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

May, 2012

  • Education

    WorkSmart Guides - Updated ready-made IT user documentation


    When I started working at Microsoft, I hadn’t been in such an open, technology rich culture before. And with so many IT systems around, and so many different software resources, my head was buzzing. In fact, I remember that at the end of the first week, the number of links in my Favourites was massive – just to internal websites.

    I’d never used internet telephony, encryption, instant messaging, live meeting or SharePoint before, so I was all at sea until I could play around and work out how they were supposed to operate. Meanwhile, people who’d been at Microsoft for a while were metaphorically whizzing past me, as they collaborated, shared, published and distributed information. Whilst I was trying to work out how to answer my desk phone.

    imageOne of the godsends for me was a set of documents called Work Smart Guides, which walked me through the basics of some of the new technology I was encountering.

    As our IT team describe it, Work Smart Guides bridge the gap between technology and users. Work Smart guides provide employees with scenario-based, best-use productivity aids on Microsoft products and technologies.

    We produce them because we expect to see more consistent, productive, and cost-effective use of products and technologies across the company – which helps the business ROI on IT investments, as well as helping people to understand the benefit the IT team deliver to users.

    Updated ready-made IT guides

    The Microsoft IT Team have just updated the published versions that you could modify and publish for your users. This is a great step – I’m guessing that lots of schools, TAFEs and Universities are either producing user documentation for staff, or want to. And I bet that 80-90% of the content is identical in each institution. So these guides would make a good starter for 10, either for the format, or the instructions, or simply the screenshots. As an example, here’s the Email Basics one.

    The subjects covered in the step-by-step guides for users include:

    • Protecting data with BitLocker
    • Getting started with email
    • Transfer files and settings to a new computer
    • Collaborating with SharePoint
    • An overview of collaboration tools
    • Customising SharePoint sites
    • SharePoint workspaces
    • Integrating Outlook with SharePoint
    • Basics of managing email (Are you a stacker or a filer?)
    • Office tips for Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Word
    • Outlook email signatures
    • New features for users in Windows 7
    • Securing Windows Phone
    • Get started with Outlook Web Access
    • Successful meetings with Lync

    Download the Work Smart Guides

    There are 36 of them, and they come in one big Zip file for you to play with:

    Learn MoreDownload the customisable versions of Work Smart materials.

  • Education

    Want to know how to programme for Kinect? Buy this book



    There are some amazing Kinect projects going on around the world:

    • The Razorfish team are producing some of the best connected retail experiences using Kinect, Surface, Tag and Windows Phone. Read more here.
    • The University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development in Minneapolis is using Kinect to watch children for early signs of autism. Read more here

    And now some of the tips and techniques have been compiled into a book that’s got some pretty good Amazon reviews:

    Beginning Kinect Programming with the Microsoft Kinect SDKBeginning Kinect Programming with the Microsoft Kinect SDK

    The book is written to get you up and running developing Kinect applications for your PC using the official SDK. The authors promise you’ll have a working Kinect program by the end of the first chapter!

    It steps through chapters on three-dimensional vision, skeleton tracking, audio through the Kinect, and more. Examples illustrate the concepts in the form of simple games that react to your body movements. The result is a fun read that helps you learn one of the hottest technologies out there today.   
    Beginning Kinect Programming with the Microsoft Kinect SDK also provides building blocks and ideas for mashing up the Kinect with other technologies to create art, interactive games, 3D models and enhanced office automation. You'll learn the fundamental code basic to almost all Kinect applications, and learn to integrate that code with other tools and manipulate data to create Kinect applications.

    • Helps you create a proper development environment for Kinect applications.
    • Covers the basics of three-dimensional vision, skeleton tracking, gesture recognition, and audio
    • Provides fun examples that keep you engaged and learning

    Who this book is for

    Beginning Kinect Programming with the Microsoft Kinect SDK is for developers who want to learn to program for the newest and coolest Microsoft input device. The book assumes familiarity, but not expertise, with WPF and C#. It’s perfect for software developers who want to develop applications that take advantage of the Kinect spacial tracking, and I think it’s also a great resource for more advanced students, who want to take their computing studies in a new direction.

