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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Free Resources - Video ideas to help your teaching and learning


    During this Summer, we held a unique event for us, the first Innovative Teachers Summer Camp, where we invited 10 of our innovative teachers to develop some classroomvid1   resources. Their task was to begin creating short, 3-5 minute videos, to support teachers and educators in the use of technology in the classroom.

    We call these videos 'InnoVIDS' because they are videos from our Innovative teachers. (Get it?!)

    Our team of teachers have produced the first 10 videos, all of which deal with features of Office 2007 and how teachers and students use Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the classroom. Kristen and I were amazed at the features teachers were using, as many were not the obvious ones we had thought of and some we had never realised existed in these applications.

    To give you a little taster of what these InnoVIDS can offer, I am posting the links to the first five in this list, as our final birthday present of the month! The remainder of the videos -- and any new videos (which we'll post in the coming weeks) -- can be found in this feature on the UK Innovative teachers Network.

    Video Title


    File size

    Using 3D surface Charts in Excel

    Using surface charts to create 3D models of landscapes from contour data from maps.


    Using the Math Add-in in Word

    Using the Maths Add-in to solve and visualise equations.


    Using PowerPoint to make comic books

    Creating comic books using the features of PowerPoint.


    Using Goal Seek in Excel

    Using the Goal Seek feature to solve and model data relationships.


    Using the Research function in Word

    How the research functions can be used to gather information more effectively.


    Using SmartArt in Word

    How the SmartArt feature in Word can be used to support science learning

    available on UK ITN

    Using text features in Word

    How the various text formatting features can be used to analyse a piece of text in English.

    available on UK ITN

    Using the Action Button features of PowerPoint

    How to use the action buttons and hyperlinks to control the activity of a PowerPoint document.

    available on UK ITN

    Using Plex for PowerPoint

    How the Plex add-in for PowerPoint can be used to support learning.

    available on UK ITN

    Using Excel to tell stories

    How to use Excel to structure data to tell a story.

    available on UK ITN

    We will publishing more videos each month on the Innovative Teachers Network, so check the blog and the ITN often for new updates. If you have any suggestions for an area we should cover with an InnoVID, please let us know. You can email your suggestions to

    We hope you'll find these videos - and all of the other birthday gifts we've provided this month - useful. Let us know how you're using them in your teaching!


  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Innovative Teachers can inspire anyone, anywhere.


    We have talked a lot about Dan Roberts, one of our award winners from the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum in Hong Kong. He is still very much an active Gentle Giant with Huge Smilemember of the Innovative Teachers programme, and Kristen and I are in contact with him and his school on a regular basis. He has just returned from a unique experience, in which visited the rainforests of Peru, as a guest of the the charity Cool Earth. You can read the full story of Dan’s adventure on his blog.

    I have read Dan’s experiences of the schools he visited and I was struck by the fact that these schools had some unique difficulties and it was the innovation and commitment of the teachers that found solutions to benefit their students.

    …… extracts from Dan’s blog

    The primary school was on the site of an old missionary post that still has a tiny very basic clinic; we were told of an amazing story about the founder of the mission who helped the Ashaninka, the are an indigenous people living in the rainforests of Peru, fight off the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla organization, years before.

    As we walked there it was very hot and as we arrived we reached for the shade and were once again given an extremely warm welcome from the teachers and students. Have a look at the video below of the Headteacher and some of the children performing. (You may be able to see what he is wearing round his neck which was given to me as a gift)

    It was raining quite heavily and we were supposed to be visiting the local school in Tinkerani however no one seemed to be in any hurry due to the rain so we sat round and had a leisurely breakfast. We then had a great excuse to spend some more time with the children in the village which was fantastic – Emily (another teacher ) had brought some plasticine which the kids absolutely loved! I also brought them some balloons which really did go down a storm, we saw them playing with these balloons 2 days later still when we left!

    The rain stopped and we packed up and headed over to the local school. The school was a small primary school with a few classrooms, in fact the nearest secondary school to the village was actually the one we had visited in Cuti which was a two hour walk away from where we were. It was fabulous to spend some more time with the children in the village as we watched their performances and saw them learning in the classroom. When we spoke to the teachers they also had a fantastic idea of creating a fish farm at the school on the river so that they could actually use the fish for food as often the kids may not have any food some days and so are hungry.

