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    Nicki Cooper at Microsoft's Global Forum in BarcelonaLast week I had the privilege of joining 250 educators from around the world in attending Microsoft in Education’s Global Forum in Barcelona. I arrived on Monday evening and was ready to set up my stand bright and early on Tuesday morning! I received my invitation to the event after winning an award at the previous Global Forum for my Kodu in the Klassroom project. All previous winners became Microsoft Innovative Expert Educators for a year  (along with many others through a selection process) and I was there to showcase the progression of my project over the past year. Throughout the rest of the day we were given a few different talks and took part in a team building exercise with the groups with which we’d be working later in the week.

    First Day Highlights

    Stuart Ball "App Man"

    One highlight of the first day was the talk from “App Man” himself, Stuart Ball, talking about various apps that are available on Windows 8 devices, check out his blog post for the full roundup. Some of my favourites are:

    • OneNote - One of the best applications for educators, in my opinion, both the desktop and mobile versions are great. OneNote allows students and teachers to collaborate on projects and almost any file can be embedded within the pages. It certainly helps to keep me organised and I even use it for my lesson planning!
    • Project Siena An app for creating apps (I’ll talk about this one in more detail further down as I explored this in some detail later in the week).
    • NovaMind Mind Mapping  – Great tool for mindmapping, there is a free version and you can upgrade to get more features.
    • Createbook - App for creating ebooks and it’s free for one more day (until 21st March!).
    • Corinth Classroom B– Look at different parts of the human body in detail.
    • ChronoZoom– An app for creating interactive time lines.
    • Code Writer (I discovered this while browsing) – This is a professional looking app to enable developers (or in my case students) to write code in 24 different programming languages with colour-coded support for each. I had a quick play with using HTML and it works very nicely.
    Day Two

    The following day was the start of the opening key note speeches which began with Jan Muhlfeit (European Chairman of Microsoft), Jan highlighted, for me the importance of my subject from a careers point of view, the fact that their are 900,000 ICT jobs in Europe that are not fulfilled is something I can certainly stress to the young people I teach. He also made an interesting point when he posed the question: “Is Mercedes a software company or a car company?”, the answer seems obvious but he pointed out that 60% of their budget is actually spent on developing software! I found this amazing and wondered how true this must be for many other businesses that we wouldn’t necessarily categorise as the “IT Industry”!

    During the speeches we were also introduced to BizSpark which gives three years of free software, support, and visibility for startups. We also learnt about the Imagine Cup, which is a Global student technology competition with categories of Games, Innovation and World Citizenship and this has some great prizes to offer. Well worth checking out!

    Next up was the much anticipated keynote by Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide, he told us about Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella and his passion for education. Anthony delivered a very well thought-out scenario, demonstrating the use of some key technologies and tools and showed how they neatly synchronised between home and school from both a teacher and student’s perspectives. He showed so many interesting new and upcoming applications throughout his demonstration, it was difficult to keep up! Some particular highlights for me were:

    • Lync, if you have Office 365 in school you will already have Lync. I have been using it myselft but wasn’t aware it had so many features. Anthony demonstrated that you can use this to create a collaborative drawing canvas, share the board, create polls and show the whiteboard. I need to go and play with it some more now!
    • Project Spark– the next step up from Kodu, I’ve talked about this in a previous blog post.
    • A Top Secret add in for PowerPoint which enables you to create rich and interactive content within the slide. I’ll share more on this as soon as I am able.
    • Power Map for Excel, this enables you to plot data in a spreadsheet straight onto a map graphically.
    • Class Policy, this is an app to take full control over the Windows 8 devices in your classroom.

    He also demonstrated a fantastic use of Skype in school, shown in the video below:

    Another thing I didn’t know is that on the Partners in Learning site there are curriculum resources posted every day that are themed around the Bing home screen.

    On Wednesday the UK team introduced some of our European friends to the concept of a TeachMeet which was put together by Stuart “App Man” Ball and David Rogers. I worked with Ray Chambers to tell people about our experiences with the Hour of Code, while David Renton introduced us to xGames, a game that enables a teacher to make a quiz for their students to answer in groups using Xbox controllers, I hate to gloat but my team won his example quiz in the TeachMeet!


    The last couple of days brought us the Learn-a-thon; this was a 24 hour activity in which we were divided into groups with peers from different parts of the world to design a learning activity that displays innovative use of technology in the three Millenium Development Goals of Poverty, Sustainability and Gender Equality. Our group were asssigned Poverty and investigated the use of Project Siena to develop a tourism app to bring visitors to poorer parts of the world. Two of our group members were from South America(Puerto Rico and Ecuador) and they highlighted the fact that tourism is what is needed in their countries to combat poverty.

    I have to admit, this was the part of the event that I had not been looking forward to but actually I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile activity, despite the language barriers. I was very thankful for the Bing Translator app on my Surface which enabled myself and Paula from Finland to communicate with our two Spanish-speaking team-mates when our interpreter was not around. Here’s an overview of the project we came up with:

    My role was to focus on using Project Siena, a tool for creating apps, to develop an example app that would be similar to what our students may produce. Once I got started (after watching a few tutorials on Youtube) I found it surprisingly easy to use and developed a semi-professional looking app by the end! Well done to the rest of Team 51 for all the effort you put in, even though we didn’t win the competition I’m really proud of the work we produced!

    Team 51 in Barcelona

    From left to right: Paula Vorne, Nicki Cooper, Hector Alvarez, Carmen Escudero and our Spanish interpreter!

    Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony

    The event ended with the Gala dinner and awards ceremony and I was delighted that the OffPerts, Scott Wieprecht and his team of lovely students won an award in the category for “Cutting Edge Use of Technology”, I was also pleased that fellow team mate in Group 51 above, Paula Vorne, won an award in the same category for her use of Kodu in entrepreneurship. Here’s the whole of the UK educators team celebrating after the dinner:

    Team UK in Barcelona

    Final Thoughts

    So is there anything I would change about the event?

    Maybe just one thing. In future events I would like to see more workshop-style activities run by my fellow educators (this is how the UK Forums used to be delivered). There could be different activities which we sign-up for, I know lots of people would have loved to spend time with my colleagues Ray, David and Simon to learn more about how to use TouchDevelop. I would have been happy to deliver a session on Kodu. I would also have loved to hear more about exactly how Zana from Kosovo was running her Technician club or how Todd’s students from the USA were creating their content. We had 250 “expert educators” present and I feel there was a lot more to be learned from one another. That’s my only criticism, as I’m not going to discuss the coffee (or lack of)!

    Finally, some key messages and points to take home:

    • A child able to read is 50% more likely to live beyond the age of 5
    • Translation software is REALLY useful!
    • Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration
    • As teachers we need to give more power to students and trust them, to learn they have to be allowed to fail along the way
    • Technology is nothing without great pedagogy

    I’d like to close with the following quote from Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Microsoft Worldwide Education:

    “Don’t make technology the star, make it a tool to create amazing learning experiences.”

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    I was recently lucky enough to be invited to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum held in Barcelona. This annual event aims to recognize and celebrate the achievements of educators who are preparing students for life in the 21st century. Each year, Microsoft brings together participants from the Microsoft Innovative Educators Program and the Microsoft Innovative Schools Program for an energetic, collaborative conference. This high profile event is attended by more than 1000 of the world’s most innovative educators, school leaders, and education leaders from 75 countries, along with government officials.

