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November, 2013 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

November, 2013

  • Education

    Drawboard PDF is currently free in the Windows 8 store


    There’s a new version of the Australian Windows 8 app for education, Drawboard PDF, which is great for teachers to use for marking feedback onto homework, or for students to make notes directly onto PDF documents. It allows the teacher to draw or write – using pen or stylus – on the student’s homework (saved as a PDF), and then save the resulting marked-up document.

    It’s ideal for replacing the pen and paper, and to avoid printing documents. Either upload or create a new PDF, annotate using the wide choice of tools (pen, highlighter, comment boxes, graphics), then save it back as a compatible PDF.


    For the next few weeks, it’s free on the Windows Store, so I’d recommend grabbing it now, ready for next school year.

    Learn MoreLearn more, and download, Drawboard PDF

  • Education

    The education offer for Microsoft Surface ended–but JB Hi-Fi have a special deal…


    Lots of education customers in Australia took advantage of the special Surface RT Education offer, but when it finished at the end of September, there were plenty of people who asked if it would be extended as they’d just missed the deadline. Although at the time the answer was a sad ‘no’, I just saw this retail promotion from JB Hi-Fi that’s almost identical – a 32GB Microsoft Surface RT for $223 – and open to anybody, not just education customers.

    JB Hi-Fi Surface RT offer

    This is great news, because individual students and staff can buy at this price, whereas the special education offer was limited to institutions only. And you can order online, or just go into your local JB Hi-Fi and pick it up today.

    BUT don’t hang around – the promotion ends this Sunday 1st December.

    Learn MoreGo to the JB Hi-Fi offer page

  • Education

    Updated: Microsoft Bring Your Own Device to School Discussion Paper


    Front cover of 2013 BYOD Discussion PaperSince we produced our first ‘BYOD to School’ whitepaper last year, there’s been a lot said about Bring Your Own Device in schools, and plenty of different views expressed about which model is best. From all those discussions, I and my colleagues are convinced there’s not a simple solution – there’s definitely not a ‘once size fits all’ approach to BYOD. Nor a simple decision framework to even work out whether Bring Your Own Device is right for your institution.

    My colleague Sean Tierney, continues to work on this subject, and he’s just finished working with Bruce Dixon (from the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation) to update last year’s BYOD to School whitepaper. They have both been passionate advocates for 1:1 learning programmes for many years, their whitepaper aims to examine the potential deployment models from teaching, learning and IT management perspectives.

    As they say in their conclusion:


    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.

    Between equity and simplicity, however, come considerations of cost. So while today’s confluence of affordable devices, cloud computing and innovative technology dangles a tempting prospect in front of us, educators face a number of difficult decisions before we finally deliver student learning experiences as broad, deep, relevant, complex and creative as we would like them to be.

    This discussion paper presents some of the varying BYOD models, their nuances and the considerations that accompany them. 1-to-1 access to technology is challenging traditional ideas about teaching and learning, and the arguments herein emphasise that decisions need to be education-based, not purely technology-based. They need to deliver tangible benefits for student learning.


    The arguments also question a number of assumptions about BYOD. In particular, it questions whether BYOD really reduces the total cost of device use in schools, or whether that cost has been hidden; that is to say, passed on to parents. Hasty decisions made today risk casting a long shadow and undermining some of the important achievements made to date.

    Most importantly, there needs to be agreement on the equitable and sustainable provision of technology so that the core ideas of 1-to-1 learning, refined over many years of classroom experience, are not lost. This is especially important, given that previous educational innovations have taught us that early reports of success can overlook complexities that only become apparent over time.

    Bruce and Sean are adamant that 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. And that’s exactly what the ideas discussed in the discussion paper.

    Learn MoreRead the full Microsoft discussion paper: Bring Your Own Device to School

  • Education

    It’s in the new Australian Curriculum, but do you need help with 21st Century Learning Design


    ELH LogoOur partnership with Expanding Learning Horizons means that we work together on a range of activities supporting the enhancement of teaching and learning with technology. Some of these (like the Windows in the Classroom program) are free for schools to participate in, whilst other activities are run as paid professional development activities.

