Posted in Professional learning, surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Getting started with Microsoft Classroom

When I first heard that Microsoft was bringing a ‘classroom’ option to the Office 365 suite of educational software, I was a mixture of excited to see what it looked like and worried it would be just another add on. I had also had a play with the teacher dashboard which was nice but a litle underwhelming. Google classroom has had plenty of praise and I have been impressed with what was possible on that platform. Then I started seeing what people could do with Microsoft classroom and I got very green eyed as one by one schools in New Zealand and around the world were getting picked for the preview option.


I love the leaf as the icon for Microsoft Classroom – learning and growing together


And then I got a glorious e-mail saying we had also been selected to preview Microsoft classroom and school data sync. I was so excited when I replied, I forgot to attach the questionaire and signed documents back.


The preparation for the data sync was sadly a bigger job than I had expected. We were wonderfully supported by Guy, Keith and Mike from Microsoft via 3 skype seminars where they walked us through some of the finer points. But as we are using Kamar as our LMS, we needed to prepare csv files, which had to be done manually, which meant a big job for Lyndon (our DP in charge of Kamar). So we opted for 4 volunteer teachers with about 8 classes between us to test – around 190 students mostly in our junior school (we have around 1050 students in our school). I also had to enter a promo code to get classroom installed on the tenant and turn on the licence for the staff concerned. Once that was set up, I downloaded the powershell set up tool and we got the sync underway.

(If you are planning a sync like this, make sure your csv files are saved some-where sensible. They can’t be in zip form either…. We are now investigating a more robust place to store these files than my surface’s hard drive – perhaps where the server for Kamar is run, or a specific computer for admin……And after some conversation with the connected learning advisory and other NZ teachers, it seems that there are sometimes similar issues with KAMAR and Hapara…. not sure about google)

Again, the team were great as the talked me through the set up process…. you can see my mistakes where I entered the wrong thing in the wrong place, or tried to use the zip file…..


The errors in red and black are due to me having installed the anniversary edition windows 10 update. So I had to alter the text files (helped by the crew…..) and then it ran fine


The sync errors were because we had students who were doubled up in multiple classes – so we had to go back to the student csv file and remove the double ups. The error reports where very specific about where the errors were and it took Lyndon no time to fix them (definitely not my area of expertise)

And then we hit go with classroom, and it was quite magical watching the classes populate. Calanders, onedrives, group e-mails, newsfeeds all just appeared. To get it visable on the students app launcher, we also had to turn on their licences in the admin portal. It took about 30 minutes for all of the classes to load – which is pretty quick really. If we need to update, the files with just scan for changes, so it is only the initial setup that will take a while.

So then I skipped off to my year 10 Science class, and there is was for my students 🙂


As I added a test they have on Monday, it automatically (and almost instantly) popped into their calendar (and mine too). It was great to see both classes this student was loaded into appear straight from the sync.


From my end, it looks like this – 10Be is the class that went through the data sync – L1Sci and L2 Chem are classes I have added manually. So I still need to activiate the licences on these students accounts to see if they have a different experience from the data sync students.

classroom view.png


Early days yet, so all the posts are mine. Hopefully this changes as the class uses this platform more




The conversations tab sends you to outlook, and the files tab sends you to a group Onedrive (so a sharepoint document library). The set up for the classnote book is al ready to go, just choose your sections and away you go.

So, once we had the preparation sorted, this really was a dream. And I can see a real benefit to students if they have all their classes loaded as they can use the calendar to organise their course work and assessments, and use the collaborative spaces to share resources and ask and answer questions.

Next steps

This sync happened about 48 hours ago. So still very early days. My next steps are to

  1. support the other teachers using classroom preview to use it with their classes
  2. Investigate how we can improve the transfer of data from the SMS (Kamar) to either the CSV files or directly to classroom.
  3. Investigate a more long term storage place for the csv files…..
  4. Compare the experience of classroom users to the teacher in our school using groups and classroom notebook – I suspect for individual teachers they will have a similar experience, but the students will have a better experience via classroom due to the summaries on the home page.
  5. Compare synced student experience to manually added students – might save us a lot of time with the CSV files for next year if we can skip this step…. but then it might not encourage teachers to use it……
  6. Get some feedback from the students to see what they think
  7. Plan for implementation for the whole school next year if it goes according to plan

My first impressions are that it is a very user friendly overlay system that takes all the best bits of sharepoint and makes them much easier to use for teachers or students. More confident/competent or adventurous teachers might find they like the freedom of the sharepoint sites they already have set up, where as other teachers who have been reluctant will definitely enjoy the automatic population of their classes.

