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Shafaque Riaz: Moving learning games forward

by Shafaque Riaz
Expert Educator Columnist, UAE

Due to the stretched gap between my posts, I missed the connectivity with my readers, but I am happy to be back and sharing some of my experiences. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this time my focus is to talk over hurdles we as educators face by introducing games in mainstream lessons as a medium of instruction and how can we overcome them to use games effectively for learning.

Primarily we should have clarity that it is neither the computer game nor the technology that promotes learning, but the play surrounding it. The learning occurs in a non-linear unstructured way when technology or video games/ simulated environment are used as teaching tools, and it is often the environment that fosters knowledge building and understanding.

“The creative play is the foundation of early abstract thinking” (Vygotsky, 1986)

The changing role of the teacher in this new setting

I witnessed that when students gets the feeling of being in-charge of themselves, over their feeling, thinking, and learning behaviours, it is more probable that they take responsibility of their own learning.

With the inherent independence for students in game based learning environment there is common argument that the role of the teacher is becoming invisible. The teachers should not consider the student-centered pedagogies a challenge to their role and agency that evolve as a result of current digital technology practices. By acknowledging the importance of the teacher in creating the environments in which students learn, teacher’s agency and central role can be re-affirmed. Games should only be viewed as tools to mediate discussion, reflection, and analysis. Thus the new evolving pedagogies around games support situated, exploratory, and experiential learning rather than linear learning and teaching experiences.

Game based activities should be accompanied with prior and post instructional event in order to ensure that children make the connection between gaming and learning. Read More

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Walid Chaafi: Podcasts- The Forgotten Tool

by Walid Chaafi
Expert Educator Columnist, Tunisia

Technology has advanced and brought new technologies into the fields of education. Teaching languages is not an exception. There are many ways to use technology to teach any language, one of them is Podcasts.

Podcasts are the forgotten tool that educators as well as students can reply on to enhance teaching and learning of any language and mainly speaking and listening skills.

As a teacher of English, I use this tool with my students and it is a success. In this article, I will explain how to use podcasts for better results.

A Podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

How do podcasts work?

A podcast is a digital audio file located on a web server (1 + 2). Teachers and students can subscribe to the podcast via a program such as iTunes or Netvibes (3). This program is then automatically informed when the podcast is updated and the audio file is sent to the user’s computer. The user can then listen to the audio on their computer (4) or download it onto a portable device such as an MP3 player, iPod or smartphone (5).


How can my learners listen to podcasts? Read More

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Tammy Dunbar: Sharing Test-Taking Tips With Sway!

by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

teachergeekOne year when I was teaching a First Grade class and we were nearing the end of our week-long standardized testing, one little student was so stressed out that he wrote an inappropriate word on his testing booklet. When I showed it to my principal, she sighed and said, “At least he spelled it right.”

No one enjoys standardized testing. Not students. Not teachers. Not administrators. Is that a number two pencil? Did the students bubble things in clearly? Did they put the right answer with the right numbered question? Erase those stray marks, please!

The new Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment is administered online, which brings a whole new set of difficulties and challenges. Wait! The volume isn’t working. Did you turn it up before entering the secure browser? What’s that flashing on my screen? My screen went blank in the middle of my test! What do I do now?

But we know testing – in some form – is necessary, and we know we must do it. But how do we get our students both ready and perhaps even excited to take standardized tests?

One way is to put your students in charge of creating a Test-Taking Tips presentation to share with the rest of the school.

since-2015 Since 2005, we have created some sort of standardized testing video that we’ve shown school-wide at an assembly. (Check out today’s Tech Injection for examples!)

But in 2015, we have Gone Digital in Manteca Unified School District, and all of our students have their own device. So this year, we decided to create something a little more personal. Something that any student, teacher or family member could access from any device. However, since we all had different ideas for our creations, we decided to work by ourselves or with a small group and then find a way to combine them in one neat package. Read More


Tammy Dunbar: OneNote To The Rescue!

by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

We had to have a Student Success Team meeting for Paris immediately. She had recently completed trimester proficiencies as well as reading comprehension testing in Read 180, and it seemed clear she might need more help than she was receiving. Emails were sent back and forth, but because we were in the middle of standardized testing, it was impossible to schedule a meeting so everyone could review the new data that would guide our suggestions on how best to help her.

