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

March, 2012

  • Education

    Registering for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


    imageIf you’re planning to attend the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012, in Toronto from 8 to 12 July, here’s a few need-to-know things:

    • Early bird registration offers, which save you $300 on conference tickets, end on 5th April
    • There will be a pre-day and a post-day for Education Partners (8 & 13th July) – more details tomorrow
    • There are specific activities lined up for Australian partners, including networking evenings, and a trip to Niagara Falls
    • There will be quite a few colleagues from the worldwide Microsoft Education team there – if you want to meet up with anybody about a specific education topic, let me know well in advance so I can grab a spot in the diary of the right person
      Topics you might what to meet up with people on are:
        • Cloud strategy in education – what’s been learnt in the rest of the world from education cloud projects
        • The integration of Learning Management Systems with SharePoint, Live@edu and Office 365
        • Case studies of CRM in education around the US
        • How other education systems around the world are using data analytics in education
    • The guest speaker is Deepak Chopra, who wrote The Soul of Leadership, one of the Wall Street Journal’s top 5 business titles in 2012 (and also created Leela, a meditative game using Kinect on Xbox 360)
    • The nominated hotel for Australian delegates is the Renaissance Toronto (need-to-know if you want to either bump into lots of colleagues – or don’t Smile)
    • Monday is ‘Solutions’ day where the agenda will look at specific product streams, and Wednesday is ‘Industry Day’, where you can spend time looking at specific segments, like Education or Government


    Learn MoreFind out more about Microsoft World Partner Conference 2012

  • Education

    How to create virtual experiences for online student recruitment


    I’ve just finished reading a good background article from the Genius Recruiter titled "Universities Going Virtual To Attract Students". It’s all about examples of the move in Higher Education to virtual events and activities for student recruitment. It looks at a few brief case studies:

    • Teesside University's award winning Postgraduate Virtual Open Day, which led to a 41% increase in applications
    • IDP's Online Education Fair for Indian students interested in studying in Australia
    • Unigo's virtual college counsellors
    • University of Rochester's Virtual Residence Tours
    • Virtual Agent Workshops in Norway.

    It's inevitable that these things will continue to grow, as the economics of student recruitment drive them, at the same time as students become increasingly comfortable with making big decisions online, through websites and the advice of their peers.

    And if you think that it's too big a decision to put make online, think about the change in habits we’ve gone through in making the biggest financial decision of our lives – buying a house. In the last few years there’s been a huge growth in the number of people who use the web for their shortlisting process – if your house doesn’t look suitable online, you never even get the chance to show a potential purchaser around it!

    Some of these ideas could be easily created without investing pots of cash, or becoming too complicated, using the Microsoft software that you’ve probably already got:

    Create a 3D Virtual campus tour for your Virtual Open Day

    The University of Sydney QuadrangleYou can create a Photosynth of parts of your campus really easily, embed it onto your website, and have it show up in Bing Maps. All you need is a digital camera, and half an hour to take lots of shots (or, with the iPhone version of Photosynth, you can dispense with the camera, and create a panorama for the web from your phone). There are already quite a few University of Sydney Photosynths, including a 360-degree panorama of the quadrangle, and this walk-through Photosynth of the Sydney Uni Live event.

    Virtual University Counsellors and Virtual Agent Workshops

    Using Lync (from your existing infrastructure, or as a cloud-hosted service in Office 365) you can easily setup a system for prospective students to be able to talk with recruiting staff, academics or student ambassadors. So that somebody browsing your website could start a chat conversation from their screen. Using live chat, instead of a phone conversation, means that you can more easily serve different time zones, and your staff can be away from their office phone – making it easier for you to provide out of hours support. (You can also do this with Skype and Windows Live Messenger, and embed it onto your website too, but the benefit of using Lync is that you can keep track of all the conversations in your own system – making it easy to connect it with your CRM system – and also integrate to your telephony, video conferencing etc)

    Learn MoreRead the article that prompted this, on the Genius Recruiter blog

  • Education

    Q: Do you know what Dell does in Education? A: It’s probably a lot more than you think


    Are you aware of the things that Dell does in education? If you’ve not looked recently, you might think that it’s all about things you can drop on your foot – laptops, servers, monitors etc. But the reality is that Dell has quietly been spending more and more of it’s time creating products and services that address education challenges, rather than just better IT.

