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

  • Education

    What does Office Online mean for students?

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    We made an announcement at the end of last week about the name and easier access to the online versions of Office. I think this is important for Australian students and teachers, as it is now much easier for students and staff to be able to use Office on the web. Anybody can do it – they don’t need an Office subscription, nor do they need their school, TAFE or university to set up Office 365 Education access. So a student can login to Office Online* and start creating, editing and sharing documents, either alone or with others – from almost any device and without a subscription service (all they need to do is create a Microsoft Account, which can be done with any email address).

    * Office Online is the new name for Office Web Apps, and includes the browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

    The Office team have put many of the details on the Office blog, and here’s a quick snip from there:

     

    imageSure, some of you are already using the online versions of Office. And with the recent addition of real-time co-authoring and more of the most commonly used features coming online over the last several months, we hear that you’re liking it. But we also know that many of the one billion Office users haven’t tried it yet and we want to change that.

    New name, new getting started experience

    Today we are making two changes. First, we’re renaming Office Web Apps to Office Online so you know where to find our free online experience. We heard from customers that the inclusion of Apps in our name was confusing. Are they something I install? Do I go to an app store to get them? No, to use them all you need is a web browser. Ah! You say. So it’s like Office, online. Yes, exactly. Office Online.

    Secondly, a lot of you don’t know that we have an online version of Office because you just couldn’t find it. If you’re already using Office Online on OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) or on SharePoint at work, great. We’re glad you found it there. You can still use Office Online just like you always have. But we’re making it easier to find for the rest of you by introducing Office.com, a discoverable and shareable web page so that you can start using Office Online right away.

     

    So now you have lots of different ways of ensuring that your students and staff can use Office:

    • Microsoft Office for no cost through a browser on Office Online 
    • Mobile versions of Microsoft Office pre-installed on your Windows Phone, and through an Office 365 subscription for iPhone and Android phone
    • Full versions of the Office suite for Windows and Mac, through Office 365 or your institution’s EES agreement. And this can be free for students using the Student Advantage scheme.

    Learn MoreRead more about Office Online

    Related Office Stories

    You can see all related blog articles about Office here

  • Education

    Integrating Moodle and Office 365 for Education

    • 18 Comments

    We’re continuing to build the list of integration resources that we provide for Moodle, so that schools, TAFEs and universities can integrate their Moodle platforms more securely with the rest of their existing infrastructure. This is a common goal for central IT teams, where they want to ensure their users (both staff and students) are able to move seamlessly between their different systems, and their data isn’t locked into a single platform. For example, rather than having learning resources locked away within their Learning Management System it’s possible to use the content management of SharePoint, and storage space of OneDrive (the new name for SkyDrive), to ensure that users have access even when they are not using Moodle directly, or to provide content management such as version control for staff. In the past I’ve written about the SkyDrive/OneDrive plugin for Moodle and the Moodle kit for Windows Azure.

    imageThe latest plugin from Microsoft integrates Moodle with Office 365 and OneDrive. This allows teachers to create courses and assignments in Moodle that can be read, edited, and submitted by students in SharePoint.

    The download package incudes:

    • Moodle and Office 365 Step-by-Step Guide: Federation using Active Directory Federation Services
      This guide walks you through the setup of a basic lab deployment of Moodle, Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) 2.0, and Windows Azure Active Directory to perform cross-product, browser-based identity federation.  Once you have the single-sign (SSO) experience setup, you can automate user provisioning and user enrolment in Moodle through your Office 365 system.
    • Moodle-Office 365 User Installation Guide
      This document provides step-by-step instructions to configure and install the Microsoft provided plugin for integration with Moodle. It also describes the new features that are enabled by this plugin.
    • Moodle Release Package
      This installation package contains PHP files and related resources that a developer can use to create the plugin.

    Learn MoreDownload the Moodle and Office 365 integration resources and guidance

    Related Moodle Stories

    You can see all related Moodle blog articles here

  • Education

    Can education customers get Yammer free?

