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

  • Education

    26 free apps for teachers

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    I’ve often blogged about individual free downloads on this blog. But how about one massive list of free apps for teachers from Microsoft? It’s not a complete list of everything, but it captures the key things that you might want to download and install on your teachers’ and students’ laptops in the new term.

    The list comes courtesy of the TeachTec site, created by colleagues in the US, which also provides a handy way to find helpful websites, white papers etc, and can be searched by specific subject area or education level - in total they’ve scooped up 102 resources into one place.

    Don’t have time to try them all? My all-time favourites in this list are Windows Live Writer, ZoomIt and AutoCollage


    AutoCollage

    With just a few clicks your students can automatically create beautiful photo collages using nothing more than images from their phone, camera or online photos.

    Photo collages celebrate important events and themes in our lives. Pick a folder, press a button, and in a few minutes AutoCollage presents you with a unique memento to print or email to your family and friends.


    Chemistry Add-in for Word

    In chemistry, not only is there a specific language, but a specific language with specific symbols and conventions -  Chemistry add-in for word can be the translator.

    The Chemistry Add-in for Word makes it easier to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas, and 2-D depictions, within Microsoft Office Word. Additionally, it enables the creation of inline “chemical zones,” the rendering of print-ready visual depictions of chemical structures, and the ability to store and expose chemical information in a semantically rich manner.


    Creative Commons add-in for Office

    Share your lesson plans or curriculum with Creative Commons licenses embedded into your doc, ppt, xls files.

    Empowering Microsoft Office users to express their intentions through Creative Commons licenses is another way Microsoft enables users around the world to exercise their creative freedom while being clear about the rights granted to users of a creative work. In the past, it has not always been easy or obvious to understand the intentions of some authors or artists regarding distribution or use of their intellectual creations. This is a great way to build the habits of sharing and collaboration.


    HD View

    Digital Arts Educators rejoice! Put your megapixels to work, use HD View to stitch large panoramic photos together to share online.

    HD View is the camera for the web. Its goal is to create the best picture given (a) a source with high resolution, arbitrary dynamic range, any field of view and colour gamut; (b) the user’s interaction; and (c) the display being used.


    Interactive Classroom

    1:1 classroom interaction just got easier. With OneNote and PowerPoint deliver interactive lessons using this powerful add-in for Office.

    Works with Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, Microsoft OneNote 2010, and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007. This add-in connects a teacher’s PowerPoint presentation to students’ OneNote notebooks. During a presentation, teachers can: Poll students with multiple choice, true/false, or yes/no questions. Distribute the lesson to students with OneNote Include real-time ink and text annotations. Students can answer and respond through their individual OneNote notebooks, hand-held clickers, or computers, and the results display in the presentation. Students also get consolidated notes that match those of the instructor so they can keep track of what they need to learn.


    Kodu

    Create games for Xbox or the PC, learn visual programming, teach creativity, problem solving or storytelling, no programing experience needed!

    Kodu is a visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox too, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input.


    Learning Essentials

    Office XP-2010 education templates, tutorials, and more with this add-in to Office. Create a randomised test in 30 seconds or less using Learning Essentials.

    Sometimes the hardest part about completing a project is getting started. Learning Essentials provides you with assignment-specific guidance in Microsoft Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Creative projects, science activities, data collection, essays and reports, research and brainstorming, presentations – the list goes on. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a curriculum area not addressed by Learning Essentials and Microsoft Office. Learning Essentials adds value right across the curriculum, including key subjects such as English, Maths, Science, Foreign Languages and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).


    Math Add-in for Word and OneNote

    Question: How do you create a 3D graph of an Oblate Spheroid equation? Answer: Use the Math add-in for Word and OneNote to solve, plot and graph equations.

    Works with Microsoft Word 2010, Microsoft Office Word 2007, and Microsoft OneNote 2010. With this add-in, you insert an advanced math problem (from algebra to calculus, physics, or statistics) and then click to simplify complex expressions or to solve. Use these advanced math computational and graphing capabilities to: Plot a function, equation, or inequality in 2-D or 3-D, and save the results, solve an equation or inequality, calculate a numerical result, compute the inverse of a matrix, matrix operations, list operations, and integrals.


    Math Worksheet Generator

    Math educators need love too, MWG creates 1-1000 equations from a single sample equation you enter. Did I mention it also generates an answer sheet too?

