Microsoft Innovative Educator Launch Event – December 5th 2014

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.

The exquisite Cardinal Place offices in Victoria, London, where the event was held.
The exquisite Cardinal Place offices in Victoria, London, where the event was held.

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.

First selfie of the day, an 'arrival selfie' by Harry and Jason!
First selfie of the day, an ‘arrival selfie’ by Harry and Jason!

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 *

Microsoft employee Graham gave a good demonstration of Sway, showing off it's touch-compatibility on a touch-enabled Lenovo desktop PC.
Microsoft employee Graham gave a good demonstration of Sway, showing off it’s touch-compatibility on a touch-enabled Lenovo desktop PC.

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.

Here's Harry suitably impressed by the Bing Translator app running on a Surface Pro 3!
Here’s Harry suitably impressed by the Bing Translator app running on a Surface Pro 3!

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.

Mandeep was impressed by the beginnings of Harry's Yammer and Office 365 promotional video!
Mandeep was impressed by the beginnings of Harry’s Yammer and Office 365 promotional video!

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.

Kevin and Russell celebrate with a glass of champagne after having Innovative Educator and Showcase School awards.
Kevin and Russell celebrate with a glass of champagne after having Innovative Educator and Showcase School awards.

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.

All of the Innovative Educators and Headteachers in the Microsoft Showcase Classroom at the event.
All of the Innovative Educators and Headteachers in the Microsoft Showcase Classroom at the event.
Kevin and Jason take a selfie on a District line tube on the way home.
Kevin and Jason take a selfie on a District line tube on the way 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.

The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!
The photo that sums up the day! Harry and Jason give the thumbs up after interviewing 30 Innovative Educators!

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

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Student Digital Leaders: The two ends of the school working together

By JASON BROWN, Friday November 28th 2014, 19:10 PM

As regular readers of this blog will be aware, we are very much into ‘student lead IT’ at Wymondham High Academy. Recently, myself, a 17 year old O Team member and 15 year old Student Digital Leader Jenny Andrews have been recruiting new Year 7 Student Digital Leaders to inspire the younger generation and also get them to work with the older students in the school on IT projects and help promote what we do as a school from an IT perspective. This means that the youngest students in the school, some of whom are still only 11 years old, will be working some of the oldest. More than anything else, this represents great unification between the oldest and youngest students in the school and it’s all about supporting one another and getting them inspired to go far in their ‘IT careers’ at school.

We began recruiting in early October on the school’s Yammer network and were overwhelmed with responses from Year 7 and 8 students whom showed an interest. Jenny and I came up with some application questions to ask them and I put them together into an online Excel Survey to make completing the application form easy. We received 9 applications and 7 of these 9 were interviewed by Jenny and I between November 3rd and November 19th.

Savina was recommended personally to me by her IT teacher, Mr Howard (centre), for the Student Digital Leader programme.
Savina was recommended personally to me by her IT teacher, Mr Howard (centre), for the Student Digital Leader programme.

In addition to the 7 who completed an application and were interviewed, we also interviewed an extra candidate, 11 year old Year 7 student Savina Ghunowa who was recommended personally to me by her IT teacher Mr Howard. I gave Savina a few days to complete her application and was impressed by how quickly she completed it which meant that Jenny and I could interview her on the next day at school.

Yesterday we also offered Year 9 student Nia Preston a place as a Student Digital Leader for her dedication and keen interest in IT, specifically in programming.

Over the past few weeks I have been building a great relationship with the new Student Digital Leaders, frequently talking to them on Yammer and bumping into them at school. On Friday 12th December will be holding our first ‘inaugural’ meeting in the Training Centre we will be introducing ourselves to one another, talking about what the year has ahead for them and of course taking some group photos with the ‘O Team swagger’. Stay tuned for an article about that!

Jason and Year 7 Student Digital Leader Savina Ghunowa take a selfie with Yammy next to the Microsoft IT Academy plaque on November 28th 2014.
Jason and Year 7 Student Digital Leader Savina Ghunowa take a selfie with Yammy next to the Microsoft IT Academy plaque on November 28th 2014.

Last updated: Friday November 28th 2014, 20:20 PM

‘O’ Team Ventures is here !

Building on the Wymondham High ‘O’ Team’s first year of activity, we are about to launch our first commercial venture.   Using the schools Microsoft IT Academy status the team are putting the finishing touches to creating our own IT training business.

Wytraining  (the Wy comes from the Wymondham part) has been created by working with students to create a viable business plan, students have been involved in all aspects including the design of marketing materials for the new business.    We have been working hard to create a pleasant training venue within the school, with the aims of delivering top quality  IT  training for students, staff, local community, schools and business throughout East Anglia.

