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

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Three EdTechTeam South Africa Summits featuring Google in Education this year – which one will you attend?

Every year for the past few years the EdTechTeam based in the United States has held a very successful Summit featuring Google for Education in South Africa. These have always been incredibly inspiring events where teachers go home with a myriad of exciting classroom ideas. This year THREE of these summits are planned for South Africa in different areas.

EdTechTeam South Africa invites you to join them at their upcoming Summits featuring Google for Education. Enjoy two days of empowering hands-on workshops, inspiring keynote speakers, and fun activities including a high-energy demo slam where you can win prizes. Go beyond the tools and explore cutting edge best practices in educational technology and great teaching! Workshops are going to be led by Google Certified Innovators, Google for Education Trainers, Apple Distinguished Educators, school leadership or teachers with a passion to share their work to help others raise their game as well. Register now to send teachers, administrators, tech directors, library media specialists, tech support staff, and anyone who is interested in finding out more about leveraging G Suite from Google for Education and iOS to support student learning.
Cape Town Summit
If you live in Cape Town Richard Knaggs from Parklands College recently sent out an invitation:
EdTechTeam South Africa invites you
to join us for the Cape Town Summit
featuring Google for Education
In Partnership with Parklands College

1. Cape Town Summit (4-5 April 2017)
Richard says, "We have negotiated lower pricing so that you can enjoy two days of empowering hands-on breakout sessions, inspiring keynote speakers, and fun activities including a high-energy demo slam.

Register for the two day Summit event to take advantage of the early bird pricing here:"
2. iPad EDU MasterClass (3 April 2017)
This one-day experience is designed to inform, inspire, and empower educators. Workshops include sessions for leaders, educators, and technical staff. Coffee and lunch are provided for all ticketed workshops.

Register here for the one day iPad Edu Master class here:

Which Summit will you attend? Visit for more details and to register

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Educator Spotlight #5: Mr J.E Khumalo from Habeni Primary School

This is the fifth post in our series ‘Educator Spotlight’ highlighting South African educators who are encouraging the effective using ICT Technology in a school setting. In this post we focus on Mr J E Khumalo from Habeni Primary School in Kwazulu-Natal.   f. The link to this series of posts can be found at

KwaZulu Natal teachers participating in the Telkom Connected Schools Project have been an awesome group to work with and this is mainly attributed to the change in thinking by the school management teams. This month’s spotlight is on the enthusiastic Mr J.E Khumalo, the principal of Habeni Primary School who is also the Social Science teacher at the school. Mr Khumalo reports that being part of SchoolNet’s Change Leadership in ICT Integration program has helped him immensely as it has helped him realise that leadership is not about working in isolation but that is it more about sharing the workload with his team, where delegation does not mean abdication of responsibility. His senior management team has learnt that much is achievable when the school has a shared vision which pushes all stakeholders to work towards achieving the same goal for the school community. In the six months of Change Leadership for ICT Integration training has taken place, the SMT members have gained confidence in their leadership skills and are now more actively involved in the management of the school.

Mr Khumalo says, “Habeni Primary School will never be the same. This course has helped change our view on using ICT’s through changing our attitude. This has created an awareness on what is accessible for improved teaching and learning.”

For a number of years, Mr Chinsammy was the only teacher who had the skills to create mark sheets and use computers effectively and this caused teachers to constantly require assistance from him and this in turn created an additional burden on him. Habeni teachers attended Intel’s Getting Started and since then things changed;  teachers have become independent and are creating mark sheets, typing exam papers and creating lessons using PowerPoints. Some teachers are now also exploring Encarta for offline research.

Mr Khumalo who also attended the ICT skills training said “I used to write all my question papers by hand then make copies for learners but now I type ALL my documents and this saves me a lot of time. I still struggle a little with PowerPoint but I am not worried because I attend after school computer lessons with my colleagues and I know that in time I will get it right.” The teachers at the school practice their newly learnt skills daily and sometimes work till late in the afternoon because practicing these skills can be fun!

Using Encarta excites Mr Khumalo. He reports that his learners love the fact that they are not limited to their text books for learning. They are now able to do research in class for projects and learning has become practical. Learners watch Social Science experiments, short videos and find pictures of which makes learning much more meaningful.
Looking into the future, Mr Khumalo says that he would like his school to have internet access so that his teachers can prepare and present more exciting lessons and allow learners the opportunity access more learning resources. His ideal school is one where each of his learners has access to a connected laptop or tablet throughout the day.

“This project requires a lot of time from us, and it is all worthwhile. This is personal and professional development that helps us go beyond our call of duty to help our learners be hopeful of a better future” Mr Khumalo can’t seem to express in words the joy and fulfilment that the Telkom Connected School project has brought to the school and he encourages all teachers to be actively involved when opportunities like these arise.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Useful Microsoft in Education posts this week #89

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 

Educator Spotlight #4: Erika Esterhuizen – Have you discovered SharePoint?

