NZ Education Blog

Regular updates from Microsoft in the NZ education sector. Events and advice for education staff.

NZ Education Blog

  • Announcing a fantastic OneNote resource for students, teachers and administrators

    The OneNote team at Microsoft have just launched www.onenoteineducation.com!

    Due to the positive feedback from teachers using www.onenoteforteachers.com, we've released a similar site for students and administrators too! Now when you go to OneNoteinEducation you will be able to access interactive training guides, tips and tricks and additional resources designed specifically for students, teachers or school administration.

     

    The training videos are 5-7 minute interactive guides to help you get the most out of OneNote, no matter whether you are a student, teacher or school administrator. With this helpful resource, you'll be a OneNote expert in an hour!

     

    With more and more classrooms incorporating OneNote into their learning process, it has become clear that students and administrators need their own resources. Teachers can still access the 'Teachers' tab with the URL OneNoteForTeachers.com, and now students and admin can have their own space too!


    We hope you will share this resource to your students and colleagues so that they can start benefiting from OneNote in the classroom!

  • Simplify marking and assessment with OneNote - a case study of St Andrew's College, New Zealand

    This blog post has been adapted from "Technology enables efficiency in English marking" by Sam McNeill, Director of ICT at St Andrew's College, New Zealand.

    The above video shows how English teacher, Ms Helaina Coote, uses OneNote to mark English portfolio work and give feedback. Ms Coote is the English Head of Department at St Andrew's College in Christchurch, New Zealand. Using OneNote on her Surface Pro 3 has changed the way Ms Coote teaches and carries out assessments with her class. This is a wonderful example of how OneNote can be used as a tool to facilitate learning, and making the education process a lot more efficient for teachers and students.

    The recent introduction of the OneNote Class Notebook has made the creation of a OneNote workspace for a classroom a lot easier. Each student has their own private student notebook that is only shared with their teacher, and students cannot see each other's notebooks. In addition to this there is a content library for course materials and information which any student in the class can view. Thirdly, there is a collaboration space for anyone in the class to share, organise and work together in an interactive environment.

    Ms Coote believes that the biggest impact that OneNote has had is in the area of receiving work, marking it and returning feedback, saying "It has completely transformed how I manage the assessment practises, allowing me to streamline the feedback I am giving to students". This has been especially relevant for NCEA Achievement Standard 91106 where students are required to read, listen and watch up to six different texts over the course of three school terms, and respond to these. This traditionally creates a lot of paperwork in a classroom that needs to be managed. Previously, work was typically received via email, using Microsoft Word to insert comments or track changes, saving a copy locally, printing a copy for NZQA records and then emailing the revised copy back to the students with feedback - Ms Coote says this process was "triple handling" and creating more work than necessary. Now, students must submit their drafts via OneNote, and after having received their feedback from Ms Coote, have two days to develop a resubmission. These changes must be colour coded so she can easily see the differences. Asked whether using a digital pen was in some ways a return to the traditional ways of marking, Ms Coote commented:

    "The Surface Pro 3 and the digital pen allows you to blend the “old school”  with the “new.” I am still a teacher marking student submissions, but now I am using a digital pen and writing on an electronic submission. Furthermore, the feedback is literally real time – I do not even need to email it back to them."

    While using OneNote may simplify assessment and teaching processes for teachers, how do students feel about the increased use of this technology in the classroom? Ms Coote says, "Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of them receiving “written” feedback [via OneNote] … I’m able to do it much faster as well, so the pieces of paper don’t lie around on my desk for ages … it’s pretty immediate, as it’s a much more streamlined process". 

    One of Ms Coote's students commented:

    "[Since the introduction of Class Notebooks in OneNote] I have found it incredibly useful … I no longer have to lug around books or hand outs as it is all available on OneNote and all stored in one handy place. All my work and hand-outs are readily available whether I’m at home or at school its all there and backed up for when I need it. My teacher can now give me feedback on my work on OneNote using her Surface Pro 3 and she can even hand write on it …  I can see it instantly and then make new adaptions to my work hassle free as the interface on OneNote is so easy to use."

    It is great to hear such positive feedback from a teacher who is finding that OneNote is having an incredibly beneficial impact on her and her students' productivity in the classroom. The purpose of technology is to simplify rather than complicate, so we love to see how OneNote and Surface Pro 3 are helping to make some everyday aspects of teaching more efficient.

    We will finish this post with a bit of food for thought, raised by Sam McNeill at the end of his original article - "It is a timely reminder that many of the established practices of teaching often need only minor tweaks to achieve optimum efficiency, rather than massively overhauling them with major technological changes".

     

  • Enhance the classroom experience with the Surface Pro 3

    Today we are placing the spotlight on the amazing Surface Pro 3. This device is perfect for the education context - portable, fast, interactive, long battery life, powerful. Teachers can use the Surface Pen to make notes on assignments, take notes in their own handwriting, give students feedback and draw diagrams in front of the class. And the Surface Pro 3 runs Windows Office, desktop apps, and browsers so you can install all of your favourite education and productivity tools. The Surface Pro 3 is the perfect educational tool, especially when combined with OneNote to maximise efficiency, organisation, and to create fun and interactive lessons for students.

     We want to share some of Australian Microsoft Master Trainer, Pip Cleaves', favourite things about her Surface Pro 3!

    "The Surface Pro 3 gives me everything I need and want at this point. I can imagine that it would be a wonderful device for teachers and students, giving the option to install anything they need, the freedom to carry it around with ease, and the enjoyment of using a digitised stylus in a smooth, learning focused way."

    It runs Apps and Applications

    The fact I can install anything I want on my Pro 3 is a huge win for me. I can use apps or installed software. I use a lot of Adobe Software. I’m not a professional creative, but I try to learn something new each week. My Surface Pro 3 has everything I need installed and it never slows down or crashes. I can have as many programs open as I want, and not have to worry about lag. The ability to set up you home screen and task bar with apps and shortcuts means that as a teacher you can easily dip into software, or smoothly work with necessary applications as needed without having to search through all the programs. It’s a small time saver, but big stress saver. In the classroom, by pinning apps and applications, students can easily navigate their computers without feeling lost or getting side tracked on the way to completion of set tasks.

    Surface Pen

    I’ve been using the Pen more lately. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s the 12” screen, or perhaps it’s the feel of the pen, but I am writing more and more on the screen. I take notes while in meeting using OneNote and the pen. Since I have a Windows phone as well, I can look at my notes on the run with the OneNote App. I am finding this great for following up on inspiration and actions. I think of my own teenagers writing notes in class all day, and I wish they could use this device. It would be great for them for all subject areas. They could write and take visual notes, then come home and re-organise, summarise and synthesise their learning very easily.

    Workdesk Setup

    On my work desk I have a monitor and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse set up so, while at home, my Surface Pro 3 becomes my desktop. I usually have my outlook emails open on the smaller surface screen and work from the larger monitor. This is a perfect work environment for me. The Pro 3 screen is a great size for keeping an eye on the inbox, or catching up on TV, while I work away on the monitor. One day I will buy the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station, but until then, I’m perfectly happy with the setup. If I was to use my device in a school I would set up a monitor, keyboard and mouse on my desk, or at home and plug in to do my preparation and administration work. In the classroom I could remain free to move around the classroom as necessary, presenting websites or content from wherever I needed to be.

