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

  • Education

    Using Kinect in the classroom for music teaching


    Ask the Music TeacherGareth Ritter, who’s a music teacher from Wales, was one of the teachers who took part in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum, in Washington last month. When I met Gareth last year he was talking about the work that he’d been doing with his students, weaving technology throughout his teaching in order to engage students in their learning. Given his enthusiasm, it didn’t surprise me to see that he was a finalist for the Awards at the forum, and I was pleased to find a video recorded by a colleague at the event, where he talked about what his students had been doing - creating tracks, recording their own CDs, and ultimately getting signed by a record label. They recorded a series of YouTube tutorials that have been watched over 25,000 times and continuing to grow.

    imageI’d recommend taking a look at Gareth’s website - Ask the Music Teacher - where you can find the tutorials, his teaching blog and an audio showcase of the students’ work. The individual tracks are well worth a listen, and make a great benchmark - and you can download the whole CD free too.

  • Education

    Snippet - Mapping international students in higher education


    There's a great map on The Australian newspaper's website, which is a map, an infographic, and a good source of data - all in one. Basically, it's a clickable data display of the sources and destinations of international students, so that you can see which countries send most university students abroad - and where they go to. And then, within Australia, you can see detail on where the students go, by university. And the revenue for each university.

    A brilliant resource, as well as a great idea for business intelligence dashboards:

    This snippet from: The Australian Student Migration Map




    Learn MorePlay with the original full map

  • Education

    Snippet - Retiring academics create a problem in Higher Education


    I’ve been collecting interesting snippets (not quite full blog posts) on my Posterous space for a few months. But I thought I’d change the habit and share them on the blog instead. Mainly they comprise an interesting quote and link to an article worth reading, with a short comment to go with it. Some of them are slightly off topic…

    I've recently written a few bits about the crisis around the corner in terms of retiring teachers - with many due to retire in the next decade, and not enough joining the profession to replace them. But I'd completely missed the fact that exactly the same crisis faces higher education - with a wave of retiring academics, and increasing challenges of recruiting replacements. So whatever level of education you look at, the challenge ahead is having enough people in front of students, leading their learning.

    This snippet from: Professor Steven Schwartz Vice-Chancellor's Blog


    Universities, however, live in the land of reality and as such their thinking about the future must take into account what is happening to their most prized assets, their academics. Inexorably, inevitably, they are getting older. And while so is everyone else, ageing academics – already older than the average Australian worker – present higher education with some unique challenges.

    According to Professor Graeme Hugo of the National Centre for Social Application of Geographic Information Systems, the high proportion of academics who will be retiring over the next 15 years “confronts the sector with a recruitment challenge”.


    Learn MoreRead the original full story

  • Education

    OneNote on iPad and iPod - how to use it with the web and PC version for teaching and learning


    Teacher iconEarlier today I wrote about the release of OneNote for iPad and iPod, and I promised I’d describe a scenario of using it in teaching and learning. I’ve tried to describe how it can be used by a teacher to make their teaching easier, share more information with their students, and support out of school learning - as well as potentially reduce the mountain of paper that seems a regular feature of my children’s school backpacks!

    Here’s my simple scenario:

    • The teacher uses OneNote to prepare a lesson plan
      • As they collect information from different sources, and web pages, OneNote automatically adds the source info for later reference
      • The teacher can add graphics & diagrams from other sources, or draw their own diagrams, as well as annotate graphics
      • Videos can be embedded, or linked, for use in the lesson
      • If the teacher wants to use a PowerPoint presentation, that too can be embedded, so that everything the teacher needs is in one place
    • The lesson is then delivered using OneNote
      • The teacher can use the OneNote notebook as either a source of info and prompt for them, or put it up onto a projector and use it to structure the whole lesson.
      • If there’s an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, by using OneNote the teacher can also annotate, draw diagrams etc, as they go along on the whiteboard, and this is then saved in the OneNote notebook automatically
      • You can even use OneNote to make a recording of the whole lesson, so that the students can go back and listen to or watch the whole lesson or the particular parts that they need to revise!
    • 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
    • There are plenty of other things that could be done too - like asking students to submit their assignments through a shared OneNote notebook (and you can use the same password protection trick to keep students from seeing others’ work) and allowing the teacher to mark the work online, make comments, record commentary etc


