Thursday, 22 June 2017

Margaret Tracy from Hillcrest High School reflects on the recent Microsoft E2 Africa Forum #Makewhatsnext in Johannesburg

This is a guest post from Margaret Tracy, the Technology Integrator at Hillcrest High School (HHS) in Kwazulu-Natal. She believes implicitly in pedagogy before technology in the transformation of education. Margaret  was invited to attend the Microsoft E2 Africa Form in Johannesburg, and in this article she gives a reflection on the event. Margaret first wrote this as a post in Linkedin

Introducing the E2 Africa Conference
The Microsoft E2 Africa #Makewhatsnext Conference held on 29-30 May was a constructive example of innovation and expertise in action. To launch the event, Sonya Delafosse, Senior Partners-in-Learning Manager of Microsoft's worldwide Education team, stressed the importance of 21st century skills and the role technology can play in education to harness these skills. As the Technology Integrator at Hillcrest High School (HHS)in Durban, what struck me most, was the global need to travel this road together and pool our best resources so that we can learn from each other.

Microsoft's Professional Development programs
A second confirmation was the focus given to the importance of pedagogy first, with technology being a powerful tool to transform education. Microsoft in the Classroom and the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC) provides a professional and directed framework to guide and measure each school in their journey to transforming education on a global scale. It is uncharted territory and all schools can be considered pioneers in their own right. I believe that all schools should seriously consider joining the Microsoft School's Programme, if they haven't already, to facilitate the implementation of what Microsoft has to offer both teachers and students. The free online educator courses and point system with Microsoft badges carries SACE endorsement. At HHS, our teacher IT Champions are embracing this internationally recognised opportunity and at a recent workshop, all teachers were motivated to become Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE). Online learning allows teachers to address professional development in their own time at their own pace. A growing number of HHS students have joined the Student IT Champion initiative and they are now working towards achieving their online Microsoft Digital Literacy Certificate. Clearly, students are becoming more aware of the importance of gaining a relevant and internationally recognised accreditation.

The enormous potential of Minecraft: Education Edition in Education
We were privileged to learn from the Minecraft Education Edition guru himself, Stephen Reid, CEO of Immersive Minds in Scotland. Game-based learning is not a new phenomenon but the extent to which Minecraft Education Edition informs on Problem-based Learning (PBL) is truly inspirational. The opportunities for the teacher in a variety of subject areas - including cross-curricular - was evident in the number and scale of virtual worlds that Stephen Reid and his students from different parts of the world had created. For a day and a half, Mr Reid guided the E2 delegates in groups in their innovative attempts to find a solution to an important South African problem using Minecraft. Collaboration, communication, creative thinking and critical analysis were necessary ingredients and the resulting project enabled each of us to understand not only what Minecraft could produce, but what an enormous learning experience game-based learning can be. The created world offered by Minecraft provides a very real and relevant experience that I believe is difficult to emulate in any other teaching and learning experience.

A 'game-breaker' conference
Thank you to the SA Microsoft team headed by Angela Schaerer from Microsoft and Megan Rademeyer from SchoolNet, for hosting a 'game-breaker' conference. Thank you to Sonja Delafosse and Stephen Reid for joining us on our journey.

SchoolNet free webinar 'Coding - it's not scary- it's easy and it's free...' by MIEExpert Charmaine Roynon on 27 June at 3:30pm

We are pleased to announce that our next free webinar, 'Coding - it's not scary- it's easy, it's free and it promotes cerebral fitness!' will be held on Tuesday 27th June at 3:30pm. Our speaker will be Charmaine Roynon, a Microsoft MIEExpert from Cape Town. Charmaine is the ICT Integrator at Wynberg Girl’s Junior School, and she is also Head of Curriculum Development and Teacher Training at EDU 365 SA. Charmaine is very interested in coding and its importance to our learners and she recently ran a Coding Conference at her school for teachers around Cape Town. She says, "I started exploring the world of coding, it's educational impact and why it is often referred to as "21st Century Oxygen". After doing some research, I discovered some incredible coding websites that are interactive, engaging and include teaching functions in the form of short video clips to guide users through each process. All this - for free!"We invite you to hear what Charmaine has to say about coding on our SchoolNet free webinar.

