Posted in Professional learning

Hack the classroom (October 2017) – making connections

This morning (at an unpleasant hour of 4:00am NZ time) I tuned in for Microsoft’s Hack the classroom – a live broadcast from Washington State in the USA. While it was super early, it was worth being up to connect with all the other educators from around the world. If you like, you can watch a reply of the hack the classroom HERE. I had an extra incentive for being up to watch the broadcast live rather than by replay, as Nikkie and I had submitted our ‘hack’ around making connections within the NZ Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert community with our monthly Professional Learning Community calls. Getting in touch with these amazing educators once a month is genuine highlight for both my professional learning and for soothing my soul when I get frustrated, or stuck. We are all ‘hacking’ our curriculums and tech and are open about sharing and helping each other, either on the calls or on yammer. The banter is not bad either.

Highlights from the hack the class session.

Alan November

Alan November was the first ‘keynote’ speaker (live from Boston) – and in his very first sentence he talked about how we can’t get enough of teachers teaching teachers. So I was pretty sold already.

He then talked about some research about the ‘curse of knowledge‘ – and how some-one who already knows something might not connect with a ‘new’ learner’ as effectively as some-one who has just learned about it. This idea struck me quite strongly, mostly because I had not considered it before. Doing a simple search determined it is not a new idea, and yet I hadn’t heard it before. So, as always, learning new things and new ways of looking at things to help me be the best I can at helping learning happen.

He then also talked about the importance of students taking ownership of their learning. His suggestion was swapping the word ‘solve’ for ‘involve’ eg instead of solving a chemistry problem, design a problem involving alkenes and alcohols. Just a different way of flipping the thinking around – and given how hard I find it to write practice questions, I think this would be an awesome way to get my kids thinking more about what they are working on. He said he had ‘a somewhat cynical view of spoon feeding’ and this was a strategy to try and prevent this. As well as teachers letting go of their classrooms and not being in control. Teachers ‘knowledge’ is going to go down in value as more learning is on line, but teachers ability to support those students in their learning and creating content will need to drastically increase.

Another awesome point I reflected on from his presentation was when he was asked about engaging reluctant learners. He said

All kids love to learn, but not all love school

which I think nails it. So many kids will learn what they are interested about, but schools don’t ‘have room’ for what they are interested in.

So this presentation made me think some hard thunks, and I’m going to look into the idea of curse of knowledge a little bit more.

Tammy Dunbar 

Tammy Dunbar is AMAZING. I meet her at the Microsoft Education exchange in Seattle in 2015. She just radiates energy and passion for her job. My favourite message from her presentation was

‘life is bumpy, I want them to look at those challenges and be able to say, no, I can work through this, I can do this.’ 

She uses a whole range of tools in her class room, but it was the way she uses powerpoint that really stood out for me. Powerpoint often gets a bad rap, and we have all been in a powerpointless session, but it is a really powerful tool and to see it being used well was awesome. She is also using Minecraft really well, and as I’m looking into this for digital tech next year it was really cool to get some little ideas around that.

And of course, Tammy works closely with Koen Timmers to bring global education projects like Human Differences and Climate action. I have LOVED being involved in these projects and am proud to say I can contribute to them (when really it is my amazing kids doing all the work)

Making holograms – Tomas Milicka

My last highlight was another ‘hack’ submitted by another educator about Holograms. I love getting kids to make holograms, and usually do it as part of a light topic, or occasionally just for a fun filler. But I had never considered making my own videos. At first, I did kind of discount it (I will use it being 5:40am as a part of an excuse). But then I thought about the videos I could make. Before now,  it just hadn’t popped into my head I could make my own and I had always used some videos from youtube. So this 2 minute ‘hack’ about how to make your own hologram video was pretty cool, and I am going to have play with some chemistry shapes to see if I can make them into holograms somehow to students can see them in 3D in 3D in a hologram…..


So those were my big three takeaways. The other speakers and hacks were awesome, but those ones really stood out for me.

