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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Developing Critical thinking skills with Bing


    imageOne of the many challenges Teachers have, is to teach students the skills they need to effective deal with the vast amounts of information that technology allows them to access. Such skills can be based around ‘Critical Thinking’ . This involves students developing the following abilities.

    • Recognize problems.
    • Find workable means to meet those problems.
    • Gather and marshal pertinent information.
    • Recognize unstated assumptions and values.
    • Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discrimination.
    • Interpret data.
    • Appraise evidence and evaluate statements.
    • Recognize logical connections between statements.
    • Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations.
    • Test the conclusions and generalizations arrived at.


    A free downloadable resource from the Bing team called ‘Developing Critical Thinking Through Web Research Skills’ describes how these skills relate to search and research activities. This e-book provides an excellent guide on how to develop a curriculum for searching and researching using the internet. With the translation of the critical thinking skills into practical examples. Like in the area of Searching efficiently and effectively – Students have to learn the basics of web processes and architecture, including:

    • Key Internet terms, such as spam, malware, noise, advertorial, pay-per-post, crowd sourcing.
    • How search engines find websites—the basics of crawling and indexing.
    • What “the 10 blue links” are.
    • What sponsored (paid) links are and how they work alongside unpaid links.
    • How search engines (Bing, Yahoo!, and Google) make money from results.
    • How websites market themselves in search engine results.
    • How to parse a link/URL and what domain names mean.
    • How to read a webpage.
    • How to overcome researcher bias by learning to look beyond one’s familiar and comfortable sources and to listen to different voices, perspectives, and opinions

    When this sort of confusing advice is given by an examination body , a simple keyword search is not enough and will not solve the issues raised. Critical thinking skills are what we need to be developing with our students, the clue is in the title, they are critical.

    How are your students searching the web, what skills are you developing? Let us know.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Knowledge versus Learning


    CaptureLast Thursday I attended the Reform “think tank” event on Schools for the Future that was held at Microsoft’s office in London. The event included 4  panels of speakers discussing topics such as the state of education in the UK, the quality of teachers, raising the bar, and saving money. It was a really interesting group of speakers, ranging from industry representatives, to head teachers, to university researchers, to former Minister for Schools Jim Knight.

    There was a keynote during the day from the current Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, on this, the 50th day of the new coalition government. The entire transcript of the Minister’s speech can be found HERE if you’d like to read it.

    There was one point of the speech that particularly caught me, and I’d love to know what you, as UK teachers, think of it. Here it is:

    On one side of the ideological debate are those who believe that children should learn when they are ready, through child-initiated activities and self-discovery – what Plowden called ‘Finding Out’. It is an ideology that puts the emphasis on the processes of learning rather than on the content of knowledge that needs to be learnt.

    The American education academic, E.D. Hirsch, traces this ideology back to the 1920s, to the Teachers College Columbia in New York and the influence of the educationalists, John Dewey and William Heard Kilpatrick.

    Added to that ideology is the notion that there is so much knowledge in the world that it is impossible to teach it all – and very difficult to discern what should be selected to be taught in schools. So, instead, children should be taught how to learn.

    I believe very strongly that education is about the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.

    Knowledge is the basic building block for a successful life….What is to be criticised is an education system which has relegated the importance of knowledge in favour of ill-defined learning skills.

    I’m curious to know where you stand in this debate. Which is it – do we organise our education system around the memorisation of facts and figures and the ability to recall them for national exams? Or do we continue to look at things like learning styles, personalisation of learning, student-centred learning and project-based learning, where “knowledge” can be applied in a real-world context, in a way that motivates and interests learners, and at a pace and style that suits their learning?

    (Incidentally – here’s what the Minister has to say about child-centred learning: Again, the ideologically-driven, child-centred approach to education has led to the belief that the mere exposure to books and text, and the repetition of high frequency words, will lead to a child learning to read – as if by osmosis.)

    I’d love your comments…

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Summer Camp 2010 – Teachers learning from Teachers



    One of the best events we ran last year was our Summer Camp, where teachers created resources for teachers, the results of which can be found here. Due to popular demand we are running the event again this year, and we are making it an open invite to you via this blog. So if you have time this summer, perhaps your plans for other events and holidays have not materialised and you still want to spend time with other innovative educators, then this is an ideal event for you.

    Summer Camp takes place at Microsoft UK Headquarters in Reading, starting 10:30am on Monday 16th August and finishing 5:00pm Tuesday 17th August. You need to find your own way there, the train is best, with a free bus from the station. We have sorted a hotel and  an evening meal for you.

    What will I be doing at Summer Camp?

    We will give you training in using our free software to create teaching and learning resources for the classroom. You will have time to design, create and evaluate those resources and collaborate with others. You will also get the chance to speak to experts at Microsoft about our technology. These resources will take the form of screen capture videos, which we call Innovids. You also will receive a headset with microphone (which you'll use to create the videos) and  a certificate awarding you Microsoft Innovative Teacher status. You will also join a select group of educators as part of the Partners in Learning Network that have opportunities to contribute to the work Microsoft Partners in Learning are undertaking in education in the UK.

