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

August, 2012

  • Education

    Windows 8 Programming–the Windows 8 App Fest at TechEd 2012

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    Our global programme of Windows 8 DevCamps continues, and we've added a further Windows 8 DevCamp in Australia, just in case you missed the seven run earlier this year.

    The next opportunity for Australian developers of education apps to learn about Windows 8 programming is the day before TechEd Australia kicks off, in the Gold Coast. It's a 24-hour hackathon for building Windows 8 apps, and gives you the chance to get skilled up in Windows 8 apps, brainstorm ideas and code like there’s no tomorrow. Our expert mentors will work with you as you build your own Windows 8 app intended for the Store, rather than playing with sample applications.

    Although the workshop isn’t specifically about developing Windows 8 applications for education, every single thing that you learn about will be relevant to developing applications for education.

    Of course, your app could be the next big thing for the Windows Marketplace – it could earn you fame, riches or workplace glory!

    It's from 11:30AM on Monday 10 September until 12:00PM on Tuesday 11 September, and it cost a weeny $165. You bring along your laptop, your ideas, and any code you've already been working on (although you can start from scratch!). Oh, and bring along your HTML, CSS, JavaScript, C# or XAML skills (oh, that rules me out then Sad smile)

    Learn MoreYou can find out more, and register here


    And, of course, once you're there, you should stay for the whole of TechEd (11-14 Sept), as you're going to end the week with an amazing amount of professional development opportunities

    Why you should be developing Windows 8 applications for education

    If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering why you, or your colleagues, might want to spend a day learning about developing Windows 8 applications for education. Here’s my list of 3 key reasons:

    • The earlier you have an application in the Windows 8 marketplace, the more exposure you are going to get. Today the marketplace has a limited number of applications, so new ones are getting a high profile, especially as leading edge education customers .
    • Our Education account teams are currently installing Windows 8 onto their laptops and starting to demonstrate it to their customers. If you create an education specific app, I reckon you’re going to get them demonstrating your software to a lot of our early adopter customers in the next few months.
    • You’re demonstrating your innovation, to innovative customers (the people installing Windows 8 right now are the leading edge innovators)
  • Education

    Office 365 for education video–the online classroom

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    Office 365 for education enables teachers to give online presentations so their students can learn from anywhere. These presentations can be interactive with the students and saved for future viewing.

    This short video, the fourth in a series of four produced by my colleagues in the US, aims to describe the whole process in less than three minutes:

  • Education

    Office 365 for education video–Outlook and Lync

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    Office 365 for education has Outlook and Lync built in, which enable instantaneous collaboration and communication between students and teachers, with email, IM, voice and video calls between users.

    This short video, produced by my colleagues in the US, aims to describe the whole process in just two minutes:

  • Education

    Office 365 for education video–Classroom on the go

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    Office 365 for education means that students and teachers can be productive on the go by having access to class calendars, documents, and assignments all on their mobile devices.

    This short video, the second in a series of four produced by my colleagues in the US, aims to describe the whole process in less than two minutes:

  • Education

    Windows 8 reaches 'Release To Manufacturing' stage–what that means for education customers

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    Windows 8 screenshotOvernight, we've announced that Windows 8 has reached the 'Release To Manufacturing' (RTM) stage. There's a pile of detail on the Building Windows 8 blog, including details on both the release of Windows 8 and the Windows Store. One of the questions I know you might have is when it means you can get it. Although the full retail release is scheduled for October 26th, Australian education customers will be able to get their hands on the full release version earlier through the subscription programmes, such as our Enrolment for Education Solutions (which is the Microsoft Volume Licence programme that most education customers use in Australia), or subscriptions like MSDN (the Microsoft Developer Network).

    The Windows Team Blog has details on the release dates through these schemes:

     
    • August 15th: Developers will be able to download the final version of Windows 8 via your MSDN subscriptions.
    • August 15th: IT professionals testing Windows 8 in organisations will be able to access the final version of Windows 8 through your TechNet subscriptions.
    • August 16th: Customers with existing Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through the Volume Licence Service Center (VLSC), allowing you to test, pilot and begin adopting Windows 8 Enterprise within your organisation.
    • August 16th: Microsoft Partner Network members will have access to Windows 8.
    • August 20th: Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) receive access to Windows 8.
    • September 1st: Volume Licence customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 8 through Microsoft Volume License Resellers.
     

    So most education customers will be able to install the fully released version this month on their existing PCs!

    Learn MoreHead over to the Windows Team blog for more info on the Windows 8 release timeline

  • Education

    Office 365 for education video–collaborating with a class website

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    With Office 365 for education, you can collaborate from anywhere through SharePoint class websites. Students and teachers can simultaneously work together on the same document and share project and assignment information through their class site.

