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

  • Education

    The world’s first School in the Cloud

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    img4The most memorable moment of the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum that I attended in the UK in 2010 was hearing Professor Sugata Mitra talking about his Hole in the Wall, and Granny Cloud projects.  Like many inspiring people, I first heard about his work through TED, in his 2008 Ted Talk “Kids can teach themselves”. Shortly before speaking at our Innovative Education Forum, he inspired again at TED, talking about “child-driven education”, and earlier this year he spoke about his wish to “Build a school in the cloud”.

    As fascinating as the journey, and stories, have been, the thing that really stands out about Sugata’s vision is his passionate pursuit of making things happen. And I’ve just finished reading about the next step in that journey, as he’s just opened the doors of the world’s first School in the Cloud, in England, funded through his TED Prize seed money.
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    The classroom above matches many other 21st century learning environments that are being built around the world. But what makes it stand out is the way the space is managed and used. I’ll let the TED Blog pick up the story:

      The Killingworth School in the Cloud is run by a committee of 12-year-old students, who manage a schedule to let different classes and groups use the lab in time slots before, during and after school. The lab is, of course filled with computers and touchscreen devices, as these are the tools students use to do their detective work. This lab is the first live demo of the School in the Cloud web platform, which not only connects labs to the “Granny Cloud” but also serves as a community foundation for SOLE practitioners and contains an evolving library of guides and resources. Microsoft and Skype are the core technology partners for this digital platform; Made By Many is the co designer and development partner; and IDEO assisted with design research. Five more School in the Cloud learning labs of varying resources and bandwidth are scheduled to launch throughout India in 2014, and the second UK lab will go live in the spring. All seven Schools in the Cloud will be directed by the School in the Cloud web platform and its community of Grannies. Beta testing for the School in the Cloud platform will begin publicly in March at the annual TED Conference in Vancouver  

    Learn MoreLearn more about Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLE)

  • Education

    Snap a whiteboard and bring it into OneNote for Windows 8

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    OneNote logoWhat if there was an app that your students could use to take a photo of anything you write on a whiteboard, store it, convert it to text, and make it easy for them to search back to find a specific word you’d written on the whiteboard last term? And thus mean that you could deliver lessons/lectures using a mix of whiteboard and PowerPoint, without putting students at a disadvantage when they need to find the brilliant example you drew up on the whiteboard? Well, yep, there’s some help!

    Capture lesson/lecture notes with OneNote

    Here’s an example from a meeting earlier today – the image on the left was the original that I took with the camera – and on the right is the version that I took with OneNote from exactly the same position – it automatically cropped it, straightened it, and worked out which bit of the image was the whiteboard!

    First photo of a wall whiteboard with writingSecond photo - automatically straightened by OneNote

    So here’s more of the detail:

    Last month we announced a series of enhancements to the OneNote app for Windows 8, including making it much easier to share information with OneNote from other Windows 8 apps (using the Windows Share Charm). But the feature that I think might be most helpful for teachers, lecturers and students, is the ability to take shots of whiteboards and documents, and import them into OneNote automatically cropped, straightened and sharpened.

    The Camera Scan features allows you to capture documents, magazines and whiteboards easily into OneNote. It will automatically crop, rotate, straighten, remove shadows and sharpen the image so it looks like a scanned document. This makes it easy to capture, read, and re-use sets of notes from other sources – for example, to quickly capture a set of lecturer’s notes from a whiteboard. To use Camera Scan, you simply select the camera in the OneNote radial menu and snap away.

    You can see it working in the video below.

    Once you've got the image in, OneNote also scans all of the text in the image and converts it via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to full text. That means you can then search on text in the image and even copy text from the image, for use in another document!

    The video below shows how this works in practice, with a scan of a shop receipt:

    Learn MoreLearn more about the recent updates to the Windows 8 OneNote app

    Or, download the free Windows 8 OneNote app and try it out yourself

  • Education

    The world’s first joint research centre for Social Natural User Interfaces is in Melbourne

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    The world's first joint research center devoted to social NUI

    Yesterday we have the Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces. This is a joint research centre between the University of Melbourne and Microsoft Research, in partnership with the state government of Victoria and Microsoft Australia. The centre will explore applications of Natural User Interfaces—better known as NUI—in social situations. It is the world’s first joint research centre dedicated to studying and perfecting the social applications of NUI.

