Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in a room full of educational technologists from central Alberta. There were a variety of people from K-12, Higher Education and Alberta Education who were interested in what Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Program could offer each of our school divisions. This program, according to Microsoft “helps school leaders discover and share best practices to foster a culture of innovation”. For me, it’s truly about good teaching practices, expanding teacher and student’s educational toolkit and sharing our educational technology/information technology journeys with each other. It’s also about sharing this knowledge and supporting teachers and students in utilizing the tools effectively.
Marilyn Steier, a former Parkland School Division Principal, now working with the University of Alberta – Faculty of Education and with Microsoft, hosted this foundational Partners in Learning Network workshop (PiLN). This network has been quite successful in the United States as well as other countries and slowly crept into Canada via the Manitoba Education Department and University of Toronto. As a matter of fact, a pilot project is occurring in a few Edmonton Catholic Schools in connection with Microsoft and Alberta Education. We know that Microsoft’s foray into education is not new and some of the tools mentioned below are basic to the Microsoft bundle currently available to schools in Alberta. There is importance in how the PiLN can work to offer teachers an online community filled with product downloads, tutorials, activities and discussions. What I am excited about is the opportunity to share with teachers some ideas and resources that ALL our students could use effectively and easily in and out of the classroom. I also look forward, in early 2012, to share with our teachers where all of these resources will be located. For now, only some info is ready to share.
The basic agenda was to share the different sessions that teachers could attend in person or take online on the following topics:
- Accessibility – the opportunities for students to change how Windows 7, Office 2010, Internet Explorer 9 can be personalized is important. From font size, color to having the information instantly read aloud can all be set up. Info HERE.
- Communication and Collaboration - looking at the different resources available for students to communicate and collaborate in real-time. Great to see communication via voice, video and instantaneous through many different tools like Outlook, Lync Online, etc.
- Critical Thinking – show students how to find, evaluate and apply their learning HERE.
- Creativity – demonstrate learning in a variety of ways from using apps like AutoCollage, MovieMaker, Kodu Game Lab, Photosynth, Powerpoint through ease of access and personalization.
Notes of interest
Office 365 – web apps, Outlook Live (10GB inbox per person), SkyDrive (25GB), online collaboration and document sharing with OneNote and Word, Powerpoint, Excel….., Lync Online – voice chat, video meetings, etc.
WebApps and Learning Suite applications – the above Office Webapps are great but I really like the opportunities to further learning via some other Learning Suite add-in applications like WorldWide Telescope – amazing images from earth-bound and sky telescopes, Mathematics 4.0 – calculator tool for high school, Kodu Game Lab – a programming add-in for early years students (great precursor to Scratch and Alice), Mouse Mischief – interact with powerpoint lessons/activities with multiple mice, Photosynth – import specific photos for a stunning visual representation of an activity or learning concept, Songsmith – make music your own way!, AutoCollage – input pictures on a particular topic.
These are only some of the engaging tools that teachers and students can use in a desktop and online environment. I look forward to hearing more and learning more about Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Program in Alberta – stay tuned!
After looking at the Partners in Learning Network beta site for Canada and listening to our group discussions, I came up with some brief points regarding how this PiLN could be utilized by our teachers and students.
* intro to teachers via mini-workshops/sessions either F2F, webinar, video clips with activities. Need consistency on how workshops will be presented in order to have common learning and language occuring in the province while using these resources/tools.
* certificates after each session are a great idea, always nice to show that you are involved in professional learning
* have teachers join an Alberta PiLN group to share their learning along the way?
* Microsoft PiLN resource depository would be important. Too difficult to vet info but would be a great way to see examples of what and how other teachers are using Microsoft products. (I see it set up like SmartExchange – easy to use, easy to share.)
* important that Microsoft shares how IT departments in school divisions will push out particular “pkgs” of information or putting these “pkgs” in a mgmt area for individual teachers to upload on their own on school division equipment.
* how easily accessible are these webapps on ALL mobile devices – Blackberry, Apple, Android, Windows, etc….?