Thursday, 30 March 2017

#E2 Toronto Day 2 continued

After the Keynote (see previous blog) we had a very short break and then a group of us went and sat our Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) exam. This exam gave us a number of scenarios of schools, classrooms, and students and we had to answer questions about each to show our technology literacy competence. It covers:
·        Education policy
·        Curriculum and assessment
·        Pedagogy
·        ICT/technology tools
·        Organization and administration
·        Professional development
I was relieved and pleased when the word Passed popped up at the end. I’m not a great test taker and I think we were all a little worried about whether we would make it or not!

After lunch (the food was superb each day) we had another breakout session and this one had been talked about widely over the few days – luckily it was on a few times so lots of us could get an opportunity to have a go.
Jacqueline Russell is a program manager on the Microsoft MakeCode team and she let us loose on using a micro:bit, and Microsoft’s brand-new product, Microsoft MakeCode (formally known as “Project PXT” to build a bracelet that we coded ourselves. Firstly, she talked about Constructionism vs Instructionism which is about project based, student led learning vs textbook based and teacher led.

She talked us through our micro:bit and how it worked then a quick session on programming in and we were off. What I liked was that if you hover over the blocks, you got the javascript code and you could also export it to Visual Studio if you want to so there is another step to just the block coding.
Much fun was had decorating our wristbands and then wearing them and showing others what we had made.
She had the following sites as references and these are all worth looking through:

The next session was the last minute panic of finishing our group project and making a presentation to submit. Our group took a while to get together, but eventually managed to finish our project and submit it on time. I really enjoyed working with these amazing educators from other countries and I know that there will be some that I continue to keep in touch with.

The early evening was spent in the Technology Showcase and Hacking STEM experience where we could build a bionic hand using the Hacking STEM curriculum, or chat with product teams and partners of Microsoft. I went around every booth and got totally overwhelmed by the amount of information and the opportunities that are out there for us as teachers and for our students. It was fantastic.

After that I was shattered and ended up going to my room and was fast asleep by 8.30 which probably wasn’t the best option, as I woke at 1a.m. and then spent the next couple of hours completing Monday’s blog as I was wide awake I did end up getting a bit more sleep later which was lucky as Day 3 was even longer.
Getting the blogs written and up was difficult over the conference, hence the later finish of Day 2. It was good to spend time on the plane to get these written and edited and then had to find more time (see my blog on Time) to get the photos and links in. Day 3 to follow soon.

Monday, 27 March 2017

#E2 Toronto Day 2 Keynote

I was so excited this morning. We arrived in the conference room and our OneNote Avenger capes were on the chairs! I know this sounds odd, but I have wanted one of these capes ever since I saw them a couple of years ago. I am a real OneNote fan and this just made my day!
Yet more notes today from some great sessions.

The Keynote was live around the world this morning and I know there were some crazy kiwis up at 2a.m. to watch it! Anthony Salcito (Vice President of Worldwide Education, Microsoft) was first to speak and he started by talking about there being four Industrial Revolutions, with the fourth being the Digital Revolution and then he related these to four digital ones.
1st revolution of digital tech: Fuelled by passionate pioneers. Brought devices into classrooms and created comp labs. Saw potential in technology.
2nd revolution was fuelled by the first group. Countries saw tech as part of future. Device to each student. Led to lots of disconnect between pedagogy and the classroom.
3rd revolution reassessing what is most important. How do we reduce risk and prepare teachers?
Some schools still in 1st or 2nd revolution stage
How do we fuel student passions? How can we drive better learning outcomes in the classroom?
4th revolution. Making tech invisible in and out of the class. Shifting tech around skills. Think collaboratively, using creativity prepares them to make things real and make an impact.
He likened schooling to travelling on a train, everyone's view is the same. Everyone was going to same stop. The only variable was the grade. Technology enables students to travel any way. Resources are limitless. Time is the variable. Mastery of skills is the progression point.
We need to get students on a personal learning path for their own future.
The role of an innovative educator is to expand their knowledge and embrace the learning of life beyond the classroom. Microsoft is working to lower the price of technology and make it easier to support. They are also keen to push the upper end with devices such as the Surface Studio (I so want one), improving tools for creativity. He says we are on the precipice of real change.
The WE team works on embracing service based learning and how youth can change the world. So far there are over 10,000 schools involved. Students are given tools and inspiration to take action and make a difference. Watch WE are one. There is also a We Are One OneNote to help with this initiative. This looks really interesting and I am certainly going to look into it further to see if Haeata could or should become a WE school. One school that has embraced this is Queen of Heaven Elementary School where their students are working to help improve access to education for young people in developing countries.

