Salamander Active Directory now supports Google Classroom

June 30th, 2015 Richard No comments

96x96_yellow_stroke_icon@1xLast night, Google released a preview API for Google Classroom. Today, Salamander Active Directory now supports creating and updating Google Classroom from your MIS, whether it’s Sims, Progresso, Facility CMIS, Bromcom, iSAMS, Pass/3Sys, Integris or any other of the systems we support. This will allow the automatic creation and population with students and teachers of as many of your classes you want, whether it’s the whole school, or just a sub-set.

So come the new academic year we can pre-populate all your classes for the year, and archive your old ones – or whatever else you want.

Previously we supported creating and updating Google groups so that they could be used to manually create Google Classroom classes, but now with the release of the API we can take it a step further and fully automate their creation, and keep the rosters up to date and students and teachers move classes.

If you are an existing customer, then please contact support to get it set up, otherwise please email info@salamandersoft.co.uk if you would like to find out more information. Whatever your MIS/SIS/SMS there’s a good chance we already support it, otherwise we would be happy to add support for it.

Renewal as a Microsoft Authorized Education Reseller

June 9th, 2015 Richard No comments

aer_silver_lowres_f

SalamanderSoft has renewed as a Silver level Microsoft Authorized Education Reseller (AER), demonstrating our ability to meet Microsoft academic customers’ evolving needs in today’s dynamic business environment. To earn a Microsoft AER authorization, partners must complete a test to prove their level of academic licensing and market expertise.

The AER program is designed to train participating resellers on Microsoft’s Academic licensing, authorize them to purchase and resell Microsoft Academic licenses, and demonstrate to potential customers that they are approved and knowledgeable academic partners.

“By becoming AERs, partners show themselves to be committed and trained in providing discounted Microsoft academic products to the education market,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president of Education for Microsoft Corp.’s Worldwide Public Sector. “This authorization, along with our other education partner initiatives, gives our partners recognition of their areas of expertise and our academic customers the confidence that they are buying from academic IT specialists.”

The Microsoft AER Program is designed to authorize and equip organizations that deliver academic products and services through the Microsoft platform with the training, resources and support they need to provide their customers with superior experiences and outcomes.

Categories: Partner Tags: ,

Markdown link syntax supported in SharePoint Learning Kit assignment descriptions

April 17th, 2015 Richard No comments

Following on from enabling links in an assignment’s description in SLK, we had a request to turn urls to OneNote pages more readable. A typical link to a OneNote page is

https://tenancy.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx?sourcedoc={e2ea84dc-5bef-4d1d-9788-35f30cc8f4c5}&action=edit&wd=target%28%2F%2FSLK.one%7C17b5d14c-d903-4a96-8137-904b2c1ddb22%2F1.8%7Cd72c4f32-9f99-4a5e-a4f0-286bab08b1e1%2F%29

which is really not very pretty. This links to a page 1.8, in section SLK in the Shared Notebook OneNote on SharePoint 2013.

To resolve this I’ve added support for manually adding a title for the link, to hide the link details from view. To use this I’ve used Markdown syntax which is of the form

[link text](url)

So

[Shared Notebook/SLK/1.8](https://tenancy.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx?sourcedoc={e2ea84dc-5bef-4d1d-9788-35f30cc8f4c5}&action=edit&wd=target%28%2F%2FSLK.one%7C17b5d14c-d903-4a96-8137-904b2c1ddb22%2F1.8%7Cd72c4f32-9f99-4a5e-a4f0-286bab08b1e1%2F%29)

would be output as

Shared Notebook/SLK/1.8

which is much nicer in a description. The full Markdown link syntax also includes an optional title attribute

[link text[(url “title”)

this is not supported, and neither is any other Markdown syntax.

Standard urls not in Markdown syntax will display at before, so

Update this notebook [Shared Notebook/SLK/1.8](https://tenancy.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx?sourcedoc={e2ea84dc-5bef-4d1d-9788-35f30cc8f4c5}&action=edit&wd=target%28%2F%2FSLK.one%7C17b5d14c-d903-4a96-8137-904b2c1ddb22%2F1.8%7Cd72c4f32-9f99-4a5e-a4f0-286bab08b1e1%2F%29)

and another link www.salamandersoft.co.uk
www.microsoft.com.