    No big backpack needed

    When you work in technology, a big backpack is usually a must. Not so when you own the Surface Pro 3. I am able to fit my device in to a small side bag with charger and pen. It’s not heavy, and it’s not bulky to carry around. This is a little, but big thing in my world and I am sure it is for students and teachers too.

    The webcam and audio is awesome

    My first encounter with the Surface Pro 3 webcam shocked me. It was so clear! I didn’t realise how low quality the other webcam I had been using was. Ditto for the microphone. I am able to use my Senheisser ear buds with as much clarity and definition as my larger mic enabled headphones. Webinars and online meetings now hum. The fact that the webcam is very clear means that you can easily include a group of students and still have clarity. It allows for a better experience for online learning for both teachers and students

    ScreenBeam Pro for wireless presentations

    I have been using the Actiontec ScreenBeam Pro for wireless projection. On the Surface Pro 3 this has enhanced the use of the device when working with people.

    This is seriously powerful for classroom use. Being untethered to a data projector means teachers can present from anywhere in the classroom, stick close to students who need more support or keep an eye on changing screens. When using a wireless device like this, students can also easily share their presentations and content with the class without having to stand in front of their peers. It leads to more adhoc collaboration and sharing.

    We'd love to hear your feedback if you've used a Surface Pro 3 in an educational setting! Email nzeducation@microsoft.com to let us know your experiences.

  • Kiwi student innovations impress judges at Microsoft Student Accelerator showcase


    This post has been taken from the Microsoft News Centre New Zealand, written by Brendan Boughen. For the original post, please visit the Microsoft New Centre.


    Kiwi student innovations impress judges at Microsoft Student Accelerator showcase

    An app designed by three University of Auckland students that connects people to work opportunities through social networks has won first place at the 2015 Microsoft New Zealand Imagine Cup competition.

    Called Tether (http://thetetherapp.com) the app is the brainchild of University of Auckland students Alyssa Ong, Vivien Lei and Opender Singh, and uses Facebook integration to allow users to actively search their extended social network for people with skills required for casual jobs they need done.

    For their efforts, the Tether team won $5,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Asia-Pacific regional round of the global Imagine Cup competition. If successful there, the team will then have the opportunity to travel to the USA for the worldwide finals to be held in Seattle in June.

    Nine teams were finalists in the competition, which required students to create apps or software that meet a genuine human need in categories of either ‘Innovation’ or ‘World Citizenship’.

    The judging panel consisted of notable leaders from New Zealand’s innovation community, including Dr Michelle Dickinson (Co-Founder of OMGTech), Andy Hamilton (Chief Operating Officer for The Icehouse), Jim Donegan (US Consul General), Sacha Judd (a partner at Buddle Finlay) and Helen Robinson (Director of ATEED and the Chairperson of Network for Learning).

    In congratulating all teams and participants, the judges noted that they were especially impressed with the number of young women who competed in the Imagine Cup this year.

    Second place and a $4,000 prize went to University of Auckland team ‘Lucky13’, for their app called ‘aFOODable’, which acts as a hub that connects people with charities, allowing them to donate food to the charities instantly through their smart phone. As runner up, the team will also get to attend and compete at the Imagine Cup regional finals.

    Third place and $2,000 went to another University of Auckland team HEART, for their app which monitors patients’ heart activity through their smart phone, and employs real-time trend recognition for detecting and responding to potential issues.

    Fourth place and $1,000 went to University of Auckland team Magikarp, for their app called ‘Lassie’ that provides an intelligent, private check-in service that alerts a chosen friend in situations where you are unable to call for help yourself.

    The finals event, held earlier this week at the Auckland Town Hall and attended by more than 1200 people including 800 local high school and tertiary students, was launched with a welcome from Hon. Steven Joyce, Minister for Science & Innovation, and Microsoft New Zealand Managing Director, Paul Muckleston.

    Muckleston says the Imagine Cup competition, as part of the locally developed Microsoft Student Accelerator (MSA) programme, is vital for supporting the next wave of New Zealand students into a career in IT and innovation.

    “The MSA programme was initiated by Microsoft New Zealand last year to focus on helping students at secondary and tertiary levels get ready for work in the IT industry. As such, it is a bold and much needed way of connecting students at all levels of study with the industry to help them ramp up their careers,” says Muckleston.

    “I have been impressed with the approach the students have taken in committing to this programme and delivering some great outcomes both through the Imagine Cup and their work placements – which in turn are bringing rewards for the students with many receiving job offers,” says Muckleston.

    Muckleston says 600 students trained in the MSA programme in 2014 with 130 placed in teams building apps for customers and tech companies over the summer holidays, with about 30 of those finding full-time employment in those customers at the conclusion of the programme. Most of those went on to enter their inventions in the Imagine Cup competition.

    “Around 2,000 tertiary students participated in the NZ Imagine Cup competition this year, which is just 1% of the 200,000 participants globally. New Zealand has traditionally punched well above our weight in the world Imagine Cup competitions, with Kiwi teams featuring in the top six teams globally for four out of the past five years.”

    Most notably, in last year’s event, New Zealand team Estimeet won the Innovation category at the global finals in Seattle, taking home a prize of US$50,000. Following that, team Estimeet spent a month in the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London and are this month joining New Zealand’s premier digital accelerator Lightning Lab – of which Microsoft Ventures is a national sponsor – for their three month programme.

    The next event on the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme schedule is the upcoming Week of Code, to be run across the region from 23-29 March.

    For more information about the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme, visit http://msa.ms

    About the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme

    The MSA programme is a New Zealand developed initiative that aims to:

    1. Inspire students at high schools through programmes such as Microsoft IT Academy and the Week of Code.
    2. Develop students at the tertiary level through voluntary work placement, with the participating companies providing an environment where the students are coached and mentored as they work on innovative, creative projects, developing apps and software for a real world IT business setting.
    3. Empower students to innovate and work on their own start up idea through the Imagine Cup competition.


  • Create fun, interactive classroom projects with Minecraft

    Minecraft is quickly becoming one of the most popular tools in the classroom, as it is fun and engaging for students of all ages. Minecraft provides a great platform to encourage creativity, computing skills, and collaboration with their classmates.

     Using Minecraft, students will learn to:

    • Collaborate and communicate with their peers
    • Self-direct their learning in a games-based environment
    • Use computational thinking to build functioning worlds in Minecraft

     Suggestions for successful Minecraft adventures!

