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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

    Creating surveys with the Excel Web App in Office 365 for education


    The free version of Office 365 for education includes web versions of the main Office software – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – in addition to the email, collaboration and communication capabilities included within the online Exchange, SharePoint and Lync services. Of course, that's great for editing and working on documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and the beauty of the web service is that we can keep updating them for you as we add new features – you don't have to take on the responsibility for updating software across a pile of machines.

    You can see the new features being added in the future to Office 365 through the preview versions. And we've just released the preview for Office 365 Enterprise (which is the version that Office 365 for education is based on).

    Here's an idea that you can use them for, that might save you bucket-loads of time.

    Using the Excel Web App for surveys and questionnaires

    Thanks to  my colleague James Marshall in the UK, there's a good explanation of how you can easily create online surveys and questionnaires, and get the answers into a neat Excel spreadsheet. It's great for a range of scenarios, like:

    • A lecturer wanting to get opinion and feedback about a lecture immediately after it finishes.
    • A group of students doing a data collection exercise with their classmates.
    • A senior leader wanting to get feedback from parents about a school event (i.e. sports day, school theatre production)
    • A teacher running a competition.

    The beauty of forms in the new Excel Web App is that they can be shared in a few clicks, and accessed on a variety of devices, making it easy for users with laptops, tablet devices, smart phones or pretty much any device with a browser to contribute. And you can make them public, so you can use them for parental surveys etc

    Here's a screenshot from a survey that James published as an example (you can try it out on this link:

    Excel Web App Survey


    Learn MoreYou can read James' post on how to create a survey in the Excel Web App over on his excellent UK Education Cloud Blog (plus loads of other useful Office 365 for education information)

  • Education

    My current computer–why I've switched to a Samsung slate


    Each working day I spend between 5 and 8 hours working with my current computer. And it was only last week I realised my setup was quite different to everybody else, as I looked around the meeting table. Almost everybody else was using a laptop, whereas I've made the leap from laptop PC to slate PC permanently. So I thought I'd share it with you:

    My regular computer: Samsung Series 7 slate PC

    Samsung Series 7 slateUp until May I was using an HP laptop – which I was very happy with. Good performance, nice graphics, and plenty of storage etc. And because I thought of myself as a power-user, I didn't think I'd be able to cope with a less powerful computer – and that seemed to include all the early slate PCs, which were good to demo with, but not something I'd considered as my every day PC.

    But then I got my hands on a Samsung Series 7 Slate PC with all the bells and whistles I needed, and I'm running it with the released version of Windows 8. The one I've got (the sexily named XE700T1A-A05AU) has all the key ingredients I wanted:

    • A touch display: You know, I never imagined I'd be making this the No. 1 requirement, but ever since I moved to Windows 8, it's a must have – especially when I'm sitting at home on the sofa, or taking it into meetings
    • A pen: just like touch, it's now a 'must have', as I take it to meetings and use it as a slate, and am using OneNote more and more for notes, as well as using handwriting recognition instead of an on-screen keyboard
    • Plenty of storage: this one's got a 128GB SSD drive
      I've found that for me 100GB is the minimum drive, because I cart a lot of videos and presentations around with me, and whilst I've got them backed up in the cloud, I have that synced to my computer so that I can always get to them when I'm offline.
    • Decent graphics: this one has got onboard Intel graphics which are good enough for me for everything but games.
    • TPM chip: which means my drive is fully encrypted, so that all of the professional and personal data is secure if I lose it or somebody else gets their hand on it
    • Plenty of RAM: this one's got 4GB of RAM, which I'm finding is more than enough with Windows 8
    • A small dock: Whenever I'm standing or sitting at a desk, then I plug it into a dock. Which gives turns it completely into a laptop – with keyboard, mouse, second monitor and wired network connection
    • It's light: weighing in at under a kilogram
    • It's got a SIM slot, for internet on the go: Although I haven't actually used it, as I tend to just use the Internet sharing of my Lumia 800 – it means I use the data included with my normal phone subscription, rather than to have a second mobile subscription for my computer. Which means I'm always using the WiFi connection, whether that's at the office, at home, or out and about.

