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  • 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.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    A great new resource from Microsoft Education Labs - Flashcards


    The resource maybe new, but the idea I can remember from my own primary school days. Microsoft Education Labs have created a 21st century version of flashcards.  Flashcards remain one of the best tools for memorising information. Used by teachers and students to remember facts, dates and vocabulary, the most common way to create flashcards is to use pieces of card. A question is written the on one side and the answer on the opposite side, students can test themselves repeatedly.  This is great for visual learners, but the experience and effectiveness of this method of learning can be greatly enhanced, to encompass a broader range of learning styles, if you could add sound, images and feedback on how you are doing. This new resource has the functionality to add all of those features.

    imageYou can find the flashcards at . You can view any of the flashcard decks, but to create your own and use the study features, you will need to sign in with your Windows Live ID. Once signed in click Create and you will see a screen that allows you to create your card, the left hand side of the card is for the ‘question’ and the right for the ‘answer’. The great thing is that you can use images and add audio, allowing you to create resources for all subjects, age groups and abilities.

    The really great feature is the reporting tool which records the usual details of how many you got right or wrong, as well as how well you are memorising the information and the time it took you to complete the deck. Which makes it ideal for self and peer assessment.

    Creating a deck is very easy, I managed to create a deck to teach the welsh words for various colours in a matter of minutes. This would be a resource I would have used when I was teaching 10-11 year old pupils the welsh language, which is compulsory in schools in Wales. Flashcards are an integral strategy in language teaching. When I was in the classroom , I would have converted all my flashcard resources to this online version. This would mean that my pupils could practice at home and work with their parents (the majority of which would have been non-welsh speakers). They would have been able to bring in their own and parent’s reports on how well they are doing, resulting in a great little piece of parental engagement. I think pupils making their own Flashcard decks, highlighting their own learning would be a great activity. This would also make a great interactive whiteboard activity, a lesson starter or lesson reflection.

    These flashcards are by no means just for primary pupils, secondary students and teachers could use them for revision purposes. with specific subject facts being imagesupported with visual and audio clues. Imagine how useful a flashcard deck to learning the periodic table would be to your students.

    You will need to install the latest version of silverlight to use this resource. If you would like to try out my welsh colours Flashcards, then click on this link , then click on ‘Llwyiau’. You will then be able to view and listen to the deck, if you sign in with your Live ID, you can test yourself on how well you are doing learning these words.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Transforming teaching and learning - a teacher's experience of the Partners in Learning Network


    clip_image002Alessio Bernardelli teaches in Croesyceiliog School in Cwmbran, Wales, in this blog post he describes his journey with the Innovative Teachers Network programme, how it has transformed his teaching and his views on education as he has developed his own professional learning network.

    These are his thoughts…..

    Back in 2006, I took part in a Partners in Learning project with Welsh Assembly Government called “Excellence in Science and ICT”, to develop examples of the use of technology in science. At first I thought it would just be about the free software I would receive. But it became clear that this experience was to become an opportunity to learn a lot more than just about some amazing software to use for teaching and learning in the classroom, like Photo Story 3, Photosynth and personal favourite, Plex for PowerPoint. But, it was that contact and discussion with like minded individuals that sparked a series of ideas in my head, it felt like I had been in the darkness until that moment.

    In that first meeting my mental framework radically changed and my focus shifted from teaching to learning, from directive lessons to active learning opportunities for my pupils. I felt very blessed in having been chosen to take part to this project. But it was pure luck that I became involved, a chance meeting between a friend of mine and Stuart in a gym, (amazing I know, Stuart in a Gym!). But it lead to a series of events that changed the way I think about my own teaching. I was encouraged to submit one of the resources I created to the UK Innovative Teachers Forum. Even though I am Italian living here in Wales, I had the honour to be chosen to represent Wales in the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum 2007 held in Helsinki, to my absolute surprise and joy I received an award there. Thanks to this achievement Microsoft invited me to an Innovative Teachers Event in Redmond, Seattle. There I met even more innovative teachers from around the world and one of the highlights there was meeting Bill Gates. At this event I had the opportunity to participate to seminars and workshops from leading Educators Worldwide. In terms of Professional Development one could not ask for more. But, professional development should not just stop, so I have tried to build my own professional learning network, through the Partners in Learning Network, Twitter and my own blog. This has meant further opportunities to work on other projects and with other organisations, such as the Institute of Physics. As well as contributing to the Partners In Learning Network through projects  as the Innovids Summer Camp and the most recently Peer Coaching Programme.

    So, my journey began in a very random way, it could have been so easily an opportunity missed. But, the Partners in Learning Network and its contribution to my own professional learning network has provided the perfect portal to connect with Educators from all over the world. This has transformed my teaching. I have also watched the Partners in Learning Network move forward a great deal. There have never been so many members and the free resources available in the network. The quality of which is increasing every year. Proof is the fact that it is so much harder than when I started to get in the top ten at the U.K. Innovative Teachers Forum. So, I really got there at the right time!

