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    Many of you may have seen this already, and I’m sure most readers have seen Sir Ken Robinson present at one time or another – even if just on TED or YouTube. I find his talks on creativity very inspiring, so I was excited to see this talk that Sir Ken gave at the RSA in October.

    The talk is on “Changing Education Paradigms,” but it’s the presentation that makes it extra special. The RSA has an artist illustrating the main points of the talk as Sir Ken speaks. It’s just brilliant, and it’s only 11 minutes. Enjoy!

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  • 12/22/10--23:21: Happy Christmas to you all
  • imageIn the words of John  Lennon, “ So this is Christmas, And what have you done , Another year over and a new one just begun” . It’s a good time to reflect on our achievements with Microsoft Partners in Learning during the past year.

    The year began with another successful BETT show, we introduced hundreds of teachers to the Partners in Learning Network. In March we had continued success at the European Innovative Education Forum in Berlin. Here two teachers won awards for their work. August saw another successful Summer camp, with teachers being trained and sharing their expertise at our headquarters in Reading. In October we were in South Africa at the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum, and for the 4th year in a row a UK teacher won an award, what a great achievement. Finally, November saw us hold our most successful UK Innovative Education Forum ever. This year has also seen a continued growth in membership of the Partners in Learning Network, readers of this blog and visitors to our YouTube channel . As well as the development of a core of Innovative Teachers who are great advocates of the work we do, our heartfelt thanks go out to them.

    We are sure next year will bring even more success, as well as a few changes that we  will announce in the new year. The first of which we can announce now. The Microsoft Partners in Learning Network site has had a complete makeover. With some added new features, a different look and speedier page loads.  You can check it out at

    It only leaves Kristen and I to wish you all a Happy Christmas, thanks for all your support and we look forward to seeing and working with you in the New Year.

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    imageHappy New Year to you all, we hope you enjoyed your Christmas Holidays. I am sure your return to school will have prompted you to think about a number of things, including how long is it to half term ! But, you may also be thinking on embarking on some research in your school to measure the impact of the strategies and polices you have implemented around school transformation and 21st century learning.

    The Partners in Learning Network now has a free tool called Partners in Learning School Research. Developed in conjunction with top-class international research organisations and running in countries all over the world, it allows you to measure new and existing teaching and learning practices in your school. Details are explained on the site, but once your teachers complete the questions (which takes about 20 minutes), your school gets a data-driven, action-oriented report with concrete examples of how your school can develop its innovative teacher and learning practices to develop students’ 21st Century skills. ​ 

    You can can sign up for this free tool at

    Please let us know what you think and how you are using this tool by leaving your comments on our blog.

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    CaptureThe 2011 BETT show is running all this week in London. Myself and  Dan Roberts are presenting on the Microsoft stand on one of our favourite subjects, free applications for the classroom.

    Our main theme for our presentation is ‘value for money’, but being free is not the only the criteria need, to be real value for money any application has to have an impact on Learning.

    To illustrate this idea we will be demonstrating and discussing the following free applications with the delegates who spend time with us on the Microsoft stand this week. If you visited the stand, thank you, we hope you found it valuable, here are the links we mentioned.

    - Flashcards are are great example of Web 2.0 technology. These allow teachers and students to build great revision resources, that can be shared online. -

    -The Microsoft Partners in Learning Network supports professional development for teachers and schools  through shared resources ,events in the UK and a network of connected teachers.

    - AutoCollage , as a member of the Partners in Learning Network you can download this great application, and create a single image collage from up to 54 separate images.

    - Mouse Mischief – Connect up to 25 mice to a single PC with this free plug-in for PowerPoint. Allows you to create interactive quizzes and activities.

    - Math Add-in for Microsoft Word and OneNote – Create and visualise equations and maths concepts, including 3D graph plotting

    - Community Clips – Create and record your own instructional videos  with this free screencast software.

    If these free applications have whetted your appetite for more, then you can see a longer list here.

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    image Stuart and I have blogged about Shout – Microsoft’s partnership with the Smithsonian Institute and Taking IT Global to help students around the world learn about environmental issues and tackle real-world scientific research. As part of Shout, we’re offering free “web events” – seminars for teachers with scientists at the Smithsonian that will help you start environmentally-focused projects in your classroom.

