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

  • Education

    New recordings of the free Office webinars every Tuesday

    • 2 Comments

    Office webinarsDoug Thomas is in the part of the Office team that writes help content for Office on the Office.com website, and in the help pages of the software. And he's recently branched out to producing mini webinars to help you discover new parts of the Office suite. They're run every week, but unfortunately for Australia, they're run in the middle of the night Sad smile

    Doug Thomas Office webinarsBut wait, there's good news – he records all the webinars, and makes the recordings available online. And because they are only 15 minutes long, they make great learning snacks (and Doug's a very natural host and demonstrator, so they are very watchable).

    You can access all of the recordings on this Office webinars page, and some of my recommendations are:

    You can find all of Doug's videos on the Office Webinars channel on YouTube

    Learn MoreView the full Office webinar schedule here (and ask for your favourite topic to be covered in the comments)

  • Education

    Exciting Learning–Using Technology to Improve Education–free ebook

    • 2 Comments

    My colleagues in the UK Education team, working with Ollie Bray, an educational leader from Scotland, have produced a brilliant ebook "Exciting Learning: Using Technology to Improve Education"

    imageThe new eBook aims to address the following:

    • Enhance the understanding of the benefits of ICT and technology across the curriculum including literacy, numeracy, technology, personal, social and health education
    • Provide practical information on how technology can be used to increase student motivation and enhance learning
    • Give teachers the confidence to use technology in class as a learning and teaching methodology that reaches across all subject areas and age groups
    • Reinforce the importance and place of ICT skills for productivity and the 21st century skills agenda
    • Encourage teachers to consider using games design and other technologies with students to help children become creators rather than consumers of content
    • Improve advice on how teachers and school leaders might tackle some of the common challenges encountered when trying to develop the use of technology in schools

    Ollie is a fabulously inspirational educator, and I have been lucky enough to hear Ollie leading professional development sessions and talk at conferences where teachers have been so excited to grab his ideas to take back to their classrooms, especially when he talks so passionately about games-based learning. So it's great that he's taken some time to put those ideas into this ebook, to share with a wider audience. (He's also shared much of his work on his website, OllieBray.com)

    Learn MoreDownload the ebook "Exciting Learning"

  • Education

    Updated - Free Windows 8 programming ebook

    • 2 Comments

    imageThose nice people at Microsoft Press released an update in August to their free ebook – it’s a preview version of “Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript”. And it seems perfect timing to highlight it (being absolutely transparent, I didn't read it when it came out, but I've started to read it this week, as I'm spending more time talking to people about building Windows 8 apps for education)

    It’s the perfect guide to Windows 8 applications programming, and gives you the whole story for creating Windows 8 apps. As it’s only a second preview version, the whole thing isn’t yet there – so far there's 12 of a planned 17 chapters, along with a download of companion content (code samples etc)

    If you’re interested in getting started, or you’ve got students that you know will want to have a go, then this is a great book to download and to share.

    And, before you go beetling off to start writing code, can I also recommend reading building an education app for Windows 8 is about designing an experience, before writing code beforehand too.

    Learn More You can either download it in PDF directly, or go and read a bit more about it on the Microsoft Press blog.

    NOTE: There's now the final version of the Windows 8 programming ebook - see here
    Bonus: Here’s a long list of more free technical ebooks from Microsoft Press.
  • Education

    SAP announces Windows 8 app plans

    • 2 Comments

    This caught my eye because there are so many SAP users in Australian education institutions, across schools, TAFE and higher education. Many education organisations are using SAP for their financial and HR systems, and a challenge for these conventional ERP systems is to make them more user-friendly – especially as so many employees are using self-service systems for every day tasks.

    As an ex-SAP user, anything which helps users get at their data and workflows in SAP more easily is a great thing, and this announcement of SAP Windows 8 apps, featuring the clean, modern, touch interface is a really good sign of support by vendors of enterprise-grade systems for Windows 8:

      SAP today announced plans to deliver six new SAP mobile apps for Windows 8, bringing new innovations for SAP customers. SAP also announced forthcoming support for Windows 8 development on the leading SAP Mobile Platform, as well as security enhancements to the SAP Afaria mobile device management solution. Through these apps, platform support and security enhancements, SAP plans to extend business processes to Windows 8 to accelerate a business’ ability to run better with devices of various form factors.  

