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December, 2011 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

December, 2011

  • Education

    26 free apps for teachers

    • 0 Comments

    I’ve often blogged about individual free downloads on this blog. But how about one massive list of free apps for teachers from Microsoft? It’s not a complete list of everything, but it captures the key things that you might want to download and install on your teachers’ and students’ laptops in the new term.

    The list comes courtesy of the TeachTec site, created by colleagues in the US, which also provides a handy way to find helpful websites, white papers etc, and can be searched by specific subject area or education level - in total they’ve scooped up 102 resources into one place.

    Don’t have time to try them all? My all-time favourites in this list are Windows Live Writer, ZoomIt and AutoCollage


    AutoCollage

    With just a few clicks your students can automatically create beautiful photo collages using nothing more than images from their phone, camera or online photos.

    Photo collages celebrate important events and themes in our lives. Pick a folder, press a button, and in a few minutes AutoCollage presents you with a unique memento to print or email to your family and friends.


    Chemistry Add-in for Word

    In chemistry, not only is there a specific language, but a specific language with specific symbols and conventions -  Chemistry add-in for word can be the translator.

    The Chemistry Add-in for Word makes it easier to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas, and 2-D depictions, within Microsoft Office Word. Additionally, it enables the creation of inline “chemical zones,” the rendering of print-ready visual depictions of chemical structures, and the ability to store and expose chemical information in a semantically rich manner.


    Creative Commons add-in for Office

    Share your lesson plans or curriculum with Creative Commons licenses embedded into your doc, ppt, xls files.

    Empowering Microsoft Office users to express their intentions through Creative Commons licenses is another way Microsoft enables users around the world to exercise their creative freedom while being clear about the rights granted to users of a creative work. In the past, it has not always been easy or obvious to understand the intentions of some authors or artists regarding distribution or use of their intellectual creations. This is a great way to build the habits of sharing and collaboration.


    HD View

    Digital Arts Educators rejoice! Put your megapixels to work, use HD View to stitch large panoramic photos together to share online.

    HD View is the camera for the web. Its goal is to create the best picture given (a) a source with high resolution, arbitrary dynamic range, any field of view and colour gamut; (b) the user’s interaction; and (c) the display being used.


    Interactive Classroom

    1:1 classroom interaction just got easier. With OneNote and PowerPoint deliver interactive lessons using this powerful add-in for Office.

    Works with Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, Microsoft OneNote 2010, and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007. This add-in connects a teacher’s PowerPoint presentation to students’ OneNote notebooks. During a presentation, teachers can: Poll students with multiple choice, true/false, or yes/no questions. Distribute the lesson to students with OneNote Include real-time ink and text annotations. Students can answer and respond through their individual OneNote notebooks, hand-held clickers, or computers, and the results display in the presentation. Students also get consolidated notes that match those of the instructor so they can keep track of what they need to learn.


    Kodu

    Create games for Xbox or the PC, learn visual programming, teach creativity, problem solving or storytelling, no programing experience needed!

    Kodu is a visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox too, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input.


    Learning Essentials

    Office XP-2010 education templates, tutorials, and more with this add-in to Office. Create a randomised test in 30 seconds or less using Learning Essentials.

    Sometimes the hardest part about completing a project is getting started. Learning Essentials provides you with assignment-specific guidance in Microsoft Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Creative projects, science activities, data collection, essays and reports, research and brainstorming, presentations – the list goes on. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a curriculum area not addressed by Learning Essentials and Microsoft Office. Learning Essentials adds value right across the curriculum, including key subjects such as English, Maths, Science, Foreign Languages and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).


    Math Add-in for Word and OneNote

    Question: How do you create a 3D graph of an Oblate Spheroid equation? Answer: Use the Math add-in for Word and OneNote to solve, plot and graph equations.

