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

  • Education

    Windows Azure Platform Architect Workshop - Sydney 6-8 September

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    Classroom iconIf you’re a Microsoft partner and thinking about the move to the Cloud, then you may be interested in attending (or getting the right colleague to attend) the Windows Azure Platform Architect workshop, that is scheduled on the 6-8 September in Sydney. It’s an in-depth workshop that is designed to give you the information and skills needed to be able to support your customer Cloud scenarios.

    Some of the things to be considered when moving IT services to the cloud are:

    • What scenarios are good for the Cloud - and what might you want to leave on-premise?
    • How to assess - security, compliance, complexity, latency?
    • What are the questions which will help technical qualification?
    • How does an existing identity security model translate to the Cloud?

    The workshop is specifically designed for senior architects in Microsoft partners who are designing infrastructure services for enterprise-level customers, although it’s not specifically for education partners.

    Although there is a cost for the event (just over $140), the real investment is in the time and engagement involved in the workshop.

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Windows Azure Platform Architect workshop

  • Education

    How important is ICT to academic success - the majority of US parents say ‘Very’

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    Phi Delta Kappa - a US teachers professional association - use Gallup to carry out a poll of 1,000 Americans about their attitudes to education, teachers and related areas in the public schools system. There’s some interesting statistics in there (which made me wonder whether Australia is similar, or very unlike the US education system), as well as some hot political issues that are current in Australia too. For example, there’s a question about whether standardised test scores should be published for individual teachers (parents marginally in favour). You can read a summary of the survey here, and the full report here

    There is a specific section about ICT in education, which makes interesting reading. Here’s a couple of interesting things I found:

    ICT is very important to learning, but less so for ‘academic success’

    70% thought that is was very important ‘that all students have access to computer technology’, but only 52% thought that access to computer technology was very important ‘for ensuring student academic success’.
    They don’t explore the reasons for this - I wonder if it is a reflection of the disjoint between learning (often using technology) and the exam process (often pen and paper based)?
    See page 15, Table 17

    Which is better - a more effective teacher online, or a less effective teacher in the classroom?

    This was the question that the survey asked:

    “Suppose a school wants to offer a new class and is considering whether the class should be taught online or in person. Would it be best for the school to hire a more effective teacher who was only available to teach over the Internet or would it be better to use a less effective teacher who could teach the class in person?”

    I was really surprised by the result - almost evenly split:

    • More effective teacher online - 46%
    • Less effective teacher in person - 50%

    I feel there could be hours of debate about why parents answered this question in particular ways. But if you were considering talking about the use of video conferencing and online learning to support a wider curriculum, you’d know from this that half the room may not like the idea, whilst the other half would be focusing on the quality of the teacher on the other end of the video link or system.
    See page 16, Table 22

    Learn MoreFind out more, and download the full reports, here

  • Education

    A geeky sidenote on search engines

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    It’s Saturday, so let’s go with something off-topic for a break…

    cogsI’m always interested to see the readers of this blog that end up here because of a search engine. Hopefully, you’re much more interested in what I write than the back-end geekery, but over the last couple of months I’ve had some interesting conversations with customers and partners about blogging - how to blog, and why to blog - so here’s some info that might interest you if you’ve been involved in those conversations.

    What do people search for, when they end up on this blog?

    Here’s the top search terms that people use, that leads them to this blog:

    1. MIS Magazine
      Odd that it is the most frequent. I suspect it’s because I’ve quoted articles and linked to the magazine (and even more bizarrely, the blog shows up on the first page of a Google search for ‘MIS Magazine’)
    2. Office 365 Education
    3. Best SharePoint sites
    4. Best university sites
    5. Australian Partner Conference
    6. Free ebooks from Microsoft Press
    7. Microsoft Australia Partner Conference
    8. Office 365 for Education
    9. Ray Fleming blog
    10. SharePoint university
    11. Top university websites
    12. Best SharePoint websites 2011
    13. Best university websites 2011

    And here’s some of the more unusual searches, that also led people to the blog (spelling mistakes included):

