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

  • Education

    Snippet - Retiring academics create a problem in Higher Education


    I’ve been collecting interesting snippets (not quite full blog posts) on my Posterous space for a few months. But I thought I’d change the habit and share them on the blog instead. Mainly they comprise an interesting quote and link to an article worth reading, with a short comment to go with it. Some of them are slightly off topic…

    I've recently written a few bits about the crisis around the corner in terms of retiring teachers - with many due to retire in the next decade, and not enough joining the profession to replace them. But I'd completely missed the fact that exactly the same crisis faces higher education - with a wave of retiring academics, and increasing challenges of recruiting replacements. So whatever level of education you look at, the challenge ahead is having enough people in front of students, leading their learning.

    This snippet from: Professor Steven Schwartz Vice-Chancellor's Blog


    Universities, however, live in the land of reality and as such their thinking about the future must take into account what is happening to their most prized assets, their academics. Inexorably, inevitably, they are getting older. And while so is everyone else, ageing academics – already older than the average Australian worker – present higher education with some unique challenges.

    According to Professor Graeme Hugo of the National Centre for Social Application of Geographic Information Systems, the high proportion of academics who will be retiring over the next 15 years “confronts the sector with a recruitment challenge”.


    Learn MoreRead the original full story

  • Education

    Snippet - Mapping international students in higher education


    There's a great map on The Australian newspaper's website, which is a map, an infographic, and a good source of data - all in one. Basically, it's a clickable data display of the sources and destinations of international students, so that you can see which countries send most university students abroad - and where they go to. And then, within Australia, you can see detail on where the students go, by university. And the revenue for each university.

    A brilliant resource, as well as a great idea for business intelligence dashboards:

    This snippet from: The Australian Student Migration Map




    Learn MorePlay with the original full map

  • Education

    Using Kinect in the classroom for music teaching


    Ask the Music TeacherGareth Ritter, who’s a music teacher from Wales, was one of the teachers who took part in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum, in Washington last month. When I met Gareth last year he was talking about the work that he’d been doing with his students, weaving technology throughout his teaching in order to engage students in their learning. Given his enthusiasm, it didn’t surprise me to see that he was a finalist for the Awards at the forum, and I was pleased to find a video recorded by a colleague at the event, where he talked about what his students had been doing - creating tracks, recording their own CDs, and ultimately getting signed by a record label. They recorded a series of YouTube tutorials that have been watched over 25,000 times and continuing to grow.

    imageI’d recommend taking a look at Gareth’s website - Ask the Music Teacher - where you can find the tutorials, his teaching blog and an audio showcase of the students’ work. The individual tracks are well worth a listen, and make a great benchmark - and you can download the whole CD free too.

  • Education

    Ideas for using Kinect for Windows in education


    Kinect - it’s amazing to think what one small sensor could do for teaching and learning. Yesterday I wrote about the education pricing for Kinect for Windows that’s due later in the year, and mentioned some examples of how it might be used in schools, TAFEs and universities. And I also mentioned the KinectEDucation website, which is a community of developers and teachers who are working on projects to use Kinect in education.

    For some more ideas, take a look at the video, from the KinectEDucation team, with some more inspiring scenarios:

  • Education

    Schools Workforce in Australia - Productivity Commission Report


    Teacher iconIn November the Australian Productivity Commission produced a draft report on the Schools Workforce in Australia. It’s a draft because they are looking for comments and feedback by the middle of February. I’ve only recently had time to read it, and I thought I’d share a quick summary, because it’s (a) interesting and (b) a draft that they want comments on.

    Why look at schools workforce issues?

    The report emphasised that overall, Australia’s schools deliver good outcomes, due in large measure to the efforts of the schools workforce. Global assessments of student performance consistently show that the foundation skills of the ‘average’ Australian student are at the upper end of the country rankings, whilst spending is around average. However, performance in international tests has been reducing, relative to other countries, since the beginning of the century.

