Microsoft Education

Reflecting on NCCE 2018 

Review Notes from NCCE 2018 – Presenter & Attendee

I was fortunate to be both a presenter and attendee at this year’s Northwest Council of Computer Education, a regional conference focused on educational technology, held in Seattle.

I presented three sessions, all on the first day, which ultimately turned out to be good. I had a chance to get my presenter nerves out and over with on the first day, and then I could enjoy the rest of the conference as an attendee. My sessions focused on classroom technology associated with Office 365, connecting the classroom to enhance student learning. It is easy to present on technology that you use every day in your classroom, which is precisely the point – not everyone does this. I was pleased every session appeared to either inspire the educators in the room or to answer their questions. The questions they asked were specific to their needs and we had answers. Just as it is for me, I am ever so appreciative of a presenter’s genuine understanding of the technology that works, as well as what doesn’t work, in a classroom of active student learners. If you’re interested in my NCCE 2018 sessions, please see the links below:

  • Connected Classroom – Foster Student Learning with Teams, OneNote, and Flipgrid

  • OneNote Avengers Panel Discussion (team presentation)

  • Yikes! We’re 1:1 – Now What? Maximizing student learning with 1:1 devices in your classroom (co-presented)

What did I learn as an attendee?

Reflecting on my recent attendance at NCCE, I could answer a few essential questions. What did I learn? What were the noteworthy moments? Who were the people who made an impact? I learned a great deal about a variety of educational technology tools, apps, and processes. A few of my highlights were the following:

  • Art of Arduino – These little devices are super cool, providing students a platform to link physical devices and to write basic instructional coding to create “something” that will spin, count, move, or tell directions. The computational thinking combined with physical components is both delightful and necessary for developing problem solving skills.


    Setting up a Spinner, Notes on Surface

  • Computational Thinking & Digital Learners – provides a wealth of resources to help teachers bring coding and computational thinking into their classrooms. Teachers don’t have be “computer science” teachers to introduce the basics of coding to students. Often it is restructuring teacher’s own thinking to incorporate computational thinking lessons for students.
  • Microsoft Teams (from the Microsoft side of things) – As a Teams user, it was interesting to ask questions and listen to how the backend of Teams is being supported for schools. Microsoft is listening to educators’ questions and their needs to make Teams a one-stop communication hub for the classroom.
  • Tech Tools & Rethinking Response Modes – A good reminder that one way to increase student engagement is to step outside of the norm of “question and response” discussion in the classroom. Using technology to capture students’ attention and providing a venue to explore allows students to showcase their understanding. This session highlighted using Google Maps, Screencast-o-matic, and Canva to locate, broadcast, and produce infographics.
  • Wild Goose Chase – Super fun scavenger hunt app provides a plethora of potential buy-in for student, parent, and school community engagement, learning and collaboration. The presenters shared how they built lessons for a school tech night to a field trip to the zoo.
  • Web Accessibility – Truly an eye-opening introduction to making any classwork, lessons, and newsletters we share on the web accessible to all. There are a variety of tools to check accessibility, which when used promotes an understanding of the importance of utilizing format and text. There is so much to learn regarding accessibility but this introduction built an awareness is a great start.
  • ISTE standards for Administrators – The ISTE standards for educators were published last year and now is the next round of feedback before publishing for education leaders. The rationale for Administrator ISTE standards is to promote a common framework for school leaders to ensure accessibility of technology for all, thus enhancing the learning for all. The process is ongoing and the discussions are important work.
  • Micro:bit & MakeCode – Once again, fun with coding and building. Micro:bits are similar to Arduinos, they are small microprocessor devices that can be programmed to do just about anything (well, almost anything). The devices can be programmed to play music, count, turn on a spinner, motor, or determine compass directions. Microsoft MakeCode is the app that can be used with both Micro:bit and Arduinos to write code to instruct the device to do what you want it to do. Easy to use, fun to build.
  • Power BI – An awesome introduction to the power of visualizing data. The ability to use Office 365 to survey with Microsoft Forms, analyze responses via Excel, and then move data to a visual form was powerfully informative. The highlighted school use case, where a music teacher used Power BI for tracking instrument checkout all the way through to fostering peer evaluation of performances, was outstanding. There is a learning curve for Power BI, but it appears to be worth the investment for the wealth of data visualization it can produce.

