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

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - Get rid of school reports


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    Get rid of school reports on paper, by providing electronic reports to parents

    Although many schools are already doing this, there are plenty that still provide parental reports on paper. And don’t want to change, because they feel that it’s key for parents to get a paper copy of their children’s report. As a parent, I still like getting the report on a piece of paper. However, I think my mind is changing, as plenty of other systems go online. For example, I now get all of my utility bills, my phone bill and my bank statements online. And the benefit to me is that I can quickly jump back and see any of the historically, rather than having to look for old paper copies (most of which, I haven’t kept filed neatly). Imagine if I could go back and read all of my children’s school reports, save my own copies, and print them out when I needed them.

    A school report is one of those documents that parents keep for a long time - but how about taking a step forward by providing a parent with a school report as a PDF document too? So that they can share the report with grandparents online (especially relevant in today’s non-nuclear society).

    And perhaps, if parents find the PDF version beneficial, you’ll be able to make the paper version optional?

    One school that’s making a determined run for “paperless” status is West Hatch High School in the UK. There, Alan Richards, Information Systems Manager, and his team have put the technology to work in a way that saves costs and improves efficiency right now, and opens up even more possibilities for the future.
    The key is to transform paper forms into truly interactive documents on the school’s SharePoint Learning Gateway. The starting point was to tackle the extensive paperwork supporting the school’s Academic Review Days.
    There are two Academic Review Days each year, for which staff collaboratively prepare two documents for each student– a Progress Review, and a Target Setting Document. Both are two pages long which makes four pages, twice a year, for each of 1,300 students. So moving the whole process online saves printing 10,400 sheets of paper each year.
    How it works is that the Target Setting document for each student is agreed by teachers, parents and students individually at the academic review day meetings. Previously a paper exercise, it’s now done on an interactive InfoPath form on SharePoint. Each student, with their parents and a teacher, works on a laptop to come up with a set of targets. When they’re all agreed, the teacher presses “submit” and the final version goes off by email to the parents and to the student.

    You don’t have to go all the way that Alan’s done at West Hatch. If you just simply emailed a copy of the finished report to parents when you send the paper copy home, you are starting the process of changing. Let’s face it, you’ve already got the electronic copy, and parents will value being able to have it electronically to share with relatives. So why not? (It’s a ten second operation to hit ‘Save to PDF’ in Word 2010, and most report-writing software already produces a finished email-able format).

    There’s a further benefit. As you start collecting up-to-date parental email addresses, you’ll also have them handy for every time you’re tempted to send out other pieces of paper.

    If you want to learn more about Alan’s Paperless School project, then you can read more on his Edutechnow blog, and I’d highly recommend listening to the recording of his Cost Cutting using SharePoint webinar.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - change printer defaults


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…
    In some schools it’s the students that use too much paper. They’re doing a project, and then they want to print out a draft of their work (or even a draft of the first paragraph of their work), to see what it will look like. And if they are doing a long-term project, they print out a copy every week to see how they are going. Cutting this out (or reducing it significantly) will make a big difference.

    Change the default printer on student laptops to not be a printer

    So how about letting your students print, but instead of printing onto paper they print onto an electronic document, either as a PDF, XPS or a OneNote document - so they still see the ‘finished’ work, and they can even keep an archive of each stage of the process without stacks of paper. This is especially useful where a student is creating digital work that’s going to be assessed.

    • If your students print to a OneNote document, then it’ll automatically put it into their OneNote document set, and will store it along with all of their other work, revision notes etc. And add a new set of pages next time they print it.
    • If they print to a PDF or XPS document, they could then store this on their own eportfolio, or their SharePoint MySite, USB stick, laptop or network drive.

    In the UK, at Bristnall Hall Technology College in Sandwell, ICT and Network Manager Phillip Wakeman forecast a saving of £25,000 from posting documents on SharePoint, and he has his eye particularly on the printing demands made by ICT exam students.

      Students doing ICT coursework habitually print off the whole lot – and it could be 200 pages for each student – a few times each year. With 200 students in each year group, the amount of printing is enormous.  

    The first step for this is to change the default printer for your users.

