NZ Education Blog

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

NZ Education Blog

  • Three new tutorial videos created to help you get started with Office Mix!

    A couple of days ago, the Office Mix Team announced that they have created a new "first run" experience to welcome new users to Office Mix and help them get started using the PowerPoint add-in.


    Now, when you first download and install the Office Mix add-in and then open PowerPoint for the first time, an interactive panel opens on the right-hand side of the screen where you’re presented with three buttons that each play a Quick Start Video tutorial. Additionally, you’re offered an option to “Create Your First Mix,” which opens the Getting Started template. As you’ll discover, the interactive panel is resizable and can be undocked, which permits you to move to split-screen mode and follow in-step with the tutorial’s instructions.


    The tutorials include “What is Office Mix,” “Screen Recording” and “Publish and Share.” There's also an easy way for you to “Create Your First Mix.” At the moment, these Quick Start Video tutorials launch in a separate browser window to play, however soon you will be able to watch them directly within PowerPoint! And in coming months, the Office Mix Team will be adding more tutorials!


    What is Office Mix?

    An overview of what you can do with Office Mix, such as inking, recording, editing and sharing. It also instructs you on how to set up video and audio, narrate using the Slide Notes feature and how to use our Ink marker to put notes on your presentation. You can also learn how to use the analytics to tell who is watching your mixes.


    In addition, you’ll see how easy it is to insert quizzes, polls and screenshots, as well as add video and audio files that really make your presentations come to life. You’ll also learn how to preview, edit and securely upload your mix to the cloud. It closes with a look at My Mixes, the place where you can view, manage and share your presentations.


    Screen Recording

    Step-by-step video showing you how to take full advantage of the power and simplicity of screen recording. You’ll see a how-to covering the ins and outs of embedding video into your Mix. For example, it showcases how you can extract clips from a YouTube video and use the playback controls to get the perfect video experience, and then directly insert it into your Mix. We’ll soon be adding a deeper-dive tutorial on all screen recording features including audio, area selection and trimming.


    Publish and Share

    Runs through a simple workflow on how to securely upload, publish and share your mixes. This includes how to upload mixes to the cloud and choose different options so your mixes can be played back on any mobile device or web browser. It also details how to set privacy levels for selective sharing with friends/colleagues.


    So get started with Office Mix at and get more information on Office Mix in Education!


  • Microsoft launches online education network for New Zealand’s 249 Catholic schools

    This blog post was taken from an announcement on the Microsoft New Zealand News Centre

    NZ Catholic Schools to connect with a shared online community

    The New Zealand Catholic Education Office is set to lead the international Catholic community with the launch of an online education network today that will give over 4,000 teachers the ability to share resources and collaborate in new ways.

    Microsoft New Zealand and the New Zealand Catholic Education Office (NZCEO) today officially unveiled the online network as the first outcome of the Education Alliance Agreement signed between the two organisations.

    The online services portal is built on Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud platform and incorporates collaboration tools such as Yammer, shared workspaces and catholic education resources.

    Sir Brother Pat Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of the NZCEO, says the network will increase the digital literacy of the whole school community and will enhance the special character of Catholic schools.

    “This network and partnership with Microsoft will strengthen our community and help us use the vast array of skills and resources within the Catholic education sector more effectively and equitably,” says Sir Brother Lynch.

    The NZCEO and Microsoft recently entered into an Education Alliance Agreement. The schools online network is the first deliverable from this, and will be followed by Microsoft working with the NZCEO to upskill teachers and schools to ensure that schools get the most out of this network and technology in teaching.

    Six schools in Auckland took part in a pilot programme for the online network over the last year. This allowed the NZCEO and Microsoft to conduct a full review and make improvements to the online service.

    Evan Blackman, Microsoft New Zealand’s Education Sector Director, says partnerships such as these are about empowering educators and inspiring students through the smart use of technology.

    “The launch of the Catholic school education portal today is a great step towards lifting collaboration across the Catholic school community, and will enable the more than 4,000 educators across the 249 NZ Catholic schools to work together to advance both the special character of these schools and the educational achievement of their students,” says Blackman.

    “Improving collaboration amongst schools and educators has been consistently called out in research and by the Ministry of Education as the key catalyst for the sector moving towards innovative, future-focused learning.”

    Blackman says the NZ Catholic schools community already has some great examples of innovative teaching and learning, such as Baradene College in Auckland which was recognised as a Microsoft Showcase School in 2014.

    “The intent of this portal and the partnership is to support Catholic schools’ move to 21st Century learning and ultimately equip students with the digital literacy and skills they’ll need in the workforce,” says Blackman.

    “Initiatives like this shows the NZCEO’s commitment to moving the sector forward, and we are very pleased to be able to be a partner in that.”

    Blackman says Microsoft has a deep understanding of how technology can enhance teaching, learning, and assessment for Kiwi students, and will offer future support through their professional development programmes, such as Partners in Learning, for NZCEO’s educators.

    “This will cover how to effectively use technology in the classroom and how to use the network to share information and skills.”

    All state and integrated schools have access to Microsoft’s full suite of e-learning tools under the Ministry of Education’s Microsoft Schools Agreement.

    The New Zealand online Catholic education network is part of a broader agreement between the Catholic International Education Office and Microsoft Corporation to build a global network based on Microsoft’s Office 365 for Education platform.

  • Quick Tip video featuring New Zealand teacher Rachel Chisnall

    New Zealand's very own Rachel Chisnall features on the latest Microsoft Quick Tip videos! Rachel is a secondary teacher in science and chemistry at Taieri College in Dunedin and a 2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator. It is wonderful to see a New Zealand educator on the world stage!


    Whilst at the E2 Global Educator Exchange conference from April 28 - May 1, Rachel was one of 9 MIE Experts chosen to record a Quick Tip Video. All of these Quick Tip videos can be found on the Microsoft in Education playlist.


    Check out Rachel's Quick Tip video below on creating virtual science experiments in Office Mix. She will show you how teachers can use Office Mix and the PhET add-in to create assessments that incorporate pre-recorded science experiments. Using Office Mix, you can insert quizzes to test your students' knowledge and make sure that they understand the science concepts being taught.


  • Latest updates to Sway, including roll out to Office 365!

    It’s been an exciting month for Sway! At the U.S Ignite conference, we announced that Sway would roll out to Office 365 business and education customers and add support for more languages. Now we’re excited to announce the start of these rollouts, as well as other changes that expand the type of content you can add and the ways you can visualize the multimedia that brings your Sways to life. Check out the details!

    Sway for Office 365 rollout has started

    We've begun the rollout of Sway to qualified Office 365 business and education customers. This opens the door for many new people to use Sway at work and school, and we’re excited to get a whole new set of feedback from these customers as part of Sway Preview! We even have a dedicated UserVoice forum for feedback on the Sway for Office 365 experience.

    Sway for Office 365 is initially rolling out to First Release customers, and it will become available to all eligible Office 365 customers over the coming months. The rollout includes support in Sway on the web for Office 365 work and school credentials, with the next update to Sway for iPhone supporting these accounts as well. Sway on the web now also has a simplified sign in interface that provides the corresponding Sway experience for you, depending on whether you sign in with a Microsoft account or an Office 365 work or school account.

    With Sway for Office 365, professionals can save time at work and easily create engaging, eye-catching interactive reports, presentations, and more which flow responsively across all device types.

    Teachers can use Sway to engage students, faculty and parents with interactive lessons, assignments, project recaps, newsletters and more. Students can have fun while learning and stay engaged by using Sway to breathe new life into reports, assignments, projects, study materials, and portfolios.

    If your organisation is not already in First Release, Office 365 admins can visit the Office 365 admin center (under Service settings > Updates) and select either Entire organization or Select people to turn First Release on. The setting change can take up to 24 hours to take effect. At that point, Sway will begin to roll out to your organization.

    Sway now supports six more languages, with more to come

    As promised earlier this month, Sway on the web now supports six more languages, for both consumers and Office 365 business and education users. Now you can use the Sway web interface in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish (in addition to English). Support for Japanese is also coming soon, with other languages to follow. Sway will automatically set its language according to your browser’s language settings, but you can change languages by adjusting your browser settings if you speak multiple supported languages. Sway for iPhone will be updated soon to support these languages as well, and become available in the App Store for markets where those are official languages.

    Insert Wikipedia snippets about people, places or other terms into your Sway

    Suggested searches in Sway helps you while you create by anticipating what content you might want to incorporate. It uses natural language processing to continuously show you tags for related words and phrases you might be interested in searching on, based on what you’ve already written and the specific content in the area you’re working on.

    In March, we expanded the results of Suggested searches to include YouTube videos and tweets, in addition to images from Bing Image Search. Now, Suggested search results include Wikipedia snippets that you can easily add to your creation to complement the other multimedia you use to share your narrative.

    For example, let’s say you’re creating a Sway about ancient history and use Suggested searches to find additional information about famous historians and philosophers—including Herodotus. As long as a Wikipedia article exists, and it has an infobox containing an image (an infobox is the small fact table on the right side of many Wikipedia articles), the Suggested search results will include a Wikipedia article abstract. Then you can easily add that snippet to your Sway, which brings the snippet’s picture together with the Wikipedia article’s first paragraph as its caption, as well as a citation.