    I am presented with Turtle shell & Monkey voice boxThe local headteacher of the primary school presented me with two gifts, this was an absolute honour and I was really touched. I was presented with two things I could wear round my neck, the first was a turtle’s shell which represented strength and to reflect I was a powerful man and the second a little bit more unusual was the voice box of a howler monkey which represented that I commanded many voices. I was then also told why everyone laughed at me which was because I was a gentle giant with a big smile which was one of the nicest things anyone has said about me.

    This was a life time opportunity to learn from the Ashaninka people about the challenges they have to face living within their environment and it was truly an honour to be welcomed and accepted within their community. What Cool Earth is doing is without doubt making a massive difference to the Ashaninka and also the entire world.

    You can find out more about the work of Cool Earth on their website

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Free Creative Writing Software for young pupils - Kar2ouche


    My wife teaches 4 year olds, so I am always under pressure to deliverkar2 ideas for that age group through my work with the Innovative Teachers programme. Some may call this nagging, but she assures me that I'm not being treated any differently than any other husband. I think I will definitely be in her good books this week.

    I am really pleased to announce our third birthday blog gift for you, our readers. We have teamed up with the award-winning team at Immersive Education who are kindly offering one of their Kar2ouche packages, completely free to members of the Innovative Teachers Network.

    Kar2ouche uses creative role play, picture making, storyboarding and animation to support pupils' learning. There are over 50 packages in the series. Through this blog and the Innovative Teachers network, you are able to access for free, the full version of Creative Writing – English Literacy for early years/Key stage 1/Foundation phase.

    To download this great resource you will need to be a member of the Innovative Teachers Network (which is free to join) and navigate to the Immersive Education – Creative Writing Community (you will find it listed on the Welcome page and as a link in the feature articles). Although you will be able to view the community, you will not be able to access the download links until you click Join the Community. When you do, you will receive an email from the guys at Kar2ouche, giving you access to the community and download links. Please be aware that the download is 300mb, but I can tell you that it's well worth the wait.

    Why not let us know how you are using this software with your pupils? Better still, why not document your use of Kar2ouche as a Virtual Classroom Tour and enter it into the Innovative Teachers Awards?

    We hope you and your pupils enjoy this free software. Remember to check back with the Kar2ouche community, or simply set the Alerts feature, so that if new free titles are added in the future, you will be notified.

    Here is some information from Immersive Education describing the great activities you can undertake with this software.

    Creative Writing Summary: KS1 English Literacy

    Creative Writing provides examples of just some of the ways Kar2ouche can be used to enhance your students’ learning through visualisation, discussion, speculation and exploration. It links closely with the National Curriculum and the National Literacy Strategy as well as the Early Learning Goals for the Foundation Stage. In addition, lesson suggestions incorporate activities that can be used to develop ICT capabilities and could also be used to complement PSHE teaching. All of the activities are cross-referenced with the relevant attainment targets for English, ICT and PSHE from the National Curriculum for Key Stage 1, the National Literacy Strategy and, where appropriate, the Foundation Stage Early Learning Goals. The activities also link with ideas suggested in Developing Early Writing (DfEE 2001).

    The four units are:

    Unit 1 The Three Little Pigs: Contains 3 activities based on the story of The Three Little Pigs for reception classes. The focus is on sequencing aspects of the story and retelling.

    Unit 2 Cinderella 1: Has 5 activities and uses Cinderella as the focus for Year 1 and takes students through elements of planning stories, plot and character.

    Unit 3 Cinderella 2: Contains 3 activities and focuses on Cinderella, but here Year 2 look at retellings from different cultures.

    Unit 4 Familiar Settings: Has 3 activities for Years 1 and 2 and looks at story-writing in everyday settings.

    Stay tuned to this blog and the Innovative Teachers Network for your next FREE birthday gift as we continue our September of giving!


  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    The Climate Mystery: It begins!


    It’s official: The Climate Mystery has begun. Check out this trailer for the adventure, and share it with your students!


