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

  • Education

    How to join Skype in the classroom - like 38,000 other teachers


    Skype in the classroom logo

    Did you know that your students can use Skype to connect with a range of fabulous organisations that can broaden the classroom experience for your class – like NASA, museums, and expedition groups?

    Last week the team from 'Skype in the classroom' announced an expansion of their programme to six more supporting organisations NASA's Digital Learning Network™, The National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, British Council, Woodland Trust, VerbalizeIt, Action Aid, Education through Expedition and Choose2Matter. They join Penguin Group, New York Philharmonic, Peace One Day, Save the Children, and the Science Museum, London who were already part of the Skype in the classroom programme.

    As one example of how these organisations will participate in Skype in the classroom, NASA's Digital Learning Centre will feature various projects where students can learn how to prepare a space vehicle for liftoff, help scientists and engineers to explore the basic principles of matter and design their own spacesuit mission patch. Participating classrooms will also discover what it is like to live and work in space as well as being introduced to basic robotics.

    Today Skype in the classroom has 38,899 teachers working together on 2,2226 global educational projects, and they are sharing 767 learning resources – and it's all free for teachers to join.

    Learn MoreLearn more about Skype in the classroom, and sign up here

  • Education

    The 6 weirdest blog search queries


    Every now and again, people end up on this blog because it shows up in a Bing/Google/Yahoo search. Sometimes it’s about things you’d expect (it’s great that it appears as the number 2 result for ‘SharePoint school websites’ or number 1 for ‘accessibility of SharePoint’).

    But sometimes the search terms that people use amaze me.

    So here, for nothing more than entertainment, are the top 6 weirdest search engine queries that led people to this blog online:

    1. Can I make my email replies look like I’m out of office when I’m not? (got them to this page)
      What? You want to make it look like you’re not in the office. Surely somebody can just walk by your desk and spot the trick?
      • How to make beautiful school (got them to this page)
        At least I understand why you’d ask this. And fortunately, the page they get will show them to pretty up their website! Oh, and go me, I’m the first result in Google for that search Smile
        • I’m out of the office (got them to this page too)
          Why would anybody type that into a search engine? Maybe a journey of self-discovery
          • How to win a ward (got them to this page)
            Please tell me they weren’t trying to win a new hospital wing
            • Do I need a job title? (got them to this page)
              I cannot imagine any reason to type that into a search engine
              • Describe how using Microsoft technologies in your solution helped you win against the competition(got them to this page )
                This is just like copying your homework from somebody else. It was one of the questions on the form to enter for Microsoft Education Partner of the Year, and obviously somebody was looking for some help!

              Anybody other bloggers have any experience of this and want to share your examples?

            • Education

              The Big Picture Experience in Sydney this Thursday


              Hopefully, if you’re based near Sydney, you’ve already registered to come along to The Big Picture Experience. The Sydney day for customers is this Thursday, the 1st December.

              The event is 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 customer days have exactly the same look and feel as our partner day on Wednesday, 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.

              You can either register in advance, or just turn up on the day

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

            • Education

              It’s in the new Australian Curriculum, but do you need help with 21st Century Learning Design


              ELH LogoOur partnership with Expanding Learning Horizons means that we work together on a range of activities supporting the enhancement of teaching and learning with technology. Some of these (like the Windows in the Classroom program) are free for schools to participate in, whilst other activities are run as paid professional development activities.

              The next set of events from ELH are the 21st Century Learning Design program workshops later this month. They are a two day workshop, with online sessions to follow on from the activities you plan as part of the workshop. The objective is to provide appropriate support and training for teachers who are design lessons to reflect the changes in the Australian National Curriculum:


              There is a growing awareness of 21st Century Learning, especially since it has been reflected within the Australian National Curriculum. There is also a wide appreciation of its value, which is supported by a wealth of evidence from educational researchers. However, as yet, few teachers know how to design lessons to put it into practice.

              Here’s an opportunity to take the lead in your school and discover, as one participant puts it: “being a part of something new and exciting; allowing me to increase my skills and learning whilst teaching my students.”

              Over two days you’ll work together with other teachers in a collaborative and supportive environment to understand:

              • The six skill-sets today’s students will need in the workplace and their future lives
              • The innovative rubrics for measuring use of these skills in classroom and project work
              • How 21CLD links in with the Australian Curriculum
              • How to create a compelling case for 21st Century Learning in your school

              You’ll also learn how to code and redesign your own curriculum, to get you started on implementing 21st Century Learning  on your return to school. An online discussion with fellow participants six weeks later will give you the opportunity to share your successes and discuss overcoming any roadblocks you may have encountered.


