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

May, 2012

  • Education

    Can your SharePoint become your Learning Management System?


    Over the last six months I’ve written about Learning Management Systems (LMS) quite a few times. I’ve asked questions like “Do you really need a Learning Management System?” and “Are SharePoint Composites the future of the Learning Management System?”, and shared some research, like “One third of colleges considering changing their Learning Management System” and “Emerging trends in Learning Management Systems”. And I’ve even provided overviews of some LMS options, like Desire2Learn and Hosting Moodle in the Cloud.

    If you’ve been following some of those stories, then you might also be interested in a presentation from the International SharePoint Conference 2012, presented by Dave Coleman, a SharePoint guru, and Alex Bradbeer of the Arts University College Bournemouth. It’s a well told story of migrating an institution from Blackboard to SharePoint, and some of the decisions that they took along the way to deliver the key functionality to their staff and students. I’m sure it would have been better to be there in person, but the slides are pretty self explanatory:

    Learn MoreLearn more about SharePoint in learning on Dave's SharePointEduTech blog

  • Education

    My top education apps on Windows Phone


    Nokia Lumia 800The Nokia Lumia phone launch has given Windows Phone a much higher profile in Australia. In the state capitals, it’s been impossible to move around the city centre without seeing Lumia adverts jumping out at you. And around the Microsoft office, it seems impossible to avoid the fact that most of us have chosen the blue version of the Lumia.

    You’ll start to see more of them in the hands of your students – especially because of the integration of the main social media sites directly into the phone, without them needing extra apps. Of course, with Microsoft Office also built in, it means students can use their phone to send and receive homework assignments, carry out research using the web, and stay in touch with school classmates and friends. And the SkyDrive storage in the Cloud is accessible from Windows Phone, with an app to view and edit files, and if they are using OneNote they can sync their notebooks across almost all of their devices.

    Here’s my top 4 free Education apps for Windows Phone. The interesting thing to note is that the first two – Wordament and Numerix – are both games where players are playing against the whole of the rest of the world. And in both games the challenge is exactly the same as you might set in a classroom activity, but with added gamification of learning!


    imageSince I discovered Wordament, I have been completely addicted. Wordament is a word tournament where players are competing with the whole internet to be the best word searcher in every game. Every player is competing on the same board, in real-time, to get the highest score. Every board has over 100 possible words and there are also themed games, like Digrams, where it introduces a simple, fun secondary goal of using a two-letter tile in as many words as possible.

    Find out more about Wordament for Windows Phone


    imageNumerix is a fast paced and (from personal experience) highly addictive number game that will challenge students. The goal is simple, select as many numbers in sequence as you can. And that’s where the simplicity ends. As the numbers get bigger and bigger you will need to start using combinations of numbers to reach your goal.

    It is a great way to get the analytical side of brain warmed up and ready to go. I find that a couple of rounds of Numerix first thing in the morning wakes me up, and gives me some idea of how my brains working.

    Find out more about Numerix for Windows Phone


    This apps helps students to create and organise their timetable on their phone and make notes against lessons (eg homework assignments). Unlike a normal calendar, it allows for multiple week timetables with either 2 or 4 week rotations, and between 4 and 10 lessons per day.

    A timetable from the Schedule app

    Find out more about Schedule for Windows Phone

    Spelling Practice

    Spell 2 for Windows Phone

    Spelling Practice 2 can help students improve their spelling of popular 1,000 English words. It does that by announcing the word and showing just the letters that make it. As you touch the letters and spell the word correctly, the word begins to form at the top. When you complete the whole word, the word is spoken again.

    The app comes with 1,000 common words organised in increasing order of difficulty by word length, and supported by studio-recorded, broadcast quality voice. The app provides just the right feedback and encouragement to you as you spell. It gives a musical note when your touch the right letter and it gives a funny car horn sound when a wrong letter is touched. When you complete 50 words, you get a 'star' and a cheering sound. As you do more words correctly, the 'stars' add up and show prominently on the starting page.

    Find out more about Spelling Practice 2 for Windows Phone

    Learn More There are lots more Windows Phone apps in the Windows Phone marketplace for Australia.