An enormous thanks has to go to the Microsoft crew who helped us out over skype (the time difference meant I think we kept them at work a bit late) for their patience and expertise, and to Lyndon for bearing with my when the job was bigger than I expected. But it looks like it was well worth the effort – watch this space





Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff, Uncategorized

Office 365 as a learning management system update

Late last year I wrote a blog about how we were planning to use SharePoint and the office 365 environment as an LMS and as a ‘T drive replacement’. After 2 terms, I have been thinking about what different teachers are doing with their classes or with their departments and how things are fitting together. It is still very messy, with some teachers using OneDrive, others using groups, some exclusively using OneNote Class notebooks and some using nothing. We still have some classes using the ultranet (which is being phased out) and others are not in any online space as yet. We are also investigating Microsoft Classroom and whether this would be an effective solution for some of our staff.

So it is a good time to pause and reflect on the relative successes with the technolgoies we are currently using.


SharePoint is definitely the most flexible option for staff and students, but it does come at a cost of being technically demanding. So far, only Chemistry, Physics and Technology are using SharePoint to share work with students. This is working very well and it is easy to provide a wide range of resources, as well as options for students feedback/contribution.


My Colleague Kevin has done an awesome job of organising his physics students site


A view of one of the chem pages is not so exciting….. Although a really big advantage of having a site is that it is easier for multiple contributors. So my fellow chem teachers can easily edit and add documents in. We have also (as a comparison mostly) not put the shared documents in a library but just put the files on the site. This means students only have the option of downloading the files rather than viewing them online. We did this due to some queries around permissions and editing rights – it has worked well for this cohort.

Where SharePoint is really making a positive difference is in organising staff documents and bookings.

More of Kevin’s handy work – he has overlaid calendars to provide a colour coded chart of where members of the PE department are at a given time. This is awesome and I need to learn how to do it.

Pe cal
More of Kevin’s handiwork – colour coded calendar for room bookings.



The science dept is also utilising the shared calender function to organise booking our practical gear – it seems to be working really well, helped by our awesome tech Aimee. It is also really nice to have single copies of assessment docs, marking schedules and feedback that we can all contribute to. Our ‘poor’ HoD does get a little exasperated with some of the comments we leave on department meeting agendas – but it also gets some of the discussion out of the way before the meetings which frees up more time for shared work.

The Arts department has recently come on board and made some excellent progress getting their documents shared. It is a wide spread and diverse department so it has taken a big effort for the Curriculum heads to get this started.



Several teachers are using groups to share files and discussion with their students. This is working well for these students and staff, it is easy to email the whole group with updates. The file share is an overlay for SharePoint libraries that seems to take some of the technical issues away for less confident staff. (when I tried to tell them they were using SharePoint a couple were a little overwhelmed…) You can share all sorts of files and links very easily with a target group of people.

One downside of groups is they are able to be seen by others, even if they are private groups. An example was a couple of staff set up pastoral care groups which we discoverable by students. Students couldn’t access the information but were able to email all the teachers involved…. so for use in schools it would be really nice if groups could be made undiscoverable to others in the network. The other thing missing from groups is the ability to format files shared – it has a very definite ‘folder look’. But it is working really well for staff and students using it.


Staff in several departments are using OneDrive to share student notes, assessment material etc. this can be a slightly time consuming set up, but once each student has a shared file with the teacher, it is up and running and easy to use. I am really hoping the soon to be released Microsoft Classroom automates some of this process. Staff have chosen this option over a classnote book as we are not a one to one school – so accessing a classnote book to access a word file was proving a bit much for the streams the students have access to. For NCEA assessments it provides a secure document storage solution that can easily be downloaded or printed of for marking/moderation.

A bonus in this method is despite the time consuming set up, it is simple to use. Because OneDrive was the first Office 365 app people used, it does have an element of comfort to it!! But students can easily access it, it works on any device reliably and work on students devices (with windows 10) can automatically sync to the cloud.

Shared docs via OneDrive are also slowly shifting our appraisal documentation into being a living document. By having a shared document it also a more fluid process for completing these documents.

