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

  • Education

    Integrating a learning platform with Office 365–LP+


    I just got an embargoed press release from the UK Learning Possibilities team for 15th June – and luckily for us, I can write about it already as we’re half a day ahead of the UK Smile

    LP+ logoIn a nutshell, LP+ is a rich Virtual Learning Environment for schools built on SharePoint 2010, which is run as a hosted service in the cloud – meaning that schools don’t need to spend on servers etc to run it on, and can provide seamless access at school and from home. What they have now done is to link this through to Office 365, so that students can access their email, file storage and the web versions of Microsoft Office applications, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint – making it much easier to create a single seamless learning environment in school and at home.

    First of all, here’s an extract from the Press Release:


    Learning Possibilities announces full integration of its new LP+4 learning platform with Microsoft Office365

    Learning Possibilities, the leading learning platform provider, announces today that its new LP+4 learning platform now offers full integration and single sign-on with Microsoft Office 365. This means that LP+4 users can have access to Outlook Live, Lync and Office Web Applications from within the LP+4 learning platform and without need to login again. 

    Together with Office365, LP+4 delivers a whole new suite of online tools to improve collaboration and productivity where students and teachers are able to create, upload, edit  and share Office documents and access emails, instant message and access calendars online from any device with a browser and internet access - even if schools do not have Microsoft Office installed on their computers.  


    One of the interesting aspects of LP+ is that they have built a system which can be designed around the individual schools and student cohorts – for example, the screen shots below show designs for a primary school and a high school – with different styles, sophistication and features showing up.

    LP+ for Primary SchoolsLP+ for High Schools

    Today LP+ is mainly used with the UK, although there are plans to make it available in Australia, so for Australian readers I think the real interest is in the idea of linking a learning management system to the cloud, and how it helps to make a single coherent learning journey available at home and within the school – regardless of whether your students have 1:1 laptops or not. If they are using their own home computer, they can still have their learning resources, and tools like Microsoft Office available, in the same way.

    I’m going to see if the LP+ team have a video demo available of the Office 365 integration, as that should give a good idea of how the students move between the different cloud services (and how students and teachers can move between using LP+, Office Web Apps, email and online real-time communications like Lync).

    Learn MoreVisit the LP+ website for more information

  • Education

    Comparing Google Apps and Office 365 in Education


    I’ve noticed that they do things differently over in the US compared to Australia, and one of the areas I’ve always noticed is product comparisons. I’m always surprised by comparative advertising on TV whenever I’m in the States, with adverts comparing features and prices for products side by side. The Microsoft team in Seattle run a ‘Why Microsoft’ blog that talks about Microsoft’s strategic and technical differentiation to other products and services.

    They’ve just written a blog post ‘A Day in the Life of a Teacher’, comparing the use of Office 365 (which includes Office Web Apps, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync) and Google Apps, and they’ve done a careful job of providing links through to all of the different comparisons they make.

    If you want to click on the links, you’ll need to download the full infographic in PDF form

    The comparison that caught my eye especially was the comparison of employer demand for Microsoft Office and Google Apps skills. This becomes pretty important as you get to the later years in the education system.

    imageimageThe links send you to CareerBuilder, a US jobs website and shows today that if you search for jobs looking for ‘Google Apps’ skills, you’ll get 56 jobs listed – and 600 times more job opportunities looking for Microsoft Office skills (33,730 jobs listed as of  this morning). This situation is pretty similar in Australia – see my blog post from last year “What skills do employers look for in interviews

    Learn MoreRead the full 'A day in the life of a Teacher' blog post

  • Education

    3 classroom ideas with Photosynth for Windows Phone


    imageA couple of weeks ago we released Photosynth for the Windows Phone. So now you can create 360-degree panoramas straight from your phone, and publish them onto the web. You can either get it from this link (or even easier, just print the Search button on your Windows Phone and point it at this QR Code, and your phone will go to it in the marketplace).

    Photosynth can either create a straightforward panorama (where you stand in one place, and rotate the camera for a single image) or a complex 3D model (where you move around, and take lots of photos from lots of angles). For an idea of the power of Photosynth for creating immersive 3D models, pop over to the Photosynth website and explore.

