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

  • Education

    Three steps to create talking books for students with Word

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    To improve accessibility for students, did you know that you can create talking books for students with visual and learning disabilities, using Microsoft Word? The system using a worldwide standard for creating accessible digital resources, called DAISY (the Digital Accessible Information System). And there are just three steps for you or teachers to easily create a talking book in DAISY format:

    Step One: Download the DAISY add-in for Microsoft Word

    Download and install the Save as DAISY add-in from Open XML to DAISY XML Translator (also known as DAISY Translator). The DAISY Translator folder is now in your Start menu, with the Instruction Manual and the Getting Started tutorial, and the Accessibility tab is on your Word 2010 ribbon. (Tutorial video on Step One is here)

    Step Two: Create a digital talking textbook

    imageAfter you have installed the DAISY Translator, you see a SaveAsDAISY option on the Accessibility tab in Word 2010. All you need to do is click on the option, and choose from one of the four DAISY formats. (Tutorial video on Step Two is here)

    Step Three: Listen to your new talking book

    To listen to a DAISY file, you need a DAISY-compatible software playback tool or software reader installed on your computer. You can find several tools, many of which are free, on the DAISY Consortium software playback tools website. (Step Three tutorial video here)

    Learn MoreSee the other blog posts about Accessibility in education

  • Education

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

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    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: http://aka.ms/vumdyw)

    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

    Homework is all about learning - yours and theirs

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    I think I’m a pretty dab hand at PowerPoint, but that hasn’t stopped my kids showing me some pretty impressive things I’ve learnt from. So, whilst the video below is an advert, I reckon it’s happening in real life in households all around Australia on a regular basis.

    Next time you’re preparing a presentation, maybe ask your kids for help - I bet you’ll both learn something.

    • You’ll learn something about PowerPoint
    • They’ll learn something about what you’re planning to talk about

    Win-Win

    And in related news…I can’t use Publisher. My 11 year-old uses it all the time (party invites last night). But fortunately she still needs my high-tech skills - because she can’t turn the wireless printer on - it’s on top of a cupboard Smile

  • Education

    More Moodle advice – The Moodle on SharePoint white paper

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    Following on from the Office Add-In for Moodle earlier in the week, there’s some further advice and support from the Education Labs team for Moodle that may be useful to you - Moodle on SharePoint. If you’re either using Moodle, or considering it, then you may want to consider how you set it up. Because Moodle is an open source product, it’s often assumed that it should be installed on an open source server – like a Linux box. But the challenge with doing that for many schools is that it doesn’t therefore easily integrate with their existing ICT systems – for example, managing users and files on your existing school file servers.

    However, there’s a more positive way to deploy Moodle, which is to install it on your existing infrastructure, rather than having to add additional complications. The most powerful bit of your infrastructure to add it to is your SharePoint – because Moodle on SharePoint fills in some of the gaps of a conventional Moodle system. First, it helps prevent data loss. For example, if a teacher deletes a file by mistake and wants to get it back, you’ll easily be able to go into SharePoint and restore it from the recycling bin – rather than it being lost forever. Secondly, you can take advantage of versioning in SharePoint. If a teacher or student overwrites a file by mistake, it can be restored to a previous version from SharePoint. Finally you can use SharePoint’s search capabilities to search across all of your content, whether it is in your SharePoint file storage, or in your Moodle system (currently there is no equivalent file search capability in Moodle). Perhaps most importantly, teachers can get these benefits while continuing to use the Moodle user interface they are accustomed to, meaning no new training.

    How do you install Moodle on SharePoint?

    So if it makes so much sense to run your Moodle on SharePoint, how do you do it? Well, we’ve published a white paper that explains how to set up SharePoint as the file system for Moodle. It doesn’t need any special code – if you have SharePoint and Moodle, it is a matter of configuration.

    You can download the full white paper here (click on the Read It link) which can help you plan your strategy.

    image  Quickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

  • Education

    Why Moodle is better on SharePoint

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    Earlier today I wrote about installing Moodle on SharePoint, in order to improve the capabilities of the system, and improving the experience for your staff and students. Although I summarised some of the benefits of doing this, I thought it was worth expanding the list out (with the help of my friend and SharePoint MVP Alex Pearce in the UK) to describe some of the things your users will notice. So, when you install Moodle on top of SharePoint, here's the kind of capabilities you add:

    File editing directly in Moodle

    Normally, once you have uploaded your file into Moodle the file is stored in a folder on the Moodle server. This is great but it doesn’t allow you to edit the file. By storing the file in a SharePoint document library you can easily find the file, change it and not have to worry about re-uploading the file again.

