ANZAC Reflections – We Will Remember

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch in the lead up to Anzac Day 2017

It’s not often I write about things other than technology and education on this blog, however one of my other great passions is, in fact, history. I was privileged to teach history for four years at Linwood College and Catholic Cathedral College when I first started teaching after leaving my first career in the ICT sector.

When I moved to St Andrew’s College in 2012, my job as the Director of ICT was full time, precluding me from continuing to actively teach history, however I was fortunate to be given a number of opportunities to speak at the weekly Chapel services the College held. It was at two of these that I researched former students and staff members and their roles in World War 2 and then shared their stories with students. I recount all of this because tomorrow, April 25th, is ANZAC Day in New Zealand and for those unacquainted with this, this public holiday commemorates the war time services of the Australia, New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who first served together during the ill fated Gallipoli Campaign in World War 1.

Barry Martin

Laying a virtual poppy for Barry Martin at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph

I was thrilled, therefore, to learn that at the ANZAC Memorial Service that will be hosted at the new St Andrew’s College Centennial Chapel tomorrow, a video will be shown of the College’s World War 2 Memorial Tour of Europe that happened in January. During this trip, each student was required to research about an Old Collegian and then a wreath and College thistle was placed at the grave site. You can see the video showing this tour here:

Keen observers will have heard two names mentioned:

  • James Samuel Cartwright – a former teacher who was killed days after the D-Day landings when his destroyer, HMS Boadicea, was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel
  • Barry Martin – a student of the Preparatory College who was a navigator in Stirling Bombers and was shot down and killed over occupied Europe (his plane crashed near Rotterdam).

These names were two of the men that I had researched whilst at St Andrew’s College and shared their stories at Chapel services. At the time, I wrote a blog post showing off the considerable technology that went into researching and presenting these stories, including a Skype video call with the 92year old surviving sister of James Samuel Cartwright.

It seems appropriate at this time of ANZAC commemorations to revisit these presentations and, through the retelling of their stores, we will not forget the ultimate sacrifice these men made.

James Samuel Cartwright:

Barry Martin:

Technology is certainly enabling new generations to learn more about their forefathers’ service in both The Great War and World War 2 and it seems the fascination with new stories from this period are not diminishing. I read with interest this story in the press today, this story in the press today,  bringing a degree of closure to a 93 year old Kiwi who piloted Lancaster bombers during the WW2.  A great resource for New Zealander’s looking to find out more about relatives that have served (as far back as the Boer War), is the Auckland Museum’s Online Cenotaph:

Online Cenotaph

The Online Cenotaph allows visitors to search up known information on former soldiers, contribute additional information if they have it, as well as lay a “virtual poppy” on the cenotaph.

For those interested, I have read the following history books over the last few months – they may be of interest to you as you pause and reflect this ANZAC Day:

Major OneNote Class NoteBook Announcement: Sharing With Parents

onenote-class-notebooksOne of the things that has really impressed me over the last couple of years has been the responsiveness from the Microsoft Education team to the requests of teachers and how they want to use OneNote in their classes.

Today, in a new blog post that you can read here, the OneNote team have announced four new features that make it even easier for teachers to securely and flexibly share the learning of students with parents at home.

The four new features announced are:

  1. Parent or guardian access to Class Notebook (read-only links)
  2. Parent or guardian access APIs (e.g. if you have a Parent Portal or LMS that you want to generate these links automatically from)
  3. Permissions in the Collaboration Space (control which students can see which sections in the Collaboration Space – great for Project Based Learning)
  4. Delete student content when removing permissions (keep it tidier when removing students from your Class Notebook)

Of these, the first is the biggest “win” for teachers in my view as this allows them to achieve a feature request that has been around for a while – bringing the parent/guardian “into” the digital classroom by selectively and securely sharing the relevant sections with them.

Another scenario where this could work is if you have a teacher aide that wants to see a student’s work in a particular class, they could access it in read only through this method.

To see how easier it is to achieve this, have a look at the following animated GIF:

OneNote-Class-Notebook-updates-include-read-only-parent-or-guardian-access-and-collaboration-space-permissions-1b

From the original blog:

Teachers now can quickly and easily generate read-only links to both the Content Library and individual student notebooks. A parent or guardian can click the link to open OneNote on the web and view their student’s notebook. The teacher can also easily remove these notebook links if desired. This new capability is located under the Manage Notebooks area of the Class Notebook. To try the new parent and guardian features, a school simply needs to have guest access enabled for their Office 365 site. Find additional details here.