    Do you spend a lot of time searching for worksheets with practice problems to give your students? Now you can easily create your own in just a few seconds with the Math Worksheet Generator. This is a tool that generates multiple math problems based on a sample, and then creates a worksheet that you can distribute. By analysing the math problem you provide, or one of the built-in samples, the generator determines the structure of the expression and provides similar problems. We tack on an answer sheet too.


    Microsoft Math 4.0

    The average cost of a graphing calculator is $50, this one is free and works on your PC.

    From basic math to precalculus, Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 can help you visualize and see mathematical concepts as you’ve never seen them before. This free downloadable tool includes step-by-step instructions and explains fundamental concepts. The wide range of tools to help students with complex mathematics includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a hand-held calculator and ink handwriting support to recognize hand-written problems.

    Personal whinge from me on this - my daughters’ school gives every student their own laptop - and then insists that every parent spends an extra $250 on a graphing calculator. Grrr.


    Mouse Mischief

    25 Mice+PowerPoint = Interactive classroom lessons.

    Mouse Mischief integrates into Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, letting you insert questions, polls, and drawing activity slides into your lessons. Students can actively participate in these lessons by using their own mice to click, circle, cross out, or draw answers on the screen.


    Office Add-in for Moodle

    Do you want to find the easiest way to upload documents to Moodle? This Office add-in integrates with your Moodle deployment for easy uploads and access.

    Uploading files to Moodle has never been easier. The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 2003, 2007 and 2010) that allows teachers to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, teachers who use Office and Moodle have to switch back and forth between their web browser and Office applications. With the OAM, teachers can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications. You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.


    Photo Story 3

    Everyone remembers Photo Story from the Windows XP days, well guess what educators it's back and working with Windows 7!

    Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or your smartphone!


    Photosynth

    Photostitching x100, stop trying to make sense out of random photos on school field trips, turn that trip into a 360 experience.

    Photosynth takes your photos, mashes them together and recreates a 3D scene out of them that anyone can view and move around in. Different than static photos and video, Photosynth allows you to explore details of places, objects, and events unlike any other media. You can’t stop video, move around and zoom in to check out the smallest details, but with Photosynth you can. And you can’t look at a photo gallery and immediately see the spatial relation between the photos, but with Photosynth you can!


    PPTPlex

    Move between PowerPoint slides in a non-linear way. Don't quite understand what I mean? Download and find out that PowerPoint just got cool.

    pptPlex uses Plex technology to give you the power to zoom in and out of slide sections and move directly between slides that are not sequential in your presentation. Watch the videos below to see how pptPlex can help you organize and present information in a non-linear fashion. Test drive pptPlex and wow your audience with your next presentation.


    Ribbon Hero 2

    Do you remember Clippy, you know the paperclip character in old versions of Office, he's back, but with new ways for your students to learn.

    What happens when Office and Xbox intermingle? Yes, we turned Office into a game! If you're going to spend time immersed in the inner workings of Office, by golly it should be fun. In Ribbon Hero 2, the player will hop on board Clippy's stolen time machine and explore different time periods. With each time period, they get to explore a new game board with challenges they must complete to get to the next level. Each challenge takes the player into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote to complete a task. Discover new Office features by actually using them, with a hint button to fall back on in case you get stuck. Race for a high score with colleagues, classmates and friends, or even put your score on your resume to show off your Office skills!


    Search Commands

    It would be nice if you could just type "mail merge" on the Office Ribbon and all mail merge options would appear, now you can.

    Want more command over your Office applications? Search Commands offers a way to search for commands in your own words to get to your tasks more quickly.


    Songsmith

    Is it possible to teach your class how to sing? Yes. Is it possible to get them to sing well? Maybe. Songsmith is a good start.

    Ever sing in the car? Maybe in the shower? You know who you are. Admit it, you like to sing, and you like music. Ever thought of writing your own music? Most people never get a chance to try... but we want to give everyone a piece of the songwriting experience, so we’ve developed Songsmith, an application that lets you create a complete song just by singing!


    Windows Live Mesh

    Synchronize folders between multiple devices, including Macs.

    Access the stuff on your computers from almost anywhere. With Windows Live Mesh and the Devices website, you can finally stop emailing files to yourself, carrying them around on a USB drive, or worrying whether the version you have with you is the latest.


    Windows Live Messenger

    Chat with Facebook friends, on your phone or int he browser, Messenger keeps you connected.

