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

September, 2012

  • Education

    What are you going to choose for the new Academic year? New Windows 8 devices coming soon

    • 1 Comments

    I was chatting with teachers earlier this week, at a school workshop in Sydney, and one of the subjects that came up was "What device should we be looking at for next academic year?". It's a really tricky question, for two reasons:

    • When you're choosing a Windows device, you're spoilt for choice. Do you want a desktop, an all-in-one, a laptop, a slate, or something else?
    • Every day it seems that we're all reading about new devices for Windows 8 that are just around the corner.

    So to help everybody that's planning for next year, then I thought I'd share some of the highlights from the blog post from Nick Parker, who leads the Microsoft OEM Division (they are the team that work with all of the companies making Windows devices)

    A couple of weeks ago the focus of the technology world turned to IFA in Berlin, a massive consumer electronics trade show that gets over 150,000 people attending. In the run-up to the consumer launch of Windows 8 on 26th October, this year's event made it the perfect place for manufacturers to show off what devices are coming in the next few months. With devices that range from tablets and hybrids to more familiar notebooks and all-in-ones on display at the IFA conference, it's clear that we'll have a broad range of PC choices when Windows 8 launches. Some of the highlights included:

    New ARM based slates

    ASUS Vivo Tab RTThe new line of “transformer” PCs from ASUS, such as the ASUS Vivo Tab RT, is a good example of tablets that run the Windows RT operating system powered by ARM processors and provide an easy docking setup that makes it a snap to go from a traditional setup in the classroom to a tablet mode for browsing the web from your sofa.

    dell-xps-10Also powered by Windows RT, the Dell XPS 10 brings productivity and a mobile keyboard dock with long battery life.

    Samsung ATIV Smart PCs

    smartPCSamsung announced a docking tablet with its new line of Samsung ATIV Smart PCs. With their support for a range of touch and gesture commands, it makes them amazingly adaptable for home, professional and educational uses. All of them are touch devices, and most of them also come with pens, so that students can write as well as type.

    Convertible slate PCs

    Some of the new hardware designs include keyboards, blurring the line between pure “tablet” PCs and “hybrids.” Several of the PCs are being billed as desktop replacements that function just as well in either mode (as somebody now using my Samsung Series 7 slate PC as a replacement for my desktop/notebook, it's something that's already working for me!)

    Toshiba Satellite U925tvaio duo11 envy_tcm_245_1287920

    Acer’s new Iconia W510 is an incredibly small and light example, outfitted with a cradle that allows the display to be used on the desktop via keyboard and mouse input or tilted back for easier touch control. The keyboard also functions as an additional battery, giving the PC up to 18 hours of battery life. The HP Envy X2 is another detachable tablet PC with a slick aluminum chassis and an interesting physical feature for docking — magnets embedded in the PC help pull and guide the tablet into the dock, making it easy to dock the machine and get to work.

    Sony’s VAIO Duo 11 is a unique hybrid design that features a surf-slider keyboard which stays with the PC wherever it goes. The Duo also comes with a stylus that is a breeze to use, allowing users to write, doodle and interact easily in tablet mode. Toshiba’s Satellite U925t is a tablet-convertible version of its more traditional U920 laptop offering and features a 12.5-inch screen that easily converts to a tablet.

    New laptops and notebooks

    spectre_tcm_245_1287936 ultrabook_tcm_245_1287938 vaio t and e

    For more traditional notebooks, Acer, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba have all refreshed their notebook and Ultrabook PCs to take advantage of touch capabilities in Windows 8 — Acer’s premium Aspire S7 and S5, HP’s Envy TouchSmart and SpectreXT ultrabooks, Sony’s VAIO T and VAIO E, all feature classic notebook designs with powerful components and responsive touch screens. The S7 in particular is designed with extra tension in the hinges so it can open up to 180 degrees, enabling a new type of collaboration scenario.

    For those that want a more familiar laptop, consider the Lenovo IdeaPad S300 and S400 laptops, which include an updated touchpad that gives users a more controlled experience when scrolling and zooming.

    New desktop All-In-One computers

    Samsung Series 9 AiO_27_001_Front_56320 Acer Aspire 7600U swivel_vert_horiz_NEW Lenovo A520_Hero_12Toshiba LX835 AIO

    All-in-ones are becoming increasingly popular, and designs from Samsung, Lenovo, Acer and Sony are bringing the world of touch to full-tilt desktop computing.  From an education point of view, we're going to see these used for creating more interactive classroom activities (maybe alongside an interactive whiteboard) as well as for uses like information points and for libraries.