    Here's my typical desktop setup, with a second monitor plugged into the docking station, and a normal desktop keyboard and mouse. So it means that whenever I'm at my desk, I've got the perfect setup with a big screen, and then I can just grab it from the docking station and walk to a meeting just carrying the PC and a pen, without all the other stuff. So my bag is a lot lighter than it used to be.

    Samsung Series 7 slate in a desktop setup

    With this setup, I've got something that works as a great desktop computer, and then is good for carrying to meetings. And if I'm using it at home in the evenings, then I tend to use it with touch and the new Windows 8 apps (for things like reading Twitter and blogs). The portability is a big bonus in our Sydney offices, where every desk is setup as a hot desk – I can sit at any desk in the building, and there's already a large monitor, keyboard and mouse ready to go.

  • Education

    Microsoft Bring Your Own Device in Schools whitepaper


    BYOD in schools whitepaperThere's been a lot said about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools, and plenty of commentary on blogs and the Twittersphere. It's a fast-moving subject, almost like 'building airplanes in the sky' – it sometimes feels like BYOD strategies and vision are being created as we go along.

    And the debate has been joined by two pedagogical leaders who have produced a Microsoft BYOD whitepaper for schools. Bruce Dixon (from the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation) and Sean Tierney (from the worldwide Microsoft Partners in Learning programme) have both been passionate advocates for 1:1 learning programmes for many years, and have just published their first 'Bring Your Own Device for schools' whitepaper. The aim is to examine the potential deployment models from teaching, learning and IT management perspectives.

    As their introduction says:


    The ongoing debate regarding the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in schools warrants deeper analysis to help educators and institutions understand this provisioning model and its potential benefits and pitfalls for learning. This discussion paper sets out to investigate the myths and understand which questions should be addressed when considering allowing students to bring their own devices, and which option might be best suited to a school or system’s culture. It is intended to stimulate discussion around what constitutes best practice 1-to-1 learning.


    As well as plenty of detailed analysis and debate within the white paper, there's also a handy table that helps to describe the different capabilities of the various devices that are available for a BYOD scenario:

    BYOD Capability Taxonomy - from page 5

    It's a great way to classify the differing capabilities across a range of current and future devices.

    I think that one of the best aspects of the white paper is that it talks about the alternative models – presenting five potential models, and discussed the benefits and considerations of each. It also goes into five key questions to ask to help you decide whether a BYOD model is right for your school. And then talks through consideration for planning and implementation procedures.

    The conclusion section starts:


    BYOD is a trend that needs to be carefully examined in an education context to ensure that the models we deploy are successful. At the heart of good 1-to-1 learning is equity to ensure that all students have equal access to technology-rich experiences, and simplicity to ensure that it is easy to manage and sustain.


    and finishes with an absolutely key point:


    Schools need to be vigilant and protective of the foundations of equity of access on which all of our education systems are firmly founded. With this in mind, all stakeholders – teachers, parents, students and principals – need to work through the tough decisions early to drive home the best outcomes for all students at all times.


    Learn MoreYou can either download the BYOD for schools whitepaper, or if you're in Australia, drop Richard Ryan an email and he'll pop a couple of printed copies in the post

    For more info on Bring Your Own Device, here's a link to related BYOD articles

  • Education

    Meet with the Education Account Managers at APC 2012


    APC 2012 logo

    The Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2012 is in three weeks (4-6 Sept). To help our education partners get more from the three days, we’ve decided to get the whole Microsoft Australia education sales team up there, to give you the chance to have 1:1 meetings with our customer account managers. If you are working in particular parts of the country, or segments of the market, then booking 1:1 sessions with some of the team has got to be one of the best ways to get really specific advice to help your sales strategy. As we discovered last year, it's also a very big opportunity for you to ensure our account teams know about your solutions, and can talk to their customers about them.

    Meet the Microsoft Australia Education Team at APC 2012

    Government Schools

    Jane Mackarell, Microsoft New South Wales Government Schools & TAFEs

    Jane Mackarell is the new Microsoft Account Manager for New South Wales Department for Education and Communities (DEC). In a 1:1 session, Jane will be able to share information on the way that the new NSW DEC licensing will help partners to implement new solutions at a lower cost to the customer, and what software is available to each school and TAFE licensed in NSW. NSW has 2,176 state schools and 11 TAFEs    
    Mark Tigwell , the Account Technology Specialist (ATS) for NSW education, will also be at APC to meet with you. 

