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

  • Education

    Could Cortana in education help students and teachers?

    • 3 Comments

    Cortana logo

    Cortana is the intelligent voice-activated assistant on a Windows Phone - described as ‘your personal assistant in your phone’ - and it provides a new way of interacting with other people and your phone. I’ve been using Cortana on my phone for a while now, using the Developer Preview of Windows 8.1 and over time I’ve discovered some great things it can do for me (I most often use it to send an SMS as I’m leaving the office, remind me about something when I arrive somewhere, and to check information in my calendar).

    wp_ss_20140908_0001I’ve got used now to pressing my phone’s search button, and hearing a short tone along with the “Listening…” message pop up - and then talking to my phone as though it was a real person.

    wp_ss_20140908_0002Some of the things I’ve found Cortana does are:

    • Activating your phone - like calling somebody in your contacts
    • Sending text/SMS messages
    • Adding meetings to your calendar, or re-arranging what’s in there
    • Setting reminders that occur at a particular time, or place (like “Remind me to buy milk when I get to the supermarket”)
    • Setting alarms
    • Adding notes to your OneNote file
    • Asking travel questions, like What’s traffic like on the way to school today?

     

    What about using Cortana in education?

    So that got me thinking - how could Cortana in education help improve things for students and teachers? After I discovered that I could ask Cortana “When is my next dentist appointment”, and it would tell me the time and date, it got me thinking about how useful it would be to ask questions like:

    When/what/where is my next lesson?

    When is my next science lesson?

    When is my next essay due?

    And every single one of those questions it worked for! As long as I had things noted in my calendar, which could be either my personal or work calendar, it would find it and let me know, whether it's tomorrow or in six months’ time! What a help for a time-poor or disorganised student. And a teacher could set a reminder like “Remind me to talk about the Ice Age next time I meet Year 7 Geography

    Using Cortana to make it easier to use apps

    wp_ss_20140908_0003But what I’ve discovered more recently is the way that I can use Cortana with apps - like asking Cortana to make a Skype call (“Call Sarah on Skype”), or joining a conference call (“Lync join next meeting”).
    Cortana isn’t just for Microsoft-written applications, as developers can use the Cortana APIs to allow users to interact with their app through Cortana. Some of the examples from third-party developers that I’ve found on my phone are:

    • - Send a tweet through different Twitter clients. I’ve tried it with Twitter’s native app as well as Rowi
    • - Read my LinkedIn groups and inbox
    • - Listen to radio, and even the local Air Traffic Control through LiveATC
    • - Search Wikipedia, and get the first part of a Wikipedia article read to you!

    What about using Cortana with a Learning Management System?
    Or a Student Management System? Or your Lecture Capture System?…

    So if it can do all of those things, I think there are some very cool scenarios that Cortana could enable to make life easier for students and teachers. Here’s some examples that I think would be really cool to build. How about being able to say things like:

    • Download my assignment notes from the LMS
    • Ask for an extension for my essay deadline
    • Send a homework text to the students who aren’t in class today
    • Send a text to the parents of students absent today
    • What lessons do I have today
    • Tell me how long my child used Mathletics this week
    • Show me the students who haven’t used Mathletics this week
    • Record this lecture
    • Send a reminder to all students who haven’t yet handed in their homework assignment

    To do some of the tasks above, there will need to be some work done by software developers, to connect Cortana to their apps. And if that’s done, then there’s some great ways that the apps will be able to simplify life for teachers, students and parents. And it can all be started from pressing the same Search button on their phone.

    What next?

    Developers - there’s some great resources on how to use Cortana with your apps. Start with the Channel 9 video  What developers need to know about the Cortana APIs, and then have a read of the article “Responding to speech interactions” which guides you through the process of setting up your app to accept recognised commands from Cortana.

    Teachers and Students - what are the scenarios that you’d like developers to add to their apps? Let me know via the comments box, and I’ll share them as I meet with developers. There are probably some cool things Cortana can already do, but I bet you can find a dozen other things that you’d like to see done to make your life easier as a student, teacher or parent. What are your thoughts?

