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February, 2013 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

February, 2013

  • Education

    The Mathletics website now on every Windows 8 device

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    You may notice that some websites on Windows 8 ask you to open them in the desktop version of Internet Explorer, rather than the modern UI version, because they are written in Flash - even though Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 has an integrated Flash Player, avoiding the need to download and install an add-in. The reason is that if you're using a touch tablet, then some Flash websites are difficult to navigate because they need you to do things like a mouse double-click (tricky when you've only got a finger, not a mouse!).

    So we maintain a list of websites that work on well with touch tablets, and  these are the only ones that you can open with the Windows 8 modern UI version of IE10, otherwise you have to open them with the desktop version.

    You may remember a few months ago that I wrote about "How to get a Flash website working smoothly on Windows 8 and Windows RT", describing the background to designing a web experience that doesn't require plug-ins for browsers. This is an important step to improve browser performance, accessibility support, increase battery life on mobile devices like laptops and tablets, and to increase security and reliability.

    Mathletics logoWe've been working with various publishers to ensure their websites work well with touch devices. Yesterday, we added Mathletics to the list, so if you go to www.mathletics.com.au on any Windows 8 device, it will now let you use Mathletics in full on any Windows 8 device (Windows RT or Windows 8, with either ARM or Intel processors). This is much better than having Mathletics content available through an app, because the website gives you access to the full Mathletics system and library of resources, whereas the mobile apps contain just a smaller subset.

    This is good news for Australian schools, where Mathletics is widely used, but a quick look at the Mathletics leaderboard shows there's a long list of other countries that will benefit too.

    Learn MoreVisit the Mathletics website

  • Education

    New resources for building education apps for the new Office and SharePoint

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    With the launch of the new Office for consumers, and Office 365 for education customers, there's also a new batch of resources to help partners who are developing apps for Office, Office 365 for education, and SharePoint. With the new Office, publishers can create apps that can be sold through the Office Store to users. It's an ideal way for education partners to reach new customers, as the marketplace is directly accessible from within the Office software. You can read more background about the ideas for building education applications for Office here, including app ideas, and scenarios for building apps for teachers and others in education establishments.

    The Office team have now created a bunch of new resources, to help you to create your first app, as well as covering developing Office apps in more depth, including APIs and app samples. You can find all the samples and resources on the links below, and links to the new developer forums:

     

    Find our more about building Office apps

    Overview of developing Apps for OfficeOverview of developing Apps for SharePoint

  • Education

    How to get the SAP apps for Windows 8

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    List of SAP apps in Windows 8 StoreLast November, I wrote about the plans from SAP for Windows 8 apps, so that users can access SAP systems and data in a touch-centric interface created for Windows 8. There are many SAP users in Australian education institutions, across schools, TAFE and higher education. Many education organisations are using SAP for their financial and HR systems, and a challenge for these conventional ERP systems is to make them more user-friendly – especially as so many employees are using self-service systems for every day tasks. As an ex-SAP user, anything which would have helped me get at my data and workflows in SAP more easily would have been a great thing.

    If you already access SAP from an existing Windows device, you can still do that on Windows 8 device, using your existing software, web portals etc. The benefit of a native Windows 8 app is that you get touch-enabled, visually appealing access to your systems and date. The apps are all now in the Windows Store, so if you're a SAP user, you can download the free apps on a Windows 8 device, and if you're using a touch-enabled tablet or laptop, start whizzing across your data with your fingertips (ouch, does that line sound corny?)

    There are six SAP apps available now in the Windows Store:

    • SAP WorkDeck
      A new persona-centric app that offers contextual integration of various information sources and processes into a role-based view. SAP WorkDeck allows employees to initiate new requests, oversee upcoming events and monitor the progress, as well as enables managers to react and process workflows on-the-go, such as travel, leave and purchasing requests.
      As you can see from the screen shot below, these SAP apps provide a very modern, graphical interface to your SAP data.

    image

    • SAP Manager Insight
      An employee profile app that provides managers with access to key indicators, such as diversity, headcount, employee talent by location, as well as employee profiles, to drive collaborative and informed human resources (HR) decision-making.
    • SAP Learning Assistant
      A training app that gives on-the-go workers tag-along teachers. It makes on-demand, online training available anytime, anywhere so workers can access required classes to address compliance and job requirements.
    • SAP Interview Assistant
      A recruiting app that eases the cumbersome task of arranging interviews. It also helps managers review candidate information, prepare notes, record results, and provide immediate feedback to HR.
    • SAP Customer Financial Fact Sheet
      A customer profile app for account executives to access financial data, invoices and critical sales orders in real time.
    • SAP GRC Policy Survey
      A policy app for employees to review and acknowledge relevant policy changes and fill in surveys to ensure they understand the policies.

