January, 2014

  • ‘How’d You Do That?’ Office 365 to (em)Power your Non-profit

    By Marcus Harvey, Consulting & ICT Services Manager, Infoxchange

    This post is part of a series offering technology tips and tricks to help you work more efficiently, and help people and organisations get the most out of IT.

    Over the past year, I have had the good fortune to work with non-profits across Australian and New Zealand to help them improve their Information Technology (IT) environments. Reliable, cost effective technology improves staff productivity, enables easy monitoring of client outcomes and ultimately helps organisations more effectively support their clients and community.

    Almost everyone we work with wants to know how they can do more with less. Staff need to be able to work efficiently, stay connected and feel part of the organisation no matter where they are – at home, with clients or on the road. I’ve seen the benefits of Office 365 as a result of more than 50 implementations and believe that Microsoft’s decision to make Office 365 available free of charge to eligible non-profits in 41 countries is a game-changer.

    Office 365 allows the sector to reduce technology costs and provides access to innovative tools and systems that allow staff to focus more the on activities that make a real difference to communities. The Office 365 donation/E1 plan is now free for eligible non-profits and includes:

    • Outlook and Exchange Online for email and shared calendaring (50 Gb/user);

    • Lync for instant messaging, high definition audio/video conferencing and screen sharing;

    • SharePoint for online storage, collaboration and document management;

    • SkyDrive for local file synchronisation, allowing staff to work anywhere; and

    • Access to online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, so staff and volunteers can easily work anywhere with an Internet connection.

     Note: I generally recommend organisations also take advantage of the TechSoup donation program to purchase local versions of Microsoft Office 2013 for a small investment.

    Office 365 allows people to work effectively and access information anywhere that you have an Internet connection through a wide variety of devices. It doesn’t matter if you use a Windows phone, iPhone, Android phone, tablet or laptop – you can use almost any device to stay connected, manage your emails, message your contacts and access information in SharePoint.

    The real benefit of Office 365 is that it allows organisations to forget about technology and focus on their clients and community, offering

    • Lowered technology costs – reducing or eliminating the need for servers that must be upgraded and replaced every 3-5 years.

    • Inbuilt, automated backup with data replicated across multiple data centres – gone are the days of daily reviewing of backup success emails and changing tapes or disks!

    • Flexibility to readily scale up or down as funding and opportunities arise without significant capital infrastructure costs.

    • 99.9 percent guaranteed availability.

    • Effective collaboration tools to work on documents and videoconferencing, independent of location, enabling teleworking, providing flexibility and reduced travel costs.

    In the Asia Pacific region, information is stored securely in Hong Kong and Singapore and the environment is accredited to a raft of international security standards. While offshore data storage may not be appropriate for every organisation (depending on the type of information you keep), the fact that Office 365 offers non-profits the opportunity to reduce costs, simplify technology support and improve staff productivity means that it should be considered as part of your organisation’s IT plan.

    In the words of the CEO from non-profit Leisure Networks, “Office 365 has enabled us to future proof our investment and provide a secure, easily accessible way to bring together our information and communication systems. What is important to us is to have an easy to use system and central place for all the information we need when we are working from our main office, at home or somewhere around regional Victoria.”

    Further information about Office 365 can be found in the links below. I am also always happy to assist and provide further information to any non-profit that wants to make the most of their technology. Feel free to contact me at marcush@infoxchange.net.au.

  • Microsoft Perspective on Computer Science Education Raised at World Economic Forum

    This post originally appeared 22 January 2014 on the Microsoft Citizenship Blog and was written by Karen Bergin, Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs.

    This week, Microsoft is attending the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss, among other issues, the global youth unemployment crisis. Microsoft Citizenship and Public Affairs General Manager Lori Forte Harnick shares her thoughts on this worldwide problem in an op-ed on the Huffington Post, in which she outlines a potential solution centered on enhancing computer science education and digital literacy skills training around the world.