     Add personal and community images from Flickr

    Sway makes it easy for you to pull together your rich multimedia content from a variety of sources, right within the app. Millions of people use Flickr to store and share their images in its community. By integrating Flickr into the consumer version of Sway, now you can easily access your Flickr images and quickly drag and drop them right into your creations. And that is not all! If you don’t have a Flickr account, you can still search for community images tagged with Creative Commons licenses.

    Get started by selecting Flickr from the Insert tab. Then search for images using the search box. You can also connect to your Flickr account right within Sway to access your personal images without leaving the app. Photostream displays all images that you uploaded to Flickr, and Albums helps you navigate individual albums you’ve created.

    Add new structure to your Sway with the Grid Card

    We’ve added another powerful way to visualize and structure your multimedia content in Sway! The new Grid Card organizes any images, videos and text you’ve added to it into a uniform grid, which will adjust automatically to look great on each screen size where it is displayed.

    The Grid Card can be a great way to put together a series of photos that are all similar, when you want to display them close together in your Sway, using the same size, and all on the screen at once. It’s also another great example of how Sway lets you express your intent (“keep these things together, all showing at once and visually consistent with each other”) and acts as your digital design assistant to ensure your creation looks great across devices.

    There are two ways to get started. You can add a blank Grid Card from the Cards tab, and then add multimedia to it. Or, select a collection of images, videos and text you’ve already added, select Group, and then choose the Grid option that appears on the left. Sway will ensure that your images and other content look great in a Grid layout, even if they weren’t originally the same size or aspect ratio. Sway intelligently inspects and crops the images to fit in the grid, and you can also use Focus Points to help make sure what’s important shines through. We’re really excited about the new possibilities that the Grid Card provides. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

    Thanks for all the feedback you’ve been providing during our Sway Preview journey together. Please keep it coming! And welcome to all of our new Sway for Office 365 users! As always, feel free to drop us a line on UserVoice.

  • Reflections and learnings from the E2 Global Educator Exchange conference

    The five New Zealand MIE Experts at Microsoft, Redmond.
    From left: Ben Hilliam, Nikkie Laing, Rachel Chisnall, Steve Martin, Shane Mann

    From April 28 - May 1, Microsoft NZ's Schools and Academic Programmes manager Anne Taylor accompanied a group of five talented Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Experts as they travelled to Redmond, Washington for the E2 Global Educator Exchange conference. Here they joined 300 other MIE Experts and Student Ambassadors from around the world. Over three days, the New Zealand teachers were able to learn, collaborate and celebrate their achievements with their international peers.

    The five New Zealand educators were personally invited to attend E2 following a selection process that evaluated them on various criteria including innovation in using technology to solve challenges faced within the classroom, and how they are re-thinking teaching, learning and assessment in order to improve learning outcomes and equip students with the skills they need in the modern workplace.  

    The E2 Global Educator Exchange event is part of the Microsoft in Education initiative that offers a range of professional development programs to bridge the gap between technology skills and innovative teaching. These programs reach beyond traditional software training to provide a scaffold that supports educators and school leaders of all skill levels on their learning journey. Through these programs, Microsoft has trained more than 10 million educators and reached more than 200 million students since 2003. 

    Now that the New Zealand teachers have had time to absorb everything they learnt at the three-day conference, we'd like to share their highlights, learnings, and their vision of the future of Microsoft in education.

    Rachel Chisnall
    Taieri College, Dunedin

    Read more of Rachel's reflections in her blog post

    What was the highlight of the summit?

    The highlight for me was the Teachmeet. I got lots of really useful comments on my learning activity, saw some amazing things that other educators are doing and made some valuable connections - including a teacher in Russia who has already been in contact. I also got to share my learning activity with Anthony Salcito [Microsoft Vice President - Worldwide Education] and found he was really clued up on education in New Zealand.

    What were your key takeaways?

    That is wasn't solely about the tech. Technology is there to support collaboration, innovation and anytime, anywhere learning. I was also really impressed with the efforts to grant universal access to technologies so that there are less barriers to learning for students from disadvantaged areas, for example the initiative to use the white space between TV channels to provide internet access.

    What is your vision of the future of Microsoft technologies in education?

    That they are rapidly moving forward, and very responsive to student and educator feedback. Microsoft want to break down any barriers that are there to ensure everyone who wants to learn, can learn. And it would seem they want to have some fun doing it!

    Ben Hilliam
    St Andrew's College, Christchurch

    Read more about Ben's experiences on the StAC e-Learning Stories blog

    What were your key takeaways?

    I was really impressed by how teachers are using technology around the world. We all teach in incredibly different contexts throughout the world, yet are still trying to improve the educational outcomes for our students. I felt challenged about how I can measure my effectiveness as a teacher and how I can create a more engaging environment for my classes.

    What is your vision of the future of Microsoft technologies in education?

    OneNote is central to everything I will be using. Office Mix is a close second. Flipped classrooms will become common place and teachers will need to employ technology that is seamless with education. The Surface Pro 3 has found a stronghold in my class and those students using it no longer need pen and paper. Education can now start to become anytime, anywhere.

    Nikkie Laing
    Opaheke School, Auckland

    What was the highlight of the summit?

    The highlight of the summit for me was definitely the feedback from my peers! It was amazing to be reminded that in our little corner of the world we can definitely hold our own with the best educators globally. Our kids and teachers are doing amazing things with technology!

    What were your key takeaways?

    My key takeaway was that it is important to be brave with technology and teaching. We need to keep taking risks to do things in bigger and better ways to benefit our students. I think New Zealand's No.8 wire mentality gives us an advantage over the rest of the world in this respect. If something hasn't been attempted at your school, be brave enough to try it out!

    What is your vision of the future of Microsoft technologies in education?

    I can see amazing technology becoming more accessible and available for all students to ensure leaning can happen anywhere, anytime. Learning happens everywhere, not just inside classrooms, and this is more obvious than ever as teachers become leaners alongside their students when learning with digital technology. We are all learners and teachers at the same time. These technologies also allow for significantly more personalisation, we can take as long as we need to learn something new and we can learn in a myriad of different ways. We don’t have organise learning into discrete lesson sized proportions that will work for everyone instead we can, review, revisit, expand and extend learning where and when needed. 

    Shane Mann
    Rathkeale College, Masterton

    What was the highlight of the summit?

    Definitely the E2 Educator Challenge. We were put into groups of 5 teachers from around the world and given the task of creating a learning activity that linked in with conference theme of Bravery, Courage and Leadership. I was teamed up with some amazing educators from a wide range of teaching backgrounds and cultures. Despite some language barriers, very different teaching backgrounds and experience, we worked collaboratively over a few days to develop the learning activity ‘Global Energy - What alternative do we have?’ where students would investigate and learn about energy and power sources that could be alternatives to their main source of energy. Our learning activity was then presented to an audience and judges in the form of a 5 minute Sway presentation: Global Energy – What alternative do we have. The pitch was delivered by the group with passion and enthusiasm and we were later recognised as the overall challenge winners! We are now working hard to put our plan into action, starting with a focus on one of the team member's school in Zambia. Our students will collaborate globally, working across multiple subject areas to develop a working renewable energy solution for the school.

     Shane Mann with his winning team

     What were your key takeaways?

    The key takeaway for me was that some of the best presentations and examples of innovative use of technology came from the ANZAC MIE team! It was fantastic to see the work that is happening right on our back door step is easily up there with some of the best in the world. The conference enabled us to connect and share ideas with some of the top educators in the world. Being part of the Teach Meet, E2 Challenge and MIE presentations was a truly amazing and eye opening experience that I would easily class as the best professional development experience of my life.

    What is your vision of the future of Microsoft technologies in education?

    OneNote, Office 365 and Surface are the big winners here! The combination of OneNote (with the OneNote Class Notebook Creator), Office 365 and the Surface 3 / Surface Pro 3 are revolutionising education. These tools have made the greatest impact of any other technology in my classroom. Some examples include the ability to collaborate via OneNote with students, provide feedback and feed forward effortlessly, create interactive content via products such as Sway, Office Mix and OneNote, annotate and draw with the Surface pen, survey students via Excel Survey………the list goes on and on! In addition to this, I see teachers worldwide becoming increasingly connected with each other through the use of Yammer, Facebook and Twitter. This is a very exciting time to be involved in the rapidly changing landscape of e-learning in education. I feel as if I have only scratched the surface of what is possible and look forward to what the future holds!

    Steve Martin
    Howick College, Auckland

    What was the highlight of the summit?

    Listening to Ziauddin Yousafzai the father of Malala E- it brought to the fore the importance of education in its influence on developing people who are willing to stand up for what is right and to ensure their stories of bravery are used as inspiration to others.

    What were your key takeaways?

    Firstly, that Microsoft are genuinely and passionately engaged in developing tools and opportunities that are aimed at improving outcomes for students through education. Secondly, that purposeful innovation in the use of digital technologies takes courage and persistence.

    What is your vision of the future of Microsoft technologies in education?

    The commitment and openness of Microsoft developers and program managers that I met whilst at the summit reinforces a vision that the technologies being developed will further enhance students’ ability to build learning connections, interact with the world around them, and develop skills and competencies that are essential in building their successful futures.

