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The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

  • Education

    Uses for Office 365 Video in education

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    A few months ago we announced the Office 365 Video service, which is an internal video publishing service on Office 365, and we recently confirmed that it is now rolling out to all of our Office 365 Enterprise customers (that automatically includes Office 365 Education services, with plan E1 and E3). What the service allows you to do is create a video portal within your Office 365 Education service, and create channels (eg for specific curriculum subjects or special interest groups) for users to watch.

    Office 365 Video begins worldwide rollout and gets mobile 2

    The Office 365 Video service uses a group of cloud services in Azure Media Services, to make it easier for your users to publish their videos in easily accessible formats, so that they can watch on a PC, Mac, tablet or phone. We’ve also announced an Office 365 Video for iPhone app, so that staff or students can record and watch videos on their iPhone. And because the service runs on top of Office 365 and Azure cloud services, it means that the security that applies to all of your other information also applies to the videos – for example, the videos are stored and transmitted with secure encryption, to keep them private.

    It’s also running as a service within your Office 365 setup, so there are no additional charges for the service (for example, the media transcoding is included within the Office 365 Video service, and the video storage uses your existing SharePoint team allocation in Office 365)

    There are two key ways that you could use this service in a school, TAFE or university:

    • Simply start to publish videos using the standard Office 365 Video services and mobile apps, and start to create channels for your different content. Your teaching staff could also upload recordings of lessons, presentations, screen recordings etc directly from Office Mix into your Office 365 Video portal. The process is easy for users – they can just drag and drop an existing video onto the portal (recorded in heaps of formats), and it handles all of the transcoding needed to make the video available on different devices. And you can setup multiple channels, and select different users as admins for the channels.
    • You could use develop a customised service for your users using the developer APIs available for Office 365 Video. For example, if you wanted to use this to deliver a lecture capture and streaming service, a developer can build a service to upload from your lecture capture hardware into your Office 365 Video portal and publish automatically in the correct channels. All the documentation for the Office 365 Video APIs are previewed here.

    Learn MoreVisit the Office 365 Video website


    I’d also recommend taking a look at the
    Office 365 Video Uservoice site – this is where the team are collecting feedback and requests for future features – so if there’s something you’d like to see added to the service, this is where you can go and vote for it, or suggest it!

  • Education

    Sway for publishing curriculum resources–helpful updates for teachers in April

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    When the Office team launched Sway, the newest member of the Microsoft Office family, I wrote about how helpful it would be for teachers and students.

    imageThe simplest way I can describe Sway is that it lets you publish visually attractive materials, including multimedia elements, that will look good on a PC browser or a student’s smartphone, without you having to know too much about design or the device the reader will see it on. It’s very different to PDFs, which might look great on a big screen, but become unreadable on a phone as you’ll be constantly zooming in and out on text and diagrams.

    Since it was launched last October, I’ve been experimenting with it for different kinds of online publications. For example a white paper on student attrition, a travel diary and for trialling conversion of PDF/paper publications. None of these are amazing productions, as they’re the result of me playing with Sway’s features.

    Since the first version of Sway was rolled out, there have been a huge number of updates announced on the Sway blog, so here’s a run down of key Sway features for teachers and students announced so far this month:

    Collaborative creation and editing of Sways

    • You can add additional authors by simply inviting them with a link
    • Keep track of who has access and who is editing from the My Sways page
    • Whilst you’re editing a sway, you can see who else is editing at the same time

    These features are great to allow a teacher or student to start off a piece of work, and then amend it collaboratively. Eg a teacher creates a framework, and then students add their own text and pictures into their piece, creating one single Sway at the end. Or students could work collaboratively on a Sway on different devices – from a browser, or in the iPad or iPhone app – making it easier to add their own photos from their device.

    • Make a copy of a Sway

    This is handy for a teacher to create a template for a homework assignment, or a reporting template, or a lesson plan, and then make a copy each time they want to use it, or share it with students.

    More about the collaborative features in Sway

    Interactive Charts and embedded objects

    • You can now create a chart in Sway that users can click on items to refine the view (eg to remove datasets, or focus on specific lines in a line chart)
    • Since January you have been able to embed other objects from the web (like YouTube videos), and now the team have simplified the process of embedding Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDF documents and PowerPoint slides – making drag and drop.