    You can buy it online as an ebook, or for US$24 from

  • Education

    Carbon tax strategies in education–reducing PC power usage


    Next month’s carbon tax will cost Australian education institutions upwards of $50m a year (see ‘How the carbon tax will affect education’), and that’s money that won’t be easy to find. But the issue of managing energy usage isn’t unique to education – so what can be learnt from other industries? Our own internal IT team have just finished a case study that will be useful

    Reducing computer power usage by a third

    Microsoft has a pretty large computer fleet – including over 165,000 desktop and laptop computers – and since 2010 we have been looking at how we can manage the power consumption of all of these devices more effectively, without inconveniencing users. The process starts with procurement, where all new computers must meet four energy and environmental standards to get onto our standard approved computer list. That creates a good baseline for energy efficiency and environmental recycling.

    And once the computers are in users’ hands, the Microsoft IT team have then been implementing a rolling schedule of power management and optimisation. When they measured the baseline figure, they discovered that there was a very different energy usage between laptops and desktops:

    • Our desktop computers were typically using 47KWH/Month each
    • Our laptop computers were typically using 6KWH/Month each

    The team then used System Center to apply power-saving settings across the vast majority of our computers, with a standard power plan designed to save power whilst minimising inconvenience for users during business hours. Basically, PCs are running at peak performance while they are actually in use, but then save power when inactive.

    The first roll out of power settings in 2010 reduced energy consumption by 26%

    How much power can you save before users are inconvenienced?

    Since then, the IT team have been continuing to optimise the settings, without making them so draconian that users become frustrated or simply opt-out of energy savings.

    Microsoft Power Savings over time, since 2010

    • By April 2011, they’d reduced power usage by 32%
    • By January 2012, they’d reduced power usage by 49% for desktop PCs, and 26% for laptops

    You can see the full list of power settings in the article linked at the bottom of this blog post.

    All users can opt-out of the energy efficiency settings, but currently less than 10% do – and that is mainly for things like development and test systems running round-the-clock test scenarios.

    The total savings in 2011 were almost $1M, saving 10.6 million kWh.

    There’s an interesting side-note to the story too, related to power settings in Japan. Because of the extreme need to save power in the wake of their natural disaster last year, more aggressive power settings were used in Japan, which increased the numbers of users opting out. The experience helped the Microsoft IT team fine-tune customised power plan settings to achieve an optimum balance between productivity and efficiency goals. Microsoft IT's experience shows that most users at Microsoft are comfortable with a display timeout of 15 minutes and a sleep timeout of 30 minutes.

    Key questions about cost saving through energy saving

    • What environmental and energy standards do your standard approved computers have to meet?
    • Do you want to change the mix of desktop and laptop computers to save money?
    • How can you deploy standard power settings across all of your computers?
    • What level of user opt-out will you allow from power savings?
    • How will you manage the balance between maximising power savings and minimising user opt-out?
    • Where are you going to put your cost saving tracking charts? (Hint: Which leadership report is it going in?)

    Learn MoreRead the full Microsoft IT case study online (or download the Word version)

    Find all blog posts about the Carbon Tax

  • Education

    TAFE funding cuts in Australia–what do you do next?


    The latest state and national budgets are heaping the pressure on TAFE funding. And the media coverage that inevitably follows, like The Australian’s “TAFEs spell out job losses in meetings with government as feds up pressure against cuts”, is also pretty depressing too.

    CALUMO’s take on TAFE Funding challenges in Victoria

    Roger DalCastello from CALUMO - one of our key Business Intelligence partners in Education – has a deeper look at the story in Victoria TAFE, and which has relevance nationally:


    The Victorian TAFE Sector faces an uncertain future based on the Victorian State government’s May 1st 2012 decision to dramatically cut funding. The AEU estimates total cuts to tally $300m. The NTEU believe the cuts will cause the loss of up to 1,000 jobs over the next year. Some TAFE Course sectors will receive reduced funding by up to 80%, or in student contact hours, from around $8 to $1.50.

    There can be no doubt the government is looking at TAFEs to become more commercial. Others suggest the government is looking to privatise TAFE by stealth. Whatever the agenda it is clear that from this point on TAFEs will need to “stand on their own two feet”. The ongoing increase in enrolments to private colleges means the landscape across Victorian VET is now at a competitive high.

    The short-term stance taken by the Victorian Government is largely irrelevant. The future for TAFEs requires hard decisions to be made for the short, medium, and long-term benefit of each TAFE. The options to consider are broad and varied with some TAFEs already promoting job redundancies and course cuts.

