MIE Spotlight: Bringing Ancient History studies into the digital era

In this MIE Spotlight, we hear from Michael Cocks, Senior Ancient History Teacher at Toowoomba Grammar School


I am in my seventh year of teacher after a career in advertising. As a specialist in my teaching area, I love passing on my passion for History to my students. I find the subject area to be one of the most important in equipping students to be critical thinkers and to become engaged future citizens of the world.

I use digital solutions to meet the needs of my students, and other students around the world. I created a website to support my classes, and it is now used by tens of thousands of students, teachers and parents around the world. I also have an active presence on Twitter, Flipboard and Facebook where learners from any walk of life can engage with each other.

As well as being a teacher, website creator and MIEE, I am also a fact-checker for the BBC History Magazine in the UK, I am a textbook writer for the History Teachers Association of Victoria, host TeachMeets at my local university and present regularly at state and national conferences. I was also a finalist in the 2015 Queensland College of Teachers' Excellence in Teaching Awards.

As a final bit of interesting information, I also love ancient languages, teaching myself to read Classical Latin, Koine Greek, Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Biblical Hebrew.

What are the top three ways Microsoft technologies are assisting you in delivering curriculum to your students?

I use OneDrive as a key delivery tool of educational resources to my students. These resources are created to meet a wide range of learning styles. Since my students can access all my material at any time, it also helps students who study best at different times of day or night.

Secondly, I use Excel as an incredibly powerful planning tool for my teaching. I have created complex matrixes for my lessons and unit plans that allows me to map specific lesson types to the unique needs of the learners in my class.

I also keep detailed data on each of my students that allows me to highlight the individual strengths and weaknesses of my students. This helps me to engage with the students' parents, tutors and other support staff to maximise their success.

Finally, I have been a huge fan of the Surface Pro devices ever since the first was released. I use my Surface Pro in all of my classes. It allows me to do whole-class teaching while also working one-on-one with compromising either focus.

What sort of innovations have you been driving at Toowoomba Grammar?

At the end of last year, I began an trial called 'Letting the Students Choose Their Own Lesson'. In this program, I prepare resources for students to complete any particular lesson in a number of different ways. The basic premise is that if a student has the power of choice, they take greater ownership over their learning.


So, each lesson, I present the class with up to four different paths to complete the required content and then let them choose. Since we have a one-to-one device school, they can work alone or in groups, at their own pace and seek my help when required. Regardless of which option they choose, they all need to complete the same formative quiz to successfully complete the lesson. For those who finish early, there are always fun extension activities for them to complete. This approach has been met with universal praise from every class I have used it in and student results have increased. I feel this is the real power of technology in the classroom: providing choice, engagement and extension to all learners, no matter their learning style or level.

When I became a teacher, I was amazed that there wasn't more natural sharing of resources and ideas amongst those in our profession. I would love to see global collaboration between teachers. The combined wisdom, passion and resources would allow an infinite capacity to meet the needs of a wide range of diverse learners. I think that programs like the MIEExpert initiative an exciting and vital step in this direction.

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