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    We’re all back from Berlin, in spite of the BA strikes over the weekend. Once again we had a great week – I always wish that every teacher I work with could accompany us to these Innovative Education Forums. The speakers this year were particularly inspiring, there were some useful workshops for teachers, and we even had the opportunity to tour some German schools.

    The highlight for me this year was a keynote by Professor Sugata Mitra, of Newcastle. His “Hole in the Wall” project described 10 years of his research

    that shows the capacity of kids in the slums of India (or indeed, kids anywhere) to teach themselves. He started with one computer, put literally into a hole in the wall in an Indian slum. He left the computer and came back months later, only to see that the kids had not only organised a system for sharing use of the computer (actually, the girls had organised this), but they had taught themselves how to use the computer and how to read the English user interface and English web sites. And they wanted more.

    This was one of the most inspirational talks I’ve seen in years. You can catch a version of it on TED here. Our teachers all left the talk thinking about how Professor Mitra’s talk would impact their teaching immediately.

    All four of our UK teachers (whose projects are described in blog posts HERE and HERE), impressed us with the time and effort they put into their stands and presentations in Berlin. We saw some great work from other teachers around Europe as well – Sweden, Belgium and Northern Ireland all brought virtual classroom tours that particularly impressed us – and the judges.

    At our gala dinner, we were extremely proud to have two of our teachers honoured with prizes. Jan Webb (below, right) received first prize in the Innovation in Collaboration category, and Simon Horleston (below, left) won third prize in the Innovation in Community category. As such, both will be accompanying us to the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum in Capetown, South Africa in October!

    P1010697            P1010699

    We’re extremely proud of all of the teachers we brought to Berlin, and we’re excited to meet a new group of teachers at our next Innovative Education Forum in the UK this autumn. Stay tuned for more information about your chance to attend that event, as we’ve already started planning it. It will be the lead-in to our next European Forum, in Moscow, this time next year!


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    clip_image001We’ve just issued the third edition of our accessibility guide for teachers, and it’s available as a download from our accessibility site. The site also includes a number of accessibility video case studies.

    The Accessibility: A Guide for Educators has been updated to include information on Windows 7 accessibility features, and current assistive technology product recommendations for teachers

    This guide provides information about accessibility and accessible technology to help teachers ensure that all students have equal access to learning with technology, specifically:

    • An understanding of accessibility and how it impacts the classroom
    • Definitions of impairment types and technology solutions for each type of impairment
    • Guidance on choosing accessible technology solutions
    • Resources for more information

    imageDownload the Accessibility Guide for Teachers


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    Did you know that the food system is responsible for approximately 1/3 of global greenhouse gases?  Our friends at TakingITGlobal, a non-profit community  for young people around the world have come up with a great Earth Day initiative to reduce your carbon footprint and take a bite out of climate change, starting with your lunch.  Commit to packing a Low Carbon Lunch for 40 days, from Earth Day, 22 April, to 1 June, and see what a big difference small changes can make! 

    Capture TakingITGlobal (TIG), the world’s most popular online community for young leaders, empowers youth around the world to take action on global issues, through social media and technology.  The 40-Day Low Carbon Lunch Challenge is part of Tread Lightly, a free, climate change education and youth engagement initiative developed by TIG.

    Tread Lightly provides innovative tools and resources to educators seeking to engage high school students in interactive, climate education, including: lesson plans; a themed virtual classroom; an international climate art contest; and the 40-Day Challenge

    Here’s how schools can participate in the 40-Day Low Carbon Lunch Challenge:

    1) Commit to taking the 40-Day Low Carbon Lunch Challenge.

    2) Access the Tread Lightly Low Carbon Lunch lesson plan for resources and activity ideas.

    3) Create a free Tread Lightly virtual classroom to engage students in the Low Carbon Lunch challenge online, in a private, secure, advertising-free environment.  

    4) Encourage students to participate in the 40-Day Challenge. Ask them to share their Low Carbon Lunch tips in the virtual classroom, and to document their progress by posting food blogs and photos in the student writing and photo galleries.  

    For more information on Tread Lightly, visit: www.treadlightly.me.

    Capture




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    Does your school or local authority have a Moodle learning platform? (If you don’t know, find out!) If so, the Microsoft Education Labs team have just launched the Office Add-in for Moodle, which might make your lives a little easier. This launch builds upon the success of the availability of the Microsoft Live Services Plug-in for Moodle which launched last July. 

