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

  • Education

    Office 365 for education availability in Australia


    We have just launched Office 365 for education in Australia (just a little later than the rest of the world). The Australia Product Manager for Office 365 for education is David Hunt. So I thought I’d get David to explain to me what we’ve launched!

    Interview with David Hunt of Microsoft – the Office 365 for education Product Manager

    David Hunt - Microsoft

    I know we’ve announced Office 365 for Education. But what is it?

    It’s a service that delivers a group of Microsoft’s best technologies, including Microsoft Exchange for email, SharePoint for websites, document storage and collaboration, and Lync for communications. It also includes the Office Web Apps – that’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote - as web applications.

    Let’s take it one-by-one. What can you do with Exchange in Office 365 for education?   

    Of course, everybody knows that it provides email. But some of the things that it also gives you are mobile email (so that your students and staff can access their email from their phone). And it also contains calendars – you could set it up so that the school timetable and each student’s timetable could be loaded into the calendar, and be synced to student and staff phones.

    One of the ways we use Calendars in Microsoft is for resources – like meeting room bookings – and you could do same for school resources – like computer labs, minibuses, laptop trolleys etc. This would mean that you dump a lot of paper processes and make things easier for all staff – teachers and administrative staff

    And what can you do with SharePoint?   

    SharePoint is all about collaboration. It provides file storage, but it’s so much more than just a network shared drive. We provide templates for classes and groups, which means that in seconds you can build a website for a subject, topic or individual class. That would allow you to store documents, build a wiki and create discussion groups. And you can either make them available to everybody, or just to the users in a specific group. And the other important thing is that it can become the place to store and share OneNote notebooks, so that they are available online and offline for students and teachers. 

    It can also allow new methods of learning and assessment. For example, if you put up a document for students to collaborate on, and students then edit it using Word with Track Changes set, you can then see all the contributions from each student, and any discussions on content. This gives you a great way of assessing group tasks accurately, and being able to see the contribution of each individual student.

    And if teachers put documents onto their SharePoint, instead of locking them on their laptop, then they’re encouraging sharing – eg curriculum plans, lesson plans, activities – and making these available to colleagues, students or others. An example of where this would be really handy is if a teacher is absent - a substitute teacher could pick up the course using the teacher’s own plans and resources.

    And it’s not just about storing documents, it’s also about the fact that they are more easily findable by others, because SharePoint allows you to search across all of the shared documents. That’s great for curriculum planning, and making best use of the resources owned or created by an education institution.

    You can even use it to create your school, TAFE or university public website.

    Note from Ray: For an idea of what’s possible when creating websites in SharePoint take a look at the top 10 SharePoint School websites and top 10 SharePoint University websites, and also my take on the top 10 Australian education websites built on SharePoint

      And finally, what can you do with Lync?  

      Lync is probably my favourite of all of them. Lync is a communications tool – you could think of it like Skype – because it does instant messaging, video conferencing and screen sharing, and it also has a shared whiteboard, remote computer control and recording all built in. One of the key differences is that Skype is entirely public by default, whereas Lync starts out limited to your organisation so that your students and staff can be restricted to just communicating with controlled users.

      From a teaching and learning perspective, it gives lots of opportunities. You could use it to deliver a remote tutorial, and record the tutorial to share it on SharePoint with other students. Even complete lessons and courses can be delivered and recorded using Lync, with shared PowerPoint presentations and audio. You could broadcast a PowerPoint presentation, and allow a real-time Q&A with students using the instant messenger windows alongside your presentation. And the messages can be saved as a conversation, or recorded alongside the lesson for other students and revision.

      If you’re in the IT team in a school, you could use it to provide remote support for teachers or students – starting with an instant message, share screens, provide remote support by taking control of a user’s computer remotely.

      The other thing it gives you is ‘presence’ information, so that I can see if people are online – for example, if I get an email I want to discuss from somebody in the school, it will show me whether they are free to take a call or have a conversation in real-time.

        When I asked you what Office 365 for education was, you said “It’s a service that delivers a group of Microsoft’s best technologies”. What does “it’s a service” mean? 