    This isn't comprehensive – it's just a glimpse of some of the hardware innovation coming with Windows 8, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of these devices in Australia really soon.

    Learn MoreGet the latest on the Windows world from the Windows Team Blog

  • Education

    Windows 8 Education Software in the Windows Store

    • 1 Comments

     

    Most education customers already have licences to run Windows 8 (either through an existing academic subscription like EES, a School Agreement or a Campus Agreement; or through MSDN/DreamSpark), so if you've not given it a go yet, I'd recommend installing it on a spare laptop or desktop computer. That way you can have a play around with it, and also try out some of the new apps, in advance of the big launch day on 26th October.

    My personal Windows 8 education app favourites that I'm playing with at the moment are:

    Wikipedia Windows 8 app tile

     

    Wikipedia

    Windows Store link for Wikipedia
    It's the usual great content from Wikipedia, but with a smart new interface, and especially useful semantic zoom

    Physamajig Windows 8 app tile 

     

    Physamajig

    Windows Store link for Physamajig
    A great teaching tool which really takes advantage of a touch screen

    Mind8 Windows 8 app tile 

     

    Mind8

    Windows Store link for Mind8
    Simple mind-mapping, which would really useful to help students prepare revision or for assignments

    Wordament Windows 8 app tile 

     

    Wordament

    Windows Store link for Wordament
    My favourite word game

    Periodic Table Windows 8 app tile 

     

    Periodic Table

    Windows Store link for the Periodic Table app
    This does exactly what it says in the name!

    How Stuff Works Windows 8 app tile 

     

    How Stuff Works

    Windows Store link for How Stuff Works app
    A great app for curious minds, which always takes me off in a completely new direction every time I load it

     

      I'm going to try and find some time to share some deeper reviews of the education apps (now, where is that extra 25th hour in the day?), but hopefully there's enough pointers here for you go off and experiment with the new Windows 8 education software.

    • Education

      Exciting Learning–Using Technology to Improve Education–free ebook

      • 2 Comments

      My colleagues in the UK Education team, working with Ollie Bray, an educational leader from Scotland, have produced a brilliant ebook "Exciting Learning: Using Technology to Improve Education"

      imageThe new eBook aims to address the following:

      • Enhance the understanding of the benefits of ICT and technology across the curriculum including literacy, numeracy, technology, personal, social and health education
      • Provide practical information on how technology can be used to increase student motivation and enhance learning
      • Give teachers the confidence to use technology in class as a learning and teaching methodology that reaches across all subject areas and age groups
      • Reinforce the importance and place of ICT skills for productivity and the 21st century skills agenda
      • Encourage teachers to consider using games design and other technologies with students to help children become creators rather than consumers of content
      • Improve advice on how teachers and school leaders might tackle some of the common challenges encountered when trying to develop the use of technology in schools

      Ollie is a fabulously inspirational educator, and I have been lucky enough to hear Ollie leading professional development sessions and talk at conferences where teachers have been so excited to grab his ideas to take back to their classrooms, especially when he talks so passionately about games-based learning. So it's great that he's taken some time to put those ideas into this ebook, to share with a wider audience. (He's also shared much of his work on his website, OllieBray.com)

      Learn MoreDownload the ebook "Exciting Learning"

    • Education

      Improving student retention in higher education–the data sources

      • 2 Comments

      Chris Ballard, of Tribal, is an 'Innovation Consultant' working on student administration and management systems, with a focus area on student retention modelling. Earlier this year, at the annual conference for their SITS:Vision student administration system, Chris co-presented with Paul Travill from the University of Wolverhampton on a research project being undertaken to see how they could be using learning analytics to improve student retention.

