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

  • Education

    Global Education Partner Summit at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


    imageIf you are planning to go to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012 (WPC) in July in Toronto, then you might also want to schedule a couple of extra days on your travel plans to allow you to attend the Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit which will be held on either side of the main WPC days.


    • Sunday 8th July 2012 – Global Education Partner Summit @ WPC Day One
    • Monday 9th to Thursday 12th – Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012
    • Friday 13th July 2012 – Global Education Partner Summit @ WPC Day Two

    Last year, we were a little late in confirming the dates with partners, so it caused a hiccup for some travel plans (and more importantly, a few people missed it because they had flights pre-arranged). So this year, I’m going to publish the dates now, even though we can’t yet disclose the agenda for the two Education Summit days.

    A group of Australian partners were able to attend the main four day Global Education Partner Summit in February in Seattle this year, but for many, I know that it can be a choice between attending that or attending WPC. So now you can do both!

    If you are interested in attending, for the minute, pop it in your diary, and keep an eye out here for more details. And also drop me an email, and I’ll make sure I send you details directly for agenda, registration process etc.

    Learn MoreEmail me to receive updated info on GEPS@WPC when I have it

  • Education

    The power of TED for education – coming to your classroom in condensed form


    I love listening to TED talks. I only wish I had enough time when I was sitting in front of a screen and could watch more of them. Today I discovered that they have started releasing their first batch of Ted Education talks – very short videos that are ideal as a classroom plenary, or to plant a seed of an idea with students.

    Today, they’re available on the Ted-Ed YouTube channel, but there will soon be a Ted-Ed channel on the main TED website (which is a better idea, given how many schools block YouTube, and the problem created for teachers by noxious comments on YouTube videos.

    Here’s one I watched today, which I believe in completely:

    The power of simple words–something I believe in deeply

    Visit the Ted-Ed channel, to find some of their first batch of videos, on pandemics, containerisation, cockroaches, evolution and a bunch of other subjects.

  • Education

    Sway for publishing curriculum resources–helpful updates for teachers in April


    When the Office team launched Sway, the newest member of the Microsoft Office family, I wrote about how helpful it would be for teachers and students.

    imageThe simplest way I can describe Sway is that it lets you publish visually attractive materials, including multimedia elements, that will look good on a PC browser or a student’s smartphone, without you having to know too much about design or the device the reader will see it on. It’s very different to PDFs, which might look great on a big screen, but become unreadable on a phone as you’ll be constantly zooming in and out on text and diagrams.

    Since it was launched last October, I’ve been experimenting with it for different kinds of online publications. For example a white paper on student attrition, a travel diary and for trialling conversion of PDF/paper publications. None of these are amazing productions, as they’re the result of me playing with Sway’s features.

    Since the first version of Sway was rolled out, there have been a huge number of updates announced on the Sway blog, so here’s a run down of key Sway features for teachers and students announced so far this month:

    Collaborative creation and editing of Sways

    • You can add additional authors by simply inviting them with a link
    • Keep track of who has access and who is editing from the My Sways page
    • Whilst you’re editing a sway, you can see who else is editing at the same time

    These features are great to allow a teacher or student to start off a piece of work, and then amend it collaboratively. Eg a teacher creates a framework, and then students add their own text and pictures into their piece, creating one single Sway at the end. Or students could work collaboratively on a Sway on different devices – from a browser, or in the iPad or iPhone app – making it easier to add their own photos from their device.

    • Make a copy of a Sway

    This is handy for a teacher to create a template for a homework assignment, or a reporting template, or a lesson plan, and then make a copy each time they want to use it, or share it with students.

    More about the collaborative features in Sway

    Interactive Charts and embedded objects

    • You can now create a chart in Sway that users can click on items to refine the view (eg to remove datasets, or focus on specific lines in a line chart)
    • Since January you have been able to embed other objects from the web (like YouTube videos), and now the team have simplified the process of embedding Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDF documents and PowerPoint slides – making drag and drop.

    This would be useful where you have a pre-existing curriculum resource, like a PowerPoint or worksheet, and you want to provide it to students alongside a multimedia lesson plan.

    More about the interactive and embedded objects in Sway

    All on top of what Sway already had…

    All of this is in addition to the new features added to Sway since launch, like the iPhone apps, the import from PDF/Word/PowerPoint documents.

