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

  • Education

    Register now for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Partner Conference


    Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2013

    Registrations are open for the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2013 (APC 2013). And the early bird discounted ticket offer closes this Friday (17 May) – which saves you $172 off the normal fee.

    Even better news, Australian Gold Competency Partners get two free tickets – so quick, grab them before somebody less worthy in your team does Smile

    These are the three key reasons the APC organising team give for attending:

    • See new products in action and learn more about our strategic investment areas for the year ahead
    • Take advantage of networking opportunities on a massive scale with Microsoft leadership, sales and product teams
    • Experience first-hand a showcase of Microsoft products in real-world business scenarios aligned to customer needs

    APC 2012 imageAnd, as usual, we’ll be doing a whole load of things to make it even more valuable for education partners, including giving you the chance to book 1:1 sessions with our Account Managers across our team, and get deep insight into the trends and stories across the education market. I’ll publish more details on who’s attending, and how to grab a slot in their diary next month, but for now I’d recommend that you get your APC 2013 place booked and confirmed. Especially if you’re hoping to be jumping up on stage to collect your Education Partner of the Year Award…

    What: Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2013
    Where: Cairns
    When: 20-22 August 2013

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for Microsoft Australia Partner Conference 2013

  • Education

    Business Intelligence in schools–a short demonstration of setting up alerts


    Rod Colledge, Microsoft MVP, of StrataDBRod Colledge, is a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, and an expert on the technology side of the use of Business Intelligence in education in Australia. For a living, he helps Microsoft customers with their own business intelligence projects, through his business at StrataDB. But in his role as a Microsoft MVP in his spare time he speaks at conferences, writes books, and shares his knowledge freely.

    One of the things that he’s been able to do is record a series of short videos of examples of using business intelligence in education, and the new features in SQL Server 2012 and Microsoft Office 2013, to show some of the simple things that are useful for school leaders and teachers. I’ll share one video every day for the next week, as I think they are ideal for showing to colleagues to start a discussion about how they’d like to use data in your institution, and whether they can start to use some of the features of the latest software releases.

    Today’s video is a demonstration of a key feature for an business intelligence in education project - the ability to set alerts automatically, to allow you to 'manage by exception', rather than having to trawl reports looking for outliers and identify performance issues manually.

    The example that's used here (with a dummy dataset) is using student absences to generate alerts, and uses Microsoft SQL Server 2012, and PowerPivot reports.

    If you’d like to know more about Rod and his projects, you can find out more on the StrataDB website or email Rod directly

  • Education

    Ask the Experts–February Education Webinar for partners


    Every month we run a Microsoft "Ask the Experts" webinar for Microsoft Education Partners in Australia, and following the first one this morning the attendees have voted for next month's to dive deeply into BYOD in schools (BYOD=Bring Your Own Device).

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

    imageAsk the Experts: Education Partner Monthly Webinar

    BYOD in Schools – February 26 2013

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

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

  • Education

    What Bill Gates' Saturday Essay made me wonder about university MOOCs


    Bill GatesBill Gates is no longer involved with the day-to-day business of Microsoft (even though my children still think that's who I work for), and instead spends almost his entire time on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global development and health. And last week he wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal, titled "Bill Gates: My Plan to Fix The World's Biggest Problems". The underlying message – that measurement of progress is the critical factor – is clearly spelt out in a number of areas:


    In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal…

    This may seem basic, but it is amazing how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right.


    You should read the whole essay, as he talks about examples of how measurement is making a difference in education and health around the world (and doesn't avoid sensitive issues, especially in his education examples).

    But the basic message can be boiled down to two things:

    • Set a clear goal
    • Find a measure that will drive progress towards that goal

    What are the clear goals of MOOCs?

    And it left me wondering what the basic message means in the context of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), a big emerging initiative across higher education at the moment, nationally in Australia, and internationally.

    Without doubt MOOCs are measurable – something that can be seen in most of the reporting on MOOCs, where the stories revolve the numbers of student signing up, participating, and actually completing the courses. But the 'clear goal' bit is more of a challenge. Some universities are using it as a marketing mechanism, for example to raise the profile of their university generally, and either increase the desire of people to attend their university, or worse case not reduce their intake (see MIT Tech Review); others see it as a new business model – for example, to expand their business by increasing revenue from assessment and certification of their non-core audience (see this TechCrunch article). But at the same time, the risk of a MOOC is that it devalues the core teaching and learning 'product' that students are buying from a university.