    You can read an overview of some of these things in a great article “Dell brings platform first to education, hardware second”on ZDNet by Christopher Dawson.

    Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook for educationSome of those are things that you’d recognise from Dell (but cooler) like the XPS 13 Ultrabook, which won the Gizmodo ‘Best Ultrabook’ Award – made available in Australia yesterday.

    Dell short throw interactive projectorsAnd although you probably knew that Dell made projectors, have you seen their interactive projectors – which do away with the need for an interactive whiteboard. The benefit of this is that you can show a much bigger picture when you need it, rather than being limited by the size of the whiteboard. This means you don’t need to gather the whole of your class at the front of the classroom to demonstrate something, in order that they can see all of the text.

    But where Dell are currently going is to support the whole education journey, and one of the first things we’re seeing is what they are calling their Next Generation Learning Platform – connecting the apps and digital resources that teachers use with the learning data that will help teachers and students succeed. I saw some of the early versions of this, created for students in Europe, where they were working hard on creating a single connected classroom experience – as opposed to the disconnected experience many students and teachers have across multiple systems and services.

    And their creation of an Education Data Management solution takes it further on the journey.

    There’s a 40 second intro, that you might want to skip past, to get to the Cannon Hill story from Queensland

    Derek Knox from Dell, who’s based here in Sydney, agreed to sit in a studio and answer a series of questions about what their ‘Connected Classroom’ is – you can see it on YouTube here.

    There’s a lot more to come on the Dell work, as so much of it hasn’t yet been announced, but in his ZD Net article Christopher Dawson talks about getting a sneak peak at what’s around the corner:

      Aligning content drawn from a variety of resources for teachers, parents, and students with standards, learning styles, and particular needs identified by regular assessment, the learning platform provides what Dell refers to as truly personalized educational tools. I had a chance to take a sneak peak at the platform last week and, aside from its slick web interface that will lend itself to both younger and older students, as well as to both tablets and PCs of varying sizes, I was blown away by the sheer thoughtfulness of the whole thing.  



    Learn MoreRead Christopher Dawson's ZD Net article "Dell brings platform first to education, hardware second"

  • Education

    Microsoft IT Girls heads to Sydney on 2nd April


    Work in a girls or mixed school in or near Sydney? Do you want to help to raise the profile of the IT industry amongst your female students? Read on…

    Microsoft IT-Girls imageMicrosoft is committed to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to reach their potential. Technology not only enables people, but can also be a fantastic career opportunity; especially for young women. However, while female workforce participation rates are equalising across a number of industries, the IT and Computing industry in particular is one that remains quite male-dominated.

    On Monday 2nd April, students will be attending Microsoft IT-Girls, held at the Microsoft office in North Ryde, which is the headquarters of Microsoft Australia. Microsoft IT-Girls is designed to help young women gain a better understanding of a rewarding career in IT and Computing.

    The agenda will be packed with workshops where girls will get hands on with the latest technology, learn about technology courses offered at universities, and listen to first hand experiences from a range of Microsoft women, from interns to senior managers, and Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director, Pip Marlow – one of the most influential women in the Australian IT industry today.

    If you haven’t taken part in these events before, then you’ll be in a for a big surprise, as it shatters the image of IT as being a geeky, male-only preserve. As it’s thee weeks away, we’ve still got some spare spaces (we have set a maximum number of 15 attendees per school due to high demand). Oh, and it’s free BTW – you just need to sort your transport (North Ryde train station is right around the corner)

    Email my colleague Katrina Wong on Katrina Wong  if you’d like to book seats for your school, or you want to find out any more.

  • Education

    The power of TED for education – coming to your classroom in condensed form


    I love listening to TED talks. I only wish I had enough time when I was sitting in front of a screen and could watch more of them. Today I discovered that they have started releasing their first batch of Ted Education talks – very short videos that are ideal as a classroom plenary, or to plant a seed of an idea with students.

    Today, they’re available on the Ted-Ed YouTube channel, but there will soon be a Ted-Ed channel on the main TED website (which is a better idea, given how many schools block YouTube, and the problem created for teachers by noxious comments on YouTube videos.

