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

  • Education

    nsquared herding: free Windows 8 education apps from nsquared

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    Another day, another free Windows 8 education app for primary schools from the nsquared team of developers in Sydney!

    It's designed to be used with touch devices, and can either be used by one child, or up to four sitting at opposite ends of a Windows 8 tablet that's laying flat on a desk.

    nsquared herding tile image

    nsquared herding

    Link
    nsquared herding is designed to develop numeracy, pattern matching and object recognition skills.

    Whilst it is designed for up to four players simultaneously it will depend on the device that you use - on a small touch device (like a Microsoft Surface) you may have enough screen space for two players. Each player has to collect the correct numbers of each target object and place them into their own playing area.

    nsquared herding screen shot 

    In the example screen to the right, the students have to collect 2 turtles and 4 starfish each. They do that by herding them - dragging them to their side of the screen using their fingers.  
    The app is free, and there are different activity packs available as an in-app purchase - you don't need them to use the software, but you may find them useful as you integrate this into your curriculum activities. And besides, if it's good classroom software, it's a good idea to encourage the developers in Sydney to build some more by giving them some money for what they've already developed Smile

    Learn MoreLearn more about other Windows 8 apps for education

  • Education

    Update 9–Windows 8 education apps from Australia

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    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.

    image 

    Essay Marker

    Link
    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

    Snippet - Retiring academics create a problem in Higher Education

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    I’ve been collecting interesting snippets (not quite full blog posts) on my Posterous space for a few months. But I thought I’d change the habit and share them on the blog instead. Mainly they comprise an interesting quote and link to an article worth reading, with a short comment to go with it. Some of them are slightly off topic…

    I've recently written a few bits about the crisis around the corner in terms of retiring teachers - with many due to retire in the next decade, and not enough joining the profession to replace them. But I'd completely missed the fact that exactly the same crisis faces higher education - with a wave of retiring academics, and increasing challenges of recruiting replacements. So whatever level of education you look at, the challenge ahead is having enough people in front of students, leading their learning.


    This snippet from: Professor Steven Schwartz Vice-Chancellor's Blog

     

    Universities, however, live in the land of reality and as such their thinking about the future must take into account what is happening to their most prized assets, their academics. Inexorably, inevitably, they are getting older. And while so is everyone else, ageing academics – already older than the average Australian worker – present higher education with some unique challenges.

    According to Professor Graeme Hugo of the National Centre for Social Application of Geographic Information Systems, the high proportion of academics who will be retiring over the next 15 years “confronts the sector with a recruitment challenge”.

     

    Learn MoreRead the original full story

  • Education

    Microsoft Education roadshow coming to Sydney-Melbourne-Perth and Adelaide in November 2012

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    image

    We've got together with a couple of our partners – Generation-e and Paradyne - and are heading out to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth with an education roadshow for schools. And the timing's perfect, because we've got the opposing effects of rapid technology change and squeezed IT budgets, happening right now.

    So we thought you might want some help to consider how to make effective use of cloud technology, and providing your students with sustainable access to a 'no compromise' learning device. Plus, for the IT enthusiasts, there's a need to fill the insatiable appetite for learning about the new technology and product releases – like Windows 8 and Office 365. And that's what the roadshow is all about.

    Logos - Microsoft Paradyne Generation-e

    Agenda

    The aim of the agenda is to pack in as much as possible, and still leave enough time at the end for you to talk with colleagues from other schools and get the chance to see some of the latest Windows 8 devices, and touch and feel some of the new laptops, slates and all-in-one computers.

    8:45am Registration
    9:00am Welcome
    9:15-10am Learning Re-Imagined with Windows 8
    10am-11am Windows 8 Deep Dive: Management, Security, Usability, Devices and more
    11am-11:15am Morning Tea
    11:15am-12pm How to empower your staff, increase productivity and reduce IT costs with cloud computing
    12pm-12:45pm Enhancing collaboration and communication in schools with Lync
    12:45pm-2pm Lunch & Showcase of some of the latest devices

    Make a date: Find out more, and register for the Microsoft Education Roadshow in one of the following cities:

    Make a dateSydney on 23rd November, at our North Ryde offices
    Adelaide on 26th November, at the Microsoft Adelaide office
    Melbourne on 28th November, at our South Bank office
    Perth on 30th November, at Wesley College, Como

    I'll be speaking at the Sydney one, so I'll look forward to meeting some of you face to face for once!

  • Education

    BI Executive Forum 2011 - Sydney Melbourne and Canberra

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    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

    How would a 'Microsoft Education Partner of the Year 2011' award look in your reception?