  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Enter your project for an Innovative Teachers Award


    This is our second blog birthday gift, our Innovative Teachers Awards, at the UK Innovative Teachers Forum. There are lots of changes this year that weUKITFlogo think will make this event the best ever.

    This is the 6th Microsoft UK Innovative Teachers Forum, and for the time first in this event, we are working with  in partnership with Shireland Learning and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. The Forum is taking place on 1st December 2009 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Birmingham.

    This one-day conference is free of charge for all teachers and educators who wish to attend and will look to address the theme of ‘Connecting Learners, Connecting Teachers.’ Keynote speakers and practical workshops will explore this theme, along with ‘real life’ examples of some of the most innovative use of technology to enhance teaching and learning.

    We will announce on this blog when registration for the conference event is open.

    In the meantime, we want you, teachers and educators, to provide your 'real life' examples of using technology to enhance learning. Do you have learning projects that utilise technology and have made a difference in the classroom? Have you been able to influence colleagues through your teaching practice? Could your work be award winning?

    Then why not enter the UK Innovative Teachers Forum Awards? You could be one of the top educators in the UK invited share your work with the delegates at this conference. The submitted entries will be reviewed by experts in the field and the creators of the top fifteen projects will be invited to the conference for an awards dinner, with travel and hotel costs paid for by the organisers. At the event we will award four teachers with an invitation to present their project at the next European Innovative Teachers Forum to be held in Berlin in March 2010.

    Innovative Teachers Forum awards will be given in three categories:

    · Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award – sponsored by Microsoft Partners in Learning

    · Innovative Teaching and Learning through a Learning Platform Award – sponsored by Shireland Learning

    · Impact and Improvement Award– sponsored by Specialist Schools and Academies Trust

    If you wish to enter your project, you will need to decide which category best fits your project. You may enter your project into more than one category, but, you must upload your project to each of the categories you choose to enter.

    All projects need to be documented using Microsoft’s Virtual Classroom Tour template. This can be downloaded from the UK Innovative Teachers Forum Community on this site. LINK

    Full details of how to enter can be found at

    Closing date for Entries is 15th November 2009

    The 6th UK Innovative Teachers Forum is your chance to share how you are using technology in innovative ways with your pupils and students. We hope to see you – and your innovative Virtual Classroom Tour – at the event.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    100 posts – A review of the Innovative Teachers Network blog



    This is how Wordle sees this blog if we use it to analyse the content we've written over the past word. We are really pleased to see that we are clearly focussing  on teachers, but also, we are really pleased to see the prominence of teaching and learning, resources, community and the word innovative. We think these words really reflect what we have been trying to achieve in the past 12 months.

    Kristen and I never expected this time last year that we would have written over 100 posts, containing over 51,000  words and our blog would be in the top 90% of blogs in the world in terms of readership.

    I have had a look at the statistics that our host site provides about activity on our blog. It give us some indication of what has been the most popular post with you, our readers. I have used those statistics to produce a list of our most popular blog posts.

    Top Ten most popular Blogs posts -

    • For all you technology teachers out there- We have no idea why this blog post is the most popular with the readers, I can only imaging that technology teachers really wanted to go this event. Did any of you go ?
    • Harri , just the boy next door – Do schools need to re-think how they engage young pupils with technology , in light of they use it at home, Harri seems to think so.
    • Award Winning Teacher- Mandeep Atwal – Obviously another proud Mum in action here, and who wouldn’t be when your daughter has just become an award winning teacher. Mandeep was also our most searched keyword term for a short while
    • The death of PowerPoint – This was one of my favourite posts to write. A really funny video and some great ideas of what can still be, and is, a great application for schools.

    My favourite post to write this year has probably been ‘A random act of genius’, where I described the work of John Davitt and his Learning Event Generators. This almost convinced me to go back to the classroom as such an approach to learning is so exciting.

    Kristen has always wanted to be Maria in The Sound of Music, so her favourite post is ‘These are a few of our favourite things…’ written at the Innovative Teachers Forum in Vienna. This has been the closest she has got so far to playing that role. Maybe with the free copy of Songsmith that you can download from the Innovative Teachers Network, she will be able to create her own version of this song.

