The following is a guest post written by #MIEExpert Paul 'Lanny' Watkins - Head of ICT at Sandfields Comprehensive, South Wales - and kicks off a week of content focussed on the Microsoft Educator Community.
The Microsoft Educator Community (or MEC, as you may see it referred to) is a new community site that combines the experience of the Microsoft Educator Network and Skype in the Classroom. This site is a central destination where you’ll have access to over 1.5 million educators around the world, a fresh selection of professional development courses and resources, thousands of inspiring lesson plans, and access to live lessons and virtual field trips.
Why I'm Loving The Microsoft Educator Community
by Paul 'Lanny' Watkins
Ever come back from a great holiday and wanted to tell everyone about it, and probably over the coming weeks your friend starts to wish that you would just stop talking about it?
The thing is when we experience something that has such a significant impact on us we just want to shout about it from the mountain tops. There are, however, those times when something deserves to be shouted about from the mountain top and it isn’t. That’s when you will often hear the statements “Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner!?!?” The Microsoft Education Community is something that should never be kept a secret from all working within education.
Having recently attended the Microsoft E2 Educator Exchange in Budapest, it was there that I came to realise how truly special the Microsoft Education Community is. It was amazing to have those that had once simply been names on a screen turn into friends with discussions of future collaboration. As a group of educators we grew together, challenged and inspired each other and celebrated in each other’s achievements. The amazing thing is that you didn’t have to be at E2 to be part of this community. This is what MEC is all about!
It’s a place to share, share ideas and also lesson plans and resources. It’s a place to discuss, through the discussion sections. It's great to know that if you have a problem there is somewhere to turn to ask your question – how do I……? is anyone using……?
— Paul 'Lanny' Watkins (@Lanny_Watkins) March 11, 2016
With the huge success of Skype-a-thon last year, a network of educators and guest speakers are at your disposal. It's so easy to engage in Q&A sessions with guest speakers or have fun (while developing key skills) with Mystery Skype. But for me, the greatest things about MEC is the free teacher CPD it provides. The sheer fact that there is free, quality training available, that has an educational focus, with no pressure or time constraints is amazing. And of course there is the recognition of your achievements and ability which is vital for your teacher CPD record. To be able to show you have achieved a recognised level of ICT capability is essential when we are in this digital age as all teachers are now becoming teachers of digital literacy.
Most teachers would have previously thought that MEC, being a Microsoft site, is only for IT teachers or for 'IT geeks'. But I love the way that MEC has smashed those stereotypes. MEC is for teachers and is being embraced by teachers. I have found it encouraging to see teachers from various subjects engaging with MEC. But how do you get staff engaged in the first instance?
When you mention additional courses and training staff are often put off, due to their already busy and heavy work load. Growing up I loved fantasy football league. So taking this concept we created the #learnandearn CPD. Teachers would sign up and earn points based on engagement with MEC – lower points for watching help videos, higher points for sharing with/training teachers on what they have learnt. Through this we found teachers were engaging, sharing and discussing on social media, coming to computer rooms at lunch times to complete courses, but the most important thing was seeing it embedded into the teaching and learning in their classroom. That’s what it's all about!
A MEC Crown was produced and in a closely run race a PE teacher narrowly beat a MFL teacher to the crown. And yes….the loser had to crown the winner!
— Paul 'Lanny' Watkins (@Lanny_Watkins) February 13, 2016
Focus on getting your staff signed up - once they are using it MEC becomes one of the most engaging tools they will use in their professional development as a teacher. Why not give small monthly targets – complete a course, learning path or upload a lesson. There is a huge community waiting with open arms to greet them!
Over the next few days we'll be sharing more experiences from our #MIEExperts as we take a closer look at each of the six core areas of the MEC… Stay tuned!