Webinar details
Webinar title: Coding - it's not scary- it's easy, it's free and it promotes cerebral fitness
Presenter: Charmaine Roynon, MIEExpert, ICT Integrator at Wynberg Girl’s Junior School, and Head of Curriculum Development and Teacher Training at EDU 365 SA, Charmaine is also a member of the NAPTOSA Pro Gro and Professional Development teams in the Western Cape where they present and deliver 2 ½ day educational conferences.
Summary: Charmaine says: "I have spent many years supporting teachers in their ICT integration journey. Sometimes I have to expose teachers to material that I am not so sure of myself! So, in line with the saying: "If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try." (Seth Godin), I started exploring the world of coding, it's educational impact and why it is often referred to as "21st Century Oxygen". After doing some research, I discovered some incredible coding websites that are interactive, engaging and include teaching functions in the form of short video clips to guide users through each process. All this - for free! The coding community have really come together to enable and empower young people to develop computational thinking, problem solving and logical thinking and many other competencies! In 36 years in education, this has got to be one of the easiest things I have ever done - with (by far) the most impact. Join me on my journey into the invigorating and exciting world of coding - made easy! "
Date: Tuesday 27th June, 3:30pm
Duration: 15-30 minutes
Host: Fiona Beal
To join the online meeting

Even if you have attended an Adobe Connect meeting before you will need to install a free add-in. To investigate this, test your connection:

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Grade 10-11 learners are invited to join Microsoft for the free YouthSpark Live Event at Brescia House School this week - on 23rd and 24th June

A message from Angela Schaerer from Microsoft:
Microsoft and Brescia House School in Johannesburg are excited to invite you to code and create with us at the Youth Spark Live Event in Johannesburg this week!

As the Education Teacher Engagement Manager at Microsoft, I would like to invite your school to join other young people from around the region for the two-day YouthSpark Live event taking place this week. Microsoft SA would be honoured to include you in this event. We hope you can join us for what promises to be an exciting and inspiring two days. Coding is creative! Imagine,have fun, and be creative in a whole new way!

What is Youth Spark?
YouthSpark Live, is a global community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to spark change.

Where and when?
Venue: Brescia House School, 14 Sloane Street, Bryanston, JHB
Parking: Parking is available in the Bryanston Catholic Church Parkade 18 Sloane Street, Bryanston. The Church Parkade is accessed through the Sloane Shopping Centre, and has a back pedestrian gate into the school grounds. There will be direction signs that point from the Parkade to the School’s St Ursula’s Resource Centre.
Date:    23rd & 24th June 2017
Time:    Friday, 23 June 2017: 13h00 – 18h00
             Saturday, 24 June 2017: 09h00 – 15h10

What is the agenda?
DAY 1: Friday 23rd June
Guest arrival
Welcome remarks and Content review introduction
Panel discussion – Career in IT
Group photo
Late lunch and networking
Icebreaker activity
Computer Science Unplugged Activity
Minecraft Hour of Code Activity
Closing and departure

DAY 2: Saturday 24th June
Welcome remarks
YouthSpark Hub and SMART goals
Minecraft Training
Using Minecraft to address South Africa challenges
Lunch and networking
Modelling solutions in Minecraft
Group sharing

How many can come?
The requirements are:
20 learners per school
Grades 10 & 11 (learners who’ve shown interest in careers in IT)
*All equipment will be provided         
How do I register?
To register, click here.
Use #YouthSpark on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Monday, 19 June 2017

'Grade 7 E-Day June 2017' A really inspiring post from Anthony Peters from Parklands College

This is another amazing guest post from Anthony Peters @apeters522, Anthony is a very innovative English High School teacher from Parklands College in CapeTown, who delights in using technology in his High School English classes very creatively. We are always very happy when Anthony submits a post to us. You can view his 14 previous posts on our blog via the 'Anthony Peters' label  under Quick links on the right side.

"E-days have always been something to look forward to, if not for the plethora of innovative tasks that the educators come up with, then for the opportunity to take one’s classes from the comfort of one’s sofa or bed! For Grade 7 last Friday, this was no different!

What is E-day?
An E-day consists of learners (usually grades 7 – 9) completing their academic day in the comfort of their own homes! The educators utilise the latest versatile technology in order to monitor and guide the learners through a series of subject-specific tasks. Such technology used for this latest Grade 7 E-Day included: the Google Suite, Quizizz, Explain Everything, YouTube and Pic Collage.

The focus - Advertising!
In preparation for their first formal English examinations this June, all seventy of the grade 7 learners have been participating in a variety of tasks to help them revise all the concepts covered so far. E-Day focused on advertising, the principles of AIDA and the subliminal rhetoric companies often employ in order to persuade one to reach for the wallet! All the instructions for E-Day were delivered to learners via Google Classroom and an integrated Google Doc. 

