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

  • Education

    Updated - Free Windows 8 programming ebook

    • 2 Comments

    imageThose nice people at Microsoft Press released an update in August to their free ebook – it’s a preview version of “Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript”. And it seems perfect timing to highlight it (being absolutely transparent, I didn't read it when it came out, but I've started to read it this week, as I'm spending more time talking to people about building Windows 8 apps for education)

    It’s the perfect guide to Windows 8 applications programming, and gives you the whole story for creating Windows 8 apps. As it’s only a second preview version, the whole thing isn’t yet there – so far there's 12 of a planned 17 chapters, along with a download of companion content (code samples etc)

    If you’re interested in getting started, or you’ve got students that you know will want to have a go, then this is a great book to download and to share.

    And, before you go beetling off to start writing code, can I also recommend reading building an education app for Windows 8 is about designing an experience, before writing code beforehand too.

    Learn More You can either download it in PDF directly, or go and read a bit more about it on the Microsoft Press blog.

    NOTE: There's now the final version of the Windows 8 programming ebook - see here
    Bonus: Here’s a long list of more free technical ebooks from Microsoft Press.
  • Education

    Classroom Interactive Whiteboards and Windows 8

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    I watched this video and wondered:

    Do we still need lots of extra special software to work with interactive whiteboards, when there is now so much standard software (and lots more coming around the corner) that uses touch capabilities?

    I know we used to - in the days of Windows XP, you had to have special drivers etc on an interactive whiteboards, and there was a dearth of interactive multimedia software. But perhaps today we’re hanging on to an old habit?

    My thinking is that instead of having special software that just works on the whiteboard, and needs extra training:

    • If you plug a Windows 8 computer into the interactive whiteboard, you get the great natural interactive interface you need for the PC, including great handwriting recognition
    • Teachers use OneNote (built into Office) as the teaching tool, instead of any of the specific whiteboard applications. You end up with learning resources that are much more easily shareable, because you can simply publish into the cloud, so that students can access the learning resources, homework assignments, lesson recordings etc on virtually any device:

    So a teacher can create a lesson in OneNote, and then when they publish it, the students could revise it, and listen to the recording, on the bus/train on the way home, and then complete their homework assignment online at home, and submit it online.

    * OneNote Mobile is free to download and use for up to 500 notes. When you've reached this limit, you can upgrade the app for a one-time fee for unlimited use. If you choose not to upgrade to the unlimited version, you can still view, sync, and delete any of your existing notes even after you've reached the 500 notes limit. However, you will no longer be able to edit your notes or create new ones on your phone/iPad.

  • Education

    Songsmith - free software for teachers in February

    • 1 Comments

    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.

    Songsmith

    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.

    Songsmith is a great way to encourage students to be creative: many music teachers know that sometimes just helping their students “find their spark” is the hardest part of stimulating musical creativity.

    Furthermore, Songsmith can help you teach musical concepts that are sometimes difficult, particularly how chords are used in pop music and how melodies and chords fit together. Using tools like Songsmith to explore these concepts can help connect what students are learning in music class to the music they listen to at home.

    Outside of music classes, Songsmith is a great way to encourage creative approaches to learning. I’ve heard of teachers who got students to write songs about science concepts, and other examples of using it outside of the music curriculum.

    Want an idea of what it can do? Well, there’s 1,450 Songsmith videos on YouTube - including the Songsmith advert, that’s had over 1.5m views, and a case study of the use of Songsmith at the Philadelphia High School of the Future. And for a classroom idea for Songsmith in the history curriculum, take a look at the FDR speech about the Bombing of Pearl Harbour - in Songsmith!

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    The Songsmith site has a complete ‘Help & How-to’ section, which includes online help, a community forum and tutorial videos, along with some good ‘Tips and Tricks’ advice. There’s also a good short article by Stuart Ball on the UK Teachers blog, and he has also uploaded a ‘How to create a song in Songsmith’ tutorial onto YouTube.

    Where do I get Songsmith from?

    You can download the trial version of Songsmith from the Microsoft Research website, but the extra link you’ll want to know about is the ‘Songsmith For Teachers’ page, which lets you download Songsmith free for education use (by you and your students).