    We are pleased to invite you to attend the next Shout Web Event “Study the Land”. This event will address the questions of how the scientific study of plants helps us address urgent problems such as loss of species and habitats and how can your students do something about these global issues? Register now for one or all three of our lively, interactive webinar events to listen, learn, and exchange ideas with our presenters and others who care about our environment. In addition, choose from several real-world activities, challenges, and projects—to involve young people in making a difference.

    For more information and registration visit:

    Shout Session 1: A Natural History Approach to Plant Study and Conservation

    11 am EST (Eastern Standard Time) / 4 pm GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

    January 26, 2011

    with Gary A. Krupnick, head of the Plant Conservation Unit, and Alice Tangerini, scientific illustrator, National Museum of Natural History

    Shout Session 2: Smithsonian Tree Banding Project: “Climate, Classrooms and Trees

    1 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time) / 6 pm GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

    January 26, 2011

    with Geoffrey “Jess” Parker, forest ecologist, and Joshua Falk, education specialist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

    Shout Session 3: Charles Darwin in the Islands: Evolution, Adaptation, and Sustaining Our Natural Heritage

    7 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time) / 12 am GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

    January 26, 2011

    With W. John Kress, director of the Consortium for Biodiversity, Smithsonian Institution, and curator of botany, National Museum of Natural History

    We look forward to seeing you there!

    If you have not had a chance yet, please join the Partners in Learning Shout Community where you can get updates, connect with members on projects, and access resources:

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    On my way to work last Thursday, I listened to Radio 4’s Today show interview Secretary of State Michael Gove about the creation of England’s new national curriculum.image It was one of those mornings where I arrived to work before the story was finished, so I sat in my car in the Microsoft car park for another few minutes, listening to what Mr. Gove had to say. (A BBC article about the interview, as well as a link to the interview can be found HERE.)

    The interviewer asked a couple key questions that came into my mind as I was listening to the Secretary of State. (In my own words, below)

    • If we are hiring great teachers and trusting them to do their jobs, why do we need to be more prescriptive on what they teach (especially since the Secretary says he wants to reduce prescription)?
    • If this curriculum is meant to be implemented by the nation’s comprehensive schools, among others, why is there no one from a comprehensive school on the panel leading the curriculum development?

    Mr. Gove stressed that he was looking at how our education measures up against other countries around the world, which is a natural reaction to the recent release of the PISA results. However, if we also look at the new McKinsey report on “How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top,” we see that the most successful systems focus their energies on the quality of teachers, rather than what they teach. Specifically, the report says:

    The experiences of these top school systems suggests that three things matter most: 1. getting the right people to become teachers, 2. developing them into effective instructors and, 3. ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.

    (As an aside, this report is based on research conducted in 2006-7. It places England on a list of countries on a high-trajectory for improvement, based on the reforms that the government was introducing at the time, which were seen to be raising student outcomes. I wonder if England would still be on that list today?)

    As teachers, what do you think? Do you need more prescription on what you should be teaching? Do you think a renewed focus on teaching the facts is needed? What do you think will improve your students’ learning – and improve the education system as a whole?

    Let us know by posting a comment…

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    CaptureDuring this year’s Innovative Education Forum in Manchester, we were lucky enough to have two keynote presentations from Michael Furdyk, of Taking IT Global, and Professor Sugata Mitra. We received great feedback from attendees on both of these presentations, and we were fortunate to extend the reach of both keynotes by streaming them to teachers on GLOW and NGFL CYMRU. Capture

    We also had professional video taken of both keynotes and have received the “polished” versions of the presentations which we are making available to you on our YouTube channel at THIS LINK. We hope that you’ll continue to be inspired by both of these speakers and that you’ll share the videos with your colleagues.

    A special thank you goes to both Michael and Sugata for allowing us to share their great work with teachers who might not have been able to attend the event.


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    It doesn’t seem like 3 months ago we were in Manchester at our Innovative Education Forum . We are still receiving lots of positive feedback about the event, which we plan repeat later in the year.

    from Microsoft UK Partners in Learning

    This video gives you an overview of this event from the perspective of the teachers and educators that attended and illustrate how important it is for teachers to network.

    Two of the many highlights of the event were the keynotes from Prof. Sugata Mitra and Michael Furdyk. Both are  available in full on our YouTube channel.