    To become a part of the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Experts program, visit the Microsoft Educator Network for more information

  • Top tips to make lesson planning easy with OneNote

    Already have your OneNote Class Notebook set up? Awesome! Here are 5 top tips on how to get more out of OneNote for lesson planning and collaboration!


     1. Never forget anything again! Use tags to highlight important information and things you want to follow up on. You can use tags to categorise your notes, and prioritise important points. For more information, you can work through a tutorial on how to use Note Tags and Search in OneNote.


     2. Create a OneNote Staff Notebook for your teachers! Using a Staff Notebook, teachers and staff can collaborate to create cohesive lesson plans, timetables and curriculum. Cut down on administrative time at meetings by sharing agendas notes and documents ahead of time in the Staff Notebook. To get started with OneNote Staff Notebook, watch this guide on Collaborating with the OneNote Staff Notebook for Education.


    3. Record and embed audio or video into the OneNote to guide students. Students can access your recording at any time. To record audio or video in OneNote, simply place the cursor where you want to insert the recording. Then click on Insert in the toolbar, and click on either Record Audio or Record Video. This will automatically start the recording audio or video. To stop the recording, click on the square Stop button in the playback toolbar. The recording is automatically embedded into the OneNote page. To playback, click the Play button in the plackback toolbar. And just yesterday, the Office team have announced that audio recording is now available in OneNote for Mac! For more information on this announcement, visit Audio recording comes to OneNote for Mac.



    4. Change the type of paper on OneNote to suit your subject. You can choose grid lines, ruled lines, and even change the colour of the lines to suit your style. Click on View in the top toolbar, and go to the Rule Lines drop down menu. From there you can customise your notebook!



    5. As you are researching a lesson topic on the web, you can easily send different resources from the internet to a particular page within your OneNote notebook. The video below shows you how you can easily send resources to OneNote.



    For some more tips on how to make the most out of OneNote in the classroom, see The 5 Next Steps a Teacher Takes with the OneNote Class Notebook


    To see a wonderful example of a real OneNote notebook that is used in the classroom, check out Ruby Huang's "Food For Life" OneNote that she uses to teach science. Ruby is a teacher at Howick College in Auckland, and is a MIE Expert!


    These are just a few examples of the capabilities OneNote has in the classroom. If you've got some OneNote tricks that you use, we'd love to hear about them!


  • "Power Up Your Pedagogy With Office 365"

    Using Technology Better is holding a unique 1 day event at the Microsoft Offices in Auckland! This day will showcase how Office 365 and Microsoft supports the latest research on intrinsic motivation with students. You will learn some great skills and leave with ideas for how you can use these tools in your classroom and school.

    This day is suitable for all primary and secondary school educators, from those who have little or no experience with Office 365 (email, sites, online document editing and storage, IM, and web conferencing) through to those who are using Office 365 already but would like to consolidate their practice.

    Event details

    Monday, June 22
    9am - 3pm

    Microsoft NZ, Auckland offices
    Level 5, 22 Viaduct Harbour Ave
    Auckland Central

    $229 per person, morning tea and lunch provided


    The session will cover how to use Office 365 to increase student engagement and motivation. You will look at the various online tools available in Office 365 and see how these tools allow for real time collaboration, immediate feedback between staff and students, and allowing students to self-select their information whilst learning. In addition to the Office 365 tools, you will discover how to use OneNote Staff/Class Notebook creator to create collaborative OneNote files for students.

    This pedagogy first approach to professional development will be infused with real classroom examples to show you how student outcomes can be improved when you use the right technology the right way.

    In addition, the session will take you through a number of great Windows apps available to staff and students that will facilitate literacy development, content creation and more.


    To register, simply fill out this form. You will be emailed a confirmation of enrolment, and an invoice.

    Please note: 

    • Places are strictly limited to 22 people.  Register early to avoid disappointment
    • Schools who are part of the Digital Leadership For Learning Program can send 1 staff member for free - just email Mike from Using Technology Better at and let him know you will be attending (no need to register via the registration form)

    About Mike Reading and Using Technology Better

    Mike Reading is the founder and lead trainer at Using Technology Better.  As an experienced teacher with over 13 years of teaching experience in NSW Government schools, Mike now speaks to thousands of teachers each year about how they can better use technology to increase the motivation and engagement of their students. 

    Mike is Australia and New Zealand’s only Microsoft Education Master Trainer & Google Certified Teacher & Trainer. This has enabled Mike to work with every possible type of school technology environment and understand the unique challenges all classroom teachers face. 

    Mike brings a unique perspective to his work with educators. Having worked for a number of years with teachers helping them increase the engagement and motivation of their students, Mike is able to show you how small changes in classroom practice can yield great results.


  • Office 2016 Mac Preview is available!

    Office 2016 for Mac is the traditional Office that you know and love, but with a bunch of improvements! The new Office 2016 for Mac includes updated versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. We’ve modernized the user experience and made it easier to get things done. The redesigned ribbon intuitively organises features so you can quickly find what you need. A refreshed task pane interface makes positioning, resizing, or rotating graphics easy so you can create exactly the layout you want. And new themes and styles help you pull it all together to produce stunning, professional documents.

    Office 2016 for Mac is powered by the cloud so you can access your documents on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint at anytime, anywhere and on any device.



    It's been updated to take advantage of the unique features of the Mac - the new apps offer full retina display support with thousands of retina-optimized graphics, full screen view for native immersive experiences, and even little Mac affordances like scroll bounce.


    While there are too many new features to cover here, here's  a quick overview of a few of the highlights:

    • A navigation pane helps you to easily manage your document's structure and efficiently navigate to points of interest

    • Present your ideas more effectively using PowerPoint's new Presenter View. It's like a mission control for your presentation - displaying the current slide, the next slide, your notes, and a timer

    • Manage your email using Outlook for Mac with conversation view which automatically organises your inbox around threaded conversations so you will never have to hunt for related messages again!


    For a demo of all of the latest features of Office 2016 for Mac, check out the video below:


    So if you're a Mac user, download the apps today! You can tell us what you think by clicking on the smiley face in the top right of your screen when in an Office app - we will use your feedback to finalise Office 2016 for Mac for release soon!

  • StaffPad, the revolutionary music composition app!

    What is StaffPad?

    StaffPad is the latest innovation in music notation software. StaffPad is designed for use on Microsoft Surface devices and other compatible Windows 8.1 devices. StaffPad requires a device with a touchscreen and an active pen with an eraser button, pressure sensitivity and palm rejection. The Surface Pro 3, and the soon to be released Surface 3 are the perfect devices! StaffPad makes the most of the advanced pen and touch input of the Microsoft Surface to create the ultimate tool for music notation.


    StaffPad has been created by David William Hearn and Matthew Tesch with the vision of creating an easier way to write music using technology. David found that the process to create music digitally was unnecessarily complex and involved many technical steps which harmed his productivity and creativity.

    “I worked in sequencers and had to buy Sibelius because I was doing string arrangements for pop records,” David said. “But my focus was on sequencers, and it seemed that the two lived in very different worlds. You were expected to write into a sequencer and then lay it out and finish the job in Sibelius, if it was ever going to be played by real musicians. That killed productivity and inspiration for me. As much as I contribute to it with Cinematic Strings, I really dislike the act of getting up in the morning and switching on the computer, opening up Cubase, having some iLok error to deal with, creating MIDI tracks, loading in samples, buying new sounds… it’s not a musical process, it’s a technological process.”


    Three years later and StaffPad was born! StaffPad is now available for both professional composers and musical beginners.


    How does it work?

    StaffPad is simple to use and allows you to easily create musical scores. StaffPad's smart technology recognises your handwritten music notations as your write using the Surface Pen, and then converts it into a typeset score. The result is a score that you can edit further, play back, print and share. As you are working you can even annotate your score with quick notes and reminders!


    The key behind StaffPad's success is the way it recognises your scribbles. StaffPad looks at every individual stroke you make and then interprets what you wrote based on the relationship of each stroke to all of the others. David says that “it’s more efficient and accurate to take the position and temporal information from the pen, and then use musical context to decide what the music is trying to be." Handwriting recognition happens one bar at a time, rather than at the end of the entire score. This makes StaffPad fast, and if StaffPad gets something wrong it's easy to go back and correct it as you are already on that bar.


    If StaffPad can’t recognise something you wrote in the bar, it will render what it can, but it will leave the unrecognised strokes unchanged, and turn the staff lines in that bar orange. This signifies a “pending” bar. David explains that StaffPad will "ask you what each unrecognized stroke is. You can report it, ignore it, or tell it what it is, and the app will learn your style. Train it well! This, conceptually, is key. Sometimes you might be writing graphic notation, and not have StaffPad try and apply recognition to it. This is really the first time you can write completely what you want and be experimental. That’s where this could really get handy: when you’re not trying to write conventional notation.”


    Simply tap the Play icon at the top of the screen to begin playback. You can tap the deck controls to move forward or back one bar at a time, or simply touch and hold the red playhead and slide it wherever you like. If you’ve made a selection, tapping Play will solo those bars.


