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

  • Education

    Why Moodle is better on SharePoint

    • 3 Comments

    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

    Microsoft Bring Your Own Device in Schools whitepaper

    • 3 Comments

    BYOD in schools whitepaperThere's been a lot said about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools, and plenty of commentary on blogs and the Twittersphere. It's a fast-moving subject, almost like 'building airplanes in the sky' – it sometimes feels like BYOD strategies and vision are being created as we go along.

    And the debate has been joined by two pedagogical leaders who have produced a Microsoft BYOD whitepaper for schools. Bruce Dixon (from the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation) and Sean Tierney (from the worldwide Microsoft Partners in Learning programme) have both been passionate advocates for 1:1 learning programmes for many years, and have just published their first 'Bring Your Own Device for schools' whitepaper. The aim is to examine the potential deployment models from teaching, learning and IT management perspectives.

    As their introduction says:

     

    The ongoing debate regarding the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in schools warrants deeper analysis to help educators and institutions understand this provisioning model and its potential benefits and pitfalls for learning. This discussion paper sets out to investigate the myths and understand which questions should be addressed when considering allowing students to bring their own devices, and which option might be best suited to a school or system’s culture. It is intended to stimulate discussion around what constitutes best practice 1-to-1 learning.

     

    As well as plenty of detailed analysis and debate within the white paper, there's also a handy table that helps to describe the different capabilities of the various devices that are available for a BYOD scenario:

    BYOD Capability Taxonomy - from page 5

    It's a great way to classify the differing capabilities across a range of current and future devices.

    I think that one of the best aspects of the white paper is that it talks about the alternative models – presenting five potential models, and discussed the benefits and considerations of each. It also goes into five key questions to ask to help you decide whether a BYOD model is right for your school. And then talks through consideration for planning and implementation procedures.

    The conclusion section starts:

     

    BYOD is a trend that needs to be carefully examined in an education context to ensure that the models we deploy are successful. At the heart of good 1-to-1 learning is equity to ensure that all students have equal access to technology-rich experiences, and simplicity to ensure that it is easy to manage and sustain.

     

    and finishes with an absolutely key point:

     

    Schools need to be vigilant and protective of the foundations of equity of access on which all of our education systems are firmly founded. With this in mind, all stakeholders – teachers, parents, students and principals – need to work through the tough decisions early to drive home the best outcomes for all students at all times.

     

    Learn MoreYou can either download the BYOD for schools whitepaper, or if you're in Australia, drop Richard Ryan an email and he'll pop a couple of printed copies in the post

    For more info on Bring Your Own Device, here's a link to related BYOD articles

  • Education

    My current computer–why I've switched to a Samsung slate

    • 3 Comments

    Each working day I spend between 5 and 8 hours working with my current computer. And it was only last week I realised my setup was quite different to everybody else, as I looked around the meeting table. Almost everybody else was using a laptop, whereas I've made the leap from laptop PC to slate PC permanently. So I thought I'd share it with you:

    My regular computer: Samsung Series 7 slate PC

    Samsung Series 7 slateUp until May I was using an HP laptop – which I was very happy with. Good performance, nice graphics, and plenty of storage etc. And because I thought of myself as a power-user, I didn't think I'd be able to cope with a less powerful computer – and that seemed to include all the early slate PCs, which were good to demo with, but not something I'd considered as my every day PC.

    But then I got my hands on a Samsung Series 7 Slate PC with all the bells and whistles I needed, and I'm running it with the released version of Windows 8. The one I've got (the sexily named XE700T1A-A05AU) has all the key ingredients I wanted:

