Create! Learn! Innovate! Three words describe my journey through the Microsoft Educator world. This post helps any education employee – specifically any educator – who pursues their knowledge, connections and classroom resources through the Microsoft platform. Google and Apple focus on workshops and jumping through the hoops of tests to complete their certification. I think of Microsoft’s journey more like a Sunday scenic drive. There is really no specific stop that you try to attain. You see you don’t close off your tests – with a sigh – and complete all the virtual boxes – like Google Educator and like Apple Teacher – it is a different journey.
Microsoft takes a different approach. So, when I say 10 Tips to Know before becoming a Microsoft Educator, I would rather the title be 10 viewpoints along the Microsoft scenic drive.
This is a very long post, but shortening the post would lessen my stellar experience within the last two years. There is so much to say about the awesome work Microsoft is creating in Canadian schools. This post focuses on my experience in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Some of you reading this post are international, so your experience may be or will be different than mine.
Why go Microsoft over the Google or Apple platform? With the server found on Canadian soil, there are many schools and school districts hopping over to Microsoft Cloud products. This hopping includes my school district – the Langley School District.
Before I start this post, I want to thank a couple of Microsoft Canada people. These educators continually stand as pillars of communication and assistance in my journey to innovate, create and inspire my students. Inspired and encouraged by these people who support, care and show kindness to our little school and to my little classroom of Grade 4s. I am grateful for your role.
Special Thanks to:
Lia Di Cicco-Remu – Without your leadership in Microsoft; Mario Asta and others could not give the way they do. Thank you for your support in devices, workshops and care for our lovely children and staff. We would not be where we are as a school if it wasn’t for your deep kindness us.
Jess Brocius – The programs you run – specifically the Surface Pro Expert program – is amazing and I appreciate your leadership. Thank you for your communication and your leadership.
Mario Asta – Thank you for your constant help and support. There will always be a virtual teacher’s desk for you in my classroom. You empower, care and teach us so much about what imagination, hopes and excitement for learning can bring to our school – Dorothy Peacock. We are grateful for you and we will miss you in B.C.. Microsoft is lucky to have you as a leader. Thank you!
James Gill – I admire your leadership in the classroom integrating Microsoft ideas and applications. Thank you for the advice, help and openness to share your skills with me. I am lucky to have you in my Personal Learning Network, and stand with you as an educator.
This is the third post in a series of three on Google, Apple and Microsoft certification for educators. If you are interested in becoming a Google Educator click HERE. Interested in becoming an Apple Teacher click HERE.
Microsoft is a huge name in the world of business, and now in the world of education. This post is a unique post because it is different from other posts I have done. This is an informational post to educate you on the world of Microsoft as an educator. Firstly, Microsoft works differently than Google and Apple. Although all three have amazing conferences and Pro-d for the online educator interested in learning about their software and applications you need to saturate yourself within a community.
One foundational piece of information evolves around the Microsoft Education Community website. It is only a couple of years old, and with Skype in the Classroom integration, this springboarded the platform into a whole new teaching approach for teachers.
Let me explain my journey first, I first became a Google Educator in 2013, then within the last 2 years my district embraced Office 365. I met James Gill – a Coquitlam teacher – at an Ignite and he mentioned his connection to Microsoft. I reached out to him on Twitter in the Fall of 2015, and began to connect with Microsoft Canada. He connected me with Mario Asta – his role (in a nutshell) was the Western Representative for Microsoft Canada – and then I jumped into the Microsoft Education Community.
Since then we have piloted devices, won a Sprout device, obtained two Surface devices for our school, ran Professional Development workshops, attended a Trainer workshop and did many Skype calls, as well as online courses to learn more. Microsoft Education is more about community and building momentum, rather than hoop jumping. This is why I know I will be building my virtual home in the Microsoft kingdom for years to come.
#1 Register to Become a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE)
The first thing you need to complete is your profile on the Microsoft Educator Community website. This website is the pot of gold at the end of the digital rainbow. Here you will find the opportunities to take online courses to earn badges; connect with other Microsoft educators and do Skyping in the classroom. If you register yourself (with a profile) and collect 1,000 points you can become a Microsoft Innovative Educator. Also, you can go to a training session too! There are other cool thinkings you can do, but these are the primarily the 3 ways I use this Microsoft Educator Community website. So create a profile HERE. Also, when you create a profile you should either choose “Public” or “Members Only” because when you register for Skype in the classroom if you put “Private” there will be difficulty connecting with you.