  • Education

    The Office Add-in for Moodle - free software for teachers in February

    • 4 Comments

    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.

    Free Microsoft Office Add-in for Moodle

    Office Add-In for Moodle banner

    If you use Moodle, you may be familiar with grumbles from staff about the number of steps involved in creating documents and getting them onto your Moodle site. Teachers often create their teaching materials, and student materials, in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. And then they have to save it somewhere, then log into Moodle, find where they want to put it onto Moodle and then upload it. So why shouldn’t it be as easy as saving the file to your desktop, or your SharePoint?

    That’s exactly what the Office Add-In for Moodle does - adds a “Save to Moodle” and “Open from Moodle'” button to all of your Office applications.

    Uploading files to Moodle has never been easier. The Office Add-in for Moodle is an add-in for Office 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 Add-In, 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.

    Office Add-In for Moodle - screen shotIt doesn’t require anything to be installed on the Moodle server. Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the Add-in and access their documents. Once installed, there are two menu items ‘Open from Moodle’ and ‘Save to Moodle’ (see right) under:

    • the File menu in Office 2003
    • the Office Button in Office 2007
    • the File tab in Office 2010

    In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the Add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in. Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in. Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

    We focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodle come from teachers.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Step-by-step instructions to help setup the system, as well as how users will use it, are on the Moodle.org website.

    Where do I get Office Add-In for Moodle from?

    Either go to the Office Add-In for Moodle page on Education Labs, or download directly from this link

  • Education

    Update 3: Microsoft Surface RT Education offer in Australia

    • 9 Comments

    One of the most frequent questions that we’ve been asked about the Microsoft Surface RT offer for education customers in Australia (the offer is for education institutions to be able to order the Microsoft Surface RT from AU$219) is “can I get the Surface RT Education offer in stores, rather than ordering online from Microsoft?”

    Well, up until now the answer has been ‘no’, but we’ve realised that we could be a little be more flexible…

    So now the answer is ‘Yes’!

    Here’s how it works:

    • Education institutions are able to go to their local Harvey Norman or JB Hi-Fi and place an order, referencing the Limited Time Education Offer
    • The institution and retailer agree on method of payment and delivery details
    • Retailer forwards the order to Microsoft for validation that they are a valid education institution that meets the criteria
    • Once the order’s been validated, the retailer can supply the devices

    This retail option means that you can get a faster and more efficient purchase route, and supply from a local business.

    Just in case you’ve missed it before, here’s a quick summary of the Surface RT Education offer in Australia: Education institutions qualify for the offer to buy Microsoft Surface RT, starting at AU$219, until the end of September 2013.

    Learn MoreHere’s where you can get all the details on the Surface RT education offer in Australia, and here’s my previous updates – Update 1 and Update 2.

  • Education

    More Moodle advice – The Moodle on SharePoint white paper

    • 3 Comments

    Following on from the Office Add-In for Moodle earlier in the week, there’s some further advice and support from the Education Labs team for Moodle that may be useful to you - Moodle on SharePoint. If you’re either using Moodle, or considering it, then you may want to consider how you set it up. Because Moodle is an open source product, it’s often assumed that it should be installed on an open source server – like a Linux box. But the challenge with doing that for many schools is that it doesn’t therefore easily integrate with their existing ICT systems – for example, managing users and files on your existing school file servers.

    However, there’s a more positive way to deploy Moodle, which is to install it on your existing infrastructure, rather than having to add additional complications. The most powerful bit of your infrastructure to add it to is your SharePoint – because Moodle on SharePoint fills in some of the gaps of a conventional Moodle system. First, it helps prevent data loss. For example, if a teacher deletes a file by mistake and wants to get it back, you’ll easily be able to go into SharePoint and restore it from the recycling bin – rather than it being lost forever. Secondly, you can take advantage of versioning in SharePoint. If a teacher or student overwrites a file by mistake, it can be restored to a previous version from SharePoint. Finally you can use SharePoint’s search capabilities to search across all of your content, whether it is in your SharePoint file storage, or in your Moodle system (currently there is no equivalent file search capability in Moodle). Perhaps most importantly, teachers can get these benefits while continuing to use the Moodle user interface they are accustomed to, meaning no new training.