    So, what has caused the transformation in my teaching? Quite simply two factors mainly.

    1. The great resources available free of charge on the Partners in Learning Network which really open up opportunities for the learners to become more independent in their education

    2. The willingness to push the boundaries and try innovative approaches with my classes which I have learnt from the  innovative Educators within the network and beyond.

    Thanks Partners in Learning Network for opening my horizons to explore new frontiers.

    You can follow Alessio on Twitter at and follow his Educational Blog at

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Digital story telling tools from Microsoft


    My previous post described how you can use AutoCollage, timageo tell digital stories in the classroom, here is a great example from one of our award winning teachers, David Rogers, whose students have used this free application to make a comparison of their local area.

    Microsoft has a number of free tools that are ideal for digital storytelling, we have blogged about many of them, applications such as Photostory, Photosynth, Moviemaker, Deep Zoom Composer and even PowerPoint. Now there is available a free resource that describes in detail the benefits to learning of storytelling, as well as a practical guide to begin to create your activities in your classroom.

    Digital Storytelling in the classroom is a free e-book available here from Microsoft Education. It describes how using digital media to tell stories develops the following areas of development.

    image1. Creativity and innovation
    2. Communication and collaboration
    3. Research and information fluency
    4. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making
    5. Digital citizenship
    6. Technology operations and concepts


    Along with guidance, practical advice and examples this e-book is ideal to develop ideas about using technology in the classroom. along with this e-book you can download templates of storyboards and assessment criteria.

    If you have any ideas and experiences of using these, or any other applications that your students are using to tell their digital stories, then please leave a comment on this blog. we would love to hear from you. 

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    AutoCollage Workshop#2 – classroom ideas


    Microsoft partners in Learning_AutoCollage_50_ImagesIn my last post I described a simple walkthrough of AutoCollage and how to create a photo collage. Now lets look at some ways of how you can use AutoCollage to allow your pupils and students to describe and communicate their thinking and ideas through images.

    One obvious use is to create collages from all the photos that teachers and students take of their learning. So, instead of having many separate photos, you can have one or two showing lots of different activities. This is very useful when communicating events such sports days and other whole school events. Primary teachers have expressed the view that this is saving them an absolute fortune in printer ink, as they can produce a whole classroom  experience in one image and this is great to share with parents.

    This idea can be extended to school websites and portals, BECTa advise that schools should ‘consider using group photos rather than photos of individual children’ . This can easily be achieved using AutoCollage, negating the need to organise pupils and students into groups, having to stage photos and interrupting learning activities.

    An image collage can reflect the ‘energy’ of an event. Look at this example of 50 images taken from over 300 photos of our Innovative Teachers Forum held in December, I think it captures the essence of the day more than a gallery or slide show of images would. Imagine what it could do for your whole school events such as fetes and sports days.

    This is using  AutoCollage for what it was designed for, as a tool for displaying photos, but, where it can have real added value, is for teachers to view AutoCollage as a tool for digital story telling.

    This can be done by creating specific activities that challenge students and pupils to record their learning and communicate their ideas , using just images. This is a lot more difficult than it first seems. Especially if you only use a limited number of  images to create work. This encourages students to really think about the images they need to record for their stories. So, when the collages are ‘read’ by the audience, they should get an idea of the theme, idea or emotion that the student who created it was trying to convey. This can be a very powerful way to develop thinking skills and emotional intelligence.

    Using the manual facial recognition option, to highlight a specific area of an image, students can use images of objects to create collages. This is particularly useful in Science, Religious Education and History, subjects where artefacts are a valuable learning tool. Students can take images of objects that belong to a particular group such as invertebrates that are insects, and compare that collage with another collage of a group such as arachnids. Or religious artefacts seen in a church compared with that of a mosque, or even to document the artwork of particular artist. I sure you are be able to think of other learning opportunities where creating collections with AutoCollage would be useful.

    AutoCollage also makes a great tool for creating pupil/student portfolios of achievement, collections of photos taken by students of their learning over a term, year or even their whole school life can be combined into a collage. Creating a unique record of their learning achievements. If you are looking for a way to record student progress in Physical Education, then AutoCollage is a great way to document their activity in such a wide range of activities.

    Finally, think about using AutoCollage with other applications. Putting a collage image onto a PowerPoint slide, then creating clickable hotspots with callout text boxes allows students to add text and information to their collage. But, if you are looking for a real challenge how about combining AutoCollage, with Deep Zoom Composer to create complex multilayered collage.

    I hope these two workshops have highlighted the versatility and suitability of AutoCollage’s use in the classroom and have given you some ideas of how to use this great application in the classroom. If you have any ideas that you would be happy share with us, then let us know, for example check out Mike McSharry’s blog for some more help notes on how to use AutoCollage.

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