‘O’ Team members have been practising presenting skills on some of our in house training courses such as OneNote, OneNote ClassNotebook, Office Mix, and even building Minecraft servers!.  This has proved invaluable to teach the training team different skills such as presentation techniques, and communication skills.   ‘O’ Team ventures training will launch in January 2015, and will offer training during the day, after school and occasional Saturday’s.   However we also cater for remote learners by delivering online training through our training portal.

Shakespeare and OneNote  it happens here at Wymondham High Academy
Technology and the curriculum is a great mix

 

The ‘O’ Team Office posters made a welcome return in our new corporate training venue.    These posters were designed by @harrytraynor who was the founder member of the ‘O’ Team.  The posters have been used in different locations around the world, a testament to our students work and  using tools like Yammer to communicate with global partners, really “working  like a network.”

By putting the opportunities in front of our students, it really shows the potential that students have, including skills that may not come to the forefront naturally in traditional lesson, but are equally important to foster.   I am a believer in that everyone has a natural ability – we only have to give them a chance to access it.

 

What has also been interesting in this project, has been the reaction of students who have now taken the teacher role.  I suppose we can call it the ultimate in Flipped Learning!. I have had comments that “its rewarding and enjoyable – but very tiring also!”    Students understanding what is like to sample the teacher life, and see it from another angle, can only be beneficial to learning and classroom behaviour.  Perhaps next we should be getting teachers to be taught by students – who knows!

Nick McGee  teaching
O Team Member Nick McGee teaching students the fundamentals of making a MineCraft server

As you can see in the next photo – Nicholas McGee ( who is indeed a Raspberry PI and MineCraft specialist)  was quite at home running a training session for 20 students in the training venue.   Nick has certainly learnt skills in presenting to peers, communicating and assessing work from other students.   The session being run was developing your own MineCraft server.  These students have already passed the fundamentals of networking computers, and understanding TCP/IP, so the next step was to connect them with something they relate to and that was MineCraft.     The next session Nick will deliver will be talking about external IP addresses and port forwarding, students will then have the opportunity to setup there own infrastructure in the venue.

It is these life skills that will shape people like Nick in the outside world,  as the recent IDC survey mentioned yet again how important presentation and communication skills are valued by employers.

 

None of this idea would have happened if it wasn’t for the school being a Microsoft IT Academy.  IT Academy gives school unprecedented access to a range of online and  training resources on a wide range of subjects. This can be used with programs like the Microsoft Office Specialist and Microsoft Technology Associate for both staff CPD and student development.  It almost like a training opportunity in a box – ready to go.  It has also allowed our student trainers to become certified in the topics they teach, giving them more confidence in what they teach.

WP_20141126_08_58_45_ProRemember being an IT Academy is a benefit to you, your students but can also start to generate important revenues which you can put back into the technology in your school.   IT Academy can simply be added to your existing Microsoft Licensing for your school.     Add to this the ability to host exams, it means as a school you simply get the best of both worlds.   An un-rivalled source of CPD for teachers, learning for students and an income generator to.

The IT Academy is packed with online manuals to cover the main topics, such as Microsoft Office, but also comes with lessons plans, hand-outs, marketing information – its all there.

You can find out more about the IT Academy program from http://microsoftitacademy.com   or speak to the good people at Prodigy Learning who will help you out to offer MOS / MTA Certifications at your school, there website is http://prodigylearning.com

So as we get ready to launch our first commercial venture, we have all the right ingredients,   IT Academy,  and enthusiastic business partners who are willing to take a risk!     Its that ability to take a risk which may well see the entrepreneurial skills show ! – if we could teach that in school then the sky would really be the limit.

 

Catch the latest information on our website http://wytraining.net

 

business cards

 

 

 

Welcome to Wymondham High Academy: An International Microsoft Showcase School

By JASON BROWN, Saturday 15th November 2014, 23:04 PM

On November 6th 2014 Wymondham High Academy gained Microsoft International Showcase School status, joining five others in the UK and 104 in the world after having been a Microsoft IT Academy for little over a year.

Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.
Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.

What does this mean for Wymondham High Academy and the staff and students?

Essentially it means that we represent the cutting-edge of using Microsoft technology in an educational institution. This goes right the way from running Windows Server 2012 R2 on our servers and Windows 8.1 Enterprise N on our 700 desktops and 250 laptops to using 250 Surface RT tablets in the classroom, purchasing Surface Pro 3s for the senior leadership team and offering students at Wymondham High IT opportunities a little ‘outside of the ordinary’ such as experiences of using enterprise social networks in-school such as Yammer and even giving students the opportunity to download 5 free copies of Office 365 Pro Plus and £50,000 worth of other Microsoft software. We are now internationally recognised as worldwide leaders in using Microsoft technology in the classroom to deliver fun, interactive and inspiring lessons and to inspire technological innovation in other educational institutions.

Devices such as Surface tablets in the classroom can help students of different ages to learn together and open doors to further knowledge.
Devices such as Surface tablets in the classroom can help students of different ages to learn together and open doors to further knowledge.

