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

  • Education

    The Office Add-in for Moodle - free software for teachers in February


    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.

    Free Microsoft Office Add-in for Moodle

    Office Add-In for Moodle banner

    If you use Moodle, you may be familiar with grumbles from staff about the number of steps involved in creating documents and getting them onto your Moodle site. Teachers often create their teaching materials, and student materials, in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. And then they have to save it somewhere, then log into Moodle, find where they want to put it onto Moodle and then upload it. So why shouldn’t it be as easy as saving the file to your desktop, or your SharePoint?

    That’s exactly what the Office Add-In for Moodle does - adds a “Save to Moodle” and “Open from Moodle'” button to all of your Office applications.

    Uploading files to Moodle has never been easier. The Office Add-in for Moodle is an add-in for Office 2003, 2007 and 2010, that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications. With the Add-In, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications. You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.

    Office Add-In for Moodle - screen shotIt doesn’t require anything to be installed on the Moodle server. Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the Add-in and access their documents. Once installed, there are two menu items ‘Open from Moodle’ and ‘Save to Moodle’ (see right) under:

    • the File menu in Office 2003
    • the Office Button in Office 2007
    • the File tab in Office 2010

    In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the Add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in. Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in. Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

    We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodle come from teachers.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Step-by-step instructions to help setup the system, as well as how users will use it, are on the website.

    Where do I get Office Add-In for Moodle from?

    Either go to the Office Add-In for Moodle page on Education Labs, or download directly from this link

  • Education

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


    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.




    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 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,



    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

    Mouse Mischief - free software for teachers in February


    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.

    Mouse Mischief

    Mouse Mischief Banner

    A simple idea: Let your students interact with your PowerPoint presentation, and use that to be able to draw them deeper into their learning, and for testing their understanding of it.

    Mouse Mischief integrates into Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, letting you insert questions, polls, and drawing activity slides into your lessons. Students can actively participate in these lessons by using their own mice to click, circle, cross out, or draw answers on the screen.

    Three reasons to use Mouse Mischief in your classroom

    • Actively engaging students and supporting collaborative learning
      With Mouse Mischief you can spark student curiosity by incorporating interactive technology into the curriculum. Students have fun learning while seeing visual representations of their answers on a shared screen while using colourful mouse pointers (like a robot, snowflake, guitar, and many more shapes). You can enable collaborative learning when using Mouse Mischief in Team mode; in Team mode, all members of a team need to work together to agree on an answer before it can be selected.

      • Improving classroom management and overall student participation
        With Mouse Mischief you no longer need to wait for raised hands; you can immediately see your students' answers on the screen. Mouse Mischief helps make it easy for all students even those who are often quiet in class to participate regularly without the fear of saying the wrong answer. This can allow you to have better visibility into the progress and comprehension of your entire class so you can adjust your lessons on the spot.

          • It’s familiar to use and easy on the classroom budget
            Because Mouse Mischief integrates into familiar PowerPoint technology, you do not have to spend time learning new skills to use it. Additionally, you can set up your classrooms to play Mouse Mischief lessons without purchasing expensive hardware; many schools already have mice, and both mice and USB hubs are available at many stores where computer accessories are sold.

          Where can I find out how to use it?

          From the Mouse Mischief website, there are a ton of helpful links to use. There’s a video guide to setting up and using Mouse Mischief, along with videos for using the student participation features, and for creating multiple choice and Yes/No question slides. If you prefer to read documents, then there’s the Quick Start Guide.

          Once you’ve got the basics, it’s worth looking at all of the Mouse Mischief lesson templates, to see if there’s something there that will get you started.

          There are also Mouse Mischief articles on the Microsoft Knowledge Base

          Where do I get Mouse Mischief from?

          It’s best to download from the link on the Mouse Mischief website, but if you want one less click, then download it directly here.

        • Education

          Work experience 'cuts dropout rate' according to the BBC


          According to some research for the UK Education and Employers Taskforce reported by BBC News in the UK at the weekend, work ‘experience’ cuts the likelihood of students dropping out from education. That doesn’t have to be in the conventional way of formal work experience - it can be smaller things like hearing from an employer at a school event, or having a business guest invited to a lesson, or a visit to another workplace. According to the BBC report:


          The more young people come into contact with employers while they are at school, the less likely they are to go on to be unemployed, research suggests.
          Pupils who took part in four or more activities with employers were five times less likely to drop out of school or training, it says.
          Those who had no such contact were most likely to be not in education, employment or training.
          Activities included work experience, visits and enterprise competition.