    Versioning documents in Moodle

    SharePoint allows you to keep versions of the document you are editing. Over the academic years you may change the file several times, add and delete content but one day you’ll want to go back and view something you deleted. SharePoint will allow you to revert back or just browse previous version. (And this also great for team working, where you can track team changes)

    Search Moodle at the same time as your SharePoint

    As the files are now being stored in SharePoint, SharePoint will index the files and their content automatically. Using SharePoint as your central place to search you all your academic resources is a great learning tool for the learner to find what they are looking for. And it also means that your central search index on your SharePoint is enhanced - because you can search for documents within and outside of your learning management system with a single search.

    Office Web Apps in Moodle

    With the Office Web Applications available for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote in SharePoint 2010 it allows documents to be opened in the browser using the web apps. Teachers or students can open documents in the browser, simply make their quick change and save it back to the site without having to upload and download again.

    Check-In/Check-Out Documents in Moodle

    All these are great but you wouldn’t want your students to see the changes to documents they are using in a course while you making changes. You can check the files out to make changes, make changes over a few minutes, hours, months but until you check the file back in the users will see the original file you want them to see until you are ready to release those changes. (Which means you can start creating next year's course files without changing this year's)

    SharePoint 2010 Workspaces integrated to Moodle

    SharePoint Workspaces allows you to download a document library and make changes from a machine that doesn’t have access to that SharePoint site at the time. In other words you can now make changes to your Moodle course documents offline.

    Workflows in Moodle

    If you have a process for releasing learning resources to students, you can take advantage of the approval process in SharePoint that will allow another colleague to check the files before you release them to all students. This is pretty important where you have sensitive projects that need some oversight or compliance processes.

    Which hopefully convinces you of the value that installing Moodle on SharePoint gives you. And is your next question:

    How do you install Moodle on SharePoint?

    I'd recommend Alex Pearce's work again here - he's written a three part guide to Integrating SharePoint and Moodle, which steps through the specific steps.

    Learn MoreQuickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

  • Education

    Ten of the best - SharePoint School websites

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    A colleague asked me to recommend some school websites built on SharePoint, that they could share with others. After I’d finished it for him, I thought I’d pop it into a PowerPoint for others - and then go further by popping up a quick blog post too. Here’s my take on 10 School SharePoint websites that are worth looking at for design ideas and inspiration - or simply because you want to nudge another colleague towards seeing that SharePoint beauty can start at skin deep.

    Click on any of them to link to the live website

    1. Twynham School Sixth Form, Christchurch, UK
      image

    2. John Paul College, Queensland, Australia
      image

    3. Victoria Department of Education’s FUSE site
      image

    4. West Hatch High School, Essex, UK
      image

    5. Hale School, Western Australia
      image

    6. Wootton Bassett School, Wiltshire, UK
      image

    7. Brigidine College, New South Wales, Australia
      image

    8. Brookfields Specialist SEN School, Berkshire, UK
      image

    9. Florida Virtual School, USA
      image

    10. Twynham School Sixth Form, Christchurch, Dorset
      image

      Note: The reason I listed this twice isn’t me cheating - I simply wanted to make sure that you saw their amazing interactive curriculum pages, and I know you’d kick yourself if you hadn’t seen it at No.1

    Learn MoreDownload the PowerPoint version of Top 10 School SharePoint websites

  • Education

    Microsoft licensing changes for hosted and shared services

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    imageThe pace of change in licensing - in positive ways for education customers - is speeding up. Hot on the heels of the EES licensing (which is leaving most customers I'm talking to much better off), we've now announced changes to licensing that will make it easier (and cheaper) to license software as you move to the cloud - specifically where partners are hosting an application, or servers, in their own data centres.