    Rather than provide a day-by-day account of the Global Forum, for this you can check out the excellent blogs from other expert educators (David Rogers, David Renton, Nikki Cooper& Ray Chambers) I would however, like to reflect on what I have learnt as a result of attending the global forum and emphasize some of the key points and highlights of the whole experience.

    May I start by saying that I felt honoured to be chosen as one of 10 educators to represent the UK at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum and privileged to part of a 250 strong delegation of expert educators from around the world. I would also like to say, as other expert educators have expressed, that I felt humbled having met some of the other educators from around the world and having witnessed the profound impact others are making both locally and globally through their projects, and in some cases, with access to little or limited technology.

    2014 Global Forum - Recap video:

    Can you spot a cameo from me?


    A major theme of the Global Forum was the exhibition. This gave the expert educators an opportunity to showcase their learning activities. However, If I have one criticism of the forum, it would be the lack of time to discuss with other educators about their projects.


    Prepare to be judged – A last-gasp attempt to explain to the judges the merits of my project

    Of the projects I did have chance to see, one of my favourites was an entry from the Ukraine called “Folk Tales”. The premise was simple - Students find out about folk tales from their region, present them in pictures or in other creative form, retell them and translate into English. They then share their creations online. Students, from other countries, then view the uploaded materials and try to reinterpret the story from the material. The students then upload their interpretation of the story to the Internet and compare it to the original tale.

    Another highlight of the event was Anthony Salcito’s (Worldwide Vice President for Microsoft Education) keynote. In his keynote, Anthony reminded us of the vital role we play as teachers and referred to us as heroes and champions, in his eyes, for the work that we do to educate the young people of today!

    Also in his keynote, Anthony highlighted some examples of the innovative use of technology to support teaching and learning. Probably the most memorable example was a project called “Mystery Skype”.

    Anthony also used his keynote to showcase a number new tools to use in the classroom. Some of the highlights included:

    Project Spark– Best described as Kodu for grown-ups. Project Spark builds on the success of Kodu by offering the same easy to use event-driven programming interface however, takes Kodu to the next level with its stunning 3D graphics and downloadable additional content. Find out more about Project Spark here: Project Spark

    Un-named add-in for PowerPoint– Although I’m not at liberty to say much about this new future enhancement for PowerPoint however, what I can say is, it will completely change the way in which we use PowerPoint!

    OneNote– Now available free for Mac, OneNote continues, in my opinion, to be one of the most powerful tools for educators. With OneNote, teachers can organize their thoughts or plan their lessons and access these quickly and easily via a simple search. Teachers and students can communicate with one another and collaborate on projects (Perfect for Project-Based-Learning). The teacher can also collate notes at the end of each lesson or keep notes on individual students or each of their classes.

    ClassPolicy - A free classroom management solution for Windows 8 devices. With ClassPolicy, teachers can eliminate distractions by restricting web and application access, orchestrate their classes by automating the sequence of their lessons, gauge understanding by using quick polls.

    Whilst on the topic of useful tools to support teaching and learning, I must also mention our very own Stuart (App Man) Ball and his presentation on his favourite apps for Windows 8 devices. Most notable:

    ChronoZoom – An online interactive timeline for visualizing history.

    Project Siena – A Windows 8 app that lets you easily create your own Windows business apps in minutes. Click here to find out more.

    CreateBook – Allows you to easily create interactive ebooks for Windows 8 devices.

    NovaMind Mind Mapping – A complete Mind Mapping tool for Windows 8 devices.

    To find out more about educational apps for Windows 8 devices, visit Stuart Ball’s blog: Windows 8 Appedagogy

    Probably the most rewarding part of the week was meeting with other educators from around the world and sharing best practice. This started with the learn-a-thon.

    The Learn-a-thon

    The idea behind the learn-a-thon was to unite expert educators from different countries and challenge them to develop a project which addresses one of three topics (Sustainability, poverty and gender equality) and which encapsulated the concepts of 21 Century Design. Our project was on sustainability and involved students creating apps and online community (blog / wiki etc.) encouraging others to recycle and conserve our natural resources! Although I was a little skeptical at first, I found the process very rewarding. Not only did I learn the true power of Bing Translate for resolving the language divide, I also made a few new friends.


    An animated pitch from yours truly on sustainability

    The sharing of best practice was epitomized when David Rogers kindly offered to host a European TeachMeet in which, over a few light refreshments, educators from all over Europe showcased how they are using technology to enhance teaching and learning. This wasn't the first time I heard of the idea of TeachMeets however, this was the time I had attended one. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed the experience and will be investigating the possibility of arranging a TeachMeet in my area in the near future!

    Key reflections

    As well as the usual meeting and greeting, there was also opportunity to hear keynotes from respected and influential educators from around the world. Here are some of the key points:

    “It's OK to let student's fail!”– As educators, it is OK to let our students fail however, we must also ensure that we enable our students to reflect and learn from their mistakes.

    “Teachers are control freaks we need to let go of the control and let students lead with technology”.– It is easy to underestimate the ability of our students and have pre-conceptions of what they are able achieve. If there is one thing I have learned as a result of my project, it’s that, as teachers, we sometimes need to stake a step back and allow our students to take ownership of their own learning – try, you might just be amazed at what your students are really capable of if you give them the chance!

    “Learning has changed - Your students are learning without you”.– With the Internet being more accessible than ever and with an abundance of online tools and resources to support independent learning, our students are learning outside of the classroom. This is no more evident than in the teaching of computer science with many students learning to code online using online tutorials such as those found on YouTube. As educators, we can take advantage of these resources and use them to flip our classrooms. To find out more about the benefits of flipped learning or learn how to flip your classrooms, visit my blog: Make the most of your lessons – flip your classroom

    “Collaboration is key!”– Whether you are an educator or a learner, collaboration is an important aspect of learning. If you are new to the idea of collaborative learning or don’t know where to start, start by forming a collaboration with another teacher in your school. This could be a small project or a team teaching exercise. Once you have mastered the art of collaboration in a safe / familiar environment, initiate a collaborative project with a neighbouring school or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, try collaborating with another educator online. Social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Edmodo are great places to find other educators with similar interests / ideas. Why not also find out where your next / nearest TeachMeet is. TeachMeets are not only a great place to find new ideas and resources, they are also a place to meet other like minded educators in your local area.

    “Don’t make technology the star, make it a tool to create amazing learning experiences.”– A message I echo from Anthony Salcito. Pedagogy must come first, technology second. With the appropriate planning, technology can transform teaching and learning however, what technology cannot do is conceal poor planning / teaching!

    Things I would have liked to have seen!

    · More student representation. There was lots of talk about a student centred approach to teaching and learning however, what disappointed me was, a lack of representation from students. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the whole idea of the Global Forum is to celebrate and reward the innovative work of educators from around the world however, I would have liked to have seen more students celebrated for their part in making many of the projects a success! It was great however, to see the UK leading the way with and their young Digital Leaders (@Offperts). I would also like to congratulate Scott Wieprecht from Saltash and his team of Offperts who received the prize for 2nd Runner up in the cutting edge use of technology category. I would also like to say that the Offperts students were a credit, not only to their school, but also to the UK!

