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Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

  • Education

    GeoGebra for Windows 8 released

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    GeoGebra logoGeoGebra is an open-source mathematics app that is used on over 700,000 classroom Windows computers in Australia alone. And the developers have just released GeoGebra for Windows 8, so now there’s a touch-based version of GeoGebra for students using tablets, or teachers using interactive whiteboards in the classroom.

    Last year I completed a review of the key pieces of software installed on Australian classroom computers – it took quite a while, because there are so many different apps, and so many different school setups, but eventually I ended up with a list of software that was in the standard install for up to a million classroom computers. Whilst every single app I found could already run on Windows 8, it’s a passion for me to track which ones are also available as new Windows 8 touch apps too.

    For Australian schools, this announcement is a big one! GeoGebra is the world’s favourite dynamic mathematics software, has received numerous educational software awards, and supports STEM education and innovations in teaching and learning worldwide. And it’s very widely used in Australia across all levels of education.
      GeoGebra is award-winning free dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education (from primary school right up to university level) that brings together geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, graphing, statistics and calculus in one easy-to-use package. Interactive learning, teaching and evaluation resources created with GeoGebra can be shared and used by everyone at http://www.geogebratube.org – and the app contains a built-in search function for the shared content on the website.  
     
    GeoGebra on Windows 8 screenshot

    Features of GeoGebra on Windows 8

    • Free to use software for learning, teaching and evaluation
    • Fully interactive, easy-to-use interface with many powerful features
    • Access to an ever-expanding pool of resources at www.geogebratube.org
      There’s a massive range of specific worksheets and materials on the site, all organised by material types (worksheet, tool, collection, lesson, publication & tutorial) and by subject matter (eg slope, calculus, linear, algebra, geometry, circle, quadratic, function, triangle, equations, tessellation etc etc etc)
    • A fun way to really see and experience mathematics and science
    • Adaptable to any curriculum or project
    • Used by millions of students and teachers around the world
    • Integrated GeoGebraTube Search
    • Worksheet View for presenting materials
    • Graphics and Algebra View
    • Touch-optimised Toolbar and Stylebar
    • Powerful Input Bar
    • Fully compatible with desktop version

    GeoGebra for Windows 8 Screen shot 2

    Learn MoreLearn more about GeoGebra on Windows 8

  • Education

    Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment

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    This is part two of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at yesterday’s “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide

    The use of Windows 8 on devices in education brings many new benefits, features and technology capabilities. One prominent feature is the Windows Store and the new Windows 8 apps. Educational institutions can purchase or create apps for Windows 8 that use the new user interface of Windows 8, and use these alongside apps and resources that they used on previous versions of Windows.

    I’ve noticed though that existence of the Windows Store has often raised new questions (especially from schools). The questions include:

    • Why don’t I just block the Windows Store, and not let users install any apps
    • What is the best way to deploy Windows Store apps in an educational environment?
    • Do all the apps for my students and staff need to come from the Windows Store?
    • Can I use existing deployment technologies and processes to deploy apps?

    This guide, written specifically for Windows 8 in education, offers advice on app deployment strategies, and gives you considerations to help you selecting the right one(s). It is written for IT managers in education institutions, and also to give them the information to advise leaders and teachers on the agreed strategy.

    imageSome of the decisions that you’ll need to make, and that this guide will help you with, include:

    • How much freedom is it appropriate to give on selecting and installing new apps (and should this be different for staff and students)?
    • Should my strategy be different for institution-owned and individually-owned devices?
    • If a device is dedicated to a single user, do I need a different strategy than for shared devices?
    • Who owns apps when they are bought?

    The two fundamental models of app distribution that are explained in the guide are:

    • Windows Store: using a Microsoft account, and purchasing apps using a similar model that consumers and others will use
    • Sideloading: deploying apps directly to devices yourself, without using the Windows Store

    Sideloading Windows 8 apps

    The deployment guide for Windows Store apps provides an overview of what ‘sideloading’ is all about:

     

    Sideloading is a process for installing Windows Store apps without using the Windows Store. To sideload an app, you must have access to the app installation files (.appx and related files), which you can obtain from the app developer (either internally or from an independent software vendor). You cannot obtain app installation files to be used for sideloading through the Windows Store.