#2 Investing in Connections
Unlike Google and Apple, Microsoft integrates their approach in building their Microsoft Innovative Educators. With Google, you can go into the Ed Tech conferences; join Google Communities; and receive Google certification through online coursework. Apple is very similar. Microsoft chooses to go rogue and focus primarily on ongoing and relationship building. You can gain connections with others through Skype in the Classroom – which builds community. As well, the more you interact with the Microsoft Education Community website, then the more virtual bling you get. For example I connected with the Canadian Canoe Museum. Connecting with them raised my Skype miles on my profile, as well we were able to use this Skype virtual field trip for several different Grade groupings at my school and one local presentation I did. I love how there are endless ways to connect with others regularly and the abilities to re-use virtual field trips is endless, as you can specify the topic – whether it is biomes or the digestive system or dinosaur bones.
#3 Courses of Course
Courses are totally optional. They are there to give opportunities for learning and not status. I love how there are tons of courses to take with different levels and themes. A course is often found on one page and there are videos to watch, then a quiz to take at the end. The quizzes vary in number. Sometimes there are 10 questions and other times there are 25. Some of the questions are a little bit tricky, but majority of them are straightforward if you watched and read the information about the course.
There were times when I did the Summer Microsoft Academy that I wish it was like the Apple Teacher program and has a transcript with an iBook and interactive media.
Doing the Apple Teacher quizzes I could do a search through the iBooks to help me find the answers, but looking back I like the personal feel of the videos from Microsoft. Also having educators lead you through the Microsoft courses is very cool. It’s nice to have teachers talk about how they used different applications and products in their classroom. Also, they use very user-friendly language, because when I did the Google Educator program it was challenging to get into the technical language. Please note that since I have done the Google Educator program, there have been changes to the study material and exams.
This past summer I did the Summer Microsoft Academy and each week a new course came into my In Box to complete. I did 101 and 201 streams. I enjoyed them both. It was over a 4-5 week period for me to complete all the readings, videos and quizzes. See the images above for the list of online courses.
#4 Get to Know Your Ambassador & Try New Things!
Each area or province has a Microsoft Teacher Ambassador (aka Representative). The last two years we had Mario Asta as our Western Canada Rep – specifically our Teacher Evangelist of Innovative Education Strategies. He is an amazing and awesome educator who creates innovation, inspiration and creativity through his presentations.
He came to my school – Dorothy Peacock Elementary School in Langley, B.C. – to teach staff, students and in one case parents too! This was all free! His knowledge, background, and passion to help kids and staff was amazing! He also helped with events like Skype-a-thon and Hour of Code. My students loved having a specialist in our building and learning about different applications from Office 365 and initiatives! He travelled over B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan and worked throughout the Western provinces. At times I thought he may even have super powers and flew there. His commitment, drive and enthusiasm for his job is at super-hero status.
By building connections with your teacher ambassador, then you can also try out new things. By getting connected you can hear about local workshops; ignites and Professional Development sponsored by Microsoft. Also there are online opportunities too. My class entered a contest for Canada 150 and it was to build a Sway to showcase Canada. We created a video to embed in the Sway. We won second place and won a free Sprout device, as well as a free Professional Development workshop from the local Microsoft store.
There are other contests and other options to try different things. I found one with Surface devices, but I had to attend an online conference at 3:00 am in the morning in order to enter my name in to trial Surface devices and I just didn’t have enough energy to do it. So keep your eyes out for cool and amazing opportunities. Perhaps devices, funding or other cool opportunities might come your way if you build your Microsoft connections.
#5 A Few Labels/Badges
So far you know the basics, but some of you ask for more intel to move further along this scenic drive. So here are some awesome viewpoints!
Once you have MIE status then you can apply for MIEE status – which is the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Click HERE to learn more! You apply in July and submit a Sway answering questions. This application is due mid-July. This status allows you to move into the “expert” world and helps you lead others. There are Skype sessions you should attend to learn more about developing your skills throughout the year. It is a great way to connect with MIEEs all over the globe!