    The next set of events from ELH are the 21st Century Learning Design program workshops later this month. They are a two day workshop, with online sessions to follow on from the activities you plan as part of the workshop. The objective is to provide appropriate support and training for teachers who are design lessons to reflect the changes in the Australian National Curriculum:


    There is a growing awareness of 21st Century Learning, especially since it has been reflected within the Australian National Curriculum. There is also a wide appreciation of its value, which is supported by a wealth of evidence from educational researchers. However, as yet, few teachers know how to design lessons to put it into practice.

    Here’s an opportunity to take the lead in your school and discover, as one participant puts it: “being a part of something new and exciting; allowing me to increase my skills and learning whilst teaching my students.”

    Over two days you’ll work together with other teachers in a collaborative and supportive environment to understand:

    • The six skill-sets today’s students will need in the workplace and their future lives
    • The innovative rubrics for measuring use of these skills in classroom and project work
    • How 21CLD links in with the Australian Curriculum
    • How to create a compelling case for 21st Century Learning in your school

    You’ll also learn how to code and redesign your own curriculum, to get you started on implementing 21st Century Learning  on your return to school. An online discussion with fellow participants six weeks later will give you the opportunity to share your successes and discuss overcoming any roadblocks you may have encountered.


    The program costs $795 for the two day workshop, and are running in:

    • Sydney – 26/27 November
    • Perth – 26/27 November
    • Melbourne – 2/3 December

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the 21st Century Learning Design Program

  • Education

    Announcing the Microsoft Australian Teachers Blog


    Australian Teachers Blog Header

    My colleagues have been talking for a while about creating a more teaching-centric blog for Australia, focusing more on the teaching and learning side of technology. And a couple of weeks ago they launched the Microsoft Australian Teachers Blog, which is all about technology in the classroom. It will grow out to become the one stop shop for all of the key tips, tricks and local stories.

    Even better, rather than being the product of a single person, there’s a whole team of people writing stories for it, including Pip Cleaves, who’s well known from her time in NSW Department of Education, and a range of guest bloggers including teachers and school principals. Alongside articles about new technologies for teaching and learning (like the recent post about the enhancements to Office Web Apps to allow students to collaboratively edit documents in real time), you’ll find stories like the one from Stacey Quince, Principal for Campbelltown Performing Arts High School, who talks about the journey her school has had to take in ‘learning to unlearn’ in order to change the way that they do things.

    One of the areas that everybody will find useful is the Windows 8 Education Apps page that contains curated links to hundreds of Windows 8 apps to support specific curriculum subjects, as well as topics such as study skills, or knowledge construction. Pip has been collating lists using Pinterest, which makes it really easy to keep a dynamic list of apps that can be easily added to as new apps get recommended or published.

    Our aim is for this Education blog and the Teachers blog to complement each other, rather than duplicating each other. So you may want to add both to your RSS feeds list, or your browser Favourites list, so that you’ve got the full picture of every it of news from the Australian Microsoft Education Team

    Learn MoreRead the Microsoft Australia Teachers Blog

  • Education

    What skills do I need for the future?


    Office 365 Header

    When we announced the global Student Advantage programme, it meant that students could get the full Office suite when their institution subscribed for their staff (see ‘The best way to get Office for student BYOD devices’). Part of the reason that supported doing it was some new research from IDC on skills requirements for tomorrow's best jobs, which analysed the current and future jobs market to understand what skills employers are currently looking for, and will look for in the future.

    Learn MoreSkills Requirements for Tomorrow's Best Jobs:
    Helping Educators Provide Students with Skills and Tools They Need

    IDC did their analysis by scanning 14.6 million US job postings for six months this year and identified the 20 most common skills required for those positions. They also used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including data on 2010 employment and forecasts for 2020, to understand future employment trends, and to identify 60 occupations that have above average growth potential and salary potential between 2013 and 2020.

    Which roles are going to grow fastest in numbers and salary by 2020?

    IDC categorised all of the data into groups of roles to produce the following chart:


    So by 2020 we’re going to see more demand for people to work in medical, sales and marketing, education, IT and managerial roles. These roles in the chart are expected to account for 28% of new jobs in 2020, with a median salary that’s 51% higher than for all occupations.