    These would make ideal resources for professional development in your school.

    UK Partners in Learning - Prof. Sugata Mitra - Keynote - UK Innovative Education Forum 2010

    UK Partners in Learning - Michael Furdyk - Keynote - UK Innovative Education Forum 2010

    Both are thought provoking and inspiring.

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    We brought you news of the SHOUT programme back in October, where teachers and students from around the world can collaborate on environmental problems.

    As part of that programme, you and your students are invited to participate in an exciting global online collaborative learning event, where you can:

    · connect with the orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo

    · talk to schools from around the world

    · hear from Dr. Willie Smits, a world leading environmental biologist; and

    · begin the journey to halt the destruction of our rainforests.

    AND……your school could be featured in a 3D Action Movie and 6 part feature documentary. Sign up now for this exciting event and become part of a global youth movement and empower your students to enact change.

    Live Event Details:

    From deep in the jungles of Indonesia, Dr.Willie Smits will introduce students from across the region to the DeforestAction learning project, and provide the opportunity for them to connect with real orangutans.

    Schools will be invited to unite on the biggest ever global collaborative youth project, and to be part of a movement that is the feature of an upcoming 3D Movie.

    When: March 3rd, 2011
    Cost: No Charge
    Duration: 1 Hour

    This is a live global event, so has to take account of various time zones, but with a little organisation your students will be able to take part.

    Times that suitable for the UK are:-

    Session 2: 15:00
    Session 3: 8:00

    Register Now!! - or follow this link:

    What is DeforestAction?

    DeforestAction is a global collaborative project established by school students to halt the destruction of important rainforests, create a permanent home for orangutans, and save the planet.

    Young people from across the planet have already been involved in buying back land in Borneo, commencing a re-growing project, running fundraising and awareness campaigns and collaborating on global projects.

    DeforestAction includes a collaborative learning community which provides youth with access to global opportunities and aims to empower all young people worldwide to become engaged and excited by working collaboratively across the planet on projects that halt or limit deforestation.

    Teachers will be provided a full teacher resource kit, and access to a secure, virtual collaboration spaces where they can connect their classes with classes from around the world to collaborate on projects around deforestation.

    Other time details

    Session 1: Thursday March 3 - Best for Asia Pacific Region
    - GMT/UTC 01:00
    - Jakarta - 08:00
    - Hong Kong - 09:00
    - Sydney - 12:00
    - Auckland - 14:00
    Session 2: Best for Americas
    - GMT/UTC 15:00
    - Jakarta - 22:00
    - Calgary - 08:00
    - New York - 10:00
    - Sao Paolo - 13:00
    Session 3: Best for Europe, Middle East & Africa
    - GMT/UTC 08:00
    - Jakarta - 15:00
    - Abu Dahbi - 12:00
    - Bern - 09:00
    - London - 08:00

    Register Now!! - or follow this link:

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    Not only is March 1st St David’s Day in Wales, but today is also World Maths Day . So  this is a good time remind you of some great free Maths resources available from Microsoft.

    One of these is Microsoft Mathematics 4.0, which  helps you visualize and see mathematical concepts as you’ve never seen them before.

    Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 provides a set of mathematical tools that help students get school work done quickly and easily. With Microsoft Mathematics, students can learn to solve equations step-by-step while gaining a better understanding of fundamental concepts in pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, physics, chemistry, and calculus.

    With the Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 free download, you get:

    • A full-featured graphing calculator
    • The Formulas and Equations Library
    • The Triangle Solver
    • The Unit Conversion tool
    • Ink handwriting support



    You can find out what Mathematics 4.0 can really do in this video

    Mathematics 4.0 is available for download at



    Free Teachers Guides for Mathematics 4.0 are available at

    If you don't want such to install such a subject specialist piece of software such as Mathematics 4.0, then you might want to consider installing the free Math add-in for Microsoft Word and OneNote. This adds functionality to Microsoft Word and OneNote 2007 and 2010 and allows you to create solve and visualise equations directly from these Microsoft Office applications.

    The Math add-in for Microsoft Word and OneNote is available for download at :

    Our UK Partners in Learning YouTube Channel has great video of how to use these add-ins in the classroom. Made by one of our award winning Innovative Teachers it describes the basic functions this great free resource.