And then, last but least, it was time for Nikkie and me to grace the screen. Hearing Anthony talk about the work we do was such a great acknowledgement.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 3.51.29 PM.png

It isn’t why I (or we) do it, it is still nice to get the odd little pat on the back. So a massive thank you to all the NZ MIEE’s out there that rock my world, that sent in pictures (or a video Ryan, massive brownie points for you) and make my education life a better place. And also to all the non MIEE teachers in NZ, and worldwide, who help me keep keeping on. You rock!!

Kia Kaha



Posted in Professional learning

Reflections from the #E2 Global educator exchange

I was fortunate enough to attend the Microsoft E2 global educator exchange held in Toronto, Canada last week (March 21-13). It was a truly global event with over 250 educators from over 80 countries in attendance, as well as product developers, Microsoft partners, school leaders and some representative students!!! E2 had so many highlights and I am still processing the 3 days. But here is a brief (actually long.. but skimming the surface of lots of deep ideas) summary

Day 1 – Tuesday.

The keynote included welcomes from lots of important people and some areas/ways that Canada is trying to boost its eduction system. Then John Myers talked about Edsby – a cloud based learning management system, which looks pretty cool but I am not sure how it would fit with Kamar in NZ. Then Lisa Floyd spoke about computational speaking and the importance of problem solving in classrooms. I loved her presentation and the idea that computational thinking doesn’t need to be based around computers – she didn’t use it but the analogy of knitting patterns to coding definitely came to mind.

Then I meet my ‘educator’ team who I was mentoring for their challenge (design a hack for a classroom problem) and had some training on how we would be judging the challenge entries.

After lunch it was presentation time!! I as so glad to be on the first day. I was a little bit nervous, but enjoyed Velichka’s presentation on the importance of diversity in computer Science.  Then it was me (which I will write about in another post), and then Marisol shared about bridging the gap between neuroscience and technology. My take home from her talk was around providing adequate choices for learning as every brain is different. Amanda‘s presentation on Active learning was crammed full of useful tidbits geared toward making a student centred learning environment.

Then it was hanging with my team and basically watching them do their thing – right from the get go they worked together really well. I almost felt I was in the way of them working on their challenge!! It was fun to talk to them and learn about education in their countries. I also had a great chat with the Microsoft classroom team about how we are using this is my school. It was a great opportunity to talk to the developers and how we are using it, how we could use it better and how they could tweak it to make it easier to use. There are also some really exciting developments coming.

On Tuesday from 5pm I had some STEM training. This was TOTALLY AMAZEBALLS and so much fun. Other people at my table were not as confident as me with both the language and just ripping in and giving things a go, so I found myself to be the expert of the table. Which was cool to be helping people get the same buzz I got, when things started to click the excitement in the room was massive

Building this was SOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!!!

Tweemeet – the Tuesday night was the #MSFTEDUCHAT tweetmeet. So there was a party with wines and beers while we tweeted. This was sooooo different to my normal experience talking to the crew from the other side of the world. So there was real chat, and virtual chat, and it was rad.

Then it was dinner time. Sadly I missed the APAC dinner because I did the tweetmeet, but I went out with Steffie and Mike and caught up with the Europe crew afterwards – there was much merriment 🙂

Big smiles 🙂


Luckily the keynotes on Wednesday Morning were AMAZING as I was a tad jetlagged (and hung over…. blaming the Irish….).

If you are interested, you can sign in and watch the recorded session HERE. Essentially, the whole keynote was a plethora of new ideas and challenging thoughts.There was a showcase of around how you can become involved with this program, students from the Queen of Heaven school spoke about their experiences helping others gain an education. The awesome Meenoo Rami spoke about Minecraft in the classroom and Mike Tholfsen talked about his 10 favourite ways with OneNote in Education.

The presentation that really struck me was Daniel McDuff and emotion sensing machines. Essentially, the technology is there to track emotions of participants completing tasks. This could be used to track student engagement or learning, or even alter the task in real time to meet the students needs. I am still not sure how I feel about this – is it too ‘big brother’? Could it be useful for students to learn about how they learn? Would it help break down barriers of students not feeling confident to ask for help? What are the ethics around measuring this data as students complete set tasks? It was a really though provoking presentation that challenged my assumptions around education and big data.