Noteworthy Moments – Conference Keynotes

  • Toni Townes-Whitney, Microsoft Executive, spoke of the transformative mind-shift that is required for our future world. A smart, funny and engaging speaker, she shared her background from a family of educators and so naturally stated there will be, “a quiz on quantum computing” at the end of her keynote. Describing technology on a continuum of mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing illustrated that students today need to apply data, not just know facts. Our students, at the end of their schooling, need the ability to be agile, seeing new ways to make sense and understanding from their learning. This mind shift moves away from old the pedagogy of “know it all” to facilitating “what can we apply” or use in the classroom, or ultimately in the world.

    NCCE TTW Keynote

    Toni Townes-Whitney

  • Dan Rather, former CBS News Anchor, shared his own top ten list of leaders, observations from his years of reporting the news. A rambling speech of history, anecdotes, and quotes, both funny and poignant, to apply as a teacher in today’s classroom. He shared his magic words “if it is to be then it is up to me” meaning keeping the responsibility where it needs to be. He also spoke of humility, gratitude, and heart, that we must listen by heart and the best teachers/leaders are excellent listeners.

    NCCE DR Keynote

    Dan Rather

Who were the people who made an impact? Many people, but mainly my MIEExpert network family. I was fortunate to reconnect with familiar and meet new MIEs from around the country. Educators who present and attend an ed-tech conference have a passion to move our classrooms forward, to inspire innovative thinking and problem solving. The people who make an impact for me are those who share how and what they do for their students. Their sharing helps me make an impact for my students.


MIE Expert Summit in Redmond

Recently, I had the privilege to participate in a regional MIE Expert and Showcase School Leader Summit in Redmond, WA (on the Microsoft Campus). I was reminded, once again, how cool it is to be part of a such an amazing network of educator friends who have a passion for education, technology, and innovative thinking. This educator network provides me the feeling that I have known my fellow MIE Experts for a multitude of years, when in fact sometimes we’ve only met a summer ago at a conference. This network stays in touch digitally, over Twitter, Facebook, as well as messaging apps. The digital conversations range from technical issues for the best ed-tech apps, laptop hardware questions, planning for an upcoming conference session, and just fun conversations about the amount of snow fall in their area. Although we may be geographically apart, we are close as a collective innovative educator mindset as we can be. The greetings and hugs are genuine and authentic and there is never a “dumb” question that can’t be asked and answered.


Getting settled at MIE Summit

This year’s summit had a couple recurring themes, first a reminder this is a reinvigorating group, a group that can provide an essential opportunity to refresh and nurture ourselves in our fast-paced world. This reminder to slow down and take time when we need to is notable, as educators, we are often on the innovative cutting edge, we need to be mindful of “champion burn-out.” The opportunity to laugh and have camaraderie goes a long way to support the work we do in and outside of the classroom. It is a two-way street, we need the network to reduce stress, and the network needs us for our ideas and inspiration for our best student learning.

MIE Summit Group

MIE Summit in Redmond

The other theme, of course, was educational innovation. As a group of tech-geeky teachers, we thrive on seeing and learning about how best to encourage and support our students with computational thinking to understanding concepts contain within the sustainable development goals. We played with Arduinos and Microsoft’s MakeCode to create a LED-blinking circuit playground that followed our coded instructions. It was fun creating the code and seeing our creations literally come to light. We also had laughed and geeked out with paper, glitter, ribbons and stickers as we created a coded paint-stick wand that blinked on command.