          I know that many Australian schools have activities which involve businesses. And equally I know that many find it difficult to organise activities, because businesses can be difficult to contact. And it can be equally difficult for the business to organise activities for large groups of students (I remember the massive orchestration that was required for ‘work experience’ week in the UK, when around 100 High School students joined Microsoft for five days).

          So perhaps next time you’re asking a business for support, you should send them this BBC story to help your case!

          What I can do is also offer to try and help schools if they are looking for a business person to come along and talk to a group of students. In the past, when I’ve done those sessions, I’ve always walked away having learnt a lot, and having answered some tricky questions!

          I’m based in Sydney, but I have colleagues around the country, and connections to business people working in partners around the country too. There are programmers, marketing people, sales people, entrepreneurs running their own businesses - I just might know somebody that could be the person you’re looking for.

          If I can help, my email address is

        • Education

          Microsoft Mathematics - free software for teachers in February


          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 Mathematics 4.0

          Example chart created by Microsoft Math 4.0

          Universally, mathematics is a major source of frustration for students. Teachers often find it challenging to keep all their students at the same pace when learning new maths concepts. Microsoft Mathematics can help students visualise problems and provide extra help when they are reviewing maths concepts on their own.

          From basic maths to precalculus, it can help you visualise mathematical concepts in a new way. It’s a free downloadable tool which includes step-by-step instructions and explains fundamental concepts. The wide range of tools to help students with complex mathematics includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a hand-held calculator and ink handwriting support to recognise hand-written problems.

          Includes a sophisticated graphing calculator

          Microsoft Mathematics Graphic CalculatorThe average cost of a graphing calculator is $90+. This one is free and works on your PC.

          Personal whinge from me on this - my daughters’ school gives every student their own laptop - and then insists that every parent spends an extra $250 on a graphing calculator. Grrr.

          Microsoft Mathematics has a powerful graphing calculator built in. That saves each student the cost of buying a graphing calculator and assures that they all have access to the same necessary tools.

          Microsoft Mathematics uses a Computer Algebra System (CAS) to help teachers share and solve more complex equations and functions. It’s capable of handling subjects including pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics and chemistry.

          Helps students by stepping through problems

          With its step-by-step approach to problem solving, Microsoft Mathematics shows the journey to the maths solution, not just the end point. For teachers, it’s like having a maths tutor available to their students when they get stuck on a problem. The step-by-step feature can help students improve their understanding of formulas and concepts as they do their homework.

          It’s useful for subjects such as pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics and chemistry.

          Where can I find out how to use it?

          There’s a full Microsoft Mathematics Teachers Guide, as well as a Step-by-step Guide that talks you through the whole software.

          Where do I get Microsoft Mathematics from?

          Like all the other software I’ve mentioned in this Free February list, it’s free, and you can download Microsoft Mathematics from here.

          Just realised I've done three days in a trot of software for maths teachers. That's enough! Tomorrow we'll go for something useful for everybody...

        • Education

          Maths Worksheet Generator - free software for teachers in February


          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.

          Maths Worksheet Generator

          Maths Worksheet Generator header

          Another bit of free software for Maths teachers  - and what better way than giving them something to save time. Maths Worksheet Generator creates anything from one to 1,000 equations on a worksheet from a single sample equation you enter. And it also generates the teacher answer sheet too.

          Do you spend a lot of time searching for worksheets with practice problems to give your students? Now you can easily create your own in just a few seconds with the Math Worksheet Generator. This is a tool that generates multiple math problems based on a sample, and then creates a worksheet that you can distribute. By analysing the math problem you provide, or one of the built-in samples, the generator determines the structure of the expression and provides similar problems.

          Create quick maths worksheets in Word

          The Math Worksheet Generator works best with Word 2007 and 2010. If you have that, then the tool creates a Word document and the expressions are editable. If you have an older version of Word, it still creates a document, but the expressions are small images that aren't editable. (This is because Word 2007 and higher has more built-in support for inserting Math equations.) If you don't have Word at all, the tool will create HTML versions of the worksheet and answer sheet.

          The tool supports everything from basic arithmetic through algebra.

          Where can I find out how to use it?

          Here’s a demo of the Maths Worksheet Generator in use, which shows how easy it is to use (download the video here):

          Where do I get the free Maths Worksheet Generator from?