    · Greater opportunity to talk to other expert educators about their projects! Maybe for the next global forum, those experts picked to represent their country collaborate on a project (in a similar fashion to the learn-a-thon) before the event and submit the learning activity as a group entry. That way, during the judging and presenting of the learning activities, each team member could take it in turns checking out the other projects whilst the rest of the team attend to their own stand. – Just a suggestion!


    Despite the long days and limited supply of coffee, I can honestly say that I have returned home, not only with a plethora of new ideas and resources but also with a renewed enthusiasm. I have also made some new friends along the way, not forgetting of course Stuart Ball who, along with the rest of the UK team, I wish to thank for all their support!

    I would like to finish with a quote from Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO)

    “I truly believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things.”

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    imageEven though she wasn’t there, through the joys of social networking and the participation of delegates. Jo Debens was able to participate and contribute to the Microsoft Global Forum #MicrosoftGF

    I first became involved in Partners in Learning in 2010 and was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the four UK winners to attend the European forum in 2011 in Moscow. I’ve tried to remain in touch with what is going on in the Microsoft Education world; and have enjoyed co-presenting at BETT, and inviting Steve Beswick and co into our school last year. I’ve always been really pleased that the focus of PiL has been on learning, and having the right tool for the job – not on selling a device. As an educator, I believe in ‘learning: by any means’ and being flexible to suit learners, so I’ve really appreciated the network sharing resources and ideas for teaching using different software (especially the free stuff!). It’s amazing to see all the different activities that educators around the world are working on, either through the education blog or Anthony Salcito’s Daily Edventures. That’s what made the European Forum so exciting and what I hope will continue through the work of the Expert Educators.

    I was so proud to see a friend and ex-colleague David Rogers get acknowledged as an Expert Educator and invited to the Global Forum in Barcelona last week, along with an impressive group of UK representatives. Obviously I would have loved to be there myself but that is why Twitter was invented! So I spent the week with the #microsoftGF hashtag constantly popping up on my phone and trying to get involved in as much discussion (and of course banter) as possible.

    As an outsider to the event it was interesting to see the multinational experts getting to grips with challenges such as the learnathon – I was intrigued by these and really hope they can be shared in future. I’m always concerned that large-scale events (and this is true of lots of CPD) can be quite insular, and that something like a Global Forum should have an influence that is, well, global. As I said, the resources of the PiL network and blog are great, and there are some excellent practitioners out there to learn from – so I was glued to Twitter to see what was going on. I could be involved with spin-off threads that resulted from the keynotes which made the event interactive: debates about the purpose of education, the role of technology, and how students can collaborate and be involved in the shaping of education themselves.

    Student voice in education is something close to my heart, and I had been working with my team of Curriculum Hackers only the week before (using trusty OneNote and OneDrive of course) to hack and improve teaching and learning in Geography and History – you can see some of this here if interested. David and others from the event were discussing the role of students in shaping learning and asked for feedback – so I asked my classes to get involved. Students from year 7, 9 and 10 tweeted out their thoughts from the @priorygeography account to express that they wanted to collaborate more, to have ownership, to work with international schools (particularly on global issues such as sustainability and the Millennium Development Goals) and to gain experiences of education in other cultures. It was fascinating and they were so excited to be included in a prestigious event and communicating with ‘real adults’ (obviously we as teachers in front of them don’t count!). I invited the Curriculum Hackers team back at break times and we sat and watched the twitter feed to get involved in the discussion. We also shared their hacking document with the world ( and got live feedback. They were so proud! Proper spine tingly moment seeing their faces as they realised that adults were taking their thoughts seriously. So I would like to thank the Global Forum twitterati for including them.

    I hope that the forum will lead to spin-off fringe events, and to a contagious spread through schools in each nation involved in order to enlighten and share. It’s all too common with CPD events that they benefit the individual or their immediate circle of friends/colleagues only but that the necessary knowledge osmosis doesn’t occur, so I really hope that Expert Educators will share their expertise, and that the amazing CPD they experienced will benefit a multitude of children. In essence: use this to change the world!

    You can follow Jo Debens on Twitter as @geodebs and check out her website

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    Ritvik home screen Ultimate Tower OffenceTrinity School in Croydon starts taking in boys from Year 6. So when its new Head of Digital Literacy, Sacha van Straten, arrived last September, he was looking for a way to get younger students excited about coding. He says, ‘Kodu offered the perfect combination of simplicity, engaging graphics, and fast results. Before I knew it students were crowding into the IT rooms every lunchtime, to code and play each other’s games. Pretty soon older students saw what the Year 6 boys were doing and asked if they could try it in lessons too. The response was incredible.’

    Kodu became so popular that in December one of the Year 6 pupils, Ezra Jeyamugunthan, approached Sacha with the idea for a Kodu Cup. Interestingly, he didn’t know about the national William Albuquerque Fall of Olympus 2competition, but was keen to have a Junior school event in which boys from years 6 to 8 pitted their coding skills against each other. Ezra had produced a PowerPoint presentation explaining his idea and made a poster in Publisher. He says, ‘I saw everybody was interested in Kodu, so I thought it would be good to have a competition to boost their enthusiasm. I’m delighted with how it’s gone. I’m hoping to carry on and get more people into programming.’

    Over twenty completed games were submitted, with the eventual winner being Year 7 student William Albuquerque. His multi-level entry, Fall of Olympus, contained a training section and increasingly hard challenges. He says, ‘I was reading a couple of fiction books containing Greek myths so I thought, why not make a game about that? It took about two hours to code the game. Getting a smooth tutorial that was neither boring nor too difficult was challenging, and getting the next level command to work took some practice. I like coding games and hope to make lots more.’

    William Albuquerque Fall of OlympusThe winning entries displayed a wide range of approaches to gaming. Second placed Charlie Short, a Year 8 student, went for a fast and frantic single shooter. ‘I knew I wanted something with platforms and shooting. I thought it would be good to have cannons shooting at you, like 3D space invaders. Coding in Kodu was a lot easier than I thought it would be.’

    Third placed winner William Perry, also in Year 8, used colour and terrain to produce a fiendishly tricky game, involving an apple hunt while under constant attack. He describes his thinking, ‘I started trying out different elements and levels. Eventually, I thought it would be more interesting if I linked levels together. I decided to add a red apple in a red landscape. The game goes through a series of harder challenges. The last level was really hard and there’s only one way to complete it. I hid the apples behind walls and used the terrain to make the game more difficult. I also use Dream Spark at home and like building virtual machines. At the moment I’m running Windows Server on a virtual machine using Hyper V. I’m planning to be a Disney Imagineer.’

    A special prize was awarded to Year 7 pupil Ritvik Rathore for his topsy turvy take on the classic tower defence game. ‘ItWilliam Perry level 1 started like a tower defence game. I find them challenging and felt it would be good to make an addictive game in Kodu.’ he says. ‘When I started to plan my game I wanted to make it unique so I flipped it around and made it a tower offense game. It gives a good twist to the type of game I play normally.’

    The other recipient of a special prize was Year 6 pupil Yaadhavan Thevathas, who produced a lightning speed racing game. ‘I like cars a lot so I decided to make a car game. Most people were doing obstacle games and I wanted to be different. I want to inspire people to make more car games as they’re interesting and offer lots of challenges.’ he says excitedly.