    • A touch display: You know, I never imagined I'd be making this the No. 1 requirement, but ever since I moved to Windows 8, it's a must have – especially when I'm sitting at home on the sofa, or taking it into meetings
    • A pen: just like touch, it's now a 'must have', as I take it to meetings and use it as a slate, and am using OneNote more and more for notes, as well as using handwriting recognition instead of an on-screen keyboard
    • Plenty of storage: this one's got a 128GB SSD drive
      I've found that for me 100GB is the minimum drive, because I cart a lot of videos and presentations around with me, and whilst I've got them backed up in the cloud, I have that synced to my computer so that I can always get to them when I'm offline.
    • Decent graphics: this one has got onboard Intel graphics which are good enough for me for everything but games.
    • TPM chip: which means my drive is fully encrypted, so that all of the professional and personal data is secure if I lose it or somebody else gets their hand on it
    • Plenty of RAM: this one's got 4GB of RAM, which I'm finding is more than enough with Windows 8
    • A small dock: Whenever I'm standing or sitting at a desk, then I plug it into a dock. Which gives turns it completely into a laptop – with keyboard, mouse, second monitor and wired network connection
    • It's light: weighing in at under a kilogram
    • It's got a SIM slot, for internet on the go: Although I haven't actually used it, as I tend to just use the Internet sharing of my Lumia 800 – it means I use the data included with my normal phone subscription, rather than to have a second mobile subscription for my computer. Which means I'm always using the WiFi connection, whether that's at the office, at home, or out and about.

    Here's my typical desktop setup, with a second monitor plugged into the docking station, and a normal desktop keyboard and mouse. So it means that whenever I'm at my desk, I've got the perfect setup with a big screen, and then I can just grab it from the docking station and walk to a meeting just carrying the PC and a pen, without all the other stuff. So my bag is a lot lighter than it used to be.

    Samsung Series 7 slate in a desktop setup

    With this setup, I've got something that works as a great desktop computer, and then is good for carrying to meetings. And if I'm using it at home in the evenings, then I tend to use it with touch and the new Windows 8 apps (for things like reading Twitter and blogs). The portability is a big bonus in our Sydney offices, where every desk is setup as a hot desk – I can sit at any desk in the building, and there's already a large monitor, keyboard and mouse ready to go.

  • Education

    Linking SkyDrive and Moodle together

    • 3 Comments

    imageMoodle, a popular Learning Management System, is widely used across education. And Microsoft's SkyDrive is also widely used by both teachers and students (although in some government systems, the access is blocked to SkyDrive when in school) as a cloud-based storage drive.

    So you may be interested to know that the Moodle community has developed and released a plugin for Moodle 2.3 which allows students and teachers to save their files into SkyDrive, directly in the cloud, from Moodle.

    You can find out more, and download the SkyDrive plugin from the Moodle website

    I can quickly think of three reasons why this is a good idea:

    • Let your students access work from home or school, on multiple computers, and even phones
    • Reduce the amount of storage capacity you need on your own servers
    • Give teachers more storage capacity (SkyDrive gives 7GB of storage per user in the Cloud), for all of those videos, fancy PowerPoints etc that are eating up your drive space!

    Note, this plugin doesn't come from Microsoft, but from the Moodle open-source community. There are lots of other resources to integrate Moodle with Microsoft technology on this list

  • Education

    New lower prices for Office 365 for education

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    Yesterday Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President of the Microsoft Office Division product management group, made an announcement about some changes we’ve made to the pricing for Office 365 for enterprises, and Office 365 for education.

     

    As we rapidly add customers, the cost to run Office 365 becomes more efficient.  This is the beauty of the cloud where we can deliver economies of scale through our worldwide data centres and economies of skill with our engineers, administrators, and support teams operating the service.  

    With these efficiencies, we're able pass on savings to make it even more affordable for customers of all sizes to move to Office 365.

    In line with our longstanding commitment to education, we will make our "A2" service plan free to not only students, but also to faculty and staff.  A2 includes the core capabilities of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync and the Office Web Applications.  Exchange Online and Lync Online are available today for academic institutions, and we'll launch the full Office 365 for education service starting this summer.   You can get more information on our Office 365 for education offering here.

     

    When Kirk said “this summer” he was thinking about the Northern Hemisphere.
    So you’ll need to translate that to “this winter” for Australia.

    The information on the new pricing for the various Office 365 for education options is available on the Office 365 for education webpage. Here’s the key table from that page:

    image

    The prices listed are the US prices currently
    I’ll provide an updated link as soon as Australian prices are available.

