The Microsoft Education Academy: our second visit

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It is absolutely no reflection on the catering provided by Microsoft that the featured picture finds me trying to bite into a small dinosaur that just happened to be passing by. It does, however, demonstrate that people who struggle with technology can pick up new skills very quickly and even create imaginative, funky stuff with Windows 10 and Office 365 software.

Another action-packed day was had at The Microsoft Academy where we saw 17 teachers and IT Leaders learn lots of new skills and new, easy to adopt ways of improving teaching and learning using Office 365 and Windows 10.

Office 365

We started the day, with our trainer Liz Wilson, introducing the class to Skype. Liz is a teacher at a school in Buckinghamshire and is on secondment to Microsoft for a year. All of Liz’s advice and tutelage is based on her own experiences in class. This, I feel, lent all sessions a huge amount of credibility as Liz was happy to talk about lessons and initiatives that had not quite gone to plan, as well as those that had.

Skype in the Classroom
Field trips are fantastic and can really inspire and fire enthusiasm, however they are very costly and take lots of time and effort to organise. A simple, free, and easy to organise alternative is Skype. As well as being able to conduct video calls with schools in other parts of the world Microsoft have cleverly set up subject specialists who are keen to deliver presentations direct to your class room on location. An example of this might be a skype call to a Ranger at Yellowstone Park or a Stock Market Trader in The City or a curator at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Access details, timing advice and follow up lesson plans are also available. A great way to take your class out of the classroom without ever needing to leave.

As well as these real-time, real life ‘virtual field trips’, there are endless resources on the Microsoft Education website covering a multitude of subjects.

Learning Tools
Learning Tools are part of Windows 10 - they could well be in front of you as you read this post. Learning Tools do exactly what they say on the tin. All you need to so is open a Word document within Office 365, click on view and choose immersive reader. The functionality provides all sorts of help from reading the document aloud (at various speeds), displaying pictures next to words, and labelling each word type i.e. noun, verb, adjective etc. All designed to make reading and understanding, and therefore learning, easier for students.

Class Notebook
Teachers can take control and enjoy granular visibility on the homework and assignments they send out. Sometimes the time in which an assignment is handed in can be just as important as the fact it’s been handed in at all. For example, recording that a student regularly hands homework in at 2AM is data that should be acted upon. OneNote and OneNote Class Notebooks empower teachers and students to capture information and stay organised, it allows students to set their creativity free, makes creating and sharing lessons easy, enables real-time class collaboration, and facilitates education staff collaboration. It does so by being very easy to use, reducing time for teachers in setting up, managing and marking assignments.

One Note
For CSE, this was the most powerful piece of software we learned about on the day. Once you have set up your class as a group you can assign work, add resources (web pages, sways, word docs etc.) to that assignment so that all of the required learning material is at hand for your students. You can then watch the progress of each student as they work towards the deadline that you have set. It is extremely easy to use, you have the choice to write feedback on your student's work, record a voice memo or even a video memo that gives your student the feedback they need to progress – making the experience very personal to the student and therefore more powerful.

Lesson planning becomes much easier too with the One Note serving as an ordered, easy to use depository for all your teaching resources and lesson plans.

Windows 10

When you think that Windows 7 was introduced in 2009, it is perhaps not so surprising that there is so much more functionality and versatility to Windows 10 than Windows 7. What’s more, Windows 10 is a lot, lot quicker to start up and to work with than Windows 7.

Paint 3D
This is the ingenious piece of software that allowed me to draw a 3D dinosaur and embed the dinosaur into a photo or video. The possibilities with this are endless - my photo shows my lack of imagination more than anything else. Very easy to use and great fun!

Edge
Edge is Microsoft's latest way to explore the internet. Its distinct advantages mean that pages from the net can be edited and converted into teaching resources. Used in conjunction with free resources from the Gutenberg Library (57,000 free books out of copyright)
and the National Geographic website, for example, your students can create all sorts of wonderful resources and learning aids.

Sway
Rather than spend ages on a PowerPoint presentation, making sure fonts are the same, that the pictures are neatly sized and the slide design is just right, create a Sway instead. Sway is a brilliantly quick and easy presentation programme that self-populates based on the subjects that you input. It allows the author to concentrate on the content rather than the presentation itself. This means that the learning is focussed on the subject matter and not on PowerPoint skills. In my opinion, Sways are bolder, brighter and far more alive than the "death by PowerPoint" that we have all been sadly used to.

It is safe to say that we all left Microsoft enthused and with lots of ideas about what we can do with Office 365 and Windows 10. Please contact CSE to join us for our nest session and help with your school’s IT development plan.

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