Friday, 17 February 2017

MIEExpert Spotlight #22: Judi Francisco: Microsoft tools, blended learning and critical thinking

This is the 22nd post in the series "MIEExpert Spotlight" for South Africa. The tab with all the posts can be found at: Today we focus on Judi Francisco. Judi is the computer teacher at Micklefield School in Rondebosch in Cape Town. Micklefield is a little independent not-for-profit primary school for girls. Judi says, “I have many titles at school such as IT Co-ordinator, Blended Learning Head, Computer Teacher, Blended Learning Teacher…. but my favourite title is Chief Learner because in technology you never stop learning, adapting, creating and trying new exciting things!” Judi is bent on making a difference in education. “South Africa may be at the tip of Africa, but the children are also at the tip of innovation and creativity. How lucky they are! Albert Einstein said ‘Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.’ 

A Blended Learning approach at Micklefield Primary
In 2015 Judi introduced a full time BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program for the Grade 5, 6 and 7 girls at Micklefield School. The Grade 4 girls have selected dates when they bring in their devices. At the start of 2016, together with great support from her headmistress, Jeannette Welgemoed, Judi formalised blended learning by allocating time to it on their formal school timetable for the Intermediate phase. During the IT lessons the girls learn the skills need for the blended learning lessons, or they learn completely separate tools and skills. Judi says, “It was not hard to formalise blended learning for two reasons. One is that blended learning covers the work set out in the curriculum. The second is that the teachers can see that the same amount of work is covered, but to a much deeper level of level whilst incorporating critical thinking skills.”

Thinking skills in ICT lessons
Judi focuses on teach critical thinking skills in her ICT lessons. “Once I had researched more about how and why to incorporate critical thinking more regularly using Microsoft tools, I was convinced that I was on the right track. We are teaching 21 century children, so we need to teach them 21 century skills.” Critical thinking skills are spread across 6 levels, and generally teachers tend to focus on the 1st three too often: knowledge, comprehension and application. So Judi now includes the next 3 levels: analysis, synthesis and evaluation in her lessons. Critical thinking skills fit hand in glove with Bloom’s taxonomy and blended learning.

Microsoft Tools,  Blooms taxonomy and Blended Learning
Microsoft applications lend themselves very well to the six steps of Blooms to enhance critical thinking. Microsoft Word, MS Excel, MS Paint, MS PowerPoint with Office Mix and MS Sway are Judi’s favourites. This is because they allow for text, images, videos, animation and audio. “Using these I can set a task that requires almost any of the verbs found in critical thinking and Blooms.” For example, Judi completed a MS Word and MS Excel project with the Grade 4 class where they focused on critical thinking skills. The girls learnt the concept of metacognition (it even became one of their spelling words!) The class teacher needed the children to cover quite a few curriculum tasks such as understanding visual data, countries around the world, seas and oceans, creating and understanding graphs, converting visual data to text and visa versa. When they looked at the list of critical thinking verbs up on Judi’s board, they selected compare, contrast, prioritise and form an opinion. The girls created spreadsheets in Excel. These were based on places the girls had visited. They then converted these into bar, line and pie graphs. The girls had to format these graphs using colour, axis, patterns, titles and tables in order to show an understanding of them. These graphs were then copied into MS Word. Judi says, “It was here that the critical thinking skills came into play. They had to write a summary about each graph. They had to comment on the data as they saw it and find what was interesting about the data. They used the following critical thinking verbs to help them do this: compare, contrast, prioritise and predict.” 

Motivating colleagues to use Microsoft applications in blended learning tasks
As a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Judi motivates her colleagues to use Microsoft applications for these blended learning tasks. “In doing these tasks I work very closely with each class teacher to develop the blended learning projects. Once we have worked out which part of the curriculum we are covering, we let our creative juices flow! This is where Microsoft tools come into play. The class teacher then gets to see how I link up the task to Microsoft tools. The teacher also get to actually learn to use the tools along with the children. By the end of the project they are more confident with using whichever Microsoft tools we covered. The teachers then happily uses the tools more regularly on their own or for other tasks in their classroom.” 

Judi enjoys using many of the different Microsoft tools in her iCT classroom. She says, “I love PowerPoint Office Mix! Who doesn’t like to see their face on their presentation! Using the inking tool is great for keeping the children focused on their message. The fact that there can be audio, presentation skills and text in the Office Mix really amps up the critical thinking skills. I love using Microsoft Sway. We also arrange exciting Mystery Skypes with classes around the world.” 