    Emilio Parente, MicrosoftVictoria Government Schools & TAFEs

    Trudi Grant is the Microsoft Account Manager for Victoria’s Department for Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). Although she's on holiday during APC, the other member of the team, Emilio Parente, the ATS for Victoria Education will be at APC and available for meetings. During a 1:1 session, Emilio can share how our current agreements can be used by partners to offer new business solutions to DEECD, and how the licensing model reduces the cost of these solutions at DEECD, school or TAFE level. Victoria has 1,548 state schools and 18 TAFEs.     

    Lance Baldwin, MicrosoftQueensland Government Schools & TAFEs

    Lance Baldwin, the Account Technology Strategist for the Queensland Department for Education and Training (DET), will be available for meetings, as Mark Kenny, the previous Account Manager has moved on to a new Microsoft role. Lance can provide a good overview of the Queensland state education market, and insight into the ICT projects that we have been involved in. Queensland has 1,235 state schools, and 13 TAFEs.

    Higher Education

    This year we have made changes to the way we manage our university accounts, which has increased the amount of account management each university customer will get. It means that we've now got three account managers covering higher education – rather than just one! Two of the account managers – Joseph Alvarez and Ken Rankins - will be at APC, and between them they'll cover the accounts of Lucy Segal, who'll be travelling overseas that week.

    Joseph Alvarez, MicrosoftJoseph Alvarez is the Higher Education Account Manager for the 14 larger universities across Australia (yep, you guessed it he's friends of the Frequent Flyer clubs!). Joe also works closely with CAUDIT (which is an industry wide group of the IT Directors/CIOs of all universities in Australia), so has a great insight to share on the current trends in higher education and the practicalities of our licensing arrangements for universities.  

    Ken Rankins, Microsoft

    Ken Rankins is the second of our Higher Education Account managers that is going to be at APC too. Ken is the account manager for a dozen of the universities around the country (Lucy manages the other 11). Although Ken's worked in the Microsoft Education team for a while, he's new to the world of universities, so he'd really appreciate meeting up with partners already working with higher education customers.

    If your business is working with a number of universities, then you'll probably want to meet all of the account managers at APC. Or, if there are just one or two universities that you want to talk about, then let me know which ones, and I'll schedule a session with the specific account manager(s).

    Non-Government Schools

    Vanessa Gage, MicrosoftVanessa Gage is the account manager for Catholic Education across Australia. Most of our work on this is done with the peak bodies for Catholic schools around the country, and Vanessa will be able to share how the schools across each of the Catholic consortia are able to access their respective Microsoft licensing programmes, and what schools are already licensed for (this is especially useful if you're looking to support schools to roll out cloud or on-premise infrastructure projects)

    Ken Rankins, MicrosoftKen Rankins gets to appear twice as he is also our national sales lead for all 2,815 private schools. His team work with the larger schools individually, as well as with the peak bodies for private schools. The importance of this group of schools is that most of them make their own independent decisions about ICT procurement.

    As many partners know, it can be tricky to get time with our Account Teams during the year, and they are rarely (if ever) all together and available. So this is a great networking opportunity, to learn more about the Australian Education marketplace, as well as to put faces to names (on both sides!)

    How to book your 1:1 meetings

    imageIf you are going to be at the Australian Partner Conference 2012, then you can book 1:1 meetings with the relevant members of our Education Account Manager team in advance.  

    It’s simple to do - Just email me, and let me know:  

    • Who you would like to meet (multiple meetings are okay)
    • Whether there are times when you can’t meet (all meetings will be scheduled during the tea/lunch breaks in the conference on the 5th and 6th September)
    • If there are specific subjects you want to discuss (helps the account managers prepare)  

    Not booked for APC yet? Do it here

  • Education

    New directions for school leadership and the teaching profession


    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

  • Education

    Office 365 for education video–collaborating with a class website


    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

    Office 365 for education video–Outlook and Lync


    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


    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

    Office 365 for education video–the online classroom


    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

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



    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)
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