OneNote Class note books

Some staff are purely using class note books to share learning activities with their students – especially in our yr 7 and 8 classes. The sci dept has also used this for the junior school (who are not yet on sharepoint) to scaffold and track progress of students science fair projects. OneNote Class books are really good – especially with the recent update where pages can be easily pushed out to all students in a class. We have had a few issues of where the OneNotes are stored – it had lead to syncing problems with some classes. The single biggest issue for us with the class notebooks is students don’t have their own devices, so it can be a bit slow if every student is trying to access or modify the pages at once. More recently, we have wondered if groups can be set up within a class note book for group assessments or tasks…..

What’s next?

We have made some really big steps in getting depertments and classes using the 365 environment. The next big step is to get the staff handbook online. This is such a big job it kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide under a rock for a while. But I did get a kick in the pants when I helped host a workshop at Taieri in the holidays and people couldn’t believe we still had one of these…

Yes, it is 2016 and we still have a paper copy of staff briefing notes



So while we have made some great progress, we still have a way to go. Getting the staff meeting minutes online is easy, but getting all staff to accept that shift might be slightly more difficult. We have a shared calendar which still causes issues, but by gradually shifting important docs online we should hopefully see more shift. So my aim for this term is to start the process of getting more of the staff documentation into the 365 cloud

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting

I was very thankful to be invited to the PPTA ICT committee meeting last Friday. It was a REALLY worthwhile trip and I enjoyed the whole experience. Thanks must got to the PPTA (and hence every PPTA member) who paid for my flights etc so I could attend the meeting. Also a huge thanks to the two TELA representatives who came along and where so willing to listen and talk.

You can find a recap at my previous blog post about TELA HERE

I’m breaking this post into two – 1 about the TELA ‘hour’ of the meeting and 2 about the other things at the meeting that I’m pretty sure I can share about.

  1. TELA

An hour of the ICT meeting was set aside for the TELA issue and two people came to represent them. I put my foot in it right from the start by stating I was the one that sent the ‘angry letter’ but they had no idea of any letter…. turns out key points had been summarised and sent away by the PPTA to them to come and discuss. so I learned (another… I am a slow learner sometimes…) valuable lesson around the ‘proper’ processes and policies around stuff like this.

The TELA people talked about the scheme – along with some history from some members of the PPTA – apparently the started with Principals receiving a computer from the scheme so the ministry could ensure everyone could receive information from e-mails. It spread to teachers a couple of years after – and even until the last 5 or so years, it wasn’t completely uncommon to get untouched devices back after the 3 year less term as teachers just didn’t use them (this did my HEAD in)

In terms of numbers, there are over 46,000 TELA devices in schools. Given that there are over 100,000 registered teachers, this seems to me to fall a little short. There was a person present who’s BoT didn’t fund the TELA laptops, which HORRIFIED me. They just didn’t have access to the scheme in their school. Plenty of others weren’t aware of the choice of devices that was available as they were simply just given one. No-one seemed to reveive any training on how to use their device. There was discussion around why don’t the ministry just remove they layer and provide devices for al teachers (as the boards paying the TELA fees from the ministries grants is a bit backwards…)

Then there was discussion about the devices themselves. Screen size was an issue for many present – and set up around doing admin tasks. As we were getting into details about devices I did try to say ‘what about the teaching and learning?’ ‘How can me make these devices more accessible for teaching to use for more than just writing reports and playing videos.

The best question that got asked from the TELA reps was

‘how do you think it would look?’

I have absolutely no idea how it would look. I would like it to look like a more flexible task driven system where different teachers can take agency for their choices. But as some-one pointed out, not all teachers have the competence to know which device is best. Or what if it changes? Others wonder about tech support in school – a lot of PPTA members present also were in charge of the devices in their school and spoke of the difficulties of managing different devices – so they didn’t offer choice. So how can we also ensure adequate tech support in schools? How can we ensure tech is seen as a tool, not a barrier and also not the be all and end all? How can we ensure that teachers know what they are actually entitled too? How can we better support part time teachers who do not currently qualify for a TELA laptop?

I guess maybe the best I can suggest is a good look at the vision and values of the NZC

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 5.08.55

This bottom line is key for me. How can ICT open up new and different ways of learning if all teachers are using their devices for is writing reports and watching videos?

secsource for TELA laptop use data.

So I want it to look like the NZC says. That learners (including teachers) are competent and confident users of ICT to communicate with others, are able to use new technologies to secure a better future for out country and are able to explore new ways of learning.

