Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Microsoft Classroom Roadshow in Cape Town – very enlightening for educators

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Microsoft has been running a series of Microsoft Classroom Showcase Roadshows in four venues around the country. School leaders and educators were invited to participate in an afternoon showcase experience to demonstrate how Windows 8 Tablets, Office 365, Microsoft Professional Development and other education tools and resources can help to transform learning. The right technology in the hands of educators with access to the best solutions and pedagogical training will create a force that truly transforms education across South Africa and Microsoft was keen to demonstrate their offerings.   The hashtag used for this groups of Roadshows is #MDEdutour

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These are some of my takeaways from the Microsoft Roadshow held in Cape Town on Tuesday 31st March from 12:30 – 5pm.

1. The Office 365 tour presented by Jaye Richards-Hill
Jaye Richards-Hill from the Tablet Academy is an Office 365 expert and after Angela Shaerer had opened the event Jaye took to the podium with an amazing tour of Office 365.  She started off by enlightening us on the changing education landscape and reverted to her own educational experiences as a Science teacher whilst in Glasgow.

One Drive
Jaye started with a demonstration of One Drive which is a free Microsoft site in the cloud that hosts Microsoft Office online plus 15GB of storage space. For Office 365 users One Drive offers unlimited storage. Providing schools with connectivity is the first priority so that teachers can use the cloud for storage.  

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As a teacher, whether you are using Office 365 or whether you are not, One Drive is a great place to create, store and share all your documents, assessments, planning etc. One Drive is the free part of Microsoft online. One Drive also allows collaboration via the sharing of documents. She likened One Drive as a digital filing cabinet.

Yammer
This is a social network that is built into Office 365.  It is like using Facebook in the class.
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Yammer integrates like a social network down the side of the document which is built into Office online. Yammer offers praise cards, comments, groups etc. One can create a closed group e.g. Class Natural Cciences group. Yammer is an internal network, but a teacher can create a network with external people such as parents and caregivers. Yammer could be a way of strengthening home and school collaboration.

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Sites
Sites is an online space where students can personalize their site For example: Grade 10 Art site shown above. It is a place to give assignments, share documents etc. Sites is like a blog, a place for sharing creative writing or other files of collaborative work. One can also integrate external Apps into Sites. 

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All these tools and service work together.  Other tools and apps work through Office 365.  MSN apps in Windows 8 are good. Free content is available.

OneNote Class Notebook
This is the Microsoft product most like Google Classroom.  Work with students in lots of different ways. This can be set up in Office 365 and also in One Drive. Go to One Drive, select Apps and add OneNote online. To set it up is a four step process…very simple. You can assign students and teachers. It is a collaborative site where you can add sound clips, movies etc as well as documents. Storage space is limited so it is best to add links to media on external sites.

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One can summarise lecture notes using OneNote for better recall and understanding. One can also use OneNote offline and synchronise when online again.

Office Mix
You can turn PowerPoint into a great tool for reading and teaching by adding the Office 2013 Office Mix add in for extra functionality. It includes polls and quizzes and is great for flipped classroom use.  It also has whiteboard functionality. You can embed a video of yourself explaining what is being shown. You can also add a screen recording, a sound byte, a quiz or a poll as mentioned or a free response questionnaire

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Once created you can upload to the Office Mix Gallery and share with others. There is a is a growing repository of resources on the gallery.

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Best is you can also get starts of how many have watched each slide and how long they spent on it.  Analytics and data for each slide assist in adapting the presentations to suit the grade.

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Office Sway
Sway is similar to Slide Rocket or Prezi and is another creative way to present your information. You can add images, text, videos, documents, colours etc to make the Sway. You can even add channels to make the presentation. PowerPoint can be changed into sways.  Jaye gave a quick demonstration on how to make a Sway.  She also went through the SAMR model of technology integration (SAMR - teachers adopting technology....augmentation, modification redefinition)  which she presented on a Sway.
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This was a clear and excellent presentation all round. Jaye gave many examples of how these tools were being used effectively in the classroom – I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this.

2. Presentations by #MIEExpert15 educators
At the roadshow we had some great presentations from our local Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (#MIEE15) for 2015.

a) Karen Stadler’s Save our Rhino project
Karen really wowed us with her presentation about this very successful world-acclaimed project which she calls the ‘project of her heart’. Her project wiki can be found at http://saveourrhinos.wikispaces.com/. Large numbers of schools in every continent are participating in this project.  This project has clearly developed a life of its own as it brings awareness of the disastrous poaching of rhinos for their horns.

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b) Linda Foulkes shared on One Note and other Microsoft products
Linda is an expert when it comes to using Microsoft tools effectively. She shared so many nuggets on using One Note in the classroom. She feels that OneNote is an underrated collaborative app. She encouraged all teachers to explore the Microsoft Educator Network. Linda will be facilitating a MicrosoftMeet at Bishops on Saturday 16th May 2015 from 10:00 – 12:00 am.