    How do I apply?

    We don’t want videos or lengthy biographies from you, to apply, just email three tweetesque type statements to  before the closing date 12:00pm 12th July 2010. These statements should be ideas of how you would, or are using Microsoft technologies to support learning across the curriculum. For example:-

    • using conditional formatting in Excel to help visual learners in numeracy
    • using PointPoint to create animated flicker books
    • using the Songsmith to create mobile ringtones

    Also include details of your school, subject expertise and pupil age range in your application. We will select 15 applicants with the most intriguing and innovative ideas, who will be notified on 13th July 2010.

    I am not an ICT teacher is it worth me applying?

    Yes, most definitely, we are looking for classroom innovators in learning, rather than techie whizz kids. This event is targeted at those Teachers in the UK interested in teaching and learning, and how technology can support that, rather than the technology itself. This event is for teachers in the UK in Primary, Secondary and Special school settings.

    What will be expected of me afterwards?

    We expect you commit to creating at least two innovid resources, with an option of creating up to three more. For every resource that we publish and use, we will compensate you for your time and professional input.

    We are looking forward to receiving your applications. If you have any questions post a comment or contact us via email at

    Get applying and Good Luck.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Subject Snacks–Ideas for teaching History


    pot-noodle-beef-and-tomatoThis weeks idea is similar to a snack that I often forget about, but when I remember, It's delicious, but perhaps not appreciated as the gastronomic delight that it is. The snack in question is the Pot Noodle . This food technology marvel offers the best in convenience snacking, it is often maligned , once tasted, it’s appreciated.

    For me this is a bit like Photosynth, which for some reason I often forget to mention in presentations, and when I do talk about it people are amazed by it. Often there does seem be a slight dilemma. With the perception of it not being cool love a Microsoft web 2.0 product. It’s seen as a guilty pleasure, just like the Pot Noodle.

    imagePhotosynth takes your photos, mashes them together and recreates a 3D scene out of them that anyone can view and move around in.  The site is a fantastic resource for students to explore historical sites and monuments, Some great examples are :- Stonehenge in Wiltshire, The Coliseum in Rome, the Great Pyramid at Giza  and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.

    Whilst these images are amazing in themselves. The ability for students to create their own synths makes it an ideal tool for them to document and record historical buildings , sites and artefacts. Not only can they record the places they are visiting, but Photosynth allows archive images to be incorporated with current images, as long as there is  a recognisable feature it will combine them, giving a ‘time travel’ like effect. Once completed synths can be geolacted on to a Bing maps and descriptions added.

    A great example of how technology can bring some of the world's most famous artefacts directly into the classroom is ‘Turning the Pages’, it can be found at the British Library. This allows scanned books to be viewed and explored in very realistic way, by virtually turning the pages. You can also search, magnify, read and listen to the text in original historical masterpieces such Da Vinci’s notebook , Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures Underground and Jane Austen’s History of England. (these links take you directly to the Turning pages browser. Select different artefacts from the menu. The Silverlight plug-in  is required)

    imageI spent some time exploring Elizabeth Blackwell’s Curious Herbal , looking for ancient cures for everyday aliments. But, it was whilst exploring the Diaries of Antarctic Explorer, Robert Scott, that I had an almost spine tingling moment. One of Scott’s fellow explorers, Captain Oates, left his colleagues, in an act of self sacrifice, saying the famous line ‘ I just going outside, I may be some time’. I searched for this infamous line and found the actual entry in Scott’s own handwriting, documenting the actual moment of this historical incident. This sort of activity , I think can really bring home to your students the reality of such events. Amazing stuff.

    Now it's over to you, we are not History specialists, how do you bring history alive through technology? We would welcome your ideas of activities that support History teaching and learning. You can email your ideas (using the email blog author link above), or leave us a comment. We will post your contributions next Monday and send you something from the Partners in Learning ‘goodie closet’ to the authors of those we publish**

    **UK Teachers only

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    History Snacks–Your ideas


    Here’s an idea from one of our Innovative Education Forum winners, Alessio Bernardelli who teaches in Cwmbran in South Wales.image

    “I am not a Historian, but I have always had a fascination for timelines, as I think they are a great way to visualize events and link cause and effect. So, my idea to use a great Plug-in for PowerPoint to make your timelines even more engaging, interactive and collaborative. All this is possible with PPTplex. You can  download and install the Plug-at

    PPTplex will let you arrange and see all your slides as if they were on a canvas. Then, with your mouse you can go around the canvas and zoom in and out to show the details of a particular period. You need to go to the "Overview" slide and draw the main structure of your timeline. Then, you can add and arrange the slides created in the main presentation to sit in the correct place on the timeline.

    What's quite amazing in PPTplex is that you can add "live content". If you have a particular year on your timeline which was packed full of important events you could have a whole presentation associated with that year right on the timeline! And if you, like me, love to get your children involved and let them learn from each other, you could assign a year, or a series of events, to research and produce a PowerPoint presentation on to each group. Then, collect all the presentations from the groups and add them as "live content" in your PPTplex Timeline. This will make a rich content revision tool that your children will love!

