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

  • Education

    Take part in a Global Enterprise Challenge with other primary schools

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    I learnt today that a school I used to work with in the UK, Broadclyst Community Primary School, were given a grant by the Microsoft global Education team to fund their Global Enterprise Challenge, to allow them to join 1,000 students from 20 countries together in a challenge for Year 6 students. And they've just opened nominations for schools to take part, and it's open to Australian schools to enter.

    Here's the details from my UK colleagues:

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    Sign up your school today!

    It is with great excitement that we announce the Microsoft Global Enterprise Challenge which has just gone live! Based on the enterprise project created by Broadclyst Community Primary School (BCPS) in South West England, schools throughout the world are currently being sought to participate in a ground-breaking enterprise challenge developed and run by BCPS and funded by Microsoft. During the Challenge, 1000 students across 20 schools in 20 countries will connect to run ten international companies, each with ten regional offices/teams. The teams will be developing, producing and marketing ten products selected in a pitch situation by the project co-ordinator, and will be competing with each other to become the most successful company globally.

    Much like the real business the world, the companies will be judged on how profitably they are running, which will give the students a taste for the commercial world.

    How will the Global Enterprise Challenge benefit your students?

    The GEC incorporates many different elements of the curriculum making the challenge a brilliant opportunity for the students to contextualise core subjects they are being taught such as Maths, Design, English and even Accounting into the enterprise sphere, which will make the learning activity highly engaging and fun.

    The opportunity will also encourage young students to start to align their learning outcomes to the commercial world: From the Broadclyst Community Primary School video below, you can see that the students are given a real taste of entrepreneurship as they have to not only choose what product they think will sell, but additionally create this desirable product. Indeed the teams are solely in charge of making (manufacturing) their products and even promoting (marketing) them which they can do by filming adverts and getting really creative.

    Broadclyst Primary are looking for other schools to sign up and get involved.

    Applications are open until 1st September so make sure to sign up your school and get involved using this link

    Microsoft Global Enterprise Challenge from Broadclyst Primary School on Vimeo.

  • Education

    Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summits 2014

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    In the first week of August we are running half-day partner training events for Microsoft Education partners in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

    This year’s education ICT buying season is almost underway, and it promises to be like no buying season in history. There are significant changes in the market including a shift to BYOD, a growing move away from institutional purchase towards students buying devices from retailers, and the devolution of the decision making from systems to schools and parents.

    All of these provide unprecedented opportunities and challenges for the existing business model of many of our education partners.

    We’d like to invite you to attend a half day event in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth to learn how your business model can evolve, and how Microsoft can help you to grow your education sales.

    The Education Partner Summit is an opportunity to get deep insight into the changing dynamics of the schools sectors from the Microsoft Education team.

    Education is one of the biggest IT markets in the country, and increasingly a competitive and critical market for Microsoft and our partners, with key organisations seeing the long term value of winning the institution and seeding their brand through these schools to reach teachers, students and parents. The combination of the consumerisation of IT, technology adoption at younger ages, the accelerating desire for 1:1 computing, and BYOD are requiring schools to continue to take more innovative approaches to learning in the classroom.

    The agenda is specifically focused on meeting the needs of sales and marketing personnel in Microsoft partners who want the most effective messages and strategies to grow in a transformed marketplace. With traditional revenue streams being disrupted by increasingly fragmented decision making, the Education Partner Summit will focus on ensuring that you walk away with the information you need to develop an effective and profitable strategy to serve your customers and grow your business, with practical sales resources, and understanding how you can leverage your Microsoft relationship and the resources of the Microsoft Education business to sell alongside you.

    The day will benefit sales and marketing teams dealing with schools, TAFEs and Universities. Additionally, the seminar will provide valuable insight to product marketing and development teams who are looking to identify new product and service opportunities within the education sector.