        In essence you subscribe to it, rather than buying a box of software or a licence for software. And you get it over the Internet, so you don’t need to run a bunch of servers and infrastructure to support it. Because it’s delivered over the Internet, your students and staff can get access wherever they are connected. Students can choose when and where they learn, and how they collaborate. And they can get from access from school computers, home computers and even from their smartphones.

        You just said ‘subscribe’, so that set of an alarm bell in my head. What does it cost?

        Well, the main service – which includes Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and the Office Web Apps – is free. There are some options that you might want to pay for – for example, if you want to include the full Office Professional licence for students to use at home and school, then you can add that and that will cost a small amount of money.

        One other option that customers are likely to want to pay for is to add an archive feature, so that IT administrators can archive all of the staff and/or student email permanently. For schools and university administrators this is a regular question, as may have a legal  requirement or a duty of care need to keep a legal archive of communications.

        So where can a customer go to find out more info of the announcement?

        All of the information on Office 365 for education was published this morning at, and that includes information on the different subscriptions, including the free and paid ones, as well as customer case studies from our early adopters.

        If there’s one thing you want readers to do now what would it be?

        I’d want them to be able to try Office 365 for education themselves, and they can by signing up for a free trial at, (remember, you might need to select Australia as your country).

        What if a somebody already has Live@edu - can they get Office 365 for education?

        Absolutely. We’ve already started communicating with Live@edu administrators to let them know that they can upgrade to Office 365 for education and get all the new functionality. Anyone that is a live@edu administrator that hasn’t seen the emails should go to the Upgrade information page, and follow the “3 steps to get ready”. This will make sure they get all further communications.

      • Education

        Want ideas for Kinect in Education–take a look at the Microsoft Accelerator programme for Kinect


        Kinect for WindowsWhat happens if you take 11 creative teams, give them three months to work on an idea, and a set of offices and social spaces in the Microsoft offices? Well, we know the answer now, because that's what the Microsoft Accelerator programme for Kinect has been all about.

        Why Kinect? Craig Eisler, the GM of Kinect for Windows, says it's because "it allows startups to push the boundaries of what's possible with human interaction". And what's obvious from the outcome is that there are tons of innovative ideas taking off. There's a flavour of it in this video below:

        At the end of the three months the 11 teams all presented their ideas to an audience of 100 venture capitalists, as they pitched to turn their projects into real products. Steve Clayton, of the Next at Microsoft blog, has a good write up of the projects, but a quick scan of the list gives you an idea of the kind of things we're going to see in real life soon.

        Kinect Accelerator projects – and what it might mean for education

        Here's just some of the projects in the Kinect Accelerator programme, and my thoughts on how they might be applied in education:

        • Manctl using the 3D scanning abilities to manufacture items, and also creating miniature models for architecture and prototyping
        • NConnex allowing individuals to create 3D models of their home, and then being able to 'try out' virtual furniture

        Fabulous for design courses, to allow students to incorporate existing objects into design projects, and for the ability of students to create virtual versions of real spaces for experimentation and story telling.

        • The Jintronix team that built a way of revolutionise physical rehabilitation, which currently costs the US over $20bn a year – and allows patients to take more ownership of their rehabilitation
        • Ikos using Kinect for sports skills coaching and analysis

        These two both have applications in schools, TAFEs and universities, where they could be used for sports coaching – to allow students to focus on their technique development.

        • Ubi, aiming to turn any surface into an interactive touch display
        • GestSure who are already helping surgeons to more efficiently manage x-ray scans during major surgery

        Perhaps this could break away from limited size interactive whiteboards that require students to move to the front of the class, and allow us to create full wall-size interactive displays for big classrooms and lecture theatres. And the GestSure system could make it easier for teachers to manipulate learning resources and develop more interactive teaching practices.

        • And Freak'N Genius, who have developed an animation system that allows everybody to become an animator (and which has already been downloaded by 11m people)

        I bet this is the kind of thing that students will pick up before many teachers, as another way to tell stories and display what they've learnt (great for PDHPE work)


        • Kimetric using Kinect to track customers as they move around a store, to bring the same kind of analysis that retailers can do in our online browsing to the store experience
        • Zebcare using Kinect as a "smart radar" for helping elderly people and remote monitoring

        This has all kinds of uses within education too. The current buzz about learning analytics is driven by all kinds of student online interactions – how often they log in to a learning management system; what their assessment data is showing etc. Imagine if you could jump beyond that and include some other kinds of data into the analysis. (I know this could go too far very easily, and so the ethics of this will probably be as important as the technology!)