MIE Summit i2e

Showing off our MakeCode LED Wands

We also spent time discussing educational content, more aptly a hashtag #SDG, known as Sustainable Development Goals. We divided up into small teams and competed in an OneNote EDU Breakout. We systematically figured out a series of puzzles in OneNote, unlocking section by section, to learn the how and the why sustainable development goals are important. I would like to say we were first in breaking out, but second place is a still a worthy silver medal. The ability to be the learner, communicating and collaborating as a team, to collectively finding the solution is a fantastic experience, something we all strive to create for our students.

SDG puzzle

Putting the pieces together for EDU Breakout

Lastly, we wrapped up our summit learning with a presentation on new tools for accessibility – once again, poof, mind blown! The technology is rapidly providing the avenues to connect our students’, families’, and our schools’ worlds closer together. As we were shown how to utilize these learning tools that translate, dictate, as well as an immersive reader, our conversations quickly picked up pace about implementing into our classrooms. As the conversations increased, so did our questions about what’s next and how quickly will everyone have access, to which we were greeted with smiles and a request for patience.

I feel lucky to be a part of such an amazing network of friends, so glad to have the opportunity to have fun and grow as an educator. I look forward to the next time we gather.

Connected Classroom – ISTE 2017

In a few weeks my colleague and I will traveling to San Antonio to present at ISTE.

We’re excited to share how we utilize classroom technology in a 2 hour poster session. We’ll share how OneNote, Microsoft Classroom (now Microsoft Teams for Education), and Class Policy helps to foster student collaboration and conversation.

Connected Classroom: Digital Conversations & Collaboration with Microsoft Classroom & Class Policy

Monday, June 26, 2:00-4:00 pm
HBGCC Tower View Lobby, Table 24

Cheryl McClure and  Tamara Truax
Learn how to utilize Microsoft Classroom and Class Policy to foster online student conversations, OneNote for lesson collaboration and connected assignments in Outlook. Suitable for those already familiar with OneNote but accessible to all as an introduction to the collective collaboration of a central digital space for connected learning.

ISTE sessionConnected Classroom



Teacher in Space

More specifically, a Teacher Learning about Space Education 

Recently I was invited to a NASA & CASIS presentation about the International Space Station at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, WA. As a science teacher, the nerd meter was off the charts, “What, me? Take an afternoon to listen about being in space? You bet!”

NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) exhibit have been on a “Destination Station” Northwest roadshow. The purpose of their presentation is to share the wealth of ISS information readily available and how companies and students can take advantage of ISS research opportunities. Small breakout Q&A sessions for the local STEM educator community provide time to talk and share. For me, the afternoon provided a list of NASA/ISS/CASIS connections for my curriculum next year. It was stated that the “possibilities are endless; the rewards could be outstanding,” and I couldn’t agree more.

CASIS, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, is a non-profit manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, and its aim is to create public awareness of National Lab research by making space science more accessible to the world. The US Lab on ISS is currently conducting research and development from big companies to small schools, with their focus ranging from STEM to life science to physical science. The question is, “Why do research on ISS at all?” The answer is supremely simple, the US Lab on ISS is like no other lab on Earth. The vantage, perspective, and conditions are not constrained by gravity. Experiments can be tested in a micro-gravity environment, thereby providing excellent environmental controls or removing the limiting factor of gravity. In the extreme conditions of space, forces and fluids will be less constrained, fluids will take a spherical shape, there is no “up” or “down” and sedimentation and solidification are not determined by gravity. There is much to learn, test, discover, and invent in a home laboratory that is away from home.

Astronaut Mike Barratt spent 6 months on ISS and shared a day in the life of living on the Space Station, traveling in both Shuttle Discovery and Russian Soyuz. It was “Zero to 15,000 mph in 8 minutes 45 seconds for orbital velocity.”