    Two handy shortcuts for you:

    Free educational games for Windows Phone

    Free educational apps for Windows Phone

  • Education

    If I can track my pizza order on my phone, how about my children’s learning?


    Pizza Hut Windows Phone appI can track my pizza order in real time…

    Pizza Hut have announced the availability of a new app in Australia to allow you to order your custom-made pizza from your Windows Phone, and in some countries, I can do the same for a Domino’s Pizza. Currently a quarter of all Pizza Hut’s online sales come from smartphones.

    So I can sit at home, design my own pizza, specify the delivery time, and then wait for the goodies to turn up. Or with Domino’s, you can track the pizza live as it goes through production (see how it works here)

    Screen shot of Pizza TrackerAnd one enterprising app developer developed a Domino’s Pizza Tracker web app, which ran on a range of smartphones. This allowed you to track the full progress of your pizza order – so you could see progress as it was being assembled, baked, and sent out for delivery. This app used Domino’s XML system, which gave the opportunity for developers to access the production data and build clever apps on it (sadly, Domino’s then decided to block the app from accessing the data, so the excitement of watching your pizza order go through production was removed)

    …so why can’t I track my children’s learning progress

    I know that for some people their pizza is a high priority in their life (@bennuk, I’m thinking of you), but surely if we’ve got that level of fine detail about the production of our dinner, then we should really have the same kind of information on our children’s learning progress. Where’s the app that tells us how students are performing in school? How can we help parents to connect to their children’s learning? After all, if parental engagement is critical to a child’s success in learning, then engaging them in new ways could be key. At the moment, as a parent I get a report school only twice a year. But could we be doing better?

    The things we’d have to change could be pretty small – like making sure that teachers record marks in a consistent way across the school, and record them into a system. And find a way for parents to be able to see the information for just their children (which is solved in many schools already through parental logins to the website, or student logins to their learning management system).

    Professor John Hattie, in Visible Learning, says that his children had to put up with the same question after school every day “What feedback did you receive about your learning today?”. If it’s that critical a question to ask, then perhaps we should be using technology to make it easier to answer. And pizza companies give us a simple, powerful example of what’s possible.

    Sometimes we get bogged down in fancy language and technical concepts – learning analytics; education business intelligence; parental engagement. But perhaps we can simplify it by comparing and contrasting with good practice outside of education, to unlock a different approach.

    What do you think? Comment below

  • Education

    Using Skype in the classroom


    image28,731 teachers, from 190 countries, are already part of the Skype in the Classroom project. It’s a way to connect Skype’s free video services to your curriculum and teaching – and connecting with teachers and learners right around the world. And the team at Skype have just announced a new wave of partnerships to help schools bring outside experts into their classroom:

    • Penguin Young Readers Group will connect authors with classrooms for discussions about books, reading and writing
    • The New York Philharmonic offers live interaction with musicians and educators, beginning with an exploration of Billy the Kid through the lens of Aaron Copland’s 1939 ballet
    • Peace One Day has a range of Global Education Resources which can help to inspire and educate students about the importance of peace in the modern world. Students can also connect with Peace One Day Founder, Jeremy Gilley and listen to his inspirational story.
    • Save the Children and the Science Museum, London will have individual projects on Skype in the classroom by the end of the year

    The Science Museum have already made some of their Punk Science resources available, in advance of their live activities later in the year. In the Penguin section, there are currently 6 different authors available to book class calls with. Here’s a typical profile for an author project page:

    Adam Gidwitz is on Skype in the Classroom

    Err, it may not actually be a typical profile – the rest don’t start with “Generally, in talking to kids, I try to scare the bejeezus out of them.”

    The beauty of these kinds of projects is that you already have the technology you need in the classroom to participate – because you just need some kind of webcam (even a simple laptop webcam will work), email and the Skype software. There’s no need for fancy video conferencing hardware or systems, or complicated booking systems.

    If you do have a full video conferencing system, then you should also take a look at the PolyCom in education projects too – they have connections to a wide range of Australian projects, museums and organisations.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Skype in the Classroom

  • Education

    Reduce costs by virtualising Blackboard onto Hyper-V


    According to analysts, one of the drivers for IT changes in Australian universities services is the need to continue to drive down cost of delivering IT services. That’s not only for planned changes (eg new systems and services), but also for existing projects, where there is an opportunity to cut the cost of existing service delivery.

