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February, 2014 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

February, 2014

  • Education

    Using PowerBI and open government data

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    PowerBI is one of the most flexible ways to visualise data that I’ve seen (it’s just been released as part of the Office 365 service). And, what’s even better for me, is that it uses Excel as the starting point – which means that I’ve already got 90% of the skills needed to work with it. (I know I work at Microsoft, and therefore people expect me to be uber-geeky, but my technical confidence and competence is lower than many around me at the office, so I rate myself as a typical business user of technology, not a power user).

    PowerBI PowerMapIt allows you to quickly combine different sources of data (eg Excel spreadsheets, data sources within your organisation, as well as data from the web and from the Azure data market) and create a visualisation – like a conventional line chart or histogram, a scattergram, or interactive maps. To me, the beauty of PowerBI is that I can do this myself – and share what I’ve done with others.

    Where I’ve found it really comes alive is when you can combine your internal data with data from other sources. I’ve seen examples of retailers connecting live tweets, foursquare checkins, weather and socio-economic data, connected together with sales data for individual stores. In some countries with strong open data programmes, there’s a wealth of data that would help build powerful analyses, and create data-centric stories.

    One good example of visualising open government data came from our recent PowerBI competition, where Chris Webb from the UK used published data about road accidents to see what trends were appearing, and where there were particular patterns in the data.

    Chris recorded a video as his entry, that shows how he went from a big set of CSV files to a visual analysis that ended up showing the road accident risk that exists for school children immediately before and after school. Unlike Australia, the UK doesn’t have 40km/h school zones, but perhaps this kind of story-telling with data might create the demand for them.

    I’ve been working on creating some visualisations of Australian education data, but it’s a lot more challenging. In higher education there’s a wealth of published data through ABS, the Higher Education Statistics uCube and MyUniversity.gov.au – all of which can be modelled and connected.

    But it only works in scenarios where there’s a commitment to open access to data. In the school education sector, it’s a different story – there seems to be a real paucity of publically available data for the sector. On the data.gov.au website, there are just 12 results for datasets on ‘schools’ – and there’s no national data there (and nothing of value relating to learning). Other data sites, like myschool.edu.au are designed to stop people using them to create data visualisations. But am I missing something? Is there a treasure trove of education data that could be visualised, published by the Australian federal or state governments? Or am I going to have to resort to worldwide comparisons using OECD & UNESCO data?

    In the meantime, here's an example of using the PowerMap side of PowerBi to map some international education data.

  • Education

    What does Office Online mean for students?

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    We made an announcement at the end of last week about the name and easier access to the online versions of Office. I think this is important for Australian students and teachers, as it is now much easier for students and staff to be able to use Office on the web. Anybody can do it – they don’t need an Office subscription, nor do they need their school, TAFE or university to set up Office 365 Education access. So a student can login to Office Online* and start creating, editing and sharing documents, either alone or with others – from almost any device and without a subscription service (all they need to do is create a Microsoft Account, which can be done with any email address).

    * Office Online is the new name for Office Web Apps, and includes the browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

    The Office team have put many of the details on the Office blog, and here’s a quick snip from there:

     

    imageSure, some of you are already using the online versions of Office. And with the recent addition of real-time co-authoring and more of the most commonly used features coming online over the last several months, we hear that you’re liking it. But we also know that many of the one billion Office users haven’t tried it yet and we want to change that.

    New name, new getting started experience

    Today we are making two changes. First, we’re renaming Office Web Apps to Office Online so you know where to find our free online experience. We heard from customers that the inclusion of Apps in our name was confusing. Are they something I install? Do I go to an app store to get them? No, to use them all you need is a web browser. Ah! You say. So it’s like Office, online. Yes, exactly. Office Online.

    Secondly, a lot of you don’t know that we have an online version of Office because you just couldn’t find it. If you’re already using Office Online on OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) or on SharePoint at work, great. We’re glad you found it there. You can still use Office Online just like you always have. But we’re making it easier to find for the rest of you by introducing Office.com, a discoverable and shareable web page so that you can start using Office Online right away.

     

    So now you have lots of different ways of ensuring that your students and staff can use Office:

    • Microsoft Office for no cost through a browser on Office Online 
    • Mobile versions of Microsoft Office pre-installed on your Windows Phone, and through an Office 365 subscription for iPhone and Android phone
    • Full versions of the Office suite for Windows and Mac, through Office 365 or your institution’s EES agreement. And this can be free for students using the Student Advantage scheme.

