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

  • Education

    Office templates to help families of children with autism


    Microsoft Office logoMy colleagues in the US have been working with Autism Speaks and the University of Washington Autism Centre to produce a series of free PowerPoint templates that can be customised to explain social situations to children with autism, as well as a series a Word templates of documents and forms for the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit. The Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit was created specifically for newly diagnosed families to make the best possible use of the 100 days following their child's diagnosis of autism, Asperger's Syndrome (AS), or high-functioning autism (HFA).

    The PowerPoint templates cover social situations such as going to a restaurant, going to the doctor, personal hygiene, getting ready for school, and getting ready for bed; and the Word templates cover initial planning, progress tracking and transition planning.

    Although these templates haven’t been developed specifically for Australia, they are still a good starting point for parents or educational professionals looking for resources, and they can be further customised for specific children, or generically for Australian scenarios. The templates are all available freely online (and if you wanted to publish localised versions, then I’m sure that Autism Speaks would love to hear from you)

    Learn MoreGet the autism templates on the Office website

    or read more articles on this blog related to accessibility

  • Education

    How education customers can use licence mobility with Dynamics CRM


    Icons_gears_blueLast year, I wrote about changes in our licensing, which introduced Licence Mobility, which arrived last July. This gave customers much more flexibility in their decisions about deploying applications on-premise, and in shared data centres in the cloud – both Microsoft datacentres and those run by our partners. For example, you can now use their licences to run key applications in a data centre which is shared between different customers (previously, a completely different licence type - called SPLA - was needed for shared data centres). For basic details of how the scheme works, take a look at my earlier blog post, but here's a couple of the key points:

    • Licence mobility applies when you buy your Microsoft server software with Software Assurance.
      For education customers, that's automatically included in our Subscription Agreements (EES, School Agreement and Campus Agreement), but if you buy your licences under Select or Open schemes, Software Assurance is an addition.
    • Licence mobility covers servers for Dynamics CRM, System Center, Lync, SharePoint, SQL and Exchange
    • There must be 90 days between each move to the cloud and back (so no moving your servers to the cloud just for the weekend Smile)

    There's a more detailed presentation that steps through the scenarios, and explains in detail what is now possible. For example, this slide demonstrates the gap filled by the new licence mobility, and differentiates between this and the SPLA licensing. Basically, licence mobility allows you to run a dedicated application on shared hardware, whereas SPLA works for shared applications on shared hardware.

    Licence mobility for Dynamics

    So here's how an education customer can use licensing mobility with Dynamics CRM:

    A university wants to run a student recruitment system with Dynamics CRM - and rather than having it setup on their own server, they want their partner to run the service in an hosted data centre. (This makes lots of sense, as the hoster is likely to provide 24x7 uptime support, a guaranteed SLA, and out of hours support).

    The partner is happy to host the Dynamics CRM, and will run it on virtualised servers (who wouldn't?) which means that the hardware is shared - there may be a bunch of other systems from other organisations running on the same physical server.

    Previously, the partner would have had to license this through SPLA licensing, and because this was complicated, it tended to put people off (both partners and customers).

    With Licence Mobility, what now happens is that the education customer simply moves their Academic licences to cover the hosted setup, avoiding the potential duplication of licences, or confusion of multiple licence types. The partner is responsible for licensing the Windows Server hosts - which isn't a change for them - but the customer now buys or provides the licences (in this case Dynamics CRM Server) for the applications.

    For the customer there's a bunch of benefits:

    • The licences for Dynamics CRM can be rolled into their existing subscription agreement with Microsoft (most education customers in Australia will have an existing subscription agreement they can add this too)
    • The customer can use Academic licences, which reduces the cost, and in many cases they will have a framework agreement in place that reduces the cost further (for example, universities can buy this through their CAUDIT agreement)
    • Because it's using subscription licences, it means that the customer automatically receives licences for the latest version, so there are no upgrade costs going forward as we release future versions
    • As the customer owns the licences, they can move them between their data centre, a partner shared data centre, or between different partner data centres, without having to re-licence their servers.

    Learn MoreDownload the full 'Licence Mobility' presentation for more information

    * Please bear in mind I'm not a licensing expert, so I'm basing everything above on my understanding of the way it works, and I've tried to simplify the vast amount of licensing information down to the basics.
  • Education

    Something missing?


