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

  • Education

    Office DevCamp in Melbourne: Learn how to develop apps for Office and Office 365



    On December 11th, in Melbourne, we’re running a free, full-day Office DevCamp for developers who want to write apps and services for Office or Office 365. It’ll help you to build solutions that can use Office to do things like allow students to read and write from their OneDrive (and save you having to run expensive storage services on your own servers); or build workflows in Office to make a teacher’s life easier. Or simply allow a teacher or student to have a single-sign in to your service using their Office 365 login (that’s a simple step that gives you access to millions of users).

    But, let’s take a step back for a second.

    A long time ago, when I was a developer (yes, really, a long, long time ago) life was easy. I developed Windows apps, and that was all I had to worry about – making an app work on Windows. And now I would think about developing software to run on one of three platforms:

    1. Developing for a device operating system (eg Windows)
    2. Developing for a cloud-based service (eg Azure)
    3. Developing for a service-based platform (eg Office 365)

    Why would you develop apps on Office and Office 365? Well, with over a billion users spending 2-3 hours per day in Office, it’s a platform that gives you tremendous potential to reach a large group of customers, and especially in education, where there are millions of users – students and staff – using Office as a key tool in teaching and learning. In Australia, we’ve seen innovative developments to support teaching and learning on the Office platform – things like:

    The Office Store alone has over 1,000 apps in the catalogue, and in the Education category\ there’s currently just under 80 apps in the store. I noticed that there’s even an app to teach you how to use the JavaScript API for Office!

    The DevCamp is designed to get you up and running, and developing your own apps in Office or developing apps on mobile devices that can use the Office 365 services.  It’s a very hands-on day, not just lecture and listening:


    Build Productivity Apps

    Learn how to build apps using standard web technologies that extend the familiar Office and Office 365 experience and potentially sell them to over 1 billion Office users in 147 international markets. 

    At this DevCamp, you will learn the concepts of the new Office 365 API model and go deep into building out an end-to-end example on the Office 365 environment. Microsoft Office 365 DevCamps are free and fun events for developers, by developers.  You do not want to miss this unique event presented by Microsoft technical experts.

    Gear up and get building!

    This is a jam-packed 1-day training course where you will get deep into the code after we gear you up with the tools and environment. Here are the 6 session topics:

    1 - Intro to day
    2 - Standing up the environment
    3 - Hooking into Apps for SharePoint
    4 - Hook into Office 365 APIs via Standalone web application
    5 - Hooking into Apps for Office
    6 - Building native Android App


    The idea is that you come along with your laptop, and spend time actually cutting code – and the presence of our uber-geek Andrew Coates will mean you can get clear answers to specific questions and scenarios.

    The course is suitable for developers working for companies and ISVs, as well as developers working for universities, TAFEs and schools. And although we’ll talk about scenarios of how you can build apps for education usage, the content is relevant whether you’re building an app for a teacher on their PC, a business user in Excel, or a consumer on their Android phone!

    Make a dateMake a date for our Office DevCamp on 11th December.
    Find out more, and register

    I’ll see you there!

  • Education

    Perth and Melbourne Education Partner Training - places still available for 3/11 December



    Invitation to Microsoft Education Authorised Education Resellers

    This event is for Microsoft Partner Network members and Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers

    We’ve had consistent feedback from our partners that our education-focused training for you has been hitting the mark, and you’d like to ensure that it reaches all of the people in your teams, as well as keeping you completely up-to-date with changes in the market and our education portfolio and strategies. This month we've been running interactive workshops in Sydney and Brisbane, and the final two are just around the corner in the next two weeks. We’re heading to Perth on 4th December, and Melbourne on the 11th, alongside the Office 365 Ignite summits.

    The format that we've been using is a roundtable discussion, and with the help of slides, whiteboards and customer stories, have been able to cover each attendees individual agenda.


    Growing your reach in a changing marketplace.

    Education is in the midst of historic transformation and the rise of technology in the classroom is creating tremendous opportunity for our partners. Just about every government and school system in the world is considering digital access programs and, starting in 2015, new global standards will assess how well schools are helping students develop 21st Century Learning Skills, including critical thinking, technical aptitude and collaboration, driving education institutions globally to look for solutions that will help them effectively integrate technology.

    Microsoft and its partners are uniquely positioned to enable this transformation by providing creative and robust solutions across enterprise management, security, support services, and learning solutions. In this training, focused primarily on sales readiness, participants will deep dive into the Education opportunity, learn the Microsoft vision, as well as how partners can grow their business by selling and deploying solutions across Windows, Office, and Azure to accelerate common education scenarios.