    Learn More

    You can dive into using Sway straight away at,

    or take a look at the Sway team’s examples of use cases for teachers,

    or read some of the stories of what other people have done with Sway:
  • Education

    Update 9–Windows 8 education apps from Australia


    I've written before about Lucas Moffitt, an independent developer who's writing Windows 8 apps to help teachers.  He's turning them out pretty quickly – Australian Teacher Professional Standards Evaluator, Class Seater and Lesson Coder – and he's just had his most ambitious project published in the Windows Store.


    Essay Marker

    Essay Marker is a new way for teachers to create, collect and mark student essays, with Windows 8. Essay marker is built with the quality teaching framework in mind, by enabling the teacher to provide quality customised feedback for each student.

    The software allows teachers to create and share Assessment tasks, and collect & evaluate/mark student assessments. Once you've finished marking, you can see visual representations of your evaluation averages, and then export assessment results in MS Office formats.

    Essay Marker on Windows 8 - screenshot

    Essay Marker radial menuThe screenshot above gives you a good idea of how it works – basically, with a touch device, or a normal mouse and keyboard, you can highlight a bit of text, and the radial menu (right) pops up offering you the ability to comment on grammar or spelling, or make a comment under four categories – negative, positive, general or 'irrelevant'. You select the type of comment, and can then add it.
    Rather than me trying to describe how it works, the best bet would be to watch the Essay Marker overview video that Lucas has created:

    Unlike many of the Windows 8 apps, which assume that you can use it without support, Lucas has made the wise decision to include a Getting Started page on the home screen, which gives you a guide to get going. And the video above is definitely something to watch to understand what the capabilities are.

    As this software is significantly more capable than the smaller apps that Lucas has released so far for Windows 8, there's a new model for paying for it. The basic version is free – and includes advertising within it – and then if you want the advanced features (such as export) then you'll need to pay a small fee (about $5) to buy the upgrade to the full version. I think this is a good way to do it, because it means teachers can get a very clear idea of the software before having to commit money to it! Although other software uses the 'trial' version option from Windows Store, this way is better, as it means you don't just have a couple of weeks to give it a go.

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 Education apps here

  • Education

    Improving school to home communication by giving parents access to Office 365 for education


    imageMy colleague, James Marshall, is a whizz with Office 365 for education. And he regularly shares information on his UK Education Cloud Blog on how to use the Office 365 cloud services to support education organisations (from both an IT management and user perspective). I really recommend following his blog if you're after up to date information.

    I've used some of the information from his blog post "Parent Access to SharePoint Online using PALs" to describe some scenarios where you can use Office 365 for education to improve your communications with parents. I've written this from a school perspective, but the same applies to TAFE or University where you want to securely communicate and interact with external users, including parents, business partners, researchers etc

    Using Office 365 to improve secure parental communications and save costs

    imageThere’s all sorts of information that schools need to provide to parents, and traditionally this has resulted in copious amounts of paper being given to students to put in their bag, often never to be seen again! This not only involves tonnes of paper, but also massive cost. Increasingly schools have turned to their websites, or social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, to distribute information but sometimes there are things schools need to distribute to a restricted audience (things you want parents to know, but not tell the world; or things that are only relevant to one particular group of parents only). The good news is that if you're using Office 365 for education (the free cloud-based office service that gives you email, SharePoint, Lync, and Office web apps as an online service) you can use the website, team collaboration and publishing services to make this whole process easier.

    You can enable parent access to the SharePoint Online service in Office 365 for education using PALs (Partner Access Licence). And the good news is that the PALs are provided automatically as part of the Office 365 service.

    Scenarios for school to home collaboration with parents

    What sort of information could you publish? Here’s a few examples:

    • Internal school contact information – this could be information on how to contact a particular form tutor, or an up to date staff listing etc.
    • Event dates – some events like an open evening you want to promote to the world, but other events such as sports day or parents evening you might want to make available to a more limited audience.
    • School trip information – creating a dedicated team site for a particular school trip that you can grant parents access in order to share important information such as the trip itinerary, contact information, blogs, photos, etc. It can be a great way to keep in touch with home, but not tell the whole world about it!

    There is a bunch of jargon here, so here’s a few definitions:

    • PAL – partner access licence. Each SharePoint Online tenant in Office 365 for education gets 10,000 of these included.
    • External User – another name for someone that doesn’t exist as a licenced user object in Office 365. Typically your staff and students will have SharePoint Online licences, but as parents can’t be given these licenses they are external users. External users are invited by email address. The email address can be from any domain, but must be associated with a Microsoft Account. Each External User consumes one PAL.
    • External Contact – these represent people outside of your institution who can be displayed in the shared address book (GAL). They don’t have a mailbox in Exchange Online, and can’t sign in to your domain. They are also totally separate from External Users.

