NZ Education Blog

Regular updates from Microsoft in the NZ education sector. Events and advice for education staff.

March, 2013

  • Windows in the Classroom Tip #1 - making Windows 8 your own

    Over the next 5 weeks we will be giving you a sneak peek into the tips and tricks school leadership teams across New Zealand are learning at their complimentary Windows in the Classroom seminar.

    This week we’ll cover the basics – teaching your students to customise their own start screen. Students can maximise productivity by keeping all the information that’s important in one place. They can now glance at their own personalised tiles to stay updated on the latest headlines, real-time news and information or they can quickly and easily access their favourite apps, websites and folders.

    Two particularly cool functions include the ability to pin and unpin apps and to create tiles for your favourite people and places.

    Pinning apps

    Some of the apps your students use most might not be pinned to Start. But students have the freedom to pin what they want, where they want. On the Start screen, students can simply open the Search charm, select the app they would like to pin to open its commands, and then tap or clock to Pin to Start.

    Creating tiles

    A tile gives students the freedom to open their favourite app or content from the Start screen. To pin a website or contact from an app, open the app commands and click Pin to Start. To pin a folder or document, open it in File Explorer, right-click it, and then click Pin to Start.

    Check out this quick video to get a better idea about how your students can benefit from the flexible and innovative new Start screen.

    Make sure to look out for next week's Windows in the Classroom tip!

    DON'T MISS OUT, we’re still taking bookings for our Windows in the Classroom seminars. You can host a session at your school or attend one in your area. All you need to do is register your interest by emailing nzeducation@microsoft.com.

    Alternatively, ‘like’ our new Facebook page to receive regular updates and feedback about the seminars. Don’t hesitate to post a question or comment on our wall. You can also find out more at our website.

    Ensure your school leadership team is across the opportunity afforded by new technologies, by hosting a Windows in the Classroom seminar.

  • OneNote Windows Store app update available now!

    Earlier this week the update to the OneNote app in the Windows Store was released – we are so excited! The update brings with it a few brand new features along with a couple of fixes too.

    Want to get your hands on the download right now? It’s easy. Simply click the Store tile in Windows 8 and then click through to Updates. Don’t worry, if you haven’t yet installed the OneNote application, you can easily download it here.

    Here’s a quick look at what you’ll experience:

    Improvements with Pen and Ink

    An improved pen customisation for drawing and handwriting, coupled with the ability to now easily switch between customised pens, were both requested by our customers and are now easily doable in the new app. In order to assist you in getting started, there are now four default pens to choose between. Bring your stylus closer to the screen and the radial menu indicator will appear. Tapping this will open your radial menu and allow you to see all of the available pens. You then have the freedom to easily customize your choice by selecting the appropriate colour and thickness.

     Improved support for notebooks with Office 365

    This week’s update has just made it even easier to access all of your notebooks on Office 365. The new OneNote app is a great way to keep you on top of all your personal and professional notes in just one convenient place.

    Want to get started? Simply sign in with your Office 365 account.

    The updated OneNote app will then use your details in order to make it easier to access all of your other notebooks. Simply tap More Notebooks and you’ll see a list of all the recent notebooks for every login you have used.

     We hope you enjoy all of the new and improved features of OneNote! Don’t forget to tell all of your friends, and keep providing all of the helpful feedback we have been getting.

  • Windows in the Classroom Tip #2 – the online classroom

    Windows in the Classroom is a two hour, complimentary seminar which explores the tools and technologies available to help educators teach 21st century skills and optimise the classroom for advanced student achievement. This week, we’ll give you an insight into what our education specialists have been demonstrating to school leadership teams all over New Zealand with the wonderful Office 365.

    One of the most fantastic features of Office 365 for Education is the ability to give online presentations which can be accessed anywhere. Teachers now have the flexibility to give interactive lectures to their students, who can also save the presentations for future viewing. Learning can now be done from anywhere, at any time.

    Check out this awesome clip, it will give you a quick demonstration of what we cover in a Windows in the Classroom seminar.

    We’re still taking bookings for our Windows in the Classroom seminars, but spaces are running out fast! You can host a session at your school or attend one in your area. All you need to do is register your interest by emailing nzeducation@microsoft.com.

  • The Mathletics website - now on every Windows 8 device

    You may notice that some websites on Windows 8 ask you to open them in the desktop version of Internet Explorer, rather than the modern UI version, because they are written in Flash - even though Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 has an integrated Flash Player, avoiding the need to download and install an add-in. The reason is that if you're using a touch tablet, then some Flash websites are difficult to navigate because they need you to do things like a mouse double-click (tricky when you've only got a finger, not a mouse!).

    So we maintain a list of websites that work on well with touch tablets, and  these are the only ones that you can open with the Windows 8 modern UI version of IE10, otherwise you have to open them with the desktop version.