Microsoft Skype Master and Surface Pro Expert (2 streams this school year)
You can also apply to become a Microsoft Skype Master and/or a Microsoft Surface Pro Expert (which this school year has two streams). The Microsoft Skype Master application is due the middle of August and relates to educators who Skype through Skype in the Classroom. Like MIEE status, you need to build a Sway and then answer questions. The next one is the Microsoft Surface Pro Expert. I have been one for two years.
Each year I have received a Surface device for my school. Yes, two donated devices! Absolutely free! You also need to attend online Skype sessions to develop your understanding of the Surface device and learn tricks and awesome ways to use your device with your students periodically throughout the school year. The application is due mid-September and this school year it is changing to become two streams. One stream is Surface Classroom Champions and MIE Surface Microsoft Trainer. The first is one that promotes Surface devices in your school and trial products. The Trainer needs to train a couple hundred people and they receive a device for their school. These are all roles you need to apply for.
Is one that is only given to certain people. You can not apply for this role. Microsoft approaches certain individuals to partner with them in regular workshops, time and training.
If you want to become a Trainer you need to take an full day workshop. I think there maybe an online way as well, but you’ll need to search that one out. I took the MIE Trainer workshop in Vancouver in the New Year with about 20 other educators. This was the first one in B.C. and run by Fair Chance Learning. Dustin Jez did a wonderful job! Check out their website HERE. There is also a role called Master Trainer, but I am not familiar with the difference.
#6 Skype the Hype
I love Skype in the Classroom. Do you know what Skype in the Classroom is? It is using Skype to connect with other people, teachers, authors, artists, museums, parks and more. You can connect with Skype in the Classroom through the Microsoft Educator Community. You can do different types of Skypes in the Classroom, but my favourite are Mystery Skypes and Virtual Field Trips. There are several others, but I am focusing primarily on these two. Click HERE to learn more!
Virtual Field Trips
I went through the Microsoft Education Community and selected over 10 different virtual field trips. You can book these special presenters at different times and dates. Sometimes time zones matter, therefore we have not been able to Skype anyone from Africa, Asia and parts of Europe yet. You set up the time and date and then you connect with each other on Skype. Virtual field trips basically allow you to connect with presenters who Skype you and then present to you virtually. Some lecture, while hold up artifacts; maps; living animals; dinosaur bones; tools and other amazing things. Others do an actual tour with a mobile device. They walk around their museum or gallery and show you all the amazing exhibits, like the Canadian Canoe Museum that have over 75 different types of canoes. Sometime they incorporate skits, performances and demonstrations. Other ones I heard are amazing are the underwater submarine lab in Australia, or connecting with a scientist in the Arctic Circle.
Mystery Skypes are amazing because you connect with another classroom somewhere around the world and you play the game “20 Questions”, but with the purpose of finding out where that class is located in the world. Often you can connect with classrooms through the Skype in the Classroom page and you’ll see a map with happy faces on the globe. Click on a happy face and you’ll see a teacher’s profile. Another way I have connected with other educators is through the hashtag #skypeintheclassroom on Twitter. I have found teachers who say “I’m free in the next hour. Any teacher interested in doing a Mystery Skype with my class in Texas.” Although the Twitter route isn’t that is official I have connected with a couple great educators that I stay in contact with.
#7 Social Media is Tweeting You!
There are some wonderful connections you can get through Social Media. Are you interested in learning more? If so then jump into Twitter. Check out @microsoftedu and other profiles linked to Microsoft like Martha Jez @MarthaJez and Dustin Jez @DustinJez of Fair Chance Learning, as well as Mario @Marioasta1 and Lia @LiaDeCicci. Also there is a great group called Fair Chance Learning partnering with Microsoft Canada. They do some amazing workshops! Check out the Twitterchat #MSFTchat on Tuesdays at 10 am and 4 pm PDT.
#8 E2! Hack The Classroom! Skypeathon! Hour of Code!
Last school year I decided to try to apply for E2. Some of you are probably asking E . . . what? E2 is an international Microsoft conference. It is difficult to get selected to go to this amazing conference. Two years ago it was in Budapest, Hungry and this past school year it was in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In order to go to E2 you complete activities to qualify. Once you have completed the list then your name goes in a hat and if picked out, then you get a FREE air flight and hotel to the mystery destination of the E2 conference. I wanted to go so bad, but my family had already planned a trip during Spring Break, so although I had completed almost all the qualifications I had to pull out of the virtual race. And just so you know it normally lands the third week in March (or around then), so it may conflict with your Spring Break , as it did for me.