    “The outlook is bleak: young adults who are out of work or underemployed are more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty or dependent on welfare later in life. Investments in the full spectrum of technology education – from digital literacy training to computer science engineering – play a critical role in tackling the situation. If we do not mobilize to provide these vital tools, skills and education, we will squander the incredible potential of the world's youth and put at risk our future global economic security.”

    As we have seen through our global YouthSpark initiative, it is crucial to provide young people with opportunities to imagine and realize a better future for themselves. And, it is inspiring to see what they can achieve and create when given the chance.

    Read Lori’s full op-ed in the Huffington Post: Computer Science Education: A Path Forward in Global Youth Unemployment Crisis

  • Tech4Good Webinar Series :: Microsoft Office 365 for Nonprofits - A Demo

    Join us for this FREE webinar on "Microsoft Office 365 for Nonprofits - A Demo", Thursday, 20 February 2014, at 12:00 PM (Singapore time).

    Register today! 

    If your organisation has staff and volunteers in multiple locations, requires more flexible working styles or needs to access data from various devices, then cloud solutions like Microsoft Office 365 could be the right solution for you.

    Eligible nonprofit and charitable organisations now receive free donated versions of Office 365 with the full capabilities and secure environment of installed software with the collaborative, anywhere availability of the cloud.

    This webinar will provide an overview of the features available on the Office 365 Enterprise E1 plan, including:

    * Office Web Apps: Open, view and edit documents from any Internet browser, wherever you are.

    * Hosted email: Access your email, shared calendars and contacts from any device.

    * Document sharing: Share documents with SharePoint Online with the ability to edit them simultaneously with others.

    * Video conferencing and collaboration: Meet and collaborate with out-of-office staff and volunteers using Microsoft Lync Online.

    We look forward to having you join us for this FREE webinar on Thursday, 20 February 2014, at 12:00 PM (Singapore time).

  • Enabling Educators to Enhance Teaching through Technology

    Educators play a huge part in moulding youth—the leaders of tomorrow. In recognition of their role, Microsoft’s global initiative Partners in Learning (PiL) was designed to help educators and school leaders connect, collaborate, create and share so that students can realise their greatest potential.

    On 9 November the 2013 Fall PiL Forum Korea, a full-day seminar, occurred at the new Microsoft Korea office to showcase Microsoft technologies and how educators can leverage these to enhance classroom learning.

    According to Olive Seo, PiL Manager at Microsoft, the forum was the ideal platform for educators from across South Korea to become more familiar with the latest classroom technologies. “We shared how simple IT skills and tools can create effective and compelling lessons that help to motivate students, suit different learning styles and keep students focused. The sharing generated brilliant discussions about the educators’ needs and challenges which we hope to address in future forums and technologies.”

     Olive Seo, PiL Manager at Microsoft, shared how IT tools can be used by educators to create compelling lessons to keep students focused and motivated

    The seminar started with a keynote speech by TaeBong Elementary School teacher, Hwang Kim, who touched on the 21st Century Learning Design (21CLD), a professional development programme to aid educators in redesigning their existing lessons and learning activities to build students’ 21st-century skills. Hwang Kim, who previously won a Microsoft award for his innovative teaching methods, also discussed how Microsoft’s 21CLD rubrics can help educators identify and understand the opportunities that learning activities present to students.

    After a hearty networking lunch session, the 153 attendees—comprised of educators, students and Microsoft student partners—split into four groups, attending different workshops concurrently. These workshops offered hands-on experiences on Windows 8 and the latest productivity applications, which included Office 365, PowerPoint, Lync and OneNote, as well as how these apps can enhance classroom learning.

    “We are inspired by the educators’ passion and dedication to help realise their students’ greatest potential—and we look forward to working with them again to create a positive transformation in the education sphere,” concluded Olive.

    Microsoft also organised a tour around the new facilities. Attendees particularly enjoyed themselves at the Kinect Fun Zone, where they let loose and had fun. The attendees also had a chance to try out Windows 8 devices and interesting apps such as Piano Time and Fresh Paint, with some realising that Windows 8 is easier to use than they had thought.

