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February, 2012 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

February, 2012

  • Education

    Achieving Accessibility in SharePoint 2010


    imageVision Australia have just released an excellent detailed report about their experiences delivering an accessible implementation of SharePoint 2010, and including an assessment of SharePoint 2010’s conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

    As they say in their introduction:


    Accessibility is becoming increasingly important for organisations in Australia. There are over 4 million people with a disability, expected to increase with our aging population. With the shift to increased use of the web for a range of services and information, organisations have a legal obligation under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to ensure web content is fully accessible. There are also commercial advantages to ensuring web content meets the defined accessibility standards and best practices.

    Most recently the Australian Government’s Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy requires government agencies to achieve WCAG 2.0 base level of conformance (Single A) by December 2012, and medium level (Double A) by the end of 2014.


    As they document, SharePoint Server 2007 did present  some challenges to meeting full accessibility needs. Their paper reviews the significant improvements that have been made in SharePoint 2010, assesses conformance with WCAG 2.0 Double A standards, and provides guidance on how an accessible solution can be achieved using this platform:


    Some of the accessibility improvements from SharePoint 2007 include:

    • enhanced keyboard access to all functionality including the new ribbon interface;
    • changes to overcome technical conformance issues that occurred with master pages and controls in MOSS 2007;
    • improved page reading sequences and representation of tabular data; and
    • new accessibility features such as WAI-ARIA roles and attributes to enhance the experience of assistive technology users.

    Out of the box SharePoint 2010 is much more accessible through the inclusion of WAI-ARIA. When used with the latest versions of browsers and assistive technologies the standard SharePoint interface is in many cases fully accessible.


    The paper also covers the use of SharePoint 2010 as an enterprise solution, as it can provide the interface to multiple business systems. As they say, properly configured and governed SharePoint 2010’s accessibility can then be delivered across multiple systems rather than having to address accessibility considerations for each system individually:


    This overall platform approach means that users will see a common interface across multiple systems. This results in a simpler learning curve and reduces training and support requirements – which can be significant for users with a disability.


    If you are responsible within your education institution for providing accessible systems for your students and staff, this is a valuable free resource that will help with your planning

    Learn MoreDownload the Vision Australia report on SharePoint 2010 and Accessibility

  • Education

    Imagine changing the world - Imagine Cup 2012



    Imagine changing the world - Imagine Cup 2012

    One of my most inspiring days of 2011 was spent watching the Australian finalists pitching their ideas and software to the judges in the PowerHouse Museum in Sydney, and feeling so proud of the team that won the right to take their entry to New York to compete at the global Imagine Cup finals. I simply could not believe the amazing projects that teams of 3 or 4 students had created, and the professionalism of the software that they had developed to tackle genuine societal needs. I’ve already added the dates for this year’s finals in my diary - there’s no way I want to miss out. And you??

    Are you a student with the vision to change the world, or an academic, business or IT professional who knows how to inspire young minds?

    Imagine Cup is a global competition for student teams who combine inspiration with technology to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems. Every year, students come up with amazing solutions that use technology to improve education, help environmental sustainability, and reduce poverty and child mortality.

    If that challenge excites you, get your team together, get your thinking caps on and enter Imagine Cup 2012.

    Of course, every team requires a mentor, who can answer questions and challenge them to think big and follow their vision.

    If you’re willing to support the innovators of tomorrow, register now to become an Imagine Cup Mentor. Winning teams have a chance to share their ideas at the Imagine Cup 2012 Worldwide finals right here in Australia and compete for cash grants and other prizes. Enter your team in Imagine Cup 2012 now, or register now to become an Imagine Cup Mentor. And while you’re at it, why not spread the word on Imagine Cup 2012 to your students – or any inspiring young minds you know?

