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

  • Education

    Update on running Moodle in the cloud on Microsoft Azure

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    There’s been quite a bit of news around integration work for Moodle on the Microsoft Azure cloud recently, so I have gathered together some update info. This post is about running Moodle in the cloud. Next week, I’ll pull some bits together on integration with other Microsoft technologies.

    Fully supported Moodle cloud service for Microsoft Azure cloud

    Two of the largest official Moodle partners (Remote-Learner and NivelSiete) have teamed together to provide fully supported and maintained Microsoft Azure Certified Moodle installations in the Azure Cloud. The installations have been configured and optimised to provide high performance and availability, and have been built for medium size organisations. The fully supported service includes a core Moodle build, as well as pre-installation of a series of 40 common, high-value add-ons – and then support for both initial configuration and ongoing use through technical support and a full training programme.

    imageIn many cases the normal process for deploying a Moodle server for educational customers involves first hunting down suitable spare server hardware capacity, then installing an operating system, then installing Moodle etc. Often this can take weeks, or even months. But with a cloud deployed service, you simply click a website button (like the one on the right) to deploy a virtual machine with all of the services pre-configured.

    And because you are selecting the deployment options, you can choose where you deploy the service, and what capacity you’re going to need. Which means you could have it running in one of our two Australian Azure datacentres in minutes.

    The pricing contains two elements, both of which are based on the hours that you run the cloud services:

    • A price for the Microsoft Azure service which varies according to the server capacity. At the low end, deploying onto a 1 core server with 768MB RAM costs just over 2 cents an hour. More likely a dual core server with 7GB RAM and 40GB SSD will cost under 20 cents an hour, whereas putting it onto a server with 8 cores and 56GB of RAM is going to set you back nearly a dollar an hour – but I would guess that will be overkill for almost all scenarios.
    • A price for the support and ongoing maintenance and upgrades, which is provided by Remote-Learner.

    Putting both elements together, that means you can have a scalable, fully managed and supported Moodle service running for between $800 and $1,500 a month.

    For more information, take a look at:

    The official announcement from Remote-Learner (and I’d also recommend taking a look at the blog post from Mike Churchward, who’s the Remote-Learner President, about their experience working with our Microsoft Open Technologies team)

    Learn MoreGo to the Microsoft Azure Marketplace to see more, and deploy a Moodle virtual machine in the cloud!

    Deployment images for Moodle for Microsoft Azure cloud

    If rather than having a fully supported service you just want to deploy a Moodle server image to a Microsoft Azure cloud service, and then configure and support it yourself, then there’s the bitnami images available on the VMDepot.

    The VMDepot is a community-driven catalog of preconfigured operating systems, applications, and development stacks that can easily be deployed on Windows Azure. Find your favorite software and deploy it in minutes, or join the community, build a virtual machine image, and share it with others. It was created by the Microsoft Open Technologies team.

    imageWith these pre-configured machine images, you basically just click a ‘Create Virtual Machine’ button, and then log in to your Azure account to deploy. It will automatically deploy a Moodle 2.8 instance on an Apache 14.04 server onto an Azure virtual server (If you don’t have an Azure account then give it a whirl with the Azure 30-day free trial that gives you $200 worth of free Azure).

    Although deploying a Moodle package on an Apache server is normally a highly technical, time consuming thing to do, it’s totally different on a cloud service. In fact, so different that I actually did it myself to check… and started it as I wrote this paragraph. This is how far it's got at this point:

    image

    (If you’ve met me, you know I’m not an uber-geek like many of my colleagues, so hopefully this is proof that you don’t need to be a rocket-surgeon to do this stuff.)

    Unlike the fully supported service, once you’ve got this deployed, it is now all yours – just like if you were running it on a server under your desk, or in your own datacentre. You manage, configure and update it. We just run the datacentre and the virtual server that it’s running on.

    Just flipped back – and as you can see on my Azure projects page, the cloud service is running, and it’s now starting up the virtual machine:

    image

    If this is your preferred option, then here’s where to go to get it done:

    Other Open Source services running on Microsoft Azure

    If you want to see some of the other bitnami images, either visit the Microsoft Azure marketplace listing for bitnami, or visit the bitnami website (there’s even a button there to launch a free one hour demo server).