In terms of where to next, a user reference group is being set up (I’m not actually too sure what this means if anyone cares to enlighten me…..) and there is also some movement towards providing more information on the TELA website which has currently got next to nothing. So I am glad that something at least is happening, but will keep poking with a stick to see if this could cascade into some sort of change. I would love to see the TELA scheme to change a focus from solely devices into having a more teaching and learning/pedagogy focus, but this might also happen around some other things that are possibly changing.

I am also aware that there is a multifaceted change that needs to occur for the shift to occur. TELA is a start 🙂

And if you have ANY ideas of how this might look, I’d love to hear from you, or get in touch with your local ICT or PPTA rep to get your ideas heard.

2. All the other stuff.

N4L has got a single log in for students and teachers for a wide range of APPs called TAHI. It looks pretty cool and I need to have a proper explore of what it means.

There is a project to link SMS data together called SISI (student information sharing initiative). You can read the report HERE. Amongst some 1984 type concerns, it would be (IMO) nice to have a more centralised system for tracking students. It also links in to the vulnerable children’s act (there was some discussion of what trumps what, privacy vs health and safety vs vulnerable children’s). It is a complex issue so make sure you read the report and have your say if you are interested.

Creative commons was also discussed – basically this is a HUGE issue and a non-issue all at once. Again, I wonder why (along with some others at the table) if we are all ministry employees (on a salary so even if you do work in your ‘own time’ you are still on ministry time) why doesn’t the ministry just do a creative commons agreement for all schools rather than relying on individual boards. I have shared loads of resources and had them shared back ( when we were at TCOL we actually handed around a flash drive to snaffle everything……) and there is potential that even though I would never sell them, and even though I use them solely for education, I could get in trouble. But actually, would anyone actually prosecute? Is it a storm in a tea cup? Perhaps better to be safe than sorry

Along the same lines was discussion around the use of personal equipment at school. Especially for part timers this is a hard one. For instance, if I’m using my phone to take a slow mo video (which is something my phone can do and my TELA laptop can’t) and a student bumps me and I break it – who pays for a new one? What if I’m taking photos at football to post on the sports facebook page and it gets hit by a ball and breaks? Again, better to be safe than sorry – but it wouldn’t stop me using my phone if the tech I am given can’t do that task. I completely understand for others it might.

A very exciting thing was a presentation from NZQA about the digital moderation platform. If they can pull of what they are thinking about it will be AMAZEBALLS cool. Simply (as I understood it) NZQA hope to have a flexible space were you can upload work to be moderated by other teachers. Discussion (with limitations… ie max number of posts so individuals can’t get too carried away) will be available. If everyone agrees, no action required. If there is discussion around a grade boundary – maybe have a looksy. If grades are all over the show, NZQA will get the moderators to have a look. NZQA are aiming to have this up and running by next year – so watch that space. Also linked to this was NZQA would like more appeals – currently way less than 0.01% of tasks get appealed. NZQA would like this to be at least 1% so they can also make sure their processes are working. So get appealing people 🙂

There were a few other things that came up too that I’m not sure if I can share in an open forum. But the PPTA webpage is getting changed so hopefully it will be easier to find the minutes of such meetings and get yourself informed.

So again, it was a really worthwhile day. And I got to catch up with some super cool #wellyed peeps. And meet some really passionate switched on educators from around the country and also see a bit better what goes into the PPTA. There is a bit of a wall I think for ‘everyday normal teachers’ to see the policies and processes behind managing education so it was a good insight for me. Thanks again to everyone who gave me their thoughts, support and to the PPTA for inviting me up

Job isn’t finished though – rest assured I will keep poking the bear 🙂

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Techie stuff

Dunedin Maker Party

After a fairly tough week, it was a massive effort to get up this morning and head to the Dunedin Maker party hosted by Hive Dunedin at Port Chalmers School. But I am soooo glad I did. It was an amazing day – mostly because I didn’t really have a set job so just got to cruise round talking to kids and learning new stuff.

So first for the stuff that I learned and/or really enjoyed.

  1. Mozilla X-ray goggles.

This is an add on for web browsers that lets you alter the html code behind the page. For example, Grumpy cat has something to say about the NZQA home page

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 6.35.51

It is (of course…) not real or permanent. But I learned more about HTML coding in the few minutes tinkering today (and watching the kids tinker) than I did in several concentrated efforts previously. And had a rad time doing it.

You simply click it open, click on a feature on the web page and the code pops up, and you can change it to whatever you like 🙂

2. Holograms

I have seen these super cool holograms on my facebook and twitter feed and always gone Man, I need to try that – and then never had.