    This would be useful where you have a pre-existing curriculum resource, like a PowerPoint or worksheet, and you want to provide it to students alongside a multimedia lesson plan.

    More about the interactive and embedded objects in Sway

    All on top of what Sway already had…

    All of this is in addition to the new features added to Sway since launch, like the iPhone apps, the import from PDF/Word/PowerPoint documents.

    Learn More

    You can dive into using Sway straight away at https://sway.com/,

    or take a look at the Sway team’s examples of use cases for teachers,

    or read some of the stories of what other people have done with Sway:
  • Education

    2015 Microsoft NSW Schools Roadshow - Next Level Learning

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    Each year we've worked with other partners to run a regional Microsoft NSW schools roadshow right around the state. And it's back again...the team road trip, just in time for winter!

    Basically, we're running quality, free, relevant and hands-on education technology workshops, which don't happen often. This May and June, Microsoft will be offering hands-on workshops across NSW with the latest technology including Windows 8.1, apps, Office 365 and devices, including the latest Surface 3.

    Want to make the most of your students’ love of mobile technology? This half-day hands-on workshop presents five tried and trusted ways to implement a successful 1:1 program involving BYOD. Plus we’ll introduce new Microsoft stuff that could help you get started in your school.

    For example, did you know…

    • Office 365 is available to students at no charge:
      Schools that license Microsoft Office for all staff can now also provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for all students, teachers and staff at no extra  cost. Office 365 ProPlus (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more) can be downloaded on 5 PCs or Macs, 5 tablets and unlimited mobile devices - go straight to http://www.office.com/getOffice365
    • Office 365 runs on iPad, Android and Windows devices
    • The technology you already have does more than you think

    Our Microsoft Education Master Trainers aren’t just going to inspire you to take learning to new places, they’ll step you through actually doing it.

    Who will get the most from this session?

    Teachers, ICT leads and curriculum leads. Devices will be provided.

    Dates & Venues

    Parramatta – Friday May 29th 2015 – UNE Future Campus - Register Here

    Tamworth – Monday June 1st 2015 – Tamworth Golf Club -  Register Here

    Batemans Bay – Wednesday June 3rd 2015 – NRMA, Murramarang Beach Resort - Register Here

    Dubbo – Friday June 5th 2015 – Macquarie Inn - Register Here

    Newcastle – Wednesday June 10th 2015 – Register Here

    Lismore – Friday June 12th 2015 – Register Here

    Surry Hills – Wednesday June 17th 2015 – Register Here

    Agenda

    12.00 - Registration & receive your device
    12.15 - Changing the way we teach & learn – Discover the learning potential of Windows devices
    13.00 - Meeting the needs of 21st Century Learners – Learn how to use OneNote, Class Notebook & Staff Notebook for classroom management, research, collaboration & problem solving
    14.00 - Afternoon tea
    14.20 - Anytime, anywhere learning – See how Office 365, Sway and Office Mix can flip your classroom, provide distance learning solutions, share resources and transform your classes
    15.20 - Sneak Preview – See how Microsoft’s Surface 3 device can fire up new learning experiences
    16.00 - Close

     If you want to share the invitation with colleagues, there's a PDF version attached

  • Education

    How to write a NSW School plan using the 5P strategic planning template

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    Here’s a question: If you’ve got a deadline just around the corner for creating a strategic school plan, what’s the best way to do it in a way that is still collaborative and inclusive – and hits the deadline? It’s a conversation we had with the Goal Huddle team about school planning templates for NSW schools.

    imageGoal Huddle, based in Sydney, work with national and global organisations to help them with their strategic planning processes, through their innovative SharePoint app. It is a dashboard and reminder-driven planning system that enables and encourages team collaboration whilst you create, run and tweak your multi-year strategic plan. It’s a great piece of work, and in our conversations with them we realised it would be a great tool to help schools with their strategic planning. After all, many schools have impending deadlines to create strategic plans, use SharePoint and/or Office 365 , and have a senior leadership team who want to enable more collaboration amongst staff.

