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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    OneNote and Learning Styles


    In 2007, Microsoft held our Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum in Helsinki. It was a fantastic event, and one of the highlights was a keynote speech by Danish educator Dr. Ole Lauridsen. Dr. Lauridsen is director of a new learning styles lab at Aarhus University and as part of his work has looked into OneNote and how it is able to adapt to different learning styles.

    Stuart and I have both sung the praises of OneNote in this blog. And on the Innovative Teachers Network, you can find Dr. Lauridsen's original guide OneNote "OneNote and Learning Styles - a perfect match" in the Office and Learning Styles community.

    Now there are even more resources available. Dr. Lauridsen visited Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, USA last year and gave this talk, recorded and viewable online for anyone who wants to learn more.

    Mike Tholfsen, test manager for OneNote in Redmond and Microsoft's biggest advocate for OneNote in education also posted Dr. Lauridsen's paper on Office and Learning Styles in its entirety on his blog. Here is an excerpt:

    There are many learners at all levels who know about their learning styles strengths, but are not familiar with an adequate ICT platform that supports these strengths. For these learners the Miscrosoft application OneNote is the solution. Conversely, there are OneNote users who tend to get lost in the many features and the flexibility of the program; their use of the program can be much more focused and efficient when they use their learning styles strengths as their points of departure.

    If you're still not sure what OneNote is all about (and really, how can you be at this point, with as much as Stuart and I drone on about it), you can view a demo here.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    UK Innovative Teachers Forum Awards Winners


    After receiving the highest number of entries ever for a Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum, I am pleased to announce the 10 Virtual Classroom Tours that will be celebrated at the awards event at Microsoft Ltd headquarters in Reading. The judging proved to be a very difficult and challenging exercise, with every one of the 36 entries having more strengths than weaknesses, thus making it very difficult to chose only ten award winners. But, thankfully Kristen took on the ‘Simon Cowell’ role and managed to identify 10 fantastic projects.

    The selected Virtual Classroom Tours are:

    Virtual Classroom Tours Name School
    Asian Tsunami James Kent Croseceliog Comprehensive
    Guitar Hero Transition Ollie Bray Musselburgh Grammar School
    How We See Grainne McGuigan Bowring community College
    Young Voices Mandeep Atwal Shirelands College
    Interactive Revision Chris Henderson community school
    Japan Suzie Allen community school
    Problèmes de l'environnement Gwenn Yvinec community school
    House of the Future James Allen West Monmouth Comprehensive
    Natural World Sarah Richardson
    Medi James
    Alex Edwards

    Pontnewydd Primary School
    History of the School Simon Downing community school

    You can download all these VCTs on the Innovative Teachers Network site from this community.

    So we have 10 great VCTs and 12 teachers. Yes, I couldn’t work that one out, but Kristen, being an English teacher, perhaps she can be forgiven? You can see from this list that community school have done exceedingly well. Their teachers made a major and valuable contribution to imagethe forum. This is down to the way school has adopted the concept of Innovative Teachers and placed it at the core of their professional development. They also have Dan Roberts who won an award at the Worldwide ITF in Hong Kong and I suspect his success has had a motivating influence.

    These 12 teachers will be attending an awards event at Microsoft Ltd headquarters next week. They will take part in an Innovative Teachers workshop and listen to a keynote from Guy Shearer, Head of Curriculum Design at the Special Schools and Academies Trust. We will also be announcing the four VCTS that will represent the UK at the European Innovative Teachers Forum, being held in Vienna in March. It promises to be a great event and we will share the outcomes with you in future posts.

    Thank you to all of the teachers who participated, and we hope you all take a look at their projects on the Innovative Teachers Network.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Making your life a little easier - the ITN Web part


    We have been talking to schools and teachers all over England, Scotland and Wales about the Innovative Teachers Network. We've been recruiting new members and working with teachers and partners to start new communities and post new content that we hope will be useful to all of you when you're teaching with technology.

    One of the things we've been reminded of during our conversations with teachers is just how little free time you have. We both knew this, of course, having been teachers. But when you're in a job where you can go to the loo whenever you want and on most days have more than 10 minutes to cram down your lunch, it's easy to forget some of the restrictions you faced as a teacher every day.

    We also know that many of you are required to log on to your school or authority's virtual learning environment each morning, and that you seldom go to any sites other than that during the day. (For those of you in Scotland, this will soon be GLOW, if it isn't already.) You may be restricted as to which sites you can search on the Internet while at school, thus limiting your search for lesson plans or learning activities you can use with your students. (Of course, this is assuming that you actually have time while at school to do any planning for future lessons...)ITNWebPart

    Taking all of this into account, we've created a Web part of the Innovative Teachers Network itself, which can fit into  any SharePoint-based virtual learning environment. This enables you to log in to the ITN and search for resources, communities or professional development without leaving your VLE. (Here's what it will look like in your VLE.)