    The idea behind the add-in is simple. Now, when you  Open or Save a file in Office 2003 or 2007, you can select to Open from Moodle or Save to Moodle directly. How does this help you? For a start, it will make it easier for you to transfer your files to your school’s learning platform directly from within Word or PowerPoint (or other Office applications). This saves you having to save the file to your computer and start a separate upload or download process. (If you have a SharePoint-based learning platform, you get similar functionality in Office 2010).

    Full details for installing and using the add-in are below. Let us know what you think!

    View Slide ShowUploading files to Moodle is now much easier.  The Office Add-in for Moodle (OAM) is an add-in for Microsoft Office (versions 2003 and 2007) that allows you to open and save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to a Moodle website. Today, when you use Office and Moodle, you have to switch back and forth between your web browser and Office applications.  With the OAM, you can create, open, edit, and save Moodle documents from within the Office applications.  You no longer need to use your web browser when working with Office documents stored in Moodle.

    So what do you need in order to start using the add-in?  OAM does not require anything to be installed on the Moodle server (note that this has been tested against Moodle versions 1.8-1.9).  Anyone who is the teacher or owner of a Moodle course can install the add-in and access their documents.  Once installed, the add-in adds two menu items to your File menu (Office 2003) or the Office Button menu: Open from Moodle and Save to Moodle.  In order to browse course files on your Moodle you will need to first tell the add-in the address of your Moodle and the credentials you use to log in.  Once added you can view the list of courses you are enrolled in.  Naturally, students and others can access the content directly from Moodle as they normally would.

    The Education Labs team focused on teachers and content specialists first, since we know most documents posted to Moodle comes from you. We’ve gotten some requests already about adding support for students and assignments, but we want to hear from you.  So check it out, and let the EducationLabs team know what you think and if there’s anything you want them to work on. 

    It’s worth browsing on the Education Labs site for other projects recently released www.educationlabs.com

    imageFind out more about, and download, the free Moodle add-in




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  • 04/12/10--23:00: Tune in to Science TV
  • Those of you who are old enough may remember school science broadcasts, where you sat with the whole class, (often a number of classes) waiting patiently for the countdown to the programme start to tick away, whilst some very ‘cheesy’ music played as accompaniment. Not something that would really inspire you to take an interest in science. Check out this video to see what I mean. (Yes, television in schools was really this bad.)

    But, thankfully things are now very different. We have been talking to the guys at Science TV, whose mission it is to connect schools with real science via interactive digital media. Their website and professional development programme aims to take science from the cutting edge, from Universities, industry, from the field, the kitchen and mash it up so it’s fit for use in education. This they do by producing high quality video productions, created by award winning filmmakers and leading scientists.

    The Science TV site currently has a selection of videos that can you can access from the site or from Science TV’s YouTube Channel , where you can find a range of videos filmed at the The Times Cheltenham Science Festival 2009 , covering ideas from ‘How Movie explosions work’ to ‘Anatomical Body Painting’.

    image But, Science TV is not just another online video library. They run a series of workshops, where they work with a school , linking scientists and high end filmmaking techniques. Allowing students to explore scientific concepts and create a video of their thoughts and findings.

     

    The quality of the finished material is outstanding. Not only does process create fantastic learning opportunities. But, the completed video becomes a valuable teaching and learning resource in itself. Check out this example to see for yourself. Here students from Bristol, discuss the concept of genetically engineering a Woolly mammoth. If you are interested in getting the Science TV team into your school to create something similar, then they can be contacted via their website.

    Science TV are currently working on number of CPD materials which will be available free to schools, to support teachers using these video resources in the classroom. We hope to be able to have some of those resources on the Partners in Learning Network very shortly. But, in the meantime check out Science TV and inspire your students.


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    static_160x600_freetools We were thrilled to see an email from our colleagues at Microsoft headquarters recently that contained a link to all sorts of free guides, videos, templates and other tools to help you use technology in your teaching. Just go to www.microsoft.com/teacherguides and you’ll find a wealth of resources on these topics:

    Digital Storytelling: New resources created by our colleagues in the US that include teacher-created templates and links to tools to help you create activities around storytelling for your students.

    Free Tools: Links to downloads of free software and ideas of how you might use it in your teaching

    Microsoft Office: Tutorials, a guide and other materials that help you make the most of Office.

    Windows 7: Cool shortcuts and other features of Windows 7 that might make your life a little easier (several of the tips and tricks here help me every day)

    Windows MovieMaker: The tried and trusted tool that many of you have used for years with your learners already.