    • Have students use their own Minecraft accounts to let them use the program anytime, anywhere, rather than just at school. You can get students to make an account here.
    • Check with your school's IT department to make sure that Minecraft can be accessed on the school network
    • Set some basic rules - for example, no bullying comments and no destruction of other's Minecraft world's
    • Create a document detailing the project, rules and ideas and share this with your students
    • Establish a limit on how much time can be spent on Minecraft each day

    Launching

    • Give them time to talk to discuss project ideas
    • Let students form sub-teams if needed
    • Then let the students go in-world for the first time, and let them play around for a while. For students that haven't used Minecraft before, it can take a while to get used to

    Projects

    There are countless projects that teachers can set up for their students to work on. Below are a couple of ideas:

    • Imagine the year is 2450 and earth is facing imminent disaster. The world's leaders have ordered the evacuation of the planet in order to preserve the human race. Your students have been given unlimited funds to build a space craft and create a new civilization on another planet. It is the task of your students to design the space craft and build this new planet using Minecraft. It must include residential dwellings, amenities such as hospitals and schools, entertainment areas, transport systems, monuments, and parks, and must also include two invented creatures and plants. For more information on this plan, go here.
    • Give your students the challenge of creating the world's most liveable city. Their task would be to design the perfect city that they would like to live in, with efficient public transport system, recreation areas and ample housing. In order to complete this task, students would have to research the problems facing modern cities now and in the future, and brainstorm ways to combat these issues.
    • Get students to think of an issue facing the world today, and have them work in teams to design a machine that would solve it. In order to create cool working machines in Minecraft, coding and computational thinking is needed. Redstone and command block commands are necessary for this. Information on how to use Redstone can be found here.

    Once your students have created their amazing structures they can facilitate virtual excursions for other students at their school. These excursions can also be workshops where students teach each other Minecraft skills. This is a great chance for your students to demonstrate the skills they have learnt, and explain to others the concept behind the world they have created.


  • Using Microsoft technologies for Special Education

    Students often have particular learning needs that are difficult to manage in a classroom setting. Every child has a different learning style, and it can be challenging for teachers to support each of their students' individual needs. This is especially important in Special Education, where a teacher may have to accommodate many different learning disabilities - often whilst teaching a class full of students at the same time. With this in mind, Microsoft has carefully designed products and software to make it easier for teachers in the classroom.

     We'd like to share some stories of U.S. teachers who are using technology in innovative ways to teach students with varying learning styles and disabilities.

    Instructing students with disabilities

    Robin Lowell is a distance learning teacher who teaches mathematics to students who are blind or visually impaired. Robin has come up with a way to use Microsoft Lync and Yammer to communicate with her students at the Washington State School for the Blind, 180 miles away from where Robin lives and teaches from home.  

    Michio Inaba, a deaf teacher at Osaka's Ikuno School for the Deaf uses Surface and OneNote every day to teach his deaf and hearing impaired students. Using these technologies, Michio is able to encourage the true potential of his students, in a society that he himself struggled in as a deaf person.


    Flexibility to choose a stylus, touch, mouse or keyboard with Windows 8

    Windows 8 enables students to adjust use their device the way that they want to. Windows allows students to personalise their device so that they can access their schoolwork in their own way, according to their abilities and needs. Some students prefer touch screen while others rather a mouse. Some may like a traditional keyboard for typing, while others may learn best by writing, so Windows 8's powerful handwriting recognition and stylus input may be the best option. Sonja Delafosse demonstrates how Windows 8 ink features work in the classroom.

    Special Education apps for Windows

    There are many education apps for Windows which enable students of all abilities to learn in different ways. Here's a few special education apps designed for students with disabilities:

    • Tap to Talk turns any Windows 8 device into an affordable augmentative communication device, providing a non-verbal child or adult a voice
    • Visolve is an assistive software for people with colour blindness.  Visolve can apply some colour transformations, and simulations to an image taken by camera, saved in the file, or copied in clipboard. 
    • Talkingtiles is an assistive care app that can be used for communication (‘AAC’), learning, daily living and social skills for individuals with a special need, disability, or a behavioural health disorder. It can be personalized to suit the needs of both children and adults, making it an effective care and learning tool to enhance an individual’s quality of life.

     If you've got an inspiring story of how you use Microsoft technologies for Special Education, we would love to hear! Email nzeducation@microsoft.com and get in touch!

  • Tertiary students get free Office 365 ProPlus!


     

    Awesome! You're keen to make the most of this amazing offer to get Office 365 ProPlus free of charge!


    But what does this mean?

    When you download Office 365 ProPlus you get the latest version of the full Office productivity suite, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These are all available for offline and online use to best prepare you for class. As long as you’re a current student at an eligible institution that has activated the service, you’ll be able to use this software for free.

    You can:

    • Install on up to 5 compatible PCs or Macs, plus 5 tablets/mobile devices (including iPad!)
    • Sync across all your devices with OneDrive
    • Gain valuable skills on the world’s most popular productivity software
    • Use the same programmes as your lecturers and tutors to ensure full file compatibility

    If you are enrolled at an eligible tertiary institution that has activated the service, you can download the software by signing in to Office 365 using your institution login and password. If you’re a student at one of the below tertiary institutions, simply click on the corresponding link and follow the instructions. If your institution isn’t listed below but has activated this service, you can visit this link and sign in using your institution login and password.

    So, what's the next step?

     Students at the tertiary institutions listed below are eligible to get Office 365 ProPlus for FREE! Click on your institution's name for more instructions and to get started!

     

    If your tertiary institution is not listed, you can still check whether you are eligible here.

     

    Don’t forget, you’ll need your tertiary institution account login and password to sign in and take up this benefit.

     

    Did we miss out your tertiary institution? Ask your institution’s IT department about getting Office for free.

     

  • Meet Ruby Huang, a 2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert

    This blog post is taken from Anthony Salcito's 'Daily Edventures'  which recently featured New Zealand teacher Ruby Huang.

    Ruby is a science teacher at Auckland's Howick College. She was recently made a 2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert in recognition of her efforts to include technology in teaching.


    “At this moment, I felt that the students began to integrate and relate their learning experience in the classroom to real life; to acknowledge that there is a purpose to science and they aren’t restricted to memorizing facts and calculating pointless numbers.” – Ruby Huang, New Zealand

    Ruby Huang grew up a self-described bookworm who even had a favourite Dewey Decimal classification, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that she ultimately became an educator. It was that same enthusiasm for learning that made Huang a 2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and just as important, a teacher who’s willing to wholly rethink the classroom experience for her digitally savvy students.

    After deciding to teach her science students about lab safety by having them produce their own training videos, Huang knew she was on to something. “I knew that recording notes via OneNote or presenting via PowerPoint was not the proper use of technology, nor was it close to innovation,” she says. “I wanted the students to transform their own learning and I would be the one to guide them; at times, it was the students guiding me, as their expertise and knowledge of useful apps and technology were bound to surpass mine later on in the year. This is innovation.”

    Since that project, Huang has brought that same approach to many other lessons, including one that focused on delivering food to the needy. Not only did the students develop a food drive, they also applied science by calculating the most nutritious meals.  Her Innovative Educator project, Eco-Building Investigation, raised awareness about the importance of environmentally-friendly construction while giving students the opportunity to investigate and select materials for their buildings.

    Because documenting, communicating and sharing these projects is also an important part of the lesson, all of Huang’s projects make use of creative presentation tools. And Huang herself has been something of an innovator in this space, using the new Microsoft Sway to express her ideas on collaboration. Her work was featured here, and is a fantastic example of this new tool’s potential.

    Whatever technology Huang and her students are using, you can be sure they’re using it in ways that are both instructive and engaging. Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Ruby Huang.

    What inspired you to become an educator?