  • Education

    Australia Microsoft Surface RT offer for Education

    • 3 Comments

    imageYou may have heard about the worldwide launch of a great Microsoft Surface offer for schools and tertiary education customers. It is exclusively for education institutions, to buy Microsoft Surface RT tablets at a reduced price for a limited time. The good news is that I can share with you the details for Australian education customers.

    From now until August 31, 2013, schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia can get:

    • Surface RT (32 GB) for AU$219 (Estimated Retail Price is $559)
    • Surface RT (32 GB) Touch Keyboard Cover for AU$279 (Estimated Retail Price is $679)
    • Surface RT (32 GB) Type Keyboard Cover for AU$319 (Estimated Retail Price is $708)
      All the prices above include GST

    Surface RT provides students and teachers with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT pre-installed. The Microsoft Surface offer for schools also opens the door to thousands — more than 20,000, to be precise — of education related apps in the Windows Store, from big names like Khan Academy, Kno, Chegg, and major textbook publishers such as HMH and Pearson. And there are some fabulous apps from Australia publishers that support new modes of learning in the classroom – like nsquared make words, just one of eight free apps of theirs you’ll find in the Windows Store.

    If you were considering buying non-Windows tablets for your students and staff, then in my opinion, there’s nothing comparable to this Microsoft Surface offer for schools  – and in many cases with this offer you’d not only get the Windows and Office experience, you’d be able to put twice as many devices into the hands of students with the same budget. You get a Windows device that supports mouse, keyboard, USB and video displays – so that you can plug in printers, projectors, external screens etc. And you get Microsoft Office pre-installed, which means that your students can continue to work with the existing tools they already know – like PowerPoint, Word, Excel and OneNote. And your teachers don’t have to re-write all of their curriculum resources and lessons plans either. Plus you give them a device with all-day battery life, true Windows multi-tasking so they can have apps running side by side, and you can have individual profiles and logins for each student.

    If you’re asking why now is the right time for us to take such an ambitious step into the education market, the answer is simple: It’s because Microsoft believes every student and teacher deserves a fair opportunity to reach his or her full potential, and this means ensuring our education customers have access to affordable and high quality tablets with laptop functionality ready for education.

    This Surface offer is just one of the options for putting Windows touch tablets and laptops into the hands of your staff and students. As we showed at the recent EduTech conference in Brisbane, Windows devices come in a variety of shapes, sizes, features and price points to serve all our education customer needs. And over the last few months I’ve highlighted stories about new Windows 8 devices from Dell, Asus, HP, Samsung and Lenovo. We are continuing to work with OEMs on delivering their latest tablets and PCs, and I’ll have more to share on devices and offers from them shortly.

    Although this information is specific to Australia, similar Microsoft Surface offers for education are available in other countries – hop over to the global Microsoft in Education blog for details of others.

    How the offer works

    The way this works is really simple – there’s a downloadable brochure and order form for education institutions* which contains the details of the devices, and the usual terms and conditions. You simply complete the Order Form and send it back to the Surface team (who are on surfaceedu@microsoft.com) who’ll arrange to get your order supplied.

    * Yep, the offer is only available to official education institutions in Australia (see our criteria here), not to individual students or teachers to place an order. For good reasons, if you wanted to buy one for your personal use with your own money, then you’ll need to buy yours through the normal retailers at normal retail price

    For more information and to order, see the Surface RT for Education brochure and return the completed order form to the Surface team.

    Learn MoreGo to  the offer site for the Brochure, Pricing and Order Form

  • Education

    Can education customers get Yammer free?

    • 3 Comments

    Yammer on a cloudWe announced recently that Yammer for education customers will be free of charge this Spring (that's, Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, or as we would call it in Australia, 'Autumn/early Winter'), through your Office 365 for Education subscription (which is also free). Which means that educational institutions are able to have a communication system (through Office 365’s email and Lync service), collaboration and document storage (through Office 365’s SharePoint and OneDrive), and secure social networking and collaboration (through Yammer) – all of which is free.