      There is similar work going on in the Australian higher education marketplace, and I've had a number of discussions with universities here about student attrition and the ways to reduce it – driven by the fact that on average one in five students are leaving their higher education courses before the end of the first year. The factors which affect student attrition are made up of two key areas:

      Chris & Paul's slides dig into these data, how to interpret them, and how to build a system which allows you to model and predict student attrition using them (which obviously leads to how to react to them). On Slide 8 there's a really simple diagram of the key data sources:

      Chris Ballard's slides on data sources for student attrition analysis

      If you've got an interest in student retention modelling, then I'd recommend taking a look at the full presentation slides from the SITS:Vision conference, on the Tribal Labs blog

    • Education

      Office Web Apps–the new Office Web Apps Server

      • 0 Comments

      Two years ago we introduced Office Web Apps – browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. They appeared in a number of places – for example, you could work directly with them in the cloud, using SkyDrive. And they also ran on SharePoint servers, so that you could be opening and editing documents directly in SharePoint, without having to download them to your machine first. And even without needing a copy of Office installed on your computer.

      Education users have started using them, and they helped create new ways of using, sharing and collaborating on Office documents. For example, a teacher could publish a homework assignment on SkyDrive, and students could edit it individually or collaboratively on their home computer – whether or not they had Office installed on their home computer. And it made it very easy to publish, review and share documents on the school SharePoint (great for working on policy documents and other internal documents).

      But there were some scenarios that it still didn't solve. For example, schools are typically very sensitive to putting information in the public cloud. So if IT blocked access to SkyDrive, then that stops teachers sharing files easily for students to access from home.

      Jumps on soapbox temporarily: I actually think IT are sometimes too sensitive. What's the real risk of putting a homework assignment worksheet in the cloud where users can even be asked to login to get it. In fact, what's wrong with just putting it on a publicly available website? Why do my children have to login to the school network to get their homework assignment, which they can't access from home? Can't it just be put on the website in a folder that anybody can access? Are teachers worried about other teachers borrowing their work? It doesn't contain any sensitive data or student names or anything other than a standard homework assignment.
      Oops, I'd better jump off my soapbox and return to where I was!

      The other scenario that it didn't cater for is where people want to access files that aren't stored on SharePoint. For example, if you're using a Learning Management System which isn't SharePoint integrated – like Moodle – then users have to download files to their local computer before they are able to open them.

      Office Web Apps Server becomes a standalone product

      I've just read news from the Office team that with the new version of Office, the Office Web Apps will now run on a standalone Office Web Apps Server, rather than being installed on each SharePoint server. For today's typical setups, it means that you don't need to upgrade lots of different servers every time there's a new release of Office Web Apps – instead you have a single configuration of Office Web Apps that you manage in one go (even if it's physically setup on a number of Office Web Apps Servers or virtual servers).

      Nick Simons, a Senior Program Manager for Office Web Apps, has written a fully detailed post Introducing Office Web Apps Server, explaining the technical changes that are going to happen, what's now possible, and how it simplifies the management of Office Web Apps.

      Office Web Apps Server in education

      Office Web Apps Server architectureReading it, it occurred to me that it is especially useful in education for a couple of scenarios (especially when you look at the labelling of the black box on the diagram to the right, from Nick's blog post, 'Open from URL'):

      • Even if you're not using cloud services (like Office 365 for education) and you haven't deployed SharePoint for all students, you could still provide access for your students to Office Web Apps for use with Lync or Exchange (for example, to allow them to open Office documents within the mail system).
      • If you're using a Learning Management System (LMS) that isn't linked to SharePoint, you could make some technical changes to allow your users to open documents directly in Office Web Apps from within your LMS. For example:
        • Wouldn't it be great to open a Word document directly from a Moodle course folder, in a web browser, without having to have Office installed on every machine (good for students on their home computer or even on their phone
        • How about students and teachers being able to do the same in the Victoria Ultranet?

      I know there will be a bunch of technical things to do to make this kind of thing possible, but the idea of having a separate Office Web Apps Server in the new Office makes it realistic – especially where people don't want to have anything stored in the cloud, or they want to glue together different technology to make life easier for students.

      Learn MoreRead the blog post from the Office team "Introducing Office Web Apps Server"

    • Education

      Top 5 factors which affect student retention in Higher Education

      • 0 Comments

      I've been doing some work recently on student retention and student attrition in higher education. You might have seen me writing about a Tribal presentation on data sources for inputs on student retention business intelligence systems. That work has also included an analysis across a number of different studies into student retention in higher education, and what is clear is that there are some common factors to student retention, and causes for student attrition, that are used by every project that I've read.

      So based on six studies, which also contain a number of meta-studies, amplifying the sample, here's the top five factors affecting student retention.

