Microsoft Classroom

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

 

 

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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 – Code.org 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

Fostering Project Collaborative Learning

My middle school science classes often just blow me away with their creativity and energy. To capture this, I strive to foster collaborative and creative projects. Specifically, this year, I have been setting up science projects that require students to productively function in teams, more specifically to shine within a team.

Project 1 – Step 1

For the first big group project, I offered students their choice of medium to create a weather “lesson.” Although there was choice in presentation, the group worked in a traditional project team. The students were excited to try out new tech for an audio-visual “Ted-Ed” style weather lesson, but without specific work to coach the soft skills of team collaboration, there were the usual pitfalls of who does what work, how much work, and whether the work was of good quality. The product of the “lessons” was amazing in the style and variety of creativity, but the downside was we didn’t work on improving how the team collaborative functions.

Project 2 – Step 2

The next big group project team experience gave us the reason for the next step in team collaboration a “Team Contract.” Students were to write a proposal for a small cube experiment to travel on a space flight. As students choose their teams, I asked them to review, discuss, and define their requirements to be a successfully functioning team. When we had group class time to work on our “Cubes in Space” projects, students referred to their Team Contract when a team member didn’t meet their work requirements. Students began to hone the essential skills of collaboration and communication that are so vital in our everyday world.

Project 3 – Step 3

Our current project, an Earth Safety Challenge PSA, takes all of the above and moves it beyond team collaboration to group creativity. Students initially completed background research on local earth science events such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Students were grouped into 3 large “company” teams based on their research area. Their task is to create a company and assign the roles of research scientists, engineers, media specialists, and project managers. Their job is to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to inform the public about the science and safety of their assigned earth event. This project is majority student designed and managed. Students are using a variety of skills, research, technology, modeling, communication, collaboration, and creativity. I am so impressed with their level of positive engagement, motivation, and the direction of each company team to produce a creative and effective earth science PSA. Although I can’t wait to the see the final products, I am already extremely proud of the collaborative learning in which these students are engaged.

Lesson Details If you’re interested in the specifics of our Earth Safety Challenge Project, please see my lesson plans here: Earth Safety Challenge Project Lesson Plan

Lesson technology – for this project we utilized the following technology;

Since we are a 1:1 school (students are issued district laptops for the school year), we are comfortable with utilizing technology in our classroom. Class notes, agendas, and group project work is all conducted in OneNote. The final Earth Safety Challenge PSA will be posted in Docs.com for other grade level science classes to review and offer feedback. We also use Class Policy to group team members and monitor technology on task time. Modeling in Minecraft is an awesome way for students to use their analytic thinking in a creative format to make a 3D model – of anything. Making use of student voice was easy with FlipGrid and Forms. FlipGrid offers accessible technology for students to video respond and reply, it is fun and informative. Forms provides an easy means to access or survey online, providing accessible data to share. My students are using a variety of tech tools to make their PSA presentations, including PowerPoint, Office Mix, Sway, and video, to be posted in class collections in Docs.com. If used appropriately, technology can enable and amplify student knowledge and voice on any project. Totally amazing collaboration.

 

Focus Week: Making of Minecraft – Part 1

Minecraft Part 1 – The What & The Why

At International School we have a Focus Week every spring, a one week, one class, CTE (Career Technical Education) focused week of study. The intent is to foster the opportunity for students to have quality work experiences, develop strong relationships with adults, and to cultivate relationships with students outside of their usual social group and outside of the regular curriculum and classroom. This year I offered a middle school “Making of Minecraft” focus week.

The pitch for my Minecraft focus week was: “What does it take to build, develop, test, and market new features in Minecraft? Come participate in a behind the scenes week with the Microsoft Minecraft Education Team. Try your skills at developing, marketing, and pitching your idea for a feature in Minecraft to the makers of Minecraft at Microsoft.”

Now, truth be told, the fact is my school is close to the Microsoft Minecraft offices and this made it easy to ask if they would be willing to lead Minecraft focus week. To my happy surprise they exuberantly said, “Yes, we’d love to!” The thing is, the Minecraft Education Team is comprised of an awesome group of engineers, developers, marketers, and former teachers, this team understands how to connect to education. I am also fortunate to know two amazing Minecraft Team members, Neal Manegold and Meenoo Rami, both former teachers who ironically told me they were excited to create lesson plans for the week. Neal was instrumental in coordinating initial logistics and Meenoo was our amazing Minecraft lead in the classroom.