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    Yammer on a cloudWe announced recently that Yammer for education customers will be free of charge this Spring (that's, Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, or as we would call it in Australia, 'Autumn/early Winter'), through your Office 365 for Education subscription (which is also free). Which means that educational institutions are able to have a communication system (through Office 365’s email and Lync service), collaboration and document storage (through Office 365’s SharePoint and OneDrive), and secure social networking and collaboration (through Yammer) – all of which is free.

    The beauty of Yammer is that it can be fully integrated into your user database – so you create a private place for just your users to collaborate and mingle, and can enable and disable users easily. And then within Yammer you can create public and private groups – so staff can have private planning and discussion areas that others can’t access. Or groups of students can be placed into individual communities, for classes, subjects, sports and social groups etc. It also has a range of apps for mobile devices, so your users can access it on the go from their iPhone, Windows Phone, Android phones etc

    Yammer for Education

    There has always been a basic free version of Yammer that users can sign up to individually, and create communities and groups, and some education users in Australia have already been using that for some time (some of them with hundreds or thousands of users). But when you want to have organisational control over your users, then in the past you would have had to paid for the full Yammer Enterprise version. But soon, that’s the version that education customers can get free.

    The major difference between Yammer and other social networking systems is that your Yammer network is private, and controlled by you. You don’t have individual teachers uploading lists of students to third-party websites, and managing them outside of your existing systems. Instead, your IT team have full control over your users in the same way that they do for other systems in your school, TAFE or university. Adding and deleting/disabling users is all done centrally. And you have control and visibility of the content and conversations that are happening.

    Yammer logo

    Some of the key features of Yammer that are relevant for education customers are:

    • Create and participate in groups – you can define groups and assign members, or your users can set up their own groups and invite members.
    • Announcements – for everybody, or just specific groups. This can be used to send out important updates that everybody in a group needs (eg a teacher might use an announcement to send out a curriculum assignment)
    • Praise – users can give and receive recognition, and accomplishments and badges appear on profiles
    • Interact with other users – just like other social networks, you can @mention people, see who’s online, create private messages and share conversations. Plus users can create quick polls
    • File and note sharing – users can upload Office documents, PDFs etc and share them across their groups. You can have user-uploaded content, as well as ‘Official content’, which appears higher in search results and content directories.
    • IT managers will love the user management features, including Directory Sync, custom branding, and Keyword Monitoring (this allows you to track the use of sensitive keywords, and get instant alerts if they are used on your Yammer network)

    What do I need to do to get Yammer Enterprise once it is available?

    Once Yammer Enterprise is available, Office 365 Education tenant administrators will receive an activation link in their Office 365 admin portal. You then visit the Office 365 Admin Portal to begin the self-guided provisioning process. There’s a complete Yammer Activation Guide here.  There are also additional resources on activation and provisioning from Yammer.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Yammer

  • Education

    School 1:1 programmes–Miami-Dade County Public Schools announce 100,000 Windows 8 devices

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    Miami-Dade County Public Schools - logoWe’ve just announced that Miami Dade County Public Schools in the USA will be providing 100,000 Windows 8 devices for their students by August 2015, starting this term with HP and Lenovo computers for 13,000 primary and 15,000 middle school students. It is part of the bigger programme of technology initiatives in partnership with Microsoft, which includes their 350,000 students getting to Microsoft Office for use on their personal computers at home or school, and the use of the IT Academy programme to provide a new job training programme.

    A recent IDC Study, which scanned more than 14 million job postings, found that the most in-demand skills for the top jobs through 2020 are the modern skills such as communication, problem solving and teamwork, coupled with the technical skills of Microsoft Office.  In fact, Microsoft Office is the No. 2 skill employers are looking for in the highest-paying jobs, and No. 3 skill in all jobs.

