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

  • Education

    Two things I’ll never have to say now I'm using the new Office


    Over on our Microsoft News site, there's a list of "10 Things You’ll Never Have to Say With the new Office". They are all good thoughts, but there are two that are particularly brilliant for me:

    Use Word to load and save PDFs

    And once you've got them open, you can edit and save them, or copy info etc. How many times have you wanted to just make a small change to a PDF file before you send it on to somebody? Or make comments on a PDF you've been asked to review. Bingo!



    Easily fill a spreadsheet column from an existing column

    There's a new feature in Excel 2013 called Flash Fill. And once you've used it, you will never want to go back to spreadsheet software that doesn't have it.


    It's going to save me hours of typing and formula. Here's how it works. It takes a look at what you're typing into a column, and then is able to predict what you're trying to do. So in the example below, it actually works out you're creating a column of people's names, from the contents of Column B. And so it fills the column for you.

    Flash Fill in Excel 2013

    Like the best software everywhere, this has two important characteristics:

    1. It's indistinguishable from magic Smile
    2. It made me smile when I first used it Open-mouthed smile

    Can you imagine how much time this is going to save teachers – how many times have you sat down with a spreadsheet with a list of full names and you've wanted to just have a column of initials? Or you've been given the name as surname-firstname, and you want it to be firstname-surname? Flash Fill can do it. This is simply a genius idea.

    And if you want to see some amazing examples, watch this YouTube video from an enthusiastic Excel user to see how it can be used to extract, combine, insert or reverse data. (And learn the magic of the CTRL-E key).

    Learn MoreSee the rest of the "10 Things You’ll Never Have to Say With the new Office"

    Or…try the new Office by downloading the free preview version

  • Education

    Microsoft Australia Partner Awards 2012 – Everyone's a winner


    Microsoft APC 2012 logo

    Remember yesterday, when I said that ClickView won the Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year 2012 in the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards? And I mentioned that the judging was very tight. But there can only be one winner.

    Well, it turns out you can have more than one winner! These were the three finalists for Australia Education Partner of the Year:


    And although there was only one winner for Education Partner of the Year, it turns out that every single one of our finalists actually won an award:

    ClickView won Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year 2012

    Data#3 won Microsoft Australia Business Productivity Partner of the Year 2012

    Janison won Microsoft Australia Azure Platform ISV Partner of the Year 2012

    So, it turns out my lifelong belief was wrong, and it can actually be true that "everyone's a winner"!

    Learn MoreYou can see all of the winners on the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards website

  • Education

    Windows 8 Programming–a full course from Faculty Connection


    imageThree new tertiary level courses are now available on Faculty Connection each with instructor guides, PPTs, labs/tutorials, and videos. There are tons of courses on the site, and although they are designed for tertiary students, I'm convinced that they are useful for many others too, including high school students, or for developers in business who are looking to develop new skills.

    The courses are modular for easy integration into existing curricula:

    • Designing for Modern UI  - 11 modules that provide lectures and tutorials on how to design for the new Windows 8 UI. The content is 100 Level (ie you don't need to be a rocket surgeon to use these materials) and can be used as part of a UI/UX class or for self-paced independent learning. The focus of the content is on the Windows UI style design. This material is suitable for any tertiary student, including business, social sciences, liberal or fine arts, students who may have little or no computer programming background. There are no programming skills required and the early modules start from basics and build skills required for more advanced topics. Because this content can be used as part of an Academic class it includes background information, describing problems that are being solved, and provides background information as well as terminology that relate to Human Computer Interaction (HCI).
    • App Development for Modern UI – 9 modules cover fundamental concepts of developing a Windows 8 app using JavaScript and HTML5/CSS3 with Microsoft tools and resources.
      The scope of this curriculum covers the fundamental concepts of developing Metro style apps using JavaScript. Throughout the curriculum, you will find references to more advanced topics that are suitable for follow-up assignments.
    • App Development for Modern Devices - advanced course that covers development systems for phones, tablets, and desktop computers. It focuses on network aware software, interfaces for touch and NUI devices, augmented reality and graphics programming.

    Learn MoreVisit the Faculty Connection site

  • Education

    The Windows Store is now open to all developers



    If you are thinking of programming Windows 8 apps, then you might like to know that we've just crossed the last major threshold for publishing apps in the Windows Store from an Australian perspective. In the first round you had to be a company to setup an account to publish an app in the Windows Store (See Windows Store is now open for paid apps, company accounts).

    Now we've announced that everybody, including individuals, can set up a developer account to publish your apps on the Windows Store. And even better, many of you can get your developer account free:

    • If you're an MSDN subscriber, you can get a free, one-year developer account as part of your MSDN subscription.
      For the main subscriptions, including Visual Studio Professional, Test Professional, Premium and Ultimate
    • If you're a new start up, you can get it free as part of your BizSpark program
      BizSpark is a global programme that provides free subscriptions to MSDN (for development tools), Windows Azure (for cloud services and integration), other Microsoft software and training.
    • If you're a student or academic, you can get it free as part of your DreamSpark subscription
      DreamSpark is a scheme that gives students and academic institutions access to developer and designer tools free.