Part of being a Microsoft International Showcase School is having the ability to recognise that technology isn’t something that should be shunned in the classroom for fear of students being distracted by it. Instead, it is about recognising that technology in the classroom can maximise the potential of students and can provide great learning possibilities and access the wider reading and information to help education. In a world where technology is moving along faster and faster and children are adapting faster and faster to new technology, whether it be smartphones, smartwatches, social media or even virtual reality, technology is something cannot simply be ignored and brushed under the carpet from education. The education system must adapt to using technology in the classroom.

Children who began Year 7 (the youngest children at Wymondham High) this year were born in 2002 or 2003, meaning that many of them have never known life without technology around them – most notably a life without the internet and touch-enabled smart devices such as smartphones and tablets is completely alien to them. Children in Year 7 and Year 8 are younger than Windows XP and Office 2003. Although these products are no longer supported by Microsoft, Windows XP still holds a market share of approximately 17% over a variety of devices, such as desktops, laptops and even ATMs, on a global scale. There is a very strong likelihood that there are some schools who are still using Windows XP and Office 2003 to deliver their students an education.

Student Ambassador and A level student, Jason Brown (left), Head of IT Strategy, Kevin Sait (centre) and Student Ambassador and IT Apparentice, Harry Traynor (right).
Student Ambassador and A level student, Jason Brown (left), Head of IT Strategy, Kevin Sait (centre) and Student Ambassador and IT Apparentice, Harry Traynor (right).

How can you expect students to use software in schools that is older than they are? Especially when what they are used to using at home is in a completely different world. In a Year 7 assembly I presented at Old Buckenham High in October, I asked the audience if they owned a smartphone or a tablet. Whilst a number of them owned a smartphone, the overwhelming majority of them owned a tablet. This is what being a Microsoft International Showcase School is all about. It’s all about adapting to using new technology to teach students to meet the needs of what they are probably used to using already. There will come a point where a child will not know what a desktop is, or know how to type on a keyboard or navigate using a mouse. Instead they’ll be using touch devices all the time. How does using outdated hardware and software in a school support this?

The students pick up the new technology extremely quickly. They’re used to using tablets and Windows 8.1 at home so for them it is second nature. The younger students are always the fastest to pick it up, but even the older A level students pick it up considerably quicker than most teachers. Being a Microsoft International Showcase School isn’t just about getting students using this technology – it is also about getting teachers using this technology to teach. In fact, getting the teachers to use it is the most important bit! Without the teacher support, none of this can happen because at the end of the day, who are the ones planning lessons? Not the students! Teachers at Wymondham High have been increasingly enthusiastic about using technology in the classroom. Many of them have created groups for their classes on Yammer where they can post lesson resources and answer any questions that students may have. ‘The learning doesn’t end at 3 o’clock’, and it certainly doesn’t on Yammer! In fact the quietest times on Yammer are during the school day. After 3 o’clock the network is thriving with both students and teachers posting to take the learning outside of the classroom in a fun and modern way. The students enjoy using Yammer so much that teachers have been setting them homework to do on Yammer and the students aren’t even aware that they are doing the homework. The students love Yammer because it is just like Facebook. ‘Finally!’ they all thought as we unveiled Yammer in IT lessons, ‘we can use something like Facebook in school!’ It must’ve been a dream come true for many!

Yammer teaches students the skills of the future: etiquette on social networks is one thing and collaboration is another.
Yammer teaches students the skills of the future: collaboration and etiquette on social networks in the safety of Wymondham High are two key things it teaches.

Yammer works on a two-way basis however. We have well over 1,000 members on our Yammer network and this time next year we will definitely have all 1,800 members of the school on there. I can almost guarantee it. In fact, I can almost guarantee that we’ll have all 1,800 members on Yammer by April next year. Having such a vast network means that there is scope for the odd person to misbehave: whether that be posting inflammatory remarks, creating inappropriate groups or just downright spamming the network, we need a team of admins to monitor the network and ensure it all runs smoothly. Student involvement is a key component of the International Showcase School programme and so we have several students, including myself, who are admins on Yammer. This gives us power to delete posts, groups and also to remove users (among many other things). This has given those students who show maturity and responsibility an opportunity in learning how to moderate social networks and dealing with those who ‘break the rules’ online. Which leads to key life skills such as taking responsibility and action where needed.

But do you know what? We currently have 1,100 users on our Yammer network and in the past year that it has been open for members of Wymondham High to use, we have flat-out banned very few people. Less than ten people have received any kind of ban, whether it be a permanent ban or a temporary suspension and only a couple of people have been permanently banned from the network. Those who do get banned usually own up to what they did and are allowed back on and act more maturely. Above all, this shows that the students are using the network correctly and in the right manner. Yammer teaches all the students etiquette on the internet (‘netiquette’) and teaches them about using social networks safely and responsibility in the safety of school.