    Looking forward, DEEWR are projecting that in the next decade we’ll see student numbers in Australia rise by nearly a million students - an increase of 26% on the 2010 numbers. That growth is especially strong in Queensland and WA, where it’s forecast to be 40%+. Put that alongside the likely reduction in the number of teachers, caused by more teachers retiring than joining the profession, and there’s a challenge coming up.

    The Productivity Commission was asked to look into the whole education and training workforce, across early childhood development, schools and VET (Vocational Education and Training) sectors, and provide advice for the short, medium and long-term - especially around building the capability and effectiveness of the workforce.

    Draft Recommendations of the Schools Workforce report

    There’s a list of a seven draft recommendations, starting on page XXXV - or page 39 if you’re reading the electronic version

    Why, in these days of PDF publishing, would you use a numbering system that starts with 39 pages numbered in the historic Roman numbering system, and then re-starts at page 1, on the 40th page of the document?).

    The recommendations include:

    • longitudinal research into teacher effectiveness amongst cohorts of recently appointed teachers
    • postponing the introduction of a performance-related national bonus scheme for teachers until their design and impact are better understood
    • share with schools more research about the school workforce, through AITSL
    • evaluating whether paying teachers incentives helps to encourage people to join, or stay in, the school workforce
    • balance the approach to giving more autonomy to schools with more support for school leaders and governance arrangements
    • evaluate the current programs and policies aimed at tackling educational disadvantage
    • review, in 5 years’ time, ACARA and AITSL to consider how they contribute to improving access and evaluation of:
      • data on student outcomes
      • data on the school workforce
      • research on workforce policy
      • performance of the workforce

    What do I make of it all?

    I was interested to read the full report because of two specific issues:

    The Australian teacher shortage

    I’d been referring to the future teacher shortage a few times recently, but had only grasped it in the sense of the current system - with the current number of students. If we’re expecting a shortage based on today’s student body, then things are going to be far worse if the shortage is actually going to be made worse by a 25% increase in the number of students! And this will become a greater issue in states like WA where they’re expecting 40% more students in the next decade.

    Either we need a lot more teachers*, or a more fundamental review of how teaching and learning take place (ooh, there’s the technology angle)

    Improving access and evaluation of data on student outcomes

    Although there are some exceptions, one of the things that I’ve noticed with the Australian education system is that it doesn’t automatically use data to help support improvements in student performance in the same way that other education systems do. I noticed it before I arrived in Australia, when looking at the MySchool website. It was good to see all of the performance data for a school in one place, but I was surprised by the limitations it imposed on people using the data, which seemed to fly in the face of what most parents would want the data for. And in spending more time with Australian educators, I’ve been surprised by the number of times that they’ve been forced to work without a simple but comprehensive view of student performance data - for their own students, or to compare their students against national performance. It seems that the key point where really good public data is available is at the point of leaving High School, when it’s too late for schools to do anything with it that will impact the performance of the students that are the subject it!

    The proposed review of how ACARA and AITSL contribute to improving access to data could be a significant step forward on this, to help schools better serve their whole student cohort, and help them tackle educational disadvantage too.

    Learn More

    You can download the full Schools Workforce draft report from the Productivity Commission website. If you want to make a submission to the consultation, then you can do that on the same page, until 17 February.

    * If you’re one of the teachers in England who reads this blog, perhaps there’s a ‘Get Yeself Down Under’ message here! And you could do a lot worse than the beautiful landscapes of Western Australia or Queensland

  • Education

    The most popular blog posts on the Office in Education blog 2011


    Office in Education blog

    I keep an eye on the ‘Office in Education’ blog, which is run by the team that create Microsoft Office over in the States. If you’ve got a list of blogs you read through an RSS reader, it’s worth adding their RSS feed to keep in touch with their news and ideas. For an idea of the kind of content they publish, here’s a list of their 10 most popular blog posts:

    1. How to insert symbols and special characters into a Word document
      I’d never known about this until I read the blog post. You can quickly add symbols or special characters by using the Maths AutoCorrect feature in Word. So next time you need an infinity symbol, or an unusual currency sign, follow the instructions on this handy blog post.
    2. Microsoft Word formats bibliographies for you
      A time saver for students and academics - instructions on how to use Word to create bibliographies in a range of common formats
    3. Tackle your math homework with Microsoft Mathematics
      A full-featured, and free, graphic calculator for Windows
    4. Windows Phone 7 and App Hub — build apps and get paid!
      Near the top of the ‘most read list’ probably because students realise that they can make money writing phone apps
    5. Solve equations and plot graphs in Word and OneNote (video)
      Another free add-in - Microsoft Mathematics - to help students write and then chart visualise formulae
    6. The secret to converting your presentation into a video
      I use this often, so that I can then upload presentations onto YouTube or share them with others
    7. Windows Phone 7 comes with OneNote Mobile
      Possibly the best way to sync notes, lists and even lesson plans between devices
    8. Free gradebook template for Excel 2010
      Just one of the hundreds of education templates on the Office website
    9. Blinded me with science: Introducing the Chemistry Add-in for Word
      Did you know that you can use Word to create molecular images and chemical formulae with a free add-in
    10. How to create your own class blog or website for free
      A quick guide to creating class blogs, and also info on how to get the free Windows Live Writer, which is an excellent (and free) blog-writing tool that’s part of Windows Live Essentials

    Learn MoreThere are 11 different Office blogs from the main team - including one for each of the main products in the Office suite

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - using tech to meet parents where they are


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    For a break I thought you’d like some ideas that don’t come from me. Instead, I thought it’s worth highlighting ideas from Chris Wejr, a school Principal for Kent elementary school in Canada. He’s written on his blog about the way that his school uses technology to connect with parents. As well as being full of ideas that would help to cut down on paper use in school, it actually helps to increase the level of connection with parents. His tips include a list of ways that they connect to parents in his school:

    This is a pretty impressive list for a single elementary school to have achieved. And almost all of them can be done at no additional cost.

    You can read Chris’s blog post in full here

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Microsoft Education Case Studies from Australia


    Education Case Studies iconOne question that I’m asked frequently about new projects is:

    Who else is doing this?

    In some cases, what people (partners/customers) are looking for is confirmation that they’re going to be at the innovative edge - and that what they are doing hasn’t been done before. And other times, they are looking for reassurance that somebody else has taken the journey before them.

    So I thought that I’d try and collate a list of public case studies and examples from within Australia, which will help answer the question. What’s interesting to note is that there are some areas where there have been lots of case studies published, and yet others where there have been few or none (despite the fact I know of examples, they just haven’t been published anywhere that I can find).

    Even though the list below isn’t exhaustive, there’s a fair number of education case studies from Australian education institutions - both Microsoft published case studies, as well as those published in the media and by our partners.

    If you pop your mouse over each of the links, you’ll see a few more details on each of the examples.

    Case Study Subject


    TAFE & Vocational

    Higher Education

    Dynamics CRM


    Box Hill TAFE

    Australian Technical College

    Tennis Australia

    Curtin University

    Melbourne Business School

    Business Intelligence

    Brisbane Catholic Education

    John Paul College

    William Angliss Institute of TAFE


    Macquarie University

    University of Canberra


    Marist College

    Catholic Education Office Paramatta

    Drummond Memorial Public School


    Cranbrook School

    John Septimus Roe

    Box Hill TAFE

    Australian Institute of Fitness

    Melbourne Business School

    Education websites built on SharePoint

    Abbotsleigh School

    Trinity Grammar School

    Brisbane Catholic Education

    John Paul College

    Hale School

    Gordon Institute of TAFE

    Bendigo TAFE

    Australian School of Business

    Lync for unified communications

    Tasmanian Polytechnic

    Scotch College

    Tasmanian Polytechnic


    Windows Azure - Cloud case studies

    NSW DEC ESSA tests


    Curtin University - 1

    Curtin University - 2

    Curtin University video


    St Leonards College


    University of Canberra

    Office 2010

    Luther College

    Prince Alfred College

    Varsity College

    Immanuel College

    Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College





    Redlands School

    Prince Alfred College

    Brisbane Catholic Education

    Prospect High School

    South Australia TAFEs

    Western Australia TAFEs

    Curtin University

    Office 365 for education



    Curtin University


    St Margaret’s (IAG)

