#MSFTEduE2 – Final Day

And.. so it came… the final day and what a day it was.

Genius Hour, the inspiration of Angela Maiers – our closing Keynote speaker – gave me a lot to think about. I have consistently said that I don’t want to take the step into principalship. However, listening to Angela and the fellow attendees at E2, I can’t help but think that if I was given the rein to mould a school around this creativity – there could be something in that leadership role…. However, another conversation for another day.

Traditionally, the last day winds down the conference. This year, being involved in the judging of the Challenges, I had to be on top form throughout the morning to give my fellow educators the attention they deserved for their projects and their pitches. To say that I was impressed by the work completed by each of the groups is an understatement. 42 different groups pitched their ideas in three rooms – the results based on three distinct areas of their project. Having been on the other side last year and creating our own project, I found it an excellent learning experience to be on the judging. Being partnered with the excellent Kurt Söser gave me a real insight to the thinking of a wonderful educator. I hope this close partnership continues in the future.

WP_20150501_13_37_51_ProWhat a wonderful ending happened, though! The current CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, joined the educators for a thirty minute ‘fireside chat’ interview. This ‘WOW’ moment completely ‘blew us all away’ given the status of the man. It was also a reinforcement of the ‘Education First’ policy being adopted by the company. To be given an insight directly and personally from Satya regarding Microsoft’s commitment to seeing education working was inspiring. He spoke about his own family and how he feels technology is helping them. What also stood out was that the work of Lara and Gareth was quoted during the conversation – Ireland’s work truly on the global stage!

WP_20150501_18_11_05_ProAnd, so it ended – in the stunning Experience Music Project. A night of celebration for the educators as well as recognising the work completed over the two days in The Challenge. We witnessed some wonderful pitches in The Challenge and it was with delight that two of the groups that were given awards on the evening included Lara and Gareth. I knew the work that all of our representatives had put into the projects and it was great to see it recognised.

On reflection, I feel that this was the best Microsoft Conference I had attended. Maybe it was because there was no pressure of competition for me or maybe it was the fact the overwhelming feeling that Microsoft was genuinely listening for ideas from the educators gathered. I feel that it was the latter.

From setting up meetings with the developers of OneNote, Sway and Office Mix; through the workshops that encouraged best practice; to the sharing of good practice through the TeachMeets and the final visit from Satya – it was obvious that the company is trying to make this relationship work. The company wants to see the products being used widely (of course it does) and this is a great vehicle for this. By tapping into the creativity of innovative teachers, Microsoft are seeing the ideas being pushed to the limit in many different ways. There were so many ideas on display – from Game Based Learning in Minecraft and ProjectSpark; with productivity solutions included in Skype in the Classroom and collaborative opportunities contained within OneNote – the future of technology in the classroom looks wonderful and, in the hands of some of the educators there – gloriously wonderful.

I, for one, CAN’T WAIT!


Personally, I would like to thank a number of people for the opportunity to attend E2 in Redmond. I was given the opportunity to attend by both Tom Jackson (Microsoft Ireland); Kirsten Panton (Microsoft Western Europe); Anthony Salcito and all the staff at Microsoft, Redmond for a wonderful 5 days; WP_20150501_14_41_58_ProTeam Ireland (consisting of Roisin Rice Cutter and Jarlath MacGill from St. Mary’s College, Derry and Lara Dabbagh and Gareth Callan from Coláiste Bhaile Chláir) for excellent company; ALL the other Fellows with whom I can see the future of education being well taken care off and, finally, all the attendees at E2 – where INSPIRATION doesn’t even cover it!

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#MSFTEduE2 Day 3

WP_20150430_001The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Bravery’ and what better way to demonstrate bravery than to hear the words Ziauddin Yousafzai – the father of Malala. Introducing him, Anthony Salcito played a clip of Malala addressing delegates after receiving the Noble Prize. This certainly had the desired effect of making each of realise the important part we play in children’s lives and, sometimes, how much we take our education and the education of our children for granted.