    The beauty of Yammer is that it can be fully integrated into your user database – so you create a private place for just your users to collaborate and mingle, and can enable and disable users easily. And then within Yammer you can create public and private groups – so staff can have private planning and discussion areas that others can’t access. Or groups of students can be placed into individual communities, for classes, subjects, sports and social groups etc. It also has a range of apps for mobile devices, so your users can access it on the go from their iPhone, Windows Phone, Android phones etc

    Yammer for Education

    There has always been a basic free version of Yammer that users can sign up to individually, and create communities and groups, and some education users in Australia have already been using that for some time (some of them with hundreds or thousands of users). But when you want to have organisational control over your users, then in the past you would have had to paid for the full Yammer Enterprise version. But soon, that’s the version that education customers can get free.

    The major difference between Yammer and other social networking systems is that your Yammer network is private, and controlled by you. You don’t have individual teachers uploading lists of students to third-party websites, and managing them outside of your existing systems. Instead, your IT team have full control over your users in the same way that they do for other systems in your school, TAFE or university. Adding and deleting/disabling users is all done centrally. And you have control and visibility of the content and conversations that are happening.

    Yammer logo

    Some of the key features of Yammer that are relevant for education customers are:

    • Create and participate in groups – you can define groups and assign members, or your users can set up their own groups and invite members.
    • Announcements – for everybody, or just specific groups. This can be used to send out important updates that everybody in a group needs (eg a teacher might use an announcement to send out a curriculum assignment)
    • Praise – users can give and receive recognition, and accomplishments and badges appear on profiles
    • Interact with other users – just like other social networks, you can @mention people, see who’s online, create private messages and share conversations. Plus users can create quick polls
    • File and note sharing – users can upload Office documents, PDFs etc and share them across their groups. You can have user-uploaded content, as well as ‘Official content’, which appears higher in search results and content directories.
    • IT managers will love the user management features, including Directory Sync, custom branding, and Keyword Monitoring (this allows you to track the use of sensitive keywords, and get instant alerts if they are used on your Yammer network)

    What do I need to do to get Yammer Enterprise once it is available?

    Once Yammer Enterprise is available, Office 365 Education tenant administrators will receive an activation link in their Office 365 admin portal. You then visit the Office 365 Admin Portal to begin the self-guided provisioning process. There’s a complete Yammer Activation Guide here.  There are also additional resources on activation and provisioning from Yammer.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Yammer

  • Education

    Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment

    • 3 Comments

    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

    Windows 8 in Education: How to deploy Windows 8 in education

    • 2 Comments

    This is part five of a set of articles on Windows 8 deployment in education. To start at the beginning, take a look at  “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Planning Guide”, then “Windows 8 in Education: Windows Store apps and deployment”, followed by “Windows 8 in Education: setting up Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in education” and finally “Windows 8 in Education: Deployment Guide for BYOD in Education”.

    The Windows 8 deployment guide for education

    imageThis guide contains advice on how to deploy Windows 8 in education – covering the technical aspects that an IT team will need to know to easily and securely deploy Windows 8 to existing and new computers in a school, TAFE or university. There are a number of key deployment strategies discussed, including deploying standard images on every machine, and light-touch or zero-touch Windows 8 deployments. Even if you have been deploying Windows computers for years, and have a standard mechanism that you’ve used successfully for all of that time, I would still recommend reviewing the alternative mechanisms that have been developed for Windows 8, to ensure that your chosen model is still the most efficient – for both your IT team, and for your users. This is especially critical in a world where users have an expectation of more individual control over their devices, their choice of software, and their modes of use. The way you choose to deploy Windows 8 to your users is going to be one of the first decisions which could ultimately decide how happy your users are with the IT system that you provide – and that’s becoming more key as teaching staff have increasing control over their own use of technology, and whether or not they use your corporate systems.