    Remember that these resources are not just free for yourselves as Teachers, but are also free for your students. So why not celebrate World Maths Day by passing on the download links to them.

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  • 03/03/11--07:26: Once Upon a Time

    This is the first blog post from the newest addition to the Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Team, so please welcome Jan Webb . She will be supporting us in delivering the Partners in Learning programmes in the UK whilst Kristen is on maternity leave. I will let Jan tell you more.


    It's world book day, one of my favourite days of the year in school.  It's that day that fills teachers and parents with a certain amount of dread as they panic about preparing fancy dress costumes - there's always so many conversations about whether the character is REALLY in a book! It's a day about sharing our favourite books with others, reminding ourselves of the books that have touched our lives and just relishing the pleasure of reading. AND about re-inventing ourselves as those favourite  characters!


    But this year I'm not dressed up. I'm not in school. I've started another adventure - not one in a book, but a real life one! I've joined the Partners in Learning Team to manage the Innovative Teachers Programme for a while.  I've been part of the programme myself as a teacher, my project winning recognition at the UK, European and Worldwide Innovative Education Forums.  I first heard about the Partners in Learning Network about 18 months ago, discovering some great ideas for using technology in learning from some awe-inspiring, award winning  teachers like Dan Roberts, Ollie Bray, Mandeep Atwal and Alessio Bernadelli.   Being inspired by what they had done, I started my own journey by sharing what I had been doing in class - and the rest is history. I found a network of other teachers who were also passionate about making the most of learning experiences; one of them, David Rogers, introduced me to twitter, which led to me blogging, too.   And through this professional learning network, I have found the largest and most supportive staffroom I've ever been part of! At a time when finding funding for professional development  and tech resources has been really difficult for us, I've had some of the best CPD available and found some amazing tools that are free and help make the most of what we have.  Learning doesn't happen in isolation, it happens through our contact with others - and it's as important for us teachers as it is for pupils to keep learning.


    So for a while I won't be a primary ICT consultant in my local authority and a year 4 class teacher/ICT coordinator on the other days. For a while I'll be tweeting as @innovteach2, though you'll still see @janwebb21!  For a while you'll see me blogging here, alongside Stuart (@innovativeteach). This may not be a story in a book - happy endings come in many guises - but I hope you'll join the partnership, share your ideas and feedback. I'm looking forward to the journey!

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    untitled2I know a few people who are filled with trepidation at the prospect of spelling! But it’s still one of the most important skills we can give the children in our classes and homes. Teachers, parents and learners are always looking for ways to make the learning of spellings a little less tedious and monotonous.  So to make the whole experience a littleCapture more fun, The Times newspaper have set up the Spelling Bee site, where there are lots of games for children to use – whether  in class, at home, on their own or with others.   There’s activities for those who thrive on competition and by registering , the personal training section allows previously misspelt words to be revisited.

    In the Brain Buzz section, there are opportunities for family battles and Spring-themed activities; there’s monthly mini spelling challenges  with collections of words with a similar theme; games can be selected according to age or ability and give lots of opportunities to try out spellings in different ways.

    The words are read out by Lexi…. and there’s even a desktop download and  some great mobile phone apps so the learning really is in the hands of the learner.Have fun playing the games and competing against yourself and others!

    While you are still working on improving your spellings, there are tools within Microsoft Office to help ensure polished final pieces of work.  In Microsoft Office, many errors will be automatically corrected as you type. But you may find words with a red underline - simply right click on them to find suggested corrections, make your own correction or add a new word to your dictionary.  The same box allows you to choose a dictionary from your preferred language - the American and English dictionaries often give different spelling corrections.  It's possible to change the autocorrect settings - the maths autocorrect is worth checking out because it has some shortcuts for mathematical symbols.   Check out the "Review" tab in Microsoft Office 2010 - as well as checking spellings, grammar, word counts and using the thesaurus to find a wider choice of word options, the document can be translated and spellings and grammar checked too - a useful tool for non-mfl specialists who are working with schools in other countries!


    Changing the settings on autocorrect can be very useful when trying to assess learners understanding of spelling and grammar. Why not take a little time to explore the options in these menus and decide how much of your learners' writing is supported by the tools? 

