Tag Archives: microsoft

Reflections on the Microsoft Global Forum: a view from outside

PiLI first became involved in Partners in Learning in 2010 and was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the four UK winners to attend the European forum in 2011 in Moscow thanks to the support of Stuart Ball. I’ve tried to remain in touch with what is going on in the Microsoft Education world; and have enjoyed co-presenting at BETT, and inviting Steve Beswick and co into our school last year. I’ve always been really pleased that the focus of PiL has been on learning, and having the right tool for the job – not on selling a device. As an educator, I believe in ‘learning: by any means’ and being flexible to suit learners, so I’ve really appreciated the network sharing resources and ideas for teaching using different software (especially the free stuff!). It’s amazing to see all the different activities that educators around the world are working on, either through the education blog or Anthony Salcito’s Daily Edventures. That’s what made the European Forum so exciting and what I hope will continue through the work of the Expert Educators.

I was so proud to see a friend and ex-colleague David Rogers get acknowledged as an Expert Educator and invited to the Global Forum in Barcelona last week, along with an impressive group of UK representatives. Obviously I would have loved to be there myself but that is why Twitter was invented! So I spent the week with the #microsoftGF hashtag constantly popping up on my phone and trying to get involved in as much discussion (and of course banter) as possible.

As an outsider to the event it was interesting to see the multinational experts getting to grips with challenges such as the learnathon – I was intrigued by these and really hope they can be shared in future. I’m always concerned that large-scale events (and this is true of lots of CPD) can be quite insular, and that something like a Global Forum should have an influence that is, well, global. As I said, the resources of the PiL network and blog are great, and there are some excellent practitioners out there to learn from – so I was glued to Twitter to see what was going on. I could be involved with spin-off threads that resulted from the keynotes which made the event interactive: debates about the purpose of education, the role of technology, and how students can collaborate and be involved in the shaping of education themselves.

Student voice in education is something close to my heart, and I had been working with my team of Curriculum Hackers only the week before (using trusty OneNote and OneDrive of course) to hack and improve teaching and learning in Geography and History – you can see some of this here if interested. David and others from the event were discussing the role of students in shaping learning and asked for feedback – so I asked my classes to get involved. Students from year 7, 9 and 10 tweeted out their thoughts from the @priorygeography account to express that they wanted to collaborate more, to have ownership, to work with international schools (particularly on global issues such as sustainability and the Millennium Development Goals) and to gain experiences of education in other cultures. It was fascinating and they were so excited to be included in a prestigious event and communicating with ‘real adults’ (obviously we as teachers in front of them don’t count!). I invited the Curriculum Hackers team back at break times and we sat and watched the twitter feed to get involved in the discussion. We also shared their hacking document with the world (http://bit.ly/1ikaHX1) and got live feedback. They were so proud! Proper spine tingly moment seeing their faces as they realised that adults were taking their thoughts seriously. So I would like to thank the Global Forum twitterati for including them.

I hope that the forum will lead to spin-off fringe events, and to a contagious spread through schools in each nation involved in order to enlighten and share. It’s all too common with CPD events that they benefit the individual or their immediate circle of friends/colleagues only but that the necessary knowledge osmosis doesn’t occur, so I really hope that Expert Educators will share their expertise, and that the amazing CPD they experienced will benefit a multitude of children. In essence: use this to change the world!

Curriculum Hackers – using student voice to pull apart learning

working on the collaborative OneNote doc
working on the collaborative OneNote doc

Student voice has always been something that interested me. Back in my NQT year this started with simple surveys like SurveyMonkey samples to get an opinion on topics I’d taught and how to improve, or having a small focus group of kids back after school to talk through what I could do better or what they would like to study. I believe we should trust our young people to have more say in their education; they are more aware than some credit and can provide coherent well argued rationales for what they should study, how to learn it, and why this is beneficial. And I don’t mean we only ask ‘the nice kids’! Be brave and have a balance, include some disaffected children as well and figure out what it is that’s going on that is inhibiting them from engagement. Letting go of the reins and empowering your people is hugely inspiring. And at the end of the day, they are the ones that undergo/experience/endure/enjoy* (*please delete as appropriate) education – so surely they should get some say?

