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

  • Education

    Building Windows 8 apps–the Readify roadshow is heading to town


    Readify logoReadify, a Microsoft partner, are at the forefront of building Windows 8 apps, and when they won Microsoft's global award for Software Development Partner of the Year, it wasn't a surprise. Not only is it at the leading edge, but it makes sure it stays there by filling the team with Microsoft MVPs and VTSPs (specialists closely connected within the Microsoft business). Their client list of public sector customers includes  Queensland Department of Education and Training, St George School, The Queensland Department of Child Safety,the Victorian Electoral Commission, the Australia Post, and child welfare services provider Barnardos.

    So when Readify decide to run a roadshow on developing modern apps for modern processes, and the charge is barely enough to cover the cost of breakfast, it struck me that education customers and partners should be interested, especially as we're starting to see the first wave of Windows 8 apps developed by and for education institutions.

    So here's the details:


    Microsoft & Readify present: Modern Apps, Modern Processes

    The IT world is in the throes of yet another seismic shift, this time very much led by the consumer. It has led to the rise of mobile and tablet computing, cloud based applications, corporations adopting the 'bring your own hardware' approach, touch based interfaces and the demand by users for rapid, if not continual updates to the applications and services they consume.

    This consumer led revolution isn't just impacting developers writing software for the consumer market, it is also affecting the expectations and attitudes of the corporate market and raising the bar for what people are expecting from their internal systems.

    In such a world the tools and approaches needed to develop modern applications also need to change.

    With the launch of Visual Studio 2012, Microsoft is providing tooling that targets the new Windows 8 platform and HTML5 based web applications in addition to providing support for existing development platforms.
    Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 also delivers comprehensive tooling for a modern agile application lifecycle, supporting continual delivery and improvement.

    Join us for breakfast in your local city and find out just how this can be done, and how a development team can build modern applications with great user experiences targeting the latest technology platforms.


    There's an event in most of the state capitals, throughout November, so grab a space while they're still available. It's just $20 a ticket!

  • Education

    Building an education app for Windows 8 is about designing an experience, before writing code


    As the interest in Windows 8 builds, with new Windows 8 devices being revealed weekly, and new education apps for Windows 8 appearing in the Windows Store, I'm having regular conversations with people about developing new apps for education users (typically teachers or students) for Windows 8. Often the conversation isn't about the technical detail of producing an app, but about the purpose of proposed app – especially about how it will help a student or teacher to do something. Often, when planning a Windows Store app, it makes sense to think less about what features should be included and more about the experience you want to provide your users. Of course, there's plenty of advice published already (like Making great Windows Store apps) but here's an extra set of thoughts about approaching the design of an education app for Windows 8.

    Decide what your app is great at

    This is good advice – it's much more meaningful to say "my app will help teachers track the learning progress of all of the students in their class for the year" than "I'm writing a markbook app" – you can imagine how the former will help you focus on solving a problem for a teacher, rather than just build an app

    Decide what user activities to support

    Think about the flow of activities that a user is going to need to do to achieve their goal. If their goal is to see progress, how do you help them see that? Sure, entering marks in a markbook is a step on the journey, but it isn't the goal. What do they need to see – progress of their class; progress of individual students; which areas the whole class is struggling with; which areas a single student or group of students need reinforcement on.

    Decide what features to include

    One of the lessons about building apps in Windows 8 is that a bunch of the features you might want to give your user is already provided by Windows 8 – which means that if you want to provide a way for a teacher to share information – for example to email a chart to a student, or email a parent – then you can use the built-in facilities in Windows 8 to do it, rather than creating a unique way (especially when you don't know what ways of sharing each teacher is going to prefer – the other apps installed will be able to add more sharing options on top of the core ones in Windows 8 – meaning that you don't have to go back and re-develop your software every time a new social network comes along!).

    Decide how to monetize your app

    Although this is a whole subject in it's own right (Do you go for free, trial, paid apps? Do you use in-app advertising to allow you to give the app away for free?) there's plenty of advice on this at Plan for Monetization

    Design the UI for your app

    There's tons of detail on this on the MSDN network, starting at Design Guidance for Windows Store apps, including some project design templates, as well as some great advice on touch interaction and navigation patterns.