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    CaptureThe Microsoft Partners in Learning European Forum is being held in Moscow this year, starting on March 22nd - an event run every year by Microsoft. Attending the event in Berlin last year was one of the most profound professional development experiences I have had as a teacher,  so I am really excited about going as bag-carrier and cheerleader-in-chief for four awesome teachers with four awesome projects.  The UK has a good record of winning awards at these events and at the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum, too – with teachers like Mandeep Atwal, Ollie Bray, Dan Roberts inspiring me and many others, too.

    The forum is an event that celebrates some of the wonderful work going on in schools and gives teachers an opportunity for some fantastic networking and learning experiences.  From our ten innovative teachers who won awards at the UK Innovative Education Forum in December 2010 – you can find out more about them here – we are pleased to be able to take four award-winners with projects that will, I’m sure, get you as excited as I am about how technology is being used to enhance learning, involve whole communities in collaborations and put the learner in charge of their own learning.

    So in this post and the next, I'll be introducing you to them, their projects and look forward to you supporting and encouraging them on their journey.


    Louise Dorrian – Xtraordinary SIngingLouise 2

    Louise 3Louise was also inspired by the work of previous award winner, Ollie Bray, and his Thinking Out of the XBox project.  She teaches music at Lodge Park Technology College in Corby and wanted to give her pupils the confidence to sing with others in the classroom, so Lips seemed like an ideal game to enthuse and encourage her pupils.  The school had also recently implemented Live@edu, which gave them an ideal tool for blogging about the project and involving parents in a competition to find the best parent comment about the project! While the main focus was to explore and refine listening, performing andLouise 4 composing skills, other curricular links are evident.  Year 7 students learnt about the history of Hip Hop, took part in  a PowerPoint quiz which took its inspiration from A Question of Sport, used LIPs for developing performance skills in class and to inspire their own lyrics.  They used Songsmith in the development of their backing tracks before recording their own raps and taking part in an X-Factor style show down, with parents being involved in the judging via Live@edu. The whole project has created a buzz in school, with Lead Practitioners now leading Teaching and Learning Communities to explore other great ideas, students being invited to speak at conferences and interest in the project from as far afield as the US.


    Jennifer Blum – Mobilising for London 2012

    Jen 3Jen 1Another project that shows the power of empowering pupils to take control of their own learning, this project enabled older pupils to take part in a real-life challenge, a real-life brief for a real-life customer. What the pupils achieved shows how learners can respond to high expectations with work that can stand its own in a commercial environment. Jennifer’s Creative and Media Diploma students were given a brief by Ogilvy UK to prepare a mobile phone app that would promote one of 3 sponsors of the Olympics that will be held in London Jen 2in 2012, whilst meeting the needs of the mobile phone app users wanting to make the most of their visit to the Games.    Students had to show an understanding of the client’s brief and needs before investigating the information that would help them, generating, presenting and refining their own ideas. They had to consider how they would present in different contexts and supported each other in refining and improving what would be in their final presentation, as well as how they would appear professional! They used a range of multimedia tools to present their pitch to the client and had some great feedback. Video clips they made were shared and celebrated at the Oscar-equivalent award ceremony held at the college.

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    CaptureThe Microsoft Partners in Learning European Forum will be taking place in Moscow from 22nd March, an inspiring and thought-provoking opportunity to share some of the most innovative uses of technology to support learning throughout Europe.  We’re looking forward to learning from some of the best keynote speakers and workshop leaders.   4 awesome teachers will be representing the innovation that is going on in classes throughout the UK and you were introduced to Louise and Jennifer in the last blog post. Today it is a pleasure to be able to introduce our other innovative teachers who will be joining us in Moscow.  Why not follow their adventures and what is going on throughout the week on Twitter - the hashtag for the event is #MSPIL.

    Jo Debens – Space Explorers: Space Creators

    Jo 3Jo and SteveJo is the second innovative teacher from the same department in a school, Priory School in Portsmouth, to be attending the European forum –  an amazing record! Her colleague, David Rogers (Welshman, Geographer) presented his work at the event in Berlin last year, so I’m sure he has been able to give her lots of tips in her preparations for her adventures in Moscow. Jo’s project has involved giving pupils a real voice about changes to their school. The project involved lots of teamwork and developed students’ communication skills, as well as their confidence when presenting their ideas to adults.  They evaluated the existing spaces around their school, taking into account how others may view the surroundings, how the spaces were being used and recording their findings in a variety of ways, including digital cameras, Flip video cameras and Jo 2voice recorders. Students prepared their findings in a range of ways to share with others, using tools such as Microsoft Autocollage, MovieMaker, Office 2003, Photosynth and Wordle.  They then developed their own plans for an improved school environment, using free online tools and software to develop their own designs for a school environment, and prepared a scheme of work for other students. They were able to share their suggestions with a range of people including local councillors, governors, architects and designers. 



