PowerBI – Major Licensing Changes

powerbi-getting-startedPowerBI is a fantastic visualisation and reporting tool that I’ve written about extensively on this blog already, as well as having created numerous screencasts and blogs in an educational context from my time at St Andrew’s College.

Last week, Microsoft announced some major changes to the licensing of PowerBI which will come into effect on June 1st 2017 with some potential ramifications for schools that are currently exploring the functionality in the free version. If you’re unfamiliar with the product in general, then PowerBI.com is the best place to start for an overview, and the key changes from the announcement on 3rd of May can be found on this blog post from PowerBI.com.

My take on these changes is as follows:

  • PowerBI Free = still available, you can download the free PowerBI Desktop app here, and you can still publish reports/dashboards to PowerBI.com in the cloud but you can no longer share these with other users in the free version (this will require a Pro license – see below). Perhaps a better way of looking at this would be “PowerBI Personal” – i.e. for your own data explorations and visualizations in situations where you have no intention to share or collaborate with others. The update is there is some increased functionality around frequency of data refresh rates using the Data Gateway, along with increased volumes of data.
  • PowerBI Pro = Very similar to what was previously being delivered with this paid for license (academic pricing is generally available in most countries) but it appears this is increasingly becoming the “default” license if you’re wanting to share or collaborate on reports, or have your data automatically refreshing using the Personal Data Gateways from a wider range of data sources. The best link to understand what constitutes content requiring a PowerBI Pro license can be found here and I would encourage you to check this out. From my quick scan, the features which have moved out of the “free” and into the “Pro” license appear to be:
    • Data from a dataset that connects to on-premises data using the Power BI Gateway – Personal or the On-premises Data Gateway, and for which a scheduled refresh is set.
    • A dashboard or report that’s installed from an app or an organizational content pack.
    • Export to CSV/Excel
    • Peer to Peer dashboard sharing
  • PowerBI Premium = The newest feature, all details can be seen here, this is intended for large scale deployment of dashboards and reports across your organisation, including the ability to share content with users who are not necessarily licensed in the traditional way as an individual user. It has a higher financial entry point, with a fixed monthly cost and I don’t see much application at a K-12 level (outside of a school investing in sharing PowerBI reporting with parents too). However this could be a game changer at HighEd / Tertiary institutions that are wanting to enable their entire staff and students to make better data-driven decision making.
    • Importantly, it appears that the embedding of dashboards into web apps and web pages is now a feature reserved for Premium usage, so this will have consequences for third party developers / ISVs wanting to use PowerBI as the reporting engine in their software.
PowerBI Dashboard.png

Example K-12 Education dashboard made in PowerBI

It is going to take a bit for for me to fully understand how these changes will ultimately affect schools. For those that have invested in PowerBI Pro licenses for staff/students, not much will change I suspect and it will be business as usual. For those schools that have been experimenting with PowerBI and the free licenses I think the major implications are likely to be:

  • No ability to share content that has been refreshed automatically using the Personal Data Gateway, or has come from any sort of database / web source.
  • Restricted to sharing content that has been manually populated into PowerBI.com from limited data sources such as either PowerBI Desktop, Excel or CSV.

Given most schools want to move towards a “set and forget” approach when it comes to data configuration, it would appear that using PowerBI Pro licenses is the way forward for most schools.

For an external view of these changes have a read of this interesting summary from Matt Allington in Australia where he highlights five different user scenarios and identifies how the changes benefit them. He picks up on the value add for large organisations and the ability to deploy easily across users, splitting users between content creators (who will still need a PowerBI Pro license) and consumers (who will be covered by organisational PowerBI Premium consumption licenses).

 

Digital Inking – Improves Teaching & Learning

Inking.PNG

I have visited a number of schools recently and demonstrated many of the natural hand gestures for editing and Ink Replay available in Office365 and the response is always very positive from teachers and students alike.

