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Reinventing Learning – Microsoft Conference

brisbane

Over the years that I have been teaching technology, I have always enjoyed using MS Office in my computer classes and although I have an iPhone and iPad, still use a windows based laptop and personal computer. Last year, I applied to become a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator and was accepted into the program. As part of this profile, I was invited to attend the “Redefine Learning” conference in Brisbane, several weeks ago. Below is a summary of some of my experiences and learning at the conference.

redefine learning

Redefining Learning Conference

This conference organised by Microsoft was primarily for Microsoft Innovative Expert Educators and Microsoft Showcase Schools using the hashtag  #redefinelearn on twitter.

Some of the standout learnings and quotes were:-

  1. Change can start with a conversation. A group can make that change happen. The emphasis was creating a network of innovative and passionate educators.
  2. If you want to make change look for someone who is doing it, copy/mashup/remix what they are doing.

Highlights

  1. Developing a strong professional learning network with people who have similar passions and interests.
  2. Being exposed to some of the latest thinking in learning
  3. Having some exciting collaborative and interactive tools being released through MicroSoft including OneNote and Swayy
  4. Hands on learning experience in maker spaces with students – robotics, coding etc

A brief run down on some of the experiences and presentations

St Stephens School visit

The conference started with a school visit from a choice of two schools and this was one of the highlights of the conference for me. The principal of St Stephens showed us around. He emphasised that we are in a creative era – therefore learning spaces have become a personal passion his as they  enable collaborative, interactive and blended learning. The use of technology and its affordability and what can be done is only limited by our imagination.

Open spaces, moveable furniture and tables of many different styles, glass walls etc feature everywhere and allow blended, collaborative and interactive learning. Regular PD has been provided for staff and learning spaces have evolved and been adapted for blended learning. Staff have seen the pedagogy needs and used flexible spaces to do this.

They use a young innovative architect. Building towards successful organisation wide blended learning as they are finding traditional classrooms no longer work. The pen or stylus is now being embraced with the surface pros by increasing numbers of teachers. Windows devices are the preferred device due to pen etc and common platforms etc. They commenced with a goal of achieving blended learning, then built the courses and added in content. 3 years later, staff build the course without realising they were moving to a blended learning environment. Majority of teaching is online, but artwork is done in a traditional classroom. Tutorials online teach staff and students how to use OneNote etc. Analytics show that students are logging on in great numbers on the weekends to make use of the online learning environment. As blended learning involves technology enhanced learning, devices are fully supported by 3 technicians (a vital factor for success).

Conference Sessions

Mark Sparvell, Worldwide Showcase School Program Lead, Microsoft

Innovative schools are focussed on happiness, citizenship, adaptive capabilities, active and involved citizenship but problems around managing change.

Transformation occurs one conversation at a time. Takes a community to make the transformation.

Edupreneur: Unleashing teacher led innovation in schools David Faulkner, Education Change Makers  David encouraged us to share what “what is unacceptable……” for young ones today, but to then turn it into what we can do about it. He encouraged us to put together radical ideas – radical collaboration – copying from each other, collaborating together and creating a new direction in learning. There is a need to teach people how to innovate. Come up with 100 solutions to the problem. The first idea is often the worst. One idea in first 60 might be okay. Between 80 and 100 of those ideas come 5-7 real ideas for client. Some of the most ridiculous ideas build the best innovation and products.

Deanne Joosten, a teacher from Phoenix P12 School  “Beyond 4 Walls”.

Consider the screen as a portal, not a window and innovate learning beyond the classroom. Very few people are crazy enough to teach drama or many practical classes via videoconferencing. In one year she taught 3 remote classes together with her face to face class. This involved 614kms 7.5 hours of driving. Teaching and learning through a screen makes you think of working in other ways – broadens the mind. Teachers have to work hard to make them feel like they are being there with us and students need to think outside the box. Deanne used a live skype linkup with one of her drama classes to demonstrate how it can be done.

deanne and students

Friday morning started with a series of Teachmeet style 5 minute presentations. These included:-


Teachmeet

8 Mini presentations – 5 minutes each

Pip Cleaves Bringing it all together with Docs.com
Annette McArthur STEM Project based learning initiatives in our makerspace
Steve Crapnell Visible Thinking via SNIP and OneNote
Travis Goulter Positive Behaviour in the 21st Century with Red Critter
Anne Mirtschin The Magic of Mystery Skype
Sheree Bennett Enhancing understanding through feedback, collaboration and a tiny robot
Ineke McGuire Using OneNote to enhance differentiation and personalisation in the classroom
Nathan Moore Yammer for Social Learning
   

Participants were then give 2 x 15 mins to interact further with 2 of these presenters in round table style discussions.