     

    Some of the materials will look a bit familiar to you here, as Stuart has already blogged about part of the digital storytelling resources and we’ve talked about a lot of the “free tools” already in this blog. But it’s worth your while to check out the rest – you might just find something that will help you with your lesson planning next week (or next lesson, as the case may be…).




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    Over the past year, the work we have undertaken with teachers and schools has resulted in us creating and collecting a plethora of video resources. We imagewanted to make sure that we are able share these with as many of you as possible. So we have created our very own YouTube Channel. The UK Partners in Learning Channel is a ‘one stop shop’ to access all the digital media that we use and have created through the UK Partners in Learning Network to support teachers and schools. The content we currently have includes:

    • All the Innovids, created by teachers for by teachers. These give practical advice and guidance on how to use a range of Microsoft applications to support learning and teaching. These are ideal CPD resources to develop your own skills or to use with others in training sessions.
    • Parental Engagement case studies, these explore how five different schools have used technology successfully to engage parents in their children’s learning.
    • Innovative Teachers Programme videos, in which saltash.net community school describe how the Innovative Teachers programme and Peer Coaching have played an important role in their school transformation jpurney.

    We have also created a favourites section, where we have bookmarked videos Kristen and I have used in presentations and workshops, and those that we have seen that have inspired us.

    There are a number of playlists so that you are able to find videos around a particular subject such as Parental Engagement and using Excel across the curriculum. Clicking on the title of these playlists gives you an URL which you can place on your school portal or blog, giving easy access to these resources.

    You can also subscribe to the channel , this means that when we post some new resources you will get an email telling you about them. You are also able to leave leave comments, we would love hear what you have to say or questions you have about the videos and even comments about which video resources you would like to see and find useful. So tune in to the UK Partners in Learning Channel and access a bank of resources that can play an important part in the professional development of yourself, colleagues, staff and school.


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    We received a great deal of interest in our Innovid competition from teachers all over the UK (and even from some in other countries!). In the end, though, the judging panel had the difficult task of selecting just one teacher’s video as “the best” from among all that we received.

    Microsoft is pleased to announce Nicki Maddams as the winner of our Innovid competition. Nicki is a teacher at Hartsdown Technology College in Margate, Kent. Nicki’s video tells you how to create interactive quizzes in PowerPoint. It stood out for the judges because it’s an innovative use of PowerPoint, which is often criticised for being overused by teachers, and shows how the software can be used to add real value to a learning activity. It also is extremely well produced – near professional quality! Take a look for yourself, from the link to our new YouTube channel.

     

    As the winner, Nicki’s school will get 20 N105 Netbooks from Stone. These netbooks come installed with Microsoft Windows 7 and will come with a 3-year warranty from Stone and a protective carrying case. Stuart and I will be hand-delivering the netbooks in a few weeks, and we hope to have more stories to tell about Nicki’s work and about her school. We know already that both she and her head teacher Andy Somers are excited about the delivery of new computers for the school. Nicki says:

    I am really excited to have won the competition and am looking forward to using the netbooks in school. I entered the competition because I use Microsoft Office applications frequently in my teaching and often in different ways to their intended purpose!

    Please join us in congratulating Nicki on her great work. And thank you to all teachers who took the time to enter the Innovid competition.




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    Our colleague Ray posted this placeholder for a new “Fun, Free Friday” event on his blog earlier in the week. We wanted to repost here, as teachers are invited as well! We’d like to have as many teachers as possible on the day, as we think that there will be a lot of ideas, tools and resources that you’ll be able to use in your teaching right away.

    Plus Stuart and I will both be giving demonstrations as part of the fast-paced day. I’m not sure whether this will help convince you to attend or NOT to attend, but I thought I’d mention it.

    We hope to see you on Microsoft’s campus in Reading in June!

    image

    Advance notice: Stick a placeholder in your diary, as we're shortly going to announce booking details for the free Microsoft "Fun, Free Friday for Schools" at the Microsoft Campus in Reading on 11th June 2010.

    A lively Q&A after the second Microsoft briefing at the NAACE Conference in Blackpool has led to the Microsoft UK team running a free event for schools on the 11th June 2010, called “Fun Free Friday”. It’s for any staff working with and within schools, so that they can find out all about the free software and resources that Microsoft produces that support teaching and learning.

    The agenda for the event runs from 9:30am to 2:30pm with breaks to catch up with colleagues from other schools, and chat with Microsoft staff.

    It’s for any staff working with and within schools, so that they can find out all about the free software and resources that Microsoft produce that support teaching and learning.

    It will be a fast-paced and fun event, with 3½ hours of rapid demonstrations, featuring a dozen presenters and lots of different free Microsoft software programmes that schools can download and start using in the classroom, school office or IT suite.