    Works with Microsoft Word 2010, Microsoft Office Word 2007, and Microsoft OneNote 2010. With this add-in, you insert an advanced math problem (from algebra to calculus, physics, or statistics) and then click to simplify complex expressions or to solve. Use these advanced math computational and graphing capabilities to: Plot a function, equation, or inequality in 2-D or 3-D, and save the results, solve an equation or inequality, calculate a numerical result, compute the inverse of a matrix, matrix operations, list operations, and integrals.


    Math Worksheet Generator

    Math educators need love too, MWG creates 1-1000 equations from a single sample equation you enter. Did I mention it also generates an answer sheet too?

    Do you spend a lot of time searching for worksheets with practice problems to give your students? Now you can easily create your own in just a few seconds with the Math Worksheet Generator. This is a tool that generates multiple math problems based on a sample, and then creates a worksheet that you can distribute. By analysing the math problem you provide, or one of the built-in samples, the generator determines the structure of the expression and provides similar problems. We tack on an answer sheet too.


    Microsoft Math 4.0

    The average cost of a graphing calculator is $50, this one is free and works on your PC.

    From basic math to precalculus, Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 can help you visualize and see mathematical concepts as you’ve never seen them before. This free downloadable tool includes step-by-step instructions and explains fundamental concepts. The wide range of tools to help students with complex mathematics includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a hand-held calculator and ink handwriting support to recognize hand-written problems.

    Personal whinge from me on this - my daughters’ school gives every student their own laptop - and then insists that every parent spends an extra $250 on a graphing calculator. Grrr.


    Mouse Mischief

    25 Mice+PowerPoint = Interactive classroom lessons.

    Mouse Mischief integrates into Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, letting you insert questions, polls, and drawing activity slides into your lessons. Students can actively participate in these lessons by using their own mice to click, circle, cross out, or draw answers on the screen.


    Office Add-in for Moodle

    Do you want to find the easiest way to upload documents to Moodle? This Office add-in integrates with your Moodle deployment for easy uploads and access.

    Uploading files to Moodle has never been easier. The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 2003, 2007 and 2010) that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications. With the OAM, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications. You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.


    Photo Story 3

    Everyone remembers Photo Story from the Windows XP days, well guess what educators it's back and working with Windows 7!

    Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or your smartphone!


    Photosynth

    Photostitching x100, stop trying to make sense out of random photos on school field trips, turn that trip into a 360 experience.

    Photosynth takes your photos, mashes them together and recreates a 3D scene out of them that anyone can view and move around in. Different than static photos and video, Photosynth allows you to explore details of places, objects, and events unlike any other media. You can’t stop video, move around and zoom in to check out the smallest details, but with Photosynth you can. And you can’t look at a photo gallery and immediately see the spatial relation between the photos, but with Photosynth you can!


    PPTPlex

    Move between PowerPoint slides in a non-linear way. Don't quite understand what I mean? Download and find out that PowerPoint just got cool.

    pptPlex uses Plex technology to give you the power to zoom in and out of slide sections and move directly between slides that are not sequential in your presentation. Watch the videos below to see how pptPlex can help you organize and present information in a non-linear fashion. Test drive pptPlex and wow your audience with your next presentation.


    Ribbon Hero 2

    Do you remember Clippy, you know the paperclip character in old versions of Office, he's back, but with new ways for your students to learn.

    What happens when Office and Xbox intermingle? Yes, we turned Office into a game! If you're going to spend time immersed in the inner workings of Office, by golly it should be fun. In Ribbon Hero 2, the player will hop on board Clippy's stolen time machine and explore different time periods. With each time period, they get to explore a new game board with challenges they must complete to get to the next level. Each challenge takes the player into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote to complete a task. Discover new Office features by actually using them, with a hint button to fall back on in case you get stuck. Race for a high score with colleagues, classmates and friends, or even put your score on your resume to show off your Office skills!


    Search Commands

    It would be nice if you could just type "mail merge" on the Office Ribbon and all mail merge options would appear, now you can.

