over time, I’m using Word less and less, and Windows Live Writer more and more. I guess it reflects two things:

    • Most of the things I write are designed to be published on the web – often on this blog
    • I love software that makes it really easy to publish on the web

    And that’s where Windows Live Writer comes in. If you, or your students, write for a blog, then read on…

    What is Windows Live Writer?

    Basically, I think of it as a word processor for blogs. It lets me write an article or blog post, easily add images, links and videos, and then publish it onto my blog. And because it’s an application on my laptop, I can write my blog posts offline, and then when it’s finished I hit publish. When I used to write blog posts directly in the blog website, I’d often accidentally hit the wrong button in my Internet browser, and lose all my work.

    imageAnother problem it solves is that of consistent formatting of information on your blog. Often, when editing posts online, I’d paste in a bit of text from somewhere else, I’d find it was published with bizarre fonts and formatting. Live Writer solves that and strips away the kind of formatting you don’t want (like funny fonts) but leaves in the things you do (like bold and italics, and especially hyperlinks).

    And it makes it easy to put fancy pictures into your blog posts, because it automatically formats and uploads them – all with one click of the “Publish” button

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Without a doubt, the most comprehensive guide, which includes the use of Live Writer in education was produced by Kevin O’Shea at Purdue University, and a close second is the Live Writer guide on the UK Teachers blog.

    Ben Rowe, from Saltash.net Community School in Cornwall has also recorded a Windows Live Writer video tutorial starting from the download and showing how to use it.

    Where do I get Live Writer from?

    You can download Windows Live Writer free as part of Windows Live Essentials suite.

  • Education

    Integration for Moodle 2.0 and Live@edu - free software for teachers in February

    • 1 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Moodle 2.0 integration to Live@edu

    Moodle logo

    Moodlerooms has developed an integration connecting Microsoft’s Live@edu services and Moodle. With this integration, Moodlerooms makes the rich functionality of Live@edu directly accessible within the Moodle 2.x and 1.9 environments via single sign-on.

    Microsoft Live@edu makes hosted email, communications and collaboration services freely available to educational institutions. Now benefitting over 22 million people worldwide, Live@edu provides access to Microsoft Outlook Live (email), a series of Microsoft Office web applications (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), and Windows Live SkyDrive (online storage).

    The Microsoft Live Services Block provides an integration with Windows Live Services allowing users to log into courses using their Windows Live ID and display Live Services on a Moodle site. Users can see and create emails and calendar events with Live@edu, Outlook Live or Windows Live Hotmail, and (if you want) access Windows Live Messenger chat, Bing search and more within a course.

    Where do I get the Moodle plugin from?

    The module is released under a GPL open source licence, and you can download the free plug in here. This Moodlerooms release not only includes a new plug-in for Moodle 2.0, but also updates the Moodle 1.9 plug-in released two years ago.

  • Education

    Mouse Mischief - free software for teachers in February

    • 1 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Mouse Mischief

    Mouse Mischief Banner

    A simple idea: Let your students interact with your PowerPoint presentation, and use that to be able to draw them deeper into their learning, and for testing their understanding of it.

    Mouse Mischief integrates into Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, letting you insert questions, polls, and drawing activity slides into your lessons. Students can actively participate in these lessons by using their own mice to click, circle, cross out, or draw answers on the screen.

    Three reasons to use Mouse Mischief in your classroom

    • Actively engaging students and supporting collaborative learning
      With Mouse Mischief you can spark student curiosity by incorporating interactive technology into the curriculum. Students have fun learning while seeing visual representations of their answers on a shared screen while using colourful mouse pointers (like a robot, snowflake, guitar, and many more shapes). You can enable collaborative learning when using Mouse Mischief in Team mode; in Team mode, all members of a team need to work together to agree on an answer before it can be selected.

      • Improving classroom management and overall student participation
        With Mouse Mischief you no longer need to wait for raised hands; you can immediately see your students' answers on the screen. Mouse Mischief helps make it easy for all students even those who are often quiet in class to participate regularly without the fear of saying the wrong answer. This can allow you to have better visibility into the progress and comprehension of your entire class so you can adjust your lessons on the spot.


          • It’s familiar to use and easy on the classroom budget
            Because Mouse Mischief integrates into familiar PowerPoint technology, you do not have to spend time learning new skills to use it. Additionally, you can set up your classrooms to play Mouse Mischief lessons without purchasing expensive hardware; many schools already have mice, and both mice and USB hubs are available at many stores where computer accessories are sold.

          Where can I find out how to use it?

          From the Mouse Mischief website, there are a ton of helpful links to use. There’s a video guide to setting up and using Mouse Mischief, along with videos for using the student participation features, and for creating multiple choice and Yes/No question slides. If you prefer to read documents, then there’s the Quick Start Guide.

          Once you’ve got the basics, it’s worth looking at all of the Mouse Mischief lesson templates, to see if there’s something there that will get you started.

          There are also Mouse Mischief articles on the Microsoft Knowledge Base

          Where do I get Mouse Mischief from?

          It’s best to download from the link on the Mouse Mischief website, but if you want one less click, then download it directly here.