    For apps you install by sideloading, you are responsible for validating and signing them, as sideloading bypasses the validation  requirements of the Windows Store. Also, you are responsible for deploying any app updates to their users.

    IT pros often perform sideloading by using an enterprise app store. An enterprise app store provides similar features to the Windows Store but is exclusive to an organization. You can create such a store by using an electronic distribution system, such as Microsoft SystemCenter 2012 Configuration Manager with Service Pack (SP) 1 or Windows Intune. An enterprise app store allows you to manage the app through the entire software life cycle, including deployment, updates, supersedence, and uninstallation.

     

    Sideloading allows you to deploy an app to a device, for use by all users on the device with their own individual account, or just to a specific account (for example, you might deploy a timetable app to any user, whereas you’d only make a behaviour monitoring app available to a staff user). And you can get apps for sideloading from different places – we don’t make you buy everything through the Windows Store. It’s pretty much as you do on PCs today – you can buy directly from a software company, or through a catalogue, or in an online store.

    Sideloaded apps can be deployed to devices at multiple stages (eg when you first install the computer operating system, or later in its lifetime), and using different tools (Windows Intune, SystemCenter, the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, or you can even use the command line). And apps can also be sideloaded onto student-owned PCs, assuming you have the right licences setup.

    The model of app deployment could be more complex than today’s model, because there are more kinds of apps, and more deployment options. The value in this guide is to explain the different processes, along with their benefits and limits, to help you to find the model that’s going to work for your users, your institution, and your mix of device ownerships.

    Learn MoreRead the full guide: “Windows Store Apps: A Deployment Guide for Education”

  • Education

    How big is the Office 365 for education mailbox?

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    imageUp until last Friday, the answer to “How big is the Office 365 for education mailbox?” was 25GB (remember, that’s every education user of the free Office 365 for Education service getting a free 25GB mailbox storage limit).

    But as of Friday, we’ve announced we’re rolling out increases, doubling the email mailbox storage to 50GB. So the mailbox limit for the free plan (Office 365 for Education A2) - is 50GB, and the mailbox limits for the paid plans (Office 365 for Education A3 and A4) are also doubled to 50GB. And in addition, users with plan A3 and A4 get unlimited archive mailbox storage. Users of the free A2 plan get a 50GB archive.

    That’s an awful lot of emails your students and staff can store, and you don’t have to keep buying storage devices to keep it on.

    So now, when you’re feeling flippant and somebody asks “How big is the Office 365 for education mailbox?”
    you can just say

    “Enough… Even for you”

    Learn MoreRead the full details of changes on the Microsoft Office blog

  • Education

    Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning guide

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    This week I’m going to focus on a new set of guides for Windows 8 deployment in education. So if you’re an IT manager in a school, TAFE or University, and you’re thinking about your project plans for the approaching summer break, then you’re probably going to be rubbing your hands in anticipation of these. But if you’re a teacher then this could be possibly the dullest/geekiest week of blog posts – in which case, see you next week, and feel free to ignore all of the next few blog posts!

    Windows 8 Education Deployment Guide - front cover of guideWindows 8 in Education – the Deployment Planning Guide

    So here’s your starting guide – 46 pages of detailed advice for IT managers in education institutions – to help you plan your deployment of Windows 8 in education institutions. It provides advice for all three key IT environments - schools, TAFEs and Universities.

    As it’s such a wide-ranging guide, it’s pretty tricky to write something that is specific to your institution, but there are key sections you shouldn’t skip – for example, the early section on the benefits for IT, faculty/teachers and students – that may help you to communicate with your users across your institution as your deployment starts.

    The sections in this Windows 8 Deployment Planning Guide include:

    • The benefits of a Windows 8 deployment for IT teams, faculty & teachers, and for students
    • How to purchase Academic licences for Windows 8
      Most Australian education institutions will already have licences through their EES subscription for the Windows devices that are institution-owned, and you may only need to check on licensing for student or faculty owned devices (eg under BYOD)
    • The three methods to activate Windows 8 which allow you to choose a model that suits your scenario – for example:
      • Will all your computers be domain-joined?
      • Will you need to allow for users to be disconnected from your network for over half a year (eg researchers/students/faculty who spend a year in another country)?
      • Will you have a mix of Windows 8 and Windows 7 devices
    • What considerations are there for your network infrastructure? For example you may need to make changes so that users can access the Windows Store, and advice on specific considerations for wireless networks in education.
    • Information on accessibility, to support users with vision, hearing, dexterity, language or learning needs.
    • Advice on printer management on Windows 8 is pretty critical, as you are likely to have tens or hundreds of legacy printers, and the guide provides advice on connection, drivers and security for printing.
      I visited a school that had more printers than staff, so I know that this section will be critical to everybody, and the links in this section to deploying printers using group policy and the general overview of printing in Windows 8, are key.
    • The changes in Windows 8 to enhance security and privacy provides a handy table of features, and also outlines which is in which version of Windows 8 (Tip: if you have an EES agreement, you’re licensed for Windows 8 Enterprise edition). This section also gives an overview of how to limit application access (Tip: switching off the Windows Store is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut). It also shows which security features can help you to manage:
      • Make signing in easier for users
      • Reduce information loss if a device is lost or stolen
      • Reduce the cost of replacement when a device is lost or stolen
    • Types of user account, and why you might choose different types (especially with BYOD scenarios)
    • The differential IT management considerations when you choose between institution-owned, BYOD, VDI and Windows To Go scenarios
    • How to use manage users using different multiple devices – including a comprehensive table of what kind of IT control you have in each of the key scenarios (Tip: This table is a handy way to compare Windows Roaming User Profiles to other options available today)
    • Configuration and management technology choices for Windows 8
      Historically, many education users have chosen Group Policy as the default route to manage Windows devices, but with the increasingly mix of different device types and Windows versions, it’s now a good time to compare the capabilities of managing devices through Group Policy, PowerShell, SystemCenter and Windows Intune.

    The aim of this guide isn’t to contain all the answers for every scenario, but to give you an overview, and to offer sources of more detailed information from Microsoft sites like MSDN and TechNet. It’s the first call for you if you are planning a Windows 8 deployment in education within the next 12 months.

    Next up tomorrow, is the guide to deployment of Windows Store Apps, and your options for managing what your users do.

    Learn MoreDownload the full Windows 8 Deployment Planning: A Guide for Education

  • Education

    Webinar: Developing students’ 21st Century skills

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    imageExpanding Learning Horizons, one of our national education partners, is running a webinar next Thursday on “How to develop students’ 21st Century skills”. Fortunately, the first thing on the agenda is to define what those skills are in an Australian context (I mention this because it seems every country around the world has a definition of 21st Century skills, but they all seem slightly different!)

    The webinar will be jointly presented by Expanding Learning Horizons & St Mary’s Primary School in Warners Bay in New South Wales, and will discuss strategies for how you can improve educational outcomes and equip students with the tools required for work and life in the 21st Century. As ELH put it:

     

    We are constantly told to teach these skills but what are they? How do we teach them? Learn how St Mary’s have overcome these questions.
    Learn about:

    • What are the 21st Century Skills?
    • How do you know if you're teaching them?
    • Case Study at St Mary’s Primary School, implementing 21st Century Skills alongside their one-to-one device program – challenges, solution & benefits
    • Some great tools and ideas for web 2.0 tools that will help you teach these skills

    Next steps for St Mary’s Primary School moving forward

     

    The webinar is next Thursday 5th September from 4pm to 5pm AEST, and hosted by Emily Wooldridge (ICT Education Specialist, Expanding Learning Horizons) and Brad Fuller (IT Coordinator, St Mary’s Primary School )

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the webinar

    If you need more details or have a question, then drop an email to Megan at ELH

  • Education

    Education is the fastest growing user of unified communications

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    image

    I’ve been aware of the steady advance of unified communications at the expense of old-fashioned PBX telephone systems for a few years. Personally, my journey of unified communications started 6 years ago, when Microsoft started to replace our telephone handsets with Communicator 2007 software and handsets. Now I’m completely weaned off having a handset, and use a Bluetooth headset as my main ‘telephone’ device, and I love the ability to switch easily between IM chats, voice calls, video sharing, and conference calls – all within the same Lync software.

