By JASON BROWN, Sunday December 7th 2014, 22:04 PM
On Friday December 5th 2014 myself, Kevin Sait, Harry Traynor and Wymondham High Principal, Russell Boulton, headed down to London for the day to attend the Microsoft Innovative Educator launch event in Microsoft’s swish offices in Cardinal Place, Victoria, London.
As with all O Team outings, it was an early start, many selfies were taken and a McDonald’s just off the M11 was eaten, but a great day was had by all four of us who found the event helpful and inspiring.
The event itself began at 9.30 in the Microsoft Showcase Classroom with Steve Beswick’s (Head of Microsoft Education UK) presentation beginning at 10.00. To ensure that we could get down to London for the opening of the event we had to leave Wymondham by about 5.45, which was an early start! I was picked up from my door by Kevin at about 5.40 and we picked Harry and Russell up along the way.
The original plan was to go on the train from Diss to London Liverpool Street, but in the end we decided it’d be easier to drive down to Epping and get a Central line Tube into London. We arrived at Epping Tube Station in Essex at about 8.30 and after being crammed onto several Central and District line Tubes and having run around Bank and Monument Tube Stations exhausting ourselves running up the stairs, we arrived at the Microsoft offices in Cardinal Place, Victoria, at around 9.00, leaving us half an hour before the event began.
In total there were around 30 Microsoft Innovative Educators at the event as well as headteachers from each of the schools. The event began with Steve Beswick talking about how Office 365 and devices such as tablets and smartphones could be powerful pieces of technology in the classroom to help engage students, as opposed to something that should be shunned for fear of distracting the students. This presentation went down well and of course the Innovative Educators who were there were aware of how Office 365 and technology could be utilised in the classroom, but the part of the presentation that got people most excited was when Steve announced that Microsoft would be giving away a free Surface Pro 3 to each of the Innovative Educators. Unfortunately, not being a Innovative Educator (just yet!) this doesn’t apply to me, but maybe when O Team Ventures is launched I’ll be able to get myself one? * Hint hint *
After Steve’s presentation the group was split up into 6 and we each had a chat with a Microsoft employee about a piece of Microsoft technology. We had demonstrations of Office Mix which adds interactivity to PowerPoint presentations such as the ability to use videos and quizzes and Sway which is a web-based presentation tool that is still in beta at the moment but is looking rather groovy and got everybody’s attention, as well as the Bing Translator app which works really well for translating text using the camera on your Windows-based tablet or smartphone.
Once these small presentations were over the group was then divided into two with the secondary and primary school teachers each receiving different presentations. This was when Mandeep Atwal, our link with Microsoft Education, took Harry and I to one side and told us a little more about the Student Ambassador Program that we both recently joined.
Mandeep explained how there was going to be a Microsoft Innovative Educator YouTube channel that would be managed by one of the Innovative Educators but asked if we could interview each of the educators at the launch event for the channel. She also told us about a possible trip to Microsoft’s HQ in Redmond, Seattle which may be taking place next year or 2016 and also spoke to Harry about presenting with the Surface Pro 3 team at the BETT Show in January 2015 which I will be attending on the Saturday – and she also informed me about how my name was ‘written all over BETT 2016’, which I’m really looking forward to presenting at!
Harry and I spent the afternoon interviewing the Innovative Educators. These are teachers and IT managers from schools all across the UK who have implemented Microsoft technology into their classrooms. Although each interview only lasted around a minute, it was really inspiring talking to different people about how they want to use Office 365 in schools. I think one of the most inspiring Innovative Educators I spoke to was a lady who teaches in a Pupil Referral Unit. For those of who who don’t know, a Pupil Referral Unit is a school where children who cannot cope or behave in a mainstream school go. Typically education is very strict here and the students are supervised all day long. It was great hearing her say that thanks to Office 365 and tablets in the PRU, the students were able to choose how they worked and they could choose the correct tools for the job. Obviously she mentioned that they still have to monitor the students, but using technology allowed them to be a little more independent and creative in their work, which is often something that is omitted from an education in a PRU.
Other Innovative Educators had only just started out rolling out the technology in their schools but had visions of the technology engaging children and replacing old technology such as interactive whiteboards and desktop computers. Others envisaged 100% of students owning a device, whether it be a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop and others are already well into the game and have successfully rolled out Office 365 and have been affiliated with Microsoft for several years now and had used technology to fully engage students in their lessons. A science teacher we interviewed told us that he had students who never did homework and were never attentive in lessons, but thanks to using technology in the classroom to teach the students about power generation using an online game where users can build their own cities and power stations and buy and sell electricity from one another, those students were now hooked and had been seen playing the game in school at break and lunch times! They were learning in their free time without even knowing it, and this is why technology is such a valuable asset in the world of education.
We interviewed Innovative Educators from all kinds of different schools, from primary schools to further education colleges and all from all corners of the country, from Cornwall to Scotland to London and all! It was really interesting hearing what these teachers thought of technology in the classroom and also to learn how they have been deploying Office 365 and tablets.
At the end of the event the Innovative Educators received their awards from Anthony and Steve and of course celebrated with a glass of champagne. The schools also received their Microsoft International Showcase School 2015 award which Russell Boulton proudly collected from Steve Beswick.
After some talking to Microsoft employees about using technology in education, it was time to get back on the Tube and go home after a long day. Victoria Tube Station at around 16.00 on a Friday evening in December is not really the place you want to be if you’re claustrophobic and nor is a District line Tube train but the day did of course end with a ‘Tube selfie’ of me and Kevin taken on his Nokia whilst on a District line train travelling home.
When is an O Team outing not an O Team outing? When there isn’t a McDonald’s! We stopped off a McDonald’s just outside Epping on the way home and each had a delicious Winter Warmer burger. We discovered that our Principal, Russell Boulton, knew rather a lot about McDonald’s and even introduced us to the innovative game of ‘the chip challenge’.
To round the day off we played with some of the technology in the Toyota RAV 4 hire care that we were using for the day. We paired Harry’s phone up to the Bluetooth and streamed Christmas songs from Spotify that we listened to going up the M11 back to Norfolk, but thank goodness 3G reception in Thetford Forest proved to be rubbish because it meant we (unfortunately) couldn’t listen to the Christmas cats ‘singing’, or should I say ‘meowing’, Jingle Bells.
To conclude, we had a great day and felt it was a really helpful, inspiring and exciting event to go to. We are looking forward to returning to Microsoft again soon, hopefully in Seattle and the next trip we are preparing for is the BETT Show 2015 in the ExCel Arena in London.
Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam
The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13
Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait
Last updated: Sunday December 7th 2014, 22:08 PM