    Here’s one I watched today, which I believe in completely:

    The power of simple words–something I believe in deeply

    Visit the Ted-Ed channel, to find some of their first batch of videos, on pandemics, containerisation, cockroaches, evolution and a bunch of other subjects.

  • Education

    Writing your entry for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Awards 2012


    imageAfter writing my opinion on creating a winning entry for the global Microsoft Education Partner of the Year Award 2012, how about some more help from the team here in Sydney?

    We’re running a webinar for Australian partners this Wednesday 14th March, from 12-1, with the straightforward title “Worldwide Partner Award Submission Writing Course”*

    As the webinar description says:

      Entering awards is like being in an examination or writing a business proposal. To get through to the finals, there is a marking scheme and you need to align the content of your submission to this. Winning means delivering a wow factor in your submission so that the judges notice you.
    To help you understand how to write your submission we are holding an online "Award Submission Writing Course". This training course will not guarantee a winning award, however it will give you some tips and tricks to make their submission stand out.


    Sarah Arnold, who writes the Australian Official Partner Blog will be your host. You’ll need to register online here to attend (in the Microsoft Partner Learning Centre)

  • Education

    How to win Microsoft Education Partner of the Year 2012


    imageEvery year thousands of worldwide partners get together with Microsoft at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. In 2012 it’s being held in Canada, in the leafy green city of Toronto (hint: great week to spend in the northern hemisphere summer rather than the southern hemisphere winter!)

    Last year, Janison from NSW, were one of the finalists for Microsoft global Education Partner of the Year 2011 and winner for Australian Education Partner of the Year 2011. And given the global exposure and business opportunities it created for them – in Australia and elsewhere, I’d love as many as possible of our Australian education partners to get the chance to do well in this year’s competition. I recognise that it means somebody has to put some effort into entering – even if it just means spending the time completing the online forms. And it’s not normally somebody’s day job.

    So I’m going to give you my advice in the form of a few handy steps focused on time saving when writing your winning entry:

    How to submit a winning entry for Microsoft Education Partner of the Year, with the least effort and most impact

    1) You’ve got to be in it, to win it

    Entries close on 15th April 2012. So start now – don’t wait for a few weeks, because the deadline isn’t going to be extended just because you forgot. You can read the published info, and start your application, here

    The simple eligibility criteria is that you must have a PinPoint listing. If you don’t have one, or it needs updating, find out how to update PinPoint here. The reason is that many customers use PinPoint as the starting point to find Microsoft partners.

    It is also important to note that the competition is open to everybody that qualifies – whether or not you are attending the World Partner Conference. So you don’t have to commit to travel to be able to enter!

    2) Remember at school, when your teacher said “Read the question carefully”. Same applies

    Like an exam, there’s a set of formal questions to answer, and the judges will have a marking scheme that’s linked to that. So don’t skip a question, even if you think it’s irrelevant to you. Give the best answer you can in the context – just like a tender response, a blank answer gets no points, whereas you’ll get at least one point for attempting it! And an answer like “We’re considering it for the future” is better than '”No” Smile

    3) Try and work out what the judges give marks for

    Looking at the questions in the entry form, question 3 for '”Public Sector – Education Partner of the Year” is:

      3. Describe how using Microsoft technologies in your solution helped you win against the competition in a customer situation from a technical and business perspective.  

    My decoding of this is that the judges want you to tell them how Microsoft helped you win against our shared competitors, and they want you to explain this from a technical and business perspective.

    So “I beat ComputerSellerWarehouse on price” won’t cut it anywhere as much as:

      We helped Contoso University to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM to replace their existing HokeyKokey CRM system, which helped them to recruit students more effectively, because using the Microsoft cloud services helped them to implement it fast enough for their new recruitment year, and integration to their SharePoint system gave staff more access to vital information. And that’s why the customer chose us instead of OldFashionedCRMSystems Inc.  