Useful Google in Education posts this week #94

After looking through all the Google posts that were shared to various subscriptions recently, these are a selection that look useful for teachers (The link to previous posts can be found here

Monday, 13 February 2017

Useful Microsoft in Education posts this week #90

The Internet is currently full of posts about using Microsoft products effectively in the classroom. Here are a number of them from this past week. The list is embedded below but can also be found at   The link to the back-dated posts is 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Useful Google in Education posts this week #93

After looking through all the Google posts that were shared to various subscriptions recently, these are a selection that look useful for teachers (The link to previous posts can be found here

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Do you know about Microsoft’s Digital civility pledge to help create a safer, more civil Internet?

How aware are you of Internet safety? Do you know about Microsoft’s Digital Civility pledge which formed part of the recent Safer Internet Day. On the recent Safer Internet Day:, 7th February, organizations and people around the world committed to promoting safer and more responsible online use of technology especially concerning young people and children. Here is a map from the website showing all the activities around the world to celebrate Safer Internet Day

Will you take the Digital Challenge?
Microsoft took the opportunity to introduce the term ‘digital civility’ – a plea to people around the world to treat each other with respect online. Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to online safety and urged Internet users to take the Digital Civility Challenge. The goal of the Challenge is to raise awareness about the need for “digital civility” and to pledge to every day live up to the four Digital Civility Challenge ideals:

  • Live the Golden Rule. I will act with empathy, compassion and kindness in every interaction, and treat everyone I connect with online with dignity and respect. 
  • Respect differences. I will appreciate cultural differences and honor diverse perspectives. When I disagree, I will engage thoughtfully and avoid name calling and personal attacks.
  • Pause before replying. I will pause and think before responding to things I disagree with. I will not post or send anything that could hurt someone else, damage my reputation, or threaten my safety or the safety of others. 
  • Stand up for myself and others. I will tell someone if I feel unsafe, offer support to those who are targets of online abuse or cruelty, report activity that threatens anyone’s safety, and preserve evidence of inappropriate or unsafe behaviour.

Angela Shearer from Microsoft says, “The road to change starts at home, at school and in the office. We are asking all internet users to pledge their digital civility on social media using the hashtags #challenge4civility and #Im4digitalcivility.” ( see

How does South Africa fare when it comes to ‘digital civility’?
in 2016 Microsoft undertook research in 14 countries among teenagers and adults to study the level of civility. South Africa ranked in 14th place in the Digital Civility Index, making it the country with the highest online risk exposure and lowest degree of Digital Civility out of all the nations surveyed including Australia, Germany, India, France, the UK and US.  The survey polled teens (ages 13-17) and adults (18-74), asking about their experiences and encounters with 17 different online risks across four categories, namely behavioural, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive. (see

 South Africa not doing well on the Digital Civility Index 
Contributing to this poor result is the fact that 78% of participants surveyed reported having been exposed to an online risk, which exceeds the international averages for both Intrusive and behavioural risks. Moreover, South Africans encountered reputational risks more often than international (22% vs. 18%) and this is led by doxing (14%) and damage to personal reputation (11%). Doxing is the practice or researching and then broadcasting private information about someone online.
Over seven in ten South Africans reported a consequence from exposure to an online risk. This was slightly higher than the international average. In general, the top ten consequences were experienced at the same or higher levels in South Africa compared to international.

As a result people become less trusting of others.

Whose responsibility is Digital Civility?
Angela Schaerer Teacher Engagement Lead for Microsoft South Africa was quoted on IT News. She believes that Digital Civility is everyone’s responsibility. South Africans need to be accountable for their online behaviour and to serve as role models and/or champions for others.  “a time to take stock of online habits and practices to ensure we’re putting our best digital foot forward and in doing so it will make it easier to establish and help foster safe as well as inclusive interactions online.”  

Get trained on the Microsoft Educator Community
Microsoft offers so many free, online courses on relevant topics.  Teachers, take a look at this one on Digital Citizenship on the Microsoft Educator Community: 

Summary of resources from Microsoft and others that will be of great help

Remember to diarise Safer Internet Day on Tuesday Feb 6th in 2018