Some of the things Microsoft has been working on recently:

Minecraft has been an amazing tool that has been worked on and he mentioned Meenoo Rami’s book called Thrive. See notes on her talk later in this post.

This is a programme that helps support thinking in 3D. There are tools to help with 3D printing and to plug in IED software as well. Looks amazing!

Index Content for search engines
Search engines are natural for kids so they are looking to make this even easier by indexing the content, which you can see some examples of in Bing and it’s use in Word.

Word and cognitive services
They have already improved in this area by adding more features to Ink to Word. The replay feature is great, being able to watch what has been added in order. You can circle text and right clicking will bring up a menu to use with that text. You can also right click a highlighted word and choose smart lookup which is a research tool that embeds Bing into Word. Love this feature! He gave us an example of a document about the Bay of Pigs, highlighted the word pigs which brought up research on the Bay of Pigs rather than the animal. Yet in another document on animals when the word pigs was highlighted, it brought up the animal. Very clever. You can also right click on a word and go to spelling which gives spelling, synonyms, and can read the word aloud.

They have introduced Quick Starter technology where you can choose a topic such as the solar system and then you choose starter slides from which you can create work to present quickly. References automatically come in as you select pictures or text to import.

There is now a help button that enables you to find the content you want quickly. There are always new courses being put up and lots of lessons that are shared. There is also a Make What's Next badge – the theme of E2.

You can ask questions and get answers from the website right away without having to search.

An open flexible cloud-based platform.

When using video it can often be too large. Need to be able to index content. With this, you can find relevant places in the video, it recognises people so you can search for them and it creates a transcript. You can index key words and it has speech sentiment built in so you can get an idea about how the speaker is feeling. He showed us a video of International women's day 2016 what are you going to make1080 which asked students about famous inventors. They all named males and when asked to name females, the speech sentiment changed. It was really interesting for negative vs positive recognition.
His closing remarks summed up all of this really well:
Change is happening incredibly fast
MeenooRami from Microsoft’s Minecraft team, spoke to us about how educators can motivate, inspire and ignite a passion for learning in every student by using Minecraft. The world that our students inhabit is shifting rapidly and she asked how do we help our students become the leaders and learners in this moment?
She gave examples of some educators using Minecraft in innovative ways:
John Miller inCalifornia. Took folk tales and recreated moments in Minecraft. The students recorded the retelling of the stories on video. Students get to communicate across states.
Katja Borregaard and MikkelMadsen is teaching communication, collaboration and critical thinking in Minecraft.
She said the best educators never stop being learners. They are not afraid to meet what the students are doing. They take passion and turn it into powerful learning.
Steve Isaacs never stops trying new things. He turned Rapunzel into a quest. Minecraft a tool to allow students to show their thinking and their imagination. We learn best when we learn in communities and people around us push us to be better.
Minecraft is great for trying to solve a problem. Students place blocks and break blocks in a visual way to solve problems. This immersive 3D world creates a buzz with students sharing and learning.
Daniel McDuff, a researcher at Microsoft who spoke at TEDx Berlin, told us about affective computing. This is where technology can understand facial expressions and read student emotions. This can help educators gain an understanding of student experiences via moment-to-moment tracking of cognitive and emotional states. Typically we interact through keyboards but great experiences are multi sensory and multi modal. Capturing information about memory, decision making, communication, and wellbeing is important. Faces convey the experience people are having and they are working on automatically coding this info. Look at a face, analyse and interpret. They look at gestures, the physiology, facial coding acknowledging  as well that it is important to understand context and who the computer is working with. This software means they can tell if facial expressions change so you can tell if the work is boring, exciting or if the student is happy or sad.
It gives the ability to provide people who teach remotely the feedback of how people are taking the information if they switch on their webcam to capture responses during content delivery. This means teachers can make changes as they teach if the student is puzzled or confused. It could also help with the flipped classroom, as you can tell if students have got it and can move ahead. Also, you could pick up anxiety about it. This also means that it can capture aspects of your emotions and tailor the experience for you. They have been working with Hololens to visualize information in real time and I managed to see this in action later in the day. Another thought I had was around students with difficulty reading expression, where one day they could maybe have some glasses that can help read other peoples emotions.
Mike Tholfsen (aka Mr OneNote) then spoke about his top 10 tips for OneNote. His presentation is here.
OneNote is free on every device and every platform and is an amazing programme saving time, helping with organisation and collaboration. I am a big OneNote fan and they just keeping improving it all the time. These were his top 10 things he likes:

1:  Class notebook - class notebook works with a range of LMS around the world so that grades can be put straight in.
2:  Added stickers for teachers to use
3:  You can embed cool things such as geogebra, quizlet, soundcloud, sway
4:  A quick hack. How to quickly make pages – make a table, right click and choose “link to page” and it will automatically make pages for each name in list
5:  Staff notebook – they have a vision for Professional Learning Criteria in this. They have also created help for your Professional Learning Community (PLC). It is in the waffle. If you go to New Group in office 365, create group and choose PLC group you get a notebook with templates.
6:  Export class notebook – really handy when you want to save a copy - right click in your list of notebooks and “save a copy”.
7:  Learning Tools are now built into the online version, also free with word online. Love the Learning Tools!
8: Windows 10 version of OneNote has rainbow ink, fun with ink and reversible ink where you can playback the order of what they did. It’s called Replay when you are looking for it.
9:  Ink to Math – this is great and can even generate graphs automatically.
10:  Writing prompts – this is brand new out this week – – A great tool for students wanting ideas for their writing.

Some other great things about OneNote (I could go on forever):
- students self-assessing with templates in one note
- give feedback and give support from parent educator like a teacher aid. Don't have to sit next to them if they get embarrassed by that, they can work on the same book at the same time
- Giving feedback by video

What a session – only 2 hours into the day and we were filled with ideas and possibilities. I loved that this was streamed live so other educators around the world could drop in on a part of #E2. Hopefully this will inspire them to be the best they can be and maybe be a part of the Microsoft Innovative Educator network.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

#E2 Toronto Day 1

Crazy day at #E2 today. It started with an amazing breakfast in the ballroom (strange place to have breakfast) where I sat with the team from Britain. Really interesting having a chat with them and finding out how their schools worked over our bacon and eggs and fruit. My next chat was with an MIE Expert from Khazakstan. I found out where Khazakstan is (which I didn't really know) and also that the capital is Astana, which is where he was from. It's fascinating finding out about other people and the countries - great for my poor geography skills!
These are my notes so they are often in shorthand. Don't expect great grammar!


