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Tips and ideas for classrooms participating in next week’s Skype-a-Thon

Skype-a-Thon is coming soon! On November 13th and 14th, classrooms across the world will be breaking down their walls and connecting students with peers from various countries and cultures, as well as experts in various fields.

This year, our collective Skype-a-Thon goal will be to travel over 14 million virtual miles. For every 400 miles traveled, Microsoft will make a donation to schools in need. So, not only will we be making a positive change in the world by connecting students from various backgrounds, cultures and faiths, but we’ll also help raise funds for supplies for those less fortunate!

Students and some classmates, appearing on screen via Skype, smile for a group photo.

Students and some classmates, appearing on screen via Skype, smile for a group photo.

For new participants

If you are new to Skype in the Classroom, fear not! Any educator can take their students on a Skype-a-Thon adventure. First, create a free account on the Microsoft Educator Community.  Once there, spend some time perusing the rich content at your fingertips. Find a Virtual Field trip that connects to your unit of study or reach out to a guest speakerwho will inspire your students. You can request a free, live and interactive Skype experience directly on the site. Maybe you want to try a Skype collaboration or a game of Mystery Skype, too. Request a lesson, a field trip, a collaboration event, or a game for Skype-a-Thon, and you will be part of something massive!

For past participants

If you’re a veteran Skype in the Classroom teacher, challenge yourself to take your Skype-a-Thon to the next level. Try to participate in multiple calls during the eventm or travel to several countries in one day. Try something new, like a connected Kahoot using Skype screen sharing. Last year, my class played a Global Pop Culture Kahoot game with students from ten nations. Every question on the Kahoot dealt with pop culture. The students learned that despite their religion, race, and country of origin, they all knew that Shrek lives in a swamp. They found out we are way more alike than we are different! There are so many engaging ideas you can explore on Skype in the Classroom. Challenge yourself to try something new.

How to get parents involved

Maybe you might want to try something unique and include parents in your Skype-a-Thon plans. One fun idea that I do each year is to host an optional pitch-in Skype Breakfast during the morning of Skype-a-Thon. Parents have been hearing about the engaging and authentic learning that has occurred throughout our school year. They are curious and jump at the chance to experience the magic of Skype in the Classroom for themselves.

Students love showing off their Skype skills for their parents, and the parents are always blown away by what they see! Last year, they teamed up with their children for a Mystery Skype adventure with a 5th grade class in Spain.  This year, they’ll join on another Mystery Skype alongside their child. It’s a fun way to kick off Skype-a-Thon!

Another meaningful way to include the parents is to create a homework assignment where the students report back what they learned to their folks. Then, they ask the parents to respond about which Skype-a-Thon destination they found most interesting and why. The kids love having homework that their parents need to do. More importantly, this assignment encourages rich discussion between parent and child. That is a win-win!

A student's note on an answer sheet, describing what they learned from a recent cross-cultural Skype session.

A student's note on an answer sheet, describing what they learned from a recent cross-cultural Skype session.

And don’t forget…

There is a fantastic collection of Skype-a-Thon resources available to seasoned and new Skype enthusiasts alike on the Skype-a-Thon Teacher Toolkit. You might be inspired to create a passport for your class’ Skype-a-Thon journey, create a class map to track your travels, and so much more!

By joining you will be part of something amazing! You’ll be taking action on so many levels, and your students and their parents will benefit as well. Make sure you share your experiences on Twitter by using #skypeathon #MicrosoftEDU, and definitely use the Microsoft Educator Community to register for calls. Miles will be counted when Skype in the Classroom lessons are booked there. Finally, I would recommend you watch the on-demand how-to” webinar for Skype-a-Thon with VP of Education Anthony Salcito and Skype Master Teacher Stacey Ryan, to learn how your class can participate and how you can organize your Skype-a-Thon activities from start to finish.

Have an amazing Skype-a-Thon, everyone!