    Hopefully that answer is likely to match the judges marking scheme:

    • Microsoft technology – Dynamics CRM, Cloud, SharePoint - tick
    • Against the competition – HokeyKokey CRM; OldFashionedCRMSystems - tick
    • Technical perspective – Cloud, faster implementation - tick
    • Business perspective – Recruit students more effectively, access to vital information for staff - tick

    4) Look out for the gotchas

    When you get to Question Four (Describe which education solution area your solution maps to and which Microsoft technologies you have used), you really need to look at Questions 7-10 to know what the ‘solutions’ are. But to save you time, here’s the four solution areas in summary:

    • Institutional Effectiveness: Business Intelligence, Financial Management, High-Performance Computing, Project Management or Streamline Organisational Process
    • Operational Efficiencies: Optimise Server Infrastructure, Server Consideration and Data Warehousing or Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)
    • eLearning: Cloud Computing, Education Desktop, Microsoft Live@Edu, Unified Communications, Web Portals for K–12 Schools or Web Portals for Higher Education
    • Research Management: Experiments, Simulations, Archiving, Instruments, Literary Dissemination, Learning Analytics, Data Mining, Machine Learning for Pattern Recognition and Complex Data Reduction and Visualisation

    If you have any difficulty choosing which solution to classify your project under, then just give me a call or drop me an email for some help choosing.

    The other gotcha to look out for is to ensure you are entering the right categories. Education Partner of the Year is for partners working with education customers. Don’t confuse it with Learning Partner of the Year, which is for partners providing IT courses and associated resources for IT professionals.

    5) Save your entry somewhere handy

    As you write your entry, save a copy of your answers. Because when you come to enter the awards for Australian Microsoft Education Partner of the Year 2012 (more details soon), you’ll be able to re-use almost everything for those awards (unfortunately, due to privacy restrictions, we can’t just transfer your data across, but it’s easy as long as you have a copy of your answers for the worldwide awards!)

    What are you waiting for?

    Find all resources to enter the Microsoft WPC Awards here, including full information on categories, Judges tips and the Official rules.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not involved in the WPC Awards, and I have no special inside knowledge of them. All the advice is my responsibility alone!

  • Education

    Accessibility in Windows 8 – what it means for education users


    Continuing the theme of previous Accessibility blog posts, I thought it would be useful to take a look at accessibility going forward, and some of the work that has been done within Windows 8, and how that will help schools, TAFEs and universities to provide support for their students and staff.

    This is important as we’re going to see students accessing learning resources across a much wider range of devices – phones, slates and conventional PCs and laptops. And with new interfaces (such as the Metro interface on Windows 8) it’s important that we keep increasing the accessibility of systems and information.

    The World Health Organisation says one in six people has a disability*, and so in every educational institution there are going to be tens, hundreds or thousands of students needing support. With Windows 8, the team have built on top of the existing capabilities in Windows – like the narrator, magnifier and speech features talked about in the workshop in this blog post – by firstly improving some of these – for example, by improving the way that narrator can help you on websites.

    And the Windows 8 team have made a lot of changes from the ground up – for example, providing clearer support for other software developers to make software that can use the in-built accessibility options. A really simple example is the ability for the user to change default font sizes across applications, rather than having to do it in individual programmes. And this extends to other assistive technologies from third parties, where they can more easily be integrated into the system – to reduce the need for workarounds by both users, assistive technology developers and software designers. (Developers not only get guidelines and advice from us, but also access to specific testing tools to ensure that their applications are accessible).

    Accessibility options within Windows 8On the right are the options I see on my Windows 8 laptop, when I search for Accessibility settings in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

    What does it mean for education users?

    On top of the existing accessibility features, and the new ones being added, life will be made easier as we do things like adding an accessibility filter in the Windows Store, making it easier to find the apps that have been declared more accessible by the developer.

    And a lot of work has gone in to ensure that the new interfaces for touch devices are accessible. Many of these features are also really helpful for teachers when using interactive whiteboards, where they can be used to highlight areas of the screen, and zoom in and out so that all pupils can see the display.

    Hopefully the outcome of all of this is that it not only will it become easier to find accessible resources, but more software will be accessible to start with – making it much easier to support the needs of individual learners.

    Find out more on accessibility in Windows 8

    There’s a lot of detailed information on accessibility in Windows 8 – and links to resources – in a blog post (below) by Jennifer Norberg, a senior program manager lead on the Windows ‘Human Interaction Platform’ team.