    Want more command over your Office applications? Search Commands offers a way to search for commands in your own words to get to your tasks more quickly.


    Songsmith

    Is it possible to teach your class how to sing? Yes. Is it possible to get them to sing well? Maybe. Songsmith is a good start.

    Ever sing in the car? Maybe in the shower? You know who you are. Admit it, you like to sing, and you like music. Ever thought of writing your own music? Most people never get a chance to try... but we want to give everyone a piece of the songwriting experience, so we’ve developed Songsmith, an application that lets you create a complete song just by singing!


    Windows Live Mesh

    Synchronize folders between multiple devices, including Macs.

    Access the stuff on your computers from almost anywhere. With Windows Live Mesh and the Devices website, you can finally stop emailing files to yourself, carrying them around on a USB drive, or worrying whether the version you have with you is the latest.


    Windows Live Messenger

    Chat with Facebook friends, on your phone or int he browser, Messenger keeps you connected.

    The best way to stay in touch with your friends. Share photos and videos while you chat. Video chat in high definition or send a video message to a friend. And connect your social networks to see important updates in one place—Messenger.


    Windows Live Movie Maker

    Download the latest version of Windows Movie Maker and learn how to share your new videos online for free.

    With Windows Live Movie Maker, you can quickly turn your photos and videos into polished movies. Add special effects, transitions, sound, and captions to help tell your story. And sharing with friends and family is easy—whether on the web, a computer, TV, mobile device, or a DVD.


    Windows Live Photo Gallery

    Share photos in your 25GB of storage online for free and faster than you can say online photo albums accessible from my smartphone.

    Import photos from your camera, organize them into albums, and edit them so they look their best. Use powerful photo tools to create stunning panoramas, movies, slide shows, and more. When you're ready to share, publish your photos and videos to your favourite websites like Facebook and Flickr directly from Photo Gallery.


    Windows Live Writer

    Are you an aspiring blogger? What about your students, with this free tool you can teach your students how to post directly to Wordpress or your favourite blog site in minutes.

    Windows Live Writer makes it easy for anyone to tell stories like a professional blogger. You can create beautiful blog posts, and see what they'll look like online before you publish them to your blog. Plus, you can publish your posts to any of your favourite blog service providers


    WorldWide Telescope

    If you could travel the stars where would you go? Let your students decide which planet they want to visit first using this online interactive planetarium.

    WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky.


    ZoomIt

    Zoom to an area on the screen during your big presentation, point out where to click in that application, and also set a timer on a blank screen with one key click (brilliant for the “You have 5 minutes to…" times.

    ZoomIt is a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image. Created by Mark Russinovich

  • Education

    OneNote on iPad and iPod - how to use it with the web and PC version for teaching and learning

    • 3 Comments

    Teacher iconEarlier today I wrote about the release of OneNote for iPad and iPod, and I promised I’d describe a scenario of using it in teaching and learning. I’ve tried to describe how it can be used by a teacher to make their teaching easier, share more information with their students, and support out of school learning - as well as potentially reduce the mountain of paper that seems a regular feature of my children’s school backpacks!

    Here’s my simple scenario:

    • The teacher uses OneNote to prepare a lesson plan
      • As they collect information from different sources, and web pages, OneNote automatically adds the source info for later reference
      • The teacher can add graphics & diagrams from other sources, or draw their own diagrams, as well as annotate graphics
      • Videos can be embedded, or linked, for use in the lesson
      • If the teacher wants to use a PowerPoint presentation, that too can be embedded, so that everything the teacher needs is in one place
    • The lesson is then delivered using OneNote
      • The teacher can use the OneNote notebook as either a source of info and prompt for them, or put it up onto a projector and use it to structure the whole lesson.
      • If there’s an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, by using OneNote the teacher can also annotate, draw diagrams etc, as they go along on the whiteboard, and this is then saved in the OneNote notebook automatically
      • You can even use OneNote to make a recording of the whole lesson, so that the students can go back and listen to or watch the whole lesson or the particular parts that they need to revise!
    • The teacher can then share the OneNote notebook with their students, for them to use afterwards
      • If they do this in SkyDrive, they can just set the default for all of a particular notebook to be shared, and keep all their lesson materials in that notebook
      • If they don’t want students to see next week’s lesson, they can set a password on each new lesson page as they start to create it, and then remove it when they teach that lesson - meaning that it’s closed to students all the time they are creating it and until they want it to be available
    • The teacher can also publish the homework assignments on the OneNote as well
      • Using the password trick above they can ensure students do see the assignments until it’s the right time
      • They can also set groups in the class differentiated assignments by creating multiple homework pages - and give each group a different password to get to their assignment page
    • Students can access their assignments and lesson notes wherever they are
      • The super-keen ones can access it on their iPhones and Windows Phones on the way home on the bus/train (how cool would it be to get your homework sorted before you’ve even reached home?
      • At home they could access it on their iPad (or more likely, on Dad’s iPad), or their home PC or school laptop with Office installed, or over the web on any computer using Office Web Apps on SkyDrive
      • If they don’t have internet access at home (eg they are one of the 6% of school students without home Internet access) they can use their school laptop with OneNote offline - they just need to sync their laptop before they leave school - eg in the lesson - and then they have all the files available at home, including any embedded videos and graphics
    • There are plenty of other things that could be done too - like asking students to submit their assignments through a shared OneNote notebook (and you can use the same password protection trick to keep students from seeing others’ work) and allowing the teacher to mark the work online, make comments, record commentary etc

    image[8]

    Your students and teachers can download OneNote for iPad and iPod from the iTunes store, and you’re already likely to have OneNote on your school computers (and if you haven’t it’s time to install it Smile)

    Learn MoreFind all the OneNote info on this blog
    Find out more about OneNote for iPad and iPod

  • Education

    OneNote on iPad just released - with an updated OneNote for iPod app too

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    OneNote logoOneNote has been described as one of Microsoft’s best kept secrets in education, because it’s a tool that most teachers and students find incredibly useful…once they’ve seen it. The challenge is that many, many people haven’t used it simply because they didn’t know it existed - either because nobody’s shown it to them, or because their IT team didn’t install it on their computer (despite the fact that virtually every version of Office has included OneNote for quite some time). I’d be pretty confident that most education customers have licences for OneNote already, and it’s also been included with Office Home & Student since Office 2007 came out. And now we have OneNote for iPad too!

    One of the clever things with OneNote is the way that you can sync files automatically between computers and between users - sharing OneNote notebooks between people is a simple click in the File menu. So it is great for sharing class notes, homework, lesson plans, quizzes and revision notes. For those teachers who’ve discovered OneNote, and discovered what it’s capable of, I’ve often seen a zealous enthusiasm that’s infectious!

    Earlier in 2011, we released a version of OneNote for the iPod, that allowed you to sync the text of your OneNote notebooks to your iPod and iPhone. It was a good way of sharing notes with students, or having a To-Do list or other notes shared across devices.

    OneNote for iPad and iPod released

    OneNote for iPad screenshotOvernight we’ve announced the availability of a new version of OneNote for iPad, and an updated version of OneNote for iPod and iPhone. So now you can have OneNote on your iOS devices, and have an application for notes and sharing that works across a range of devices:

    • Windows PCs
    • Macs (through the web version)
    • Windows Phone
    • iPhone
    • iPad
    • iPod
    • And via a web-browser with Office Web Apps on other devices

    And by using your free 25GB of SkyDrive storage (if you haven’t already got one, or haven’t had it through your Live@edu account, then you can just sign up for one online) you can sync your notes across all the different versions. And you can also choose to share your files with other people  - whether that’s just a small group of colleagues, or a group of students, or just published online for anybody to see.