    Enabling parental access to Office 365 for education in three simple steps

    Enabling this functionality can be done in three simple steps:

    1. Enable external sharing for SharePoint Onlineby default SharePoint Online does not allow external users. To enable the potential for external users to be invited to any of the sit collections in your environment you need to enable the feature.
    2. Activate external sharing for a site collection – after the SharePoint Online environment has been set to allow external sharing, site collection administrators can choose whether or not to allow external users to be invited to sites in their site collections.
    3. Share your site with external users – now that you’ve activated external sharing, and allowed it on your chosen site collection(s), you can start sharing it with people.


    Keep in mind that once you invite external users to one part of your site, it is easy to grant them permission to other sites – which means if your staff get carried away, you may be sharing more than you first planned. So you should ensure that you know the identity of users who are invited through e-mail and consider confirming their identity before granting an external user access to content.

    An external user invitation can be accepted only one time. The invitation email can be forwarded to another recipient who can use the invitation to access the SharePoint site. However, after the e-mail invitation has been accepted, it expires.

    If you attempt to invite an external user to use your site when your school has set SharePoint Online to deny external users, you will see a note in the 'Share Site' box that that says, “Invitations to users outside your organization are currently disabled.”

    To use an email address, such as *, to log on to a SharePoint Online site, the email address must first be associated with a Microsoft account. You can register an email address with your Microsoft account by following the steps at this website.

    More Info

    You can read up on this topic in a few different places:

  • Education

    When software is indistinguishable from magic


    Sometimes you see people do something with software that looks more like a magic trick. The really visual examples end up on the stage at TED. But sometimes the examples are just too technical for a broad audience - like the two videos below about desktop optimisation.

    I've heard about the power of virtualised desktops for a long time. And it was when I watched this video that it all clicked together for me and made sense of just how useful this would be for an education customer. The ability to deploy a massive arrange of software applications, without having to worry about them clashing with each other or causing your computers to become unstable. And the way that the applications, operating system and user files can just follow your students around.

    Because most education network systems were setup before this kind of technology became popular, it's little used in schools today (although increasingly in higher ed). But this approach seems to solve lots of real problems that IT managers in education face every day.

    Watch the two short demonstrations (both in plain english!) and see if you can distinguish the difference between 'magic' and the 'optimized desktop'.

    Part One - an overview


    Part Two - the really magic bit
  • Education

    What skills do I need for the future?


    Office 365 Header

    When we announced the global Student Advantage programme, it meant that students could get the full Office suite when their institution subscribed for their staff (see ‘The best way to get Office for student BYOD devices’). Part of the reason that supported doing it was some new research from IDC on skills requirements for tomorrow's best jobs, which analysed the current and future jobs market to understand what skills employers are currently looking for, and will look for in the future.

    Learn MoreSkills Requirements for Tomorrow's Best Jobs:
    Helping Educators Provide Students with Skills and Tools They Need

    IDC did their analysis by scanning 14.6 million US job postings for six months this year and identified the 20 most common skills required for those positions. They also used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including data on 2010 employment and forecasts for 2020, to understand future employment trends, and to identify 60 occupations that have above average growth potential and salary potential between 2013 and 2020.

    Which roles are going to grow fastest in numbers and salary by 2020?

    IDC categorised all of the data into groups of roles to produce the following chart:


    So by 2020 we’re going to see more demand for people to work in medical, sales and marketing, education, IT and managerial roles. These roles in the chart are expected to account for 28% of new jobs in 2020, with a median salary that’s 51% higher than for all occupations.

    What skills are needed for the high growth employment roles?

    The IDC report looked at the top skills required for all occupations, and the analysis showed the top five skills employers are looking for were:

    1. Oral and written communication skills
    2. Detail oriented
    3. Microsoft Office
    4. Customer service oriented
    5. Organisational skills

    It’s notable that Microsoft Office was the only software package that employers called out within the top 20 skills list. Microsoft Office is at number 3, PowerPoint is at number 11, and Word is at number 13. The full list of top 20 skills is on Page 7, Figure 2 in the IDC report.