    What has been your favourite post? Let us know.

    Some of you have asked for a picture of Kristen and I in our blog planning meetings. We are happy to oblige. Thanks for taking the time to read our blog; we very much appreciate your comments and are glad that we can contribute in some small way to the superb work you all do in your schools and classrooms.

    Here's to another 99 posts!

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Happy Birthday to You – Free Resources for Teachers!


    Today is a great day – a day that will no doubt go down in history. Not only is it the one-year birthday of our Teachers Blog, but this post also marks our 100th post to the Teachers Blog. (If you think we didn’t plan that, you’re crazy.)

    birthdayStuart and I weren’t sure what would come of this blog when we started it. We really enjoy writing it, and based on our  increasing readership statistics and the comments and emails we receive, some of you out there seem to enjoy reading it.

    As a reward for those of you who have joined us on this blogging journey, and as an incentive for you to stay with us (and bring your colleagues along with you), we have a special birthday present for you, our dear readers.

    Actually, we have A MONTH of birthday presents for you. That’s right, for the rest of September, Stuart and I will be giving away free resources for teachers reading the Teachers Blog. Much like the free download of AutoCollage we provided last spring, these giveaways are not available anywhere else, to any other teachers in any other country.

    We start this month of giving with a piece of Microsoft software that we’ve blogged about before. It’s something created by the geniuses at Microsoft Research and that we feel has a great many potential applications in education. It is usually available only for a fee, after a trial download period expires. Now, however, you can download it FOR FREE for use in education from the UK Innovative Teachers Network.

    Your first birthday present for the month of September is….

    (Drumroll, please…)


    songsmith That’s right, it’s Microsoft Research Songsmith!

    Songsmith is the fantastic software that lets you (or your students, preferably), sing into a PC and adds a background track of your choosing to create your own song. The songs are produced as .MP3 files, and can be used in any number of ways in your teaching or in student projects, revision materials, presentations, and so forth. We love Songsmith and were thrilled when the nice folks at Microsoft Research agreed that we could give it to you for free. (For more ideas and information on how to use Songsmith, check out Stuart’s previous blog post.)

    To download your free copy of Songsmith, go to the UK Innovative Teachers Network. (You’ll need to register and log in with a free username and password if you don’t have one already.) You’ll see an announcement about Songsmith on the home page and a link for further information and download instructions.

    We’d like to thank you for reading our blog during its first year, and we hope you stay with us for this next year – who knows what it might bring?!

    To sign off, I’ll leave you with this lovely song, produced in Songsmith, of course, by our very own Innovative Teachers. Enjoy a big piece of cake for us, and stay tuned for your next birthday gift, to be delivered in one of our upcoming posts this month.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Planning for next year Workshop – Deep Zoom Composer – more ideas (Post#4)


    Whilst planning these blog posts the guys at Expression and Blend team at Microsoft have added some great features to Deep Zoom Composer . The image application now includes features to add links to images and areas within your deep zoom.

    If you have been following this series, I described how to create a Deep zoom composition in a previous post. Unfortunately these new features don’t work when you save them to be used locally. As you need to upload to some web space your deep zoom composition for them to work. This takes using Deep zoom out of the context of a common classroom application somewhat. But, nevertheless this is an exciting development. Details of how to create links and some of the other web features can be found here.

    The name synonymous with Deep Zoom is Seadragon, its taken me a bit of time to work out the relationship between it and Deep Zoom. My understanding is that Seadragon is the technology that Deep Zoom uses and is coded using Silverlight. It exists in other ‘flavours’ . These include:- Seadragon Ajax, where you are able to use this technology without the use of silverlight. Seadragon mobile, allows you to view Deep Zoom and Photosynth collections on your iPhone and finally , this website allows you to create zoom able image from any image URL. Try it for yourself.

    There are a number of great web experiences utilising this technology. We have looked at the Hard Rock Cafe Memorabilia site before. Here are a few other examples.

    The World Digital Library is a site that makes significant cultural treasures like manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings. These are collected and place on a world map where they can be browsed  You can also use the timeline at the bottom of the map to scroll forward and backward through the ages to see the different documents available.