    • Print to XPS (a format that locks the file, and allows you to see if any editing has subsequently happened) is standard within Windows 7
    • Print to OneNote is available when you have Office 2007 or 2010 installed
    • Print to PDF needs an extra driver or software application (although ‘Save as PDF is built into Office 2010)

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - hide the printers


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    Make printing more difficult

    When I first started work, printers were only just making an appearance and they were noisy, slow and produced very low quality print. I remember the day that I used the first laser print was magical - so quiet, so fast and so very professional. In those days the printers were plugged into the back of the network server, and a whole office of full of staff used to print to a single printer.

    Then inkjets arrived, and prices of printers started to plummet (but not the price of ink, of course) and what happened then was a huge wave of printers arriving in offices. Suddenly everybody needed their own printer. It didn’t take long for the cost of that to hit - and the realisation that buying a printer cost peanuts, but buying the ink was a massive ongoing cost. (And that’s also about the same time that everybody talked about ‘the paperless office’).

    Although many institutions in education have now switched back to central networked printers (or MFDs - multi-function-devices), if you haven’t yet made printing less convenient for your users, then take action to do it. If you switch printing to a central printer, with a smart card to start the printing process (sometimes called follow-me printing), you’ll cut down on the amount of paper you are using - even if it’s only reducing the number of times people print a document, and then forget to collect it from the printer.

    And if people have to leave their desk to get a printout, they will think twice about printing.

    This may seem like a facile statement, but it’s very true. One school I worked with discovered they had 104 printers - and only 102 staff. People in the same office were unwilling to share a single printer because they didn’t want to have to move to collect their printout. And some staff had both a laser and an inkjet printer.

    At Twynham School they’ve tackled the printing process itself – putting in departmental quotas and building ‘stop and think’ warnings into the machines for large print runs.

    How much paper does centralised follow-me printing save?

    Typically, articles which talk about centralising printers quote 10-15% savings - a figure which I agree with based on first-hand experience. Although it won’t be the same for everybody, it should help you to work out how much paper you can save. And, if you manage to switch staff and students away from printing on inkjets, you’ll save a more significant amount in ink - because it can cost up to 6x as much to print on an inkjet as on a central laser printer. So you’ll save more money, not just paper.

    And with centralised printing, you can easily produce reports for departments or individuals, raising awareness of printer use. Which will also help reduce printing.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - send your lesson notes home electronically


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    Send homework assignments electronically

    You know that your students now have enough electronic devices in their pockets to sink a Sydney Harbour ferry - so how about using that as an excuse to cut the cord on paper-based homework assignments? If you’re a teacher using OneNote, then it’s one very small step to share your OneNote documents (eg homework assignments, tests, lesson plans or revision materials) with your students on the web - and because OneNote is also on the web, on the Windows Phone, and available as apps on iPhone and iPad, it means that your students can access it whether they are at home or on the bus home from school.

    I wrote an example scenario last month of how teachers and students could use OneNote to remove the need for paper. Here’s an extract:


    The teacher can then share the OneNote notebook with their students, for them to use afterwards

    • If they do this in SkyDrive, they can just set the default for all of a particular notebook to be shared, and keep all their lesson materials in that notebook
    • If they don’t want students to see next week’s lesson, they can set a password on each new lesson page as they start to create it, and then remove it when they teach that lesson - meaning that it’s closed to students all the time they are creating it and until they want it to be available

    The teacher can also publish the homework assignments on the OneNote as well

    • Using the password trick above they can ensure students do see the assignments until it’s the right time
    • They can also set groups in the class differentiated assignments by creating multiple homework pages - and give each group a different password to get to their assignment page

    Students can access their assignments and lesson notes wherever they are

    • The super-keen ones can access it on their iPhones and Windows Phones on the way home on the bus/train (how cool would it be to get your homework sorted before you’ve even reached home?)
    • At home they could access it on their iPad (or more likely, on Dad’s iPad), or their home PC or school laptop with Office installed, or over the web on any computer using Office Web Apps on SkyDrive
    • If they don’t have internet access at home (eg they are one of the 6% of school students without home Internet access) they can use their school laptop with OneNote offline - they just need to sync their laptop before they leave school - eg in the lesson - and then they have all the files available at home, including any embedded videos and graphics

    How easy is it to share a OneNote notebook with students?

