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

  • Education

    Photo Story 3 - 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.

    Microsoft Photo Story 3

    Photo Story 3If you remember Photo Story from the Windows XP days, well you’ll be glad to know it's back and working with Windows 7 (as well as Windows XP). If you don’t know, then you’re in a for a surprise when you give this a try!
    imageYou can quickly create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add animations and special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalise them with titles and captions. The whole thing is then wrapped up into a ‘photo story’ - a video with a small file size that makes it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your interactive whiteboard, TV, your computer, or your smartphone!

    For an example of the results, watch the video "Remember the Ladies” from the Department of Classics at Furman University.

    It’s difficult to describe how easy it is to use, without stepping it through with you step-by-step, but it is so simple to use that the easiest way to see it is to try it!

    It’s a great way for students to create a piece of work, and makes a fantastic break from the usual PowerPoint presentations that they produce - and introduces a whole new set of skills for students to think about.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    You may not need much help, as the software is easy to use. However, Pat Pecoy at the Department of Classics at Furman University has created a series of Photo Story 3 tutorials here.

    Where do I get Picture Story 3 from?

    Like every other piece of software in the ‘February Freebies’ list, it’s free. You can download it directly from this Microsoft Downloads link for Photo Story 3. (BTW although it says it’s only for Windows XP, this link contains the updated version that works on Windows 7 too)

  • Education

    I’m Out of Office - and so is my email inbox

    • 2 Comments

    This week, I’m actually in the States at our Global Education Partner Conference in Seattle (right up on the left hand side of the US map). As usual, I tried to be a little creative with my Out Of Office Reply:

     

    Oops! Looks like I’m not here, keep reading…

    I'm over in the States from 6th February until Tuesday 14th February at the Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit. During this time, I'll be able to check my emails during the night Sydney-time, but will be attending business meetings all of the working day, so will be slow and limited in how I can respond (and let's face it, after flying back overnight, I'll probably be slow and limited on the 14th too!)

    I will be fully online again on Wednesday 15th February.

    If there is anything absolutely desperate that you'd need to escalate, the Education team and the Enterprise Partner Team are still around.

    Regards,

    Ray

     

    But I discovered that I have some much more creative colleagues (but not in the sarcastic way of some of the Best Out of Office replies from Dave Duarte). Jason Trump is a colleague from our APAC team, and his out of office reply is awesome:

     

    Where am I?

    This one is an easy one!  The Starbucks empire of more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries started here from a modest store located directly across the road from Pike Place Market.

    The world’s largest online bookstore Amazon.com is also headquartered in this city.  Boeing assembles several of their commercial aircraft in several plants around the city including the Dreamliner 787 which is assembled at the Everett Factory.

    You probably guessed that I’m in Seattle, Washington State, USA.

    This business trip is for partner events related to the Global Education Partner Summit (GEPS).  Held annually at the Executive Briefing Centre building at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, GEPS is a 4 day event especially for our top education partners. I’m also attending a pre-meeting and additional side-meetings during the course of the week.

    I will have regular email access throughout the day so there shouldn’t be a significant delay in responding to urgent messages, except for the time difference.

    Please try to refrain from calling my mobile as the timezone will likely mean you’ll be calling me at an hour when I should be sleeping (but probably won’t be thanks to jetlag!). If it’s urgent though, go ahead +xxxxx.

    Kind regards,

    Jason

     

    When I got it, it made me smile, and I learnt something from the links. How often do you get an Out Of Office reply that makes you smile?

    When was the last time your Out of Office will have made somebody smile?

    What would be the education equivalent of an Out of Office that would make the receiver smile and educate them? (This is what Comment boxes were created for on blog sites Smile)

  • 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

    Publishing accessible learning resources - more support in Office

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    We’ve announced some new add-ins for Microsoft Office that will help education users publish their learning resources with added accessibility - making them more accessible to more learners, specifically those with visual and hearing impairments.

    Captioning add-in for PowerPoint to add captions to video and audio

    Screenshot of STAMP in actionOne is an add in for PowerPoint which enables the addition of closed captions to any embedded video and audio files used in a presentation, ensuring that students who have hearing impairments don’t miss out. It allows you to either manually add your own captions, or by importing an existing industry standard Timed Text Mark-up Language (TTML) file. With STAMP, people who already work with captioned video and audio files associated with TTML files can import them directly into their presentations. For people who don't have access to an existing TTML file, but still need to create captions (or adjust imported captions), STAMP provides a simple caption editor within PowerPoint 2010. Captions within STAMP are saved with the file or can be exported for use by others.

    The other way that STAMP could be used is to add English subtitles to a foreign language video (or translate an English video into another language), which might be a great technique for languages teachers.