    Yaadhavan My Kodu TruthSo what happens next? The school is exploring the possible use of Windows 8 tablets and currently owns a couple of Surface Pro 2 devices. With the launch of Project Spark Sacha is hoping to put a team together to enter the national competition in May. ‘There’s a lot of talent and enthusiasm amongst the boys at Trinity that I want to channel into more advanced coding and game design. Project Spark will add another dimension to that and the pupils who have seen the Beta version can’t wait to get stuck in! Although we use Scratch, Python, and other tools for coding,

    Kodu has proved the one with universal appeal. It’s the best way I’ve found to get students excited about the potential of coding.’

    Do you want to enter the Kodu Kup check out our Facebook page -

    Follow @kodukup on Twitter

    For full details check out this blog post

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    imageThis is a sister competition to the UK Kodu Kup and gives a chance for schools in Scotland to participate in the UK Kodu Kup and avoid timing issues around the different term times. So if you are in Scotland, join McKodu in Kodu Kup Scotland.

    Organised and run by David Renton , one of our Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts in Scotland.

    The Kodu Kup Scotland is open to anyone from a Scottish school aged between seven and fourteen. Children must be entered as a team of three, forming a mini “game studio”.
    Follow @KoduKup on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook ( to receive regular updates, including dates of free training sessions!
    You can download Kodu Game Lab and other useful resources from

    What Should be Submitted?
    Teachers should enter their pupils’ games using the Microsoft Partners in Learning website and e-mail once they have uploaded them.

    Two files will need to be submitted per team; these include the game itself along with the completed
    documentation created using the template provided.

    The closing date for all entries is Friday 30th May.

    About the Games
    There is no specific theme or audience for the game but it must have a clear storyline,
    and well thought out characters with a detailed playing environment. Schools may wish to link this to current literacy projects already taking place.

    The top ten teams will be invited to the College Development Network in Stirling on the 16th of June and given the opportunity to present their games to a panel of experts from education and the games industry.

    Please contact David Renton on Twitter @drenton72 or email with any questions.

    Join the Kodu Kup conversation on Facbeook and on Twitter @kodukup

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    I am pleased to announce that Nicki Cooper (formely Maddams) , but always @GeekyNicki, has won the NAACE secondary Impact Award 2014 . Nicki of Northfleet School for Girls has raised the profile not only of Kodu and the Kodu Kup, through her innovative resources on her website , but has tirelessly campaigned to raise the profile of girls and women in technology through her website ‘Geeky Barbie Travels’

    Please join me in sending heartfelt congratulations to Nicki on Twitter as @GeekyNicki.


    Nicki with her Partners in Learning Award and alter ego ‘Geeky Barbie’

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    Wearable technology is the next big thing in technology and it’s use in education is only now just being realised with a plethora of glasses technology being released shortly. The Partners in Learning UK Expert Educators research team has been field testing a piece of technology that utilises not vision, but auditory signals.

    The research team decided to look at the use of audio in the classroom, feeling that audio had a greater significance to learning than other means of communication. After all radio was the first widely available communication technology, film only took off when audio was added and the mobile phone is primarily an audio device.

    Built around existing Bluetooth technology the Education Auditory Response System is a simple headset receiver and transmitter combination that connects to a Win 8.1 device and utilises many existing apps.

    For example, text, emails and tweets can be converted to speech using speech synthesis and sent to other users, either automatically or on demand through speech recognition and spoken commands.

    The spoken word for in lessons can be recorded and saved as audio and or automatically transcribed into the users OneNote and saved to the cloud in Office 365 or Onedrive.

    Teachers can ‘flip the classroom’ by recording their lessons directly and sharing them with students for downloading later.

    Bing Search is used to find keywords in the audio allowing information to be easily found and sorted.

    Using Bing translator, communication between different language is seamless, as it translates in real time languages to the choice of the user. This will revolutionise how we teach foreign languages in the future. If we need to teach them at all.

    Finally , it’s not all about work, the system comes with a free subscription to Xbox Music allowing students to stream their favourite music and podcasts. Don’t worry this has an override which the teacher can control either with an app or by a series of voice commands.

    This technology sounds very exciting, but unfortunately it is only still in beta testing. The planned release is exactly a year from now in 2015.

    In the meantime check out the work currently being done by students at community school, where through the system, student voice is literally that .

    Students at community school testing the system

    For more information about the Education Auditory Response System please contact via Twitter @innovativeteach and @offperts

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    With the new Computing curriculum coming into force across UK primary and secondary schools in September, Microsoft and Computing at Schools group (CAS) are joining forces to help teachers inspire a new generation of young people. Backed by a £334,000 investment from Microsoft, CAS is holding a series of ‘Back to School’ training sessions to show teachers how they can take the complexity of Coding and Computer Science and make it engaging to the touch screen generation.

    “How do you explain an algorithm to a class of 6 year olds and make it fun? We have a real opportunity here to excite and inspire the next generation of games developers if we get this right. But we need to move fast to bring the curriculum to life and grab the interest of kids in that very first term.“ Claire Lotriet, ICT Coordinator, Henwick Primary School.

    The ‘Countdown to Computing’ programme will see Microsoft and CAS create two training courses for teachers; one for primary and one for secondary, together with supporting classroom resources that teachers can use in their first term. Using the CAS hubs, experts including the CAS master teachers* will deliver face-face training across the country with 2,500 local events. There will also be more flexible training options via Skype so that all teachers can make the most of the training and resources available.

    “In 2009 a 9 year old boy from Singapore built an app that has been downloaded more than 800,000 times, in 2013, a seven year old girl from Philadelphia became the youngest person to build a mobile game app. If we want the next success story to be based in Britain then we need teachers who have the right skills and the confidence to inspire, support and enable them to do so. That’s why, as part of Microsoft’s ‘Countdown to Computing’ programme, we have partnered with CAS to deliver a series of personal training sessions across the country as teachers get ready for that all important first term.” Michel Van der Bel, UK MD Microsoft.

    imageWe know from talking to teachers that the new computing curriculum is pretty daunting if you’ve never taught it before, and September seems very close. 

    But, if we can help them to hit the ground running in the first week, capture kids natural enthusiasm for technology in that first lesson and allow them to grow at their own pace, it’s amazing what they can create.

    - Simon Peyton Jones, Chair of CAS. (Pictured right)

    Microsoft’s partnership with CAS will deliver training and resources for roughly one in every five primary school teachers in the county and at least three specialist teachers in every secondary school. Part of the British Computer Society, CAS is a grassroots organisation chaired by Simon Peyton-Jones from Microsoft Research Cambridge and they have been at the heart of the Computing curriculum reform. CAS is the Government’s partner for teacher training through the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science (NoE) and the Barefoot Computing programmes, both of which are run by CAS and funded by the Department for Education (DfE). The partnership was forged given CAS’s huge involvement in the education community with a network of 103 regional hubs, where teachers meet face-to-face to share ideas and feedback on what works best in the classroom.

    Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon George Osborne MP:

    “Making sure our children are equipped with the right skills for the future is a key part of our long term economic plan. The new computing curriculum teaches students not just how to use computer applications but how to write them too, and we need skilled teachers to deliver it. So with a field that moves as fast as technology, it is absolutely right we work in partnership with industry. It is great to see Microsoft and the Computing at Schools group backing our new computing curriculum and providing this level of support for teachers.  Together, if we encourage more of our young people to be producers, not just consumers of digital content, we will keep our technology sectors booming and help build a more resilient economy.”