    Go to the VMDepot website to see some of the other 500+ virtual machine images you can deploy with one-click of your mouse, including FreeBSD, WordPress, Drupal etc


    And finally, I just went and logged into my new Moodle cloud server on Azure, and I thought I’d share the home screen, just to prove how quick and easy the whole thing was to setup!

    image

  • Education

    Microsoft joins-up with UTS and NSW Government to hatch Sydney talent

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    Exciting news shared yesterday on the Microsoft Australia 'The Big Picture' blog. Sarah Vaughan, our Director for Developer Evangelism and Experience at Microsoft Australia, talked about a new project we are part of with the University of Technology, Sydney. It’s all about growing compelling student experiences, and helping students get a leg up on their first entrepreneurial career step.

    I’ll let Sarah Vaughan take up the story from the blog post…

     

    I’ve had some pretty exciting times during my 12 years with Microsoft and this week rates as one of the best, with the announcement of our partnership with the University of Technology, Sydney’s (UTS) and its newly launched precinct, Intersection: Sydney’s Digital Creative Hub.

    UTS has been one of the most active academic institutions in ‘joining-up’ the innovation ecosystem, with Sydney’s Digital Creative Hub set to bring together creative and digital start-ups, cultural, media, SMEs, commercial, government and educational organisations.

    I’m excited to work for a company that is a partner in connecting our best minds and talent, so they can work together, spark ideas off each other, ask for help . . . do all thing things that help take the seed of an idea and make it into something special.

    Our partnership is not just about today, it’s also about uncovering and nurturing tomorrow’s innovators – something that’s always been important to Microsoft. Bookending the precinct, ‘The Hatchery’ is a pre-incubator to educate and launch tomorrow’s entrepreneurs – something that’s essential if we are going to thrive as a nation.

    There are a number of reasons why this will increasingly be the way of the future:

    • It works – people working together are more creative and innovative
    • Today’s technology enables connection and collaboration at a level unimaginable just a few short years ago
    • By nurturing talent it helps ensure great ideas become reality
    • Through the introduction of the concepts of entrepreneurialism into education we will inspire innovation

    As part of our backing of the Digital Creative Hub we’re providing mentors and a full time employee to curate activity, as well as making available a 12 month Azure for BizSpark grant for qualifying start-ups. We will also be using the space – which is in the basement level of ‘U@622’ on Harris St, Ultimo – to hold events such as Hackathons.

    With Intersection and The Hatchery – it’s a clear sign that change is coming, that disparate groups and individuals are recognising that the way ahead – the way to innovation - is by working together.

    You might have read the story in the Sydney Morning Herald but the reason for my excitement is that it’s the next part of our commitment to Joined-Up Innovation, Microsoft’s vision to drive greater innovation outcomes for Australia.

     

    Learn MoreYou can read more about our Joined-Up Innovation initiative on the Microsoft Australia website

  • Education

    How to help students remember more

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    My colleague Travis Smith is an ex-deputy principal, and an enthusiastic pedagogue. His time is spent obsessing about how to enhance teaching and learning with technology, and the ways that it can support deeper learning by students.

    One challenge is that we need to focus on helping students remember more of what they are taught, and there’s evidence that some of the current ways that they choose to use technology isn’t helping students remember more (including the research that showed that students who use laptops [keyboards] to take notes learned less than those who took notes using paper [and pen]) – see Research says the pen is mightier than the keyboard – and other useful education research nuggets.

    Last month he talked at one of our seminars about the power of the pen for enhancing students’ learning, specifically in the context of the digital pen on the Surface Pro 3. His talk, “Weighing the evidence: Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard”, was an hour, which wasn’t long in the room, but it’s probably longer when you can only watch it on YouTube. So the team have created an edited highlights version, which is less than 15 minutes, and provides a compelling case why students will benefit from digital pen and digital paper. As Travis puts it “Paper isn’t going away. It’s just getting smarter”.