The other major point from this update is the ability to control the Collaboration Space more effectively by assigning students in groups to sections. Again, from the original blog:

OneNote-Class-Notebook-updates-include-read-only-parent-or-guardian-access-and-collaboration-space-permissions-2

Teachers can now sub-divide the Collaboration Space—based on student permissions that the teacher assigns for each section—into groups allowing project-based learning (PBL), among many other new scenarios. This new permission, located under the Manage Notebooks area of the Class Notebook, enables a teacher to create specific sections in the Collaboration Space assigned to specific students.

For example, say you have four groups of six students each. The teacher assigns each group of students to a specific section. Group 1 can work together in the Group 1 section, but cannot see that the Group 2, Group 3 or Group 4 sections exist in the Collaboration Space. This is similar to how in Class Notebook students cannot see each other’s private notebooks.

Don’t forget to check this out in it’s entirety by going to the original blog post here, and better yet, given that these updates are available immediately, go and have a play with them.

Finally, I know there will be a lot of happy teachers with these announcements as I’ve had numerous discussions over the last few months with teachers trying to work out how to create ePortfolios for their students/parents to access and now this gives that functionality in a very simple, controllable manner.

Windows 10 Creators Update Is Here

Many of you will have been waiting for the official release date of the Windows 10 Creators Update last week and now that it is launched the best place to get an overview of the new features is the official Windows Blog.

You can read the post introducing Creators Update here.

For a visual overview, here is a good video clip:

Some of the features that really stand out for me are:

  • 3D Paint – the ease of building out 3D apps in Creators Update is a neat feature with plenty of real world application, especially in education.
  • Mixed Reality – the announcement of lower-cost devices that will support mixed reality is exciting as it means more students can develop in this space without the cost of a HoloLens headset.
  • Beam Game Broadcasting – for the gamers amongst us, you can now easily stream your games in real time to the web for others to follow along with – no need for third party tools.
  • Updates to the Edge Browser, including better tab management and preview options, default support of PDF and eBook reading is now a feature as well.
  • Mini View Feature – an “always on top” frame allowing you to keep an eye on a critical app, skype call, or browser window, whilst working in another window at the same time.
  • A whole range of new security updates to keep your device safe.

Read the blog overview here.

There are a range of different ways to get Windows 10 Creators Update, from the blog link above:

You can get the Creators Update in a few different ways. If you already have a Windows 10 PC and have automatic updates enabled, the update will be delivered to you when it’s ready. If you are an advanced user and would like to get the update manually, visit this blog post to learn how to get the Creators Update.

So go get started creating and leave comments with your experience below.

Free Azure Cloud Migration Assessment Tool

As more organisations, including schools and tertiary institutes, explore cloud migrations from on-premise servers, the number one question is always “how much will it cost me and how much can I save?”

Recently, Microsoft have released a free cloud migration assessment tool that you can see here:

Click here to start the free cloud migration assessment

There are three ways you can import data into this assessment tool:”

  1. Manual Import – essentially entering the RAM/CPU/OS specs of your physical/virtual servers one at a time into the online tool
  2. Bulk custom import – download an Excel template to manually update the specs and then import into the online tool
  3. Automated discovery and import – this utilises the free Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit. This can be configured to scan through all/part of your server network to automatically identify the specifications being used and then generate an import file for the online tool.

You can watch a detailed instruction on how to use these three methods in the YouTube clip below:

cloud migration toolkit

Click the above image to watch the YouTube clip

What I really like about this tool is that you get a report with calculated costs for Azure hosting compared to your on-premise infrastructure costs:

Azure Report.PNG

An example of the predicted cost savings using Azure compared to on-premise hosting.

This is, of course, based off assumptions in terms of costs to maintain on-premise services and this is where the tool is very flexible. If you have already done a TCO or ROI exercise and know the costs of on premise services you can manually update these costs in the assumptions calculator to truly match your known costs:

Azure Assumptions

This tool allows great flexibility in terms of entering your true/known costs into the assumptions tab to get accurate comparisons

Tools like this can give organisations certainty in terms of predicted costs for moving their infrastructure into the Azure cloud. I’d love to hear first hand from educational institutes out there that have used this tool – feel free to post a comment below if you have.

 

Guide For Deploying Office365 ProPlus

office-365-appsI am writing a quick blog in response to the confusion I’m seeing in schools around the different versions of Microsoft Office 2016 and the varying ways this can be installed for users. The main reason this is causing confusion and problems is the release cycle of new features, in particular ones that tend to be appealing to schools such as embedding features in OneNote and digital inking options.