Task 1
The first task the learners had to complete was watching a short revision video on advertising. I made the video using Explain Everything and then posted it to YouTube and inserted the link into the Google Doc. The learners then had to complete a fast-paced Quizizz quiz based on the video’s content.

Quizizz is a fantastic free app that enables the educator to gamify learning to the extreme! Real-time rankings, fun educator-made memes for right and wrong answers, themed backgrounds and a funky sound track are just some examples of the exciting functionality. Even matric learners enjoy using it! Although I was at school and the learners were at home, I could monitor all their scores in real-time and award digital merits instantaneously to those who achieved 80% or more in their final results!

Task 2
As we all know, Fidget Spinners are the latest craze to descend upon schools worldwide. Therefore, the English Department embraced the philosophy, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” Therefore, the final English E-Day task required the learners to create their own Fidget Spinner advertisements using another free app called Pic Collage. The learners were suitably engaged and were required to demonstrate their understanding of the language area (advertising) in an innovative, constructivist, and crucially ‘persuasive’ way.

One particularly intuitive group even made a recorded advertisement on iMovie.

The learners will be showcasing their advertisements this week in order to meet the expectations of the curriculum and public speaking, as well as to encourage some budding advertisers realise their potential.

Reflecting on E-Day
E-Day demonstrated the limitless potential technology has on facilitating constructive learning even when the educator and learner are kilometers away from each other! I am a big fan of Google and Apple technology and I use it in every lesson but E-Day showed me that I was able to create and run everything from my iPad, arguably the greatest piece of technology I’ve ever come across!

Two forms of pedagogy this project utilised were ‘learner-centered understanding’ and ‘flipped-learning’ and again, this blended harmoniously with the aforementioned technology."
-Anthony Peters

Friday, 16 June 2017

Useful Google In Education posts this week #102

After looking through all the Google posts that were shared to our various subscriptions recently, these are a selection that look useful for teachers link to previous posts can be found here

Using Minecraft: Education Edition as a tool to demonstrate the solution in a problem-based learning activity

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Recently I had the privilege of attending at the amazing Microsoft Educator Exchange (E2) Africa Forum as a #MIEExpert Educator. The E2 had the theme of #Makewhatsnext and it was held at Microsoft’s headquarters in Johannesburg.  I was excited about the emphasis that would be placed on using Minecraft: Education Edition in our classrooms. As it turned out, the #MIEExpert Educators and the other invited guests completed a problem-based learning activity in groups using Minecraft: Education Edition as a tool to demonstrate how we would solve the problem we had identified. This was a great learning experience which I often think back on, and, in this post, I want to write about it and explain how we went about using Minecraft: Education Edition in our group project.  

Problem-based learning is a great way for everybody in the group to learn together. It facilitates active learning, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. Dr Preetha Ram says “Problem-based learning enables students to embrace complexity and joy in their learning, and enhance their capacity to make creative contributions to real-world problems."

As soon as we registered at the Forum we were given our seating arrangements and I was placed in Group 6 with four other members. This always works well at an event like this as you get to know and work with a new group of friends.  Quite a bit of the two day Forum was devoted to seeing how Minecraft: Education Edition can challenge and develop critical thinking in a classroom setting. Our sessions were facilitated by the awesome Minecraft: Education Edition Guru, Stephen Reid from Scotland who was an entertaining and knowledgeable presenter.  He was aided by our own Dominique Cave from South Africa, the only Minecraft: Education Edition Global Mentor in Africa.

Group 6 - I am taking the photo

This problem-based learning activity we were set was in the form of a competition - the winning group would win devices! Group 6 was determined to win…in other words our competitive edge was stirred! We were very fortunate in our group to have a Minecraft: Education Edition Expert as part of our group - Matthew Hains from Crawford College. He’s a really techie kind of guy with the type of skills every group member longs to have. He was a great asset with helping us all work together to build our Minecraft model. We also had a project-based learning expert in Charmaine Roynon from Wynberg Girls’ Junior School.

So, how did we go about our project-based learning experience?

The task:
This was our task: "Come up with a problem you have observed in South Africa and demonstrate how you will solve this, using Minecraft: Education Edition. Present your solution on a Sway or as an Office Mix."

The tools
We decided to use:
a) A shared online OneNote notebook to work on. OneNote is very suited to problem-based learning as you can share content, images, videos etc very easily if you have a good Internet connection. 
b) Then there was Minecraft: Education Edition which we would use to demonstrate our solution. A Minecraft world had already been created for us by Steven Reid.
c) The final product was to be presented on a Sway or an Office Mix. 