Will display as

Update this notebook Shared Notebook/SLK/1.8
and another link www.salamandersoft.co.uk
www.microsoft.com.

Categories: SLK Tags: , , ,

Support for Civica Resource Education Management System (REMS) Integration

April 15th, 2015 Richard No comments

civicaLogo

I am pleased to announce that we’ve just added support for Civica Resource Education Management System (REMS) to our products.

Civica’s Resource Education Management System (REMS) is specially designed to meet the ever changing landscape of the sixth form, further education and adult education sectors in the 21st century. This was formerly Corero Resource Education Management System before Corero was bought by Civica

We can now integrate REMS with Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, Office 365 and Google Apps, ensuring that your users, groups and timetables are always up to date. For more details please email info@salamandersoft.co.uk.

SharePoint Learning Kit 1.8 Beta Release

April 2nd, 2015 Richard No comments

I’ve now release SLK version 1.8 to a beta release. We’ve got customers who have been running on it for over a year so the earlier functionality is pretty stable, but I’ve added functionality in up until last week, so that will be less tested.

Download from CodePlex.

SLK 1.8 is supported on SharePoint 2010 and 2013, both Foundation and Server. There’s install documentation in the release zip file, but other than that all documentation is on this blog:

http://blog.salamandersoft.co.uk/index.php/tag/1-8/.

In addition to a load of bug fixes, the main changes are:

    Any problems just report them on the CodePlex discussion page.
Categories: SLK Tags: , ,

SharePoint Learning Kit 1.8 supports Office Mix and Sway

March 25th, 2015 Richard No comments

SLK 1.8 now supports Office Mix and Sway. In addition to enabling the links in the description field, if it detects that there is a link to an Office Mix or a Sway then it will embed them in the lobby page. This enables the learners to view them directly without having to follow the link.

So for this assignment linking to a Mix:

mixInstructor

then this is what the learner will see on the lobby page:

mixLearner

Similarly when creating an assignment linking to a Sway

swayInstructor

the learner sees

swayLearner

It will even support multiple Mixs and Sways in the description, embedding them all in the page, one above the other.

So, this is a great reason to start using Office Mix and Sway in your assignments, you get the rich functionality of these new Office components with the ability to assign them easily to your learners.

Enable Urls in Assignment Properties Description field–SharePoint Learning Kit 1.8

March 25th, 2015 Richard No comments

SLK 1.8 automatically turns urls in the assignment properties description field into hyperlinks. So if you create this assignment:

slkUrlInstructor

The when it is displayed to the learner, the url www.salamandersoft.co.uk will be turned into a link, giving

slkUrlLearner

This is on by default and automatic, so no configuration is required.

It’s a fairly simple implementation using a regular expression to find the urls, so it won’t work in all cases. The urls which are supported start with:

  • http://
  • https://
  • file://
  • ftp://
  • www.
  • ftp.
  • mix.office.
  • sway.

and the rest of the url is validated as well.

Categories: SLK Tags: , ,

Support for custom assignment fields in SharePoint Learning Kit

March 24th, 2015 Richard No comments

In version 1.8 I’ve added support for adding custom fields to an assignment, If you’ve ever felt the need to add more details for an assignment, you can now do it.

Here’s an example of an assignment with four extra properties:

customPropertiesInstructor

This assignment has four custom properties:

  • String Value: A simple one line of text.
  • MultiString: A text value over multiple lines.
  • Choice: A drop down list of values.
  • Url: A url.

Here’s the student view of the same assignment:

customPropertiesStudent

Implementation

The implementation is based on storing the custom properties in a list on the site the assignment is assigned to. You configure the name of the list in the SLK settings, then SLK will look for a list of that name in the site. If it finds it, then it adds the columns in the default view as custom properties.

The name of the property is the name of the column and the columns types supported are:

  • Single line of text
  • Multiple lines of text
  • Choice
  • Hyperlink

These will be rendered as above, with the url type rendered as a url to the student. All other column types will be ignored, as will the Title property.