    Saving and exporting your StaffPad file is done via the Export icon on the command bar. You can also add or delete additional instruments to/from your score, and switch on Transposing Score via the command bar. Unfortunately StaffPad does not currently support a truly keyless or “open” key signature.

    While you can manually save your file at any time, StaffPad is constantly making versions of your file. To access these versions, tap the Home icon to go to the Home screen, then tap and swipe down the tile of your desired StaffPad score. Tap the Versions icon to select an earlier version of your score. Cloud syncing is supported via OneDrive, if you’ve set that folder as your default.


    You can print your StaffPad score as a full score, a full score with all parts, or any individual part, by swiping in from the right edge and selecting the Devices charm. Choose Print and some basic options are available for you to choose from.


    Click for a more in-depth review on how StaffPad works


    How do I get it?

    StaffPad is available exclusively from the Windows Store for NZ$89.90. You can download the StaffPad app here!

  • Introducing Office 365 Video!

    Microsoft is excited to announce that Office 365 Video has now begun its worldwide rollout to Office 365 customers!  Video is fast becoming one of the most powerful forms of communication, so this is a very exciting development for Office 365 users.

    Office 365 Video provides businesses and schools with a secure, organisation-wide portal where users can post, share and discover video content. Office 365 Video is the first of a number of NextGen Portals to come to Office 365 which will facilitate how people and groups work together within an organisation.

    Let's look at a few of the details!



    Office 365 Video has a sleek design to ensure that it is simple to use as well as being efficient and attractive. Powered by Azure Media Services, Office 365 Video promises smooth streaming of video content, and optimises playback for the device being used. Leveraging Yammer and Office Graph, Office 365 Video delivers a personalised experience for each user to create the most efficient social experience within Office 365.




    With Office 365 Video it is easy to upload video content. To upload a video, simply drag and drop the video file into the web user interface. Then, enter a title and description and let Office 365 Video take care of the rest. You can upload a wide variety of video file types:


    Once uploaded, the service then generates a standardised set of playback files for fast, easy viewing!


    For more information on how to upload a video to Office 365 Video, see Create and manage a channel in Office 365 Video.


    To see what happens when you upload a video file to Office 365 Video, check out the video below:





    Within Office 365 Video, videos are easily searchable with a dedicated search experience in the video portal already scoped to show only video results. All uploaded videos are discoverable in Office Delve (similar to documents, videos are automatically fed into the Office Graph).


    Every video player page has easy access to share directly into Yammer via inline conversations. Simply type in your message, add a group or individual to send to and click Post. The conversation stays with the video in the video portal, and can be accessed from the main Yammer user interface or on devices through the various Yammer apps.


    Office 365 Video can also be shared through email. Users can click on the mail icon on each playback page and send an email with a direct link to the video!



    One of the best things about Office 365 Video is that users will be able to view and share videos within Office 365 on any device! They can easily navigate the home page and channels to find and view content, and even upload new videos from their device! The first release of the Office 365 Video iPhone app has just been launched in the App Store for download! The app gives users the same level of access and capabilities as the web experience, which means you can easily view video content anywhere, anytime.


    Built-in security


    It’s very easy to set the permissions for the home page leveraging the same Active Directory powering authentication in all areas of Office 365. This enables admins to manage permissions for each channel. Channels are easy to create and assign delegated owner(s)—or channel managers—who can then manage their own content and specific set of permissions.


    Throughout the Office 365 Video portal, everything is encrypted and secure by design; that’s encryption at-rest and encryption in-transit. Adhering to the Office 365 Trust Centre commitments, an organisation's videos are kept isolated and encrypted in all locations, and are only available to authenticated users that have access and permissions to their organisation's videos.


    Learn more about how to set up and manage your Office 365 Video portal.


    For a full introduction to Office 365 Video and more information on uploading, viewing, navigating and sharing, see Meet Office 365 Video


  • New additions to Office Mix!

    Office Mix is a wonderful educational tool for making traditional PowerPoint presentations more fun and engaging! With Office Mix you can:

    • Add voice, video and digital ink to your slides
    • Include polls, quizzes and interactive apps
    • Gain insights and analytics into who is viewing your lessons, and for how long
    • Enable students to playback the lesson on any device

    The Office Mix team are always looking for ways to improve the tool. This is why they've made a few additions to Office Mix to make it even more effective for use in the classroom!

    Slide Notes

    One of the most important aspects of delivering an effective presentation is being adequately prepared and knowledgeable enough to adapt on-the-fly. Slide Notes acts as a teleprompter when you are recording a mix, so you don't have to worry about memorising and remembering your key points! When you click the MIX tab in the PowerPoint ribbon, and then click the Record button, the recording view will open and the Slide Notes translucent text box is displayed at the top of your screen. Your presentation will have smoother transitions, and you’ll record in fewer attempts!

    Closed Captioning

    The Mix team are excited to announce the addition of closed captioning for Office Mix! With closed captioning, you now have the ability to personalize your Office Mix experience to make it easier to see, hear, and use. Beyond supporting those who are hearing-impaired, closed captioning can supplement audio that is hard to understand. Additionally, captions can be used as a tool for those learning to read or by individuals who simply like to read a transcript along with the presentation. Closed captioning means your students can interact with a Mix in the way that is easiest for them! It also means students can watch a Mix wherever they are - even if they are in a busy and loud location such as on the bus or at the park. Closed captioning can be effective in reinforcing key points or to improve your audience’s comprehension of the material.

    To add closed captioning to a mix, ensure you check the box to create a video when uploading a mix. Then, download the video and utilize a third-party service to create the TTML file from your video. Once your TTML file is ready, go to your mix details, select the Upload TTML Filelink and upload your closed caption file.  From there, preview your mix to ensure your closed captioning is presented as you intended. For detailed instructions, read our Knowledge Base article.

    For more information on Office Mix in Education, head to this link!

  • Announcing Surface 3

    Microsoft is very excited to announce the launch of Surface 3 and the mobile-broadband version, Surface 3 (4G LTE). The Surface 3 incorporates the very best of the Surface Pro 3, and makes it available to many more people! The goal was to design a fantastic tablet that works as a laptop, with the Surface Pro 3's amazing pen experience and ability to run all Windows apps including full Office, but in a more affordable package.


    The result: the thinnest and lightest device in the Surface family so far, at just 622 grams! The Surface 3 runs full Windows, including desktop applications, and includes a one-year subscription to Office 365. And the best news of all? The Surface 3 starts at just NZ$799!


    The best of a tablet

    Surface 3 is sleek and stylish, with an ultra-clear 10.8-inch screen. Compared to the 12-inch screen of the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 feels more compact and can be used more like a tablet. Surface 3 also features a world-class multi-touch and pen experience, making it the most versatile device available for work and play! With 10-hour battery life, you'll easily be able to get through a full day at school or work without plugging in! New with Surface 3 is a Micro USB charger, which means it uses the same connector as most mobile phones. The included 13W charger will be the fastest charging option, but if your battery is running low you’ll be able to use your phone charger as well.

    Like every Surface before it, Surface 3 has a kickstand that allows you to work in the position that you want. This kickstand has three pre-set positions — a narrow angle that’s great for working at a traditional desk, an intermediate angle that is designed for sitting on the couch or using the device on your lap, and a wide angle that provides a natural writing or drawing canvas. And of course, you can collapse the stand completely to enable you to use your Surface 3 like a tablet.

    The capabilities of a laptop

    Surface 3 runs full 64-bit Windows 8.1 and will be upgradable to Windows 10 for free when it’s available. With full Windows, it will run the desktop applications you depend on for work or school.  Surface 3 will also include a free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, including full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote as well as 1 TB of OneDrive storage.

    When you click in the Surface 3 Type Cover, the tablet becomes a laptop! The Surface 3 Type Cover gives you a typing experience that is unmatched by any other tablet and really does turn your tablet into a full laptop. You can also use the Surface 3 Docking Station to instantly create a full desktop workstation, connecting easily to an HD monitor, a printer, an external mouse and keyboard. It is designed to allow you to work the way that best suits your style and circumstances.

    The Surface Pen

    Surface 3 supports the same pen experience as Surface Pro 3, to allow users to take notes, mark up files and create digital art. The Surface 3 pen will be sold separately from the device. The best news about the Surface 3 pen? It will now be available in several colour options - silver, blue, red and black! The feedback from students particularly has been incredible — even those who use the Type Cover to take the majority of their notes appreciate the ability to grab the pen and sketch a quick diagram or to underline and make margin notes. The Surface pen really is one of the most valuable tools in education.

    Surface 3 in the classroom

    Surface 3 is the ultimate device for education, especially combined with tools such as OneNote and Office Mix. Students can take notes, write directly on screen, and even record a lecture or class at the same time. Surface 3 enables students to use split screen to record their class, or have handouts open at the same time as they take notes. And because the Surface 3 is ultra-light and portable, students are able to carry it round school or university all day!

    And there's some great news for students! Students save 10% on Surface!

    Pre-order is available now through Microsoft Stores, and select retailers, and it will be on sale beginning May 5 with availability in 26 markets by May 7!


  • Microsoft invites you to the Travis Smith 'Teaching with Technology' Roadshow!