    Fast paced demonstrations

    To keep the pace moving rapidly, no demonstration will last more than 15 minutes, and although it won’t be a PowerPoint-free zone, we’ll keep to a limit of a maximum of 2 PowerPoint slides per presenter!

    Free software for every attendee

    During the day we will be demonstrating at least 20 pieces of software that can help you to deliver teaching and learning, and absolutely every single one will be free for you to download.

    Save money with Microsoft

    We know that you’d like to do more with ICT, but that budgets are tight. That’s exactly why we’re putting on this event – to give you inspiration and ideas to take back to share with everybody in your school. Ideas that will appeal to teachers, IT Co-ordinators and the senior leadership team.

    This free event is for advisors, classroom teachers, IT specialists, and school leadership teams. We’ve scheduled this event for the summer term 2010, in time for planning for next academic year.

    Agenda for the Fun, Free Friday

    Here’s the detailed timing of the day, so that you can plan your trip.

    9:30 Registration

    10:00 Morning sessions

    12:00 Lunch and networking

    13:00 Afternoon sessions

    14:30 Close

    We won’t issue an itemised agenda, but some of the products you can expect to see on the day include SkyDrive, Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live PhotoGallery, Bing Maps, Photosynth, Pivot, XNA Game Studio, Visual Studio Express, Chemistry Word Add-In, Flashcards, Autocollage, Songsmith, Worldwide Telescope, Windows Live Writer, Maths Worksheet Generator, Office Moodle Add-In, Office Web Apps, Office Ribbon Hero, Bing Search, Microsoft Security Essentials, DeepZoom, Live Sync, Kodu, Digital Storytelling Curriculum Guides, Mouse Mischief, DreamSpark, Microsoft Robotics Studio, Live Family Safety Settings, Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum, Windows Live Translator, IE8 Accelerators, PhotoStory 3, Community Clips, Virtual Earth, pptPlex and Live@edu.

    And continuing the free theme: if you arrive by public transport, there’s even a free bus from Reading Station to the Microsoft offices.

    imageBook your free place now




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    I am always amazed at the various professional networks that teachers belong to. When I was teaching, my professional network revolved mainly around theimage teachers I met on local authority organised training (these don’t happen to the same extent any more ) and a professional subject network, such as the Association for Science Education . But technology and social networking sites such as Twitter and even our own Partners in Learning Network , now mean that teachers can create for themselves intricate professional learning networks or PLNs. Recently , I came across one of the most imaginative PLN I have seen. One of our Innovative Teacher Award winners, David Rogers  is part of group of teachers called the ‘The Geography Collective'. I will let David describe what this network is all about.

    Mission:Explore – innovation in learning

    Being creative and innovative with technology is only one way in which I try to support the learning of young people. As a qualified Mountain Leader, I have always recognised the power of external exploration. Indeed, as a geographer, my subject would make little sense to those I teach without getting outside.

    clip_image003

    It was a shared belief that people should be free to explore and engage in their environment that led to the formation of The Geography Collective over two years ago. We set out with a mission to encourage safe exploration against an increasing culture of risk aversion in schools. Mission:Explore was written in consultation with child safety charities and encourages young people and supports education professionals to take physical, creative and academic risks.

    clip_image004

    2010 has been an exciting time for The Geography Collective as Mission:Explore was launched in April.  It is a new interactive book that will get young people (re)claiming their right to play and exploration in the spaces in which they live. The book, and forthcoming mobile app, incites adventurous play through a series of challenging missions. Playful ‘research’ is at the heart of each mission so that explorers get to grips with geography, politics, science, sociology, psychology, history, science, religion and other subjects in a provocative, fun and engaging way. Think of it as your own personal licence to explore that fits neatly into your back pocket! The Geography Collective is committed to getting the message out there, so much so that royalties from the book will be invested in free copies of Mission:Explore for deprived children.

     

    As a full-time Head of Geography , the missions can easily be adapted in order to develop data collection skills, PLTS and SEAL activities. We have even set missions for homework! If you’d like to know how Mission:Explore could be used in your school, feel free to get in touch with us at the Geocollective.

    Of course, we are more than a one trick Gorilla! We are keen to engage as many people as possible and so will be visiting a variety of festivals this summer, including Glastonbury, Latitude and the Secret Garden Party . To find out exactly where we will be, follow the links below, and keep a look out for our pop-up intervention tent near you. The Geography Collective can also provide a range of bespoke CPD to schools and other organisations that ranges from team building to helping young people to get involved in the BSF process

    To get more people to hear the message, we are recruiting more mission writers – so if you have a thirst for exploration, we’d love to hear from you.