    Make a good first impression

    In the app culture, it's amazing how quick and easy it is to install – and then un-install an app. In the early days of your app, you're unlikely to get thousands of users recommending it to their peers, so that app has to have an attractive experience – a splash screen that's attractive and fast, and a first-launch experience that helps users understand what they can do with the app. And don't forget too that most users will see your tile on the Windows Start screen more than the app itself – so having a tile that updates itself with status or information messages is a way of re-engaging users. In the case of a markbook app, how about having a tile that tells you when you're ahead of your target with your students – or a live tile that scrolls through the names of students that haven't had a mark updated for the last two weeks?  

    Learn MoreAdvice on these areas, and others, is detailed over on the Windows Store apps Dev Centre, in the "Planning Windows Store apps" article

    As a bonus, in the video below, David Chou, who's one of our developer evangelists, talks through some of the concepts of building well-designed apps that create a consistent experience for users – so that as they move between different apps from different publishers, students and teachers can have a familiar experience, without having to learn new techniques to navigate different apps. Although this might seem like an easy thing to do, it could be potentially frustrating for users and developers, especially when you consider your user might be using a touch-enabled slate without a keyboard, or a conventional laptop with keyboard and trackpad, or a huge monitor with a standard desktop computer with keyboard and mouse. The design advice published is there to help you build a single app that works across all of those different devices, rather than having to have multiple versions for different devices.

    If you're not a developer, but a user or a teacher, the video is still interesting, as it helps you to understand how so many different apps doing so many different things, can still be easy to use.

  • Education

    Webcast - Tips for submitting your apps to the Windows Store


    It seems I'm on a bit of a roll with blog posts about Windows 8 apps for education (there's another one coming tomorrow, which in my head is titled 'Don't write code - design an experience'). But reading blog posts, and the technical info on the links isn't the same as actually hearing somebody talking about it. Our teams over in the US run a bunch of webinars about developing apps in Windows 8, but unfortunately most of them run in the morning on Pacific Standard Time – ie middle of the night in Australia. However, there's one that might be relevant – and is running at an Australia-friendly time.

    Windows Store app submission tips webinar

    I've heard from some partners that successfully getting apps into the Windows Store is easier than some of the other app stores, but there's still an important set of things to know. So the Windows 8 Technical Evangelist team are running a live webcast and Q&A on Friday morning:

      We are presenting top tips to help developers get their app or game into the Windows Store all while providing them access to resources which will help them 1:1 through Windows Store submission and certification.  Are you working on your Windows 8 app and getting close to submitting it to the Store? Then join our webcast on Thursday, October 18 at 4pm PST in Australia it's on Friday, October 19 at 10AM (NSW/VIC), 9AM (QLD)  

    So rather than getting up at 1am for the usual early morning US webcasts, you can attend this webcast in the relative luxury of Friday morning, and even have enough time to get your morning latte-mocha-frappacino before you tune in.


    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register

       > Find related blog posts for developers of education apps

  • Education

    Listing your existing Windows educational software in the Windows Store


    A typical Windows computer in a teaching classroom or computer lab has a wide range of applications installed (I've seen schools with over 100 apps installed on their computers). And every time there's a new version of Windows, education users always take a look at the software they have in use, and what new software they might want to install. And so, with Windows 8 just over the horizon, it's a good time to think about new software again.

    Windows Store Education categoryIf you are a partner developing or selling software for education users on Windows, then you may want to keep an eye on the Windows Store, which is built into Windows 8. Especially as there is a category specifically for Education apps in the Windows Store.

    The Windows Store is designed to accept two types of apps:

    • New apps that work in Windows 8 only
    • Existing 'Windows desktop' apps

    So if you are selling existing software for Windows, you can have that listed in the Windows Store to make it easier for customers to find it – you don't have to wait for the completion of the Windows 8 version of your software. There's a lot more detail on listing desktop apps in the Windows Store on the Windows Store blog, but let me bring you a bit of the story now:


    In a nutshell, desktop apps are apps that run on the Windows desktop and don’t follow the Windows Store app style. Now that the Windows Store shows listings for desktop apps, customers can search for them, browse through descriptive information about them, and acquire them from the developer’s website using a link provided in the product description page in the Windows Store.

    What do desktop apps look like in the Windows Store?

    imageIf you’ve seen Windows 8 app tiles in the Windows Store, you have an idea of how they look and how you can click one to access an app's product description page for more information. Desktop apps listed in the Windows Store are also accessible through tiles, but the tiles look a bit different. For one thing, you’ll notice that the app price isn't listed. We don't include the price because the Windows Store doesn’t handle the acquisition process for desktop apps. (In fact, desktop apps aren’t available for download from the Windows Store—they’re simply listings.) The tile also makes it clear that the app is a desktop app.