    This Web part is available FREE, of course, and it can be downloaded from our partner Hunterstone's site HERE. You're going to have to contact your IT director or other person in charge of IT to make this happen, but Hunterstone has very kindly agreed to support them in this installation if they run in to any problems.

    We hope this will make it easier for you to access the resources, communities, discussions and other teachers on the ITN that we talk about all the time. Let us know if your school or authority decides to use it.

    NOTE: If you show this to your IT director and they are unable to download the Web part from Hunterstone's web site for whatever reason, we can send it to you on a memory stick. Please have them contact Stuart or me directly to request this.



  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Personalising learning - Enquiring Minds


    Hardly a day goes by anymore when I don't hear or read something about personalising learning or putting pupils at the centre of their learning. If I had a Euro for every person who uses these buzzwords without having a clue as to what they mean, I'd be a wealthy lady (notice that I'm asking for Euros at this point, and not Pounds).

    What I'm realising is that while a lot of people can drop the phrase 'student-centred learning' into casual conversation, not many actually know what it is or how to do it. This is for good reason; changing the traditional model of teaching and learning that we've all grown up with -- and that our parents and grandparents grew up with as well -- is not easy.

    Futurelab, the Bristol-based education research institution, spent three years working with teachers in two schools to create an enquiry-based curriculum and teaching model that actually works. The project, called Enquiring Minds, was funded by Microsoft as part of the Partners in Learning initiative that Stuart and I both work on.

    Researchers from Futurelab spent a great deal of time in these schools, trying out ideas, listening to teachers, and examining what worked and what didn't. What they ended up with is a set of research-based, tried and tested resources for any school or teacher wanting to try enquiry-based learning. Most recently, Futurelab has produced a set of professional development materials containing enquiry-based learning activities for teachers who want to try this approach in their classroom.EM

    I'm not going to go into too much detail about the what/how/why of this, as all of this information can be found in the following documents in the special Enquiring Minds community on the Innovative Teachers Network.

    I've seen Enquiring Minds at work at Ashton Park school in Bristol, and have spoken to teachers and pupils who are using it. What struck me in those instances was how engaged students are when they actually have input into what they are learning. Teachers spoke of children who were never interested in school until they were able to shape their learning around something they cared about - a pet lizard, a question that intrigued them, a role model. They're still learning the same concepts and skills, but because the learning takes on a new relevance in their personal lives, pupils are more motivated than they were before.

    I encourage everyone to check out the Enquiring Minds resources on the Innovative Teachers Network. The new professional development materials provide the perfect opportunity for you to try out this kind of teaching in your classroom tomorrow. Let us know what you think about it.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Am I socially network inept or just ‘Billy No Mates’?


    There are certain social protocols that we naturally adopt, such as body language, eye contact, personal space and appropriate conversation. I am the shy and retiring type and I think I am My_Characteronly now getting comfortable in a wide variety of social situations. But I think I am again experiencing that adolescent anxiety with digital social etiquette. I don’t have a huge online social life. I don’t blog, apart from this, which is work related, I have a facebook profile, with only six friends and one of them is Kristen! I use MSN Messenger, mainly to communicate with my teenage son and follow his band on MySpace. And I use the Innovative Teachers Network extensively, as you would expect.

    Recently, my use of Twitter has highlighted my lack of digital social confidence. For those of you who do not know Twitter, it is a micro blog, where posts called ‘Tweets’ can only be 140 characters long. You can follow other users and they can follow you. Basically, you blog about ‘What are you doing?’ I recently met up with a group of Social Media Evangelists (is there a collective noun for such a group?) in Cardiff, at an event organised by a user of Twitter. It was here that I began to feel digitally socially inept. I now feel I have an obligation to my Twitter followers to keep them updated with interesting comments and ideas. I am trying my best, but is it good enough?  Should I worry? And should I also be thinking about Digg, Deli.icous, Diigo, Bebo, Ning, Flickr, YouTube, Teacherstube and even the Innovative Schools Network as additional online forums?

    This is only my limited -- and slightly sad -- experience. I can't imagine how schools are approaching the use social media to support learners. My own experience in schools is that these technologies have been banned, to the point where they are often seen as damaging.

    But I think the tide may be turning. Two great examples of the use of social media in the classroom are:  A Virtual Classroom Tour by Clare Satchwell, called Learning Live, that describes how she is using MSN Messenger with her students to support them with their coursework. And I have met the guys from Mediasnackers, a company based in here Wales , who work with youth focussed organisations, including schools, developing ideas of how utilise social networks. Their site is wealth of information about social media and is well worth a look.

