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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    More success for UK educators at Berlin Innovative Education Forum 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

    P1010697            P1010699

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

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Mouse Mischief – make your presentations even more interactive.


    A while ago I blogged about PowerPoint and highlighted some of the great resources that are available, such as Plex for PowerPoint for example. That gives  image   teachers and students absolutely no excuse to create boring and dull presentations and not to avoid the ‘death by PowerPoint’ scenario.

    Here is something that I think will be really useful in the classroom and add another dimension to your PowerPoint 2007 slides. It’s only in beta at the moment, but there's already a Mouse Mischief website page available, and that's where the free fully released version will appear shortly. With Mouse Mischief, teachers can add multiple choice questions to presentations. It also utilises multipoint technology, which means that groups of students can answer the questions using mice connected to the presentation PC.

    Mouse Mischief  provides teachers with a cost effective alternative to purchasing expensive student response systems. With a couple of USB hubs and inexpensive wired or wireless Mice (I suspect you have a few in cupboards doing nothing), your class can interact with the presentation. Here is a thought, I have not tested this. But, some mobile phones have a presenter mode, and can connect to a PC via Bluetooth. I wonder if that could be used as an alternative wireless mouse? If anybody is able to do this can you let us know. It would mean that students could use their mobile phones to interact with presentations.

    Mischief Is this a pyramidOnce installed, the Mouse Mischief toolbar will appear as part of the PowerPoint ribbon. This allows you to create interactive elements such as multiple-choice question slides. These can even be added to previously created presentations. With a Mouse Mischief enabled presentation, students in the classroom can answer each question by clicking it with their uniquely designed mouse cursor. Once they have selected their answers, the teacher can display the correct answer and evaluate the responses. Also teachers have the option to allow students to answer questions individually or as part of a team, this will encourage both competition and collaboration in the classroom.

    Mischief Find the cubeControlling what could be potentially chaos with 25 mouse cursors zooming around the screen is easy, as a set of teacher controls allow the teacher to disable mouse cursors, navigate between slides and set timers.




    The obvious use for this is to create multiple choice questions and test students knowledge of subject. But, I think it has immense value, by asking the right questions, in gathering real time data from students, such as opinions, lesson evaluations and self review of their learning. For, the really brave, even as an evaluation of your teaching.

    As Mouse Mischief is only in beta at the moment, only multiple choice questions can be created, future updates will include multipoint drawing tools, that will enable teachers to create a  wealth of further learning opportunities for students.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    It’s written in the stars – new resources for Worldwide Telescope


    image Do you believe in the idea that our futures and personalities are governed by Zodiac star signs. Here is an example, which one of these do you think describes myself and Kristen, are you able to identify our personality traits from just our blog posts? (or even from the occasions where you may have met us?)

    Person A  is smooth, airy and unemotional, almost invisible. However if the balance is upset by difficult circumstances they can swing between emotional extremes. They desire popularity, are narcissist, charitable and neat. They dress up for the occasion. they are a slight perfectionist, can be bossy at times. They plan ahead, have attention to detail. They love public service and art.


    Person B has lots of emotional energy and can be both sensitive and generous. But, there can be lots of tough self-assertiveness.They are hard on the outside but soft in the middle. They have a profound energy that can be hard to direct efficiently in day-to-day situations. They steady, creative and kind. They can have a ferocious temper. They are determined, generous and reliable. But can be stubborn, lazy and possessive.


    Whether star signs work for you or not doesn’t really matter , what does is that learning about the Universe, Solar system and constellations is a rich source of learning opportunities for pupils and students. One of the best resources for this is Worldwide Wide Telescope, a free application from Microsoft Research, that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world.

