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

  • Education

    Explain Everything for Windows 8 - now available

    • 2 Comments

    I’ve been away for a nice holiday, and now that I’m back I’m staring at a huge backlog of blog posts to write up, as there’s been so much happening and announced whilst I’ve been away. And because many schools, TAFEs and universities are heading back next week, I thought I’d better get started…

    There have been some great new apps added to the Education section of the Windows 8 store recently, and one of the highest profile ones is Explain Everything for Windows 8.

    imageExplain Everything for Windows 8 is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere. You can use it to create slides, draw in any colour, add shapes, add text, and use a laser pointer. It allows you to rotate, move and arrange any object added to the stage, and then to record and playback your screencast.image

    You start by using an existing images or PDFs (you can save Office files directly as PDFs within Word and PowerPoint) and then use a variety of tools to edit and annotate as you go along – with Explain Everything recording all the actions for playback later as a video file or still images.

    Find More

    Download Explain Everything from the Windows Store

  • Education

    Webinar on cloud privacy and data sovereignty

    • 2 Comments

    image

    The benefits of cloud computing for public sector organisations run right across the public sector, including education. 
    But as executives explore the opportunities, they often become concerned about data security and the privacy risks associated with online services – and justifiably so.

    We’re running a webinar tomorrow (12 March) at 2PM AEDT, where we’ll tackle the sensitive issue of data privacy head-on to reveal both the potential pain points and how your organisation can mitigate the risks.

    The ability to offer new services. The potential to improve operating efficiencies. Deepening customer engagement. There’s no disputing the upside of the cloud. But balancing individual privacy, corporate security and state sovereignty in this brave new world can prove challenging. In the webinar, our cloud experts will:

    • Explore the potential risks cloud computing presents
    • Share our experience in how real the risks are
    • Offer insights on how to overcome them
    • Reveal what’s needed to undertake a cloud-risk assessment – and how to share your findings with managers

    Two senior Microsoft Australia employees will share their experiences of compliance and security, explain the impact of cloud computing and shed light on data privacy, security and sovereignty.

    imageJames Kavanagh

    Chief Security Officer, Microsoft Australia
    imageShaun Tipson

    Senior Attorney, Microsoft Australia

    The webinar runs tomorrow, Weds 12 March, at 2PM AEDT.

    Register now for the Cloud webinar on 12 March 2014

  • Education

    Update 1: The Microsoft Surface offer for schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia

    • 2 Comments

    imageI published the key info yesterday on the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia, which allows schools, TAFEs and universities to buy Surface RT from AU$219.

    Overnight I’ve had a couple of questions from people about the offer, and I’ve also laid my hands on the full Surface RT Offer FAQ document that we published, so here’s a summary:

    Common questions about the Surface RT offer for education

    Is there a minimum order requirement for the Surface RT offer?

    No. Education institutions may buy any quantity of Surface RT for their organisation. Pricing is only available until 31 August 2013. And you can place as many orders as you wish – for example, you could order a dozen now for your staff, and then some for students separately (do bear in mind that the offer is only valid while supplies last).

    How do institutions order their Surface RTs?

    The Surface RT in Education brochure contains an order form (all the forms are linked here). Fill out the order form with a valid purchase order number and send it to SurfaceEDU@microsoft.com. You will get an email back confirming the order and details on fulfilment.

    What does shipping cost?

    We’ve already included that in the price of the offer, so there aren’t any additional shipping charges

    How does Surface RT compare to iPad and Android?

    There are many differences between Surface RT and iPad and Android. One of the most important differences to schools is Surface RT comes with a touch-optimised version of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT - Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote (the free Windows 8.1 update will also provide an RT version of Outlook). Microsoft Office is among the most popular productivity software in schools and businesses. Its inclusion in Surface RT means that your students and teachers will be ready to get to work on Surface right away.
    Surface RT also lets users multitask between applications, share the device between many users, provides USB and HD video out ports, optional keyboard covers, integration of Internet Explorer 10 to run Flash based websites, lots of storage and a file system, a high quality display, and excellent battery life.

    I’ve heard there are more apps on iOS and Android? What can I expect from Surface RT?

    With over 20,000 educationally-relevant apps worldwide in the Windows Store from many of the biggest names in education, like Khan Academy and leading publishers - there is an app for almost every subject.

    I’ve listed some of my early favourite Windows 8 education apps here, and our worldwide team have featured a list of Windows 8 apps by categories here.

    There are also some fabulous apps from Australian companies that have been released for Windows 8, and provide new learning possibilities with touch devices, plus all the ones I’ve listed here have free versions too:

    But don’t forget, that because Microsoft has optimized the web browsing experience for HTML 5 and Flash, you don’t need lots of specific apps like you do on tablets which can run Flash. For example, you can run the full Mathletics website on a Surface RT, whereas on an iPad you have to download apps containing some parts of the Mathletics resources, because you can’t access a Flash website fully.