    We would love to hear from any of you who are successfully utilising social media to support learners and learning. Perhaps we could set a group on the Innovative Teachers Network or other social networks to share the best ideas. For the moment, at least, I am off to find the Web 2.0 equivalent of a monastic retreat. I need some ‘me’ time; all this socialising is just too much.

    You can follow my dabbling with social media at

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    One week to go


    There are only 7 days left before the closing date for submissions for the Microsoft UK Innovative Teachers Forum. If you were thinking of submitting a Virtual Classroom Tour (VCT) yourself or know of a teacher whose work in the classroom deserves recognition. Then this is the week when you need to be putting those ideas together.


    Here are some tips to help create and submit your VCT.

    - Join the UK Innovative Teachers Forum Community

    - Have a look at the VCTs submitted for the World Forum in Hong Kong

    - Check your VCT meets the following criteria.

    - You do not have to include all the resources you used. Just some examples.

    - Use links to websites and resources

    - Include plenty of examples of the outcomes for your learners

    - Try and include some details of the impact your work has had on your colleagues and school.

    Feel free to email me if you have any questions about your VCT submissions

    We are really excited about this year’s event and are eagerly looking forward to seeing the great work that is taking place in schools throughout the UK. The winners will be announced on February 10th.


    Last Years Innovative Teachers at the European Conference in Zagreb , Croatia

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    How do you know a teacher will be good?


    I had some time over the holidays to catch up on all of my New Yorker magazines, and I came across a fantastic article written by Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink and most recently, Outliers. The article is titled "Most Likely to Succeed: How do we hire when we can't tell who's right for the job?" (Click here to read it.)

    (If you do read it, you'll note that Gladwell spends a lot of time discussing finding the right quarterback for an American football team. Ignore those parts, or skip them, or whatever. They're not necessary for the the rest of the article, and they're boring. Even I don't care about American football...)

    Gladwell's premise is that you can't tell whether a teacher will be good when you hire him or her. The new teacher may have gotten good marks as a trainee, and they may have performed extremely well at university. Yet you don't know if the person is an effective teacher until you get him or her into a classroom, interacting with students, and can watch the teaching and measure the learning that is occurring.

    At that point, however, you may be too late. The most startling statistic in this article, and one that I think every government official and education policymaker around the world should read is this:

    Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year's worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half's worth of material. That difference amounts to a year's worth of learning in a single year.

    And for you parents out there...think about this when considering your child's school:

    Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a "bad" school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher.

    Finding good teachers is a problem that is nearly universal. Finland is the only country I've visited where the competition to become a teacher is so fierce that truly the best of the best are the only ones to make it into a classroom. So what are the rest of us doing? Why can't we train, identify and retain high-quality teachers? To follow on from that, why is it so difficult for schools to improve bad teachers - or get rid of them altogether? A successful company wouldn't keep someone on board who isn't doing their job year after year. Why are we allowing people like that to teach our children?

    I know the short answers to all of the questions above, but I just don't understand why things can't change. I invite you to agree or disagree with me.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Digital Literacy – Look North of the Border


    In my  post BETT trauma, I completely forgot to mention what my fellow Celts, north of Hadrian’s Wall have achieved with the Project1Digital Literacy.

    The Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum is directly mapped into the National Curriculum in Scotland. It is also built into a National Progression Award which successfully develops Numeracy, Problem Solving and other core skills.

    All schools, Colleges , community and work based learners can access these resources for free.  It appears on national record of achievement and take up is excellent.

    You can find out more here

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    BETT 2009 – Ideas and Impressions (from Stuart)


    I think I am getting old, as this year's BETT show was a test of physical endurance to say the least. I think I am a few centimetres shorter, as my spine has compressed from standing all day, my knees ache, my ears are buzzing from all the background noise and I have a repetitive strain injury due to handing out flyers. And I'm not the only one who thinks BETT is becoming an extreme sport -- did anybody visit the stand offering therapeutic massage?

    Mind you, despite all this physical exertion, the exhibitors this year have eased the burden for visitors, by dramatically reducing the number of ‘freebies’. This was clearly evident at the end of the day, as visitors were leaving in the clothes they arrived in and were not festooned with various t-shirts and weighed down with bundles of bags, pens and stress busters. Did of any of you get anything of note this year?

    Nevertheless, the lack of the classic giveaway, the Microsoft t-shirt, didn’t deter visitors to our stand, and all of our presentations were really well attended. I gave two presentations a day, entitled ‘Raising ICT Confidence in Teachers and Learners’. My co-presenters were Dave Garland (who was suffering with deadly ‘man flu’) and later in the week Dan Roberts (who was trying to survive on his new vegan diet). Both from Community School, highlighted how the Innovative Teachers Network  has made a major contribution to the school achieving its goals, including being one of top performing schools in its area. I've posted their presentation to the ITN community if you want to see it for yourselves.