    They announced plans for six business apps for SAP running on Windows 8, for use on different types of Windows 8 devices, focused on key functions such as training, HR recruiting and sales. These mobile apps include SAP WorkDeck, which will be developed first for Windows 8. It's a new app described by SAP as being:

      A new persona-centric app that offers contextual integration of various information sources and processes into a role-based view. SAP WorkDeck allows employees to initiate new requests, oversee upcoming events and monitor the progress, as well as enables managers to react and process workflows on-the-go, such as travel, leave and purchasing requests.  

    In addition, they are going to be producing five more SAP Windows 8 apps:

    • SAP Manager Insight: an employee profile app that provides managers with access to key indicators, such as diversity, headcount, employee talent by location, as well as employee profiles, to drive collaborative and informed human resources (HR) decision-making.
    • SAP Learning Assistant: a training app that gives on-the-go workers tag-along teachers. It makes on-demand, online training available anytime, anywhere so workers can access required classes to address compliance and job requirements.
    • SAP Interview Assistant: a recruiting app that eases the cumbersome task of arranging interviews. It also helps managers review candidate information, prepare notes, record results, and provide immediate feedback to HR.
    • SAP Customer Financial Fact Sheet: a customer profile app for account executives to access financial data, invoices and critical sales orders in real time.
    • SAP GRC Policy Survey: a policy app for employees to review and acknowledge relevant policy changes and fill in surveys to ensure they understand the policies.

    SAP Manager Insight screenshotAccording to SAP these apps aim to take advantage of the touch capability and features of the new Windows user interface, such as zoom, tiles and Snap mode, enabling users to easily interact with SAP data. Sebastian Kramer shared this screenshot (right) of the SAP Manager Insight demo on Instagram, which gives a good idea of how different the apps looks from previous SAP screens.

    All mobile SAP apps for Windows 8 are planned to include a trial mode to allow customers to be able to download the apps from the Windows Store and evaluate them before purchasing.

    And there's also work happening on the SAP Mobile Platform, to support creation and deployment of mobile apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. SAP intends to enable the large community of Microsoft developers to quickly create apps (HTML5 and JavaScript) using Visual Studio, as well as enable developers to access SAP Mobile Platform services for enhanced security and authentication, user/device/app provisioning and push notification to help ensure a consistent user experience across devices of different form factors on a single platform.

    Hopefully the vision will make it easier for employees to be able to create expense claims, sign off approvals, get training etc, whilst they are away from their corporate systems and corporate network.

    Learn MoreRead SAPs press release about Windows 8 apps

  • Education

    The biggest factor affecting student retention happens before the student arrives

    • 2 Comments

    I've been in a lot of discussions about CRM for student recruitment and student retention systems in the last month, and today I'm spending the day in a planning workshop, so I thought I'd share a controversial thought bouncing around my brain about higher education student attrition:

    There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the biggest factor impacting student attrition is their preparation for university before they arrive. And if we were to ‘game’ student retention improvement, the most effective mechanism would be to alter the intake of students. But is that fair to do? Or, are we already doing it?

    One factor that impacts student retention is prior academic achievement. It appears that students with lower academic scores on entry are more likely to drop out, although that be covering up other factors such as parental engagement, preparation for the style of learning in universities.

    According to Steve Draper, from the University of Glasgow:

    “If a student’s parents both went to university, preferably the same university; if their school assumed they would go and pre-trained them e.g. to take notes, use the library, to write essays exhibiting critical thinking, etc., then this may make that student more likely to succeed. Furthermore there are associations, almost certainly causal, between wealth and family support on the one hand, and retention on the other. More accurately, different families demonstrate different amounts of commitment to keeping a student in education. Previous academic achievement is a measure of this because it measures their demonstrated commitment to date, and so selecting for achievement is also likely to select for continued support, and against students who may have to leave to support their families which is a common cause of dropout.”

    We already select students on their academic ability. Is it also okay to select student intake, based on their preparation for university (some already do)? And if so, do you draw the line at selecting according to the parent’s university history? Especially if you know that’s a real factor that drives student retention and attrition.

    Find MoreFind related articles on CRM in education, for student recruitment and retention

  • Education

    Who’s office. Ours. In Austria

    • 2 Comments

    Darn, I moved to the wrong country. How nice would it be to work in the Microsoft Austria office?

    Our office in Sydney is a very, very nice place to work – the open plan, activity based working layout setup is brilliant (It’s about what you do, not where you do it). But I will admit to a hint of envy when I saw the slideshow on the Innocad website, when I saw what they’d done at our Vienna offices. An open plan meeting area with a slide. Meeting rooms with personality.

    Microsoft Austria's slide in the office

    Click on the image below for a look around

    image

    Probably a good time to mention that we’ve just been named Australia’s Best Employer 2012?

