The curtain has finally come down on the Partners in Learning European Forum – until the next event this time next year – and it is time to reflect on what has been another amazing event. There were so many highlights that I have shared in the previous two blog posts, but at the end the overwhelming feeling was that I felt enormously privileged to be in the company of such amazing teachers. We were so proud of all four of the UK Innovative Teachers who joined us for the event in Moscow over the last week. They have all had such positive feedback about the work they are doing in their schools – it is good to know that such inspirational innovation is continuing in UK schools. I know they have all made connections with other teachers from throughout Europe and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of future collaborations. The whole event was full of impressive learning opportunities and teachers sharing their own passion with others – the projects that were the highlights for me were those which were a bit like the Russian dolls I brought home as presents, with dolls stacked within dolls, within dolls, within dolls…. scratch below the surface of the projects and there was so much depth in the learning experiences that the children were having - so many times we saw technology transforming learning experiences in interesting, new ways.
It was with great pride that we were all able to see two of our teachers acknowledged with an award, which means they will be attending the Partners in Learning Global Forum later in the year. I’m sure they are going to enjoy their own journeys over the next few months as they prepare for this incredible opportunity to share work, ideas and friendships with teachers from all over the world. Their success continues the tradition of UK teachers being recognised at these events as being at the forefront of good practice and effective learning. Many congratulations to Jenny Blum and Gareth Ritter on their success!
Think of learning. Think of what happens to help learning. Now think about a day filled with teachers learning how to help the children in their classes learn, how to help their colleagues learn. You might then come somewhere near to what has been happening here today. Today has been a day of keynote speakers and seminars. A day of brain stretching, thought-challenging, ideas-sharing. It is impossible to share more than a snapshot of what has been going on here – just like yesterday, there is a buzz and a pace to everything that is going on. It’s also hard to capture the essence of the excitement in a blog post – but that is here!
One of this morning’s keynotes was from the inspirational John Davitt, who speaks slowly – not out of consideration for those who don’t have English as a first language, but because he thinks slowly (his words, not mine – and definitely not in evidence as he spoke to us)! He used humour to keep us all engaged as he shared his ideas about the journey of learning not needing to be the same for everyone. “If you get bored, use the back of the bingo card to draw around your phone – and if your phone is too big to fit on the piece of paper, you’re at the wrong conference!” The messages shared resonated with those who were listening, as he suggested we’re learning in a world full of differences and there can be many different ways to reach the destination/learning goal. Learning should be active and involve good formative feedback – but we often get more useful feedback when using online shopping such as ebay than we receive in a learning situation (just checking out his ebay feedback cheers him up). It’s important to “define technology by how it helps learning, not by its chip speed or its brand name.”
The workshops and seminars throughout the rest of the day were challenging, informative, interactive – and in the case of Stuart Ball’s workshop there were even sweets to be eaten once they’d been used for the serious learning stuff. Mandeep Atwal from TakingITGlobal moved people, some even to tears, as she presented about the issues we are challenged to address within the next few years. This year’s focus for the SHOUT project is land, with schools being encouraged to develop projects to in the Deforestaction theme, as well as taking the opportunities to talk to REAL scientists from the . The work will be showcased at the Partners in Learning Global forum in November, which will be an exciting opportunity for those students invited to the event. Why not check out how to get involved in the project and give your students an opportunity to be invited to the forum? Shout was introduced in this blog here and their website is here.
Highlights for the day included Microsoft tagging, uses of Microsoft OneNote and …..Welshmen singing rugby songs! And through the whole experience we can see more connections and links being made between the teachers who are here. As Kirsten Panton showed in her workshop, the more teachers collaborate, the more innovation happens. And there are a lot of collaborating teachers here so we can expect much more exciting innovation throughout Europe.