    Find out more

    You can sign up via email to get updates and to find out more information about Office 365 for education over at the product website.

    Oh, and if you want to know more about what Office 365 could do for you, there's always the free Microsoft Press digital book on Office 365 - grab it here

  • Education

    Do you really need a Learning Management System?

    • 3 Comments

    I was reading a blog post from Jonathan Rees earlier – a Professor of History at Colorado State University – where he discusses briefly the usage of the Learning Management System (LMS) (‘An uncharacteristically subtle post for me’). It was accompanied by a chart showing the use of different components of their Learning Management System (I suspect this could be many LMSs, in many, many other institutions).

    LMS Usage

    The point I inferred from his blog post is that, most of the time, the data show that users are using their Learning Management System to do things that are basic features (like document sharing) and these are the things you don’t really need an LMS for, because you could achieve it on almost any web platform.

    So if your staff are using a Learning Management System as a place to share documents, make announcements, and publish student marks, would you actually be better off just using the standard platform your institution probably has in place already and linked to your existing IT systems and identity system (like SharePoint or Office 365), rather than having a completely separate IT system dedicated to it?

    Is this pattern created by a procurement mindset of “Let’s list all of the things we could possibly do, and they buy the thing that meets all of those needs”? The risk is that the focus becomes the delivery of the features, and not the use of them.

    In the example above, if only 1% of your users actually use wikis within their course, does that justify the need for everybody to have it?

    I believe that in the future we’re going to see people choosing systems that give them the core functionality as a platform to build on, and then adding the parts they need for specific groups of users; not specifying an all-singing, all-dancing system from day one which has absolutely everything you need built from the ground up before any users have started using the system and experimenting. We’re going to see the shift to more agile systems, and more agile developments to support the way that users use their enterprise-wide systems.

    So, does that mean you don’t need an LMS? And if not, what do you need?

  • Education

    The 2013 Innovative Teacher Awards for Australia are now open

    • 3 Comments

    When I was in the UK, I had a couple of years as a judge on the UK Innovative Teacher Awards, run as part of the Partners in Learning programme. It was a definite highlight of each year, as we saw some fabulous examples of inspiring and motivational classroom practice. Although it was always Pretty sure he's not really smug...difficult to choose a winner, it was great to see one of our teachers going on to regional, and often global finals.

    So I thought I should alert you to the chance to enter the Australian finals for the 2013 Innovative Teacher Awards. It's a chance to be recognised as one of Australia's leading educators, win a new Windows 8 tablet device (ooh) and potentially go to the 2013 Microsoft Global Education Forum.

    And do you want to be feeling as smug as the guy in the photo on the right? (Well, perhaps you want to feel inwardly smug, whilst keeping a calm professional persona of "What? Me?")

    Enter the 2013 Innovative Teacher Awards and get the recognition you deserve!

    The Microsoft Partners in Learning Teachers Awards competition is about recognising great teaching using ICT in the Classroom. Teachers everyday are complimenting their teaching and lessons with fantastic innovative and often very simple uses of technology. Many don't even think it to be 'innovative!' This is not an award based on how much Microsoft technology you, or the colleague you are nominating, have used; it is about the way that you have used the simplest technology to motivate and encourage learning with your students.

    For a flavour of the entries you can see previous winners projects here. Remember that the deadline for entering is December 14th 2012.

    Learn MoreYou can find out more, and enter, on the Partners in Learning network

  • Education

    Australia Microsoft Surface RT offer for Education

    • 3 Comments

    imageYou may have heard about the worldwide launch of a great Microsoft Surface offer for schools and tertiary education customers. It is exclusively for education institutions, to buy Microsoft Surface RT tablets at a reduced price for a limited time. The good news is that I can share with you the details for Australian education customers.