    The best way to stay in touch with your friends. Share photos and videos while you chat. Video chat in high definition or send a video message to a friend. And connect your social networks to see important updates in one place—Messenger.


    Windows Live Movie Maker

    Download the latest version of Windows Movie Maker and learn how to share your new videos online for free.

    With Windows Live Movie Maker, you can quickly turn your photos and videos into polished movies. Add special effects, transitions, sound, and captions to help tell your story. And sharing with friends and family is easy—whether on the web, a computer, TV, mobile device, or a DVD.


    Windows Live Photo Gallery

    Share photos in your 25GB of storage online for free and faster than you can say online photo albums accessible from my smartphone.

    Import photos from your camera, organize them into albums, and edit them so they look their best. Use powerful photo tools to create stunning panoramas, movies, slide shows, and more. When you're ready to share, publish your photos and videos to your favourite websites like Facebook and Flickr directly from Photo Gallery.


    Windows Live Writer

    Are you an aspiring blogger? What about your students, with this free tool you can teach your students how to post directly to Wordpress or your favourite blog site in minutes.

    Windows Live Writer makes it easy for anyone to tell stories like a professional blogger. You can create beautiful blog posts, and see what they'll look like online before you publish them to your blog. Plus, you can publish your posts to any of your favourite blog service providers


    WorldWide Telescope

    If you could travel the stars where would you go? Let your students decide which planet they want to visit first using this online interactive planetarium.

    WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky.


    ZoomIt

    Zoom to an area on the screen during your big presentation, point out where to click in that application, and also set a timer on a blank screen with one key click (brilliant for the “You have 5 minutes to…" times.

    ZoomIt is a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image. Created by Mark Russinovich

  • Education

    Connecting SkyDrive with Office 365 for education

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    As schools and other education customers move to Office 365 for education in Australia (more info here), it provides another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of your technology infrastructure. Office 365 for education provides email, Lync communications, Office Web Apps and SharePoint in the Cloud, giving your students new ways to communicate, collaborate and support their learning.

    It also provides another option for where you put your student home drives – it could be on a local server, or in their SharePoint MySite in the Cloud. One of the benefits of putting student storage in the cloud is that will normally reduce your cost of IT – because Office 365 for education is free, it means that you can offload some of your IT infrastructure costs.

    With Office 365 for education, your students each receive a file storage allowance of 500MB free. And now, if you're thinking "Wait? 500MB? These days it seems like that's two multimedia PowerPoints and a couple of videos" then read on!

    You have a couple of extra options for expanding your storage space. One way is to add extra storage into your Office 365 for education service - costs and details are here. The other way is to use the SkyDrive storage - which is the equivalent of a disk drive in the cloud. SkyDrive gives every user 7GB of free online storage, larger than most other free cloud-based storage services. And there are apps available for computers and smartphones to make it easily accessible.

    SkyDrive was included within the Live@edu email service, and there were a number of ways to link this to your user management (eg with syncing to your Active Directory). Now that we've switched from Live@edu to Office 365 for education you'll no longer be managing your users in SkyDrive – instead each student will create and run their own SkyDrive account. But there are some third parties that have developed utilities to help you manage SkyDrive accounts.

    Sky Connector from Xstran

    Loryan Strant at Xstran has developed "DirSync for SkyDrive", which basically lets you connect SkyDrive accounts to your Active Directory. It means you can automatically create SkyDrive user accounts and storage space. And it synchronises passwords between your Active Directory and the SkyDrive, so your students only have to remember one password for both your school network and the storage on SkyDrive in the cloud.

    If your a network manager in a school, TAFE or university, this could be a useful solution to an IT management issue.

    Learn MoreFind out more about Xstran's DirSync for SkyDrive

  • Education

    Free technical ebook for Kindle and PDF – Microsoft SQL Server 2012

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    The Microsoft Press team have just released the full array of downloadable versions of their free Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 ebook. This is a technical ebook – it’s not for the average user, but if you understand SQL already, it’s a good way of getting up to speed with the changes in 2012.

    It’s available in a variety of formats:

    This is a full Microsoft Press book, not just a summary (at 288 pages it’s a serious read), and includes an overview of the various editions of SQL Server 2012, and sections on performance, scalability, security and programmability.

    And the section that will really interest educational readers is Part 2, which dives into developing Business Intelligence capabilities. There are lots of new ways that SQL 2012 will help education users to display the masses of data they collect (especially PowerView) so I’d recommend taking some time to read that section of the book.

