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

  • Education

    Classroom Interactive Whiteboards and Windows 8

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    I watched this video and wondered:

    Do we still need lots of extra special software to work with interactive whiteboards, when there is now so much standard software (and lots more coming around the corner) that uses touch capabilities?

    I know we used to - in the days of Windows XP, you had to have special drivers etc on an interactive whiteboards, and there was a dearth of interactive multimedia software. But perhaps today we’re hanging on to an old habit?

    My thinking is that instead of having special software that just works on the whiteboard, and needs extra training:

    • If you plug a Windows 8 computer into the interactive whiteboard, you get the great natural interactive interface you need for the PC, including great handwriting recognition
    • Teachers use OneNote (built into Office) as the teaching tool, instead of any of the specific whiteboard applications. You end up with learning resources that are much more easily shareable, because you can simply publish into the cloud, so that students can access the learning resources, homework assignments, lesson recordings etc on virtually any device:

    So a teacher can create a lesson in OneNote, and then when they publish it, the students could revise it, and listen to the recording, on the bus/train on the way home, and then complete their homework assignment online at home, and submit it online.

    * OneNote Mobile is free to download and use for up to 500 notes. When you've reached this limit, you can upgrade the app for a one-time fee for unlimited use. If you choose not to upgrade to the unlimited version, you can still view, sync, and delete any of your existing notes even after you've reached the 500 notes limit. However, you will no longer be able to edit your notes or create new ones on your phone/iPad.

  • Education

    Accessibility workshop for education

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    image

     

    I thought I’d point you towards another resource that will be useful for partners, education trainers, and those who need to get the message across about Accessibility to their colleagues.

    Teacher Training Workshop on Accessibility

    It is a complete PowerPoint-based teacher training workshop on Accessibility for schools using Microsoft resources. The workshop materials are there ready to go, with all of the links to the resources on the web etc. The only thing we don’t provide is the person to deliver it for you - but the materials have been written so that it can be delivered by anybody in education, without a deep knowledge of accessibility or special needs.

    It covers a background, as well as an overview of accessibility features in Windows, Internet Explorer and Office, before going to look at the relationship between impairments and technology solutions, and advice on selecting accessible technology.

    In then gets really practical, to help with planning for specific students in your care, by looking at four imaginary students with different needs, and suggests how to support them:

    Alex  - a completely fictional student

    Scenario 1 - Visual impairment

    ‘Alex’ has a visual impairment and is colour-blind. He needs to have what he is reading on the computer enlarged or magnified, and he needs to rely on text, rather than colour, for information.

    Accessibility solutions

    Christina  - a completely fictional student

    Scenario 2 - Hearing impairment

    ‘Christina’ is hard-of-hearing so she needs to be able to adjust the volume on her computer. She uses headphones to block out background noise and increases the volume without disrupting other learners in the classroom. She also may need to watch parts of videos more than once to make sure she doesn’t miss anything that is being said.

    Accessibility solutions:

    Sam  - a completely fictional student

    Scenario 3 - Muscle fatigue and wrist pain

    ‘Sam’ has dexterity difficulties, including muscle fatigue. He needs to be able to limit the amount of keyboard work he does. Sam benefits from using Windows Speech Recognition to dictate large amounts of text for reports and uses an ergonomic Microsoft Comfort keyboard and mouse.

    Accessibility solutions:

    John - a completely fictional studentScenario 4 - Student who has difficulty concentrating

    ‘John’ has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) which makes it difficult for him to concentrate sometimes. He would benefit from reducing visual and auditory distractions while using the computer. He needs the computer to assist him in better focusing on reading and
    typing tasks.

    Accessibility solutions:

    Learn MoreDownload the Accessibility in Education Workshop kit (PowerPoint)


    Bonus info: For more info on Accessibility and education, I’ve written blog posts about Accessibility half a dozen times recently:

  • Education

    University student recruitment is in the toilet - where’s your website?

