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

October, 2012

  • Education

    Windows Azure–training for education developers in Brisbane



    If you're a developer, and you're wondering how to start using cloud services to help build a more scalable, or more easily deployable application, then make a date for 10th December in Brisbane. Our developer evangelists are running a free three day workshop for Developers, Architects and Development Leads to learn about our Windows Azure cloud services and how to integrate them into applications.

    There are a range of educational applications developed in Australia that are already running on the Windows Azure cloud, or using it to help scale up to hundreds or thousands of individual education institutions and millions of students:

    • ClickView use Windows Azure to provide a smart digital video delivery and sharing service for schools and TAFEs
    • myMart3 use Windows Azure to provide a school reporting system for teachers
    • Avaxa use Windows Azure to provide an alternative implementation for student management systems, that avoids the need for servers in your institution
    • Janison use Windows Azure to enable 65,000 students to take an online science test in NSW at the same time, using the Cloud Assessment Framework, CAFE

    And the workshop will give you a chance to be the next big app!

    Here's some key details of the hands-on training workshop:


    What Am I Going to Learn?

    At this Azure Training Workshop you will learn how to use each of the key Windows Azure features and services to build and move a variety of apps to the cloud. You will see how to build web sites, mobile applications, and enterprise-class applications.

    The Azure Training Workshop is a great place to get deeper experience with Windows Azure development or to learn what’s new with the latest Windows Azure features.


    And even better, this training is free, so there seems to be no decent excuse to leaving a developer in the dark… (And building applications that use the Windows Azure cloud can't really be any harder than building apps that don't, because even I managed to run up a Windows Azure server in the cloud, to run a WordPress installation, without additional help from my local geeks!)

    BONUS EVENT: If you can't afford three days to focus on development with Windows Azure, then how about a one-day DevCamp, which is more of a 'follow along as we demo' workshop. This is probably more suitable for you if you're running IT systems in schools or TAFEs, but not a hardcore, full-time developer.
    It's too is in Brisbane, on 19th November.
    More details here

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the free Windows Azure workshop 10-12 Dec in Brisbane

  • Education

    Final version - Free Windows 8 programming ebook


    Cover - Windows 8 Programming bookLess than a week ago, I wrote about the free Windows 8 programming ebook "Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript" from Microsoft Press. The link I gave then was to the second version, but five nights have passed, and Microsoft Press have now released the full and finished version.

    So if you're interested in Windows 8 programming, then here's the book to read. It will teach you how to develop apps for the new version of Windows, and get them running on existing desktops, laptops and notebooks, as well as slates including the new Microsoft Surface.

    Given the size of the book (800+ pages) and the fast and fluid nature of the subject, then it will have been a remarkable achievement to get it finished and out within a week of the Windows 8 launch, so I'm sure Kraig Brockschmidt will be having a long lie down in a dark room now.

    Right now the download is a PDF book, but EPUB and MOBI formats are coming, for people who want to get it onto their Kindle, Nook etc


    Learn MoreDownload the Microsoft Press free eBook "Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript"

    Download the companion content for the eBook

  • Education

    Update 4: Windows 8 apps for education


    After last week's launch of Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface, it's no surprise that there's more interest in education apps. And there's plenty of new Windows 8 apps for education being added to the Windows Store. I've actually got too many for one blog post, so I'm working on another blog post even as I hit 'publish' on this one…

    For all my recommended Windows 8 Education Apps, follow this link, which has a list of 20+ apps for you

    More free Windows 8 Education apps from the Windows Store

    As with my previous blog posts (Updates one, two and three) you can click on the Link to see each app in the Windows Store, and if you're running Windows 8, you can then just install from there.



    CareerPath hasn't been designed specifically for students or education users, but as soon as I saw I could see how it would be incredibly useful in High School, TAFE or University. What it does it to allow you to explore career paths, based on a database of 30,748,234 datapoints about careers progression.