    OneNote sharing screenshot

    Just pop into the FILE menu in OneNote and click the Share option. That’ll sync your OneNote to your Skydrive (the free 25GB storage folder on the web). And then you can either set it to be shared publically, or just with your students (to do that you’ll need to list the email addresses of the students). And you can either allow them read-only, or give them the option to edit the files.

    That’s it. Now your students can either access it over the web, or use OneNote installed on their phone to read their homework assignments.

    And another trip to the printer or photocopier saved.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - updating your room booking system


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    I promised a month’s worth of ideas to help with cutting out paper use in your school/TAFE/university, so that you could have an institutional New Year’s Resolution. So here’s the first idea from my colleague James Marshall on his UK LIve@edu blog:

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could get rid of that pile of paper/book/binder, that holds all the bookings for a particular room or piece of equipment?

    Well, if you get smart with your email system you can by using resource mailboxes to handle room and resource bookings.

    There are two types of resource mailbox: room, and equipment. By creating them for your users, you allow them to book meetings and events electronically rather than writing their name down on a paper diary, or having to go and pester the secretary every time you want the main auditorium/hall, or an IT suite for a project.

    It helps because it:

    • Reduces amount of paper used
    • Allows people to see if the room/resource is available immediately
    • Speeds up the booking process
    • Allows people to make bookings wherever they are, as long as they can access the Internet
    • Bookings can be restricted, moderated, and denied by rules, or by a nominated individual

    James gave out three tips for success, and having used resource scheduling for years, I completely agree with these from a user’s perspective:

    • When naming rooms pick a convention and stick to it: Give your users an easy time by making it clear what each room has, for example a room called M1 that can seat 35, has audio, video, interactive whiteboard and black & white printing facilities might be listed as “M1 (35) A/V, IWB, B&W”. Use this convention with all your rooms and people will see at a glance the important details.
    • Ditch the paper today: Once you’ve created the mailboxes run a couple of light training sessions, or distribute a one-page guide on how to use them and then get rid of the paper straight away. Force your staff and students to change their ways, otherwise you’ll end up with a mix of paper/electronic booking and this can lead to confusion.
    • Don’t allow block bookings: I know what you’re thinking – by doing this some clever person will book a room every week, all year, even if they don’t need it. Use some of the features of the resource mailboxes to restrict the number of consecutive bookings someone can make to prevent them from hogging.

    How do you create resource mailboxes for rooms or resources?

    Creating these mailboxes is really easy – there are some great guides online that talk about exactly how to do it, so rather than cover that here, take a look at the help info for whichever mail service you are using - Exchange and Outlook onsite, or either of our education mail services in the Cloud - Live@edu or Office 365:

    Although I’ve given this as a tip to help with Cutting out Paper, it’s actually even more valuable as a time-saving tip - once everybody has got used to it, they’ll be surprised they ever had to do this manually with pen and paper.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting paper use in Education - Paperless January


    Cutting out paper icon

    Have you made any New Year resolutions yet? Or more to the point, has your institution? Because for all of our personal commitments (lose weight, drink less, exercise more) there are some things that can only change if everybody in an organisation tries to do tackle them. So here’s my contribution to a New Year’s resolution for education IT people: Cutting out Paper

    I’ve noticed that Australian education institutions seem to have a never-ending affair with paper, both inside and outside of the school. Paper forms for everything, lots of paper-based notices and newsletters, photocopies of assignments and books, and lots and lots of printer and photocopier paper arriving regularly. So I’m going to offer a new tip every weekday of January, to help you in cutting out paper use (or, at the very least, reducing the amount of paper whizzing around your school/college/university). A 10% reduction for your institution would probably mean hundreds of thousands of sheets less, so there’s a bunch of money saving that can happen to.

    My oft-repeated example is that a typical high school in the UK uses 2 million sheets of paper a year, and the Australian examples I’ve come across so far are way higher. So the potential savings are much bigger too.

    Keep an eye out for the ‘Cutting out Paper’ icon all month…

    Learn MoreFind more 'Cutting Out Paper' blog posts

  • Education

    Most popular Education blog posts of 2011


    Screen iconI arrived in Australia at the end of January 2011, and setup this Education blog on the first day of the new school year. I aimed to pop up a blog post every working day, with two goals:

    • Help you discover useful info on ICT, Education and Microsoft’s role in it
    • Help me to learn more about the Australian Education marketplace

    Well, after writing 295 blog posts in a year, I can definitely say I’ve learnt a huge amount about the Australian Education marketplace. I can’t count the statistical/research/consultancy reports I’ve read, the people I’ve had the chance to talk to whilst preparing to write something, and the news stories and press announcements I’ve had to dig into and behind to get to the core facts. It’s been a great way of understanding the Australian education system.

