Using Power Query in Excel 2016 To Ready CSV Files for Student Data Sync (SDS)

Student Data Sync, or SDS, is a core tool from Microsoft that helps schools prepare their student, teacher and class data ready for use in great platforms such as Teams for Education (formerly Microsoft Classroom) and Intune for Education.

In countries outside of the USA (where API exist), schools need to prepare six CSV files containing the relevant information from their Student Management System (SMS). Fortunately, Microsoft has provided some sample scripts and files (along with a toolkit to verify your data integrity) to help.

SDS

Student Data Sync is the starting point to creating a correlation or framework that connects your students, teachers and classes together in a meaningful way, allowing you to leverage cloud based tools more efficiently.

However, often the challenge lies in the format of the exported data from the school’s SMS. This is where Grant Saul, the Director of ICT from Westlake Boys High School has powerquerystepped in and provided a fantastic tutorial on how to use Power Query, a tool that comes in Excel 2016, to tidy up the format of your source data and prepare it for import with Student Data Sync.

In Grant’s example, he takes a standard export from Kamar (a very popular New Zealand SMS) and shows how it can be transformed using Power Query into the correct format for importing into SDS. You can read his original post here (and I encourage you to do so) whilst watching his screencast below:

The great feature of Power Query is it records each step in the data transformation, allowing you to easily replicate / replay the changes when the source data is refreshed, creating a super efficient method of managing your data.

For schools that want to use Microsoft SDS this is a very helpful guide.

End Of Support for Dir Sync & Azure AD Sync Approaching

DirSync & Azure AD Sync will reach end of Support on April 13, 2017.

Azure AD will stop accepting connections from DirSync and Azure AD Sync after December 31, 2017. For more information about the DirSync and AAD Sync upgrade, please see the DirSync and Azure AD Sync deprecation documentation. If you have questions or feedback about this change, you can leave the team a comment on the blog linked below or reach on Twitter using the #AzureAD hashtag.

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/enterprisemobility/2017/04/10/end-of-support-for-dirsync-and-azure-ad-sync-is-rapidly-approaching-time-to-upgrade-to-aad-connect/

So now, it’s time to get cracking and move to Azure AD Connect if you’ve not done so already:

AD Connect.png

Azure AD Connect – keeping your identity synchronized in the cloud.

Pukekohe High eLearning Presentation

This afternoon I had the privilege of visiting Pukekohe High School where I had been invited to share some thoughts on effective eLearning and provide some inspiring examples.

It was a great audience who asked interesting questions at the end and seemed to appreciate some of these examples from my experience and those of other teachers I have worked with.

You can download a full copy of the presentation here and I’ve embedded a copy below:

The key for me is basing effective eLearning on the Key Competencies from the NZ Curriculum – these provide a rock solid foundation for teachers to ensure their use of technology is aligning with strong pedagogy. I particularly like the elements of student reflection on their own learning and the influence of technology and these reflections are included in the videos in the above PowerPoint.

samr-divingAs usual, the SAMR model is present too – again, a great taxonomy for teachers to review their teaching units and ensure a range of technologies are being used across their classes.

If you have any comments on the presentation or other great ideas for eLearning leave a comment in the section below.

Device Based Activation for Office365 ProPlus – Great For Education

UPDATE:  a reader of this blog pointed out the following step by step guide to using Device Based Activation  that I would encourage you to read as well in conjunction with the Microsoft guide below. The above link also contains additional details for SCCM and GPO if that is relevant for your environment too.

I wrote a recent blog post with the best practice guide to how to deploy Office365 ProPlus in various scenarios. Some of the feedback on that post was how would this work in a shared device environment such as a school computer lap or shared laptops in a COW (Computers on Wheels).

Activate OfficeThe guide does have a link specifically referencing shared environments, however a number of schools did raise the downside that a student would still need to activate the Office365 ProPlus installation from time to time when they say this prompt on the right.

After asking around internally I have now been shared an alternative method of installation for Office365 ProPlus licensing that was build specifically with schools in mind and you can read the entire guide, along with step by step video tutorials by clicking the following link:

Office365 ProPlus Device Based Activation

What I see from this resource is there are a few main benefits for schools taking this approach:

  • The student never sees the Office activation prompt because the device has activated Office365 ProPlus and not the individual user
  • There is an included tool to automatically un-install the MSI Office2016 version that may have been installed with Volume Licensing
  • This Device Based Activation method can be automated using MS SCCM or Group Policy.
DBA1

An Office Mix video showing the requirements and advantages of Device Based Activation

DBA2

The different components in the Device Based Activation process

From an education perspective, this will help keep school/staff devices running the same version of Office365 as the students who typically download their own copy from a network share or the Office Portal. Given that updates and new features come to the subscription based ProPlus version much faster it is worth having a consistent user experience across all devices / users in your school.

This is a useful link outlining the differences between Office365 and Office 2016 and I’ve highlighted the key differences here in terms of updates/functionality:

compare.PNG

The other major benefit of Office365 ProPlus is that it can be installed on up to five other devices.

It’s time to recognise that there is a wide range of options when it comes to deploying Office365 in education. To maximize the value of the subscription based approach, along with the regular updates and new features, using something like Device Based Activation, or one of the other methods from the best practice guide, will ensure that you’re always using the latest and greatest of Office.

 

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.

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.