NZ Education Blog

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

February, 2014

  • St Andrew's College: Increasing Student Engagement & Enthusiasm for Writing with OneNote!

    Sam McNeill, Director of ICT at St Andrew's College in Christchurch, recently wrote this fantastic blog post on the school's use of OneNote. We were so delighted to see the increase of student egnagement and enthusiasm for writing with OneNote, that we had to share it with you. You can see the full blog post here, but we thought we'd give you a few snippets now.

    "I had the privilege of meeting with Dr Jeni Curtis today to discuss her use of Microsoft OneNote in her Yr9 English class, and discuss how this was one of the key tools she was using to achieve her aim of a paperless environment in her classroom. I was aware that a number of staff at St Andrew’s College were exploring the different ways that OneNote could be used in their teaching and, after seeing some unsolicited parent feedback to Dr Curtis, I knew I needed to write a blog about it."

    "OneNote is sometimes described as ‘the hidden jewel’ in the Microsoft Office Suite and for those unfamiliar with the programme, it can best be described as an electronic version of the traditional ring-binder, replete with the coloured tabs/dividers down the side. Since all students at St Andrew’s College have access to a free copy of MS Office (along with the web-apps via Office365), the decision to use OneNote by Dr Curtis made perfect sense."

    The Setup:

    "All students initially required some assistance with setting up their OneNote notebooks for English and then sharing this with Dr Curtis. Critically, they were able to set the sharing permissions so that she could both read and edit their notebooks. Once completed, it meant that as the teacher, Dr Curtis could look at the student’s equivalent of traditional “exercise books” at anytime, allowing direct feedback and comments.

    Additionally, Dr Curtis shared a “read only” OneNote notebook with the students where they could see useful materials for the courses, explanations of various terms as well as expectations for them around homework and other activities."

    The First Task – An Introductory Letter & A Video Response:

    "The first task for the Yr9 English students in their steps towards a paperless classroom was to write an introduction letter to Dr Curtis using their shared OneNote notebook. What they didn’t expect was that they would receive a personalised video response from Dr Curtis that they could all watch directly within OneNote itself."

    Video Response to Introductory Letter

    Video Response to Introductory Letter

    "This certainly left an impression on the students of the class, and was actually achieved relatively easily through the neat feature of OneNote that allows for the recording of audio and video notes directly within a notebook. This innovative idea for marking homework and giving feedback was appreciated not only by the students, but also by the parents, with one taking the time out to email Dr Curtis the following congratulations:

    I must congratulate you with using One Note for marking the children’s writing. Callum showed me the video clip commenting on one of his assignments. It was really impressive and useful. It is such a great use of technology and had helped Wayne and I appreciate the use of technology in classroom environment. We were a bit unsure with 1:1 computer concept to begin with.

    I hope Callum is working hard in your class. I had seen his shifts of interests from not liking writing to enjoying writing in the last 2 assignments, which is wonderful.

    As a teacher that is incredibly gratifying to hear that your efforts to engage students is having the type of impact mentioned by the parent above, and equally, as the Director of ICT at St Andrew’s College, I am thrilled that the teaching staff are using the tools in authentic ways like this."

    To read about the second task and much more, read Sam's full post here!

  • Top 100 Education Apps on Windows 8

    Let’s face it. Apps are now an integral part of our everyday lives. We use them to check the weather and check into a flight, to see when the next bus is coming, record notes, read books, play games and much more.

    A great outcome of the app revolution is the transformative learning that apps can help foster. There are thousands of education apps in the Windows marketplace from early learning “games” to study aids and even apps that will help you manage the classroom, with more being published every day.

    To get you started, we’ve curated a list of 100 education apps that we hope you’ll find helpful. You can access this by loading it below.

    For even more, visit: or go directly to the Windows Store.

  • The countdown to the 2014 Microsoft in Education Global Forum begins!

    The 2014 Microsoft in Education Global Forum is fast approaching, and we are very excited. Not only is the Global Forum the best education event of the year; it’s also life-changing for everyone who attends.