The dominant factor of being on the ISS is weightlessness. Apparently it takes a bit of effort and time to coordinate moving around, from flying “superman style” to using hands to locomote. I was surprised to learn how big the Space Station is, particularly when you shift your thinking from a traditional “square footage” to a 3D or cubic footage view. All available space is utilized and there is no up or down. It is a funny idea (prank) that if a crew member was carefully guided to the middle of a compartment, ensuring they were not in motion and where they could not touch walls, then they would be stuck. In micro-gravity, Newton’s laws of motion (or lack of motion) are in affect.

Since Mike is also a medical doctor, he spoke of anthropometry, recycling urine to water, and various medical tests and blood draws. In space, the neutral body position is not straight and thus requires rethinking work and sleep stations. In space, the internal organs are not affected by gravity and thus their positions are changed. In space, toilets require directed airflow since there is no gravity…let that sink in. In space, bone and muscle mass will decrease unless astronauts exercise daily with countermeasures, since there is no gravity to lift or move your body’s own weight against.

Astronaut Mike Barratt

Astronaut Mike Barratt

As a science teacher, learning more about ISS meant learning there is a wealth of student opportunities for my science classroom. There is so much happening on the station that the challenge is narrowing down which lesson, research, or connection to utilize. To assist with this, I had the pleasure of meeting with Pete Hasbrook from the ISS Program Science Office to discuss NASA and ISS resources available to educators. I am excited to spend time organizing my curriculum to make room for these research opportunities for my students next year.

MS Edu NASA-ISS Pete and Cheryl Chat

ISS Chat with NASA’s Pete Hosbrook

For more information about NASA or ISS or CASIS in Education go to;





Living Life on the Beta Edge

This school year has been a preponderance of pilots and beta testing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tech geek and I’m very appreciative of my forward-thinking school district. I am also extremely appreciative to have the freedom and flexibility to beta test new technology that may positively affect my students’ engagement in learning. This year, by my own choice or district curriculum options, I have been introducing, testing, or using a multitude of new tech or curriculum.

Curriculum Pilots

As a middle science teacher, I piloted and incorporated the following curriculum:

  • Project Guts – computer science in science
  • Amplify – middle school science curriculum
  • IQWEST – middle school science curriculum
  • Minecraft Education Edition – fostering student creativity & anything actually
  • PASTL – fostering students to think and process science visually in conversations

Technology Pilots

As a geeky tech teacher, I piloted and incorporated the following new educational technology:

  • Microsoft Classroom (will be changing to Microsoft Teams for Education)
  • OneNote – OneNote app compared to the 2016 OneNote desktop app
  • Lifeliqe – 3D models and augmented reality
  • FlipGrid – amplifying student voice captured within video responses
  • Slack – team group communications
  • Microsoft Paint 3D – making and modeling objects and art in 3D
  • Synergy – student information and gradebook application
  • Whiteboard Preview – whiteboard writing meets digital sharing technology

What did I learn?

What I learned is when educational curriculum and technology is chosen wisely, it can foster student creativity, amplify student voice, and streamline student collaboration. This is important; as our classrooms have changed, the demands and distractions on learning have changed. I believe students want to learn, but just like adults, they want the learning to be authentic and they want to have a voice in their learning.

What’s next?

We will be choosing curriculum companies that have integrated technology that easily navigates concepts, assessments, and simulations. For the traditional textbook based curriculum companies who are just transferring the text to an online format, please don’t bother… it is not worth our time. Piloting new curriculum and/or technology requires “beta” teachers to quickly assess how big the learning curve will be for both teachers and students. The more input the curriculum companies and/or technology companies listen to from teachers, the better. The demands of the classroom require an easy to figure out format for both curriculum and technology applications. Since we’re piloting new curriculum and new technology, we appreciate when our feedback is listened to. We appreciate when we see updates that reflect our feedback. We’re all wanting the same thing, we want an authentic learning platform and we want our voices to be heard in our learning.

*Stay tuned for follow up posts for specific details for piloted curriculum and/or technology