    Learn MoreFind out about other free technical ebooks from Microsoft Press

  • Education

    Moodle hosting on Windows Azure in the Cloud

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    This week I've written a few blog posts about Moodle, the open source Learning Management System. Part of the reason is to demonstrate that the worlds of Microsoft and Open Source are not mutually exclusive, and another reason is to demonstrate that there are plenty of ways to implement a learning management system that complement your existing ICT infrastructure. So far this week, I've talked about Moodle/Live@edu integration, installing Moodle on Windows Server, the Moodle Add-In for Office, and installing Moodle on SharePoint (and why it's better on SharePoint). So what about going a step further, and removing the need for on-site servers for Moodle, by hosting Moodle on Windows Azure?

    Moodle & Windows Azure logoThe normal implementation model for Moodle is to install it on your in-house infrastructure - setting up Windows or Linux servers in your data centre, and managing them as part of your IT system. But that requires an up-front capital investment in the hardware, setup etc. So why not just use Moodle hosting in the Cloud? It means you don't need to run your own servers, and can scale the system out to support students as and when you need them (rather than having to buy big lumps of hardware capacity in advance of your actual usage).

    With Windows Azure there's a cloud-based service which allows you to switch on (and off) capacity as you need it - and you simply buy the capacity you need, when you need it (just like your other utilities, like electricity and water).

    There are two projects currently available for hosting Moodle on Windows Azure, both on CodePlex (Microsoft's open source project hosting site, which hosts over 200,000 projects currently):

    • The MoodleAzure project on CodePlex gives you Moodle version 1.9.9, and has been modified to allow you to run as many instances of the web role as you may need - allowing you to rapidly scale up the implementation to reach tens of thousands of students instantly.
    • And the Moodle 2.0 for Azure project, released in March, gives you an installer for the latest version of Moodle - 2.0, and comes from the Laboratório de Tecnologia da Informação in Brazil.

    And because both of these projects are on CodePlex, there's a community of support on the site for advice as you start to implement and use them (there's also a whole forum on the Moodle community website for Windows users)

    Somebody has already setup a demo Moodle hosting site using the Moodle 2.0 system on Windows Azure, and made it available as a public site, so that you can see it running in exactly the same way that your users would. It's only a demo site, with a very small amount of content, but it gives you a good idea of what it can do for you and your students. You can find the Moodle 2.0 on Azure home page here

    What does this all mean for Moodle and Microsoft users?

    The upshot of this (and everything else I've written this week) is that if you're using Moodle, or somebody within your institution is or wants to, then you can do a bunch of things to integrate it into your existing ICT infrastructure, and which help to improve the experience for your students and teachers (as well as reducing the cost for your ICT budget). This can range from hosting Moodle, to integrating Moodle to your email or portal system. And there's plenty of support across the Microsoft and Moodle community for implementing these projects.

    Learn MoreQuickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

  • Education

    21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020

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    It’s nearly two years since Shelly Blake-Plock wrote “21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020” on his TeachPaperless blog. I’d highly recommend it for a mid-week read - and perhaps use it to stimulate some thinking on where you can help your own organisation as you move into the future - whether you work in an education institution, or you’re a Microsoft partner working with education customers.

    Having moved from the UK to Australia at the beginning of this year, I’ve found that there are lots of differences between the two education systems, and the way that they are moving forwards organisationally. Re-reading Shelly’s ‘21 Things’ list has prompted me to think & write about a few of those - hopefully in a way that’s useful to supplement Shelly’s list. So here’s my take on the 21 list, and some comparisons between the UK and Australian schools in their progress on Shelly’s journey:

    21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020

    1. Desks
    In both the UK and Australia, there are plenty of experimental learning spaces being built. I don’t feel we’re there yet in terms of finding a best practice model for learning spaces, but the journey’s definitely happening. Will it get rid of desks? Perhaps, or perhaps we’ll actually see the end of regimented learning spaces and fixed desks. (The first thing both of my children asked for when we arrived in Australia was to have a desk in their own bedrooms - to give them a space to spread their learning out in front of them)

    2. Language Labs
    In two years we’ve made a huge leap, and now it’s any place/any device that can become a language learning tool. My 'deeply-unimpressed-by-anything-her-Dad-says' 16-year old was actually impressed when she saw the translation capabilities built into the latest Windows phones, when we took a photo of her French textbook, turned it into text, and then translated it into English without needing any other software/web tricks.