Step 1: Identifying the issue
As a group we brainstormed problems in South Africa. Of course there were many! We then narrowed it down to three and eventually voted for one. Since we were all teachers it was probably natural to vote for the issue of many under-resourced schools in the country.

 Step 2: Create the driving  question
The next step was to create the driving question related to our enquiry. A driving question is one that captures the heart of the project by providing the purpose of the enquiry and by using clear and compelling language. The question should drives the participants to discuss, inquire, and investigate the topic. Here is a useful post from Edutopia on how to create driving questions. What do you think of ours? “How can we address the problem of under-resourced schools in our country in a sustainable way?'

 Step 3: Brainstorming
This step involved brainstorming what we would include in our under-resourced school to provide the needed resources. Here are some of the ideas we came up with.  We discussed these at length.

Step 4: Use Minecraft to demonstrate the solution
Now it  came to the part of building using Minecraft; Education Edition to demonstrate our solution.

Steven had taught us some of the basics so that we knew how to move around our Minecraft world.

We each appeared as little characters in the Minecraft world and we could see what each one in the group was doing at any stage.

We divided up the solutions we had thought of, and each one in the group built theirs (with loads of help from Matthew.) We had to take screenshots of the different objects that we built as proof of our solutions, and Matthew captured these for us and labelled them on the final PowerPoint.

Here is Matthew  capturing and labelling the screenshots for our group.

We (actually Matthew again) then created a video of what we had done using Minecraft: Education Edition and we embedded this video into the PowerPoint. (Matthew also made our PowerPoint). Here is our video.


Step 5: Present your solution
The important thing when you present solutions is to have some relevant role players present – the people who could make this solution happen as we present. These people could even be invited in via Skype.

Step 6: Give the project a title
We decided on the title of ‘A self-sustaining school.’

When it came to presenting our solutions using Sway or Office Mix, we decided on Office Mix. But, alas,  ours just wouldn’t upload. I am sure it had something to do with our embedded video. So we had to make a snap decision with only two minutes to go to hand in our PowerPoint as it was. There was no time to make a Sway instead. 

In the classroom setting there would be a rubric involved for assessment purposes, but for our session the judges were going to choose the best one. (Charmaine in our group provided us with a great rubric to take back to our classes for assessing problem-based learning activities.)

No! It wasn’t our group!  Here is the winning team below – they will each get sent a device as a gift from Microsoft.  There wasn’t time for us to see their presentation, unfortunately,  but it had something to do with outer space.  This is a great image of the winning team (captured by Tim Attwell) along with Sonja Delafosse from Microsoft USA and Stephen Reid from Immersive Minds in Scotland.

This problem-based learning activity was a great learning experience. I really felt like I was starting to understand Minecraft: Education Edition and its many possibilities in the context of education.

The final presentation
Here is our final presentation. I have embedded our PowerPoint from OneDrive.


Challenge at the end
This screenshot of Sonja’s final challenge really got me thinking.  Coding and computational thinking has to become part of our thinking as teachers in South Africa. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Useful Microsoft in Education posts this week #107

The Internet is currently full of posts about using Microsoft products effectively in the classroom. Here are a number of them from this past week. The list is embedded below but can also be found at The link to the back-dated posts is:

Did you know that the Hack the Classroom event is back? Have you registered?

Hack the Classroom is one of Microsoft's exciting, free, online, live events designed to show you what’s possible and ignite new ideas. This event will keep you in touch with all the ways to incorporate technology into your classroom. This year, the event will be live from the ISTE Conference bringing you the latest tools designed to empower your students to create the world of tomorrow! It is really worth registering for this.

Live: Tuesday, June 27, 2017
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM CDT
00:30 in South African time)
Live from ISTE: Empowering the students of today to create the world of tomorrow.

By attending Hack the Classroom online event, you will:
  • Hear Lisa Floyd, educator and thought-leader in STEAM education with Fair Chance Learning share why computational thinking is for everyone in our opening keynote
  • Learn from teachers by taking a glimpse into their classrooms to see how new tools are creating new possibilities
  • Engage, interact, and pose questions with speakers, product team members, and other educators
  • Gain access to professional development resources and tools to get started
Take a look at this page on the Microsoft Educator Community for more specific details It all sounds SO exciting - definitely not to be missed! 

Register here:

Thursday, 8 June 2017

MIEExpert Spotlight #27: Gizelle Simpson from Malmesbury in South Africa talks about her experiences at the recent Microsoft E2 Africa Forum in Johannesburg

Gizelle Simpson is a teacher and a Microsoft Innovative Educator  Expert from Malmsbury in the Western Cape. She teaches English as a Home Language as well as English as a First Additional Language at Wesbank Secondary School, and she is also a qualified Psychometrist. Gizelle was one of the 30 MIEExpert Educators selected to attend the Microsoft E2 Africa Form in Johannesburg, and in this article she gives a reflection on the event. 