    Students can search on a particular career choice, and position, and see how people have historically got into that role, and where they have gone on afterwards.


    The really clever thing that I found is that by connecting it with my LinkedIn account, it would offer me suggestions of people who could provide coaching or mentoring for my next career step. As university students start to build their social connections (via Twitter, LinkedIn and Yammer) geared towards employment, then they'll start to get more value from their existing and potential connections and from CareerPath. And then the final piece of the puzzle is that it helps you find job openings locally in specific career roles.



    Kno Reader

    Kno is a digital textbook reader which has been specifically designed for students and courses, rather than being a generic ebook reader like the Kindle and Book Reader apps I'd previously mentioned. The kind of things that Kno makes possible are:

    • Automatic flashcard creation
    • Smart Links, to interactive support materials, videos, interactive modules etc
    • Shared study through social sharing – either student-student, or teacher-student
    • Personal study journal
    • Advanced search that allows you to search across books, courses, terms, notes etc

    Find out more on the Kno website, or try out the web-based client for Kno on your current PC




    Attendance is one of hopefully many apps that we'll see that help teachers perform standard tasks – in this case, to take a class register. You may already have a system for this that integrates closely with your student management system, but find this useful for specific scenarios in TAFE or universities, or for school trips or sports activities (imagine if you put this onto a Windows 8 touch-based slate for a trip out of school, with students' names, photos and mobile numbers).


    It's core features include:

    • Take Attendance – Mark students as Present, Absent or Late
    • Notes – For each class session, you can store a note for each student and the entire session
    • Calendar – Switch between class sessions and create new ones using a calendar
    • Messaging – Send an email message to all students in a class, all the students that are flagged in a class, or an individual student
    • Student Details – See how a student is doing in each class, with their attendance information displayed in a calendar
    • Random Student – Pick a student at random. Great for calling on student during class for questions and greater interactivity
    • Group Students – Place students into groups, either automatically at random or manually. You can create multiple sets of groups that are saved by the applications, for example, one for each project

    Bonus thought for software developers: This developer obviously got in early and reserved the name 'Attendance' in the Windows Store for their app. Have you registered your names yet? You might want to get in early to get the obvious, search-friendly name reserved for you app idea!




    This is an app created by Amity University in India, and it's a great one to look at if you think that your school/TAFE/university needs an app. It provides students with access to personalised information, such as their class schedule, class information, information from the student system (like attendance, assessment results) and university news. And it also contains standard information, such as contact info, an online directory, a news feed and noticeboard


    And, as you can see above, it looks very cool too!

  • Education

    Box Hill Institute of TAFE and the IT Academy programme


    On Friday, I wrote about the fact that there are now more than 450 education institutions running as IT Academies in Australia, and so over the weekend I dug out a case study of one IT Academy, Box Hill Institute in Victoria.

    imageBox Hill Institute prepares students for Australia’s workforce by ensuring that they have the skills employers need today and in the future. Using the Microsoft IT Academy program, they help students develop a high level of IT skills literacy, meaning that students can earn industry certifications that help qualify them for the workplace or that count toward higher-education courses. So how does IT Academy help students get jobs? Well, for their students earning Advanced Diplomas, this certification and other program strengths have led to a job placement rate of more than 90%.

    A key part of Box Hill's mission is to work closely with the business community to identify skills needs and help address shortages in Victoria and across Australia. And to ensure that they can deliver the right skills to a diverse student base, who may be looking for qualifications for either employment or to move to higher education. As Simon Taylor, the Manager of the Centre for Information & Communications Technology at Box Hill Institute, says in our published case study:

      In the last 10 to 20 years, the Australian industry has moved from being manufacturing-based to services-based… We need a curriculum that allows us to deliver a level of training that satisfies those skills needs within the industry, from a service and service delivery perspective.  