    When they correlated the top skills against the top growth occupations, they found the correlation got stronger – the top 5 skills were in even higher demand in these roles (and 16 of the top 20). The most common skills that employers are looking for are cross-functional, rather than occupation-specific skills. As IDC put it (on page 9):


    This high concentration of cross-functional skills suggests that high school students require "job readiness" and not "job training" for success. The skills most needed for the best jobs cut across many occupations, so educators should consider focusing on the skills with the broadest applicability to success. In contrast, skills associated with specific occupations are less applicable for the broader occupation set, implying that they should receive less emphasis in general high school curricula.


    Communication, integration and presentation skills (CIPs) are required for about 40 percent of all positions and make up 11 of the top 20 skills that are required by 39 percent of the fastest growing, highest paying positions. As Cushing Anderson, program vice president of Project-Based Services at IDC says in the report:

      Of the more than 11,000 skills we examined, it is interesting to see the play between hard and soft skills. Many of the top 20 skills reinforce the other; the skills we identified are not taken in isolation but rather are a golden set of skills that are consistently important. Seventy percent of the high-growth, high-wage occupations frequently require at least one of the top 20 skills.  

    IDC make a series of really important points on Pages 14/15 about the assessment of communication, integration and presentation skills capabilities.  They assert that assessments should be used to demonstrate students’ mastery of material and help improve the teaching and learning process. And IDC calls for programs to include formative adaptive assessments, performance-based tasks to demonstrate communication, integration and presentation skills capabilities, and appropriate technologies to facilitate consistent administration and evaluation of assessments. They also caution employers that it is unrealistic to expect schools to prepare students for specific jobs or even a specific industry, and that they must assume the responsibility of training new career entrants in the job-specific skills the occupation requires.

    The whole report is worth a read, both for the data points it includes, and for the help it contains for advising your students (and their parents!) about what lies around the corner in the job marketplace.

    Learn MoreSkills Requirements for Tomorrow's Best Jobs:
    Helping Educators Provide Students with Skills and Tools They Need

  • Education

    Copenhagen Business School moves to the Cloud


    imageCopenhagen Business School recently switched their student email to the Cloud, using Live@edu.

    The case study video below goes into detail about their selection and approval process (they involved students alongside the IT team in the selection process) and one of the quotes in the video reminded me of the closeness between Business Schools and future employers: "We liked the fact that everyone at some point in time has been in contact with Microsoft Office, which is why we chose something that people could recognise."

    One of the quotes in the video is something I've heard quite a few times when talking to customers, but it always strikes me as odd when I hear it:

      The transition has been very smooth….we heard almost nothing from the students. And we take that as a sign that it has been a success  

    It's almost as though the measure of success for IT implementations is that nobody has noticed you've done anything. And, if that is the case, then perhaps IT is underselling the business value it delivers to the organisation!

    View the video on the main Microsoft website

  • Education

    The Big Picture Experience for education partners


    The Big Picture Experience header

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Hopefully, if you’re based near either Melbourne or Sydney, you’ve already registered to come along to The Big Picture Experience. There are two separate dates in each city:

    • Melbourne
      • 22nd November for Microsoft partners
      • 23rd November for all customers
    • Sydney
      • 30th November for Microsoft partners
      • 1st December for all customers

    The events are being run as an ‘experience’, rather than as a conventional conference, so we’ve thrown away the usual long-dry agenda with the audience sitting down for hours on end. Instead, we’re creating an experience more like a theme park - lots of different zones to explore and learn in:

    • The Future of Productivity
    • Ultimate customer experiences
    • Insights 24/7
    • Mission control
    • The Modern Home
    • A World of Devices

    The Big Picture Experience for Partners

    Big Picture Partner DayKeynote

    On the partner days, we’re going to kick off the day with a keynote, and then it’s up to you to plan the rest of the day how you want it. The keynote speaker, Steve Vamos (named in the top five most influential members of the Australian technology industry by the Australian Financial Review), will share his perspective on leadership, innovation and how the potential of people and organisations is greater than ever before. Steve is the president of the Society for Knowledge Economics (SKE) and a non-executive director of Telstra. SKE is a Sydney-based think tank which researches corporate leadership, culture and management in knowledge-based globally-connected economies.

    Education Partner briefings

    For partners working with education customers, I’m going to be running a number of half-hour workshops, where we’ll be providing a briefing on the education licensing programmes available for Authorised Education Resellers, and looking at three key market opportunities, including the opportunities to supply Microsoft Academic subscriptions to private schools. For all partners focusing on education, whether or not you’re the licensing partner, we’ll look at key ways to grow your education business.