The morning started with a performance by the Mini Militia, a local dance group who use the passion of art and dance to empower them in their lives.
 They were a really energetic and cute crew who wowed the crowd with their break-dancing skills. We were told that there were 240 educators from 83 countries at the conference and that we had travelled 1.7 million miles to get there! Marc Seaman, the National Director of Education and Public Affairs fro Microsoft Canada welcomed us and Reza Moridi, the Canadian Minister for Research, Innovation and Science shared how innovation and Science are critical to our future. He asked "How do we prepare students for a world that is constantly changing?" He mentioned that fewer and fewer jobs are untouched by technology and reminded us about so many jobs that were not possible in the past are now a reality, like an AI Engineer. 
John Meyers, the President of Edsby, a cloud-based platform for schools, spoke about the difficult job that teachers have. He reminded us that parents can get confused when teachers all use different tools so it is important for a school to have the same tools right throughout. He also said that social media was a good way to communicate with parents and students.
Lisa Anne Floyd spoke to us about STEM and computational thinking. She said that learning about algorithms and software can improve every area. We can write algorithms if we learn how to code. Failing is ok. Errors always happen. This helps us with all of our learning if we can learn the skills. Failure to programmers is just a minor setback. It's a first attempt in learning. Learn to code for transferable skills. Algorithms need to be diverse and culturally rich so everyone needs to write code. We need to expose all students to coding. Coding can enhance mathematical concepts. She showed us a few quotes from George Gadanidis and his website looks great. is a great resource and you should check out the Microsoft imagine website. She talked about curiosity, empathy and creativity needing to be there as well as computational thinking and suggested we go from multi tasking to multi asking across cultures and ages. She uses Skype to spark curiosity and asked the question:

"How can you help your students to be creators of future miracles?"

My morning tea was spent chatting with a teacher from Iceland. He was the first MIE Expert from Iceland to attend and E2 and was there by himself. Amazing chat and I learnt a lot about schooling over there, as well as the fact that they only have a population of around 330,000 people!

Session 2

One of the amazing opportunities we have over the conference is to work with other educators from around the world. We were put into teams of 5 or 6 and given a challenge to #Makewhatsnext. My group was Lieu Nguyen Thi - Vietnam (our MIE Fellow leader), Lingshuang Zhao - China, Jorge Francisco Sierra-Perez -Ecuador, Carlos Ernesto Henriquez -El Salvador, Eddie Tay -Singapore. What an amazing bunch of educators! We were tasked with creating a clever solution to an every day problem, making an innovative possible solution to a common classroom issue that can be universally implemented. These all had to be an improvement or addin for Microsoft products. A new feature is on the cards! Our group got a great idea before the end of the day and with only a few minor language issues, we got started on our task. This is a competition and the MIE Fellows and Microsoft will be judging our work this week. The judging criteria is based on the framework and how our idea impacts student learning and why is it an innovative feature.

Session 3

I went to a session this afternoon where there were 4 teachers telling us about the amazing things they were doing. The first was Velichka Dafcheva @vilidaf from Bulgaria talking about Computer Science and programming. She uses Micro:bit in her classes. Then Rachel Chisnall @ibpossum from New Zealand spoke about teaching teachers and personalising professional development for staff. This is something that is dear to my heart as we talk all the time about personalising learning for our students and yet so much professional development is a bunch of teachers sitting in a room listening to a lecture - just what we wouldn't do with our students. She used some great analogies to get across the difficulties we face trying to help teachers change and move forward. Finding the right tool is important and once we do that staff will take up the challenge and find their own way around problems. Change comes whether you like it or not. It will be different. Find strategies to help with change. We need to get staff voice heard and then act on what they say. Model risk taking!
Marisol Smith Irazabal @PnLpZ gave us an insight into bridging the gap between neuroscience and technology in education. She gave us an outline of the Triune Brain theory and explained that when we are under stress, our thinking brain turns off and we use our reptilian brain, which works on the fight or flight concept. Her suggestions to engage the brain are:
Provide meaningful content
Movement is important
We learn in a social environment
Use mirror neurons (yawn when others yawn) - need to show compassion
Provide choices - every brain is different
Give immediate feedback - when they want to achieve something they need feedback straight away
The last speaker was Amanda Jolliffe @msajolliffe who spoke about ideas to use in the classroom to increase engagement. She used Blooms Taxonomy to explain what they are doing in her school. She talked about making the move from teacher centered to learner centered learning and how this can take time to implement. This resonated with me in my new environment, looking to change how we work with our students. If we want to improve education we have to set a good environment and get student feedback on what we do.

Group Challenge

The rest of the afternoon was spent working on our group challenge. We finally narrowed our idea down to some changes for Microsoft Forms and we went to work on designing these. Being the only person in our group with English as a first language had it's challenges. Luckily a number spoke Spanish and could translate for each other, but it was good to remember to use simple language and it made me work on my explanations and terminology for the others.