        • Education

          The NSW Science ESSA test - the background monitoring service

          • 1 Comments

          Yesterday I wrote “Why put assessment in the Cloud?” about the project last year for students in New South Wales in Australia to complete the statutory Science examinations online - replacing a paper-based system that had been used for years. As well as the time-saving and paper-saving, one of the other significant benefits was the ability to track activity on the test in real-time - how many schools were logged on, how many students etc.

          At the time it was pretty exciting - Janison, who’d created the ESSA testing programme with NSW DEC, had created a Windows Phone application, so that anybody could watch the data in real time wherever they were. I was down in Melbourne on the first test day, and it was great to be able to show people live information - “Look, there are now 15,000 students logged in!

          The only downside to the live metrics was that they were just that - live - so by the end of the week the charts were gone.

          But Janison have been even cleverer (is that a word?) by creating a website where you can see a snapshot of the day on 22nd November 2011. You can browse it just like we were able to in real-time during the test, and see exactly the same metrics.

          Link to the ESSA live testing metrics review website

          There are all kinds of interesting stats. I’ve kept some of the screenshots I took on the 22nd, to give you an idea of the live service. And the stats come from all of the service users, across public and private schools:

          The number of active students logged-in to the ESSA test

          image

          The number of students who had completed, or were still in progress

          image

          Technical information - in this case, the main Internet browsers used

          One of the surprises for me was that the minimum screen resolution was 1024x768, with 80% having a horizontal resolution of 1280+ pixels (not shown below, but you can see it on the site linked above)

          image

          Logon activity

          image

          Active students

          image

          Total number of cloud instances

          image

          This is a bit geeky - in essence, it shows how many virtual servers Janison deployed to run the testing. And it makes the point - This is why you use the Cloud - because you can just activate 200 servers in the Windows Azure cloud at 5 o’clock in the morning before the test, and then switch them back off afterwards. And only pay for what you use. That’s the beauty of using the Cloud for assessment - you only pay for what you use, and don’t need to build a dedicated server farm full of hardware to run a test.

          Learn More

          To find out more about this, read yesterday’s post  “Why put assessment in the Cloud?
        • Education

          Kodu- free software for teachers in February

          • 1 Comments

          Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

          Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

          Kodu

          Kodu Game Labs

          Kodu lets students create games on the PC and XBox via a simple visual programming language. It can be used to teach creativity, problem solving, storytelling, as well as programming. Any student can use Kodu to make a game, from approximately Year 3 upwards , and they can start with no design or programming skills.  The programming environment for Kodu runs on both PC and Xbox, and you can programme with either a standard PC mouse and keyboard, or an Xbox controller (which can be connected to the PC).

          It’s a great way to get students hooked on the processes of coding, without making it too daunting in the beginning!

          Create a programmatic game quickly and easily

          Kodu is a rich tool for narrative creation and storytelling, which demonstrates that programming is a creative medium. It helps children with critical thinking, breaking a complex goal into manageable steps, and iterate on the design process – an approach applicable to all academic subjects, business and personal relationships. By introducing the logic and problem solving of programming, Kodu introduces conditions and sequences, which teaches cause and effect. Whilst using it, students learn about cooperation, logic and creativity in addition to programming

          The impact of Kodu in the Australian classroom

          In 2010 DEECD in Victoria produced a report on the use of Kodu in a pilot program in their schools, which looked at classroom relevance, teaching practices and the impact on student learning. In it, teachers frequently reported that it was especially powerful in engaging disengaged, low achieving students. Here’s a paragraph from page 8 of the report:

            In a relatively small country based school, for example, a Year 3 student, who was totally disengaged and ‘could not stay on task for more than 5 minutes’ became a key member of the ‘expert team’ selected from across Year 3 to 6. The role of this team was to support teachers and students in the classroom as they worked on Kodu. The team spent additional time learning how to use Kodu and dealing with any associated technical issues where needed. During these times this student was sharing ideas and problem solving and, when faced with difficult problems, he showed remarkably high levels of persistence until he found the solution. He was also developing video tutorials, by directly recording his explanation for solving a problem, and worked effectively in the classrooms when needed, teaching and assisting both students and teachers across all year levels. In another school, a student who found it very difficult to pay attention in class and was regarded as ‘a behaviour problem’ was give the controller for Kodu, without any instructions, and within 10 minutes had created a game. The teacher was amazed at this most incredible turnaround, highlighting the need to relook at the learning experiences she needed to use with him in the future.  

          I’d recommend reading the DEECD report to see the impact they reported in the classroom: “The impact of web 2.0 technologies in the classroom - KnowledgeBank: Next Generation research report - Kodu excerpt

          Where can I find out how to use it?

          The Kodu classroom kit for teachers is a set of lesson plans and activities for teachers, after-school instructors, parents, peer mentors and administrators. The entire kit is available as a single zip file for download here or as single lesson plans available below:

          I’d also commend Kodudes, just one of many teacher blogs about Kodu that you’ll find on the web.

          Where do I get Kodu from?

          Get the download from Kodu Game Lab, as well as being able to join the teacher discussion forum and download other people’s Kodu game worlds that have been shared.

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