    If you're reading this on a Windows 8 device right now, then the links above will take you onto the website page of the Windows Store for each of the apps, and you can install from there. Otherwise, the link will allow you to see the description and screenshots for each app. (If you prefer to find them in the Windows Store directly, then just load the Store app on your Windows 8 device, and search for 'SAP' to get the list).

  • Education

    Update 10 on Windows 8 Education apps - Corinth Micro Plant

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    There's a rapidly growing list of Windows 8 education apps in the Windows Store – simply too many to keep up with, so what I'm now keeping my eye open for are ones that are completely different, and especially those that take advantage of the touch interface of Windows 8 to create an immersive experience for students and teachers. Here's an app for biology teachers that's great for a touch tablet for an individual student to explore, or for a teacher to project onto a classroom interactive whiteboard (it would be great to use this on a multi-touch whiteboard for zooming and navigation around the 3D models).

    It's from Corinth, a new education interactive publisher based in the Czech Republic. It's been built by a team of graphic designers and 3D experts – and it shows within a minute of loading the app, as you whizz around 3D models and zoom in and out of rich graphics.

    Corinth Micro Plant Windows 8 Tile 

    Corinth Micro Plant

    Link  
    It's an unique interactive education app which takes you into the fascinating microscopic world of plant biology. Starting from an image of a forest, you can use touch to zoom into enormously magnified images, or explore fully 3D interactive models of trees which take you from the overall structure right down to looking at individual viruses. The video below walks you through the app, and gives you a clear idea of what it can do:

    The free version of Corinth Micro Plant Windows 8 app offers immersive zooming into micro world and a 3D interactive learning page for trees and their structures. Additional features can be unlocked through a Facebook Like (which unlocks the 3D gyroscope-driven interactive page on viruses), and then interactive learning pages like the ones below are unlocked through an in-app purchase.

    image

     

    image

    You can install Corinth Micro Plant free using the link above

    Learn MoreRead a list of other recommended Windows 8 apps for education

  • Education

    2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit – March 2013

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    On the 25th March 2013 we're hosting the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit in Sydney. It is open to all of the partner organisations who are registered on the Microsoft Partner Network*, and who focus on the education market in Australia.

    The keynote speaker for the day is Anthony Salcito, the Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide, who's visiting Australia. You can see Anthony speaking at TEDxPantheonSorbonne here.

    Microsoft Education Partner Summit, 25th March 2013

    Header for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit

    The agenda will focus on helping our partners to understand the way that our key desktop and cloud products and services – especially Windows 8 and Office 365 in education – help education customers to transition to new models of teaching and learning.

    This event will be headlined by the Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide, Anthony Salcito.

    You will end the day equipped with the value proposition of Windows 8 and Office 365 in education, in a format that will help you to share this with your customers to support your conversations around products, services and devices in education.

    The morning will be a series of keynote presentations and open Q&A sessions with key executives from the Microsoft global and Australian business. And then in the afternoon, we'll be offering a choice of breakout sessions, which will focus on specific topics.

    I'll have the full agenda up on Monday, but for now I'd recommend grabbing a spot through the registration link, as I'd expect that the seats will fill up pretty quickly.

    Date:         Monday 25th March, 2013.

    Time:         9:00am – 3:45pm.

    Place:        Microsoft Sydney, 1 Epping Road, North Ryde, NSW 2113

    Make a dateMake a date: Register for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit

    * Acronym Soup – Our Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) partners include:

    • AERs – Authorised Education Resellers
    • OEMs – Original Equipment Manufacturers
    • ISVs – Independent Software Vendors
    • SIs – System Integrators
    • LARs – Large Account Resellers
  • Education

    Join the online launch of Office 365 on Thursday 28th Feb

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    image

    imageThe invitation is out for anybody to join our Virtual Launch Event next week as we celebrate the availability of a major new release coming to Office 365 for businesses and education customers. Kurt DelBene, President of the Microsoft Office Division, will talk about Microsoft’s vision for productivity, enterprise social and the cloud. We’ll demo new features in enterprise social and show how we’ve transformed the full Office experience you know into an always up-to-date service. Finally, you’ll hear real world stories from our customers about their move to the cloud. We’ll also answer questions via live chat as we go.