Our evening was spent with other educators from the Asia Pacific region. Microsoft shouted us a fantastic dinner at The Hot House in Toronto and it was great to have some time to talk to others about their day and their groups.

Day One done. Lots learnt and lots to think about. Excited that I got a photo with Mr OneNote himself, Mike Tholfsen. The man is a legend and I had a great chat with him over lunch. Another day tomorrow. Bring it on.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

E2 Toronto - pre-conference

Travelling to the other side of the world isn't the highest thing on my to do list. The planning to get there and then the hours of sitting on a plane or in airports doesn't thrill me. Being in Toronto, however is fantastic. I have only been here for 36 hours but already loving the people and the city.


I left Christchurch on a sunny Sunday morning about 11a.m. with another #MIEExpert Keryn, and although we didn't manage to get seats together, we had a good trip to Auckland.  Did the duty free shopping on the way so I had some yummy things to pick up on the way back, then got on the plane to San Francisco. Select the two largest American men on the plane, imagine them in your mind, they were sitting in the outside seats with me in the middle. It was an interesting trip.  A good flight though and then the interesting time through the U.S. immigration.  Had our fingerprints taken and photo as well,  just to pass through for a few hours. Had to collect our bags and fully go through customs which took about 2 hours. The next few hours we rested, downloaded whatsapp which our group will be using for messaging and waited for our connecting flight through to Toronto.  This flight Keryn and I managed to sit together (after being early to our checkin to ask if we could change) and get a little sleep. The weather was good and having a window seat meant I could get some great photos of the American landscape. After a long wait for our bags we got our transport to the hotel and were given a great tour by our driver.  He explained the area we were traveling through and gave us a nice trip in. 

Up to our fancy room where I got changed and checked the whatsapp to find out where the others were. I met some of the other kiwis in the bar where I managed to grab some dinner and a very welcome drink. 28 hours of travel and we finally made it.


Today we had a day free to do some sightseeing and some shopping. One of our group had organised a couple of hire cars and we went for a trip to the Niagara Falls. What an amazing place.  I think what stunned me was that we drove round a corner and there they were, right by the town. I think I had imagined them to be in the middle of nowhere so it was strange seeing the buildings on both sides of the river. IHOP for lunch.  Very tasty and we'll worth the visit.  Interesting area around the falls with all of the fair style places and gaming arcades. We didn't have time to go to Ripley's Believe It Or Not or Louis Toussaud's waxworks, but it was an experience just walking down the street! We then went shopping in the Niagara outlet stores and I managed to buy a few items of clothing to take home with me.
The driving was entertaining being on the other side of the road and in a left-hand drive vehicle. Rachel did a great job with me navigating and reminding her to move over a little as the big trucks were a bit close on the 3 and 4 lane highways. We did the tourist thing and got some souvenirs from Niagara then went to 

Ice Hockey

Back to Toronto and we met up with the other Kiwis and Aussies who are here for the conference. Had a drink and some nibbles then got ready to go to the Ice Hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. Three of us went together, following the crowds down to the arena and finding our seats in a huge stadium. 20,000 people in an indoor stadium and the atmosphere was amazing. Two guys in front of us kept us informed about the rules, every time the whistle blew they gave us a run down on why and what happened. Very helpful! It's hard to describe the noise and the game, but it was worth the money to go and experience something I probably will never do again.
That's the sightseeing done, now for the conference and the opportunity to talk to some amazing educators form around the world. I am so privileged to be here and I am going to make the most of it!

Sunday, 12 March 2017


I have been thinking a lot lately about time. The lack of it, the use of it and where does it go?

Time to write policies and new processes

This is something that has been in the front of my mind in this unusual situation of setting up a brand new school. There are so many systems we take for granted but  when there is nothing there to start with, everything has to be written or made. This takes a huge amount of effort and time and I am only thankful that I am not one of our Senior Leadership team as I know the hours they must be putting in to make sure things are running as smoothly as possible.