    So it was great to see the team go off, start talking to schools and work out how they can help them develop actionable strategic plans - as opposed to WIFI Plans (Write-It & File-It). The first tool that they have created is a specific version of Goal Huddle for NSW Schools, to help them create their 2015-2017 Strategic School Plans, using the NSW DEC’s 5P process.

    When you start ‘Goal Huddle for 5P School Planning’ it’s setup directly for the NSW 5P planning process, with sections for Purpose, People, Processes, Products & Practices. And the process of planning, using a set of simple web forms, encourages input from individuals and groups responsible for elements of the plan – and an ongoing process to track status and remind individuals of the need for updates or deadlines throughout the lifetime of the plan.

    As each NSW school is expected to produce a plan by the end of March this year, and then review the plan going forward, this tool’s arrived just at the right time, and gives schools a collaborative alternative to an Excel spreadsheet for planning (and avoiding the complexity of some of the alternate enterprise planning tools!)

    Despite the extra customisation that’s gone into creating this strategic planning template for NSW schools, Goal Huddle for School Planning is significantly cheaper than the normal price for Goal Huddle. And a lot more effective than WIFI Plans that get dumped in a file and forgotten.

    You can find out more, and get instructions for activating Goal Huddle in your SharePoint site, in the Office Store:

    Learn MoreGet Goal Huddle for NSW School planning, set up for the 5P template


    Question: Now that they’ve got the work done for NSW Schools, which school planning process should they look at next?

  • Education

    5.5m students in Australia can get Office 365 ProPlus free

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    In 2013 we announced that students can download Office 365 ProPlus free (that’s the suite of Office apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher etc) onto their personal devices – Windows PCs, Macs, phones, tablets etc. We called this programme “Student Advantage”, and it applied to every education institution which had licensed Office for their staff. But because each customer had to enable the service for their students, and order the free licences from us, it meant that some students who qualified couldn’t get it, and every school/TAFE/university had a different sign-up page for students. It was more complicated than it could have been, and every time students/staff asked me how they could get Office free, I had to point them back to their IT department to find out how to do it in their school.

    So, it’s good news that we’ve simplified the whole process, and made it really easy for the more than 5m students in Australia that qualify.

    Office 365 for students and staff

    Now, if you are a student or a staff member, you simply go to the sign up page, and sign in with your educational email address (in Australia, that means it’s going to end in .edu.au). You’ll then get access to the Office 365 ProPlus software suite free to download and install on up to five PCs or Macs, 5 tablets and other mobile devices – including iPad, iPhone and Android devices. You will also get 1TB of storage on OneDrive for Business in the cloud.

    This is great news for the 5.5 million students in Australia that qualify (yep, that’s nearly every single one), and especially 30% of students who are using a BYOD device, as well as for the IT Department who now have less to do.*

    You can read the announcement from Fiona Sims, our Office 365 Education Product Manager in Australia, or the official global announcement of Office 365 ProPlus for students and staff, or even better, just go to the site below and sign up and get started: 

    Learn MoreGo to the Office 365 site and sign in with your Education email address


    * This may be a contentious comment to make, but there’s actually work for the IT Department to do if they want to block access to Office for their students or staff, but none if they’re happy for everybody to get it!

  • Education

    Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard: The evidence

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    When I wrote about “How to help students to remember more” towards the end of last year, I shared a video of my colleague Travis Smith talking about the power of pen-based input for students, over a simple keyboard interface, for key tasks such as note taking. (I recommend either the 15-minute or 60-minute version of his talks).

    You’ll see that we strongly believe in the need for digital paper and pen in the way that our products have evolved. Things like the improvements in the natural feel of the stylus in Surface Pro 3, the powerful inking in OneNote and the rest of Office, and the brand new support for hand writing in OneNote on the iPad.

    There is a weight of evidence for pen-based interfaces improving learning, and Sharon Oviatt talks about much of it in her book The Design of Future Educational Interfaces from Routledge.