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    At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, there are lots of awards handed out to our key partners. And the previous winners know how much it helps them to generate new business, get immediate credibility, and open doors.

    So even if you're not going to the Partner Conference itself, then you can (and should!) still nominate yourself for Education Partner of the Year. It's not that difficult - here's the blurb from the website:

    The Public Sector, Education Partner of the Year Award recognizes partners who have exhibited excellence in providing innovative and unique services or solutions based on Microsoft technologies to Education customers. Successful entrants for this Award will demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, as well as consistent, high-quality, predictable service or solutions to Education customers. Successful entrants will also demonstrate business leadership and success through strong growth in new customer additions and revenue such as integrating with Microsoft Cloud based technology like Live@edu and Azure in addition to the Windows Phone platform. Partners applying for this Award should demonstrate effective engagement with Microsoft by leveraging the Microsoft Partner Network to develop, create demand for, and sell their software solutions or services.

    And the good news is that the deadline is now 29th April - which means that you can even do it last minute, and sneak in your entry whilst the Americans and Brits are all watching the Royal Wedding.

    Learn MoreLearn more, and enter your nomination for, the Education Partner of the Year award

     

    As my Dad always said, you've got to be in it to win it.

    And once you've done it, enter for Australian Microsoft Partner of the Year Award too - might as well use the answers twice!

    PS If you're not a Microsoft Partner, but you're a customer of a good one - then tell them to enter.

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - hide the printers

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    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    Make printing more difficult

    When I first started work, printers were only just making an appearance and they were noisy, slow and produced very low quality print. I remember the day that I used the first laser print was magical - so quiet, so fast and so very professional. In those days the printers were plugged into the back of the network server, and a whole office of full of staff used to print to a single printer.

    Then inkjets arrived, and prices of printers started to plummet (but not the price of ink, of course) and what happened then was a huge wave of printers arriving in offices. Suddenly everybody needed their own printer. It didn’t take long for the cost of that to hit - and the realisation that buying a printer cost peanuts, but buying the ink was a massive ongoing cost. (And that’s also about the same time that everybody talked about ‘the paperless office’).

    Although many institutions in education have now switched back to central networked printers (or MFDs - multi-function-devices), if you haven’t yet made printing less convenient for your users, then take action to do it. If you switch printing to a central printer, with a smart card to start the printing process (sometimes called follow-me printing), you’ll cut down on the amount of paper you are using - even if it’s only reducing the number of times people print a document, and then forget to collect it from the printer.

    And if people have to leave their desk to get a printout, they will think twice about printing.

    This may seem like a facile statement, but it’s very true. One school I worked with discovered they had 104 printers - and only 102 staff. People in the same office were unwilling to share a single printer because they didn’t want to have to move to collect their printout. And some staff had both a laser and an inkjet printer.

    At Twynham School they’ve tackled the printing process itself – putting in departmental quotas and building ‘stop and think’ warnings into the machines for large print runs.

    How much paper does centralised follow-me printing save?

    Typically, articles which talk about centralising printers quote 10-15% savings - a figure which I agree with based on first-hand experience. Although it won’t be the same for everybody, it should help you to work out how much paper you can save. And, if you manage to switch staff and students away from printing on inkjets, you’ll save a more significant amount in ink - because it can cost up to 6x as much to print on an inkjet as on a central laser printer. So you’ll save more money, not just paper.

    And with centralised printing, you can easily produce reports for departments or individuals, raising awareness of printer use. Which will also help reduce printing.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Work experience 'cuts dropout rate' according to the BBC

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    According to some research for the UK Education and Employers Taskforce reported by BBC News in the UK at the weekend, work ‘experience’ cuts the likelihood of students dropping out from education. That doesn’t have to be in the conventional way of formal work experience - it can be smaller things like hearing from an employer at a school event, or having a business guest invited to a lesson, or a visit to another workplace. According to the BBC report:

     

    The more young people come into contact with employers while they are at school, the less likely they are to go on to be unemployed, research suggests.
    Pupils who took part in four or more activities with employers were five times less likely to drop out of school or training, it says.
    Those who had no such contact were most likely to be not in education, employment or training.
    Activities included work experience, visits and enterprise competition.

     

    I know that many Australian schools have activities which involve businesses. And equally I know that many find it difficult to organise activities, because businesses can be difficult to contact. And it can be equally difficult for the business to organise activities for large groups of students (I remember the massive orchestration that was required for ‘work experience’ week in the UK, when around 100 High School students joined Microsoft for five days).

    So perhaps next time you’re asking a business for support, you should send them this BBC story to help your case!