    And here’s three ideas for how you can use Photosynth in education:

    1. A virtual field trip


    Create a 3D model of a place you want your students to explore, eg this panorama of Yosemite Glacier Point. Want to make it more interesting? Hide clues and prizes in the Photosynth for them to find. You could use this instead of a field trip, or for prep work in advance of a field trip. Or get students to create their own whilst on a field trip. The image above is taken from my Photosynth of Westminster Cathedral in London.

    I’ve hidden a treasure hunt in this Photosynth, and I’ve got a Microsoft water bottle to send to the first person who emails me to tell me how much the Westminster Cathedral Guidebook has been reduced to in this Photosynth.

    2. Keep your school art exhibition open all year


    Many schools spend weeks putting together their annual art exhibition in a hall, but then can only keep it open for a few days before it all has to be packed away again. One neat answer is to Photosynth the whole thing, so that students and parents can explore all of the artwork online – and be able to zoom in in huge detail. One great example is Wootton Bassett School, who have put their art exhibitions online for a few years. They’ve even done it as a standard panorama, and an immersive 3D model, so that you can see the difference.

    3. Create a campus tour

    There are lots of different uses for this:

    How to create a Photosynth

    Panorama photosynths can be created in the Windows Phone or iPhone app, and 3D immersive Photosynths can be created from photos taken on your phone or camera, and uploaded through the Photosynth app.

    Learn MoreFind out more, and get your hands on, the Photosynth apps

  • Education

    Dynamics CRM in Education–10 slides in 10 minutes


    I’ve just provided a brief 10 minute overview to our CRM partners about the use of CRM systems in Education within Australia. It isn’t a detailed presentation that’s intended to provide all the answers to everything – it’s more of a quick introduction into the use of CRM within Education institutions in Australia – including universities, TAFEs and schools.

    The reason for providing the briefing is that I’ve noticed that many of our CRM partners are starting to see increasing enquiries from education customers about the use of CRM systems, and a quick overview helps them to understand the context (for example, by understanding the way that student recruitment works at a high level, they can see how it is similar/different to commercial organisations – eg membership recruitment for private companies).

    Here’s a quick overview of the slides:

    (If you can’t see them above, or want to copy emailed, then use the Contact Me link at the top of the page)

  • Education

    Hear University of Canberra speaking about 'Automating the Annual Report' at the CALUMO user group


    Club CALUMO headerNext week there’s an open invitation from CALUMO to attend one of their Club CALUMO meetings, in either Sydney or Melbourne. The events are run like a user group, and for the last year they’ve thrown open the doors to non-users, giving people a chance to learn about how their Business Intelligence system is being used (and let’s face it, if you’re thinking about implementing a business intelligence project, there’s a huge value in being able to learn from other people’s experiences).

    CALUMO have built up quite a bit of experience of BI systems and projects within education, and have helped universities and TAFEs with things like student load planning, smoothing the budget planning process, and the production of annual reports and financial updates. At this month’s meeting they have a case study from Graham Hoy, from the University of Canberra, talking about the automation of their annual report processes (read more here), and also a demonstration of what the CALUMO team describe as the ‘hidden features’ in our Analysis Services system, and the latest version of the CALUMO software that sits on top of the Microsoft BI platform.

    Club CALUMO: Dates and venues

    Venue Date Time
    North Ryde
    19th June 2012 5:30 – 7:30pm
    South Bank
    21st June 2012 5:30 – 7:30pm

    When I went to my first Club CALUMO last year, I came away with some really interesting insights into the way that some of their customers were solving business problems using the CALUMO BI system, and especially about how they were simplifying the whole process for their end users – and some great stories to share with colleagues. CALUMO describe the event as being suitable for “CFOs, FCs, CIOs, BI Managers, IT Managers, Database Administrators, SSAS/SSRS/SSIS Power Users, Report developers, Project Managers and other managers interested in the latest approaches and developments across various applications and industries” – so you can be sure that whatever your level of knowledge, there’ll be content suitable. And it could contribute to any CPD/CPE hours for the year…

    As usual, the event is free, and the bonus is that they’ll be including the usual selection of beer and pizza Smile

    Learn MoreFind out more details, and register here

  • Education

    Registration for Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2012 now open


    APC Header

    Registrations have just opened for the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2012 (APC 2012). And the good news is that the tickets are discounted if you register before 13th July – saving you nearly $200 off the normal fee.