    If you are in New Zealand, Microsoft would love you to attend the Travis Smith 'Teaching with Technology' Roadshow!

    In May 2015, Travis Smith is doing a week-long tour of New Zealand to give informative seminars to educators. At the sessions you will learn about integrating technology into your teaching to increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes. 

    In this free event, Travis will explore how technology can support educational success in the 21st century. He will look at new and innovative ways to engage your students and improve learning outcomes through the use of pen-enabled tablet computers, wireless projection, and cloud-enabled collaboration platforms including OneNote, Office Mix and Office 365. This is an exciting opportunity to gain unique insight into the 21st century learning landscape from one of Australia’s leading speakers on technology in education. 

    avis has over 11 years’ teaching experience in schools and lecturing at Monash University. In his previous position Travis worked as an educational technology consultant where he presented many workshops and keynote presentations as well as consulted to over 60 schools across Australia. Travis has now joined the Microsoft team to work with educators around Australia and beyond in the use of technology for powerful learning.

    Travis is holding sessions in Auckland, Wellington, Blenheim, Christchurch and Dunedin.

    Register now!
    If you're a school teacher, follow this link.
    If you're a tertiary educator, follow this link.

    Join Travis Smith, Microsoft Australia’s National Education Specialist, for a master class on teaching with technology.

  • Announcing a fantastic OneNote resource for students, teachers and administrators

    The OneNote team at Microsoft have just launched!

    Due to the positive feedback from teachers using, we've released a similar site for students and administrators too! Now when you go to OneNoteinEducation you will be able to access interactive training guides, tips and tricks and additional resources designed specifically for students, teachers or school administration.


    The training videos are 5-7 minute interactive guides to help you get the most out of OneNote, no matter whether you are a student, teacher or school administrator. With this helpful resource, you'll be a OneNote expert in an hour!


    With more and more classrooms incorporating OneNote into their learning process, it has become clear that students and administrators need their own resources. Teachers can still access the 'Teachers' tab with the URL, and now students and admin can have their own space too!

    We hope you will share this resource to your students and colleagues so that they can start benefiting from OneNote in the classroom!

  • Simplify marking and assessment with OneNote - a case study of St Andrew's College, New Zealand

    This blog post has been adapted from "Technology enables efficiency in English marking" by Sam McNeill, Director of ICT at St Andrew's College, New Zealand.

    The above video shows how English teacher, Ms Helaina Coote, uses OneNote to mark English portfolio work and give feedback. Ms Coote is the English Head of Department at St Andrew's College in Christchurch, New Zealand. Using OneNote on her Surface Pro 3 has changed the way Ms Coote teaches and carries out assessments with her class. This is a wonderful example of how OneNote can be used as a tool to facilitate learning, and making the education process a lot more efficient for teachers and students.

    The recent introduction of the OneNote Class Notebook has made the creation of a OneNote workspace for a classroom a lot easier. Each student has their own private student notebook that is only shared with their teacher, and students cannot see each other's notebooks. In addition to this there is a content library for course materials and information which any student in the class can view. Thirdly, there is a collaboration space for anyone in the class to share, organise and work together in an interactive environment.

    Ms Coote believes that the biggest impact that OneNote has had is in the area of receiving work, marking it and returning feedback, saying "It has completely transformed how I manage the assessment practises, allowing me to streamline the feedback I am giving to students". This has been especially relevant for NCEA Achievement Standard 91106 where students are required to read, listen and watch up to six different texts over the course of three school terms, and respond to these. This traditionally creates a lot of paperwork in a classroom that needs to be managed. Previously, work was typically received via email, using Microsoft Word to insert comments or track changes, saving a copy locally, printing a copy for NZQA records and then emailing the revised copy back to the students with feedback - Ms Coote says this process was "triple handling" and creating more work than necessary. Now, students must submit their drafts via OneNote, and after having received their feedback from Ms Coote, have two days to develop a resubmission. These changes must be colour coded so she can easily see the differences. Asked whether using a digital pen was in some ways a return to the traditional ways of marking, Ms Coote commented:

    "The Surface Pro 3 and the digital pen allows you to blend the “old school”  with the “new.” I am still a teacher marking student submissions, but now I am using a digital pen and writing on an electronic submission. Furthermore, the feedback is literally real time – I do not even need to email it back to them."

    While using OneNote may simplify assessment and teaching processes for teachers, how do students feel about the increased use of this technology in the classroom? Ms Coote says, "Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of them receiving “written” feedback [via OneNote] … I’m able to do it much faster as well, so the pieces of paper don’t lie around on my desk for ages … it’s pretty immediate, as it’s a much more streamlined process". 

    One of Ms Coote's students commented:

    "[Since the introduction of Class Notebooks in OneNote] I have found it incredibly useful … I no longer have to lug around books or hand outs as it is all available on OneNote and all stored in one handy place. All my work and hand-outs are readily available whether I’m at home or at school its all there and backed up for when I need it. My teacher can now give me feedback on my work on OneNote using her Surface Pro 3 and she can even hand write on it …  I can see it instantly and then make new adaptions to my work hassle free as the interface on OneNote is so easy to use."

    It is great to hear such positive feedback from a teacher who is finding that OneNote is having an incredibly beneficial impact on her and her students' productivity in the classroom. The purpose of technology is to simplify rather than complicate, so we love to see how OneNote and Surface Pro 3 are helping to make some everyday aspects of teaching more efficient.

    We will finish this post with a bit of food for thought, raised by Sam McNeill at the end of his original article - "It is a timely reminder that many of the established practices of teaching often need only minor tweaks to achieve optimum efficiency, rather than massively overhauling them with major technological changes".


  • Enhance the classroom experience with the Surface Pro 3

    Today we are placing the spotlight on the amazing Surface Pro 3. This device is perfect for the education context - portable, fast, interactive, long battery life, powerful. Teachers can use the Surface Pen to make notes on assignments, take notes in their own handwriting, give students feedback and draw diagrams in front of the class. And the Surface Pro 3 runs Windows Office, desktop apps, and browsers so you can install all of your favourite education and productivity tools. The Surface Pro 3 is the perfect educational tool, especially when combined with OneNote to maximise efficiency, organisation, and to create fun and interactive lessons for students.

     We want to share some of Australian Microsoft Master Trainer, Pip Cleaves', favourite things about her Surface Pro 3!

    "The Surface Pro 3 gives me everything I need and want at this point. I can imagine that it would be a wonderful device for teachers and students, giving the option to install anything they need, the freedom to carry it around with ease, and the enjoyment of using a digitised stylus in a smooth, learning focused way."

    It runs Apps and Applications

    The fact I can install anything I want on my Pro 3 is a huge win for me. I can use apps or installed software. I use a lot of Adobe Software. I’m not a professional creative, but I try to learn something new each week. My Surface Pro 3 has everything I need installed and it never slows down or crashes. I can have as many programs open as I want, and not have to worry about lag. The ability to set up you home screen and task bar with apps and shortcuts means that as a teacher you can easily dip into software, or smoothly work with necessary applications as needed without having to search through all the programs. It’s a small time saver, but big stress saver. In the classroom, by pinning apps and applications, students can easily navigate their computers without feeling lost or getting side tracked on the way to completion of set tasks.

    Surface Pen

    I’ve been using the Pen more lately. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s the 12” screen, or perhaps it’s the feel of the pen, but I am writing more and more on the screen. I take notes while in meeting using OneNote and the pen. Since I have a Windows phone as well, I can look at my notes on the run with the OneNote App. I am finding this great for following up on inspiration and actions. I think of my own teenagers writing notes in class all day, and I wish they could use this device. It would be great for them for all subject areas. They could write and take visual notes, then come home and re-organise, summarise and synthesise their learning very easily.

    Workdesk Setup

    On my work desk I have a monitor and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse set up so, while at home, my Surface Pro 3 becomes my desktop. I usually have my outlook emails open on the smaller surface screen and work from the larger monitor. This is a perfect work environment for me. The Pro 3 screen is a great size for keeping an eye on the inbox, or catching up on TV, while I work away on the monitor. One day I will buy the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station, but until then, I’m perfectly happy with the setup. If I was to use my device in a school I would set up a monitor, keyboard and mouse on my desk, or at home and plug in to do my preparation and administration work. In the classroom I could remain free to move around the classroom as necessary, presenting websites or content from wherever I needed to be.

    No big backpack needed

    When you work in technology, a big backpack is usually a must. Not so when you own the Surface Pro 3. I am able to fit my device in to a small side bag with charger and pen. It’s not heavy, and it’s not bulky to carry around. This is a little, but big thing in my world and I am sure it is for students and teachers too.

    The webcam and audio is awesome

    My first encounter with the Surface Pro 3 webcam shocked me. It was so clear! I didn’t realise how low quality the other webcam I had been using was. Ditto for the microphone. I am able to use my Senheisser ear buds with as much clarity and definition as my larger mic enabled headphones. Webinars and online meetings now hum. The fact that the webcam is very clear means that you can easily include a group of students and still have clarity. It allows for a better experience for online learning for both teachers and students

    ScreenBeam Pro for wireless presentations

    I have been using the Actiontec ScreenBeam Pro for wireless projection. On the Surface Pro 3 this has enhanced the use of the device when working with people.