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1 week until Skype-a-Thon 2018: Join to open your students’ hearts and minds via global learning

If you want to give your students something they can’t wait to go home and share around the dinner table, and keeps them interested and curious for days, participate in Skype-a-Thon. And if you want to give your students something they’ll never forget from their time with you as their educator, participate in Skype-a-Thon. It’s just a week away and an event you don’t want to miss!

Many of the participating educators in over 90 countries tell us this is their favorite activity of the year, because it engages their students deeply in learning and opens their hearts and minds to the world. Just be ready for the added enthusiasm in your classroom!

One of those participating educators is Todd Flory (Kansas, USA), who says: “We are excited to connect with experts and virtual field trips that will make our academic standards come to life. Our students learn so much more when they can ask questions and do authentic research. We also love connecting with other classrooms around the world, as it helps our students celebrate diversity and learn that our differences are what makes us special and stronger as a global society.”

A classroom of students talk to another classroom via a Skype window projected onto a screen.

A classroom of students talk to another classroom via a Skype window projected onto a screen.

Another educator from Nigeria, Olukemi Olurinola, says: “Participating in Skype-a-Thon is always the highlight of our school year! We open our classrooms to the world and connect with experts and other classrooms to learn about different cultures and environments and help them model compassion for one other. The best way to learn about the world is learning with the world.”

Seated students facing a screen in their classroom as they converse with a remote educator via Skype.

Seated students facing a screen in their classroom as they converse with a remote educator via Skype.

We expect nearly 500,000 children and guest experts around the world to connect via Skype on November 13th and 14th. They’ll share stories about their culture and their environments, play games, take virtual field trips and, most importantly, discover that we are more similar than different around the world.

Participating classrooms and Skype in the Classroom partners will travel an estimated 14 million virtual miles from over 90 countries through these live Skype experiences. And with every 400 virtual miles traveled, participating classrooms will help support up to 35,000 children in need with an education in WE Villages. That’s one of the great things about this event: while it opens the hearts and minds of students, it always opens potential for many more children to receive an education.

It’s not too late to register. You can find a classroom or guest expert to connect with and many resources and activity plans to integrate Skype-a-Thon into your curriculum.

We hope you’ll join this global learning community on their 48-hour journey around the world to leave an impact on the next generation of global citizens. Please share all the fun with @SkypeClassroom and #skypeathon and #MicrosoftEDU.

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Transforming higher education to address the skills gap

Digital transformation is reshaping every aspect of our lives – how we live, learn, and work. This transformation impacts the skills students need to succeed both in the workplace of today and in the future, when they will be tasked with solving the most complex issues of any generation in history.

As a company, Microsoft has a vested interest in the skills economy that will drive future breakthroughs in innovation. Further, as parents, colleagues and citizens, we feel compelled to help support digital transformation in Higher Education, so that every student has an opportunity to learn what we call future-ready skills.

So, what can we do to help?

To help students acquire future-ready skills, we believe there are three key focus areas we must address in the near term:

  1. Support future-ready skills curricula while ensuring learning tools are accessible to all students
  2. Empower institutions with tools to improve student engagement, experiences, and outcomes
  3. Create safe and secure learning environments in the classroom and online

This week at the EDUCAUSE 2018 Annual Conference, Microsoft Education will share our new future-ready skills offering, new solutions for student success and lifecycle management, and advancements in safety and security. All are aimed at empowering Higher Education institutions to drive future-ready skills in safe and secure learning environments with successful outcomes.

Future-ready skills and accessible learning

As cyberthreats increase, so too does the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals. Businesses need experts that can protect key systems, detect threats early on, and minimize business impact in the event of a security incident.

The new Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) Certificate in Cybersecurity was built to address the evolving landscape of threats businesses face and to enable students to develop the skills needed to start or grow a cybersecurity career. This 10-course MPP Cybersecurity track provides online courses, hands-on labs, and expert instruction to learn how to safeguard key systems, develop a cybersecurity defense plan, detect threats early, and minimize the business impact of information breaches. See the Microsoft Professional Program for CyberSecurity available on Microsoft’s Learning as a Service platform, delivered on OpenEdEx.