    Learn MoreLearn more about accessibility in Windows 8 on the 'Building Windows 8 blog'


    Note to self: It’s not just about the technology. I’ve just checked the readability of this article, and it’s scored at just below graduate level. It looks like there’s a lot of long words in the world of accessibility. I’ll attempt to make future blog posts more readable!

  • Education

    Kinect in the classroom – new case studies


    Following on from previous posts about Kinect in education, here’s a couple of case study examples of Kinect in education that you may be interested in.

    Sunset Elementary School

    imageAt Sunset Elementary School in Colorado, students are using Kinect across the curriculum, to study geography, science, natural history etc. And their teacher reports that she’s seen improvements in their comprehension and knowledge retention. As Cheryl Arnett says “There’s power for kids in things that capture their interested, and are also something they can learn from. We’ve barely scratched the surface of where this can go; it’s limited only by our imaginations.” 

    University of Washington

    imageRobin Angotti, an associate professor of maths education at the University of Washington-Bothell, is also working with Kinect for education. With two computer science students at UW-Bothell, Jebediah Pavleas and Jack Chang, she’s created a custom Kinect app to help teach students functions of mathematics such as distance, acceleration, and velocity by letting them plot these equations on a graph in real time using Kinect and their bodies rather than just computing an equation with a pencil on graph paper.

    She came across Kinect and decided to create a math app that would bridge the gap between the abstract formulas and the real world her students live and breathe in. Why? As Robin says:

      Maths is a gatekeeper. If kids don’t get into algebra by their [their first] year of high school, they’re off track to major in any kind of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths] field. It’s really interesting – data shows that maths is a favourite subject when kids are younger. Somewhere in the middle school years, when they’re starting to have to abstract (when math moves from the concrete world of addition, subtraction and multiplication to the more abstract equations of geometry and algebra), we’re losing them. This piece of software makes math less abstract.  


    What’s going on?

    Why are there so many projects looking at the use of Kinect in education? Cameron Evans, the National and Chief Technology Officer for the Microsoft Education team in the US, puts it simply:


    The potential behind bringing gaming to education is immense.

    The majority of time spent playing video games, the gamer is failing, he said. Yet when a player fails in a game, they come back again and again until they get it right. Bringing gaming to education could help a student who fails a maths test, for example, keep trying until they get it right


    Where to find out more about Kinect in education

    The case studies above are available in more detail on the Microsoft News Centre website.

    There’s a further article about Kinect in education projects where teachers are using Kinect with Xbox to support learning:

    • Using Kinect Sports to help teach maths concepts such as patterns versus randomness, probability, and angles through bowling
    • Students using Avatar Kinect to produce late-night shows and commercials, strengthening their language arts skills
    • Teachers using Kinect to teach maths lessons on angles, probability and arithmetic. School

    Learn MoreFind our more about Kinect in Education on the Microsoft website

  • Education

    Classroom Interactive Whiteboards and Windows 8


    I watched this video and wondered:

    Do we still need lots of extra special software to work with interactive whiteboards, when there is now so much standard software (and lots more coming around the corner) that uses touch capabilities?

    I know we used to - in the days of Windows XP, you had to have special drivers etc on an interactive whiteboards, and there was a dearth of interactive multimedia software. But perhaps today we’re hanging on to an old habit?

    My thinking is that instead of having special software that just works on the whiteboard, and needs extra training:

    • If you plug a Windows 8 computer into the interactive whiteboard, you get the great natural interactive interface you need for the PC, including great handwriting recognition
    • Teachers use OneNote (built into Office) as the teaching tool, instead of any of the specific whiteboard applications. You end up with learning resources that are much more easily shareable, because you can simply publish into the cloud, so that students can access the learning resources, homework assignments, lesson recordings etc on virtually any device:

    So a teacher can create a lesson in OneNote, and then when they publish it, the students could revise it, and listen to the recording, on the bus/train on the way home, and then complete their homework assignment online at home, and submit it online.

    * OneNote Mobile is free to download and use for up to 500 notes. When you've reached this limit, you can upgrade the app for a one-time fee for unlimited use. If you choose not to upgrade to the unlimited version, you can still view, sync, and delete any of your existing notes even after you've reached the 500 notes limit. However, you will no longer be able to edit your notes or create new ones on your phone/iPad.

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