    There’s some amazing work going on with new ways of interacting with technology across the world, and especially in the world of gaming, where things like Kinect have enable interaction through gestures, voice and whole-body movement. There’s some great examples of non-gaming uses on the Kinect for Windows gallery, like the example below of turning any surface into an interactive whiteboard.

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    Learn MoreYou can read more about the Research Centre announcement on the Microsoft Research Connections blog

  • Education

    Accelerate–the Microsoft Australia Education Newsletter

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    We've just launched the sign-up page for the customer newsletter from the Microsoft Australia Education team. It’s designed for teaching and learning staff in schools and colleges across Australia, and will be sent out monthly in 2014. This is in addition to any of the other newsletters you may receive. Paul Randazzo is the editorial lead for it, and here’s the invite he’s created for you to sign up:


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    Each generation fosters the belief that successive generations will be better equipped to face the challenges of the future. And it’s almost universally accepted that the best way to achieve that is through the transformative power of education.
    Which is why we’re so passionate about learning. We see education as the force behind social and economic progress, with technology as the driver to enhance student experience, promote young entrepreneurship and provide lifelong, workforce-ready skills.
    So it makes complete sense for us to launch Accelerate – a new, monthly newsletter written for educators and institutions and packed with tips and tricks, thought leadership, best practice and industry insights.
    This email offers a small taste of what you can expect. But If you’d like to receive this moving forward, join our mailing list today. And doing that couldn’t be easier. Simply:

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  • Education

    Drawboard PDF is currently free in the Windows 8 store

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    There’s a new version of the Australian Windows 8 app for education, Drawboard PDF, which is great for teachers to use for marking feedback onto homework, or for students to make notes directly onto PDF documents. It allows the teacher to draw or write – using pen or stylus – on the student’s homework (saved as a PDF), and then save the resulting marked-up document.

    It’s ideal for replacing the pen and paper, and to avoid printing documents. Either upload or create a new PDF, annotate using the wide choice of tools (pen, highlighter, comment boxes, graphics), then save it back as a compatible PDF.

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    For the next few weeks, it’s free on the Windows Store, so I’d recommend grabbing it now, ready for next school year.

    Learn MoreLearn more, and download, Drawboard PDF

  • Education

    The education offer for Microsoft Surface ended–but JB Hi-Fi have a special deal…

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    Lots of education customers in Australia took advantage of the special Surface RT Education offer, but when it finished at the end of September, there were plenty of people who asked if it would be extended as they’d just missed the deadline. Although at the time the answer was a sad ‘no’, I just saw this retail promotion from JB Hi-Fi that’s almost identical – a 32GB Microsoft Surface RT for $223 – and open to anybody, not just education customers.

    JB Hi-Fi Surface RT offer

    This is great news, because individual students and staff can buy at this price, whereas the special education offer was limited to institutions only. And you can order online, or just go into your local JB Hi-Fi and pick it up today.

    BUT don’t hang around – the promotion ends this Sunday 1st December.

    Learn MoreGo to the JB Hi-Fi offer page

  • Education

    Updated: Microsoft Bring Your Own Device to School Discussion Paper

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    Front cover of 2013 BYOD Discussion PaperSince we produced our first ‘BYOD to School’ whitepaper last year, there’s been a lot said about Bring Your Own Device in schools, and plenty of different views expressed about which model is best. From all those discussions, I and my colleagues are convinced there’s not a simple solution – there’s definitely not a ‘once size fits all’ approach to BYOD. Nor a simple decision framework to even work out whether Bring Your Own Device is right for your institution.

    My colleague Sean Tierney, continues to work on this subject, and he’s just finished working with Bruce Dixon (from the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation) to update last year’s BYOD to School whitepaper. They have both been passionate advocates for 1:1 learning programmes for many years, their whitepaper aims to examine the potential deployment models from teaching, learning and IT management perspectives.

    As they say in their conclusion:

     

    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.

