Microsoft Educator Community – its your best weapon!

You want your school to be the best right?, you want it to be innovative amongst its peers, above all you want to engage students, and give teachers the confidence that they can use technology in the classroom effectively. School leaders want to see that the investment from ever decreasing budgets in technology will be use to bring beneficial out comes in the classroom.  So how do we bring this all together and stop the ‘ we need to buy that mentality’, which we have seen where schools put the technology first and then decide what to do with it after.

Well I would like to bring your attention to the new  Microsoft Education Community   http://education.microsoft.com .  Chances are you might not have heard about it before.  I guess this is really the vision of Anthony Salcito from Microsoft who has created this resource as a one stop shop for transformative change at all levels in schools.  This resource is only a couple of months old and is packed with numerous resources, built by educators, for educators.  It is also the centrepiece for Skype In The Classroom, the ability for educators to connect with other educators or organise virtual field trips to pretty much any location in the world.  Above all its free ! – you don’t have to buy a Microsoft product to use it – but it will be beneficial to everyone in education

As educators we are very much aware of the range of devices in the classroom, we know students can bring there own, (and probably already do in your school), but where we allow this technology and then simply overlay traditional teaching methods means there is no benefit to students or teachers.

Check this video clip about becoming an innovative school

As you can see the simple part is the technology, how we use the technology to the benefit of teaching and learning and those all important outcomes is the end goal.   This is why the resources at the Microsoft Educator Community are so important.   Its not a sales pitch, its educators telling educators how to get the best from the software they are using.

However the community doesn’t just cover educators in the classroom, technology strategy is driven from a teaching and learning strategy, it doesn’t lead it.  So there are some awesome resources which ask key questions from School leaders about moving there school forward.

mec 2In the Technology planning resources you will find information on things like ‘Establishing your vision’, absolutely crucial to working out what technology you need to buy!

As school leaders this section will show how to implement 21st century pedagogies in the classroom can be achieved through effective planning before hand.

Again this is all mapped with real world examples of schools which have already on the journey and completed it.

There is also a section about the Microsoft Showcase Schools program. This is now in its second year and expanding, Showcase Schools partner with Microsoft and have unprecedented access to resources and the mainstay  of the Microsoft Innovative Educators in the UK.

There are four courses on the MEC which relate to the UNESCO ICT Framework certification, giving educators the confidence in what they can deliver with technology in the classroom.  These courses are

  • Teaching with Technology Basics
  • Teaching with Technology
  • 21st Century Learning Design
  • Microsoft in the Classroom

However there are also courses on OneNote, Sway, Social Media, Flipping the Classroom which you can learn anytime and anywhere.

For educators we recognise that a day on a computer course when you have so much else going on is not productive for anyone.   So MEC course are broken down into easy bit size chunks of learning, giving you the opportunity to put into practise the bits you learnt.   Courses you complete in the MEC are aligned to digital badges so you can show colleagues the amount you have completed.

mec badges

Here are the badges I have earned so far in the short time I have been on the MEC, the third one is for being part of the Skype-a-thon earlier this year!

The Skype-a-thon was arranged in the MEC, connect with other global educators at a convenient time and introduce your students to different cultures, or maybe  collaborate on a project, or indeed be part of a virtual field trip.

The value for students to connect with other students and understanding different cultures has been well documented elsewhere.

Now we have the ability to take part in virtual field trips and talk to explorers and authors directly to get first hand access to topics that the students are studying.  By choosing Find A Lesson in the Educators section you can easily find your self transporting your class to a field trip in the South Pole.

mec 4

Click on register for the virtual field trip is what it takes to be part of the action of this field trip for the Arctic Live 2016.

Of course you may wish to share your knowledge with other educators, so you can upload your resources and share them with other educators around the world.

I hope this small insight into this super educational resource is enough to make you sign up and explore more, from Senior Leaders planning for transformational change to teachers taking kids on virtual field trips – its all at your finger tips.

To sign up goto http://education.microsoft.com    connect with me !

Remember  be brave – make change in you school – join the Educator Community today

 

A year in the life of Harry Traynor – Global Student Ambassador

There is only a certain amount of times you can use the term ‘right hand man’ in these kind of blogs, but that is how I would describe Harry Traynor who is one of our Microsoft Global Student Ambassador’s here at Wymondham High School.

Harry is 18 and we have been working together on the rollout, deployment and ‘crazy ideas’ to do with IT both in and around the school. I first met Harry as a Year 13 student along with Paul Harvey, back in September 2013, and we first started talking about Microsoft certifications, this soon expanded into Harry’s passion of building computers and generally playing with technology when he had the opportunity.    To me this blended in well with the vision of scrapping the VLE in school and replacing it with Office 365, who better to help me to launch this to students?

It soon became obvious to me, that there was a different message to come from a students mind than there was an adults!  Harry & Paul soon offered to manage the rollout to the 6th form students, overseeing organising assemblies, initial training and troubleshooting any user issues.

OneNoteShakeSpeareOne day we were joking in the office about marketing our campaign, and soon after I came back to my desk to find the first Office 365 poster that Harry had created.  These unique posters blending curriculum, with technology soon started to generate interest around the school – again a great example of the student mind overtaking the stayed mind of someone older !

By Christmas, Harry (& Paul) were leading the charge with Office 365 & Yammer in the school.  Harry had also offered to develop our SharePoint site after feedback from students.

So by now Harry’s free slots on his timetable were taken up with showing me what he had found on SharePoint, and how we could roll this out to other years.

As we moved through 2014  the Harry’s role grew into a position of complete trust from both the IT teams perspective and that of our staff.  Students would tend to prefer asking another student for help, and staff were quite happy for students to come and assist them.

We started running regular CPD sessions for staff, and I gave Harry the opportunity to host them, and again his presence (at the age of 17) was fantastic, highlighting to teachers how students work.  Our relationship with Microsoft really was the catalyst for Harry’s other passion to come to light, that of video production, we were soon getting calls from different people from within Yammer and Microsoft to see if we can create a promo video for them.

April time was when I approached Russell Boulton (Principal) with the view to keeping Harry on in the school via an apprenticeship scheme.  He nature and enthusiasm really meant we did not want to let him go and luckily he decided to stay.

In September we have been working with Old Buckenham High School, an it really is second nature to take Harry  into a training session knowing he has the skill set to deliver  great knowledge to staff. We have done various presentations to other schools on our work with Office 365 in the classroom and where possible I get Harry to run those session with myself on the sidelines!

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Harry Traynor talking about the Surface Pro 3 at Bett 2015

 

This work culminated in Harry being asked to present at the Bett Show at EdExcel with members from the Surface team from the states – and again never ceasing to amaze me with his level of professionalism at the age of 18 delivered some stellar presentations with Jacqueline Russell.

Team Yellow in action pose Bett 2015
Team Yellow in action pose Bett 2015

 

This year Harry is being invited to the E2 Conference in Seattle, to talk about his Minecraft  development with students at Wymondham High . I have been privileged to build some great stuff over the past 18 months, and cannot press home the value of working with students to help shape their future. I am sure 2015 will be another exciting year for the Global Student Ambassadors here at Wymondham High.

 

 

 

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.

wytraining Win8

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.