    Although there’s no deep and meaningful education-specific point made in this video, it is still Valentine’s Day over in the US, so I feel okay sharing it Smile

  • Education

    Which Windows 8 device for next academic year?


    Windows 8 device range

    There's all kinds of new devices running Windows 8 appearing on the shelves of retailers and online stores at the moment. In fact, it seems as if new ones pop up every time I walk away from my screen. Which might lead you to looking at the choices for different Windows devices for next academic year.

    Typically, in most education institutions, there's a need for a range of different devices for different users and scenarios. Something portable and robust for students; something for computer labs; something different for staff; oh, and something really shiny and fast for the leadership team. Whatever the scenario you're buying for, you're going to find a computer that's been tailored precisely for your use - whether it's tablets, convertibles, ultrabooks, laptops, desktops or all-in-ones.

    A good place to start to find out what's available is the Australian Windows 8 website, which highlights some of the great devices now available:

    imageFor my own use, I'm looking for a new home PC that's an All-In-One, that I can put on the countertop in the kitchen for photos, music, video, and to become the hub for my other laptops around the house. And my current favourite is the Sony VAIO Tap 20, which seems to have the right design to be acceptable to my wife, the right portability to make my children happy (it's got a built-in battery, so we can move it onto coffee table for games or video), and the right price and specification to make me happy.
    And the hidden bonus that according to the picture, it can levitate Smile

    Find MoreFind your new Windows 8 PC here

  • Education

    Microsoft Office training in Australia in early 2013–for partners and customers


    Office training in Australia from MicrosoftThe new Office has already been made available for our volume licence customers (yep, that pretty much means every education customer in Australia has been able to install it since early December, so I know what some IT teams will be busy with over the summer holidays). Well, to go with it, there's a pile of new training courses under the 'Ignite' brand for partners and customers coming up in the next couple of months (the first run of these filled up too quickly).

    And some of them are free, whilst others you'll pay for, but they all offer the same great experience of hands-on Office training in Australia:

    Lync Ignite – four day training workshop

    The Microsoft Lync Ignite is a training workshop for partners and customers who are proactively looking to stay ahead of the market by delivering and using a highly reliable unified communications solution. The four day Ignite workshop includes presentations that cover a wide variety of Lync topics, both on-premise and online, and hands-on labs that create an interactive Lync experience (so you'll be bringing your laptop…)

    • Sydney 19 – 22 Feb
    • Perth 25 – 28 Feb
    • This course lasts four days, and costs $480 plus GST

    To find out more, see the full agenda, and register for Lync Ignite training

    Exchange, Office and Office 365 Ignite – three day training workshop

    The Exchange, Office and Office 365 Ignite workshop has been designed as deep technical training for IT implementers and Exchange administrators, who either develop, design or deploy for their organisations or customers. The training content is a mix of presentations and hands-on labs that parallel real world experience delivered by Microsoft certified experts. The content provided throughout the course requires both a technical background and experience with prior versions of the product and/or service in order for the content to be valuable

    • Brisbane 30 Jan – 1 Feb
    • Perth 30 Jan – 1 Feb
    • Melbourne 9 – 11 April
    • Sydney 16 – 18 April
    • This course is free BUT we do charge $500 for no-shows (because you'll have taken a place somebody would have used!)

    To find out more, see the full agenda, and register for Exchange, Office and Office 365 Ignite training


    SharePoint 2013 Ignite workshop for developers – three day training workshop

    The Microsoft SharePoint Ignite bootcamp was created to enable our partners and customers to effectively design, deploy, and administer solutions specific to SharePoint products. The course comprises deep technical training across all product associated workloads. The training content is a mix of different level presentations as well as hands-on labs that parallel real world experience.

    • Melbourne 4 – 6 Feb
    • Sydney 11 – 13 Feb
    • Brisbane 18 – 20 Feb
    • This course lasts four days, and costs $450 plus GST

    To find out more, see the full agenda, and register for the SharePoint 2013 Ignite training for developers

    SharePoint 2013 Ignite training for IT professionals – two day training workshop

    The Microsoft SharePoint Ignite bootcamp was created to enable our partners and customers to effectively design, deploy, and administer solutions specific to SharePoint products. The course comprises deep technical training across all product associated workloads. The training content is a mix of different level presentations as well as hands-on labs that parallel real world experience.