    This short video, produced by my colleagues in the US, aims to describe the whole process in just one and a half minutes:

  • Education

    New directions for school leadership and the teaching profession

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    The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria have outlined a vision for "a teaching profession that will raise student performance in Victoria to math the very best jurisdictions worldwide". Their first step, to publish a discussion paper called 'New directions for school leadership and the teaching profession', is a way to start the debate, and seek feedback from others.

    I've just finished reading the discussion paper, and whether or not you're in Victoria, or likely to want to respond, I'd recommend adding it to your reading list, as it contains a lot of very useful information nuggets on teaching and learning, and links to the associated research. Here's some of the little gems I picked up, which apply to most countries and schools, not just in Victoria.

    New directions for school leadership and the teaching profession

    First of all, the context to the discussion paper:

    • Students at the same school differ more in their performance than students at different schools
    • Students don't perform at secondary level as well as they do in primary schools
    • Students from rural areas, or low SES areas, don't perform as well as their peers in city schools
    • The gap between the highest and lowest performing schools is growing

    Quality of teaching matters

    The quality of teaching has the largest impact on student learning outcomes, other than a student's socioeconomic background (Source: Hattie)

    Teaching isn't an aspirational career

    Sadly, the report identifies the need to do much more to make teaching an aspirational career. As the paper says:

      Few Victorian top school graduates choose teaching as a career. Those who do rarely obtain the specialist skills we need in disciplines such as maths and science.

    Of those year 12 students who nominate education as their first preference for university study, only 1 per cent are high achievers with a ranking over 90.
     

    And it shares the average ATAR require to enter undergraduate teaching courses in Victoria has been slipping for the last decade – reflecting demand for courses. And yet this is despite the fact that starting salaries for teachers are actually higher than other comparable professions – law, veterinary science and accounting. The challenge is that the top of the scale – the rock stars of the profession – is much higher outside of teaching.

    New teachers need better training

    In top tier systems teacher training programs focus on preparing teachers with skills for the 21st century learning environment, and are genuinely responsive to feedback from students, teachers and principals. And yet, despite being the largest employer of graduates in Victoria (same nationwide?) the DEECD has little influence over teaching training to ensure that it responds to schools' needs. Over 70% of principals think new teachers aren't prepared well to communicate with parents, manage classrooms and provide effective support and feedback to students. And only around 30% of new teachers were satisfied with the preparation provided by their teaching courses.

    Teacher-driven research drives improvement

    According to the discussion paper, high performing systems support research undertaken by teachers to drive innovation and school and system improvement. Practitioner-led research allows teachers to investigate issues and explore solutions to the teaching problems they face in their own school setting. High performing systems recognise that it has a much higher impact on teacher professional learning than other development opportunities and invest in it accordingly. (Source: McKinsey report) And teachers are encouraged to reflect upon and try out new ideas to better support student learning and document their findings in research articles for education journals. This school-level flexibility and teacher collaboration drives innovation in teaching and learning that can then be translated into schools across the system (Source: McKinsey report)

    What can we do about it?

    The point of the discussion paper is to get people's thoughts on what can be done about these things, plus all of the other areas highlighted in the report. Having seen similar issues across education systems – not just in Australia but around the world – I'm thinking about three key things:

    • Better data helps teachers understand where they can help students improve their performance.
      Don't get me wrong – I don't believe that weighing the pig every day makes it fatter. But I believe that providing more valuable insight for teachers into the information we do have will help them to improve learning for their students. That could be data about a single student, or comparative data, or data about what forms of professional development or teaching styles improves performance.
    • We need to improve the perception of teaching as a profession.
    • All areas of professional development for teachers and leaders need some help – whether that's pre-service training, or help to support improvements in teaching being made by practising teachers in the classroom today.
      One of the things I've noticed is the huge enthusiasm for teachers sharing professional development practices, rather than having them imposed from the top. I think that also links into the feeling of teaching as a profession worth joining, where individuals are accountable and responsible for their own development and those of their peers – rather than having top-down impositions made on them. There's currently a growing throng of TeachMeets, where individual teachers share their tips and tricks, made possible by teachers giving up their evenings voluntarily for professional development. And a lot of the work of the Partners In Learning programme from Microsoft is about teachers sharing their experiences and development.

    How about you? What do you think? Do you want to add your voice to the DEECD discussion.

    How to contribute to the discussion on new directions for school leadership and the teaching profession

    PS NSW DEC have just issued a similar discussion paper - it was all over the papers on Tuesday morning, but not available for download, so I plan to take a look at that too. Knowing the way the politics work between the states, it's probably not a co-ordinated move, but each state individually recognising the same problem

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