    One way to reduce the cost of your IT infrastructure is to replace technologies with lower cost options. It means you can make savings in your infrastructure, without users being impacted negatively.

    Let me share a surprising case study that illustrates what’s possible:

    Virtualising Linux servers on Microsoft systems

    In summary, Florida Atlantic University changed the platform their Linux-based Blackboard LMS ran on, and saved $600,000.

    imageThe scenario may sound familiar to you – the Florida Atlantic University was in the third round of externally imposed budget cuts, creating continuing pressure to reduce the costs of service delivery. One of their costs was in servers to run their Blackboard Learning Management System, which was running on a Linux platform. So they looked at how they could virtualise their servers, to reduce hardware costs and data centre space requirements, and improve their student experience.

    The stages of their Blackboard virtualisation journey

    The case study goes into detail of their journey, but in a nutshell, their stages were:

    1. Virtualise their servers in a pilot project using VMWare
      Gaining experience with virtualisation, but discovering that full-scale roll out may be prohibitively expensive
    2. Upgrade to Blackboard 9, moving from Oracle/Sun servers to HP/Dell servers running Linux
      Gaining flexibility and scalability, and more virtualisation flexibility, through Intel-based servers
    3. Implement Windows Server 2008 to virtualise their Exchange, SharePoint and other servers
      Reducing their hardware and service costs, whilst improving server management, and giving them a more cost-effective virtualisation solution
    4. Move their Blackboard system, still running on Linux, to Microsoft’s Hyper-V on the virtualised Windows servers
      Reducing the cost, improving manageability, and improving their user experience

    Savings through virtualisation

    The savings they have identified so far include:

    • Saving $500,000 on new server hardware, through virtualisation
    • Saving $100,000 maintenance costs by retiring existing Sun servers
    • No need to increase headcount, whilst rolling out new services

    And, in addition to saving money, the university have also improved the performance of their IT systems. As Mehran Basiratmand, the Director of Enterprise Computing Services and Chief Technical Officer, at the university says:

      Blackboard is running faster on Intel processor–based servers and Hyper-V than it did on Sun hardware and VMware. This has provided better response for our user community. Hyper-V is better in cost and performance than VMware ESX when managing non-Windows workloads. Our Linux virtual machines run better and scale better on Hyper-V. Plus, we can easily add additional virtual machines if needed. That’s the beauty of virtualization. If we hit a peak time, we can add horsepower in minutes; we didn’t have that before. It’s given us a new definition of capacity on demand.  

    The case study is very detailed, documenting each stage of the journey, so if you have similar scenarios in your campus, it is worth reading the full version from our global case studies website.

    Learn MoreRead the full Florida Atlantic University case study

  • Education

    What are the jobs of the future? Careers in decline and those growing


    Five years ago, I was in the UK when I created a version of Shift Happens for the education system - less about globalisation, more about the challenges for the education system in the UK and worldwide) – which became ‘the video’ of the moment at education conferences etc.

    You can read more about how Shift Happens UK came about, based on the work of Karl Fisch here, download Shift Happens UK here, or watch it on YouTube here.

    Even now I sit in audiences where people quote/show these three images from the video (it happened again last week):

    We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist...using technologies that haven't been order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet.

    And as a result, I’m always on the lookout for information on what’s actually happening in the workplace. There was a good article in The Atlantic last week about the key declining and growing occupations over the last two decades. The research was done in America, and was part of a look at de-unionisation of the workforce (the hypothesis it supported was that the jobs in decline were historically more unionised, and the jobs in ascendancy are typically not; and that one of key correlations for changes in union membership was the use of technology within occupations).

