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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Be the next best…


    We have been really fortunate to have worked with some great schools who have helped us convey the Microsoft in education story. These schools have presented at many of our events, partaken in video case studies, appeared numerous times on our blogs and have had access to some top educational resources. We are always looking for new additions to join the UK Microsoft schools family and on  Thursday 14th November we will be hosting an online webinar telling you just how.

    Are you a school leader who is interested in helping your school convey its great teaching with technology learning story? Then we would like to invite you to the UK Microsoft Showcase school webinar. The webinar will cover a range of our educational offerings and outline key requirements needed to become an UK MS Showcase school. Naturally, we are looking for schools who are using our services and devices effectively in the classroom. However, if you are at pinnacle point deciding what route to go down then why not join the webinar to see what Microsoft education can offer your school. We have a range of free services and professional development for classroom teachers and school leaders that will help encourage 21st century learning design.

    Showcase school…


    Event details:

    Date: Thursday 14th November 2013

    Time: 4pm -5pm

    How do I apply: To join this free event simply email Mandeep Atwal or Anthony Nneke before the closing date November 8th. Please include details of your school, your role, and pupil age range. We will get back to you with event details.

    What next?

    Join for free the  Partners in Learning Network, the site provides you with the tools to share ideas about how to enhance pupil learning through the use of technology with teachers across the world.

    Pil header

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Is OneNote the best ever App for Tablets?


    image To steal a well know UK advertising slogan, ‘If a well known beer producer made Apps, it would be OneNote’. Yes, I know I am biased, but I have been using OneNote since 2003 and now with the rise of the tablet device it is even better.

    The first thing to realise about OneNote is that it comes in a number of flavours. There is the desktop version that is packaged with the Office suite. This has all the features and will run on full Windows 8 Pro devices. You should check that you have it with you current license agreement. Next is the OneNote RT version, that comes preinstalled on the Surface RT device, this almost has the full features of the desktop version , but does not have video or sound recording. Next the Windows 8 OneNote App, this is free from the Windows store for Window 8 and RT devices. Then there is the OneNote Web App accessed through Skydrive or Office 365. Next there is the Windows Phone version and before I forget, a version for iPad, iPhone and Android. You can’t say we are not inclusive at Microsoft.

    Although all these different versions have differing levels of functionality, the documents created in them are all cross compatible.

    So for the un-initiated, what is OneNote. Think of OneNote as a digital piece of paper onto which you can type, write, copy anything from anywhere, search, organise, record voice and video and share. The Web App version allows live collaboration.

    The only thing that paper does that OneNote can’t, is Origami! But there is an app for that.

    If you have Win 8 devices including Surface RT in your schools. I would suggest the first app you should install is the free OneNote app from the Windows Store. The second App should be our Free Resources App which has links to all our free resources and links to even more free great Apps.

    For tutorials and examples of best practice in the classroom using OneNote, Join for free the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network at

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Our Queen of Kodu marries her Prince Charming


    imageJust a quick post to let you all know that our Queen of Kodu, Nicki Maddams got married this weekend. Please join me in congratulating her and Kevin in wishing them all the best for the future by leaving your comments here.

    Don’t worry, the new Mrs Cooper will be back with more Kodu greatness after her honeymoon .

    If you don’t know it already , check out Nicki’s superb blog for loads of Kodu and Computer Science resources. – 

    You can join 1000s of other teachers like Nicki on the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network – – Join for free today

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Getting my GEEK on with Raspberry Pi, SSH, Python and Surface RT !


    clip_image004Now I am a Developer ! With my Free Resources App in the Windows Store, I thought I would share one of my other experiments in entering the world of Geekdom.

    I have a Raspberry Pi (RPi) device (it was a gift!), the £25 programmable computer. I have started trying to get my head around setting it up and learning to code on it. Whilst that’s a steep learning curve for me, I also found it a real hassle to plug in all the power, usb ports, monitor , mouse and keyboard every time I wanted to use it. I thought this would probably the same for setting RPIs up in schools. But, I read that devices such as RPi could be controlled and programmed remotely using client software. So I had this idea, could I do that from my amazing Surface RT? Turning into a Surface RPi.

    Firstly, I had to find an SSH client App in the Windows Store, a simple search produced a number of apps . Next, I needed an app that allowed me to code in Python. The coding language used on RPi and is popular in Schools. Again , the Windows store came up trumps and I installed Python for Metro.