    From now until August 31, 2013, schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia can get:

    • Surface RT (32 GB) for AU$219 (Estimated Retail Price is $559)
    • Surface RT (32 GB) Touch Keyboard Cover for AU$279 (Estimated Retail Price is $679)
    • Surface RT (32 GB) Type Keyboard Cover for AU$319 (Estimated Retail Price is $708)
      All the prices above include GST

    Surface RT provides students and teachers with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT pre-installed. The Microsoft Surface offer for schools also opens the door to thousands — more than 20,000, to be precise — of education related apps in the Windows Store, from big names like Khan Academy, Kno, Chegg, and major textbook publishers such as HMH and Pearson. And there are some fabulous apps from Australia publishers that support new modes of learning in the classroom – like nsquared make words, just one of eight free apps of theirs you’ll find in the Windows Store.

    If you were considering buying non-Windows tablets for your students and staff, then in my opinion, there’s nothing comparable to this Microsoft Surface offer for schools  – and in many cases with this offer you’d not only get the Windows and Office experience, you’d be able to put twice as many devices into the hands of students with the same budget. You get a Windows device that supports mouse, keyboard, USB and video displays – so that you can plug in printers, projectors, external screens etc. And you get Microsoft Office pre-installed, which means that your students can continue to work with the existing tools they already know – like PowerPoint, Word, Excel and OneNote. And your teachers don’t have to re-write all of their curriculum resources and lessons plans either. Plus you give them a device with all-day battery life, true Windows multi-tasking so they can have apps running side by side, and you can have individual profiles and logins for each student.

    If you’re asking why now is the right time for us to take such an ambitious step into the education market, the answer is simple: It’s because Microsoft believes every student and teacher deserves a fair opportunity to reach his or her full potential, and this means ensuring our education customers have access to affordable and high quality tablets with laptop functionality ready for education.

    This Surface offer is just one of the options for putting Windows touch tablets and laptops into the hands of your staff and students. As we showed at the recent EduTech conference in Brisbane, Windows devices come in a variety of shapes, sizes, features and price points to serve all our education customer needs. And over the last few months I’ve highlighted stories about new Windows 8 devices from Dell, Asus, HP, Samsung and Lenovo. We are continuing to work with OEMs on delivering their latest tablets and PCs, and I’ll have more to share on devices and offers from them shortly.

    Although this information is specific to Australia, similar Microsoft Surface offers for education are available in other countries – hop over to the global Microsoft in Education blog for details of others.

    How the offer works

    The way this works is really simple – there’s a downloadable brochure and order form for education institutions* which contains the details of the devices, and the usual terms and conditions. You simply complete the Order Form and send it back to the Surface team (who are on surfaceedu@microsoft.com) who’ll arrange to get your order supplied.

    * Yep, the offer is only available to official education institutions in Australia (see our criteria here), not to individual students or teachers to place an order. For good reasons, if you wanted to buy one for your personal use with your own money, then you’ll need to buy yours through the normal retailers at normal retail price

    For more information and to order, see the Surface RT for Education brochure and return the completed order form to the Surface team.

    Learn MoreGo to  the offer site for the Brochure, Pricing and Order Form

  • Education

    Education is still Australia’s biggest services export

    • 2 Comments

    According to the latest data on international trade from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, education services are still Australia’s largest services export, with a $15bn revenue in 2012. Whilst this is $3bn ahead of the next largest export (personal travel services), it’s still a big drop from the $17.6bn high of 2009. In fact, it’s the third year of falling revenue from international students.

    Which means that Australian universities and TAFEs are still losing their highest value customers (an international student pays fees up to 5x the level of local students). Universities account for 75% of the revenue, with TAFEs taking 20% and schools accounting for the remainder. This is all neatly summarised in the one-pager from Australian Education International “Export income to Australia from international education activity in 2012”.

    But it was only when I charted the detailed data from the ABS on Table 11.1 that I saw the deeper picture – that the biggest drop has been in vocational training, where there’s been a drop of nearly 50% over the last three years. Higher Education has seen a decline of nearly $0.5bn since the peak of 2010, but that’s less than 5% of their total. Whereas TAFE has lost over $2bn, 43% of their revenue since the peak of 2009.

    image

    And although they don’t appear to break out the data by country and sector, India is the place where we’ve lost most students, with an almost 60% drop in revenue from Indian students since 2009 (from Table 9.4) – which is presumably mainly TAFE students.

