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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

    Photo Story 3 - free software for teachers in February

    • 3 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

    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

    Maths Worksheet Generator - free software for teachers in February

    • 0 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.

    Maths Worksheet Generator

    Maths Worksheet Generator header

    Another bit of free software for Maths teachers  - and what better way than giving them something to save time. Maths Worksheet Generator creates anything from one to 1,000 equations on a worksheet from a single sample equation you enter. And it also generates the teacher answer sheet too.

    Do you spend a lot of time searching for worksheets with practice problems to give your students? Now you can easily create your own in just a few seconds with the Math Worksheet Generator. This is a tool that generates multiple math problems based on a sample, and then creates a worksheet that you can distribute. By analysing the math problem you provide, or one of the built-in samples, the generator determines the structure of the expression and provides similar problems.

    Create quick maths worksheets in Word

    The Math Worksheet Generator works best with Word 2007 and 2010. If you have that, then the tool creates a Word document and the expressions are editable. If you have an older version of Word, it still creates a document, but the expressions are small images that aren't editable. (This is because Word 2007 and higher has more built-in support for inserting Math equations.) If you don't have Word at all, the tool will create HTML versions of the worksheet and answer sheet.

    The tool supports everything from basic arithmetic through algebra.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Here’s a demo of the Maths Worksheet Generator in use, which shows how easy it is to use (download the video here):

    Where do I get the free Maths Worksheet Generator from?

    The free Maths Worksheet Generator download available from the ‘Try It’ link on this page

  • 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

    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.

  • Education

    AutoCollage - free software for teachers in February

    • 0 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.

    AutoCollage

    image

    Inspire your students' creativity and help them better remember information by using AutoCollage to encourage both visual and verbal learning. With AutoCollage, you can engage your students in a fun and creative way by quickly creating a collage of images. Use it to focus on selected subjects, showcase school events, and much more. With just a few clicks your students can automatically create photo collages using nothing more than images from their phone, camera or online photos.

    Create a collage quickly and easily

    AutoCollage uses face and object recognition to swiftly create a collage of several images. You choose the collage that delights you and best displays the relevant content. With three easy clicks, you open, select, and save your image files, then AutoCollage does the rest by presenting your images in a perfect collage.

    Use AutoCollage to inject fun and creativity into any learning situation:

    • Increase class participation on a visually stimulating topic
    • Design teaching content to focus attention
    • Create compelling visual stories on complex subjects
    • Review learnings and prepare for reviews in a creative, new way
    • Create class memories of special activities or field trips

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Stuart Ball, our Partners in Learning Programme Manager in the UK, has written two articles that give step-by-step instructions to using AutoCollage, and explains how it’s a great time saver when you’re faced with a class who’ve taken hundreds of photos and want to spend all afternoon sorting them. You can find Stuart’s articles here: Workshop 1 and Workshop 2

    Where do I get AutoCollage from?

    It’s free to teachers and students - you can get it from the Partners in Learning website

  • Education

    pptPlex - free software for teachers in February

    • 0 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.

    pptPlex

    pptPlex logo

    pptPlex is an Office Labs experiment that uses Plex technology to give you the power to zoom in and out of slide sections and move directly between slides that are not sequential in your presentation. It’s good for teaching, as it allows you to move around your prepared presentation without having to go from slide 1 to slide 2 to slide 3 etc. So you can arrange your content into sections, and move between sections.

    The other thing that is important is that you can share your PowerPoint with people that aren’t using pptPlex - and they just see a normal PowerPoint presentation. This means it’s ideal for teachers who want to share it with students, but allow themselves more flexibility in classroom presentation. It’s ideal where your lesson doesn’t fit a straight sequential flow, as it’s a very different way to present/teach.