    What I can do is also offer to try and help schools if they are looking for a business person to come along and talk to a group of students. In the past, when I’ve done those sessions, I’ve always walked away having learnt a lot, and having answered some tricky questions!

    I’m based in Sydney, but I have colleagues around the country, and connections to business people working in partners around the country too. There are programmers, marketing people, sales people, entrepreneurs running their own businesses - I just might know somebody that could be the person you’re looking for.

    If I can help, my email address is ray.fleming@microsoft.com

  • Education

    Power Platform Briefings–SharePoint plus SQL equals Business Intelligence

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    I’m convinced that over the next three years in education we’re going to see a massive surge of interest in connecting data together, and turning it into useful information. I know that there is already much happening, but there’s a way to go before we can really say that all of the data that is created and collected in education is being used to improve the learning potential of individual students – whether that’s a student in a high school heading to their HSC/GCE/VCE award, or a university student being able to maximise their own learning journey.

    First there’s the ‘dispersal’ barrier - the way that data is created in education – in big systems, individual spreadsheets and paper markbooks. And then there’s the ‘complexity’ barrier – both from a data analysis and a technology point of view. In fact, we even create barriers with the language we use to describe the issue – ‘business intelligence’ and ‘learning analytics’ aren’t exactly the friendliest phrases to use to encourage others.

    So there will be a group of people who become genuine heroes in this situation – who are able to understand what’s on the other side of the barrier, and are able to carry people across with them, and translate the language so that a classroom teacher can easily grasp what’s possible.

    Power Platform Briefings – next week

    Next week, we are running free Power Platform Briefing events in Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, which are specifically designed to help you to understand how your existing IT systems can help you to turn data into information. They are designed for IT people (IT managers, database administrators and an afternoon for developers) to help you to understand how you can visualise your information more easily – creating data visualisations, maps, SharePoint lists, dynamic Excel reports etc.

    The morning until lunch (9am-1pm) is the ideal session to attend:

    • The first session, will focus on connecting SQL databases and SharePoint together, to produce better reports that make sense to your users.
    • The second session, until lunch, will look at how you can turn structured and unstructured information into valuable information – and how you can start to build a self-service culture for your users (so that you can tap your staff’s naturally enquiring minds)

    The dates and venues are:

    • 27th June – Brisbane – at the new Microsoft offices in George Street
    • 28th June – Melbourne – at the Microsoft offices in Freshwater Place
    • 29th June – Canberra – at the Microsoft offices in Sydney Avenue
    • 30th June – Sydney – at The Menzies Hotel in Carrington Street (our North Ryde conference rooms are currently being spruced up, and are closed until August)

    If you’re coming to Sydney, let me know and we can catch up over coffee to talk about how all this can be applied in education

    Learn MoreFind out more, and register for the free Power Platform Briefings

  • Education

    Microsoft Australia's Education Partner of the Year Award for 2011

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    Have you been doing good work with education customers, using Microsoft technology, this year? Would you like to win a Microsoft Australia Partner Award? Well, you've got to be in it to win it - and the submission period has just opened, with the closing date of 10th June 2011. There are 21 categories to enter - but, as far as I'm concerned there's only one that matters Winking smile - the Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year Award.

    image

    In the words of the awards scheme:

      The Education Partner of the Year Award recognises partners who have exhibited excellence in providing innovative and unique services or solutions based on Microsoft technologies to Education customers. Successful entrants for this Award will demonstrate industry knowledge and expertise, as well as consistent, high-quality, predictable service or solutions to Education customers. Successful entrants will also demonstrate business leadership and success through strong growth in new customer additions and revenue, at the same time as leading customers into the future models of IT use in education…  

    If you win, you'll get the smashing glass trophy (see what I did there?), press releases, logos for your marketing, and be featured across our communications, including our Partner Portal and the Microsoft Education site. The winners will be announced during the Opening Keynote at this year's Australia Partner Conference at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre on the 23rd-25th August, and we'll then be featuring their case study during our Education sessions on the morning of the 25th.

    There's some detailed guidance to help you write an entry that gives you most chance of winning - you'll find that here - and I'llshare with you my top tip for entering:

    The best entries, which work for our partners year after year, are those which tell a strong story of the way that a customer has been able to change their way of doing things, thanks to your help. The technology side of the entry is important, but to be successful you need to ensure that you describe the story of success for a customer. By telling a memorable story, you can also help the education team at Microsoft to tell your story to other customers – amplifying your success.

    The other top tip is to get started on your entry. I'm not going to forget the deadline, as the 10th June is my birthday. But it means you've only got a couple of weeks to enter.

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards - and all of the award categories

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