    The key occupations in decline

    What it showed is that the key occupations in decline between 1983-2002 were:

    1. Brick & stonemason apprentices (falling by over 90%)
    2. Show machine operators
    3. Railroad brake, signal and switch operators
    4. Housekeepers and butlers
    5. Drilling and boring machine operators
    6. Helpers, mechanics and labourers (falling by over 80%)

    The key occupations that are growing

    Whilst the key occupations that grew were:

    1. Numerical control machine operators (growing by over 1500%)
    2. Helpers, construction trades
    3. Managers – medicine and health
    4. Health diagnosing practitioners
    5. Marine engineers
    6. Computer systems analyst and scientists (growing by nearly 500%)

    You should look at the charts in The Atlantic for the fuller list – and the full report is available free for education users. But what struck me about the lists are that the ‘physical’ jobs are declining rapidly whilst the ‘mental’ jobs are the ones growing. (Except one bizarre exception, which shows that sociologists have shrunk by nearly two-thirds in that time)

  • Education

    Microsoft Office Accessibility Training Sessions for Australian Government employees - 24 May 2012


    Microsoft will be running two training sessions in Canberra on optimising the accessibility of Microsoft Office documents.

    These sessions will primarily focus on Word, however PowerPoint and Excel will also be covered. The sessions have been designed specifically for Australian Public Service personnel (yep, that includes any education employees)

    As the AGIMO blog says:

      As government agencies are obliged to make all online information accessible and authors are responsible for ensuring the accessibility of their documents, it is important that authors understand how to do this properly. Our initial National Transition Strategy (NTS) survey highlighted the need for better education around the creation of more accessible online documents. Creating an accessible Word document is often the first step to creating accessible PDFs and web pages. We are very keen to develop accessible document authoring skills across the APS, so if you are responsible for authoring web content or creating other documents, these sessions are for you.  

    In these sessions Microsoft will walk users through common techniques for creating accessible documents in Microsoft Office. The presentation will cover information about both the tools available for ensuring accessibility as well as how to effectively use styles and formatting. Users will also be given a basic understanding of how to correctly use graphics in a document. The sessions will be led by Daniel Hubbell. Daniel is the Technical Evangelist for Microsoft’s Accessibility team and is also the president of the board of directors for the Assistive Technology Industry Association. Daniel has a degree in communications from San Francisco State University and has been with Microsoft for more than 14 years.

    Two identical training sessions will run in the morning and afternoon of 24th May 2012 at the University of Canberra.

    Please note that attendance is free but places are limited.

    Learn MoreRegister for your free place online


    If you cannot attend on this date, don’t worry – we’re going to record the sessions and will make them available to be viewed after the event (I’ll pop the link up here when I get it).

    For more accessibility resources, there’s also:

  • Education

    Cloud Computing and Privacy for Australian Government organisations


    After writing about the Cloud Security Alliance STAR (Security, Trust & Assurance Registry) project (Is my data safe in the Cloud – Part One and Part Two) last month, I have been reading some more background information published by AGIMO. There are a number of guides that have been finalised and published:

    • Privacy and Cloud Computing for Australian Government Agencies
    • Negotiating the Cloud – Legal Issues in Cloud Computing Agreements
    • Financial Considerations for Government use of Cloud Computing

    A few conversations I’ve had revolve around perceptions of cloud computing in education, and what information is suitable to moved onto a cloud-based system. Which normally means a conversation about the relative security of cloud datacentres versus on-premise data and servers.

    The opening sentence in the first paper above, about cloud privacy, is very clear and helpful in the conversation:

      Despite common perceptions, cloud computing has the potential to enhance privacy safeguards used to protect personal information held by Government agencies.  

    If you’re thinking about how you can expand your use of cloud services in an education institution, there’s some really useful detailed advice in the guides.

    Learn MoreGet the full set of Cloud Computing Better Practice Guides from AGIMO

  • Education

    Are you going to Microsoft WPC in Toronto? You should know about the Education Summit pre-day



    Are you going to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto in July? If so, then you may also want to consider attending the Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit, run as a pre-day to the main WPC event, on the 8th July.

    In a nutshell it’s a pre-day for partners who are active in the education market, to look at some of our future strategies and plans. There will be over 100 education partners there from around the world, and the content at these briefings is designed to help partners to understand how their area of education business fits into the wider picture of both Microsoft’s strategy and the future direction of education customers and policies. It’s also a great way to connect up with people in the worldwide Microsoft Education business.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it over there this year, but my colleague Jason Trump from our APAC education team, will be there to help make some connections for you.

