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

  • Education

    5.5m students in Australia can get Office 365 ProPlus free


    In 2013 we announced that students can download Office 365 ProPlus free (that’s the suite of Office apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher etc) onto their personal devices – Windows PCs, Macs, phones, tablets etc. We called this programme “Student Advantage”, and it applied to every education institution which had licensed Office for their staff. But because each customer had to enable the service for their students, and order the free licences from us, it meant that some students who qualified couldn’t get it, and every school/TAFE/university had a different sign-up page for students. It was more complicated than it could have been, and every time students/staff asked me how they could get Office free, I had to point them back to their IT department to find out how to do it in their school.

    So, it’s good news that we’ve simplified the whole process, and made it really easy for the more than 5m students in Australia that qualify.

    Office 365 for students and staff

    Now, if you are a student or a staff member, you simply go to the sign up page, and sign in with your educational email address (in Australia, that means it’s going to end in You’ll then get access to the Office 365 ProPlus software suite free to download and install on up to five PCs or Macs, 5 tablets and other mobile devices – including iPad, iPhone and Android devices. You will also get 1TB of storage on OneDrive for Business in the cloud.

    This is great news for the 5.5 million students in Australia that qualify (yep, that’s nearly every single one), and especially 30% of students who are using a BYOD device, as well as for the IT Department who now have less to do.*

    You can read the announcement from Fiona Sims, our Office 365 Education Product Manager in Australia, or the official global announcement of Office 365 ProPlus for students and staff, or even better, just go to the site below and sign up and get started: 

    Learn MoreGo to the Office 365 site and sign in with your Education email address

    * This may be a contentious comment to make, but there’s actually work for the IT Department to do if they want to block access to Office for their students or staff, but none if they’re happy for everybody to get it!

  • Education

    Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard: The evidence


    When I wrote about “How to help students to remember more” towards the end of last year, I shared a video of my colleague Travis Smith talking about the power of pen-based input for students, over a simple keyboard interface, for key tasks such as note taking. (I recommend either the 15-minute or 60-minute version of his talks).

    You’ll see that we strongly believe in the need for digital paper and pen in the way that our products have evolved. Things like the improvements in the natural feel of the stylus in Surface Pro 3, the powerful inking in OneNote and the rest of Office, and the brand new support for hand writing in OneNote on the iPad.

    There is a weight of evidence for pen-based interfaces improving learning, and Sharon Oviatt talks about much of it in her book The Design of Future Educational Interfaces from Routledge.

    And there’s also an overview by Sharon Oviatt of the work, which you can download from the link below.


    It opens with a bang:

    “For too long and with too little forethought we have handed our students technology to help them learn. New evidence reveals that certain types of technology actually create barriers to thinking, creating and problem-solving. While other types can enhance these same skills”

    And it continues on the theme:

    “Computers can either enhance a student’s ability to think, communicate and learn  – or seriously undermine it”

    And then it warms up with insight into the research into some key questions:

    • How do keyboards and digital pens stimulate or undermine students’ ability to think?
    • How do interfaces influence language learning?
    • Why do pen interfaces have cognitive advantages?
    • Do these research results apply across different students and subjects?
    • Are all pen interfaces equally effective?

    And it then gives detail advice about the kind of interfaces to help students with different learning tasks – when they are exploring, thinking, expressing themselves, collaborating and recording information.

    Learn More

    Download the Oviatt paper "Computer interfaces and their impact on learning"

  • Education

    Supporting BYOD in education– Outlook everywhere for students and staff


    There’s no doubt that the trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in education for students is gathering pace. According to The Australian yesterday, 30% of schools have moved to BYOD, and for universities we’re pretty much at 100% already. And it’s happening rapidly for staff too – even if it’s not always BYOD, it’s certainly CYOD (Choose Your Own Device from a pre-approved list).

    But that comes with challenges for IT departments in schools, TAFEs and universities across Australia. Because in the good ole days, you could control the device and the environment that your users had and you could build a Standard Operating Environment that left you in control.

    The good news is that we’re working phenomenally hard to ensure that the apps you want for your users are available on the devices your users are walking around with. We announced another step change last night as we released Office for Android tablets and Outlook for iOS and a preview of Outlook for Android.