    This is seriously powerful for classroom use. Being untethered to a data projector means teachers can present from anywhere in the classroom, stick close to students who need more support or keep an eye on changing screens. When using a wireless device like this, students can also easily share their presentations and content with the class without having to stand in front of their peers. It leads to more adhoc collaboration and sharing.

    We'd love to hear your feedback if you've used a Surface Pro 3 in an educational setting! Email to let us know your experiences.

  • Kiwi student innovations impress judges at Microsoft Student Accelerator showcase

    This post has been taken from the Microsoft News Centre New Zealand, written by Brendan Boughen. For the original post, please visit the Microsoft New Centre.

    Kiwi student innovations impress judges at Microsoft Student Accelerator showcase

    An app designed by three University of Auckland students that connects people to work opportunities through social networks has won first place at the 2015 Microsoft New Zealand Imagine Cup competition.

    Called Tether ( the app is the brainchild of University of Auckland students Alyssa Ong, Vivien Lei and Opender Singh, and uses Facebook integration to allow users to actively search their extended social network for people with skills required for casual jobs they need done.

    For their efforts, the Tether team won $5,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Asia-Pacific regional round of the global Imagine Cup competition. If successful there, the team will then have the opportunity to travel to the USA for the worldwide finals to be held in Seattle in June.

    Nine teams were finalists in the competition, which required students to create apps or software that meet a genuine human need in categories of either ‘Innovation’ or ‘World Citizenship’.

    The judging panel consisted of notable leaders from New Zealand’s innovation community, including Dr Michelle Dickinson (Co-Founder of OMGTech), Andy Hamilton (Chief Operating Officer for The Icehouse), Jim Donegan (US Consul General), Sacha Judd (a partner at Buddle Finlay) and Helen Robinson (Director of ATEED and the Chairperson of Network for Learning).

    In congratulating all teams and participants, the judges noted that they were especially impressed with the number of young women who competed in the Imagine Cup this year.

    Second place and a $4,000 prize went to University of Auckland team ‘Lucky13’, for their app called ‘aFOODable’, which acts as a hub that connects people with charities, allowing them to donate food to the charities instantly through their smart phone. As runner up, the team will also get to attend and compete at the Imagine Cup regional finals.

    Third place and $2,000 went to another University of Auckland team HEART, for their app which monitors patients’ heart activity through their smart phone, and employs real-time trend recognition for detecting and responding to potential issues.

    Fourth place and $1,000 went to University of Auckland team Magikarp, for their app called ‘Lassie’ that provides an intelligent, private check-in service that alerts a chosen friend in situations where you are unable to call for help yourself.

    The finals event, held earlier this week at the Auckland Town Hall and attended by more than 1200 people including 800 local high school and tertiary students, was launched with a welcome from Hon. Steven Joyce, Minister for Science & Innovation, and Microsoft New Zealand Managing Director, Paul Muckleston.

    Muckleston says the Imagine Cup competition, as part of the locally developed Microsoft Student Accelerator (MSA) programme, is vital for supporting the next wave of New Zealand students into a career in IT and innovation.

    “The MSA programme was initiated by Microsoft New Zealand last year to focus on helping students at secondary and tertiary levels get ready for work in the IT industry. As such, it is a bold and much needed way of connecting students at all levels of study with the industry to help them ramp up their careers,” says Muckleston.

    “I have been impressed with the approach the students have taken in committing to this programme and delivering some great outcomes both through the Imagine Cup and their work placements – which in turn are bringing rewards for the students with many receiving job offers,” says Muckleston.

    Muckleston says 600 students trained in the MSA programme in 2014 with 130 placed in teams building apps for customers and tech companies over the summer holidays, with about 30 of those finding full-time employment in those customers at the conclusion of the programme. Most of those went on to enter their inventions in the Imagine Cup competition.

    “Around 2,000 tertiary students participated in the NZ Imagine Cup competition this year, which is just 1% of the 200,000 participants globally. New Zealand has traditionally punched well above our weight in the world Imagine Cup competitions, with Kiwi teams featuring in the top six teams globally for four out of the past five years.”

    Most notably, in last year’s event, New Zealand team Estimeet won the Innovation category at the global finals in Seattle, taking home a prize of US$50,000. Following that, team Estimeet spent a month in the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London and are this month joining New Zealand’s premier digital accelerator Lightning Lab – of which Microsoft Ventures is a national sponsor – for their three month programme.

    The next event on the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme schedule is the upcoming Week of Code, to be run across the region from 23-29 March.

    For more information about the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme, visit

    About the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme

    The MSA programme is a New Zealand developed initiative that aims to:

    1. Inspire students at high schools through programmes such as Microsoft IT Academy and the Week of Code.
    2. Develop students at the tertiary level through voluntary work placement, with the participating companies providing an environment where the students are coached and mentored as they work on innovative, creative projects, developing apps and software for a real world IT business setting.
    3. Empower students to innovate and work on their own start up idea through the Imagine Cup competition.

  • Create fun, interactive classroom projects with Minecraft

    Minecraft is quickly becoming one of the most popular tools in the classroom, as it is fun and engaging for students of all ages. Minecraft provides a great platform to encourage creativity, computing skills, and collaboration with their classmates.

     Using Minecraft, students will learn to:

    • Collaborate and communicate with their peers
    • Self-direct their learning in a games-based environment
    • Use computational thinking to build functioning worlds in Minecraft

     Suggestions for successful Minecraft adventures!

    • Have students use their own Minecraft accounts to let them use the program anytime, anywhere, rather than just at school. You can get students to make an account here.
    • Check with your school's IT department to make sure that Minecraft can be accessed on the school network
    • Set some basic rules - for example, no bullying comments and no destruction of other's Minecraft world's
    • Create a document detailing the project, rules and ideas and share this with your students
    • Establish a limit on how much time can be spent on Minecraft each day


    • Give them time to talk to discuss project ideas
    • Let students form sub-teams if needed
    • Then let the students go in-world for the first time, and let them play around for a while. For students that haven't used Minecraft before, it can take a while to get used to


    There are countless projects that teachers can set up for their students to work on. Below are a couple of ideas:

    • Imagine the year is 2450 and earth is facing imminent disaster. The world's leaders have ordered the evacuation of the planet in order to preserve the human race. Your students have been given unlimited funds to build a space craft and create a new civilization on another planet. It is the task of your students to design the space craft and build this new planet using Minecraft. It must include residential dwellings, amenities such as hospitals and schools, entertainment areas, transport systems, monuments, and parks, and must also include two invented creatures and plants. For more information on this plan, go here.
    • Give your students the challenge of creating the world's most liveable city. Their task would be to design the perfect city that they would like to live in, with efficient public transport system, recreation areas and ample housing. In order to complete this task, students would have to research the problems facing modern cities now and in the future, and brainstorm ways to combat these issues.
    • Get students to think of an issue facing the world today, and have them work in teams to design a machine that would solve it. In order to create cool working machines in Minecraft, coding and computational thinking is needed. Redstone and command block commands are necessary for this. Information on how to use Redstone can be found here.

    Once your students have created their amazing structures they can facilitate virtual excursions for other students at their school. These excursions can also be workshops where students teach each other Minecraft skills. This is a great chance for your students to demonstrate the skills they have learnt, and explain to others the concept behind the world they have created.

  • Using Microsoft technologies for Special Education

    Students often have particular learning needs that are difficult to manage in a classroom setting. Every child has a different learning style, and it can be challenging for teachers to support each of their students' individual needs. This is especially important in Special Education, where a teacher may have to accommodate many different learning disabilities - often whilst teaching a class full of students at the same time. With this in mind, Microsoft has carefully designed products and software to make it easier for teachers in the classroom.

     We'd like to share some stories of U.S. teachers who are using technology in innovative ways to teach students with varying learning styles and disabilities.

    Instructing students with disabilities

    Robin Lowell is a distance learning teacher who teaches mathematics to students who are blind or visually impaired. Robin has come up with a way to use Microsoft Lync and Yammer to communicate with her students at the Washington State School for the Blind, 180 miles away from where Robin lives and teaches from home.  

    Michio Inaba, a deaf teacher at Osaka's Ikuno School for the Deaf uses Surface and OneNote every day to teach his deaf and hearing impaired students. Using these technologies, Michio is able to encourage the true potential of his students, in a society that he himself struggled in as a deaf person.

    Flexibility to choose a stylus, touch, mouse or keyboard with Windows 8

    Windows 8 enables students to adjust use their device the way that they want to. Windows allows students to personalise their device so that they can access their schoolwork in their own way, according to their abilities and needs. Some students prefer touch screen while others rather a mouse. Some may like a traditional keyboard for typing, while others may learn best by writing, so Windows 8's powerful handwriting recognition and stylus input may be the best option. Sonja Delafosse demonstrates how Windows 8 ink features work in the classroom.