    So if the ideal mechanism is 'set a clear goal' and 'measure progress towards that goal', what are the goals for the university of the current rush to create, promote and enrol students into a MOOC? There doesn't seem to be much written about that in the current MOOC conversation.

  • Education

    Snap: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


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

    Windows 8 apps for education

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

    nsquared snap for Windows 8 

    nsquared snap

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

    nsquared snap on Windows 8

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

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

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

  • Education

    nsquared numbers: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


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


    nsquared numbers

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

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

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

  • Education

    nsquared missing card: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


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


    nsquared missing card

    nsquared missing card is designed to help develop pattern matching and object recognition skills in young children. It's a multi-player memory game for up to four students to match overturned cards. The players can turn over their three cards to see which one matches the next in sequence. Once each player has decided on the card they think will be next, they keep the other two cards in their hand face down.

    It's a great app for small group learning, and encourages your students to learn from each other. Multi-Touch interaction allows for multiple students to use nsquared missing card at the same time. The app is free, and then there are optional activity packs available as an in-app purchase.

    The great thing about this app, and the other apps from nsquared, is that they are designed to get students working together. A few years ago I worked on a video showing the original Microsoft Surface in a primary school classroom in England (see video embedded below). Although it was very exciting to see students dive in and start collaborating on learning challenges, the major barrier was the cost of the interactive hardware needed to support this style of learning.

    Now, with genuine multi-touch Windows 8 devices in the classroom at very low cost. The new Windows 8 slates are perfect for this activity, as you can lay them flat in the middle of a desk, and four students can gather around them.

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

  • Education

    Big Data webcast on 19th February



    In two weeks time we're hosting a webcast on Microsoft’s vision and solutions for Big Data, and to discuss the strategic potential of Big Data for organisations. In the business world today, senior IT people and their business counterparts are struggling to gain business insight from the unprecedented volume and variety of data they are capturing inside their organisation. And education is no exception to that – with the added complication that some of the key data is being kept on pieces of paper.

    The webcast will be hosted by Jack Tang, our Director of Product Marketing for data solution, and Ron Dunn, who's our regional Parallel Data Warehouse specialist. Their experience is across a number of industries and during the webcast they are going to share some stories about how some of our customers have successfully tapped into their own data to uncover business insights from their structured and unstructured data.

    The webcast isn't specifically for education customers, however the challenges I hear about from education customers mirror similar challenges for commercial customers (too much data, too many different sources, too many disconnected systems), so the content will all be relevant. Whether you call it Big Data, or Business Intelligence, or Learning Analytics, the ideas behind it are the same!

    imageRegister now for the one hour webcast on 19th February at 2PM

  • Education

    nsquared letters: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared


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


    nsquared letters

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

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

  • Education

    Office 365 in education–webcast for Australian partners


    imageCIOs are looking to cloud computing for delivery of ICT capabilities, and that is no different for education customers. In education, there's an emphasis on mobility, and supporting students and teachers using their own personal devices.

    Microsoft has a free version of Office 365 – Office 365 for education – that's available for all Australian education customers that provides a suite of online services free to students, faculty and staff. This creates a very compelling opportunity for partners to generate migration and deployment revenue for customers moving from on-premise systems or competing cloud solutions.

    For Microsoft partners who aren't yet active with Office 365 for education, we're running an introductory webinar next, Tuesday 12 Feb, on how Microsoft Office 365 can add value to your education customers and the services opportunity for partners, run by the Australian Product Manager for Office 365 for education.

    Date:             Tuesday 12th February 2013

    Time:             1pm to 2pm (AEST)

    The partner webinar will be run using Lync. You can join Lync Meeting even if you're not already a Lync user, by joining using the web client. Alternatively, you can join by phone by using our telephone conferencing system (call +61298702923 and use Conference ID: 92566341).

    Make a dateAdd this webcast for Microsoft partners to your diary using this .ics file

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