Today I did, and it was AWESOME. So simple, so fun and so effective. I even got a pic on my phone.

2016-06-18 13.52.28.jpg

If you are looking to do this in class – I’d recommend putting the whole tablet/phone and acetate projector into a cardboard box lined with black paper – that is how it was done today and it made it really stand out well.


So these super cute little robots rock. Like really rock. They were a bit fiddly and I know the helpers running them had a few issues with them dropping their connections, but they were so simple and cool. My wee man Ollie had a go and LOVED them.

while the robots themselves were cool – I really liked how they were being used. The robot was a bit of a hook to get the kids thinking about how to problem solve around a maze they designed themselves – even down to getting the robot to do some little jumps. This required a run up, and changing the speed of the sphero made it easier to navigate the jump, but then made it harder to steer round the rest of the course.


This was just good timing. Great in fact as we are leading up into our fun physics topic for yr 10 and I want to build lots of catapults and trebuchets and other things that make stuff fly through the air.

The cardboard models will be perfect for making on mass in class – I’ll consider building  a wooden one…. but we are also looking at modelling some on minecraft…

All the other things

There was soldering, stop go animation, nerves, drones, lie detectors, potato batteries, explosions, a steam engine and kids climbing trees. It was soooooooo awesomely awesome.

So awesome in fact it is making me a bit down about what I will go back to on Monday.

Today I saw 60 kids all engaged, learning, having fun and not a single kid acting out.

On Monday, I go back to reviewing a test sat on friday and kicking off an internal that we will be rushing through to try and finish before the end of term, revising for a test on Tuesday, some calorimetry and (thank goodness for both my soul and for my enjoyment of the day) some more setting up minecraft servers and inquiries with my yr 10 class. I have a couple of unit plans to update this weekend.

Why am I putting myself through that? Why am I putting my students through it? Why does secondary education seem so immovably entrenched  that despite best efforts I struggle to move away from the content delivery model. Worse for the mood is I know I am one of the ones trying to at least explore and employ different teaching and learning strategies (even if I do still use the odd worksheet of practice questions). How can we shift our education system so that I can see my students having as much fun as school as they kids did today? How can we stop the flow of teachers away from our profession? How can we strengthen teachers and students voices to get positive change in our system?

So today was a great day, with amazingly dedicated and passionate people, some great learning for the students and for me. It was filled with hope that change can happen and change is coming. There were some amazing teachers there it was awesome to meet and connect with to keep growing my PLN and the circle of people I can bounce ideas off.

If only it wasn’t just a day….. but it will come.





Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Office Forms is HERE and it is AWESOME

One thing I felt was lacking from the office 365 suite of software for education was a forms option. So I am REALLY excited to see the Office forms preview that has been released in the last month or so. I really missed (and still used) google forms, which provided a quick and easy way to formatively assess students and easily get the data in a summary which was useful to see how much of the class had grasped key skills or ideas. The Office Survey option was a little clunky to use but good for end of topic/end of year reflections from students. I also use Kahoot in class and our students love it and the graph at the end of each question does give a good summary. But you can’t use Kahoot for students written answers, it is always multichoice and this is where I am most excited for the new addition to the Office 365 family, Office Forms. Office forms is very similar to the google forms in layout (I hope as they roll it out fully there are some options to pretty it up a little with some different colours etc) but for a 365 school you can use your students log ins to get the analytics to link data back to specific students if you wish. The home page looks just like sway. I can’t wait to use it once classes start again after out Autumn holidays.

The basic set up is quite simple

Head along to and register. This might take a few days but it is worth the wait 🙂

once you log in, it is pretty obvious how to make a new form….

forms h.PNG

So once you have clicked new, you get a screen like this, where you can add your title etc


The you have the different options for questions – options/choice, or longer answer or ratings.

forms n.PNG

You can chose the options, allow multiple answers etc… and once you have your questions you can re order them by dragging them round…


Once you have written your questions, you have multiple options for sharing – the QR code is a cute option for maybe having a quiz for each station round a room…. and you can see at the bottom you have the option to have a sign in or not

form4Once students/staff/whoever have completed the form, you can then click the responses tab to see a summary of the data. You can also export to an excel spreadsheet if you wish.




