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

  • Education

    Could Cortana in education help students and teachers?


    Cortana logo

    Cortana is the intelligent voice-activated assistant on a Windows Phone - described as ‘your personal assistant in your phone’ - and it provides a new way of interacting with other people and your phone. I’ve been using Cortana on my phone for a while now, using the Developer Preview of Windows 8.1 and over time I’ve discovered some great things it can do for me (I most often use it to send an SMS as I’m leaving the office, remind me about something when I arrive somewhere, and to check information in my calendar).

    wp_ss_20140908_0001I’ve got used now to pressing my phone’s search button, and hearing a short tone along with the “Listening…” message pop up - and then talking to my phone as though it was a real person.

    wp_ss_20140908_0002Some of the things I’ve found Cortana does are:

    • Activating your phone - like calling somebody in your contacts
    • Sending text/SMS messages
    • Adding meetings to your calendar, or re-arranging what’s in there
    • Setting reminders that occur at a particular time, or place (like “Remind me to buy milk when I get to the supermarket”)
    • Setting alarms
    • Adding notes to your OneNote file
    • Asking travel questions, like What’s traffic like on the way to school today?


    What about using Cortana in education?

    So that got me thinking - how could Cortana in education help improve things for students and teachers? After I discovered that I could ask Cortana “When is my next dentist appointment”, and it would tell me the time and date, it got me thinking about how useful it would be to ask questions like:

    When/what/where is my next lesson?

    When is my next science lesson?

    When is my next essay due?

    And every single one of those questions it worked for! As long as I had things noted in my calendar, which could be either my personal or work calendar, it would find it and let me know, whether it's tomorrow or in six months’ time! What a help for a time-poor or disorganised student. And a teacher could set a reminder like “Remind me to talk about the Ice Age next time I meet Year 7 Geography

    Using Cortana to make it easier to use apps

    wp_ss_20140908_0003But what I’ve discovered more recently is the way that I can use Cortana with apps - like asking Cortana to make a Skype call (“Call Sarah on Skype”), or joining a conference call (“Lync join next meeting”).
    Cortana isn’t just for Microsoft-written applications, as developers can use the Cortana APIs to allow users to interact with their app through Cortana. Some of the examples from third-party developers that I’ve found on my phone are:

    • - Send a tweet through different Twitter clients. I’ve tried it with Twitter’s native app as well as Rowi
    • - Read my LinkedIn groups and inbox
    • - Listen to radio, and even the local Air Traffic Control through LiveATC
    • - Search Wikipedia, and get the first part of a Wikipedia article read to you!

    What about using Cortana with a Learning Management System?
    Or a Student Management System? Or your Lecture Capture System?…

    So if it can do all of those things, I think there are some very cool scenarios that Cortana could enable to make life easier for students and teachers. Here’s some examples that I think would be really cool to build. How about being able to say things like:

    • Download my assignment notes from the LMS
    • Ask for an extension for my essay deadline
    • Send a homework text to the students who aren’t in class today
    • Send a text to the parents of students absent today
    • What lessons do I have today
    • Tell me how long my child used Mathletics this week
    • Show me the students who haven’t used Mathletics this week
    • Record this lecture
    • Send a reminder to all students who haven’t yet handed in their homework assignment

    To do some of the tasks above, there will need to be some work done by software developers, to connect Cortana to their apps. And if that’s done, then there’s some great ways that the apps will be able to simplify life for teachers, students and parents. And it can all be started from pressing the same Search button on their phone.

    What next?

    Developers - there’s some great resources on how to use Cortana with your apps. Start with the Channel 9 video  What developers need to know about the Cortana APIs, and then have a read of the article “Responding to speech interactions” which guides you through the process of setting up your app to accept recognised commands from Cortana.

    Teachers and Students - what are the scenarios that you’d like developers to add to their apps? Let me know via the comments box, and I’ll share them as I meet with developers. There are probably some cool things Cortana can already do, but I bet you can find a dozen other things that you’d like to see done to make your life easier as a student, teacher or parent. What are your thoughts?

  • Education

    Are you attending the Education Strategy Briefing at the Australia Partner Conference next week?


    Next week we’re hosting the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference in the Gold Coast Convention Centre. It’s a week full of strategic information on key topics across the Microsoft business.

    On Tuesday 2 September, before the main conference opens later, we are hosting an Education Strategy Briefing specifically for our partners that focus on the education sector.