    International Education Revenue by Country

    2009

    2010

    2011

    2012

    Change
    2009-12

    China

    $3.9bn

    $4.2bn

    $4.1bn

    $4.0bn

    +3%

    India

    $3.0bn

    $2.5bn

    $1.6bn

    $1.3bn

    -57%

    Vietnam

    $0.7bn

    $.8bn

    $0.8bn

    $0.8bn

    +12%

    Republic of Korea

    $1.1bn

    $1.0bn

    $.9bn

    $0.8bn

    -29%

    I’ve now got a better understanding of some more of the reasons why TAFEs have been talking with us about student recruitment, student retention and business development systems – all areas addressed by CRM in education

  • Education

    Building an engaging Windows 8 education app for students

    • 2 Comments

    Earlier I wrote about building a Windows 8 education app for teachers, and here's part  two - building an interactive, engaging Windows 8 education app for students. We pick up where I left off earlier – where teachers have assigned an assignment to a group of students.

    Creating an immersive Windows 8 education app – the student experience

    The first thing to know is that the live tiles and notification system of Windows 8 means that students don't need to be running the app to interact with it – so if a teacher assigns work to a student then they'll receive a notification without having to dip into the app (and that notification can contain more than just a 'You have mail…' type of message)

    Sample Windows 8 education app for studentsIn our scenario, Steve the student is working on his Microsoft PowerPoint presentation when he receives a toast notification about a new assignment.
    This is regardless of whether he's running the app, so students don't need to run your app to 'just check' whether there's work waiting for them. You can use toast notifications for reminders, work assignments etc.

     

    Student assignment screen in the sample Windows 8 education appAs Steve taps the toast notification, the app launches and goes straight to the assignment page. The assignment page lists chapters from a textbook and a web article, along with the members of his group.
    A typical 'snapped view' scenario in Windows 8 education apps

    Steve views the assignment using snapped view and clicks on the web links provided.
    This mode of working is perfect for students, where they can run two apps side by side eg for notetaking.
    And for those students who (think they) can't work without background music, they can keep their music library on-screen at the same time as doing their homework.

     

    imageSteve views the web site while taking notes in the app in snap view.
    This is especially critical when curriculum resources include e-textbooks, as they'll often need to see their textbook alongside their other materials or the assignment notes.

     

    Using the Share Charm in Windows 8 education appsAfter reviewing his notes in full screen view, Steve swipes in the Share charm and sends the notes to his group members.
    The Share mechanism works by identifying which apps can share information through the Windows 8 contracts. What this means is that developers don't need to know about all the different ways to share information – the other apps that can share information provide the mechanism to do it. So if somebody invents the new Facebook tomorrow, your users will be able to use the Share charm without you needing to re-write your app.
    What the design ideas above show is that you can create a much more interactive experience for students on a Windows 8 touch device than you might on other tablets – and the app you create would run on any Windows 8 device – whether that's a non-touch laptop, or a Windows slate like Surface, or a home PC. Steve the student has a very different experience when using a Windows 8 education app because of the added interactivity provided through using things like:

    • Snap mode for running multiple apps
    • Toast notifications to draw the student back to the app (and to help teachers to connect with students)
    • Using the Share charm to make it easy for users to share information, without having to recode your software every time there's a new social network/LMS/cloud service

    Where to find out more about developing Windows 8 education apps

    Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas that you want to follow up on, so here's really useful links for you to continue on your journey.

    The first place to go is the Windows Store app development section on MSDN (and specifically this page for the advice on Windows 8 Education apps), and if you prefer your info offline, then download the Windows 8 Product Guide for Developers.

    There's also a clear set of design guidelines for the user experience in "Make great Windows Store apps"

    Learn MoreFinally, take a look at all of the other articles on this blog about developing Windows 8 apps for education

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