    Microsoft is additionally supporting the CAS bid for matched funding from the Department for Education which will extend the programme further.


    Simon Peyton-Jones and teachers at Westminster City School during a CPD training event, where the partnership was announced.

    Russell Hobby, General Secretary, NAHT:

    "The new computing curriculum fills teachers with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Excitement because they know that this subject is a gateway to opportunity for their students. Trepidation because many fear they lack the skills to deliver it. Industry support from companies like Microsoft will help build confidence and is both timely and welcome."

    The ‘Countdown to Computing’ programme is part of Microsoft’s long term ambition to ensure that every school leaver in the UK is computationally literate and that 80% of all jobs requiring computer science knowledge are able to be filled by a UK graduate by 2025. Earlier this year, the company launched a brand new suite of materials, aimed specifically at primary school teachers in partnership with educational publishers, Rising Stars. Nearly 30,000 Switched On Computing materials have been distributed to teachers across the country with the aim of helping teachers develop computer science skills in children as young as five.

    To find out more head to:

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    Last year three girls from Afon Tâf High School won the inaugural Microsoft Kodu Kup. This national game development competition saw the pupils – Kayleigh Bennett, Holly Bridges and Shauna Coates, also known as Artemis Games – beat stiff competition from all areas of the United Kingdom.

    From 154 entries, to 11 finalists, to eventual winners, the girls’ achievement is remarkable. But, the story does not end there! Since their success the girls have been in demand: they are this year’s sole UK representatives of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative; they have represented Microsoft by promoting Kodu at the National Skills Show in Birmingham.

    But they never thought that they would get invited to America, to San Francisco and be guests at WE Day.

    WE Day celebrates the youth movement for local and global change. It is the largest event of its kind, bringing together tens of thousands of youth and educators with celebrities, musicians and heroes sharing their inspirational stories. This year the girls will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Selena Gomez, Magic Johnson and Orlando Bloom. They will have their chance to present their game to an international audience, raising the profile of women in the computer games industry and showing the talent that Afon Tâf and Merthyr Tydfil have to offer.


    If you are looking for guidance on producing your students games for this year’s Kodu Kup then look at the summary of the back story that the girls created for their winning game.

    The girls’ game ‘The Dark Side of Mars’, explored the complexities of the human psyche and emotional wellbeing. The premise of the game involves a failed rescue mission to Mars. After a crash landing, the captain realises he is the lone survivor, and there is something out there chasing him. As he overcomes various challenges, he encounters the souls of his crew members and realises that the monster chasing him is ‘Regret’. His mission is to come to terms with his responsibility for their deaths by rescuing the souls. However, the girls were not just required to design and create this complex game, they had to present and promote their game to a large audience, including the tough judging panel comprising of some of the UK’s most revered game development experts.

    You can download the winning game ‘Dark Side of Mars’ from Kodu Game Lab


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    Stuart Ball @innovativeteach is my twitter alter ego, But, more recently in the Microsoft in Education world I have been know as the App Man. Some even think I should have a costume!

    I often get asked what are my top ten for education. ‘Well how long is a piece of string?’ there are so  many great apps now in the Windows Store it is difficult to choose.

    So here are my current ten favourite apps. (there are eleven, but I couldn’t decide)

    image OneNote Microsoft OneNote is your digital notebook for keeping track of what's important in your life. Jot down your ideas, keep track of classroom and meeting notes, clip from the web, make a to-do list as well as draw and sketch your ideas. OneNote is your one place to capture and organize everything
    Logo Wordbrush Words have been trapped in straight lines for too long...set your words free!  wordBrush allows you to draw text freely on the screen, each letter following the trace of your finger as though you were painting with a brush.
    Logo Kodu Kodu lets you create games through a simple visual programming language. Kodu can be used to teach creativity, problem solving, storytelling, as well as programming.
    Logo Physamajig Just sketch something out and it is translated into a realistic physics object. Add attributes such as bounciness, friction, and joints - then create your own games by adding Behaviors to the objects.
    Logo Skitch Touch Skitch Touch is a free tool for communicating visually with friends, co-workers, and the world. Annotate images with arrows, shapes, text, and more. Use Skitch to sketch something new, mark up maps, screen captures, or even a photo.
    Logo QR Code Designers

    QR code design made easy! "QR Code Designer"
    The only application generating custom-designed QR codes.

    Logo Project Sienna Microsoft Project Siena (code name) is a new technology for app imagineers. But Apps and databases without any programming.
    Logo Bing Translator The Bing Translator App for Windows is your companion when you need to quickly translate what you are looking at. Use your camera or just type the text you want to translate. Text and camera translation work offline with downloadable language packs, so you can get the power of Bing Translator on-the-go, even when you don't have an Internet connection
    Logo Fotor Fotor is the best all-in-one photo editing application. With cutting-edge tools including Basic Editing Tools, Brilliant Visual Effects, Frames, 1-Tap Enhance, Collage, Text, Tilt Shift and Raw Converter, all bundled together in one powerful package
    Logo Nearpod

    Nearpod is a synchronous solution for the use of mobile devices in the classroom. Create multimedia presentations with interactive features such as quizzes, videos, polls, drawing tools, and more

    Logo Socrative

    Educators can initiate formative assessments through quizzes, quick question polls, exit tickets and space races all with their Socrative Windows app. Socrative will instantly grade, aggregate and provide graphs of results to help you identify opportunities for further instruction. Save time and visualize student understanding when it matters, now!

    and currently best app I would pay for…. (and have done so!)

    image Createbook

    Why just read ebooks? When you can create your own!
    CreateBook is an easy to use App allowing users of all ages to create stunning eBooks which include text, video and a range of other media.

    and don’t forget they are Apps for Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, Khan Academy and LinkedIn. As well apps like these for teaching and practicing maths or spellings

    Logo iMath iMath is designed to help children under the age of 12 to improve math ability and develop interests in mathematics
    Logo The Spelling Bee

    'Bee' the bee! Fly between beautiful locations unscrambling words! As you figure out words you get points that will unlock rewards!
    Each level has a random theme that will help you figure out the mixed up word. If you can't guess the word, you can spell any shorter word and still get points!

    The Windows Store is rich in resources for Education, you just have to find them, but don’t just look under the education category, I always use the search function. I may type a word like ‘Science’, find an app that looks interesting, but I have found most of the real gems, such as Wordbrush, from the ‘related apps’ list that the store suggests from a search.

    ……. and if you can’t find the App you need, then may be your students can build one, like these. You can use our free tools at to do this.

    image Face the Facts Face the Facts is a new app for Windows 8 and Windows Phone which opens a world of thousands of a facts to the user in a brilliant social experience. Choose from the many categories and be presented with a new, random statement. But is the statement fact or fiction
    Logo My Study Life My Study Life is a planner for students, teachers and lecturers designed to make your study life easier by storing your classes, tasks (assignments, homework, revision) and exams in the cloud making your study life available wherever you are

    So that’s my top ‘just a little more than ten’ of great education apps, I am certain it will change as the Window Store grows and I will add to my ever growing list which can be found here - Windows 8 Appedagogy– the best list of Apps for your classroom anywhere

    If you have any great Win 8.1 apps that you are using please share them, either leave a comment on this blog or let @innovativeteach know on Twitter.