    Special Education apps for Windows

    There are many education apps for Windows which enable students of all abilities to learn in different ways. Here's a few special education apps designed for students with disabilities:

    • Tap to Talk turns any Windows 8 device into an affordable augmentative communication device, providing a non-verbal child or adult a voice
    • Visolve is an assistive software for people with colour blindness.  Visolve can apply some colour transformations, and simulations to an image taken by camera, saved in the file, or copied in clipboard. 
    • Talkingtiles is an assistive care app that can be used for communication (‘AAC’), learning, daily living and social skills for individuals with a special need, disability, or a behavioural health disorder. It can be personalized to suit the needs of both children and adults, making it an effective care and learning tool to enhance an individual’s quality of life.

     If you've got an inspiring story of how you use Microsoft technologies for Special Education, we would love to hear! Email and get in touch!

  • Tertiary students get free Office 365 ProPlus!


    Awesome! You're keen to make the most of this amazing offer to get Office 365 ProPlus free of charge!

    But what does this mean?

    When you download Office 365 ProPlus you get the latest version of the full Office productivity suite, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These are all available for offline and online use to best prepare you for class. As long as you’re a current student at an eligible institution that has activated the service, you’ll be able to use this software for free.

    You can:

    • Install on up to 5 compatible PCs or Macs, plus 5 tablets/mobile devices (including iPad!)
    • Sync across all your devices with OneDrive
    • Gain valuable skills on the world’s most popular productivity software
    • Use the same programmes as your lecturers and tutors to ensure full file compatibility

    If you are enrolled at an eligible tertiary institution that has activated the service, you can download the software by signing in to Office 365 using your institution login and password. If you’re a student at one of the below tertiary institutions, simply click on the corresponding link and follow the instructions. If your institution isn’t listed below but has activated this service, you can visit this link and sign in using your institution login and password.

    So, what's the next step?

     Students at the tertiary institutions listed below are eligible to get Office 365 ProPlus for FREE! Click on your institution's name for more instructions and to get started!


    If your tertiary institution is not listed, you can still check whether you are eligible here.


    Don’t forget, you’ll need your tertiary institution account login and password to sign in and take up this benefit.


    Did we miss out your tertiary institution? Ask your institution’s IT department about getting Office for free.


  • Meet Ruby Huang, a 2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert

    This blog post is taken from Anthony Salcito's 'Daily Edventures'  which recently featured New Zealand teacher Ruby Huang.

    Ruby is a science teacher at Auckland's Howick College. She was recently made a 2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert in recognition of her efforts to include technology in teaching.

    “At this moment, I felt that the students began to integrate and relate their learning experience in the classroom to real life; to acknowledge that there is a purpose to science and they aren’t restricted to memorizing facts and calculating pointless numbers.” – Ruby Huang, New Zealand

    Ruby Huang grew up a self-described bookworm who even had a favourite Dewey Decimal classification, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that she ultimately became an educator. It was that same enthusiasm for learning that made Huang a 2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and just as important, a teacher who’s willing to wholly rethink the classroom experience for her digitally savvy students.

    After deciding to teach her science students about lab safety by having them produce their own training videos, Huang knew she was on to something. “I knew that recording notes via OneNote or presenting via PowerPoint was not the proper use of technology, nor was it close to innovation,” she says. “I wanted the students to transform their own learning and I would be the one to guide them; at times, it was the students guiding me, as their expertise and knowledge of useful apps and technology were bound to surpass mine later on in the year. This is innovation.”

    Since that project, Huang has brought that same approach to many other lessons, including one that focused on delivering food to the needy. Not only did the students develop a food drive, they also applied science by calculating the most nutritious meals.  Her Innovative Educator project, Eco-Building Investigation, raised awareness about the importance of environmentally-friendly construction while giving students the opportunity to investigate and select materials for their buildings.

    Because documenting, communicating and sharing these projects is also an important part of the lesson, all of Huang’s projects make use of creative presentation tools. And Huang herself has been something of an innovator in this space, using the new Microsoft Sway to express her ideas on collaboration. Her work was featured here, and is a fantastic example of this new tool’s potential.

    Whatever technology Huang and her students are using, you can be sure they’re using it in ways that are both instructive and engaging. Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Ruby Huang.

    What inspired you to become an educator?

    As a child, my first dream job was to be an author, I loved reading and absorbing new facts. You could say that I was a bookworm, sitting in the corner whilst the rest of my family watched TV. My favourite Dewey Decimal code was 793.1, which was the puzzle section. I liked mental challenges and thinking outside of the box. Later on I wanted to be an astronaut (but my Dad told me I couldn’t take my dog into orbit).

    In primary to intermediate school, I was elected librarian, traffic monitor, environmental agent, paper-recycler, camp leader and sports monitor. It was not until my final year of high school that I found solace in helping people; I was heavily involved with coaching Kendo at my club, tutoring ESL (English as a Second Language) students at my school and also tutoring peers in their school work.

    Throughout university, I continued tutoring biology, chemistry, physics, Spanish, mathematics and English as a side job whilst majoring in neurophysiology. Originally, the plan was to get into medical school, as I felt that the health industry was the best place to “help people.” In some ways I am grateful that I did not get the interview after freshman year. It was in my final semester that I realized I had been helping people all along through the power of education. I was an educator and decided that after I graduated with my Bachelors, I would continue with a teaching diploma and start making a real difference in the community.  

    What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?

    The most powerful event by far was the “Food Parcel project.” Through collaboration with my colleague Steve Martin, I propelled and redesigned the topic of Food and Energy in a digital format to include a 21st century learning task, whereby students had to design and produce a food parcel to be donated to the local Salvation Army.

    This was no ordinary food parcel, as students had to scientifically analyse and present their research behind the chosen foods, design and distribute posters and flyers to the public for the food drive, use apps to calculate energy levels, research to provide healthier alternatives, create a menu to ensure metabolic demands were achieved, and much more.

    The best moment was when the captain from the Salvation Army came in to explain their role in community and thank the class for their generous donations. The students gave a short speech and the proudest moment was when they thanked the captain for giving them the opportunity to help those in need, for if it weren’t for the initial problem, there would have never been a task to solve in the first place, and their food drive would have no significant meaning. The students truly understood what it is like to have an effect on the greater community.

    At this moment, I felt that the students began to integrate and relate their learning experience in the classroom to real life; to acknowledge that there is a purpose to science and they aren’t restricted to memorizing facts and calculating pointless numbers. I felt accomplished as a teacher because I was the one who “opened the door” and the students took the challenge and walked through. “It has always been about the students.” (What Students Say by William E. J. Doane).

    Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?

    "I wanted each lesson to integrate technology at some point, but I found that this ideal was not what transformed learning - rather, it was how the technology was used." - Ruby Huang

    This year was the first year we gave each student a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. I wanted each lesson to integrate technology at some point, but I found that this ideal was not what transformed learning – rather, it was HOW the technology was used.

    The first learning lesson of Y9 Science: I planned to teach them about safety protocols and establish a set of class-lab rules. I came up with a question: “How do I get the students to teach themselves?” The answer? “I shall set them loose in the lab.”

    The instructions were simple: “Look around and see what dangers there are in the lab. I want you to use your tablet to create a safety video similar to that of the Air New Zealand Middle Earth videos. Your groups are on the whiteboard; allocate each member a role of either: director, actor(s), costume and props, cameraman and scriptwriter. You have five minutes to write a draft script, 30 to film and 15 to edit. When you finish writing your draft, show me and start filming, submit your video to Schoology LMS. Lastly add a rule to the online discussion board for homework.”

    The effect of this task was astounding, I watched as they raced around acting out scenes and practiced their lines, one group used stop-animation and another asked for broken glassware and fake blood to make it more realistic. Consequently, the students were so engrossed with the task at hand, I strolled out of the lab and ran to fetch my mentor teacher, and he too was surprised at how well the simple collaborative task transformed the chalk and talk of “please list 10 safety rules and copy them out.”

    Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?

    "To establish a quality education for students, we must first establish a quality learning environment... where educators are willing to transform learning by stepping back and looking at the current format of education from a learner's perspective."

    Our school is not known for its academic achievements, our neighbouring schools often are the first choice and the queue for quality education is at their doors, not ours. Likewise the student-conceived level of achievement is very poor and low. It is not that the students do not want to learn, it is rather that they have no spark for learning, they’d prefer to laze around and play all day — there is a very low level of learning culture in my school.

    In more advanced grade levels, the students often tell me that they “hate science”- because their past teachers never gave them experiments, they only handed out worksheets and told them to copy from the board. “It’s not you Miss Huang; it’s just that science has no use in my life.” It was hard to persuade them, so I decided that I had to let them see for themselves — by giving them the opportunity through inquiry-based learning. Technology gave me the tool to do this, as the fascination behind how the solar system works is no longer presented using numbers, posters and text books, rather we can use interactive web 2.0 apps like this. Or instead of memorizing the path of the digestive system, we could watch a Magic School Bus video and use a flash animation to enhance the learning.

    To establish a quality education for students, we must first establish a quality learning environment where the educators are as invigorated with the chance to learn as their students and where educators are willing to transform learning by stepping back and looking at the current format of education from learner’s perspective.

    If you were made to write page after page, fill out worksheet after worksheet, just how much information would you retain at the end of the day? Why should we integrate 21st century learning design and turn our heads towards examples of innovative modern learning environments? Why can we never replace the teacher at the front of the classroom with a robot?