So the charts give you a quick glimpse, and you can use the data is excel to get the longer answers. I’d probably mail merge them into a word document so I can easily look over them or provide feedback if I need to

Another nice feature was that you can preview your form for a computer or a phone


So for a preview version there are a LOT of awesome features in Office Forms. It is simple to use, flexible enough and I am sure as they continue to develop there will be even more awesome features. I have been WAITING for something like this to come along and thus far it has ticked all my boxes. So the next task is to make some up for my classes and see how they go when we get back to school in a week.



Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

OneNote has levelled up with Learning Tools

OneNote learning tools is AWESOME. It is an add on for Microsoft OneNote that contains an immersive reader and a dictation function. I didn’t think it was possible to love OneNote any more than I did, but I do now. When using OneNote learning tools, you can take ANY text and be able to change the font, highlight different parts of language (nouns, verbs etc) and change the font size to make it more accessible for students. I have only really just started playing with this tool for one of my students who has dyslexia, but it has also made me think a little differently about how I support students to interpret text given to them during assessment tasks.

Once you have installed it, OneNote Learning tools is just another tab at the top of your folder


To use it, you highlight some text


And click the reader button

You then have a variety of different options for the text


You can highlight parts of the text with different colours, or change the spacing, or break the text into syllables


You can also change the background


And then, the reader will read the text aloud, highlighting words as it goes.

The voice is still a little wooden, but it generally manages some of the complex Science words that it has been presented with.

I haven’t played round with the dictator function much, but have it on good authority from a friend (here’s looking at you Nikkie) that if you swear at it, it writes F***. Which is a super lovely touch. I have had a go (I did swear, maturity levels are low at the end of term) and it did this. More importantly, it was pretty good at picking up what I said despite my accent.

So far I have only used this tool a little in class. We are not a 1:1 environment so it is harder for the students to use this function for themselves. But I did find it really useful to think about how I was teaching my students to interpret exam questions. As a science ‘teacher’ of senior students, all of my learners have end of year exams and I do spend some time going over how to read questions correctly to make sure they are answering them well. Going through this exercise showed me just how much more I could do when talking through questions. The simple process of highlighting the nouns meant that students actually linked how the were reading the questions back into the skills the learn in English (some moaned about it – ‘why are we doing English in Science Miss?’. But by doing this, it made links with another subject ‘silo’, it reminded students that skills need to be transferable, and it reminded ME that if I am going to do a job, I should do it properly. If I am going to take time to pull an exam question to bits, I should make sure I do it fully and make those links to try and make the most out of every learning opportunity, not just skim over it to get the best outcomes/marks.

You can download the learning tools add in HERE. It is seriously worth a look

Posted in Minecraft, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

A Sneak preview of #minechem

All of the work here is from Dave Warren and his son Angus. I think it is seriously awesome and have been having a wee play with some of the mods myself.

Also, I can’t say enough how awesome Dave (and Angus) are for sharing all of this with me and my class. We are just getting servers etc set up so we can share it with everybody, but there is a list of all the mods used at the bottom of this post if you want to have a go at setting up something similar yourself. And a big ups to all the people that made the mods too – sorry I am not sure who you are to acknowledge you.

This is the ‘decomposer’ that can break down rocks into there raw materials.

This is a tour of the world Dave and Angus created

And this is the treasure chest of goodies you can break into bits 🙂

Our next steps for this are

  1. to get this set up on a server so we can share it. To this end, Ben (a yr 10 student) has been working hard all weekend to learn how to get this to work, our trial run yesterday was super)
  2. To get some coding done and see if we can make some ionic compounds with the molecules we can break up. You would have seen you can get your sulfate ions in the decomposer videos, it would be awesome if we can use this so students can see the stoichiometry of these molecules more clearly and therefore have a way to assist students to learning ionic formula 🙂 So Dave is coming back to school in thursday with a PhD student who can do some Java and we will look into this then

Thanks again to Dave and Angus for letting me share this and test this, my students and I am loving it 🙂

If you are interested, here is the list of mods used in the set up

#minechem mods








Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Getting going with MINECRAFT

NB. A Lot of the credit for the work talked about in this post go to Dave Warren from Otago University and also to the Yr 10 boys in my Science class who are teaching me as they go. They are awesome and I am really hoping we can get this to work.

Minecraft has been making more and more noise lately for lots of good reason. Last night I connected into to the live stream from the Microsoft Educator Exchange in Budapest (You can watch the event here) and was totally inspired by the talking around makerEd and gamification and what people are now doing with there classes. I am not sure why I had not come across Stephen Reid before but I LOVED his presentation on games and how he helps teachers and students use them in a meaningful way for learning. (I stayed up way tooooo late reading his blog and will def go back to it)

I have been thinking about how I can use Minecraft in the classroom for a while now. I used the hour of code last year to kick start my own learning about it, and had some super helpful year 10’s teach me the basics of it.