    According to the latest research from IDG, I’m not alone. Their news release highlights a slew of key numbers around enterprise unified communications adoption, including:

    • 51% of organisations (yep, that’s a majority) are using unified communications already
    • 90% of organisations plan to invest in unified communications in the next year
    • Education is expected to be the fastest growing industry for implementation of unified communications in the next three years - with 72% of organisations expected to invest in it.
    • The primary benefits that organisations are seeing as drivers for adopting unified communications are:
      • 61% say increased productivity
      • 42% say increased flexibility for employees
      • 39% say faster response times

    Is it in your plans yet? Should it be?

    Learn MoreRead the research on the IDG Enterprise website

  • Education

    Are you running Windows XP or Office 2003 anywhere?

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    image

    I was in a government medical clinic two weeks ago, where they had rolled out a brand new system for managing their customer workflow and medical records. And every single computer, with this brand new software system, was running on Windows XP. They had built a brand-new mission critical IT system on 12-year-old technology. It left me wondering what my rights would be from next April, after Windows XP support has ended, if somebody tries to load my medical records and history into an unsupported, at-risk computer?

    Generally speaking, education institutions are ahead of other public sector organisations in ensuring that IT is kept up to date, and there are proportionally less Windows XP computers running in education. However, those that are may well be running mission critical systems – things like your catering system tills, student management system, or some of your infrastructure services like printing. It’s often the case that they are last to be migrated because they just sit in the background, silently getting on with their job.

    But official support for Windows XP and Office 2003 ends in April 2014. Which means no more automatic Windows Updates for Windows XP – and a big increase in the risk profile of your computers (see what ComputerWorld think).

    Here’s some info from our End Of Support website for Windows XP and Office 2003 that might help you to alert colleagues, and plan your next move.

    image

    In 2002 Microsoft introduced its Support Lifecycle policy based on customer feedback to have more transparency and predictability of support for Microsoft products. As per this policy, Microsoft Business and Developer products, including Windows and Office products, receive a minimum of 10 years of support (5 years Mainstream Support and 5 years Extended Support), at the supported service pack level.

    Thus, Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will go out of support on April 8, 2014. If your organisation has not started the migration to a modern desktop, you are late. Based on historical customer deployment data, the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months from business case through full deployment. To ensure you remain on supported versions of Windows and Office, you should begin your planning and application testing immediately to ensure you deploy before end of support.

    Learn about how other organisations have benefited from migrating to Windows 7 and Windows 8 Enterprise.

    image

    It means you should take action. After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.

    Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your organisation to potential risks, such as:

    • Security & Compliance Risks: Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognised control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organisation’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information.
    • Lack of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) & Hardware Manufacturers support: A recent industry report from Gartner Research suggests "many independent software vendors (ISVs) are unlikely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP in 2011; in 2012, it will become common." And it may stifle access to hardware innovation: Gartner Research further notes that in 2012, most PC hardware manufacturers stopped supporting Windows XP on the majority of their new PC models.

    Get current with Windows and Office. This option has upside well beyond keeping you supported. It offers more flexibility to empower employees to be more productive, while increasing operational efficiency through improved PC security and management. It also enables your organization to take advantage of latest technology trends such as virtualisation and the cloud.

    image

    Microsoft offers large organisations in-depth technical resources, tools, and expert guidance to ease the deployment and management of Windows, Office and Internet Explorer products and technologies. To learn more about migration and deployment programs, contact your Microsoft Partner (or your Microsoft Account Manager). To learn how to pilot and deploy a modern desktop yourself, you can download the free Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and begin your deployment today.

    Even if you think you’ve got no Windows XP computers left in your school, TAFE or university, keep an eye out next time you are in your admin office, canteen, library or media services room – there’s a chance you’ll spot at least one PC that you’ve got to do something about before next year.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Windows XP and Office 2003 end of support

  • Education

    Watching out for Australian government agency tenders

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    Each day I receive an email update on new IT tenders from public sector organisations, and scan it to keep an eye on interesting IT projects. And I just read an update from the Australian Government’s IT blog (run jointly between by AGIMO and the Technology & Procurement Division)  which promises to make the information on public tenders more easily available through AusTender, the government’s centralised, web-based, procurement information system.

    AusTender header

    From 1st July 2013, all government agencies are now only allowed to advertise their tenders etc (also known as ‘open approaches to market’) through the AusTender website. They are now forbidden from placing adverts in the media etc.