If there isn’t a list in the site with the configured title, then assignments for that site won’t have any custom properties. This allows you to have different custom properties for each site.

If the column is marked as required in the list, then the custom property will be required.

SLK will handle access to the list so you don’t need to give your users permissions to access it, in fact it’s probably preferable for them not to have access to it directly.

The ordering of the custom properties is controlled by the order of the columns in the view. So if I change the view to:

customPropertiesView

then the student view will be

customPropertiesStudent2

and the instructor view will change similarly.

Setup

To set up and enable custom properties:

Download and install the latest version of SLK 1.8.

Set the name of the list which will hold the properties in SlkSettings.xml and update it in Central Administration. This is set in the CustomPropertyList attribute on the root Settings element.

 customPropertiesSlkSettings

    Here it will look for a list called SLK in the assignment’s site.

Then create the lists in each of the sites where you want the assignments to have custom properties. Add a column to the list and default view for each custom property you want, and order the view to get the desired display order. Set required on any columns that you want to be required.

And that’s it, from now on the custom properties will be added to every assignment in those sites with appropriate lists.

Categories: SLK Tags: , ,

Support for Pupil Asset MIS Integration

March 24th, 2015 Richard No comments

pupilAsset

I am pleased to announce that we’ve just added support for Pupil Asset MIS to our products.

Pupil Asset MIS is built upon the popular Pupil Asset Tracker system, and includes the Tracker and Parents products.

We can now integrate Pupil Asset MIS with Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, Office 365 and Google Apps, ensuring that your users, groups and timetables are always up to date. For more details please email info@salamandersoft.co.uk.

Supporting teaching and learning in SharePoint and SharePoint Online With Salamander SharePoint

March 19th, 2015 Richard No comments

 

How does Salamander SharePoint support and improve teaching and learning?

· Increases efficiency for teachers and students

o Creates consistent site structures designed for tagging and finding resources

o Teachers can quickly open student OneNote notebooks for each class

o Pre-creates secure teacher notebooks for each class and subject

o Teachers can quickly assign work for students to complete

· Supports student autonomy and the ability to work almost anywhere

o Students use OneNote to take notes and review them on almost any device

o Students complete work within OneNote

· Encourages project-based learning and peer collaboration

o Students create entire projects within OneNote notebooks and wikis

o Students work together on Office documents, OneNote notebooks wikis, blogs and discussions

· Promotes personalised learning though guided choices and target setting

o Students use their personal OneNote to set targets and track progress

o Students reflect on work as they upload it to their drop box

What does Salamander SharePoint do?

Manage class sites for each class or registration group in the MIS.

· Based on a custom class template which we work with you to design

· Permissions are applied automatically at different levels e.g. student access to a discussion board or a ‘hidden’ document library for staff only

· Secure drop boxes for each student in each class

· Secure OneNote notebooks for each student in each class. Based on custom templates

· Synchronise class timetables into class site calendars

OneNote for note-taking and collaboration

· Students take all their class notes through OneNote

· Notebooks sync up rapidly between multiple devices – take notes in school, tidy them up on the bus home

· Capture videos or sound recordings in real-time – homework doesn’t have to be written

· Students and teachers work together in real-time using shared class notebooks

· Teachers open a student notebook and see changes made a few seconds before.

· Teachers can push new sections into each student notebook

· Cross-curricular e-portfolio for all students – drag and drop your best work once a term

· A great place to record Target Setting


Manage subject and course sites based on the MIS.

· For example, an ‘English’ subject site or course sites called ‘English GCSE’ or ‘English Year 10’.

· Permissions are applied automatically based on who teaches or studies the subject.

· Make content more findable using document tagging e.g. Key Stage, Course, or Topic.

· Create each Office document within SharePoint from a custom template; no need to upload from the desktop or USB sticks.

Manage Blogs for each student

· Create a blog for each student in a central area, for each subject, or for each class.