    As a child, my first dream job was to be an author, I loved reading and absorbing new facts. You could say that I was a bookworm, sitting in the corner whilst the rest of my family watched TV. My favourite Dewey Decimal code was 793.1, which was the puzzle section. I liked mental challenges and thinking outside of the box. Later on I wanted to be an astronaut (but my Dad told me I couldn’t take my dog into orbit).

    In primary to intermediate school, I was elected librarian, traffic monitor, environmental agent, paper-recycler, camp leader and sports monitor. It was not until my final year of high school that I found solace in helping people; I was heavily involved with coaching Kendo at my club, tutoring ESL (English as a Second Language) students at my school and also tutoring peers in their school work.

    Throughout university, I continued tutoring biology, chemistry, physics, Spanish, mathematics and English as a side job whilst majoring in neurophysiology. Originally, the plan was to get into medical school, as I felt that the health industry was the best place to “help people.” In some ways I am grateful that I did not get the interview after freshman year. It was in my final semester that I realized I had been helping people all along through the power of education. I was an educator and decided that after I graduated with my Bachelors, I would continue with a teaching diploma and start making a real difference in the community.  

    What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?

    The most powerful event by far was the “Food Parcel project.” Through collaboration with my colleague Steve Martin, I propelled and redesigned the topic of Food and Energy in a digital format to include a 21st century learning task, whereby students had to design and produce a food parcel to be donated to the local Salvation Army.

    This was no ordinary food parcel, as students had to scientifically analyse and present their research behind the chosen foods, design and distribute posters and flyers to the public for the food drive, use apps to calculate energy levels, research to provide healthier alternatives, create a menu to ensure metabolic demands were achieved, and much more.

    The best moment was when the captain from the Salvation Army came in to explain their role in community and thank the class for their generous donations. The students gave a short speech and the proudest moment was when they thanked the captain for giving them the opportunity to help those in need, for if it weren’t for the initial problem, there would have never been a task to solve in the first place, and their food drive would have no significant meaning. The students truly understood what it is like to have an effect on the greater community.

    At this moment, I felt that the students began to integrate and relate their learning experience in the classroom to real life; to acknowledge that there is a purpose to science and they aren’t restricted to memorizing facts and calculating pointless numbers. I felt accomplished as a teacher because I was the one who “opened the door” and the students took the challenge and walked through. “It has always been about the students.” (What Students Say by William E. J. Doane).

    Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?

    "I wanted each lesson to integrate technology at some point, but I found that this ideal was not what transformed learning - rather, it was how the technology was used." - Ruby Huang

    This year was the first year we gave each student a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. I wanted each lesson to integrate technology at some point, but I found that this ideal was not what transformed learning – rather, it was HOW the technology was used.

    The first learning lesson of Y9 Science: I planned to teach them about safety protocols and establish a set of class-lab rules. I came up with a question: “How do I get the students to teach themselves?” The answer? “I shall set them loose in the lab.”

    The instructions were simple: “Look around and see what dangers there are in the lab. I want you to use your tablet to create a safety video similar to that of the Air New Zealand Middle Earth videos. Your groups are on the whiteboard; allocate each member a role of either: director, actor(s), costume and props, cameraman and scriptwriter. You have five minutes to write a draft script, 30 to film and 15 to edit. When you finish writing your draft, show me and start filming, submit your video to Schoology LMS. Lastly add a rule to the online discussion board for homework.”

    The effect of this task was astounding, I watched as they raced around acting out scenes and practiced their lines, one group used stop-animation and another asked for broken glassware and fake blood to make it more realistic. Consequently, the students were so engrossed with the task at hand, I strolled out of the lab and ran to fetch my mentor teacher, and he too was surprised at how well the simple collaborative task transformed the chalk and talk of “please list 10 safety rules and copy them out.”

    Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?

    "To establish a quality education for students, we must first establish a quality learning environment... where educators are willing to transform learning by stepping back and looking at the current format of education from a learner's perspective."

    Our school is not known for its academic achievements, our neighbouring schools often are the first choice and the queue for quality education is at their doors, not ours. Likewise the student-conceived level of achievement is very poor and low. It is not that the students do not want to learn, it is rather that they have no spark for learning, they’d prefer to laze around and play all day — there is a very low level of learning culture in my school.

    In more advanced grade levels, the students often tell me that they “hate science”- because their past teachers never gave them experiments, they only handed out worksheets and told them to copy from the board. “It’s not you Miss Huang; it’s just that science has no use in my life.” It was hard to persuade them, so I decided that I had to let them see for themselves — by giving them the opportunity through inquiry-based learning. Technology gave me the tool to do this, as the fascination behind how the solar system works is no longer presented using numbers, posters and text books, rather we can use interactive web 2.0 apps like this. Or instead of memorizing the path of the digestive system, we could watch a Magic School Bus video and use a flash animation to enhance the learning.

    To establish a quality education for students, we must first establish a quality learning environment where the educators are as invigorated with the chance to learn as their students and where educators are willing to transform learning by stepping back and looking at the current format of education from learner’s perspective.

    If you were made to write page after page, fill out worksheet after worksheet, just how much information would you retain at the end of the day? Why should we integrate 21st century learning design and turn our heads towards examples of innovative modern learning environments? Why can we never replace the teacher at the front of the classroom with a robot?

    In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?

    My biggest hope is that students will pass on their enriched learning experiences in my classroom into their day-to-day lives. This does not mean that students must become vegetarians after we talk about the excessive amounts of methane production by farm animals. What I would like to see is that further down the line, they will draw upon their experiences and make choices that reflect upon the knowledge they have gained in the classroom. For example, taking up community service or working up the ladder through collective intelligence and collaboration with their colleagues.

    My excitement towards the future of technology and revolution of education is immeasurable. Imagine what we could do in the future if, through the span of 10 years, we have moved from having a single computer in the class shared by 28 students to a 1:1 flipped learning environment where the teacher no longer dictates the pace of learning — the students do. The stars are the limit.

     

  • Introducing OneNote Staff Notebook for education

    Microsoft has created the OneNote Staff Notebook! Teachers and educators in the field suggested that they would like to have the same OneNote platform as their students, and we listened! The OneNote Staff Notebook is designed to cultivate and manage educator collaboration within the school, and the wider education community. Now, an entire school can enjoy the benefits of OneNote's ability to organise and manage productivity - not just students!

    OneNote Staff Notebook, like OneNote Class Notebook, is an app for Office 365 that lets an education staff leader quickly set up a personal workspace for every staff member or teacher, a content library for shared information and a collaboration space for everyone to collaborate—all within one powerful notebook. With a Staff Notebook, administration and staff can save time, become more organized and collaborate more effectively.  Because OneNote is free and on every platform and every device, you can access your Staff Notebook from anywhere.  Staff leaders might include a principal, head of school, administrator, faculty head, department head, or a leader of a professional learning community (PLC). If you fall into these roles and have Office 365 Education, you can get started with Staff Notebooks today!


    A few ideas on how to use Staff Notebook:

    Collaboration space

    • Staff meetings—For committee, grade level, departmental or PLC, OneNote has tight integration with Outlook and Office, along with rich search capabilities so you’ll never lose track of follow-ups.
    • Initiatives—Plan out school initiatives collaboratively and keep things organized such as school improvements and fundraisers.
    • Tide chart for student highs and lows—Some schools have used this innovative and collaborative way to track student highs and lows during school over time.
    • Cross-grade lesson plan development—Some schools set up a Staff Notebook for a particular grade and do school-wide lesson plan and curriculum development.  For example, 9th grade math lesson plan across 10 teachers to develop and share.