    3. Computers
    We’re not going to see ‘computers’ replaced by phones in everybody’s pocket. In fact, the trend I see with new devices is that we’re adding more devices in the classroom and in learner’s hands, and they all complement each other. Some are great for consumption, but less than ideal for creating information. That may change sometime, but at the moment we’re still heading towards ‘more’ rather than less devices in learners’ and teachers’ hands.

    4. Homework
    There’s certainly plenty of enthusiasm for ideas like the flipped classroom, but there’s also a very traditional belief that students need to be given homework - and that’s as strong, or even stronger, here in Australia as in England, so this is probably one of the last things that’s going to change, because we’re going to need changes to some deeply embedded behaviours and beliefs to see this come about (and the research-driven jury appears to still be out on this).

    5. The Role of Standardised Tests in College Admissions
    In Australia, as in other countries, there’s a continuing focus, and debate, on standardised testing - and the use of the data that it produces. I’m not qualified to really dive down into this debate, but the comment I’d add here is that I think the move to online assessment will help us with the purpose of testing - understanding what a student has learnt, where they need more support, how to help them on their next journey step. This is because we can improve the speed of feedback and make it more usable for current and future learning. It removes the long gap between the test and the feedback (and it adds massively to the ability for a teacher to analyse and act upon results)

    6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
    One of those things that I don’t know enough about to comment!

    7. Fear of Wikipedia
    One in six Australian schools still block Wikipedia. ‘Nuff said.

    8. Paperbacks
    Shelly said “Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means”. I actually think that what we’re going to see is the appropriate content published in the appropriate way. When my children are doing their homework I see them having multiple books open, jumping between them and comparing information in them to digital information. That’s why they need a desk! (And see ‘lockers’ below). So we’re going to see a change in the mix of digital and paper media, not the end of one caused by another.

    9. Attendance Offices
    This is an area where we may go further by 2020 - we may see a complete redefinition of ‘attendance’, based on when and where you’re learning, rather than assuming that being in a physical place for prescribed hours means you’re learning.

    10. Lockers
    On current experience, we’re going to need bigger lockers! One of the huge changes that I’ve noticed between England and Australia is that kids here go to school with massive backpacks - my daughters sometime leave home with 8 kilo backpacks. This is because they are expected to carry around a big pile of text books, plus folders plus their laptop. And then they get their homework assignments printed on paper. So what’s happened is that technology has been added on top, and there hasn’t been a systematic approach to change existing practice. The result - heavier backpacks, not lighter ones.

    11. IT Departments
    I agree with Shelly that this is really about the change in the role of IT Departments, not their disappearance. They are going to undergo a series of changes that will drag the most recalcitrant ones kicking and screaming into providing a user service, rather than looking for reasons not to do things. Ultimately this will hugely empower IT departments, and hopefully the same thing will happen in education as is happening in business - they are being seen as the powerhouse of transformation, because of what they can enable. (And in the corporate world, there are increasing examples of large organisations where it’s the CIO that’s being promoted to CEO. Wonder if we’ll see that soon in an education institution?)

    12. Centralised Institutions
    Australia is in a different place politically to the UK in the journey of de-centralising education - which is one of the key factors which enables the creation of less-centralised learning institutions. There are political, financial and organisational barriers to overcome before this change can happen systemically in education in Australia.

    13. Organisation of Educational Services by Grade
    Probably linked to (12), this is also going to take longer to happen than Shelly predicted.

    14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
    Yep, this is already happening, and there’s less fuss about it in Australia than in the UK. There are less scary newspaper headlines for Australian teachers, and more comfort in terms of organisational support and guidance. For example, teachers have an official NSW education Social Media Policy that supports their use of social media in learning.

    15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
    In technology terms, I personally believe that in both Australia and the UK, there isn’t enough focus on Professional Development in IT projects. All too often over the last decade, education IT projects have focused on the ‘what’ - the hardware, software, services - at the expense of the ‘how’ - pedagogy, change management and professional support for teachers/users. It’s no different between the two countries, but wouldn’t it be great if we changed the way that technology is bought, and focused on the outcomes, and less on the widgets & gadgets?

    16. Current Curricular Norms
    I agree with Shelly’s original thought, which is firmly established here in Australia: “There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialised learning.”