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    clip_image002From European Schoolnet……

    Code is shaping the way we live! Whether you or your students want to be a fashion blogger, social entrepreneur or journalist, take up the challenge!

    European Schoolnet and Microsoft are pleased to announce European Kodu Kup, a new school competition that will encourage pupils to design games and take their first steps in coding in a fun and engaging way. Kodu Kup Europe highlights the role played by game-based learning to strengthen digital skills, collaboration and new thinking for young Europeans.

    Pupils will be challenged to develop their own games by working in teams and learning how to create imaginary worlds, modelling and simulations. National finalists will be invited to a Coding Camp held in Brussels on October 2014 at the Microsoft Innovation Center during the European Coding Week where a regional competition will be held.

    What is Kodu? …just in case you don’t know Smile

    * Kodu is a visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children as young as 6 year olds and enjoyable for anyone

    * Developed by Microsoft Research, Kodu runs on PC and Xbox allowing rapid design creation. Kodu is available for free

    * The Kodu User Interface is easy to use and visually attractive especially to primary phase pupils

    * Its ‘code’ syntax used is simple, intuitive, yet allows a high degree of computational thinking and programming fundamentals

    * Kodu is easily integrated throughout the curriculum, with strong links to numeracy and literacy, as well as science, maths and geography

    * There is plenty of support with resources and online communities including:

    * Kodu is a great start to computing. And to a new European adventure with Kodu Kup Europe

    What is the Competition about?

    The first Kodu Kup Europe involves 8 countries: Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, and UK

    In the UK you can ONLY get to the European final by entering this year’s Kodu Kup in the UK . There is still time to enter. Details here

    The winning team from the UK Kodu Kup will win an invite to compete in this competition.

    More information is available at  Follow #kodukup_eu for updates and news

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    So the time is nearly upon us . . . the deadline for entries for the Kodu Kup is fast approaching as all games must be submitted by 30th May. Before you can submit the games they will need to be exported from Kodu Game Lab, this is a very simple process, here is a video that shows how to export:

    Once you have exported your game you will be able to upload your team’s entry to the Microsoft Educator Network.

    What should I be submitting?

    This year the entry should consist of the following:

    - The game itselfimage

    - Game design documentation (showing a clear storyline has been developed)

    To submit a team’s work you must first become a member of the Microsoft Educator Network website: Once you have signed up you will be able to submit your entries by adding a new ‘Learning Activity’ by clicking ‘Resources’ in the menu and selecting ‘add learning activity’, as shown here:

    You will then be required to add some basic information about your entry as shown below. It is very important these instructions are followed accurately otherwise your entry may not be found by the judges. The name of the learning activity should be the name of the game, under ‘learning objectives’ make sure you add “kodu kup” and in the description clearly state the following:

    - what the game is about

    -  the team name

    - school name

    - your name and school email addressclip_image004

    When you get to the section on ‘Supporting’ resources you will need upload your students’ work. This looks like the following:

    If your students have created their game using Project Spark they will first need to share their game through the Project Spark website, you will then be able share the link to this in the supporting resources above.

    For a more detailed breakdown of this process check out our teachers resources:

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    A great post from Alfie Carlisle from Devonport High School for Boys in Plymouth …….

    This week, I got the opportunity to test a Microsoft Surface RT, the Surface is part of Microsoft new line of Surface tablets and comes in other variations including the Pro and Pro 2.

    When starting the Surface from scratch, the boot time was 21 secs. My Mac Mini takes 1 minute, so I was really impressed to be able to login and start working in as short time as the Surface offers. However, I rarely found myself shutting down, I simply closed the keyboard case over the screen which put the device into standby; it was then ready to be quickly opened again whenever I needed it,

    I received the Surface and immediately began to set it up. Windows 8 offers the ability to login with a 'Microsoft Account,' I already have one, so I simply logged in with my email and password. For new users, there was also an option to sign up for a Microsoft Account, or, alternatively, set up the account locally on the device.

    A Microsoft Account allows a coherent feel across all of a users Windows 8 devices. For example, I could install an app on my Windows 8 PC, and it would automatically be on my Surface tablet; similar to Apple 'iCloud'. This gives an impression of using the 'same device' wherever you are. I really liked this feature because, once logged in, I was instantly presented with my files, apps and settings I had previously set up on another Windows 8 device. I was extremely impressed, I could start working at once in my familiar environment… adjusted just to my liking.

    I also took the opportunity to take a look at the Microsoft App store. It was well populated, with apps for Gmail, Dropbox and Google Drive, as well as few apps I enjoy on my iPad including Adobe Photoshop Express and Bamboo Paper and, my favourite, a Spotify App. I started my playlist on the Surface and enjoyed the sound coming from its built in speakers. I think the speakers could be improved, as sometimes the sound seemed quite congested; with the headphone jack, though, this wasn’t a problem. I also found a mobile HTML editor, which let me work on some of my website projects. I was particularly impressed with this, as a preview of the side was on the left of the screen and the code on the right. The surface made great use of the large display.

    I particularly like the USB port which the Surface boasts. It was great to be able to add things like a mouse, Portable Hard Drives and even Printers to the Surface, which gave it increased functions of a fully-fledged laptop!

    A Microsoft Account is also heavily integrated with SkyDrive, Microsoft's Cloud Storage platform, similar to Dropbox or Sugar Sync. It allows files created in Word, Powerpoint and Excel to be shared to other devices, but also edited online in a web browser. So even if your at a computer without Microsoft Office, you can still work on your files!

    Cloud Storage is the process of storing files on the internet as apposed to locally, on the device. One of the many benefits is that files can then be accessed from anywhere.

    I didn’t like the touch keyboard though. It rarely picks up my fingers, and is only good for typing a few words, maybe a very short email. I attempted to type the previous sentence using it, and made several errors. I think the problem is that it isn’t tactile so I don’t get the reassurance that my key press has been registered. As a result, I would carry on typing, and only realise at the end that the device hadn’t picked up my typing. I thoroughly enjoyed using the on screen keyboard; the wide angle screen of the Surface allowed a superb keyboard, which is perfect, even for big fingers!

    In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my week with the Surface RT, and would really love to use it again, especially in the a school environment. I think this device has excellent potential for use in the education sector, by Students and Teachers alike. Students are already familiar with Microsoft Office and other windows applications and enjoy using it. I think they would really enjoy being able to take office out of the computer room and be able to take their creativity wherever they go. Furthermore, with the addition of Microsoft Accounts (one could be setup for each student), they could start a piece of work on a Surface, continue it on another and then continue it at home!

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    It is with great pleasure and excitement that Microsoft announce their first trial to connect students across the country with Microsoft interns using Microsoft Lync technology. We aim to share insider tips and provide students with an insight into our experiences applying to Microsoft, our journey, opportunities for students at Microsoft and a Q&A session. 


    What is the Get On Scheme?

    Microsoft UK’s ‘Get On’ programme is a flagship citizenship initiative aimed to help 300,000 young people in Britain take meaningful steps towards work. ‘Get On’ creates opportunities through a variety of programmes to help students: Get Inspired, Get Skilled, Get a Job. The interns at Microsoft, who are all university students, run the program and provide insights, skills and advice on their first steps into the working world. It is part of Microsoft’s global commitment to the next generation.