    With the Apps in place I just now needed to set it all up. With help from with words I didn’t understand. I discovered the IP address my network was giving the RPi (I did have to set it all up a again to do this, but thankfully only the once). Once I had that, I powered my RPi from the USB port on my Surface RT. This meant the that RPi would connect wirelessly to my network. Remember at this point the only lead connected to th RPi is the USB power cable. Running the SSH app, I entered the IP address and Ta Dah! Connected to the RPi. I could now programme the device using the tools installed on the RPi. But, that still meant I need the RPi connected via the network.

    Could create code and then ‘download’ it to the RPi when I needed to. This is where the Python app came in. Now I can write, copy and edit code whenever and wherever I need to. Then connect with the RPi later and because Win 8 allows you to run multiple apps at the same time. I could test and run the code on the RPi as well.

    This screen shot proves that this works. The RPi via the SSH app is running on the Left and Python app on the right.


    Why is this so useful? Well, as I see it, the beauty of the Raspberry Pi is the ability to program it to control external devices through its GPIO ports. Here I am using it with a Berryclip addon , making lights flash in sequence (BTW , built the clip_image003BerryClip myself, all adding to my Geek credibility). As you can programme in Python and Scratch on any Windows device, you are are not using the real learning potential of the RPi if you are just doing this.

    So why not get your GEEK on and try this with the Surface RTs you have in school or any Windows device, and begin taking full advantage of the Raspberry Pi.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Flipping the Classroom with the Tablet Academy


    I am pleased to announce our first collaboration with the Tablet Academy

    They are running a training event in December in London about ‘Flipping the Classroom’. From experience I know their courses fill up pretty quickly, because they are awesome. so book your place today at

    Full details are below. Hope to see you there.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    What is Microsoft Partners in Learning School Research (PILSR)?


    PILSR provides individual schools with an online research tool to measure their own innovative teaching practices that develop the skills students need for life and work today. Based on globally-recognized research, the PILSR research tool is international in scope, enables school-specific measurement of innovative teaching, and provides a common language to drive community dialogue and systemic change – all at no cost to schools.

    clip_image001What are the benefits of the online research tool?

    Partners in Learning School Research helps schools achieve a common understanding of innovative teaching practices, educational transformation, and how all parties can collectively move forward.  PILSR is:

    Credible.  The research tool validates the role/importance of ICT and is based on globally-recognized research* that measures innovation in three key areas:

    o Student-centered pedagogy (teaching/learning)

    o Extend learning beyond the classroom

    o ICT** used for teaching and learning

    · Complimentary.  Available at no cost to primary and secondary schools worldwide.

    · Easy/Accessible.  Available online and easy to administer. Set up, distribute surveys, and receive data easily and with minimal time commitment. 

    · Measurable.  School-specific measurement and a path to innovation.  Research data provides factual, school-specific information to empower leaders to make educated, data-driven decisions.

    · Personalized.  Provides school-specific results based on each individual school’s own environment.

    How does the research tool work?clip_image002

    1. Schools sign up using a simple set up wizard:  Sign up for PILN. Identify a research leader. Invite teachers. Invite School leaders. Takes 15-20 minutes to set up.

    2. Distribute Surveys & Reminders

    Easy Distribution:  PILN sends emails that contains survey links, call-to-actions, and deadlines. PILN enables research leaders to see who has and has not taken the surveys and sends reminder emails to complete surveys.

    Invitation to take the school survey


    Monitor your school’s survey progress screen


    Reminder emails are sent to participants who haven’t completed their survey


    3. Use the Report

    Insightful Results:  Once the survey window has closed, a report is generated and available to people who participated in the survey. The report measures elements of innovative teaching practices and compares educator and school leader responses.

    Below are a few examples of PILSR results.  clip_image006

    § Innovative Teaching Practices Index

    § Student Centered Pedagogy

    § Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom

    § ICT Used for Teaching and Learning by Educators

    § ICT Used for Teaching and Learning by Students

    § Barriers to Technology Use

    § Topics of Professional Development and Levels of Innovative Teaching Practices

    § Types of Professional Development and Levels of Innovative Teaching Practices

    § Collaboration among Educators

    § Incentives and Recognition for Innovative Teaching

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Microsoft UK Free Education Resources WIn 8 App– Released Today


    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


    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 – . You still have time to apply to become Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator – closing date 30th Sept

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    You want to know how to ‘do’ creativity? Look no further–Kodu Kup UK


    Blog on KoduKup UK by Gerald Haigh

    The Kodu Kup finals.
Photograph: Rosie Hallam.On Friday 5th July, was I fortunate to be at Microsoft’s Thames Valley Park HQ when the eleven teams of young finalists of the UK’s first KoduKup competition presented their games to the judges . It was an inspirational occasion that captured the respect and admiration of all the adults who were there. The event itself is well described in the various enthusiastic blogs recording the details -- the brilliant teams who came first, second and third, what they won (cool stuff!) who the judges were. There’s this Teachers’ Blog with some great images.