    17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
    Some schools do an excellent job of keeping in touch with their parents, and providing a ongoing narrative of their children’s learning progress. But the majority lag behind - there’s no shortage of general parental communication (paper newsletters, email udpates, special announcements) but little that is specific to their child. This is an area where Australia is definitely trailing the UK, and where the UK government policy directive of schools providing online parental gateways and regular online reports has forced a rethink for many schools - and improved the regular insight that parents have into their children’s progress.

    18. Typical Cafeteria Food
    There’s nothing I can add to this, as I've not yet been hosted to enough school lunches in Australia to compare to years of school lunches in the UK!

    19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
    Shelly says ‘Let the kids do it’, and he’s spot on. Give them real-life projects. Your students are writing mobile phone apps for learning, designing websites, helping their parents create business presentations in PowerPoint and re-imagining the world with technology. Why shouldn’t they apply those skills to help you with your social media strategy for student engagement, website design or even curriculum material design?

    20. High School Algebra
    There’s nothing I can add to this thought either (mainly because my struggle to understand the subject was demonstrated when helping my 16-yo with her homework!)

    21. Paper
    6-7 million sheets of paper would be 8x the height of the Sydney Opera HouseShelly said “In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%”. Sadly, I think we’re going the wrong way on the trend line in Australia - increasing the amount of paper usage. Despite the massive investment in technology that should reduce paper use - laptop 1:1 schemes, interactive whiteboard projects etc - Australian schools are even bigger users of paper than UK schools. The average UK high school uses around 1-2 million sheets of copier/printer paper a year. In Australia, I’ve come across schools that are using four times as much - 6+ million sheets a year. That’s a pile of paper that’s over 8x the height of the Sydney Opera House. This is one area that is definitely not going to happen on it’s own. In the UK, the public sector budget cuts, and the downward pressure on school budgets has led to projects like Alan Richards’ Paperless School.

    With pressure on education budgets in Australia, perhaps we’ll see similar projects here too? (Or are there some already?)

    Conclusion

    There are lots of areas where Shelly’s predictions are happening, and two years on, the list looks like a good list to refer to and benchmark against. The question for me now is whether some of these things are happening fast enough? For example, could more effort be invested in reducing paper usage, to free up funding and resources for other teaching and learning needs? If there’s a new model of learning coming, then we’re going to need to find ways to fund the shift from today’s model - now matter how gradual the shift is. That’s where Shelly’s list might help aid the discussion.

    Learn MoreRead the original “21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020” on the TeachPaperless blog.

  • Education

    OneNote on iPad and iPod - how to use it with the web and PC version for teaching and learning

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    Teacher iconEarlier today I wrote about the release of OneNote for iPad and iPod, and I promised I’d describe a scenario of using it in teaching and learning. I’ve tried to describe how it can be used by a teacher to make their teaching easier, share more information with their students, and support out of school learning - as well as potentially reduce the mountain of paper that seems a regular feature of my children’s school backpacks!

    Here’s my simple scenario:

    • The teacher uses OneNote to prepare a lesson plan
      • As they collect information from different sources, and web pages, OneNote automatically adds the source info for later reference
      • The teacher can add graphics & diagrams from other sources, or draw their own diagrams, as well as annotate graphics
      • Videos can be embedded, or linked, for use in the lesson
      • If the teacher wants to use a PowerPoint presentation, that too can be embedded, so that everything the teacher needs is in one place
    • The lesson is then delivered using OneNote
      • The teacher can use the OneNote notebook as either a source of info and prompt for them, or put it up onto a projector and use it to structure the whole lesson.
      • If there’s an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, by using OneNote the teacher can also annotate, draw diagrams etc, as they go along on the whiteboard, and this is then saved in the OneNote notebook automatically
      • You can even use OneNote to make a recording of the whole lesson, so that the students can go back and listen to or watch the whole lesson or the particular parts that they need to revise!
    • The teacher can then share the OneNote notebook with their students, for them to use afterwards
      • If they do this in SkyDrive, they can just set the default for all of a particular notebook to be shared, and keep all their lesson materials in that notebook
      • If they don’t want students to see next week’s lesson, they can set a password on each new lesson page as they start to create it, and then remove it when they teach that lesson - meaning that it’s closed to students all the time they are creating it and until they want it to be available
    • The teacher can also publish the homework assignments on the OneNote as well
      • Using the password trick above they can ensure students do see the assignments until it’s the right time
      • They can also set groups in the class differentiated assignments by creating multiple homework pages - and give each group a different password to get to their assignment page
    • Students can access their assignments and lesson notes wherever they are
      • The super-keen ones can access it on their iPhones and Windows Phones on the way home on the bus/train (how cool would it be to get your homework sorted before you’ve even reached home?
      • At home they could access it on their iPad (or more likely, on Dad’s iPad), or their home PC or school laptop with Office installed, or over the web on any computer using Office Web Apps on SkyDrive
      • If they don’t have internet access at home (eg they are one of the 6% of school students without home Internet access) they can use their school laptop with OneNote offline - they just need to sync their laptop before they leave school - eg in the lesson - and then they have all the files available at home, including any embedded videos and graphics
    • There are plenty of other things that could be done too - like asking students to submit their assignments through a shared OneNote notebook (and you can use the same password protection trick to keep students from seeing others’ work) and allowing the teacher to mark the work online, make comments, record commentary etc