    Here's my quick summary of the changes from 1st July:

    • In what we're referring to as 'licence mobility', we're making it much easier when you are going to run software in a hosted data centre, by extending the licensing rights for a bunch of server technologies, so that you can run them on-site, or in a externally hosted shared data centre under the same licensing scheme.
    • The extension is for customers with active Software Assurance (you've automatically got this if you have a Campus, School or EES Agreement)
    • This will cover licensing for:
      •  
        • Microsoft SQL Server
        • Microsoft Exchange Server
        • Microsoft SharePoint Server
        • Microsoft Lync Server
        • Microsoft System Center servers
        • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
    • In addition, we're reducing the pricing and 'management overhead' for licensing Windows Server in hosted scenarios using our SPLA scheme (Services Provider Licensing Agreement), by eliminating use restrictions for conventional licenses, allowing us to remove Outsourcing licences
    • We've also added a Core Infrastructure Suite to SPLA licensing
    • This will help you with your flexible IT strategy - you can decide which of your on-site services you want to run in an off-site, third-party datacentre, without creating a big licensing headache. Tie this with the economies of scale from shared data centres, and things are looking up!
    • There's flexibility that allows you to move your applications to the cloud - and back - every 90 days

    For education, this whole announcement is especially important, as education customers can normally buy licences significantly cheaper than commercial organisations - and this has sometimes caused a hiccup where a partner has been buying licences to run a shared data centre, and has paid full commercial pricing.

    A typical scenario where this change is really helpful is where you are using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system to manage your student and alumni relationships, and you are hosting it in your existing data centre. It's the ideal service to move to a shared, hosted data centre, as there are definite peaks and troughs in usage - and the server capacity required. In the past, you may have needed different (or additional) licences if you moved this to a shared hosted data centre - and because of this it often presented barriers to doing it.

    There is a fuller description of the changes on our Licensing site, and you can expect to see more detail over the next few months as we get ready to implement these changes from 1st July

    Learn MoreLearn More about the changes

  • Education

    OneNote on iPad and iPod - how to use it with the web and PC version for teaching and learning

    • 3 Comments

    Teacher iconEarlier today I wrote about the release of OneNote for iPad and iPod, and I promised I’d describe a scenario of using it in teaching and learning. I’ve tried to describe how it can be used by a teacher to make their teaching easier, share more information with their students, and support out of school learning - as well as potentially reduce the mountain of paper that seems a regular feature of my children’s school backpacks!

    Here’s my simple scenario:

    • The teacher uses OneNote to prepare a lesson plan
      • As they collect information from different sources, and web pages, OneNote automatically adds the source info for later reference
      • The teacher can add graphics & diagrams from other sources, or draw their own diagrams, as well as annotate graphics
      • Videos can be embedded, or linked, for use in the lesson
      • If the teacher wants to use a PowerPoint presentation, that too can be embedded, so that everything the teacher needs is in one place
    • The lesson is then delivered using OneNote
      • The teacher can use the OneNote notebook as either a source of info and prompt for them, or put it up onto a projector and use it to structure the whole lesson.
      • If there’s an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, by using OneNote the teacher can also annotate, draw diagrams etc, as they go along on the whiteboard, and this is then saved in the OneNote notebook automatically
      • You can even use OneNote to make a recording of the whole lesson, so that the students can go back and listen to or watch the whole lesson or the particular parts that they need to revise!
    • The teacher can then share the OneNote notebook with their students, for them to use afterwards
      • If they do this in SkyDrive, they can just set the default for all of a particular notebook to be shared, and keep all their lesson materials in that notebook
      • If they don’t want students to see next week’s lesson, they can set a password on each new lesson page as they start to create it, and then remove it when they teach that lesson - meaning that it’s closed to students all the time they are creating it and until they want it to be available
    • The teacher can also publish the homework assignments on the OneNote as well
      • Using the password trick above they can ensure students do see the assignments until it’s the right time
      • They can also set groups in the class differentiated assignments by creating multiple homework pages - and give each group a different password to get to their assignment page
    • Students can access their assignments and lesson notes wherever they are
      • The super-keen ones can access it on their iPhones and Windows Phones on the way home on the bus/train (how cool would it be to get your homework sorted before you’ve even reached home?
      • At home they could access it on their iPad (or more likely, on Dad’s iPad), or their home PC or school laptop with Office installed, or over the web on any computer using Office Web Apps on SkyDrive
      • If they don’t have internet access at home (eg they are one of the 6% of school students without home Internet access) they can use their school laptop with OneNote offline - they just need to sync their laptop before they leave school - eg in the lesson - and then they have all the files available at home, including any embedded videos and graphics
    • There are plenty of other things that could be done too - like asking students to submit their assignments through a shared OneNote notebook (and you can use the same password protection trick to keep students from seeing others’ work) and allowing the teacher to mark the work online, make comments, record commentary etc

    image[8]