    So I wanted to share with you a great resource produced in english by our German Partners in Learning colleagues. Star Catcher is a comprehensive teacher resource pack, full of information and activities to teach and learn about star constellations. This includes the stories behind constellations that make up the signs of the zodiac, making it a great accompaniment for Worldwide Telescope, as pupils and students can discover and explore fantastic imagery of these celestial bodies.image

    Even though this virtual telescope is a great resource, I think it is always a good idea to get your pupils and students to  look at the night sky for real. but being able to make out and identify features of the night sky can be difficult. So if you are able to give them a ‘map’ of the night sky, they would be able to do this a lot easier. You can now do this as Bing Maps and Worldwide Telescope have an application that will create a star map of the night sky from any location that you choose. Firstly, click on this link , this will take you to a Bing maps page, type in a location. Next, once the location has been found, click the ‘Map Apps’ button at the bottom of the page. You will be presented with a list of various apps , some of which at the moment only work in the U.S. Select the Worldwide Telescope App. You will see a button appear called ‘Start here’. Click this and your mouse cursor will change to a ‘virtual telescope’. Use this to select a location on your map and creating a ‘sky map’ in real time. By dragging your mouse cursor across the date and time, you can create a sky map of when you want your class to make their observations. Because, they will be able to access Worldwide Telescope at home it means they can support their observations with the incredible images it uses. It is also very useful, as when I set this activity as homework, the weather changed and inevitably the sky was cloudy.

    With these free resources, I think what is written in the stars are some great learning opportunities. Have fun exploring.

    In case you are still wondering, Kristen is Person A and I am Person B

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Meet the Innovative Teachers coming to Berlin – Part 2


    In Monday’s blog post, I introduced you to the first half of our all-star team of teachers coming to this year’s Innovative Education Forum in Berlin. I hope you’ll take a look at Amy and Jan’s work in more detail on the Partners in Learning Network.

    Today I’d like to introduce you to David Rogers, who teaches geography at Priory School Specialist Sports College in Portsmouth, and Simon Horleston, who teaches at Howe Dell Primary School in Hertfordshire. Both Dave and Simon have technology-rich projects, but both of their virtual classroom tours call out the importance of student voice and learning – and using technology only as a tool to support that.


    David Rogers – Pirates and Social Networking

    _DSC_0528 David’s lesson introduces students to the concept of 21st century piracy and helps them put it into a context that is relevant to their world. Students begin by learning about piracy in the Gulf of Aden and how it affects consumers in the UK. They search for images and geographical information using Bing and connected to clip_image002resources on the BBC to learn more about piracy today.

    Students present their findings to others in the class, which may be typical in many classroom projects today, but David uses social media, including live feeds and discussions in Twitter and Facebook, to focus on effective – and safe and appropriate - online communication.

    If you take a look at David’s VCT on the Partners in Learning Network, you can find much more information about the project, including blogs describing the work as well as BBC articles and Teachers TV stories that were done on the project.


    Simon Horleston – Climate Change Challenge

    _DSC_0535 Simon’s lesson is for upper KS2 pupils, and takes advantage of his schools unique environmental curriculum and focus to enthuse his pupils into taking responsibility for their world. Pupils used different forms of ICT to communicate their learning to others.

    Simon put the world’s climate change and temperature differences in context by first getting pupils to measureimage the light and temperature differences in various areas of the school. This data, plus the results of pupils research into the climate on different continents gave rise to the central question for the project “Globally our climate is changing, but how is this happening and what is its impact?”

    Pupils conducted research on the internet and chose their specific area of focus. They analysed data on energy usage and wrote a story that included their key messages on climate change. They created short movies and used other methods to present this message to the rest of the school and to the community – as well as to the International Climate Challenge conference in London.


    Stuart and I are excited for Simon, David, Jan and Amy to share their work in Berlin in only a week’s time. Joining the Microsoft team in Berlin will also be Ollie Bray, who has been asked to conduct a workshop on Kodu (an exciting new visual programming language young people can use to create games) and using games in learning. Dave Garland from Saltash .NET will also be joining our team as a judge.

    We hope you’ll follow our activities next week on this blog, and we also hope you’ll visit the Partners in Learning Network to learn more about the great work happening in schools around the UK.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Meet the Innovative Teachers coming to Berlin


    It’s that time of year again – we’re preparing to take our four award-winning teachers to Berlin for our European Innovative Education Forum. You’ll recall that last year we went to Vienna for this event, and brought along with us four UK teachers as well. (Two of them, Mandeep and Ollie, ended up winning awards at the Vienna event, and again at the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum in Brazil!)