    Go to

  • Education

    Video conferencing in Australian schools


    The Polycom education newsletter has just dropped into my email inbox, and I wondered if you already know about it? The Microsoft partnership with Polycom extends the use of video conferencing and audio conferencing in education across a wide range of scenarios, from remote 1:1 teaching, to professional development and whole-school video conferencing. (And every time I pickup a phone in our office for a Lync call, it’s a Polycom handset that I use)

    Polycom EdBanner

    The newsletter comes out every few months, and looks at projects underway in education. Polycom have a wide range of partners that deliver sessions via video conferencing for schools, and which includes the National Museum of Canberra, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Literature Live. In 2012 they are adding History SA, Opera Australia and Fremantly Press

    Some of the highlighted info in this term’s newsletter include:

    2012 is the Year of…

    Apparently, as well as being the Year of Reading, 2012 is also the Year of Sustainability for All, the Year of the Brothers Grimm and the Year of Languages. And the Polycom team have lined up events to match with these, so that schools can connect their curriculum to activities outside of school. For example, the Year of Reading will include an opportunity to connect with WA authors and illustrators as part of the 3rd Annual Polycom Literary Festival in conjunction with Fremantle Press.

    • World Languages Week - 6/9 March

    DeforestACTION LIVE

    This is a joint project between the Microsoft Partners in Learning network, Taking It Global, the Centre for Global Education, Polycom and AARNet, with a goal of connection 100,000 students around the world for a series of live global events. The project is initially focusing on the forests of Indonesia, where widespread illegal deforestation has made the country the number three emitter of greenhouse gas in the world. Five schools will get the chance to join live videoconferences with the team in Borneo, whilst other schools can take part in the live streaming.

    • DeforestACTION - 28th March

    World Earth Day

    There are two scheduled events, with Green Cross Australia leading ‘Sustainability for all’ for upper primary students, and Questacon leading ‘The Science of World Earth Day’ for Middle and Secondary students.

    • World Earth Day - 20 April

    The VideoConference School

    Abbotsleigh School, in northern Sydney, uses video conferencing for students to take virtual excursions, learn from remote experts, connect with students in other countries, as well as for staff to collaborate on research grants and carry out professional development sessions.

    The team at Abbotsleigh run their own blog - The VideoConference School - with examples of how they have used the system in their curriculum.

    If you want to join any of these activities, or find out more, the links and contacts are all in the newsletter. You can also find out how to contact their education team who put these programmes together.

    Learn More

    You can download the Polycom February Education newsletter (PDF) here, and, even better, sign up to get the Polycom Australia Education newsletter directly here

  • Education

    Something for your parent or student newsletter? Avoiding scams


    While he was working from home, a friend of mine recently got a phone call, from "Microsoft support", claiming to want to help him fix his PC. Fortunately, he's the suspicious type. And he's right to be. It's a scam. I’ve even received the call myself at home - and I've been prompted to write this blog post about it after reading this iTWire story of other people getting the same calls.

    Obviously, we have quite enough to do without randomly phoning people unprompted, and asking if we can remotely access their PC. It's just a straightforward scam, in which they attempt to gain access to your PC and all of your secret stuff.

    If it's something you wanted to warn your parents or students about, there's some more information, and there's official Microsoft advice about phishing, on the Microsoft Protect site - and specifically on this page "Avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently". Of the four scams mentioned on the page, I’ve had three of them tried on me so far.

  • Education

    WorldWide Telescope - free software for teachers in February


    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    The 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.

    WWT is a powerful virtual telescope that helps students visualise and understand our vast cosmos. It inspires learners to explore, to ask questions, and to practice the scientific skills that astronomers use to build our understanding of objects that are literally across the universe.

    Young children can learn about the causes of night and day by manipulating the real-time model of Earth in our solar system. Middle school children can use it to understand seasons and Moon phases, as well as distance scales in the universe. High school students can learn how astronomers have pieced together the life cycle of stars by observing breathtaking nebulae, white dwarfs, and red giants. Tertiary students can explore important maps made by astronomers that help us to understand how gravity influences the shapes and structures we see in the universe. Every student can use it to tell and share their own stories of what they have learned about astronomy and space