    This short video is definitely worth watching, and sharing with colleagues…

  • Education

    Why a Surface Pro 3 is different

    • 1 Comments

    For some reason, this advert was out nearly 3 months ago but I never noticed it. Maybe it's because at the time I didn't have a Surface Pro (in the same way that you don't notice how many identical cars there are on the road until you get one that's the same). Or maybe at the moment I'm following a lot of teachers on Twitter that have started to discover what having a device with an advanced digital stylus can mean for learning. Either way, this ad from the US means much more to me now:

  • Education

    Adelaide workshop on learning technolgoy

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    We're running a workshop for teachers and school leaders in Adelaide in late November, and based on feedback from previous events, I can recommend it as a great way to get up to speed with ideas for how the technology already in your classroom can help boost teaching and learning (plus there’ll be new ideas with new technology too!).

    Not in Adelaide? There will be others around the country, so I’ll keep my eyes open for the list as it’s published.

    Workshop the latest technologies for learning

    Students learning on their own smartphones and tablets and in the cloud. Schools managing their own data and technology platforms. With so much changing in your school, deciding what's right for your students takes careful consideration.

    Talk through the issues and explore new technologies in this practical hands-on workshop, guided by experienced educationalist and Microsoft Education Master Trainer Pip Cleaves.

    She'll help you wrap your head around new thinking using Microsoft technologies in your classroom, with proven approaches and the latest devices. Workshops are complimentary and devices are provided so you can experience Windows 8 and Office 365 in action

    You’ll get the chance to meet Microsoft's latest tablet: the Surface Pro 3 and see how you can use it to fire up new learning experiences at your school.

    Agenda

    8:30am Register and get your device
    (Good news: It’s a hands-on workshop. Bad news: you only get to borrow the device for the workshop, not take it away Sad smile)
    9:00 - 9:45 Why does technology matter and why should your school care?
    9:45 - 10:45 Hands-on: Windows 8 devices
    10:45 - 11:00 Morning tea
    11:00 - 12:00pm Collaboration, creation and problem solving using Office 365
    12:00 - 12:30 Lunch
    12:30 - 1:45 Hands-on: Office 365
    1:45 - 2:00 Preview: Microsoft Surface Pro 3
    2:00 - 2:30pm Q&A, next steps

    About the facilitator

     

    Pip Cleaves is well known to many in NSW Department of Education & Communities for her work as a teacher and professional learning consultant in the Hunter Central Coast Region and State Offices for both the Digital Education Revolution 1-to-1 Laptop program and the Connected Classrooms Program. She is also a Microsoft Peer Coach Master Trainer, Adobe Education Leader and Microsoft 21st Century Learning Design Master Facilitator.  Through her company Design | Learn | Empower, Pip continues her journey to support schools, teachers and students to integrate 21st century skills and technology into their learning.

    Date and venue

    Tuesday 25 November: Education Development Centre, Milner Street, Hindmarsh

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register

  • Education

    Paradyne briefing for schools in Melbourne–12 November

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    The team over at Paradyne are running an education briefing at our offices in Melbourne early in November, which will cover Office 365 Education and the ways that other schools are using it to support their teaching and learning goals.

    They are also going to feature Docusign to talk about one of my pet hates – the permission slips that come home from school which require me to (1) find the slip (2) find a pen (3) give the form back to my daughter and (4) keep my fingers crossed that the form reaches school. I know permission slips are frustrating for schools too, for almost the same reasons as they are for me, and also because staff spend valuable time record keeping, chasing and general permission-slip-time-wasting-stuff. If your school is currently sending permission slips home for parents to sign (or even worse, for me as a parent, emailing them home and expecting parents to print them, sign them, and then send them back) then you might get an insight into how you can make everybody in this loop happy!

    And they’re also partnering with the Staples team to show off some of the cool new Windows devices that have hit the market ready for next year.

    Amazingly, they are going to get that all over with by lunchtime, so you’ll be back in school for the afternoon!