    And there’s also an overview by Sharon Oviatt of the work, which you can download from the link below.

    image

    It opens with a bang:

    “For too long and with too little forethought we have handed our students technology to help them learn. New evidence reveals that certain types of technology actually create barriers to thinking, creating and problem-solving. While other types can enhance these same skills”

    And it continues on the theme:

    “Computers can either enhance a student’s ability to think, communicate and learn  – or seriously undermine it”

    And then it warms up with insight into the research into some key questions:

    • How do keyboards and digital pens stimulate or undermine students’ ability to think?
    • How do interfaces influence language learning?
    • Why do pen interfaces have cognitive advantages?
    • Do these research results apply across different students and subjects?
    • Are all pen interfaces equally effective?

    And it then gives detail advice about the kind of interfaces to help students with different learning tasks – when they are exploring, thinking, expressing themselves, collaborating and recording information.

    Learn More

    Download the Oviatt paper "Computer interfaces and their impact on learning"

  • Education

    Supporting BYOD in education– Outlook everywhere for students and staff

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    There’s no doubt that the trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in education for students is gathering pace. According to The Australian yesterday, 30% of schools have moved to BYOD, and for universities we’re pretty much at 100% already. And it’s happening rapidly for staff too – even if it’s not always BYOD, it’s certainly CYOD (Choose Your Own Device from a pre-approved list).

    But that comes with challenges for IT departments in schools, TAFEs and universities across Australia. Because in the good ole days, you could control the device and the environment that your users had and you could build a Standard Operating Environment that left you in control.

    The good news is that we’re working phenomenally hard to ensure that the apps you want for your users are available on the devices your users are walking around with. We announced another step change last night as we released Office for Android tablets and Outlook for iOS and a preview of Outlook for Android.

    image

    Here’s where to go for the official announcements:

    Office Blog: The Office you love is now on your Android tablet

    Office Blog: A deeper look at Outlook for iOS and Android

    And just in case you need some motivation to combat the inertia of “Oh no, I can’t cope with more change”, maybe what others are saying might help:

    Business Insider saidMicrosoft's new email app for iPhone convinced me to delete Gmail after 5 minutes”.

    Lifehacker saidMicrosoft dropped some excellent news overnight: Outlook has finally arrived on Android and iOS

    And as ZDNet reportedthere were 250,000 downloads of the preview versions of the Office for Android apps. There also have been 80 million downloads of Office on iPad and Office on iPhone apps combined as of this week

    The Office you love is now on your Android tablet 1
  • Education

    Free - Teacher Dashboard for Office 365 Education

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    Teacher Dashboard header graphic (shows teacher at whiteboard)

    Teacher Dashboard is an app for Office 365 Education that lets you easily share files and assignments with your students, and then allows you to grade them and provide feedback. It’s a web-based classroom manager tool for Office 365 that customises your school’s system to support the teaching and learning process, and gives your teachers tools for the most common processes they need to do.

    Teacher Dasboard logo

    It’s designed to allow your teaching staff to:

    • Share a homework assignment to an unlimited number of students with one click.
    • Teachers get a high level view, in real-time, of their student’s OneDrives
    • Create teacher-defined groups for each subject, ability and year group with just 1 click
    • Upload files to your OneDrive and share directly to students through the dashboard.
    • Simple multi-class management tools allow teachers to quickly and efficiently assign and track documents between classes
    • Mobile device ready - able to be used on all devices including tablets and smartphones

    Students can easily submit their assignments online, and Teacher Dashboard creates a folder structure that helps them keep their work organised, and automatically gives teachers the correct access to the correct folders.

    You can read more about the teaching and learning value of Teacher Dashboard on the Australian Teachers blog

     

    Teacher Dashboard is now free for your first 100 teachers

    imageThe news that’s just been announced by Axis12, the developers of Teacher Dashboard, is that it is now free for schools to use with up to 100 teachers (after that, there’s a subscription fee for additional licences).

    The team have also added a bulk importer, to allow you to import classes directly from your school’s SMS/SIS system.

    How to download Teacher Dashboard

    Teacher Dashboard is available through Microsoft’s Office Online store – installing it on your Office 365 tenant is something that your school’s site administrator does – and there’s a simple 3-step process to install it. Once that’s done, it’s then available to all the teachers to start using.