Principal of Wymondham High Academy, Russell Boulton, is also passionate about using Microsoft products such as Yammer, OneNote and Surface tablets in his lessons.
Principal of Wymondham High Academy, Russell Boulton, is also passionate about using Microsoft products such as Yammer, OneNote and Surface tablets in his lessons.

At first many teachers were unsure about Yammer and hesitant to use it, presumably because they were unsure what it was useful for and because of all of the cyber-bullying stories you hear in the press, but once it had been explained how it could help student learning, popularity exploded and once some teachers started using it, like a set of dominoes, the others followed suit. Principal Russell Boulton has been a keen user of Yammer and OneNote for his science classes who love using the technology to learn. Over the past few months he in particular has been a teacher who has lead the way forward in using Microsoft technology in the classroom. It is also great that he is the Principal and so is the teacher whom the other teachers look up to. Teachers have also been talking to each other on Yammer about lesson planning and asking each other for lesson ideas in their ‘Teaching & Learning’ group on the network which now has 160 members. This means that the domino effect has further been enhanced.

I think one thing that teachers feel Yammer is great for is security. On a social network like Facebook or Twitter or even on internet forums, anybody can join and start talking to you. This means that you don’t always know who are you talking to. The beauty of Yammer is that only members of Wymondham High can join our network – the requirement to join is a valid WH-AT.net email address (which is our school domain). This means if any cyber-bullying does go on, we know that is from somebody in school and not an outsider. Security is further enhanced with a very, very long ‘monitor keyword list’ which flags any inappropriate words in messages and reports back to Kevin Sait. This kind of security is what has helped Yammer take off in our school and helps to make it to a safe network to communicate on.

The same story applies to the Surface RT tablets. At first, they were hardly used, but once it was apparent how handy they could be for writing essays in class, researching information in class and generally how portable and convenient they were, popularity exploded and now it’s difficult to find a time when the tablets are not being used!

Surface tablets are extremely popular in lessons at Wymondham High, whether it be maths, geography or science.
Surface tablets are extremely popular in lessons at Wymondham High, whether it be maths, geography or science.

Increasing numbers of students in the school also leads to a shortage of IT rooms, so the Surfaces make a great and convenient alternative.

We also encourage students to bring their own devices to school to work on, whether that be a tablet, smartphone or laptop of their choice. They can of course install Office 365 on this device thanks to Student Avantage, save work on OneDrive, and access it on school computers and on any other device.

These are just a few of the ways in which teachers and students are using Microsoft technology at Wymondham High to inspire innovative learning.

Another part of the programme is to assign two Global Student Ambassadors. These are students who are passionate about Microsoft technology and will promote it in the classroom and school, but also at large Microsoft Educational events. I am very proud to announce that I am one of Wymondham High’s Microsoft Global Student Ambassadors, and Harry Traynor, an 18 year old IT apprentice at Wymondham High who has been involved with the Microsoft IT Academy project at Wymondham High since day one, is the other. I am a 17 year old student currently studying A levels at Wymondham High, but have been attending the school since I was 11 in Year 9 (and Harry has been attending since he was 11 in 2007) and we have both seen massive, massive changes to the IT systems in school over the years that we have been here.

Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors for Wymondham High, Jason Brown (17, left) and Harry Traynor (18, right) are of course passionate about technology in the classroom.
Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors for Wymondham High, Jason Brown (17, left) and Harry Traynor (18, right) are of course passionate about technology in the classroom.

We are extremely proud and privileged to have worked with people like Kevin Sait who are real inspirations to us to have reached where we are standing now. To have a Worldwide title at the age of 17 or 18 and be personally known to without a doubt, the largest software vendor and technology company on the planet is absolutely incredible. And there will be without a doubt students at Wymondham High who in the future will hold this title at a much younger age than Harry or I.

The ultimate aim is to provide a learning environment in which technology is used by students and staff to its absolute potential and creates successful learning and engaging teaching. We are preparing children for jobs that don’t exist in our economy yet. Most of the jobs in IT that these children will eventually end up doing do not exist yet – so we need to teach them the skills that they will need. Microsoft Office skills rank in the top 3 of 20 skills desired by employers, and skills such as entrepreneurship and collaboration are often thrown around as being ‘future life skills’ required to work in a connected and digital place of work.

I am absolutely passionate about Wymondham High Academy and cannot say enough good things about it and the staff and

students who are there. ‘I live and breathe this school’ is how I put it to an IT teacher the other day, which is why I am so proud to represent my school’s technological achievements on a worldwide scale.

Using technology in the classroom makes for successful learning and engaging teaching. Pictured here is IT teacher, Mr Howard, teaching coding.
Using technology in the classroom makes for successful learning and engaging teaching. Pictured here is IT teacher, Mr Howard, teaching coding.

We lead, we inspire, we innovative, we educate. We are Wymondham High Academy: An International Microsoft Showcase School.

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 16th November 2014, 16:12 PM

Tablets and Windows 8.1 – a changing world.

