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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Am I socially network inept or just ‘Billy No Mates’?


    There are certain social protocols that we naturally adopt, such as body language, eye contact, personal space and appropriate conversation. I am the shy and retiring type and I think I am My_Characteronly now getting comfortable in a wide variety of social situations. But I think I am again experiencing that adolescent anxiety with digital social etiquette. I don’t have a huge online social life. I don’t blog, apart from this, which is work related, I have a facebook profile, with only six friends and one of them is Kristen! I use MSN Messenger, mainly to communicate with my teenage son and follow his band on MySpace. And I use the Innovative Teachers Network extensively, as you would expect.

    Recently, my use of Twitter has highlighted my lack of digital social confidence. For those of you who do not know Twitter, it is a micro blog, where posts called ‘Tweets’ can only be 140 characters long. You can follow other users and they can follow you. Basically, you blog about ‘What are you doing?’ I recently met up with a group of Social Media Evangelists (is there a collective noun for such a group?) in Cardiff, at an event organised by a user of Twitter. It was here that I began to feel digitally socially inept. I now feel I have an obligation to my Twitter followers to keep them updated with interesting comments and ideas. I am trying my best, but is it good enough?  Should I worry? And should I also be thinking about Digg, Deli.icous, Diigo, Bebo, Ning, Flickr, YouTube, Teacherstube and even the Innovative Schools Network as additional online forums?

    This is only my limited -- and slightly sad -- experience. I can't imagine how schools are approaching the use social media to support learners. My own experience in schools is that these technologies have been banned, to the point where they are often seen as damaging.

    But I think the tide may be turning. Two great examples of the use of social media in the classroom are:  A Virtual Classroom Tour by Clare Satchwell, called Learning Live, that describes how she is using MSN Messenger with her students to support them with their coursework. And I have met the guys from Mediasnackers, a company based in here Wales , who work with youth focussed organisations, including schools, developing ideas of how utilise social networks. Their site is wealth of information about social media and is well worth a look.

    We would love to hear from any of you who are successfully utilising social media to support learners and learning. Perhaps we could set a group on the Innovative Teachers Network or other social networks to share the best ideas. For the moment, at least, I am off to find the Web 2.0 equivalent of a monastic retreat. I need some ‘me’ time; all this socialising is just too much.

    You can follow my dabbling with social media at

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    One week to go


    There are only 7 days left before the closing date for submissions for the Microsoft UK Innovative Teachers Forum. If you were thinking of submitting a Virtual Classroom Tour (VCT) yourself or know of a teacher whose work in the classroom deserves recognition. Then this is the week when you need to be putting those ideas together.


    Here are some tips to help create and submit your VCT.

    - Join the UK Innovative Teachers Forum Community

    - Have a look at the VCTs submitted for the World Forum in Hong Kong

    - Check your VCT meets the following criteria.

    - You do not have to include all the resources you used. Just some examples.

    - Use links to websites and resources

    - Include plenty of examples of the outcomes for your learners

    - Try and include some details of the impact your work has had on your colleagues and school.

    Feel free to email me if you have any questions about your VCT submissions

    We are really excited about this year’s event and are eagerly looking forward to seeing the great work that is taking place in schools throughout the UK. The winners will be announced on February 10th.


    Last Years Innovative Teachers at the European Conference in Zagreb , Croatia

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    How do you know a teacher will be good?


    I had some time over the holidays to catch up on all of my New Yorker magazines, and I came across a fantastic article written by Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink and most recently, Outliers. The article is titled "Most Likely to Succeed: How do we hire when we can't tell who's right for the job?" (Click here to read it.)

    (If you do read it, you'll note that Gladwell spends a lot of time discussing finding the right quarterback for an American football team. Ignore those parts, or skip them, or whatever. They're not necessary for the the rest of the article, and they're boring. Even I don't care about American football...)

    Gladwell's premise is that you can't tell whether a teacher will be good when you hire him or her. The new teacher may have gotten good marks as a trainee, and they may have performed extremely well at university. Yet you don't know if the person is an effective teacher until you get him or her into a classroom, interacting with students, and can watch the teaching and measure the learning that is occurring.

    At that point, however, you may be too late. The most startling statistic in this article, and one that I think every government official and education policymaker around the world should read is this:

    Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year's worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half's worth of material. That difference amounts to a year's worth of learning in a single year.

    And for you parents out there...think about this when considering your child's school:

    Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a "bad" school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher.

    Finding good teachers is a problem that is nearly universal. Finland is the only country I've visited where the competition to become a teacher is so fierce that truly the best of the best are the only ones to make it into a classroom. So what are the rest of us doing? Why can't we train, identify and retain high-quality teachers? To follow on from that, why is it so difficult for schools to improve bad teachers - or get rid of them altogether? A successful company wouldn't keep someone on board who isn't doing their job year after year. Why are we allowing people like that to teach our children?

