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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


    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 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

    The best collaborative Windows 8 education app for primary children - nsquared 'make words'


    All week I've written about new Windows 8 apps for education from nsquared. They're all apps that are designed to be used with touch computers in the classroom, and you can have up to four children using them at the same time. It's a very different learning experience from a single child using a tablet on their own, as they can either collaborate to solve a problem, or compete against each other (or, as I found with a colleague, start competing and then end up collaborating when they feel sorry for you after you've lost five games in a row).image

    If you're going to have four children working on a single activity, then you might consider the large touch tablets (like the Sony Viao Tap 20 above, which is my home machine), but the apps will run on any Windows device, including small touchscreens or even multi-touch whiteboards. The apps I've written about already this week are nsquared's 'herding', 'letters', 'missing card', 'numbers' and 'snap'.

    But I've saved the best till last:


    nsquared make words

    This is a free app in the form of structured educational game, compared to the less structured apps I wrote about earlier in the week. It's designed to help students learn object recognition and differentiation, and improve their recall and spelling. nsquared makewords has the ability to switch between a range of content packs through the menu and download new content as it's released (the app is free, and then you pay for the optional content packs).

    image In the example on the right, the children are shown a picture of a whale, and each child has to hunt for the letters they need to spell the word, and then they drag them into the word board in front of them. The red dots count down remaining time, and students get points according to the order they finish.

    You can download the free app, nsquared make words, from the link above, on a Windows 8 computer. If you don't have Windows 8, then the link will allow you to see the listing information for the app.

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 apps for education

  • Education

    How to get the SAP apps for Windows 8


    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.


    • 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


    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

    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.




    You can install Corinth Micro Plant free using the link above

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

  • Education

    University of Washington - Moving business intelligence to the cloud


    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

    There's also a website for the Michelangelo system here

  • Education

    2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit – March 2013


    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

    nsquared herding: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


    Another day, another free Windows 8 education app for primary schools from the nsquared team of developers in Sydney!

    It's designed to be used with touch devices, and can either be used by one child, or up to four sitting at opposite ends of a Windows 8 tablet that's laying flat on a desk.

    nsquared herding tile image

    nsquared herding

    nsquared herding is designed to develop numeracy, pattern matching and object recognition skills.

    Whilst it is designed for up to four players simultaneously it will depend on the device that you use - on a small touch device (like a Microsoft Surface) you may have enough screen space for two players. Each player has to collect the correct numbers of each target object and place them into their own playing area.

    nsquared herding screen shot 

    In the example screen to the right, the students have to collect 2 turtles and 4 starfish each. They do that by herding them - dragging them to their side of the screen using their fingers.  
    The app is free, and there are different activity packs available as an in-app purchase - you don't need them to use the software, but you may find them useful as you integrate this into your curriculum activities. And besides, if it's good classroom software, it's a good idea to encourage the developers in Sydney to build some more by giving them some money for what they've already developed Smile

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 apps for education

  • Education

    nsquared letters: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


    Here's yet another free Windows 8 education app from nsquared. Like their other apps (missing card, numbers, and snap), it's ideal for pre-school and primary school children, and is designed to support collaborative learning – allowing groups of students to work together on a single Windows 8 touch-enabled PC or tablet.


    nsquared letters

    imagensquared letters is a free form application designed for children to use with or without guidance. It allows students to explore words in virtually any language that uses the Latin alphabet. And because it uses the multi-touch features of Windows 8 devices, it allows for many children to use it at the same time. So you could put a tablet flat on a desk, and have a group of four children around it all using it at the same time. The app is free, and there are different activity packs available as an in-app purchase.

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

  • Education

    Snap: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


    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

    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

  • Education

    nsquared numbers: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


    In my last blog post I wrote about nsquared, a Sydney-based company producing education software that works with touch devices, and the first of their free apps for Windows 8 – nsquared snap. Today, here's their next free Windows 8 education app – numbers.


    nsquared numbers

    nsquared numbers screenshotnsquared numbers for Windows 8 is a free-form application that can be used to teach basic mathematical concepts. It gives you number tiles, so that you can set free tasks like "How many ways can you make the sum of ‘9’, or ‘55’, or any other number you’d like to explore. And because multiple students can use it at the same time, you can also set team or collaborative challenges, eg how many ways can they create those same results?

    The app is free, with different activity packs available as an in-app purchase. Like their other apps, this software is great for pre-school and early primary school use.

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

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