Indeed, a number of years ago during a ‘Snow Day’ for the children I engaged a number of them in online classes to show that there was no excuse for missing out on some level of education if technology made interaction possible. We used the Collaborate Classroom software to deliver a number of lessons. I used the story of Malala’s shooting as an inspiration for a comprehension piece as well as an online discussion regarding the importance of education and what lengths some children go to to experience schooling. It may have taken a little shine off their snow day – but hey…

As a Fellow at E2, I have had a number of different roles to play that were slightly Twitter0502342different from the normal educators’ track. This was part of the breakout when I was involved in a Minecraft in the Classroom discussion panel. It was very interesting to sit on the panel as I was there as an educator with no experience of Minecraft compared to the other panellists. Noelene Callaghan, Matt Harris and Francisco Tupy were the experts as was Sean Dikkers, our chair, and it was amazing to listen to them address the anxieties that some of the delegates had regarding the use of Minecraft. Indeed – how Noelene went on to use it as the foundation for Computer Science was excellent. Francisco’s work with challenging children through using Minecraft was another excellent example of the power of Game Based and Project Based Learning. WP_20150430_10_47_02_ProTime and again, I found myself wondering how on earth I had managed to be in these people’s company being regarded as an equal.

As Fellows, we had our own TeachMeet between ourselves and I had limited opportunities to hear about some of the work going on in the schools by the other Fellows (Minecraft panel duties). However, What I did hear was outstanding – including Denmark’s Pernille Reenberg showing us how she has set up her own Educator Challenge Style group between schools in Denmark – modelled on the Microsoft Global Conference. Some of the children’s work was incredible. I did get the chance to show my ‘Guerrilla Poetry’ work, but when compared to some of what has been going on in schools, it felt quite tame. However, I think the passion that I showed for the work and the undeniable pride that I have in my children in school managed to come across as many of the Fellows mentioned it in passing. Not least, Kelli Etheridge, who is determined to follow up the work as we link classrooms in the new school year.

WP_20150430_17_25_56_ProOur representative teachers continued to work hard on their Educator Challenge projects with their different teams. This idea of collaboration has many positives and really puts people outside of their comfort zone. I know that there are difficulties in the challenge (having done it last year) not least cultural expectations, though I feel that the positives outweigh this. Being challenged in this way is a unique and fulfilling experience that is more beneficial in retrospect as opposed to reflecting on the benefits in the middle of the pressure of the contest.

Finally, we rounded off the day by visiting the Kent Tech Expo – where dozens of WP_20150430_18_53_36_Proschools from the Kent Education District exhibited their work in a large arena (something like the Odyssey Arena). It was amazing to see how the children of all ages exhibited their work and my heart was melted by two small children (aged 6/7) who wanted to tell me about their interactive book. There were projects of all types but the one thing that struck me was the confidence with which each of the children I spoke to addressed me and other adults in explaining their work. These are the children that our own classes will be competing with as adults in the workplace and was a clear demonstration of the skills that our children will continue to need.

Again, another day to remember…

#MSFTEduE2 Day 2

WP_20150429_08_42_25_ProI’m usually pretty cynical about team building exercises, so when I see them on the agenda, my heart sinks…

Today, however, I have to eat my words! In what was an excellent drumming session led by the ‘Drumming Cafe’ troop, you could feel the atmosphere build in the room. A sense of community was built and we were one as we belted out our rhythms. To see the room move as one was an overwhelming experience – and I am cynical at the best of times.

My track as a ‘Fellow’ is different from the other educators and we had a number of workshops with developers within Microsoft. Without breaking any of their confidentiality, there are many exciting times ahead for users of Office Mix and Sway – and I am genuinely excited at the prospect of their impact in the classroom.