    Learn MoreRead more about Office Online

    Related Office Stories

    You can see all related blog articles about Office here

  • Education

    Integrating Moodle and Office 365 for Education

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    We’re continuing to build the list of integration resources that we provide for Moodle, so that schools, TAFEs and universities can integrate their Moodle platforms more securely with the rest of their existing infrastructure. This is a common goal for central IT teams, where they want to ensure their users (both staff and students) are able to move seamlessly between their different systems, and their data isn’t locked into a single platform. For example, rather than having learning resources locked away within their Learning Management System it’s possible to use the content management of SharePoint, and storage space of OneDrive (the new name for SkyDrive), to ensure that users have access even when they are not using Moodle directly, or to provide content management such as version control for staff. In the past I’ve written about the SkyDrive/OneDrive plugin for Moodle and the Moodle kit for Windows Azure.

    imageThe latest plugin from Microsoft integrates Moodle with Office 365 and OneDrive. This allows teachers to create courses and assignments in Moodle that can be read, edited, and submitted by students in SharePoint.

    The download package incudes:

    • Moodle and Office 365 Step-by-Step Guide: Federation using Active Directory Federation Services
      This guide walks you through the setup of a basic lab deployment of Moodle, Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) 2.0, and Windows Azure Active Directory to perform cross-product, browser-based identity federation.  Once you have the single-sign (SSO) experience setup, you can automate user provisioning and user enrolment in Moodle through your Office 365 system.
    • Moodle-Office 365 User Installation Guide
      This document provides step-by-step instructions to configure and install the Microsoft provided plugin for integration with Moodle. It also describes the new features that are enabled by this plugin.
    • Moodle Release Package
      This installation package contains PHP files and related resources that a developer can use to create the plugin.

    Learn MoreDownload the Moodle and Office 365 integration resources and guidance

    Related Moodle Stories

    You can see all related Moodle blog articles here

  • Education

    Can education customers get Yammer free?

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    Yammer on a cloudWe announced recently that Yammer for education customers will be free of charge this Spring (that's, Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, or as we would call it in Australia, 'Autumn/early Winter'), through your Office 365 for Education subscription (which is also free). Which means that educational institutions are able to have a communication system (through Office 365’s email and Lync service), collaboration and document storage (through Office 365’s SharePoint and OneDrive), and secure social networking and collaboration (through Yammer) – all of which is free.

    The beauty of Yammer is that it can be fully integrated into your user database – so you create a private place for just your users to collaborate and mingle, and can enable and disable users easily. And then within Yammer you can create public and private groups – so staff can have private planning and discussion areas that others can’t access. Or groups of students can be placed into individual communities, for classes, subjects, sports and social groups etc. It also has a range of apps for mobile devices, so your users can access it on the go from their iPhone, Windows Phone, Android phones etc

    Yammer for Education

    There has always been a basic free version of Yammer that users can sign up to individually, and create communities and groups, and some education users in Australia have already been using that for some time (some of them with hundreds or thousands of users). But when you want to have organisational control over your users, then in the past you would have had to paid for the full Yammer Enterprise version. But soon, that’s the version that education customers can get free.

    The major difference between Yammer and other social networking systems is that your Yammer network is private, and controlled by you. You don’t have individual teachers uploading lists of students to third-party websites, and managing them outside of your existing systems. Instead, your IT team have full control over your users in the same way that they do for other systems in your school, TAFE or university. Adding and deleting/disabling users is all done centrally. And you have control and visibility of the content and conversations that are happening.

    Yammer logo

    Some of the key features of Yammer that are relevant for education customers are:

    • Create and participate in groups – you can define groups and assign members, or your users can set up their own groups and invite members.
    • Announcements – for everybody, or just specific groups. This can be used to send out important updates that everybody in a group needs (eg a teacher might use an announcement to send out a curriculum assignment)
    • Praise – users can give and receive recognition, and accomplishments and badges appear on profiles
    • Interact with other users – just like other social networks, you can @mention people, see who’s online, create private messages and share conversations. Plus users can create quick polls
    • File and note sharing – users can upload Office documents, PDFs etc and share them across their groups. You can have user-uploaded content, as well as ‘Official content’, which appears higher in search results and content directories.
    • IT managers will love the user management features, including Directory Sync, custom branding, and Keyword Monitoring (this allows you to track the use of sensitive keywords, and get instant alerts if they are used on your Yammer network)

    What do I need to do to get Yammer Enterprise once it is available?