  • Education

    Bring Your Own Device in education – will this workshop help with your planning?

    • 2 Comments

    I know that there’s a lot of interest in Bring Your Own Device in education, especially in BYOD in schools. And whilst there’s plenty of buzz, the case studies I’m seeing at the moment appear to be driven by lots of enthusiasm and innovation – and with plenty of ‘learning experiences’ happening during the process (the equivalent of building airplanes in the sky).

    If you’re thinking of constructing a strategy for Bring Your Own Device in an education institution, then some advanced planning is critical. You might get some valuable insight from some IT Camps we’re hosting over the next few months, which are focused on Consumerisation of IT (typical technology – whatever acronym you choose, the next person will choose a different one to describe the same thing). So whether you’re thinking about BYOD, BYOT or COIT then these free one day workshops could be a day well invested. Although they are not specific to education, the issues faced by an education customer and a bank considering BYOD strategies have lots of parallels:

     

    Consumerisation of IT - or, as it's known, BYOD in educationEnabling Consumerisation of IT
    (One day workshop)

    The culture of work is changing. Tech-savvy and always-connected, people want faster, more intuitive technology, uninterrupted services, and freedom to work anywhere, anytime, on a variety of devices. It’s time to give people the freedom to get things done their way. In return, you’ll unleash passion and productivity like never before. Learn how our products offer experiences that your people will love. Whether they are using PCs, phones, tablets, or all of the above, Microsoft technologies are flexible to match the unique needs and styles of individuals. Best of all, our enterprise-grade solutions are designed to help you maintain security, streamline management, and cut costs.

     

    They’re being run in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth during April, May and June:

    Learn MoreFind out about the BYOD workshops here

    Bonus info: There are also workshops for Private Cloud, Datacentre and Virtualisation planning on the same page

  • Education

    Windows 8 in education–which version of Windows 8 will you use?

    • 2 Comments

    In the last couple of days, the Windows team have published more details about Windows 8, and what’s in which version. I’d encourage you to read the full blog posts for the detail (Announcing the Windows 8 Editions and Introducing Windows 8 Enterprise and Enhanced Software Assurance for Today’s Modern Workforce), but thought I’d provide my take on it in a short summary from a “Windows 8 in education” perspective.

    There are four versions of Windows 8:

    • Windows 8
      The entry-level version that’s likely to be the version you find on a standard Intel-based PC, laptop or Slate bought from a store
    • Windows 8 Professional
      The standard business version of Windows 8, and likely to be the version you buy from B2B suppliers
    • Windows 8 Enterprise
      The version that’s (normally) included as an upgrade within a Microsoft academic subscription (eg an EES/Campus/School agreement)
    • Windows RT
      The version that will be pre-installed by the manufacturers of ARM-based slates

    So the reality is that most education customers in Australia will have the rights to use the Windows 8 Enterprise edition in education, because they’ve licensed their computers through our academic subscription licences (I believe this is the case for most universities, TAFEs, government schools, many Catholic schools and many of the independent schools).

    So what’s in which version of Windows 8?

    There is a extensive table on the Announcing the Windows 8 Editions blog post, but I’ve narrowed that down to the feature differences that I think are important to education customers, plus I’ve added in a column for the Enterprise version:

     

    Features

    Windows 8

    Windows 8 Pro

    Windows 8 Enterprise

    Windows RT

    Start Screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Windows Store

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Microsoft Office pre-installed

     

     

     

    Yes

    Internet Explorer 10

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Microsoft Account
    Optional linked cloud login, provides link to Microsoft cloud services (eg SkyDrive) and cross-device synchronisation

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Install desktop software (x86/64)

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

                      

    Install Metro software

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Windows Defender
    Anti-malware protection

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    File History
    Allows you to automatically keep older copies of files as you update them

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Picture Password
    Login by drawing a pattern on an image, rather than typing a password. I initially thought this was great for younger students, but am actually loving it for myself too!

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Remote Desktop (client)

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Remote Desktop (host)

     

    Yes

    Yes

    VPN Client

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    BitLocker and BitLocker to Go
    Hard disk and removable storage encryption

    Yes

    Yes

    Client Hyper-V
    For virtualisation

    Yes

    Yes

    Domain Join

    Yes

    Yes

    Group Policy management

             

     

    Yes

    Yes

    Windows To Go
    A fully manageable corporate Windows 8 desktop on a bootable external USB stick. This could allow support for “Bring Your Own PC” and give access to the your IT environment for users’ own devices without compromising security

    Yes

    DirectAccess
    Provide secure remote access without needing a separate VPN

    Yes

    AppLocker
    Create lists of approved & banned apps which can be installed and/or run

    Yes

    VDI enhancements
    Enhancements in Microsoft RemoteFX and Windows Server 2012, provide users with a rich desktop experience with the ability to play 3D graphics, use USB peripherals and use touch-enabled devices across any type of network (LAN or WAN) for VDI scenarios.