    Whereas the first version of OneNote on iPod was completely free, as more features have been added the model has changed a little bit, with a free entry-level product, and then an option to buy as you extend its use (what’s known in the software world as the freemium model). This means that you can use up to 500 notes, and then upgrade to the full version as you use it more. (And if you don’t want to upgrade to the unlimited version you can still view and sync notebooks to your iPad/iPod/iPhone, but can’t credit new ones or edit existing ones). This means that as a teacher, you could share classroom notes, homework, revision materials and lesson plans with your students without them having to pay for OneNote for their iPad/iPod unless they were going to be editing lots of notebooks. They would only need to buy it if they wanted to use it for themselves for editing notebooks.

    OneNote for iPad and iPod

    So how could you use OneNote on iPad, iPod, the web and on your PC for teaching and learning?

    Give me half an hour, and I’m going to write up a description of Here's an idea of how this could be used by a teacher to make their teaching easier, share more information with their students, and support out of school learning.

    In the meantime, go and download the app!

    Learn MoreDownload OneNote for iPad and iPod now

  • Education

    Using Kinect in the classroom for music teaching

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    Ask the Music TeacherGareth Ritter, who’s a music teacher from Wales, was one of the teachers who took part in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum, in Washington last month. When I met Gareth last year he was talking about the work that he’d been doing with his students, weaving technology throughout his teaching in order to engage students in their learning. Given his enthusiasm, it didn’t surprise me to see that he was a finalist for the Awards at the forum, and I was pleased to find a video recorded by a colleague at the event, where he talked about what his students had been doing - creating tracks, recording their own CDs, and ultimately getting signed by a record label. They recorded a series of YouTube tutorials that have been watched over 25,000 times and continuing to grow.

    imageI’d recommend taking a look at Gareth’s website - Ask the Music Teacher - where you can find the tutorials, his teaching blog and an audio showcase of the students’ work. The individual tracks are well worth a listen, and make a great benchmark - and you can download the whole CD free too.

  • Education

    Collaboration with Microsoft Office 365 - free ebook from MS Press in more formats

    • 1 Comments

    The Microsoft Press team announced that their ebook on Office 365  is available as a free ebook in a range of new formats.

    Office 365 ebook coverThe chapters of the book are:

    1. What’s happening in the world of work
    2. Getting started with Office 365
    3. Administering an Office 365 Account
    4. What your team can do with Office 365
    5. Creating your team site with SharePoint online
    6. Posting, sharing and managing files
    7. Adding and managing workflows
    8. Working with Office 2010 Web Apps
    9. Going mobile with Office 365
    10. Email and organise with Office 365
    11. Talking it over with Microsoft Lync
    12. Designing your public website
    13. Integrating all parts of Office 365

    I especially enjoyed reading chapter 12 - Designing your public website. I’ve been writing about using SharePoint to create education websites recently (see ‘Ten of the Best - Australian education websites built on SharePoint’ ) and the idea of using the hosted Office 365 service to create a public website might well be something that’s really useful for smaller schools and colleges. It will mean that you can create a fully managed website, with ownership across a broad team, but without needing to buy lots of hardware or bandwidth, or maintain a complex webserver.

    There are three formats available:

    Free Office 365 ebook  in PDF format - for on screen reading

    Free Office 365 ebook in .mobi format - for Kindle readers

    Download the free Office 365 ebook in .epub format - for Sony readers

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

  • Education

    Publishing accessible learning resources - more support in Office

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    We’ve announced some new add-ins for Microsoft Office that will help education users publish their learning resources with added accessibility - making them more accessible to more learners, specifically those with visual and hearing impairments.

