The NAACE Annual Conference

For the last three days I’ve been at the NAACE Conference in Blackpool, with over 300 others. NAACE is the “professional association for those who are concerned with advancing education through the appropriate use of information and communications technology (ICT)” – which means that the conference attendees are a mix of local authority IT advisers, private consultants, school leaders, people from government agencies, and also commercial companies.

You can find out a little more about the conference, and see some of the content, on the conference website.

Along with Nick Singh, our Schools Business Manager for the north of England, we ran a Microsoft breakout session on Tuesday evening, where we mixed together a story of how people may work in the future, and the technology and learning implications. I  used our ‘Productivity Vision’ video, which looks at the workplace of 2019, and then continued by deconstructing the technology behind the video – to look at what exists now – either in research labs or in real life - and how the components might build to get to the vision described for the future.

Unfortunately, I can’t share the whole presentation (I used a multimedia, interactive piece of software to present it), but I can share the short video that I used as the introduction, which is the starting point for the story I told.

Productivity Future Vision

You can view the video on our Officlabs Envisioning website, and you can also watch a video as Ian Sands, Director of Envisioning, steps through the video scene by scene and describes in greater depth the story behind the people and technology on display.

Free cloud-based email

After the story of the future, Nicky briefly talked about our Live@edu service, which is a cloud-based service for school email. It allows you to switch your email services from your own servers to using our servers in our Dublin data centre – but your students keep their email address, and we run the services remotely on our Exchange 2010 servers. And the good news is that we do it at no cost. (As you can imagine this led to a lot of questions and answers after the session. One of the local authorities was good enough to write out their top 10 questions, and next week I’ll post their questions, and the answers). London Grid for Learning switched to using Live@edu last year, alongside a number of local authorities – and recently we have also allowed individual schools to sign up independently. You can find out more about the service on our UK Education website, or for more techie background, read Ben Nunney’s Live@edu blog.

A big pile of free software

After the presentation, we had a long discussion about some of the free resources and software downloads available to schools, and I committed to add a list of download links to the blog – so here it is, the list of Ray’s-favourite-fabulous-freebies:

  • pptPlex
    A number of people asked me after my presentation about the interactive tool I’d used for it. And the secret is pptPlex, which is an add-in for PowerPoint 2007. It allows you to build amazingly interactive presentations, and also allows you to move around a storyboard in a completely non-linear way. The public version isn’t quite as fancy as the application I used, but if you want to wow your colleagues/students, then this is a great presentation tool for it. Let me assure you that the learning curve is rewarded massively on the other side!
    Go to the pptPlex site.
        • PhotoStory
          About half the people in the room had used PhotoStory, and whenever I mention it there’s always a buzz generated by people who have used it. It allows you to take a set of photos, set it to music, and then generate highly stylised slideshow with text, animations etc. And the video file it produces is fantastic for display screens or digital photo frames.
          Go to the PhotoStory download page
            • AutoCollage
              AutoCollage is a picture editing tool with a big difference – it works out what to do with your pictures, so that you don’t have to. You point it towards a folder of pictures, and it analyses the contents, using a range of intelligent features, including face detection and saliency filters and uses this to identify interesting parts of pictures. It then uses that analysis to blend your photos and combine them into an AutoCollage.
              Find out where to get AutoCollage free if you’re a teacher/student
                • Free Movie Maker(s)
                  You’ve now got a choice of movie making software. Windows XP & Vista have the inbuilt Windows Movie Maker. And there’s now Windows Live Movie Maker, which is the one that we’re continuing to develop from now. The first is good for all ages, and works in a traditional way, whereas the latter is very good for primary age children, and especially good at integrating video and photos, and makes it very easy to automatically upload movies to websites, as well as store locally. (If you’ve moved to Windows 7, you’ll have noticed that neither are built in – you need to choose which to download).
                  Take your pick – download Windows Movie Maker (if it’s not pre-installed) or Windows Live Movie Maker
                    • Photosynth
                      You can use Photosynth to turn regular digital photos into a three-dimensional, 360-degree model. And you can then share your synth with others – who can walk in your shoes through the same place. The technology does the hard work – reconstructing the scene or object from your flat photos – by looking for similarities between images, and using it to estimate the shape of the space/object, and work out the original camera position. And the new Bing Maps Beta actually places your Photosynth on the map, so that others can easily find it too.
                      Find out more about Photosynth

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