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    I was talking about the process of student recruitment in universities yesterday, and this was one of my slides:

    IT in the Toilet - where are your future students surfing your website from?

    It’s a small bit of data from the “IT in the Toilet” survey from the US, and the point is that 4 out of 10 people from Gen Y (ie your next customer) has used a phone in the toilet to surf the web. The context for university student recruitment is that prospective students could literally be anywhere, at any time, when they are making the choice of their next education institution.

    In the future, student recruitment marketing and methodology has to be a lot more agile, to respond to changes in the way that prospective students are interacting with institutions in making their choices. As I work with universities that are re-designing their systems and processes to reflect the changing student recruitment landscape there are recurring themes. One big theme that keeps coming out is agility, to respond to the constant changes in the recruitment landscape and the prospective student mindset.

    What is often overlooked in institutions (not just in universities, but across any large institution) is the web content that’s published on your own website. What I’ve found is that the recruitment team generally ‘own’ a part of the site, and optimise that part for the recruitment cycle.

    But what happens if the prospective student ends up somewhere else on your site? What experience will they have? I’ve just finished reading ‘Why Higher Ed Sucks at Content Strategy’ on the .eduGuru blog, and it’s a comprehensive article that just might help you influence your colleagues’ thinking. For example:

      I’ve talked to more than one DI level school that has, and I kid you not, millions of web pages. Millions. Millions. Think about that for a second. If you checked 100 pages a day, every day for a year, you wouldn’t even manage to check the quality of 50,000 pages. If you had only one million pages, that wouldn’t even cover 5% of your site. One of the first steps in starting a content strategy is a content audit. How much of your site are you prepared to commit to that when you’re so huge? Yes, a lot of that is automatically generated or archival. Yes, not all of it is meant for normal human consumption. Yet the fact remains that when a problem is so big and you can’t even pinpoint where to start, many will choose to do nothing. Since many university sites lack any comprehensive business or marketing strategy when it comes to the creation and maintenance of content, literally every piece of information gets put out there, and it’s put out there by hoards of individuals that are ultimately not qualified to edit web sites. So we grow. And grow. And grow.  

    Learn MoreRead the full .eduGuru article on content management on university websites

  • Education

    Microsoft Flight simulator - free software for teachers in February

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    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    A last piece of Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Okay, after 28 days hard slog to get through 28 free applications for teachers, I thought I’d take it a bit easier on the bonus day of the month. I’m sure you can find a teaching and learning use for this, but how about a gratuitous tip for a free bit of software:

    Microsoft Flight simulator in the classroom

    Now anyone can enjoy the fun, freedom and adventure of flight. Feel the power at your fingertips as you take to the skies and launch into thrilling missions and exciting challenges over the free-to-play Big Island of Hawaii.

    Take the Controls

    Customise flight controls to match your students’ skill level, choose exciting missions or just take off and explore the sky. Immerse yourself in the thrills and challenges of an ever expanding adventure, where each new plane soars with the power and handling of its real world counterpart.

    Got a Mouse? You Can Fly!

    Microsoft Flight

    Jump into the adventure of flying with no special hardware or past experience. With just a click of the mouse, you can see all available missions and locations, view the planes, track and share accomplishments, or take to the skies!

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Like any other plane, there’s a handbook you can download

    Where do I get Microsoft Flight from?

    Download the free version of Microsoft Flight from here

  • Education

    Imagine changing the world - Imagine Cup 2012

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    image

    Imagine changing the world - Imagine Cup 2012

    One of my most inspiring days of 2011 was spent watching the Australian finalists pitching their ideas and software to the judges in the PowerHouse Museum in Sydney, and feeling so proud of the team that won the right to take their entry to New York to compete at the global Imagine Cup finals. I simply could not believe the amazing projects that teams of 3 or 4 students had created, and the professionalism of the software that they had developed to tackle genuine societal needs. I’ve already added the dates for this year’s finals in my diary - there’s no way I want to miss out. And you??