The new data was difficult to review without getting together: only I had access to her district proficieny scores, our Read 180 teacher was the only person with access to Paris’ reading comprehension data, her cumulative file was in a secure room, and our administrator had the only copy of the original SST recommendations which were on paper.

student Then it hit me: why not create a OneNote for our Student Success Team? We had been training on using OneNote for ourselves and our classrooms for several months now, so everyone should be comfortable enough to try it out. After I created the OneNote, I invited the entire team. Reports everyone needed to see were quickly and easily printed into the OneNote along with the appropriate forms, observations and even student work samples. Anything on actual paper was scanned, digitized and added to the file. Once everything was uploaded and shared with only our team members, we were able to review the data quickly on our own time and agree via email that new testing was necessary as soon as possible.

When team members saw how convenient it was to have all this information digitally available, we immediately decided this OneNote needed to be expanded for all Intermediate (4th and 5th grade) SSTs. Our first idea was to include blank request forms (for testing, counseling, tutoring, etc.) in the first section of the OneNote. This has already been an amazing efficiency, because we no longer have to worry about carrying several copies of every single form to every SST meeting or, when we’re out of forms, having to get back to family members for signatures. Now we can simply access the necessary form, open it up, fill it out, get it digitally signed by all team and family members, save it and send it out.

After this particular experience with OneNote, our Read 180 teacher is now creating a OneNote for all her students, organized by the year of their promotion out of 8th (Class of 2015, Class of 2016, etc.). She is looking forward to having all student data, samples, and observations digitized and available in one place. Our administrator is expanding the SST OneNote idea to include primary (K-3rd) and Junior High (6th – 8th grade). I continue to be a big fan of OneNote: it’s been a great tool for providing immediate feedback to my students on their work as well as giving them one convenient location to turn in their work. It also makes grading easier for me, plus I love being able share their work with families at conference time.

What our collaboration has taught us is that OneNote provides more ways than one to help students and teachers find success.


techinjectionfourth-gradeWhy not use OneNote to give your fellow teachers a Tech Injection? My Intermediate grade level team worked hard over a two-year period to create PowerPoint presentations for each story in our Fourth and Fifth Grade Houghton-Mifflin Language Arts curriculum, complete with vocabulary introductions, reading comprehension skills practice and much more. We wanted to share them with our friends in the district, so we created a OneNote with all our resources and sent this link. Feel free to use these in any manner that benefits your students. We teachers must collaborate and share our resources so we have many ways to help our students dive into the curriculum and reach proficiency.

tammy2Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., S.T.E.M. teaches 5th grade in Manteca Unified School District and Pre-Service Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin (Stockton, CA). She will be presenting at the 2015 Microsoft Global E2 conference, ISTE 2015, CUE 2015 and CTA Good Teaching North 2015. Tammy has presented for CTA Good Teaching North (2014), Cap CUE (2014), all three California Subject Matters Project Conferences, Capitol Area Science Education Leaders, and several San Joaquin County Office of Education events. She has trained teachers in educational technology from 2005-present and has earned the designation of Microsoft Innovative Educator Master Trainer. She won the 2010 eInstruction $75,000 Classroom Makeover Video Contest, wrote a successful Enhancing Education Through Technology grant for Manteca Unified School District in 2008, and was Teacher of the Year in MUSD in 2006. She serves on the MUSD Superintendent’s Technology Committee and as district Tech Champion as MUSD embarks on its “Going Digital 2015” project.


Tammy Dunbar: Add New Spark to Your Class with Newspapers!

by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

teachergeekTeachers need fact-based, non-fiction content. We need lots of it. And we need it now.

The adoption of the new Common Core State Standards paired with the lack of approved curriculum and funds have pushed many educators to be creative in finding appropriate, timely reading material. That critical reading material also has to allow students to demonstrate independence, build strong content knowledge, comprehend as well as critique, understand other perspectives/cultures and use technology & digital media strategically and capably. (From the CCSS English Language Arts Standards.)

Thanks to the Newspapers in Education program, teachers and their students can “read all about it” in daily digital editions of their local newspaper. And the cost is a teacher’s favorite “F” word: Free!

modesto-beeMost large local daily newspapers participate in the NIE program. All a teacher has to do is contact their local newspaper and ask about it. We have been lucky to participate in The Modesto Bee’s NIE program for almost 12 years. My students have access to a daily digital newspaper that has amazing and engaging content (written at about a 10th – 11th grade reading level) covering most core subjects.