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A MicrosoftMeet (like a TeachMeet) is to be held at Bishops on 16th May from 10:00 – 12:00 am

3. The last two presentations of the day were from Microsoft Partners
a) Karen Durand from Smartboards gave an inspiring demonstration of how a teacher and a class can benefit from using a Smartboard in the classroom

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b) Brad from EDU365 informed us about the company’s many offerings for teachers.

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This was definitely a most informative afternoon – an afternoon well spent.  Thank you to Microsoft for bringing this Classroom Roadshow to Cape Town.

A collection of the tweets on Storify
A collection of tweets from the afternoon can be found on this link: http://bit.ly/1DUkY8w


'Scintillating and Successful Story Writing!' A wonderful guest post by @apeters522 from Parklands College

This is another guest post from Anthony Peters @apeters522 who is a very innovative English High School teacher from Paimagerklands College in Cape Town. We are always delighted to publish posts by Anthony especially as he publishes on blogging platforms all over the world!  In previous posts he shared with us his very successful Shakespeare QR code Scavenger Hunt Assessment activity done with Grade 9 students, as well as Awesome Aurasma - teaching the different forms of humour to a Grade 9 class using Aurasma; 'Vivacious Visual Literacy!' An innovative assessment task for Grade 9 Visual Literacy and his innovative celebration of World Book Day, 'Awesome World Book Day post by @apeters522 ’The Birthday Bard is Back…and this time he’s 450 years old!’  The last post featuring Anthony’s creative approach to education was when a SchoolNet representative was Invited to be a ‘Dragon’ (by @apeters522) in the finale of a creative Grade 9 Dragons' Den project at Parklands College. Thank you for your great sharing Anthony and Parklands College!

This is a one-week writing project that Anthony got the Grade 7s doing this quarter.

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“Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status” –Sir Ken Robinson

Creativity is necessary for both learner and educator alike...
Ken Robinson, an internationally known (and extremely well-travelled) English educationalist, was quoted as saying, “Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.” As the quote suggests, this has mindset has particular relevance to writing. It is not uncommon for language educators following curriculums around the world to feel that greater focus is put on the structural elements of writing (e.g. characterisation, plot development and synergy between paragraphs) instead of teasing and coaxing the unlimited realms of learner imagination. Whilst acknowledging that the structural elements are vital components of any written work, it is clear that narrative writing can become more of a chore to learners instead of cauldrons of unbridled potential, enthusiasm and potent creativity. From a particularly (but justifiably) selfish perspective given my role as an English educator, marking one-hundred uninspiring and unimaginative narratives is about as exciting for educators as having one’s teeth removed by something about as rudimentary as a draconian kitchen utensil! Therefore, creativity is necessary for both learner and educator alike. With this in mind, I utilised two (largely free) simple Apple apps to assist in re-marrying the structural components of traditional and modern story writing along with the all-important imaginative element. A group of Grade 7 learners were my guinea pigs…!

The hook

I began the lesson with a catchy learner-oriented Keynote in order to explain the importance of planning and to get the creative juices flowing!

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"I made a start and got the creative juices going…"

The Popplet app is great for planning…
For the next stage, I exemplified a simple plan of how a story could go and modelled it in Popplet. This is a particularly wonderful app, as it allows learners to not only add text into digital boxes where they can document ideas, but to also add images in order to spark further thinking.

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A demonstration…
The story I demonstrated was of a very silly (and hopefully unlikely!) scenario whereby one of my school educators initiated a fight with one of the others within one of our school halls. This ended up with the unfortunate demise of the latter at the hands of the former despite none of the other occupants of the hall noticing anything! Despite being overly simple, it allowed me to model a typical story structure and the learners were very attentive (and perhaps worryingly unconcerned!) as to what had befallen one the school staff.

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“I orchestrated a role play by two of the educators to model a typical story structure…"





The Toontastic app is introduced…
Ordinarily, the learners would now be expected to begin pursuing their own story plans. However, throughout my four years teaching within the South African education system, I have observed that when asked to plan a story, many learners, despite having wonderful imaginations, struggle to get started. With that in mind, ToonTastic was brought in.

This fantastic little app has recently become completely free along with all its original (and vast) functionality so if you do nothing else today, you could do a lot worse than to add this to your collection. Primarily a little avatar animation application, ToonTastic exposes learners to a host of settings, characters and scenarios ideal for sparking that quintessential imaginative thinking.

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15 "ToonTastic exposes learners to a host of settings, characters and scenarios ideal for sparking that quintessential imaginative thinking"

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What is also marvelous about it is that it emulates the typical structure of a story consisting of the facets: setting, conflict, challenge, climax and resolution.

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"Setting, conflict, challenge, climax and resolution is made clear in Toontastic."
With all of this visual stimulation to inspire them, the learners were far more confident and adequately equipped to planning their work on Popplet and writing their first story drafts into their books.

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"The first draft is planned"

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The publishing stage
Finally, after lots of hard work, the learners typed up their final drafts onto their iPads and either submitted them to me via email or AirDrop.

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SchoolNet says: What a great way to teach story writing, Anthony. You really made each stage come to life. I am sure the learners in this class LOVED these lessons!  Thank you again to you and the creative English Department at Parklands College in Cape Town for sharing this great post with us.