    Here’s where to go for the official announcements:

    Office Blog: The Office you love is now on your Android tablet

    Office Blog: A deeper look at Outlook for iOS and Android

    And just in case you need some motivation to combat the inertia of “Oh no, I can’t cope with more change”, maybe what others are saying might help:

    Business Insider saidMicrosoft's new email app for iPhone convinced me to delete Gmail after 5 minutes”.

    Lifehacker saidMicrosoft dropped some excellent news overnight: Outlook has finally arrived on Android and iOS

    And as ZDNet reportedthere were 250,000 downloads of the preview versions of the Office for Android apps. There also have been 80 million downloads of Office on iPad and Office on iPhone apps combined as of this week

    The Office you love is now on your Android tablet 1
  • Education

    Free - Teacher Dashboard for Office 365 Education


    Teacher Dashboard header graphic (shows teacher at whiteboard)

    Teacher Dashboard is an app for Office 365 Education that lets you easily share files and assignments with your students, and then allows you to grade them and provide feedback. It’s a web-based classroom manager tool for Office 365 that customises your school’s system to support the teaching and learning process, and gives your teachers tools for the most common processes they need to do.

    Teacher Dasboard logo

    It’s designed to allow your teaching staff to:

    • Share a homework assignment to an unlimited number of students with one click.
    • Teachers get a high level view, in real-time, of their student’s OneDrives
    • Create teacher-defined groups for each subject, ability and year group with just 1 click
    • Upload files to your OneDrive and share directly to students through the dashboard.
    • Simple multi-class management tools allow teachers to quickly and efficiently assign and track documents between classes
    • Mobile device ready - able to be used on all devices including tablets and smartphones

    Students can easily submit their assignments online, and Teacher Dashboard creates a folder structure that helps them keep their work organised, and automatically gives teachers the correct access to the correct folders.

    You can read more about the teaching and learning value of Teacher Dashboard on the Australian Teachers blog


    Teacher Dashboard is now free for your first 100 teachers

    imageThe news that’s just been announced by Axis12, the developers of Teacher Dashboard, is that it is now free for schools to use with up to 100 teachers (after that, there’s a subscription fee for additional licences).

    The team have also added a bulk importer, to allow you to import classes directly from your school’s SMS/SIS system.

    How to download Teacher Dashboard

    Teacher Dashboard is available through Microsoft’s Office Online store – installing it on your Office 365 tenant is something that your school’s site administrator does – and there’s a simple 3-step process to install it. Once that’s done, it’s then available to all the teachers to start using.


    Learn MoreFind out more about Teacher Dashboard for Office 365

  • Education

    2015 Back To School Surface 3 discount for students


    Hot off the press: imageHarvey Norman have just launched their Back to School student/teacher offer for the Surface Pro 3, with a 10% discount available to those who have an “” email address.

    All the details are on their website here

    The offer is very simple to use – you supply your email address ending in, and they then email you a 10% off Education discount voucher.

  • Education

    Moodle integration with Office 365–how to get it


    Last month, when I wrote that new Moodle integrations with Microsoft technology were on the way, I didn’t have an exact date, but forecast ‘late January’. And how time flies – because they’ve just arrived!

    Microsoft Open Technologies logoOvernight, the work from our Microsoft Open Technologies team and the Remote Learner team (a Moodle partner), was released as open source Moodle plugins - enabling close integration between Moodle and Office 365. This is key news for education institutions, because there’s a huge overlap between the 50,000+ Moodle installations and the millions of Office 365 Education users.

    Now schools, TAFEs and universities that are using Moodle and Office 365 Education can now simplify the lives of staff and students:

    • Teaching staff and students can now use their Office 365 account to login to Moodle
      No longer will students need two separate identities – one to login to their LMS, and a separate one to login to their email and collaboration space.
      By connecting the two systems, it means that teachers and students can store their files on their OneDrive rather than having to have a separate file storage system in Moodle. It also means that where you use Office 365’s SharePoint for document management, you can use it’s document workflow and history features.
    • Moodle calendar entries can now automatically appear in the Office 365 calendars of students and staff
      As the Office 365 calendar (in Exchange) is the one that is normally synced to the phone or PC, it means that a teacher adding an assignment deadline or lecture into Moodle means it will show up on the students’ calendar on their phone/computer!
    • OneNote integration into Moodle means that students can now complete an assignment in OneNote and submit it into Moodle, whether they are online or offline.
      And staff can provide feedback to the student via OneNote too (eg handwritten notes on an essay, or video/voice recordings of feedback).
    • Integration between Office Mix and Moodle allows teachers to embed a Mix directly into a Moodle course
      Office Mix allows you to create a digital learning resource directly within PowerPoint, and then make the recording available to students on the web. By using a single login between Moodle and Office 365, you can share Mixes which can only be viewed by students within your institution, as well as public Mixes.
    • Moodle course documents can now be stored in OneDrive by staff and students
    • Moodle can now appear in your Office 365 app launcher, visible from all the different Office 365 online services
      This means your students don’t need to remember yet another portal URL – it can all be accessed through the Office 365 portal your students are already using for email, file sharing etc

    One of the significant advantages of this approach is that students and staff get the latest capabilities of Office 365 on all of their devices, rather than you having to adapt your Moodle service to deliver to different devices and capabilities.

    • If you assign a piece of work in Moodle through OneNote, it means the students can access that work on all the different OneNote options – on the web, on their PC or Mac, and on the Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone apps. And OneNote handles the synchronisation between devices and the OneDrive cloud services, so your students can choose to work offline or online at any time.
    • If you share resources as an Office document – eg a PowerPoint file – students can open and edit the files on their PC, phone or web-browser. Online and offline.

    What this means is that you could choose to hide the complexity of your Learning Management System and use the Office 365 ability to sync files offline to deliver work directly onto a students’ device! So the first a student sees would be a note appear in their calendar to tell them about an assignment, and then it shows up in their OneDrive folder on their PC, or in their OneNote file on their phone…

    If you are a Moodle user, then you’ll want to take a look at the announcements over on the Microsoft Open Technologies blog, and pass it along to the team responsible for maintaining your Moodle system in your institution.

    I’d recommend the Remote Learner blog if you want to understand the technical approach and for more detailed descriptions of the two systems integrate.

    Learn More

    Learn more on the Microsoft Open Technologies blog



    Don’t forget I’ve also recently blogged about the new Moodle Mobile app released for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and the option for you to be running Moodle in the cloud on Microsoft Azure (so that you can more quickly and affordably deploy Moodle instances, or convert existing Moodle servers to run in the cloud rather than on your own servers)

    Find all Moodle blog posts on this blog

  • Education

    Safeguarding student privacy


    Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia Managing DirectorOver on the Microsoft Australia blog, Pip Marlow, Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director, has written about our commitments to privacy of student data online:


    Technology has the unique power to influence and transform how we teach and learn.

    While the use of cloud services opens up countless opportunities for students, it also opens up a range of potential issues, from government access to data, to vendor access and use of data.

    In everything we do in the education sector, we are guided by the principle that student safety and privacy rights must come first. It is for this reason that Microsoft was one of the first companies to commit to the Student Privacy Pledge in the United States.

    This commitment serves to ensure that providers of education services or content do not collect or use student data for targeted advertising or the development of marketing profiles of students. Office 365 was the first major cloud productivity service that made commitments not to use student data for advertising purposes or for any purpose other than providing educational services.

    We have long believed that students, parents, educators and school leaders should have confidence in knowing that companies will use school children’s data exclusively for appropriate learning purposes. This is fundamental to every engagement that Microsoft has with students in Australia and around the world.  Every student deserves a quality education and should have access to all the tools necessary to be prepared for the future.


    This topic has been widely discussed globally and within Australia, and there’s plenty of press coverage about the latest Student Privacy Pledge initiated from the White House.

    Office 365 Education is one of the most important Microsoft services that is widely used by millions of students here in Australia and internationally. Schools, TAFEs and universities use it for email services, document storage, online collaboration etc. We publish a huge amount of information about our commitments to security, privacy, compliance and transparency on the Office 365 Trust Centre, which is a great starting point to understand how we protect customer data and privacy.

    Learn MoreRead Pip's blog "Safeguarding Student Privacy" on the Microsoft Australia blog

  • Education

    Providing advice for parents on BYOD


    With the end of the federal funding for computers, the move to BYOD in Australian schools has been rapid and decisive. With parents’ and students’ expectations raised by the DER programme, the gap in funding is now being filled by schools asking students to bring along the right device for their return to school next week.