    Between equity and simplicity, however, come considerations of cost. So while today’s confluence of affordable devices, cloud computing and innovative technology dangles a tempting prospect in front of us, educators face a number of difficult decisions before we finally deliver student learning experiences as broad, deep, relevant, complex and creative as we would like them to be.

    This discussion paper presents some of the varying BYOD models, their nuances and the considerations that accompany them. 1-to-1 access to technology is challenging traditional ideas about teaching and learning, and the arguments herein emphasise that decisions need to be education-based, not purely technology-based. They need to deliver tangible benefits for student learning.

     

    The arguments also question a number of assumptions about BYOD. In particular, it questions whether BYOD really reduces the total cost of device use in schools, or whether that cost has been hidden; that is to say, passed on to parents. Hasty decisions made today risk casting a long shadow and undermining some of the important achievements made to date.

    Most importantly, there needs to be agreement on the equitable and sustainable provision of technology so that the core ideas of 1-to-1 learning, refined over many years of classroom experience, are not lost. This is especially important, given that previous educational innovations have taught us that early reports of success can overlook complexities that only become apparent over time.

    Bruce and Sean are adamant that 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. And that’s exactly what the ideas discussed in the discussion paper.

    Learn MoreRead the full Microsoft discussion paper: Bring Your Own Device to School

  • Education

    It’s in the new Australian Curriculum, but do you need help with 21st Century Learning Design

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    ELH LogoOur partnership with Expanding Learning Horizons means that we work together on a range of activities supporting the enhancement of teaching and learning with technology. Some of these (like the Windows in the Classroom program) are free for schools to participate in, whilst other activities are run as paid professional development activities.

    The next set of events from ELH are the 21st Century Learning Design program workshops later this month. They are a two day workshop, with online sessions to follow on from the activities you plan as part of the workshop. The objective is to provide appropriate support and training for teachers who are design lessons to reflect the changes in the Australian National Curriculum:

     

    There is a growing awareness of 21st Century Learning, especially since it has been reflected within the Australian National Curriculum. There is also a wide appreciation of its value, which is supported by a wealth of evidence from educational researchers. However, as yet, few teachers know how to design lessons to put it into practice.

    Here’s an opportunity to take the lead in your school and discover, as one participant puts it: “being a part of something new and exciting; allowing me to increase my skills and learning whilst teaching my students.”

    Over two days you’ll work together with other teachers in a collaborative and supportive environment to understand:

    • The six skill-sets today’s students will need in the workplace and their future lives
    • The innovative rubrics for measuring use of these skills in classroom and project work
    • How 21CLD links in with the Australian Curriculum
    • How to create a compelling case for 21st Century Learning in your school

    You’ll also learn how to code and redesign your own curriculum, to get you started on implementing 21st Century Learning  on your return to school. An online discussion with fellow participants six weeks later will give you the opportunity to share your successes and discuss overcoming any roadblocks you may have encountered.

     

    The program costs $795 for the two day workshop, and are running in:

    • Sydney – 26/27 November
    • Perth – 26/27 November
    • Melbourne – 2/3 December

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the 21st Century Learning Design Program

  • Education

    Announcing the Microsoft Australian Teachers Blog

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    Australian Teachers Blog Header

    My colleagues have been talking for a while about creating a more teaching-centric blog for Australia, focusing more on the teaching and learning side of technology. And a couple of weeks ago they launched the Microsoft Australian Teachers Blog, which is all about technology in the classroom. It will grow out to become the one stop shop for all of the key tips, tricks and local stories.

    Even better, rather than being the product of a single person, there’s a whole team of people writing stories for it, including Pip Cleaves, who’s well known from her time in NSW Department of Education, and a range of guest bloggers including teachers and school principals. Alongside articles about new technologies for teaching and learning (like the recent post about the enhancements to Office Web Apps to allow students to collaboratively edit documents in real time), you’ll find stories like the one from Stacey Quince, Principal for Campbelltown Performing Arts High School, who talks about the journey her school has had to take in ‘learning to unlearn’ in order to change the way that they do things.

    One of the areas that everybody will find useful is the Windows 8 Education Apps page that contains curated links to hundreds of Windows 8 apps to support specific curriculum subjects, as well as topics such as study skills, or knowledge construction. Pip has been collating lists using Pinterest, which makes it really easy to keep a dynamic list of apps that can be easily added to as new apps get recommended or published.