    Venues and dates

    For each half-day event the agenda will include:

    • Overview of the education market and changes happening today
    • Deep dive into the Office 365 Education suite, and how partners can use it to deliver educational solutions for schools
    • How to position Windows devices for education customers, and the supporting programmes available for partners and customers to support improved educational outcomes from their investments, including the new “Microsoft in the Classroom” and “Expert Educator” programme
    • Updates on the Microsoft Academic Licensing programmes

    We will be hosting the summits in the following Microsoft offices next month:

    • Sydney - 4th August 2014 - 12:30PM to 5:30PM
    • Brisbane – 5th August 2014 - 8AM to 12:30PM
    • Melbourne – 6th August 2014 - 8AM to 12:30PM
    • Perth – 8th August 2014 - 8AM to 12:30PM

    Registration

    We’ll shortly publish a registration link for the Microsoft Partner Network, but click the link below to register your interest, and to receive a registration link and a placeholder request for your calendar by email.

    Make a dateRegister now for your local Education Partner Summit event

  • Education

    Office Apps for Education–Academic Wordsmith plagiarism checker for Word

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    In the past I’ve written about the way that developers can now write apps for Office – which means that specialist capabilities can be added to Office to support particular uses. There are now hundreds of apps in the Office Store, which are add-ins for the Office suite – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc – and this includes a whole range of free and paid education apps for Office you can see here – other education apps in the Office store include a School Planner App for SharePoint, a GeoGebra app to create interactive worksheets in PowerPoint, a SCORM content player for Office 365, and a Lesson Planner for Word.

    We ran an Australian Education DevCamp for apps in May, and the first app to appear from an attendee is Academic Wordsmith, a plagiarism checker for Word - an app for students from the Teacher Collection team which runs within Microsoft Word. The app allows students to check an essay for originality, by comparing sections or whole assignments against Internet results – and displays possible matches between the assignment and online sources such as academic papers. Here’s some more from the website:

     

    imageMake a simple selection or submit your whole document, checking for originality could not be easier from right within Word. After our detailed analysis, your results are then delivered back to the same window for a quick and easy review.


    A detailed breakdown of matches found allow you to see exactly where problems have been detected including links to the matching locations. This allows you to make decisions about your current work and any chances you might need to make.

    Using our “Benefit of the doubt” algorithm, results that could potentially be related can also be returned, allowing you to easily find other material that may help and support your arguments!

     

    There are other services that do this (like WriteCheck, from the creators of TurnItIn), but what’s smart about Academic Wordsmith is that it runs within Office, so that students can check an assignment as they are working on it, rather than having to upload it to another website first.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Academic Wordsmith

  • Education

    Edmodo app for Windows 8 available now

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    Edmodo for Windows 8 logoAt the ISTE Conference in the US, the team from Edmodo (“the world’s largest, free K-12 social learning network”) released the Windows 8 Edmodo app for teachers and students. With thousands of teachers in Australian schools using Edmodo, it means that learners in Australia can easily access the Edmodo suite from their Windows 8 start screen, and receive live tile notifications (eg showing when there’s new messages or reminders for the user on their Windows Start Screen via the app’s live tile).

    One of the benefits of the Windows 8 Edmodo app is that when you click to view a file or internet link, it will open it in split screen view – leaving both Edmodo and the new file on the screen, rather than switching between apps.

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    Learn MoreGet the Edmodo app from the Windows 8 Store

  • Education

    Explain Everything for Windows 8 - now available

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    I’ve been away for a nice holiday, and now that I’m back I’m staring at a huge backlog of blog posts to write up, as there’s been so much happening and announced whilst I’ve been away. And because many schools, TAFEs and universities are heading back next week, I thought I’d better get started…

    There have been some great new apps added to the Education section of the Windows 8 store recently, and one of the highest profile ones is Explain Everything for Windows 8.

    imageExplain Everything for Windows 8 is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere. You can use it to create slides, draw in any colour, add shapes, add text, and use a laser pointer. It allows you to rotate, move and arrange any object added to the stage, and then to record and playback your screencast.image

    You start by using an existing images or PDFs (you can save Office files directly as PDFs within Word and PowerPoint) and then use a variety of tools to edit and annotate as you go along – with Explain Everything recording all the actions for playback later as a video file or still images.

