Stepping into the Microsoft Innovative Educator Program has been nothing short of mind blowing. My senses are in overload and I don’t know which technology to dive into next. These wonderful new apps, programs and tools are all calling to me for one reason or another. I feel like Augustus Gloop in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and am afraid I may end up falling into the delicious flowing river and drowning if I don’t step back.
So I am taking the advice I offer colleagues when they are feeling overawed by the many exciting technologies that they are wanting to try all at once – look to your pedagogy. What is the reason for bringing technology into your classroom at this point in time?
Is it to
- make learning more accessible and flexible
- make the learning more meaningful
- help to share the control over learning between the student and the teacher
- encourage thinking and promote problem solving
- support creativity and innovation
- provide improved assessment opportunities
- link students and foster collaboration
- explore a new technology
For me, the ‘why’ at this point in time is to connect my city students with students from a smaller, remote country school. The main purpose for connecting these students is to offer them an authentic online collaboration opportunity. That clarified – the next step is to visualise what this collaboration might look like in the classroom.
I know that I want students to have access to a package containing complete instructions and support material. This will enable them to move ahead with their learning if desired, or revisit instructions if required. Internet access may be an issue for the remote school so I need a program or tool that isn’t relying on being ‘live’ but still feels interactive. Students will need a place to record information together with an ability to add and edit each others work, and of course a chance to chat online.
With this rough picture in mind I start sifting through all the wonderful technologies I am seeing and hearing about to find the one, or two, that will meet my needs. I immediately think of Office Mix (Mix). Mix is a cool PowerPoint add-in that recently caught my attention. It enables you to insert video and audio into your PowerPoint presentation and includes inking and screen recording options, making your slides interactive, online lessons. Presentations can be shared as a video and analytics are provided for every slide and user. I will supplement Mix with a couple of tools I am familiar with – skype for live chats as needed, and a shared OneNote for written collaboration. I am being strong and avoiding the temptation to try too many new programs at the one time.
Decisions made – now it is time to access or purchase the tool, identify where support may be found and skill-up! If you are interested in Mix visit the official Microsoft Office Mix website (https://mix.office.com ) and discover all that Mix has to offer. Simply download the Mix add-in (Compatible with Office 2013 or Office 365) and explore the tools that appear in a new ribbon when you open PowerPoint. Play and learn!
It is also worth seeking out ‘knowledgeable others’. Ask your colleagues if they use Mix. Visit relevant blogs and forums. Use other Mixes as inspiration for yours. Personally I liked how Michael Valentine (a fellow MIE Expert) used Mix across two schools. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDhVCjqP_pU&feature=youtu.be). Although the Mix was created for high school, and I am looking to work with primary school students, the structure of his Mix sparked ideas for me. I have also asked Year 5 to download Mix, play with it and let me know what it can do. Kids are such great explorers. They have no fear and will click on every link and button available.
Once you are confident with your new technology explore its potential within your classroom. As a Teacher Librarian I have limited face-to-face time with my classes. I plan to use Mix to create packages for learning that students may refer to in between timetabled lessons. As an aside, I will also monitor how Mix caters for differentiated and flexible learning.
The cross-school collaboration task itself still needs to be defined, however the tools, skills and structures that have been put in place will greatly increase the chance of it being a positive and valuable experience for all.
Put simply, it is answering the ‘why, what and how’ questions that help us to focus our attention on pedagogy and ensure technology has a clear purpose for learning within the classroom.
That said, I still spend hours exploring and playing with all the delicious programs I encounter daily, just because they seem cool and exciting. I will drop a new technology into the classroom just for the ‘wow’ factor, and leave it in the hands of my students to explore its real potential. After all, this is often how creativity and innovation are born.
PS: Next on my radar is nearpod, possibly Sway or maybe Mosaic…and so we begin again!