    • Melbourne 7 – 8 Feb
    • Sydney 14 – 15 Feb
    • Brisbane 21 – 22 Feb
    • This course lasts four days, and costs $300 plus GST

    To find out more, see the full agenda, and register for the SharePoint 2013 Ignite training for IT professionals

    City by city summary of Office training in Australia

    • SharePoint for developers: 4-6 Feb
    • SharePoint for IT professionals: 7-8 Feb
    • Exchange, Office and Office 365: 9-11 Aprilthe free Melbourne one!
    • Exchange, Office and Office 365: 30 Jan-1 Febthe free Brisbane one!
    • SharePoint for developers: 18-20 Feb
    • SharePoint for IT professionals: 21-22 Feb
    • Exchange, Office and Office 365: 30 Jan-1 Febthe free Perth one!
    • Lync for customers and partners: 25-28 Feb
  • Education

    Australian case study - Using Lync to replace a PABX, to cut costs and improve productivity


    Although this Australian case study is of a local government customer, rather than an education one, I think that it's relevant because there are so many aspects of a council that match education institutions:

    • Hundreds of staff distributed across multiple sites (in Adelaide City Council's case, 700 staff across 19 different premises)
    • Expensive legacy PABX systems heading towards end of life (and costing huge amounts in maintenance charges)
    • Increasing need to replace travel with remote collaboration and conferencing
    • Need to replace dedicated video conferencing suites with desktop video conferencing
    • Flexible working style requiring anytime, anywhere access to facilities
    • High capacity data network already installed
    • Staff are used to bringing, and using, their own devices too
    • A need to reduce risk to service delivery in and after any change

    Pretty much all of those issues are identical for education institutions.

    Adelaide City Council Lync case study

    Adelaide City Council logoWhat the council have done is replace an ageing conventional telephone system with a Microsoft Lync unified communication system, linking telephone, video and audio conferencing, and their existing email system in Exchange. But it wasn't something that they could rush into. According to David Carroll, the Infrastructure and Operations Team Leader for Adelaide City Council:

      Before we deployed network-based telephony, we had to prove it would be one hundred percent reliable. Second, we had to create a business case that clearly demonstrated value for money. Third, our design had to be adaptable: we had two sites where staff used specialist cordless analogue phones that they did not want to decommission, so our network design had to accommodate them.  

    Many education customers already have Lync licences included within their EES agreements, or can get some of the capabilities within the free Office 365 for education service (although the telephony bit definitely isn't included free!). So the cost of deploying a system similar to Adelaide's won't be prohibitive – and the savings that can be made by switching from a PABX are a big incentive (Adelaide report that their annual phone costs are now a quarter of what they used to be):

      In addition, we have eliminated phone re-routing costs. Now, connections follow staff wherever they are and as a consequence we are a far more flexible organisation.  

    The list of benefits that the council report in the case study are impressive (you'll need to read the case study for the details behind each of these bullet points):

    • Improved productivity
    • Dramatically lower telephony costs
    • Reduced travel and emissions
    • Simplified technical support

    Learn MoreRead the full  Adelaide City Council Lync case study

    (If you want to find Lync partners in Australia, then Microsoft Pinpoint is the easiest way)

  • Education

    Using the cloud as a supercomputer: How to analyse 63 billion genetic data points in three days


    In the good old days (you know, like five years ago) you needed a supercomputer to do massive data analysis jobs. University research departments either had to build their own, or buy precious schedule time on somebody else's supercomputer. You had to be pretty sure that your research was important, and going to deliver a valuable result, before you could contemplate committing such a major investment of computing time.