"So there I was, boarding an aeroplane to Johannesburg, headed to the #MakeWhatsNext E2 Africa Summit. I couldn’t really decide whether the nerves were from the fact that I hadn’t flown in a while or because I was about to engage with my fellow MIEE colleagues from all around Africa. I recognised Charmaine Roynon from the flight itinerary and immediately said hello. Now here is where all the excitement and nerves really started! After listening to Charmaine I had a “moment” in which I jokingly uttered out loud, “Where is the nearest exit - I feel like I should not be on this plane!” Charmaine immediately broadened my horizons and opened up my technological (now coding) eyes. Here is where my excitement for coding started. Yes I had heard about it, and seen it on the Microsoft Educator Community, BUT to hear someone talk so passionately about how she inspires and helps her kids and teachers to code, made me so excited and I wanted to know more.

“We are about to descend into Johannesburg,” I heard the Captain say, and I could hardly wait for Charmaine to continue sharing once we had landed. Thankfully we shared a room at the hotel, and the next two days would prove to be absolutely invaluable for me.

More about the Microsoft E2 Africa Summit
The Microsoft E2 Teacher Exchange event for Africa was a 2 day summit held at the Microsoft Offices in Bryanston on 29th and 30th May. The theme for E2 Africa was #MakeWhatsNext and the program aimed to get selected, active MIE Experts up to date on the latest trends in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. The sessions at E2 Africa were similar those run at the Toronto Global E2 event, and included opportunities to try out Minecraft: Education Edition and Microbits, attend a networking dinner, and attend the Brescia House School “9 Classroom Hacks” TeachMeet.

Reflection on #Day 1
We were accommodated at the nearby Southern Sun Hotel in Bryanston. In the morning of the 29th we all clambered on to the shuttle taking us to Microsoft Headquarters in Johannesburg. The buzz in the shuttle as we headed to the Microsoft offices was electric, and we couldn't wait to start the day. The first keynote to welcome us was from Sonja Delafosse from Seattle. In April of 2015, Sonja joined Microsoft's Worldwide Education Team as Senior Partners-in-Learning Manager, responsible for the Educator audience. She works to develop, scale and run the educator-specific initiatives globally. We were so privileged to have her participating in the Microsoft E2 Africa Forum. Her opening keynote topic was ‘Empower your students to build the world of tomorrow.’ She encouraged us to have a growth mindset as educators, and she updated us on the latest trends in STEM education (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) and how these relate to us as educators. 

For the rest of the day we were immersed into a wonderful day of training, learning about how to use Minecraft: Education Edition in the classroom. This was conducted by Stephen Reid from Immersive Minds in Scotland. Stephen is a Minecraft: Education Edition guru! Now THERE is a facilitator and presenter who can keep you entertained as well as informed! I discovered that I am now a gamer! Minecraft is absolutely amazing.  

We had to create a project-based learning activity that could be expressed using Minecraft, in teams. Our team worked hard collaborating and sharing ideas. Each team  conducted a problem-based learning activity where we, as a group, had to come up with a problem we are experiencing in South Africa; and then we had to come up with a solution. We then had to model the solution using Minecraft. At this point, after trying to model our learning using Minecraft, I gained a greater respect for my learners. Watching examples of the stuff that kids had produced had me in awe.
I met so many interesting people at the E2 and we shared so many wonderful ideas with one another - from using fairy tales to incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics), to arranging game days at schools. Needless to say I was more than impressed.

Prior to attending the E2 we had to think of an innovative project we  wanted to do with our students or we were already doing with our students, and we sent in a slide of our ideas to the organisers.  We had a ‘Give one Get one’ session, which worked similarly to speed dating, where we shared our ideas. This was a session where I heard about so many great ideas.

Reflection on #Day 2
So here we are having to present what we modeled as solutions in Minecraft. This was my team hard at work: 

In between all of this we got quick yet informative training on all sorts of things.  The five Microsoft Teacher Ambassadors each presented on one of the newer Microsoft technologies for the classroom. We had a fantastic training on coding using Microbits from Scott Giles. And yes, we all walked away with our very own Microbit!

What can I say! What an absolutely fantastic Summit! I learnt so much about how I can be more effective in getting my learners involved in technology and also how Minecraft empowers us as educators to achieve that. Thank you Microsoft for an amazing experience!"