    Is this the only device that there are offers for?

    There are lots of Windows 8 computers and tablets available from our partners, and many of them are also running special offers on Windows 8 devices for education customers. You’ll find the info on offers from Lenovo, Acer, HP, Fujitsu and Toshiba over on our main website.

    What is the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT?

    Windows 8 comes in three versions (Home, Pro and Enterprise) and runs on Intel x86 chipset. Windows RT comes in one version and runs on the ARM chipset. Windows RT devices are lightweight, have thin form factors, and better battery life. Windows 8 x86 devices can run your existing legacy Windows software, and software requiring intense processing power, as well as the new modern Windows 8 apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Windows RT ARM devices can run applications like Microsoft Office 2013 RT and the new modern Windows 8 apps exclusively from the Windows Store. Windows 8 x86 devices running Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise have enterprise level security and manageability features.
    You can read more about the differences on the main Microsoft website under “Which Surface is right for you?

    On the Order Form, what does “Institution tax ID” mean?

    What we’re asking for is the institution’s ABN number. It allows us to check the official purchase order details.

    We’ve already got a Hardware Vendor Panel  that Surface RT isn’t on – can we still order?

    I understand the issue around hardware vendor panels, and recognise that may be an issue for some institutions. You’ll need to check your institution’s processes and guidelines. I know that some people will have to miss out on this offer because of their rules, whilst others have ways of making exceptional one-off purchases.

    I’ve read that Windows RT devices can’t connect to a domain – is that right?

    OK, fair to say that this question came from somebody quite technical, but I know others will be interested in my answer! Although you’re absolutely right that you can’t ‘Domain Join’ a Windows RT device, with Windows 8.1 (which will be a free upgrade) we’ve included a range of significant enhancements to improve manageability using non-domain joined computers.

    Some of the additional capabilities coming to Windows 8.1 are:

    • Workplace Join – giving a middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice, and still have access to corporate resources. IT can grant some access rights, and enforce some governance parameters on the device
    • Work Folders – allows a user to sync data to their device for a network user folder, and IT can enforce policies including automated Rights Management (eg as they leave the school, they lose access to the Work Folders on their device & centrally)
    • Improved Mobile Device Management – of course, even though I’d love everybody to use our System Center for management, we’ve included support for Open MDM so that customers can choose from a range of tools. My advice for looking at device management is to consider the role of Intune, because of the capabilities it enables (like having an institutional app store available to Windows 8 devices, whether they are domain-controlled or simply device managed.

    I’d recommend reading the full article on the new features in Windows 8.1 for enterprises on TechNet

    Here’s a downloadable PDF version of the official Surface RT Offer FAQ, if you’d like something to share with colleagues.

     

    Learn MoreYou can either read my overview of the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia from yesterday, or go to  the official offer site to download the Brochure, Pricing and Order Forms

  • Education

    What does Power BI for Office mean for education customers?

    • 2 Comments

    Over the last year I’ve shared a fair amount of information on the use of business intelligence (BI) in education, with examples of ways that useful information can be unlocked from educational data, as well as looking at the new tools being created to help users get better views of their data. The various Microsoft teams who have been working on BI projects, and our BI partners in Australia, seem to have been moving at breakneck speed on making data more accessible, visual and meaningful to users, and there’s been a special focus everywhere on self-service BI, to help every day users who don’t have the high level skills of traditional data analysts.

    Power BI demonstrations screen, showing the natural language queriesA lot of that work has focused around the traditional Office apps, and that whole story has just come together with the announcement this week of Power BI for Office 365, which adds powerful analysis features on top of Power Pivot and Power View, which were core innovations of the last couple of years. We’ve added Power Query to help users discover, access and combine data sets, and Power Map to help users map visualisations of their data. And packaged it into a powerful Power BI system within Office. And by enabling it within Office 365, it means that the self-service BI capabilities in Excel now add easy ways to host interactive data views and workbooks, so that individual users can access your standard reports and visualisations as well as create their own.

    I think the best way to see what I’m talking about is to watch this video, taken from a keynote during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference this week, where there is a rapid demonstration that shows the kind of scenarios that are possible.

    I loved the examples that are shown, because I could imagine very similar scenarios in education – the ability to connect internal and external data sets, and highly visual presentations of data, and especially the ability to ask a natural language question to see the answer. Can you imagine if the same level of data was available for your organisation?

