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

  • 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

  • Education

    Integration for Moodle 2.0 and Live@edu - 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 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.

    Moodle 2.0 integration to Live@edu

    Moodle logo

    Moodlerooms has developed an integration connecting Microsoft’s Live@edu services and Moodle. With this integration, Moodlerooms makes the rich functionality of Live@edu directly accessible within the Moodle 2.x and 1.9 environments via single sign-on.

    Microsoft Live@edu makes hosted email, communications and collaboration services freely available to educational institutions. Now benefitting over 22 million people worldwide, Live@edu provides access to Microsoft Outlook Live (email), a series of Microsoft Office web applications (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), and Windows Live SkyDrive (online storage).

    The Microsoft Live Services Block provides an integration with Windows Live Services allowing users to log into courses using their Windows Live ID and display Live Services on a Moodle site. Users can see and create emails and calendar events with Live@edu, Outlook Live or Windows Live Hotmail, and (if you want) access Windows Live Messenger chat, Bing search and more within a course.

    Where do I get the Moodle plugin from?

    The module is released under a GPL open source licence, and you can download the free plug in here. This Moodlerooms release not only includes a new plug-in for Moodle 2.0, but also updates the Moodle 1.9 plug-in released two years ago.

  • Education

    Something for your parent or student newsletter? Avoiding scams

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    While he was working from home, a friend of mine recently got a phone call, from "Microsoft support", claiming to want to help him fix his PC. Fortunately, he's the suspicious type. And he's right to be. It's a scam. I’ve even received the call myself at home - and I've been prompted to write this blog post about it after reading this iTWire story of other people getting the same calls.

    Obviously, we have quite enough to do without randomly phoning people unprompted, and asking if we can remotely access their PC. It's just a straightforward scam, in which they attempt to gain access to your PC and all of your secret stuff.

    If it's something you wanted to warn your parents or students about, there's some more information, and there's official Microsoft advice about phishing, on the Microsoft Protect site - and specifically on this page "Avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently". Of the four scams mentioned on the page, I’ve had three of them tried on me so far.

  • Education

    WorldWide Telescope - 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.

    The WorldWide Telescope

    image

    If you could travel the stars where would you go? Let your students decide which planet they want to visit first using this online interactive planetarium.

    WWT is a powerful virtual telescope that helps students visualise and understand our vast cosmos. It inspires learners to explore, to ask questions, and to practice the scientific skills that astronomers use to build our understanding of objects that are literally across the universe.

    Young children can learn about the causes of night and day by manipulating the real-time model of Earth in our solar system. Middle school children can use it to understand seasons and Moon phases, as well as distance scales in the universe. High school students can learn how astronomers have pieced together the life cycle of stars by observing breathtaking nebulae, white dwarfs, and red giants. Tertiary students can explore important maps made by astronomers that help us to understand how gravity influences the shapes and structures we see in the universe. Every student can use it to tell and share their own stories of what they have learned about astronomy and space

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s a WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program to enrich interactive learning. It’s an outreach initiative run by researchers at Harvard University, WGBH, and Microsoft Research. Ambassadors are astrophysically-literate volunteers who are trained to be experts in using WWT as teaching tool. Ambassadors and learners alike use WorldWide telescope to create dynamic, interactive Tours of the Universe, which are shared in schools, public venues, and online. Ambassador-created Tours are being made freely available and will ultimately form a comprehensive learning resource for Astronomy and Astrophysics. You can learn more at http://www.wwtambassadors.org

    The other place to look is the Education page on the WorldWide Telescope website. Amongst other things, there is also a set of resources for classroom use, developed in the form of curriculum guides, lesson plans and additional resources to assist teachers and students launching into an exploration of the universe through the lens of the WorldWide Telescope. Since it uses the most current data taken from celestial imaging, users can easily pan and zoom into specific areas of outer space for fine tuned investigations. Images are taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as numerous telescopes here on Earth.

      Want to go further in using it for teaching - you need a dome!

      imageThere is a do-it-yourself option for creating a planetarium for about a thousand dollars, using supplies from local office and hardware stores and a special first surface spherical mirror.

      Many students never have a chance to go to a bricks and mortar planetarium to learn astronomy, so the team created a virtual planetarium with WorldWide Telescope. However, outer space is still best experienced in an immersive environment like a dome, so they have published a set of plans that enable schools to build their own small planetarium that will allow 15-30 students at a time to experience a high-quality digital projection of space. The investment is less than $1,000 in building materials, plus a laptop and projector, along with some household tools and ‘sweat equity’ (ie there’s work involved!).

      One of the principal benefits of having an on-site planetarium is that WorldWide Telescope will allow students to create their own shows to share what they have learned with the rest of the school- completing the learning cycle. You can download the instructions to build your own here.

      Where do I get WorldWide Telescope from?

      WorldWide Telescope is available as a programme to download, or a web-based virtual telescope.
      You can get both versions at the WorldWide Telescope website

    • Education

      Video conferencing in Australian schools

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      The Polycom education newsletter has just dropped into my email inbox, and I wondered if you already know about it? The Microsoft partnership with Polycom extends the use of video conferencing and audio conferencing in education across a wide range of scenarios, from remote 1:1 teaching, to professional development and whole-school video conferencing. (And every time I pickup a phone in our office for a Lync call, it’s a Polycom handset that I use)

      Polycom EdBanner

      The newsletter comes out every few months, and looks at projects underway in education. Polycom have a wide range of partners that deliver sessions via video conferencing for schools, and which includes the National Museum of Canberra, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Literature Live. In 2012 they are adding History SA, Opera Australia and Fremantly Press

      Some of the highlighted info in this term’s newsletter include:

      2012 is the Year of…

      Apparently, as well as being the Year of Reading, 2012 is also the Year of Sustainability for All, the Year of the Brothers Grimm and the Year of Languages. And the Polycom team have lined up events to match with these, so that schools can connect their curriculum to activities outside of school. For example, the Year of Reading will include an opportunity to connect with WA authors and illustrators as part of the 3rd Annual Polycom Literary Festival in conjunction with Fremantle Press.

      • World Languages Week - 6/9 March

      DeforestACTION LIVE

      This is a joint project between the Microsoft Partners in Learning network, Taking It Global, the Centre for Global Education, Polycom and AARNet, with a goal of connection 100,000 students around the world for a series of live global events. The project is initially focusing on the forests of Indonesia, where widespread illegal deforestation has made the country the number three emitter of greenhouse gas in the world. Five schools will get the chance to join live videoconferences with the team in Borneo, whilst other schools can take part in the live streaming.

      • DeforestACTION - 28th March

      World Earth Day

      There are two scheduled events, with Green Cross Australia leading ‘Sustainability for all’ for upper primary students, and Questacon leading ‘The Science of World Earth Day’ for Middle and Secondary students.

      • World Earth Day - 20 April

      The VideoConference School

      Abbotsleigh School, in northern Sydney, uses video conferencing for students to take virtual excursions, learn from remote experts, connect with students in other countries, as well as for staff to collaborate on research grants and carry out professional development sessions.

      The team at Abbotsleigh run their own blog - The VideoConference School - with examples of how they have used the system in their curriculum.

      If you want to join any of these activities, or find out more, the links and contacts are all in the newsletter. You can also find out how to contact their education team who put these programmes together.

      Learn More

      You can download the Polycom February Education newsletter (PDF) here, and, even better, sign up to get the Polycom Australia Education newsletter directly here

    • Education

      Windows Live Writer- 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 Live Writer

      Windows Live Writer splash screen

      At long last, we’ve reached the programme I *love* to use. Windows Live Writer. It’s the most brilliant programme for helping students (and teachers) to blog

      Live Writer is a programme that allows you to write blog posts offline, and then upload them onto your blog (and it works with all kinds of different blog platforms, like WordPress, Blogger, Community Server, SharePoint, Live Spaces, Joomla and lots of others).

      I’ve noticed that over time, I’m using Word less and less, and Windows Live Writer more and more. I guess it reflects two things:

      • Most of the things I write are designed to be published on the web – often on this blog
      • I love software that makes it really easy to publish on the web

      And that’s where Windows Live Writer comes in. If you, or your students, write for a blog, then read on…

      What is Windows Live Writer?

      Basically, I think of it as a word processor for blogs. It lets me write an article or blog post, easily add images, links and videos, and then publish it onto my blog. And because it’s an application on my laptop, I can write my blog posts offline, and then when it’s finished I hit publish. When I used to write blog posts directly in the blog website, I’d often accidentally hit the wrong button in my Internet browser, and lose all my work.

      imageAnother problem it solves is that of consistent formatting of information on your blog. Often, when editing posts online, I’d paste in a bit of text from somewhere else, I’d find it was published with bizarre fonts and formatting. Live Writer solves that and strips away the kind of formatting you don’t want (like funny fonts) but leaves in the things you do (like bold and italics, and especially hyperlinks).

      And it makes it easy to put fancy pictures into your blog posts, because it automatically formats and uploads them – all with one click of the “Publish” button

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      Without a doubt, the most comprehensive guide, which includes the use of Live Writer in education was produced by Kevin O’Shea at Purdue University, and a close second is the Live Writer guide on the UK Teachers blog.

      Ben Rowe, from Saltash.net Community School in Cornwall has also recorded a Windows Live Writer video tutorial starting from the download and showing how to use it.

      Where do I get Live Writer from?

      You can download Windows Live Writer free as part of Windows Live Essentials suite.

    • Education

      Windows Live Photo Gallery - 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 Live Photo Gallery

      Photo Gallery header

      Share photos in your 25GB of storage online for free, and faster than you can say ‘online photo albums accessible from my phone’. Photo Gallery tools help you organise and edit photos, then share them online.

      It’s easy to import photos from your camera, organise them into albums, and edit them. The powerful photo tools built in let you create stunning panoramas, movies, slide shows, and more. When you're ready to share, publish your photos and videos to your favourite websites directly from Photo Gallery.

      Create a panorama

      Capture an entire mountain range in a single photo—select the photos you want to use and Photo Gallery stitches them into a panorama for you.

      Merge shots with Photo Fuse

      Did someone blink when the flash went off? Choose everyone’s best pose from several different shots, and Photo Fuse will merge them together into the perfect group photo. This is absolutely brilliant for class shots, or when you need to take a picture of a group of students on a trip/in a play etc

      Slide show adventures

      Show off your class trip or school play photos with a slide show that looks polished and professional. Choose your favourite theme and Photo Gallery puts it all together for you.

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      There’s a step-by-step guide for using Photo Gallery here for each of the uses above. There are also a series of simple guides on the Windows Live Essentials website.

      Where do I get Windows Live Photo Gallery from?

      Live Photo Gallery is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite, which you can download from the live.com website here

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