    What skills are needed for the high growth employment roles?

    The IDC report looked at the top skills required for all occupations, and the analysis showed the top five skills employers are looking for were:

    1. Oral and written communication skills
    2. Detail oriented
    3. Microsoft Office
    4. Customer service oriented
    5. Organisational skills

    It’s notable that Microsoft Office was the only software package that employers called out within the top 20 skills list. Microsoft Office is at number 3, PowerPoint is at number 11, and Word is at number 13. The full list of top 20 skills is on Page 7, Figure 2 in the IDC report.

    When they correlated the top skills against the top growth occupations, they found the correlation got stronger – the top 5 skills were in even higher demand in these roles (and 16 of the top 20). The most common skills that employers are looking for are cross-functional, rather than occupation-specific skills. As IDC put it (on page 9):


    This high concentration of cross-functional skills suggests that high school students require "job readiness" and not "job training" for success. The skills most needed for the best jobs cut across many occupations, so educators should consider focusing on the skills with the broadest applicability to success. In contrast, skills associated with specific occupations are less applicable for the broader occupation set, implying that they should receive less emphasis in general high school curricula.


    Communication, integration and presentation skills (CIPs) are required for about 40 percent of all positions and make up 11 of the top 20 skills that are required by 39 percent of the fastest growing, highest paying positions. As Cushing Anderson, program vice president of Project-Based Services at IDC says in the report:

      Of the more than 11,000 skills we examined, it is interesting to see the play between hard and soft skills. Many of the top 20 skills reinforce the other; the skills we identified are not taken in isolation but rather are a golden set of skills that are consistently important. Seventy percent of the high-growth, high-wage occupations frequently require at least one of the top 20 skills.  

    IDC make a series of really important points on Pages 14/15 about the assessment of communication, integration and presentation skills capabilities.  They assert that assessments should be used to demonstrate students’ mastery of material and help improve the teaching and learning process. And IDC calls for programs to include formative adaptive assessments, performance-based tasks to demonstrate communication, integration and presentation skills capabilities, and appropriate technologies to facilitate consistent administration and evaluation of assessments. They also caution employers that it is unrealistic to expect schools to prepare students for specific jobs or even a specific industry, and that they must assume the responsibility of training new career entrants in the job-specific skills the occupation requires.

    The whole report is worth a read, both for the data points it includes, and for the help it contains for advising your students (and their parents!) about what lies around the corner in the job marketplace.

    Learn MoreSkills Requirements for Tomorrow's Best Jobs:
    Helping Educators Provide Students with Skills and Tools They Need

  • Education

    NSW Schools Roadshow 2013


    This time next week my colleagues from the NSW Microsoft education team will be running the first of 9 roadshows for schools. They are going to be on the road until the end of the month, visiting Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Wollongong, Sydney, Campbelltown, North Ryde, Wagga Wagga and Dubbo. And presumably the bus between the venues will be full up, as the roadshow involves Acer, Adobe, IC Central, Intel and Lenovo too.

    The day is going to be facilitated by Pip Cleaves, who’s well known to many across NSW for her work as a Professional Learning consultant for the Interactive Classroom rollout in the Hunter Central Coast Region, the DERNSW Program both at Hunter Central Coast and State levels and Peer Coaching coordination across the state. She is a Microsoft Peer Coach Master Trainer, Adobe Education Leader and Microsoft 21st Century Learning Design Master Facilitator.

    Although the event is tilted towards NSW government schools, it is actually open to any school, and any pre-service or TAFE teacher.


    NSW Microsoft Schools Roadshow 2013In a global economy driven by innovation, knowledge and intense competition, it is more important than ever to engage students in learning. We need to offer students the opportunity to develop collaboration, critical thinking and creative skills to ensure they can successfully compete in the 21st century.

    Through this complimentary hands-on workshop, Microsoft, Adobe, Intel, Lenovo, Acer and IC Central will show you how to leverage your school’s existing technology to empower your students with skills they will need to be successful.

    Your chance to discover

    We invite you to explore with us how technology can be used to engage students in the learning process, while providing them with opportunities to develop 21st century skills. This will be a full day, hands-on professional learning session focused on getting the most from your school’s existing software and devices. We will show you technologies that are just around the corner, allowing you to explore future possibilities.



