Support Deploying Microsoft SDS


If you’re a school that is needing some help deploying Microsoft Student Data Sync (SDS) then you can apply for one on one support for a limited time here:

I posted some additional resources if you want to DIY that you can access here. SDS is being used increasingly across a range of Microsoft tool sets and will enable you to synchronise data with the recently announced Intune For Education.

Intune For Education Announced at BETT

This week Microsoft has released some major announcements at the annual BETT Show in London. You can read the full announcements on the official blog here, however the one that caught my attention the most was Intune For Education:

microsoft-tries-expelling-chromebooks-from-schools-with-intune-app-and-low-cost-pcsFor me, this is a key solution for schools to consider to simplify the management of Windows 10 devices, particularly for those schools that may not have dedicated ICT staff. The things that impressed me were:

  • It’s cloud based, there is no need to install locally as it is hosted in Azure and is scalable, making it suitable for schools of any size whilst remaining simple enough for part-time ICT admin staff to use.
  • There are a number of school-specific policies pre-configured to promote security for school devices (there are over 150 settings you can configure if you choose)
  • There is an express setup for schools that allow for quick deployment of new devices for different groups of users.
  • Your list of purchased applications in the Microsoft Windows Store For Business are automatically synchronised to Intune For Education allowing to easily choose which apps you wish to deploy e.g. Minecraft licensing in the Business Store.
  • There is an auto-enrollment feature meaning students or staff automatically receive the apps specified by the school when they first log in.
  • intune-for-education-set-up-pcs-100705444-largeFor super quick deployment there is free access to the “Schools Setup PC App” that creates a USB key to quickly configure common settings on a new device with a single key press – no need to get it on the wireless network first!
  • Intune for Education supports Student Data Sync to automatically create groups of students/teachers for customised group permissions allowing more granular control over policy.
    • Policy will “follow the user” so if you have different policies for different year levels, these will automatically apply as a student moves from year to year.
  • There is a test/assessment mode. Students can log in with a special account to be used when taking assessment which will lock the device down to pre-defined access levels.

These features represent a significant leap forward with technology offerings for managing Windows 10 devices in education. To learn more, check out Microsoft Education.

Update: A couple more videos showing how Intune for Education can be used, along with the benefits of Digital Inking:

Microsoft Classroom & SDS – Some Useful Resources


Microsoft Classroom

A number of schools are exploring how they can use the Microsoft Classroom platform to integrate with their teaching and assessment as they are already using Microsoft OneNote Classroom Notebooks.

UPDATE: I’ve found this dedicated blog on how teachers can use Microsoft Classroom – could be a good starting point:

To get a good understanding of what School Data Sync and Classroom actually are, then this is probably a good high level overview to start with. Thiis is a slightly more technical description in an Office Mix

I’ve pulled together some useful resources to assist teachers getting started:

Here is one example of a school using SDS and Office365 to support improved learning outcomes:

Minecraft Education Edition – Buying & Managing Licenses


Students playing Minecraft Education Edition

UPDATE 2: Nikkie Lang, from Opaheke Primary School, has published a fantastic blog that shows the process from a school’s perspective from start to finish. This is well worth reading by clicking here.

UPDATE: Since making this blog I’ve come across an authoritative step by step guide on TechNet that you can view here. I do encourage you to check that out as well. It shows how to assign licenses purchased from:

  1. Directly in the Microsoft Windows Store For Business, and
  2. Purchased as part of an EES  Agreement through Volume Licensing

Unsurprisingly, more schools are exploring Minecraft Education Edition as an easy way to managing licensing for students, and developers are already creating and sharing new Minecraft worlds for the Education Edition.

The homepage of Minecraft Education Edition is the best place to start for those new to using Minecraft for their students, but if you’re interested in how to buy / manage licenses (including assigning/reclaiming) then I’ve made a step by step guide for you below.