It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been to one of these events just how intense a day like this can be. There’s a buzz and a hum as the temperature rises inside the room where the projects are being displayed, professional learning and collaboration relationships being forged. It might seem like a few days out of school will be quite relaxing but our 4 UK representatives have been working extremely hard, with breakfast starting at 6.30 and not arriving back to the hotel we are staying until after midnight! During the day, they have been doing an excellent job of describing and explaining their projects to judges and fellow teachers, which started after the keynote speeches in the morning finished and continued for the rest of the day . They found it wasn’t as scary as it sounds because they were simply talking about what they enjoyed doing in school and getting to know other teachers with a similar passion for using tech to enhance learning. It’s forging those relationships that affirms what they are doing, ensures that the learning that they are supporting with their new and innovative approaches is valued, that they are not isolated in what they are doing, that they encouraged and inspired by others. Dan Buckley (who has been leading workshops for school leaders) remarked on how special these events are, how unusual and unique Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Events are in a commercial world, as they are focused on celebrating the innovative approaches to learning rather than being product-oriented.
The day finished with an adventure as we explored Moscow in search of our supper, walking through Red Square on the way and navigating our way around the Moscow metro, and enjoying some amazing food – and managed to finally make it back to the hotel….. ready for a well-earned, good night’s sleep.
The Microsoft Partners in Learning European Forum will be taking place in Moscow from 22nd March, an inspiring and thought-provoking opportunity to share some of the most innovative uses of technology to support learning throughout Europe. We’re looking forward to learning from some of the best keynote speakers and workshop leaders. 4 awesome teachers will be representing the innovation that is going on in classes throughout the UK and you were introduced to Louise and Jennifer in the last blog post. Today it is a pleasure to be able to introduce our other innovative teachers who will be joining us in Moscow. Why not follow their adventures and what is going on throughout the week on Twitter - the hashtag for the event is #MSPIL.
Jo Debens – Space Explorers: Space Creators
Jo is the second innovative teacher from the same department in a school, Priory School in Portsmouth, to be attending the European forum – an amazing record! Her colleague, David Rogers (Welshman, Geographer) presented his work at the event in Berlin last year, so I’m sure he has been able to give her lots of tips in her preparations for her adventures in Moscow. Jo’s project has involved giving pupils a real voice about changes to their school. The project involved lots of teamwork and developed students’ communication skills, as well as their confidence when presenting their ideas to adults. They evaluated the existing spaces around their school, taking into account how others may view the surroundings, how the spaces were being used and recording their findings in a variety of ways, including digital cameras, Flip video cameras and voice recorders. Students prepared their findings in a range of ways to share with others, using tools such as Microsoft Autocollage, MovieMaker, Office 2003, Photosynth and Wordle. They then developed their own plans for an improved school environment, using free online tools and software to develop their own designs for a school environment, and prepared a scheme of work for other students. They were able to share their suggestions with a range of people including local councillors, governors, architects and designers.
Gareth Ritter – Interactive Learning Resources By Pupils For Pupils
Last, but by no means least, the final member of this group of teachers who are having such an impressive impact in their schools is Gareth. Gareth is a music teacher from Wales and as we know, we have a long tradition of innovative teachers from this part of the UK. Gareth has been using technology to motivate and enthuse his upper school pupils, with them preparing resources to help younger pupils with guitars, drums and keyboards, as well as supporting the work of the school radio station, Willow Waves. The project proved exceptionally engaging for learners who had previously had problems with school and the success rate in their GCSE music and music technology was 100% A*-C. The enjoyment of the pupils was evident in how they continued with the project at home and how they took responsibility for their own learning. They used a wide range of tools, such as Microsoft Songsmith, Autocollage, Moviemaker and Windows Live Spaces, as well as the plex add in for PowerPoint. The students even used a wii remote control when delivering their PowerPoint Plex presentations! Tools are now being used by other teachers in the school, they’ve been shared with other local schools and the videos that the children have made are available to the wider music teaching/learning community through Gareth’s website.
I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing these four innovators an enjoyable and fulfilling trip to Moscow – watch out for updates about the event on Twitter and this blog!
The Microsoft Partners in Learning European Forum is being held in Moscow this year, starting on March 22nd - an event run every year by Microsoft. Attending the event in Berlin last year was one of the most profound professional development experiences I have had as a teacher, so I am really excited about going as bag-carrier and cheerleader-in-chief for four awesome teachers with four awesome projects. The UK has a good record of winning awards at these events and at the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum, too – with teachers like Mandeep Atwal, Ollie Bray, Dan Roberts inspiring me and many others, too.