Our representatives from Ireland and Northern Ireland had a TeachMeet session with their colleagues from around the world and it was interesting to hear their feedback from the event as they had the opportunity to teach, and learn from, one another. It was with an immense sense of pride that I saw them sporting Inspiration Ribbons given to them by fellow delegates.

In the island of Ireland, we always feel that we are ‘punching above our weight’ in theseWP_20150429_12_48_24_Pro circles and, again, our representatives didn’t disappoint! It was great to see Gareth Callan from Coláiste Bhailie Chláir, Galway showing Anthony Salcito the work that his school does with OneNote and even more pleasing to hear that the film crews will be around again tomorrow to do a more in-depth interview with Gareth and Lara

In the afternoon, the delegates were given the opportunity to begin working on their collective task. With teams made up off members from around the world, there are many barriers to negotiate – not least language and culture, so I await with interest the work that is brought to us (as part of the judging panel).

WP_20150429_12_52_03_ProAs well as this sharing, I had the great pleasure to see the work of Marija Petreska from Macedonia on using shapes within PowerPoint to create infographics. I was blown away by the work she does and must follow this up in the future! What was even more inspiring was the conversation we had about moving our children and societies beyond conflict – the parallels were frightening. Marija is a shining light with the work she is doing.

Finally, the same message is coming through again and again – Microsoft is listening (and listening intently) to the feedback from this conference. It is a listening exercise for everyone and I can’t wait to see the outcomes in the coming months.

In the end, the message is simple – We Are Educators…WP_20150429_15_19_49_Pro

And it looks like Microsoft are with us all the way!

Microsoft Expert Educator Conference #MSFTEDUE2

WP_20150428_18_55_53_ProI will try to add something to the site on each day to give you a flavour of what is going on in what is a global celebration of Education.

87 countries are being represented in the Seattle Conference, which gives me an overwhelming feeling of humility as I see the passion for education from educators who are able to deploy 1-1 solutions across thousands of students to those who have one device amongst dozens of students. However, we all share the same goal – to make the lives of our students better; to give them the best opportunity in life and change their futures.

At the opening reception, I met educators from around the globe – Australia to South Africa; Ireland to Macedonia… The world has truly become a different place to me through my experiences with Microsoft – and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store!

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innedBeing a Microsoft Innovative Educator and more recently asked to be a ‘Fellow’ I have gained many insightful views to the direction that Microsoft have been taking in regards to education and their role in it.

What I have been most impressed about is the ‘light-touch’ of this vision in the way that It has been gradually unveiled to us within the Innovative Educator programme and through the Educator Network. The focus has always been based around seeing and celebrating the good practice that goes on in classrooms, worldwide, and how much they can learn from us as well as giving us the tools to help improve our practice. From all my dealings with people in the company, there has been nothing but positivity and praise. Indeed, this can be seen in Anthony Salcito’s DailyEdventures Blog – something that  I had the recent privilege of being interviewed for at the latest Bett Show. This engagement demonstrates to me that Microsoft Education continues to move strongly in the direction of listening.

Listening to what educators are doing in the classroom; listening to what educators feel is important to them and listening to see how we can celebrate these achievements in Global Gatherings. I relish my time working with the many different people who are working hard around the world to improve the lives of children as well as enhance the teaching and learning process.

But this has to be a two way relationship and I am more than happy to be a person who uses and celebrates the many different products that Microsoft has to offer. With the latest introduction of free Office365 into classrooms and homes in Northern Ireland, there are even greater opportunities for our education system. As well as this, within our C2k Managed network, we get access to the office apps as well as being able to use MovieMaker Live or install Worldwide Telescope and, just this week, Minecraft being delivered to every Post-Primary School in Northern Ireland through CultureTECH.

In an earlier post, that I have to complete, I celebrated the use of OneNote as an educational tool. As much as I learn it each day, the more I see that I can do and haven’t used it to its full potential. This is a programme that has so much potential across the range of schools.