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s a WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program to enrich interactive learning. It’s an outreach initiative run by researchers at Harvard University, WGBH, and Microsoft Research. Ambassadors are astrophysically-literate volunteers who are trained to be experts in using WWT as teaching tool. Ambassadors and learners alike use WorldWide telescope to create dynamic, interactive Tours of the Universe, which are shared in schools, public venues, and online. Ambassador-created Tours are being made freely available and will ultimately form a comprehensive learning resource for Astronomy and Astrophysics. You can learn more at

    The other place to look is the Education page on the WorldWide Telescope website. Amongst other things, there is also a set of resources for classroom use, developed in the form of curriculum guides, lesson plans and additional resources to assist teachers and students launching into an exploration of the universe through the lens of the WorldWide Telescope. Since it uses the most current data taken from celestial imaging, users can easily pan and zoom into specific areas of outer space for fine tuned investigations. Images are taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as numerous telescopes here on Earth.

      Want to go further in using it for teaching - you need a dome!

      imageThere is a do-it-yourself option for creating a planetarium for about a thousand dollars, using supplies from local office and hardware stores and a special first surface spherical mirror.

      Many students never have a chance to go to a bricks and mortar planetarium to learn astronomy, so the team created a virtual planetarium with WorldWide Telescope. However, outer space is still best experienced in an immersive environment like a dome, so they have published a set of plans that enable schools to build their own small planetarium that will allow 15-30 students at a time to experience a high-quality digital projection of space. The investment is less than $1,000 in building materials, plus a laptop and projector, along with some household tools and ‘sweat equity’ (ie there’s work involved!).

      One of the principal benefits of having an on-site planetarium is that WorldWide Telescope will allow students to create their own shows to share what they have learned with the rest of the school- completing the learning cycle. You can download the instructions to build your own here.

      Where do I get WorldWide Telescope from?

      WorldWide Telescope is available as a programme to download, or a web-based virtual telescope.
      You can get both versions at the WorldWide Telescope website

    • Education

      Windows Live Movie Maker - free software for teachers in February


      Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

      Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

      Windows Live Movie Maker


      Windows Live Movie Maker allows teachers to easily turn photos and videos from popular camera types into great-looking movies to share with students and teachers on the Internet, burn to a CD or DVD, or play on a PC or portable device.

      The AutoMovie feature lets teachers or students create a polished movie from their photos, video clips, and music in about one minute.

      Experienced moviemakers can create original movies with custom effects, unique transitions, and other rich features.

      The sights, sounds and action of a movie helps bring a subject to life. Windows Live Movie Maker has prompts to help you upload and share your movie on YouTube, or to burn a DVD for your class.

      Import and edit slide shows and videos

      Quickly add photos and footage from your PC or camera into Movie Maker. Then fine tune your movie just the way you want it. You can move things around, speed it up or slow it down—it’s up to you.

      Edit the soundtrack and add a theme

      Enhance your movie with audio and a theme. Movie Maker adds transitions and effects automatically so your movie looks polished and professional.

      Share your movie online

      Once your movie is ready, share it online on Facebook, YouTube or other social networking and video sharing sites. Send a link to your movie in an email to family and friends so they won’t miss it.

      Three classroom ideas for Movie Maker

      • Create a timeline that moves
        Present a succession of historical events in a photo slide show with music from that period.
      • Demonstrate things you can’t bring to class
        Videotape feeding time for lions at the zoo. Capture the physics at play in a local skate park.
      • Share the classics in a fresher way
        Shoot video of various students reciting a Shakespearean sentence or two. String them together in a movie, and suddenly all eyes are on the screen, and the class hangs on every famous word.

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      imageStart at the Microsoft Australia Education website, where there’s a getting started guide to Movie Maker in educationstep-by-step guide for Movie Maker, as well as video tutorials. The Windows Live Essentials Help Centre has a specific page for Movie Maker. There are also a series of short written tutorials including:

      If you prefer to watch a tutorial, then there’s hundreds of videos that step you through the process, if you search for Windows Live Movie Maker tutorials

      There’s also a support forum on the Windows Live Solution Centre for Movie Maker. This tends to be used by users who have a problem, to get support from the community and from the Microsoft team, so if you come across a query, then it’s a good place to go.