    Although Microsoft aren’t actively developing or supporting it any further, based on popular demand we’re keeping the download available for anyone who might have missed it. pptPlex is a research prototype developed as an exploration of an alternative method of presenting Microsoft Office PowerPoint slides. This plug-in allows you to arrange slides on a canvas then zoom between the slides during the presentation. You can move around the canvas and show groups of slides, individual slides, or even zoom in to show a particular section of a slide. You can use pptPlex can help you organize and present information in a non-linear fashion.

    Personally, I’ve found that although it is tricky to understand the concept to start with (because we’ve been conditioned to the idea that presentations start with slide 1 and finish at the end), it can be incredibly rewarding to use, especially if you tend to tell stories rather than deliver slides, and also if you have highly graphical content.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s an excellent video on YouTube from Alessio Bernardelli, who teaches in Cwmbran in South Wales, (see below) that shows you how to use it, from start to finish, in 4 minutes:

    Alessio has also written a blog post describing how he uses it in history teaching, on the Teachers blog.

    There are plenty of other demonstration/tutorial videos for pptPlex on YouTube - one of my favourites is this one, which shows you that you can embed live documents - Word, PDF and Excel spreadsheets - into your presentation.

    Where do I get pptPlex from?

    You can download the free pptPlex add-in from the Microsoft official Downloads website. It works with PowerPoint 2010 and 2007.

  • Education

    Microsoft Mathematics - free software for teachers in February

    • 0 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 Mathematics 4.0

    Example chart created by Microsoft Math 4.0

    Universally, mathematics is a major source of frustration for students. Teachers often find it challenging to keep all their students at the same pace when learning new maths concepts. Microsoft Mathematics can help students visualise problems and provide extra help when they are reviewing maths concepts on their own.

    From basic maths to precalculus, it can help you visualise mathematical concepts in a new way. It’s a free downloadable tool which includes step-by-step instructions and explains fundamental concepts. The wide range of tools to help students with complex mathematics includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a hand-held calculator and ink handwriting support to recognise hand-written problems.

    Includes a sophisticated graphing calculator

    Microsoft Mathematics Graphic CalculatorThe average cost of a graphing calculator is $90+. This one is free and works on your PC.

    Personal whinge from me on this - my daughters’ school gives every student their own laptop - and then insists that every parent spends an extra $250 on a graphing calculator. Grrr.

    Microsoft Mathematics has a powerful graphing calculator built in. That saves each student the cost of buying a graphing calculator and assures that they all have access to the same necessary tools.

    Microsoft Mathematics uses a Computer Algebra System (CAS) to help teachers share and solve more complex equations and functions. It’s capable of handling subjects including pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics and chemistry.

    Helps students by stepping through problems

    With its step-by-step approach to problem solving, Microsoft Mathematics shows the journey to the maths solution, not just the end point. For teachers, it’s like having a maths tutor available to their students when they get stuck on a problem. The step-by-step feature can help students improve their understanding of formulas and concepts as they do their homework.

    It’s useful for subjects such as pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics and chemistry.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s a full Microsoft Mathematics Teachers Guide, as well as a Step-by-step Guide that talks you through the whole software.

    Where do I get Microsoft Mathematics from?

    Like all the other software I’ve mentioned in this Free February list, it’s free, and you can download Microsoft Mathematics from here.

    Just realised I've done three days in a trot of software for maths teachers. That's enough! Tomorrow we'll go for something useful for everybody...

  • 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

    Interactive Classroom - free software for teachers in February

    • 0 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.

    Interactive Classroom

    Interactive Classroom

    This add-in connects a teacher’s PowerPoint presentation to students’ OneNote notebooks. During a presentation, teachers can:

    • Poll students with multiple choice, true/false, or yes/no questions.
    • Distribute the lesson to students with OneNote
    • Include real-time ink and text annotations.

    Students can answer and respond through their individual OneNote notebooks, hand-held clickers, or computers, and the results display in the presentation. Students also get consolidated notes that match those of the teacher so they can keep track of what they need to learn.

    You can see Interactive Classroom in action in the video below: