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

  • 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

    • Education

      Windows Live Movie Maker - 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 Movie Maker

      image

      Windows Live Movie Maker allows teachers to easily turn photos and videos from popular camera types into great-looking movies to share with students and teachers on the Internet, burn to a CD or DVD, or play on a PC or portable device.

      The AutoMovie feature lets teachers or students create a polished movie from their photos, video clips, and music in about one minute.

      Experienced moviemakers can create original movies with custom effects, unique transitions, and other rich features.

      The sights, sounds and action of a movie helps bring a subject to life. Windows Live Movie Maker has prompts to help you upload and share your movie on YouTube, or to burn a DVD for your class.

      Import and edit slide shows and videos

      Quickly add photos and footage from your PC or camera into Movie Maker. Then fine tune your movie just the way you want it. You can move things around, speed it up or slow it down—it’s up to you.

      Edit the soundtrack and add a theme

      Enhance your movie with audio and a theme. Movie Maker adds transitions and effects automatically so your movie looks polished and professional.

      Share your movie online

      Once your movie is ready, share it online on Facebook, YouTube or other social networking and video sharing sites. Send a link to your movie in an email to family and friends so they won’t miss it.

      Three classroom ideas for Movie Maker

      • Create a timeline that moves
        Present a succession of historical events in a photo slide show with music from that period.
      • Demonstrate things you can’t bring to class
        Videotape feeding time for lions at the zoo. Capture the physics at play in a local skate park.
      • Share the classics in a fresher way
        Shoot video of various students reciting a Shakespearean sentence or two. String them together in a movie, and suddenly all eyes are on the screen, and the class hangs on every famous word.

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      imageStart at the Microsoft Australia Education website, where there’s a getting started guide to Movie Maker in educationstep-by-step guide for Movie Maker, as well as video tutorials. The Windows Live Essentials Help Centre has a specific page for Movie Maker. There are also a series of short written tutorials including:

      If you prefer to watch a tutorial, then there’s hundreds of videos that step you through the process, if you search for Windows Live Movie Maker tutorials

      There’s also a support forum on the Windows Live Solution Centre for Movie Maker. This tends to be used by users who have a problem, to get support from the community and from the Microsoft team, so if you come across a query, then it’s a good place to go.

      And my personal hint is to look for the forums threads that have a green tick alongside them imageas they are the queries that have been answered.

      Where do I get Windows Live Movie Maker from?

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

    • Education

      Windows Live Messenger - free software for teachers in February

      • 2 Comments

      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 Messenger

      image

      Okay, so this definitely is not a new thing - let’s face it, students have been using it for ages at home - and so have many teachers. And it could be easy to take a ‘been there, seen it, done it’ attitude. But hold on, just before you go writing this idea off, consider some uses for it in teaching and learning:

      • Provide homework support outside of school hours
        One school I know of actually ran a ‘homework support’ rota for staff, when they had assigned times online in the evening, in return for time off during the day - giving staff a more flexible working day
      • Language learning
        Have students chat to each other, or with twinned schools, in other languages. Often, this will give the student more time to consider their language, and they’ll find it more engaging that translating phrases with pen and paper. And you can also move on from instant messenger (IM) conversations to video calls.
      • Peer-to-peer professional development and coaching with other teachers
        Because you can have an IM conversation at any time, and often while you’re doing other things too, it makes a good way to have an informal chat with a coach, mentor or trainer
      • Bring an outside expert into the classroom
        If you can’t always persuade people to come and spend time in your classroom - like an author/lawyer/doctor/astronaut/scientist - it may be much easier to persuade them to agree to a half-hour where they’ll answer questions on Messenger
      • Create conversations with historical characters
        Okay, so you can’t bring Ned Kelly into the classroom. But you could create a Live Messenger account for ‘Ned Kelly’, and get somebody outside the classroom to answer questions for him. How about setting up a swap with another teacher, and each agreeing to be a historical figure for each other’s classes?
        And on the same idea, how about giving a junior class a chance to have an Live Messenger conversation with ‘Father Christmas’? (I used to do this with video conferencing systems about 10 years ago, and it was always a fantastic hit)

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      The Learning.live.com websiteOn the learning.live.com you’ll find a Teachers Guide for Using Messenger for Learning, which was created a few years ago, but still contains good specific advice about saving conversations, and setting up separate IM accounts for teachers. There’s also some videos showing how one school used Windows Live Messenger to support learning outside of school hours.

      Where do I get Windows Live Messenger from?

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

    • Education

      Windows Live Mesh - 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 Mesh

      Live Mesh icon bar

      Access the stuff on your computers from almost anywhere. With Windows Live Mesh, you can finally stop emailing files to yourself, carrying them around on a USB drive, or worrying whether the version you have with you is the latest. This is especially useful for teachers, as they are often using multiple computers - perhaps a school laptop, a home computer, and then another computer connected to an interactive whiteboard.

      With Windows Live Mesh, you can keep up-to-date copies of documents, photos, and other files synced together on all of your computers, whether they are PCs or Macs. In addition, the system can sync your folders to the 5 GB of free storage space you get with SkyDrive (as well as across your computers) so that you can also work with your files on the web from any computer. You can even run programs and browse all the files on your PC from anywhere by connecting remotely. And keep your favorites in Internet Explorer and your Microsoft Office settings up to date on all of your PCs by syncing your programme settings.