      And my personal hint is to look for the forums threads that have a green tick alongside them imageas they are the queries that have been answered.

      Where do I get Windows Live Movie Maker from?

      Windows Live Movie Maker is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite, which you can download from the website here

    • Education

      Windows Live Photo Gallery - free software for teachers in February


      Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

      Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

      Windows Live Photo Gallery

      Photo Gallery header

      Share photos in your 25GB of storage online for free, and faster than you can say ‘online photo albums accessible from my phone’. Photo Gallery tools help you organise and edit photos, then share them online.

      It’s easy to import photos from your camera, organise them into albums, and edit them. The powerful photo tools built in let you create stunning panoramas, movies, slide shows, and more. When you're ready to share, publish your photos and videos to your favourite websites directly from Photo Gallery.

      Create a panorama

      Capture an entire mountain range in a single photo—select the photos you want to use and Photo Gallery stitches them into a panorama for you.

      Merge shots with Photo Fuse

      Did someone blink when the flash went off? Choose everyone’s best pose from several different shots, and Photo Fuse will merge them together into the perfect group photo. This is absolutely brilliant for class shots, or when you need to take a picture of a group of students on a trip/in a play etc

      Slide show adventures

      Show off your class trip or school play photos with a slide show that looks polished and professional. Choose your favourite theme and Photo Gallery puts it all together for you.

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      There’s a step-by-step guide for using Photo Gallery here for each of the uses above. There are also a series of simple guides on the Windows Live Essentials website.

      Where do I get Windows Live Photo Gallery from?

      Live Photo Gallery is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite, which you can download from the website here

    • Education

      Windows Live Mesh - free software for teachers in February


      Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

      Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

      Windows Live Mesh

      Live Mesh icon bar

      Access the stuff on your computers from almost anywhere. With Windows Live Mesh, 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. This is especially useful for teachers, as they are often using multiple computers - perhaps a school laptop, a home computer, and then another computer connected to an interactive whiteboard.

      With Windows Live Mesh, you can keep up-to-date copies of documents, photos, and other files synced together on all of your computers, whether they are PCs or Macs. In addition, the system can sync your folders to the 5 GB of free storage space you get with SkyDrive (as well as across your computers) so that you can also work with your files on the web from any computer. You can even run programs and browse all the files on your PC from anywhere by connecting remotely. And keep your favorites in Internet Explorer and your Microsoft Office settings up to date on all of your PCs by syncing your programme settings.

      Sync folders between computers

      If you have two or more computers with Windows Live Mesh installed, you can sync folders between them (peer-to-peer). When you sync folders between computers, any changes you make on one computer will be made on the other whenever the computers are online at the same time. The contents of the synced folders are saved on all of the computers, so you can still work on them even when you're not connected to the Internet. All data transfers are encrypted between the computers.

      Sync folders to the Cloud

      You can choose to sync any of your folders to the Cloud too, which means you can then access them on any other computer. This would be handy when you’ve got files on your laptop, and you want to access them to a different computer plugged into an interactive whiteboard, or where you want to be able to access your files on a colleague’s computer.

      Connect to a computer remotely

      With the remote connections feature in Windows Live Mesh, you can work on your computer from a computer in another location. For example, you can connect from your school computer to your home computer and access all of your programs and files as if you were in front of your computer at home.

      Sync your Office and Internet Explorer settings

      If you regularly use two different computers (eg your school laptop and a home computer) you can set Windows Live Mesh to sync your Internet Explorer favourites between the two computers - that’s really handy if you’re preparing a lesson on your home computer, but then want the website list available on your school laptop the next day. The same idea works for Office settings (eg a customer dictionary or slide templates)

      Where can I find out how to use it?

      The Windows Live Mesh page has a step-by-step overview for each of the uses above. There are also a series of tutorials for Windows Live Mesh on, including:

      Where do I get Windows Live Mesh from?

      Windows Live Mesh is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite, which you can download from the website here

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