    Are you a student with the vision to change the world, or an academic, business or IT professional who knows how to inspire young minds?

    Imagine Cup is a global competition for student teams who combine inspiration with technology to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems. Every year, students come up with amazing solutions that use technology to improve education, help environmental sustainability, and reduce poverty and child mortality.

    If that challenge excites you, get your team together, get your thinking caps on and enter Imagine Cup 2012.

    Of course, every team requires a mentor, who can answer questions and challenge them to think big and follow their vision.

    If you’re willing to support the innovators of tomorrow, register now to become an Imagine Cup Mentor. Winning teams have a chance to share their ideas at the Imagine Cup 2012 Worldwide finals right here in Australia and compete for cash grants and other prizes. Enter your team in Imagine Cup 2012 now, or register now to become an Imagine Cup Mentor. And while you’re at it, why not spread the word on Imagine Cup 2012 to your students – or any inspiring young minds you know?

    Go to www.imaginecup.com.au

  • Education

    Achieving Accessibility in SharePoint 2010

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    imageVision Australia have just released an excellent detailed report about their experiences delivering an accessible implementation of SharePoint 2010, and including an assessment of SharePoint 2010’s conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

    As they say in their introduction:

     

    Accessibility is becoming increasingly important for organisations in Australia. There are over 4 million people with a disability, expected to increase with our aging population. With the shift to increased use of the web for a range of services and information, organisations have a legal obligation under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to ensure web content is fully accessible. There are also commercial advantages to ensuring web content meets the defined accessibility standards and best practices.

    Most recently the Australian Government’s Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy requires government agencies to achieve WCAG 2.0 base level of conformance (Single A) by December 2012, and medium level (Double A) by the end of 2014.

     

    As they document, SharePoint Server 2007 did present  some challenges to meeting full accessibility needs. Their paper reviews the significant improvements that have been made in SharePoint 2010, assesses conformance with WCAG 2.0 Double A standards, and provides guidance on how an accessible solution can be achieved using this platform:

     

    Some of the accessibility improvements from SharePoint 2007 include:

    • enhanced keyboard access to all functionality including the new ribbon interface;
    • changes to overcome technical conformance issues that occurred with master pages and controls in MOSS 2007;
    • improved page reading sequences and representation of tabular data; and
    • new accessibility features such as WAI-ARIA roles and attributes to enhance the experience of assistive technology users.

    Out of the box SharePoint 2010 is much more accessible through the inclusion of WAI-ARIA. When used with the latest versions of browsers and assistive technologies the standard SharePoint interface is in many cases fully accessible.

     

    The paper also covers the use of SharePoint 2010 as an enterprise solution, as it can provide the interface to multiple business systems. As they say, properly configured and governed SharePoint 2010’s accessibility can then be delivered across multiple systems rather than having to address accessibility considerations for each system individually:

     

    This overall platform approach means that users will see a common interface across multiple systems. This results in a simpler learning curve and reduces training and support requirements – which can be significant for users with a disability.

     

    If you are responsible within your education institution for providing accessible systems for your students and staff, this is a valuable free resource that will help with your planning

    Learn MoreDownload the Vision Australia report on SharePoint 2010 and Accessibility

  • Education

    Learning Suite - free software for teachers in February

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    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Learning Suite

    This month I’ve shared Free February Appy-ness, with a new free application from Microsoft for teachers every day. Any other year, I’d have saved the best until last, and the 28th Feb would have been the day to share it. But, darn it, this is a leap year, so there’s one more day to find an app for. Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

    So for my penultimate moment of February Freebies, I’ve come up with something very useful - a way to get some of the 27 apps that I’ve already listed onto your classroom computers easily!

    For every piece of software I’ve listed this month I’ve given you a download link, so that you can pop off and get them. But what if you want to install a bunch of them onto all of your student and teacher laptops? That’s where Learning Suite comes in…

    Learning SuiteThe Learning Suite is a collection of many of your favourite free Microsoft applications in a simple download application. It allows users/IT managers to select the applications you wish install and tells you which ones you already have.