    Ultimately, a key reason that Box Hill chose to become an IT Academy was to differentiate themselves from their competitors (whether that's competitors in the government sector, or from the private sector). As Simon Taylor says:

      Box Hill Institute believes strongly in Microsoft certification for skills for employability. We see it as a great addition to our vocationally focused programs, as well as a way to differentiate ourselves in the training market.  


    And the industry-recognised Microsoft certifications that students can get include. :

    • Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)
    • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
    • Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST)
    • Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA)
    • Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE).

    Box Hill maps all of these certifications to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), so that any training that students complete will be recognised nationally.

    It's also interesting that in the case study, Simon also talks about the delivery of blended learning, which enables teachers to focus their attention in more direct support for individual students, and also helps delivery for different types of students, whether they're enrolled in vocationally oriented programs, or industry and community customers who are retraining or building skills in a particular area :

      The blended style of learning materials enables our teachers to provide students with an inspiring mix of learning, with the online materials allowing our teachers to focus on individual mentoring of students, thus maximizing learning outcomes.  

    They also use the program’s E-Learning resources to deliver professional development training to its staff and to teachers in Victoria’s primary and secondary schools.

    Learn MoreRead the full IT Academy case study on Box Hill Institute

  • Education

    IT Academy in Australia–450 institutions delivering technology skills and certifications


    imageAccording to the Australia Skills Gap Survey 2012, 7 out of 10 of organisations find it difficult to find individuals with the correct combination of both technical and generic skills.

    And we can help with that!  We have a program called Microsoft IT Academy which lets education institutions deliver global standard technical training to all students, with matching industry certifications.

    Microsoft IT Academy was originally developed to bridge the gap between education and employment by equipping students with the IT skill sets they need in today’s technology-centric job market, and providing professional development resources for educators. And because it can lead to our professional branded certifications – like Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Technology Associate and Microsoft Certified Professional.

    IT Academy has packaged different types of training resources:

    • eReference guides to complement existing curriculum organisation
    • eLearning to enable new up to date content to be delivered
    • Lesson plans to save time preparing classes and curriculums
    • Certifications to add value and further student employability

    There's content for all levels of education from primary school up to University programs.

    • For primary schools and introduction to computing classes ITA has the digital literacy curriculum to ensure all users have a core ICT competency to move into further education.
    • For High School level and up, IT Academy provides eLearning libraries across all Microsoft technologies: Office suite, Windows 8, SharePoint administration and development, SQL Server, and many more.
    • For TAFE, University and technically focused High School, there is huge value to be gained from introducing Microsoft certification into the curriculum.

    According to IDC, the IT industry is expected to experience a deficit in 2.5 million qualified job candidates in the next 5 to 10 years, which begs the question: Why would you not want to equip your students with the skills they need?

    The programme is currently already delivered by over 450 education institutions across Australia, which are part of a global community of over 10,000 ITAs. Teaching time is getting squeezed everywhere, and IT Academy provides them a cost effective, up to date, globally recognised curriculum and certification to deliver technology skills to students that truly gives them an advantage heading into the work place.

    Richard Ryan, who's our ITA Programme Manager in Australia, sent me a list of the things that IT Academies receive through their subscription:

    • E-Learning courseware – 380+ courses
    • E-Reference library access – 5 subscriptions to the library, which includes soft copies of all Microsoft Press Books
    • Microsoft Certified Trainer program – 1 subscription to this online community
    • Educator Starter Kit – 10 x Microsoft Office Specialist and 20 x Microsoft Technology Associate certification exams
    • UNESCO Teaching with Technology courseware – professional development resource for teachers, developed from the UNESCO ICT competency framework
    • MTA Course guides – Downloadable study guides and exam prep for the Microsoft Technology Associate certification exam
    • Lesson plans – customisable lesson plans for popular fundamental technologies, e.g. Office, SharePoint, Windows 8
    • Academic pricing on Microsoft Official Curriculum courseware and certification exams
    • Access to the DreamSpark program
    • Access to TechNet
    • Single sign on access through Office 365 for Education

    Find MoreFor information on how to become a Microsoft IT Academy (or for Microsoft partners, to learn how to register to add IT Academy onto your customer agreements), then the easiest thing to do is drop Richard Ryan an email, and he'll connect you to the right people.