      In June this year, the Department of Finance and Deregulation issued a circular (information brief) to Australian Government agencies under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 informing them that from 1 July 2013 onwards, they can only use AusTender to advertise open approaches to market. Basically, agencies can no longer use other supplementary forms of media (such as print) to advertise a tender is being conducted.  

    So if you want to keep an eye out for relevant tenders, then head over to AusTender to register for their mailing list, and to search their current database.

    NB: This applies to Australian Government Agencies only – like DEEWR, ATO, DFID, Outback Stores, SBS  (see all 223 here)– and doesn’t stretch down into individual education organisations, either at state or local level. Which means that you’ll still need to look out elsewhere for tenders from universities, TAFEs and individual state education departments, through places like TenderLink

  • Education

    University of New England heads to Lync for 23,000 students and staff

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    Lync logoLast week we were able to announce the news that the University of New England, in Armidale in northern New South Wales, has become the latest big education customer to use Microsoft Lync for real-time communications. It will become the way that their 23,000 students and staff can collaborate and communicate anytime from virtually anywhere, including via instant messaging, video conferencing and voice calls.

    With 80% of UNE’s students studying online, the university is leading the digital learning charge, and the Microsoft Lync deployment (the largest within the Australian Pacific education sector) will enable UNE students, faculty and staff to make calls and benefit from online lecture delivery and collaboration, wherever they live.

    As UNE’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, puts it:

      We have a long history of pioneering distance education that began in the 1950s with Australia’s first distance learning courses. Technology has allowed us to remove the ‘distance’ from education and bring face-to-face online learning to people in the areas in which they live.  

    The rise in people studying later in life, or part time, means that universities need to be sympathetic to the needs of students who are juggling lifestyle commitments such as work and family. UNE’s strategic technology investment is to provide new cost-efficient education to a broader demographic of students in an accessible and collaborative environment. It is also creating a new era of digital learning, where teachers and students can learn and work both in-person or virtually via their PC, tablet or smartphone.

    The UNE IT Director, Rob Irving, described that they aim to enable better communication with current and future students:

      At UNE, our staff and students can now benefit from the most innovative online learning experience through software-based audio, video, conferencing, and collaboration via Microsoft Lync. Microsoft Lync will connect both current and potential future students with our educators and staff to facilitate better overall learning experiences and support, whilst giving our researchers the ability to achieve faster results by making it easier to connect people with people, and people with knowledge.  

    UNE plan to create new channels for student recruitment – for example, to use the global reach of Skype and its connectivity with Microsoft Lync both locally and offshore. Potential international and interstate students interested in the university will soon have the ability to call UNE via Skype, where previously they would have incurred international call charges.

    After we announced the news to the press last week, it didn't take long for it to reach the home pages of The Australian, Delimiter, ITWire, WhaTech

    Learn MoreLearn more about what Lync does


    Recommended further reading:
    Case study: Marquette University upgrades to Lync 2013
    Case study: Using Lync to replace PABX in South Australia
    Using Lync for emergency contact management in universities
    Joining Lync and Skype together

  • Education

    How to choose the right device in education

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    Picture of children using touch screen laptopThe search for the right device for both yourself and your school, TAFE or university can be challenging. What type of device will I get? What do all the specs mean? Which device will best cater for my needs? The problem is, with the broad collection of Windows devices now available, and the vast price range, there is no ‘one size fits all’ device as every individual has their own needs.

    I feel that sometimes ‘too much choice’ can be fatally confusing, because it can make a decision complicated. And so the benefit of having lots of different styles of device with Windows can have downsides as well as upsides. Who needs a choice of 30 different devices when you’re only going to buy one? But the reality is that we each have a very specific list of requirements, and so the choice of one of us may be completely different from another.

    My colleagues in the UK have produced a handy guide to help navigate you through the choices of device, and highlight some of their favourites. They start with a comparison of device types – ultrabooks, tablets, hybrids/convertibles and All-In-Ones – and then highlight options for students at different levels, teachers and senior managers/IT professionals.

    As we don’t have anything similar for Australia, I thought I’d share the information on the UK team’s work (beware: not all devices are available here, and the prices are listed in GB Pounds).

    Learn MoreRead the original blog post from the UK Education team on 'Device choices for education'

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