    Although in these announcements people (and journalists) often focus on the ‘new things’ like software and devices, what is underpinning the whole initiative is a clear focus on improving teaching and learning. As Margo Day, from Microsoft in the US, says in the announcement:

     

    Now, make no mistake — we know technology on its own will not close this education gap; it alone won’t improve test scores.  Yet, it is powerful when used effectively.  The empowered teacher and flexible technology combination can be a magical mix.

    We applaud (Miami-Dade County Public Schools) for carefully looking at the needs of its teachers and students before making the decision of which technology solution to implement.   Microsoft is committed to helping teachers at Miami Dade learn new ways to teach with technology.  It’s critical to help teachers reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks such as grading homework. With the use of tools such as shared OneNote Notebooks, this is finally possible.  Ultimately we want to help teachers spend the most time doing what they do best and love to do most:  teach. 

    For the students, it was wonderful to see Miami-Dade deeply consider the diverse needs of its student population and avoid a one-size-fits-all technology solution.

     

    Miami Dade is the 4th largest US school district, so this is a significant programme, and it follows on just two days after our announcement of a partnership to support wider access to technology for US public schools. That initiative includes a partnership with device manufacturers to lower the cost of Windows devices for schools, as well as teacher and student training resources, and even the provision of advertising-free internet search through Bing for Schools.

    Learn MoreVisit the Microsoft Education Newsroom

  • Education

    Research in Practice seminars: Learning and Thriving in a hyper-connected world

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    Microsoft/PAI - Research in Practice Seminars

    The Principals Australia Institute and the Microsoft Australia Education team are collaborating on a series of breakfast briefings around Australia from mid-March to early April, as part of PAI’s established Research in Practice series. The series puts principals and educators in touch with the latest educational research findings, and the next breakfast briefings focus on 21st Century learning.

     

    In this time of exponential change and opportunity - what does it take to lead and inspire quality learning?

    Mark Sparvell from Principals Australia Institute, and Sean Tierney from Microsoft, will explore:

    • Latest trends in technology in 21st century learning
    • Research findings on how educators can thrive in the midst of rapid technological change
    • How to avoid common pitfalls associated with integrating technology in schools
    • The transformations required in learning design to deliver the best outcomes for our students
    • What leaders and learners need to embrace to become active and resilient contributors to our knowledge-based society.

    All participants will gain insights, practical strategies, networking opportunities and an invitation to explore ideas beyond this session.

    This series is for School Leaders, which includes Principals and others within the school community who have a whole-school leadership role.

    By running the event as a breakfast briefing from 7:30-10AM, it means that you get an opportunity to update yourself without having to leave school for a whole day. And it’s perfectly timed to help with your strategic planning from a teaching, learning and technology perspective.

    Venues and dates for the third PAI Research in Practice series

    These professional development seminars cost $65 including breakfast. You can book now for the briefings in:

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more on the Principals Australia website

  • Education

    Using CRM to manage student lifecycles

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    We’re just about to enter a new academic year, with just over half a million Australian students just about to start their first year at university. They’ve gone through (or are still going through) a process to select their course and university, and to enrol and be ready for next month’s O weeks.

    Here’s another way to describe this: 38 organisations are just about to get 25% more customers for their services, having lost 25% at the end of last year. In fact, if we take student attrition into account, then it’s actually a lot higher than 25%, but for this I’m assuming that students stay for four years on average. This is why so many people are talking about student lifecycle management, in the same way that business talk about customer lifecycles.

    In exploring what good practice in student lifecycle management looks like, I’ve come across a video case study on the global Microsoft case studies website about the University of Washington the way that they are using CRM to manage student lifecycles. As the case studies says:

     

    From the time prospective students show interest in a Continuing Education program at the University of Washington to the time they decide to enrol is typically 6 to 18 months. The university needed a way to track interactions with students from the earliest stage. Clark C. Westmoreland, Assistant Vice Provost of Professional and Continuing Education at the University of Washington, explains:

    "We were dropping a catalogue on their doorstep once a year with the hopes they would enroll."