              The program costs $795 for the two day workshop, and are running in:

              • Sydney – 26/27 November
              • Perth – 26/27 November
              • Melbourne – 2/3 December

              Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register for the 21st Century Learning Design Program

            • Education

              Making things easier for your users: Single Sign On with Office 365


              Over the last year, we have been working with software and website developers to make it easier for students and staff to login to their services by allowing them to login with their Office 365 username. This means that students don’t need to remember yet another login identity and password, but simply use the username and password that you’ve already given them. And, in many cases, they are automatically logged in without having to re-enter their details. It also means that your users stay under your control - for example, if you suspend a user account, you’re also suspending it on all of the third-party websites too!

              It’s the simplicity of Single Sign On, but without all of the previous hassle and custom technical work that both sides (developers and end user organisations) previously had when linking their systems together.

              Apps and services like Teacher Dashboard, Literatu, nearpod, GeoGebra, LMS365, Brightspace, Moodle, RedCritter and ParentPaperwork give your users the option to sign in with their Office 365 identity when they go to login (this is the Sign in page for ParentPaperwork)


              You can see a long list of some of the Office 365 education apps and services here.

              And all of the services that connect to Office 365 can now be found in the Office Store’s Education category, and you can quickly add them into your Office 365 service.


              What is great for users is that they can then see the apps that they are connected to, through their App portal (at, where they can see all of their Office 365 apps - the ones that we provide, like Word, PowerPoint, OneDrive and mail, as well as the third-party apps (as you can see below, I’ve got quite a few on my account Smile):


              And anywhere the user is within Office 365, they can get to the apps really easily from the app launcher that sits at the top of their screen


              This means that you’ve got a ready-made portal for users - they don’t need to bookmark all of these services on their different devices - they can just use the app launcher. And when they move between all of the different sites, they easily login with one click - they don’t have to keep signing in again and again each time they go to a different site.

              And the IT team at school/university also get tons of useful data on who’s using what applications, how frequently etc, that is available through their Azure Active Directory service, which is linked to Office 365. They also have the ability to enable and disable apps, or even assign licences for specific apps to specific users or groups.

              Find MoreFind out more about developing Office 365/Azure Active Directory Single Sign On

              Find out more about how IT can manage the Single Sign On services

            • Education

              Understanding the Learning Strategies of the 21st Century Learner - Virtual Professional Development webcast series


              Microsoft PIL Webcast header

              Our worldwide Partners in Learning team run a series of Education webcasts focused on providing deep insights into teaching and learning. They are run from the Microsoft global headquarters in Seattle, and feature presenters from around the world. Fortunately for us in Australia, they are scheduled to run twice during the same day, and the one that runs at 5PM Seattle time is Australia-friendly!

              Understanding the Learning Strategies of the 21st Century Learner - webcast

              In the morning of Thursday 24th October in Australia
              (10AM – QLD; 10:30AM – SA; 11AM – NSW/VIC; 8AM – WA)

              Join this great dialogue on the 5 best strategies every 21st century learner needs to succeed in school and in the workplace. Why a capacity to learn is more important than knowing. Topics covered will be:

              • How to remove the roadblocks to learning
              • 3 Steps to understanding everything you read
              • Best Study Skills for 21st century learners
              • Technology strategies that enhance learning

              During the webinar, three ‘Amazing Grades’ books will be given away to the first three attendees asking questions. Amazing Grades is a worldwide goodwill book with 101 authors from 13 countries around the world and includes a special bonus chapter by Nasha Fitter of Microsoft.

              Presented by:

              imagePat Wyman, College Professor, author, and Founder & CEO,
              Pat is a College Professor, founder and CEO of and best-selling author of Amazing Grades:101 Best Ways to Improve Your Grades Faster and Spelling Made Easy: Learn Your Words in Half the Time  

              imageBonnie Terry, Board Certified Educational Therapist and best-selling author,
              Bonnie, best-selling author of School Strategies for ADHD Kids, Five Minutes To Better Reading Skills, and Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills and one of the co-authors of Amazing Grades. She is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and internationally recognized as America's Leading Learning Specialist.  

              imageSusan Kruger, M.Ed, best-selling author, and Founder,
              Susan is the founder of and best-selling author of SOAR® Study Skills: A Simple & Efficient System for Getting Better Grades in Less Time. She will be speaking on the best study skills for 21st century learners.

              Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register, for the webcast
              The website lists the time in US Pacific Daylight time as 5PM on 23rd, which is on the 24th October for Australia. At 11AM for those in NSW & Victoria; 10AM in Queensland; 10:30AM in South Australia and 8AM in Western Australia

            • Education

              Imagine Cup Australia Finals–your chance to meet the next generation of IT innovators


              Imagine Cup Australia

              Last year was the first time that I’d attended the Australia finals for the Imagine Cup. I spent an afternoon at the PowerHouse Museum in Sydney, hearing small teams of passionate university students pitch their technology projects, and demonstrate the software that they had developed. In many cases, the ideas that they demonstrated were the kinds of things you’d expect huge corporations with big research budgets to produce. Two teams demonstrated the use of mobile phones for emergency management of bush fires and other civil emergencies – using the GPS, social media and other capabilities to keep citizens safer and more informed. The Australian winners showed how they could give paraplegics the ability to control computers and other devices through scanning brain waves.

              It was an exceptional afternoon – and I came away hugely impressed by what students could achieve in their part-time.

              What I couldn’t believe is that there weren’t more IT people there, scouting for the next generation of developers for their businesses! So this year, perhaps I can help change that. As well as heading down there myself, I thought it would be worth extending the invitation…

              The Australia Imagine Cup finals are being held in Melbourne next week, on Tuesday afternoon. And it’s free to attend. I cannot recommend it highly enough as a way to potentially find the next innovator for your business – before they’ve reached the end of their university course, and you’re competing for them alongside ever other employer.

              You can register to attend below – it’s an opportunity to sit in the auditorium, watch some amazing presentations, and network with others whilst the judges deliberate on the winner. It all kicks off at 3pm, and is normally over by 7pm.

              Learn MoreRegister to attend the Imagine Cup finals here

            • Education

              What would your crystal ball show for education's future?


              I have just read a deeply profound, and shocking, blog post, written by the leader of a significant Australian business.

              Written after the news that major Australian media organisations Fairfax and News Ltd are dramatically downsizing, and in the year that Encyclopaedia Britannica stopped producing encyclopaedias, Kodak stopped producing cameras and EMI stopped producing music, it takes a look at the changing dynamics of the business marketplace – where Borders, Blockbuster and Yellow Pages all lose out to their online competitors.

              Here’s an extract, from the blog post in question (modified to hide the business it discusses):


              There is little or no standardization and only minimal attempts to collect evidence that could be used to improve [the business]. New developments are slow and costs go up every year.

              New online providers will challenge the model, developing standard [products], high quality delivery and more effective [metrics]. The online mantra – better, faster, cheaper – is coming to [this industry] and no one knows where it will end. One thing is certain, [businesses] had better start preparing now.


              48x48-gray-questionWhy do I think that this so significant?

              And who’s it from – one of the big retail CEOs (Harvey Norman? Myers? David Jones? Dymocks?) or a manufacturing business, or a publisher?

              It’s important because of who’s saying it, and what they are talking about

              I think it is significant because the author in question is Professor Steven Schwartz, Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University.

              And the business in question is the business of higher education. Here’s the quote in full:


              Higher education is next. Stuck in the 19th Century, higher education in many places is a craft in which an artisan-academic prepares bespoke courses. The academic decides on the course content, delivers it and assesses the student’s learning.

              There is little or no standardization and only minimal attempts to collect evidence that could be used to improve delivery and assessment. New developments are slow and costs go up every year.

              New online providers will challenge the craft model, developing standard courses, high quality delivery and more effective assessment. The online mantra – better, faster, cheaper – is coming to academe and no one knows where it will end. One thing is certain, universities had better start preparing now.


              If you’re thinking about the future of education, then you should read Professor Schwartz’s thoughts:

              Better, faster, cheaper: the online mantra coming soon to a university near you

              If you’re in the education business – whether that’s delivering education, or delivering to the education system - reading this will help you get ready for your future.

            • Education

              What technology do you need for the Flipped Classroom?


              imageCaroline Chisholm Catholic College in Melbourne is on the pathway to the Flipped Classroom - a pedagogical model that inverts traditional teaching by delivering instruction online outside of class while moving problem solving (traditionally given as homework) into the classroom.  And one of the starting points for the ICT department was to ensure the technology was there to support the vision, putting the students at the front of the classroom.