    These days, you can often replace a supercomputer with cloud services – meaning supercomputers are all around and anybody with a credit card can rent them by the hour as a simple cloud service. My colleague Steve Clayton has just written about a series of projects from Microsoft Research where they are using the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud to analyse massive volumes of data as they research deep medical problems, such as diabetes, Crohn's disease and coronary artery disease:


    Research in these areas is notoriously tricky due to the requirement for a large amount of data and the potential for false positives arising from data sourced from related individuals. A technique and algorithm known as linear mixed models (LMMs) can eliminate this issue but they take an enormous amount of compute time and memory to run. To avoid this computational roadblock, Microsoft Research developed the Factored Spectrally Transformed Linear Mixed Model (better known as FaST-LMM), an algorithm that extends the ability to detect new biological relations by using data that is several orders of magnitude larger. It allows much larger datasets to be processed and can, therefore, detect more subtle signals in the data. Utilizing Windows Azure, MSR ran FaST-LMM on data from the Wellcome Trust, analyzing 63,524,915,020 pairs of genetic markers for the conditions mentioned above.

    27,000 CPU’s were used over a period of 72 hours. 1 million tasks were consumed —the equivalent of approximately 1.9 million compute hours. If the same computation had been run on an 8-core system, it would have taken 25 years to complete.

    That’s supercomputing on demand and it’s available to everyone – as is the result of this job in Epistasis GWAS for 7 common diseases in the Windows Azure Marketplace.


    There's a short video case study on YouTube (and with possibly the most intelligent set of comments on a YouTube video I've ever seen!).

    Learn MoreRead more…
    The Microsoft Research Connections blog has more detailed information on this and other research projects where projects are able to replace a supercomputer with cloud services.

  • Education

    Using Microsoft translation tools in education


    For years, the challenge of creating and managing translations of content and curriculum has been looked at by people in the academic/tech world as “too hard, I’ll look at it later”. And yet, with $15 billion of revenue for Australian universities and TAFEs coming from international students, perhaps it’s a good time to take a look at a couple of the translation tools that exist in the Microsoft portfolio, to see whether it might help you in creating multi-lingual versions of some of your projects. Some of things that you could consider using the services for include:

    • Publish curriculum materials automatically in multiple languages, or with one-click live translation (link)
    • Creating promotional materials in multiple languages, eg offer your student recruitment pages in the languages of your top 10 international recruitment countries
    • Add a Translator Widget onto every page of your website (link)
    • Allow live chat between students, or between students and staff, in multiple simultaneous languages
    • Build translation directly into apps you develop and release (link)


    Microsoft Translator

    imageWith the proliferation of digital content on the web, mobile devices and desktop applications, there is an increasing demand to communicate and collaborate in multiple languages. Automatic translation enables communication, collaboration and the ability to conduct business across language barriers.

    Microsoft Translator offers automatic, linguistically informed statistical machine translation between any of 39 languages, and has a whole series of interfaces to make it easy for web and software developers to use it.

    The Machine Translation technology behind Microsoft Translator is built on more than a decade of work at Microsoft Research and delivers a flexible, instant and cost-effective automatic translation service to any destination; helping to break the language barrier for businesses, developers and users alike. The rich and accessible translation API empowers application developers and solution providers to deliver the translations services customers require.

    Whether seeking solutions for language detection, translation, speech synthesis, product localization or empowering communities to protect indigenous languages, Microsoft Translator provides the services and solutions to accomplish a variety of translation goals across the web, desktop applications and mobile devices.

    For developers, it offers a rich, flexible and simple to use API for custom applications in web, desktop and mobile applications. And a full translator API available on the cloud-based Windows Azure Markeplace. One simple way to use it is to add a translator widget onto a website, allowing users to translate a web page in situ.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Microsoft Translator

    Microsoft Translator Hub

    Microsoft Translator Hub allows you to build, improve, and deploy customised automatic language translation systems - bringing better and specialised translation quality to established languages, as well as the many native languages of the world that are not yet supported by major translation providers. This is ideal for scenarios where you may have content which uses highly technical language with specific meanings (for example, in the engineering faculty). 

    Built on Windows Azure, Microsoft Translator Hub is an extension of the Microsoft Translator platform and service. You can build a superior translation system easily, within a private website, by combining your translated documents with the power of Microsoft Translator’s big data back end. Once you are satisfied with your translation, you may share it publicly on the web.

    Learn MoreLearn more about the Microsoft Translator Hub

  • Education

    BI Executive Forum 2011 - Sydney Melbourne and Canberra


    BI Executive Forum Banner

    Over the next three weeks, we’re co-hosting three ‘BI Executive Forum' events with Oakton in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. It’s not specifically about Business Intelligence (BI) in Education, which means there will be opportunities to learn about the application of BI in various industries - and see how it applies to business intelligence in education. And possibly the best bit is that you don’t just hear about change from a technology perspective, but get to hear users talking about the business issues and the process changes that can be driven through better use of technology solutions. At the Sydney and Canberra event, this includes a speaker from the NSW Department of Education and Communities.