       

    Yes

    Windows 8 App Deployment
    Domain joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8 Enterprise will automatically be enabled to side-load internal, Windows 8 Metro style apps.

       

    Yes

    Please bear in mind that this is my personal summary of the published info, as I think it applies to a typical education customer. I don’t have any special inside knowledge, so there’s a danger I’ve misinterpreted something too! If you spot any errors or manglements (no, not a real word), add a comment to this blog post and I’ll respond

    Learn More about Windows 8For the full story, you should read these two blog posts from the Windows team:

  • Education

    Ribbon Hero 2 - bringing gaming and learning closer

    • 2 Comments

    It just might change the way we think about end-user training - ZD NetIt seems that one of the trendy topics discussed at education conferences these days is the combination of gaming and learning. Most of the time, it’s discussed in the context of the classroom or of students, but a few years ago we applied it to product training, in one of our experimental Office Labs releases, called Ribbon Hero. It was designed to test the effectiveness, feasibility and appeal of delivering Office training in a game-like setting. The heart of Ribbon Hero was a set of challenges that users play right in the Office applications. And to add the competitive element, Ribbon Hero integrates with Facebook so you can share your success (or in my case, failures) with your friends. Ribbon Hero offers to post an update to your Facebook profile when impressive point levels have been reached.

    Ribbon Hero 2

    The team behind Ribbon Hero have gone even further, with Ribbon Hero 2 - incorporating a completely new, cartoon style interface, and a new job for Clippy (the really annoying 'helpful' paperclip from Office 97-2003).

    Ribbon Hero

    Ribbon Hero is a free download, and has got to be a big step up from conventional training ideas and manuals. Having heard Sir Mark Grundy of Shireland Collegiate Academy talk about the way they get their students learning by having a leader table for educational games, I can imagine the same kind of thing happening with this.

    Ribbon Hero screenshotI could tell you more about it - but it is much easier for you to download it, and have a five-minute play, than for me to try and describe how good it is to use. And remind yourself as you're using it, that it's the equivalent of a long dull training course. Imagine how you'd have conventionally learnt what it's teaching. Next time somebody talks about gaming and learning, you can wisely point them towards an example they may not have seen!


    Learn MoreFind out more, and get the free download for Ribbon Hero 2

  • Education

    The Top 10 Education blog posts

    • 2 Comments

    I've been writing this Education Blog for the last four months - since February 2011 - and so I thought it would be a good point to look back over what's been said, and find out what's useful/popular.

    In total, there have been over 125,000 readers of the 112 education blog posts that I've written. And it's probably not a surprise to see that some are more popular than others! Just in case you missed some of the popular ones, here's the Top 10 by readership:

    Top 10 Education blog posts

    1. Something for the weekend - free eBooks from Microsoft Press
    2. Windows 7 SP1 Releases
    3. Business Intelligence for Universities
    4. Moving to the Cloud - the Microsoft experience
    5. One in six schools block Wikipedia
    6. How to deploy Windows 7 to 200,000 computers
    7. Ready-made IT user documentation
    8. Calumo user group - an insight into Business Intelligence
    9. The Lower Cost Cloud - Part Three (or should that be Part Free)
    10. Kinect, augmented reality, and education

    Why are these the top education blog posts?

    It's not always possible to know why some blog posts attract more attention than others - and if I did, I could write more of them more regularly! But here's some explanations for the Top 5:

    Number 1, on free Microsoft eBooks, went viral on Facebook, and attracted almost 3 times as many readers as the next in the list.

    Number 2, happened to be the top search result on MSDN when Windows 7 SP1 released.

    Number 3, on Business Intelligence for universities, is only 6 days old today, but hit the big time because it was featured on the LinkedIn IT News page.

    Number 4, Moving to the Cloud, got noticed on Twitter, and was unique in that it had a lot of audio interviews of Microsoft's IT team.

    Number 5, about Australian schools blocking Wikipedia, got noticed on Wikipedia's discussion pages and generated some debate.

    And looking at the most popular types of blog posts, it's the education case studies which come out on top - with about half of total readership (my inference from that - you like to hear stories about what other people are doing in the real world).

    I wanted to share this info with you, in case you too are interested in starting/growing an education ICT blog for Australia.

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