    As an aside, I used to work for an organisation where the IT team had so tightly controlled what users did, that the impact was that users increasingly ended up building an alternative IT system through a combination of mobile devices and mobile internet services – the upshot was that IT had significantly less visibility and control of users’ activities than if they’d had given users a little more control and flexibility in the first place. And when your users are switching to using third-party web services for their day-to-day activities, you give up huge amounts of control. I’ve heard of scenarios of teaching staff bringing servers into their classroom to allow their students to use collaborative environments, because the IT system provided centrally blocks access to the apps and web-based servers they want to use. The lesson for me from this is that sometimes IT’s insistence on too much control actually leads to radically less control!

    The three primary methods for deploying Windows 8 in education

    You can install Windows 8 onto devices within your institution in many ways. Although deployment strategies for enterprise customers typically apply to educational deployments too, certain requirements make educational deployments unique. All educational environments need to provide not only for administrative staff but also for teachers and students, each of whom has special requirements for their computing environment. Historically, many education users have chosen to deploy a single image to their computers which includes the operating system, all the required application software, drivers and updates. However, the recommended strategy now is to deploy a ‘thin image’ which includes the operating system only, and then to deploy applications, drivers and updates after the initial deployment.

    Either way, you then need to pick one of three primary methods for deploying Windows 8:

    • Manual installation
    • Image-based deployment
    • Automated installation

    This deployment guide for education talks you through each option, including which tools are available from Microsoft to help you make it easier, and the factors that will help you decide between the options available. The four strategies discussed are:

    • High-touch, with retail media
    • High-touch, with a standard image
    • Lite-touch, for higher volume deployments
    • Zero-touch, for very high volume deployments

    To pick the right one, you’ll need to consider how many computers you are deploying to, where your computers are based, what skills are available in the team doing the deployment, which of the combination of free and licensed Microsoft deployment software you have/want to use, and whether or not you’ll also be deploying standard applications at the same time.

    For each option, the Windows 8 deployment guide for education then steps you through the things you’ll need, the decisions you will have to make, and the steps to take – and provides a deep set of reference materials for you to use.

    The final chapter also guides you through the tools available for managing institution-owned computers, so that you can see the benefits, limitations and requirements of each option – and so helping you with the ongoing lifecycle management of your IT systems.

    Pretty obviously, this guide isn’t for everybody – it’s really the thing that will light up the faces of the IT team as they dive down into what quickly becomes an acronym-lovers guide to IT (if you get excited about whether to choose between ADBA, KMS or MAK for Windows activation, this guide’s for you!). But the authors have done a great job of providing good overviews, without throwing too much detail too quickly; and then they have also provided reference links to much deeper detail.

    Learn MoreDownload the Deployment Guide here (PDF)

  • Education

    Update 1: The Microsoft Surface offer for schools, TAFEs and universities in Australia

    • 2 Comments

    imageI published the key info yesterday on the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia, which allows schools, TAFEs and universities to buy Surface RT from AU$219.

    Overnight I’ve had a couple of questions from people about the offer, and I’ve also laid my hands on the full Surface RT Offer FAQ document that we published, so here’s a summary:

    Common questions about the Surface RT offer for education

    Is there a minimum order requirement for the Surface RT offer?

    No. Education institutions may buy any quantity of Surface RT for their organisation. Pricing is only available until 31 August 2013. And you can place as many orders as you wish – for example, you could order a dozen now for your staff, and then some for students separately (do bear in mind that the offer is only valid while supplies last).

    How do institutions order their Surface RTs?

    The Surface RT in Education brochure contains an order form (all the forms are linked here). Fill out the order form with a valid purchase order number and send it to SurfaceEDU@microsoft.com. You will get an email back confirming the order and details on fulfilment.

    What does shipping cost?