    I was also able to talk about the Microsoft Digital Literacy curriculum. This is a completely free course, consisting of five interactive modules that can give your students the  necessary skills in ICT that employers demand. The course covers the following five areas:-

    imageComputer Basics

    The Internet and the World Wide Web

    Productivity Programs

    Computer Security and Privacy

    Digital Lifestyles

    Monkseaton High School have already successfully implemented this course into their school and have said “The availability of the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum will, we feel, strengthen the knowledge base of all members of the community, initially within school and ultimately beyond”.

    The Digital Literacy Curriculum is available in 29 different languages, including welsh, making it very accessible to a wider community. It can also contribute 14 points to your school’s examination scores, through being accredited by OCR. Find out more at

    Innovative Teachers - Whilst Kristen, (being my boss) was able roam around the BETT show, meeting and greeting, having coffee and sitting down (!) I was firmly rooted to the Microsoft stand. This has its advantages, as the people I wanted to catch up with were able to find me. I met up with teachers whom I had only been in contact with through the Innovative Teachers Network. We chatted about how they should put together their Virtual Classroom Tour (VCT) for the UK Innovative Teachers Forum. (REMINDER: the closing date for entries is the 1st Feb! Details of how to enter can be found here.)

    I had a great conversation with Ollie Bray from Scotland about his idea for a VCT. The best advice I could give him was to keep the description of the project simple. There is no need to include loads of resources; instead, choose those that define your project and best illustrate its impact on learning.

    Welsh Invasion – I was really pleased a large number of teachers from Wales at BETT this year. When I did leave the stand, I found sanctuary in a little piece of Wales that was the NGfL Cymu stand. It was great to see these guys showing the excellent work they are doing here in Wales.

    That’s it for another year. I now have a 12 months to start some endurance training for next year's event. I really enjoyed myself at the show this year, and despite all the aches and pains, I learnt a lot. Even though we weren't giving away 'physical' free goodies, visitors to the Microsoft stand were able to take away free advice and links to many free resources. A job well done I thought.

    So how was it for you?

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    BETT 2009 - ideas and impressions (from Kristen)


    Stuart and I spent the last week at the BETT show in London, and although we fully intended to blog during the show, I don't think either of us had a chance to even open up our laptops for the entire week. It was an incredibly busy and exciting week, and we both came away with loads of ideas and new information.

    For those of you who couldn't attend, I'll list some of my highlights from the week. (Stuart will write about his in a separate post.)IMG_0139

    Microsoft Surface. We announced the new Surface technology on our stand at last year's BETT show, but this year, we had Surface on the stand and gave interactive presentations throughout the day. This part of our stand was constantly packed with attendees, who were also given a chance to play with the technology themselves. There was quite a buzz around the Surface throughout the event. We've heard of some schools that have purchased Surface already, and we're very interested to know how they will be using it. We think the possibilities are endless. (Learn more at

    Exciting resources for teachers. I was fortunate to attend many events outside of the BETT show and listened to some truly inspirational speakers. Many of them were practitioners who suggested ICT resources that they are using with their learners. Some of the highlights here were:

    • Turning the Pages from the British Library. This is not a new tool, but we haven't blogged about it yet. The Mozart "improved" version uses Windows Vista and Silverlight to allow anyone to browse through some of the most important books in the British Library's collection, such as Leonardo da Vinci's notebook and Mozart's musical diary (shown here). Students can read or listen to additional information about each text and can zoom in or use a magnifier to examine the texts in further detail. Check it out HERE.
    • Microphilanthropy for everyone. You may have heard about the Nobel prize-winning Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and the work they've done providing small loans to individuals to whom large banks would never lend. Now anyone can help finance an entrepreneur at I listened to stories of educators using this site with students who raise money to help fund some of the projects. Just think about how more meaningful a lesson can become if your students are actually able to help someone who is less fortunate as a result of their work!
    • MIT Opencourseware. Now any of your students can listen to some of MIT's best professors lecture on a number of topics, completely free. Click HERE for MIT's site.

    IMG_3564 This blog entry wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention Stuart's twice-daily theatre presentations on the Microsoft stand as a highlight. He presented with Dave Garland and Dan Roberts from Saltash .NET Community School in Cornwall on the Innovative Teachers Network and how Saltash is using it in CPD projects with their teachers. Stuart also demonstrated how teachers can use OneNote, and the theatre was packed for each of his presentations. (Read Stuart's earlier blog about OneNote HERE.)

    At left, Dan Roberts and Stuart presenting on the Microsoft stand

    If you were at BETT, let us know. What did you learn? What did you take away that you'll use with your students?

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