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

  • Education

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


    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


    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

  • Education

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


    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


    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?


    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


    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.


    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…

  • Education

    Office 365 sales training for partners


    What's your diary like for April? How about investing one of your spare days in training for you and/or colleagues on Office 365, with a focus on strengthening your customer conversations about the transformation from traditional desktop software to cloud-delivered software services?

    Drumbeat training - Sydney - bannerOn 28th April 2014, we’re hosting a Drumbeat Sales Readiness day for our partners’ sales & pre-sales teams at the Sydney Hilton. Selling Office 365 requires a new way of selling, so in addition to sharing Microsoft best practices, programs, and selling tools, we will also present insights into the cloud services market and the opportunity for partners who invest in growing an Office 365 practice. 

    There continues to be a fast adoption rate of Office 365 Education, with schools, TAFEs and universities opting to use Office 365 as the platform for many new services to their staff and students. The result is that opportunities are growing for Microsoft Education partners to deliver services to implement Office 365, and to add business value after implementation through integration, process simplification, and collaboration services.

    Sydney Drumbeat Agenda

    It’s a free, full day event, that includes many different scenarios for Office 365, and will guide partners through the pre-sales conversations surrounding Office 365, that will help you to deliver the Microsoft solution with your implementation and ongoing services to help customers get the best value from their Office 365 deployment:

    • Introducing the new Office and How to Demo
      The new Office provides a next-generation productivity experience for our customers.  Learn how to demonstrate the exciting features and benefits of the new Office with your customers. 
    • The Partner Opportunity
      The new Office represents a once-in-a-generation shift in technology and a new era of partner opportunity.  Microsoft Is front-running the industry transformation to the cloud and Office 365 is leading the charge.  Learn more about our investments in the new Office and how we have created new partner opportunities across the customer lifecycle.
    • The Benefits of Becoming an Office 365 Cloud Deployment Partner
      Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest growing business ever to the tune of $1 billion and counting.  And 3 out of 4 enterprise customers work with a partner to deploy their Office 365 service.   
    • Yammer, A New Opportunity for Partners
      IDC predicts the Enterprise Social Software market to reach $4.5B in revenue by 2016; most companies are expected to define their strategy within the next 12-18 months which provides Microsoft and its partners a great opportunity.  Learn more about the Yammer partner opportunity, how to sell the value of Enterprise Social to the business and how Yammer is transforming the way that companies work together.
    • Selling Office 365 - Why Use the Customer Decision Framework (CDF)
      The proliferation of devices, broadening workplace demographics and a transformative shift to the cloud are all trends impacting the way we work.  Office 365 clearly addresses all of these trends and is backed by a sales process that has helped grow a $1B business.  Learn how to sell to customers using the Customer Decision Framework, a sales process that enables partners to make the shift from traditional software selling to successfully sell Office 365 in the cloud. 
    • Selling Office 365 - Qualify the Opportunity with Cloud Principles
      Microsoft's Office 365 is built on a set of cloud principles that form how we position Office 365 to customers.  Become familiar with these principles and learn how to showcase the value of Office 365 cloud services across a breadth of real customer scenarios.  
    • Selling Office 365 - Sell with the Customer Immersion Experience (CIE)
      The Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience (CIE) is a hands-on introduction to Windows 8 and the new Office.  For partners, it is an effective sales tool that provides customers with an opportunity to experience these powerful new productivity solutions for themselves.  Learn how the CIE simplifies customer conversations and provides business decision-makers with an opportunity to experience the full Office stack.
    • Selling Office 365 - Office 365 FastTrack
      Office 365 FastTrack is Microsoft’s new 3-step pilot and deployment process designed so customers experience service value early in the cycle, with a smooth path from pilot to full deployment within hours and no 'throw away' effort.
    • Selling Office 365 - Licensing Overview
      Microsoft's Office and Office 365 offerings have evolved greatly over time culminating in today's flexible licensing strategy built around Office 365.  Gain an understanding of the Enterprise offerings within the new Office, and how we license against top customer scenarios.
    • Office 365 Support and Communications
      Microsoft is strengthening its partner support and communications strategy to better enable our partners to sell, service and support customers.  Learn about new ways to enhance your service offerings and stay connected with the latest developments on Office 365.

    Make a dateMicrosoft partners register here for Drumbeat Training in Sydney on 28 April 2014

    The Drumbeat training is for Microsoft Partners only. But we are also be running a customer & partner technical readiness event for IT Pros looking to deploy Office 365. This Ignite Technical Summit event runs from April 29-May 1 at the same venue and details for this are here.