I have recently found the above infographic showing independent research from Sharon Oviatt, an expert in human centered and multi-modal interfaces and use of pen inputs on computers. I find that the numbers in the infographic resonate with teachers that I’ve been working with who are using Digital Inking to prepare student work, provide feedback and mark assessment.

When I was still at St Andrew’s College I recorded an interview with the Head of English and she explained how she marks English assignments using her Surface Pro 3 and digital ink:

DigitalPenUsageThere are many and varied compelling reasons to try Digital Inking and with a wider range of devices now supporting this, from entry level OEM offerings through to the newly announced Surface Laptop,  there is bound to be a device that meets your budget and requirements.

If you are interested in further research and information from Sharon Oviatt on the “power of the pen” then I encourage you to check out this blog from the Microsoft In Education team where it goes into more depth about the impact of computer interfaces on learning.

You can read the full blog post here.

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:

Guest Post: Surprises When Using Office 365 In Class

Today’s post comes from Mr Ben Hilliam, Head of Junior Maths at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, New Zealand. In this post he outlines how he is teaching basic programming concepts using Microsoft Excel and also the increasing versatility of Microsoft OneNote through the use of embedded applets that can show and execute Python coding.

You can read the original post from Ben here – please do check out his other posts as well. I particularly like Ben’s finishing comment when it comes to describing OneNote:

OneNote is more than a piece of digital paper, it is quickly becoming the universal canvas of expression for learning.

Here’s the entirety of the post:

With a new year I have begun teaching some new topics. For the first time in my career, I am teaching Probability Simulations to year 10s. As usual, OneNote is my go to, where I drop all my resources so that my students can access the problems I set them. In this topic I have come across two surprises:

1. Microsoft Excel is still a very cool program
2. Microsoft OneNote allows for a huge range of student expression

1. Microsoft Excel is still a very cool program:

One task I set my year 10s was the following:

Sara has maths on four days each week. 
Her teacher checks the class’s homework on only one of those days. 
The day is chosen at random by the teacher. 
Students who have not done their homework for that day get a detention. 
Sara says she did her homework on 32 out of the 40 days on which she had maths last term. 
Describe a simulation (probability experiment) that Sara could use to predict the probability 
that: 
(1) she had not done her homework 
AND 
(2) the teacher checked. 
Assume that you have access to: coins, cards, spinners, dice and a random number 
generator on a calculator or computer. 
You must give sufficient detail in your description so that someone else could carry out 
the experiment. 
You must state what you will record and how you will calculate the probability. 

Most of my students used Excel to run this simulation. One problem that quickly made itself apparent was how do you get the teachers to randomly check on one day of the week only, becuase most students assigned random numbers of 1-4 on each day which meant the teacher could potentially check homework more than once in any given week.

This is where Excel comes to the fore, with its conditional formulae:

A “1” comes up when an even that we are interested in occurs while a “0” comes up for events that are irrelevant. Where two events occur at the same time they add to 2 which is then picked up. Here’s the formula that makes it work:

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you have a problem that requires programming, Excel can actually do it. With a few choice “if” statements and other formulae, my students were able to produce a simulation that correctly estimated the probability they were investigating. So they could be accurate in their thinking rather than smudge a “near enough” response.So don’t forget Excel, it’s awesome.

2. Microsoft OneNote allows for a huge range of student expressionLast year, I did some coding with my year 9s. Specifically we had a look at solving problems from Project Euler using Python. So when we started doing Simulations, some students naturally wanted to use Python to run their simulations. My question to them was “How will you show me the results of your simulation?” Their response: embed an HTML window in OneNote with their Python code running in an applet:


In the part I have circled in red, my student has imported an HTML window with her Python code and an applet that will run it. This meant I was able to see the output of their simulation and check it was consistent with what was expected and I could look through their code if there was a problem. Such a simple addition to OneNote has such wide consequences for how we use it.

OneNote is more than a piece of digital paper, it is quickly becoming the universal canvas of expression for learning.