The forum is an event that celebrates some of the wonderful work going on in schools and gives teachers an opportunity for some fantastic networking and learning experiences. From our ten innovative teachers who won awards at the UK Innovative Education Forum in December 2010 – you can find out more about them here – we are pleased to be able to take four award-winners with projects that will, I’m sure, get you as excited as I am about how technology is being used to enhance learning, involve whole communities in collaborations and put the learner in charge of their own learning.
So in this post and the next, I'll be introducing you to them, their projects and look forward to you supporting and encouraging them on their journey.
Louise Dorrian – Xtraordinary SInging
Louise was also inspired by the work of previous award winner, Ollie Bray, and his Thinking Out of the XBox project. She teaches music at Lodge Park Technology College in Corby and wanted to give her pupils the confidence to sing with others in the classroom, so Lips seemed like an ideal game to enthuse and encourage her pupils. The school had also recently implemented Live@edu, which gave them an ideal tool for blogging about the project and involving parents in a competition to find the best parent comment about the project! While the main focus was to explore and refine listening, performing and composing skills, other curricular links are evident. Year 7 students learnt about the history of Hip Hop, took part in a PowerPoint quiz which took its inspiration from A Question of Sport, used LIPs for developing performance skills in class and to inspire their own lyrics. They used Songsmith in the development of their backing tracks before recording their own raps and taking part in an X-Factor style show down, with parents being involved in the judging via Live@edu. The whole project has created a buzz in school, with Lead Practitioners now leading Teaching and Learning Communities to explore other great ideas, students being invited to speak at conferences and interest in the project from as far afield as the US.
Jennifer Blum – Mobilising for London 2012
Another project that shows the power of empowering pupils to take control of their own learning, this project enabled older pupils to take part in a real-life challenge, a real-life brief for a real-life customer. What the pupils achieved shows how learners can respond to high expectations with work that can stand its own in a commercial environment. Jennifer’s Creative and Media Diploma students were given a brief by Ogilvy UK to prepare a mobile phone app that would promote one of 3 sponsors of the Olympics that will be held in London in 2012, whilst meeting the needs of the mobile phone app users wanting to make the most of their visit to the Games. Students had to show an understanding of the client’s brief and needs before investigating the information that would help them, generating, presenting and refining their own ideas. They had to consider how they would present in different contexts and supported each other in refining and improving what would be in their final presentation, as well as how they would appear professional! They used a range of multimedia tools to present their pitch to the client and had some great feedback. Video clips they made were shared and celebrated at the Oscar-equivalent award ceremony held at the college.
I know a few people who are filled with trepidation at the prospect of spelling! But it’s still one of the most important skills we can give the children in our classes and homes. Teachers, parents and learners are always looking for ways to make the learning of spellings a little less tedious and monotonous. So to make the whole experience a little more fun, The Times newspaper have set up the Spelling Bee site, where there are lots of games for children to use – whether in class, at home, on their own or with others. There’s activities for those who thrive on competition and by registering , the personal training section allows previously misspelt words to be revisited.
In the Brain Buzz section, there are opportunities for family battles and Spring-themed activities; there’s monthly mini spelling challenges with collections of words with a similar theme; games can be selected according to age or ability and give lots of opportunities to try out spellings in different ways.
The words are read out by Lexi…. and there’s even a desktop download and some great mobile phone apps so the learning really is in the hands of the learner.Have fun playing the games and competing against yourself and others!
While you are still working on improving your spellings, there are tools within Microsoft Office to help ensure polished final pieces of work. In Microsoft Office, many errors will be automatically corrected as you type. But you may find words with a red underline - simply right click on them to find suggested corrections, make your own correction or add a new word to your dictionary. The same box allows you to choose a dictionary from your preferred language - the American and English dictionaries often give different spelling corrections. It's possible to change the autocorrect settings - the maths autocorrect is worth checking out because it has some shortcuts for mathematical symbols. Check out the "Review" tab in Microsoft Office 2010 - as well as checking spellings, grammar, word counts and using the thesaurus to find a wider choice of word options, the document can be translated and spellings and grammar checked too - a useful tool for non-mfl specialists who are working with schools in other countries!