    So here, out of almost 300 posts, are the most popular blog posts on this Education blog:

    The most popular Education Blog posts of 2011

    This was the easiest list to compile - what was more difficult was trying to understand why each of these individually became popular education blog posts.

    1. Something for the weekend - free eBooks from Microsoft Press
      A list of free Microsoft eBooks on subjects including Windows Phone, SQL Server 2008 R2 and Office 2010
      This blog post from March shot to popularity when it went viral through Facebook, and then hit the front page of LinkedIn
    2. 21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020
      A commentary on Shelly Blake-Plock’s two-year-old list of potentially obsolete things in education
      I only wrote this in November, but it hit the number 2 spot after going viral on Twitter, as well as becoming the subject of an extended discussion on the University of the West Indies online learning system!
    3. Ten of the best - SharePoint School websites
      My subjective list of the sites I believe are the best school websites built on SharePoint
      This one hit the top ten partly because it gets a lot of traffic from people searching for ‘best school websites’ and ‘best SharePoint sites’
    4. Windows 7 SP1 Releases
      A straight news item about the release of the SP1 for Windows 7
      Hit the big-time because for a short period it turned out to be the number one search result for Windows 7 SP1 in Google
    5. Business Intelligence for Universities
      A list of case studies of universities saving money with the CALUMO BI system
    6. One in six schools block Wikipedia
      One snippet from a survey in Australia, and suddenly a top-ten blog post!
      This got a lot of interest in the worldwide Wikipedia community, many asking ‘Why would a school block Wikipedia?’. Also the most commented blog post.
    7. Moving to the Cloud - the Microsoft experience
      Case studies of how we’ve moved business critical applications to the cloud - and what we’ve learned along the way
    8. Ten of the best - Australian education websites built on SharePoint
      Yup, one of my subjective lists again
    9. Ready-made IT user documentation
      A whole bunch of user support teams around education have found these handy starting points for their own user documentation
    10. A pile of Microsoft technical e-books now free for Kindle and iPad
      This is linked to the Number 1 spot - but this time with additional formats for Kindle.
      Somehow the use of ‘free’ ‘microsoft’ ‘e-books’ ‘Kindle’ and ‘iPad’ seemed to act like catnip for people searching on Google

    And just to re-assure you, I still plan to keep on sharing - and learning - in 2012 too!

  • Education

    26 free apps for teachers


    I’ve often blogged about individual free downloads on this blog. But how about one massive list of free apps for teachers from Microsoft? It’s not a complete list of everything, but it captures the key things that you might want to download and install on your teachers’ and students’ laptops in the new term.

    The list comes courtesy of the TeachTec site, created by colleagues in the US, which also provides a handy way to find helpful websites, white papers etc, and can be searched by specific subject area or education level - in total they’ve scooped up 102 resources into one place.

    Don’t have time to try them all? My all-time favourites in this list are Windows Live Writer, ZoomIt and AutoCollage


    With just a few clicks your students can automatically create beautiful photo collages using nothing more than images from their phone, camera or online photos.

    Photo collages celebrate important events and themes in our lives. Pick a folder, press a button, and in a few minutes AutoCollage presents you with a unique memento to print or email to your family and friends.

    Chemistry Add-in for Word

    In chemistry, not only is there a specific language, but a specific language with specific symbols and conventions -  Chemistry add-in for word can be the translator.

    The Chemistry Add-in for Word makes it easier to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas, and 2-D depictions, within Microsoft Office Word. Additionally, it enables the creation of inline “chemical zones,” the rendering of print-ready visual depictions of chemical structures, and the ability to store and expose chemical information in a semantically rich manner.

    Creative Commons add-in for Office

    Share your lesson plans or curriculum with Creative Commons licenses embedded into your doc, ppt, xls files.