    Using Microsoft technology to reach more students

    Traditionally, the interns based in Reading have travelled to schools in Berkshire and interns based in London have travelled around London to deliver presentations and a number of sessions to schools. This has seen tremendous success and made a phenomenal impact.


    This year's Get On Schools team is eager to take the programme to the next level and are ambitious to use technology at its best to make this a scalable programme and to enable students from all over the UK to have an equal opportunity to get skilled, inspired and get a job!

    Presentation Content

    We aim to be informative and engaging when discussing your students’ potential career options and will create a relaxed atmosphere for students to interact. We want to capture the hearts and minds of students and reassure them that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to. Our key objective is to impart some of the key learnings that have put us in the position that we are in today.

    If you are interested in providing your students with the opportunity to connect with Microsoft interns, please use the link below to sign in to our very first webinar on Wednesday 14th May at 1pm!

    Please note:

    We will spend the first five minutes of our webinar making sure everyone is connected ok and walk you through how to use the Lync tool.

    How to join the Webinar..

    No need to register, just click on the link below on 14th May at 12pm, an hour prior to the call, and tune in. You will need to install the Lync web browser prior to the call by clicking on the link below.

    Join Lync Meeting


    In case you want to know how to IM during the call…


    We look forward to connecting with you soon!

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    imageReaders of this blog will know what a fan I am of PowerPoint – You may have read my Power-Up series . But, with all the talk of Devices , Apps, Services and Computing. We have not forgotten one of the greatest and most versatile applications ever created.

    Now you can make PowerPoint presentations into a truly interactive online learning experience. We are calling this a MIX. (yep , we are down with the Kids at Microsoft)

    Everything you need to create and share your mix is included in the FREE add-in for PowerPoint 2013. Add audio and video of yourself giving your presentation, write on slides as you talk to them, insert quizzes, practice exercises, and more – all from within PowerPoint.

    Think screencast, but better. All you need is Office 2013 and the free Office Mix add-in.

    We will sharing with you shortly some Mixes created by some of our Expert Educators. In the meantime download it for yourselves and start ‘mixing it up’ in your classrooms.

    What’s more is that if you have taken up Student Advantage, Free Office for your students. They can get and use Mix too. It would be ideal fro presenting course work for example.

    If you have any ideas and thoughts we would love to here from you. Please leave a comment or let me know on Twitter @innovativeteach

    In the meantime to get you started, try these help videos.

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    koduhowellsLast week saw a 100 students and their teachers attend the 2nd annual Koduthon, hosted at Microsoft Headquarters in Reading. Armed with their laptops and tablets they were charged with developing virtual fish tanks, creating artificial intelligence beings in Kodu, using simple algorithms. A project I call , Algorariums. Using simple Kode, students aged between 7-16 had to create a virtual fish tank, where the Kodufish had to respond to each other and behave like living things. They had to move, shoal , reproduce and even poop! yes, all of this can be created in Kodu. Despite it’s simplicity, Kodu can be used to create complex systems.

    One school had a particular job of training Microsoft staff in the Kodu. There were a number of very happy people walking around our office proudly holding their certificate.

    Needless to say all the schools had a great time, the ‘Pick and Mix’ helped with that. But, this event shows , whatever your age and or ability in computing. Kodu is not only a great introduction to coding, but also a powerful platform to develop higher computational thinking.

    (and before you ping me an email asking where was your invite. These schools were on the reserve list from last year)

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    imageAfter Scott and his student’s success at the Global Forum in March , he has gone on to achieve further and well deserved recognition . Scott, of Community School, has been announced as a Silver Teaching Award Winner in the category of Outstanding use of Technology in Education 
    Selected from over 20,000 nominations received by the Pearson Teaching Awards in 2014. The Pearson Teaching Awards are an annual celebration of exceptional teachers and teaching, founded in 1999 by Lord Puttnam, they recognize the life-changing impact of an inspirational
    teacher on the lives of the young people they teach.    

    What the judges said about Scott….   

    Scott is an exceptional teacher who is driven by the desire to provide young people with opportunities that build their self-confidence and self-belief in order for them to fulfil their fullpotential in life. Before he qualified as a teacher he set up a theatre company for children which he still runs and he regularly arranges educational trips and runs projects which have resulted in exciting opportunities such as students presenting on the local radio and making presentation to industry. He was nominated by students who said, “he uses different technologies to make learning fun and it is really paying off!” His talent is such that he works closely with Microsoft, who provide him with support and to whom he provides significant feedback with the aim of improving their product and its application in a learning environment; but best of all, students say, “he makes learning fun”. He is a very worthy winner of this prestigious Award.

    imageScott will now join fellow Silver Award winners at the UK final of the Teaching Awards at London’s
    Guildhall on 26th October, where 10 Silver Award winners will receive a Gold Award. The
    ceremony will be filmed and broadcast by the BBC. Rod Bristow, President of Core Markets at Pearson, said: “Everyone can remember a teacher who inspired and challenged them so it's important to say thank you. It is great teaching that makes the biggest difference to learning and that's why great teachers must be recognised”.

    Please join me in congratulating Scott on this tremendous achievement.

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    originally posted on Daily Edventures

    Scott Wieprecht - UK

    We often say here at Daily Edventures that behind every great student is a great teacher. And in the case of the @OffPerts (Microsoft Office Experts) – the students from the Community School in Cornwall, England who provided an inspiring and necessary student voice at the 2014 Global Forum – this couldn’t be more true.

    You may remember earlier this spring when we shared the story of George, Amy, Jack and Rowenna – the @OffPerts. These four students not only attended the Global Forum, but they also shared and communicated their ideas with the educators, school administrators and government leaders in attendance. They made a big impression, and they also won a second runner-up award, along with their teacher Scott Wieprecht, in the Cutting Edge Use of ICT for Learning category.

    “I think I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was really young,” says Wieprecht. “I love the buzz you get when you help someone connect with content or an idea they have never seen before for the first time.” Wieprecht was drawn to teaching at an early age. By age 13, he was helping to teach drama at a local theatre group. By age 16, he had set up his own stage school “Stage Stars,” which he still runs today, in addition to his work at “I think I was always destined to become a teacher,” says Wieprecht, “for the fundamental reason that I like empowering our young people to make decisions and take the lead and aspire to be something wonderful. In the same ways that I get to see when youngsters perform on the stage, I now get to see that every day in my classroom.”

    In addition to his Expert Educator mantle and award at the Global Forum, Wieprecht was recently named as a Silver Teaching Award Winner in the category of “Outstanding use of Technology in Education” by the Pearson Teaching Awards, which recognize the life-changing impact of an inspirational teacher on the young people they teach. Wieprecht was selected from over 20,000 nominations received this year.

    Please join me in congratulating Scott Wieprecht, not just because of the awards he is receiving, but because he is changing the lives of students, the world of education, and is a perfect example of how, behind every great student, there is a great teacher.

    Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?

    My favorite teacher was my Head of Year in secondary school. His name was Jeremy Martin, and despite all the countless hours he spent on everything, he always made you feel like he had enough time for you, and you were more important than any of that. To me pastoral care is more important than academic content, and it’s the teachers who make you feel good who further your life the most. I’m really lucky I now have a huge team of colleagues (Linda Griffin, Isobel Bryce, Dan Buckley, Ben Rowe, Alan Hawthorne…) who work with the same mantra, which is why I had the privilege at working in such and amazing school environment.

    Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?