  • Education

    Updated - Free Windows 8 programming ebook


    imageThose nice people at Microsoft Press released an update in August to their free ebook – it’s a preview version of “Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript”. And it seems perfect timing to highlight it (being absolutely transparent, I didn't read it when it came out, but I've started to read it this week, as I'm spending more time talking to people about building Windows 8 apps for education)

    It’s the perfect guide to Windows 8 applications programming, and gives you the whole story for creating Windows 8 apps. As it’s only a second preview version, the whole thing isn’t yet there – so far there's 12 of a planned 17 chapters, along with a download of companion content (code samples etc)

    If you’re interested in getting started, or you’ve got students that you know will want to have a go, then this is a great book to download and to share.

    And, before you go beetling off to start writing code, can I also recommend reading building an education app for Windows 8 is about designing an experience, before writing code beforehand too.

    Learn More You can either download it in PDF directly, or go and read a bit more about it on the Microsoft Press blog.

    NOTE: There's now the final version of the Windows 8 programming ebook - see here
    Bonus: Here’s a long list of more free technical ebooks from Microsoft Press.
  • Education

    Universities - A thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change


    Wow, Ernst and Young aren't pulling any punches in their latest report on universities are they? They've just published "University of the Future", and it hits pretty hard at the current model of universities in Australia, with its subtitle of "A thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change". Of course, there's plenty of reasons to suspect that a harsh wind of change is appearing, like the fact that International student numbers continue to fall in Australia, and predictions from people like Professor Steven Schwartz, ex-VC at Macquarie University of the online mantra of  better, faster, cheaper, coming soon to a university near you, leading to a question that asks will the university business model get turned upside down in five years?

    Their announcement starts off with a hard hitting sentence:

      Time is running out for traditional university business models. New technologies, increased competition and flat-lining government funding will force universities to fundamentally reinvent themselves in the decade ahead.  

    And they go on to make some pretty clear judgements:

    • "There’s not a single Australian university than can survive to 2025 with its current business model"
    • "At a minimum, universities will need to get much leaner, both in terms of the way they run the back-office, and in use of assets"
    • They found that only one university has less support staff than academic staff

    imageOf course, as management consultants, Ernst and Young have used the rule of three and created three models for how universities might evolve in the future:


    Model one - “streamlined status quo” - runs similar teaching and research programs to today, but uses digital technologies in teaching and learning, is much leaner and has deeper partnerships with industry and international collaborators

    Model two – “niche dominators” – focuses on a small range of teaching and research programs, but is truly world class in those programs and integrates work experience, career opportunities, life-long learning and research commercialisation into the programs.

    Model three – “transformers” – sees universities form partnerships with media companies and global technology providers to change the way education and knowledge is accessed and delivered – in Australia and in a range of cities and rural areas in Asia, Latin America and Africa. This model will transform the world, creating new opportunities for millions of young people, their families and the societies they live in.


    And, of course, with these changes there's a bright future ahead according to the report – "This is a sector that, more than any other, will shape Australia’s future as a high-performing knowledge economy"

    The research interviewed 15 university vice chancellors as well as leaders from private providers and policy makers, so this isn't simply a case of people outside of the higher education sector deciding on its fate – it is people within the business looking around and realising that profound change is around the corner.

    Learn MoreRead the Ernst & Young news announcement, and download their free "University of the Future" report

  • Education

    Technology roadshow for NSW schools in November


    This feels like a first – instead of announcing events that are focused on the biggest city in a few stated, or webinars that you can attend from anywhere (but can be impersonal), it's great to announce a series of events that are going to cover the regional NSW too! Having once spent a holiday driving from Melbourne to Cairns, and back via inland NSW, I know just how far apart some of these places are.