    Gareth Ritter – Interactive Learning Resources By Pupils For Pupils

    gareth and steveLast, but by no means least, the final member of this group of teachers who are having such an impressive impact in their schools is Gareth.  Gareth is a music teacher from Wales and as we know, we have a long tradition of innovative teachers from this part of the UK.  Gareth has been using technology to motivate and enthuse his upper school pupils, with them preparing resources to help younger pupils with guitars, drums and keyboards, as well as supporting the work of the school radio station, Willow Waves.  The project proved exceptionally engaging for learners who had previously had problems with school and the success rate in their GCSE music and music technology was 100% A*-C.  The enjoyment of the pupils was evident in how they continued with the Gareth 2project at home and how they took responsibility for their own learning. They used a wide range of tools, such as Microsoft Songsmith, Autocollage, Moviemaker and Windows Live Spaces, as well as the plex add in for PowerPoint.  The students even used a wii remote control when delivering their PowerPoint Plex presentations! Tools are now being used by other teachers in the school, they’ve been shared with other local schools and the videos that the children have Gareth 1made are available to the wider music teaching/learning community through Gareth’s website.



    I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing these four innovators an enjoyable and fulfilling trip to Moscow – watch out for updates about the event on Twitter and this blog!

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    Moscow day 1 003It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been to one of these events just how intense a day like this can be.  There’s a buzz and a hum as the temperature rises inside the room where the projects are being displayed, professional learning and collaboration relationships being forged. It might seem like a  few days out of school will be quite relaxing but our 4 UK representatives have been working extremely hard, with breakfast starting at 6.30 and not arriving back to the hotel we are staying until after midnight! During the day, they have been doing an  excellent job of describing and explaining their projects to judges and fellow teachers, which started after the keynote speeches in the morning finished and continued for the rest of the day . They found it wasn’t as scary as it sounds because they were simply talking about what they enjoyed doing in school and getting to know otherMoscow day 1 005 teachers with a similar passion for using tech to enhance learning. It’s forging those relationships that affirms what they are doing, ensures that the learning that they are supporting with their new and innovative approaches is valued, that they are not isolated in what they are doing, that they encouraged and inspired by others. Dan Buckley (who has been leading workshops for school leaders)  remarked on how special these events are, how unusual and unique Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Events are in a commercial world, as they are focused on celebrating the innovative approaches to learning rather than being product-oriented.

    The day finished with an adventure as we explored Moscow in search of our supper, walking through Red Square on the way and navigating our way around the Moscow metro, and enjoying some amazing food –  and managed to finally make it back to the hotel…..  ready for a well-earned, good night’s sleep.

    Moscow day 1 015

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    Moscow day 1 004Think of learning. Think of what happens to help learning. Now think about a day filled with teachers learning how to help the children in their classes learn, how to help their colleagues learn.  You might then come somewhere near to what has been happening here today. Today has been a day of keynote speakers and seminars. A day of brain stretching, thought-challenging, ideas-sharing. It is impossible to share more than a snapshot of what has been going on here – just like yesterday, there is a buzz and a pace to everything that is going on. It’s also hard to capture the essence of the excitement in a blog post – but that is here!

    One of this morning’s keynotes was from the inspirational John Davitt, who speaks slowly – not out of consideration for those who don’t have English as a first language, but because he thinks slowly (his words, not mine – and definitely not in evidence as he spoke to us)! He used humour to keep us all engaged as he shared his ideas about the journey of learning not needing to be the same for everyone. “If you get bored, use the back of the bingo card to draw around your phone – and if your phone is too big to fit on the piece of paper, you’re at the wrong conference!” The messages shared resonated with those who were listening, as he suggested we’re learning in a world full of differences and there can be many different ways to reach the destination/learning goal. Learning should be active and involve good formative feedback – but we often get more useful feedback when using online shopping such as ebay than we receive in a learning situation (just checking out his ebay feedback cheers him up).  It’s important to “define technology by how it helps learning, not by its chip speed or its brand name.”