    To find out more about The Geography Collective and order go to: www.geographycollective.co.uk

    To download some free Earth Day missions: http://www.missionexplore.co.uk/#/earth-day/4540282746

    See how we launched Mission:Explore: http://daviderogers.blogspot.com/2010/04/missionexplore-at-ga-conference-1.html

    Get in touch with David: david@thegeographycollective.co.uk

    I think you can clearly see that David and his colleagues are clearly passionate about learning, these resources are definitely worth exploring, even if you are not a geography teacher. I know I am ordering my copy of Mission:Explore today.


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    clip_image002Last month I wrote a blog post about Mouse Mischief , unfortunately it appeared on the day they removed the beta version, Whoops! But, I am really pleased to announce that the full version is now available to download for free at www.microsoft.com/mousemischief

    clip_image012If you haven’t read my last post and don’t know what Mouse Mischief is, then here is a brief summary. Mouse Mischief is an add-in that Microsoft makes available free of charge, and that allows teachers who use Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 to make interactive presentations. With Mouse Mischief, teachers can add multiple choice questions to their presentations, and large groups of students can answer the questions using mice connected to the teacher’s PC.  

    clip_image004

    Mouse Mischief not only gives students the ability to engage, have fun, and learn in new, interactive ways, but it also provides teachers with a more affordable alternative to purchasing expensive student response systems, commonly known as clickers, by letting students use affordable wired or wireless USB mice that their school already own

     clip_image010

     clip_image006clip_image008




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    Kristen and I are quite excited about the launch of Office 2010 (I think we need to get out more!). We have gathered some resources from our colleague Ray Logo_MSFTOffice2010_187x54[11]Fleming who writes the UK Schools Blog; he and his team have been busy creating some entertaining videos with suggestions of how they think features of Office 2010 could be used in the classroom. Along with an Overview and Product Guide, these provide a great way to introduce the new features, and illustrate that the changes will not impact negatively on current teaching and learning resources. The new features might give some ideas of how current resources can be enhanced and opportunities developed to create new ones.

    This is what we're really interested in -- what great learning opportunities will teachers and students be able to create with these new features? (We're especially excited about the Office Web Apps.) We will be looking for, developing and sharing these ideas throughout next year as part of the Partners in Learning Network programme. In the meantime, we think these guides will help plant the seeds of those ideas for your teaching.

    Product Logo_MSFTOffice2010_187x54[9]Office Web Apps
    Overview Download
    Product Guide Download

    As yet, we do not have an education-specific video for Office Web Apps. As soon as we receive one we will let you know.

    Product Icon_PowerPoint10_33x32PowerPoint 2010
    Overview Download
    Product Guide Download
    Product icon_Onenote10_33x32OneNote 2010
    Overview Download
    Product Guide Download

    A Quick Look at OneNote 2010 from UK Education on Vimeo.

    Product Icon_Excel10_33x32Excel 2010
    Overview Download
    Product Guide Download

    A Quick Look at Excel 2010 from UK Education on Vimeo.

    Product Icon_Word10_33x32Word 2010
    Overview Download
    Product Guide Download

    A Quick Look at Word 2010 from UK Education on Vimeo.




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    I don’t know about all of you, but Stuart and I had a lovely Friday, driving from our offices in Reading to Margate, Kent to deliver a car full of Stone Netbooks to Nicki Maddams, our Innovid video contest winner.

    HTCmicrosoft4 We met Nicki’s head teacher Andy Somers (pictured here with Stuart, Nicki and me) and other members of staff, and we got to see Nicki’s classroom. She was keen to take one of the netbooks home over the weekend to have a play with it, and the staff all had ideas of how to make the best use of the computers for the school.

    More information about Nicki and the contest can be found in an article on Merlin John’s blog.

    During our long drive to and from Hartsdown Technology College (once Stuart forced me to turn off the continuous loop of the Glee soundtrack), we had lots of time for brainstorming about this blog and our plans for the Innovative Teachers Programme in the coming months. We were really happy with the results of the Innovid contest, and we want to provide more opportunities like this for all of you. Watch this space for updates!

     


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    On a recent car journey with Kristen, I was amazed at her multi-tasking ability to drive fast, navigate the M25, brake late, drink coffee and discuss her Doctorate research. Now, I am honestly j0438690 really interested her research findings at the best of times, and  maybe it was my fear as nervous a passenger, but one question she asked, has stuck with me. I have been trying to think of answer ever since. I thought I would share it with you, in the hope I could get some answers. Her question was ‘What do we mean by a Teacher’s practice?’.