    Find More

    Download Explain Everything from the Windows Store

  • Education

    Here’s one TAFE institute that’s already changed the face of learning with Yammer

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    Shortly all education customers will be able to add the enterprise version of Yammer free to their existing Office 365 Education [Want to know more about this, and what's in Yammer enterprise]. But some education customers in Australia have already been using Yammer to support teaching and learning in their institution.

    imageAt Wodonga TAFE, they started using Yammer last year to provide an enhanced online learning environment, with better cross-institute sharing between staff, and with and between students. In addition to supporting remote students, and bringing them closer to the institute, even if they are studying online, Wodonga TAFE have also been able to win new business from government and private sector organisations. This is an important factor for TAFEs in almost every state across Australia, where Institutes are competing with private training providers who are getting into areas that have been previously reserved for TAFE Institutes.

    As Michael Kershler, the ICT Director at Wodonga TAFE, put it:

      We have targeted and won contracts from government and the private sector based on our ability to embed technology in online learning. With Lync and Yammer, we are winning contracts from customers who would not traditionally have turned to a TAFE institution.  

    Wodonga TAFE has 250 staff, 14 campuses, and delivers training to 18,000 students through 2,500,000 contact hours of training each year.

    Connecting staff with each other, and with students

    As well as wanting to attract new customers among regional businesses, government agencies and remote communities, the TAFE wanted to make training more compelling. According to Michael:

      To stimulate new learning techniques, we wanted everyone to share ideas informally, without cluttering each other’s email with irrelevant material. We had fantastic education capital, but it was stuck in silos of information in 14 different campuses. To create the best courses we needed to reduce internal barriers.  

    Wodonga TAFE already delivered more than half of courses online, but to deliver a more interactive learning experience, trainers also wanted to bring remote students into the same teaching environments. “We wanted to make online learning more engaging, increase real-time participation, and equip everyone to respond quickly to student requests.”

    Late last year, Wodonga TAFE became the first vocational TAFE in Victoria to roll out the enterprise social tool, Yammer. (Yammer recreates a social media platform within an organisation, so employees and students can create profiles and interest groups, start conversation threads, post news, pose questions and provide informal commentary.

    They also wanted to give all staff instant messaging, voice calls, and desktop videoconferencing, so they used Lync 2013, and made Office 365Education available to all 18,000 students. And by connecting Lync and Skype, students and trainers can see each other’s availability, start IM conversations and click-to-call from either application.

    TAFE staff working ‘out loud’

    After combining Yammer, Lync and Office 365, Wodonga TAFE staff members started collaborating more effectively, creating more powerful courses and winning new customers. Yammer has helped create a new, highly co-operative networking culture across all TAFE Wodonga campuses.

     

    We’ve had great success in breaking down organisational barriers. With Yammer, we’ve developed a ‘working out loud’ philosophy, which means trainers build new courses collaboratively, everyone knows what’s happening, and we all react fast.

    Before, people were pushing information—often blindly—across organisation. Now, we are all pulling information towards us, which is more efficient and effective. Yammer brings the organisation together, both culturally and at a business level. Email is no longer our primary communication tool.

     

    Improving distance learning

    The Yammer-Lync combination also enables trainers to reach a wider student base, through simpler instant collaboration and communication:

     

    Our remote learning is now so much more than just ‘online’. When they sign up, remote students are instantly engaged in our campus environment, and tutors bring students into classes, or coach them via live chats. Meanwhile, trainers have started learning innovation groups, where they create and share digital learning techniques.

    Now we can extend the best quality education to students to isolated communities at no additional cost: this gives us a great competitive advantage.