We have been very busy over the past couple of months supporting other schools with the IT roadmaps, based on the success we have had in using Office 365.  The success has come from simplifying what we do and how we do it, this obviously is not the same for all schools but for us has led to engaged students and developing new ways of teachers using technology, at different levels as part of their teaching model.   With the schools that we have helped recently one thing came across very clearly and that was the definition of the What is a tablet?

Teaching staff’s generic answer was ‘its an Apple iPad’, which with the dominance of the I-device since its launch in 2010 is really unsurprising!  Lets cut to the chase here, the number and quality of the iPad ‘apps’ makes it a really appealing answer to technology for a lot of education establishments around the world.    With the iPad launch in 2010 it really proved that younger generation ‘IT savvy’ teachers (lets say mid 20’s) have never not known the iPad as being the only tablet on the marketplace.   This also been driven with its purchase as a consumer device, it has added to the ‘we must have iPad as our tablets in school’ debate.

Don’t get me wrong I have a trusted iPad 2 at home which I use frequently, however we have been talking to schools about devices running Windows 8.1, their price points and what can be done with them to explore key skills such as collaboration, communication and sharing, all key 21st Century Skills.

Windows

Windows 8.1
With Windows 8.1 you have the power to split screens and run multiple applications

Windows 8.1 allows you to do things other devices still don’t do, such as splitting the screen to run two application as the same time and move data between them. Windows 10 takes this further by allowing you to snap more applications simultaneously on the screen at the same time.  Of course there is an ever-growing range of educational apps in the Windows Store for all ages, popular apps like Explain Everything have been ported from IOS to Windows now.

The first thing that seems to surprise people and teachers thinking is the range of hardware platforms that have become available to suit specific needs.

7 & 8 inch tablets

A great range from sturdy hand-held devices from manufacturers like LINQ and Toshiba  are now available starting from an amazing £99.00 per unit, includes a full version of Windows 8.1

10 inch devices

Ideal for the classroom, with a slightly bigger screen, can support technologies such as Miracast (Wireless projection), HDMI and USB, prices start from £142.00

Windows 8.1
You can get Windows 8.1 on a range of different hardware, with a common user experience.

Hybrid

Plenty of devices from Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba and others allowing you to get the best of both world by using a full keyboard, or disconnect and use it in a tablet form factor. A lot of students prefer typing on physical keyboards, liking responsive keyboards.   We now have a number of devices that support inking by use of stylus, which opens up realms of possibilities with software like OneNote 2013, from both teachers and students.

A stylus in the hand can open the device to Art programs like FreshPaint, or build handwriting skills.   Where as for younger children a smaller form version might be more applicable.    Added to this the power of Microsoft Office 365, gives students all the tools to utilise a mobile first agenda in school. Knowing that these skills are what students will use in the outside world of FE or work.

 

 

The latest version of the Surface Pro from Microsoft was launched a few months ago incorporating the best of mobile computing and certainly has began to reshape how we think of teaching with technology.

 

Don’t take my word for it!

The nice people at Tablet-Academy http://www.tablet-academy.com  are working closely with Microsoft, to give educators the chance to see Windows 8.1  in action. The Microsoft Showcase Classroom tour will be visiting all parts of the country to give educators the chance to see Windows 8.1 in the classroom setting, and how to utilise it with technologies like Office 365.   There is a cost of £105.00 per delegate, but you do get to walk away with an 8 inch Windows 8 device at the end of the day.

Your will find more details here http://www.tablet-academy.com/win8edutour.html

 

and finally

Our school principal Russell Boulton has recently moved to the Surface Pro 3, so he can use tools like the OneNote Class Notebook, for preparing dynamic lessons and utilise flipped learning techniques.  The Surface Pro 3 fulfils all his needs both at his desk and in the classroom.  This has meant Russell has now handed back an IPad and IMac to the IT Team.   I am hoping to create  a separate post about Russell’s experience on the Surface Pro3

OneNote Class Notebook Creator

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This time last year Wymondham High Academy was just at the point of trialling Office 365,  as the Head of IT Strategy I was still finding my way around the school site, and trying to remember names and faces. A year later and Office 365 has been embedded along with Yammer to 1600 + students, Teachers have begun to embrace the flexibility of working in the cloud, the ability to move documents in between devices without it changing layouts !

We have also in that year deployed Windows 8.1 to more than 700 school computers, deployed over 200 Surface devices, and added a sustainable BYOD element into school life!, that can really be described as the easy part!. Now the school is well on the way to its goal of embedding the use of technology in the classroom for the benefit of teachers, (making their life easier, working to improve good working practice in the classroom) and students, (understanding the technology, its use and how to benefit from key skills such as communication, collaboration and sharing).

One of the big players here has been the adoption of OneNote 2013, which I can guarantee is the one piece of software people have never heard of, but trust me it can be a real game changer in your school. The latest iteration as a SharePoint app The OneNote Class Notebook Creator can literally ‘blow your mind’ as an educator with its potential in schools.