Editing With Natural Hand Gestures & Digital Inking

Over the last couple of years I have had innumerable conversations with teachers who love the power of OneNote for editing student work quickly and easily, especially when combining the digital inking experience on a tablet such as a Surface Pro. Perhaps the best example of this was the recorded conversation I had with the Head of English at St Andrew’s College:

I’ve been really excited to see that a couple of new editing features have been added to Word, Excel and PowerPoint in Office 2016 and these are:

  • Ink Editor – easily markup / remove text using natural hand gestures with your pen
  • Ink Replay – if you’ve made significant comments on a Word, Excel or PowerPoint document sometimes it can be hard for your fellow editor to understand your train of thought. With Ink Replay, they can watch your edits all over again.

I’ve made a short video showing how this can be achieved:

Sticky Notes Powered By Cortana Intelligence Suite:

Another cool feature of Windows 10 is the Sticky Notes. In and of themselves, they operate very similarly to sticky notes on any other operating system. However, you can now give them a real power boost by linking to the Cortana Intelligence Suite to give you insights and do more.

To do this, you first need to enable the insights:

sticky-notes

To leverage the power of Cortana you need to Enable Insights

Once this is done you can see the power immediately as demonstrated here:

Putting to one side the very clever intelligence that lies beneath the surface to enable things like Ink Editor and smart Sticky Notes, the real benefits here is the saving of time. Editing a document with natural hand gestures and a digital pen remains the most efficient method for most people. Similarly, having your natural handwriting analysed for key words or phrases and reminders generated speeds up some of the more mundane tasks we all have to deal with in life.

If you’ve not given these a go, try them out now and feel free to leave a comment below on any neat ways you’ve used this technology.

 

 

 

Professional Learning Communities Groups in Office365

office-365-fi-625x321Back in mid-2016 Microsoft released PLC Groups for Office365 and I have to admit, I completely missed this feature release.

You can read the full announcement on the official Office365 blog post here.

I guess I’m pretty excited about this for a few reasons, primarily because it links into the professional development model that is increasingly being adopted in New Zealand schools – that of Professional Learning Groups (PLG) using inquiry based models. Certainly, at St Andrew’s College where I was the Director of ICT for the last five years, this was adopted back in 2012 and resources for these groups would typically use a OneNote or a Moodle course to collate resources over the period of the inquiry. Whilst this was fine, it was always a pain to keep track of group members and making sure that everyone was being included in group messages. The official blog post above highlighted some of the challenges as well:

  • Teachers can be isolated, time is severely limited and collaboration is difficult.
  • Professional collaboration tools are disconnected and don’t always support meaningful, sustained collaboration.
  • A challenge for many PLCs is extending the work and relationships in the times and spaces between physically coming together.
  • It can be difficult for new teachers to ramp up.
  • Information is often stored in personal spaces as opposed to one common place that can benefit others.
  • New members need to better understand the journey, story, exploration and history of a PLC, its activities and areas of inquiry.

To address these short comings, the following features are available in these O365 groups designed especially for educators:

  • Inbox for group email communication, including Connector for connecting your group to Twitter and following topics or Twitter handles that interest your PLC group.
  • Calendar for scheduling group events.
  • Document library for storing and working on group files and folders.
  • OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes.
  • Planner for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress.

What is not listed above, but has huge value for me, is the ability to add guest members to your PLC group. What this means is that teachers/experts (or even parents) who are outside of your O365 tenant can be invited on their personal email address and they only need to activate this address as a Microsoft Account, to be able to sign into the O365 group and contribute.

professional-learning-community-groups-in-office-365-education-2

Screenshot from the Professional Learning Communities shared OneNote with guidance on how to run the inquiry.

This opens up a huge range of possibilities for schools where there is likely to be inter-school professional inquiries taking place. In New Zealand, this could be the Communities of Learning which connect different schools together in the same geographical region. To be able to use a shared inbox group and calendar to co-ordinate meetings (either in person or via Skype) as well as a central location for all documents shared (either uploaded or simply attached via emails through the group) and a OneNote means the key tools to promote a successful inquiry are all in one place and accessible to every member, whether they are at the same school or not.