    To make an informed and optimal decision TAFEs need a capability to focus on the following key areas:

    • Course Profitability                                                      (present)
    • Course Profitability based on new funding cuts     (Jan 2013 enrolments)
    • Student Marketing Demographics                           (Jan 2013 enrolments)
    • Student Load                                                                (Jan 2013 enrolments)

    To plan properly your organisation needs to understand the impact of the current funding cuts by sector to your current courses. At a granular level you need to quickly model how this will impact on your course profitability and ultimately your organisation’s bottom line. With the bulk of new enrolments on January 1st affected by funding cuts, we believe this to be an important deadline required for TAFE’s to be able ask and answer some or all of the following questions:

    • Under proposed funding cuts which of your courses will see the biggest change to profitability?
    • Under proposed funding cuts how many students need to enrol into a particular course for your organisation to break-even?
    • What possible outcomes are likely to occur based on the impact of increasing student fees on a course-by-course basis?
    • Which courses are we focusing our marketing effort on to increase enrolments? Are these courses still profitable under the proposed funding cuts? Should we focus our marketing effort on other courses and if so where?
    • What source of marketing drives the most referrals for any particular course?

    How does CALUMO help tackle TAFE funding cuts?

    The CALUMO for TAFE products mean that you can start to tackle the business challenges presented by using your existing data more effectively, to both analyse what’s happening now, as well as forecasting for the future. Whether the challenge is Course Profitability, managing current Student Load or future Student Load forecasting, the CALUMO system provides a way to look at the problem all up.

    Learn MoreLearn more about CALUMO in Education

  • Education

    Unleashing imagination: Meet the next generation of innovators in Sydney


    Imagine Cup

    The world’s toughest problems can be solved by combining creativity and technology. And the university students of Australia are absolutely at the cutting edge of this work – from using technology to detect pneumonia to tackling the challenge of managing and tracking learning for students. And every year, hundreds of thousands of students compete in the Imagine Cup – a worldwide competition that’s like the Geek World Cup.

    I went to the Australian Imagine Cup finals in Melbourne at the beginning of the month, and was literally awestruck by the amazing projects this year’s finalists had produced.

    Imagine CupAs part of the Vivid Festival, Microsoft is proud to present the best ideas of the Imagine Cup, the world’s largest student technology competition which encourages young minds to explore and unlock the solutions that will shape our future.

    It’s the chance to join us to hear about the game-changing ideas that will challenge the way we tackle our limitations. From a phone app to detect pneumonia to a dynamic education tool using body movements and voice commands, these are the innovations that will change the world.

    • If you’re in the local IT industry, these students are your next batch of employees, so why wouldn’t you want to hear them?
    • If you’re in a school, TAFE or university, these students are solving the big ideas that your current students could be tackling next.

    It’s on 4th June, from 5-7PM in the Vivid Ideas Exchange in the new MCA building in The Rocks. And it’s free.

    Learn MoreFind out more, and register for your free ticket


    I’ve seen all of these contestants before, but I am definitely going to see them again – and would love to see you there too.

  • Education

    Catholic International Education Office picks Office 365 for education for new social network for Catholic Education


    Hot news over on the Microsoft News Centre, that the Catholic International Education Office (OIEC) has entered into an education alliance with Microsoft to provide Office 365 for education for its community of Catholic schools across the world as part of a new Social Network for Catholic Education.

    Cardinal Zenon Grosholewski at Office 365 for Education agreement signing at The VaticanIn a signing ceremony at The Vatican yesterday, Cardinal Zenon Grosholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, spoke about the opportunity it will enable for the first 4.5m students as part of a three-year alliance plan, which will eventually scale across OIEC’s community of more than 43 million Catholic students at 210,000 schools in 102 countries. The new network will provide innovative software, services, training and access to technologies that will better prepare students for the jobs of the future.

    OIEC’s mission includes the promotion of education for all, collaboration within academic communities and the fight against illiteracy worldwide. In an ever-evolving technology landscape, teachers in the 21st century face continuing challenges to build skills among teachers and provide students with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful.  According to Father Angel Astorgano, general secretary, OIEC:

      In alliance with Microsoft, we are entering a new era in global Catholic education. We will offer the most advanced technology, knowledge and skills to our schools so our next generation of graduates is prepared for the new challenges of the 21st century  

    In a competitive employment landscape, graduates who have developed technology skills are frequently provided with more opportunities. However, many schools around the globe are not able to evolve curriculum quickly enough to keep pace. Worldwide many schools simply do not have access to the technologies and training necessary to prepare students for the modern workforce.

