Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Useful Microsoft in Education posts this week #100

The Internet is currently full of posts about using Microsoft products effectively in the classroom. Here are a number of them from this past week. The list is embedded below but can also be found at http://bit.ly/2pDdeIl.   The link to the back-dated posts is http://bit.ly/1GVLTUZ 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A 21st Century Innovative Teacher’s Club is formed in Queenstown and Butterworth to bridge the digital divide using Microsoft applications

This is a guest post from Nosithembele Gcobo from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Nosithembele is one of our Microsoft 2016/2017 #MIEExperts. Nosithembele was very excited about a recent event that took place as a result of her posting a Microsoft post and technological updates on her Facebook page. She was contacted by some teachers from the Butterworth district, which is about 150 kilometres from Queenstown, to see if she could upskill them with what she has been learning regarding using Microsoft applications in her classroom. This gave her the idea of creating a 21st Century Innovative Teacher's Club and inviting them to join. They were prepared to drive all the way from Butterworth just to spend some time updating their skills. Nosithembele sent this report back of the weekend.

The power of social networks 
I post most of my Microsoft posts on educational tools to be used in classroom integration on my Facebook wall. As a result I receive many followers who show interest. Some of us then started a conversation with me through WhatsApp since they are many kilometres away from me. They decided to pay me a visit so that we can collaborate and share our ideas, since they are the beginners in this ICT integration journey. It was then that I decided to form a club! I called it The 21st Century Innovative Teacher’s Club. I recruited Nelisa Zini, who is also a MIEExpert from the Queenstown district, to be a member of the club so as to empower the other teachers about the integration of technology in the curriculum practice. 

My dream came true on the 12 April 2017 when the club had its first meeting. The three teachers drove 185 km from Butterworth to Queenstown just to be empowered. It is really a small world. I discovered that two of the teachers were once my high school classmates at Daliwonga High School in Cofimvaba! We matriculated in 1987 and we never met or communicated after that. What an innovative reunion we had! They are beginners as far as technology is concerned, but they have the passion and willingness to know more about ICT integration. Their learners have no devices but their schools have some ICT infrastructure like laptops for a few teachers and a screen and projector for some. They have their own routers so that poor Internet connectivity cannot be a barrier. They really inspired me with their enthusiasm and gave me the desire to adopt them technologically.

Our First Collaboration

I first introduced them to the Microsoft Educator Community so that they would be able to access all the information, courses and resources that are available. I wanted to show them, how to earn badges and everything like that. The introduction was a very big success as two of them managed to register. One gained three badges and a certificate, the other gained one badge,  and they acquired some points. The third teacher had a problem and it took a long time for her to get registered.



Sway and OneNote 
Our collaboration journey began with learning how to use Sway and OneNote. The teachers were very excited as they had never heard about Sway and OneNote before. I showed them my lesson presentations on Sway and OneNote. They were amazed to find you can make a beautiful presentation in Sway, and you can even insert video clips for the learners to watch while you are presenting. I showed them how you can download the CAPS document to your Documents folder  instead of carrying and manually paging through a ragged document when doing lesson plans. They started creating their own Sway presentations for their English and Mathematics lessons. They were able to insert pictures, graphs and everything else needed for their lessons. They mastered how to browse for relevant videos for their lessons. . 

Nondzondelelo Dyalo from Butterworth district creating her first Sway presentation. 

#MIEE Nelisa Zini also showcased her English lesson plans and movie-making lessons on book reviews as well as her Natural Sciences and Technology lesson plans which she had done using Sway and OneNote. She kindly shared most of her lessons plans with the club members as they taught the same grade and subjects.

The future of the Club was decide on
We agreed to meet quarterly in the future because of the distance, but we will continue with online communication and collaboration with each other. I asked for an evaluation from the teachers and I am glad so say that I made an impact in their education career. I am more than willing to run the race with them. They gained a lot from our first meeting. They even completed a quiz from one of Microsoft Learning Paths - Digital Literacy - and received badges.

I designed a logo and a slogan for my club to make it legitimate. It is my dream to run this club for the rest of my life – I found it to be food for my soul, doing what I love most! The logo has four arrows pointing to the four directions, which means "Through ICT integration in curriculum practice, we are not limited. We can go in any direction". The slogan “Bridging the digital divide“  means: "Even though we are the underprivileged province because of our rurality, we can still bridge the gap between the urban and the rural context if we can be fully supported by one another. This means not only not just providing one another with digital resources, but also making sure that we are well equipped, monitored, supported and guided in the use of ICTs"

I am hoping  that this club will expand for the benefit of the teachers, as this was an excellent beginning. We signed the attendance register for the sake of record keeping. You can see the logo and the slogan on the register below. 

