Tuesday, 4 April 2017

#e2 Toronto Day 3 and home

Day 3 – The final day

Another day and I got up to have another amazing breakfast while talking with educators from around the world. I sat next to a woman from Armenia who communicated that she spoke no English. She could say only a few words and we chatted via our cellphones and photos. She showed me her school and some of her students and what they were doing and I did the same. We managed to work out ages and shared a bit about our own families. It reminded me how important it is to spend time making that effort – it could have been so easy to just let her be and sit silently as she was hesitant to try to communicate. I’m pleased that I persevered and we sat for quite a while chatting (with occasional online translator tools being used).
Our Keynote this morning started with David Lopez (@DavidzepoL), from Actiontec talking about classroom agility and how to use technology to maximize classroom management.  At the Tech showcase on Wednesday night (see previous blog) we were given a Screenbeam device when we went to that booth. He described the use of the Screenbeam to enable teachers to have agility to move around the classroom with the students and what effect this can have on both the environment, behavior and learning. He talked about classroom agility being formative assessment, being a constant presence in the classroom. 
Megan Lawrence, 
PhD, accessibility technical evangelist at Microsoft (see her TED talk), talked about the importance of accessibility and usability of products and services, and shared accessibility best practices while professional learning specialist Martha Jez demonstrated some of the the latest apps and tools that help students with disabilities. 
She talked about the types of disabilities and said that around 70% are invisible either due to families not disclosing them, or them being undiagnosed altogether. One quote she used that I liked was:
“The foundation of inclusive education is the educator’s belief that all students belong and are valued members of the classroom.”
Martha Jez said when students with disabilities are at the centre of your design then you are creating meaningful experiences for all of your students. You can use the Skypetranslator to remove language barriers and can use it to have conversations with students that arrive in your class from other countries. The app currently supports live voice translation in English, Chinese Mandarin, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Office Lens now has immersive reader within it so you can scan any document and have it read to you (then send it to OneNote). Word has lots of accessibility tools within it. Clarity and conciseness is one and you can access this in the Review tab, and go to Accessibility Checker.
Microsoft will give you the tools but you have to make it happen in the classroom.
Every student deserves a fair chance at learning. She made it very clear that the teams were there to help and wanted feedback as well as questions from any teacher, students or families using the tools. I encourage everyone to do this as they will only make things better if we tell them what we need.
Lakesha Kirkland from Shaw High School in Columbia talked about preparing her students for employability through Microsoft Imagine Academy and industry certifications.  For about $1500US a year all students can access the resources and then sit the exams. This includes 30 staff from the school as well, so could be good PD for them as well. There are some great stories on http://mycertiportstory.com/ and she talked of using gmetrix for different languages.
I mentioned before about giving feedback and there had been a few times over the conference where we could meet with Microsoft staff and talk about what we want in the tools. I took the opportunity in the next session to have a chat with Ari Schorr and Safiya Bhojawala about teacher’s primary goals as well as tasks and tools/work arounds that we use to achieve them. I was the only teacher there for a while and it felt a bit overwhelming to start with as they fired questions at me, but I felt they really wanted to hear from teachers about what we do and what tools we need to do our jobs better. It’s important to give feedback if we want improvements, they can’t do it all without us!
We then had some time to set up for the Learning Marketplace. This was the time where we could all present something we are doing in the classroom.  It was great to be able to share and to look at what others were doing. I presented on using SurfacePro and StaffPad to create lessons for students that they could watch and therefore learn at their own pace. Many people hadn’t seen StaffPad before and I enjoyed telling them about it as it is a great tool for music teachers. I had some great conversations with others around learning and spent some time chatting with Anthony Salcito (Vice President for Education for Micorsoft) about Microsoft and Music software.
One of the tools I learnt about from one of my group was Rubistar. This is a great site for making rubrics. Really quick and easy. Thanks to Jorge Francisco Sierra-Perez for this. I also read this blog about different uses of rubrics which was useful.
The Awards Ceremony and Closing Ceremony were at the Muzik EventCentre and it was a great way to celebrate the end of an amazing few days. Many awards were given out for the group challenge and although our group didn’t make the top awards, there were many kiwis being celebrated for their innovative ideas.

Day 4

Last chance for a bit of sightseeing on Friday morning before heading to the airport. A group of us went up the CNN Tower. What a fantastic view - even with the cloudy day. A bit scary for those with  a fear of heights (including me) but well worth it. I then went to Ripley's Aquarium which was just beautiful. I have a bit of a thing for jellyfish and anemone walls! On my wandering back to the hotel I found this gentleman on a seat - Glenn Gould who was an amazing musician. Back to the hotel via the underground shops and then out to the airport for the long trip home.
That’s it. Three days of innovation, education and collaboration. A couple of days of sightseeing and spending time with amazing people. I am so thankful to Microsoft and Anne Taylor, Microsoft NZ's Schools and Academic Programs Manager, for giving me this opportunity. I would encourage all teachers to join the MicrosoftEducator Community and become an MIE which is where this all started for me. From listening to others, and hearing about innovation in other countries, I feel that New Zealand is well ahead of the game and we are doing amazing things in our schools but we still have an opportunity to push the boundaries. Keep learning and challenging yourself to make education better.

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