Over the course of a week my students brainstormed new features for Minecraft.Edu, shared and developed their ideas with developers, worked on their pitches to market their Minecraft features to a wide variety of audiences, discussed the business side of Minecraft, toured the Minecraft office, and participated in a community livestream.

During break times my students accepted the challenge of building a detailed Minecraft model of our school, complete with a working library and cars in the parking lot. The community aspect of working together for such a challenge is so apparent in Minecraft. My students had to figure out the who, the how, the measurements, the design, and the architectural structure of our school building. During the week they had multiple restarts, discussions, revisions, and a few accidental fires in their model library that caused some grief and rework. I look forward to seeing their final model – that is, if their creativity ever deems it finished, but then again that is the beauty of Minecraft, will it ever be finished?

Overall, it was a good week. Sure, my kids played a lot of Minecraft, but they also explored the work world of Minecraft too. One memorable comment made during a feedback session by one Minecraft Team Developer was, “You just did my job!” How awesome is it to provide an opportunity for students to preview their potential to the world! It was truly amazing to watch the wonder, the skill, and the learning that happened during their focused week of Minecraft.

Interested in learning more?

Meenoo’s Focus Week in Review

 Minecraft Education 

The Beta of EdTech – OneNote and Beyond

Technology Early Adopter

I joke that I gravitate to the new “shiny” opportunities in technology. I want to play with the new program or device to see what it can do in the classroom. Will it help me instruct my students? Or is it just something for fun? Does it have future potential to promote communication and collaboration? Can it help to expand our classroom world? When there is something techy to pilot, preview, or beta-test, then early adopters have a hard time saying “no,” instead we gleefully say “when can I have access?”

OneNote Edu

About 7 years ago, in a previous district, I stepped into the first year of becoming a 1:1 laptop school. We had laptops, students, and OneNote. The OneNote digital notebook of was building steam in the business world for project team communications. It was a cool tool, but realistically teachers wondered how they could make it work for education. In my classroom I started small. I created a OneNote section for each student to provide 1:1 communication for daily warm up questions and classwork. Students were amazed I could see their writing syncing in real time. Since then many educators and students have been singing the educational praises of OneNote. The ease of a digital notebook provides “no papers lost” organization for students. Faculty and staff are sharing school meetings and information in seamless fashion. As OneNote grows in popularity in the classroom, so to do the functions and capabilities advance in this ed-tech tool.

As more educators use OneNote we ask for more functionality, and the OneNote team at Microsoft is listening. We want easier ways to review student work, we want to quickly create small collaboration groups, and we want one-stop marking and grading of assignments. Since we’re asking, then we must also beta-test and pilot the pipeline of new development. The tricky part is being able to authentically use the beta-pilot functionality with our students. If it works, then other teachers hear about the “new app” and want access to use it. The “new” creates excitement, hype, and conversation. Early adopters are always willing to share what they have learned and when it will be available for everyone. But if the new pilot doesn’t work or goes a bit sideways, then teacher-student access or work may be affected and this can be tough. It is a positive when your administration understands the early adopter role and supports piloting ed-tech tools. As a pilot teacher you need to give timely feedback, which within the busy school day can be difficult, but ultimately this is why you offered to pilot in the first place. The rewarding part is when you realize your feedback has been incorporated into an improved teaching tool.

Working out the details one add-in at a time.

Initially working with new add-ins you have to think like a science teacher (which I am). You have to teach colleagues and students the specific variables that are being tested, what the new add-in can or cannot do. Once the testing is complete and the new add-in or tool is officially launched, then you do a happy dance and look for the next new “shiny” beta app to test. As we prepare for next fall I will be confirming for our district IT department that we want two new OneNote add-ins included in the updated school image. We want Learning Tools for all students and staff. The beauty of this tool is the ease of immersive reader and dictation capabilities. I am impressed with the speed of the dictation and considered dictating this blog into OneNote. For teachers we want Class Notebook so we can fully utilize reviewing student work and distribute class assignments. It is a powerful tool that is becoming more responsive to the needs of teachers and students in the classroom.

As we wind down the school year, a few of us are piloting Microsoft Classroom in hopes of being ready to go with a digital classroom space next fall. The purpose of this platform is to provide a “homepage for managing all of your classes. Organize multiple class sections, create and grade assignments, collaborate with other teachers in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and provide feedback to students.” The potential to have one landing page for all of my classes to promote easy student communication and collaboration would be wonderful. My students are adept at navigating OneNote and Outlook, but what we miss is a free-flowing digital conversation.  Is Microsoft Classroom there yet? Maybe, but it will take a few early adopters to help guide authentic use in the classroom.