So what exactly is it?
OneNote Class Notebook Creator allows you to create a whole class notebook, with content library, collaboration pages, and student notebooks, in one document! The real beauty about this is students only see the content library (resources from the teacher), the collaboration space (sharing ideas) and only their own notebook.   So students use the notebook as if it is their own, can copy information from the teachers resource pages, do homework, and the teacher has global access to all the student notebooks and with the power of OneNote can leave feedback on students work in a variety of manners (audio, video, annotation etc).

Going from Zero to OneNote Hero!

School Principal Russell Boulton has been one of the early adopters of OneNote Class Notebook Creator at Wymondham  with his Year 7 Science group.  Up until two weeks ago Russell would admit he knew of but didn’t use OneNote.  After a short session with us, literally 30 mins, Russell then an created his first Class Notebook and shared it with his teaching group on Yammer, our enterprise social network.

Russell Boulton
School Principal Russell Boulton is and early adopter of OneNote Class Notebook Creator

 Class Notebook  has been a catalyst for me to introduce Flipped Learning into this terms  topic.  I have uploaded some video’s into OneDrive for Business and created a sharing link, embedded that into the content library in the Class Notebook so students have access to those resources.     Part of the homework this week was to watch the video’s at home (or where ever they are connected to the internet). So we can get down to the task in the classroom and maximise the learning time.

We have an active group on Yammer for my Year 7 science, and this is a great place to share access to the Class Notebook, also students use it as a discussion point and can help each other out if there is a problem.

The great thing is I can also look into the Student Notebook and see how work is progressing at any time, and with OneNote on my Surface I can leave video feedback instantaneously if I wish.    These are early days but we see the potential and how to deliver learning in a more exciting way for students and am sure, this will develop further.

How easy is it to get started?

After installing the Class Notebook Creator into your Office 365 site then its a case of launching the app from your site.

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As you can see Class Notebook creator is now an app in your page, and you can now run it directly.

Here is how simple it is to get up and running.

First of all launch the app and you will be offered the opportunity to create a new Class Notebook, you also have the option of adding other students to existing books here also.

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So select Create a Class Notebook, this will take you to the next screen.

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Add the name for your Notebook  Science Period 2 Wednesday’s  makes it easy for student to find if they have multiple OneNote open.  Click Next.

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This screen shows you the construction of your Notebook.   You can rename the Collaboration Space and Content Library if you need to. Click Next.

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Add your students name individually or paste them from a CSV.  This sets up the correct number of Student Spaces.

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Decide what goes in the Student Space, these are just standard examples, but you can configure this for your own way of teaching. Click Next.

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Lastly you will see a Preview of the Notebook – make sure your happy with it or amend the structure – the choice is yours.  Click Create to create your Notebook.

What happens next?

As on Office 365, you now get presented with a sharing URL giving access to the document, with the permissions set so student only see their own space and both the content and collaboration spaces.   This is available on any internet connected device, so can be leveraged pretty much anywhere.

You can now post the URL into SharePoint or email it, we generally post it Yammer our social feed which is heavily used in school.

Are you an Office 365 user?

Simply add the app from the SharePoint store to get started.  If your not an Office 365 user try Office 365 free for 30 days at http://office365.com

In summary OneNote is a much under utilised tool in the Office suite on its own. Its feature rich and empowering for both teachers and students. Class Notebook Creator takes this to the next level of utilising 21st century skills in the classroom and of course is free.

First thoughts on becoming a Windows 8.1 school

Over the summertime, one of the jobs was to roll-out Windows 8.1 to over 700 devices in school.  The reason behind this roll out was two fold:

Earlier in the school year we had taken part  in the Microsoft Education promotion for the Surface RT.  After upgrading them to Windows 8.1 they proved immensely popular with students in the classroom and around the school.   Therefore we wanted the desktop PC’s to reflect the same user interface.   One of the key visions we have is to level the playing field in IT giving students and staff alike the ability to run the same software that we run in school.   We have done this through Microsoft DreamSpark and Microsoft Student Advantage,

We also noticed that the majority of students on Windows 7 were not interested in working there way through the All Programs menu to find the application they want to work on, but instead they tended to Search for it.      Windows 8.1  federated Search facility allows students to quickly find application or documents and get started into a lesson a lot quicker than before.

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We upgraded the whole site using System Centre Configuration Manager which deployed all the machines within a few days.  The great news was all of our curriculum based applications would run quite happily on Windows 8.1 (testing is highly recommended!).  Added to this with our Microsoft Dreamspark store, students could now download Windows 8.1 at home as well.

Logon times have also improved by approximately 30 %  this means students can get into a lesson more quickly.