    Agenda for the Paradyne Office 365 briefing for schools

    8.30am - Guests arrive - greeted by the smell of coffee

    8.50am - Welcome by Travis Smith, Microsoft

    9.00am - Overview of Paradyne and Office 365 by Paul Krasey, Paradyne

    9.20am - Description of classroom solutions by Daniel Anderson, Paradyne

    9.50am - Advantages of digital permission slips, DocuSign

    10.00am - Real education examples by David Humphreys, Brighton Grammar on Office 365, OneNote and Windows 8, and Launceston Church Grammar School (Lync video recording) on Yammer and SharePoint - personified their SharePoint with Go247

    10.30am - Hardware solutions by Staples - Surface Pro 3 & Lenovo tablets, using pen, showing live changes, examples of students using this hardware and the tie to software/solutions

    11.00am - Conclusion and thank you by Paul Krasey, Paradyne

    11.10am - Q&As and individual conversations

    12.00pm - Event concludes

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register

    Wednesday, 12 November 2014 - 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM
    Melbourne, Microsoft Offices, Level 5, 4 Freshwater Place, Southbank

  • Education

    Perth and Melbourne Education Partner Training - places still available for December

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    Invitation to Microsoft Education Authorised Education Resellers

    This event is for Microsoft Partner Network members and Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers

    We’ve had consistent feedback from our partners that our education-focused training for you has been hitting the mark, and you’d like to ensure that it reaches all of the people in your teams, as well as keeping you completely up-to-date with changes in the market and our education portfolio and strategies. This month we've been running interactive workshops in Sydney and Brisbane, and the final two are just around the corner in the next two weeks. We’re heading to Perth on 4th December, and Melbourne on the 11th, alongside the Office 365 Ignite summits.

    The format that we've been using is a roundtable discussion, and with the help of slides, whiteboards and customer stories, have been able to cover each attendees individual agenda.

     

    Growing your reach in a changing marketplace.

    Education is in the midst of historic transformation and the rise of technology in the classroom is creating tremendous opportunity for our partners. Just about every government and school system in the world is considering digital access programs and, starting in 2015, new global standards will assess how well schools are helping students develop 21st Century Learning Skills, including critical thinking, technical aptitude and collaboration, driving education institutions globally to look for solutions that will help them effectively integrate technology.

    Microsoft and its partners are uniquely positioned to enable this transformation by providing creative and robust solutions across enterprise management, security, support services, and learning solutions. In this training, focused primarily on sales readiness, participants will deep dive into the Education opportunity, learn the Microsoft vision, as well as how partners can grow their business by selling and deploying solutions across Windows, Office, and Azure to accelerate common education scenarios.

    A single day covering cloud solutions for education built on Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.

    Keynote

    The day will start with an overview of the global and Australian education marketplace, and how you can respond to the hot topics that are currently top of mind for education decision makers within the schools, TAFE and universities market.

    Morning

    During the morning, we will take a deep dive into Office 365 Education, and how you can help customers tap the communication, authoring and collaboration capabilities, as well as exploring the integration opportunities that will help you sell and deploy solutions in the education market.

    Afternoon

    During the afternoon session, we will review customer-specific scenarios, to help you to quickly identify appropriate solutions for different segments of the education market, and meet the customers’ requirements. This will include a look at third-party solutions for specific scenarios. The afternoon will close with a look at how the Microsoft Azure cloud helps you to deliver customer solutions.

     

    There's still a few places available around the table. Use the links below to sign up:

    image

    Microsoft Perth – Wednesday 3 December
    Microsoft Melbourne – Thursday 11 December

    This event is for Microsoft Partner Network members and Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers

  • Education

    Open Data in Education–Sydney Open Data Day

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    Two of our partners, Socrata (based in Seattle, they’re an organisation with deep expertise in open data) and Altis (a Sydney-based data  specialist who have completed a huge range of data projects with Australian education organisations) are running the “Sydney Open Data Day” briefing on 6 November, with a special focus on education data.

    Sydney Open Data Day

    The briefing is a fast-paced hour, at 11AM on Thursday 6th November, at Australia Technology Park (in Eveleigh) Sydney. It’s an opportunity to learn about open data initiatives and programs in NSW and the US. During the session, Rustum Abdurahman of the NSW Department of Education & Communities will discuss how Open Data helps to: 

    • Break down data silos by making data available and consumable 
    • Streamline access and understanding of data for citizens and internal stakeholders
    • Publish the NSW Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation open data, for use and innovation by the developer community

    Keynote Speakers

    Rustum will be joined by Kate Harrington, Strategic Policy NSW Open Data, & Chris Rieth, former director of Open Data and Open Performance for the State of Maryland. Chris and Kate will be sharing their experiences implementing and managing an open data initiative.