My students love reading sports stories about their favorite football and basketball teams, which can set us up for compare & contrast writing assignments including statistics to back up opinions. Math lessons are easily created using Classifieds, Stocks, the Weather Report and even Sports. Using the Comics section as an introduction to sequencing has also been a favorite in Room Nine. Best of all, if you ask, many reporters and editors will be happy to come to your classroom to talk to your students about good writing and how they go about researching a story before ever starting to write one. Read More


Nam Ngo Thanh: Bringing Twitter into Primary Class- Why Not?

by Nam Ngo Thanh
Expert Educator Columnist, Vietnam

I believe that application of social media in schools is not new to all of us. Educators are now using it to make the learning more exciting and meaningful.

twitterHow about you? What is your favorite social media? Is it Facebook, Blog or LinkedIn? For me, it is Twitter.

At first, I was hesitant to use social media in my primary class but my perception on using it had change when I read this interesting statement from one of the websites in education:

“Twitter won’t change your life, but it might make your job more fun and a little easier.”

I was challenged with this statement and decided to immediately apply Twitter in my class, but few people told me that elementary school students are still too young to use Twitter. I totally agreed them so I thought of the safest and best approach that I can give to my primary students.

How did I begin this?

I started by sharing with my students the benefits of using Twitter. I also did not forget to mention how to use Twitter safely and efficiently. After the students have understood the uses of this social media, I continued with creating Twitter account. In the beginning, I created a Twitter account for the whole class: @mrnamclass. This means that any student in class also can sign in and use it. I also did not forget to remind the children to respect this account by not using for private work without the permission of the teacher. On the other hand, I also asked the help of the parents in monitoring and guiding their children in using the account. Everything seemed to be fine when this tool became my students’ favorite.

Students use Twitter for what?

The children can use Twitter as a tool for learning anytime and anywhere. Every time the children have activities at home, they can use the Tweet function to share with their classmates like a photograph, or a video recorded by them. After each Tweet, they do not forget to write her/his names at the end. Their friends can get this interesting sharing anytime. In fact, the children proved to be extremely fascinated with this new job.

In addition, Twitter is also the tool to share tasks and lessons. By using the #hashtag, students can find resources related to the lessons. Therefore, I did not forget to instruct students to use the search function of Twitter. With #hashtag, I can easily get a comment, question or feedback from my students. I make sure that our #hashtag is unique so it can easily be searched. I created a #hashtag for my class that has never been created by someone else before.

One more question is what students can do with 140 characters allowed in Twitter? To me, this is not a disadvantage but rather an opportunity for developing students’ writing skill. Wanting to get a perfect Tweet, students have to choose the appropriate words and most concise expression. With this way, day by day, writing skill of the students will be more advanced.

A student is doing a Tweettwitter-student

Above are a few of my ideas in using Twitter in the classroom. What I can say after my students’ work with Twitter? It’s really fun! Not only the students but also parents also love with this new tool.

About Columnist:

Nam Ngo Thanh (@mrnamvas) Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

nam-ngoHello everyone. I am Ngo Thanh Nam. I’m now grade 5 teacher at Vietnam Australia International school at Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. I participated in Teacher with creativity contest in Vietnam and luckily achieved the first prize. After the event, I am known more with the job of technology-applied teaching and I’m greatly interested in those wonderful things. I love teaching that has the interaction between teacher and students, all of which generates more interest and inspiration for my job. Besides, I’m also the educational specialist this year. It’s spectacular to work and learn from other specialists. My sincere thanks to Microsoft.



Poonam Dogra: Fostering Collaboration For Innovative Excellence

by Poonam Dogra
Expert Educator Columnist, India

Rayat International School is a hub of International Collaborative projects.

Encouraging students to reach out to one another to solve problems and share knowledge not only builds collaboration skills but leads to deeper learning and understanding.

Global collaborative learning uses technology as  a  tool  to  build  relationships  by  collaborating,  communicating,  and  sharing  with  others throughout the world. Students are not just using the computer to do the same activity they might do without a computer. They work on meaningful tasks and solve problems together, learning about different perspectives from their peers,  thinking critically as a result of reality-based learning and questioning.