    Participants experiencing how the latest devices and apps can enhance the learning experience

    Many of the educators found the seminar beneficial, as it created awareness about 21CLD and other useful classroom applications, and how these will help enhance their teaching methods.  Very satisfied with the 2013 Fall PiL Forum Korea, attendees have already requested for more details on the 21CLD workshop and have expressed their keen interest in the next edition of PiL.

  • Microsoft Employees and Nonprofits Spread Festive Cheer in Singapore

    By Jocelyn Koh, Citizenship Coordinator, Microsoft Singapore

    Many of us at Microsoft are committed to using the best of our abilities and resources to help those who are less fortunate. As part of our efforts to spread goodwill during the recent festive season, we were delighted to have teamed up with 11 nonprofits in Singapore in December for our annual 12 Days of Giving campaign.

    This marked the second year in which our employees volunteered to bring festive joy to the needy in our community in a coordinated campaign. We saw a record number of more than 150 colleagues from the local subsidiary, Asia Regional Headquarters and the Asia Pacific Operations Center (APOC) taking part in the various volunteer activities. We also held a number of donation drives to pack essential items such as food and small gifts into over 200 goodie bags.

    The following nonprofits were chosen because of our existing working relationships with them, or were suggested by employees when the 12 Days of Giving campaign kicked off in 2012.

    Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled
    Our volunteer team accompanied ten residents from the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled on a tour around the newly opened River Safari, where they enjoyed spotting curious creatures in the zoo and aquarium; this was followed by a leisurely boat ride and tea at Mama Panda Kitchen.

    Residents from Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled explored River Safari with Microsoft volunteers

    Beyond Social Services
    After celebrating the birthdays of children born in December at the Healthy Start Child Development Centre, the children and volunteers spent an entertaining afternoon among books, games, paintings and snacks. Chow Kiew Ling, Microsoft Financing (MSF) APAC Operations, observed, “It was a meaningful and well-spent afternoon. I believe each volunteer gained as much, or more, as what we gave to the children.”

    Canossaville Children’s Home
    Volunteers joined a group of children to make cards for the hardworking staff at St Joseph’s Home for the Elderly. Nicole Lee, Asia Compensation & Benefits (C&B) Specialist at Microsoft, said, “The happy smiles on the children’s faces while making the Christmas cards left a great impression. Even though we were strangers to them at the beginning, there was so much joy that we felt by joining the children in one simple activity.”

    St Joseph’s Home for the Elderly
    We sent some love to the staff in the form of handmade cards from the children at Canossaville Children’s Home, and also helped out during and after the Christmas dinner for residents.

    Lion’s Home for the Elders
    To spread the festive cheer, our volunteers gamely entertained the elderly with a round of Christmas carols that they belted out with much gusto, and later distributed goodie bags to the Home residents. We also arranged to have a Santa visit for the occasion, much to the amusement of the residents!

    Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital
    As the 103-year-old institution has a nursing home for elderly patients who do not have caregivers, we brought along some festive spirit with the help of Bingo, tea, Christmas carols and old pop songs.

    Society for the Physically Disabled
    Our staff helped the daycare clients during lunchtime, and later set up games such as bowling, floorball and Rummikub, before ending the day in a hearty karaoke-singing session.

    Sun Love Home
    The stationery packs that we donated to 88 underprivileged children sure got them excited about starting school!

    Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association
    Fourteen children visited the Microsoft Singapore premise and “battled” against each other and our employees while playing Kinect — the youth were also provided goodie bags that were specially prepared by the volunteer team.

    Children from Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association watched Microsoft volunteer Jim Butler demonstrate a field goal in a round of Kinect American Football

    Children’s Cancer Foundation
    A group of nine young cancer patients and their family members came over for an office tour and enjoyed an engaging game of Kinect, after which they headed home with gift bags filled with delights.

    Food from the Heart
    We supported a food distribution programme run by Food from the Heart to help the less fortunate such as underprivileged single-income households by sorting donated food items and packing hampers. “Everyone in our team was very cooperative and we had a lot of fun working together to pack groceries for the needy,” said Adeline Ang, Executive Assistant, Microsoft IT.

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