    Getting started is easy—just go to the Windows Store Dashboard on the Windows Dev Center and sign up. The dev tools are free, the SDK is ready, and we have supporting content to help you build your app and submit it for Store certification.

    Learn MoreRead the full details on the 'Windows Store for Developers' blog

  • Education

    Top 5 factors which affect student retention in Higher Education


    I've been doing some work recently on student retention and student attrition in higher education. You might have seen me writing about a Tribal presentation on data sources for inputs on student retention business intelligence systems. That work has also included an analysis across a number of different studies into student retention in higher education, and what is clear is that there are some common factors to student retention, and causes for student attrition, that are used by every project that I've read.

    So based on six studies, which also contain a number of meta-studies, amplifying the sample, here's the top five factors affecting student retention.

    1. Academic performance at entry - in Australia, a student's ATAR score
    2. Socioeconomic background
    3. Ethnicity
    4. Gender
    5. Highest level of education achieved by the student's parents

    In each study, there are a mass of other characteristics – between a total of seven and 37 depending on the depth of the analysis, but these first five appear on the list for every study that I have read so far. Which means that with an effective combination of institutional business intelligence and CRM, you could forecast your student retention rates across different courses and faculty before the Academic year has even started, and start to improve it from the same point.

    The challenge of student retention in higher education is not significantly different to other industries, but at the moment it seems that we're further behind in applying systems to help manage and improve student attrition rates, and in identifying and clarifying ownership of the challenge in each institution.

  • Education

    Generation-e's cloud webinar for education


    Stuart Moore of Generation-eOne of our cloud partners in education, Generation-e, are running a webinar in October, looking at how you can use our free and paid Office 365 for education cloud services. It's going to be held on Thursday 18th October, at 1PM AEST. The presenter, Stuart Moore, is a seasoned cloud professional and his experience across both education and other public sector organisations, means he'll be able to provide a good overview of what and what isn't possible.

    Here's the details:


    imageLet us introduce you to the cloud

    Want to know what hundreds of schools in Australia are doing right now?

    They’re moving to the cloud. Why? Because they see the value in using technology to help achieve learning outcomes.

    To make it easy for schools to provide the best environment possible for students and staff, Microsoft offers a free cloud solution called Microsoft Office 365 for Education. As a baseline, the free subscription offers: 

    • Email, calendaring and web conferencing;
    • Online access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote;
    • Public websites and team intranets;
    • Guaranteed 99.9% uptime with 24x7 access;
    • Enterprise grade security including premium antivirus and configurable anti-spam filtering;
    • Live 24x7 IT level phone support.

    To allow schools to extend the use of the cloud beyond the free offering, for a few dollars per month per user, schools can access:

    • Unlimited email storage and archiving;
    • A full subscription to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote;
    • A complete PBX replacement using Microsoft Lync.

    Join us for a 30 minute webinar as Microsoft cloud specialist Stuart Moore introduces you to Microsoft Office 365 for Education and shows you how Australian schools are using this free technology to:

    • Save around 20% of physical data storage and power costs;
    • Keep teachers, support staff, students and parents connected;
    • Assist with improving curriculum delivery to achieve learning outcomes.


    Find out more, and register, here

  • Education

    Microsoft Office 365 in schools event in Melbourne


    Office 365 for educationOn Thursday 11th October, Paradyne are running a free morning workshop on Office 365 for education, at our offices in Melbourne. (For some background, you can read more about Paradyne's implementation of Office 365 for education at Woodleigh School in Victoria here)

    I'm pretty sure that there will be lots of useful information on practical steps to using Office 365 for education, as the host, Loryan Strant, literally wrote the book on implementing Office 365 (and if you can't make it to the event, you can always buy his book "Microsoft Office 365: Exchange Online Implementation and Migration" on Amazon).

    The event runs from 9-11, at our Freshwater Place offices, and it's free.

    If you're not sure exactly what's in the free version of Office 365 for education, then here's a couple of useful links:

    Learn MoreLearn more, and register for this free event, here

  • Education

    New Lenovo Windows 8 tablets and laptops


    A month ago I wrote about a dozen new Windows 8 devices – laptops, tablets and All-In-Ones running Windows 8 and Windows RT – that were being previewed before the big day on 26th October when Windows 8 is officially released. It means that as a education user thinking about what devices teachers and students could be using for next academic year, there's a huge range of possible choices that are popping up. It means that you can choose your priorities based on each student groups' specific needs – for example, for younger students you might want tablets with great touch interfaces, and for older students you may want a traditional laptop design, and then for high-school and university students, perhaps you're looking for a convertible that's equally capable as both a touch tablet and a keyboard-driven laptop. And there's also choices available depending on what software choice you need for your users – for example, do you need to run all of your existing Windows software, or would your choice be to have a device that will only need to run the new Windows 8 software?