PiLI first put serious time and effort into student voice when my school was due to be rebuilt during the BSF phase. This work led to my being awarded a Microsoft Innovative Teacher award and a trip to Moscow with Partners in Learning that was an amazing experience but totally down to the kids! You can see some of their work on the Key Stage 3 blog (it was 2011) here – it was Space Explorers:Space Creators and enabled students to have their say about the future build design and investigate how spaces affect learning. They were incredibly mature and made real progress in their own confidence throughout the project – going as far as presenting their work to ‘real adults’ like architects and external professionals.

My predecessor, David Rogers, first set up the term ‘curriculum hackers’ for our student voice group in Geography a year or so ago when we trialled adapting a scheme of work with the assistance of Alan Parkinson – you can see some of his blog reflections on this here. Last year for BBC report I expanded this (again with the wonderful Mr Parkinson 🙂 facilitating) to get our hackers to share with other students and teachers from across the city focussing on how they could include technology in learning during Kidsmeet.

My school achieved the Unicef Rights Respecting School Award Level 1 in 2012/2013, in large part due to the work of the Geography department in terms of linking the Rights of the Child charter to our schemes of work and adapting these using student voice to make more explicit. We are working towards Level 2 and although the school has a growing student voice presence (youth council and youth parliament) it is still not embedded across every curriculum area. When I took over as Head of Department I was surprised at how little some departments had done in terms of inclusion of students, and so decided to roll out the Curriculum Hackers programme across school. We are in the process now of recruiting more and more students (mostly year 8 and 9 who have experienced some schemes of work already but are not restricted by GCSE pressures) and Geography is leading the way with offering training and practise hacking.

How does this work?

– advertise for students to get involved (I use the school website, desktop background, assemblies and the life channel tv around school).

– hold a recruitment meeting with potential hackers to explain the role.

– train hackers after-school using example lessons: we look at needs vs wants, practicalities, etc,. Students are coached through how to analyse a scheme of work or a lesson outline to see how it meets requirements of skills development and how it ties to curriculum outlines – we are particularly looking at the new curriculum at present).

– hack a scheme of work! I have students off-timetable (during my PPA usually) in a block of about 3 hours (seems most efficient) and we start off with some ice-breaker type activities such as mindmaps on topics such as ‘the purpose of education’ or ‘is their a conflict between what schools provide and what you feel you need in future’ – then we have a bit of a debate. After this we do carousel activities to analyse schemes of work, the new curriculum, essentials needed, how lessons can be improved, how different learning styles can be included, etc,. I have used an ideas funnel before to sift down through suggestions and children are really good at picking up on practicalities. I’ve not really ever had to say ‘no, that’s not appropriate’ or ‘that’s not possible’ – and children are surprisingly draconian sometimes!

Collaborating in analogue and digital
Collaborating in analogue and digital

– allow students some independent time free from my interruptions and influence to work collaboratively on a shared OneNote document. I set this up in advance with a series of questions to consider, and provide them with links and hard copies of Schemes of Work / National Curriculum framework. We use OneNote because of the nature of being able to work simultaneously. I can then add comments and prompts as needed ‘live’ into the document, and they can all see each other’s work and respond to this. You can see part of a document in progress here . It also allows us to have a conversation about public access, e-safety and sharing information online since they know this document represents the department and the school and is visible to external agencies.

– hackers then share these ideas with the department at a department meeting and take feedback from teachers. We also having two hackers going in to department meetings routinely (once a half term) for the first part of the meeting to chat about lessons, give student feedback, and to discuss what they will do next. This is in the toddler stage at present in subjects of History, RE, MFL and English but teachers have been very positive and receptive so far. While it is in this new stage, I am making sure myself or another team member (or one of our older more experienced hackers from Year 10) is present as well in order to guide the conversations and provide support as needed).

– trial the lessons and get evaluations / comments from classes that take the lessons. Then in follow-up hacker sessions analyse these and make adaptations as needed.

Making their voices heard?

Part of the team presenting at TeachMeet Pompey!
Part of the team presenting at TeachMeet Pompey!