    The workshops and seminars throughout the rest of the day were challenging, informative, interactive – and in the case of Stuart Ball’s workshop there were even sweets to be eaten once they’d been used for the serious learning stuff. Mandeep Atwal from TakingITGlobal moved people, some even to tears,  as she presented about the issues we are challenged to address within the next few years.  This year’s focus for the SHOUT project is land, with schools being encouraged to develop projects to in  the Deforestaction theme, as well as taking the opportunities to talk to REAL scientists from the . The work will be showcased at the Partners in Learning Global forum in November, which will be an exciting opportunity for those students day 2 mspil 2010 006invited to the event. Why not check out how to get involved in the project and give your students an opportunity to be invited to the forum? Shout was introduced in this blog here and their website is here. 

    Highlights for the day included Microsoft tagging, uses of Microsoft OneNote and …..Welshmen singing rugby songs! And through the whole experience we can see more connections and links being made between the teachers who are here. As Kirsten Panton showed in her workshop, the more teachers collaborate, the more innovation happens. And there are a lot of collaborating teachers here so we can expect much more exciting innovation throughout Europe.

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  • 03/27/11--12:41: From Russia With Pride
  • image_thumb1The curtain has finally come down on the Partners in Learning European Forum – until the next event this time next year – and it is time to reflect on what has been another amazing event. There were so many highlights that I have shared in the previous two blog posts, but at the end the overwhelming feeling was that I felt enormously privileged to be in the company of such amazing teachers. We were so proud of all four of the UK Innovative Teachers who joined us for the event in Moscow over the last week. They have all had such positive feedback about the work they are doing in their schools – it is good to know that such inspirational innovation is continuing in UK schools. I know they have all made connections with other teachers from throughout Europe and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of future collaborations. The whole event was full of impressive learning opportunities and teachers sharing their own passion with others – the projects that were the highlights for me were those which were a bit like the Russian dolls I brought home as presents, with dolls stacked within dolls, within dolls, within dolls…. scratch below the surface of the projects and there was so much depth in the learning experiences that the children were having - so many times we saw technology transforming learning experiences in interesting, new ways.

    DSC00574_thumb[1]It was with great pride that we were all able to see two of our teachers acknowledged with DSC00576_thumb[3]an award, which means they will be attending the Partners in Learning Global Forum later in the year. I’m sure they are going to enjoy their own journeys over the next few months as they prepare for this incredible opportunity to share work, ideas and friendships with teachers from all over the world. Their success continues the tradition of UK teachers being recognised at these events as being at the forefront of good practice and effective learning. Many congratulations to Jenny Blum and Gareth Ritter on their success!

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    CaptureWith the increasing popularity of blogging in schools, Microsoft Live Writer is a tool that makes the whole process very simple and intuitive.  Microsoft Live Writer is part of the Windows Live Essentials free downloads and is just one of a family of very useful tools. It can be used to post to multiple blog accounts, draft posts may be saved locally or on your blog and posts can be scheduled to publish at a time of your choosing.


    How to set up Microsoft Live Writer and add another blogCapture3

    Select the Windows Live Essentials elements you wish to download.  When you initially set this up, Live Writer will prompt you to add information about the name of your blog, its url address, your username and password.  It’s a similar process to add a blog once you have set up livewriter.


    To add a blog once Microsoft Live Writer is set up, select the drop down menu (top left hand side of screen just below the save symbol and just above the paste button).
    Select Options – you’ll see there are lots of ways of customising Live Writer once it is set up. 

    Now click on Accounts, then add. Prompt boxes will now appear to take you through the process of setting up. Select the type of blog you are using.

    Add in the information about your blog – url address, user name and password. Tick the box for remembering password.

    Once you click on “next”, your blog account will be set up automatically in Microsoft Live Writer.

    You can set up a test post so that when you are using Live Writer, your draft will appear the same as when it is published. This post is automatically deleted and just allows livewriter to see your blog theme.

    Once your blog is set up, its name will appear – you can choose to change how this nickname appears in Live Writer if you wish.