              One of the keys to supporting a flipped classroom model really well as that students have access to good collaboration technology inside and outside the classroom and teachers have easy ways to record materials for students to watch. (Karl Fisch, of Shift Happens fame, uses the flipped classroom model – you can read more about it here)

              The college were already using Live@edu for their student email, and an IP-based phone system, but they were starting to look also at Google Apps as another platform for learning. But when they got into deeper discussions with Generation-e (a Microsoft Gold Certified partner), they were very pleased with the solution that they were given, that included moving to the latest Microsoft software to fully support their new teaching and learning model – using Office 365 for education, Lync 2013, Windows 8 and SkyDrive Pro.

              The Generation-e team summarises the impact for the college in their case study:


              Caroline Chisholm Catholic College was very pleased with the end result.  With features such as the video recording capabilities of Lync, teachers will be able to roll out the "Flipped Classroom" initiative. That means conducting and recording lessons using real-time collaboration, pushing video, presentations, white-boarding and chat during sessions.  The initiative offers further enrichment through video collaboration with overseas sister schools for LOTE programs, as well as digital excursions.

              Further benefits of the Microsoft stack include:

              • Increased staff productivity- heads of departments conduct online meetings; ICT staff collaborate between three campuses without having to travel or leave the support desk unattended
              • 100% Lync uptake- staff have happily transitioned from desk phones to their screens
              • Collaboration enabled by federating with other schools and suppliers
              • Better student engagement- the use of My Site provides them with a single location to manage all their documents, content, and tasks enabling them to collaborate on group projects and present them in class
              • With Windows 8, SkyDrive Pro and SharePoint, students' notes are automatically updated and saved
              • Improved student efficiency- O365 enables students to access their laptops with a single login
              • Increased flexibility- O365 puts students in the cloud to provide maximum storage, allowing anywhere access from their laptops
              • Stronger community through social collaboration -  access to discussions, newsfeeds and photo sharing on SharePoint
              • While the students are now able to push their notes to any device through OneNote, this will be particularly useful once they shift from laptops to tablets


              Learn MoreRead the full case study on the Generation-e website

            • Education

              Learn more about the Office DevCamps in Sydney and Melbourne


              Office DevCamps banner

              At the beginning of February, we've got a team of developers and trainers coming over to Sydney and Melbourne to run free Office DevCamps, for anybody who wants to develop apps for Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, SharePoint and the Office Web Apps) to get listed in the new Office Store. As the vast majority of computers in classrooms in Australia have Microsoft Office installed, then you've got a big market for apps you develop for education users.

              There are some pretty high powered instructors, for example:

              Donovan Folette is a Senior Technical Evangelist from Microsoft with over 25 years experience of developing enterprise business applications on a variety of platforms. He currently specialises in helping to enable developers in building integrated line-of-business (LOB) solutions with Microsoft Office and SharePoint.

              You can see the rest of the course instructors here.


              The training is free, and open to organisations or individual developers. It is designed to work even for developers who haven't ever developed specifically for Office before.

              • Office DevCamp Sydney  – 4th and 5th February 2013

              • Office DevCamp Melbourne – 7th and 8th February 2013

              Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register, for the Australian Office DevCamps

              Office DevCamp introduction webinar

              But, if you're wondering whether it's worth committing two days to training and development, then you're going to be interested in the webcast on Tuesday which will give you more detail about the DevCamp, and what's in it for you:

              Sydney and Melbourne Office DevCamps 2013 – what's in it for me?

              Attend a live Webinar on Tuesday, January 15 at 12pm AEST (Sydney/Melbourne time), presented by Dene Cleaver, Microsoft Senior Product Manager to find out more about how the Office DevCamp will help you to be one of the first developers to release apps in the new Office Store.

              Joining instructions

              You can either join online using Lync, or the Lync web client, or call in over the phone:

              Join via Lync/web

              Join online meeting via Lync/web

              Join by phone

              Join by phone by dialling our local numbers at 12:00 on Tuesday. You can either join on the free phone number (+61 1800 553229) or from a mobile, call our Sydney number (02 9870 2923).

              You'll get asked for the conference ID to get started, which is 1960456785

              On holiday in Vietnam? Well there's a local phone number there and in virtually every holiday destination on our Find a local number page.

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