Time to set up accounts

Another new school thing – we don’t have accounts at shops! Wanting to buy things for school and then realising we need to set up an account. After many phone calls (by me and others), emails and web searching, I managed to get one set up for one place. I’d forgotten how long that can take!

Time with family and friends

This is something I need to really work on. Work can take over, especially in a school like ours and I find myself having to take a step back and say no. My word for this year is Honesty and I need to be honest with myself about what I can and cannot achieve each day. I do feel at the moment the balance has tipped the wrong way and after the next week or two once I get back from the E2 conference in Toronto (read about last year) I need to right that balance.

Time to travel

Speaking of Toronto, there are so many things that have to be done when you travel overseas. It's amazing. Even though Microsoft have generously paid for me to go to this conference, there are so many things to sort. Insurance, money, gifts, my presentation and the clothes to wear in an average of 3 degrees. Had to buy a winter coat a bit early!

Time to get to know students and whanau         

Know your students. How often do we hear this as teachers and yet how often do we really take time to do exactly this? It is so important to have contact with home, to know what is going on in their lives and to make connections. I was lucky enough to have some time to go to a volleyball game being played by some of our students one weekend and it really made a difference to the connection I had with them. Even though they are not in my Puna Ako group, they now say hello to me and tell me about their games and training. Talking with parents and caregivers is vital to finding out what’s happening and although it takes time, it is worth every minute.

Time for yourself

This article  about a first year teacher was shared around Facebook and I think it really sums up the pitfalls of not taking time for yourself. Schools are a bottomless pit that you can put all of your energy into. The work will always be there the next day and it is important to take time for yourself. I burnt out as a young teacher and spent a year out from teaching, vowing I would never go back to the classroom fulltime as it was too draining. I am the sort of person who gives 110% all of the time and I gave until I had no more to give. I was enticed back in a part time (0.8) role about 15 years ago and found myself back in a fulltime role over the last few years. I have to continually remind myself that I cannot be all to everyone and that however much I want to do, it is not good for my health. As an experienced teacher, I can finally balance this, but I see so many young teachers struggle with the balance and I fear for them.
I am involved in a few groups outside of school and am the treasurer for two as well as recently being asked to drive another. There is a saying that if you want something done, give it to a busy person. I am sure that saying has my name attached to it, so I am trying to say no more often and ask for others to help out. My family will be pleased to know I am resigning from one of those positions at their AGM (yes, they know, so this won’t be a surprise).

Time to blog

I really enjoy writing my blogs, but I have about 5 half finished ones in draft form that I am struggling to find time to finish. This one became a priority for me as I felt so strongly about not having time to do it! The next one will be about the E2 conference and my time in Toronto, so passion will drive that as well. Otherwise they sit, waiting patiently for me to come back to them and add a few more words. One day, I hope they will be published, but probably during the holidays!

Time to spend planning

Finding time to make sure I am prepared for each day at school is important. When you are reactive to student needs and don’t just turn out a lesson you prepared earlier, it always takes more time. I feel like a first year teacher all over again. Even when you can prepare ahead, starting a new way of teaching means having to rethink and redo all of those easy lessons I used to just pull out when needed. I have the benefit of having the basis there, but the time to shuffle to a new format and start many aspects from scratch is another thing. It's been a really good thing, having to put a new lens onto old work and make it more accessible and relevant to our students.

Time to spend with staff

Last year we were fortunate to have a lot of time to throw ideas around, talk informally with staff from all over our kura and share our thoughts. Now we are all so busy it is difficult to even find time to get to the staffroom. Having a social time to unwind on a Friday afternoon is really important to catch up and just let the week out of your system before heading off for the weekend. I would encourage all staff to do this, either at school or with a group away from school so that you can just have a laugh and unwind from the stress of the week.

I can’t believe we are halfway through the first term and its autumn. Not sure where that time went. As I get older time seems to disappear. I wonder if someone could add another hour to the day?