    Content library

    • Policies and procedures—Keep important information like key emails with attachments, school policies and other things all in one place.  Since OneNote is available on all devices and platforms, you can access it anytime, anywhere and even offline.
    • Dates and deadlines—Links, sticky notes, calendars, deadlines, to-dos—you can put all of it in one shared space that everyone can always find.

    Private staff member notebook

    • Professional development—Professional development/professional learning is an important aspect for every teacher and faculty member. A great use of the private staff member notebook is to capture professional development plans and feedback, and then share and gather feedback from the staff leader.
    • Classroom observations—Modern classroom observations can all be kept in a private staff member notebook. Take photos with your OneNote mobile app (any device) and insert directly into the staff member notebook. Record audio with your phone during the observation, or use digital ink to capture handwriting. With the OneNote flexible page surface, there is a much richer environment for classroom observations.
    • Lesson plans and feedback—A great way to gather lesson plan feedback is for a teacher to put the digital lesson plan in his/her private staff notebook. The staff leader can easily give feedback in real-time or while offline, and can use any form of feedback including text, picture, ink, audio or even video. The rich page surface of OneNote allows a much more flexible way to gather and share feedback. If a teacher is absent, the staff leader can have plans can be printed off from here for the substitute.
    • Evaluation—Staff leaders can capture and share private feedback and evaluation information in the staff member notebook.
    • Parent communication—Using the Outlook “Send to OneNote” feature, a teacher can easily send important emails into the private staff member notebook for later reference.

    Want to get started with OneNote Staff Notebook?

     

    For an interactive tour of the Staff Notebook, go to: OneNoteEDUStaffGuide. This will give instruction for school leaders on how to set up and manage a Staff Notebook.

     

    For further information:

    1. Visit OneNote.com to learn more about OneNote, including how to install it on all your devices.
    2. Visit OneNoteforteachers.com to experience interactive guides on how to use OneNote in education.
    3. To learn how to install this app at your school or district, visit OneNoteEduStaffInstall.

    We are looking forward to releasing OneNote Staff Notebook for broader applications soon! Stay tuned here!

     

  • Announcing the Office 365 self-service download portal!

    As of February 23, Microsoft has enabled auto-licensing and self-signup for all students and staff at New Zealand schools and tertiary institutions, so they can get Office free of charge! The self-service portal will make it easier for students and teachers to get the free Office subscription they are entitled to.

    To help students get the most out of their education, Microsoft provides Office to every student, teacher and staff member at a New Zealand educational institution - free of charge! With Office 365, students and staff will have access to the latest version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and much more!

    What does this mean?

    • Install on up to 5 compatible PCs and Macs, plus 5 tablets (including iPad!)
    • Use with 1TB of OneDrive for automatic device syncing
    • Gain valuable skills on the world’s most popular productivity software
    • Office subscription lasts for as long as your child is a student here and the program continues
    • Retain the Office subscription for as long as you belong to the institution

    How do you get it?

    It's super easy! All you need is an institution-provided email address, and to be over the age of 13! Follow the links below:

    For students - Office.com/GetOffice365

    For teachers - Office.com/Teachers


    Important information for IT managers

    If your school has already signed up for Office 365, and you have not yet assigned Office 365 ProPlus licenses, your users will automatically be assigned the appropriate license when they sign in.

    It’s important to note that you will continue to have full control over managing your services in a manner that's best for you and your organization. See the FAQ if you wish to prevent licenses from automatically being assigned to your users.

    If your school is not yet using Office 365 Education, students, faculty and staff with email addresses from your school can still sign up, create an account (if they are old enough), and enjoy the benefits of Office 365 services, including Office 365 ProPlus, Office Online and OneDrive. Please see the FAQ if you wish to prevent users from creating their own Office 365 accounts using their school email address.

    Students, faculty and staff who already have an Office 365 account can use their existing user name and password. If you have not assigned licenses to them, one will be automatically assigned to them when they sign in. 

    Important: If you are an ADFS user, and to ensure there are no issues with how you are currently managing your identities, I would like to advise you to run the “self-sign up” script.  This will block some functionality on the website that currently allows a user to create their own O365 account.  Your teachers and students will still be able to use the website to get an Office 365 license that will allow them download Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs and other mobile devices, including iPad.
     
    To run the script, please see below. These steps require the use of Windows PowerShell, see Getting Started with Windows PowerShell.

    1. If you haven't already, install the latest 64-bit version of the Azure Active        Directory Module for Windows PowerShell.

    • After you click the link, select Run to run the installer package

    2. Use this Windows PowerShell command to enable automatic   tenant join for new users:

    • " Set-MsolCompanySettings  -AllowEmailVerifiedUsers $true "
    • (remove " " from script)

     

  • Register now for the Microsoft EduCast webinars!

    Microsoft IT Academy and the Microsoft Educator Network have put together a series of complimentary webinars, led by global experts. The EduCast webinars let you know about some of the most exciting changes and innovations in education, in an exciting interactive format.

     

    Microsoft EduCast brings together academic leaders, innovative institutions, and pioneering educators. There is a webinar released once a month, so it's easy to keep on top of the latest happenings in the education sector. As live webinars, this series is delivered through an interactive platform that lets attendees from around the world learn together and get their questions answered directly from presenters.

     

    Microsoft EduCast Webinars are available to any educator registered on the Microsoft Educator Network.

     


  • The amazing impact of a pen interface on learning

    Ever wondered which device interface is best for learning? Pen, keyboard, voice, touch? There are a lot of interface options, but some are vastly more effective than others at enabling and enhancing learning. New evidence suggests that some technologies actually create barriers to learning, thinking, creating and problem-solving.

    In the past couple of days, Microsoft has released a report carried out by Professor Sharon Oviatt. Professor Oviatt presents research on the role of keyboards and digital pens in learning, with the key finding being that the way a student inputs information into a computer makes a big difference in the amount of information that they absorb and retain.

    It has now been proven that keyboards can be detrimental to students' learning as typing reduces information retention as opposed to drawing and hand-writing, For many languages, as well as symbolic subjects (e.g., music, math, physics, chemistry, and engineering), keyboards inhibit expression while pen interfaces easily support it.  

    So why are pen interfaces superior for learning? It's because they more accurately accommodate how we think,  allowing a user to draw and create diagrams, write free-hand, and use symbols and numbers. For students of every age, the ability to use spatial content on a pen interface improves comprehension and retention. In a major study, tertiary students who took lecture notes with a pen more actively summarised and paraphrased the content which led to deeper understanding and memory. When using a keyboard students were seen to type more words, but their notes contained more verbatim copying which results in shallower understanding of information. 

    In education, this has a huge impact. The new evidence emerging suggests that there needs to be more thought put into the devices that are given to students at schools and tertiary institutions, as having the wrong device may harm their education and limit their potential. A multimodal interface with pen input and other input options such as speech, touch and a keyboard are the most powerful devices for learning. These a multi-modal device, combined with software such as OneNote create the perfect combination for empowering thinking and learning.