    As Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s vice president of Worldwide Education said yesterday:

      An innovative and forward-thinking Catholic organisation is supporting the modernisation of their schools, working with Microsoft and mutual partner Tralcom to deliver technology solutions to Catholic students and educators around the world. We are excited about delivering on the technology needs of these students and supporting a global community of individuals with shared values, and helping to ensure they are well-equipped for the jobs of tomorrow.  

    Access is everything

    According to an IDC study, more than half of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and that number will increase to 90% by 2015. Using workplace technology in a school environment gives students a head start when beginning their careers, whereas students with no access to technology will be at a disadvantage.

    Office 365 for education offers powerful collaboration tools, including SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Lync Online and Office Web Apps, in the cloud, whilst helping to save time and money. With Office 365 for education, OIEC students and teachers will be able to do the following:

    • Communicate using instant messaging and videoconferencing, taking part in virtual classes and transforming any conversation to include high-resolution video, application and desktop sharing

    • Collaborate across the globe by creating class and group sites, which allow users to view availability of others and work together on projects in real time, allowing creation of an online network for Catholic education and all OIEC schools

    • View, edit, and share Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files online with SharePoint Online and Office Web Apps, working together on projects and assignments

    • Share calendars and access mail and calendars across devices with robust security and reliability

    • Create and maintain compelling websites and edit them as easily as they would a Word document

    What else is in the Education Alliance agreement?

    Through the Microsoft Education Alliance agreement, OIEC will provide access to technology and training to students and teachers, as well as establish an online space for collaboration, communication and information sharing. The agreement adds the following key elements:

    • Curriculum and training to develop digital literacy skills, help integrate technology into teaching and learning, and provide blueprints for innovative schooling

    • Access to research findings and tools that measure and promote innovative education practices

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Microsoft/OIEC agreement

    Find out more about the Office 365 for education pricing changes

  • Education

    Are you going to Microsoft WPC in Toronto? You should know about the Education Summit pre-day



    Are you going to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto in July? If so, then you may also want to consider attending the Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit, run as a pre-day to the main WPC event, on the 8th July.

    In a nutshell it’s a pre-day for partners who are active in the education market, to look at some of our future strategies and plans. There will be over 100 education partners there from around the world, and the content at these briefings is designed to help partners to understand how their area of education business fits into the wider picture of both Microsoft’s strategy and the future direction of education customers and policies. It’s also a great way to connect up with people in the worldwide Microsoft Education business.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it over there this year, but my colleague Jason Trump from our APAC education team, will be there to help make some connections for you.

    The agenda includes:

    • Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Vice President for Worldwide Education, talking about our future direction
    • Michael Moe, a market investor in education technology companies, sharing insight into where investors are betting in education IT
    • Kirk Gregerson, from Microsoft’s Office team, explaining the key partner opportunities created by Office 365 in Education
    • Bernard Caldas, from the Windows team, talking about Windows 8 in education, and the context of application development
    • And a series of breakout roundtable discussions about cloud services, phone, devices and building education solutions

    And the good news is that it’s free to attend for any partners going to WPC.

    Learn MoreFind our more about GEPS @ WPC


    This is run as a single day, attached to WPC, for partners who aren’t able to get to the full Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit in February each year, which is held at our corporate headquarters in Seattle. If you want to get info on that when it’s published, let me know

  • Education

    Cloud Computing and Privacy for Australian Government organisations


    After writing about the Cloud Security Alliance STAR (Security, Trust & Assurance Registry) project (Is my data safe in the Cloud – Part One and Part Two) last month, I have been reading some more background information published by AGIMO. There are a number of guides that have been finalised and published:

    • Privacy and Cloud Computing for Australian Government Agencies
    • Negotiating the Cloud – Legal Issues in Cloud Computing Agreements
    • Financial Considerations for Government use of Cloud Computing

    A few conversations I’ve had revolve around perceptions of cloud computing in education, and what information is suitable to moved onto a cloud-based system. Which normally means a conversation about the relative security of cloud datacentres versus on-premise data and servers.

    The opening sentence in the first paper above, about cloud privacy, is very clear and helpful in the conversation:

      Despite common perceptions, cloud computing has the potential to enhance privacy safeguards used to protect personal information held by Government agencies.  