    And that’s the question the video left in my head: How many education organisations have the kind of published data sets (internally or externally) that will help them to turn data into information? I’ve historically seen projects that have relied on scooping data up into the equivalent of locked containers – they tend to produce canned reports that project owners think that users want. There’s often less focus on self-service BI projects, where there’s a focus on collecting/publishing data sets for others to use. I wonder if the kinds of possibilities opened by Power BI for Office will change that?

    In the video we can see an example where the query “top rock classics” is automatically translated into a query of “Show rock songs where era is 70s and 80s sorted by weeks on chart”. So we potentially have a system that would allow a user to ask it for “top performing schools in my area”, or “university distance learning courses with the lowest dropout rate”, or “which TAFE course has the highest employability impact”. But do we have the published/unpublished data sources to help us answer those type of question?

    Learn MoreThere’s plenty more about Power BI for Office below:
    - The announcement of Power BI for Office - short and longer version
    - The story of the technology behind Power BI for Office 365
    - Get signed up for the Power BI preview

  • Education

    Developing education solutions in Office 365

    • 2 Comments

    With so many education customers using Office 365 globally (now in the tens of millions of education uses), there's continuing interest by developers in creating services for customers, running on top of Office. This could mean developing an app for Word, Excel, PowerPoint; or could be developing a system that uses the Office 365 cloud service to deliver an integrated solution.

    Office Dev Centre logoThe team responsible for this at Microsoft are very busy releasing new information and features for developers. You can read about these in the constant updates from the Developer stream on the Office Blogs. And to help a little more, here’s some of the key bits of news that I’ve noticed recently:

    On Demand Training for Office 365 developers 
    I’m a big fan of the Microsoft Virtual Academy, as it contains some excellent technical training that is free and available at any time to technical users and developers. There’s a new course, Introduction to Office 365 Development available, which contains modules on developing Apps for Office and Apps for SharePoint, and a session on the Office 365 APIs that are available for developers to use to more closely integrate to Office across different devices.

    Office 365 APIs Starter Projects for Windows
    There’s a series of samples that the team have created which allows developers to quickly spin up projects that interact with Office 365 using the standard APIs. It lets you do things like create, read, update and delete events in a user’s calendar (so you could add an assignment reminder function to an LMS, to automatically put the assignment into the student’s calendar, and that will then show up on their PC/phone etc). Similar samples allow you to create, read, update and delete files on their SharePoint site

    Office 365 Developer Podcast
    If you want to keep up to date with less reading, then there’s the Office 365 Developer Podcast, where Jeremy Thake talks with people involved with developing Office 365 apps – both within and outside of Microsoft.

    The Office Dev Centre has also been completely updated, with easier access to resources, recordings of events and code samples.

  • Education

    Integrating Microsoft Office 365 Education with Desire2Learn Learning Environment

    • 2 Comments

    One of the futures of Learning Management Systems is as a key bridge, building integration between different systems within an education institution. In the future, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see a single monolithic system that solves every elearning challenge, but instead a set of best-of-class components effectively interconnected.

    imageOne example is the integration between a Learning Management System (LMS) and the communication and productivity services that an institution uses - in this case, between the Brightspace* D2L Learning Environment and Office 365. It means that students and staff can use their core email, collaboration, communication and productivity suite, whilst within their LMS.

    Through their integration solutions, the Desire2Learn Learning Environment and Microsoft Office 365 services (email, calendar, & more) improve how students and teachers interact online. Institutions can choose any of the integration solutions appropriate to their users.

    The starting point is a single sign on, so that your users don’t have to logon to multiple systems, but then you can go further - opening documents through Office Online, enabling email processes from within your LMS etc

    The Desire2Learning team have published a big set of documentation and resources on the Desire2Learn website.

    Find MoreGet more info in the Desire2Learn "Office 365 integration Technical Guide"

     

    * Brightspace is the new brand name for the Desire2Learn learning products

  • Education

    Sway–a unique way to present ideas and information

    • 2 Comments

    imageYesterday, the Office team introduced a brand new app to the Office portfolio – called Sway, and as the team say on the Sway blog:

      Sway is an entirely different way to express yourself and bring your ideas to life. When your ideas are born, you want to explore, visualize and share them—quickly and easily, wherever you happen to be, and on whatever device you have. You want your ideas to be understood. Sway helps you do just that. It’s a new way for you to create a beautiful, interactive, web-based expression of your ideas, from your phone or browser. It is easy to share your creation and it looks great on any screen. Your ideas have no borders, edges, page breaks, cells or slides. Your mind is a continuous canvas, and Sway brings this canvas to life. Sway helps you focus on the human part: your ideas and how they relate to each other. Sway takes care of the design work—a Sway is ready to share with the world as soon as it is born.  