  • Make sure you sign in with your school O365 account – this will need to be an administrator account:


  • Once you’re signed in, search for “Minecraft” in the search box at the top right hand corner and then select “Minecraft Education Edition”:


  • You will then have an option to “Buy” or “Manage” your licenses:


  • minecraft-3-5UPDATE: Schools in NZ can purchase licences from Datacom via the MoE School agreement (this is recommended). If you’ve not purchased any licenses already (&you want to get them directly from the MBSW) then select “Buy” and you will be presented with pricing and quantities. You will need to pay via credit card to purchase these. Step through the purchase process to complete your licensing procurement. REMEMBER: you can assign/reclaim these licenses between students so you may not need to buy one license for every student in your school (see below for how to manage this process).
  • When you are ready to assign licenses to students click on the “Manage” button to the right of the “Buy” button and you can start to assign licenses. The easiest way to do this is click the “Invite People” to the bottom right of the screen and then this allows you to easily search for the names of students in your class / school and assign them  (You don’t need to type the full email address, only the name of the student). See below:

Continue reading

What is Office365? A 6 Minute Visual Summary


When mentioning Office365, people still confuse what it means and ask “oh you mean Microsoft Word?”

The Office365 solution is made up of a number of different products and solutions and the above six minute introduction video does a great high level overview of these. This would be a useful video to share with staff or show at a professional learning session to help reinforce that Office365 means more than the traditional Word/PowerPoint/Excel combo!

A great blog post on LinkedIn that highlights why Office365 is more than just “Office online” was authored by Kirsty McGrath and can be read here. She created a great infographic to highlight the features here:

O365 Infographic.png

Kirsty McGrath’s Office365 Infographic – see the full blog post at the link above.


Updates for OneNote Class Notebook, Learning Tools and Office Lens—plus stickers!


Screen shot of updates to OneNote Online

Another major release from the Microsoft Education team this morning, focusing on more updates for OneNote Class Notebooks, the popular Learning Tools as well as adding some fun with stickers for teachers to motivate students with.

Read the official announcement here.

The summary updates include (my observations in italics):

  • The availability of Class Notebook Tools on more platforms.
    • Having these available in OneNote Online means virtually any device can now benefit from these, even if they don’t have the OneNote desktop client installed
  • Updates for Learning Tools for OneNote—new languages and more.
    • Seeing these reading comprehension tools extendede to Word (both Desktop in Word 2016 and Word Online means even more students will be able to benefit)
  • The ability for teachers to give stickers to students in their Class Notebooks.
    • We have all seen how popular emoji have become in virtually every form of digital communication, from emails to text messages through to social media posts. Now teachers can add stickers to student NoteBooks.
  • New embeddable content types from partners.
  • Updates for the OneNote Class Notebook and LMS.
  • The availability of Office Lens for iPad, including Learning Tools.
    • Lens is a neat tool that has lots of benefits for students taking photos of whiteboards, screens and other content and offering some basic improvements on viewing. Nice to see it on the iPad at last.

I’ll be exploring these updates in more detail in the coming weeks and post back any nice features I see.


Embedded content with stickers being displayed

How To Keep Your Data FRESH With PowerBI Personal Gateway

powerbi-getting-startedOne of the biggest challenges to using any data analytics tool is keeping the data fresh and up to date with the minimum of effort. When you’re getting serious, you usually opt for the ETL process and data warehousing of some sort, but for the smaller users who do not have access to high level technical skills, what are the best options to use?

Enter: PowerBI Data Gateway

This product has undergone a few name changes over the last year or so (Personal Gateway, Enterprise Gateway etc) but now it is nice and simple and consolidated into one tool which you can use on your own laptop/desktop or install on your server to keep your data synchronised with PowerBi:

With the on-premises gateways, you can keep your data fresh by connecting to your on-premises data sources without the need to move the data. Query large datasets and benefit from your existing investments. The gateways provide the flexibility you need to meet individual needs, and the needs of your organization.

Why is this a game changer for schools? Well many schools will be storing their data in simple Excel or CSV documents, perhaps even an Access database and will be making regular changes and updates to these files. In other products, users would need to re-import the modified file back into the data tool analysis tool to refresh the data set and visualise the changes.

Here is a tutorial showing you how you can set this up in 5 minutes:

A couple of things to note:

  1. You need to have installed the PowerBI Data Gateway first and that it has permissions to go through any firewall restrictions you may have in place.
  2. Take care where you store your original data source file (the Excel spreadsheet in this case). Once you have published the report to from PowerBI Desktop, I’ve not found a way of changing the path to the source file for the scheduled refresh through the Data Gateway.
  3. The default time for the data refresh is midnight so you may want to add another time/times for this refresh to take place (PowerBI free can only be refreshed daily, PowerBI Pro is hourly – see here for more info). This can be easily done as below for 9am:



This is an awesome way to keep things simple for schools and assists them in avoiding the dreaded manual reloading of data.