    If you’re thinking about how you can expand your use of cloud services in an education institution, there’s some really useful detailed advice in the guides.

    Learn MoreGet the full set of Cloud Computing Better Practice Guides from AGIMO

  • Education

    If I can track my pizza order on my phone, how about my children’s learning?


    Pizza Hut Windows Phone appI can track my pizza order in real time…

    Pizza Hut have announced the availability of a new app in Australia to allow you to order your custom-made pizza from your Windows Phone, and in some countries, I can do the same for a Domino’s Pizza. Currently a quarter of all Pizza Hut’s online sales come from smartphones.

    So I can sit at home, design my own pizza, specify the delivery time, and then wait for the goodies to turn up. Or with Domino’s, you can track the pizza live as it goes through production (see how it works here)

    Screen shot of Pizza TrackerAnd one enterprising app developer developed a Domino’s Pizza Tracker web app, which ran on a range of smartphones. This allowed you to track the full progress of your pizza order – so you could see progress as it was being assembled, baked, and sent out for delivery. This app used Domino’s XML system, which gave the opportunity for developers to access the production data and build clever apps on it (sadly, Domino’s then decided to block the app from accessing the data, so the excitement of watching your pizza order go through production was removed)

    …so why can’t I track my children’s learning progress

    I know that for some people their pizza is a high priority in their life (@bennuk, I’m thinking of you), but surely if we’ve got that level of fine detail about the production of our dinner, then we should really have the same kind of information on our children’s learning progress. Where’s the app that tells us how students are performing in school? How can we help parents to connect to their children’s learning? After all, if parental engagement is critical to a child’s success in learning, then engaging them in new ways could be key. At the moment, as a parent I get a report school only twice a year. But could we be doing better?

    The things we’d have to change could be pretty small – like making sure that teachers record marks in a consistent way across the school, and record them into a system. And find a way for parents to be able to see the information for just their children (which is solved in many schools already through parental logins to the website, or student logins to their learning management system).

    Professor John Hattie, in Visible Learning, says that his children had to put up with the same question after school every day “What feedback did you receive about your learning today?”. If it’s that critical a question to ask, then perhaps we should be using technology to make it easier to answer. And pizza companies give us a simple, powerful example of what’s possible.

    Sometimes we get bogged down in fancy language and technical concepts – learning analytics; education business intelligence; parental engagement. But perhaps we can simplify it by comparing and contrasting with good practice outside of education, to unlock a different approach.

    What do you think? Comment below

  • Education

    What are the jobs of the future? Careers in decline and those growing


    Five years ago, I was in the UK when I created a version of Shift Happens for the education system - less about globalisation, more about the challenges for the education system in the UK and worldwide) – which became ‘the video’ of the moment at education conferences etc.

    You can read more about how Shift Happens UK came about, based on the work of Karl Fisch here, download Shift Happens UK here, or watch it on YouTube here.

    Even now I sit in audiences where people quote/show these three images from the video (it happened again last week):

    We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist...using technologies that haven't been order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet.

    And as a result, I’m always on the lookout for information on what’s actually happening in the workplace. There was a good article in The Atlantic last week about the key declining and growing occupations over the last two decades. The research was done in America, and was part of a look at de-unionisation of the workforce (the hypothesis it supported was that the jobs in decline were historically more unionised, and the jobs in ascendancy are typically not; and that one of key correlations for changes in union membership was the use of technology within occupations).

    The key occupations in decline

    What it showed is that the key occupations in decline between 1983-2002 were:

    1. Brick & stonemason apprentices (falling by over 90%)
    2. Show machine operators
    3. Railroad brake, signal and switch operators
    4. Housekeepers and butlers
    5. Drilling and boring machine operators
    6. Helpers, mechanics and labourers (falling by over 80%)

    The key occupations that are growing

    Whilst the key occupations that grew were:

    1. Numerical control machine operators (growing by over 1500%)
    2. Helpers, construction trades
    3. Managers – medicine and health
    4. Health diagnosing practitioners
    5. Marine engineers
    6. Computer systems analyst and scientists (growing by nearly 500%)

    You should look at the charts in The Atlantic for the fuller list – and the full report is available free for education users. But what struck me about the lists are that the ‘physical’ jobs are declining rapidly whilst the ‘mental’ jobs are the ones growing. (Except one bizarre exception, which shows that sociologists have shrunk by nearly two-thirds in that time)

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