    When customers click the tile for a desktop app, they see a product description page with information about the desktop app, very similar to the Metro style app description page. The main difference is that in order to acquire the desktop app, the customer clicks a link that takes them outside of the Windows Store—the developer is in charge of the (paid or free) acquisition experience.



    In order to get listed in the Windows Store, there are things to be done, so if you want to know how to get your app in there, then here's the place to go and start your reading…

    Learn MoreRead more about listing Windows desktop apps in the Windows Store

  • Education

    Meet the modern office–the webinar version


    Cooper Wearne, who sits near me, is the host for our webinar series – and his next one is on the new Office.

    The webinar is on Thursday 15th November, from 1 to 2pm (AEST):


    Webinar: Meet the Modern Office

    Microsoft would like to invite you to join the webinar series as we dive into the new Office and explore the latest innovative and revolutionary iteration of the Office Suite.

    During this one hour session we will:

    • Show off the tight and intuitive integration with SkyDrive, Lync and SharePoint
    • Explore powerful built in co-authoring features
    • Demonstrate many of the new features across your favourite applications in the Office Suite
    • Illustrate the power of mouse & keyboard, stylus and touch inputs

    The new Office suite includes:

    clip_image002Word 2013
    Clearer, sleeker and easier on the eyes. New templates and tools help you finish faster and share with others.
    imageExcel 2013
    Enjoy new ways to explore your data more intuitively. Visualise, analyse and display results with a single click.
    imagePowerPoint 2013
    Be empowered to create better presentations, collaborate with others and present with more control.
    imageOutlook 2013
    Helps you manage your busy life more easily and efficiently. Find information, handle email, coordinate schedules quicker and cleaner.
    imageOneNote 2013
    A digital notebook for creating all your notes. Automatically saved and searchable across all your devices.
    imageCloud Powered
    Create a document and edit it on any Windows 7 or 8 device. Safely and securely back up data to the Cloud.

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register by emailing Cooper

  • Education

    Microsoft Education roadshow coming to Sydney-Melbourne-Perth and Adelaide in November 2012



    We've got together with a couple of our partners – Generation-e and Paradyne - and are heading out to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth with an education roadshow for schools. And the timing's perfect, because we've got the opposing effects of rapid technology change and squeezed IT budgets, happening right now.

    So we thought you might want some help to consider how to make effective use of cloud technology, and providing your students with sustainable access to a 'no compromise' learning device. Plus, for the IT enthusiasts, there's a need to fill the insatiable appetite for learning about the new technology and product releases – like Windows 8 and Office 365. And that's what the roadshow is all about.

    Logos - Microsoft Paradyne Generation-e


    The aim of the agenda is to pack in as much as possible, and still leave enough time at the end for you to talk with colleagues from other schools and get the chance to see some of the latest Windows 8 devices, and touch and feel some of the new laptops, slates and all-in-one computers.

    8:45am Registration
    9:00am Welcome
    9:15-10am Learning Re-Imagined with Windows 8
    10am-11am Windows 8 Deep Dive: Management, Security, Usability, Devices and more
    11am-11:15am Morning Tea
    11:15am-12pm How to empower your staff, increase productivity and reduce IT costs with cloud computing
    12pm-12:45pm Enhancing collaboration and communication in schools with Lync
    12:45pm-2pm Lunch & Showcase of some of the latest devices

    Make a date: Find out more, and register for the Microsoft Education Roadshow in one of the following cities:

    Make a dateSydney on 23rd November, at our North Ryde offices
    Adelaide on 26th November, at the Microsoft Adelaide office
    Melbourne on 28th November, at our South Bank office
    Perth on 30th November, at Wesley College, Como

    I'll be speaking at the Sydney one, so I'll look forward to meeting some of you face to face for once!

  • Education

    Which Windows 8 device for next academic year?


    Windows 8 device range

    There's all kinds of new devices running Windows 8 appearing on the shelves of retailers and online stores at the moment. In fact, it seems as if new ones pop up every time I walk away from my screen. Which might lead you to looking at the choices for different Windows devices for next academic year.