    image[8]

    Your students and teachers can download OneNote for iPad and iPod from the iTunes store, and you’re already likely to have OneNote on your school computers (and if you haven’t it’s time to install it Smile)

    Learn MoreFind all the OneNote info on this blog
    Find out more about OneNote for iPad and iPod

  • 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

    Student Advantage–the best way to get Office for student BYOD devices

    • 1 Comments

    image

    UPDATE: The details below have been superseded by the February 2015 announcement - see here for details of the easier way to get Office for student BYOD devices (and every other device they have!)

     

    Last week we announced Student Advantage, a new benefit to qualifying institutions that brings Microsoft Office to more students worldwide. This is a global programme that most Australian education institutions will already qualify for. And for Australian schools, universities and TAFEs, it comes at a perfect time, when there are more BYOD initiatives than ever.

    From the beginning of December, any institution that licenses Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for all staff can provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for students (on their personally-owned or institution-owned devices) at no additional cost.

    Office 365 ProPlus includes all the familiar and full Office applications — locally installed on up to five devices and available offline. When a school combines Student Advantage with Microsoft’s other cloud services, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online, all available free through Office 365 Education, students have access to the same set of gold-standard productivity tools and services used by businesses and 110 million students and staff all over the world.

    Anthony Salcito, Microsoft president of Worldwide Public Sector Education said:

      Students use Office every day for school work and activities that are most important to them. Office not only helps students stay organised and get their work done today but at the same time develops skills that will be required when they enter the work force... We are thrilled to offer Student Advantage to schools across the globe so students have access to the latest, most up-to-date version of the world’s leading set of productivity tools in order to give them a competitive advantage when entering the workforce.  

    Worldwide nearly 98 percent of students using productivity software currently use Office. Student Advantage enables students to access the familiar experience of Office in an always-up-to-date cloud service across their compatible PCs, tablets and phones.  

    You can get Started with Office 365 for Education now using the free A2 option (which gives your staff and students access to Exchange and SharePoint online, as well as Office Web Apps) – and then add the full Office 365 ProPlus suite over the holidays. And because the software is being delivered through Office 365, your students will be able to go online to get Office ProPlus installed on their devices – not just PCs, but also Macs and their smartphones (the installation web page will show them the right options for whichever device they are logged in from).

    There is a full FAQ document which I’ll publish tomorrow with more detail for institutions. Microsoft partners (such as Authorised Education Resellers) can access their training information on the Microsoft Education Partner Community.

    Learn MoreRead the original press release

  • Education

    Snap a whiteboard and bring it into OneNote for Windows 8

    • 0 Comments

    OneNote logoWhat if there was an app that your students could use to take a photo of anything you write on a whiteboard, store it, convert it to text, and make it easy for them to search back to find a specific word you’d written on the whiteboard last term? And thus mean that you could deliver lessons/lectures using a mix of whiteboard and PowerPoint, without putting students at a disadvantage when they need to find the brilliant example you drew up on the whiteboard? Well, yep, there’s some help!

    Capture lesson/lecture notes with OneNote

    Here’s an example from a meeting earlier today – the image on the left was the original that I took with the camera – and on the right is the version that I took with OneNote from exactly the same position – it automatically cropped it, straightened it, and worked out which bit of the image was the whiteboard!

    First photo of a wall whiteboard with writingSecond photo - automatically straightened by OneNote

    So here’s more of the detail:

    Last month we announced a series of enhancements to the OneNote app for Windows 8, including making it much easier to share information with OneNote from other Windows 8 apps (using the Windows Share Charm). But the feature that I think might be most helpful for teachers, lecturers and students, is the ability to take shots of whiteboards and documents, and import them into OneNote automatically cropped, straightened and sharpened.