    Once Yammer Enterprise is available, Office 365 Education tenant administrators will receive an activation link in their Office 365 admin portal. You then visit the Office 365 Admin Portal to begin the self-guided provisioning process. There’s a complete Yammer Activation Guide here.  There are also additional resources on activation and provisioning from Yammer.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Yammer

  • Education

    School 1:1 programmes–Miami-Dade County Public Schools announce 100,000 Windows 8 devices

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    Miami-Dade County Public Schools - logoWe’ve just announced that Miami Dade County Public Schools in the USA will be providing 100,000 Windows 8 devices for their students by August 2015, starting this term with HP and Lenovo computers for 13,000 primary and 15,000 middle school students. It is part of the bigger programme of technology initiatives in partnership with Microsoft, which includes their 350,000 students getting to Microsoft Office for use on their personal computers at home or school, and the use of the IT Academy programme to provide a new job training programme.

    A recent IDC Study, which scanned more than 14 million job postings, found that the most in-demand skills for the top jobs through 2020 are the modern skills such as communication, problem solving and teamwork, coupled with the technical skills of Microsoft Office.  In fact, Microsoft Office is the No. 2 skill employers are looking for in the highest-paying jobs, and No. 3 skill in all jobs.

    Although in these announcements people (and journalists) often focus on the ‘new things’ like software and devices, what is underpinning the whole initiative is a clear focus on improving teaching and learning. As Margo Day, from Microsoft in the US, says in the announcement:

     

    Now, make no mistake — we know technology on its own will not close this education gap; it alone won’t improve test scores.  Yet, it is powerful when used effectively.  The empowered teacher and flexible technology combination can be a magical mix.

    We applaud (Miami-Dade County Public Schools) for carefully looking at the needs of its teachers and students before making the decision of which technology solution to implement.   Microsoft is committed to helping teachers at Miami Dade learn new ways to teach with technology.  It’s critical to help teachers reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks such as grading homework. With the use of tools such as shared OneNote Notebooks, this is finally possible.  Ultimately we want to help teachers spend the most time doing what they do best and love to do most:  teach. 

    For the students, it was wonderful to see Miami-Dade deeply consider the diverse needs of its student population and avoid a one-size-fits-all technology solution.

     

    Miami Dade is the 4th largest US school district, so this is a significant programme, and it follows on just two days after our announcement of a partnership to support wider access to technology for US public schools. That initiative includes a partnership with device manufacturers to lower the cost of Windows devices for schools, as well as teacher and student training resources, and even the provision of advertising-free internet search through Bing for Schools.

    Learn MoreVisit the Microsoft Education Newsroom

  • Education

    Research in Practice seminars: Learning and Thriving in a hyper-connected world

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    Microsoft/PAI - Research in Practice Seminars

    The Principals Australia Institute and the Microsoft Australia Education team are collaborating on a series of breakfast briefings around Australia from mid-March to early April, as part of PAI’s established Research in Practice series. The series puts principals and educators in touch with the latest educational research findings, and the next breakfast briefings focus on 21st Century learning.

     

    In this time of exponential change and opportunity - what does it take to lead and inspire quality learning?

    Mark Sparvell from Principals Australia Institute, and Sean Tierney from Microsoft, will explore:

    • Latest trends in technology in 21st century learning
    • Research findings on how educators can thrive in the midst of rapid technological change
    • How to avoid common pitfalls associated with integrating technology in schools
    • The transformations required in learning design to deliver the best outcomes for our students
    • What leaders and learners need to embrace to become active and resilient contributors to our knowledge-based society.

    All participants will gain insights, practical strategies, networking opportunities and an invitation to explore ideas beyond this session.

    This series is for School Leaders, which includes Principals and others within the school community who have a whole-school leadership role.

    By running the event as a breakfast briefing from 7:30-10AM, it means that you get an opportunity to update yourself without having to leave school for a whole day. And it’s perfectly timed to help with your strategic planning from a teaching, learning and technology perspective.

    Venues and dates for the third PAI Research in Practice series

    These professional development seminars cost $65 including breakfast. You can book now for the briefings in:

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more on the Principals Australia website

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