    We’ve already included that in the price of the offer, so there aren’t any additional shipping charges

    How does Surface RT compare to iPad and Android?

    There are many differences between Surface RT and iPad and Android. One of the most important differences to schools is Surface RT comes with a touch-optimised version of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT - Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote (the free Windows 8.1 update will also provide an RT version of Outlook). Microsoft Office is among the most popular productivity software in schools and businesses. Its inclusion in Surface RT means that your students and teachers will be ready to get to work on Surface right away.
    Surface RT also lets users multitask between applications, share the device between many users, provides USB and HD video out ports, optional keyboard covers, integration of Internet Explorer 10 to run Flash based websites, lots of storage and a file system, a high quality display, and excellent battery life.

    I’ve heard there are more apps on iOS and Android? What can I expect from Surface RT?

    With over 20,000 educationally-relevant apps worldwide in the Windows Store from many of the biggest names in education, like Khan Academy and leading publishers - there is an app for almost every subject.

    I’ve listed some of my early favourite Windows 8 education apps here, and our worldwide team have featured a list of Windows 8 apps by categories here.

    There are also some fabulous apps from Australian companies that have been released for Windows 8, and provide new learning possibilities with touch devices, plus all the ones I’ve listed here have free versions too:

    But don’t forget, that because Microsoft has optimized the web browsing experience for HTML 5 and Flash, you don’t need lots of specific apps like you do on tablets which can run Flash. For example, you can run the full Mathletics website on a Surface RT, whereas on an iPad you have to download apps containing some parts of the Mathletics resources, because you can’t access a Flash website fully.

    Is this the only device that there are offers for?

    There are lots of Windows 8 computers and tablets available from our partners, and many of them are also running special offers on Windows 8 devices for education customers. You’ll find the info on offers from Lenovo, Acer, HP, Fujitsu and Toshiba over on our main website.

    What is the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT?

    Windows 8 comes in three versions (Home, Pro and Enterprise) and runs on Intel x86 chipset. Windows RT comes in one version and runs on the ARM chipset. Windows RT devices are lightweight, have thin form factors, and better battery life. Windows 8 x86 devices can run your existing legacy Windows software, and software requiring intense processing power, as well as the new modern Windows 8 apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Windows RT ARM devices can run applications like Microsoft Office 2013 RT and the new modern Windows 8 apps exclusively from the Windows Store. Windows 8 x86 devices running Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise have enterprise level security and manageability features.
    You can read more about the differences on the main Microsoft website under “Which Surface is right for you?

    On the Order Form, what does “Institution tax ID” mean?

    What we’re asking for is the institution’s ABN number. It allows us to check the official purchase order details.

    We’ve already got a Hardware Vendor Panel  that Surface RT isn’t on – can we still order?

    I understand the issue around hardware vendor panels, and recognise that may be an issue for some institutions. You’ll need to check your institution’s processes and guidelines. I know that some people will have to miss out on this offer because of their rules, whilst others have ways of making exceptional one-off purchases.

    I’ve read that Windows RT devices can’t connect to a domain – is that right?

    OK, fair to say that this question came from somebody quite technical, but I know others will be interested in my answer! Although you’re absolutely right that you can’t ‘Domain Join’ a Windows RT device, with Windows 8.1 (which will be a free upgrade) we’ve included a range of significant enhancements to improve manageability using non-domain joined computers.

    Some of the additional capabilities coming to Windows 8.1 are:

    • Workplace Join – giving a middle ground between all or nothing access, allowing a user to work on the device of their choice, and still have access to corporate resources. IT can grant some access rights, and enforce some governance parameters on the device
    • Work Folders – allows a user to sync data to their device for a network user folder, and IT can enforce policies including automated Rights Management (eg as they leave the school, they lose access to the Work Folders on their device & centrally)
    • Improved Mobile Device Management – of course, even though I’d love everybody to use our System Center for management, we’ve included support for Open MDM so that customers can choose from a range of tools. My advice for looking at device management is to consider the role of Intune, because of the capabilities it enables (like having an institutional app store available to Windows 8 devices, whether they are domain-controlled or simply device managed.

