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.

Posted in Professional learning, surface

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Experience

I applied for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program thinking you have to be in to win. I didn’t fit all the criteria as I have only been working with microsoft 365 for this year, and even quietly kept my mac in my laptop bag (getting a new microsoft surface pro was a great perk). But I was really keen on the opportunities that the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program offered. So, trying to make it a learning experience, I completed my application using microsoft OneNote so I at least I got some practice using what is fast becoming my favourite techy tool. After an incredibly short turn around (two weeks from applications closing to getting on a plane) I found myself in Sydney as a member of the first intake of Microsoft innovative educators from Australia and New Zealand

My initial and lasting impression was just how open everybody was about their challenges, their successes and their visions for teaching and learning. Everybody had a slightly different visions for their learners and we all worked in some very different schools. Everyone was working incredibly hard to achieve the best educational outcomes for their students , and everyone had different experiences, different weaknesses and different strengths.

My main take homes were

The physical space of the microsoft offices made me appreciate how little my classroom represents the world many of my students will enter when they leave school. More and more work places are opting for open plans, and  I wish my class room could look like that – a variety of learning/working spaces, mixture of tech and just space, comfy couches and a high trust environment. A space designed for collaboration and creation.

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I like couches – you can probably tell from the pics 🙂

OneNote – is amazing. On the Surface pro, it is even more amazing. And then the pen makes it O for Awesome. I had no idea what this piece of software could do, I had just started using it as a place to put stuff, collate information. In the 2 days I was at the microsoft educator workshop, I had completely changed how I took notes – it was like going back to my first years at uni and doodling on a piece of paper again. Except that with onenote, the paper can be as big or as small as you like, you can zoom in and out, or move around it. Change colour and add in pics or docs or links. It was a paper napkin on steriods. And I like it.

Assessment strategies – both Kiwi and Aussie Educators felt constrained by assessment in their schools and states, but felt that change was coming. NZ I think has a slightly more flexible curriculum document, but assessment at all levels does constrain innovation and creation. Using the 21st Century design for learning rubrics can create great tasks – but there is an ongoing challenge to get real world assessment opportunities. Or do we actually need them? What skills should we be assessing?

There was some great techy stuff. I love the pro, and can’t see how I functioned before OneNote (I have been using it for planning since term 2, started using it for work notes/folders term 3, and did my first presentation using it tonight) and I am looking forward to using Office mix to easily make ‘powerpoints’ become interactive and more student driven. But more of the conversation was around student engagement, finding relevant contexts, fostering creativity and innovation, and supporting leaners (both teachers and students) to get better outcomes.

The best part was connecting with other educators. Educators who are working damn hard to be the best they can be, and get the best for their students. Already the yammer and twitter feed has been buzzing away, and I hope that the connections will continue to strengthen online, and maybe, just maybe, we can meet up face to face again. My experience at the Microsoft Innovative Educator weekend was game changing, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into making positive change for my students and myself over the coming year.