    Our goal is to fully detail our strategy in our sales, marketing and partnering resources in the Australian Education marketplace, and ensure that we have a clear shared strategy with our partners in the year ahead. We believe that this year’s peak education IT buying season will be quite different from the past, with clearly new buying processes and investment priorities across the school, TAFE and university sectors.

    The agenda for the day will cover:

    • Insights into the key Australian education market trends we are seeing
    • A segment-by-segment, and state-by-state overview of our education sales organisation, and our investments in education sales, partner and marketing resources.
    • Our joined-up strategy in education for key products including the Windows ecosystem, Office 365 and Microsoft Azure, and specific investments we are making that will allow you to differentiate your approach to market for education
    • Presentations from education customers who will share their priorities and strategies, and provide advice for partners looking for growth in education
    • Small-group discussions which will allow you to participate in a deep-dive into specific market segments, to explore partnering opportunities and provide feedback to Microsoft

    Our aim is to ensure that there is an equal balance of hearing from us, from customers, and being able to feedback to us (rather than making the day a one-way PowerPoint-fest). And we will also ensure that we have a clear focus on strategic input for your business, and listening to your feedback about how we can support you more. In addition to senior members of the education team, we will have leaders from across the business participating in the round table discussions to ensure we hear your views.

    Date: 2 Sept 2014
    Time: 9AM – 3PM
    Venue: Gold Coast

    The Education Strategy Briefing at APC is open to any Microsoft partner attending APC. You can register using the link below, and the PreDay Invitation Code APCPD052014

    Make a dateMake a date: Register for the Education Strategy Briefing on 2 Sept 2014

  • Education

    Integrating Microsoft Office 365 Education with Desire2Learn Learning Environment


    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

    Higher Education briefing for Microsoft Partners - 19 August 2014


    Microsoft Australia and CAUDIT - Higher Education Partner Briefing – 19th August


    On behalf of the Microsoft Australia Higher Education team and the Council of Australian Directors of IT (CAUDIT), I’d like to invite you to attend a Microsoft Education Partner Briefing specifically for partners focusing on universities, to discuss challenges and opportunities in the university sector (in light of the federal reforms) in alignment with your key solution capabilities.

    This event is for Microsoft Partner Network members and Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers

    Australia’s “CIO of the Year”, William Confalonieri of Deakin University, will open the event and share a deep insight into the changing role of IT within universities.

    Representatives from CAUDIT will be on hand to provide views on the changes in the higher education marketplace within Australia, and the IT priorities for CIOs across the market.

    The Microsoft Australian Higher Education team will provide more information on the Microsoft strategy, and share successful co-selling strategies and advice for partners.

    The briefing will give Microsoft partners an opportunity to understand Microsoft’s strategy within the higher education marketplace, and how our products, services and solutions address the current and emerging needs of Australian universities.

    Our aim is to ensure that partners leave with the latest information on the higher education sector so that they can plan appropriate strategies to support their customer engagements, and to identify new market opportunities as the marketplace and technology directions change.

    Date: Afternoon of 19th August 2014

    Venue: The University of Melbourne

    Make a dateRegister for now the Higher Education Partner Briefing on 19 Aug 2014

  • Education

    Your opportunity to apply to join an exclusive community of innovative educators

    Richard, who runs our Microsoft Innovative Educator programme in Australia, has asked me to let you know about the opportunity for practising teachers to apply to join the Microsoft Innovative Education Expert program.

    We’re looking for top educators, ready to spread the word about the great things they are doing in the classroom from across Australia. The Microsoft Innovative Educator - Expert Program is an exclusive program created to recognise pioneer educators  who are using technology to transform education.

    Microsoft is seeking top innovative educators who are using Microsoft technologies to engage students and their peers in innovative ways to positively impact learning. We’re particularly interested in educators who are actively mentoring others, active in social media and have a passion for and a desire to share their experiences.

    As a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert, you will be asked to advocate and share your experiences with peers and policy makers on effective use of technology in education. The Australian MIE Expert community will also provide access to fellow innovative educators to share valuable experiences, lessons and best practices and work together as a community to promote ideas to innovate in teaching and learning.

    This is a non-paid, ambassador program, however you will receive some fantastic benefits as an MIE Expert.  Benefits include your own Windows 8 tablet, mentoring from experienced innovative educators in the MIE community and, other rewards such as a chance to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Microsoft HQ, Seattle, in March 2015.

    Applicants will be evaluated based on their learning activity, application form and interview if called.