· Permissions are set separately for posts and comments e.g. only the student can post but anyone in their class or year can read/comment

· Blog post categories can be managed centrally

Custom uses

· Populate a staff/student list with MIS columns such as name and tutor group; for use with forms and workflows

· Populate SharePoint groups with specific groupings from the MIS e.g. House, Tutor Groups, Subject Leaders

· Manage permissions in My Site/OneDrive

· Things no-one has thought of yet

Shadow a Salamander School teacher as she visits one of her class sites

Anita Abell logs into her school portal, where she intends to manage one of her class sites. A class site is a place where a teacher can work with their students, and where students can collaborate with each other. If you would like to see for yourself, contact us at info@salamandersoft.co.uk and we’ll provide credentials.

1. Let’s go straight to Anita’s Year 7 Science class site and have a look!

teacherSite

As you can see, the structure looks fairly simple. When we work with you to build the templates for a class site, you can include as many or as few features as you need.

assignmentLink

2. Explore the Assignments list using the large link on the purple menu. Several views will be available of the assignments you have set.

assignment3

assignmentView1

assignmentView2

If you click on the title of an assignment, you will see more details about it. An assignment cam have multiple attachments and a link to a resource elsewhere e.g. a subject site or an external website.

assignmentDetail

3. Let’s create a new assignment! Click on Assignments on the Quick Launch on the left, then click on New Announcement.

assignmentNew

Fill in the form which appears. Only the Title and the dates are mandatory. The Start Date and Due Date define the start and end points for the Timeline view. To save teachers time we usually default those to today’s date and to two weeks’ time, respectively.

assignmentNewDetails

The Assignment Location tells students where they should actually do the work. This will usually be in the Student Dropbox where students can create Microsoft Office documents on most modern devices using Office Online. Another online location for students to store their work is in their student notebook for that class. Please select Student Drop Box for now.

If you have a suitable resource to attach, and/or a hyperlink to include as a resource then please attach those. Finally, save the form. You will see your new assignment appear in the assignments list for this class.

assignmentAttach

dropBoxButton

4. Next, let’s have a look at a Student Drop Box. This is one of the places where a student can put the work they are doing in response to an assignment. Click on the Student Drop Box link on the large purple menu.

You will see a folder for each student in Anita’s class. Only the student themselves and any class teachers can see their work.

dropBox

Alexis Affleck has some work in her folder; click into it to have a look. Notice that Alexis has associated each of her documents with an assignment.

dropboxStudentFolder

Click on one of Alexis’ documents to open it in Office Online. Feel free to edit/correct Alexis’ document, or to add comments for her to read.

dropBoxWord1

dropBoxWord2

When you want to stop editing the document, just click on the name of the class (Science 7D/Sc) to return to SharePoint. There’s no need to save your document when using Office Online.

oneNoteButton

5. OneNote is a great place for students to take notes, do classwork or homework, and set targets for themselves. Let’s have a look at how notebooks are used in class sites. Click on Student Notes on the large purple menu.

Each student has a secure OneNote notebook inside each class site. This gives students a consistent place to take notes, which the class teacher can view at any time. Another advantage of OneNote is that content can be synchronised with multiple devices, including laptops, tablets and smart phones.

studentNotes

Open up Alexis’ notebook and explore how she has been taking notes. When you have finished, click on the name of the SharePoint site (Science 7D/Sc) to return to it.

noteBook

collaborateButton

6. The Collaborate library is designed for students to work together in small groups on mini-projects. They can either co-author documents in real-time using Office Online or take it in turns to work on a document. Click on Collaboration on the large purple menu to see how students might work together to create a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document.

In this example, a group of three students has been working together to create a PowerPoint presentation about Photosynthesis. Additional columns allow the students/teacher to record who participated in the work and what each of them did. There is also an option for (other) students to rate a given document out of five stars.

collaborate

Shadow a student as she explores a class site

A student’s experience of a class site is similar to what we have seen for our teacher, Anita Abell. But whereas Anita is able to see Student Drop Boxes and OneNote notebooks for multiple students, a student such as Alexis can only see their own. The other difference is that a student will have rights to read most content in a class site (e.g. announcements, links, and calendars) but they will generally not be able to contribute to them; the Collaborate library and Discussion Boards are exceptions to this.