    Typically, in most education institutions, there's a need for a range of different devices for different users and scenarios. Something portable and robust for students; something for computer labs; something different for staff; oh, and something really shiny and fast for the leadership team. Whatever the scenario you're buying for, you're going to find a computer that's been tailored precisely for your use - whether it's tablets, convertibles, ultrabooks, laptops, desktops or all-in-ones.

    A good place to start to find out what's available is the Australian Windows 8 website, which highlights some of the great devices now available:

    imageFor my own use, I'm looking for a new home PC that's an All-In-One, that I can put on the countertop in the kitchen for photos, music, video, and to become the hub for my other laptops around the house. And my current favourite is the Sony VAIO Tap 20, which seems to have the right design to be acceptable to my wife, the right portability to make my children happy (it's got a built-in battery, so we can move it onto coffee table for games or video), and the right price and specification to make me happy.
    And the hidden bonus that according to the picture, it can levitate Smile

    Find MoreFind your new Windows 8 PC here

  • Education

    Universities - A thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change


    Wow, Ernst and Young aren't pulling any punches in their latest report on universities are they? They've just published "University of the Future", and it hits pretty hard at the current model of universities in Australia, with its subtitle of "A thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change". Of course, there's plenty of reasons to suspect that a harsh wind of change is appearing, like the fact that International student numbers continue to fall in Australia, and predictions from people like Professor Steven Schwartz, ex-VC at Macquarie University of the online mantra of  better, faster, cheaper, coming soon to a university near you, leading to a question that asks will the university business model get turned upside down in five years?

    Their announcement starts off with a hard hitting sentence:

      Time is running out for traditional university business models. New technologies, increased competition and flat-lining government funding will force universities to fundamentally reinvent themselves in the decade ahead.  

    And they go on to make some pretty clear judgements:

    • "There’s not a single Australian university than can survive to 2025 with its current business model"
    • "At a minimum, universities will need to get much leaner, both in terms of the way they run the back-office, and in use of assets"
    • They found that only one university has less support staff than academic staff

    imageOf course, as management consultants, Ernst and Young have used the rule of three and created three models for how universities might evolve in the future:


    Model one - “streamlined status quo” - runs similar teaching and research programs to today, but uses digital technologies in teaching and learning, is much leaner and has deeper partnerships with industry and international collaborators

    Model two – “niche dominators” – focuses on a small range of teaching and research programs, but is truly world class in those programs and integrates work experience, career opportunities, life-long learning and research commercialisation into the programs.

    Model three – “transformers” – sees universities form partnerships with media companies and global technology providers to change the way education and knowledge is accessed and delivered – in Australia and in a range of cities and rural areas in Asia, Latin America and Africa. This model will transform the world, creating new opportunities for millions of young people, their families and the societies they live in.


    And, of course, with these changes there's a bright future ahead according to the report – "This is a sector that, more than any other, will shape Australia’s future as a high-performing knowledge economy"

    The research interviewed 15 university vice chancellors as well as leaders from private providers and policy makers, so this isn't simply a case of people outside of the higher education sector deciding on its fate – it is people within the business looking around and realising that profound change is around the corner.

    Learn MoreRead the Ernst & Young news announcement, and download their free "University of the Future" report

  • Education

    IT Academy in Australia–450 institutions delivering technology skills and certifications


    imageAccording to the Australia Skills Gap Survey 2012, 7 out of 10 of organisations find it difficult to find individuals with the correct combination of both technical and generic skills.

    And we can help with that!  We have a program called Microsoft IT Academy which lets education institutions deliver global standard technical training to all students, with matching industry certifications.

    Microsoft IT Academy was originally developed to bridge the gap between education and employment by equipping students with the IT skill sets they need in today’s technology-centric job market, and providing professional development resources for educators. And because it can lead to our professional branded certifications – like Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Technology Associate and Microsoft Certified Professional.

    IT Academy has packaged different types of training resources:

    • eReference guides to complement existing curriculum organisation
    • eLearning to enable new up to date content to be delivered
    • Lesson plans to save time preparing classes and curriculums
    • Certifications to add value and further student employability

    There's content for all levels of education from primary school up to University programs.

    • For primary schools and introduction to computing classes ITA has the digital literacy curriculum to ensure all users have a core ICT competency to move into further education.
    • For High School level and up, IT Academy provides eLearning libraries across all Microsoft technologies: Office suite, Windows 8, SharePoint administration and development, SQL Server, and many more.
    • For TAFE, University and technically focused High School, there is huge value to be gained from introducing Microsoft certification into the curriculum.