    What we need you to be

    • An educator interested in developing strategies to benefit and share with other educators
    • Energised, with a friendly and outgoing personality
    • Able to work autonomously and within a team
    • Display confident and articulate presentation and written communication skills
    • Full-time educator in P-12 or in a higher education faculty of education
    • A fan of Windows devices and services – 3+ years’ experience on a Windows device using Microsoft Office and other key Microsoft applications

    What you’ll be doing

    • Advocating Microsoft technologies in the context of the classroom and in schools from August 2014 until December 1st 2015
    • Representing Microsoft and sharing your experiences through social channels (blogs, communities) online engagements (webinars) and presenting at local events
    • Using a Windows 8 device and other Microsoft products and services
    • Mentoring and training other educators in applying the use of Microsoft technologies to learning
    • Providing input in professional development content for educators
    • Collaborating with other MIE - Experts and Microsoft on your experiences
    • Reporting weekly reporting on your activities

    What you’ll get

    • Training at a workshop in Sydney in September 2014
    • A Windows 8 device with Microsoft Office 365
    • Unique MIE Expert presentation and event collateral
    • Monthly incentives for the top MIE Experts
    • Select MIE Experts will receive the opportunity to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in March 2015
    • Access to an exclusive community of educators with monthly webinars from education specialists, Microsoft technology and education specialists and a private online community
    • Mentoring from Microsoft and experienced education specialists

    What’s the next step?

    As part of the application you will be asked to provide details of a particular learning activity that is a good example of your Microsoft in the Classroom story as well as a simple cover letter and program relevant resume.

    We’re inviting educators from the all over Australia to apply for the MIE Expert program today. Visit the Career One application form here to apply.

    For any program queries, please email the program team

  • Education

    Take part in a Global Enterprise Challenge with other primary schools


    I learnt today that a school I used to work with in the UK, Broadclyst Community Primary School, were given a grant by the Microsoft global Education team to fund their Global Enterprise Challenge, to allow them to join 1,000 students from 20 countries together in a challenge for Year 6 students. And they've just opened nominations for schools to take part, and it's open to Australian schools to enter.

    Here's the details from my UK colleagues:


    Sign up your school today!

    It is with great excitement that we announce the Microsoft Global Enterprise Challenge which has just gone live! Based on the enterprise project created by Broadclyst Community Primary School (BCPS) in South West England, schools throughout the world are currently being sought to participate in a ground-breaking enterprise challenge developed and run by BCPS and funded by Microsoft. During the Challenge, 1000 students across 20 schools in 20 countries will connect to run ten international companies, each with ten regional offices/teams. The teams will be developing, producing and marketing ten products selected in a pitch situation by the project co-ordinator, and will be competing with each other to become the most successful company globally.

    Much like the real business the world, the companies will be judged on how profitably they are running, which will give the students a taste for the commercial world.

    How will the Global Enterprise Challenge benefit your students?

    The GEC incorporates many different elements of the curriculum making the challenge a brilliant opportunity for the students to contextualise core subjects they are being taught such as Maths, Design, English and even Accounting into the enterprise sphere, which will make the learning activity highly engaging and fun.

    The opportunity will also encourage young students to start to align their learning outcomes to the commercial world: From the Broadclyst Community Primary School video below, you can see that the students are given a real taste of entrepreneurship as they have to not only choose what product they think will sell, but additionally create this desirable product. Indeed the teams are solely in charge of making (manufacturing) their products and even promoting (marketing) them which they can do by filming adverts and getting really creative.

    Broadclyst Primary are looking for other schools to sign up and get involved.

    Applications are open until 1st September so make sure to sign up your school and get involved using this link

    Microsoft Global Enterprise Challenge from Broadclyst Primary School on Vimeo.

  • Education

    Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summits 2014


    In the first week of August we are running half-day partner training events for Microsoft Education partners in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

    This year’s education ICT buying season is almost underway, and it promises to be like no buying season in history. There are significant changes in the market including a shift to BYOD, a growing move away from institutional purchase towards students buying devices from retailers, and the devolution of the decision making from systems to schools and parents.

    All of these provide unprecedented opportunities and challenges for the existing business model of many of our education partners.

    We’d like to invite you to attend a half day event in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth to learn how your business model can evolve, and how Microsoft can help you to grow your education sales.

    The Education Partner Summit is an opportunity to get deep insight into the changing dynamics of the schools sectors from the Microsoft Education team.