  • Education

    The world’s first School in the Cloud


    img4The most memorable moment of the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum that I attended in the UK in 2010 was hearing Professor Sugata Mitra talking about his Hole in the Wall, and Granny Cloud projects.  Like many inspiring people, I first heard about his work through TED, in his 2008 Ted Talk “Kids can teach themselves”. Shortly before speaking at our Innovative Education Forum, he inspired again at TED, talking about “child-driven education”, and earlier this year he spoke about his wish to “Build a school in the cloud”.

    As fascinating as the journey, and stories, have been, the thing that really stands out about Sugata’s vision is his passionate pursuit of making things happen. And I’ve just finished reading about the next step in that journey, as he’s just opened the doors of the world’s first School in the Cloud, in England, funded through his TED Prize seed money.

    The classroom above matches many other 21st century learning environments that are being built around the world. But what makes it stand out is the way the space is managed and used. I’ll let the TED Blog pick up the story:

      The Killingworth School in the Cloud is run by a committee of 12-year-old students, who manage a schedule to let different classes and groups use the lab in time slots before, during and after school. The lab is, of course filled with computers and touchscreen devices, as these are the tools students use to do their detective work. This lab is the first live demo of the School in the Cloud web platform, which not only connects labs to the “Granny Cloud” but also serves as a community foundation for SOLE practitioners and contains an evolving library of guides and resources. Microsoft and Skype are the core technology partners for this digital platform; Made By Many is the co designer and development partner; and IDEO assisted with design research. Five more School in the Cloud learning labs of varying resources and bandwidth are scheduled to launch throughout India in 2014, and the second UK lab will go live in the spring. All seven Schools in the Cloud will be directed by the School in the Cloud web platform and its community of Grannies. Beta testing for the School in the Cloud platform will begin publicly in March at the annual TED Conference in Vancouver  

    Learn MoreLearn more about Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLE)

  • Education

    Snap a whiteboard and bring it into OneNote for Windows 8


    OneNote logoWhat if there was an app that your students could use to take a photo of anything you write on a whiteboard, store it, convert it to text, and make it easy for them to search back to find a specific word you’d written on the whiteboard last term? And thus mean that you could deliver lessons/lectures using a mix of whiteboard and PowerPoint, without putting students at a disadvantage when they need to find the brilliant example you drew up on the whiteboard? Well, yep, there’s some help!

    Capture lesson/lecture notes with OneNote

    Here’s an example from a meeting earlier today – the image on the left was the original that I took with the camera – and on the right is the version that I took with OneNote from exactly the same position – it automatically cropped it, straightened it, and worked out which bit of the image was the whiteboard!

    First photo of a wall whiteboard with writingSecond photo - automatically straightened by OneNote

    So here’s more of the detail:

    Last month we announced a series of enhancements to the OneNote app for Windows 8, including making it much easier to share information with OneNote from other Windows 8 apps (using the Windows Share Charm). But the feature that I think might be most helpful for teachers, lecturers and students, is the ability to take shots of whiteboards and documents, and import them into OneNote automatically cropped, straightened and sharpened.

    The Camera Scan features allows you to capture documents, magazines and whiteboards easily into OneNote. It will automatically crop, rotate, straighten, remove shadows and sharpen the image so it looks like a scanned document. This makes it easy to capture, read, and re-use sets of notes from other sources – for example, to quickly capture a set of lecturer’s notes from a whiteboard. To use Camera Scan, you simply select the camera in the OneNote radial menu and snap away.

    You can see it working in the video below.

    Once you've got the image in, OneNote also scans all of the text in the image and converts it via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to full text. That means you can then search on text in the image and even copy text from the image, for use in another document!

    The video below shows how this works in practice, with a scan of a shop receipt:

    Learn MoreLearn more about the recent updates to the Windows 8 OneNote app

    Or, download the free Windows 8 OneNote app and try it out yourself

  • Education

    The world’s first joint research centre for Social Natural User Interfaces is in Melbourne


    The world's first joint research center devoted to social NUI

    Yesterday we have the Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces. This is a joint research centre between the University of Melbourne and Microsoft Research, in partnership with the state government of Victoria and Microsoft Australia. The centre will explore applications of Natural User Interfaces—better known as NUI—in social situations. It is the world’s first joint research centre dedicated to studying and perfecting the social applications of NUI.

    There’s some amazing work going on with new ways of interacting with technology across the world, and especially in the world of gaming, where things like Kinect have enable interaction through gestures, voice and whole-body movement. There’s some great examples of non-gaming uses on the Kinect for Windows gallery, like the example below of turning any surface into an interactive whiteboard.


    Learn MoreYou can read more about the Research Centre announcement on the Microsoft Research Connections blog

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