    Your students and teachers can download OneNote for iPad and iPod from the iTunes store, and you’re already likely to have OneNote on your school computers (and if you haven’t it’s time to install it Smile)

    Learn MoreFind all the OneNote info on this blog
    Find out more about OneNote for iPad and iPod

  • Education

    OneNote on iPad just released - with an updated OneNote for iPod app too


    OneNote logoOneNote has been described as one of Microsoft’s best kept secrets in education, because it’s a tool that most teachers and students find incredibly useful…once they’ve seen it. The challenge is that many, many people haven’t used it simply because they didn’t know it existed - either because nobody’s shown it to them, or because their IT team didn’t install it on their computer (despite the fact that virtually every version of Office has included OneNote for quite some time). I’d be pretty confident that most education customers have licences for OneNote already, and it’s also been included with Office Home & Student since Office 2007 came out. And now we have OneNote for iPad too!

    One of the clever things with OneNote is the way that you can sync files automatically between computers and between users - sharing OneNote notebooks between people is a simple click in the File menu. So it is great for sharing class notes, homework, lesson plans, quizzes and revision notes. For those teachers who’ve discovered OneNote, and discovered what it’s capable of, I’ve often seen a zealous enthusiasm that’s infectious!

    Earlier in 2011, we released a version of OneNote for the iPod, that allowed you to sync the text of your OneNote notebooks to your iPod and iPhone. It was a good way of sharing notes with students, or having a To-Do list or other notes shared across devices.

    OneNote for iPad and iPod released

    OneNote for iPad screenshotOvernight we’ve announced the availability of a new version of OneNote for iPad, and an updated version of OneNote for iPod and iPhone. So now you can have OneNote on your iOS devices, and have an application for notes and sharing that works across a range of devices:

    • Windows PCs
    • Macs (through the web version)
    • Windows Phone
    • iPhone
    • iPad
    • iPod
    • And via a web-browser with Office Web Apps on other devices

    And by using your free 25GB of SkyDrive storage (if you haven’t already got one, or haven’t had it through your Live@edu account, then you can just sign up for one online) you can sync your notes across all the different versions. And you can also choose to share your files with other people  - whether that’s just a small group of colleagues, or a group of students, or just published online for anybody to see.

    Whereas the first version of OneNote on iPod was completely free, as more features have been added the model has changed a little bit, with a free entry-level product, and then an option to buy as you extend its use (what’s known in the software world as the freemium model). This means that you can use up to 500 notes, and then upgrade to the full version as you use it more. (And if you don’t want to upgrade to the unlimited version you can still view and sync notebooks to your iPad/iPod/iPhone, but can’t credit new ones or edit existing ones). This means that as a teacher, you could share classroom notes, homework, revision materials and lesson plans with your students without them having to pay for OneNote for their iPad/iPod unless they were going to be editing lots of notebooks. They would only need to buy it if they wanted to use it for themselves for editing notebooks.

    OneNote for iPad and iPod

    So how could you use OneNote on iPad, iPod, the web and on your PC for teaching and learning?

    Give me half an hour, and I’m going to write up a description of Here's an idea of how this could be used by a teacher to make their teaching easier, share more information with their students, and support out of school learning.

    In the meantime, go and download the app!

    Learn MoreDownload OneNote for iPad and iPod now

  • Education

    Remote teaching for blind students


    After I wrote about the use of Microsoft Lync at Vicdeaf, where they are using the system to improve communications between deaf colleagues, I’ve had a few conversations with customers about different ways that Lync can help to improve the learning experience for students - especially those with accessibility needs.