I bought the game (my students laughed at me….) and started having a play. I accidentally killed a lot of chickens, figured out how to put them in a whole and feed them, then build a fence to keep them in and build a little garden (somewhat ironically my own garden got sadly neglected). I have visited some worlds and had a look around in the Molcraft world which is RAD.

At the moment I am exploring two different avenues for using minecraft

The first is my year 10 Science class.

I am really lucky to have a super awesome class of students who are willing to give things ago. To this end, 4 boys (I’m going to try and get some girls involved too but won’t push it if they don’t want to) are building a ‘body’ for the staying alive unit. Other students are making videos, putting together presentations or making some resources for students to learn about – the idea was everyone in the class should become an expert on something that helps us ‘Stay Alive’ that they could present to the class in some way at the end of the topic.

yr 10s getting their minecraft on building a body 🙂#scichatnz #MIEExpert @noisyteacher @nzannet @Doctor_Harves

— Rachel Chisnall (@ibpossum) March 1, 2016

This is the progress they have made for so far (they started with a poop machine but have moved on to what we are learning about)

2016-03-10 10.19.39

They have made a heart – the blue is deoxygenated blood, and the other side will be red. When this is live, the ‘liquid’ pulses to simulate a beating heart. They are working on connecting the heart to the lungs via the correct arteries and veins – hence they had the diagram of the heart up next to their model to check they were making it right.

2016-03-10 10.15.35Here is the lung next to the heart. The grey box is air – they couldn’t have it empty so have settled for grey but we wondered about colourless… but then how would you ‘see’ it. And wen this is running, the blood pulses through the arteries and veins. If we get time, there are plans to look at building a model alveoli too.

Because these students are keen and already have the software, setting this up was really easy for me as I didn’t have to do a thing. They have taught me a lot about mods (I still need to learn some more) and also how easy it is to set up a server in a cloud somewhere. At the moment the world lives on a memory stick and on the shared drive at school – but we spent time today talking about how we could set up a school server with the robotics teacher.

The Second is with what Dave Warren has done.

Dave has pretty much built a Chem lab in Minecraft. It is AMAZING. (I think his son helped). I know Dave both through his Chemistry outreach (which Dunedin is soo lucky to have access to) but also through Hands on Science, and we have kind of talked about this project off and on for a while, so it was really really AWESOME to see it for real today.

2016-03-10 10.33.34What he found (I’m sure others might know this but I didn’t) was if you smash up the rocks, or the dirt or whatever using a particular mod, you can break down the substance into the atoms that make it up – ie you can get silicon and oxygen from rocks, or carbon, oxygen and hydrogen from trees. Which you can then manipulate into different molecules.


So they have built this lab to do this in. There are microscopes and all sorts in there. Which you could then make up a quest book and follow some instructions to figure out some cool chemistry

2016-03-10 10.36.53Which is awesome – but so is the ability to just have a play around. We spent some time today talking to the boys about what they would like, and how we could make it manageable for teachers too (I think the students might like to just play, but teachers might like a quest to follow to give some more structure).

There also needs to be a bit of a juggling of some code to make all the molecules we want to (for example, to be able to build ionic compounds so students can ‘see’ the stoichiometyry behind the formulas and equations) – so next week Dave is going to try and get one of his students to come out and have a look with my students and see what they can come up with. Already, my students have had some solutions to a few of the issues Dave had with his set up – such as using an app to combine all the mods into one mod for a more user friendly set up on each machine. He has done all of the ground work, so I am really lucky to be able to jump in and test the proto type 🙂

So my students are going to work with Dave’s students to kick the whole thing off. We talked about servers, to which they replied, oh, that is easy, we already have one set up. But I would still like them to teach me,  hopefully I can keep up, and maybe we can make a bigger one.

So at the moment I am feeling really excited about where this might go. I am certainly not ready to roll this out to my whole class, but probably could do so by the time chemistry comes around in term 2. I will also extend the invitation to other interested students and maybe (with the awesome Kevin who teaches robotics and is WAY more skilled in this than me) set up some sort of lunch time coding club. Kevin has some arduino gear that I am really keen to get my hands on as well.