    Even better news, Australian Gold Competency Partners get two free tickets – so quick, grab them before somebody less worthy in your team does Smile

    These are the three key reasons the APC organising team give for attending:

    • See new products in action and learn more about our strategic investment areas for the year ahead
    • Take advantage of networking opportunities on a massive scale with Microsoft leadership, sales and product teams
    • Experience first-hand a showcase of Microsoft products in real-world business scenarios aligned to customer needs

    And, as usual, we’ll be doing a whole load of things to make it even more valuable for education partners, including giving you the chance to book 1:1 sessions with our Account Managers across our team, and get deep insight into the trends and stories across the education market. I’ll publish more details on who’s attending, and how to grab a slot in their diary next month, but for now I’d recommend that you get your APC 2012 place booked and confirmed. Especially if you’re hoping to be jumping up on stage to collect your Education Partner of the Year Award…

    What: Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2012

    Where: Brisbane

    When: 4-6 September 2012

    Learn MoreYou can find out more, and register, here

  • Education

    Top 5 education apps that will be developed in the Cloud with Windows Azure


    Walking down the corridor after I wrote about the Windows Azure DevCamps this morning, a colleague who’d read the post asked me what kind of apps would be developed next in the Windows Azure Cloud for education. So I reeled off the list of apps that I think we’ll see. And he told me that the blog post would have been improved if I’d suggested those ideas. (Boom, direct feedback, right there…)

    So as well as remembering that feedback for next time, I thought I’d share the list. These are the next wave of things I think we're going to see as apps developed for teachers to use, linked to the Azure cloud. And I think these are the kind of things that teachers/school will just buy as a small app, and use it themselves – as well as potentially apps that a whole school or system will use.

    And the reason I think they’ll be developed using the Cloud is that teachers need to have access at home as well as at school – because when you’re writing up your school reports, you want this stuff to hand – it’s no good if it’s locked inside a corporate system and you can’t get it when you need it. And you’re more likely to be sitting writing your reports in front of the telly, with sideways glances at the finals of The Voice, than sitting behind a desk at school. So you need to have the info right there – and the Cloud gives you a way to have it wherever you are.

    So here’s the top 5 education apps I think we’re going to see next:

    • A simple Attendance app for teachers (and which sends the info across to multiple student admin systems)
    • Behaviour recording app for teachers (a dead simple smile/frown style app, with an ability to record specifics)
    • Grading/markbook app for teacher (because every teachers has their own physical book or Excel spreadsheet, that could be better)
    • Teacher Organiser (linking timetable, curriculum materials, links to web resources, and the curriculum structure)
    • Note taking (well, I reckon we’ve already got that with OneNote, which syncs through the Cloud, but there’s still room for more)

    I don’t believe any of these are big and complex, massively long projects. And with the Cloud providing the infrastructure for it, they’re even easier. Oh, and when the online Windows Store comes along later this year, there will also be a way to reach an audience of half a billion PCs to sell this kind of software easily Smile



  • Education

    Windows Azure DevCamp–learn to build for the Cloud


    imageIf you’re in Sydney, and you are (or would like think of yourself as) a developer, then you might want to devote a day to discovering how the Cloud could make a difference to your projects. I’m losing count of the number of projects I’m hearing about where developers are using the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud services in education projects to allow them to build an application, and deploy to an unlimited amount of users. The reason is obvious – it allows developers to get on with development of applications, without having the hassle of worrying about building a big backend datacentre to run it on. It’s especially important in education, where the job of getting an application setup on somebody’s education network can be painful, whereas deploying an application in the cloud can be straightforward – and something that users (teachers, students) can do themselves.