    How do you install Moodle on SharePoint?

    So if it makes so much sense to run your Moodle on SharePoint, how do you do it? Well, we’ve published a white paper that explains how to set up SharePoint as the file system for Moodle. It doesn’t need any special code – if you have SharePoint and Moodle, it is a matter of configuration.

    You can download the full white paper here (click on the Read It link) which can help you plan your strategy.

    image  Quickly find all the other Moodle posts on this blog

  • Education

    Maths Worksheet Generator - free software for teachers in February

    • 0 Comments

    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.

    Maths Worksheet Generator

    Maths Worksheet Generator header

    Another bit of free software for Maths teachers  - and what better way than giving them something to save time. Maths Worksheet Generator creates anything from one to 1,000 equations on a worksheet from a single sample equation you enter. And it also generates the teacher 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.

    Create quick maths worksheets in Word

    The Math Worksheet Generator works best with Word 2007 and 2010. If you have that, then the tool creates a Word document and the expressions are editable. If you have an older version of Word, it still creates a document, but the expressions are small images that aren't editable. (This is because Word 2007 and higher has more built-in support for inserting Math equations.) If you don't have Word at all, the tool will create HTML versions of the worksheet and answer sheet.

    The tool supports everything from basic arithmetic through algebra.

    Where can I find out how to use it?

    Here’s a demo of the Maths Worksheet Generator in use, which shows how easy it is to use (download the video here):

    Where do I get the free Maths Worksheet Generator from?

    The free Maths Worksheet Generator download available from the ‘Try It’ link on this page

  • Education

    Free Windows 8 programming ebook

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    Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScriptThose nice people at Microsoft Press have done it again – another new free ebook for everybody. And this one is perfectly timed – it’s a preview version of “Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript”.

    It’s the perfect guide to programming Windows 8 applications, and gives you the whole story for creating Windows 8 Metro apps. As it’s only the preview version, the whole thing isn’t yet there – just the first four chapters:

    • The life story of a Metro Style App
    • Quickstart
    • App Anatomy and Page Navigation
    • Controls, Control Styling, and Basic Data Binding

    And the further 14 chapters will come out over the next few months. But if you’re interested in getting started, or you’ve got students that you know will want to have a go, then this is a good start.

    You can either download it in PDF directly, or go and read a bit more about it on the Microsoft Press blog.

    And if you want to know why it’s worth thinking about Windows 8 app development, Daniel Sharp’s got some interesting thoughts over on The Kernel in “Windows 8 is an Android killer

    Bonus: Here’s a long list of more free technical ebooks from Microsoft Press.

  • Education

    Business Intelligence for Universities

    • 0 Comments

    imageCalumo, the people behind the Business Intelligence systems used by a range of universities and TAFEs, have just published more case study details for the users of their system, which allows universities to connect their finance data together, simplify presentation and access for their users, and move from lumbering islands of data to a fully connected view of financial planning right across an institution. This is particularly important for strategic decisions such as student load planning - making sure that the right number of students are recruited onto the right courses - and maximising the student profitability across the institution (which is, strangely, an extraordinarily complex challenge in most universities and TAFEs).

    Calumo's case studies include:

    • The University of New South Wales, saving half a million dollars and 85% of their time
    • Macquarie University, saving $350,000 and two months, whilst also reducing their risk profile
    • The University of Canberra, saving $300,000 whilst increasing their revenue by 6% through effective student load planning
    • William Angliss Institute of TAFE, reducing time for reporting by 40% and increasing their revenue by focusing on key KPI's

    The UNSW example has been so effective that the University has now included the BI system into their Business Intelligence and Decision Support course for 2011

    Learn MoreRead more on the Calumo Education Case Studies page

  • Education

    Microsoft and the Cloud – what it means for education

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    There’s recently been a lot of discussion within education about different models of ICT services. Individual universities have tended to use a mix of services provided on-premise and cloud-based services . And newer models of teaching and learning have accelerated the trend towards cloud-based services – and at the very least, services which absolutely rely on a 100% reliable Internet connection. And this hybrid model, relying on both on-premise and cloud-based ICT infrastructure, looks like it is going to become more common across education.