        Learn MoreRead the full story about the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect Demo Day on the Next at Microsoft blog

        Steve's Next at Microsoft story includes links to all of the project teams, so you can dig down into the detail until you know enough!

      • Education

        Will the university business model get turned upside down in five years?


        I've often wondered whether the Twittering classes represent the majority. To be honest, I don't think they do – in the same way that the blogging community don't, or those speakers that enthral us at conferences and TeachMeets. They're more likely to be the innovators with skins thick enough to take it when people disagree. Although they're more 'leading edge' than 'average', they are important as a source of thoughts on the way that things will change in the future.

        From three weeks ago, there's Professor Steven Schwartz's predictions/advice about the future of Higher Education:

          The online mantra – better, faster, cheaper – is coming to academe and no one knows where it will end. One thing is certain, universities had better start preparing now.  

        And the news that UK university applications have fallen by nearly 9% this year, alongside the news that Open Universities Australia is in talks to create a single online 'experience' to strengthen their brand at a time of rising competition.

        Competency based online degree programmes

        So it caught my eye when I read that Northern Arizona University is developing three fully online degree programmes based on a competency based model – aimed mainly at mature students who will pay their fees through blocks of six-monthly subscriptions. Students simply work at their own pace, and can graduate whenever they're done – releasing the concept of 'three-year' or 'four-year' degrees. And using a lot less face-to-face academic time than in conventional models. Read more about this whole programme here.

        Although programmes like this are unlikely to represent the mainstream in the future, all of these things point towards huge change in higher education. And the question in my mind is how fast the business model of Higher Education will change? Will the nimble institutions create stress on the others to change more quickly than they'd naturally do? Which institutions will be squeezed between a conventional model and a completely new one?

        And how fast will this happen? Will it take five years, ten years or twenty years? I'm not wise/foolish enough to make an absolute prediction – but one thing is sure. Change is coming, and it's coming faster than we've been used to.

      • Education

        More info on the availability dates of Windows 8 for education


        Windows 8 logo

        Overnight the Windows 8 team have given out more information on the availability dates for Windows 8, as well as letting the world know about the success of Windows 7 so far – with over 630M licences sold so far.

        The key Windows 8 headlines were:

        • Windows 8 is on track to Release to Manufacturing (RTM) the first week of August
          RTM is the point at which the product is 'finished' and goes off to the various manufacturers for them to start finalising it into their products, and to the factories for DVDs etc to be created for consumer products.
          • Customers with Software Assurance will have access to Windows 8 as early as August
            This means that almost every single education customer in Australia (who have a Campus or School Agreement, or an EES Agreement) will be able to start installing and using the released version of Windows 8 in education next month!
            • Windows 8 will be fully released (General Availability) by the end of October, in 109 languages across 231 markets worldwide
              This is the full consumer launch, which follows on from availability to our volume licence customers
              • New Windows 8 and Windows RT PCs will be available at the same time
                Which means devices from our partner OEMS, as well as our little treat. 'Windows RT' PCs are the ones that will be based on the ARM chips, whereas 'Windows 8' PCs will be the ones using Intel-based chips.

              The announcement was made at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and you can watch the WPC keynote here

              Learn MoreFor more info, pop over to the Windows blog and read
              'Upcoming Windows Milestones Shared with Partners at WPC'

            • Education

              The Imagine Cup in Sydney– it's like the Student Tech Olympiad


              Imagine Cup header

              This weekend, students from 75 countries have been competing at the Imagine Cup worldwide finals – each team aiming to win in the finals tomorrow. It's a massive event – hundreds of students showcasing their technology innovations and ideas for making the world a better place.