Megan Towns – The MS Educator Community

This session was aimed at helping us to get connected and stay engaged with others around the world. Profiles allow the sharing of personality, achievements, passions, interests and what you are doing.

Megan introduced many of the social media tools that we can use for networking.

Introducing Microsoft Classroom: A new experience in Office 365 with Ari Schorr, Produc Mardeting Manager, Microsoft.

Using MS Classroom and some of its finer features for collaborative learning, ease of assessment and

feedback to students etc

Stem Hackathon

ebots.jpg

Students from Ormiston College, years 5 to 12, (and teachers) led us in a hands on STEM experience.

The session showed ways that students are integrating STEM into their learning at all year levels and across the curriculum at Ormiston College. We looked at some of their robotics, robots, coding the robots and using a number of software tools to code. An enjoyable and engaging session and one of the conference highlights.

student as mentors

The conference closed with a Microsoft Closing Keynote speaker and final words from Travis Smith encouraging us to redefine learning, continue to network and push teaching into new directions.

 

 

The Hour of Code

hour-of-code-logo

This week celebrates the Hour of Code #hourofcode across the world – December 7th -13th. On day one of this week, lesson one at school, I had a combined year 7-9 class. They were highly engaged in completing challenges for the Hour of Code, using drag and drop blocks by  Building a Galaxy in Star Wars followed by Minecraft. The more competent or experienced students used the javascript tutorials.

girls on code

The Code to Learn tutorials are great because:

  1. small video clips feature people across the world explaining what the students are to do.
  2. The challenges feature topical animations and games that students are familiar with.
  3. The graphics are great
  4. Students were able to follow the user friendly instructions.
  5. A certificate is given once the challenge is completed.
  6. the amazing part was that three students who struggle with literacy and maths etc in the classroom were the fastest at completing the challenges!!!

lachie on code

Here is what we did:

  • Discussed ways technology impacts our lives, with examples both boys and girls will care about (Talk about saving lives, helping people, connecting people, etc.).
  • As a class, listed things that use code in everyday life
  • Watched the following videos as an introduction


Students then wrote down instructions the actions that need to be taken to leave the classroom for lunch time eg logoff computer, stand up, push in chair, turn right, take 5 steps, turn right, take 15 steps, open door, turn left, take 30 steps to lockers to pack books away etc etc. Then discussed how this would look in code.

Student tasks:

  • Signed up for the hour of code
  • Spent an hour learning how to code by accessing an online tutorial using ‘drag and drop’ blocks of code in Star Wars and Minecraft.
  • Saved a copy of their certificates (given to them on completion)
  • Added the certificate to a post on their blog
  • Printed a copy of their certificate to take home

Teacher Resources

  1. Start here
  2. How to do the Hour of Code
  3. Check out these teaching tips
  4.  Calling all teachers and learners of code
  5. Making webpages with the Khan Academy

bailey on code.jpg

Further videos, if time permits

  1. What most schools dont teach
  2. Anybody can Learn code
  3. The Hour of Code is Here

 

The Global Education Conference – from a moderator’s point of view

There is something surreal about moderating and leading  a Global Education Conference presentation with representatives from across the globe including Bolivia, India, China, Korea, Vietnam, USA, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Somalia etc However it is not just any conference but a virtual one which is free, online, runs 24 hours a day over four days. There were participants whose names I could not pronounce, nor did I know which was the first name or last name, nor the gender attached to the name. The title of the session was Tools and Apps for the Global Educator. You can view the presentation.

Participants came from all levels of education – from teaching the very young through to tertiary and beyond. They came from a variety of languages including Chinese, Korean, Sinhalese, Filipino. Yet our interest in global education led us to develop a list of apps and tools that global educators might find valuable.