    • Australia university electricity consumption
    • lerning platform
    • dfrewst
    • 100 graphic design brisbane
    • important of software
    • perfect student laptop
    • how to school sharepoint project
    • i like education comment
    • what to look for in a data centre
    • influences schools status has on education
    • cool sites for teachers
    • hidden data fees for kindle

    Please don’t ask for the explanation of these, as it amazes me! I guess it supports the view that a high percentage of searchers don’t find the info they want on their first click! And that for every ‘search engine optimisation expert’ there’s a non-optimised search engine user…

    How can you use this info? If you’re a blogger, then I’d suggest having a think about the search phrases people might use to find your site, and whether there are ways of making your content show up more often in people’s searches (which means, on the first page of a search engine)

  • Education

    SharePoint Governance and Lifecycle Management in education

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    As you’d expect, we run a massive internal SharePoint system at Microsoft. It contains 250,000 site collections and 36 terabytes of data - growing at the rate of 1 terabyte every three months (yup, that’s the equivalent of 300,000 extra 1MB documents every month). The impact of that growth was not just storage cost - it is also search speed and search relevance (if you’re searching a gazillion out-of-date documents, it makes it harder to find the one you really want).

    The Microsoft IT Team, who keep it all running, have implemented a SharePoint governance and lifecycle management system, to help meet the information standards for the business, as well as reduce cost and improve the search experience. And then written a great Technical Case Study to share their experiences. I thought it worth sharing because I know that education users of SharePoint are grappling with similar issues, as they develop SharePoint usage out from an IT department to institution-wide.

    Policies for SharePoint site lifecycle management

    There were four key policies implemented, which helped bring the system under better control:

    • Site classification. Sites must assign and maintain site information classification, information security classification, and ownership. Eg Team sites must have one full-time employee site owner and two administrators at all times.

    • Site lifecycle management of expired/abandoned sites. Sites expire one year after creation and must be renewed annually. Sites that have no activity over a period of six months are considered abandoned and are subject to decommission.

    • Site storage and quota management. Depending on the hosting environment, storage quota limits range from 2 gigabytes (GB) to 100 GB, depending on the type of sites and hosting options. SharePoint libraries and lists are not to exceed 5,000 items. Sites are backed up daily and recoverable up to 14 days.

    • Customization and server-side access. For most of the standard SharePoint-hosted services offerings, MSIT neither allows server-side access or server-side configuration changes by users, nor does it allow most third-party plug-ins, site customizations, new features, or additions.

    Information Security Classification tabsAlthough our IT environment is very different to an average education user, there is some really useful implementation advice in the IT Showcase case study - for example, in the way that we’ve tagged all SharePoint sites with an Information Classification - something that could be ideal for categorising sets of data in an education SharePoint system (see right).

    There’s also interesting insight into the way that sites are categorised for traffic - with ‘heavy hitters’ categorised when they reach more than 100,000 hits a day, or consuming more than 10GB of memory.

    Learn MoreRead the full Microsoft IT Showcase case study on SharePoint Site Governance and Lifecycle Management

  • Education

    Collaboration with Microsoft Office 365 - free ebook from MS Press

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    The Microsoft Press team have announced that their new book - Microsoft Office 365: Connect and Collaborate Virtually Anywhere, Anytime - is now available as a free ebook in PDF format.

    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

    One of the chapters I’m looking forward to reading is 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.

    Learn MoreDownload the free Office 365 ebook  in PDF (Right-Click and Save As...)

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

  • Education

    Case Study - Redlands School integrates Moodle and Live@edu

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    The official worldwide Microsoft education case studies of education customers are really useful ways of keeping in touch with what people are doing around the world. In recent months they have become much clearer in identifying specific details about improvements in learning or costs savings that education users have made through implementation of new technologies. And the nice thing for Australia is that some of the leading edge projects featured are in Australian institutions. Like the Redlands School Moodle/Live@edu case study recently published.

    image

    What Redlands did was to mix together a range of Microsoft and Open Source technologies to build a ‘strategic education platform’, combining cloud-based email and a school-based learning management system. For their email they are using the Live@edu service, and integrating that with their on-site Moodle learning management system. This was made possible through a plug-in that Microsoft developed. According to Christian Sellies the Director of ICT:

      At Redlands, students and staff use Moodle as an increasingly important resource in their online learning. One of the key reasons we chose Microsoft as our hosted mail provider was the availability of the plug-in for Moodle to bring the students’ Live@edu mailbox into their Moodle homepage. Since rolling out Live@Edu, we find that the majority of students access their mailbox through their Moodle lessons.  