    Thinking for a moment, all I could come up with was, a Teacher’s practice is what a teacher does everyday with their pupils. But, that what does that mean? What is it as Teachers we really do? Do we instruct, demonstrate, teach, facilitate, guide, direct, all of these and more? or is it something else? I never realised how important a question this is.But, if we want to create and support professional development, we need to identify what it is that professional development will change.

    From my own experience, official development of my own practice came about as a result of outside pressures, such as OFSTED inspection or policy changes at local authority level. It was never as a result my own practice needs. Bizarrely enough, my own practice was given top marks in my school inspection lesson observations, so did that mean my practice was ‘perfect’? If so why did the work I did with the Partners in Learning Network  have such an impact on what I did every day in the classroom?

    So here are some questions that I would welcome some insight on.

    • What do you understand by the phrase ‘developing a teacher’s practice’?
    • What aspect of that practice do teachers need to ensure is effective in supporting the needs of the 21st learner?

    Please post your comments here on this blog or email me at v-sball@microsoft.com. As a special added incentive, I'll send the first 25 people to respond an Innovative Teachers USB stick. 

    I will happily pass your comments on to Kristen, so the next time we travel together by car, the conversation might distract me enough to stop my right leg twitching with imaginary braking every five minutes!


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    We really welcome comments and these thoughts from Steve McCorquodale, Principal Education Consultant at European Electronique, add to the mix on thinking about the question ‘ What do we mean by a teacher’s practice?’

    You can read more comments like this here

    Stuart, as someone who spends a lot of time trying to develop teachers use of ICT in teaching and learning I found your post particularly interesting and thought provoking.

    There are a myriad of different ways to answer you question and some of it goes right back to why we teach in the first place. I'm a former primary practitioner and I went into teaching because I wanted to help children learn. I taught all of the Primary age range. Young and idealistic I tried some things and some of them worked and some of them failed. When things failed I agonised over how to make sure that they succeeded next time round. This sometimes meant looking at how to teach a concept or skill more effectively, sometimes meant using different resources, sometimes meant asking advice of colleagues. When the teaching succeeded I had a big grin on my face in the staff room and often couldn't wait to tell someone abut what I'd done.

    I'm sure others will read this and see something of themselves in this early teaching experience. But don't all teachers do this? Isn't that how it works? Maybe it does for some but it does not for all. But why doesn't it work for all? And why does it start out like that but quickly fall into a more routine like existence?

    What you have written about practice makes perfect sense to me. It's a number of different actions, facilitation, lecturing, demonstration and so on. It's also assessing and evaluating; understanding where learners go next - it's a plethora of teaching aspects all of them requiring deep understanding.

    Developing effective practice in a formal setting starts with teacher training. When I think back to my college days they were wholly inadequate at preparing me for the classroom in a whole variety of ways. They seemed obsessed with understanding teaching concepts within subjects. Going into a classroom for the first time felt like driving a Formula One motor racing vehicle after spending 6 months looking at diagrams of how a piston worked. i.e. a million miles away from the reality!

    Developing effective practice covers a number of areas but it requires reflection the need to improve at the very heart. Something I never felt was important at teacher training. reflection and a focus on improvement are things I demonstrated by default not because I was encouraged or taught about their value or importance.

    My own view is that "reflection" is key. The people I experience being successful with ICT are reflective. They are constantly looking at ways of improving what they say and what they use in teaching situations in order to develop learning. By constantly I mean pretty much every thing they do and every minute of the day. They reflect on what went right and what went wrong as lessons progress, after lessons and long after lessons take place. Very often it is a mindset and not learned behaviour.

    They often refer to learners being at the very heart of everything they do as well and that is why they are constantly striving to improve their practice. I know plenty of teachers who say that learners are at the heart of what they do but they are just empty words.

    Schools and teaching by their very nature are very busy and overloaded and they do not naturally allow for reflection or the strive for individual improvement. Amazingly I still walk into schools with no CPD plan for staff. With no CPD how can staff improve? If they are not afforded time to develop a deep understanding of the aspects of teaching; if they do not sit down in a professional environment with a view to reflect how can practice develop?