This is the fourth post in our series ‘Educator Spotlight’ highlighting South African educators who are encouraging the effective using ICT Technology in a school setting. In this post we focus on Erika Esterhuizen from St Andrews College in Grahamstown. The link to this series of posts can be found at

Erika describes herself as “a natural leader where problem solving, and decision making skills are part of my personality.” She is currently employed by St Andrews College in Grahamstown, South Africa, as Head of Department: Information Technology. Her motivation in education is based on ICT integration opportunities and using these to make teacher, parent and learners daily tasks easier. In 2016 Erika won the coveted  ‘ISPA 2016 TechTeacher of the Year ‘ award presented by the CoZa Foundation. Erika says “It is my passionate belief that the use of technology in any career changes lives, families, communities and ultimately, nations.” Erika has also been exploring the use of Microsoft SharePoint.

Are you wondering what SharePoint is all about? Erika says “I enjoy exploring the potential of Microsoft’s Sharepoint. SharePoint is a place for running daily workflows and processes, which I am still learning and exploring. SharePoint is not a single tool, but rather a platform that enables a lot of different educational activities.”  Microsoft SharePoint is a browser-based collaboration and document management platform It is Microsoft's content management system. It allows groups to set up a centralized, password protected space for document sharing. It is not a program, it is a platform. It is a server product. You don’t install it because it is not a program. You connect to it. It has six different areas namely sies, composites, communities, insights, content and search.  It makes sites. It gives you a place to put your content instead of putting it into local folders. It lets you search itself. It gives insights to bringing the information together. When you open Office 365 you’ll notice the link to SharePoint as shown in the image above.

Erika started using SharePoint about a year ago and has described it as 'a never ending learning curve'. Currently she uses it mostly for document sharing and collaboration.

When she started at her school, she found herself accountable for the examination invigilation time table for 100+ staff members during the examinations. She used SharePoint for this. She created an Excel spreadsheet with the grades and their subjects divided into timeslots, shared and sent each staff members the link and let them fill in the timeslots and days they prefer to do invigilation. This worked well. “I also created a calculation sheet which calculate their sessions and it is easy to see which staff member has not enough sessions filled in. This ensures that all sessions are covered.” Erika says she is planning to use SharePoint for swimming galas and athletics meetings by using Excel in SharePoint. "All participants in their individual items should be captured beforehand. On Sports Day, the document should be available on all the tablets of the officials. First the place allocation should be entered by place holder officials. Time keepers can then enter the times of each place immediately, points for each learner could be calculated and certificate could be printed thereafter, without walking or running around by officials.”

Erica plans to keep exploring the potential of SharePoint and share this with the rest of the teachers.  She says “Once every two weeks we as staff members have a period called Curriculum Development  (CD). Here, we often show each other what we have done something interesting in your class with technology or guidance is given of how teachers can use technology to make their workload lighter by setting up quizzes and marked by computer, doing report and planning some kind of project using technology. Co-workers really appreciate and follow those who are truly passionate about technology.”

'SharePoint for your Classroom' video
If you are a teacher looking to collaborate and communicate with your students, in class and beyond SharePoint could be just what you are looking for. Here is a  Microsoft Virtual Academy video entitlled 'SharePoint for Your Classroom' featuring Sonja Delafosse from Microsoft.

Ways teachers can use SharePoint as a classroom management tool

  • Announcements: this enables teachers to post important information, for example reminders about tests and assignments.
  • Class discussion: similar to an online forum, students are able to post questions or participate in discussions.
  • Links: teachers can post links to useful websites.
  • Class documents: the document library feature allows teachers to upload classroom resources for example worksheets, assignments, videos and much more.
  • Course syllabus: the list feature in SharePoint allows us to create and customise columns containing different types of information. In this example, teachers are able to post information about the course syllabus.
  • Calendar: here teachers are able to post important event information for example test, assignment and exam due dates as well as to attach relevant information to the event, similar to Outlook.

Think about exploring using Microsoft SharePoint in some of these ways this year.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Useful Google in Education posts this week #92

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, 2 February 2017

Did you do the Hour of Code? It is still available

The Hour of Code movement aims to expose as many people as possible to basic computer programming through completing a series of simple activities that introduce basic computer science concepts. At the end of 2016, Microsoft commissioned SchoolNet SA to facilitate a series of workshops to get as many learners as possible coding using the materials available at

Between 1 – 9 December 2016, 41 face to face workshops and 4 virtual workshops were held and a total of 1 874 learners and 106 teachers did an Hour of Code. We were thrilled with these numbers, especially as in South Africa most schools close early in December. Training took place at Microsoft Schools, schools where our Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts teach, ICT resource centres and venues where SchoolNet SA facilitators organised sessions. One of the most memorable sessions took place at Blairgowrie Primary School where Microsoft Managing Director Zoaib Hussain joined in this session and "learnt to code" along with the group.

To try to encourage as many teachers as possible to get involved, we held a Microsoft Virtual Academy webinar entitled “Get your Students doing an Hour of Code”. In this live session Microsoft Teacher Ambassador Bonolo Sedupane and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Hawa Patel talked about how they have used coding with their learners.