    It doesn’t have all of the apps I’ve listed, but it does have some extra ones - like Community Clips - that I haven’t listed!

    Another useful feature is that as we add resources to the Learning Suite in the future, it will automatically update itself every time you run it. Enabling you, your colleagues and your students to have access to the latest free resources from Microsoft as and when they appear.

    Where do I get the Learning Suite from?

    You can download the Learning Suite directly from the Partners in Learning website

  • Education

    ZoomIt - free software for teachers in February

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    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    ZoomIt

    ZoomIt icon

    ZoomIt is a brilliant little accessory, written by a Microsoft colleague, Mark Russinovich, to allow you to focus and highlight on areas of your computer screen. Mark originally wrote it for technical presentations, such as demonstrations of applications, and to highlight parts of the screen, but I’ve found it to be really useful on an interactive whiteboard, where you need to enlarge part of your screen so that pupils at the back of the class can see it. And you can also annotate onto the screen, using pen input from your whiteboard or a tablet PC.

    You can zoom to an area on the screen so that you can show students where to click in an application, or to zoom onto a particular image. The other handy feature for teachers is the ability to set a timer on a blank screen with one key click (brilliant for the “You have 5 minutes to…" times).

    ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows from Windows XP onwards.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s a ZoomIt video on YouTube, but not much else - a reflection of how simple it is to use. An easy way to try it is to run it temporarily without installing it (see the Run ZoomIt option on the page below), and then just click Ctrl and the 1 key to activate it.

    Where do I get ZoomIt from?

    ZoomIt is a free download from TechNet here

  • Education

    Windows Phone Starter Kit for RSS- free software for teachers in February

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    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Windows Phone Starter Kit for RSS

    imageAfter yesterday’s techie Windows Phone Starter Kit for Schools, I thought I’d continue with another techie one for Windows Phone. This time it’s a starter kit for RSS - to help you create a Windows Phone app which consists of news feeds from the web.

    Yet again, today’s freebie isn’t for your average teacher! It requires a fair amount of technical skills, because it’s actually a starter kit to create a Windows Phone application which allows you to link to web-based news feeds in RSS format.

    Why do I think this is useful to schools?

    So far this month my children’s school has sent me 29 emails, and seven paper-based letters. That’s 34 different notices in just 25 days. And some of those emails contained over 20 different news items. That is simply too much for me to cope with (and I regularly miss stuff in that deluge). How about if the school just had a series of newsfeeds that were related to what I needed to know, and they were available on my phone. So instead of seeing tens of emails a month in my (already too overloaded) mailbox, I could quickly just scan for the latest news on my phone when I want to? (Okay, that’s only part of the problem solved - it would still require somebody at the school to take an editorial role and reduce the volume of communications to be more appropriate Smile)

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s details, and a discussion page, on the MSDN network

    Where do I get the Windows Phone Starter Kit for Schools from?

    You can download all of the source code from the MSDN website

    Bonus: There’s also a Windows Phone Starter Kit for Podcasts if that’s more your style…

  • Education

    Windows Phone Starter Kit for Schools - free software for teachers in February

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    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Windows Phone Starter Kit for Schools

    Windows Phone Starter Kit for SchoolsLet me start by saying that today’s freebie isn’t for your average teacher! It requires a fair amount of technical skills, because it’s actually a starter kit to create a Windows Phone application for your school. It allows you to add a school news feed, contacts database, links to school-connected websites, as well as information feeds for clubs and groups within the school.

    This Starter Kit provides a template for building Windows Phone applications, where content is configured through XML files, and is completely customizable and themable.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s details, and a discussion page, on the MSDN network

    Where do I get the Windows Phone Starter Kit for Schools from?

    You can download all of the source code from the MSDN website

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