My appreciation goes to the librarians of WSU Resource Centre, Frontier Hospital in Queenstown for allowing us to use their board room for our collaboration. We were comfortably hosted with our privacy and we were not interrupted by the principal users (as the board room is used by the Health Department). My appreciation also goes to the SchoolNet team, for believing in me by unlocking my potential. If it were not for you my dream would have died. Your SchoolNet newsletters keep me going. They are the source of my inspiration. My appreciation also goes to Microsoft.  Thank you all ever so much once again.

Photos of the day
Here are two more photos of this memorable day.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Complete this 5-minute online survey and stand a chance to win a signed copy of the book 'Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools''

We'd like to pass along an opportunity for educators at independent schools in South Africa to take part in an international survey. The Clayton Christensen Institute is conducting a study on technology use in education systems around the world, with South Africa as a focal point. Once you complete the five-minute survey, you will be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. If you have any questions, please direct them to Jenny White jwhite@christenseninstitute.org. Thank you very much. This survey is conducted by the Clayton Christensen Institute with support by SchoolNet.


Microsoft is excited to announce the availability of Minecraft: Education Edition in South Africa!

This is the third post in a series of posts about using Minecraft: Education Edition in your classroom. (The series of posts can be accessed at: http://bit.ly/2pRigwJ). In this post we explain why Microsoft is excited to announce the availability of Minecraft: Education Edition in South Africa! We give details of why you should think about using Minecraft: Education Edition at your school, and how to go about purchasing it.

Minecraft: Education Edition is a version of the popular open world game, Minecraft, specifically designed for education. It contains features that make Minecraft more accessible and effective in a classroom setting including:
  • Easy Classroom Collaboration: Educators have told us that one of the greatest benefits of Minecraft: Education Edition is the ability for students to collaborate together to build projects and solve problems. 
  • Non-Player Characters: An educator may create an NPC (Non-Player Character) to act as a guide for students in the game, giving instruction, providing more information, and also allowing educators to insert an active web link to additional references.
  • Camera + Portfolio: An important aspect of teaching with Minecraft is being able to collect evidence of learning in the game, and being able to track student progression. The camera and portfolio features allows students to take screenshots of their work and document the development of their projects.
  • Chalkboards: Creators can use chalkboards to communicate learning goals, provide additional information and give explicit instructions within the game. 
  • Simple, Secure sign-in: Individual student and teacher logins with Office 365 Education accounts ensure data privacy & security while playing Minecraft: Education Edition.
  • Tutorial World: For educators or students new to Minecraft, a tutorial world is available that will guide players on in-game navigation, crafting, and placing or breaking blocks.
Minecraft: Education Edition immerses students in a virtual landscape that fosters collaboration, stimulates problem solving, and inspires creativity while exploring subjects from art to math, history to science.

What educators are saying about Minecraft Education Edition:
Minecraft is already transforming classroom learning!  Hear what educators are saying about using Minecraft to transform classroom learning in the video below..

Next Steps

Partner Name
Contact Person
Computers 4 Kids
Russell Pengelly
Mitchell Struwig
ITech Solutions
Daryl Duncan
Onsite IT
Clayton Campbell
Roelof de Bruyn
Brian Carl Brown
Dial a Nerd
Warren Morton

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Minecraft: Education Edition – ideas from the Dubai Minecraft Training Partner Summit

This is the second post in a series of posts about using Minecraft: Education Edition in your classroom. (The series of posts can be accessed at: http://bit.ly/2pRigwJ). In this post Megan Rademeyer from SchoolNet reports back on her experience at the Minecraft: Education Edition Training Partner Summit in Dubai where trainers from around the world were certified in order to run Mincraft Education Edition training sessions with schools

Between 28 February and 2 March 2017 Megan Rademeyer, SchoolNet SA Programmes Manager and Microsoft Fellow had the opportunity to attend the Minecraft: Education Edition training partner summit in Dubai. Sessions included “Learning how to play Minecraft”, engaging in a “Build Battle” (where teams built structures together to try out-build other teams), and exploring “Classroom Mode in Minecraft: Education Edition”. The aim of the training session was to certify trainers from Microsoft Training Partners who will them be able to run Minecraft: Education Edition training sessions with schools. 

South African attendees
In addition to Megan, representing SchoolNet SA, Dominique Cave and Jethro MacDonald from Computers 4 Kids and Elsabe Hart, a Microsoft Teacher Ambassador were the other South Africans in attendance who are now certified Minecraft: Education Edition trainers.

Favourite sessions
Megan’s favourite session was Minecraft: Breakout Edu which involved going through a Minecraft world and following clues to unlock various puzzles. This activity provided teams with an opportunity to collaborate with others, and use Minecraft and thinking skills to work through an engaging challenge. This session would be a good one to run at schools as teachers and/ or learners who have some Minecraft skills could be grouped with novice Minecraft players. The challenge required a range of skills and someone who is not a Minecraft expert could still help solve puzzles whilst being exposed to Minecraft at the same time. 