Then it was off to learn about microbit – these little beasties are super fun. Drag and drop code, cute interface and very user friendly. I had a great time pretending to know how to use Java script – I am getting better but still a way to go.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Steve. This session had 4 speakers. Lieu talked about building communities. Steve talked about using Onenote to personalise learning using student accessible language and the importance of involving students in choosing the level they learn at. James Gill gave a great overview of how he personalises learning in a multi aged, diverse learning needs classroom that really resonated strongly with me – learning is not always perfect and we need to find ways to engage all students and their families in learning. And then there was a great example of Minecraft in the classroom from Miroslav – I was VERY jealous he had been able to commit 3 months to this amazing project of building his school in Minecraft.

I then sat my Microsoft Office Specialist exam (word) and passed – although I didn’t get 100% so room for improvement there. I then went and check on my team, but they were well on track and Koen had arrived by then so they had been well supported. They got their pitch in on time and I hope they enjoyed the experience of working together and learning about each other.

Then there was the technology showcase, which I saw very little of as I was busy helping people with the Hacking Stem project. Looking back, I think this was some of my favourite E2 moments – the joy on peoples faces as they got their sensor to work was awesome. For some, this was a completely new experience and it was an amazing privilege to be part of it.

And I was so tired that I can’t even remember if I got dinner or not. I must have, but I have no recollection of where or what it was 🙂


Keynotes – The keynotes kick started with Actiontec talking about screen beams. I LOVE my screenbeam and how this tech allows me to be be able to move about my classroom. It is especially great for putting Science demos or examples on the big screen. There was also a session on accessibility tools – Microsoft has really put a huge focus on this area and the array of tools is growing all the time. Then Lakesha Kirkland talked about how her students had gained certification with the Microsoft imagine academy – which is definitely worth our school exploring further.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Arnika talk about her experiences ‘letting go’ and how her students participated in the design process for the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch. Then I popped into to visit the Pearsons group to talk about the Microsoft Certified Educator exam and give some feedback on the updates the are making.

Then it was time to judge the group challenges. This was a very tough job – it was amazing what 5 random strangers could put together in 2 days when they worked together. I think everyone should have got prizes…. sigh

After Judging I popped into the learning market place – which was an overwhelming mix of amazing education ideas. All the Kiwi crew did a great job of presenting their ideas, and I saw some pretty cool other ideas too.

I then went and got a coffee with Steve, and we were joined by Koen Timmers. This hour of quiet ‘chat’ (punctuated by terrible puns and bad jokes) is definitely my best memory of the conference – while there were amazing presentations and lots of learning, in the end this always comes back to people and the connections and relationships you build.

Thursday night was the awards dinner and party – and party we did. There was spirits on the bar and great company and music. It was an awesome celebration to finish off a great week.

Koen, Steve and Me at the awards dinner – it was a great night 🙂 there were loads more photos, but they got a bit blurry as the night progressed

So a MASSIVE thank you to everyone that contributed to my having an amazing week. The people I meet and reconnected with really made it an exceptional week. Massive shout outs to James, Amanda and Koen (and Steve….) for giving me my key takeaways and friendships, as well as the whole kiwi (and ANZAC) crew for being so inclusive and fun. Massive respect for Sonja, Becky and the team for putting it all together and the STEM microsoft team for an amazing experience (and cheesy T shirt). And too everyone I meet, thanks for being awesome and being you – keep rocking it 🙂 Ka Kite An0 – till next time….

Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Using Microsoft Office Mix

It is nearing NCEA exam time in my world. And so I have been busy making exam question walk through using Microsoft Office Mix and the snip tool on my surface pro 4. Office Mix is a super handy add in for powerpoint that lets you make video tutorials with ease. The surface stylus just makes writing these answers and equations easy as. It has been a while since I blogged about how I use Office Mix in class (you can see one of my first goes HERE, or some more about the features HERE and if you want to earn more about it I suggest you check out the Office Mix web page) so I thought I should give an update on my favourite go to tool. You can also add PhET animations with ease, or include webpages for students to browse. And after the recent #hacktheclassroom hack from fellow kiwi Subash my mixes might just get a little neater – I’ve put a link to his video at the end of this post 🙂

Making the exam walk throughs

My go to for Mix is exam walk throughs. To start with, I head over to the NZQA web page and find the exams and schedules I want. Then I take a picture of them using snip, and make the picture the back ground on the ppt slide so I don’t accidentally grab it and move it during my recording.