    You can download and read the report here

  • See what's APPening in maths and science!


    Getting students engaged in maths and science can be difficult at times, right? Luckily, learning apps are here to save the day! Apps are making it easier to get students interested in a subject and passionate about learning. They help take learning to a whole other level by speaking to students in the way that they are used to. Students can now study, play, and interact with apps for a different learning experience.

     

    Microsoft have put together a list of 63 maths and science apps to get you started. Over half of the apps are free, so there's nothing stopping students from downloading and getting involved! Microsoft have also given a guideline on which school level each app caters for, so you can make sure your students are working at the correct level.

     

    And for a limited time, the FluidMath app is free!  The normal cost of an annual subscription is $15.99, so download FluidMath now and be sure to tell your math teachers and students to do the same!

     

    For the full list of apps and links directly to the Windows store, download the interactive digital version of the brochure here.

     

  • Want to extend your IT skills? Take the Know It. Prove It. challenge!

    For the month of February, Microsoft is providing you the chance to accelerate your skills on the tech topic of your choice in the Know It. Prove It. challenge, run through the Microsoft Virtual Academy. Make February the month to extend your knowledge! No matter who you are - an IT pro, a student or teacher, a program developer - there will be a topic area that you feel you need to improve on. Once you accept the challenge, Microsoft Virtual Academy offers eight learning areas for you to choose from, each with 28 days worth of learning. You can choose from:

    • Cloud Development - gain skills on developing applications, websites, and services to host in the cloud using Microsoft Azure
    • Game Development - learn Windows game development techniques using tools such as Construct2, GameMaker, and Unity to develop 2D and 3D games
    • Mobile Development - learn mobile app development using C# and XAML, and how to take your app cross-platform with Xamarin
    • Web Development - understand the most current tools and techniques to build responsive, reliable web applications for yourself, or your business
    • Hybrid Cloud - take this challenge to extend your datacentre to the cloud by combining on-premises and public cloud workloads to maximise efficiency, provide simpler management, and increase flexibility
    • Identity and Access Management - effectively implement identity and access management solutions across diverse devices and hybrid environments that require a strong foundation of skills, from enabling single sign-on to extending your domain with Azure AD
    • Office 365 - learn how to get the most out of Office 365 services, security, and performance at your small, medium or large organisation
    • SharePoint - understand how to develop and administer SharePoint sites to improve information sharing and organisation

    The training modules within each learning challenge take around an hour to complete, so you can squeeze one into your day or double up if you miss a day. The modules are designed to help you learn valuable skills quickly through video tutorials, assessments and more. You'll earn badges and points, compete against others in the learning challenge, and interact with other members of the Know It. Prove It. community.

    So what are you waiting for? Join the community, commit to the challenge, share your progress, and make February the month that you grow your knowledge!

    Take the challenge here!

  • The latest updates on Sway Preview!

    Bored of using PowerPoint for all of your presentations? While PowerPoint is great, sometimes we need a change. So, why not try Sway! Sway is a free tool that doesn't require installation. You simply open Sway.com in any browser on your PC, Mac or tablet, and get creating! Express your ideas in an entirely new way, across any device.

     

    As we have posted previously, Sway is currently in preview. This means that Sway Preview users can let Microsoft know what they like, don't like, and what should be added. It is the users who are shaping the future of Sway! As the number of people using Sway Preview grows the Sway Team are getting more and more feedback from around the world, and have recently created some exciting updates!

     

    Here's a rundown of the most recent changes:

     

    Add your content from third-party sites via embed codes

     

    Easily drag and drop content into your canvas from a greater variety of built-in sources. The Sway Team have expanded the list of built-in sources, for example Bing Image Search and Suggested searches have been added. Additionally, you can now embed a variety of web content types - including videos, images, audio clips, maps, charts and documents - from other services, which expands the potential of your presentation.

     

    To get started, simply copy the embed code for your desired content from the third-party site (often found by accessing the site’s Share button). Then in the Sway Storyline, click the + button, select an Embed card and paste the code. Check out this help article for supported sites and more details.

     


     

    Import content from documents into Sway more simply

     

    It's now easier for you to import existing content from PDF, Word and PowerPoint documents. This means that you can use Sway to combine your existing text and images with additional multimedia to bring your presentation to life. And, Sway have made it possible to import this content directly from OneDrive!

     

    In the Add content pane, select OneDrive, navigate to the desired document and then select Add or drag the document directly into the Storyline. The text and images from the document will then show up in your Sway. You can also continue to use the Upload option and select a PDF, Word or PowerPoint file on your PC or Mac to include its content in that part of your Sway.

     


     

    You can also start a new Sway by importing a PDF, Word or PowerPoint document. Navigate to your My Sways page, click Import and then select the document. A new Sway is created using the text and images from the document, at which point you can combine it with additional multimedia and use Sway’s design engine to bring it all to life.


    Separate grouped cards more easily

     

    It was already easy to group images and text together by dragging cards on top of each other, or selecting cards using the Change Layout option to create a Group of Photo Stack. Sway users gave feedback that they wanted a way to "ungroup" grouped cards, other than just using Undo.

     

    Separate has been added as an option when grouped cards are selected. Simply go to Change layout and then click Separate. Each card in the Group of Stack will then stand on its own.

     

     

    The Sway Team will continue to roll out more updates to Sway Preview in response to user feedback. Stay tuned for more!

    To get started with Sway, go here!

     

     

  • Transforming education with holograms and Windows 10

    Introducing the revolutionary Microsoft HoloLens! Recently announced, the HoloLens will be the world's most advanced holographic computing platform. The HoloLens brings high-definition holograms to life as they seamlessly integrate with your physical places, spaces and things.

    The HoloLens is destined to be a great educational tool. It will provide a new medium to express creativity, as users are able to design and shape holograms and more effectively visualise and share ideas. Experience history by taking students on a virtual 3D tour of the Pyramids of Giza or the Colosseum in Rome; create virtual worlds with Minecraft in 3D; simulate a dangerous science experiment; and collaborate with other students across the globe in virtual face-to-face interactions. There is so much potential in the HoloLens!

    All of this innovation is being enabled by Windows 10, the new generation of Windows! Windows 10 has numerous new and exciting features, which will make all aspects of work and life simpler. This new operating system is grounded in Microsoft's vision of creating a more personal form of computing, which makes living in this mobile world easier, safer and more reliable.

    We'd like to take this chance to inform you of the free upgrade offer! Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 for qualified new or existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year! And even better: once a qualified Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, Microsoft will continue to keep it up to date for the supported lifetime of the device, keeping it more secure, and introducing new features and functionality over time – for no additional charge.

    To keep updated on the progress of Windows 10 and for more information on the free upgrade, sign up for emails here.

    If you want early access to releases, and the ability to shape the future of Windows 10 by providing feedback, then sign up to the Insider Program here!

    To watch the full Microsoft presentation on Windows 10, HoloLens and other exciting announcements, visit this page.

     

  • The latest news on the OneNote Class Notebook Creator

    There have been blog posts on the OneNote Class Notebook Creator in the past, but going in to the 2015 school year we'd like to take the chance to update you on the app!