    But this doesn’t just affect education – the integration of on-premise and cloud-based services is a hot topic for all IT Directors across business and the public sector, from small local businesses to global enterprises, and for all levels of government agencies and departments.

    How do all of the dots join up in this new IT services picture? Well, thinking about it has prompted me to write a summary of what’s going on with cloud-based services at Microsoft, to fill in some of the picture from an education viewpoint.

    Microsoft Online Services and Education

    imageWe’ve made a public big shift in our emphasis towards cloud-based services; but behind the scenes there have been very big changes going on for years to get ready for the day that cloud takes off right across the world.

    I’m going to use ‘Cloud’ to represent all of the Internet services that users and institutions might be using. It might be a mix of desktop and web-based software, or an entirely web-based service. Either way, it’s something that involves a web-service as part of the IT delivery.

    image

    So here’s my summary of the cloud-based services that Microsoft do that may be directly relevant to education, and the essential differences.

    The first two services, Live@edu and Office 365 for education are education-specific, and not available outside of education. The other services are designed for a wide range of business and public sector customers, so you’ll see some overlap between the different services. Although that can feel like duplication, it also means that you’re able to select your online services rather like an a la carte menu – choosing the combination of options to match your exact needs.


    imageLive@edu

    Live@edu is a free hosted service, designed specifically for education, which allows you to outsource some of your IT infrastructure to the cloud. The starting point for many is email, where you keep your existing email domain (institution.ac.uk) and point it over to our email servers – and we then run an Exchange 2010 mail service from our data centres for you, with each student getting a 10GB email inbox. As part of the service, each student gets their own Windows Live ID, which also means that they can use the hosted SkyDrive service too – with 7GB of personal file storage hosted on the web for each student.

    How do you buy it?

    As it’s free, you can simply sign up directly at the Live@edu site

    Where to find out more

    Visit the worldwide Live@edu website


    Office 365 for education logoOffice 365 for education

    Office 365 for education, which will be available from the (northern hemisphere) summer is a hosted service, designed specifically for education, which allows you to outsource a large set of your IT infrastructure to the cloud. The starting point for many, like Live@edu, is email and calendars, but the key additional functionality in Office 365 is the whole productivity suite offered by Office 365 online – SharePoint, Lync, Office Web Apps etc. So you could use Office 365 for education for something as complex (and money saving) as replacing your existing telephone system!

    How do you buy it?

    You have to wait until it’s available shortly, and until then I’d suggest you have a chat with your Microsoft account manager.

    Where to find out more

    Read more about pricing, and then jump over to worldwide Office 365 for education website


    imageWindows Azure

    Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing operating system. This is essentially a set of services that developers, software vendors and systems integrators can use to develop applications and new business models. We host the servers in the cloud, running cloud versions of the same platforms that would normally run in-house – things like web servers or highly-available SQL servers. The developers use exactly the same tools as today to develop their applications (eg Visual Studio) on their own desktop/in-house machines, and then they can choose to deploy locally or onto Windows Azure in the cloud.

    Because our job is to run an agile, efficient, secure and trustworthy central service through our worldwide datacentres, it means that the developers don’t need to worry about building and managing virtual machines, patching operating systems, and designing their own redundancy system. That’s the Azure team’s job.

    The Windows Azure Platform also allows you to integrate your on-premise and cloud infrastructure.

    How do you buy it?

    It is based on a pay-as-you-go subscription, calculated on the volume of data/workload that’s used. In a sense it is very similar to a normal utility, like gas and electricity – you use as much as you want, and pay for what you use. And just like the electricity company, it’s our job to make sure the capacity is there when you want to use it. It also allows you to convert capital expenditure into resource expenditure – because you aren’t buying big fixed capital infrastructure – just simply renting the capacity you need, when you need it.

    Where to find out more

    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/


    image

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

    This is a cloud-based customer relationship management service that can be accessed through Outlook or an Internet browser, and has rich integration with Office applications – Word, Excel and Communicator. It’s a comprehensive service which includes marketing automation, sales force automation, and customer service and support capabilities, as well as integrated workflow and business intelligence. In education, this is most likely to be valuable to independent schools, colleges and universities.