As for the future we we are already looking at moving some of the in-house network actions into the cloud using the Microsoft Live ID.   We are planning to sync user environments directly to the desktop (teachers first!) using Live ID, and the enlarging that to allow students to sync there ‘school’ environments to any other Windows 8.1 device they log onto.  The initial tests are very encouraging.

Students have started developing Apps using Project Siena ( Windows Store App for free) as an initial step into Computer Science, though not strictly computer programming, it does teach the logical thought process into designing apps.

The second reason is the school has a desire to push technology forward.    For so long we have seen technology move on around schools, with students and there smartphones, new devices at home, new devices in the workplace, this is matched with a distinct possibility that a school may be running an older versions of Windows or Microsoft Office.  As educators we are enabling students hopefully with the correct skills in the job marketplace in may be 5 to 10 years time, so I believe the school has almost a moral obligation to give students great experiences using the latest software.

Also the next generation of secondary school pupils will be on us soon who have been brought up with the tablets, touch devices and smartphones, to those pupils technology in the classroom will be even more of an expectation.   Did you know 2.2 million tablet users in the UK are between 3-11 ?  How does the education system react to this ? Probably with teachers with books instructing students with traditional teaching methods unless we make moves forward by matching education technology with the world around us.

I believe Windows 8.1 to be a truly ‘creative operating system’ allowing users to shape and develop their own learning, and it may just be the first step on the way to catering for the next generation of learners coming to our schools.

Welcome to the O Team

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Welcome to the Wymondham High O Team.   It is these team of students who have helped design build and implement Microsoft’s Office 365 at Wymondham High Academy Trust.   I am at the age of 43 very lucky to work with such a talented and focused bunch of students.

Let me give you a rundown of the team starting left to right.

Will Singleton – Will as a Year 7 as helped mastermind getting Year 7 students into using Office 365 and is a key team player.  Will is a Microsoft Office Specialist and uses his skills to showcase collaboration and sharing documents in his year group.

Paul Harvey – Paul has finally finished is A-levels and is one of our Yammer Social Network Managers in school.  Always available to help both students and staff. Paul also led on deploying Surface RT in the school.  Paul’s analytical mind has meant any challenge we have set him has been completed, well before target.

Me – Head of IT Strategy and Office 365 Ninja.

Harry Traynor – Harry is a senior O team member and all round champion of anything IT related.  A keen eye for design, some of Harry’s internal promotional posters have found fame with companies like Microsoft and Yammer Inc.

Jason Brown – Media man, a keen photographer Jason’s skills are really coming to the front following his successful application to become an O Team member. Jason has made several Office 365 learning videos which populate the O Team YouTube channel.  Again Jason’s videos have found their way onto the world stage and have been used to recently open an education conference in Canada.

Tobias Dunn – Toby is another Year 7 Microsoft Office Specialist, and Office 365  champion in the school.  Toby also codes using Touchdevelop and more recently Project Siena.

 

The team recently appeared in a live YamJam where they discussed using social media in the classroom with educators from around the world and regularly work with staff from Microsoft using Lync and Yammer.   The next  thing on the list is the launch of Office 365 with our colleagues at Old Buckenham High School, where the O Team will be leading an assembly to over 500 students.     So all I can say is watch this space as news from this extremely talented team will make it way across social media.

To find out more about the O Team’s Youtube channel follow the link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD1CCYyjLcw2dt0RMFFea6A

Wymondham High Academy’s O Team Goes Social!

Recently at Wymondham High Academy our Student Digital Leader teams have been getting onto social media in order to help us promote our school and also to provide to help to members within our school about how to use services such as Office 365, Yammer and DreamSpark. The aim of these videos is to show people just how easy it is to use all of these new facilities we are providing for them – and also to demonstrate the benefits that you can get of using these new facilities.

My name is Jason Brown and I am a 16 year old student at Wymondham High Academy who has been part of the Student Digital Leader (‘O Team’) team since May 2014 and have been closely working with Kevin Sait since the end of November 2013. I have a passion for ICT and computers as well as photography.

Jason is a member of the Wymondham High Academy O Team and helps to promote Microsoft services which the school is now providing.
Jason is a member of the Wymondham High Academy O Team and helps to promote Microsoft services which the school is now providing.

Whilst overall we feel that the launch of Office 365 and all of the other Microsoft services at school has been a success and teachers and students are beginning to realise that after having several years of various VLEs thrown at them, Office 365 is the ‘one that’s here to stay’, some people are still confused about how to use things like such as OneDrive to help them collaborate with peers on documents and some people don’t even know about the £50,000 worth of Microsoft software students can download for free.

There are various ways of educating members about Office 365 and the opportunities that it brings. One of those ways is lecture them in endless assemblies and hope that they’re listening. Another is to drag disgruntled staff to ‘training sessions’ after work hours when they’d rather be going home. You could send staff emails with long lists of instructions explaining how to use OneDrive and the rest of it – which they look at and then immediately delete. Or, you could teach kids about it in their IT lessons and annoy teachers who would rather that they were being taught the IT syllabus – which sadly is not half as exciting as learning about Office 365 or getting your hands on £50,000 worth of Microsoft software for free.