    Education is one of the biggest IT markets in the country, and increasingly a competitive and critical market for Microsoft and our partners, with key organisations seeing the long term value of winning the institution and seeding their brand through these schools to reach teachers, students and parents. The combination of the consumerisation of IT, technology adoption at younger ages, the accelerating desire for 1:1 computing, and BYOD are requiring schools to continue to take more innovative approaches to learning in the classroom.

    The agenda is specifically focused on meeting the needs of sales and marketing personnel in Microsoft partners who want the most effective messages and strategies to grow in a transformed marketplace. With traditional revenue streams being disrupted by increasingly fragmented decision making, the Education Partner Summit will focus on ensuring that you walk away with the information you need to develop an effective and profitable strategy to serve your customers and grow your business, with practical sales resources, and understanding how you can leverage your Microsoft relationship and the resources of the Microsoft Education business to sell alongside you.

    The day will benefit sales and marketing teams dealing with schools, TAFEs and Universities. Additionally, the seminar will provide valuable insight to product marketing and development teams who are looking to identify new product and service opportunities within the education sector.

    Venues and dates

    For each half-day event the agenda will include:

    • Overview of the education market and changes happening today
    • Deep dive into the Office 365 Education suite, and how partners can use it to deliver educational solutions for schools
    • How to position Windows devices for education customers, and the supporting programmes available for partners and customers to support improved educational outcomes from their investments, including the new “Microsoft in the Classroom” and “Expert Educator” programme
    • Updates on the Microsoft Academic Licensing programmes

    We will be hosting the summits in the following Microsoft offices next month:

    • Sydney - 4th August 2014 - 12:30PM to 5:30PM
    • Brisbane – 5th August 2014 - 8AM to 12:30PM
    • Melbourne – 6th August 2014 - 8AM to 12:30PM
    • Perth – 8th August 2014 - 8AM to 12:30PM


    We’ll shortly publish a registration link for the Microsoft Partner Network, but click the link below to register your interest, and to receive a registration link and a placeholder request for your calendar by email.

    Make a dateRegister now for your local Education Partner Summit event

  • Education

    Office Apps for Education–Academic Wordsmith plagiarism checker for Word



    In the past I’ve written about the way that developers can now write apps for Office – which means that specialist capabilities can be added to Office to support particular uses. There are now hundreds of apps in the Office Store, which are add-ins for the Office suite – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc – and this includes a whole range of free and paid education apps for Office you can see here – other education apps in the Office store include a School Planner App for SharePoint, a GeoGebra app to create interactive worksheets in PowerPoint, a SCORM content player for Office 365, and a Lesson Planner for Word.

    We ran an Australian Education DevCamp for apps in May, and the first app to appear from an attendee is Academic Wordsmith, a plagiarism checker for Word - an app for students from the Teacher Collection team which runs within Microsoft Word. The app allows students to check an essay for originality, by comparing sections or whole assignments against Internet results – and displays possible matches between the assignment and online sources such as academic papers. Here’s some more from the website:


    imageMake a simple selection or submit your whole document, checking for originality could not be easier from right within Word. After our detailed analysis, your results are then delivered back to the same window for a quick and easy review.

    A detailed breakdown of matches found allow you to see exactly where problems have been detected including links to the matching locations. This allows you to make decisions about your current work and any chances you might need to make.

    Using our “Benefit of the doubt” algorithm, results that could potentially be related can also be returned, allowing you to easily find other material that may help and support your arguments!


    There are other services that do this (like WriteCheck, from the creators of TurnItIn), but what’s smart about Academic Wordsmith is that it runs within Office, so that students can check an assignment as they are working on it, rather than having to upload it to another website first.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Academic Wordsmith

  • Education

    Edmodo app for Windows 8 available now


    Edmodo for Windows 8 logoAt the ISTE Conference in the US, the team from Edmodo (“the world’s largest, free K-12 social learning network”) released the Windows 8 Edmodo app for teachers and students. With thousands of teachers in Australian schools using Edmodo, it means that learners in Australia can easily access the Edmodo suite from their Windows 8 start screen, and receive live tile notifications (eg showing when there’s new messages or reminders for the user on their Windows Start Screen via the app’s live tile).

    One of the benefits of the Windows 8 Edmodo app is that when you click to view a file or internet link, it will open it in split screen view – leaving both Edmodo and the new file on the screen, rather than switching between apps.


    Learn MoreGet the Edmodo app from the Windows 8 Store

  • Education

    Explain Everything for Windows 8 - now available


    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

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