      Sync folders between computers

      If you have two or more computers with Windows Live Mesh installed, you can sync folders between them (peer-to-peer). When you sync folders between computers, any changes you make on one computer will be made on the other whenever the computers are online at the same time. The contents of the synced folders are saved on all of the computers, so you can still work on them even when you're not connected to the Internet. All data transfers are encrypted between the computers.

      Sync folders to the Cloud

      You can choose to sync any of your folders to the Cloud too, which means you can then access them on any other computer. This would be handy when you’ve got files on your laptop, and you want to access them to a different computer plugged into an interactive whiteboard, or where you want to be able to access your files on a colleague’s computer.

      Connect to a computer remotely

      With the remote connections feature in Windows Live Mesh, you can work on your computer from a computer in another location. For example, you can connect from your school computer to your home computer and access all of your programs and files as if you were in front of your computer at home.

      Sync your Office and Internet Explorer settings

      If you regularly use two different computers (eg your school laptop and a home computer) you can set Windows Live Mesh to sync your Internet Explorer favourites between the two computers - that’s really handy if you’re preparing a lesson on your home computer, but then want the website list available on your school laptop the next day. The same idea works for Office settings (eg a customer dictionary or slide templates)

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      The Windows Live Mesh page has a step-by-step overview for each of the uses above. There are also a series of tutorials for Windows Live Mesh on 7tutorials.com, including:

      Where do I get Windows Live Mesh from?

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

    • Education

      Songsmith - free software for teachers in February

      • 2 Comments

      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.

      Songsmith

      Songsmith

      Is it possible to teach your class how to sing? Yes. Is it possible to get them to sing well? Maybe. Songsmith is a good start.

      Songsmith is a great way to encourage students to be creative: many music teachers know that sometimes just helping their students “find their spark” is the hardest part of stimulating musical creativity.

      Furthermore, Songsmith can help you teach musical concepts that are sometimes difficult, particularly how chords are used in pop music and how melodies and chords fit together. Using tools like Songsmith to explore these concepts can help connect what students are learning in music class to the music they listen to at home.

      Outside of music classes, Songsmith is a great way to encourage creative approaches to learning. I’ve heard of teachers who got students to write songs about science concepts, and other examples of using it outside of the music curriculum.

      Want an idea of what it can do? Well, there’s 1,450 Songsmith videos on YouTube - including the Songsmith advert, that’s had over 1.5m views, and a case study of the use of Songsmith at the Philadelphia High School of the Future. And for a classroom idea for Songsmith in the history curriculum, take a look at the FDR speech about the Bombing of Pearl Harbour - in Songsmith!

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      The Songsmith site has a complete ‘Help & How-to’ section, which includes online help, a community forum and tutorial videos, along with some good ‘Tips and Tricks’ advice. There’s also a good short article by Stuart Ball on the UK Teachers blog, and he has also uploaded a ‘How to create a song in Songsmith’ tutorial onto YouTube.

      Where do I get Songsmith from?

      You can download the trial version of Songsmith from the Microsoft Research website, but the extra link you’ll want to know about is the ‘Songsmith For Teachers’ page, which lets you download Songsmith free for education use (by you and your students).

    • Education

      Search Commands - free software for teachers in February

      • 0 Comments

      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.

      Search Commands

      image

      Search Commands is an Office Labs experiment designed to quickly find the commands you need in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Just search with your own words and click on the command you need.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just type "mail merge" on the Office Ribbon and all mail merge options would appear? That’s exactly what the Search Commands Add-in does.

      I’d never used this, so I installed it today in order to see how it worked. And I now have that ‘Where have you been my whole life?’ moment!

      One of the things I’ve noticed is that in Windows these days, I almost never use the start menu to select a programme to run. Instead, I find it easier to click the Windows key, and start to type the name - and let the Search function find the programme for me. I find it is much more efficient for me, because I let Windows do all the searching, instead of having to look at a long list of installed applications.

      What this does for Office is the same - Instead of having to search for the menu option on the Ribbon, or click across multiple Ribbon tabs, all I do is go straight to the Search Commands tab, and then start to type what I’m looking for. In the example below, I typed ‘Print’, and it gave me all the menu options related to print. And the bonus I discovered is that the numbers in black circle means I just press the number key I want, and it is the same as clicking the icon (eg to get Print Preview, I just type Print5). No more mouse-keyboard-mouse jumping!

      The Search Commands tool bar

      The add-in that helps you find commands, options, wizards and galleries in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It also includes Guided Help, which acts as a tour guide for specific tasks.

      This is probably most useful for users who have used Office 2003 for years, and are switching over (ie your staff, rather than your students), although it can be useful for students who want to explore more advanced features for apps like Excel.

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      Having used it for the first time this morning, I don’t think there actually any need for additional help - just install it, and try it out. The only things you need to know are:

      • You find it in extra ‘Search Commands’ Ribbon tab in Word, Excel and PowerPoint
      • The numbers in the black circle are the shortcut keys to launch that command (so when you have your search results, pressing 1 launches Quick Print)

      But, just in case you really want it (or want to watch a short video before deciding whether to download it), then there's a 1 minute Search Commands tutorial on the ClipTraining blog

      Where do I get Search Commands from?

      The free Search Commands download is on the Microsoft Downloads website

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