    I’m not a big fan of questions like this, as I personally don’t do anything to make the changes. The only way to really succeed in making changes to education for the better is to hand power to the students. Of course it has to be done in a managed, sensible, and constructed way initially, but it is the students, when given the appropriate support, that have the best tools to change the world. My achievement and recognition therefore come from these types of projects. The OffPerts, which is all about student leadership, has won a South West Digital Educators Award, 2nd Runner-up for Microsoft’s Outstanding Use of Cutting Edge Technology 2014, and recently seen me become a National Teaching Award winner for 2014 – it is all about the students, but I am more than happy to get shiny trophies.

    How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

    For me the idea behind the technology use has to be more powerful than the technology itself. For example, with Office 365, it would be quite easy to take it as its face value and use it for storage, email and messaging. It’s only when strong ideas get added to this, such as using Newsfeed to remind about coursework deadlines, using Lync to give a pupil off on long term illness a window into the classroom, using sites to run lessons or study groups… that’s when the technology becomes innovative. I am always quick to point out I am not a Microsoft evangelist, and I don’t sing from the ‘hymn sheet’ blindly. The reason I tell everyone about Microsoft, is because nothing compares. There is no organization that gives as much to education, whatever the long term ‘motive’ might be, and that actually cares about improving children’s futures.

    In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work?

    Devices level the playing field, it’s as simple as that. Allowing each student access to their own device means they all have the same chance and opportunity. Yes, we do still have to account for and work with lack of parental engagement, or low self-esteem, but devices remove the physical blocks to learning and give everyone a fair chance. Devices also, far from stopping communication, encourage it beyond the classroom. In the world we live in, linking up with students from far afield, and different countries, is a hugely important life skill. With the evolution of apps and devices this can take place anywhere, anytime. For example, in my classroom on a warm sunny day, it can sometimes be unbearable. Now I can simply say, let’s continue this outside, and run my lessons just as effectively though Lync, showing the same slides, videos, whiteboard, as I would have in my room, but in a location that is comfortable, and more productive to learning. Anywhere is now a learning space, not just somewhere with wall and tables.

    In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

    The “cloud” is by far the most exciting thing for me at the moment. The “always on, everywhere access” ethos means that education is becoming a more fluid concept, and encouraging more to engage. The cloud also means updates are instantaneous, and collaboration is commonplace, and at the core of everything. Rather than being something you try to build in to a lesson, it is the basis of every lesson.

    Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

    I think collaboration should probably be my answer, but I hope that one day this won’t be seen as a “skill” and actually just be everywhere. Improvement can only really happen, progress can only really be made, when we collaborate. Even taking some of our most fundamental inventions, accredited to a single person, they wouldn’t stand the test of time without collaboration. In my opinion, an idea is only as good as the 20 people that add to it.

    If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

    I’d give every child in the world a device with a blank OneNote on it. I’d ask them to plan how they were going to change the world, make it fairer for everyone. I’d link students up to annotate each other’s work, question their ideas and how they would go about doing them, and offer suggestions to obstacles that might stand in their way.

    How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?

    Education needs to reflect the learners, and it needs to reflect the market. It would be really easy for me to say remove exams. Unfortunately I don’t really have another system that would go in its place so saying scrap it isn’t productive or useful. I would challenge what the exams are though. Should a mathematics exam really ask 30 questions about vectors and trigonometry, or should it be asking real world problems, something that a Venn Diagram probably won’t solve.

    What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

    Allowing students to enjoy working together, both in school and outside. Living in a rural area it isn’t always possible or practical for them to meet up at each other’s houses every night to work on a project. Giving them an opportunity to do this, without relying on parents, or the fact that in winter it’s dark by 5pm, means they can take responsibility for their own progress.

    How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

    Don’t be afraid of the obvious. There seems to be stigmas attached to certain things, or the ‘done way.’ For me, Office 365 completely solved my problems, and not only that, had another load of benefits to boot. Best of all its free, so there really is no harm in trialing it – you won’t be disappointed.

    How have you incorporated mobile devices/apps into your classroom and have you seen any improvements?

    Mobile devices mean that everyone has personalized access to the work. We’ve been using Surfaces to access Office 365 so that everyone is working on their projects at the same time, it also means that I can measure everyone’s progress individually, and see how much each individual is contributing.

    Describe to us your role as a leader for technology in your school, community or among other educators?

    I am responsible for assisting in the setting up and deployment of Office 365 to the whole school and ensuring its effective use. I am also on some of the steering committees and trial groups in school to test new technologies and ideas. Recently a colleague and I started Empower to Aspire and Project Aspire with the aim of linking up schools around the world to develop student leadership.

    How is the experience being a Microsoft Innovative Educator – Expert?

    It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Its given my students life skills I would never have been able to give them alone, but also allowed me to engage with a whole host of other professionals. I am VERY lucky in that Stuart Ball and Steve Beswick have always been generous with their time with us, but Anya and Anthony also made a point of speaking to the students, and this left a lasting impression on them. It’s also helped me feel confident in my classroom, and expand the work I am doing out to other educators in the South West and the UK, and helped me to dream big. The only downside is I am now desperate to get an opportunity to attend the next Global Forum to learn more!

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    WP_20140603_013I spend a lot of time discussing with teachers and schools the pro and cons of various operating systems, devices and services. But in reality they are not the ‘end customer’. I am lucky to have an ASUS VivoTab Note 8 device, which I am happy to loan to the real experts, Students.

    Dylan is a pupil at Colcot Primary School in Barry (@colcotprimarysc), and he knows his stuff. He is a keen developer and currently teaching himself Touchdevelop –

    Dylan had the tablet for a week and was free to use how he saw fit. (Although his Mum was keeping an eye on him)

    This is his review….

    ‘The Asus VivoTab Note 8 is an 8 inch tablet that runs Windows 8.1

    It has a snappy Intel Atom processor, which is accompanied by 2GB of RAM, which makes it more than fast enough for most users. It is light, and nice to hold, and has outstanding battery life, but it still charges from flat in two hours.

    It has great call quality over Skype, but the camera isn’t the best for taking photos.

    Windows 8.1 seems like it was designed for this tablet, the interface seems well thought out and smooth, while being packed with great features.image

    So, overall it is an amazing tablet. It is everything you could want, all day battery, a clear touch screen, high end performance and a simple design. I would definitely buy one.’

    So if you are thinking about tablets for your students, then Asus Vivo Tab Note 8 is a great choice… it's ‘Dylan Approved’

    If you have any students that are using Microsoft technology and would like to share their thoughts here on this blog. Then get in touch with me via twitter @innovativeteach


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    rsimage2In January we launched our highly successful Switched on Computing resources in partnership with Rising Stars. We sent a copy to every Primary School in England and have been handing them out at all our events. They have been warmly received and provide an excellent introduction into how activities that can support the new curriculum can look. Written by the brilliant Claire Lotriet ( @ohlottie on Twitter). These resources provide an ideal way to get started thinking about the new Computing Curriculum. It contains all the resources you need and free software. There is everything you need to start using Kodu with your class for example.

    Not managed to get hold of these resources?  Don’t worry , they are now all available as an App designed by @ArgonApplications and published in the Windows Store. This allows you to read and modify the resources and include them in your own planning. As well as test out the activates on your Windows devices.

    Download Switched on Computing with Microsoft here


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