    Also on the Schools Blog at

    and this personal and enthusiastic account by teacher Nicki Maddams (@GeekyNicki) who worked on the organisation of the competition and was a judge at the finals.

    The Kodu Kup finals.
Photograph: Rosie Hallam.Reflecting on creativity

    I’ve had a little more thinking time, than those early bloggers, which gives me the opportunity to reflect on some of the wider issues around Kodu in general and the KoduKup in particular. So, for instance, having spotted Jan Webb, ICT Consultant with the ICT Association ‘NAACE’, at the event, I called her next day to collect her own take on what we’d seen and on Kodu itself. For her, yes, it was about programming, but she was at least as interested in the wider aspects – creativity, cross-curricular work, innovative ways of learning.

    ‘Kodu’s a really creative way of addressing some of the meat of the national curriculum. It helps self-directed learning, but in a supported way.’

    Jan was particularly interested to see how the teams had explored possibilities, prepared both to tackle obstacles and go around them.

    ‘One of the most powerful things that one of those children said was that they weren’t afraid of getting things wrong. Now that’s an important message about creativity and computing -- that it’s OK not to get it right first time. That’s what computer programmers do’

    That word ‘creativity’ constantly crops up in any educational discussion. To many teachers, though, it sounds off-puttingly vague. ‘OK, I have to be creative. But what do I actually have to do when I go into the classroom?’

    What’s needed, of course, is a framework, a starting point. That’s what you get with Kodu, which begins with the creation of a world. That’s always going to be a winner for children. When I was at school, my headteacher told my mother that I was too often in a world of my own. But don’t all children yearn for other worlds? To be able build one with Kodu that’s your own, different from everyone else’s, is the start of a big adventure because your world then becomes the setting for your own story. It’ll be a great story, too, with tricks, traps, frustrations and bits that make you laugh. You can build it on your own, or you can work with your classmates. On the way you realise that no project proceeds calmly from start to finish. So you will argue about it, change it, chuck it out and start again if needs be, and then yell and high-five each other when it finally works just as you wanted. (Well, almost anyway)

    Broadening the reachThe Kodu Kup finals.
L to R: Holly Bridges, Kayleigh Bennett and Shauna Coates from Afon Taf school.
Photograph: Rosie Hallam.

    Think about that, and it becomes clear that Kodu can reach across the curriculum and to all children. Talking to ICT teachers at the KoduKup Final, I found some who are already in contact with other subject leaders, because it’s difficult to think of a curriculum area that couldn’t be enhanced by Kodu– geography, English, science, maths, history.

    Importantly, too, Kodu is inclusive. At the KoduKup final we saw young people from early primary school to the top of secondary, girls and boys. Children with special needs were there, too, although the judges didn’t know that. Why should they?

    The event was won by a team of girls – ‘Artemis’, from Afon Taf High School In fact the gender balance of the whole event was hugely encouraging for anyone keen to see computing and gaming demolishing the ‘male geek’ stereotype. ‘Artemis’, in fact, showed a wonderful ‘geek’ image to illustrate that point, and were able, without banging a drum, to get that message across by building into their presentation their wish to inspire more girls to enter the gaming industry. They made a point of asking the judges about this.

    Engagement, passion and commitment

    Whatever the results of the competition, there’s no doubt that Kodu is a winner with students and teachers. ‘There are no behaviour management issues,’ said Ingrid Noland, ICT teacher at Walthamstow Academy. ‘Except when you tell them it’s time to stop.’

    And Stacey Freeman, teacher at Barlows Primary, says,

    ‘They love it to the point where they asked us how to get it at home, and a lot of the ones who have internet access have downloaded it.’

    In fact the typical pattern for a KoduKup team is that they will have worked on Kodu in class, and then taken it forward out of school hours, either in a club or at home.

    ‘They’re often back in my room at lunchtime,’ says Ingrid Nolan.

    So here’s a bona-fide, core curriculum resource that children want more and more of. Clearly the challenge is for teachers to catch that tide and make it work not just for computing but for learning as a whole. Stacey Freeman of Barlows Primary encourages children to run development diaries of what’s gone well in their games development.

    ‘They start to ask ‘what if?’ questions. We’re trying to develop them as problem solvers not just to learn to programme for computer science.’