    Empowering Microsoft Office users to express their intentions through Creative Commons licenses is another way Microsoft enables users around the world to exercise their creative freedom while being clear about the rights granted to users of a creative work. In the past, it has not always been easy or obvious to understand the intentions of some authors or artists regarding distribution or use of their intellectual creations. This is a great way to build the habits of sharing and collaboration.

    HD View

    Digital Arts Educators rejoice! Put your megapixels to work, use HD View to stitch large panoramic photos together to share online.

    HD View is the camera for the web. Its goal is to create the best picture given (a) a source with high resolution, arbitrary dynamic range, any field of view and colour gamut; (b) the user’s interaction; and (c) the display being used.

    Interactive Classroom

    1:1 classroom interaction just got easier. With OneNote and PowerPoint deliver interactive lessons using this powerful add-in for Office.

    Works with Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, Microsoft OneNote 2010, and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007. This add-in connects a teacher’s PowerPoint presentation to students’ OneNote notebooks. During a presentation, teachers can: Poll students with multiple choice, true/false, or yes/no questions. Distribute the lesson to students with OneNote Include real-time ink and text annotations. Students can answer and respond through their individual OneNote notebooks, hand-held clickers, or computers, and the results display in the presentation. Students also get consolidated notes that match those of the instructor so they can keep track of what they need to learn.


    Create games for Xbox or the PC, learn visual programming, teach creativity, problem solving or storytelling, no programing experience needed!

    Kodu is a visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox too, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input.

    Learning Essentials

    Office XP-2010 education templates, tutorials, and more with this add-in to Office. Create a randomised test in 30 seconds or less using Learning Essentials.

    Sometimes the hardest part about completing a project is getting started. Learning Essentials provides you with assignment-specific guidance in Microsoft Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Creative projects, science activities, data collection, essays and reports, research and brainstorming, presentations – the list goes on. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a curriculum area not addressed by Learning Essentials and Microsoft Office. Learning Essentials adds value right across the curriculum, including key subjects such as English, Maths, Science, Foreign Languages and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

    Math Add-in for Word and OneNote

    Question: How do you create a 3D graph of an Oblate Spheroid equation? Answer: Use the Math add-in for Word and OneNote to solve, plot and graph equations.

    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.

    Math Worksheet Generator

    Math educators need love too, MWG creates 1-1000 equations from a single sample equation you enter. Did I mention it also generates an 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. We tack on an answer sheet too.

    Microsoft Math 4.0

    The average cost of a graphing calculator is $50, this one is free and works on your PC.

    From basic math to precalculus, Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 can help you visualize and see mathematical concepts as you’ve never seen them before. This free downloadable tool 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 recognize hand-written problems.

    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.

    Mouse Mischief

    25 Mice+PowerPoint = Interactive classroom lessons.

    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.

    Office Add-in for Moodle

    Do you want to find the easiest way to upload documents to Moodle? This Office add-in integrates with your Moodle deployment for easy uploads and access.

    Uploading files to Moodle has never been easier. The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 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 OAM, 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.

    Photo Story 3

    Everyone remembers Photo Story from the Windows XP days, well guess what educators it's back and working with Windows 7!

    Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or your smartphone!


    Photostitching x100, stop trying to make sense out of random photos on school field trips, turn that trip into a 360 experience.

    Photosynth takes your photos, mashes them together and recreates a 3D scene out of them that anyone can view and move around in. Different than static photos and video, Photosynth allows you to explore details of places, objects, and events unlike any other media. You can’t stop video, move around and zoom in to check out the smallest details, but with Photosynth you can. And you can’t look at a photo gallery and immediately see the spatial relation between the photos, but with Photosynth you can!


    Move between PowerPoint slides in a non-linear way. Don't quite understand what I mean? Download and find out that PowerPoint just got cool.

    pptPlex uses Plex technology to give you the power to zoom in and out of slide sections and move directly between slides that are not sequential in your presentation. Watch the videos below to see how pptPlex can help you organize and present information in a non-linear fashion. Test drive pptPlex and wow your audience with your next presentation.

    Ribbon Hero 2

    Do you remember Clippy, you know the paperclip character in old versions of Office, he's back, but with new ways for your students to learn.