    That might explain one of the reasons why education applications that use the Windows Azure cloud – like ClickView or the Janison Assessment portals – are growing rapidly. (Windows Azure is basically our public cloud, running in global data centres, where you can deploy applications, databases, websites or even complete virtual servers)

    To help more people discover the tricks, we’re running a free Windows Azure DevCamp in Sydney on Tuesday 19th June at the University of NSW for developers that want to get under the covers of Azure. And the hosts are three people that really know their stuff:

    • Ori Amiga is the Principal Group Program Manager on the Windows Azure team responsible for the Developer Platform efforts, and he’s flying over from Seattle for this session
    • Nick Harris is a Technical Evangelist for Windows Azure working on the Windows Azure Toolkit, and he too is hopping on a pan-Pacific flight to be here
    • Andrew Coates is a Developer Evangelist with a diverse background in Civil Engineering, Geographic Information Systems, Databases and Software development. Luckily for him, he’s only got to hop in a car, as he’s Sydney based

    The agenda for the day is going to help you learn how to:

    • Build and quickly deploy web sites to Windows Azure
    • Migrate, integrate, and extend existing code and apps with Windows Azure
    • Build flexible, multi-tier applications
    • Consume Windows Azure services within your apps, such as Windows Azure Storage, SQL Azure, and the Service Bus
    • Architect highly scalable and fast applications using cloud services
    • Build Web APIs that power mobile devices
    • Use the latest Visual Studio tools and SDKs for the cloud

    The day runs from 9-5 at the Randwick Campus of UNSW on 19th June, and it’s free. And it’s open to all developers, whether you currently work for a Microsoft partner, or you work in a university, TAFE, school or government department.

    Learn MoreLearn more, and register, for the Sydney Windows Azure DevCamp

  • Education

    What does the Cloud do in education, as well as create jobs?


    According to an IDC study “Cloud Computing & Worldwide Job Creation”, it’s forecast that nearly 14 million new jobs will have been created worldwide by cloud services around the world. In Australia, it’s forecast that cloud-related jobs are going to grow 129% between 2012 and 2015. And education is one of the fastest growing markets for jobs created by Cloud services (see Table 1 in the report) – with a compound annual growth rate of 29% to 2015.Windows Azure in Education

    Maybe that’s why, in a new Windows Azure infographic above, it’s an example from the use of Cloud in education that’s put front and centre. The three examples it gives of game-changing use of the Cloud infrastructure are:

    • Harvey Norman, using Windows Azure to scale to almost instantly cope with a 1,850% spike in web traffic
    • Curtin University, using Windows Azure to perform complex genome sequencing in hours, not weeks
    • Pixel Pandemic, using Windows Azure to support 10 million monthly page views, and 300,000 global gamers

    I had two thoughts from reading this:

    1. Education continues to lead the world in innovative use of new technologies
    2. It’s a good example of today’s technology students needing new skills for tomorrow’s world
  • Education

    Deadline for Microsoft Australian Partner Awards extended by a day


    Already entered? Then, this is for you:

    Look, I know it’s a holiday weekend for most of you. And you’ve got better things to be doing (like getting home to see your family). But if there’s one thing to do before you log off tonight, you should hit ‘Submit’ on your APC Award entry. I’ve just looked at the report, and one third of the entries for Education Partner of the Year are sitting at ‘Draft’ rather than ‘Submitted Status’. Don’t forget to hit submit. Thanks. Have a great weekend.

    Not yet entered? Then this is for you:

    C’mon, you’ve now got an extra day to enter to win Australian Education Partner of the Year. The deadline’s extended to end of the day on Tuesday 12th (so, if you’re in NSW/QLD/VIC/TAS/NT etc, no, you don’t have to spend the Queen’s Birthday typing your entry. And if you're in WA, you've got an extra working day to polish your entry). And just imagine how good you’ll feel if you’re hopping up on the stage with hundreds of other Microsoft partners applauding you on. Find out how to enter here, and don’t forget to read my hints and tips to creating a winning APC Awards entry.

    Have a good weekend…and look forward to seeing you at the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 4 September.

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