As the US participants went to sleep, it was time to take over the moderation of the conference. The Australian evenings and late afternoons were certainly quieter than the frenzy of the US day times. Sessions always had participants, unlike previous years where there was sometimes just the presenter and moderator. It was pleasing to have a good number of sessions with presenters from the Philippines. The background sounds changed with dogs barking in the background, roosters crowing and motor bikes on the road nearby. Technology rarely failed. The last night of the conference was the busiest with four concurrent sessions sometimes running. Maizie from Israel, Sue Wyatt from Tasmania and I were able to handle these busy times until the US once again started their day.

The Spanish conference presentations are always a challenge as I cannot speak Spanish and many of them cannot speak English. Google translate and Bing translate come into their own in these circumstances. Trying both tools, I think that Bing was more successful in translation than google. But often, the full meaning had to be guesstimated. There is also something surreal about being a participant in a Spanish session, listening to the speed, the intonation and the flow of the language!

steve being translated in spanish

I was able to attend one session during my daytime – that of keynote presenters Will Piper and Pedro Aparicio Engaging in Learning Beyond Borders. These two guys met each other in the Global Education Conference five years ago, struck up a connection and have worked together ever since. It was multilingual (which I personally loved with Pedro sometimes speaking in Spanish and then translating back into English). They had a great sense of fun as can be seen by Will’s quick costume change at the end!

having fun with will and pedro

This is a truly amazing conference when the world is involved and that shared passion for global education evident. It is highly recommended that you watch some of the recordings of presentations. The keynotes are a great place to start. Did you participate in any sessions? Which would you recommend?

A touching introduction!

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I attended Comview, the Victorian Teachers Association for Commercial Teachers annual conference. On Tuesday morning, I gave my presentation on “Trending Tools and Apps for Students in the Commerce Classroom”. There were approximately 40-50 teachers in attendance.

Aishah introduced my session, explaining a little about me and my role in the Commerce Classroom. She made welcome to country and acknowledged the elders on whose land we were on.

However the next was totally unexpected! she asked us all to take a few moments to reflect on the recent events in the world (Paris), reminding us of the important role that we play as educators and the influence that we can have on students, whilst they are young, to develop empathy, tolerance and an understanding of different cultures/religions.

Aishah was a female, muslim teacher from one of the Melbourne Islamic schools. I nearly started my presentation in tears!

The Global Education Conference

logo

The Global Education Conference is here again. It is free, online, open to all interested in global learning over a span of four days, 24 hours a day. It is  a space for educators from all corners of the globe to congregate, socialize, network and to learn with and from each other.

There is something surreal about being in a presentation with people who may not speak English as their first language, whose names I cannot pronounce and who may come from countries I have to ‘google’ to find out where they are from.

There is an amazing array of keynotes and presenters, who come from all countries of the world, all passionate about global education, willing to share their experiences. Please make time to join this amazing conference. Check out the conference program in your time zone, put up your feet and enjoy the best that technology can bring.

The twitter hashtag is #globaled. The ISTEglobal PLN has put together a list of their presenters and some recommended sessions. You can see it by clicking on this link.

Immigrants vs Refugees – a global challenge!

learning of immigration and refugees

A network is vital for global collaboration but when an established network is in place and collaborators are live with each other, the most amazing connections can occur.

As skype message popped up on my HLW Skypers groupfrom Lin-lin a teacher in Taiwan asking if anyone was available to listen to one of her students

speaking about the differences between a migrant and  a refugee

Unfortunately I was about to go to on recess yard duty, but quickly found two year 7 girls who were willing to linkup with Bill, the student sharing the difference. This was such an opportune topic as Australia is about to accept 120000 refuges from Syria and there is much debate on the pros and cons of doing so. Skype was used for this connection.

This is a great example of a simple connection from an established global network, demonstrating how it can lead to ongoing learning across cultures and world boundaries.

The challenges:-

  • trying to understand the distinct Asian accent

What the girls liked:

  • getting Bill to work out where we were from in the first place.  We showed him pictures of Australia
  • liked hearing the accent even though it was hard to understand.
  • just liked linking up with different countries. Can find out different things like what they are learning about.
  • I am learning about countries and where people are from by their accents. We can learn their culture from it – tells us where they are from and their history from people who actually live there.

Further questions we now have:-

  • Is Taiwan accepting refugees from Syria? Why or why not?
  • What countries do they accept refugees from?
  • Where do most of their immigrants come from?
  • Where do most of their refugees come from?
  • and so much more?