    If you need it, here’s a quick summary of some of the things that Lync can do: instant messaging, video calling, telephone replacement, video conferencing between multiple users, audio conferencing, screen sharing, audio & video capture, and whiteboard sharing. So in an education context it can be used for things like quick chats between students and teachers, or remote lesson delivery, or connecting groups of students to collaborate in real-time on a project. As I have discovered, with a wireless bluetooth headset, it can allow you to fully participate in a conference call, whilst making a cup of coffee Winking smile

    I’ve just finished reading a case study on the Microsoft PressPass site which gives a good insight into the kind of tough educational challenges that it can help with. In Washington State they are using it at the Washington State School for the Blind to allow teachers based in other areas to teach and support students.

    Washington State School for the Blind

    Teacher Robin Lowell, using a large format display to teach students remotelyThe case study is of students who are taking an algebra class and where the teacher is located 240 km away. In many ways the class is delivered exactly like a normal lesson - with the teacher able to see the students, and the students able to act exactly the same way that they would if the teacher was in the classroom with them - for example, raising their hands to ask a question. As well as a webcam and large display at the front of the classroom, students have their own laptops along with other accessibility features they might need, such as screen readers or braille displays. And the features of Lync - such as screen sharing, virtual whiteboard and chat windows - can then supplement these resources.

    The result is a classroom that works, even though the teacher and the students don’t need to be together. And it doesn’t require any special video conferencing rooms or equipment - it can work with existing webcams (earlier today, I joined a virtual meeting using the built-in webcam on my laptop, with groups of colleagues who were in four different places).

    As Chris, a visually impaired student in the algebra class, said:

      It makes it easier that if we have problem, we can talk to Miss Lo. And if I get snowed in at home in Spokane, with Lync I wouldn’t miss my class!  

    Given the pressing need for creative ways to manage the future teacher shortages in Australia, and the need to enable specialist teaching for rural schools, then I think we're going to see increasing demand for ad-hoc conferencing capabilities, which can be controlled by teachers and students, rather than the bigger formal video conferencing systems and dedicated suites that we've been seeing up until now. If a teacher can just start a group teaching session from wherever they are, without having to book facilities in advance, then it's more likely to give them a learning environment that is adaptive and responsive to students' needs.

    Learn MoreRead the full case study on Lync's use for remote teaching for blind students

    You can read more about Lync’s accessibility features in this post on the Lync blog

  • Education

    Cost saving with ICT - some ideas to reduce school budget pressure


    eBook front coverTalking at the Association of School Business Administrators professional development conference in Queensland today, I mentioned the ‘Saving Money with ICT’ eBook which I wrote when I was in the UK. Although it’s nearly a year old, the information within it is still relevant today to anybody who’s having to think hard about school budget management. It was written with one really simple goal in mind: To help the ICT team in school to explain to the leadership team how they can help out the rest of the school in a climate of cost saving.

    There hasn’t appeared to be the same pressure on school budgets here in Australia as there was in the UK, but it’s a subject that’s been coming up more frequently recently - either because of the top-down budgets being under pressure from the state governments, or because of a need to release funding for new innovation projects. Although I haven’t written an Australian version of this ebook, I do believe that many of the case studies - and the figures - have a relevance here too.

    To make a long list easier to consumer, the cost saving ideas are grouped into three strategies:

    image And the cost saving opportunities identified are across a school - not just your ICT budget, but also include the budgets for admin, energy, electricity, paper and photocopying.

    Even though you may need to translate some of the examples from the UK into our local context in the Australian context, I do believe that it will provide some helpful ideas and advice:

    Learn More

    Download the free “Saving Money with ICT” eBook (UK Edition)

  • Education

    Collaboration with Microsoft Office 365 - free ebook from MS Press in more formats


    The Microsoft Press team announced that their ebook on Office 365  is available as a free ebook in a range of new formats.