    In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?

    My biggest hope is that students will pass on their enriched learning experiences in my classroom into their day-to-day lives. This does not mean that students must become vegetarians after we talk about the excessive amounts of methane production by farm animals. What I would like to see is that further down the line, they will draw upon their experiences and make choices that reflect upon the knowledge they have gained in the classroom. For example, taking up community service or working up the ladder through collective intelligence and collaboration with their colleagues.

    My excitement towards the future of technology and revolution of education is immeasurable. Imagine what we could do in the future if, through the span of 10 years, we have moved from having a single computer in the class shared by 28 students to a 1:1 flipped learning environment where the teacher no longer dictates the pace of learning — the students do. The stars are the limit.


  • Introducing OneNote Staff Notebook for education

    Microsoft has created the OneNote Staff Notebook! Teachers and educators in the field suggested that they would like to have the same OneNote platform as their students, and we listened! The OneNote Staff Notebook is designed to cultivate and manage educator collaboration within the school, and the wider education community. Now, an entire school can enjoy the benefits of OneNote's ability to organise and manage productivity - not just students!

    OneNote Staff Notebook, like OneNote Class Notebook, is an app for Office 365 that lets an education staff leader quickly set up a personal workspace for every staff member or teacher, a content library for shared information and a collaboration space for everyone to collaborate—all within one powerful notebook. With a Staff Notebook, administration and staff can save time, become more organized and collaborate more effectively.  Because OneNote is free and on every platform and every device, you can access your Staff Notebook from anywhere.  Staff leaders might include a principal, head of school, administrator, faculty head, department head, or a leader of a professional learning community (PLC). If you fall into these roles and have Office 365 Education, you can get started with Staff Notebooks today!

    A few ideas on how to use Staff Notebook:

    Collaboration space

    • Staff meetings—For committee, grade level, departmental or PLC, OneNote has tight integration with Outlook and Office, along with rich search capabilities so you’ll never lose track of follow-ups.
    • Initiatives—Plan out school initiatives collaboratively and keep things organized such as school improvements and fundraisers.
    • Tide chart for student highs and lows—Some schools have used this innovative and collaborative way to track student highs and lows during school over time.
    • Cross-grade lesson plan development—Some schools set up a Staff Notebook for a particular grade and do school-wide lesson plan and curriculum development.  For example, 9th grade math lesson plan across 10 teachers to develop and share.

    Content library

    • Policies and procedures—Keep important information like key emails with attachments, school policies and other things all in one place.  Since OneNote is available on all devices and platforms, you can access it anytime, anywhere and even offline.
    • Dates and deadlines—Links, sticky notes, calendars, deadlines, to-dos—you can put all of it in one shared space that everyone can always find.

    Private staff member notebook

    • Professional development—Professional development/professional learning is an important aspect for every teacher and faculty member. A great use of the private staff member notebook is to capture professional development plans and feedback, and then share and gather feedback from the staff leader.
    • Classroom observations—Modern classroom observations can all be kept in a private staff member notebook. Take photos with your OneNote mobile app (any device) and insert directly into the staff member notebook. Record audio with your phone during the observation, or use digital ink to capture handwriting. With the OneNote flexible page surface, there is a much richer environment for classroom observations.
    • Lesson plans and feedback—A great way to gather lesson plan feedback is for a teacher to put the digital lesson plan in his/her private staff notebook. The staff leader can easily give feedback in real-time or while offline, and can use any form of feedback including text, picture, ink, audio or even video. The rich page surface of OneNote allows a much more flexible way to gather and share feedback. If a teacher is absent, the staff leader can have plans can be printed off from here for the substitute.
    • Evaluation—Staff leaders can capture and share private feedback and evaluation information in the staff member notebook.
    • Parent communication—Using the Outlook “Send to OneNote” feature, a teacher can easily send important emails into the private staff member notebook for later reference.

    Want to get started with OneNote Staff Notebook?


    For an interactive tour of the Staff Notebook, go to: OneNoteEDUStaffGuide. This will give instruction for school leaders on how to set up and manage a Staff Notebook.


    For further information:

    1. Visit to learn more about OneNote, including how to install it on all your devices.
    2. Visit to experience interactive guides on how to use OneNote in education.
    3. To learn how to install this app at your school or district, visit OneNoteEduStaffInstall.

    We are looking forward to releasing OneNote Staff Notebook for broader applications soon! Stay tuned here!


  • Announcing the Office 365 self-service download portal!

    As of February 23, Microsoft has enabled auto-licensing and self-signup for all students and staff at New Zealand schools and tertiary institutions, so they can get Office free of charge! The self-service portal will make it easier for students and teachers to get the free Office subscription they are entitled to.

    To help students get the most out of their education, Microsoft provides Office to every student, teacher and staff member at a New Zealand educational institution - free of charge! With Office 365, students and staff will have access to the latest version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and much more!

    What does this mean?

    • Install on up to 5 compatible PCs and Macs, plus 5 tablets (including iPad!)
    • Use with 1TB of OneDrive for automatic device syncing
    • Gain valuable skills on the world’s most popular productivity software
    • Office subscription lasts for as long as your child is a student here and the program continues
    • Retain the Office subscription for as long as you belong to the institution

    How do you get it?

    It's super easy! All you need is an institution-provided email address, and to be over the age of 13! Follow the links below:

    For students -

    For teachers -

    Important information for IT managers

    If your school has already signed up for Office 365, and you have not yet assigned Office 365 ProPlus licenses, your users will automatically be assigned the appropriate license when they sign in.

    It’s important to note that you will continue to have full control over managing your services in a manner that's best for you and your organization. See the FAQ if you wish to prevent licenses from automatically being assigned to your users.

    If your school is not yet using Office 365 Education, students, faculty and staff with email addresses from your school can still sign up, create an account (if they are old enough), and enjoy the benefits of Office 365 services, including Office 365 ProPlus, Office Online and OneDrive. Please see the FAQ if you wish to prevent users from creating their own Office 365 accounts using their school email address.

    Students, faculty and staff who already have an Office 365 account can use their existing user name and password. If you have not assigned licenses to them, one will be automatically assigned to them when they sign in. 

    Important: If you are an ADFS user, and to ensure there are no issues with how you are currently managing your identities, I would like to advise you to run the “self-sign up” script.  This will block some functionality on the website that currently allows a user to create their own O365 account.  Your teachers and students will still be able to use the website to get an Office 365 license that will allow them download Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs and other mobile devices, including iPad.
    To run the script, please see below. These steps require the use of Windows PowerShell, see Getting Started with Windows PowerShell.

    1. If you haven't already, install the latest 64-bit version of the Azure Active        Directory Module for Windows PowerShell.

    • After you click the link, select Run to run the installer package

    2. Use this Windows PowerShell command to enable automatic   tenant join for new users:

    • " Set-MsolCompanySettings  -AllowEmailVerifiedUsers $true "
    • (remove " " from script)


  • Register now for the Microsoft EduCast webinars!

    Microsoft IT Academy and the Microsoft Educator Network have put together a series of complimentary webinars, led by global experts. The EduCast webinars let you know about some of the most exciting changes and innovations in education, in an exciting interactive format.


    Microsoft EduCast brings together academic leaders, innovative institutions, and pioneering educators. There is a webinar released once a month, so it's easy to keep on top of the latest happenings in the education sector. As live webinars, this series is delivered through an interactive platform that lets attendees from around the world learn together and get their questions answered directly from presenters.


    Microsoft EduCast Webinars are available to any educator registered on the Microsoft Educator Network.


  • The amazing impact of a pen interface on learning

    Ever wondered which device interface is best for learning? Pen, keyboard, voice, touch? There are a lot of interface options, but some are vastly more effective than others at enabling and enhancing learning. New evidence suggests that some technologies actually create barriers to learning, thinking, creating and problem-solving.

    In the past couple of days, Microsoft has released a report carried out by Professor Sharon Oviatt. Professor Oviatt presents research on the role of keyboards and digital pens in learning, with the key finding being that the way a student inputs information into a computer makes a big difference in the amount of information that they absorb and retain.

    It has now been proven that keyboards can be detrimental to students' learning as typing reduces information retention as opposed to drawing and hand-writing, For many languages, as well as symbolic subjects (e.g., music, math, physics, chemistry, and engineering), keyboards inhibit expression while pen interfaces easily support it.  

    So why are pen interfaces superior for learning? It's because they more accurately accommodate how we think,  allowing a user to draw and create diagrams, write free-hand, and use symbols and numbers. For students of every age, the ability to use spatial content on a pen interface improves comprehension and retention. In a major study, tertiary students who took lecture notes with a pen more actively summarised and paraphrased the content which led to deeper understanding and memory. When using a keyboard students were seen to type more words, but their notes contained more verbatim copying which results in shallower understanding of information. 

    In education, this has a huge impact. The new evidence emerging suggests that there needs to be more thought put into the devices that are given to students at schools and tertiary institutions, as having the wrong device may harm their education and limit their potential. A multimodal interface with pen input and other input options such as speech, touch and a keyboard are the most powerful devices for learning. These a multi-modal device, combined with software such as OneNote create the perfect combination for empowering thinking and learning.

    You can download and read the report here