In this section, you are invited to log on as Alexis Affleck and explore the student experience.

1. Please log in as Alexis Affleck to the same address as before. You may need to sign out completely and close your browser down to ensure that Anita Abell is fully logged out.

If you would like to see for yourself, contact us at info@salamandersoft.co.uk and we’ll provide credentials.

Go to the Student Drop Box and click down into Alexis’ folder.

Click on the New button to bring up a menu offering a choice of Office documents to create. Please choose a Word document the first time round, but feel free to create other types of document afterwards.

studentDropBox

Your new document will open in Office Online. Add some content to it then return to SharePoint by clicking on the name of the site (Science 7D/Sc).

The document you just created will be called something like ‘Document’, as Office Online needs a working title. The next step is to edit the properties of your new document and give it a proper name. To do this, click on the ellipsis (…) next to the document and a popup preview menu will appear. Then click on another ellipsis to bring up a context menu and select Edit Properties. You only have to do this a few times before it starts to feel familiar!

studentDocument

Rename the document to something appropriate. Also select an assignment to associate with your work. Then save the form.

studentDocumentProperties

2. Got to Student Notes and click on the notebook for Alexis Affleck.

Please feel free to try out OneNote if you haven’t used it before, adding pages and sections to convert Alexis’ notebook into a structure one of your students might use (target setting, etc). If you come up with a design for a standard student notebook for your classes, we can use that as a template for all/some of your class sites.

When you are finished in OneNote, click on the name of the SharePoint site (Science 7D/Sc) to return to it. Or, if you have a device with the OneNote client on it, try opening the notebook in the full client from within Office Online.

If you have a second device available, you could also try logging in as Anita Abell at the same time as Alexis and see how quickly the two copies of the notebook sync up.

Shadow a teacher as she explores a Salamander School subject site

If a class site can be seen as a kind of highly interactive student exercise book, then a subject site might be comparable to a curriculum textbook. Though of course the media and features that we can use in SharePoint are much richer than text and pictures; it can include videos, links to external content and collaborative features such as discussion boards, announcements, surveys, and document co-authoring. In Salamander School, a subject site is predominantly a place where resources and links can be created, stored, found and viewed.

subjectSite

Two things stand out about the use of SharePoint to manage resources compared to file shares:

I. Resources can be created inside the Resources library itself, avoiding the possibility of multiple competing documents being emailed around or stored on network drives.

II. When resources are tagged appropriately, they become easier to find. Navigation based on views and search, driven by metadata (tags), can be more efficient than drilling down through multiple levels of folders.

resourcesButton

1. Go to the Science subject site below and log in as Anita Abell.

Click on Resources on the large purple menu. Use the New button to bring up a menu of Office documents to create. Please choose the Word Resource template to begin with.

resources

Because this is a subject site, we are using a custom document template with metadata tagging built in. Consequently, SharePoint will open this document in the full Word client rather than in Office Online, in order to benefit from the metadata.

Once Microsoft Word opens, you will see that it has a header area asking you to tag the document. These tags will be passed through to SharePoint for use in views and search. Crucially, any metadata saved with a document in this way will always stay with that document; even if it is moved, downloaded, or emailed. Please fill in the metadata fields with appropriate values for your school. In this example, the metadata fields are mostly free-text entry (apart from Key Stage, which is a choice). But you could potentially set these fields up to use a term store in order to make tagging quicker (i.e. using autocomplete) and more consistent (e.g. it might guide teachers to enter ‘Mathematics’ rather than ‘Maths’).

wordTags

Finally, you need to save the document with an appropriate name. Using Save As, click on the current folder. Basically, we need to change the filename but not its location.

Give the new document a filename and save it. You can close or minimise Word now. To view your new document in SharePoint refresh the page in your browser.

wordSave

Try out the different views in the Resources library (e.g. By Topic, By Key Stage, etc). Practice expanding and collapsing branches to see how easy it would be to find tagged content compared to untagged content in folders.