    The Camera Scan features allows you to capture documents, magazines and whiteboards easily into OneNote. It will automatically crop, rotate, straighten, remove shadows and sharpen the image so it looks like a scanned document. This makes it easy to capture, read, and re-use sets of notes from other sources – for example, to quickly capture a set of lecturer’s notes from a whiteboard. To use Camera Scan, you simply select the camera in the OneNote radial menu and snap away.

    You can see it working in the video below.

    Once you've got the image in, OneNote also scans all of the text in the image and converts it via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to full text. That means you can then search on text in the image and even copy text from the image, for use in another document!

    The video below shows how this works in practice, with a scan of a shop receipt:

    Learn MoreLearn more about the recent updates to the Windows 8 OneNote app

    Or, download the free Windows 8 OneNote app and try it out yourself

  • Education

    How to get a Flash website working smoothly on Windows 8 and Windows RT

    • 4 Comments

    This blog post is for developers, designers, and content publishers who have created websites that use Flash Player, and want to know what the right steps to take are to get those sites running smoothly on Windows 8 devices. This is pretty important in education, where there have historically been lots of websites using Flash, that either don't work, or work poorly, on a wide range of mobile devices. And turning them into a more standards-based web format, such as HTML5, isn't an overnight job!

    However, with Windows 8 starting to appear in classrooms and homes, in the hands of students, there are some things that you can do to improve your users' experience.

    Here's an introduction to the background, and links to more detailed articles:

    Supporting Flash in Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8

    IE logoInternet Explorer 10 is one web platform that provides two browsing experiences: the new Windows Internet Explorer in the new Windows 8 interface which is optimised for touch, and the traditional browsing experience of Internet Explorer for the desktop. As a Windows Store app, Internet Explorer 10 runs without plug-ins so that you have a clean, fast, and secure web browsing experience, though it does provide a native Flash player with support to play Flash content for sites listed in the Flash section of the Compatibility View (CV) list.

    By designing a web experience that doesn't require plug-ins for the browsers, users will benefit from better performance, longer battery life, as well as increased security, privacy and reliability. All of which are critically important to educational customers. Typically plug-ins are used for delivering video and graphics (Flash, QuickTime, Silverlight, Java applets) as well as offline storage an communication (Flash, Java applets, Google Gears). For all of these uses, there are equivalent web technologies that comply with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards, in HTML5 video, audio and graphics; web storage, file and application APIs; and HTML5 Web Messaging standards.

    For developers, the benefit of developing web sites that don't need plug-ins is that using the W3C standards increases interoperability across browsers and devices, and increases forward-compatibility. Standards-based technologies, specified by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), like the ones comprising HTML5 offer similar capabilities to various plug-ins. These technologies have strong support across modern web browsers, making it possible for web developers to write the same markup and script that works across all modern browsers, without writing or maintaining any additional code that has third-party framework and runtime dependencies. (For more on this, read "Get ready for plug-in free browsing")

    On Windows 8, both modes of Internet Explorer 10 use the same integrated Flash Player, removing the need to download or install an additional player. Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop provides the same full Flash support as previous versions of Windows Internet Explorer that relied on the Flash Player plug-in from Adobe, and continues to support other third party plug-ins.

    What developers and publishers need to know to get Flash websites working with Windows 8

    There's a detailed article on MSDN, "Developer guidance for websites with content for Adobe Flash Player in Windows 8", which provides guidance and guidelines from Adobe and Microsoft for designers, developers, and content publishers. It provides some really simple tips that will allow you to ensure that your website always open in the desktop version of IE10. This means that as soon as a user opens the site, it will give them a prompt to open it in Internet Explorer on the desktop.

    It also describes the Compatibility View (CV) list to enable content for Flash Player to execute inside the Internet Explorer 10 browser, and the process for developers to submit sites to be considered for the CV list. The aim of this is to make sure that sites work well in this mode – for example, that they'll support a use of touch on a tablet device, and not requiring users to do things such as a mouse double-click.

    The article also provides advice to enable developers to test sites that require Flash Player in Internet Explorer 10 before they submit it to the CV list.

    Learn MoreRead more:
    Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 – the similarities and differences
    Get ready for plug-in free browsing
    Developer guidance for websites with content for Adobe Flash Player in Windows 8

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