    Well since last month the news has continued to trickle out from other manufacturers about what's coming, and overnight it was Lenovo's turn to take to the stage with panache.

    Lenovo Convertible modesThey've announced a quartet of 'convertibles' – where the screens can flip around 360 degrees, so that you can run them in tablet mode, laptop mode, 'stand' mode and 'tent' mode. In a classroom, that would give lots of different ways of using them for individual students at a desk, on a table, or on their lap; collaborative learning tasks; or teaching small groups.

    And the other big news for education users is that battery life has taken a big jump – up to 16 hours on some of these new devices!

    Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga has two different versions:

      Yoga 13 -  a 13.3" screen, with Intel i7 processors, and which runs full Windows 8. This has got a battery life of up to 8 hours.

        Yoga 11 – an 11.6" screen, and an ARM-based processor, which runs Windows RT. The battery life on this one is up to 13 hours.
        Lenovo IdeaTab LynxAnd then there's the IdeaTab Lynx, which is a tablet and a laptop together – as a tablet, you have an 11.6" screen and an Intel processor, running full Windows 8. In this mode, you'd basically run in full touch mode. But if you add the keyboard dock, you've then got up to 16 hours battery life (because the dock contains an extra hidden battery) and a full keyboard – so you can run it as you would any normal laptop too.

        You can read the Lenovo press release here, but for more product details, I'd recommend reading the product info on the Lenovo website, where they show the product features side-by-side, so that you can see all four models together on a single page.

        Learn MoreRead more about other new Windows 8 devices, from my previous blog post

      1. Education

        Free workshops on Microsoft OneNote - Hands-on Tour at Swinburne



        Yesterday I wrote about the new Lenovo Windows 8 tablets and touch laptops. Today, I've been sent details of workshops being run at Swinburne University of Technology on 24th October, with a chance to spend two and a half hours with a Lenovo Tablet PC and OneNote, learning how to use OneNote to support learning:


        Lenovo, Microsoft and Swinburne have come together to deliver two practical, hands-on tours of Microsoft OneNote and how it can be used to improve teaching and learning.

        Participants will be provided with a Lenovo Tablet PC for the day and will have the opportunity to explore the pedagogical potential provided by devices which allow multi-touch and digitised pen functionality in a Windows 8 environment.

        Facilitated by experienced educators, each session will include a focus on how to use Microsoft OneNote to collaborate, research and create curricula. Participants will explore how to set up a collaborative space, use audio and video to provide more powerful feedback and assessment, and use OneNote as a tool for research and organising data. The consultants will provide practical classroom examples and ideas to assist teachers in applying new insights.


        OneNote is part of Office, so you've probably already got it installed on your computer! This workshop will help you get the most from it to support teaching and learning

        Learn MoreFind our more and register for the "Using Microsoft OneNote to Transform Learning" workshop on 24th Oct at Swinburne

      2. Education

        Update 2: Windows 8 Education apps in the Windows Store



        I thought this week I'd highlight three Windows 8 education apps that have been created by universities -

        DePaul Windows 8 app 

        DePaul University – College of Computing and Digital Media

        Windows Store link for DePaul University Windows 8 app
        The DePaul College of Computing and Digital Media Windows Store App enables students to keep up to date with CDM news & events, courses, professors, and computer lab availability. It contains information for searching for and contacting staff, finding computer labs and their availability, and information on each of the courses offered

        SSES Windows 8 app 

        Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship

        Windows Store link for SSES Windows 8 app
        The Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship has created an app that acts as a shop front for their four member institutions, by making some of their content accessible to a wider audience.  As well as a news feed, which comes from their existing official RSS feed on their website, there's also information on their staff and faculty, events and recordings of lectures and talks. It's the video section, enabled from their YouTube feed and favourites, that grabbed my attention, as one of the first set I saw was a series of talks from Hans Rosling (of TED talk fame), and that lost me a few hours as I listened to more of his wisdom.

        Stanford University Windows 8 app 

        Stanford University

        Windows Store link for Stanford University Windows 8 app
        The Stanford University app is a well designed app, that looks very smooth, and contains tons of content, mainly in the form of recorded lectures and talks. They have a range of featured talks, with attention grabbing titles, including:

        • Donald Knuth: All Questions Answered
        • Good Boss, Bad Boss: A peek inside the minds of the Best (and Worst)
        • Strategic Innovation: Design Thinking in Business

        And then a series of topic-based sections:

        • Innovation
        • Leadership
        • Computer Science and Security
        • Engineering and Technology
        • Project Management
        • Risk Management

        For each of these topics, there's between five and 10 hours of content available.

        Learn MoreVisit the "Windows 8 apps for Education" page - including my favourite apps

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