    A single day covering cloud solutions for education built on Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.


    The day will start with an overview of the global and Australian education marketplace, and how you can respond to the hot topics that are currently top of mind for education decision makers within the schools, TAFE and universities market.


    During the morning, we will take a deep dive into Office 365 Education, and how you can help customers tap the communication, authoring and collaboration capabilities, as well as exploring the integration opportunities that will help you sell and deploy solutions in the education market.


    During the afternoon session, we will review customer-specific scenarios, to help you to quickly identify appropriate solutions for different segments of the education market, and meet the customers’ requirements. This will include a look at third-party solutions for specific scenarios. The afternoon will close with a look at how the Microsoft Azure cloud helps you to deliver customer solutions.


    There's still a few places available around the table. Use the links below to sign up:


    Microsoft Perth – Wednesday 3 December
    Microsoft Melbourne – Thursday 11 December

    This event is for Microsoft Partner Network members and Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers

  • Education

    Which Windows device do I buy for students (or recommend for BYOD)?


    After writing about the $90 7” Windows tablet two days ago (called the Pendo Pad) being sold by Coles, I thought I should spend a little more time on the range of options available for students/schools this summer, because there’s such a range of different devices, and I really don’t think that there’s a single option that will suit everybody.

    As there’s such a wide range of devices, its key to have a list of criteria to allow you (or to help parents) to cancel out some of the options quickly. When I think about different computer options for education, I think about a few key things:

    • What screen size do you need?
      I don’t believe that ‘bigger kids need bigger screens, and smaller kids…’, so I think you should start with the kind of tasks students will be doing, and where they are likely to be using their device.
    • Do you want a keyboard integrated (like a laptop) or convertible (where the screen swivels) or 2 in 1 (a tablet with a detachable keyboard)?
      I believe that almost all students are going to need a keyboard for their work, and that in many cases having a keyboard as part of the device design, rather than a separate option, makes sense
    • Do you need a stylus?
      There are lots of scenarios (like note taking and graphic work) where what they do with a stylus will ensure that a student retains more knowledge, and extends their learning in new directions.
      All the devices below have touch screens.
    • How powerful does it need to be?
      There used to be a time when I would always buy a new laptop with the most powerful processor I could, and the biggest storage option. But now I’d choose the processor speed according to the main job I’m going to use a laptop for, and I’ll use OneDrive cloud storage to avoid having everything on my hard drive anyway.
    • What does it weigh?
      Although it’s the textbooks in my daughters backpack that weigh it down, a 2 kg laptop is going to make things worse, so I do ask myself “What will this feel like in a backpack?”
    • What price do I want to pay?
      I’ve always believed you get what you pay for in most cases, and where a computer is twice the price than another, there will be a clear reason.

    So here’s a look at a range of devices that are well suited for Australian education customers, and are available through Australian suppliers. I’ve grouped them by approximate price band based on what they sell for in Australia, and today I’m going to deal with the sub-$600 category.

    Ideal devices for schools up to $600


    Screen Size






    Asus Eeebook X205TA







    Acer Travelmate B115







    Acer Aspire Switch 10 Pro


    2 in 1





    Intel Classmate







    Asus Transformer T100TA


    2 in 1





    Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series







    HP Pavilion x 360




    or Pentium



    Learn MoreTake a look at the full recommendations for all devices across all price ranges

  • Education

    A Windows 8 tablet for under $90?


    This seems incredible to me! Coles have a 7” Windows 8 touch tablet, with Office 365 Personal, for $89.


    It’s just one of a few surprises that I have seen this year, as more and more low-cost laptops, tablets and convertibles (tablets with detachable keyboards) have been appearing. But I never expected a tablet under $100 with Office 365 included (which means it also comes with 1TB OneDrive online storage and 60 monthly Skype minutes).

    My daughter’s school is going BYOD for next year, and I’d already decided that I was going to invest in a Surface Pro 3 for her (because of the power of the pen, and because since I got my Surface Pro, it’s made a massive difference to my own notetaking). But my concern was that she may not look after it and it would end up being dragged around without its case.

    But seeing the $89 Pendo Pad in Coles, and then watching Top Gear over the weekend, I’ve hit on the perfect plan! She’s going to be receiving a Surface Pro 3 and a Pendo Pad. The Surface will be her main device, and the Pendo Pad is for some lightweight reading, surfing and Skype. But if the Surface gets damaged, then the Pendo Pad is going to be her main machine whilst the Surface is out of action.