     

    Aucklander Darrel Webster has put together a presentation using Office Mix titled "Introduction to the OneNote Class Notebook Creator". Check out this great presentation here! As well as being a terrific example of an Office Mix presentation, it provides great information on how to get started with the OneNote Class Notebook Creator.

     

    For those who don't know, the OneNote Class Notebook Creator helps teachers set up a shared notebook for their class. All student work, hand-outs, lessons and creative activities are stored in one place which can be accessed anytime, anywhere by the students and educators who have been included in the notebook. And it is so easy to set up, taking only a few minutes!

    In December, the OneNote team added a number of new additions to the OneNote app based on feedback specifically from teachers:

    • The ability to add more teachers to the class notebook, such as co-teachers, student teachers and substitutes


    • New language support with the localisation of the OneNote Class Notebook Creator in 10 languages across 21 markets

    • Improved discoverability in Office 365—Class notebook links are now automatically added to "Shared with me" in OneDrive for Business, and a new Class Notebooks entry is added to the SharePoint Team Sites Quick Launch navigation pane


    • Get an email when the class notebook is created—After a teacher creates the OneNote class notebook in either a SharePoint Team Site or OneDrive for Business, all students and the teacher automatically get an email with the link to the notebook location

    • Keep track of your notebook links—Easily find your existing OneNote class notebook links from within the app by clicking the Get notebook links button.


    • Up to 60% reduction in notebook creation time

    • Further user interface improvements and bug fixes

     

    We would love to hear your experiences with the OneNote Class Notebook Creator! Tweet us at @MSNZEducation and let us know how you are planning on using OneNote in 2015.

     

  • Microsoft Announces Integration between Moodle And Office 365

    On Monday January 19, Microsoft announced the integration of Moodle and Office 365, working with leading Moodle partner Remote-Learner. This announcement transforms education technology, by bringing a more productive experience to both teachers and students.

    "Working closely with Remote-Learner, we're delivering a technical solution for one of the most popular open source learning management systems that aims to provide seamless workflows for both Moodle and Office 365 users,” said Jean Paoli, president of MS Open Tech. “By working closely with the open Moodle community, MS Open Tech will continue taking feedback and maintaining, improving, and adding new features.”

    Some key improvements include:

    • Allowing students and teachers to sign in to Moodle with the same ID, making single sign-on easier and faster for schools.
    • Events created in Moodle will be automatically stored on teachers' and students' personal Office 365 calendars, enabling easy tracking of course events and due dates.
    • Making it easier for teachers to embed interactive online lessons created in PowerPoint with OfficeMix through an open format standard.
    • Documents stored in OneDrive for Business can be associated automatically with Moodle courses. Updates to those documents appear automatically in links in Moodle which streamlines version control and simplifies the integration of content stored in the cloud.
    • Teachers are now able to create assignments in OneNote, have students submit their work via Moodle, and then provide feedback on the student's work in the same OneNote document.

    Jason Cole, CEO of Remote-Learner says, “Educators and trainers who have both Moodle and Office 365 create new learning experiences that leverage the power of both platforms. Moodle administrators can deploy these new features knowing they have the support of both Microsoft and the Moodle Partner community.”

    On Jan. 21 at the BETT Show 2015, MS Open Tech will officially release version 1.0 of this project, which kicked off last September, on GitHub under GPLv3. The plugins will also be available for download from the Moodle plugins directory, via Azure-certified Virtual Machine image and VM Depot.


  • Helping educators get the most out of OneNote with OneNoteforTeachers.com

    By now you have most likely heard about the revolutionary tool called OneNote which is taking the education world by storm! OneNote is an incredibly useful program for teachers and students alike. Here's just a few things that OneNote can do…

     

    Educators can create digital notebooks that:

    • Save time by efficiently organising teaching files and information all in one place
    • Provide innovative ways to get information across to students
    • Easily place text, printouts, tables, ink, web clippings and files
    • Eliminate paper and printing

     

    Students can use OneNote at any school level and subject to:

    • Carry out research
    • Collaborate with their class members, and effectively communicate
    • Learn how to manage information and note-take
    • Voice record important information in class

     

    But, as teachers, how do you get the most out of OneNote?

     

    There are a lot of tips & tricks available, but while these tools can be helpful they are not necessarily the most useful for teachers and classrooms. So, I'd like to introduce the OneNoteforTeachers.com page which has helpful instructional videos tailored specifically to teacher's needs!

     

    Watch videos such as:

    • Enhancing productivity with OneNote
    • Delivering curriculum with OneNote
    • Creating interactive lessons with OneNote

     

    These videos will help educators to use OneNote to its full potential in the classroom, to help students learn and make teacher's lives easier!

     


  • PowerPoint gets interactive with OfficeMix

     

    "The Office Mix add-in for PowerPoint is a new way to tell your story with voice, video, inking, screen recording and interactive magic."


    Bring your lessons to life and personalize students’ learning with Office Mix. There are lots of cool things you can do with Office Mix to turn your PowerPoint slides into interactive online lessons or presentations, here's just a few:

    • Record audio or video of yourself presenting
    • Write on your slides as you speak to them
    • Insert quizzes, polls, labs and online videos

    After you have shared your Office Mix with your class, you can automatically see analytics on who has viewed it and how long they have spent on each slide. This gives you a chance to measure students' engagement and who is taking an active role in their learning.


    St. Andrew's College in Christchurch are encouraging teachers to use Office Mix to facilitate students' learning. They are finding that the feedback from students is that Office Mix is a great tool and that it is "really helpful to have this visual and aural guidance especially from their own teacher and not just a random clip off YouTube". Check out this blog post on the StAC e-Learning Stories blog to read about how the school is introducing Office Mix into the classroom. See an example here of St. Andrew's College teacher Ms Tam Yuill Proctor using Office Mix to help her Year 11 students with how to structure a Level 1 NCEA English essay.

    To download Office Mix, head to the Office Mix website!

    To help you get started with using Office Mix, Microsoft has released a 15-minute webinar! The full webinar can be accessed here. Happy Mixing!


  • Should computer science be a compulsory subject in New Zealand schools?

    Computer science. Most of us don't know what it really entails. What is computer science? How is it taught? How is it used in real life? Quite often it is seen as intimidating, an item for the 'too hard basket'.  Because of this most current students, and even more adults, don't know the first thing about computer science and are afraid to even try it.

    But in our world of rapidly advancing technology, an understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly necessary. Everything around us has somehow been impacted by computer science and code. Want to start your own business? You need to set up and maintain a website. Want to create an app? You need to code. Want to work in agriculture, manufacturing or any other field? Computer skills are a must. Technology is in every aspect of our lives and it will only become more so in future years. We depend on technology. And yet, most of us are unable to write a simple program to calculate how much we spend on our grocery shopping every year.

    There are countless benefits to learning computer science. On a personal development level, computer science is constantly evolving and changing so students are taught important skills of adaptability which come in handy in every aspect of life. On an employment level, university graduates with a computer science degree are among the highest paid in their first job. According to CareerBuilder.com, three of the four highest paying occupations from 2013 to 2017 are computer systems analyst, network and computer systems administrator, and software developer. Furthermore, according to Glass Door, 22 of the 50 best companies to work for worldwide are tech companies. There are endless opportunities within these industries to progress and develop. Check out the graph below which shows that in the next 5 years, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs available, with not enough people to fill these jobs. This is becoming even more important in today's ultra-competitive job market.