          The free Maths Worksheet Generator download available from the ‘Try It’ link on this page

        • Education

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM adds wide mobile device support


          If you’re used to the normal release cycle of big products - like Windows and Office - you’ll have become conditioned to a release cycle that is typically every 3 years, with a few Service Packs in the middle. Overall though, release cycles are getting quicker - for example, with cloud services they can be every few months. This is great, because it means you can have additional features added to the products you are running on a more regular basis.

          One of the products to especially benefit from this, is Dynamics CRM - and it’s especially useful as end-users of these systems tend to be amongst the most demanding. They come up with questions like “How do I get social media in the CRM system?” or “Can I see my student recruitment prospect list on my phone?”. At the end of last year we released the 2011 Q4 update, which added enterprise social media integration. And we’ve just announced details of what is coming in the Q2 2012 release:

          Mobility for Dynamics CRM

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM on iPadThe update will include a new cloud-based, cross-platform native mobile client for Windows Phone 7.5, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices called Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile. If you’re using Dynamics CRM for student recruitment, it means that you can enable your recruitment co-ordinators and agents to access your systems online from anywhere on- or off-campus. So, for example, when you are hosting your university of TAFE Open Day, you could ensure that all your staff around the campus can look up students on their phone directly in a conversation, rather than having to hide behind a laptop screen, or scribbling notes and waiting until later to update or look up info. Or if you are using CRM for service desk management, you can ensure that your team can update their case histories in real time wherever they are on campus.

          Cross Browser support for Dynamics CRM

          Dynamics CRM already has a web client that works across multiple versions of Internet Explorer, and in the Q2 update, we’ll be adding support for Safari (on desktop, laptop and iPad), Firefox and Chrome. This is especially important in universities, as you expand your use of CRM out to faculty and more staff, as I know you have a lot less control over the devices and software that these staff choose to use.

          Enhanced Self-Service Business Intelligence for Dynamics CRM

          If “Business Intelligence” was the buzzword of 2011, then I’ve noticed that “Self-Service Business Intelligence” is likely to be the buzz phrase for 2012. And with CRM it’s pretty critical to get it right. Because we’re locking tons and tons of useful data away in our CRM systems, and the poor users who spend their time contributing data to the CRM system need to get quality information out. So the ‘self-service’ aspect is the bit that hands the control over to your users - to let them get the information they need, and mean that it doesn’t increase the workload exponentially for your analysts!

          Learn More



          Two places to learn more

        • Education

          Mathematics Add-in for Word - free software for teachers in February


          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.

          Mathematics Add-in for Word

          Office logo

          Microsoft Mathematics Add-in for Word and OneNote makes it easy to plot graphs in 2D and 3D, calculate numerical results, solve equations or inequalities, and simplify algebraic expressions in your Word documents and OneNote notebooks.

          It works with Microsoft Word 2010, Microsoft Office Word 2007, and Microsoft OneNote 2010. With this add-in, you insert an advanced math problem (from algebra to calculus, physics, or statistics) and then click to simplify complex expressions or to solve. Use these advanced math computational and graphing capabilities to: Plot a function, equation, or inequality in 2-D or 3-D, and save the results, solve an equation or inequality, calculate a numerical result, compute the inverse of a matrix, matrix operations, list operations, and integrals.

          Mathematics Add-in in detail

          With the Microsoft Mathematics Add-in for Word and OneNote, you can perform mathematical calculations and plot graphs in your Word documents and OneNote notebooks. The add-in also provides an extensive collection of mathematical symbols and structures to display clearly formatted mathematical expressions. You can also quickly insert commonly used expressions and math structures by using the Equation gallery.
          The Microsoft Mathematics Add-in can help you with the following tasks:

          • Compute standard mathematical functions, such as roots and logarithms
          • Compute trigonometric functions, such as sine and cosine
          • Find derivatives and integrals, limits, and sums and products of series
          • Perform matrix operations, such as inverses, addition, and multiplication
          • Perform operations on complex numbers
          • Plot 2-D graphs in Cartesian and polar coordinates
          • Plot 3-D graphs in Cartesian, cylindrical, and spherical coordinates
          • Solve equations and inequalities
          • Calculate statistical functions, such as mode and variance, on lists of numbers
          • Factor polynomials or integers
          • Simplify or expand algebraic expressions

            Where can I find out how to use it?

            In addition to the step-by-step tutorial document for to the Mathematics Add-In, there is also a handy Teachers Guide to the Mathematics Add-In.

            And finally, there’s a video demo tutorial below, which walks you through the software and how to use it.