TeachMeet Pompey has been evolving from a tiny gathering a couple of years back to a fairly large scale event now. We’ve been lucky to have the support of some great sponsors and the Historic Dockyard who allowed us a free venue. 7th March this year saw over 120 educators / professionals gather for the latest #TMPompey and a few of our Curriculum Hackers / Digital Leaders were amongst those presenting. A really proud moment as their teacher to see a 12, 13 and two 14 year olds stand up and calmly and eloquently tell their story. Nobody forced them, and they sat and enjoyed the whole event as well – possibly lured by the chance to shoot teachers during laser quest afterwards but still! It’s a great feeling to see such independence, and from students who once upon a time were either disengaged or painfully shy but who have come so far and have the motivation to go even further now.

Making their voices heard globally?

Last week was the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum, where recognised Expert Educators from around the world gathered for all sorts of fun and hard work. I was very proud to see my friend and ex-colleague David up there representing Team UK along with some other awesome teachers. The twitter-sphere was pretty busy with #MicrosoftGF and #msftpil during the week and there were some great conversations going around. Although I wasn’t part of the event (not good enough see) I was keen to be part of the conversation and keep track of what’s going on (partly because I’m always concerned with big events like this – I went to the Moscow Forum in 2011 – that they don’t have as much of an influence on the outside world as would be nice, so if people get involved through twitter/yammer/PiL website maybe more sharing can be encouraged). I was really impressed and pleased to see the work of the @OffPerts student voice team there. During the event, there were requests from David and others to get some ‘real’ student voice from back in the UK so @priorygeography students got involved with this and shared their thoughts. The topic requested was ‘Why should students be involved with shaping their own learning?’ and ‘Would you like to collaborate with other countries and if so how?’ which fortuitously coincided with some of the work that my hackers had already done. So you can see their comments on the OneNote document, or in the images below. Some really interesting findings. And the kids were so so proud to see that their comments were going directly into the #microsoftGF feed and that hundreds of other professionals from around the world were considering what they said. That’s the power of student voice – that it brings pride, ownership, purpose, and can raise aspirations. I had some proper ‘spine tingly’ moments that day.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from students involved:

“We are all global citizens and will be in charge one day, so we should know what other countries do…see with our own eyes.”

“Education is our key to learning about life and how to be part of our world”

“Education to me means freedom in future”

“Technology has helped me with being confident…”

“Technology means you will create something that is one of a kind…we want to be individual”

“We are the consumers, we have to ‘do’ learning so we should have some say in what is learnt and how”

“I know teachers know the curriculum really well and I do trust them, but I also want a bit of freedom to express myself”

“I would never have had the chance to act like a grown up if it wasn’t for Miss and being a curriculum hacker…designing our own lessons means independence and us learning new skills that we might not really get otherwise”

And my favourite maybe:

“I would never have had the option to present in front of 120 adults without doing curriculum hackers. Ms Debens gave us that chance and trusted us. I like it when teachers trust us, and when we work equally…I have pride then in what I do.”

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Reflections on Bett 2013

So this week saw the annual learning technology event at ExCel London. I first went to Bett in my NQT year and remember being Bett 2013overwhelmed with the scale; in terms of the products available, the variety of specialists, and the numerous different options for CPD. This year was no different. New venue, same atmosphere. Friday was hugely busy, and it was a little fraught at times getting around and knowing where to start. For me, the most useful part of something like Bett (apart from a chance to network / catch up with people) is getting along to the seminars and hearing real stories. I gain a lot more from hearing real examples and implementation (whether low or high tech) than I do from visiting vendors. I am not being disparaging of the exhibitors at all – they know their stuff  – but I like to see or hear about practise. Maybe that’s just how I learn!

