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

  • Education

    Business Intelligence in schools–a short demonstration of setting up alerts


    Rod Colledge, Microsoft MVP, of StrataDBRod Colledge, is a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, and an expert on the technology side of the use of Business Intelligence in education in Australia. For a living, he helps Microsoft customers with their own business intelligence projects, through his business at StrataDB. But in his role as a Microsoft MVP in his spare time he speaks at conferences, writes books, and shares his knowledge freely.

    One of the things that he’s been able to do is record a series of short videos of examples of using business intelligence in education, and the new features in SQL Server 2012 and Microsoft Office 2013, to show some of the simple things that are useful for school leaders and teachers. I’ll share one video every day for the next week, as I think they are ideal for showing to colleagues to start a discussion about how they’d like to use data in your institution, and whether they can start to use some of the features of the latest software releases.

    Today’s video is a demonstration of a key feature for an business intelligence in education project - the ability to set alerts automatically, to allow you to 'manage by exception', rather than having to trawl reports looking for outliers and identify performance issues manually.

    The example that's used here (with a dummy dataset) is using student absences to generate alerts, and uses Microsoft SQL Server 2012, and PowerPivot reports.

    If you’d like to know more about Rod and his projects, you can find out more on the StrataDB website or email Rod directly

  • Education

    The value of data visualisation in education


    By all accounts, we’re already, or soon going to be, drowning in a sea of data. The amount of data being generated every day, hour, minute or millisecond continues to climb exponentially. This is true whether we’re talking about our home lives or professional lives. There is so much data we can barely keep up, and we’re only at the beginning of the data tsunami.

    This is an issue for education too, because, as McKinsey identified, in the journey from a ‘good’ education system to a ‘great’ one, there is an assumption that we already have high quality performance data available. But having high quality performance data isn’t just about the volume or accuracy of the data - it is also about how easily understandable and usable it is. (This is at the heart of the difference between ‘databases’ and ‘business intelligence’ in education. The challenge we face is about producing useful information, not just data.

    Which is why this video is so powerful - and a great way to explain to colleagues that simply collecting data, and putting it into spreadsheets and reports, is only part of the challenge of making it ‘high quality’ data.


    The Value of Data Visualization from Column Five on Vimeo.

  • Education

    nsquared - putting all your technology together for one purpose


    I’m meeting up with the nsquared people again on Monday, to take a look at some of their education applications. They’re an innovative software developer in Sydney who I first met in London when they were doing clever things with the Microsoft Surface. Now they have moved deeper into creating immersive experiences for users, across PC, Surface, phone and projection screens using Kinect.

    When I saw their latest video of a concept for architects, it fired off the usual thoughts about might be possible if this was applied to learning scenarios. It is an amazing concept, and rightly has been receiving a good deal of interest this week.

    They also offer a range of education applications, which are designed for touch interfaces on the Microsoft Surface or Windows slates, and take advantage of the fact that learners use them in completely different ways to normal laptops.

    Learn MoreLearn more about the nsquared educational applications

  • Education

    Your opportunity to apply to join an exclusive community of innovative educators

    Richard, who runs our Microsoft Innovative Educator programme in Australia, has asked me to let you know about the opportunity for practising teachers to apply to join the Microsoft Innovative Education Expert program.

    We’re looking for top educators, ready to spread the word about the great things they are doing in the classroom from across Australia. The Microsoft Innovative Educator - Expert Program is an exclusive program created to recognise pioneer educators  who are using technology to transform education.

    Microsoft is seeking top innovative educators who are using Microsoft technologies to engage students and their peers in innovative ways to positively impact learning. We’re particularly interested in educators who are actively mentoring others, active in social media and have a passion for and a desire to share their experiences.

    As a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert, you will be asked to advocate and share your experiences with peers and policy makers on effective use of technology in education. The Australian MIE Expert community will also provide access to fellow innovative educators to share valuable experiences, lessons and best practices and work together as a community to promote ideas to innovate in teaching and learning.

    This is a non-paid, ambassador program, however you will receive some fantastic benefits as an MIE Expert.  Benefits include your own Windows 8 tablet, mentoring from experienced innovative educators in the MIE community and, other rewards such as a chance to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Microsoft HQ, Seattle, in March 2015.

    Applicants will be evaluated based on their learning activity, application form and interview if called.

    What we need you to be

    • An educator interested in developing strategies to benefit and share with other educators
    • Energised, with a friendly and outgoing personality
    • Able to work autonomously and within a team
    • Display confident and articulate presentation and written communication skills
    • Full-time educator in P-12 or in a higher education faculty of education
    • A fan of Windows devices and services – 3+ years’ experience on a Windows device using Microsoft Office and other key Microsoft applications

    What you’ll be doing

    • Advocating Microsoft technologies in the context of the classroom and in schools from August 2014 until December 1st 2015
    • Representing Microsoft and sharing your experiences through social channels (blogs, communities) online engagements (webinars) and presenting at local events
    • Using a Windows 8 device and other Microsoft products and services
    • Mentoring and training other educators in applying the use of Microsoft technologies to learning
    • Providing input in professional development content for educators
    • Collaborating with other MIE - Experts and Microsoft on your experiences
    • Reporting weekly reporting on your activities

    What you’ll get

    • Training at a workshop in Sydney in September 2014
    • A Windows 8 device with Microsoft Office 365
    • Unique MIE Expert presentation and event collateral
    • Monthly incentives for the top MIE Experts
    • Select MIE Experts will receive the opportunity to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in March 2015
    • Access to an exclusive community of educators with monthly webinars from education specialists, Microsoft technology and education specialists and a private online community
    • Mentoring from Microsoft and experienced education specialists

    What’s the next step?

    As part of the application you will be asked to provide details of a particular learning activity that is a good example of your Microsoft in the Classroom story as well as a simple cover letter and program relevant resume.

    We’re inviting educators from the all over Australia to apply for the MIE Expert program today. Visit the Career One application form here to apply.

    For any program queries, please email the program team

  • 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

              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

              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

              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

              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

              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

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