    A few months ago, Ray Fleming wrote about "How to get a Flash website working smoothly on Windows 8 and Windows RT", describing the background to designing a web experience that doesn't require plug-ins for browsers. This is an important step to improve browser performance, accessibility support, increase battery life on mobile devices like laptops and tablets, and to increase security and reliability.

    We've been working with various publishers to ensure their websites work well with touch devices. Yesterday, we added Mathletics to the list, so if you go to www.mathletics.co.nz on any Windows 8 device, it will now let you use Mathletics in full on any Windows 8 device (Windows RT or Windows 8, with either ARM or Intel processors). This is much better than having Mathletics content available through an app, because the website gives you access to the full Mathletics system and library of resources, whereas the mobile apps contain just a smaller subset.

    This is good news for New Zealand schools, where Mathletics is widely used, but a quick look at the Mathletics leaderboard shows there's a long list of other countries that will benefit too.Mathletics logo

  • Office 365 – extending learning beyond the classroom

    It is no secret that teachers can now become architects of the classroom experience with the endless possibilities of Office 365. In his recent blog post, Anthony Salcito, Vice President for Microsoft Education, highlighted the long list of benefits of Office 365 for Education. These benefits are certainly worth sharing. Below we have summarized Salcito’s thoughts and ideas, but you can find the original article here.

    21st century learning is all about allowing students and teachers to access, collaborate and communicate knowledge in a safe and easy way. Not only do students need to communicate in the classroom, but with other educators and students alike, all over the world. But achieving this with a limited budget is a difficult reality for most schools.

    Technology is quickly changing the way in which teaching and learning is happening in the classroom and Office 365 embraces this change and more. Here’s a taste of how the new Office 365 will improve teacher efficiency and the overall student experience:

    • A lesson on every screen. Your students have the flexibility to learn on their device of choice – whether that be a PC, smartphone or tablet – Office 365 for Education offers a fluid, fast and seamless experience. There is also the freedom to use Office 365 on non-Windows devices, allowing students to access and work on homework, study and assignments from anywhere.
    • Access Office when you want, where you want. Office 365 is a cloud-enabled service that stays with the student wherever they go. Students can sign in right where they left off, with their own custom settings and preferences.
    • Social networking, responsibly. The way in which we learn has been revolutionised by social networking, and Office 365 is designed to integrate the social into the classroom. The new Office 365 supports newsfeeds, blogging, video and Skype communication. Students are enabled to easily keep up to date with their peers, teachers and documents.
    • Digital control. It is extremely important to ensure safe and private use of software and devices in schools. Office 365 for Education includes improved data loss prevention, data retention, deployment and everyday management and control.

    And the best part of the new Office 365 Education? It is free to most schools! Schools can simply sign up here. Take a look at our great plans and pricing for education. Get ready to engage and motivate your students, with the revolutionising innovations of the new Office 365.

  • Essay marking is made easy with Windows 8 app

    Lucas Moffit is an independent developer who’s focus is on writing Windows 8 apps for educators. His output is impressive, with Class Seater, Lesson Coder and Teacher Professional Standards Evaluator among his portfolio of success. But his most ambitious project, Essay Marker, has just been released into the Windows Store, and it is quickly climbing up the ranks.

    Essay Marker is a fantastic app that allows educators to create, edit and share essay or assignment tasks and evaluate or mark student work. The app has been designed with the needs of the educator in mind, with each function focusing on providing quality feedback for every student.

    Upon completion of marking, teachers are able to scroll through charts and graphs of their evaluation averages. They can then take full advantage of the benefits of Microsoft Office products by exporting these visual representations to programmes such as Word.

    Essay Marker has revolutionised assessment marking and made the lives of our educators easier. Check out this full demonstration of the app here. You won’t regret it, we promise!

  • Game based learning – what it is and why everyone is talking about it

    Game based learning, commonly referred to as “gamification”, is predicted to take the education sector by storm as the awareness of 21st Century learning increases throughout the world. So what is this phenomenon? Game-based learning is a powerful new way of thinking for students.

    When a child progresses through a game, they are learning; if they are actively engaged in the game, their minds are coming to understand a new system. Whether the game is for entertainment or serious purposes, this is true. So, when learning in the classroom feels dull for a student, they are not being engaged and motivated by the learning process. Learning is about acquiring the skills and thinking processes necessary to respond appropriately when under pressure.

    What gamification gives our students is effective, interactive experiences that motivate their minds by actively involving them in the learning process.

    Windows 8 has numerous learning based apps that are taking classrooms by storm. Among our favourites are Physamajig, which allows students to watch their own sketches be translated into realistic physics objects and Wordament, a very addictive word game, that provides a fun way to improve vocabulary.

    This fantastic infographic created by Knewton, gives a very informative overview of game based learning. It is a great way to gain a basic understanding of a phenomenon you will be seeing a lot more of in 2013.