Wednesday, 20 March 2019

New Nation Teachers master some digital tools

In the first term of 2018, teachers from New Nation School in Vrededorp, Gauteng, enjoyed five afternoon workshop sessions on using a range of digital tools in the classroom. These workshops were sponsored by Microsoft Philanthropies in order to help staff to use technology as a catalyst for change at a school that largely provides education to orphans and vulnerable children. 


Below is a summary of what was covered at the workshops with links to some of the resources that other teachers may wish to use in their classrooms: 

Hour of Code to introduce learners to basic coding

During the first workshop, teachers learnt about the Hour of Code and worked their way through the Minecraft themed tutorials themselves. They discussed the importance of exposing youth to basic coding and some of the skills that this can develop. Teachers really enjoyed this activity and a number of teachers have since run sessions for their learners between the end of exams and school closing for the holidays.


Socrative to create an interactive quiz

In the second workshop, teachers completed a Socrative Space Race quiz and were shown how to set up their own online quizzes for when they take learners to the computer room. In addition to enjoying experiencing their own Space Race as participants, it was pleasing to hear that after this workshop a number of teachers used the tool in the lab and that learners enjoyed testing their knowledge in an engaging way.


Computer Olympiad Talent Search to build and test Computational Thinking Skills 

In the same workshop, teachers were introduced to the Computer Olympiad Talent Search computational thinking skills materials. Teachers had great fun working through some of the online puzzles and also learnt more about computational thinking and how important it is to develop these skills. We hope that New Nation teachers will go on to use the online past papers with learners, and to enter the most promising candidates into the Computer Olympiad Talent Search. 


Office 365 to access OneDrive and to send and receive email

Each New Nation School teacher was given a Microsoft Office 365 account which comes with a personalized email address that includes the school's name. Not only do these accounts help to professionalize email communication with colleagues and parents, they also come with OneDrive storage capacity and access to a range of online Microsoft tools including Sway and OneNote. In this workshop teachers were shown how to access their accounts, they sent and received email and compared working in the cloud to working on the offline Microsoft software.


Sway to create and share online presentations

Sway is an O365 tool that lets one create great presentations that look good on any device, that are easy to share, and that can be created collaboratively. In the fourth workshop, teachers were introduced to Sway and were given some time to create a Sway introducing themselves. Whilst teachers did not have ready access to their own photos on the shared devices, the lesson provided a good opportunity to talk about saving one’s own documents to the cloud. Teachers also discovered that they could use the cameras built into the laptops to take pictures of themselves. 


Microsoft Educator Community for additional online professional development

In the final workshop teachers joined the Microsoft Educator Community and were given a tour of some of the resources available in this portal. After completing their online profiles, teachers were given a code to earn a badge indicating that they had had introductory O365 training. We discussed how Skype in the Classroom could be a valuable tool for bringing guest speakers into the classroom and allowing learners to collaborate with classes from around the world. 



On 14 March 2019, certificates were presented to New Nation Teachers who attended the Microsoft in Education workshops. Whilst teachers always enjoy receiving a SACE endorsed certificate, the real value of this course has been the opportunity to learn about new tools which can be used to enhance classroom administration, to engage learners and to continue with professional development. The word cloud below summarizes what New Nation teachers regarded as the highlights of the course:

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