    For education customers and partners, it's an opportunity to hear about the new features being added into Office 365 for education, and consider how they might help you to improve communication with and between students, and deliver collaborative learning scenarios for schools, TAFEs and universities (with the added bonus that Office 365 for education offers a free service for customers, so that there's not a cost barrier to getting started)

    And the really good news is that the timing works for Australia, with an option to join the online launch event at lunchtime on Thursday 28th February.
    Make a dateMake a date: Register for the Office 365 launch webcast  
    Click on the one at 5pm on Feb 27th PST, which will be 12PM AEST on Thursday 28th February (or a little earlier for SA/WA)

  • Education

    University of Washington - Moving business intelligence to the cloud

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    International case studies are always good to review, because sometimes you see things that aren't being done in Australia, and give useful ideas for solving problems for Australian education institutions. Of course, many international education organisations run in a very different way to Australian ones, but the underlying business problems can be very similar. Sometimes organisations take a more commercial approach (something that often comes up in projects involving CRM and BI in education)

    University of Washington logoFor example, I've just finished reading a Business Intelligence case study from the University of Washington, who have developed a system to help their university staff more easily connect with donors and potential donors, by using the cloud services of Windows Azure to take their existing SQL-based reporting system and moving it into the cloud. It's a very practical case study for business intelligence in education.

    Moving university reporting to the cloud

    Three years ago, the University of Washington (UW) developed a self-service reporting application called Michelangelo that helps users access the university’s databases and then quickly and easily create accurate reports. With the growing popularity of - and outside interest in - its application, UW met the challenge of increased demand by moving Michelangelo from an on-premises environment to Windows Azure in the cloud. Now, the university can scale the application on demand to support as many users as needed, including potentially giving outside educational and other research organisations access to Michelangelo. Thanks to cloud infrastructure resources managed by Microsoft, UW is also able to reduce hardware, labour, and maintenance requirements for Michelangelo.

    UW often needs to create lists of alumni based on their location, degree earned, donation history, and so on, as part of the university’s fundraising efforts. Historically, compiling lists like these at UW has been a slow (up to two weeks) manual process that includes a lot of technical steps. As a result, it has often required assistance from a database programmer or administrator.

    Five years ago, to make this task easier, UW developed Michelangelo—a self-service reporting application that works with an ordinary web browser and requires no customised client software. Michelangelo offers an intuitive interface for accessing key data, filtering the data by wide-ranging criteria, and delivering the results to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for convenient analysis. At UW, Michelangelo draws data from their customer relationship management (CRM) system using SQL Server, although the application is designed to support almost any structured data source.

    By 2010, the reporting application had become quite popular, used by several UW departments and attracting the attention of outside organisations, including North Carolina State University and the University of California, Davis. As Chris Sorensen, Associate Director of Reporting said:

     

    The time had come to determine what technologies we would need for Michelangelo to support perhaps 500 users and many more data sets. Simply adding more servers and storage did not make sense for us from a capital investment and labour perspective.

    We chose Windows Azure because it has the combination of scalability, reliability, and strong security that we were looking for.

     

    UW also used the flexible federated authentication capabilities in Windows Azure, meaning that they could use their existing identity systems to protect the information in the reports, using the rules for access to data sets based on the users' job role.

    The migration was completed in 2011, and was their first application to be moved from their on-premise infrastructure to Windows Azure, and they regard it as a model for migrating future applications.

    What benefits did they see?

    As well as lowering both short-term and long-term IT costs, the university are also seeing improvements in IT staff productivity. As Chris Sorensen said:

      What we really liked about the migration was that it decreased our management time for Michelangelo. With Windows Azure, we no longer have to deploy our own resources for things like internal system uptime, maintaining firewalls, or deciding what machines to partition or what virtual instances to provision. That’s all taken care of at a Microsoft data centre.  