Then it is as easy as hitting the record button and away you go

Once you have finished the recording, you can either save as a video file to upload to youtube etc, or upload them to the office mix site. I tend to just upload to the mix site, and then share the links.

I also try to remember to tell my students to pause the video and attempt the questions first…. not sure how many do though!!

Here are some examples – feel free to share them with your class if you think they would find them useful.

Student Mixes.

I have also played around with getting my students to make a mix to explain their thinking behind the exam answers. These have also been shared with the class so they can use them for their revision too. Some students are definitely more theatrical than others 🙂

Mixes for feedback

Again, a quick video to provide feedback for students works really well. I have found this particularly useful for the (sadly, this year too many) times I am away. Students will email me a photo of their work, and I will complete a mix for feedback for them

Mix for relief

It has also bee really good for relief – the students seem to really like a video of me talking and will listen better than if I was talking to them live. Sigh

So while none of these are especially bright and shiny, they are really useful ways I use this tool in my teaching and learning, and can make the arduous task of exam preparation a little bit less stressful. Students appreciate being able to rewind ideas.

And with the awesome #hacktheclassroom hack from NZs own Subash, my mixes have gotten a little neater – although I still ignore the gridlines at times. You can see his hack and how to make the mix presentations neater below.

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 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

Sharepoint update – almost ready to be the LMS

So, after a big effort over 2 terms we are nearly reading to roll out SharePoint sites for staff next year. The Student learning management system side still needs a few more tweaks as departments decide how they will be running certain tasks. For example, the English department needs to be able to track changes in documents to show that modifications have been made for some of their assessment pieces, and so a OneDrive or class/teacher dashboard system will probably work better than a SharePoint site. I am a massive advocate for task then tech, so we are still working our way through some of the finer points.

There has been a bit of tweaking around how we set up the sites – originally we were going to have 3 sites collections, Admin, Curriculum and Students


However, even within the curriculum sharepoint sites this hasn’t quite worked. Why you ask? Because even within departments, no-one would decide on tags to use, or formats to use, or how to structure things. Which was frustrating to say the least…….

But also, it makes sense to have difference and diversity is important. After playing around with individual tags and permissions, it became easier to put most departments into a separate site collection each. They are still linked to the main curriculum page, but it has made it easier for each department to personalise their digital spaces to suit their needs.

Graeme in the Technology department went full steam ahead, and has a wide variety of resources


The Science Department has also started to gather some momentum…


And each of the images links into take you to different subsites or pages. We have also set up a page for our (incredibly patient) tech in the hope we will use the booking calendar and notice boards to track gear down for her next year.

sci sup.PNG

Kevin has been amazing getting his documents uploaded. The best thing about this is the way he has tagged them – he has both folder view where everything is in nice little folder that people feel safe with….


And then a flat view where everything is mixed in together


Which has been invaluable to me as I try to explain to people about tagging and moving away from folders.

Because I have been so busy helping everyone else, the chemistry site is currently very incomplete


And I am having dramas about whether to embed office mix clips onto the sharepoint site, or just provide a link. Having them embedded means they play right from the site. They do take up a bit of room – so students would need to scroll through the list to find the ones they wanted.

If I provide a picture linked to the Mix, I can make better use of the analytics of who is watching and when etc. But it is more clicks….


And other departments have made progress too – sharing documents, uploading pictures and videos and starting to use the documents more collaboratively. A ‘fun’ story from one department – everyone got set up with their class page and made an ‘Admin’ folder. NIGHTMARE as all of a sudden there were 6 admin folders. So it was a good chance to rationalise what needed to go where and think about file names and management.