      1. Academic performance at entry - in Australia, a student's ATAR score
      2. Socioeconomic background
      3. Ethnicity
      4. Gender
      5. Highest level of education achieved by the student's parents

      In each study, there are a mass of other characteristics – between a total of seven and 37 depending on the depth of the analysis, but these first five appear on the list for every study that I have read so far. Which means that with an effective combination of institutional business intelligence and CRM, you could forecast your student retention rates across different courses and faculty before the Academic year has even started, and start to improve it from the same point.

      The challenge of student retention in higher education is not significantly different to other industries, but at the moment it seems that we're further behind in applying systems to help manage and improve student attrition rates, and in identifying and clarifying ownership of the challenge in each institution.

    • Education

      What's the hybrid cloud model, and what does it mean for you? Switched On Briefings could help answer that

      • 0 Comments

      In September and October, we're running a series of events – Switched On Briefings – on the ways that you can optimise your infrastructure using a hybrid cloud model. It's looking at it from a large-scale, enterprise architecture point of view, so it will be most suitable for infrastructure specialists from universities, TAFEs and those of you running IT for large school groups. If you'd be interested in signing up, all the details are below:image

      Cloud optimise your Datacentre using a hybrid model

      For today’s CIOs and technology leaders, the cloud presents an opportunity to rethink the role IT plays in defining a business’ strategy. Because of its power to fundamentally change how businesses operate and compete, the cloud is a game changer.

      Attend this interactive session to learn how Microsoft’s approach to the cloud works on your terms by:

      • Making the cloud work for your business - with a comprehensive range of Datacentre cloud offerings that span on-premises , hosted and public cloud solutions
      • Using your existing familiar infrastructure, tools, and skills - as you take advantage of the cloud for maximum value, efficiency, and productivity
      • Providing the kinds of social, ubiquitous, connected experiences - that today’s users love and expect without introducing complexity into your IT infrastructure

      Using case study examples and demonstration scenarios you will gain a better understanding of the steps to consider in order to become the driver for Cloud adoption in your organisation while:

      • Retaining maximum control and flexibility with your own highly scalable private cloud
      • Benefiting from operational excellence while minimizing risk with the public cloud
      • Maintaining the right IT balance for your business with a hybrid environment

      Venues and dates

      Just click on a venue for more details and to book your place. All of the events are run as half-day, morning briefings:

    • Education

      Windows 8 Programming–a full course from Faculty Connection

      • 0 Comments

      imageThree new tertiary level courses are now available on Faculty Connection each with instructor guides, PPTs, labs/tutorials, and videos. There are tons of courses on the site, and although they are designed for tertiary students, I'm convinced that they are useful for many others too, including high school students, or for developers in business who are looking to develop new skills.

      The courses are modular for easy integration into existing curricula:

      • Designing for Modern UI  - 11 modules that provide lectures and tutorials on how to design for the new Windows 8 UI. The content is 100 Level (ie you don't need to be a rocket surgeon to use these materials) and can be used as part of a UI/UX class or for self-paced independent learning. The focus of the content is on the Windows UI style design. This material is suitable for any tertiary student, including business, social sciences, liberal or fine arts, students who may have little or no computer programming background. There are no programming skills required and the early modules start from basics and build skills required for more advanced topics. Because this content can be used as part of an Academic class it includes background information, describing problems that are being solved, and provides background information as well as terminology that relate to Human Computer Interaction (HCI).
      • App Development for Modern UI – 9 modules cover fundamental concepts of developing a Windows 8 app using JavaScript and HTML5/CSS3 with Microsoft tools and resources.
        The scope of this curriculum covers the fundamental concepts of developing Metro style apps using JavaScript. Throughout the curriculum, you will find references to more advanced topics that are suitable for follow-up assignments.
      • App Development for Modern Devices - advanced course that covers development systems for phones, tablets, and desktop computers. It focuses on network aware software, interfaces for touch and NUI devices, augmented reality and graphics programming.

      Learn MoreVisit the Faculty Connection site

    • Education

      Using the cloud in the public sector–the Windows Azure InfoKit

      • 1 Comments

      Windows Azure INFOKIT - Public Sector

      My colleagues over in the US create and update a handy one slide summary of Windows Azure resources that are specifically designed for developers using the cloud in the public sector – either because they are in public sector organisations (including education ones) or for people developing apps for public sector customers. It's a great combination of access to tools, training and resources, plus a batch of bonus information on Open Data (although it links to the US Open Government Initiative in the PPT slide above, I've changed the link in the list below to add the Australia equivalents).