    To Use Microsoft Live Writer

    Once you are set up, using Livewriter to blog is a simple process – I’ll take you through the basics to get you started but you will soon find other options in the toolbar that will help make your post look polished and professional.


    There is a space for the heading – just type in the heading you wish to appear for your blog entry.

    The main body of the text can be added easily, pictures may be copied and pasted directly into the post from other applications; video clips may be inserted from your computer or from an online video – just make sure you don’t break any copyright regulations!

    Screen shots may also be pasted directly into the blog post and then cropped/edited as required. Again, take care with copyright!

    When you click on the image, you have access to the full range of format tools – which includes the frame effect around your picture, cropping tools, rotation, positioning/wrapping.
    Map picture

    There’s lots of other additions you can make to your blog post – the INSERT tab allows maps, tags and smileys to be easily added.  Tables can be used to organise layout and there’s even a translator tool:

    "So kann ich Ihnen in jeder Sprache sprechen!"

    Open-mouthed smile

    The other benefit of Microsoft Live Writer is that blogposts can be prepared offline, ready to be posted once you have internet access.

    Finally, all that remains is to:

    Capture 15

    Happy easy blogging!

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    imageIt’s been two weeks since the Microsoft Partners in Learning European Forum in Moscow, it’s only now I have had time to reflect and despite all the positives from that event, there is was one thing that frustrated me. Which was teachers not knowing about our free software. In some cases I saw teachers using paid for, and in my opinion inferior software. Is there anything better than Worldwide Telescope?

    So taking my cue from those adverts with the Meerkats, I “stuck my head up” and began to find Teachers to tell where they could begin to find free software from Microsoft. Simples ! Or so I thought, but the nature of any free software, means its location is often spread across various places of the internet and teachers find out about it from sources such as Twitter, blogs and face to face networking.

    So this has inspired Jan and I to write a series blog posts revisiting the free stuff Microsoft has and that the Partners in Learning team talk about all the time. Highlighting where to find it and how to make the best use of it in the classroom.

    So lets start with two of our favourites, AutoCollage and Songsmith.

    Application name –   AutoCollage

    Free download from -            image

    Requirements – You will need a Live ID and join the UK Partners in Learning Network to download AutoCollage.

    AutoCollage automatically creates photo montages from up to 54 images. Great to use in the classroom for recording school events and pupil activities. It can be used by students as visual record of their learning and it is a great tool for Digital storytelling activities.

    Find out how to use AutoCollage here

    Application nameSongsmith

    Free download from -

    Requirements – You will need a Live ID and join the UK Partners in Learning Network to download.

    Songsmith is fantastic software that lets you (or your students, preferably), sing into your computer and it adds a background track and percussion of your choosing to create your own song. Songsmith isn’t just for music lessons. It’s is a great way to inject creative learning into any subject. Whether your looking for a fun way to help your students memorize multiplication tables or need to bring a history lesson to life, Songsmith can help you use music to encourage learning.

    Find out how to use Songsmith here

    If  you download and use these applications, then why not share the links with two of your colleagues, and encourage them to do the same. Help us share these great free resources ……. Simples !

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  • 04/12/11--03:37: Is Education still broken?
  • Recently I have noticed a shift in conversations, news reports and meetings in terms of talking about giving our students an education that is fit for the 21st century.  Chris Lehmann in this video speaks about a ‘learning revolution’, where ‘Schools should teach us how to learn. Schools should teach us how to live.’ This is something I felt we were beginning to achieve, the changes in thinking about educational practise, as described by Sir Ken Robinson for example, were resonating in the schools and education policy. But, then the economic collapse happened and more recently the release of the PISA results.

    Subsequently, I have noticed a change in how, what were ground-breaking ideas in education are being reported in the media. The banning of mobile phones,  how Social media is to blame for poor grades, computer games should not be used in the  classroom and one of my favourite reports, Computer games cause tooth decay! These reports have no references to how many schools have embraced this technology to the advantage of its students. They paint a very depressing picture of the use of ICT to enhance learning and are great evidence for the cynics and sceptics.

    So has Education been fixed? Was it ever broken? Where is all this leading? Is a return to whole class teaching, testing knowledge and ICT as only a subject the only realistic way forward?

    I would really welcome your comments and thoughts.

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