Next Level Learning – Reflections from Queensland


A guest post from Matthew Jorgensen, Coomera Anglican College

Throughout November 2015, Microsoft provided a series of workshops for teachers and IT staff in Brisbane, Sydney, Gold Coast, Melbourne & Adelaide called the Next Level Learning Roadshow. I was asked to deliver some workshops on my favourite Microsoft tools and shine a spotlight on STEM and how Microsoft can enable STEM in schools. We took a peek at how some schools are using Minecraft in the classroom and for delivery of new and engaging learning activities for special groups such as extension students.

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Dan Haesler was his usual engaging and thought-provoking self. It is great to see a keynote speaker who is still practising what he preaches at the chalk face. Dan is particularly devoted to finding the keys to student motivation and is convinced that game-based learning, Minecraft in particular, has a significant ability to engage and reinforce the important life skills that young people need. Dan presented on Engaging Kids Today and Going Beyond the Grade, which drilled down into how and why education systems need to provide students with experiences and reasons to get out of their comfort zones and try their very best. Humans find motivation and engagement are linked to purpose and service, and traditional schooling does not provide these opportunities.

snipWe were very fortunate to have some Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts who could showcase the innovations taking place at their schools. Peter West from Saint Stephen’s College talked about easily creating multimedia artefacts that can be distributed online via a blog, website or LMS. One little beauty he premiered in the session was Snip. A free download from the Microsoft Garage, Snip takes your snipping tool or screenshot and add a heap of new features. After taking a snip, you can ink over the new image and even add a voiceover to accompany your scribble. Then it is just an easy share to get it out to your students. Such a simple process that will produce demonstration content anywhere, anytime.

matt_oCyclone Matt O’Brien, from Brisbane Boys College, let us into his world of deep thinking and innovative practice. Matt showcased five ways he utilises Microsoft products in his lessons. One of these elements involved reducing the cognitive load for students through the use of symbols. Rather than having the same, long-winded instructions on countless assignments, teachers can utilise symbols that mean the same thing every time they are used. As students progress through the year levels, they know exactly what each symbol means and can engage their brains in the learning and creating process, rather than having to waste time and energy reading and interpreting words You can see one way to do this here or watch Matt’s video about his inspiration for creating symbols and how he uses it in the classroom.

Tamara Sullivan from Ormiston College has been working enthusiastically to provide her teachers and students with ways to communicate using OneNote, Yammer and Mosaic Livetiles Teachers at Ormiston have embraced Yammer to communicate and sustain asynchronous professional conversations about what they are doing in the classroom. Tamara and her team of teachers have a high level of support for the embedment of technology because they can see that these Microsoft tools actually make life easier and enable more efficient communication. It was great to see what this high uptake of technology looks like in a large school.

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The session on STEM and Microsoft focused on how Microsoft can help teachers implement a STEM-based learning environment in their classes or schools. The Science Technology Engineering Mathematics fields have been combined to create STEM, which uses inquiry learning or Problem-Based Learning (PBL) to enable students to learn about concepts and how to make things, and then put this knowledge and skillset into action to solve problems and create solutions. Adding an ‘A’ for Art empowers students to design aesthetically pleasing products, as well as create promotional materials such as advertisements and posters. Fantastic websites like the Intel developed Innovation Toolbox give teachers a great helping hand in terms of hardware and curriculum. And for those going all out and venturing into Makerspace territory, sites like MakerSpace.com offer great support and ideas from other teachers on the same journey.

Minecraft is just way too deep and broad to cover in any comprehensive way in 25 minutes. Through the use of a couple of willing Minecraft teacher demonstrators, we were able to explore MinecraftEDU and the game-changing mod ComputerCraftEDU. In the flipper-steps of 30-odd years of programmable reptiles, players can spawn turtles that can be programmed to move, dig, build and melee. Starting with a turtle and a remote, students can use visual programming or a code editor to practice the basics of computer science, including such computer programming basics as initialisation, repetition (loops) and conditionals.

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The apps coming out of the Microsoft Store are often overlooked, but they are many and varied. We showcased a fun app called Doodleinator, which is a basic but powerful animation-maker. It has great features such as onion-skinning and exporting to video file. Why is it cool? Well, your students can easily create a sequence such as the life cycle of a frog using their touch-screen device (ie – the awesome Surface) and a stylus. Other apps that were available to explore include Physamijig and Khan Academy. You can find a comprehensive list of Microsoft apps here and a blog post highlighting 10 of my favourite apps here.

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The Next Level Learning Roadshow was designed to raise awareness amongst teachers so that they can start to leverage the power of these tools in their schools. To find more about Microsoft’s Next Level Learning opportunities, click here.

To find the content presented at the roadshow events visit this blog post.

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