    Captioning add-in for PowerPoint to add captions to video and audio

    Screenshot of STAMP in actionOne is an add in for PowerPoint which enables the addition of closed captions to any embedded video and audio files used in a presentation, ensuring that students who have hearing impairments don’t miss out. It allows you to either manually add your own captions, or by importing an existing industry standard Timed Text Mark-up Language (TTML) file. With STAMP, people who already work with captioned video and audio files associated with TTML files can import them directly into their presentations. For people who don't have access to an existing TTML file, but still need to create captions (or adjust imported captions), STAMP provides a simple caption editor within PowerPoint 2010. Captions within STAMP are saved with the file or can be exported for use by others.

    The other way that STAMP could be used is to add English subtitles to a foreign language video (or translate an English video into another language), which might be a great technique for languages teachers.

    The STAMP add-in is for Office 2010. And I discovered the acronym STAMP stands for Subtitling Add-In for Microsoft PowerPoint

    > Go here to find out more about STAMP, and download the free add-in

    Making talks books with Word, with the DAISY Add-in for Office

    The DAISY Consortium was set up to help those with visual impairment (or ‘print disabilities’) to access digital content easily, and enhance their use of the materials. We’ve just updated the DAISY Word plug-in, which allows Word documents to be translated into DAISY XML - a globally accepted standard for digital talking books (eg it’s used by Vision Australia’s Information Library Service).

    DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System, which lets you work with digital content in many ways, synchronising audio with display output, generating braille versions, or allowing text to speech conversion. It is more powerful than simply creating an audio file (eg an .mp3) - unlike analogue talking books, an important feature of DAISY books is easy and rapid navigation. A book can be navigated by such elements as sentence, paragraph, page (including specific page numbers) and various heading levels. It is also possible to fast forward or rewind and to jump back and forth by time increments when using the audio component. Depending on the playback equipment being used, a book can be searched for specific words. The user can also place Bookmarks at relevant points and jump to them easily.

    The ‘Save as Daisy’ add-in for Word lets users of Microsoft Word 2003-2010 convert Word files to the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) format - accessible multimedia formats for people unable to read print. Some of these formats include synchronized text and MP3 audio that can be played directly within Windows 7 or DAISY XML, which works with compatible software readers and talking book/braille reading devices.

    > Go here to find out more about DAISY, and download the free add-in

    Other accessibility features in Office

    Here are a few of the other Office 2010 features that help people create and consume all kinds of accessible content:

    • An accessibility checker (like a spelling checker, but for accessibility) as a feature of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that provides step-by-step instructions for how to correct accessibility errors.
    • imageAn on-the-fly translation feature called Mini Translator, which allows you to translate single words or many paragraphs simply by hovering over the text that you want to translate. Mini Translator also includes the ability to speak that text using Microsoft's Text-to-Speech (TTS) engine.
    • A Full Screen Reading view that is optimized for reading a document on the computer screen. In Full Screen Reading view, you also have the option of seeing the document as it would appear on a printed page.

    Learn MoreFind out more about accessibility in Microsoft Office

  • Education

    Most popular Education blog posts of 2011

    • 1 Comments

    Screen iconI arrived in Australia at the end of January 2011, and setup this Education blog on the first day of the new school year. I aimed to pop up a blog post every working day, with two goals:

    • Help you discover useful info on ICT, Education and Microsoft’s role in it
    • Help me to learn more about the Australian Education marketplace

    Well, after writing 295 blog posts in a year, I can definitely say I’ve learnt a huge amount about the Australian Education marketplace. I can’t count the statistical/research/consultancy reports I’ve read, the people I’ve had the chance to talk to whilst preparing to write something, and the news stories and press announcements I’ve had to dig into and behind to get to the core facts. It’s been a great way of understanding the Australian education system.

    So here, out of almost 300 posts, are the most popular blog posts on this Education blog:

    The most popular Education Blog posts of 2011

    This was the easiest list to compile - what was more difficult was trying to understand why each of these individually became popular education blog posts.