Or, you could take a more modern approach and make some quick videos which get the key points across in the shortest amount of time possible to keep your audience engaged. What’s more, you could produce these videos in beautiful 1080p Full HD resolution and post them onto one of the most popular video sharing networks in the world: YouTube.

Search for 'Wymondham High O Team' on YouTube and our channel will be the top result.
Search for ‘Wymondham High O Team’ on YouTube and our channel will be the top result.

Why YouTube? Simple! The benefits are clear:

1 – People can go onto the YouTube channel at any time they like and watch the videos in any order they like to learn about Office 365 and all of the other opportunities we are introducing. They don’t have to sit in assemblies or be dragged to training sessions after school. Instead, they can sit back in their own home, play the videos and let their minds be blown.

2 – If people like the videos and they find them helpful then they will subscribe to the channel which shows support for what we are doing. YouTube is such a popular site which almost every kid who has internet access visits that there’s bound to be a handful of them watching these videos and learning. One or two subscribers to our YouTube channel to show their support is far more rewarding than seeing a sea of bored faces giving the ‘nod of approval’ at the end of an assembly.

3 – It is rewarding for us who produce this content to see that people are enjoying it and finding it useful. We also love producing videos – well, I certainly do! If we can help our colleagues learn whilst doing it in a way that we enjoy doing, then that is really a ‘win win’ situation.

The story doesn’t end there. YouTube has great integration with Twitter, so every time the O Team post a new video to YouTube, it will also be tweeted on our new Twitter account.

Still in its infancy at the moment, but will be rowing up soon! @WyHighOteam
Still in its infancy at the moment, but will be growing up soon! @WyHighOteam

So what? You might say. Who follows you anyway? Well, at the moment not very many since the account is brand new, but we have had retweets from Wymondham High Academy’s official Twitter (@WyHighAcademy – which is followed by over 900 people, many of which are students and staff currently at Wymondham High Academy) as well as from people at Microsoft who we connected with on the Yammer YCN network (Yammer Customer Network) and also technology journalist Gerald Haigh has been retweeting some of our tweets.

Give it time, and I can only see the Wymondham High O Team Twitter being followed by students and technology journalists and Microsoft employees from all around the world who are interested to see what we are doing. As it stands, Wymondham High has already gained international support from Microsoft. The video below was not only presented to students in Wymondham High in April, but was also presented at a Microsoft employee’s presentation in Canada in May.

The reception from this video has been extremely positive, not just at Microsoft and within the Yammer YCN (which is how it was spotted for use in Canada), but also within school too. After the video was shown in assemblies students were saying that it ‘inspired’ them and they were amazed by what the school is now offering – and they were also amazed by my video editing skills… but more to the point they were more excited about Office 365 and everything else we are providing. As soon as this video was shown, we gained many new Yammer members on the WH-AT.net Yammer network within the first week.

And this is what it’s all about it. It’s all about inspiring these students to become interested in what we are doing and getting them to want to go onto DreamSpark tonight and downloading Windows 8.1 Pro for free, and wanting them to go into their Add/Remove Programs, removing Office 2003 and replacing it with Office 2013 (on 365) that they can get for free from the school.

It’s all about wanting them to use Yammer as a tool to talk to teachers, replacing emails.

The question that these videos aim to answer.
The question that these videos aim to answer.

It’s all about getting them to download the Yammer and Office 365 apps on their smartphones so that whether they’re in their bedroom or on the top of the Eiger, they can talk to people in school and continue to learn and produce.

 

Wymondham High Academy is situated in Norfolk, UK and has been closely working with Old Buckenham High School to help with their Office 365 launch.
Wymondham High Academy is situated in Norfolk, UK and has been closely working with Old Buckenham High School to help with their Office 365 launch.

And it’s not just our students who we want to inspire. We want to inspire every student out there. They can see our videos. They can subscribe to our channel. They can follow us on Twitter. They can see what we are doing. They can say ‘Wow – Wymondham High has all of this. Why don’t we?’ The response we’d want to hear from that is that other schools have been inspired by us and want to do the same. As it stands, Wymondham High is already working with Old Buckenham High School which is a small high school in Norfolk very close to us. We can help them develop and learn. And that is a great feeling.

In the 1980s, Bill Gates’ dream was to ‘have a computer on every desk in every home running Microsoft software.’ 

Our dream is much the same: our dream is to ‘have a computer on every desk in every home running Windows 8.1 Pro and Office 365 Professional Plus, provided by Wymondham High Academy.’ 

 

So, to conclude, the aim of these short videos is to teach people about the benefits of what we are offering and to get them inspired.

You can visit our YouTube channel by clicking here.

You can follow our Twitter account by clicking here or by tweeting to @WyHighOTeam.