    There’s a really good Sway video from the team that shows the vision of what they are creating:

    You can read all of the details on the Sway blog, take a look at some sample, and use the links to sign up for the preview version of Sway.

    imageBut to whet your appetite, let me give you an idea of what’s possible with Sway for a complete novice! I created a Sway this afternoon, using a whitepaper I’ve been working on as a starting point. I’ve had no training, but just got stuck in and had a go at creating one. And I think the result is pretty impressive – even more so when you look at it on different devices, and see how it dynamically changes the layout to work on a big PC screen and a small phone screen! I couldn’t imagine how much effort I would have needed before today to create the same high-quality experience.

    Learn MoreView my Sway on Student Attrition in Australian Universities here

     

    What could you do with Sway? Publishing lesson notes? Getting students to create Sways instead of PowerPoints of their work? Publishing university research in a consumer-friendly format?

  • Education

    A Windows 8 tablet for under $90?

    • 2 Comments

    This seems incredible to me! Coles have a 7” Windows 8 touch tablet, with Office 365 Personal, for $89.

    Pendo%20Pad%207

    It’s just one of a few surprises that I have seen this year, as more and more low-cost laptops, tablets and convertibles (tablets with detachable keyboards) have been appearing. But I never expected a tablet under $100 with Office 365 included (which means it also comes with 1TB OneDrive online storage and 60 monthly Skype minutes).

    My daughter’s school is going BYOD for next year, and I’d already decided that I was going to invest in a Surface Pro 3 for her (because of the power of the pen, and because since I got my Surface Pro, it’s made a massive difference to my own notetaking). But my concern was that she may not look after it and it would end up being dragged around without its case.

    But seeing the $89 Pendo Pad in Coles, and then watching Top Gear over the weekend, I’ve hit on the perfect plan! She’s going to be receiving a Surface Pro 3 and a Pendo Pad. The Surface will be her main device, and the Pendo Pad is for some lightweight reading, surfing and Skype. But if the Surface gets damaged, then the Pendo Pad is going to be her main machine whilst the Surface is out of action.

    I got this inspired idea from Top Gear, where the lads are tailed on their journeys in top marque sports cars by a driver in a surprisingly ordinary car. And if they break down, they are forced to switch into the backup car. Imagine the shame of ditching the Ferrari for a 2 door hatchback. Hoping that same challenge will work for my daughter.

    See you at Coles Smile

  • Education

    Uses for Hololens in education

    • 2 Comments

    Less than 100 days ago, we revealed Hololens during the Windows 10 announcement, and since then we’ve all been waiting for a second chance to see it…

    Hololens in Education

    Well, last night, that finally happened at the \\Build\ conference as the team revealed what they have been working on, and especially focused on Hololens in education, with teaching and learning scenarios.

    imageThey started with Prof Mark Griswold from Case Western Reserve University, talking about, and demonstrating live, the way that Hololens could be used to study anatomy, something traditionally done with a combination of textbooks, models and cadavers.

    image

    After that demo, they switched gears to demonstrate the use of Hololens to interact with, and programme, a Maker Kit based on the Raspberry Pi 2. That was a fascinating demonstration, as it showed how an object in real life – in this case a Maker kit robot – could be paired with an associated hologram to create a single object.

    image

    During the broadcast of the keynote, what the team effectively setup was a camera with a Hololens on, so that you see through the video what a user would see wearing a Hololens.

    Without a shadow of doubt, there are going to be some amazing things done with Hololens in education – classrooms, learning spaces, lecture theatres and research labs - over the next few years, helping students to learn by doing as much as by watching.

    You can watch the keynote, and download it (eg as a teaching resource) from the Channel 9 website.

    Learn MoreWatch the keynote on the Channel 9 website, and fast forward to 2 1/2 hours for the Hololens section!
    Bonus info:

  • Education

    The Consumerisation of IT, and education - presentation slides

    • 2 Comments

    Icons_light_blueI’ve been speaking at some events run by Acer and Fujitsu recently, and had the opportunity to look at the issues surrounding the consumerisation of IT - and what it means for schools when you’ve got a broad range of devices arriving on your campus - and they may not all be owned and managed by your IT team. Although the event was focused on schools, in reality this is impacting every sector of education today.

    Although I haven’t got a recording of the session, you can download the slides here, which will hopefully be useful to people that were there, as well as some of those who weren’t (although, without the words, some slides will make absolutely no sense!)

    What I’ll do going forward is let you know which events I’ll be speaking at, and give you details of how you can register if applicable. And if it’s local to you, it would also be a great opportunity to catch up before or after for a coffee and a chat!


        Learn MoreDownload the 'Consumerisation of IT - and it's impact on Education' slides

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