    1. Something for the weekend - free eBooks from Microsoft Press
      A list of free Microsoft eBooks on subjects including Windows Phone, SQL Server 2008 R2 and Office 2010
      This blog post from March shot to popularity when it went viral through Facebook, and then hit the front page of LinkedIn
    2. 21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020
      A commentary on Shelly Blake-Plock’s two-year-old list of potentially obsolete things in education
      I only wrote this in November, but it hit the number 2 spot after going viral on Twitter, as well as becoming the subject of an extended discussion on the University of the West Indies online learning system!
    3. Ten of the best - SharePoint School websites
      My subjective list of the sites I believe are the best school websites built on SharePoint
      This one hit the top ten partly because it gets a lot of traffic from people searching for ‘best school websites’ and ‘best SharePoint sites’
    4. Windows 7 SP1 Releases
      A straight news item about the release of the SP1 for Windows 7
      Hit the big-time because for a short period it turned out to be the number one search result for Windows 7 SP1 in Google
    5. Business Intelligence for Universities
      A list of case studies of universities saving money with the CALUMO BI system
    6. One in six schools block Wikipedia
      One snippet from a survey in Australia, and suddenly a top-ten blog post!
      This got a lot of interest in the worldwide Wikipedia community, many asking ‘Why would a school block Wikipedia?’. Also the most commented blog post.
    7. Moving to the Cloud - the Microsoft experience
      Case studies of how we’ve moved business critical applications to the cloud - and what we’ve learned along the way
    8. Ten of the best - Australian education websites built on SharePoint
      Yup, one of my subjective lists again
    9. Ready-made IT user documentation
      A whole bunch of user support teams around education have found these handy starting points for their own user documentation
    10. A pile of Microsoft technical e-books now free for Kindle and iPad
      This is linked to the Number 1 spot - but this time with additional formats for Kindle.
      Somehow the use of ‘free’ ‘microsoft’ ‘e-books’ ‘Kindle’ and ‘iPad’ seemed to act like catnip for people searching on Google

    And just to re-assure you, I still plan to keep on sharing - and learning - in 2012 too!

  • Education

    Australian School holiday dates - 2012-2013

    • 0 Comments

    Icons_teacher_blueAn update on my previous blog post, to give you “Australian school holiday dates 2012”, with all of the term dates for each state in Australia. It’s a quick guide, if you are planning events or marketing activities with schools. As you’ll see all of the Australian school holiday dates don’t coincide, so you’ll find that you may be able to run an event in one state whilst all of the others are on holiday.

    Australian School Holidays 2012 - state by state

    State

    2011/2012
    Summer Holiday Ends

    Autumn Holidays Winter Holidays Spring Holidays

    2012/2013
    Summer Holiday Starts

     

    NSW

    26 Jan 2012

    6-20 April

    2-13 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    24 Dec 2012

    Link

    VIC

    31 Jan

    2-13 April

    2-13 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    24 Dec

    Link

    QLD

    20 Jan

    2-13 April

    25 Jun - 6 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    17 Dec

    Link

    WA

    31 Jan

    6-25 April

    7-23 July

    29 Sep-15  Oct

    19 Dec

    Link

    NT

    27 Jan

    6-13 April

    25 Jun-20 July

    1-5 Oct

    14 Dec

    Link

    SA

    27 Jan

    18-27 April

    2-13 July

    24 Sep-5 Oct

    17 Dec

    Link

    ACT

    2 Feb

    16-27 April

    9-20 July

    1-12 Oct

    24 Dec

    Link

    TAS

    14 Feb

    6-13 April

    4-15 June

    10-21 Sep

    20 Dec

    Link

    If you’re planning a national campaign, and want to work out when is a good time to schedule a mailing, webcast or other activity, then here’s a quick table. It’s the only dates when all Australian state schools are open:

    • 15 February - 30th March
    • 30th April - 23rd June
    • 23rd July - 21st Sept
    • 18th Oct - 11th Dec*
      * Private schools will close up to a week earlier
  • Education