So here are a few of my highlights (not in any order):

1) Sugata Mitra ‘The Kids are Alright‘ session in the arena. I’ve seen Sugata before but you can’t really get enough of him! His style, passion, wit – all combined with ground breaking work. If you haven’t heard of him before or seen him then his project Hole in the Wall is one to investigate. Listening to him say ‘with Google, anyone can pretend to be an expert‘ might make you worry for the future of our profession but the caveat is this: without guidance and focus you only pretend. He suggests that if we give children the opportunity & resources then they will seek to learn. Now this might not be true of all children for certain! There are plenty of examples of disaffected students who choose to not learn – but then maybe they haven’t been given the right resources or opportunities? For more information on his project, watch this Ted Talk . Part of the presentation involved an interview (led by the male voice of Siri FYI!) with Jordan Casey, a 12 year old self-taught app & game creator. ICT doesn’t even get taught in his school, yet he is selling tech professionally. It was certainly inspiring to hear this humble yet clearly incredibly gifted young lad talking to 700 people.

2) Microsoft Live Learn sessions. There were plenty to choose from on the Microsoft stand! Being kind of Microsoft affiliated you might think me biased, but the reason I enjoyed these was because they were REAL. I didn’t go to look at the shiny gadgets (not just for that anyway), and I wasn’t after training in how to use Win 8. What I liked was hearing from real teachers sharing how they have used Microsoft technology to empower learning. There were various examples of creative use of software – but the focus was on the fact that these are FREE to educators. Nobody was selling me a product (though I did get mocked for using an iPhone on the stand but that’s a long standing joke, apparently I’m always on my phone). I will happily recommend anyone to join Microsoft Partners in Learning and also to get looking at the Teachers Blog and following @microsofteduk .

I particularly enjoyed sessions by:

– Mandeep Atwal on ‘A New Era for Digital Learning‘  – Mandeep is an award winning teacher and always happy to share ideas, try finding her on @mandeepKatwal .

– David Rogers on ‘Using Devices to Empower Students‘ (especially since it was based on the work that we have done in our department so I could feel a warm glow knowing that secretly it’s all me and Sam really :-p ) – I’m sure there will be a write up on his blog soon so check there or harass him on @daviderogers

 – Charlotte Beckhurst on ‘Windows 8 at Hartsbrook E-ACT Free School’ – sharing the great variety of apps that she employs in primary school. Made me quite jealous to not teach so many different subjects! Especially loved the use of photos & animal sounds for literacy. @charbeckhurst

 – Kristian Still on ‘BYOD in Education’ – just generally chatting to Kristian about transforming learning was quite exciting, and the BYOD ties in with our own work. For anyone wanting to introduce BYOD policies in school I’d recommend speaking to both he and David Rogers. Follow @kristianstill or see his blog.

3) E-Safety: Motivating and enthusing young people through the use of social media by Beth Smith of Catmose College. I loved this session! Led almost entirely by the students themselves, who were so incredibly well spoken and professional – barely displaying any nerves which put me to shame (as by this point I was getting nervous of our session coming up!). The bulk of the focus was on the makingwav.es  software (available on all platforms) which seems like a fantastic opportunity for schools to engage children with safe use of social networking and blogging. The website allows students to create blogs and access each other’s work to share, but under strict moderation from staff. Students can upload work to share with others (or keep private as they wish) – provided it has been moderated and approved by teachers first. The content and access is filtered and encrypted, only shared with those to whom permission is given and with students’ details kept private behind layers of nicknames (not real names), avatars, and moderated comments. It seems from my first impression to be a great way of engaging and encouraging sharing and peer feedback on a large scale, with the benefit of teaching e-safety simultaneously and preparing young people for the future world of social media. Rather than simply banning all social media and then just hoping they don’t accidentally get into unfiltered lands of facebook/twitter/youtube it allows practise and development of skills in a safe way. Students can also earn backpack Mozilla Open Badges – being rewarded for completing certain activities which can then be kept as digital portfolios to share at future interviews for college & work, e.g. Senior Reporter journalist badges, etc,. All types of content can be uploaded; images, video, text, powerpoint, etc,. Students were beaming with pride as they shared their online work, actually choosing to go online and upload news reports or whatever they felt in their spare time! Check out the school’s work here .

All-in-all, it was a great couple of days and I thoroughly recommend booking in for Bett 2014 and maybe try to get in to teachmeet there too. It’s not about the hard sell, it really is about empowering learning – through any means. My favourite way.

HP advert quote
HP advert quote