    Users benefitted from improvements in the application's speed, with all of the relational database information held in memory. And for the University of Washington, it means that they are able to expand the use of Michelangelo to outside institutions and users, using federated authentication.

    The Michelangelo team have created a video of Michelangelo in action (warning: if you're in an Australian university, your alumni/donor management team may start to make more demands for easy access to data if they see this!)

    Learn MoreYou can read the full case study on microsoft.com/casestudies

    There's also a website for the Michelangelo system here

  • Education

    The Gizmodo "Back to School and Uni Gear Guide"

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    image

    I've written a few times about some of the new Windows 8 devices for education customers from an institution perspective, and it's good to see that Gizmodo have published some device ideas for students, just in time for the new university year. They've looked at a range of devices, on different operating systems and from different manufacturers, and it's clear that they are seeing Ultrabook convertibles as the next big thing – clamshell designs, full keyboards, and touch displays. The perfect kind of device for students who want to sit in front of a laptop-style device typing an assignment, and then hold it on their lap as a tablet and using touch with a pen or their fingertips.

    They've featured the Sony Vaio Duo 11 with a slide-up screen, the Asus Taichi a screen on both the inside and the outside of the case, the Dell XPS12 with it's swivel screen, the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (described as 'the best bang for the buck on the market right now'), the Samsung ATIV which is the next version on from my current Samsung tablet, the HP ENVY x2 which is appearing on adverts all over the place at the moment, and also the Microsoft Surface (also described as 'the best bang for buck').

    The good news from all of this is the huge choice of different designs for Windows 8 devices – laptops, convertibles, tablets, desktops, all-in-ones. Students can take their pick, from loads of different manufacturers…

    Learn MoreRead the Gizmodo guide to hot convertibles, ultrabooks and tablets for students

  • Education

    Ask the Experts–Tomorrow's BYOD in Education Webinar for partners

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    Every month we run a Microsoft "Ask the Experts" webinar for Microsoft Education Partners in Australia, and on tomorrow's webinar we're going to do a deep dive into BYOD in schools (BYOD=Bring Your Own Device).

    I've got expert colleagues joining the webinar, and they'll talk about some of the things that they are seeing and hearing, and to explain how you can help advise schools about effective strategies for making BYOD in schools successful. Of course, you can't just airdrop technology, and it's important to understand what the learning outcomes are for a BYOD programme.

    imageAsk the Experts: Education Partner Monthly Webinar

    BYOD in Schools – February 26 2013

    The webinar is from 11:00-11:45AM tomorrow, Tuesday 26th February, and I'll be hosting it with Sean Tierney and Travis Smith, both of whom have long experience with BYOD programmes in schools. They'll be able to bring specific advice based on projects they have been involved with in the past.

    Important note: This webinar is for Microsoft partners who are registered on the Microsoft Partner Network, or are registered Academic Education Resellers. If you're working for an education institution, like a school, TAFE or university, then keep an eye out in the future here for similar webinars for you.

    Make a dateRegister for Ask the Experts: Education partner webinar - 26 Feb 2013

  • Education

    Snap: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared

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    nsquared is a Sydney-based company that have been producing great interactive classroom software recently. Historically, they have created some great interactive education software for the original Microsoft Surface (the original table-sized interactive computer that is now made by Samsung, and called the SUR40 called Microsoft Pixelsense). At the core of many of their apps is more than one student working at a time on a touch-device, and learning collaboratively.

    Windows 8 apps for education

    They've now taken all of their experience and started producing a range of free Windows 8 education apps.

    nsquared snap for Windows 8 


    nsquared snap

    Link
    Their first app, nsquared snap, is easy to grasp and allows up to four students to work on a single touchscreen at the same time, and is designed to develop pattern matching and object recognition skills. If you take a Windows 8 tablet, and lay it flat on the desk, you can have multiple students around it all playing the learning game at the same time - making use of the multi-touch screens that you'll find on Windows 8 certified devices.

    nsquared snap on Windows 8

    Each player must take their turn individually, with a point being awarded when they successfully match a pair of cards. Only two cards may be turned over at any time in an attempt to find a matching pair.

    It's a great simple activity for small group learning in primary school or pre-school, where you don't need to spend a lot of time explaining what students need to do etc. You can get it free from the Windows 8 store here

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

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