    Our aim is for this Education blog and the Teachers blog to complement each other, rather than duplicating each other. So you may want to add both to your RSS feeds list, or your browser Favourites list, so that you’ve got the full picture of every it of news from the Australian Microsoft Education Team

    Learn MoreRead the Microsoft Australia Teachers Blog

  • Education

    What skills do I need for the future?

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    Office 365 Header

    When we announced the global Student Advantage programme, it meant that students could get the full Office suite when their institution subscribed for their staff (see ‘The best way to get Office for student BYOD devices’). Part of the reason that supported doing it was some new research from IDC on skills requirements for tomorrow's best jobs, which analysed the current and future jobs market to understand what skills employers are currently looking for, and will look for in the future.

    Learn MoreSkills Requirements for Tomorrow's Best Jobs:
    Helping Educators Provide Students with Skills and Tools They Need

    IDC did their analysis by scanning 14.6 million US job postings for six months this year and identified the 20 most common skills required for those positions. They also used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including data on 2010 employment and forecasts for 2020, to understand future employment trends, and to identify 60 occupations that have above average growth potential and salary potential between 2013 and 2020.

    Which roles are going to grow fastest in numbers and salary by 2020?

    IDC categorised all of the data into groups of roles to produce the following chart:

    image

    So by 2020 we’re going to see more demand for people to work in medical, sales and marketing, education, IT and managerial roles. These roles in the chart are expected to account for 28% of new jobs in 2020, with a median salary that’s 51% higher than for all occupations.

    What skills are needed for the high growth employment roles?

    The IDC report looked at the top skills required for all occupations, and the analysis showed the top five skills employers are looking for were:

    1. Oral and written communication skills
    2. Detail oriented
    3. Microsoft Office
    4. Customer service oriented
    5. Organisational skills

    It’s notable that Microsoft Office was the only software package that employers called out within the top 20 skills list. Microsoft Office is at number 3, PowerPoint is at number 11, and Word is at number 13. The full list of top 20 skills is on Page 7, Figure 2 in the IDC report.

    When they correlated the top skills against the top growth occupations, they found the correlation got stronger – the top 5 skills were in even higher demand in these roles (and 16 of the top 20). The most common skills that employers are looking for are cross-functional, rather than occupation-specific skills. As IDC put it (on page 9):

     

    This high concentration of cross-functional skills suggests that high school students require "job readiness" and not "job training" for success. The skills most needed for the best jobs cut across many occupations, so educators should consider focusing on the skills with the broadest applicability to success. In contrast, skills associated with specific occupations are less applicable for the broader occupation set, implying that they should receive less emphasis in general high school curricula.

     

    Communication, integration and presentation skills (CIPs) are required for about 40 percent of all positions and make up 11 of the top 20 skills that are required by 39 percent of the fastest growing, highest paying positions. As Cushing Anderson, program vice president of Project-Based Services at IDC says in the report:

      Of the more than 11,000 skills we examined, it is interesting to see the play between hard and soft skills. Many of the top 20 skills reinforce the other; the skills we identified are not taken in isolation but rather are a golden set of skills that are consistently important. Seventy percent of the high-growth, high-wage occupations frequently require at least one of the top 20 skills.  

    IDC make a series of really important points on Pages 14/15 about the assessment of communication, integration and presentation skills capabilities.  They assert that assessments should be used to demonstrate students’ mastery of material and help improve the teaching and learning process. And IDC calls for programs to include formative adaptive assessments, performance-based tasks to demonstrate communication, integration and presentation skills capabilities, and appropriate technologies to facilitate consistent administration and evaluation of assessments. They also caution employers that it is unrealistic to expect schools to prepare students for specific jobs or even a specific industry, and that they must assume the responsibility of training new career entrants in the job-specific skills the occupation requires.

    The whole report is worth a read, both for the data points it includes, and for the help it contains for advising your students (and their parents!) about what lies around the corner in the job marketplace.

    Learn MoreSkills Requirements for Tomorrow's Best Jobs:
    Helping Educators Provide Students with Skills and Tools They Need

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