    For an idea of the kind of Australian data that’s published through the Socrata system, take a look at the NSW CESE Datahub (where they publish data such as school lists, school locations, student enrolments, and even a list of school calendar websites) and the City of Melbourne Open Data hub (where there’s data like the locations of public artwork, bins, public transport routes, and even parking sensor data – but unfortunately no education data yet)

    Make a dateHope to see you there: Register for the Sydney Open Data Day on 6th November

  • Education

    Reimagine Sydney - a briefing about change and digital disruption

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    There’ still an opportunity to register to attend the Reimagine event in Sydney on 29 October, at the Royal Hall of Industries from 9AM-12:30PM

    The briefing isn’t just for education customers, and offers a learning opportunity from the experiences of transformation happening in other industries.

    image

    The briefing will cover the Microsoft vision for platform and productivity – how we will empower people and organisations to do more and achieve more. But technology is only part of the story, because as the impact of technology changes so does the role of IT itself. And the IT people within an organisation become responsible for a digital transformation, and working with others to support the cultural change that technology enables (and requires!).

    This challenge exists with every organisation, whether it’s a big bank, an electricity company, or an education organisation like a school or university. And so we’re seeing new job roles emerging – like Chief Digital Officer and VP of Student Experience. These new roles are often being filled by people with a deep understanding of technology, backed by the skills to effectively manage visionary change.

    At the event, three invited speakers will share their stories of change:

    • Sean Elwick, Head of Information Services at Aurecon, will share his view on the disruption to the role of IT, and how he personally lobbies for digital change within his organisation.
    • Anthony Stevens, Director of IT Operations from KPMG, will share how their business has empowered its people to be more mobile, more responsive and more productive in order to create great experiences for their customers.
    • Belinda Thompson, BDO’s Chief Information Officer, will share how the company is using the cloud to support its people and better connect with its customers – and what it all means for her team’s relationship with the business.

    To find out more and register for either of the Reimagine events, then use the links below:

    Make a date

    Register for Reimagine in Sydney on 29 October

  • Education

    PhotoMath: Should you ban Windows Phone in the Maths classroom?

    • 6 Comments

    Remember when calculators were banned in the classroom, because it made calculation too easy? Well, in the same spirit there’s going to be a maths teacher somewhere that will decide to ban their students from having a Windows Phone in their maths classroom. And all because of PhotoMath and how it makes it too easy to solve mathematical expressions.

    It’s really simple to use….

    Point your phone at a maths equation:

    Photomath (1)

    PhotoMath shows you the solution:

     

    Photomath (2)

    ..and the steps to solve it:

    PhotoMath (3)

    OneNote and stylus to the rescue for creating complex equations!

    Thanks to OneNote, I’ve also found it can solve complex equations…

    First, I hand wrote the complex equation that I wanted straight into OneNote (with my Surface Pro 3 stylus)…

    image

    …then I used the OneNote “Ink to Math” function:

    image

    ..and OneNote inserted it into my document as text:

    image

    …which I then (maybe bizarrely) scanned and solved with PhotoMath

    Apparently, X = 5 over 2, with 11 steps to a solution:

    PhotoMath (4)

    There are three thoughts running through my head now:

    1. I’m actually going to be able to help my daughter with her HSC maths homework (but I’m never going to reveal how!)
    2. We’re hitting Arthur C Clarke’s Third Law:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”
    3. If you’re a maths teacher and your students discover the app, what are you going to give them to do as homework? Maybe you’ll ask them to create mathematical expressions that they can solve, but PhotoMath can’t?

    Learn MoreLearn more about PhotoMath or just download it straight to your Windows Phone here

    Footnote: The microblink team behind PhotoMath have also released an SDK for Maths Equation Solving, so I can imagine we might see this functionality being built into other apps too!

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