    I got this inspired idea from Top Gear, where the lads are tailed on their journeys in top marque sports cars by a driver in a surprisingly ordinary car. And if they break down, they are forced to switch into the backup car. Imagine the shame of ditching the Ferrari for a 2 door hatchback. Hoping that same challenge will work for my daughter.

    See you at Coles Smile

  • Education

    Update on running Moodle in the cloud on Microsoft Azure


    There’s been quite a bit of news around integration work for Moodle on the Microsoft Azure cloud recently, so I have gathered together some update info. This post is about running Moodle in the cloud. Next week, I’ll pull some bits together on integration with other Microsoft technologies.

    Fully supported Moodle cloud service for Microsoft Azure cloud

    Two of the largest official Moodle partners (Remote-Learner and NivelSiete) have teamed together to provide fully supported and maintained Microsoft Azure Certified Moodle installations in the Azure Cloud. The installations have been configured and optimised to provide high performance and availability, and have been built for medium size organisations. The fully supported service includes a core Moodle build, as well as pre-installation of a series of 40 common, high-value add-ons – and then support for both initial configuration and ongoing use through technical support and a full training programme.

    imageIn many cases the normal process for deploying a Moodle server for educational customers involves first hunting down suitable spare server hardware capacity, then installing an operating system, then installing Moodle etc. Often this can take weeks, or even months. But with a cloud deployed service, you simply click a website button (like the one on the right) to deploy a virtual machine with all of the services pre-configured.

    And because you are selecting the deployment options, you can choose where you deploy the service, and what capacity you’re going to need. Which means you could have it running in one of our two Australian Azure datacentres in minutes.

    The pricing contains two elements, both of which are based on the hours that you run the cloud services:

    • A price for the Microsoft Azure service which varies according to the server capacity. At the low end, deploying onto a 1 core server with 768MB RAM costs just over 2 cents an hour. More likely a dual core server with 7GB RAM and 40GB SSD will cost under 20 cents an hour, whereas putting it onto a server with 8 cores and 56GB of RAM is going to set you back nearly a dollar an hour – but I would guess that will be overkill for almost all scenarios.
    • A price for the support and ongoing maintenance and upgrades, which is provided by Remote-Learner.

    Putting both elements together, that means you can have a scalable, fully managed and supported Moodle service running for between $800 and $1,500 a month.

    For more information, take a look at:

    The official announcement from Remote-Learner (and I’d also recommend taking a look at the blog post from Mike Churchward, who’s the Remote-Learner President, about their experience working with our Microsoft Open Technologies team)

    Learn MoreGo to the Microsoft Azure Marketplace to see more, and deploy a Moodle virtual machine in the cloud!

    Deployment images for Moodle for Microsoft Azure cloud

    If rather than having a fully supported service you just want to deploy a Moodle server image to a Microsoft Azure cloud service, and then configure and support it yourself, then there’s the bitnami images available on the VMDepot.

    The VMDepot is a community-driven catalog of preconfigured operating systems, applications, and development stacks that can easily be deployed on Windows Azure. Find your favorite software and deploy it in minutes, or join the community, build a virtual machine image, and share it with others. It was created by the Microsoft Open Technologies team.

    imageWith these pre-configured machine images, you basically just click a ‘Create Virtual Machine’ button, and then log in to your Azure account to deploy. It will automatically deploy a Moodle 2.8 instance on an Apache 14.04 server onto an Azure virtual server (If you don’t have an Azure account then give it a whirl with the Azure 30-day free trial that gives you $200 worth of free Azure).

    Although deploying a Moodle package on an Apache server is normally a highly technical, time consuming thing to do, it’s totally different on a cloud service. In fact, so different that I actually did it myself to check… and started it as I wrote this paragraph. This is how far it's got at this point:


    (If you’ve met me, you know I’m not an uber-geek like many of my colleagues, so hopefully this is proof that you don’t need to be a rocket-surgeon to do this stuff.)

    Unlike the fully supported service, once you’ve got this deployed, it is now all yours – just like if you were running it on a server under your desk, or in your own datacentre. You manage, configure and update it. We just run the datacentre and the virtual server that it’s running on.

    Just flipped back – and as you can see on my Azure projects page, the cloud service is running, and it’s now starting up the virtual machine:


    If this is your preferred option, then here’s where to go to get it done:

    Other Open Source services running on Microsoft Azure

    If you want to see some of the other bitnami images, either visit the Microsoft Azure marketplace listing for bitnami, or visit the bitnami website (there’s even a button there to launch a free one hour demo server).