Changing the settings on autocorrect can be very useful when trying to assess learners understanding of spelling and grammar. Why not take a little time to explore the options in these menus and decide how much of your learners' writing is supported by the tools?
This is the first blog post from the newest addition to the Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Team, so please welcome Jan Webb . She will be supporting us in delivering the Partners in Learning programmes in the UK whilst Kristen is on maternity leave. I will let Jan tell you more.
It's world book day, one of my favourite days of the year in school. It's that day that fills teachers and parents with a certain amount of dread as they panic about preparing fancy dress costumes - there's always so many conversations about whether the character is REALLY in a book! It's a day about sharing our favourite books with others, reminding ourselves of the books that have touched our lives and just relishing the pleasure of reading. AND about re-inventing ourselves as those favourite characters!
But this year I'm not dressed up. I'm not in school. I've started another adventure - not one in a book, but a real life one! I've joined the Partners in Learning Team to manage the Innovative Teachers Programme for a while. I've been part of the programme myself as a teacher, my project winning recognition at the UK, European and Worldwide Innovative Education Forums. I first heard about the Partners in Learning Network about 18 months ago, discovering some great ideas for using technology in learning from some awe-inspiring, award winning teachers like Dan Roberts, Ollie Bray, Mandeep Atwal and Alessio Bernadelli. Being inspired by what they had done, I started my own journey by sharing what I had been doing in class - and the rest is history. I found a network of other teachers who were also passionate about making the most of learning experiences; one of them, David Rogers, introduced me to twitter, which led to me blogging, too. And through this professional learning network, I have found the largest and most supportive staffroom I've ever been part of! At a time when finding funding for professional development and tech resources has been really difficult for us, I've had some of the best CPD available and found some amazing tools that are free and help make the most of what we have. Learning doesn't happen in isolation, it happens through our contact with others - and it's as important for us teachers as it is for pupils to keep learning.
So for a while I won't be a primary ICT consultant in my local authority and a year 4 class teacher/ICT coordinator on the other days. For a while I'll be tweeting as @innovteach2, though you'll still see @janwebb21! For a while you'll see me blogging here, alongside Stuart (@innovativeteach). This may not be a story in a book - happy endings come in many guises - but I hope you'll join the partnership, share your ideas and feedback. I'm looking forward to the journey!
Not only is March 1st St David’s Day in Wales, but today is also World Maths Day . So this is a good time remind you of some great free Maths resources available from Microsoft.
One of these is Microsoft Mathematics 4.0, which helps you visualize and see mathematical concepts as you’ve never seen them before.
Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 provides a set of mathematical tools that help students get school work done quickly and easily. With Microsoft Mathematics, students can learn to solve equations step-by-step while gaining a better understanding of fundamental concepts in pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, physics, chemistry, and calculus.
With the Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 free download, you get:
You can find out what Mathematics 4.0 can really do in this video
Mathematics 4.0 is available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=9caca722-5235-401c-8d3f-9e242b794c3a
Free Teachers Guides for Mathematics 4.0 are available at http://www.microsoft.com/education/teachers/guides/mathematics_4.0.aspx
If you don't want such to install such a subject specialist piece of software such as Mathematics 4.0, then you might want to consider installing the free Math add-in for Microsoft Word and OneNote. This adds functionality to Microsoft Word and OneNote 2007 and 2010 and allows you to create solve and visualise equations directly from these Microsoft Office applications.
The Math add-in for Microsoft Word and OneNote is available for download at :
Our UK Partners in Learning YouTube Channel has great video of how to use these add-ins in the classroom. Made by one of our award winning Innovative Teachers it describes the basic functions this great free resource.
Remember that these resources are not just free for yourselves as Teachers, but are also free for your students. So why not celebrate World Maths Day by passing on the download links to them.