     

    Learn MoreRead more in the full Microsoft case study on our global website

  • Education

    Solving the biggest problem with Office 365’s SharePoint in schools

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    I’ve come across implementations of SharePoint in schools where it has been rolled out as another vanilla IT service – a bit like a shared network drive, or a plain portal. And the IT team are so overloaded with projects that they haven’t had the time to personalise the look and feel to make it suitable for each class, subject or interest group. Of course, they’re not all like that – as my 10 of the best SharePoint school websites and 10 of the best Australian education websites built on SharePoint lists show.

    So wouldn’t it be good if we could solve the design problem, so that you can roll out a unique and compelling design for your Office 365 website, and give control to every teacher and specialist so that they can customise their design so that the History page is exactly what the History teachers want, and the Art page reflects what the Art Department want? And that design worked on your laptops, tablets and even your students’ phones?

    That’s exactly the problem we solved last week, when nSynergy launched Mosaic with us at the EduTech conference in Brisbane.

    Mosaic is a free, Office 365 SharePoint template built specifically for schools, to help you create and customise collaborative and engaging, interactive online learning spaces which support and accelerate learning outcomes. Mosaic lets you create your classroom in the cloud.

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    Built in partnership with Australian company nSynergy, and in consultation with educators from around the country, Mosaic helps schools harness the power of Office 365 Education by providing a modern user experience with intuitive and personalised interactions that inspire discovery.  It creates beautiful learning spaces with simple drag and drop tools for teachers, to connect the classroom to any student, anywhere and on any device, at any time. Mosaic extends the power of Office 365 to accelerate learning outcomes.

    Free to download from the Office Store from the end of June, Mosaic is powered by the LiveTiles design tool, and is available on any device, helping schools use Office 365 more effectively for collaboration and communication. Through Mosaic we’re enabling schools to respond and adapt to changes in the education sector, ensuring that both students and teachers have the best and simplest tools at their disposal to improve their learning experience. It brings the ease of use and flexibility to design your own virtual classroom, and hands the power back to the teacher to focus on teaching and not trying to manage the tools to teach.

    It makes anytime, anywhere learning a reality by allowing learners and educators to work and collaborate both in and away from the classroom.

    To find out more about Mosaic, head to the website where you can view a short video demonstration and register your interest to be contacted upon launch day.

  • Education

    21st Century Learning Design in Action–two day workshop from ELH

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    Are you going to EduTech next week? Would you like to be able to develop practical strategies that help you turn some of the great ideas into concrete plans? The team at Expanding Learning Horizons have created a training  event, running in Brisbane in the two days before EduTech, that’s setup perfectly to help.

    Now that 21st Century learning has been reflected within the Australian National Curriculum, with the introduction of the General Capabilities, teachers must know how to design their lessons to develop key skills for work and life in the 21st Century. The two-day course (1/2 June) enables both teachers and educational leaders to gain a clear understanding of 21st Century skills, providing an explicit framework for improving both classroom and school outcomes. And with Bruce Dixon and Travis Smith talking (two of the Australian speakers I love to be challenged by), there will be plenty of content to help you create your action plans.

    It will provide an excellent framework for evaluating everything you’ll see over the following two days at the EduTech conference.

    The training course costs $495 for two days, and you can find the detailed agenda and venue details below:

    Make a dateFind out more: ELH 21st Century Learning Design in Action - 1/2 June 2014

  • Education

    Webinar: How Office 365 Education helps students learn

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    We’ve got a webinar coming up in two weeks for Australian schools:

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    The subject of our next school-focused webinar is “How do you give your students better learning experiences with a rich, interactive collaborative environment that will prepare them for the demands of a 21st century workforce?

    We’ll show you how Microsoft Office 365 Education could enhance communication and collaboration in your classroom and inspire new ways of teaching and learning. We’ll take a look at how St Andrews Anglican College are using Office 365 Education to enhance communication across the school and improve student outcomes. And you’ll hear how your school can take advantage of these very same opportunities at no cost, with the Student Advantage program.