    I’d recommend reading the full article on the new features in Windows 8.1 for enterprises on TechNet

    Here’s a downloadable PDF version of the official Surface RT Offer FAQ, if you’d like something to share with colleagues.

     

    Learn MoreYou can either read my overview of the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia from yesterday, or go to  the official offer site to download the Brochure, Pricing and Order Forms

  • Education

    Understanding the Learning Strategies of the 21st Century Learner - Virtual Professional Development webcast series

    • 2 Comments

    Microsoft PIL Webcast header

    Our worldwide Partners in Learning team run a series of Education webcasts focused on providing deep insights into teaching and learning. They are run from the Microsoft global headquarters in Seattle, and feature presenters from around the world. Fortunately for us in Australia, they are scheduled to run twice during the same day, and the one that runs at 5PM Seattle time is Australia-friendly!


    Understanding the Learning Strategies of the 21st Century Learner - webcast

    In the morning of Thursday 24th October in Australia
    (10AM – QLD; 10:30AM – SA; 11AM – NSW/VIC; 8AM – WA)

    Join this great dialogue on the 5 best strategies every 21st century learner needs to succeed in school and in the workplace. Why a capacity to learn is more important than knowing. Topics covered will be:

    • How to remove the roadblocks to learning
    • 3 Steps to understanding everything you read
    • Best Study Skills for 21st century learners
    • Technology strategies that enhance learning

    During the webinar, three ‘Amazing Grades’ books will be given away to the first three attendees asking questions. Amazing Grades is a worldwide goodwill book with 101 authors from 13 countries around the world and includes a special bonus chapter by Nasha Fitter of Microsoft.

    Presented by:

    imagePat Wyman, College Professor, author, and Founder & CEO, HowToLearn.com
    Pat is a College Professor, founder and CEO of HowToLearn.com and best-selling author of Amazing Grades:101 Best Ways to Improve Your Grades Faster and Spelling Made Easy: Learn Your Words in Half the Time  

    imageBonnie Terry, Board Certified Educational Therapist and best-selling author, BonnieTerryLearning.com
    Bonnie, best-selling author of School Strategies for ADHD Kids, Five Minutes To Better Reading Skills, and Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills and one of the co-authors of Amazing Grades. She is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and internationally recognized as America's Leading Learning Specialist.  

    imageSusan Kruger, M.Ed, best-selling author, and Founder, StudySkills.com
    Susan is the founder of StudySkills.com and best-selling author of SOAR® Study Skills: A Simple & Efficient System for Getting Better Grades in Less Time. She will be speaking on the best study skills for 21st century learners.

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register, for the webcast
    The website lists the time in US Pacific Daylight time as 5PM on 23rd, which is on the 24th October for Australia. At 11AM for those in NSW & Victoria; 10AM in Queensland; 10:30AM in South Australia and 8AM in Western Australia

  • Education

    Webinar on cloud privacy and data sovereignty

    • 2 Comments

    image

    The benefits of cloud computing for public sector organisations run right across the public sector, including education. 
    But as executives explore the opportunities, they often become concerned about data security and the privacy risks associated with online services – and justifiably so.

    We’re running a webinar tomorrow (12 March) at 2PM AEDT, where we’ll tackle the sensitive issue of data privacy head-on to reveal both the potential pain points and how your organisation can mitigate the risks.

    The ability to offer new services. The potential to improve operating efficiencies. Deepening customer engagement. There’s no disputing the upside of the cloud. But balancing individual privacy, corporate security and state sovereignty in this brave new world can prove challenging. In the webinar, our cloud experts will:

    • Explore the potential risks cloud computing presents
    • Share our experience in how real the risks are
    • Offer insights on how to overcome them
    • Reveal what’s needed to undertake a cloud-risk assessment – and how to share your findings with managers

    Two senior Microsoft Australia employees will share their experiences of compliance and security, explain the impact of cloud computing and shed light on data privacy, security and sovereignty.

    imageJames Kavanagh

    Chief Security Officer, Microsoft Australia
    imageShaun Tipson

    Senior Attorney, Microsoft Australia

    The webinar runs tomorrow, Weds 12 March, at 2PM AEDT.