    After implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the university can profile students' informational needs, deliver what they're interested in, maintain an ongoing relationship with them, and ultimately track student outcomes through graduation and beyond.

     

    What they are doing is important because they are managing the student lifecycle from the initial stage of interest right through beyond graduation. We have Australian universities using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system for the same student lifecycle management process, but unfortunately we’ve not published any case studies yet. So in the meantime, can I recommend watching the University of Washington case study video below.

    Learn MoreWatch the video case study of UW Student Lifecycle Management on Microsoft.com

  • Education

    What does my list of top 10 Education blog posts of 2013 tell me?

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    I’ve just finished looking at the statistics for this blog to compile a summary of the top Education blog posts you read during 2013, and thought it might be useful for people if I shared it. And then, at risk of making this a little ‘inside baseball’, I wanted to share what I learnt from the list!

    Here’s the list of the top 10 Education blog posts from 2013

    1. Windows 8 Education Apps (2013)
    2. The 5 factors which affect school performance (2011)
    3. Australia Windows Surface RT offer for education (2013)
    4. Can your SharePoint become your Learning Management System? (2012)
    5. Ten of the best SharePoint university websites (2011)
    6. Ten of the best SharePoint school websites (2011)
    7. Is there academic pricing for Windows Azure? No, but there’s something better…free Azure (2013)
    8. Photo Story 3: Free software for teachers (2012)
    9. Connecting Skydrive with Office 365 for education (2012)
    10. Why Moodle is better on SharePoint (2011)

    So what have I learnt from the list?

    1. The top blog page, on Windows 8 Education Apps, had more than twice the readership of the second most popular – so there’s clearly outstanding interest in finding Windows 8 apps for Education!
    2. There’s a lot of interest in using SharePoint across education – from building school/university websites, to hosting learning management systems, and integrating between SharePoint and other systems
    3. Old blog posts are just as relevant as new ones – there’s a pretty good spread of blog articles written in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in the list.

    Any tips for bloggers to get their content read?

    And, if you’re interested in blogging and online writing yourself, then here’s some tips I’ve learnt from reviewing this top 10 list which might help you in your own blogging…

    1. Using the word ‘free’ still gets interest Smile
    2. Lists get read and shared  (The 5 factors…, Ten of the best… etc)
    3. Using plain English phrases (that people search on) in my writing pays off.
      For example, if you look at many of my blog posts, you’ll see that I try to use phrases that people might type into a search engine (and I’ll use them in the title, the main text, and often in a headline). I know that pays off in more people arriving at those blog posts through search engines, and I also see it in the way some of those blog posts make it to the top search result on Google and Bing.
      A really specific example: there are probably thousands of web pages which discuss the factors which affect school performance, but few of them actually use the words ‘factors which affect school performance’, so my blog post about it ends up on the top of the search engine results (see this link)
      Overall, 60% of the of readers of my blog articles come from search engines, which is very high compared to other websites. I guess that validates the approach.
  • Education

    Lock a Windows 8 computer to one app for controlled assessments or information screens

    • 1 Comments

    Do you ever need to be able to limit users to a single application reliably and securely? Or you have a display computer which you want to limit to a single application (eg an information booth PC)? One of the features of Windows 8 that will be useful for education customers is Kiosk, or Assigned Access, mode.

    In education, two typical examples would be to lock a computer to a single application:

    • During a controlled assessment, run an assessment app, and stop students using other applications, or going off to Internet websites to look up answers.
    • Setup an information screen in reception/elsewhere, locked to a institution information app, an interactive campus map, or timetable app

    To setup a Windows 8 computer in Assigned Access mode, what you do is setup a dedicated user profile, login and install the app, change the user settings to ‘Assigned Access’, and then choose the app they can run. Then, whenever the machine is logged in with that user, it will go straight into the app – with no option to run anything else. If you’re running an information kiosk, it’s the same idea, with the machine always logged in.