    I know the short answers to all of the questions above, but I just don't understand why things can't change. I invite you to agree or disagree with me.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Digital Literacy – Look North of the Border


    In my  post BETT trauma, I completely forgot to mention what my fellow Celts, north of Hadrian’s Wall have achieved with the Project1Digital Literacy.

    The Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum is directly mapped into the National Curriculum in Scotland. It is also built into a National Progression Award which successfully develops Numeracy, Problem Solving and other core skills.

    All schools, Colleges , community and work based learners can access these resources for free.  It appears on national record of achievement and take up is excellent.

    You can find out more here

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    BETT 2009 – Ideas and Impressions (from Stuart)


    I think I am getting old, as this year's BETT show was a test of physical endurance to say the least. I think I am a few centimetres shorter, as my spine has compressed from standing all day, my knees ache, my ears are buzzing from all the background noise and I have a repetitive strain injury due to handing out flyers. And I'm not the only one who thinks BETT is becoming an extreme sport -- did anybody visit the stand offering therapeutic massage?

    Mind you, despite all this physical exertion, the exhibitors this year have eased the burden for visitors, by dramatically reducing the number of ‘freebies’. This was clearly evident at the end of the day, as visitors were leaving in the clothes they arrived in and were not festooned with various t-shirts and weighed down with bundles of bags, pens and stress busters. Did of any of you get anything of note this year?

    Nevertheless, the lack of the classic giveaway, the Microsoft t-shirt, didn’t deter visitors to our stand, and all of our presentations were really well attended. I gave two presentations a day, entitled ‘Raising ICT Confidence in Teachers and Learners’. My co-presenters were Dave Garland (who was suffering with deadly ‘man flu’) and later in the week Dan Roberts (who was trying to survive on his new vegan diet). Both from Community School, highlighted how the Innovative Teachers Network  has made a major contribution to the school achieving its goals, including being one of top performing schools in its area. I've posted their presentation to the ITN community if you want to see it for yourselves.

    I was also able to talk about the Microsoft Digital Literacy curriculum. This is a completely free course, consisting of five interactive modules that can give your students the  necessary skills in ICT that employers demand. The course covers the following five areas:-

    imageComputer Basics

    The Internet and the World Wide Web

    Productivity Programs

    Computer Security and Privacy

    Digital Lifestyles

    Monkseaton High School have already successfully implemented this course into their school and have said “The availability of the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum will, we feel, strengthen the knowledge base of all members of the community, initially within school and ultimately beyond”.

    The Digital Literacy Curriculum is available in 29 different languages, including welsh, making it very accessible to a wider community. It can also contribute 14 points to your school’s examination scores, through being accredited by OCR. Find out more at

    Innovative Teachers - Whilst Kristen, (being my boss) was able roam around the BETT show, meeting and greeting, having coffee and sitting down (!) I was firmly rooted to the Microsoft stand. This has its advantages, as the people I wanted to catch up with were able to find me. I met up with teachers whom I had only been in contact with through the Innovative Teachers Network. We chatted about how they should put together their Virtual Classroom Tour (VCT) for the UK Innovative Teachers Forum. (REMINDER: the closing date for entries is the 1st Feb! Details of how to enter can be found here.)

    I had a great conversation with Ollie Bray from Scotland about his idea for a VCT. The best advice I could give him was to keep the description of the project simple. There is no need to include loads of resources; instead, choose those that define your project and best illustrate its impact on learning.

    Welsh Invasion – I was really pleased a large number of teachers from Wales at BETT this year. When I did leave the stand, I found sanctuary in a little piece of Wales that was the NGfL Cymu stand. It was great to see these guys showing the excellent work they are doing here in Wales.

    That’s it for another year. I now have a 12 months to start some endurance training for next year's event. I really enjoyed myself at the show this year, and despite all the aches and pains, I learnt a lot. Even though we weren't giving away 'physical' free goodies, visitors to the Microsoft stand were able to take away free advice and links to many free resources. A job well done I thought.

    So how was it for you?

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    BETT 2009 - ideas and impressions (from Kristen)


    Stuart and I spent the last week at the BETT show in London, and although we fully intended to blog during the show, I don't think either of us had a chance to even open up our laptops for the entire week. It was an incredibly busy and exciting week, and we both came away with loads of ideas and new information.

    For those of you who couldn't attend, I'll list some of my highlights from the week. (Stuart will write about his in a separate post.)IMG_0139

    Microsoft Surface. We announced the new Surface technology on our stand at last year's BETT show, but this year, we had Surface on the stand and gave interactive presentations throughout the day. This part of our stand was constantly packed with attendees, who were also given a chance to play with the technology themselves. There was quite a buzz around the Surface throughout the event. We've heard of some schools that have purchased Surface already, and we're very interested to know how they will be using it. We think the possibilities are endless. (Learn more at

    Exciting resources for teachers. I was fortunate to attend many events outside of the BETT show and listened to some truly inspirational speakers. Many of them were practitioners who suggested ICT resources that they are using with their learners. Some of the highlights here were:

    • Turning the Pages from the British Library. This is not a new tool, but we haven't blogged about it yet. The Mozart "improved" version uses Windows Vista and Silverlight to allow anyone to browse through some of the most important books in the British Library's collection, such as Leonardo da Vinci's notebook and Mozart's musical diary (shown here). Students can read or listen to additional information about each text and can zoom in or use a magnifier to examine the texts in further detail. Check it out HERE.
    • Microphilanthropy for everyone. You may have heard about the Nobel prize-winning Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and the work they've done providing small loans to individuals to whom large banks would never lend. Now anyone can help finance an entrepreneur at I listened to stories of educators using this site with students who raise money to help fund some of the projects. Just think about how more meaningful a lesson can become if your students are actually able to help someone who is less fortunate as a result of their work!
    • MIT Opencourseware. Now any of your students can listen to some of MIT's best professors lecture on a number of topics, completely free. Click HERE for MIT's site.

    IMG_3564 This blog entry wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention Stuart's twice-daily theatre presentations on the Microsoft stand as a highlight. He presented with Dave Garland and Dan Roberts from Saltash .NET Community School in Cornwall on the Innovative Teachers Network and how Saltash is using it in CPD projects with their teachers. Stuart also demonstrated how teachers can use OneNote, and the theatre was packed for each of his presentations. (Read Stuart's earlier blog about OneNote HERE.)

    At left, Dan Roberts and Stuart presenting on the Microsoft stand

    If you were at BETT, let us know. What did you learn? What did you take away that you'll use with your students?

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    BETT Links


    One of the best things about my job is having an American Boss. It is my unofficial role to educate Kristenimage in the lesser known nuances of UK culture, especially Wales! So it was with some surprise that she asked me to blog about ‘Bet Lynch’. Had she been watching the Corrie Omnibus over Xmas and wanted to adopt the fashion style of the world’s greatest barmaid…? Unfortunately, nothing of the sort, it's just my poor hearing.

    What I needed to post are the BETT links used and mentioned in the Partners in Learning presentations at BETT 2009.

    The times* of the Partners in Learning Presentations each day are:

    11.00 Building ICT confidence for Teachers and Learners
    13.30 Re-Inventing the curriculum with ICT
    14.30 Building ICT confidence for Teachers and Learners
    17.00 Re-Inventing the curriculum with ICT

    The Microsoft Stand is D30 & D40

    * these times are subject to change, so come by and visit us to make sure you have the correct times.

    Building ICT confidence for Teachers and Learners – This session is presented by myself and two teachers, Dave Garland (Deputy Headteacher) and Dan Roberts (Assistant Headteacher) from Saltash.Net Community School. We will talk about how the Innovative Teachers Network has contributed the Saltash.Net Community School’s programme of transformation. There will demos of the technology the school is using and a short demo of Microsoft OneNote. We will also be announcing how you can obtain a free web part to integrate the Innovative Teachers Network into your school's Sharepoint platform.

    Re-Inventing the curriculum with ICT – presented by Kristen and Damian Kenney (Director of E-Learning) from Bowring Community Sports College. They will talk about how the school has re-designed its curriculum to meet the needs of their students. Damian will highlight how they have utilised technology to achieve their success.


    Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network

    Microsoft Innovative School Programme –

    Innovative Schools Case studies - Videos

     Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum -

    Hunterstone (our partner in the ITN web part development) –

    Microsoft OneNote LinksMicrosoft Office and Learning Styles (This is a community on the Innovative Teachers Network and is free to join)

    Worldwide Telescope –

    Photostory – Create video stories and videocasts

    Photosynth – Create 3D tours from 2D images

    If you are attending BETT, stop by the Microsoft stand for a visit. Kristen and I will be there all week!

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Happy New Year !


    And Blwyddyn Newydd Dda to all the Welsh blog followers. So it is 2009, a new term, time to reflect on 2008, enjoy the last of the mince pies and start on those New Year's resolutions (which, if you're anything like me, you'll keep up for all of about two weeks).

    When we look back at 2008, we're proud of the great readership we have after a few short months of writing this blog, and the great content, discussions and communities that all of you are starting on the Innovative Teachers Network. If you're reading this andyou're not yet a member of ITN, make that one of your resolutions and join; its free and will open a huge number of opportunities for continuing professional development for you and your colleagues.

    If your New Year’s resolution is to travel more, then why not enter the UK Innovative Teachers Forum, you could get an invite to attend the European Forum in Vienna, the closing date for entries is February 1st 2009, so there is plenty of time to document the way you and or your colleagues use ICT in the classroom.

    Or perhaps you want to connect more with other teachers outside of your school this year. If so, keep a look out for an announcement coming shortly where you will be able to get your hands on a free web part to help you do this. I have seen this and it is very cool.

    If any of you are interested in finding out more about the Microsoft Partners in Learning Programme and the Innovative Teachers Network, please feel free to contact myself or Kristen via email.

    Stuart Ball –

    Kristen Weatherby –

    Let us know what your 2009 resolutions are. You never know...maybe we can help you achieve your goals!

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