So I am going to keep tinkering over the summer with the sites. We will have a period when we start back in Feb with some confusion over what goes where, but I am confident that by term 2 (a term later than originally planned, but oh well) we should be running fairly smoothly.

Posted in Professional learning, Techie stuff

Playing around with Sway

If you haven’t had a look at Sway yet, I really suggest you do. It came online as part of our schools 365 software about 6 weeks ago, although I had been using it off and on for about a year. It is a flexible presentation medium that allows for a wide range of images, videos and documents to be stored in one place. Sway also looks great on any device and as it is solely web based will work on any device. While I am still not 100% sold on using sway to deliver content and would still mix it up with OneNote and Office Mix, I am 110% sold on my students using sway as a tool to get their message across.

Some situations where I have used office sway have been

As additional information for my CV.

When I applied for a job earlier in the term, I put some additional ‘supporting information’ onto a sway. I did this as I still felt uncomfortable submitting a completely digital CV (not because I was didn’t think it would work, but I am also very aware of the need to a piece of paper to read for some people) so I compromised and did both.

I also used it to put together a (slightly rushed) application for the roll of ICT rep for Otago Southland (which I didn’t get, but never mind). Incidentally, this was my first ever sway I made – it really is very easy to use. Just drag, drop and type really. It will even automatically search images etc for you.

As an alternative to Powerpoint for a presenting

I have used sway a couple of times when presenting now. I have found (for me) if I am using it as a presentation tool, I like to keep it simple and mostly images – if you have too many things flying around, it gets a bit busy and confusing. So this sway was for a catch up with other MIEEs from around NZ just highlighting what I had been doing. This sway was a presentation I gave to staff after I got back from Seattle.

I’m still not sure exactly what my favourite app for presenting is. I really like using OneNote as a ‘Trezi’ style (Travis Smith uses OneNote exceptionally well, like a prezi presentation with even more awesome), and sometimes there is safety in powerpoint 🙂 But a sway can be a great tool to move away from ‘bullet points’ and reading off slides.

Displaying content

A real advantage of Sway is that you can easily incorporate other files and images into it. When you are on the home page, you have the option to import other documents straight away

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For time poor teachers who may already have resources made up, this is a real time saver. You can create a sway from a resource you already have. For example, there was a powerpoint already made up for a genetics topics coming up. So you can chose to upload this straight into a sway

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You can then ‘remix’ the sway to get it to look how ever you like.

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I sometimes find this function awesome, and other times frustrating. I would prefer an ‘options’ or pick template. But the students love remixing their sways, although they can occasionally waste a bit of time on it too. But it does break up the content in different ways.

So in the case of the genetics powerpoint, I am going to keep what works of the old and add in some more pictures, videos and maybe a mix or two. Then a real beauty fo this system is it so easily embeds into Sharepoint sites, so you can add content to a site in a really straightforward way – even if you are not super confident using technology.

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So, all in all, Sway is a super easy to use, super flexible display/presentation tool that seems to work seemlessly with other software (and on a mac too). I think I will still mostly use OneNote and Office Mix for most of my content delivery, but will definitely allow my students to submit their work in this way if they wish.

Posted in Professional learning, surface

Take home messages from E2

I’ve already done a post which was the basic run through of my week, so this post is more about the thoughts and ideas I have bought back – and how I hope they will impact on my teaching and learning programs, as well as how I can share them with other educators.

The biggest take home message for me that I want to share is that this conference/meeting was not about the tech. While it was an integral part of the week, the tech was so seemlessly integrated that at time it was barely noticeable. I often get funny looks when people walk into my classroom and I’m up the front scrawling on the board talking 10 to the dozen. But sometimes this is the best and fastest way to explore an idea. I saw a wall at Microsoft covered with post it notes (didn’t take a photo as I wasn’t sure if it was free to be shared) I asked about it – it was the planning wall for that group. Post it notes worked well for them, they could be easily re-arranged, sub’ed in and out, and different colours could easily ID different tasks

post it

This isn’t the wall – this is a free to use pic I searched – but it shows the point

but this meeting was so much more than about the tech. It was about empowering ourselves and our learners to BE MORE.