Other worthwhile sessions involved learning the basics of Minecraft by working through the Minecraft: Education Edition Tutorial World. This activity would be a good place for teachers and students who are unfamiliar with Minecraft to learn the basic controls and features of Minecraft, such as gathering and crafting resources.

Benefits of using Minecraft in your classroom
Minecraft: Education Edition is similar to Minecraft that many of your learners may already know and love. What makes Education Edition great for teachers is that it utilizes Office 365 to assign Minecraft accounts to students – making it a cost effective way for schools to access the game, and in a way that provides a safe, closed environment in which to play. Features such as the camera and portfolio resources make it easy for learners to document evidence of learning or of structures they have created. Even if a teacher does not have Minecraft: Education Edition, the Minecraft: Education Edition portal provides free access to range of lesson plans, pre-built worlds and ready-made activities that make it easy for a teacher to integrate Minecraft into a lesson.

Lessons learnt at the Minecraft Summit
Before heading for Dubai, Megan was a complete Minecraft novice, but she is happy to report that spending after spending a few days playing Minecraft she is no longer accidentally destroying quite as many blocks as she did at first! More importantly, she has realised that one does not need to be a Minecraft whizz to use this tool as part of a fun and engaging lesson. 

Below are some lessons about Minecraft that Megan learnt during the training summit.

Children will generally out-pace adults
My daughter (now 11) has been playing Minecraft for about two years. My sole contribution to her interest in the game was providing my credit card details so that she could download Minecraft: Pocket Edition to her tablet. Every so often, she would me a hotel, or a dream house or a stadium that she has created and I would say something like “that’s lovely sunshine, now how about you go read a book or do some homework.” Now that I have actually tried to make my own house in Minecraft I am in complete awe of the structures she has been able to produce. Without having been on a course, with no instructor and with no manual to tell her what to do. Kids take to Minecraft naturally – maybe because they aren’t afraid of failure and are willing to just give it a try.

You just have to start – you will get faster
I can touch-type. I can produce professional looking reports using Word far more quickly than if I were to write them out by hand. Did I always type quickly? No! I type quickly because I have spent just about every day of my working career typing on a keyboard. Hours and hours of practice has made me a good typist. Years of putting together reports has helped me to figure out shortcuts for formatting them nicely – and quickly. I don’t know why I thought I would be a whizz a Minecraft on the first day. My daughter is great at playing Minecraft – but she also has a two year, 5 hour a week jump-start on me. Of course if you aren’t willing to even try Minecraft, you will never get good at it. And if you try it once, decide it is too tricky and abandon it, you will think that it is impossible to master. The trick to becoming good at Minecraft is committing yourself to spending a few hours muddling through the basics and slowly but surely getting a bit more skilful and a bit more confident.

There is no undo button – but this teaches resilience
At the Minecraft: Education Edition training session we worked our way through Tutorial World – which teachers use the basic ways of moving yourself through the game. Because I had kept confusing my left and right mouse buttons I kept accidentally destroying blocks when I should have been creating blocks – and as a result had to go back to the beginning of the world three times. Whilst this was frustrating – on each successive attempt I got faster. I got better and better each time I did something. When I destroyed half our team’s structure in the build battle I apologised to the team and they quickly put back what I destroyed. I felt bad, but at other times other team members made silly mistakes. We had a laugh and moved on. Sure, we wanted to build a nice structure and win the challenge – but really Minecraft is just a game.

Start small – take baby steps
Just like you weren’t doing conditional formatting and what if formulas the first time you used Excel, chances are you won’t be lighting up your Minecraft structure using Redstone (Minecraft’s “electricity”) in your first world. This doesn’t really matter. The Minecraft: Education Edition contains a wealth of prebuilt worlds, so a teacher who is a complete novice can just download someone else’s creation and use that as a starting point. Or a teacher can just say to the learners “I really don’t know how to do this – but I thought of a fun activity that we could try together”. Since when does a teacher have to be the expert at everything? Telling kids that you don’t know how to do something, or giving them an opportunity to teach you is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign that you are a life-long learner with a pioneering spirit. (Your kids may think you have NO Minecraft skills – but they will think you are cool for having given it a try!)

It is worth checking out Minecraft: Education Edition

Check out the official Minecraft: Education Edition website for resources that cover curriculum and give learners an opportunity to play a game that they love at the same time. If you are interested in purchasing Minecraft: Education Edition for your school – please see here for more information. If your school already has Minecraft: Education Edition contact Megan Rademeyer (megan@schoolnet.org.za) for more info about professional development workshops for staff.