    8-9 – Registration and coffee

    9-9.30 – How can we make 21st Century Learning Real? How can we work with the challenges of BYOD, Tech Support, IT Integration in Learning that we face daily?

    9.30-10.45 – Productivity with Windows 8 - Intel Showcase – Hands on Session: Windows 8

    10.45-11.15 – Morning Tea

    11.15-12.30 – Collaboration with Office 365 - Microsoft Showcase – Hands on Session: O365 - One Note  / Win 8 Apps

    12.30-1.30 – Lunch & ACA/MOS Certifications

    1.30-2.45 – Creativity in Education – Adobe Showcase – Hands on Session: Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements

    2.45-3.00 – Conclusion


    Devices, software and apps will be provided for the duration of the day

  • Education

    Spending your holidays working in the office? There is another way


    Loryan Strant, ParadyneLoryan Strant, who's a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for Office 365, is also CEO of Paradyne, one of our Office 365 for Education partners in Australia. It’s tricky, running a business and creating a work-life balance, which Loryan wrote about on his blog in September in ‘Focus on fatherhood’, and followed it up with ‘Working outside of business hours’, I asked him if he’d write a guest blog post about using the same technology in schools, TAFEs and universities. And here it is:


    Try a new holiday destination: the cloud

    School holidays are a great time to see new sights, spend time with the family, enjoy the summer heat by the pool, and overall not worry about coming into school/the office/the classroom for work.

    What if you could have all that, but still be just as productive by working from home?

    Often when we work with schools to deploy Office 365 they focus on migrating student mailboxes so as to free up internal resources and reduce costs. And why wouldn’t you – it doesn’t make sense any more to provide Exchange mailboxes on-premises when Office 365 is free.

    The holidays present schools with a fantastic opportunity – something very rarely experienced by the commercial world: a large period of time when all of your users are not “working”. In the commercial world this is generally only seen on public holidays or between Christmas and New Year (if that). For schools however they have several breaks of 2-3 weeks per year when IT departments can perform major infrastructure work with affecting the users.

    While Office 365 can be implemented and used at any time of the year we find that many schools prefer to do this at the end of the calendar year when the holiday period is longer and there is more time to saturate the Internet connection with mailbox migration traffic.

    Just because the students are on holidays and have mentally taken a break, doesn’t mean that the school has stopped working. With many of the schools we’ve worked with at Paradyne various elements of school administration teams continue to work. While the attitude and attire are more casual there is still plenty of work to be done. As well as this, teachers need to start planning for the next year and preparing. But why does all this have to be done at the school?

    Sure – taking work home is not a new concept. SharePoint Online and SkyDrive Pro make this even easier in that users can access content on any device be it a Windows 8 PC, Mac, Android tablet, or Windows Phone. With SkyDrive Pro the data can be synchronised so it can be accessed offline making the ability to work remotely more of a reality.

    How though, can faculty work together if they are working remotely? Sure they can call each other on their mobiles but how do they actually work together. That’s where Lync Online comes in. Often neglected as part of the offering but one of the most powerful tools in the Office 365 for Education suite – and available completely for free.

    While some schools may prefer to not provide an instant messaging solution like Lync to students, the service can still be enabled for faculty – even if their mailbox is still on-premises. Deploying Lync Online is one of the easiest and quickest wins in any Office 365 deployment and allows the users to screen share, whiteboard, instant message, and audio/video conference with up to 250 of their peers in HD.

    Do some of your staff use Skype? No problem – Lync can federate with Skype and support audio communications.

    If you deploy Lync Online in your school your staff will thank you. Not only will it lower the need for them to walk across campus to see someone for a few minutes to work on something together, it can lower their need to come into the office at all – allowing them to spend more time with their family and enjoy their holidays.

    Deploy Lync Online as part of Office 365 for your school these holidays. It’s free and it’s easy (especially when you use a partner).


    Learn MoreLoryan’s team at Paradyne have some good case studies of education and non-profit organisations where they implemented Office 365.    
    You can see them all on the case studies page on the Paradyne website.

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