This was especially highlighted in our group task. I found this task incredibly challenging. Collaborating with strangers from different places around the world with different ideologies and background – it was tough. Yet, we got there – via an infusion of different methods (including shouting!!), and our finished product was more polished than I ever could have dreamed of in the short time frame as we did. And what better way to demonstrate the challenges our students face, than by throwing us in the deep end.

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Group 35 – we didn’t win a prize, but we rocked it just the same

Another big message for me was about being courageous. The themes of the conference were bravery, leadership and courage. For me, this focussed in on being courageous. Sometimes, just standing up in front of a class full of students is courageous. Travelling to another country and putting yourself out there is certainly courageous. Being able to say ‘oops, I stuffed up, how can I put it right’ takes courage. I liked the idea of courage over bravery – again linking back to the group task. When we were talking about bravery, it meant something slightly different to everyone in their different language – the most being common was ‘to stand’. I guess, rightly or wrongly, bravery for me is linked to the idea of fighting, and being immovable, where as courageous is more flexible, while still promoting positive action and change.

The best session in terms of applicable learning for me was from Josh and Steve on building capacity for success. You can see some of my hand written scrawls below.


This session really hit home for me – and gave me the most ideas to come home with. It wasn’t just about student success either. A large concern for me at the moment is the different in competencies within the staff of my school. Some are racing ahead with technology, others are making amazing learning programs with great thought to pedagogy and planning, while other still seems to be trapped in a paper work haze. How can I (and the SLT and department leaders etc) ensure that all the other teachers in my school feel that they can be successful in their jobs. How can I encourage and empower them to embrace a more collaborative and open approach to teaching and learning? As teacher we need to have trust and belief in ourselves and in our colleagues if we are going to embrace positive change for our classrooms and students.

My final impression was the challenge, but also the celebration. I think (and maybe this is a New Zealand thing in particular) we are terrible at celebrating success and our genius. I was embarrassed to wear my OneNote cap when I got back to school, cautious about showing off my yellow ‘inspirational’ ribbons and I didn’t even get a mention from our senior leaders when I got back. We celebrate sporting success to the hilt, but we don’t always celebrate teachers and learners the way we should. Some-where there must be a happy medium of celebration and modesty, but as teachers we were celebrated in Redmond. And not just those of us lucky enough to attend, but all teachers everywhere through us all sharing stories of challenges and successes we are working through. Education is a global solution to many problems the world is facing, and too often we take our excellent education system for granted. Hearing of the challenges other educators faced with such passion, courage and I’ll be damned determination was amazingly inspiring. This was also the message I took from Ziauddin, who has fought so hard for education for Girls and Boys in his home country.

So rock on teacher out there, you are changing my world, and I am challenging myself to do the same

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Posted in Uncategorized

A run through of my experience at the Microsoft Global Educator exchange

So, it is going to take more than one post to work my way through all my thoughts from this amazing experience, so I thought I would do a basic walk through of what we did each day to try and get my thoughts in order

Getting there

It was agonizing to watch everyone leaving for Seattle while we were still in NZ. Right from the get go, #msfteduE2 was buzzing with pics of people starting there adventures. It was a really nice touch at the opening of the meeting that they showed a collage of lots of different tweets and facebook posts of the various countries making there was there, and the tweet I posted of the NZ crew made it up onto the board

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The NZ crew of me, Steve Martin, Anne Taylor, Nikkie Laing and Ben Hilliam. Shane Mann left earlier and meet us there.


On the Tuesday I left the hotel at 8:00am for the Microsoft recording studios, which were at the Redmond Town Center. I was filming a video on how to embed PHeT animations into Office Mix presentations.

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At the studio

The strangest thing about the filming was I was under very bright lights, while the others where in darkness. So it was weird to be following instructions from people I couldn’t see. I was also following a script that wasn’t quite as natural as if I was just talking about how I’d do it. But it was still pretty cool

Then in the afternoon I sat my Microsoft Certified Educator exam. It was fairly straight forward but with some tricksy questions around the wording. Then it was back to the hotel for a quick trip to shops and then the welcome reception – where it was great to meet some people face to face that I had already connected with online.