    The benefit to the IT team at the school is that now spend less time managing servers and troubleshooting - and the school is now spending 50% less on new software licences, through the new licensing scheme that they are using (the EES scheme).

      Student email was the cornerstone of our planned online platform for learning. We wanted to create a portal that would allow students to access and upload work from home, collaborate with each other, communicate with the school and access everything they needed to learn effectively – anywhere, anytime.  

    The end result is that coordinators are using group email more extensively to keep various groups informed on school activities, events and requirements because of the mailing system’s improved standardisation. Many faculties have set up live forums for debate on different academic topics. Teachers are using email more to contact and update students, and students are using it to communicate with each other and to learn collaboratively – a trend the school wants to promote.

    Learn MoreRead the full Redlands School case study (or watch the video)

  • Education

    What is your online learning management system called?

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    Do you have a system that your staff and students use to manage learning online? Whilst there are common brand names - Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn etc - there doesn’t seem to be a common term to describe the system. Is it a Learning Management System? Or a Virtual Learning Environment? Or something completely different.

    If you’re from an Australian education institution, what is it you call your system thingy?

    Click below to vote (and to see how others have voted)

  • Education

    Queensland Department of Education and Training - Partners in Technology Briefing

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    I’ve just received an email from DEEDI (the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation) about an upcoming government briefing on the ICT strategy and procurement for the Queensland Department of Education and Training. If you’re doing business in Queensland education, then this might be of interest:


    Friday, 2 September 2011 – Partners in Technology Briefing –  Department of Education and Training

    The Information Industries Bureau has arranged for Department of Education and Training to deliver a presentation of their proposed ICT procurement schedules. This is an opportunity for ICT firms to hear first hand about the future use of ICT in these organisations.

    Participants will discover:

      • The organisations structure and purchasing procedures
      • Key agency personnel
      • Details of proposed ICT contracts and expected timeframes.

    DATE: Friday, 2 September 2011

    TIME: 8.30am to 9.30am

    COST: Free

    VENUE: Ground Floor, Rooms 1 & 2, 80 George Street, Brisbane

    Please click on this link to register your interest


    Has anybody any experiences of these briefings before? Do they represent a good investment of time?

  • Education

    What does the word ‘Learn’ mean to you?

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    In your head imagine a one minute video on the word ‘Teach’. Hmm, interesting…

    So how about changing to another angle. How about a one minute video on the word ‘Learn’? That’s exactly what STA Travel have done.

    Once you’ve watched it, have another go… Imagine a one minute video on the word ‘Teach’

    I wonder what a group of students would produce if they had this project?

    Learn MoreSee all three Rick Mereki videos - MOVE - LEARN - EAT

    My reflection? How many learning opportunities have I missed as I travelled the world!

  • Education

    Weekly technical webcasts - 15-20 August 2011

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    Webinar iconThis year we’re offering a series of live webcasts, led by a Microsoft subject matter expert, on a range of core Microsoft products. They are not specifically designed to focus on education - and attendees will be from a wide range of industries - but I wanted to highlight the opportunity for you to take part to get up to speed with leading edge technology changes.