If you would still like your learners to give the Hour of Code a try it is not too late. Whilst internationally many schools participate in the Hour of Code in the first week of December, the materials are available and free to use all year long. Find out how you can get involved by checking out these posts on the SchoolNet SA blog. To find out more about the SchoolNet SA Hour of Code sessions organized on behalf of Microsoft read the full report here 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Two Skype activities to try out this month – Mystery Skype and World Read Aloud Day

Submitted by Fiona Beal
There are many exciting ways to bring the world into your classroom in a our global age, and using Microsoft Skype is one of these. Using Skype in the classroom is a great way to flatten the classroom walls and connect with others around the world. In this post I''ll mention two exciting ways in which you can use this free online video tool, Skype, in your classroom this month. The great thing is that Microsoft provides all the necessary support to get you going!

Mystery Skype
I really recommend you try out a Mystery Skype! This week two of my classes, a Grade 3 class and a Grade 4 class, were involved in Mystery Skype activities with other classes in South Africa. This is such a fun way for your class to learn about other parts of South Africa if you are a South African teacher. These were our first two Mystery Skype sessions and we were nervous. But we needn’t have worried as the other classes were just as nervous! The goal was to discover the other school's name and location by using questioning techniques with yes or no answers, and Geography resources. The classes really enjoyed the events  thoroughly, and so did I.

What is a Mystery Skype?
Mystery Skype is an interactive learning game where two classrooms use Skype and a series of questions to guess each other’s locations and find out more about each other. It is suitable for all ages, and gives kids an interactive way to build skills one question at a time.

What resources do you need for a Mystery Skype?

You’ll definitely need a computer with a webcam and microphone, and which is  connected to the Internet, as well as a data projector and screen so that everyone can see what is happening. You’ll need to do a free download of the Skype software and set up an account which includes creating a Skype ID that you will share with others to make the calls. The class would need access to atlases or digital devices that can access Google Earth or a map program.  To be really organised read Tina Schmidt’s post Playing the Mystery Skype Game for some useful pointers.

Organising your class for the Skype session
It is a good idea to assign different jobs during the Skype call to keep the students on task. Examples are question askers, question answerers, thinkers who come up with questions, note takers to keep track of what info they have learned, atlas mappers, photographers, videographers, etc. Read Pernille Ripp’s post ‘Mystery Skype Jobs Created by My Students’ for some great job ideas.

This popular video below gives a great overview of the value of a Mystery Skype and how to run it.

Further reading on Mystery Skype

1. Visit the Microsoft Educator Community on this link and see all their useful resource m material to get you started.
2. You can take a look at the Mystery Skype OneNote notebook called ‘Welcome to Mystery Skype on this link It is filled with useful information about playing Mystery Skype.

World Read Aloud Day
Now that my appetite for using Skype in the classroom has been really whetted I am keen to try out Microsoft’s World Read Aloud Day invitation on 16th February.2017.  This is when you can Invite an author to join your class live via Skype in celebration of World Read Aloud Day! Microsoft has organised over 200 authors, poets, illustrators and storytellers to visit classrooms around the world via Skype.. All Skype in the Classroom activities are free and an opportunity to break down the walls of your classrooms and inspire the next generation, no matter where you are in the world. Visit the World Read Aloud section on the Microsoft Educator Community on this link:

Last year for World Read Aloud Day organised by Litworld, we connected with a class in Canada and we each read a story to the other class on Skype. That is also a fun thing to arrange.  It is rumoured that our South African site, Nal’ibali has commissioned award-winning children’s author, Niki Daly, to write its special World Read Aloud Day story. Titled, ‘The Best Sound in the World’, the story has been translated into South Africa’s 11 official languages and illustrated by Rico. Along with supporting materials, it will be available for free on the Nali’bali website, and at in February. I am going to take advantage of this as well as the author option.

How to join in and invite an author via Skype 
Simply visit Microsoft’s literacy page and on there you’ll see a range of different activities. Click through to read more and if the activity is right for your students, you can request a session with the host- some share their calendars on the site and others will follow up via email to arrange the exact date and time.

Don’t forget to share the fun on World Read Aloud Day!
Share your literacy adventures on World Read Aloud Day by tagging Skype classroom on Twitter @Skypeclassroom using the hashtags #skype2learn and/or #skype2read

What’s happening the rest of the year with Skype?
Skype classroom has a calendar of events which shows their annual major events, but it’s also worth regularly checking the Skype in the Classroom homepage for the latest new virtual adventures as they are publishing new activities all the time.

Skype Lessons
These are pre-defined lesson plans that happen via Skype.
You can read through exactly what the Guest Speaker will
talk about.

Virtual Field Trips
These are all pre-defined lessons that happen at a certain
location such as a museum or aquarium- even more exciting
for your students!

Guest Speaker Profiles
You can also request sessions directly with Guest Speakers if
you have read their profile and feel their background would
make them a great candidate to talk to your students

Skype Collaborations
These are projects created by other teachers for classrooms
around the world to connect and work together on- great to
inspire global citizenship!

One warning...your classes will want more of these experiences!