My most recent acquisition has been my Surface Pro3. This has been a game changingpro device and one that has endless potential in the classroom. As the W8.1 environment evolves into W10, I can see it getting more of a place in my workplace.

surface3The impending launch of the Surface 3 make this tablet device even more appealing and I look forward to seeing it in action and reporting on how it is used in the classroom. I was a great fan of the original Surface RT and still feel that it can be a major asset to the classroom. Many of the apps are well suited to the daily use of pupils and teachers, alike. I look forward to seeing, for example, the excellent work that Kate Murray (@kateingalway) from Clontuskert School in Galway will do with hers and the use Chekhov Story Maker. Innovators such as Kate show that the right tools in the right hands can transform lives and expectations.

I firmly believe that the Surface 3, in tandem with the Surface Pro 3, will show that Microsoft have their eye firmly on supporting the creativity and productivity of teachers and children alike. Hopefully, there will be more to report on the forthcoming Surface 3 release and its impact in the classroom.

Match Attacked

For some people, they are a scourge in the playground – leading to fights and friendship strange. To others, mainly boys – big and small! (probably) they are a normal part of growing up.

Match Attax cards are the annual ‘in-thing’ in the playground – a combination of Football stickers and Top Trumps. They are the one thing that boys in my class collectively become obsessed about for the football season. They regularly carry their folder of precious card memorabilia around the playground – looking for fellow collectors to trade their ‘Doubles’ with. They hunt down the missing piece in their team puzzle – learning how to strike the best bargain. They can also be the scourge of the younger children as they are regularly ‘fleeced’ by the older boys who know how to trade on the naivety of younger children (or in my own son’s case – fleecing the older children!!) And if it isn’t Match Attax, it is another collecting obsession – currently Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

Hitting on an Idea

manchester-united-ander-herrera-195-topps-match-attax-2014-2015-football-trading-card-69617-p[ekm]219x300[ekm]It was in conversation with our brilliant Primary 5 teacher, that we hit upon an idea for using the cards in the classroom. If you are not familiar with them have a look at the image. As you can see they are a goldmine of data for older children. Our teacher loves the idea of the cards teaching the children the concept of trading and bartering as well as encouraging face-to-face engagement that can be sometimes missing in our technological revolution. He came up with some ideas for his class – I then went had had a think about my older and more advanced children.

Handling the Data

First task is getting the children to organise a team of players and ‘mining that data’ from the cards. We organised the data about the players into groups, created a tally table and then converted that data into a bar graph that represented the spread of the abilities in the team. A great activity that gave the children an introduction into using the data.

I also have some very weak children in my class. To accommodate them, their task wasWP_20141209_10_14_12_Pro to organise the data in the cards into ascending order for each player. This task is simple but from looking at the card again, you can see for some children this organisation of data and working memory could be quite tricky. It also gave those children a bit of a head start in a later activity.

Mean, Median and Range

WP_20141209_10_13_29_ProThe second activity for the cards was to organise the data and apply these three concepts to it. This is a topic that the children do cover in class, but at times it can be quite dry – book focused and removed. In this case, it was anything but, the children were able to take the same data for each of the cards and apply three different Data Handling concepts to them. Again, there was complete engagement in the activity – a paired activity for the children as they were then able to check each other’s answers. What also worked for my weaker children was that they were already aware of the lowest and highest values on the cards and were able to participate in finding the range of data. In each of these cases – Mean and range – the children used calculators to get the answers (the focus was the finding of the concept as opposed to spending a lot of time doing written calculations).

Where on the pitch?

The third activity has involved letting the children create a formation of players on the pitch. They then take this formation and plot it on a pitch that I have created. The higher ability children work in 4 quadrants; with a group working in one quadrant and a final group plotting in the first quadrant of letters and numbers coordinates.