    Your School, Your Way roadshow

    Your School, Your Way

    Microsoft, Dell, Intel and Lenovo have come together to tour New South Wales next month, to share good advice on improving learning outcomes with technology, using the tools you already have in your classrooms to support the needs of your school, your teachers, and your students. It's a Microsoft schools technology and learning roadshow. And an Intel one. And a Dell one. And Lenovo. All rolled into one. What's not to like?


    Your school at the forefront

    How can your existing technology do more to inspire, engage and get the best out of
    your students? How might you develop an ICT strategy that fits your school plan and delivers the best experience to your students and your extended community?

    Your School, Your Way offers practical scenarios that answer these questions

    Over breakfast, we invite school leaders to explore the right ICT strategy for your school and examine global research on incorporating ICT into the classroom. While teachers can enjoy a hands-on professional learning session from 9 to 3, focusing on getting the most from their schools’ existing software, including Microsoft OneNote, AutoCollage and PowerPoint.

    Your window into the future

    With Windows 8 just released, we’ll present you with a fascinating glimpse at what will soon be possible in the classroom – including innovations from Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell and Intel.


    Venues and dates for the NSW Schools Microsoft/Dell/Intel/Lenovo roadshow

    Between the 5th and 15th November, the free roadshow is going to visit 8 venues across metro and regional New South Wales

    • Newcastle – 5th November
    • Bankstown – 7th November
    • Wollongong – 8th November
    • Dubbo – 9th November
    • Wagga Wagga – 12th November
    • Sydney – 13th November
    • Tamworth – 14th November
    • Port Macquarie – 15th November


    The agenda is the same at all of the events

    Session 1 – Leading a transformative ICT strategy (for school leadership teams)

    • 7:30am Registration and breakfast
    • 8:00 - 9:00am Presentation

    Session 2 – Building 21st century skills using ICT (for teaching staff)
    It’s essential that you bring a school laptop to this session.

    • 8:30am Registration
    • 9:00 - 10:00am Keynote
    • 10:00 - 3:00pm Hands-on professional development session using OneNote and other software

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for Your School, Your Way

  • Education

    Update 3: Windows 8 Education apps in the Windows Store


    NB You can see a complete list of my previous recommendations of new Windows 8 apps for teachers and students on the Windows 8 Education Apps page, that I published on this blog earlier, and which I update regularly. And all of the apps I've highlighted so far are free.

    Windows 8 Education apps I noticed this week

    NASA Be A Martian Windows 8 tile
    NASA – Be A Martian

    Windows Store link for NASA's Be A Martian
    As the team at NASA say "Space exploration is no longer limited to the intrepid few, but is open to us all as members of a spacefaring society. Be part of exploration and discovery in these times, and personally contribute to the expansion of human knowledge for all of us now, and as a legacy for those who follow."

    Screenshot of Be A Martian for Windows 8The app offers students ways to take part in discovery and learn about NASA's Mars missions, and view Mars images and videos, and read the mission news. The app delivers the latest mission images and updates from Curiosity, allows students to ask NASA questions about Mars, and find out more about the people behind the mission.


    My Study Life for Windows 8


    My Study Life

    Windows Store link for My Study Life
    My Study Life is a planner for students, teachers and lecturers. It is a combination of the Windows 8 app and the My Study Life website. It's designed to make life easier by storing classes, tasks (assignments, homework, revision) and exams in the cloud, making study connected activities available online and offline (through the website online and the Windows 8 app). Having spent a little bit of time with it, it seems an incredibly powerful app, with some smart features. For example, two-week timetables can be tricky to setup in some software or conventional calendar software, but is a doddle in this. And, because it uses the Windows 8 live tiles, it means that students will see upcoming activities and assignments on their Windows 8 Start screen.

    The list of features highlighted by the developers include:

    • Organize your study life like never before
    • Get a customised view of your day ahead
    • Keep track of task progress and revision for upcoming exams
    • Keep your study life up to date across multiple devices with StudySync
    • Get notified of classes, tasks and exams whilst not using the app
    • Glance and go information with smart live tile updates

    Given the scope and professionalism of this app, I can't believe this will stay as a free app for long!