    At our UK Innovative Teachers Forum in Birmingham in December, we selected four teachers from the many fantastic virtual classroom tours we received from all over the country. As we did last year, we wanted to profile these talented teachers and give you a look at the great work they’re doing.

    Today I’ll introduce you to Amy Lewis, from saltash .NET community school in Cornwall, and Jan Webb from Weston Village Primary School in Cheshire. Both teachers had an international flavour to their projects, as both collaborated with schools in far corners of the globe.


    Amy Lewis – Heroes R Global

    _DSC_0544 Amy’s project was inspired by some collaborative work that occured when her assistant head teacher Dan Roberts (aka, the Chicken Man) accompanied us to Hong Kong for the Innovative Teachers Forum in 2008. Amy took advantage of the connections Dan made with teachers in Indonesia, Nigeria, Canada, Ireland and Hong Kong to develop a collaborative project on Heroes. amyblog

    After looking at the concept of a hero and discussing how it might be different in different cultures, the students chose a local hero and developed  movies, Photostories and even Photosynths to share with the other schools. In return, Saltash students reviewed similar materials from their fellow students around the world, and collaborated on a list of questions to ask about each of the other heroes. As part of the project, students were able to participate in a live web conference with the partner school in Indonesia, which was broadcast on Indonesian national television. Students ended the project by creating a song in Songsmith about what they had learned. The song has subsequently been awarded a prize in the British Council’s “I’m a Global Citizen” competition.


    Jan Webb – Working in a Classroom without Walls

    _DSC_0557 Jan’s virtual classroom tour also involves connecting her pupils with others around the world, but it comprises two different cross-curricular mini-projects that she was able to complete within her school’s Uniservity learning platform. First, her pupils connected with a school in Singapore, where they used wikis and a “friendship forum” to both get to know each other and to study the topic of healthy living. As part of this activity, pupils from both schools took measurements of themselves (height, weight, etc) and used Excel to find similarities and differences. Janblog

    The pupils then partnered with another school in Brunei to look at rainforests. Jan’s pupils in Weston benefitted immensely from the pupils in Brunei, who actually visited a local rainforest and then gave the English pupils a “tour” of the rainforest through pictures and information they were able to collect and share. Weston Village pupils then used the information they learned to create persuasive writing and then radio adverts for a “save the rainforest” campaign.


    Both Jan and Amy’s virtual classroom tours can be found on the Partners in Learning Network. Both VCTs contain all of the planning information, assessments, curriculum mapping and examples of student work – everything you need to use these activities with your students.

    in the next blog, we’ll look at our next two innovative teachers – David Rogers and Simon Horleston – and the work they’re bringing to Berlin.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Innovids Competition – Latest News


    Production is running high in creating your videos for the Innovid Competition and with 3 weeks left before the closing date, many of you are ready to begin recording your ideas. So we have had a lot of questions, one in particular has been ‘Can we use Office 2010 in our videos?’. Not surprisingly, it seems that many of you have downloaded Microsoft Office 2010 Beta to try out its new features. This means that you no longer have Office 2007 on your computers, and the process of reinstalling is perhaps putting you off submitting an entry into the competition. So not wishing to inadvertently penalise those who have installed Office 2010 Beta, and preventing them from entering the competition, we have made an addition to the terms and conditions. In that you are now able to use Office 2010 beta in your videos.

    No preferential view will be given to videos using Office 2010 Beta, the Judges will be focussing on strong , innovative ideas that teachers can use in the classroom using the Office suite. Also, don’t forget, you can include other applications along with Office in your video, such as AutoCollage or Photostory, or even a website or two.

    If you are still looking for some inspiration, then why not have a look at these examples . This example here of how to create 3D surface charts in Excel will also give you some inspiration.

    You can view the full terms and conditions for submitting an entry on the Partners in Learning Network in this community.

    You can find a list of FAQs here.

    A free Microsoft Office 2010 beta version can be downloaded here.