Extra Time

I have extended some of the higher ability children by asking them to find fraction probability data – for example, what is the chance of getting a player with a speed score below 50 from your outfield players? By keeping this to the outfield players, the children are working in base ten – ensuring that the answers can be kept relatively simple. This is then further enhanced by getting these children to then convert their answers into a smallest equivalent fraction then into a percentage equivalent.


There has been excellent engagement from all of the children throughout the activities and it has certainly brought the children’s interests into the classroom – something that is at the heart of the NI Curriculum. Even if children are not interested in collecting the cards or in football necessarily, they are engaged in the idea of using the cards in this way. The paired activity also helps engage and support children who otherwise might have difficulties. As well as this, the work can be very easily differentiated up as well as down to meet the needs in the classroom. I’m also fortunate to have a young son who is also interested in the cards and has quite a collection from last year. This is certainly a way to get cards into the classroom because you can be assured that there are quite a pile of discarded cards lying around houses!!!!

It’s amazing what comes from simple conversations!



Office Lens_20141218_220605_processedFinal activity in the week was the open ended task I gave the children – use data (a la Moneyball) where the children looked at player statistics and decided if the value of the player matched the statistics.

Top group used averages whilst main group used Office Lens_20141218_220552_processedtotal score (level 5 against Level 4). It was a very simple task – recommend 1 player from each position from a choice of five by comparing statistics. It was a very open-ended task that gave the children the opportunity to actually put the data into a ‘real life’ situation – Using Mathematics – where they had to recommend a player based on their research by comparing the statistics. Again, I’m left impressed by what my class can do. I pre-emptied the activity by referring to the thinking skills posters that I permanently display in class and they fully bought into the idea of what they were doing.Office Lens_20141218_220617_processed

OneNote to Rule Them All! Part 1


Really? A post dedicated to a piece of software such as OneNote? Despite the fact that I haven’t blogged in so long – I thought it might be worthwhile sharing some thoughts on my use of OneNote in my primary classroom – the difference it is making to me and the difference that I hope is then followed through on for the children.

I have been using OneNote on and off for a few years but, only now, am getting the chance to see how I can really put it to work. The fact that it is now accessible on our C2k network has, despite a few issues, made a massive difference to its use in the classroom.

I am using OneNote in a variety of ways:

Observation and Record Keeping

Parent-teacher Meeting Preparations

As a Mind-Mapping Collaboration tool

Helping parents support their children’s learning

As a ‘one-stop-shop’ record of my year

Hopefully the following might give you your own ideas on how you might make your life easier.

Observation and Record Keeping

As I have mentioned, I have been using a Surface RT in class to keep my planning up to date. However, one of the biggest changes has been the use of OneNote to enhance the record keeping process.

I have created a ‘OneNote Book’ for my year that has a number of different sections – one of these being a section for the pupils. This section has a page for each child (more of which can be added to as sub-pages) and it is here where I can keep detailed records of the children’s progress.

At this point, my Windows Phone with OneNote built in also comes into play. I have it synced with my OneNote account so that every change can be entered across a variety of devices.

As I am marking children’s work. I can take a photograph of it using a straight-forward photo or enhanced through OfficeLens for the Windows phone. This is then imported straight to the child’s page where I  build up a record of the child through the year in the different subject areas. This evidence then is used in Parent-Teacher Meetings to show the examples of work – instead of having to hunt down books and look through them for that ‘piece of work that stood out’  and you want to share. The ability to sync from my hone to the page is excellent and really makes life a lot easier. Then, once embedded,  I can simply delete the images from the phone – thus not taking up lots of space!

This record is built up through the year – meaning that when it comes to writing a meaningful end of year report, I have excellent samples of work and observations sitting to hand to use. To me, this is the epitome of being able to work smarter – not harder – and freeing up time over the year. As well as this, I feel that I am developing a full understanding of the children in the class as it is constantly updated and freshened.

Observations are always a finger-tip away – whether it is one my phone / through the use of the Surface RT or the OneNote Online tool where I can access the same notes and make changes in the browser window if needed.

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