If you are interested in joining in or following our progress, or if you have some tips or ideas, please do get in touch (@ibpossum). In talking to Dave he is looking to spread it round to. I would love any feedback, willing test subjects or technical expertise

Have fun – I sure am 🙂


Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Inking with Office 2016 is a little bit AWESOME

I was ‘FINALLY’ able to get Office 2016 onto my surface last week as it has become available on our school tenant. Microsoft has gone all out to improve the inking and collaborative features in all off the software packages. I am currently obsessed with the inking function – in Outlook especially. I have always loved inking in OneNote and it has been awesome to have a play with the other features



Inking in Outlook

If my favourite thing EVER. Being able to ink a quick reply is super – and means I can reply easily if I don’t have my surface connected to a keyboard (I’m terrible at typing with the touch screen). Or I can easily draw instructions or diagrams. For more ‘formal’ e-mails I would still type them out, but for quick messages on the go the inking function is perfect

Screenshot (6).png

And I love that you have all the options -different colours, highlighting options. AWESOME

Screenshot (7).png


Word is still a real workhorse for me, despite my LOVE of OneNote I still have a lot of documents such as unit plans and assessment tasks in Word.The inking functions in 2013 were useful, for writing a signature, but it was a bit ‘stiff’ and limited. NOT so anymore, the inking functions are awesome

Screenshot (3)

there is a handy ink to equation function (hiding behind the colour options in the pic above


But even better than that is an AMAZING equations bar that pops up when you are inking formula – I already had the formula/maths add in, but this one is AWESOME (I’m using that word a lot I know….)


This is going to make life WAY easier when I am going Aqueous Chem. Amazeballs

And feedback – why yes, it is there too 🙂



Now, I basically just use powerpoint now to make Office Mixes. Office mix has a pretty good inking feature already, I loved being able to change pens as I wrote and that it inked in live time as I talked.

Now, you can ink much more easily straight into the slides, and convert your ink to shapes too




And you can highlight too – in all of the software.


Even number crunchy Excel got some inking love

Screenshot (4)

There aren’t quite as many options, and I was kind of surprised their is no ink to maths function here… maybe it will be along later. That said, there are all the formulas in excel anyways….


I didn’t think it was possible for my love of OneNote to get any bigger. But it has. The ability to draw the images, flip them round, ink to text and maths, and basically store all my stuff somewhere so I don’t lose it is AMAZING. I honestly don’t know what I did before it

Screenshot (5)

I haven’t even started on all the other awesome features – having the full functionality of word while still being able to collaborate and have multiple users in superb.

The one glitch I had with the install was it did stop my sharepoint sync client working. But that is resolved now – I installed the 64 bit version and everything seems fine. So I am going to keep exploring and playing to see just what else this software can do. But for now, I’m off to reply to e-mails with inking, just cause I can


Posted in surface, Techie stuff

Changing embed sizes for #OfficeMix and learning about the #Sharepoint store

At the end of last year, I blogged about the progress we are making with SharePoint as our LMS but also how I was having some sizing issues with the office mix clips I was trying to embed into the Chemistry SharePoint site. Some other NZ MIEE’s (love your work Nikkie and Ruby) got in touch via twitter and last week we had an impromptu skype date to talk about where we are up to with SharePoint and plans for this year. And, of course cause these guys are AWESOME, I got some super helpful tips. It really has been the best thing about the Microsoft innovative educator expert program, meeting some awesome people, making some great connections and learning from each other.

I am a tad embarrassed I didn’t know about them before – always learning I guess, and by blogging them I won’t forget and hopefully help some-one else who didn’t know either 🙂

  1. resizing embed codes is SO EASY

All you need to do is change the code. I started with the small sized embed code from OfficeMix…

change size

As an aside, how nice is the inking function right there in the snip tool

every embed code has a size – either as a percentage or pixels or inches or whatever. You just need to change it


And you can see, the resulting Mix is small enough that I could fit them side by side, but still plays straight from the SharePoint site, and you can make it bigger. So I am going to play around and get the sizes right so it looks pretty 🙂

Thanks heaps to Nikkie for this tip

2) There is a SharePoint store

Ruby was showing us her AWESOME site, and it had a really cool banner on it. I was all jealous, and asked her how to get it, and found out about the SharePoint store. I’m not quite sure how I missed this… but now that I have found it I’m having some great fun looking through the apps available


So my next goal is to get a banner like Ruby’s up and running…..
So two simple things that might make setting up some SharePoint sites a little easier.
Thanks heaps for your help Nikkie and Ruby – till next time.