    The Global Forum recognises and celebrates the achievements of  educators and school leaders who are on the leading edge of education innovation, paving the way for their peers in the use of technology to improve learning and student outcomes. The forum will bring together winners from the Microsoft Expert Educators Programme and the Microsoft Mentor Schools Programme, along with government officials, press, education leaders, sponsor and partners for a once-in-a-lifetime, energetic and collaborative conference. The event will be attended by more than 1,000 innovators from 97 countries. In other words, it’s a big deal. And it’s made exceptional by the amazing and inspiring educators who take part in the conference, generously sharing what they’ve learned to change education for the better around the globe.

    Microsoft New Zealand is proud to announce that Theresa Bosch from Baradene College and Steve Martin from Howick College will attend the Global Forum, as part of being selected to take part in the Microsoft Expert Educator Programme.

    We'll keep you updated on the exciting happenings at the forum, but you can also follow along on Twitter through #MicrosoftGF and #MSExpertEducator. Not long to go now!

  • Migrate your school's PCs off XP and on to Windows 8 or 8.1 and be in to win $15,000 worth of Dell PCs, laptops and tablets!

    On April 8th 2014, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP. That's not far away.

    What does this mean for your school?

    If your school is still running Windows XP by this date, you may be exposed to potential risks. Your school will no longer receive updates for Windows XP from Microsoft, including security updates that can help protect your school’s PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

    Many software and hardware vendors will no longer support their products that are running on Windows XP. For example, the new Office leverages the modern Windows and will not run on Windows XP. When problems arise, online and phone-based technical support will no longer be available to assist you or your school IT partner.

    We're here to support your school's full migration off XP and on to a modern learning environment. Every school that replaces Windows XP with Windows 8 or 8.1 on all school PCs by 8th April 2014 will be eligible to win a prize of up to $15,000 worth of Dell PCs, laptops and tablets!*

    If your school is no longer running Windows XP and has migrated on to Windows 8 or 8.1, simply fill out the entry form here before the 8th April 2014. You can also click here to find an FAQ to assist you in your migration.

    *Terms and conditions apply. Please visit for more information.

  • Student Advantage: Get Office 365 ProPlus for your students, at no additional cost!

    Student Advantage enables every school in New Zealand that licenses Office for staff to be eligible to get Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost! You can get it now! This supports the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or 1:1 learning programmes that you may be looking at implementing, or are currently running in your school.

    To take up this benefit, the next steps are:

    1. Contact Datacom to add the zero-cost Student Advantage sku to your Microsoft agreement; and
    2. Deploy the no-cost Office 365 A2 Plan service for staff and students; then
    3. Students are able to download the Office ProPlus client software to their devices (up to 5 devices per student!).

    Please contact your Microsoft Reseller for more details:

    For schools enrolled in the Microsoft Schools Agreement with the Ministry of Education, please contact Datacom on 0800 22 55 428. For all other schools, please contact your Academic Reseller or partner.

    We have also produced a handy ordering and deployment guide for you, with details of how to assign your licenses to your Students.

    If you are an existing Office 365 for Education customer (either through EES or directly through our website) with single or multiple tenancies, or if you are a brand new Office 365 for Education customer, please take a look at this deployment guide and FAQ to find out more about how to get up and running quickly.

    You can access it here!

  • Scots College sees Office 365 as a "key factor on BYOD strategy"

    Scots College, an independent Presbyterian day and boarding school for boys Years 1 - 13, recently deployed Office 365 as their school wide staff and student productivity tool. After hosting their complimentary Windows in the Classroom Seminar (, Assistant Principal of the Senior School (NCEA) and ICT Manager, Alistair West saw Office 365 as "a key factor on our BYOD strategy".

    "In order to facilitate going fully mandated BYOD, we needed a system whereby students could create, edit, collaborate and access files online on any device or operating system. Office 365 is the best solution we have found for that. We are using OneNote for management meetings, our appraisal system and SkyDrive Pro for sharing and collaborating on documents."


    "So far we have held staff training sessions on SkyDrive Pro, sharing files and folders, collaborating on documents and using the Newsfeed. A student BYOD/Office 365 session will be held later this month. Some staff have begun using the sharing features of Office 365 to provide real-time feedback to students working on reports/essays. Gail Moynagh (Teacher of Mathematics and Science), has been using the drawing tools in OneNote on an interactive whiteboard to share her lessons with students. In one instance, a student was at home sick, he could log in, open the shared OneNote and see notes appear in real-time."