    According to IDC, the IT industry is expected to experience a deficit in 2.5 million qualified job candidates in the next 5 to 10 years, which begs the question: Why would you not want to equip your students with the skills they need?

    The programme is currently already delivered by over 450 education institutions across Australia, which are part of a global community of over 10,000 ITAs. Teaching time is getting squeezed everywhere, and IT Academy provides them a cost effective, up to date, globally recognised curriculum and certification to deliver technology skills to students that truly gives them an advantage heading into the work place.

    Richard Ryan, who's our ITA Programme Manager in Australia, sent me a list of the things that IT Academies receive through their subscription:

    • E-Learning courseware – 380+ courses
    • E-Reference library access – 5 subscriptions to the library, which includes soft copies of all Microsoft Press Books
    • Microsoft Certified Trainer program – 1 subscription to this online community
    • Educator Starter Kit – 10 x Microsoft Office Specialist and 20 x Microsoft Technology Associate certification exams
    • UNESCO Teaching with Technology courseware – professional development resource for teachers, developed from the UNESCO ICT competency framework
    • MTA Course guides – Downloadable study guides and exam prep for the Microsoft Technology Associate certification exam
    • Lesson plans – customisable lesson plans for popular fundamental technologies, e.g. Office, SharePoint, Windows 8
    • Academic pricing on Microsoft Official Curriculum courseware and certification exams
    • Access to the DreamSpark program
    • Access to TechNet
    • Single sign on access through Office 365 for Education

    Find MoreFor information on how to become a Microsoft IT Academy (or for Microsoft partners, to learn how to register to add IT Academy onto your customer agreements), then the easiest thing to do is drop Richard Ryan an email, and he'll connect you to the right people.

  • Education

    Box Hill Institute of TAFE and the IT Academy programme


    On Friday, I wrote about the fact that there are now more than 450 education institutions running as IT Academies in Australia, and so over the weekend I dug out a case study of one IT Academy, Box Hill Institute in Victoria.

    imageBox Hill Institute prepares students for Australia’s workforce by ensuring that they have the skills employers need today and in the future. Using the Microsoft IT Academy program, they help students develop a high level of IT skills literacy, meaning that students can earn industry certifications that help qualify them for the workplace or that count toward higher-education courses. So how does IT Academy help students get jobs? Well, for their students earning Advanced Diplomas, this certification and other program strengths have led to a job placement rate of more than 90%.

    A key part of Box Hill's mission is to work closely with the business community to identify skills needs and help address shortages in Victoria and across Australia. And to ensure that they can deliver the right skills to a diverse student base, who may be looking for qualifications for either employment or to move to higher education. As Simon Taylor, the Manager of the Centre for Information & Communications Technology at Box Hill Institute, says in our published case study:

      In the last 10 to 20 years, the Australian industry has moved from being manufacturing-based to services-based… We need a curriculum that allows us to deliver a level of training that satisfies those skills needs within the industry, from a service and service delivery perspective.  

    Ultimately, a key reason that Box Hill chose to become an IT Academy was to differentiate themselves from their competitors (whether that's competitors in the government sector, or from the private sector). As Simon Taylor says:

      Box Hill Institute believes strongly in Microsoft certification for skills for employability. We see it as a great addition to our vocationally focused programs, as well as a way to differentiate ourselves in the training market.  


    And the industry-recognised Microsoft certifications that students can get include. :

    • Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
    • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
    • Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST)
    • Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA)
    • Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE).

    Box Hill maps all of these certifications to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), so that any training that students complete will be recognised nationally.

    It's also interesting that in the case study, Simon also talks about the delivery of blended learning, which enables teachers to focus their attention in more direct support for individual students, and also helps delivery for different types of students, whether they're enrolled in vocationally oriented programs, or industry and community customers who are retraining or building skills in a particular area :

      The blended style of learning materials enables our teachers to provide students with an inspiring mix of learning, with the online materials allowing our teachers to focus on individual mentoring of students, thus maximizing learning outcomes.  

    They also use the program’s E-Learning resources to deliver professional development training to its staff and to teachers in Victoria’s primary and secondary schools.

    Learn MoreRead the full IT Academy case study on Box Hill Institute

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