    Each week I’ll highlight the webcasts coming up soon, and provide a more detailed overview, and give a list of future sessions that you can book into your diary. All of the webcasts are scheduled for 2-4PM AEST (Australia East Coast time). See ** below for more details on how the webcasts work

    This week’s webcasts

    Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named "Denali" AlwaysOn Series, Part 1:
    Introducing the Next Generation High Availability Solution

    In this session we talk about the new high availability solution that is being introduced in SQL Server code-named ‘Denali’. The session provides an overview of AlwaysOn and introduces the key new features and capabilities that will help businesses achieve the high availability SLA for mission critical applications. The session is the first part of a three-part series. See table below for parts 2 & 3

    16th August - Find out more, and register 

    Microsoft SharePoint Online Overview

    This informative and demo-filled session provides an overview of SharePoint Online, and as much detail as we can fit into 2 hours.

    16th August - Find out more, and register

    Sneak Peek at Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2012 Concepts

    The upcoming version of Service Manager 2010 R2 will deliver standardized, compliant, and automated IT as a Service.  Come to this session to see an early preview the all new Silverlight based SharePoint self-service portal, service catalog, service requests, release management, IT business intelligence, and many other improvements that are being added to Service Manager.

    19th August - Find out more, and register


    Future webcasts

    Date
    Title
    Register Here

    2 September

    Best Practices for Private Cloud Implementation

    Find out more, and register

    6 September

    Microsoft Exchange Online: Unified Messaging in Microsoft Office 365

    Find out more, and register

    7 September

    Inside Windows Azure, the Cloud Operating System

    Find out more, and register

    20 September

    Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named "Denali" AlwaysOn Series, Part 2: Building a Mission-Critical High Availability Solution Using AlwaysOn

    Find out more, and register

    20 September

    Microsoft Lync 2010: In the Cloud

    Find out more, and register

    23 September

    Understanding How Microsoft Virtualization Compares to VMware

    Find out more, and register

    27 September

    Microsoft Visual Studio Tips and Tricks

    Find out more, and register

    27 September

    Ten Must-Have Tools for Windows Azure

    Find out more, and register

    30 September

    Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012: Deployment and Infrastructure Technical Overview

    Find out more, and register

    4 October

    Microsoft Lync 2010: Setup, Deployment, Upgrade and Coexistence Scenarios

    Find out more, and register

    14 October

    Virtualization: State of the Union

    Find out more, and register

    18 October

    What's New in Manageability for Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named "Denali"

    Find out more, and register

    18 October

    Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Office 365: How to Set Up a Hybrid Deployment

    Find out more, and register

    21 October

    Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2012: Overview

    Find out more, and register

    25 October

    An IT Pro View of Windows Azure

    Find out more, and register

    28 October

    What Are the Bridges between Private and Public Cloud?

    Find out more, and register

    1 November

    Microsoft Office 365: Deployment Overview

    Find out more, and register

    8 November

    Upgrading to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server Code-Named "Denali": A Comprehensive Look

    Find out more, and register

    11 November

    Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012: What’s in It, and How It Enables the Building of Private Clouds and Federation to the Public Cloud

    Find out more, and register

    15 November

    Taking Office to the Cloud: Integrating Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows Azure

    Find out more, and register

    22 November

    Managing Windows Azure Applications

    Find out more, and register

    22 November

    Integrating Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

    Find out more, and register

    25 November

    Integrating the Microsoft System Center Stack for Process Compliance and Automation

    Find out more, and register

    29 November

    What’s New in Microsoft SQL Server Code-Named “Denali” for SQL Server Integration Services

    Find out more, and register

    6 December

    Microsoft Lync 2010: Audio, Video and Web Conferencing Architecture and Experience

    Find out more, and register

    ** By running them as webcasts, our aim is to allow you to get the latest news, without travel costs, or event fees. And with all of the advantages of being able to watch an online webcast whilst also being able to do other things if necessary.

    All of the free webcasts are two-hour long sessions, and combine technical presentations and live demonstrations. The level of the content is suitable for IT teams in schools, TAFEs and universities, as well as for pre-sales consultants and technical consultants working within Microsoft’s education partners. There are some which are much more specifically tailored for developers, and I’ll highlight those below.

    You’ll need to register in advance, and you’ll then receive a Calendar note as well as info on how to join the Live Meeting online. All of the webcasts are scheduled for 2-4PM AEST (Australia East Coast time)

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