    When asked on how she was using Office 365 in and outside of the classroom, Gail explained, “The massive advantage I see in it is the ability for collaboration with ease between staff and staff, staff and students and students and students. The features of the NewsFeed seem like they will be an excellent way to get information to users quickly and easily.”


    "One of the many strengths we are seeing of Office 365 is that it is using resources that our staff were already familiar with (e.g. Word, Excel) and we are just making the next obvious step into doing this in the cloud," Alistair explains. "This makes it more approachable and less overwhelming for staff that are not confident with the use of technology. However, it appears to have huge opportunities for our savvy users as well and we are just beginning to really see its full potential."


    "We are just beginning to see how Office 365 can facilitate 24/7, anytime, anywhere, personalised learning."

    You can book your complimentary Windows in the Classroom Seminar here:

  • Skype in the Classroom: Mystery Skype

    The idea of Mystery Skype is simple: classrooms Skype call each other and try to guess where the other classroom is located either in the United States or in the world. On the day of the call, students use their resources in trying to figure where the other class is calling from via Skype.

    Pernille Ripp, a teacher in the United States, recently blogged the following checklist that she put together for future Skype in the Classroom sessions. You can read the full post and more on her blog:

    Pernille Ripp's Mystery Skype Checklist

    Before the call:

    1. Sign up– there are many places to sign up and some are even grade level based. I signed up a couple of places but also tweeted it out; the response was immediate as a lot of people are doing this. If you would like to sign up:
      1. 4th Chat Mystery Skype
      2. 6th Chat Mystery Skype
      3. Mystery Country/Mystery State
      4. The Official Mystery Skype Community from Skype
    2. Decide on a date and time – don’t forget to consider timezones.
    3. Prepare the kids
      1. We wanted to know facts about our own state so that we would be ready for any question.  We therefore researched the following questions: climate, region, neighboring states, time zone, capital, famous landmarks, geographical location.  All of this gave the students a better grip of what they might be asked.
      2. We also brainstormed questions to possibly ask.  We like the concept of the questions having to have yes or no answers as it makes the game a little harder and has the students work on their questioning skills.  Questions we came up with included whether they were in the United States, whether they were east of the Mississippi, Whether they were West of the Rocky Mountains, If they were in a specific region, whether they border other countries, whether they are landlocked etc.
      3. Give jobs.  I think it is most fun when the kids all have jobs, so this was a list of our jobs:
        1. Greeters – Say hello to the class and some cool facts about the class – without giving away the location.
        2. Inquirers – these kids ask the questions and are the voice of the classroom.  They can  also be the ones that answer the questions.
        3. Answerers – if you have a lot of kids it is nice to have designated question answerers – they should know their state facts pretty well.
        4. Think tanks – I had students sit ina group and figure out the clues based on the information they knew.  Our $2 whiteboards came in handy for this.
        5. Question keepers – these students typed all of the questions and answers for us to review later.
        6. Google mappers – two students were on Google maps studying the terrain and piecing together clues.
        7. Atlas mapper – two students used atlases and our pull down map to also piece together clues.
        8. Clue keepers – worked closely with answerers and inquirers to help guide them in their questioning.
        9. Runners – Students that runs from group to group relaying information.
        10. Photographer – takes pictures during the call
        11. Clue Markers – These students worked with puzzles of the United States and maps to remove any states that didn’t fit into the clues given.
        12. Problem solver – this student helped students with any issues they may encounter during the call.
        13. Closers – End the call in a nice manner after guesses have been given.
      4. Note my students have since then tweaked these jobs – here is a link to our new Mystery Skype jobs.

    During the Call:
    During the call you just have to step back and trust the kids. My students were incredible, both with their enthusiasm and their knowledge, I think I was more nervous than they were. I did have to fact check some of their answers so I did stay close by but otherwise it ran pretty smoothly. We decided which class would go first with their first question and then there were two options:

    • Yes answer: They get to ask another question.
    • No answer – Other team’s turn to ask a question.

    Students were allowed to guess whenever they thought they had a great answer (and it was their turn). In the end, both classes were able to guess each other’s location. One note; Don’t allow kids to use the Internet to try to google the other class – it spoils the geographical purpose of the challenge.

    A list of questions as created by my students to help you start.

    Happy Skyping!