    The beauty of this cloud service is that you can start a deployment in a small way, without having to build your own infrastructure, and then grow it as you need to. The cloud system is built on the same code as the on-premise system, so you can move between deployment options in the future.

    How do you buy it?

    It’s so easy that you can simply sign up for a subscription, using a credit card. But the majority of education customers will choose to work with a Microsoft partner here in Australia to get the system setup and configured for your needs – and there are already a bunch of partners who offer education products (eg student recruitment systems) based on Dynamics CRM.

    Where to find out more

    http://www.microsoft.com/online/dynamics-crm-online.mspx

    And yes, there’s a free trial (available on the link above)


    image

    Microsoft Private Cloud Infrastructure

    This is a set of resources, products, and management tools that allows you to run your own private cloud (or contract another organisation to do it for you), using the best practice techniques that we have developed for our cloud infrastructure. It enables you to dynamically pool, allocate, and manage resources to deliver flexible/agile Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Capabilities like self-service portals let your end-users rapidly consume IT services by self-provisioning (and decommissioning) infrastructure on a shared server fabric, virtualised by Windows Server Hyper-V and managed by System Center. Departments are thus able to deploy their applications with a lot more speed and agility. This allows your own IT team to focus their time on solving business problems rather than worrying about keeping the basic infrastructure running. It provides a less complex, more agile and more efficient infrastructure, in-house. And there’s also a hybrid model, where you contract a service hoster to provider a ‘virtual private cloud’, perhaps as a top-up to your in-house infrastructure.

    How do you buy it?

    Well, because it is based on a set of best practice advice, you’ll find that the key components are being built into the products you already have – like Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V – and the Systems Management Server products. And in addition, we’re releasing free toolkits – like the Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit for System Center and the Dynamic Data Centre Toolkit for Hosters.

    Where to find out more

    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/private-cloud/default.aspx


    image

    Office Web Apps

    The Office Web Apps are online companions for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Office Web Apps provide quick viewing of Office documents and basic editing capabilities. There are three methods of accessing Office Web Apps.

    • Individuals (eg your students off campus) can use the Web Apps in Windows Live, and the files are stored online in their webspace on their SkyDrive.
    • For institutional use, they can be hosted on premise on your SharePoint 2010 or they can be hosted with Microsoft Online. In this mode, files are stored within your infrastructure. It is mainly intended as a companion to the full Office suite, but available over the web when you don’t have Office installed, or when it speeds up sharing and collaboration.
    • Office Web Apps is included within the Live@edu and the Office 365 for education services (see above)
    How do you buy it?

    Individuals can access it on Windows Live using their Windows Live ID. For institutional use, every licence for Office 2010 under a volume licence scheme (such as a Select licence) includes an additional licence for Office Web Apps.

    Where to find out more

    http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010/en/office-web-apps/default.aspx


    imageForefront Online Protection for Exchange

    This is a fully hosted service for managing the inbound and outbound flow of e-mail, through e-mail gateways with multiple filters that provide organizations with a defence against e-mail-borne malware, including spam, viruses, phishing scams, and e-mail policy violations. In addition, the service has a Web-based administrative console for writing rules to help enforce your organisation policies governing e-mail usage (eg limiting which domains users can send/receive email from etc)

    How do you buy it?

    You would normally buy it through your existing volume licence agreement, on a per-user or per-device basis.

    Where to find out more

    http://www.microsoft.com/online/exchange-hosted-services/filtering.mspx


    imageWindows InTune

    This is a cloud service for managing Windows PCs over the web. It allows you to use a single web-based console, with tools for updates, malware protection, troubleshooting, remote assistance, security policy configuration and desktop virtualisation. The aim is to simplify PC management and improve the end-user experience. 

    It is ideal for smaller networks, such as managing a primary school network, or a remote network in a university which isn’t fully managed through your existing IT infrastructure.

    How do you buy it?

    You will pay per-device, per-month, and it can be purchased individually, or as part of your existing volume licence agreement.

    Where to find out more

    www.windowsintune.com

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