    It really is about coding

    At heart, of course, Kodu is about programming – ‘coding’, using a highly accessible visual language. For many teachers that’s going to be the number one reason for looking at it, given the requirements of the revised National Curriculum. Stuart Ball, Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers Programme Manager, who displayed his teaching roots by hosting the KoduKup final in finely judged, learner-centred style, makes the point that Kodu isn’t in competition with other The Kodu Kup finals.
Photograph: Rosie Hallam.programming tools.

    ‘But there’s no cost involved, and it offers some features that perhaps others don’t. The learning curve for teachers isn’t very steep, and learners adapt quickly to it.’

    The evidence is, though, that Kodu users really are learning, almost without realising it, some fundamental coding principles. Stuart finds that higher level students and programmers easily see that.

    ‘When I show it to graduates they’re blown away, and wish they’d had it when they started, and say that it will bring youngsters into the industry.’

    I had first hand confirmation of that in the encounter I had during the event with Tom Morris, who’s just graduating in computer games technology from John Moores University. Tom, who has been working with children at Barlows Primary School in Liverpool, told me how impressed he was with Kodu, how he’d seen children becoming ‘code literate’, and reaping other benefits, in maths, physics and general problem solving and communication skills.

    ‘If I’d been able to use it when I was younger it would have improved my skills. I started programming at eighteen and it was difficult to grasp. It’s like learning a foreign language -- if you start young, it’s easier.’

    That said, Kodu isn’t just for people who are going to go into professional coding. We live in a world where everyone comes into contact with computer software, and to have no inkling at all of what’s involved is to be at a disadvantage whether as a consumer, a customer, a participant in a meeting, a worker briefed on a new task.

    ‘It’s a broad church now,’ said judge Gary Carr, Creative Director at games studio ‘Lionhead’, when I interviewed him before the event, ‘Part of everyday life.’

    That’s Kodu, then – potentially adding value across the whole curriculum, preparing young people for life, work and leisure.

    The KoduKup journey, though, introduces an extra dimension, a set of new, very 21st Century skills and challenges, to do with teamwork and presentation. The task for the teams was to present their game, ‘Dragons Den’ style, to the judging panel as if to a potential publisher. When I spoke to Gary Carr he was looking forward to seeing how the children met what to him seemed a big challenge.

    ‘It’ll be interesting. Developers are not necessarily comfortable with presenting. They can be quiet, introverted, thinking about stories.’

    But these developers, of course, were children, free from too many inhibitions, and though some of the younger ones had to find reserves of courage – which they did magnificently -- all of them stepped up and performed and were warmly congratulated. They used imaginative blends of video, live talk, mock-interview in a way that should have made some of the teachers and professional presenters in the audience feel a little uncomfortable.

    Finding the right tuneThe Kodu Kup finals.
Photograph: Rosie Hallam.

    I found myself frequently replaying the KoduKup Final in my mind over the following days, because I knew there was a familiar feel to it. Then I realised what it was.

    For a number of years I was a regional and national adjudicator with the National Festival of Music for Youth (NFMY). So many of the messages from that superb event, I realise, were – are – similar to those that were in the air at the KoduKup final. There’s the finely judged combination of competitiveness, good-hearted mutual support, and celebration. Most striking of all, there’s the humbling realisation, in both cases of just how limitless are the capabilities of our children, given the right balance of guidance and freedom, and space to grow. Just as music provides a framework for sublime acts of creativity so a programming language opens up similarly boundless possibilities.

    ‘We Could Do That’.

    I don’t want to push the analogy much further, but I will make one further point, which is that the NFMY, which began in quite a small way in 1971, has grown to the point where it involves 60,000 young people aged 4 to 21 across the UK each year. On the way, it’s created a mighty rolling ‘We could do that!’ effect across thousands of schools and teachers and millions of young people. There’s no doubt that the KoduKup competition will grow in the same way if it becomes annual. Currently, not enough people know enough about Kodu, or about the KoduKup. There’s no doubt, though, that as time goes on they certainly will. Any teacher or school leader – and, more to the point, any student -- who observes the work of the entrants, whether online or at an event, is going to say, ‘We could do that!’

    And there are, of course, lots of reasons why they should.

    You want to know how to ‘do’ creativity? Look no further.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Microsoft Kodu Kup UK–the pictures say it all


    If you are still unsure why Computing should be in the ICT curriculum, then check out this video of our Kodu Kup UK Final, it will change your mind.

    Kodu Kup UK Final–A great day
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