    A hint of immersive learning for the future? Behind the doors of Building 99

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    At the Microsoft campus in Redmond, every building has a number. It makes it easier to find your way around the 100+ buildings that teams work in. In one of those, Building 99, you’ll find part of the Microsoft Research team - who get to experiment on the bleeding edge of technology. Lots of their research takes place behind closed doors, but whenever we get a chance to peak inside to see what’s going on, there’s always a surprise. A team from The Verge, an online tech news site, were there recently, and handily took along a camera crew:

    What they found was research into new user interfaces, using some of the capabilities of Kinect. After I watched this, it made me wonder what this technology will be used to enable in the classroom. As learning changes, and students have access to more and more information sources outside of the traditional set of teachers and textbooks, how will this kind of technology be used to create immersive learning experiences? How feasible is it going to be to fully immerse a student in the Gallipoli campaign and help them to learn from doing, rather than just reading and watching? People have talked about immersive learning for a long time - but a technology rich, immersive classroom to match some of the best high-funded museum experiences has been an exception.

    When you can take a $50,000 sensor device and swap it for a $150 consumer product in the form of Kinect, I think the breakthrough may be just around the corner.

  • Education

    Remote teaching for blind students

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    After I wrote about the use of Microsoft Lync at Vicdeaf, where they are using the system to improve communications between deaf colleagues, I’ve had a few conversations with customers about different ways that Lync can help to improve the learning experience for students - especially those with accessibility needs.

    If you need it, here’s a quick summary of some of the things that Lync can do: instant messaging, video calling, telephone replacement, video conferencing between multiple users, audio conferencing, screen sharing, audio & video capture, and whiteboard sharing. So in an education context it can be used for things like quick chats between students and teachers, or remote lesson delivery, or connecting groups of students to collaborate in real-time on a project. As I have discovered, with a wireless bluetooth headset, it can allow you to fully participate in a conference call, whilst making a cup of coffee Winking smile

    I’ve just finished reading a case study on the Microsoft PressPass site which gives a good insight into the kind of tough educational challenges that it can help with. In Washington State they are using it at the Washington State School for the Blind to allow teachers based in other areas to teach and support students.

    Washington State School for the Blind

    Teacher Robin Lowell, using a large format display to teach students remotelyThe case study is of students who are taking an algebra class and where the teacher is located 240 km away. In many ways the class is delivered exactly like a normal lesson - with the teacher able to see the students, and the students able to act exactly the same way that they would if the teacher was in the classroom with them - for example, raising their hands to ask a question. As well as a webcam and large display at the front of the classroom, students have their own laptops along with other accessibility features they might need, such as screen readers or braille displays. And the features of Lync - such as screen sharing, virtual whiteboard and chat windows - can then supplement these resources.

    The result is a classroom that works, even though the teacher and the students don’t need to be together. And it doesn’t require any special video conferencing rooms or equipment - it can work with existing webcams (earlier today, I joined a virtual meeting using the built-in webcam on my laptop, with groups of colleagues who were in four different places).

    As Chris, a visually impaired student in the algebra class, said:

      It makes it easier that if we have problem, we can talk to Miss Lo. And if I get snowed in at home in Spokane, with Lync I wouldn’t miss my class!  

    Given the pressing need for creative ways to manage the future teacher shortages in Australia, and the need to enable specialist teaching for rural schools, then I think we're going to see increasing demand for ad-hoc conferencing capabilities, which can be controlled by teachers and students, rather than the bigger formal video conferencing systems and dedicated suites that we've been seeing up until now. If a teacher can just start a group teaching session from wherever they are, without having to book facilities in advance, then it's more likely to give them a learning environment that is adaptive and responsive to students' needs.

    Learn MoreRead the full case study on Lync's use for remote teaching for blind students

    You can read more about Lync’s accessibility features in this post on the Lync blog

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