    I want to setup a Windows 8 computer locked to an assessment app

    imageLet’s say I want to run the SolveIT app (see the screenshot on the right), which tests students’ 21st Century skills, such as their ability to problem solve using communication and collaboration with other users.

    The SolveIT app provides a mechanism for students to communicate and chat within the test, and is able to use the logs from the conversation to assess the students’ collaboration level. So we don’t want to allow students to have a separate IM conversation in Lync, because the app won’t assess it. So we’ll want to lock them to only running SolveIT. (For more on SolveIT, see Janison’s blog post)

    Steps to setup a Windows 8 computer locked to a single app

    My colleagues in Canada have documented the twelve step process to setup Assigned Access mode, and they are fairly straightforward. For the full instructions, take a look at their blog post below

    Learn MoreRead the instructions to setup Assigned Access mode

  • Education

    Is School Writing the best Windows 8 education app?

    • 1 Comments

    Demografix is a Queensland-based education software developer producing great apps for schools and students – and they have just produced a Windows 8.1 version of their best-selling School Writing app. And working with them has been fascinating, as they have found extra capabilities in Windows 8 that allowed them to add features on top of the iPad version. And I’ve also learnt that they have to create 28 different plain and cursive school fonts because different countries (and, in Australian, different states!) teach their children to handwrite differently*.

    School Writing for Windows 8 - screenshot

    The Windows 8 version has been designed to work with either touch screens, or with devices with a stylus (yep, that radical idea of teaching students to write letters by holding a pen rather than just tracing on screen with their finger).

    And in even better news, Australian education institutions can get the Windows 8.1 version for free through using a special code in the software. The trial version allows you to test the app using a few letters (abc), numbers (123), one Words and one Whiteboard lesson. If you are School, TAFE or Uni and you want the app for free, then download the Trial version and enter your education email into the app for a free redeem code to be emailed to you. Saving $7.99 a student/user…

    So at a great price of ‘free’, with full pen support, it’s certainly got to be a nominee for the best Windows 8 education app so far…

     

    School Writing for Windows 8.1

    A learn to write app, containing the approved handwriting fonts that are taught in your school.

    School Writing includes 28 individual plain and cursive letters for use in each Australian state - NSW, QLD, SA, VIC & TAS -  New Zealand, South Africa, UK. The app also features Zaner-Bloser and D'Nealian styles used for learning handwriting in American schools.

    Using this app, students are able to intuitively trace pre-handwriting shapes, uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, words or whiteboard images. School Writing enables hearing and seeing the letters, words and numbers along with customisable associated images and sounds. School Writing allows a student to easily and quickly respond to the lessons by means of written and/or audio recordings.

    With the option of tracing accuracy turned on, students are being rewarded with a star depending on their level of accuracy. They are given three attempts before proceeding with learning of next letter or number.

    The teacher tracing feature enables audio recording for the letter sounds, changing the letter images and recording tracing instructions or individual letter phonetics.

    The ‘Whiteboard’ section allows a teacher to draw or import images along with unique audio instructions for the purposes of tracing or interaction. Students can trace and record the audio answers.

    The app enables creation, saving and sharing your own word lessons, profiles and customisations to suit your curriculum, while providing complete control over the lessons' management, the app and the student profiles.

    • A choice of 28 US, UK, South Africa, New Zealand or Australia approved plain and cursive school fonts.
    • A choice of 5 types of lined guidelines or no guidelines.
    • A choice of 3 tracing tactics – connecting the dots, tracing over the letter/number or tracing within the outlines with the starting points and visible numbered sequence of strokes.
    • A choice of 4 levels of colored pencil's thickness, which is usable for drawing and coloring.
    • Customise the default sounds allowing the students to listen the pronunciation and the phonetic sounds that you teach.
    • Customise the default images. Students can find their own images as an assignment itself.
    • Customised the teacher's tracing. This allows the teacher to change the sequence of strokes to suit your students’ needs.
    • Replaying feature of the student’s last trace to check that proper stroke sequence.
    • A ‘Reset’ counter which allows permanent recording of the number of times each letter and number has been traced.
    • Creation and management of the multiple profiles for all the students in a class with the ability to see the exact number of the lessons being completed by each student.
    • Automatic (optional) emailing of students’ work to the teacher once the work has been completed.
     