    As John Brand, Vice President of the CIO Group at Forrester Research, puts it:

      Business intelligence is rapidly moving out of the domain of specialist practitioners and into the hands of ordinary users. But simply providing a platform for self-service reporting is unlikely to deliver the desired results. Organisations must recognise and understand the driving forces behind BI becoming a ubiquitous service. Moreover, organisational performance will increasingly be driven by those that successfully institutionalise the process of business intelligence throughout their organisation.  

    The three BI Executive Forums each have a range of external speakers and an expert panel - including analysts and customers - with hosted interviews and Q&A session. John Brand and Mark Jones, Director of Filter Media, will moderate the panel, comprising senior corporate and government leaders. The panels change at each event, and include NSW Department of Education and Communities, Australian Taxation Office, Airservices Australia, Infigen Energy, Australian Leisure and Hospitality (ALH), Salta Properties and Reliance Petroleum.

    The interactive Q&A session will offer the opportunity to be part of a thought leadership conversation around how to:

    • Use Business Intelligence and Business Analytics to drive organisational performance: better align resources, save money and drive corporate growth and innovation.
    • Identify bad data and access, analyse and provide the insight needed to monetise data.
    • Extract data and insights from your ERP systems and pre-existing platform investments.

    The event is going to be of most value to senior leaders in universities, TAFEs and state education systems. It’s the kind of event that you’d expect to pay a steep entry fee for if it was run by a commercial conference company, but because of our sponsorship, this series is actually free to attend for executive leaders.

    BI Executive Forum - Agenda

    7:30am - 8:00am

    Registration followed by hot breakfast

    8:00am - 9:00am

    Why Business Intelligence?
    How Collaborative, Managed and Familiar capabilities enable business users today and will evolve in the future.

    John Brand, Vice President of the CIO Group at Forrester Research

    9:00am - 9:20am

    Providing breakthrough insight across your organisation with Business Intelligence
    Or, in Canberra, “Insight and Accountability —the Path to Government Transparency”

    9:20am - 10:00am

    Panel discussion and Q&A: Managing the data deluge to drive a culture of performance
    Mark Jones will conduct keynote interviews before facilitating an interactive Q&A session:

    • Sydney: Infigen Energy and the NSW Department of Education and Communities.
    • Canberra: Australian Taxation Office, Airservices Australia, Infigen Energy and the NSW Department of Education and Communities
    • Melbourne: Australian Leisure and Hospitality (ALH), Salta Properties and Reliance Petroleum

    BI Executive Forum - venues and dates

    There are three events that you can sign up for:

    Learn MoreMelbourne, 19th October, Microsoft offices in Freshwater Place - Register
    Sydney, 20th October, Hilton Sydney in  George Street - Register
    Canberra, 3rd November, National Portrait Gallery - Register

  • Education

    Microsoft IT Tech Tuesdays – Live Meetings for school IT Managers


    Almost every Tuesday lunchtime we run a Tech Tuesday webcast for school IT managers in Australia. It's a great opportunity to take a look at one of our educational products or solutions in more detail, and there's a wide range of subjects, from specific products like Lync (for unified communications in education) to programmes such as EES (our new licensing scheme for schools) and sessions that are bound to be popular, like 'Free Microsoft Educational Tools'.

    By doing these as Tech Tuesday webcasts, it means that there are all the benefits of a live session, without any of the travel challenges.  Built on Microsoft's collaborative technologies, these live, bite-size presentations are instructor-led, and endeavour to cover a broad range of topics facing schools across the country.

    Tech Tuesdays - Dates and Topics

    17th May - Office Communicator and Lync
    24th May - Product Licensing in Education (EES)
    31st May - Live@EDU for Schools
    7th June - Free Microsoft Educational Tools
    14th June - Cloud Technology in Education
    21st June - Virtualisation in Education
    28th June - Education Desktop Deployment

    All session run from 12-1 EST

    Learn MoreFind out more, and pre-register for the free Tech Tuesdays

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