    Go to the VMDepot website to see some of the other 500+ virtual machine images you can deploy with one-click of your mouse, including FreeBSD, WordPress, Drupal etc

    And finally, I just went and logged into my new Moodle cloud server on Azure, and I thought I’d share the home screen, just to prove how quick and easy the whole thing was to setup!


  • Education

    Microsoft joins-up with UTS and NSW Government to hatch Sydney talent


    Exciting news shared yesterday on the Microsoft Australia 'The Big Picture' blog. Sarah Vaughan, our Director for Developer Evangelism and Experience at Microsoft Australia, talked about a new project we are part of with the University of Technology, Sydney. It’s all about growing compelling student experiences, and helping students get a leg up on their first entrepreneurial career step.

    I’ll let Sarah Vaughan take up the story from the blog post…


    I’ve had some pretty exciting times during my 12 years with Microsoft and this week rates as one of the best, with the announcement of our partnership with the University of Technology, Sydney’s (UTS) and its newly launched precinct, Intersection: Sydney’s Digital Creative Hub.

    UTS has been one of the most active academic institutions in ‘joining-up’ the innovation ecosystem, with Sydney’s Digital Creative Hub set to bring together creative and digital start-ups, cultural, media, SMEs, commercial, government and educational organisations.

    I’m excited to work for a company that is a partner in connecting our best minds and talent, so they can work together, spark ideas off each other, ask for help . . . do all thing things that help take the seed of an idea and make it into something special.

    Our partnership is not just about today, it’s also about uncovering and nurturing tomorrow’s innovators – something that’s always been important to Microsoft. Bookending the precinct, ‘The Hatchery’ is a pre-incubator to educate and launch tomorrow’s entrepreneurs – something that’s essential if we are going to thrive as a nation.

    There are a number of reasons why this will increasingly be the way of the future:

    • It works – people working together are more creative and innovative
    • Today’s technology enables connection and collaboration at a level unimaginable just a few short years ago
    • By nurturing talent it helps ensure great ideas become reality
    • Through the introduction of the concepts of entrepreneurialism into education we will inspire innovation

    As part of our backing of the Digital Creative Hub we’re providing mentors and a full time employee to curate activity, as well as making available a 12 month Azure for BizSpark grant for qualifying start-ups. We will also be using the space – which is in the basement level of ‘U@622’ on Harris St, Ultimo – to hold events such as Hackathons.

    With Intersection and The Hatchery – it’s a clear sign that change is coming, that disparate groups and individuals are recognising that the way ahead – the way to innovation - is by working together.

    You might have read the story in the Sydney Morning Herald but the reason for my excitement is that it’s the next part of our commitment to Joined-Up Innovation, Microsoft’s vision to drive greater innovation outcomes for Australia.


    Learn MoreYou can read more about our Joined-Up Innovation initiative on the Microsoft Australia website

  • Education

    How to help students remember more


    My colleague Travis Smith is an ex-deputy principal, and an enthusiastic pedagogue. His time is spent obsessing about how to enhance teaching and learning with technology, and the ways that it can support deeper learning by students.

    One challenge is that we need to focus on helping students remember more of what they are taught, and there’s evidence that some of the current ways that they choose to use technology isn’t helping students remember more (including the research that showed that students who use laptops [keyboards] to take notes learned less than those who took notes using paper [and pen]) – see Research says the pen is mightier than the keyboard – and other useful education research nuggets.

    Last month he talked at one of our seminars about the power of the pen for enhancing students’ learning, specifically in the context of the digital pen on the Surface Pro 3. His talk, “Weighing the evidence: Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard”, was an hour, which wasn’t long in the room, but it’s probably longer when you can only watch it on YouTube. So the team have created an edited highlights version, which is less than 15 minutes, and provides a compelling case why students will benefit from digital pen and digital paper. As Travis puts it “Paper isn’t going away. It’s just getting smarter”.

    This short video is definitely worth watching, and sharing with colleagues…

  • Education

    Why a Surface Pro 3 is different


    For some reason, this advert was out nearly 3 months ago but I never noticed it. Maybe it's because at the time I didn't have a Surface Pro (in the same way that you don't notice how many identical cars there are on the road until you get one that's the same). Or maybe at the moment I'm following a lot of teachers on Twitter that have started to discover what having a device with an advanced digital stylus can mean for learning. Either way, this ad from the US means much more to me now:

  • Education

    Adelaide workshop on learning technolgoy



    We're running a workshop for teachers and school leaders in Adelaide in late November, and based on feedback from previous events, I can recommend it as a great way to get up to speed with ideas for how the technology already in your classroom can help boost teaching and learning (plus there’ll be new ideas with new technology too!).