    The agenda includes:

    • Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Vice President for Worldwide Education, talking about our future direction
    • Michael Moe, a market investor in education technology companies, sharing insight into where investors are betting in education IT
    • Kirk Gregerson, from Microsoft’s Office team, explaining the key partner opportunities created by Office 365 in Education
    • Bernard Caldas, from the Windows team, talking about Windows 8 in education, and the context of application development
    • And a series of breakout roundtable discussions about cloud services, phone, devices and building education solutions

    And the good news is that it’s free to attend for any partners going to WPC.

    Learn MoreFind our more about GEPS @ WPC


    This is run as a single day, attached to WPC, for partners who aren’t able to get to the full Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit in February each year, which is held at our corporate headquarters in Seattle. If you want to get info on that when it’s published, let me know

  • Education

    Catholic International Education Office picks Office 365 for education for new social network for Catholic Education


    Hot news over on the Microsoft News Centre, that the Catholic International Education Office (OIEC) has entered into an education alliance with Microsoft to provide Office 365 for education for its community of Catholic schools across the world as part of a new Social Network for Catholic Education.

    Cardinal Zenon Grosholewski at Office 365 for Education agreement signing at The VaticanIn a signing ceremony at The Vatican yesterday, Cardinal Zenon Grosholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, spoke about the opportunity it will enable for the first 4.5m students as part of a three-year alliance plan, which will eventually scale across OIEC’s community of more than 43 million Catholic students at 210,000 schools in 102 countries. The new network will provide innovative software, services, training and access to technologies that will better prepare students for the jobs of the future.

    OIEC’s mission includes the promotion of education for all, collaboration within academic communities and the fight against illiteracy worldwide. In an ever-evolving technology landscape, teachers in the 21st century face continuing challenges to build skills among teachers and provide students with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful.  According to Father Angel Astorgano, general secretary, OIEC:

      In alliance with Microsoft, we are entering a new era in global Catholic education. We will offer the most advanced technology, knowledge and skills to our schools so our next generation of graduates is prepared for the new challenges of the 21st century  

    In a competitive employment landscape, graduates who have developed technology skills are frequently provided with more opportunities. However, many schools around the globe are not able to evolve curriculum quickly enough to keep pace. Worldwide many schools simply do not have access to the technologies and training necessary to prepare students for the modern workforce.

    As Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s vice president of Worldwide Education said yesterday:

      An innovative and forward-thinking Catholic organisation is supporting the modernisation of their schools, working with Microsoft and mutual partner Tralcom to deliver technology solutions to Catholic students and educators around the world. We are excited about delivering on the technology needs of these students and supporting a global community of individuals with shared values, and helping to ensure they are well-equipped for the jobs of tomorrow.  

    Access is everything

    According to an IDC study, more than half of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and that number will increase to 90% by 2015. Using workplace technology in a school environment gives students a head start when beginning their careers, whereas students with no access to technology will be at a disadvantage.

    Office 365 for education offers powerful collaboration tools, including SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Lync Online and Office Web Apps, in the cloud, whilst helping to save time and money. With Office 365 for education, OIEC students and teachers will be able to do the following:

    • Communicate using instant messaging and videoconferencing, taking part in virtual classes and transforming any conversation to include high-resolution video, application and desktop sharing

    • Collaborate across the globe by creating class and group sites, which allow users to view availability of others and work together on projects in real time, allowing creation of an online network for Catholic education and all OIEC schools

    • View, edit, and share Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files online with SharePoint Online and Office Web Apps, working together on projects and assignments

    • Share calendars and access mail and calendars across devices with robust security and reliability

    • Create and maintain compelling websites and edit them as easily as they would a Word document

    What else is in the Education Alliance agreement?

    Through the Microsoft Education Alliance agreement, OIEC will provide access to technology and training to students and teachers, as well as establish an online space for collaboration, communication and information sharing. The agreement adds the following key elements:

    • Curriculum and training to develop digital literacy skills, help integrate technology into teaching and learning, and provide blueprints for innovative schooling

    • Access to research findings and tools that measure and promote innovative education practices

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Microsoft/OIEC agreement

    Find out more about the Office 365 for education pricing changes

Page 1 of 3 (23 items) 123