    21st century learning has best been described, for me anyway, by Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind". In part of the book he refers to the change from the information age to the "Conceptual Age". We are in an age where information is at our fingertips. What is important is what we do with it so creativity, design, storytelling and making, inventiveness, collaboration and empathy. It's about how we communicate our ideas and how inventive those ideas are. If Pink is to be believed then these skills are important as are ICT tools that develop these skills and concepts. If this is the case just how many of our teachers in the UK agree, believe or indeed are able to recognise this and teach to support learners in this world?

    If you are not reflecting on the world you live in and if you have no concept of the fact that ICT is a part of that; or if you are not determined to improve to the point where the learners are getting the very best from you then it isn't hard to see what problems thus ensue.

    Thanks Steve, the much coveted Partners in Learning Network USB memory stick is on its way to you. Would anybody else like to add any further thoughts?


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    Over the next week, we are moving the thousands of blogs that run on the blogs.msdn.com site over to a completely new web platform, which will give us lots of new ways of keeping in touch. We’ve had a trial run already, and it seems to be pretty smooth.

    However, whilst the change is happening, there are a couple of things you need to know about:

    • For the week ahead, we won’t be writing any new blog posts, whilst the thousands of blogs are moved across. It’s a massive job, because we’re moving all of the blog posts, and all of the comments you’ve made in the past, onto the new site.

        • Also in the week ahead, I’m afraid you won’t be able to add any new comments onto the blog – from Sunday 16th May through to Sunday 23rd May. Of course, if you’ve got something important to say to us, you can still use the “email” button on the menu bar. And I’m sure many of you know that you can reach us on Twitter and other places.

        We’ve also decided that we’re going to take the opportunity, whilst the builders are in, to revamp the site a little, to make it look a little nicer too. When we come back, on Monday 24th May, you’ll hopefully notice the difference, and I’m sure you’ll be good enough to rush in with your thoughts and comments.

        Ben, Kristen, Stuart, Mark and I, who all blog for the UK Education team, are poring over our colour charts. To be honest, everybody’s choice is being influenced by their own life.

        • Ben’s food habits leave him quite keen on blueberry white.
        • Kristen’s got her eye on Red, White and Blue.
        • Stuart, who’s from Wales, seems to think Urban Obsession works
        • And Mark A’Bear has chosen a Silver Fox colour.
        • Just like at home, I’m never allowed to choose colours.

        We’ll just have to see decide on something we get to next weekend

        And just think – we’ll have hopefully stored up a few interesting blog posts for you to read in seven days.


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        Stuart and I work with a lot of teachers. We both used to be teachers (Stuart more recently than me). We meet teachers from all over the world and spend a lot of time in schools. Yet there are times when we think we have absolutely no idea what you want and how we can best help you.

        So we decided to find out. With our marketing colleague Ray, we employed a research organisation to help us survey real, live teachers to find out what you want from Microsoft and how we can create and -- more importantly, we learned -- organise resources and materials to meet your needs.

        We learned a great deal from these interview results; Ray blogged about his key learning already (network managers and teachers have a relationship problem). Here are a few things we took away from this research.

         -  Teachers aren’t just teachers. You’re English teachers or French teachers or geography teachers or science teachers, and you teach primary or year 7 or S1, and so forth.

         -  You want resources that will fit what you need when you need it.

         -  You want to be able to find these resources quickly and easily. If you can’t see a link to what you want on a site’s homepage, you move on.

         -  You like web sites and content repositories with reviews of content, so that you can see what other people liked and what is worth using.

         -  You have to be able to edit whatever content you download to fit your specific needs.

         -  And…you don’t have enough time to do even the things you have to do, much less start anything new (this one we knew).

        What can we do about all of this? For a start, we’re going to be writing shorter blog posts. (Starting with the next one, I promise.)

        We’re also reorganizing both the blog and the Partners in Learning Network so that you can find what you want a bit more easily.

        And, we’re introducing something new for the next few weeks in the blog – called Subject Snacks (once again, we’re really not marketers…). We hope these will encourage more of you to share you ideas of how you use technology to teach your specific subjects.

        What do you think – was our research right? Or are we completely off the mark? Let us know!

        posted on KristenW’s behalf


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        Don’t confuse visual search with image search, visual search is about finding information using images rather than a keyword. Bing has number of visual dataimage collections, some of which are ideal for creating learning opportunities for pupils, especially in developing questioning and analytical skills.

        To use Visual search, go to www.bing.com and click Visual Search on the menu on the left-hand side. You will be presented with a range of data sets. Some maybe more useful than others, but finding data for pupils to interrogate can be difficult, so all are potentially useful in the classroom. If you change the location setting and use the United States Bing page, you get some US centric data sets and some more unusual ones. For example, Handbags, I didn’t realise there were so many to choose from, with the most expensive being over $2000! 