    Your students and teachers can download OneNote for iPad and iPod from the iTunes store, and you’re already likely to have OneNote on your school computers (and if you haven’t it’s time to install it Smile)

    Learn MoreFind all the OneNote info on this blog
    Find out more about OneNote for iPad and iPod

  • Education

    Photo Story 3 - free software for teachers in February

    • 3 Comments

    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Microsoft Photo Story 3

    Photo Story 3If you remember Photo Story from the Windows XP days, well you’ll be glad to know it's back and working with Windows 7 (as well as Windows XP). If you don’t know, then you’re in a for a surprise when you give this a try!
    imageYou can quickly create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add animations and special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalise them with titles and captions. The whole thing is then wrapped up into a ‘photo story’ - a video with a small file size that makes it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your interactive whiteboard, TV, your computer, or your smartphone!

    For an example of the results, watch the video "Remember the Ladies” from the Department of Classics at Furman University.

    It’s difficult to describe how easy it is to use, without stepping it through with you step-by-step, but it is so simple to use that the easiest way to see it is to try it!

    It’s a great way for students to create a piece of work, and makes a fantastic break from the usual PowerPoint presentations that they produce - and introduces a whole new set of skills for students to think about.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    You may not need much help, as the software is easy to use. However, Pat Pecoy at the Department of Classics at Furman University has created a series of Photo Story 3 tutorials here.

    Where do I get Picture Story 3 from?

    Like every other piece of software in the ‘February Freebies’ list, it’s free. You can download it directly from this Microsoft Downloads link for Photo Story 3. (BTW although it says it’s only for Windows XP, this link contains the updated version that works on Windows 7 too)

  • Education

    SharePoint Governance and Lifecycle Management in education

    • 3 Comments

    As you’d expect, we run a massive internal SharePoint system at Microsoft. It contains 250,000 site collections and 36 terabytes of data - growing at the rate of 1 terabyte every three months (yup, that’s the equivalent of 300,000 extra 1MB documents every month). The impact of that growth was not just storage cost - it is also search speed and search relevance (if you’re searching a gazillion out-of-date documents, it makes it harder to find the one you really want).

    The Microsoft IT Team, who keep it all running, have implemented a SharePoint governance and lifecycle management system, to help meet the information standards for the business, as well as reduce cost and improve the search experience. And then written a great Technical Case Study to share their experiences. I thought it worth sharing because I know that education users of SharePoint are grappling with similar issues, as they develop SharePoint usage out from an IT department to institution-wide.

    Policies for SharePoint site lifecycle management

    There were four key policies implemented, which helped bring the system under better control:

    • Site classification. Sites must assign and maintain site information classification, information security classification, and ownership. Eg Team sites must have one full-time employee site owner and two administrators at all times.

    • Site lifecycle management of expired/abandoned sites. Sites expire one year after creation and must be renewed annually. Sites that have no activity over a period of six months are considered abandoned and are subject to decommission.

    • Site storage and quota management. Depending on the hosting environment, storage quota limits range from 2 gigabytes (GB) to 100 GB, depending on the type of sites and hosting options. SharePoint libraries and lists are not to exceed 5,000 items. Sites are backed up daily and recoverable up to 14 days.

    • Customization and server-side access. For most of the standard SharePoint-hosted services offerings, MSIT neither allows server-side access or server-side configuration changes by users, nor does it allow most third-party plug-ins, site customizations, new features, or additions.

    Information Security Classification tabsAlthough our IT environment is very different to an average education user, there is some really useful implementation advice in the IT Showcase case study - for example, in the way that we’ve tagged all SharePoint sites with an Information Classification - something that could be ideal for categorising sets of data in an education SharePoint system (see right).

    There’s also interesting insight into the way that sites are categorised for traffic - with ‘heavy hitters’ categorised when they reach more than 100,000 hits a day, or consuming more than 10GB of memory.

    Learn MoreRead the full Microsoft IT Showcase case study on SharePoint Site Governance and Lifecycle Management

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