    Not in Adelaide? There will be others around the country, so I’ll keep my eyes open for the list as it’s published.

    Workshop the latest technologies for learning

    Students learning on their own smartphones and tablets and in the cloud. Schools managing their own data and technology platforms. With so much changing in your school, deciding what's right for your students takes careful consideration.

    Talk through the issues and explore new technologies in this practical hands-on workshop, guided by experienced educationalist and Microsoft Education Master Trainer Pip Cleaves.

    She'll help you wrap your head around new thinking using Microsoft technologies in your classroom, with proven approaches and the latest devices. Workshops are complimentary and devices are provided so you can experience Windows 8 and Office 365 in action

    You’ll get the chance to meet Microsoft's latest tablet: the Surface Pro 3 and see how you can use it to fire up new learning experiences at your school.


    8:30am Register and get your device
    (Good news: It’s a hands-on workshop. Bad news: you only get to borrow the device for the workshop, not take it away Sad smile)
    9:00 - 9:45 Why does technology matter and why should your school care?
    9:45 - 10:45 Hands-on: Windows 8 devices
    10:45 - 11:00 Morning tea
    11:00 - 12:00pm Collaboration, creation and problem solving using Office 365
    12:00 - 12:30 Lunch
    12:30 - 1:45 Hands-on: Office 365
    1:45 - 2:00 Preview: Microsoft Surface Pro 3
    2:00 - 2:30pm Q&A, next steps

    About the facilitator


    Pip Cleaves is well known to many in NSW Department of Education & Communities for her work as a teacher and professional learning consultant in the Hunter Central Coast Region and State Offices for both the Digital Education Revolution 1-to-1 Laptop program and the Connected Classrooms Program. She is also a Microsoft Peer Coach Master Trainer, Adobe Education Leader and Microsoft 21st Century Learning Design Master Facilitator.  Through her company Design | Learn | Empower, Pip continues her journey to support schools, teachers and students to integrate 21st century skills and technology into their learning.

    Date and venue

    Tuesday 25 November: Education Development Centre, Milner Street, Hindmarsh

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register

  • Education

    Paradyne briefing for schools in Melbourne–12 November



    The team over at Paradyne are running an education briefing at our offices in Melbourne early in November, which will cover Office 365 Education and the ways that other schools are using it to support their teaching and learning goals.

    They are also going to feature Docusign to talk about one of my pet hates – the permission slips that come home from school which require me to (1) find the slip (2) find a pen (3) give the form back to my daughter and (4) keep my fingers crossed that the form reaches school. I know permission slips are frustrating for schools too, for almost the same reasons as they are for me, and also because staff spend valuable time record keeping, chasing and general permission-slip-time-wasting-stuff. If your school is currently sending permission slips home for parents to sign (or even worse, for me as a parent, emailing them home and expecting parents to print them, sign them, and then send them back) then you might get an insight into how you can make everybody in this loop happy!

    And they’re also partnering with the Staples team to show off some of the cool new Windows devices that have hit the market ready for next year.

    Amazingly, they are going to get that all over with by lunchtime, so you’ll be back in school for the afternoon!

    Agenda for the Paradyne Office 365 briefing for schools

    8.30am - Guests arrive - greeted by the smell of coffee

    8.50am - Welcome by Travis Smith, Microsoft

    9.00am - Overview of Paradyne and Office 365 by Paul Krasey, Paradyne

    9.20am - Description of classroom solutions by Daniel Anderson, Paradyne

    9.50am - Advantages of digital permission slips, DocuSign

    10.00am - Real education examples by David Humphreys, Brighton Grammar on Office 365, OneNote and Windows 8, and Launceston Church Grammar School (Lync video recording) on Yammer and SharePoint - personified their SharePoint with Go247

    10.30am - Hardware solutions by Staples - Surface Pro 3 & Lenovo tablets, using pen, showing live changes, examples of students using this hardware and the tie to software/solutions

    11.00am - Conclusion and thank you by Paul Krasey, Paradyne

    11.10am - Q&As and individual conversations

    12.00pm - Event concludes

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register

    Wednesday, 12 November 2014 - 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM
    Melbourne, Microsoft Offices, Level 5, 4 Freshwater Place, Southbank

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