    Computer science is a relatively new subject compared to the likes of English, maths and chemistry. Those high up in the schooling hierarchy are apprehensive to substitute computer science for a subject that has existed for a long time. However, there is a disconnect between what is being taught in schools, and what is going to be needed by students when they venture into the world of employment. The next generation of students are going to be ill-equipped for what any future job will require them to do.

    How do we overcome this? The initial solution is to introduce compulsory computer science classes in New Zealand schools to teach students the basics of computer science, coding and programming. The drawback to this is that it would be very costly to implement. And it would be difficult to find enough qualified instructors willing to take on the job. Therefore, it is more practical and efficient to look towards online resources.

    Because of computer science and the Internet revolution, there are now a multitude of resources online which teach computer science, such as Code.org, Treehouse and CodeAcademy.com. Many of these websites are free. The website takes care of everything, so an instructor with programming experience is not necessary. The teacher simply needs to supervise students to make sure they are physically doing the required work. These resources provide a fun and engaging way to get students into coding, enabling the next generation of programmers to take the reins.

    Do you think online resources to teach coding should be implemented in New Zealand schools? Or would it be more meaningful to students to be taught by a physical computer science instructor? Or do you think it is not necessary to teach computer science in schools? We'd love to hear your opinion on this topic, so leave a comment below and get involved in the discussion!

     

  • Show your class the world with Skype!

    Introducing Mystery Skype, an educational game invented by teachers. It's played by two classrooms using Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions. Mystery Skype is a fun way to get students of all ages learning about different cultures and being engaged in subjects like geography, history and languages. It's super easy to register, just go here to find out more and get talking with classrooms all over the world!

     

     

    And now, it's becoming possible to speak with classes in different languages with Skype Translator! Skype Translator was recently previewed to two school classes - one in Washington, USA and one in Mexico City. Watch the video below to see how, with the help of Skype Translator, students were able to overcome the language barrier which previously would have stopped them communicating. This innovation will bring people together like never before, and will open up endless possibilities for people around the world to connect, communicate and collaborate.

     

    The Skype Translator preview program is kicking-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page. Skype Translator relies on machine learning, which means that the more the technology is used, the smarter it gets. As more people use the Skype Translator preview, the quality will continually improve. Skype also needs your help to fast-track new language releases. So make sure you sign up, let your language preferences be known and get involved!

     

    Teachers in New Zealand and overseas are already using Skype in the Classroom to facilitate collaboration and serve as a resource for innovative lesson ideas. Talk with other classes no matter where they are, take your class on a virtual field trip or find guest speakers and invite them into your classroom. These are just a couple of ideas, the opportunities are endless! Click here to join Skype and take your classroom experience to the next level!

     

  • “The real virtue is not in the tools we create, it is in how we use the tools to create" - an interview with Sir Ken Robinson

    Anthony Salcito (Vice President of Education for Microsoft Corp.'s Worldwide Public Sector organisation) recently spoke with Sir Ken Robinson about his thoughts on the explosion of technology in education and what this means for creativity and learning.  For those that have not heard of Sir Ken Robinson, he is an author and speaker, and is world-renowned as an education & creativity expert. The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been viewed more than 25 million times and seen by an estimated 250 million people in over 150 countries. His 2006 talk is the most viewed in TED’s history!

    Take a look at the video below where Anthony and Sir Ken Robinson sit down and chat about the future of technology in education. It's an insightful and interesting view into Robinson's beliefs about the potential technology holds for encouraging creativity and human growth.

    So, what has the explosion in technology meant for imagination and learning? According to Robinson, the impact has been enormous. “Tools have extended our physical reach, allowing us to do things physically we couldn’t otherwise do, but they’ve also expanded our minds,” he says. “The relationship between tools and intellectual, physical and spiritual development is really powerful.”

    But while Robinson believes that tools play an important role in creativity, he sees an even higher calling for technology. “The real virtue is not in the tools we create, it is in how we use the tools to create, how creative we become with the tools,” he says. “The challenge with technology is not a technological one, it’s a spiritual one.” The challenge education providers are facing is what to do with the technology and tools that are available. Robinson believes that there is unlimited potential for schools and that by unleashing students’ creativity, we can help them develop the kinds of skills that will serve them well in their careers, and as leaders of future generations.

    Check out the full interview below!

     

  • Sway Preview expands and delivers more feature improvements!

    It’s been only 10 weeks since Sway Preview was launched, and there's already been over one million unique visitors to Sway.com and over 175,000 requests to join, and those numbers grow by thousands daily. On the back of this demand, Sway Preview is now open to everybody - with no waitlist!

    The Sway team is asking educators for their help in shaping the future of the app! Many educators with access to Sway Preview are loving the opportunity to transform presentations and bring ideas to life in a new and exciting way. If you want to test out Sway Preview go here. Once you've checked it out, we'd love for you to tell us your thoughts through the User Voice forum and see what other people have said. Your suggestions will help improve Sway and grow the app.

    Recent improvements to the app include:

    • Adding Bing Image Search and 'suggested searches'
    • Undo and re-do actions
    • Bullets and numbering
    • Editing text on the canvas
    • Reordering sections more easily
    • Import a PDF into Sway
    • Improvements to the Colour Picker

    If you want to read about all of these enhancements in more depth, check out this Sway blog post.

    Sway is being adopted by the Microsoft Innovative Educators network across New Zealand who are using the app to create engaging and innovative presentations that can be used in classrooms in the new year. Check out the MIE Minute Newsletter which is now on Sway and see how the app can be used!   

    There are some amazing Sway presentations emerging - click on the images below and check them out!

              

       

     

  • Update: Sir George Seymour College, Travel Careers & Training and the Southern Institute of Technology are now providing Office to every student for free!

    We're very pleased to announce that Sir George Seymour CollegeTravel Careers & Training and the Southern Institute of Technology have joined the list of New Zealand institutions providing Office to their students for free. There are now 20 tertiary institutions across New Zealand which are providing the Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus benefit to their students free of charge!
      

    What does this mean? The latest version of the full Office productivity suite, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote are available for offline and online use to best prepare you for class. As long as you’re a current student at an eligible institution that has activated the service, you’ll be able to use this software for free.

    • Install on up to 5 compatible PCs and Macs, plus 5 tablets (including iPad!)
    • Sync across all your devices with OneDrive
    • Gain valuable skills on the world’s most popular productivity software
    • Use the same programmes as your lecturers and tutors to ensure full file fidelity
      If you are enrolled at an eligible tertiary institution that has activated the service, you can download the software by signing in to Office 365 using your institution login and password. If you’re a student at one of the below tertiary institutions, simply click on the corresponding link and follow the instructions. If your institution isn’t listed below but has activated this service, you can visit 
      this link and sign in using your institution login and password.

     

    Don’t forget, you’ll need your tertiary institution account login and password to sign in and take up this benefit.
     
    Did we miss out your tertiary institution? Ask your institution’s IT department about getting Office for free. We’ll keep you updated and provide direct links to other institutions that are providing this exciting benefit in future blog posts.