    Windows 8 ebook Readers

    Over the next couple of weeks I'm planning to spend a bit of time looking into the ebook software for Windows 8, and highlight those that have features that are especially useful for etextbooks, as opposed to just normal book reading. But until I've completed that, here's a couple of ebook readers for Windows 8 that I think are useful:


    Book Reader

    Windows Store link for Book Reader
    This is a reader for ePub files (one of the number of different ebook formats) that will read books that are not DRM protected. What that means is that you can't use it to read digitally protected books, such as the ones you can buy from iTunes and Kindle. However, what this will allow you to do is to download free ePub format books from places like Project Gutenberg (which offers 40,000 free ebooks)  and


    Kindle Reader

    Windows Store link for Kindle Reader
    The Kindle app allows you to read your Kindle library on your Windows 8 slate or laptop. And because it uses the Kindle sync service, your library is automatically synced to your device, and you it automatically knows which book you're currently reading, and which page you last got to. So it means you can read on one device, and pick up where you left off on your next one. I love this, as I have one of the old Kindle eReaders too, so I can read the same book on the train on my Windows 8 slate, and on the sofa at home with my Kindle. The first time I loaded it, I was amazed at just how many ebooks I'd bought, when it showed my whole library on the screen, which went on for pages and pages. (For the eagle eyed, yes I share my Kindle with my daughter)

    Windows 8 Kindle app library home page


    Find MoreVisit the "Windows 8 apps for education" page for more Windows 8 software

  • Education

    Listing your existing Windows educational software in the Windows Store


    A typical Windows computer in a teaching classroom or computer lab has a wide range of applications installed (I've seen schools with over 100 apps installed on their computers). And every time there's a new version of Windows, education users always take a look at the software they have in use, and what new software they might want to install. And so, with Windows 8 just over the horizon, it's a good time to think about new software again.

    Windows Store Education categoryIf you are a partner developing or selling software for education users on Windows, then you may want to keep an eye on the Windows Store, which is built into Windows 8. Especially as there is a category specifically for Education apps in the Windows Store.

    The Windows Store is designed to accept two types of apps:

    • New apps that work in Windows 8 only
    • Existing 'Windows desktop' apps

    So if you are selling existing software for Windows, you can have that listed in the Windows Store to make it easier for customers to find it – you don't have to wait for the completion of the Windows 8 version of your software. There's a lot more detail on listing desktop apps in the Windows Store on the Windows Store blog, but let me bring you a bit of the story now:


    In a nutshell, desktop apps are apps that run on the Windows desktop and don’t follow the Windows Store app style. Now that the Windows Store shows listings for desktop apps, customers can search for them, browse through descriptive information about them, and acquire them from the developer’s website using a link provided in the product description page in the Windows Store.

    What do desktop apps look like in the Windows Store?

    imageIf you’ve seen Windows 8 app tiles in the Windows Store, you have an idea of how they look and how you can click one to access an app's product description page for more information. Desktop apps listed in the Windows Store are also accessible through tiles, but the tiles look a bit different. For one thing, you’ll notice that the app price isn't listed. We don't include the price because the Windows Store doesn’t handle the acquisition process for desktop apps. (In fact, desktop apps aren’t available for download from the Windows Store—they’re simply listings.) The tile also makes it clear that the app is a desktop app.

    When customers click the tile for a desktop app, they see a product description page with information about the desktop app, very similar to the Metro style app description page. The main difference is that in order to acquire the desktop app, the customer clicks a link that takes them outside of the Windows Store—the developer is in charge of the (paid or free) acquisition experience.



    In order to get listed in the Windows Store, there are things to be done, so if you want to know how to get your app in there, then here's the place to go and start your reading…

    Learn MoreRead more about listing Windows desktop apps in the Windows Store

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