    Office 365 ebook coverThe chapters of the book are:

    1. What’s happening in the world of work
    2. Getting started with Office 365
    3. Administering an Office 365 Account
    4. What your team can do with Office 365
    5. Creating your team site with SharePoint online
    6. Posting, sharing and managing files
    7. Adding and managing workflows
    8. Working with Office 2010 Web Apps
    9. Going mobile with Office 365
    10. Email and organise with Office 365
    11. Talking it over with Microsoft Lync
    12. Designing your public website
    13. Integrating all parts of Office 365

    I especially enjoyed reading chapter 12 - Designing your public website. I’ve been writing about using SharePoint to create education websites recently (see ‘Ten of the Best - Australian education websites built on SharePoint’ ) and the idea of using the hosted Office 365 service to create a public website might well be something that’s really useful for smaller schools and colleges. It will mean that you can create a fully managed website, with ownership across a broad team, but without needing to buy lots of hardware or bandwidth, or maintain a complex webserver.

    There are three formats available:

    Free Office 365 ebook  in PDF format - for on screen reading

    Free Office 365 ebook in .mobi format - for Kindle readers

    Download the free Office 365 ebook in .epub format - for Sony readers

    * For nine other Microsoft Press ebooks free, then take a look at my earlier blog post

  • Education

    Is CRM in education any different to CRM in the voluntary sector?


    Magnifying glass iconOne of the things I’ve noticed is that although there are very specific requirements for CRM in education - student recruitment, grants management, parental communication etc - there are also many parallels to tasks done in other industries - room and facilities bookings, sales pipeline management, HR processes. So I’m always interested in what’s happening outside of education, and comparing it to the business of education.

    Yesterday, I read an article on about Lifeline, and their project to increase their call handling capacity. And the article wasn’t about physically handling the calls, but having the systems for the staff members to access and share information in their virtual contact centre. The key business driver for Lifeline was about increasing their capacity to take calls - jumping 50% to 700,000 calls per year.

    Although the article doesn’t go into much detail, it does mention the role of Dynamics CRM to support this, and the work to have a clear disaster recovery backup system.

    Although it’s not an education example, the challenges will be the same for universities with student recruitment changing - how do you cope with constantly growing customer contact, how do you manage their contact lifecycle and how do you ensure that a growing base of employees have access to the systems and information they need, wherever they are.

    Read the full story: Lifeline upgrades call centre, aims to increase capacity by 250,000 calls per year

    imageIf you're interested in finding out more, or are interested in using Dynamics CRM for a project in your institution, then you'd want to know that this project was done by Attain IT, who are a Dynamics partner in Sydney.

  • Education

    Australian School holiday dates - 2012-2013


    Icons_teacher_blueAn update on my previous blog post, to give you “Australian school holiday dates 2012”, with all of the term dates for each state in Australia. It’s a quick guide, if you are planning events or marketing activities with schools. As you’ll see all of the Australian school holiday dates don’t coincide, so you’ll find that you may be able to run an event in one state whilst all of the others are on holiday.

    Australian School Holidays 2012 - state by state


    Summer Holiday Ends

    Autumn Holidays Winter Holidays Spring Holidays

    Summer Holiday Starts



    26 Jan 2012

    6-20 April

    2-13 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    24 Dec 2012



    31 Jan

    2-13 April

    2-13 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    24 Dec



    20 Jan

    2-13 April

    25 Jun - 6 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    17 Dec



    31 Jan

    6-25 April

    7-23 July

    29 Sep-15  Oct

    19 Dec



    27 Jan

    6-13 April

    25 Jun-20 July

    1-5 Oct

    14 Dec



    27 Jan

    18-27 April

    2-13 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    17 Dec



    2 Feb

    16-27 April

    9-20 July

    1-12 Oct

    24 Dec



    14 Feb

    6-13 April

    4-15 June

    10-21 Sep

    20 Dec


    If you’re planning a national campaign, and want to work out when is a good time to schedule a mailing, webcast or other activity, then here’s a quick table. It’s the only dates when all Australian state schools are open:

    • 15 February - 30th March
    • 30th April - 23rd June
    • 23rd July - 21st Sept
    • 18th Oct - 11th Dec*
      * Private schools will close up to a week earlier
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