    The STAMP add-in is for Office 2010. And I discovered the acronym STAMP stands for Subtitling Add-In for Microsoft PowerPoint

    > Go here to find out more about STAMP, and download the free add-in

    Making talks books with Word, with the DAISY Add-in for Office

    The DAISY Consortium was set up to help those with visual impairment (or ‘print disabilities’) to access digital content easily, and enhance their use of the materials. We’ve just updated the DAISY Word plug-in, which allows Word documents to be translated into DAISY XML - a globally accepted standard for digital talking books (eg it’s used by Vision Australia’s Information Library Service).

    DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System, which lets you work with digital content in many ways, synchronising audio with display output, generating braille versions, or allowing text to speech conversion. It is more powerful than simply creating an audio file (eg an .mp3) - unlike analogue talking books, an important feature of DAISY books is easy and rapid navigation. A book can be navigated by such elements as sentence, paragraph, page (including specific page numbers) and various heading levels. It is also possible to fast forward or rewind and to jump back and forth by time increments when using the audio component. Depending on the playback equipment being used, a book can be searched for specific words. The user can also place Bookmarks at relevant points and jump to them easily.

    The ‘Save as Daisy’ add-in for Word lets users of Microsoft Word 2003-2010 convert Word files to the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) format - accessible multimedia formats for people unable to read print. Some of these formats include synchronized text and MP3 audio that can be played directly within Windows 7 or DAISY XML, which works with compatible software readers and talking book/braille reading devices.

    > Go here to find out more about DAISY, and download the free add-in

    Other accessibility features in Office

    Here are a few of the other Office 2010 features that help people create and consume all kinds of accessible content:

    • An accessibility checker (like a spelling checker, but for accessibility) as a feature of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that provides step-by-step instructions for how to correct accessibility errors.
    • imageAn on-the-fly translation feature called Mini Translator, which allows you to translate single words or many paragraphs simply by hovering over the text that you want to translate. Mini Translator also includes the ability to speak that text using Microsoft's Text-to-Speech (TTS) engine.
    • A Full Screen Reading view that is optimized for reading a document on the computer screen. In Full Screen Reading view, you also have the option of seeing the document as it would appear on a printed page.

    Learn MoreFind out more about accessibility in Microsoft Office

  • Education

    Creating surveys with the Excel Web App in Office 365 for education

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    The free version of Office 365 for education includes web versions of the main Office software – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – in addition to the email, collaboration and communication capabilities included within the online Exchange, SharePoint and Lync services. Of course, that's great for editing and working on documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and the beauty of the web service is that we can keep updating them for you as we add new features – you don't have to take on the responsibility for updating software across a pile of machines.

    You can see the new features being added in the future to Office 365 through the preview versions. And we've just released the preview for Office 365 Enterprise (which is the version that Office 365 for education is based on).

    Here's an idea that you can use them for, that might save you bucket-loads of time.

    Using the Excel Web App for surveys and questionnaires

    Thanks to  my colleague James Marshall in the UK, there's a good explanation of how you can easily create online surveys and questionnaires, and get the answers into a neat Excel spreadsheet. It's great for a range of scenarios, like:

    • A lecturer wanting to get opinion and feedback about a lecture immediately after it finishes.
    • A group of students doing a data collection exercise with their classmates.
    • A senior leader wanting to get feedback from parents about a school event (i.e. sports day, school theatre production)
    • A teacher running a competition.

    The beauty of forms in the new Excel Web App is that they can be shared in a few clicks, and accessed on a variety of devices, making it easy for users with laptops, tablet devices, smart phones or pretty much any device with a browser to contribute. And you can make them public, so you can use them for parental surveys etc

    Here's a screenshot from a survey that James published as an example (you can try it out on this link: http://aka.ms/vumdyw)

    Excel Web App Survey

     

    Learn MoreYou can read James' post on how to create a survey in the Excel Web App over on his excellent UK Education Cloud Blog (plus loads of other useful Office 365 for education information)

  • 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

    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

    Improving student retention in higher education–the data sources

    • 2 Comments

    Chris Ballard, of Tribal, is an 'Innovation Consultant' working on student administration and management systems, with a focus area on student retention modelling. Earlier this year, at the annual conference for their SITS:Vision student administration system, Chris co-presented with Paul Travill from the University of Wolverhampton on a research project being undertaken to see how they could be using learning analytics to improve student retention.

    There is similar work going on in the Australian higher education marketplace, and I've had a number of discussions with universities here about student attrition and the ways to reduce it – driven by the fact that on average one in five students are leaving their higher education courses before the end of the first year. The factors which affect student attrition are made up of two key areas:

    Chris & Paul's slides dig into these data, how to interpret them, and how to build a system which allows you to model and predict student attrition using them (which obviously leads to how to react to them). On Slide 8 there's a really simple diagram of the key data sources:

    Chris Ballard's slides on data sources for student attrition analysis

    If you've got an interest in student retention modelling, then I'd recommend taking a look at the full presentation slides from the SITS:Vision conference, on the Tribal Labs blog

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