    What happens when Office and Xbox intermingle? Yes, we turned Office into a game! If you're going to spend time immersed in the inner workings of Office, by golly it should be fun. In Ribbon Hero 2, the player will hop on board Clippy's stolen time machine and explore different time periods. With each time period, they get to explore a new game board with challenges they must complete to get to the next level. Each challenge takes the player into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote to complete a task. Discover new Office features by actually using them, with a hint button to fall back on in case you get stuck. Race for a high score with colleagues, classmates and friends, or even put your score on your resume to show off your Office skills!

    Search Commands

    It would be nice if you could just type "mail merge" on the Office Ribbon and all mail merge options would appear, now you can.

    Want more command over your Office applications? Search Commands offers a way to search for commands in your own words to get to your tasks more quickly.


    Is it possible to teach your class how to sing? Yes. Is it possible to get them to sing well? Maybe. Songsmith is a good start.

    Ever sing in the car? Maybe in the shower? You know who you are. Admit it, you like to sing, and you like music. Ever thought of writing your own music? Most people never get a chance to try... but we want to give everyone a piece of the songwriting experience, so we’ve developed Songsmith, an application that lets you create a complete song just by singing!

    Windows Live Mesh

    Synchronize folders between multiple devices, including Macs.

    Access the stuff on your computers from almost anywhere. With Windows Live Mesh and the Devices website, you can finally stop emailing files to yourself, carrying them around on a USB drive, or worrying whether the version you have with you is the latest.

    Windows Live Messenger

    Chat with Facebook friends, on your phone or int he browser, Messenger keeps you connected.

    The best way to stay in touch with your friends. Share photos and videos while you chat. Video chat in high definition or send a video message to a friend. And connect your social networks to see important updates in one place—Messenger.

    Windows Live Movie Maker

    Download the latest version of Windows Movie Maker and learn how to share your new videos online for free.

    With Windows Live Movie Maker, you can quickly turn your photos and videos into polished movies. Add special effects, transitions, sound, and captions to help tell your story. And sharing with friends and family is easy—whether on the web, a computer, TV, mobile device, or a DVD.

    Windows Live Photo Gallery

    Share photos in your 25GB of storage online for free and faster than you can say online photo albums accessible from my smartphone.

    Import photos from your camera, organize them into albums, and edit them so they look their best. Use powerful photo tools to create stunning panoramas, movies, slide shows, and more. When you're ready to share, publish your photos and videos to your favourite websites like Facebook and Flickr directly from Photo Gallery.

    Windows Live Writer

    Are you an aspiring blogger? What about your students, with this free tool you can teach your students how to post directly to Wordpress or your favourite blog site in minutes.

    Windows Live Writer makes it easy for anyone to tell stories like a professional blogger. You can create beautiful blog posts, and see what they'll look like online before you publish them to your blog. Plus, you can publish your posts to any of your favourite blog service providers

    WorldWide Telescope

    If you could travel the stars where would you go? Let your students decide which planet they want to visit first using this online interactive planetarium.

    WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky.


    Zoom to an area on the screen during your big presentation, point out where to click in that application, and also set a timer on a blank screen with one key click (brilliant for the “You have 5 minutes to…" times.

    ZoomIt is a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image. Created by Mark Russinovich

  • Education

    A hint of immersive learning for the future? Behind the doors of Building 99


    At the Microsoft campus in Redmond, every building has a number. It makes it easier to find your way around the 100+ buildings that teams work in. In one of those, Building 99, you’ll find part of the Microsoft Research team - who get to experiment on the bleeding edge of technology. Lots of their research takes place behind closed doors, but whenever we get a chance to peak inside to see what’s going on, there’s always a surprise. A team from The Verge, an online tech news site, were there recently, and handily took along a camera crew:

    What they found was research into new user interfaces, using some of the capabilities of Kinect. After I watched this, it made me wonder what this technology will be used to enable in the classroom. As learning changes, and students have access to more and more information sources outside of the traditional set of teachers and textbooks, how will this kind of technology be used to create immersive learning experiences? How feasible is it going to be to fully immerse a student in the Gallipoli campaign and help them to learn from doing, rather than just reading and watching? People have talked about immersive learning for a long time - but a technology rich, immersive classroom to match some of the best high-funded museum experiences has been an exception.

    When you can take a $50,000 sensor device and swap it for a $150 consumer product in the form of Kinect, I think the breakthrough may be just around the corner.

  • Education

    Publishing accessible learning resources - more support in Office


    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

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