Here are a few other events I went to virtually. These were awesome!
Hack The Classroom
These are a couple a year. They are online Professional Development that can be streamed or watched later. Learn about the latest and greatest things that Microsoft is creating in classrooms. Learn about Minecraft EDU or be inspired by a sample Skype in the Classroom virtual field trip with a zoo. I was really blown away at these. I attended two – one in the Fall 2016 and the other in the Spring 2017 – and I was impressed with them. Click HERE to see the information about the one I attended virtually in June.
This happened at the beginning of December last year and we managed to connect with a Mystery Skype in Ketchikan, Alaska and the Badlands National Park. Another class at my school connected with James Gill in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. The goal of Skype-a-Thon is to rack of virtual miles and connect with others across the globe. We will definitely be doing this in a couple of months from now. Click HERE to read about the experience.
Hour of Code
This amazing week is awesome! It is a week where we encourage everyone – specifically students – to learn to build understanding on coding. Join tens of thousands of students around the world to learn code.
This is not only a Microsoft event, but there are many partners. When I did this a year and a half a go – for the first time – the website was hard to maneuver and so I didn’t do it, however this past December I went back to the Code.org website and it was fantastic. This website is user-friendly and easy to use. You don’t need to login to play, and the layout with the YouTube videos made my students engaged and loving the process of coding. It was so cool! Click here to check out Code.org website to learn more.
#9 Office 365 Applications & Microsoft Showcase School
Working with Microsoft applications is fantastic and my school district integrates Class Notebook, Power Point and other amazing applications to empower our students.
Using these Cloud applications can help us connect with others. Try to create a PowerPoint and then do a collaborative document with another class somewhere around the world. This coming school year Mario Asta connected me with Mary Murphy – an educator in Colorado – together we will partner to solve a global issue with our students. She works with three different classes, and together we will build community and creative collaboration through Office 365 applications, such as Power Point.
The area we will focus on is Cultural Empathy, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals from the Microsoft Education Community website. Click here to learn more about the United Nations and their Goals. If it weren’t for the connections I made with Mario Asta, I would never have built this international connection. We’re excited about the awesome year working with Cultural Empathy.
Maybe you have made it this far in my post and you are starting to wonder what you can do with your school. In August, Microsoft accepts applications for your school to become a Microsoft Showcase School. There are certain requirements such as a certain number of MIEs and other qualifications. If you are accepted you can trial devices; get special benefits and develop Professional Development and more at your school. Click HERE to learn more.
#10 Opportunities for Children to Innovate and Develop their Creativity
Being a teacher I see many students disengage from school and somehow diminish their energy. Through all the above opportunities I truly believe building skill sets, strategies, opportunities and engagement locally, provincially and globally inspires our students. The textbook in a small corner of the classroom is not our limit anymore. Once you drive this scenic route of Microsoft, your eyes will be opened to the vast opportunities; connections and creative ideas happening globally.
My friend James Gill had the privilege to go to E2 and he came back and told me a story about a teacher in the Maritimes who worked with his students to rebuild an unsafe local bridge.
I shared this story with my Grade 4/5 students and by sharing this story they decided we should write an email to our Township and tell them about our local bridge chipped with paint with graffiti.
After we sent the email away, we found out in a month the Township architect wanted us to create interpretative panels (you know the plaques you see sometimes if you are walking through a park and there is a description of the trees or some famous event that happened). So we created these panels on Microsoft Word and each of my students wrote about our local salmon, cedar trees, owls, eagles and more.
They shared their Word documents with me, so I could edit them before they went to the Township. My students felt empowered and this was all through just sharing a story from E2 and through using collaborative documents. The Township now wants this to be an annual event with my school and we can do other parks across our Township. Thank you to Chris Marshall at the Township to helping us create, innovate and collaborate to bring learning to life for our students.
In conclusion, if you made it through this whole post I applaud you as this scenic drive has hit some amazing viewpoints. I am sure I am missing details and the ins and outs of some of the badges, course, applications and experiences, but this post represents the many ways you can create, innovate and promote excitement about learning in your classroom through Microsoft. Here is a photo of my kids after a scenic drive to White Rock, B.C. and they had such a fun time on our scenic drive. Now I am off to continue my scenic drive with Microsoft. Maybe I will see you and your students along the way?