    Good luck with the competition, we are looking forward to seeing your great ideas.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Don’t forget – enter the Innovid competition and win 20 netbooks!


    MP900400665 We know how busy things are for teachers this time of year, and if you’re anything like me the sunny weather is a further distraction. So we wanted to take this time to remind you that the deadline for the Innovid video competition is fast approaching!

    Don’t forget to get your entry in to the Partners in Learning Network before 17:00 on the 29th of March (this month!). All the details you need for the competition can be found in this blog or on the Partners in Learning Network. In addition, Stuart and I have posted a list of frequently asked questions about the competition in this blog, and we’ve updated it in the contest community on the Partners in Learning Network.

    For those of you who are planning on entering, please make sure to complete a contest entry form and submit that along with your video. We will not be able to accept any videos without the entry form!

    To further entice you, we have selected the netbooks that will be awarded to the winning teacher’s school. The school will get 20 N105 Netbooks from Stone. These netbooks come installed with Microsoft Windows 7 and will come with a 3-year warranty from Stone and a protective carrying case. N105_FLS_Win7

    For the full specs on the Stone netbook, go to their web site.

    If you have any questions on the competition, see the Partners in Learning Network, or leave a comment in the blog. We’re looking forward to seeing your Innovids on the 29th – good luck!


  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Don’t hate the ribbon – be a Ribbon Hero!


    When I speak to friends about upgrading to Office 2007 or thinking about upgrading to the new Office 2010, I often hear complaints about “The Ribbon” – the new way Office shows menus and toolbars in each of the Office products. As I’ve been using Office 2010 since the technical preview came out and was on Office 2007 well before that, I can barely remember life before “The Ribbon.” But I understand that a change in user interface can be a bit frustrating at first.


    Office Live Labs, the folks who brought you PowerPoint Plex, the Envisioning videos we keep going on about, and much, much more, have now come up with a game – Ribbon Hero – that helps you familiarise yourself – and your students – with The Ribbon features and functionality in Office 2007 or 2010. Here’s how the good people at Live Labs describe the game:

    Ribbon Hero [is] a free prototype app that works with Office 2007 and with Office 2010 beta. The new prototype is designed to test the effectiveness, feasibility and appeal of delivering Office training in a game-like setting.  The heart of Ribbon Hero is a set of challenges that users play right in the Office applications. These challenges expose users to features that they might not be aware of and which can help users get their work done faster.

    In addition, Ribbon Hero awards points for using both basic features, such as, Bold and Italic, and for using the features introduced in the challenges.  Ribbon Hero does some analysis of the person’s usage patterns to prioritise the order in which it presents challenges.Capture4

    Ribbon Hero integrates with Facebook, and I’ve been watching my friends increase their scores as they play the game in PowerPoint, Excel or Word. It’s become quite popular – with over 32,000 downloads in the first three weeks after release. I installed it for free HERE and tried it for the first time today.

    When you install Ribbon Hero, it appears as an add-in inside Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and you get an icon for it – where else? – on The Ribbon. When  you click on the icon, you’re offered your first set of challenges, which you can attempt to complete with or without the helpful hints.

    I opted not to play the Facebook version of this game, as I don’t want to suffer public embarrassment for my Office skills (or lack thereof). But I can see how it would be fun to set up a little competition among your students.

    You can read more about Ribbon Hero on the Office Labs blog, or watch the short videos to see how it works.

    And finally, to download free Office 2010 beta visit

    Have fun!

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Give with Bing - raising funds for Sport Relief 2010


    SR Roundel 2-Colour

    When I was in school teaching, I loved the special event days. Red Nose Day was always a big favourite and now there’s a new event that’s getting bigger in schools every time, Sport Relief. So, I was very interested in an idea that the UK Bing team have developed in association with Sport Relief.

    This year schools will be fundraising on Friday 19th March for this national campaign. Whether it’s a fun filled memorable Mile or an all day sport-a-thon, you and your school will be making a big difference. It’s always a good idea to make sure the school know why they’re fundraising in the first place! An assembly or a lesson exploring the story of a young person helped with cash raised through Sport Relief is a great way to do this.