    Register now for the Cloud webinar on 12 March 2014

  • Education

    Explain Everything for Windows 8 - now available

    • 2 Comments

    I’ve been away for a nice holiday, and now that I’m back I’m staring at a huge backlog of blog posts to write up, as there’s been so much happening and announced whilst I’ve been away. And because many schools, TAFEs and universities are heading back next week, I thought I’d better get started…

    There have been some great new apps added to the Education section of the Windows 8 store recently, and one of the highest profile ones is Explain Everything for Windows 8.

    imageExplain Everything for Windows 8 is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere. You can use it to create slides, draw in any colour, add shapes, add text, and use a laser pointer. It allows you to rotate, move and arrange any object added to the stage, and then to record and playback your screencast.image

    You start by using an existing images or PDFs (you can save Office files directly as PDFs within Word and PowerPoint) and then use a variety of tools to edit and annotate as you go along – with Explain Everything recording all the actions for playback later as a video file or still images.

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    Download Explain Everything from the Windows Store

  • Education

    What does Power BI for Office mean for education customers?

    • 2 Comments

    Over the last year I’ve shared a fair amount of information on the use of business intelligence (BI) in education, with examples of ways that useful information can be unlocked from educational data, as well as looking at the new tools being created to help users get better views of their data. The various Microsoft teams who have been working on BI projects, and our BI partners in Australia, seem to have been moving at breakneck speed on making data more accessible, visual and meaningful to users, and there’s been a special focus everywhere on self-service BI, to help every day users who don’t have the high level skills of traditional data analysts.

    Power BI demonstrations screen, showing the natural language queriesA lot of that work has focused around the traditional Office apps, and that whole story has just come together with the announcement this week of Power BI for Office 365, which adds powerful analysis features on top of Power Pivot and Power View, which were core innovations of the last couple of years. We’ve added Power Query to help users discover, access and combine data sets, and Power Map to help users map visualisations of their data. And packaged it into a powerful Power BI system within Office. And by enabling it within Office 365, it means that the self-service BI capabilities in Excel now add easy ways to host interactive data views and workbooks, so that individual users can access your standard reports and visualisations as well as create their own.

    I think the best way to see what I’m talking about is to watch this video, taken from a keynote during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference this week, where there is a rapid demonstration that shows the kind of scenarios that are possible.

    I loved the examples that are shown, because I could imagine very similar scenarios in education – the ability to connect internal and external data sets, and highly visual presentations of data, and especially the ability to ask a natural language question to see the answer. Can you imagine if the same level of data was available for your organisation?

    And that’s the question the video left in my head: How many education organisations have the kind of published data sets (internally or externally) that will help them to turn data into information? I’ve historically seen projects that have relied on scooping data up into the equivalent of locked containers – they tend to produce canned reports that project owners think that users want. There’s often less focus on self-service BI projects, where there’s a focus on collecting/publishing data sets for others to use. I wonder if the kinds of possibilities opened by Power BI for Office will change that?

    In the video we can see an example where the query “top rock classics” is automatically translated into a query of “Show rock songs where era is 70s and 80s sorted by weeks on chart”. So we potentially have a system that would allow a user to ask it for “top performing schools in my area”, or “university distance learning courses with the lowest dropout rate”, or “which TAFE course has the highest employability impact”. But do we have the published/unpublished data sources to help us answer those type of question?

    Learn MoreThere’s plenty more about Power BI for Office below:
    - The announcement of Power BI for Office - short and longer version
    - The story of the technology behind Power BI for Office 365
    - Get signed up for the Power BI preview

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