    Then there is this site that called AppleTree which aims to map out the family tree of the world in order to show you how you’re related to everyone.

    You and your students might also be interested in the creator of Seadragon technology ,Blaise Aguera y Arcas, check out this video where you can see him demonstrating Seadragon and another great application in the Seadragon family, Photosynth.image

    I hope you have enjoyed this series of workshops and have been able to create some ideas around the use of Deep Zoom in the classroom. To give you some inspiration , here is a Deep zoom composition from one of our Innovative Teachers, Ollie Bray, you can find out the background behind this composition on his blog. Click this image to see the Deep Zoom.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Innovative Teachers – Who influences your teaching?


    Whilst working for Microsoft, I have had some great opportunities. One of the things that has had the biggest impact has been the people I have met. I am convinced that it would have been very unlikely that I would have met or even heard about such people when I was in the classroom. This thought is often echoed by the teachers I speak to, who have often not heard of people I mention. I thought I'd use this post to share the names of the people who have influenced me this year.

    ken_robinson_200.jpgHow many of you have seen the video of Sir Ken Robinson discussing the need for creativity in schools?  Many teachers are still not aware of it, despite the profusion of references to it across the internet. Sir Ken’s speech had a powerful impact on me personally, as he describes many of the things I was frustrated with and sought to change in my 20 years as a teacher, and I am sure many dk1.jpgother teachers would feel the same. 

    MediaSnackers are the guys that help organisations think how to utilise social media. They are led by the charismatic DK, who got me thinking about how to use social media platforms like Twitter to inform and support teachers. He is also Welsh; no more needs to be said on that. Check out their latest project, ‘The web makes me feel’

    image More often than not you don’t have to look far and wide to find great influencers. Ray Fleming is the Education Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, and in a ‘older brother’ sort of way, introduced me to the ‘Shift Happens’ video. I suspect many of you are aware of that video already, but I know many of you are not. I spoke recently with a close head teacher friend who was looking to inspire his staff. He had never seen it and was happy to see that it had all the messages he wanted to share.

    I talked about the work of John Davitt and in particular his Random Event Generators in a recent post. I am currently reading his book ‘New Tools j_davitt3.jpgfor Learning’. This is full of great ideas and has even reminded me of how it great it is to be in a classroom. I was lucky enough to be able to try some of them out with a primary school class recently. The idea of receiving a ‘minitifcate,’ or in our case a ‘Microtificate,’ (a certificate no bigger than 2cm x 2cm) as a reward may not at first seem like a motivating factor. But students in the class I worked with couldn’t wait to receive one, and the quality of the work they produced was outstanding.

    We have done a lot of work with schools in developing innovative teachers networks and have found that where they are the most successful when the whole school is involved. That requires someone at the heart of the school to encourage, drive and even drag people along with them. Dave Garland is one of these drivers; he has a vision of technology use that is based in supporting and enhancing teaching and learning. (Although, I'm not sure where his robotic vacuum cleaner fits in to that model!) Dave has successfully been able to overcome the obstacles to the use of social media in the classroom. He has been able to integrate the social network sites Ning and Twitter into the school curriculum. One of his most recent projects is the use of Twitcam to broadcast live from the school. You can see an example here

    Whenever you mention the name Tim RylandsTim Rylands, more often than not the response is ‘the Myst man’. I met Tim recently at an event in London, where he made it quite clear that he is more than just the ‘Myst man’. Tim describes himself as ‘being slightly famous, and getting away with it before anyone rumbles him’. In the half hour or so that I listened to his inspirational and motivating  enthusiasm for engaging learners, I came away with a list of ideas and resources. (All of which are available on his blog It's worth checking it out and seeing for yourself that he is not a one-man game.

    You may notice that this is a list of all men -- why is that? Who are the women who are influencing ICT and its integration into the curriculum? Am I not attending the right conferences? Help me out here...

    Nevertheless, add a great lunch to the speakers in this list and and for me, you would have the ideal ICT conference. As our thoughts are beginning to turn towards planning the next UK Innovative Teachers Forum, we would welcome your suggestions of those who have influenced your teaching.

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