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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Microsoft UK Free Education Resources WIn 8 App– Released Today

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    screenshot_09062013_114312During the summer break I set my self the challenge of learning to be a Developer. After all we are asking teachers to learn this skill, so it was a case of ‘practice what you preach’ . My starting point was to find a coding package to learn. That was easy, there are so many free resources available, so I choose Touchdevelop . Next , I needed some help. I found on the Touchdevelop site a series of helpful tutorials and courses and also a couple of names I recognised from the Partners in Learning Network, David Renton and Ray Chambers. A few tweets later and I was ready to go. Or so I thought, Ray (@lanky_boi_ray) asked me ‘What did I want to make?’ . That sort stumped me for awhile , but I suspect it maybe something teachers and students also face. ‘What shall I make?’, a game seemed the obvious choice, but I have Kodu for that. Then Ray offered me a piece of advice. He suggested that ‘is there something that you seemly do repeatedly that an app could replace?’ This was a great start to my thinking, and I quickly found and activity where I spend a lot of time emailing lists of links of free resources, this could be replaced by an App.

    So during my holiday instead of reading, I coded! On my Surface RT I might add. As I worked through my plan , I discovered different techniques and you will probably see some of these in the App. I have purposely left it ‘hobbyist’, hoping that it will inspire people that learning to code is not the difficult task they might perceive it to be and they too can get an App in the Windows Store after three weeks of learning. I can’t lie to you, I feel quite proud of myself.

    So what does the app do?

    The App is a simple menu interface that links the many free resources that not just Partners in Learning has, but have been produces by the whole Microsoft UK Education Team.

    The app is like a ‘one stop shop’ for these resources. So you will find

    • Resources to support Computer Science
    • Windows 8 E- Books
    • A list of Free Win 8 Apps for Education
    • Links to our Education Blogs, Slideshare, Youtube Channel
    • and even links to the blogs of our Rockstar teachers who share their best practice and resources.

    You can download the App for free at the Windows Store

    I would welcome any comments and feedback on this App. I will be updating it regularly, now what shall I try next?

    Thanks to Ray Chambers and Dave Renton for their support and inspiration.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Happy Birthday Partners in Learning

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    imageToday is the 10th anniversary of Partners in Learning, I really can't believe it has been that long. I have had the privilege to be with programme from it’s conception as a teacher and now I have the honour of working  with the most amazing teachers in the UK and the World. I thought it would be apt to celebrate this milestone by sharing the thought of Nicki Madams a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator and Global Forum Award Winner.

    My Journey with Partners in Learning by Nicki Maddams

    In the last year my Partners in Learning journey has grown incredibly. From winning an award in Prague in December to launching and delivering the Kodu Kup; it has been a real whirlwind.

    clip_image002Let me take you back to the start of my journey. It began in 2010 when a colleague sent me a link to the beta version of some new software, called Kodu Game Lab. As soon as I downloaded it I was hooked and immediately saw the potential of using the software in my classroom. We were already using Scratch to deliver programming in school so another tool to allow learners to create dynamic and interesting games was very exciting, especially as it has 3D graphics! It was great to have another piece of software to help embed logical thinking, problem solving and, of course, programming. I got straight to work designing a scheme of work and teaching resources to enable me to try this out with my students and despite still being at beta stage (and a little buggy) it was very well received by most of them. So I pushed on, refined my scheme of work and delivered training to staff both from my school and others. It seemed I was one of only a few people in the country using the software at the time and as a result of this and my involvement with Microsoft Partners in Learning I was asked to run sessions in other schools with their pupils. Since then I have delivered training to other teachers at many different events both locally in Kent and further afield. I have since continued to develop resources, in particular, last year I ran a 9-week workshop with local primary children around using Kodu with literacy in which the children designed and created story-telling games as well as blogging about their experiences. Additionally, I ran a “Kodu Olympics” competition in school which enabled my students to create Olympic-themed games and I gave out medals and vouchers to the winners.

    Following this I was invited to showcase my work around Kodu Game Lab at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague in December 2012 where I was delighted to find I won the award for “Cutting Edge Use of Technology for Learning”!

    Since last September I have been working with Microsoft one day per week on their UK Kodu Kup competition. Before the launch I was responsible for producing a lot of the teachers’ resources and was part of the launch event at BETT back in January. Since then I have been out and about visiting schools, delivering teacher-training sessions and have even visited the House of Lords promoting the competition (alongside my other mission of girls in Tech!). My role also entailed downloading, playing and collating each of the entries ready for the final judging and I was later honoured to be asked to form part of the judging panel on the day which I was really excited about; although I underestimated how difficult this job would be! I have been so impressed with the standard of games produced for this competition, it’s very inspiring to see so many schools are now using Kodu Game Lab as a tool for teaching programming. I know this competition will be even bigger and better next year as more schools hear about it.

    Now that the curriculum is changing Kodu Game Lab will play a vital role in introducing younger children into the world of programming in a non-threatening and engaging way. Kodu is particularly good at attracting primary children into programming and works well with lower secondary. Older students may look towards the forthcoming release of Project Spark, also from Microsoft.

    Start your journey with Partners in Learning sign up for free today at – www.pil-network.com . You still have time to apply to become Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator – closing date 30th Sept

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