I applied for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program thinking you have to be in to win. I didn’t fit all the criteria as I have only been working with microsoft 365 for this year, and even quietly kept my mac in my laptop bag (getting a new microsoft surface pro was a great perk). But I was really keen on the opportunities that the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program offered. So, trying to make it a learning experience, I completed my application using microsoft OneNote so I at least I got some practice using what is fast becoming my favourite techy tool. After an incredibly short turn around (two weeks from applications closing to getting on a plane) I found myself in Sydney as a member of the first intake of Microsoft innovative educators from Australia and New Zealand
My initial and lasting impression was just how open everybody was about their challenges, their successes and their visions for teaching and learning. Everybody had a slightly different visions for their learners and we all worked in some very different schools. Everyone was working incredibly hard to achieve the best educational outcomes for their students , and everyone had different experiences, different weaknesses and different strengths.
My main take homes were
The physical space of the microsoft offices made me appreciate how little my classroom represents the world many of my students will enter when they leave school. More and more work places are opting for open plans, and I wish my class room could look like that – a variety of learning/working spaces, mixture of tech and just space, comfy couches and a high trust environment. A space designed for collaboration and creation.
I like couches – you can probably tell from the pics 🙂
OneNote – is amazing. On the Surface pro, it is even more amazing. And then the pen makes it O for Awesome. I had no idea what this piece of software could do, I had just started using it as a place to put stuff, collate information. In the 2 days I was at the microsoft educator workshop, I had completely changed how I took notes – it was like going back to my first years at uni and doodling on a piece of paper again. Except that with onenote, the paper can be as big or as small as you like, you can zoom in and out, or move around it. Change colour and add in pics or docs or links. It was a paper napkin on steriods. And I like it.
Assessment strategies – both Kiwi and Aussie Educators felt constrained by assessment in their schools and states, but felt that change was coming. NZ I think has a slightly more flexible curriculum document, but assessment at all levels does constrain innovation and creation. Using the 21st Century design for learning rubrics can create great tasks – but there is an ongoing challenge to get real world assessment opportunities. Or do we actually need them? What skills should we be assessing?
There was some great techy stuff. I love the pro, and can’t see how I functioned before OneNote (I have been using it for planning since term 2, started using it for work notes/folders term 3, and did my first presentation using it tonight) and I am looking forward to using Office mix to easily make ‘powerpoints’ become interactive and more student driven. But more of the conversation was around student engagement, finding relevant contexts, fostering creativity and innovation, and supporting leaners (both teachers and students) to get better outcomes.
The best part was connecting with other educators. Educators who are working damn hard to be the best they can be, and get the best for their students. Already the yammer and twitter feed has been buzzing away, and I hope that the connections will continue to strengthen online, and maybe, just maybe, we can meet up face to face again. My experience at the Microsoft Innovative Educator weekend was game changing, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into making positive change for my students and myself over the coming year.