    Dallas Primary School (Kodu)

    Lakelands School (Photostory)

    Proserpine State High School (Songsmith)

    Peter Moye School (Windows 7)

    Miller Technology High School (AutoCollage)


    If you know of other case studies, let me know and I can add them to this page for others to see and read. It doesn’t need to be formally published information like an article or case study - it could be a story told in a newsletter or other place - as long as it’s in the public domain on the web.

  • Education

    AutoCollage - free software for teachers in February


    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.



    Inspire your students' creativity and help them better remember information by using AutoCollage to encourage both visual and verbal learning. With AutoCollage, you can engage your students in a fun and creative way by quickly creating a collage of images. Use it to focus on selected subjects, showcase school events, and much more. With just a few clicks your students can automatically create photo collages using nothing more than images from their phone, camera or online photos.

    Create a collage quickly and easily

    AutoCollage uses face and object recognition to swiftly create a collage of several images. You choose the collage that delights you and best displays the relevant content. With three easy clicks, you open, select, and save your image files, then AutoCollage does the rest by presenting your images in a perfect collage.

    Use AutoCollage to inject fun and creativity into any learning situation:

    • Increase class participation on a visually stimulating topic
    • Design teaching content to focus attention
    • Create compelling visual stories on complex subjects
    • Review learnings and prepare for reviews in a creative, new way
    • Create class memories of special activities or field trips

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Stuart Ball, our Partners in Learning Programme Manager in the UK, has written two articles that give step-by-step instructions to using AutoCollage, and explains how it’s a great time saver when you’re faced with a class who’ve taken hundreds of photos and want to spend all afternoon sorting them. You can find Stuart’s articles here: Workshop 1 and Workshop 2

    Where do I get AutoCollage from?

    It’s free to teachers and students - you can get it from the Partners in Learning website

  • Education

    Chemistry Add-In for Word - free software for teachers in February


    Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

    Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

    Chemistry Add-in for Word

    Chemistry Add-in for Word

    The Chemistry Add-in for Word gives students and teachers an easier way to insert, modify, and present chemical symbols and data sources within the familiar Microsoft Word environment. Use it to help younger students explore the periodic table and gain a better understanding of the scientific language, and guide the more advanced students to author and share more sophisticated chemistry papers and assignments.

    Make chemistry documents easy to author, present, and share by harnessing the power of Microsoft Office and CML (Chemistry Markup Language)

    With the Chemistry Add-In for Word, you'll be able to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas and 2-D depictions, when creating papers with Microsoft Word. Designed for and tested on both Word 2007 and Word 2010, it harnesses the power of Chemical Markup Language (a chemistry-specific XML), making it possible not only to author chemical content in Word, but also to include the data behind those structures. Together, these technologies make chemistry documents open, readable and easily accessible, not just to other humans, but also to other technologies.

    With the Chemistry Add-in for Word, you can:

      • Improve classroom understanding of scientific information
      • Include chemical information in Word documents
      • Create 2-D views of chemical structures to promote visual learning
      • Enhance student creativity in class assignments and projects
      • Explore the periodic table to accelerate knowledge
      • Incorporate chemical structures into tests and quizzes with ease

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    There’s a complete Chemistry Add-in for Word user guide, which you can download here, and a video demo here

    Where do I get the Chemistry Add-in for Word from?

    You can find the link on the right hand side of this Microsoft Research page - under the Downloads title

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