              Sadly, the Australian Team StethoCloud didn't make it into the six finalists for the Software Design competition, but the six teams that go through are now pitching their ideas to the judges aiming to take the cup back to their country on Tuesday night. Some of the problems the finalists are trying to solve are:

              • Imagine Cup - the finalists pitching their ideasusing a mobile phone to help blind people 'see' more of their environment (New Zealand)
              • a smart lighting power saving system (Japan)
              • fighting obesity (Taiwan)
              • enabling deaf people to talk through using motion sensitive gloves to translate sign language to speech (Ukraine).

              imageI spent Friday at the Sydney Convention Centre, volunteering to greet the teams as they arrived. (Fortunately, I didn't get the Sydney Airport volunteering stint, where my colleagues got to greet the arriving teams in Koala costume from 6AM!). It was a great experience, meeting all of the different students, and helping them to get started in the conference centre with their bag of goodies. I was really surprised by how international universities have become, with students from one country studying in another on the other side of the world. And I certainly got to test my world geography – by the end of my shift, I'd spoken with student teams from 46 different countries. And all the teams are getting a flavour of Sydney right now – with teams heading over to Taronga Zoo (eg), or climbing to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge (pic).

              For a flavour of how the Imagine Cup is going, there's a great Imagine Cup photo stream on Flickr, and you can follow the action on Twitter, by looking for tweets using the #imaginecup hashtag. The global winners get announced tomorrow evening, so the excitement will be mounting right up until then.

              Learn MoreVisit the Imagine Cup website

            • Education

              Tracking prospective students from clicks to campus–student recruitment online


              I was chatting with a university recruiter, who's a user of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in education in Australia, recently about the way that they are tracking student recruitment through their system. They were showing me the way that they can track campaigns to recruit students.

              Student Recruitment FunnelTheir goal is to ensure that as they get the attention of students, they are able to track their progress down the student recruitment funnel – from having their attention, through the application process, making an offer of a place and then starting their academic year. At each stage there's a drop out of 50-80% of prospective students. So 60,000 applicants can easily turn into just 10,000 students starting at the university.
              The interesting challenge is how to keep an eye on the students at the top part of the funnel – the attention stage – where a lot of the recruitment activities are market-wide eg advertising, blanket mailshots and mass emails. Like most other broad marketing campaigns, it is very difficult to tell which activities really work, and which ones feel good but may not be effective.

              The recruiter showed me how they could send a mass email, and watch as individual users responded – perhaps by visiting pages on the university website, or registering to attend events and open days. The feedback available through a student clicking a link then gave them deep insight into the activities of a prospective student – not just at the time, but in future weeks and months as they returned (or didn't) to the university website, or either read or ignored other email marketing campaigns.

              It's just one way that they were using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM in education, to build a better student recruitment cycle.

              It's far from an 'old world' mindset of marketing for student recruitment, where you would aim for blanket marketing of your institution or course, and run adverts and posters in magazines, buses, railway stations etc. (Perhaps not that 'old world' if you live in Sydney and notice how much display advertising on public transport is for higher and further education)

              So this chart, from a US survey, shouldn't be a surprise:

              Increase in digital marketing at universities

              It shows that 59% of tertiary education institutions plan to increase their digital marketing budgets in 2013, and at the opposite end, 23% plan to cut their traditional marketing budgets.

              As universities increasingly compete for domestic and international students, then we're seeing similar patterns in Australia. When you're given a choice between 'advertise and hope' through traditional methods, and analytics-driven marketing through digital methods, then I think I can predict how university Marketing Directors are going to respond.

              Learn MoreYou can learn more about Dynamics CRM on the Microsoft website

            • Education

              Using Samsung Series 7 slates in the classroom in Australia


              imageSt Catherine's School is a girls school in Sydney with nearly 1,000 students and a 1:1 programme for their students. They are using Samsung Series 7 slates, running Windows and Microsoft OneNote to support learning right across the curriculum. What that means is that they can run all of their existing programmes, including the whole Microsoft suite, and their specialist learning applications in specific subject – and provide a personal tablet device for every student. Their goal is to support their student learning to meet the needs of both the curriculum, and development of their 21st century skills* of collaboration, communication etc

              If you watch the video below you'll get a good idea of how individual students are using their Samsung slates in school, across many curriculum subjects, and how they mix the use of different applications in different subjects. And you also see the way that they use OneNote as a key tool right across the curriculum, for both students and teachers, and as a collaboration tool as well as for individual note taking and revision.