A colleague of mine is going to write a more technical overview of this and I’ll update this blog post to reflect this, but thought I would at least point users to the following fantastic overview:

Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus

This is broken down into the following sections:

  • Get Started – an overview of what’s new.
  • Deploy Office365 ProPlus – deploying from a local network directory or use SCCM
  • Manage Updates – choose frequency and source of updates for your users
  • Upgrade to Office365 ProPlus – tips for organisations that are not already on ProPlus and how to manage a smooth upgrade
  • Best Practices For Deploying – key considerations to keep in mind when deploying ProPlus

The key consideration for organisations is whether to move away from the traditional Volume Licensing version of Office, usually pushed out with an MSI package, and instead use the “Click 2 Run” version of Office365 ProPlus. Whilst many schools are simply getting students to download and install Office2016 directly from the Office Portal, when it comes to managing this for staff machines having automated options is important.

The Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus should provide all the information school IT administrators need to make these decisions on how best to get ProPlus onto devices.

Student Note Taking: Typing or Hand Writing?

I’ve written a few posts lately about the power of Digital Inking and ways to “Think in Ink”  and I am more convinced than ever that equipping students with devices that allow them to doodle, draw, annotate and just straight hand write notes and ideas is a necessity.

I know there is also the following quote from Microsoft promotional material:

Studies indicate that diagraming thinking before solving a science problem leads to a 25%-36% higher score

A quick search on the web reveals people doubt this but a link to the research findings can be found here. Tonight I read an article on LinkedIn titled:

What is a more effective way of taking notes – laptop or notepad?

As usual, I encourage you to read the entire thing yourself, it’s only a 3 minute read after all, and it talks about research completed in 2014 showing that students that hand wrote notes had far better conceptual comprehension of the content they had been taught compared to students who typed their notes up. Even when students who had typed their notes were given ten minutes to revise them before a test a week later, they still scored worse than those that had handwritten their notes in some way.

I’ve seen similar tests completed elsewhere so this finding is not new to me, however it certainly highlights the value of digital inking and usefulness of the basic “ruled lines” in OneNote:

OneNote.PNG

I find it interesting that when testing for factual recall, students scored the same whether they handwrote their notes or typed them, but only when testing for conceptual understanding did the differences emerge:

Typing-vs-paper.jpg

Again, do take time to read the original article and ponder how you record information in your daily life and if you’re a decision maker in a school, what devices are you recommending to your students to bring along.

Big Data & Social Profiling

Big-Data.pngI read an interesting article tonight called The Data That Turned the World Upside Down and it explores the idea that perhaps the recent 2016 US Election was influenced by political campaigns being able to profile undecided voters based on their online digital footprint, and then target them with highly personalized adverts.

It’s worth taking some time to read the entire article and learn how through a combination of Facebook users completing a free online personality quiz, combined with their Facebook activity (primarily what they “liked”), researchers were able to establish highly accurate models for predicting certain things about users.

The strength of their modeling was illustrated by how well it could predict a subject’s answers … before long, [researchers were] able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook “likes.” Seventy “likes” were enough to outdo what a person’s friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 “likes” what their partner knew.

Another fascinating quote from the article showed that the researchers were able to:

prove that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook “likes” by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn’t stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone’s parents were divorced.

1984.jpgIt’s a timely conversation because last Friday I was chatting with colleagues from the former school I worked in and one of them mentioned that students these days have no sense of privacy or concern about the volume of data that is known about them by large companies and/or the government. One of the teachers I was speaking to compared it with George Orwell’s famous novel, Nineteen Eighty Four which if you’re unfamiliar with this the Wikipedia overview describes it as:

a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell. The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation.… The superstate is under the control of the privileged elite of the Inner Party, a party and government that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as “thoughtcrime”, which is enforced by the “Thought Police”. (Underlines are my emphasis)

The contrast the teacher made, however, was rather than the government obtaining all of this information through huge surveillance and intrusion into the private lives of citizens, nowadays people are freely giving up this data to multi-nationals who are on-selling this to research firms who are then finding correlations. Again, from the original article linked above, the research firms explained how they obtained the data to support their programmes:

buys personal data from a range of different sources, like land registries, automotive data, shopping data, bonus cards, club memberships, what magazines you read, what churches you attend … in the US, almost all personal data is for sale. For example, if you want to know where Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information, phone numbers included [They then] aggregates this data with the electoral rolls of the Republican party and online data and calculates a Big Five personality profile. Digital footprints suddenly become real people with fears, needs, interests, and residential addresses.

(Emphasis applied is mine)

Now much of this is not new to me – I attended a great session at the AIS NSW ICT Managers Conference in Canberra last year where a Facebook advertising expert demonstrated in real time just how easy it is to create targeted Facebook adverts to virtually any demographic. However when one thinks about this level of data science being used to shape electioneering and potentially sway the final outcomes of elections it should lead to pause for thought.

Like the teacher I was talking to pointed out – we all give up data about ourselves to some extent, the question is really do we consider the true cost of this action?