    There are three versions of School Writing in the Windows Store (each with the correct fonts for the country):

    School Writing for Windows 8.1 for Australia/New Zealand

    School Writing for Windows 8.1 for the UK

    School Writing for Windows 8.1 for the USA

    * Yep, that’s right. Although there’s a national education system, it seems that it’s necessary to teach children in each state to handwrite differently. So go to Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and New South Wales, and you’ll be taught to write your beginners, and then your cursive, fonts differently. No wonder it’s so stressful bringing in an Australian National Curriculum…

  • Education

    Office 365 - Ignite Technical Training in Sydney–April 2014

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    Office 365 Education is based on exactly the same platform as the full-blown enterprise-grade Office 365 system used by companies globally. One of the benefits of this is that you get the same Service Level Agreements for the cloud service that one of Australia’s ASX50 companies would get. And another significant benefit is that as a user, you get access to the same training programmes we provide for these big companies – like the Ignite training…

    On 29 April, we’re running free*, three day technical training workshops in Sydney for all of the different components of Office 365, including the core Office 365 platform, Exchange, SharePoint, Visio, Project, as well as Yammer. And there is also a specific stream for developers who want to develop for the Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013 App model.

    image

    Ignite Training in Sydney – who can attend

    The Ignite training in Sydney is part of the global Ignite training programme. It’s open to Microsoft customers and partners, and is delivered at a deep-dive technical level by our key product experts who are coming over from the US.

    For general IT professionals, the runs for a single day, on Tuesday 29 April, and finishes with a networking reception at the Hilton on Tuesday evening.

    For developers, architects and IT implementation teams, there’s a much deeper agenda running Tuesday-Thursday, so you're going to need to be pretty technical to get the most out of the event. If you’re working in the IT team or app development team within an education institution or Microsoft Partner in Australia, then this is the event for you.

    Ignite Training in Sydney – agenda

    The Ignite training in Sydney runs from Tuesday 29 April, 9AM to Thursday 1 May, 5PM. There are a mix of one-day workshops, or three-day workshops (click on any link below for the detailed agenda for each session)

    One day workshops

    It kicks off on Tuesday morning with a keynote for everybody together, and then breaks after lunch into dedicated sessions:

    • Office 365 – an overview of Office 365 capabilities
    • Visio – an introduction session to Visio that demonstrates the scenarios it enables
    • Yammer – an overview of Yammer and how to drive and manage enterprise social network use

    Three day workshops

    These all start with the Tuesday morning keynote, and then from Tuesday afternoon through until the end of Thursday, there’s a series of different deep-dive streams for you to choose from, which include both presentations and hands-on labs:

    • Developer – including a session on developing mobile apps for SharePoint
      This session will be particularly useful for education customers who want to use Office 365 and SharePoint as a tool for automating some of the paperwork processes that currently slow down the
    • Exchange – including architecture, high availability, eDiscovery, security and hybrid models
    • Project – including key scenarios with Project Online, and the business intelligence reporting available
    • SharePoint – including architecture, search, customisation and upgrading to SharePoint 2013
    • Lync – including Lync and Skype integration, and deep dives on voice, mobility and security.

    There’s full details of each of the streams on the Ignite Summit website

    Ignite Sydney Banner

    How to register for Ignite Training in Sydney

    Make a dateIf you're from a customer organisation, then register here

    If you're from a Microsoft Partner organisation, then register here

    * Yes, the training is free to attend, but we’re taking the exceptional step of charging $600 for people who book a place and don’t turn up (waived if you let us know by 19th April). If you’ve ever turned up late at an event, and seen tens/hundreds of unclaimed delegate badges, you’ll know why…

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