Research indicates that the jobs that will be available for the students in today’s classrooms do not yet exist, but we do know that they will involve working with technology to communicate and collaborate with others throughout the world. Students are growing up in a world where these tools are part of everyday life. As teachers, we can provide the opportunity for our students to use these skills and tools to collaborate with others and encourage their participation in the global learning community.

Peer-to-peer feedback can be more meaningful to students than traditional editing, in which the teacher provides the feedback. In many situations, the students become the project leaders and facilitators and the teachers become learners.

Rayat’s Collaborative projects…

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Matt Harris: Encourage Those in Your School to Share

by Matt Harris
Expert Educator Columnist, Singapore

I have discovered that TED talks are a great companion on long walks. I often listen to them for inspiration as I walk to school in the mornings (I live in Singapore, so I can walk to school year-round). The other day, I was listening to one from a volunteer fireman in the US who tells a great story about helping people and giving back to his community. Watch the video here <LINK>

I drew inspiration for a number of things that are now on my blogging and vlogging to-do list to discuss. One of them in particular, really stuck out for me in a profound way – Don’t Wait. I won’t go into a ton of detail here as I hope to share more about this topic later and on other platforms. But the gist of it is don’t wait to share the gifts you have to give. In the EdTech sense, don’t wait until you are an expert or you have that next job or you know the perfect app…just share.

Now, most of us in the MIE world do share. In fact, it is our sharing that has made us ideal candidates for this program. We create and curate EdTech resources that are valuable to the whole community and beyond. We write blog posts, post on the FB group, attend local meetings or the global exchange, even use #MIEExpert15 with pride. So the message about “don’t wait” is somewhat wasted on us.

It does suggest a similar message: Please Encourage.

As the “don’t waiters” start realizing that everyone has something to offer and the time to share is now they will need encouragement. They will need the push and support to identify those little (or large) things they know that can help their colleagues. As people who have shared it is our job to help them forward.

I suggest you find an emerging leader in your school or perhaps a reluctant teacher and talk with them. Ask him/her to put together a Sway on a simple topic. It needn’t be something that requires interaction or instruction, just a simple brain dump that has impact and legacy for the school. Say that you’re trying to curate content to help build the school’s knowledge bank.

What I have found is that this quickly turns into mentorship, where you spark a fire in that colleague that spreads to others. When I help them open up just that little bit, their light shine bright and they develop the confidence to do it again.

You’ll find this is a great way build internal capacity amongst your teaching staff, to kick start the establishment of PLNs, to finding the next set of informal Ed Tech coaches at your school.

And further, you find similar growth in yourself. You’ll find your understanding of EdTech will grow. You become a mentor and leader of leaders. And you will learn something new…ok, let’s be honest, you’ll a lot that is new.

For instance, I never knew I had talents as a career coach, but after encouraging a few “don’t waiters” I found that I was quite good at it. Now, I am considering myself a “don’t waiter” in the space of encouraging potential or existing Ed Tech staff and leaders in growing themselves professional.

I guess I just needed a little encouragement.


Innovation Hunter: Hot Potatoes and Cool Learning

by Mark Sparvell
School Leaders Program, Microsoft in Education

Hello leaders and learners!

Continuing my journey across the globe and capturing the voices, images and insights from some of our amazing Microsoft Innovative Expert Educations and the leaders in the inspiring Showcase Schools. If you haven’t been following my journey on twitter, might like to add @sparvell to your follows.


Location: Silverton Primary School, Victoria, Australia

Distance from home: 13266 miles

Silverton Primary school has a very long history with Microsoft as an Innovative School, World Tour School, Global Mentor School and now, proudly, Showcase School. Silverton school is situated in an diverse community with lower than average mean incomes and higher than average unemployment…yet Silverton shines bright in national testing results and the school, staff and principal have received multiple recognition for excellence at local, state, national and international .

Silverton are experts at hosting visitors, people travel from across Australia and globally to visit this high performing school which defies expectations based on social or economic context.