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LEGO anyone!! Pick ‘n’ mix lego is rad

2015-04-29 08.31.10 Free hot chocolates whenever you like – why hello!! Compostable cups too


Wednesday morning was something else. We all got on the bus from the hotel, had some breakfast and then got a marching band to take us to our first session. I have never been in anything like it.

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We then had an unreal first session – we were all given a drum and there was a drumming team on stage. The jetlag was telling me it was 3:00am, so it was uplifting but hard to concentrate. The noise was amazing, 250 odd people drumming in unison. I did feel it was a little over the top – but it was high energy way to kick things off.

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We then heard from Anthony Salcito, who is the VP of Microsoft education, before heading off to set up our teachmeet presentations. This was an amazing array of educators and learning ideas. It was awesome to talk to people about what they were doing, and in turn get some ideas about how to improve what I am doing.

We then had a session about building learning capacities for success. This was an fabulous session and will get a blog post on its own. Then it was off to meet our groups for the educator challenge.

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Gp 35 = from France, NZ, Hong Kong, Greece, Gautemala and Saudi Arabia.

We were given our task and got started.

Then we had regional dinners, and it was good to have some time to talk to the other NZers about there day, and meet some other APAC educators.


Thursday morning was the session I had really been looking forward to. Zaiuddin Yousafazi was the speaker, and he was AMAZING. So much forgiveness from a man who had been through so much. Again, he will get a blog post on his own.

We then had some specific sessions, I went to Office Mix, OneNote and Office 365. Some good tips and tricks, especially in the Office Mix session. After that it was back to work on our group project – then a look at some of the technology on show.

We then went to the Kent Tech Expo. This was amazing – a whole range of students, teachers and schools were at the Seattle Thunder stadium to share how they are using technology in their classrooms. I talked to heaps of students about what they are using and how it is helping them learn – my lasting impression was the confidence of the students explaining how the technology was helping them.

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Friday was a bit of a slog – I was up pretty late after returning from the expo trying to finish off our group project.

Thankfully the key note was Angela Maiers, who was passionate and energetic, so easy to get engaged with. She founded genius hour – a concept I really like and it is on the list to follow up with and spoke about her work with choose 2 matter.

It was then back to frantically finish off the last of the presentation – which was a LOT stressful, then our presentation, and then the pressure was off. I was able to enjoy the last session, which was an amazing ‘fireside chat’ with Toni and Satya – who are some pretty heavy duty big wigs at Microsoft. Again, probably a blog post in itself, but I was over awed by their presence – they just had an Aura about them, they spoke so well and were so knowledgable. Satya answered questions thoroughly and carefully – I was stoked when fellow kiwi Ben asked him about ‘what should I tell my students from NZ when they think they are far away from the action? (or something similar) and Satya knew that Microsoft had just purchased a company from NZ!! And talked about how technology had made the world a much more connected place and time/distance is not such a barrier as it once was.

Then we went back to the hotel, and I just peaced out and pack a bit. After such a frantic week, I needed the time. Then the buses arrived and it was off to the spectacular EMP museum in the center city for the awards dinner and gala. Part of the Museum was open for us to enjoy, the food was great, and it was awesome to be able to chat with all the other educators I had gotten to know over the week – as well as still meeting some new ones.

 2015-05-02 14.54.50 2015-05-02 15.00.312015-05-02 14.51.50There was a star wars costume exhibition – the nerd is strong 🙂 As well as Nirvana and Hendrix – was rad.

The event was topped off by getting an award in the Office Mix challenge – it really was something else to get to stand up on the stage with some other fabulous educators, and to see my name on the HUGE screen

mix award

Saturday – was a free day – I went into the town center, went to Pike Place markets, checked out the Pacific Science Museum (it was awesome) and rode on the monorail. And then it was off on the journey home.

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This T towel was $20 – was a near miss.

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At the Science Museum – was awesome

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Journey home – some tired faces in Auckland Airport at 5:30am

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Back home and a walk on the beach to get some sunlight to try and beat the jetlag

So overall – it was a simply amazing trip. Lots of ideas, lots of connections and an amazing experience.