    • Inspire new ways of teaching
    • Empower your students to work on group projects simultaneously – in and out of the classroom
    • Mark projects and essays wherever you need to be, without cumbersome paperwork
    • Foster open communication via a school-based social network
    • Inspire innovation and creativity among your students
    • Hear how St Andrews College deployed Office 365 Education to encourage student confidence with technology and improve school communications

    The speakers are two of my favourite experts – Mark Tigwell, who works with NSW schools, and Fiona Sims, who’s the manager for Office 365 Education in Australia. And the session includes a live chat feature so you can get instant answers to your own questions. You can find out more, and register below.

    The webinar is at 4pm AEST (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) on Wednesday 14 May.

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  • Education

    Building a MOOC in the cloud, using Microsoft Azure

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    It would be fair to call MOOCs a phenomenon (Phenomenon: Something notable: something that is out of the ordinary and excites people's interest and curiosity). They have created an enormous amount of interest and curiosity – and jumped up to the top of the agenda for ‘EdTech futurists’ and any reports that look at what’s the next big thing. A lot of the attention has focused on the MOOCs coming out of the US – like edX and Coursera – which some of the big Australian universities have signed up for (The University of Melbourne aligned with Coursera, whilst The University of Sydney aligned with edX). But it’s not a one-way street across the Pacific - there have been plenty of local MOOCs developed within Australia.

    DeakinConnect headerDeakin University’s open learning space, Deakin Connect, is a purpose-built platform developed in conjunction with a Microsoft partner, Janison, which enables  Deakin University to innovate in assessment, as well as online learning. Rather than try to test and measure student success, the course prompts learners to create and share rich evidence of their attainment of learning outcomes. Peers can award credit badges, signifying that they believe the participant’s exhibit shows mastery of learning outcomes. These can be shared on social media platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook.

    I’ve attached a case study (see below) which explores why the Deakin University approach has been different to other universities, and how they have been able to focus on the educational outcomes they have been aiming to achieve, rather than compromising their educational journey to match somebody else’s technology. And their results so far – with registered participants from 80 countries, and having learners pay a fee for their work to be accredited by Deakin University (one of the first in the world to make a successful step towards a new accreditation business model through the MOOC). 

    As Wendy Palmer, Head of Learning Design from DeakinPrime, says in the case study:

      It’s not as if there are a lot of universities out there doing this. It’s not an established business model by any means. This really is cutting-edge stuff.  

    In the case study, Wendy also talks about the learning journey, for both DeakinPrime and the MOOC students:

     

    Content curation was the other major focus of the project. Rather than write lots of online learning, we’re actually using the system as a means of elegantly ordering information that’s already out there, pulling it together into a structured learning journey. Janison’s Course Builder really helped us to do that very quickly and simply. I’ve worked on many other Learning Management Systems and what I can do in an hour on the Janison CLS, I know would have taken me days in other systems. So, not only do we have an excellent system for elearning we also benefit from rapid deployment…

    A lot of the MOOC learning systems are in the format of just a video with associated multiple-choice questions. One week we decided to try this format for one of the modules. We got a real backlash on the discussion boards with comments like: ‘We’re so disappointed, we didn’t think this was that sort of course’. We had actually planned to use this format more. We ended up changing from multiple choices to an FAQ format, and then directing users to resources so they could research them further if they wanted to find out more. We didn’t receive any negative backlash from that. The system enabled us to adapt really quickly to learners’ expectations and requirements. We have the flexibility to change the courses as we progress and to give our users the learning experience they need.

     

    The DeakinConnect MOOC is built upon the Janison Cloud Learning System (CLS) which provides a platform being used within Australia for learning management, distance learning and online assessment, in educational, government and commercial organisations.

    Learn MoreRead the full DeakinConnect MOOC case study

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