        Once you have selected a data set, the left hand side gives you a list of main categories to sort the data, then a list of categories to narrow those groups even further. Combining these categories gives pupils the opportunity to ask and develop some very interesting questions.

         imageSo as an example , using the data set of UK Premier Football league players, the question ‘Who is the tallest Goalkeeper to win the most international caps?’. The answer is, of course, ‘Maik Taylor, who plays for Birmingham City’ , click the image and you get a list of websites that relate directly to it.

        Now, admittedly knowing who is the tallest most capped Goalkeeper or the cost of the most expensive handbag, is perhaps not the knowledge we feel our pupils need to acquire. But, the focus here is not knowledge acquisition, but the developing questioning skills.

        Visual search is a great environment in which to allow pupils to create imaginative questions, that they genuinely do not know the answer to. Such activity will influence how pupils think about their questions and keywords in their everyday search activities, using more traditional search engines.

        Here are two quick ideas around Visual search :-

        -Use Visual Search as an alternative or support to creating and interrogating database lessons plans and schemes of work.

        -Get your pupils to create a 'Who wants to be a millionare?' type game, with them devising the questions.

        Have a look at Bing Visual search and let us know if you have an great ways of using it in the classroom. Also, why not share with us some of the most imaginative questions it has prompted you to ask.

        Here is my favourite, ‘In the periodic table, which element found in the human body is used in anti-dandruff shampoo?’

        You can use Bing Visual search to find the answer.


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        You may have noticed a few changes to our blog, this because the system it is hosted on has been completely re-built, giving us the opportunity to completely re-design the blog’s look and feel.

        We have a new look and have made some changes that can help you find the information you want more easily, here are some of those changes that will help you.

        image

        • You may not always be able to access or use an RSS reader, so now you can easily subscribe by email to this blog - and get updates delivered straight into your inbox. On the top right, you'll see a little box that you can put your email address into.

         image

        • It's easy to find content using tags down the right are now so much easier to use. The menu on the right of this page shows the top 25 tags that have ever been used on the blog, but if you click on one of them, you can see all of the tags - making it easy to find posts with the same subject - like teaching ideas, or Free resources 
        • You can sort the blog posts by when they were published, how many views they've had, and which have most comments. The post that has the most views is this one. Which is surprising as AutoCollage is our top search keyword.The most commented post is Practice makes perfect- What is it teachers are professionally developing? 
        • You can now rate posts using the five little stars above each post. (Not that Kristen will be comparing how may stars she has to me….. she will!)

         

        • imageIt is now really easy to cross post a blog post to your favourite social network site. Click on the post title and use these links.
        • For the moment the search now searches every blog on the MSDN site, not just this one. Which is ok if you’re looking ideas about SQL data . But it’s not helpful if you want to find content on just this one. We have been promised that next month it'll be back to normal, but in meantime, perhaps experiment with tags to find stuff easily.
        • It is now so much easier to comment on our posts. Just click on the post title and then scroll to the bottom of the post. We would really welcome your comments. If you have not left a comment before why not respond to this post. Tell us what you think of the new design.

         

        adapted from ‘Welcome to our new blog’  -Thanks Ray


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        j0448120In our blog "What do Teachers Really Want?", we mentioned that we want to provide you with more ideas of how you can use Microsoft technology to teach your specific subject area. For the next several weeks, we’ll be focusing on Subject Snacks – sharing our ideas and rewarding you for sharing yours.

        Here’s how it will work.

        1. On Monday each week, we’ll post a blog introducing the subject for the week (maths, science, geography, and so forth). We’ll also provide couple of ideas of our own as to how you might use Microsoft technology in lessons or activities for those subjects.
        2. During the week, you’ll use the “email the blog writers” link on the right of this blog to send us your ideas for using technology in your lessons or activities in this subject area.
        3. The following Monday, we’ll post what we think are the most creative ideas to the blog and will collect all of them in a special section on the Partners in Learning Network so that you can easily find them later.

         

        But wait…there’s more!

         

        As an extra added incentive, if we post your ideas to the blog, we’ll send you a free gift! This might be an USB stick, it might be a Partners in Learning computer bag, or a Microsoft coffee mug or something else from our closet of goodies. It could also be a piece of Microsoft software.  You just won’t know unless you try!**

        We’ll start the first Subject Snack blog next Monday and will continue for several weeks. So check back for your chance to participate.

         

        **Unfortunately, we’re only able to send gifts to UK teachers.




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