              Paul Carnemolla, the Head of Information Systems at the school, has been responsible for ensuring that there's widespread adoption of OneNote and the whole 1:1 programme. And that's involved identifying key teaching and learning scenarios that can be enabled – for example, the use of audio recording at the same time as note taking, so that students can record their thinking whilst they are completing exercises. This feedback is useful for both students and teachers:


              imageIt's very easy to share OneNote, so a teacher can share a OneNote, so a teacher can share the same OneNote document with all of the other students in the classroom.

              We know that feedback in learning is critical to student successs. The synced audio feature in OneNote enables us to get an insight into learning that we wouldn't be able to without that technology.


              As Tessa Rep, Head of Biblical Studies at the school says in the video:


              imageYou have a record of everything that you've done. And you're able to collect work efficiently from students. You're able to keep that with you. And wherever you go you have all the work you need.



              Although it's still in the early days for the school, you can get a very clear idea in the video of the many different ways that the Samsung slates are being used across the curriculum – and the many different types of Windows software programmes that the students are using.

              Learn MoreFind out more about the Microsoft "Building skills for tomorrow" programme in Australia
              or find out for yourself in a our hands-on event for school leaders in Brisbane on 20th July

              * In addition to the 21st Century skills traditionally discussed in the Windows in the Classroom projects, I've noticed that there are some new ones I've not spotted before - St Catherine's Holiday Program even includes barista courses  Smile

            • Education

              Linking SkyDrive and Moodle together


              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

              Microsoft Partner training for Office 365 for education


              imageOver the next few weeks, there's a bundle of training courses available for our Australian Microsoft Education partners, related to Office 365 for education. They are all running as webinars, so that you can take part without leaving your desk. 

              Introduction to Office 365 for education

              At lunchtime on Friday 6th July we are running a training webinar for all education partners on Office 365 for education. The webinar is from 12:30-1:30PM Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane time and will cover:

              • Understanding Office365 for Education
              • Office365 for education Pricing & SKU Overview
              • Live@Edu Upgrade Offer
              • Resources Available

              To take part in Friday's training, simply download the Calendar invite for Friday's Office 365 for education partner webinar which contains all of the details you need to join.

              Advanced partner training for Office 365 for education

              Following on from that training, we'll then be running deeper training programmes for each type of partner, so select from the right stream below. (The Monday/Friday webinars are identical, so you only need to attend one of them)

              Training for LARs on Office 365 for education

              Monday 23rd July 12:00-1:00PM
              Friday 27th July 12:30-1:30PM

              Learn MoreFor LAR training for Office 365 for education, please email me so that I can send the meeting invitation


              Training for System Integrators and Authorised Education Resellers (AERs) on Office 365 for education

              Monday 23rd July 2:00-3:00PM
              Friday 27th July 2:00-3:00PM

              Learn MoreFor SI and AER training for Office 365 for education, please email me so that I can send the meeting invitation

            • Education

              Free leadership event in Brisbane- 21st century learning: How the best schools leverage technology to improve learning


              Windows in the Classroom header

              In three weeks' time, on Friday 20th July, we're running a joint Microsoft & Samsung event in Brisbane, for school senior leaders. The day is designed specifically for School Principals, IT Directors and their Curriculum Directors.


              21st century learning: How the best schools leverage technology to improve learning

              The event is a high impact, exciting, hands on exploration of learning techniques and technologies to help staff and students develop the skills they need for tomorrow’s work force.   Facilitated by highly accomplished educators who have practical experience with powerful innovative learning technologies, you will explore: 

              • How to measure and improve 21st century skills in your school
              • How to leverage your investments to ensure better outcomes
              • Ways of supporting staff to embrace new learning opportunities
              • Ideas for creating safe, online collaborative learning opportunities 

              The event isn't for IT implementation teams in schools – instead, it is specifically designed to address the leadership and curriculum challenges to developing 21st century skills for students. And it will include plenty of hands-on exercises using the latest Samsung Windows slates.

              BTW I'm a big fan of the Samsung Series 7 Slate PCs, as I've been using one for a few months now with Windows 8, and it's really changing my way of working and also my home use of devices.

              It's on Friday 20th July, at Brisbane Boys College in Toowong, with a choice of either morning (9AM-12PM) or afternoon (1-4PM) sessions.

              To book places for your school's leadership team, or for more detailed information, then contact Susan Mateer via e-mail, or via phone on 03 9929 3658. 

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