     

    Learn MoreFind out more about Teacher Dashboard for Office 365

  • Education

    2015 Back To School Surface 3 discount for students

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    Hot off the press: imageHarvey Norman have just launched their Back to School student/teacher offer for the Surface Pro 3, with a 10% discount available to those who have an “.edu.au” email address.

    All the details are on their website here

    The offer is very simple to use – you supply your email address ending in edu.au, and they then email you a 10% off Education discount voucher.

  • Education

    Moodle integration with Office 365–how to get it

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    Last month, when I wrote that new Moodle integrations with Microsoft technology were on the way, I didn’t have an exact date, but forecast ‘late January’. And how time flies – because they’ve just arrived!

    Microsoft Open Technologies logoOvernight, the work from our Microsoft Open Technologies team and the Remote Learner team (a Moodle partner), was released as open source Moodle plugins - enabling close integration between Moodle and Office 365. This is key news for education institutions, because there’s a huge overlap between the 50,000+ Moodle installations and the millions of Office 365 Education users.

    Now schools, TAFEs and universities that are using Moodle and Office 365 Education can now simplify the lives of staff and students:

    • Teaching staff and students can now use their Office 365 account to login to Moodle
      No longer will students need two separate identities – one to login to their LMS, and a separate one to login to their email and collaboration space.
      By connecting the two systems, it means that teachers and students can store their files on their OneDrive rather than having to have a separate file storage system in Moodle. It also means that where you use Office 365’s SharePoint for document management, you can use it’s document workflow and history features.
    • Moodle calendar entries can now automatically appear in the Office 365 calendars of students and staff
      As the Office 365 calendar (in Exchange) is the one that is normally synced to the phone or PC, it means that a teacher adding an assignment deadline or lecture into Moodle means it will show up on the students’ calendar on their phone/computer!
    • OneNote integration into Moodle means that students can now complete an assignment in OneNote and submit it into Moodle, whether they are online or offline.
      And staff can provide feedback to the student via OneNote too (eg handwritten notes on an essay, or video/voice recordings of feedback).
    • Integration between Office Mix and Moodle allows teachers to embed a Mix directly into a Moodle course
      Office Mix allows you to create a digital learning resource directly within PowerPoint, and then make the recording available to students on the web. By using a single login between Moodle and Office 365, you can share Mixes which can only be viewed by students within your institution, as well as public Mixes.
    • Moodle course documents can now be stored in OneDrive by staff and students
    • Moodle can now appear in your Office 365 app launcher, visible from all the different Office 365 online services
      This means your students don’t need to remember yet another portal URL – it can all be accessed through the Office 365 portal your students are already using for email, file sharing etc

    One of the significant advantages of this approach is that students and staff get the latest capabilities of Office 365 on all of their devices, rather than you having to adapt your Moodle service to deliver to different devices and capabilities.

    • If you assign a piece of work in Moodle through OneNote, it means the students can access that work on all the different OneNote options – on the web, on their PC or Mac, and on the Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone apps. And OneNote handles the synchronisation between devices and the OneDrive cloud services, so your students can choose to work offline or online at any time.
    • If you share resources as an Office document – eg a PowerPoint file – students can open and edit the files on their PC, phone or web-browser. Online and offline.

    What this means is that you could choose to hide the complexity of your Learning Management System and use the Office 365 ability to sync files offline to deliver work directly onto a students’ device! So the first a student sees would be a note appear in their calendar to tell them about an assignment, and then it shows up in their OneDrive folder on their PC, or in their OneNote file on their phone…

    If you are a Moodle user, then you’ll want to take a look at the announcements over on the Microsoft Open Technologies blog, and pass it along to the team responsible for maintaining your Moodle system in your institution.

    I’d recommend the Remote Learner blog if you want to understand the technical approach and for more detailed descriptions of the two systems integrate.

    Learn More

    Learn more on the Microsoft Open Technologies blog

     

     

    Don’t forget I’ve also recently blogged about the new Moodle Mobile app released for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and the option for you to be running Moodle in the cloud on Microsoft Azure (so that you can more quickly and affordably deploy Moodle instances, or convert existing Moodle servers to run in the cloud rather than on your own servers)

    Find all Moodle blog posts on this blog

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