      Developer Tools for developers using the cloud in the public sector

      Learning and Training for developers using the cloud in the public sector

      Online Resources

      Open Data and Big Data resources and links

      If you are using the cloud in the public sector, and want to understand some of the technical reasons, or cost benefits, then the links above are great places to start – and provides some of the training and resources that you might need if it's new to you.

      Even I've managed to do it!

      To be absolutely honest with you, I thought this whole 'developing apps in the cloud' was a bit too geeky for me. It's a long time since I've been a serious developer. But even I managed it, and it took me less than half an hour to sign up for a free Azure account, and setup and deploy a WordPress blog to a virtual server in the cloud, and publish my first bit of content to it.

      I chose to create a WordPress website, but there are tons of different web services that can be deployed with a click. So you could create a Drupal, DotNetNuke, Joomla, mojoPortal, MediaWiki, phpBB, Umbraco etc site just as easily. Or a vanilla site you want to hand build from scratch. You can do the same thing here (and go here to learn How to create a website from the gallery)

    • Education

      How to sell Windows 8 apps to education customers

      • 0 Comments

      Windows Store logoDevelopers around Australia are creating Windows 8 apps and making decisions about how to go to market.  With the arrival of the Windows Store, there's another route to market that wasn't there previously, especially as it gives you a way to get to market without having to build a complete channel.

      So here's quick guide to some options you might want to think about:

        • Selling Windows 8 Education apps through the Windows Store
          Of course, you can't just dump an app into the Windows Store without any prior steps. The app must adhere to certification policies and process required for all apps in the Store. You’ll get high visibility in the store because there's a specific Education category, and because every user will see the Windows Store on their home screen, and will be looking to try out some new Windows 8 applications, I reckon that getting listed as soon as possible in the store is a great marketing strategy. There are tons of blog posts on the Windows Store blog on getting your app into the Windows Store and strategies for making it successful through the store.

      Windows Store - Education categoryYou have two options for selling your app on the Store: you can offer your apps for sale directly to the end user, with each individual user making the purchase directly from the Store. Another option is to offer the app as a free download, then manage the sales and licensing directly with the institution. Your app would then use authentication to bring specific functionality to each of your customer’s users.

      If you want to enforce a volume licensing model based on user counts for sales (egfor a pre-licensed number of teachers or students), you can use a signed receipt from the Windows Store. This option enables you to securely identify the user running the app.

        • Sell and distribute it directly
          Where your buyers will distribute the app directly to end-users and develop using the Windows App Certification Kit. The kind of scenario this works for is a school or university which wants to get a site licence for an app, and then load it onto their computers themselves (via sideloading). If you do this, be sure to follow some of the best practices around getting discovered on the Internet.
          There's a guide to deploying Windows 8 apps without using the Windows Store here
          • Promoting Windows desktop software through the Windows Store
            You don't have to have a Windows 8 Modern app to list it in the Windows Store. You can also list conventional desktop apps. The key difference is that the user will buy the app directly from you, not the Windows Store (so basically the Store is acting as a marketing point for you). Find out more about listing your desktop app in the Store
            • Microsoft PinPoint
              In addition to the choices above, you should also list your company and your product in Microsoft’s Partner Directory, PinPoint. When you do so, be sure to label your company as working in Education, and it helps a lot when the title of your product or solution in the listing contains the words people might search on, like "teaching", "spelling", "curriculum" etc. The PinPoint database is the source of various partner searches throughout microsoft.com where the results are displayed within the context of pages like Windows Server, SharePoint and other sites where customers click “How to Buy..” to locate the appropriate partner.
              The Australian Microsoft Education website uses PinPoint whenever somebody clicks on the 'Partners' link (eg on this 'How to Buy' page), where it returns a list of Australian education partners listed in PinPoint

            And although the consumer launch of Windows 8 isn't until 26th October, our volume licence customers (which includes almost every single education customer in Australia) already has access to Windows 8, and may be running it on some of their computers. So the sooner you're listed in the Windows Store, the sooner that people will see your software Smile

            Learn MoreRead more on the Windows Store blog

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