    Some of the work that we’ve been doing with our partners has been published very recently and hit the headlines around the country (including in NSW, Queensland, SA, and some of the tech press). We commissioned a survey of 1,000 parents and 1,000 students - the headlines that jumped out at me from the survey included:

    • One in five students have a device that doesn’t do what they need
    • Two out of three parents wanted schools to recommend a range of appropriate devices
    • Only 1 in 6 parents said that their school had specified the devices they should buy for their child
    • One in three parents let their children device which device to buy

    With Intel, we’ve created the Devices for School website to help demystify the choice for parents, and guide their decision making.


    One of the things we have found is that creating ‘personas’ of students helps with the decision process – quickly helping parents narrow down from the huge range of choices. On the website we’ve narrowed it down to four simple personas that then narrow down the choices, to list ‘essential’ and ‘recommended’ aspects of the computer they need.


    The website also contains a list of different styles of devices at different price bands from $199 upwards.


    And if you’re responsible for rolling out a BYOD programme in a school, then you will also like the advice given under the “Ready to Buy” section, where we recommend that parents buy through the school’s IT services partner, as they’ll recommend suitable devices with the right warranties. And for parents heading to a retail store, there’s a downloadable Parent’s Checklist to help them choose.

    Learn MoreFind out more on the Devices for School website

  • Education

    Collaborating on professional development–Office 365 in Omaha


    I’ve been away for four weeks, enjoying a cold Christmas in Europe, and attending a very traditional English wedding set in a beautiful country house. But while I’ve been away I’ve kept up with my reading, and bookmarked an interesting set of articles and resources to share. So now that I’m back in Sydney, and adjusting to the warmth again, it’s time to share some reading!

    EdSurge is a US-based educational technology journal website which focuses on change in the marketplace, and new ways of using technology to support teaching and learning. One of their stories late last year was “When Vendors and Districts Collaborate on Professional Development”, which tells the tale of the Omaha Public Schools district in Nebraska, and their decision to roll out Office 365 Education to their staff and students. Their strategic plan focuses on ensuring that their projects will make a positive difference to students’ learning, but in their roll out of Office 365 they have also focused very clearly on the professional development for their staff to ensure that students receive the most benefit. So their roll out included inclusion in the Office 365 Fasttrack programme to speed up deployment, and then a close linkage with the Microsoft Innovative Educator Programme, to enrol 100 teachers within the Omaha system as members of the MIE programme – giving them access to training that allows them to act as role models for best practices in technology integration.

    I’d recommend reading the full article to understand how they have paired together a technology roll out with a professional development initiative (that is much more than just conventional training), in order to focus on the end goal of enhancing teaching and learning – rather than being focused purely on ticking a box of technology deployment.

    Learn MoreRead the full story on the EdSurge website

  • Education

    Get support from Microsoft for accessibility questions via the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk


    Click the visit the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk

    The Microsoft Support team run the “Microsoft Disability Answer Desk” service, and have just announced that it’s now available for Australian customers, to allow you to get telephone support from Microsoft for accessibility questions. This service allows you to call a toll-free number and speak with an expert who can provide support for accessibility questions and assistive technology.

    This is in addition to the general support available for all customers from the main Answer Desk page.

    The Disability Answer Desk supplements the huge set of resources already published on our Microsoft Accessibility website, which provides detailed sections on accessibility in Windows 8, Windows 7, Office 365, Office 2013 and Office 2010. There’s also a section on Assistive Technology Products. In most education institutions there will be a person or team with specialist advice and support for accessibility, but the resources available through our accessibility website provide really useful background reading, and excellent advice on scenarios. It’s a great place to go if you want to understand how a teacher can publish accessible teaching materials for a wide range of students.

    The Disability Answer Desk is available for Australian customers between 8AM and 9PM AEST on the toll-free number 1800 230 300 (there is also a Disability Answer Desk for New Zealand customers here)

    There’s also a range of accessibility blog posts that I’ve written on this blog, that might be helpful:

    Office templates to help families of children with autism

    Accessibility in Office 365 for education

    Using Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker to create resources that all students can use

    Three steps to create talking books for students with Word

    Accessibility workshop for education

    Publishing accessible learning resources - more support in Office

    Five ways Microsoft OneNote can help students with dyslexia stay organised

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