The experience of the Omaha Public Schools District using PLC is shown below:

Last week, Darrell Webster hosted a virtual meeting with a number of people to discuss how PLC work and the effectiveness of them in schools. There are a few technical glitches at the start of the meeting but it’s worth watching past these to see the quality discussion. Attending the meeting are:

  • Darrell Webster  (host) and Microsoft MVP award winner since 2013 and self described “Office365 Enthusiast”
  • Krish Gali, Product Manager for Office 365 Groups
  • Robert Dickson, Executive Director at Omaha Public School
  • Rachel Chisnall MIE Expert and teacher at Taeri College, Dunedin
  • Morgan McKeen MIE Expert and teacher at Parnell District School, Auckland

My Thoughts On This:

There’s a lot to like about PLC Groups in Office365, not least that it reflects that Microsoft is continuing to actively invest into technologies that improve the way in which teachers manage their growing administrative workload. A few other highlights for me (in no particular order):

  • The PLC group OneNote comes pre-populated with templates to assist teachers with their inquiry and smooth running of the Professional Learning Groups.
  • Guest Access – it’s hard to overestimate how valuable this is. Too often schools are dealing with disparate groups of people and being able to link them all into the one-stop-shop of resources is incredible.
  • Central Access – the PLC group is not owned by any one individual teacher, but instead is part of the school’s O365 Tenant meaning that if one teacher leaves the school or is no longer involved in that particular PLC, the resources are not locked down preventing others from getting access to them.
    • Similarly, this means that if a PLC inquiry is likely to be a multi-year group, staff can come and go but all the previous resources, conversations and research is maintained and accessible.
    • Additionally, the staff member in charge of professional development can be added as a member to all PLC groups and can see progress and add comments etc at anytime ensuring full transparency.
    • Again, having a single email address to email all members of the PLC means there are no excuses for accidentally excluding a staff member from a vital communication!
  • Connectors – in particular, the ability to add Twitter and follow users or hashtags means the PLC can extend their reach and pull in valuable resources directly into the PLC group – priceless. I became a Twitter convert back in 2014 and wrote a lengthy blog explaining why teachers should use Twitter to grow their Professional Learning Network
  • Planner – this is a simplified GANT chart type organisational tool, very similar to the popular Trello. It’s a great addition to the Office365 tool box and you can read more about it here. I’d certainly encourage teachers that are already using Trello to consider migrating to Planner given the deep integration into O365 that it offers.

So there you go – don’t make the same mistake I did and overlook the value of the Office365 Professional Learning Communities groups; they will definitely find an indispensable place in your school.

OneNote: a “low floor, high ceiling” application

I recently saw this great blog post from Steve Brophy who is the Director of ICT & eLearning at Ivanhoe Grammar in Melbourne and do encourage you to read the full thing here:

Utilising the power of OneNote and Surface to develop visual thinking skills

The phrase that caught my attention was Steve’s description of OneNote as an application that has a “low floor, high ceiling” meaning the barriers to entry are minimal and that almost anyone can understand how to use it quite quickly, and yet the possibilities are almost limitless, hence the high ceiling for usage. This struck me as a very helpful way to describe the power of OneNote and Steve illustrated his point with the following image:

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Steve added that using a Surface device heightens the benefits of OneNote for students:

Being able to zoom in and out through the touch capacity of the Surface Pro 4 allows students to change perspective and delve into different components of their thinking. This thinking can then be easily shared with classmates through OneNote’s presentation mode and it is in this endless canvas approach that students can see their ideas not as separate discrete elements but as a narrative that represents their current thinking.

I first met Steve in February 2016 when visiting schools in Melbourne, Australia and after spending the afternoon at Ivanhoe I stayed on for my first experience of a TeachMeet. This inspired me to host TeachMeets at St Andrew’s College throughout 2016. I’ve found Steve to be an excellent educator and leader and highly recommend you check out his blogs here and follow him on Twitter here.