    The only limitation on PPTplex is that you lose the animations on your slides, but I think it is a good compromise to get really interactive timelines. Also, your children will concentrate more on the content, rather than on animations and other features that tend to distract them from the real focus of the task!

    If you are a bit confused on how to use PPTplex, don't worry, because there are lots of video tutorials on the download page on how to use it. Otherwise, have a look at my Innovid on PPTplex

    I hope you like the idea and that you will have a go at using this amazing tool in your History lessons. If only I were a History Teacher.”

    Thanks Alessio for this great idea, a webcam is on its way to you.

    If you want to explore timelines further you can find out how to make them using this Excel template or visit here to design your own.

    We are putting subject snacks on hold over the summer holidays , we will be back with more great ideas at the end of August.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    How to use Office with your students – Microsoft webcast


    One of the members of our Microsoft UK education team offers a series of great webcasts that are usually more geared toward IT Managers. However, next week he’s offering a webcast on Office 2010 that is specifically focused on teachers and learners. The webcast details and registration information are below. (It’s free to join, of course.) You should check it out if you have some time.



    Microsoft Office 2010 introduces rich and powerful new ways to express and share ideas, which matches the way that students are working today, and the needs of teachers. Join this webcast for a demonstration of key features that will resonate with both students and teachers alike.

    Discover how Office 2010 will enable you to bring ideas to life with advanced video and picture editing, broadcast capability in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, easy document preparation through the new Microsoft Office Backstage view, and visualise data in new ways with Microsoft Excel 2010.

    See the new Office Web Apps 2010 – online companions to Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote – which enable you to review and edit documents from a variety of web browsers.

    Understand how students can collaborate better by taking shared notes  or co-authoring documents in real-time with a fellow student.

    This session will be mainly demonstration based – there will also be the opportunity to have any questions you have answered.

    Dates and Times

    Option 1: Tuesday July 27th  10:30 – 11:30
    Option 2: Wednesday July 28th – 11:00-12:00

    Register Here:

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Exploring the Red Planet with WorldWide Telescope


    imageStuart and I actually had a little argument over who got to write this blog post, because it’s just so cool.

    Many of you are familiar with the WorldWide Telescope from Microsoft Research – the FREE application that lets you take advantage of NASA photos from land and space-based telescopes to give you incredible pictures of the night sky. (And much, much more…)

    Now the good folks from MS Research have added over 13,000 photos taken from NASA spacecraft exploring Mars. These provide images of Mars the likes of which we – and our students – have never seen before. As our VP of Research Tony Hey says on the Mars video, these new photos and technology allow students to actually “go for a walk on Mars,” and see the landscape and scale in a way they never could have done before.

    Here’s what the new Mars features have to offer.image

    • A True-Colour Map of Mars. The surface map of Mars has been built and colour-corrected to match modern estimates of the appearance of Mars.  It is made up of images taken from a variety of NASA’s Mars spacecraft, including the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
    • 3-D Rendering of the Surface. Visitors to the WorldWide Telescope can now have the experience of flying though a 3-D rendering of Victoria Crater and Olympus Mons – the lowest valley and highest peak in our solar system - and can experience firsthand the extreme elevation and intricate features of the Martian surface.
    • Exclusive Interactive Tours. Microsoft Research is providing a set of exclusive interactive Mars tours, including an overview of the WWT Mars experience and Mars’ moons. NASA is also publishing two Mars tours by noted NASA scientists, Drs. James Garvin and Carol Stoker.

    If you haven’t checked out WorldWide Telescope yet, download it HERE and have a play (or better yet, let your students have a play) now.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Modern Foreign Language Snacks–Your ideas



    No ideas submitted from anybody this week, I suspect it is that time of year with everybody busy writing reports, and not even the lure of the coveted pink Partners in Learning USB stick could tempt you from such an important job.

    So , I thought that I would remind you of a tool that I have used and think is ideal for teaching Modern Foreign Languages.  Although not a modern language, but to many  of you it will be foreign. Welsh is taught in all schools in Wales, and Photostory is an application used extensively to support welsh language teaching. So I thought I would share this idea, as it is my only experience of language teaching.

    For those of you who don’t know Photostory, it is a free download, available here . It allows you to present still images as a video slideshow with narration and music.

    Using it from scratch in MFL lessons is great, with students recording experiences and ideas in their chosen language with images they have collected themselves. They can make tourist guides and adverts for example, as well as to tell stories. But, I have seen Photostory used in a much more focused way, that encourages pupils to think about specific language patterns and vocabulary. To do this the teacher has inserted a set of specific images, that focus on a a specific topic such as food or the family. They have added some support language structures in the narration section. Pupils now have a focus on a particular aspect that the teacher wants them to explore and practice. This is saved as a Photostory project file. Allowing it to be shared, edited and saved by the pupils. The videos produced can be assessed, shared and used for revision.

    So don’t forget about Photostory, its been around a while, but it is a a great tool to have in your teachers toolkit.

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