And the reaction from the class in Taiwan:

 However, I just gave a lesson about this issue to my Grade 6 students.
My class and I pay highest respect to all the nations which will give great help to the refugees and my G6 classes will make peace cranes to exchange with an American class.
Anne, thank you so much. My class read your message (re the fact Australia is taking in Syrian refugees) and they just started to know how serious the situation is and what your country has contributed to those people in urgent need.

and continuing conversations brought this message:

There were another 2 classes of mine also went on discussing and getting to know that  there are great amount of people suffering and facing the threatening  of losing lives in order to live in a safer place… And there are generous nations to receive those people.  News reports here are full of coming presidential elections next year and entertainment news….We are not connecting  to the world most of time.

One of the biggest learnings from global collaboration is that of knowing and understanding your own culture. I am so grateful to live in Australia, the lucky country!

Conversations Worth Sharing

girls and alisa

It never ceases to amaze me about the many opportunities that technology can provide to learning in breaking down the barriers of distance, cost and effort. This also includes seas and time zones. Our school is rural remote – 30-40 mins from a major shopping centre. Our students either live on farms or in very small country towns. The town our school is situated in has 150 residents. We are surrounded by farmland on three sides.

One of my favourite tools continues to be skype. It is user friendly, able to be readily used by people from all countries, is free and relatively stable with our unpredictable school bandwidth. Bearing this in mind our students were offered the opportunity to linkup with the TED conference in Vancouver, Canada several months ago. Permission notes went home to parents of year 8 ICT students and my year 11 Business Management and Accounting students.

Year 8 ICT students were to play Mystery Career with a TED speaker (who turne out to be Alisa Miller, CEO of Public Radio Internationaland Year 11 students were to be given the opportunity to talk with Blake Mycoskie founder of TOMs shoes. Then, the most exciting connection of all (from the students’ point of view was the opportunity to interact with Mark Ronson! (of Uptown Funk fame).  He is an English musician, DJ, singer, and record producer. Please watch the fantastic result.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Prior to the linkups

  • Permission forms were sent home to be signed by students’ parents.
  • Year 8 students prepared a series of questions that they could ask their mystery connection to determine their career.
  • Year 11 students compiled a series of questions to ask of Mark and Blake.
  • I booked the library as it had a cabled computer for best bandwidth, a whiteboard for projection of the TED conference
  • Our school was tested on several occasions for bandwidth and other technical capabilities by Skype technicians in London to ensure that our school, computer and setup would be capable of the connection.
  • 45 mins before the official connections, we were dialled in to ensure that lighting, backgrounds, framing of the students and audio was all okay! Our webcamera ended up being taped with masking tape to one of the speakers to ensure students were centred and framed well. So, please dont say that teachers need a lot of money or technology to achieve great things!!!
Out mystery career guest!

Out mystery career guest!

The actual linkup no 1 with Alisa Miller – Mystery Career

  • The call came through and we answered and connected with good video resolution and audio
  • all went well for the first 10 mins and then our computer independently rebooted and we lost connection
  • We dialled in again but our computer rebooted once more
  • Highly frustrated, I connected my laptop which had not been tested and it worked well enough for us to finish the first connection.
  • Surprisingly one of the year 8 students finally asked whether she was a CEO and there was an affirmative answer. See  the questions they had at their disposal to ask and determine the mystery career.
  • Alissa went on to talk more about what she does, how she got to the top and encouraged the girls to do their best and aim the highest!

Connection no2 with Mark Ronson and Blake Mycoskie – year 11 Business Management, Accounting Students and some year 8 students

  • again we connected 45 mins prior and tested the connections (technicians had replaced the desktop computer in the library). We were framed appropriately.
  • the dialling and connections worked a treat, the video and audio was of high quality. Another school from Tasmania was on skype with us and Mark Ronson
  • students were really excited to work with Mark as his work in the musical field was well known to them.
  • Blake was highly motivating in his stories of success and where he had started from. He outlined his social entrepreneurship as part of the Toms Shoes organisation. The content covered was highly relevant to their study of Business Management.

How amazing to be able to talk to three highly regarded global entrepreneurs from the comfort of our small rural school! Students  may not remember much of the textbook but they will remember their skype call with these people.