    It’s really helpful when there are activities that link fundraising to the classroom and here’s something else that will help you to do that. This year Microsoft are participating in fundraising for Sport Relief and have launched an initiative called “Give with Bing” where users of Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, can ‘give for free’ to help boost the total sum raised for charity.

    badgeGive with Bing is a way in which money is raised merely by searching the internet using the Bing search engine. For every 10 qualifying searches, 5 pence will be donated to Sport Relief. This may not seem a lot, but in the UK every month tens of millions of searches are made so this initiative has the potential to make a significant contribution to the total sum of funds raised for the charity this year.

    Give with Bing is available to the UK’s schools who may wish to register and participate in the charitable event. Each school can register for use of the ‘Giving Counter’ by visiting the Bing home page or and simply click through on the links provided to download the Giving Counter onto the PC. The counter will show how much money each school has raised purely by using the Bing search engine to explore the internet. Parents, families and friends of the students may also contribute to add to the school total.

    So, why not set your pupils and students search tasks for them to complete in class or at home. Maybe they could search for their favourite sportsperson and create a biography, document the history of their favourite team, create their own ‘fantasy’ team with players from different decades, create a list of UK gold medal winners from every Olympics and debate about the greatest sportsperson ever. I am sure you can think of lots more tasks that would encourage your class to search and raise money for charity at the same time.

    The only requirements for a school to participate in the fundraising is a Windows PC, with XP, Vista or Windows 7 running, and the enablement of Cookies and JavaScript – plus of course the Teacher’s permission – after that you are ready to start raising money for one of the UK’s biggest fundraising events.

    In support of Sport Relief, an initiative of Comic Relief, registered charity 326568 (England/Wales); SC039730 (Scotland).


  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Celebrate St Davids Day with the Welsh language Interface Pack for Windows


    Today is St David’s Day and I am taking this opportunity to share all things welsh. St David is the patron saint of Wales and March 1st is the day we in Wales Daffodilscelebrate. Central to the culture of Wales is the welsh language. Welsh is official language of Wales (together with English) and is spoken here by approximately 580,000 people. In some parts Welsh speakers are still the majority (as compared to English speakers). Still, 71% of the population of Wales answered in the 2001 census that they do not speak Welsh. This has to do with a long history of oppression of the language, which started in 1847: A report of a (monoglot English) commission concluded that the best way to address all social ills in Wales was to teach English and fight Welsh (The report has become known as Brad y Llyfrau Gleision - The Treachery of the Blue Books - due to the colour of its three volumes). Therefore in the late 19th century virtually all teaching in school was in English, and often teachers used the so-called Welsh Not, a piece of wood a student had to hang around his neck when caught speaking Welsh. The use of English in education as well as in the media and politics, but also a steady influx of English speakers during industrialization led to a steady decline in the number of Welsh speakers. A reversal of language policy after an all-time low of speakers in the 1980s, including the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998, has halted this trend, and in recent years the number of Welsh speakers has even grown. The policy of promoting Welsh has been intensified since Wales got its own parliament, the National Assembly for Wales in 1999 so the future of this language seems to be secure.

    That future is being supported by Microsoft developing and producing the Welsh Windows 7 Language Interface Pack. Which can be installed on a system that runs an English version of Windows 7. This converts all the menus and text into welsh. If you do not have Windows 7 yet, then a welsh language interface pack is available for Windows XP, Vista and Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007. Microsoft also have a free Digital Literacy Course with a version in welsh available here . You can find out a lot more about the welsh language on the Welsh Language Board’s website .

    Welsh is not the only Language interface pack that Microsoft have created. Click here to access the Local language programme , where you can download language packs for a myriad of different languages, from Polish to Ukrainian, Maori to Zulu, and many more. These packs are obviously useful to you and your students if they are your first language, they also may be useful if you teach those languages. But, they could be really useful in schools here in the UK, with students for whom english is not their first language. ensuring that they have access to technology in their first language.

    Have a Happy St David’s Day –  Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus i pawb.

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