What strikes me about Silverton is the absolute clarity of expectation from the leadership team throughout the entire school regarding respect for learners and learning. The powerhouse of Tony Bryant and Amanda Prosser have combined to create an environment which balances pressure and support on all the inhabitants of Silverton Primary to be the very best they can be in all areas…music, performing arts, academic, sports, citizenship, languages etc. There are impressive systems in place for all elements of school operation and organization yet, these , like their clever use of technology are invisible to the naked eye, enablers of a culture of learning.

Tony and Amanda clearly believe that the role of a leader is to create leaders and, across the staff ,everyone seems to have ownership and opportunity for leadership within an area of interest. This conscious vertical leadership model combined with great transparence of data, has produced a high involvement innovative culture where there is permission to explore…not surprisingly, this approach has infiltrated teachers approach to teaching and I have yet to visit a school where more authentic personalised learning, extended by technology, exists.


A fundamental difference at Silverton is the dedicated discover time which builds from the very youngest years through to grade 6. Students are constantly being supported and challenged to design learning, to collaborate, the co-construct knowledge with peers and to think and talk about the process and the products of learning. I have never seen so many students write so much! Simply put, they have something to write about. Student preferred learning styles are levered to drive deep learning and educators are constantly observing, engaging, recording and intervening at critical points.

microsoft-toolsMicrosoft tools and devices provide a unifying experience in a device diverse landscape. I had 7 year olds explain and show me how they use Lync to record themselves explaining a learning discovery so their classmates can peer assess. When I asked why Lync was useful, they explained that the IM conversation is automatically sent to the conversation folder in Outlook! Two small girls patiently showed me how they use Outlook to share thinking, ideas and media with one another when collaborating on learning. Another girl was busy creating a gift for her mother using a 3D Printer…she showed me her complicated sketches of circles and measurements taken from a variety of cup models. All around this learning space students were choosing and using technology to get learning ‘done’ and occasional public screens allowed for ‘on the fly’ demonstrations by teachers or students. I saw students programming and testing hand-made robots, students publishing texts, students painting and students working individually, in pairs and in small groups….all this was happening simultaneously and no one was off task out of 60 students!

predeterminedBut, the potatoes…I approached a couple of boys who had three potatoes by a computer screen and observed them for a moment. One boy was dancing his hands over the potatoes while the other was intently watching the screen and mumbling. I interrupted and asked for an explanation. The boys kindly (patiently) explained this was a ‘Makey Makey’, they placed probes into the potatoes and connected via USB to the computer. Touching the potato completed the circuit and caused a figure on the screen to move in a pre-determined direction. This was a computer game with programmable potatoes as the controller. One boy was providing directions, the other was following the sequence.

There is palpable energy in the air at Silverton and a sense of 100% commitment by all the staff to lean in, to own success and to trust in the capacity of their young people to inspire and amaze.

I don’t think Silverton Primary will be running short of visitors in the near future.

Visit Silverton at





Nam Ngo Thanh: Tip for Parents and Teachers- Limiting Games and Using the Internet Effectively

by Nam Ngo Thanh
Expert Educator Columnist, Vietnam

Life skills education is one of the essential values at Vietnam Australia International School (VAS), Vietnam and is designed to help students adjust to the changes of natural environment or society to work out the sense of vigilance and to protect them.

Today, the internet and online gaming addictions are seen as problems of the teens in the major metropolitan. Consequence which is easy to realize is the children get involved in the virtual world, neglecting education and external activities. Parents and teachers can help the children to limit their gaming online and know how to use the internet effectively under their guidance.





Should not


Limit games online


* Master daily life and your attitude, don’t let the cyber world seduce you and influence your thoughts

* Enhance participation of healthy activities and good habits every day, do not spend more time for playing games online

– Healthy activities: playing sports, reading, drawing, listening to music, researching, and doing fun activities with friends

– Positive habits: exercise, help parents in house works. * Always let your goals visible to you and try to reach them every day


*Play games online continuously for many hours



* Go to places where people are addicted to online gaming



*Carry your computer in your room without the supervision of the parents

Using the internet effectively


*Determine what you want to access the internet, specify the purpose when you want to access the internet.

*Focus on search relevant keywords

*Set the specified time when using the internet


*Click on the strange file that can cause viruses and can damage the computer


*Click on the unhealthy web (weblogs, online web sex) which will easily be addictive and difficult to heal.



Above are a few of our ideas in limiting games online and using the internet effectively. I hope that it will be useful for all parents, teachers and students.