    You do not need to pre-book these workshop sessions, as they will be available on a first-come, first-served basis in the Briefing Room at 11am, and 1, 3 and 4pm.

    Register for the partner events

    Tue 22 Nov, 8am - 5pm
    Check in and explore the showcase from 8.00am, keynote starts at 9.15am
    Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, 2 Clarendon St, South Wharf
    Bing Maps | Directions | Add to Outlook calendar
    Register Now and get your DigiPack

    Wed 30 Nov, 8am - 5pm
    Check in and explore the showcase from 8.00am, keynote starts at 9.15am

    Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre – Hall 5
    Bing Maps | Directions | Add to Outlook calendar
    Register Now and get your DigiPack

    The Big Picture Experience for Customers


    The customer days have exactly the same look and feel as our partner day, but instead of a big keynote, there are a number of mini keynotes and case studies throughout the day. There will also be many members of the education team on hand throughout the day, so that you can put faces to names, and get a chance for a deep and meaningful conversation! Oh, and over 100 other Microsoft people will be around each day, so there’s bound to be an expert in whatever subject you’re interested in.

    I can speak from experience of organising the Microsoft team at the world’s largest education IT exhibition at BETT, that having so many Microsoft people in one place means that it gives you access to knowledge that might normally take weeks to track down!

    The Big Picture website has a full agenda and detailed event guide, so I’d recommend jumping over there for full details and to register.

    Register for the customer events

    Wed 23 Nov - 9am - 6pm
    Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre2 Clarendon St, South Wharf
    Bing Maps| Directions | Add to Outlook calendar
    Find out more and register

    Thu 1 Dec - 9am - 6pm
    Sydney Convention & Exhibition
    Centre – Hall 5
    Bing Maps | Add to Outlook calendar
    Find out more and register

  • Education

    Feeling nostalgic? Your students may not be


    Over in Los Angeles, there are thousands of Microsoft partners gathered together for the Microsoft World Partner Conference (you can follow along on the DigitalWPC website). The big events like this often produce new product announcements, but what has caught me eye is an announcement linked to both old and new products.

    400 million copies of Windows 7, and counting

    Tami Reller, who is the Corporate Vice President of the Windows business, said some interesting things, and made a few announcements on new things during her keynote. The announcement that I noticed was that customers have now bought 400 million copies of Windows 7 - which means it’s being adopted at three times the pace of Windows XP. And that was linked to the stat that 27% of the Internet runs Windows 7. [That’s all in this transcript] And Tami told stories of customers who’d committed to moving their users to the latest version of Windows (including General Motors, Ford, Dow Chemical and San Diego school district). All good so far.

    Two thirds of business PC are still on Windows XP

    Windows XP logoThe shock came when Tami said that today, the problem is that two-thirds of PCs are still on Windows XP (despite the cost savings possible with Windows 7 and the fact that there’s only a thousand days to end of life for Windows XP).

    I know that it’s not quite as bad as that in Australian education customers, but there’s still a sizeable proportion of computers in schools, TAFEs and universities that are running Windows XP. Whilst I know that some staff will like this (after all, they have a reputation for resisting change), it does mean that students are probably getting the worst deal.

    97% of students have their own PC at home - and the overwhelming majority will be running Windows 7 on it.

    And then they come into the classroom. And they are expected to use a computer running Windows XP - an operating system that was launched in 2001. And that doesn’t do any of the cool, media savvy things that they can do on their home computer.

    What’s my point?

    Students are used to living, working, collaborating and communicating in a digital age. And if we want them to be engaged in the classroom, then perhaps asking them to turn their clocks back ten years when they switch on a computer isn’t fair, and isn’t going to engage them.

    So, to put it into perspective, here’s ten things that your students have never lived without - and which didn’t even exist when we launched Windows XP…

    Ten things that didn’t exist when Windows XP was launched in October 2001

    1. The iPod (came along in November 2001)
    2. Xbox (also November 2001)
    3. iTunes for Windows (that didn’t arrive until April 2003, nearly two years after the iPod)
    4. 3G phones (didn’t arrive in Australia until April 2003 either)
    5. LinkedIn (that wasn’t invented until May 2003)
    6. Skype (August 2003)
    7. Facebook (that arrived in February of 2004)
    8. Xbox 360 (ie the connected one. That arrived in May 2005)
    9. Video chat as part of MSN Messenger (came along in August 2005)
    10. Video chat in Skype (even later, January 2006)
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