On campus, Higher Education Institutions depend on physical computer labs for classroom learning and development and test scenarios. Now, with Azure Lab Services, educators and IT admins can easily create computer labs in the cloud: automatically scale the number of virtual machines to the usage needed at the cost threshold you set, and delete the lab with a single click once you’re done. The service empowers professors, technicians, and students to work with virtual machines in the cloud without having to master the complexities of setting up the cloud infrastructure.  Get an introduction, take a tutorial, or set up a classroom lab visit.

A key benefit to learning through technology, whether in the classroom or online, is that it can make content and engagement accessible to all students. Tools like Immersive Reader, Read Aloud and Dictation within Learning Tools help students of all abilities read, write and communicate. Building on top of these tools, new offerings like auto-generated captions and transcriptions for videos in English and Spanish are available with Microsoft Stream, in all Education plans of Office 365 for people who are deaf or hard of hearing (coming soon for audio and video in OneDrive and SharePoint Online). Capabilities such as Accessibility Checker and Automatic Alt-Text are also available in familiar applications such as Word and PowerPoint, to help content creators make visually compelling and accessible content for all learners.

Student success and lifecycle management

The new Dynamics Higher Education Accelerator, announced at EDUCAUSE today and available open-sourced on GitHub, makes it easier for all partners and developers to create new apps and workflows in Dynamics 365, enabling them to take new products to market faster. It contains industry standard data entities (e.g. student, course, test scores, etc.), pre-built dashboards, workflows, and sample data, as well as other tools to help partners and developers rapidly build business and analytic solutions for Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Power Platform.

CampusNexus Engage, scheduled to be generally available in December 2018, is the outcome of a collaboration project between Microsoft and Campus Management, built using the Higher Education Accelerator.

In October, Campus Management announced that AccelerEd, a UMUC Ventures portfolio company bringing academic enablement and next-generation technology to educational institutions, has selected the CampusNexus® Suite on behalf of University of Maryland University College (UMUC). UMUC and AccelerEd will use CampusNexus, running on Microsoft’s Azure and Dynamics 365 platform, to increase student engagement, retention, and improve graduation rates through personalized experiences.

“At AccelerEd, our institutional relationships are always focused on improving the customer experience, advancing academic delivery, realizing cost efficiencies and creating a platform for growth and innovation in today’s competitive higher education landscape,” said AccelerEd President Tracy Woods. “Campus Management and Microsoft offer a technology collaboration that delivers on our performance expectations and our customer’s vision.”

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Physical safety and online security

Our students live in an age of increased physical threats on campus, including gun violence, natural disasters and other safety risks. At the same time, data breaches, where personal information is stolen, and student cyberbullying are also a real concern. All potential hazards mandate the use of the strongest security technology, monitoring, notification and emergency response systems and technologies on today’s campuses.

Microsoft provides a comprehensive, intelligent, and extensible cloud platform to help keep students safe and secure in the classroom and online. Microsoft Threat Protection, announced last month at Ignite, is a new end-to-end solution that detects cyberthreats, remediates their effects, and protects Institutions from new and changing threats. It is Microsoft’s most comprehensive security solution and combines the intelligence of Microsoft’s security products. Microsoft co-sell ready partners provide solutions for access control, video surveillance and more.

Azure Digital Twins, a new IoT platform available in public preview on Oct. 15, will enable partners to build comprehensive digital models on any physical environment. These virtually represent the physical world and enable custom solutions that address Institutional needs to develop even more safe and secure learning environments on campus. Learn more about Microsoft Threat Protection and get the ebook on Physical Safety and Security.

For more information about Microsoft’s efforts across higher education, visit us at Microsoft’s Higher Education site.

References:

  1. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
  2. Fact Sheet: Focusing Higher Education on Student Success, US Dept of Education
  3. Cyberbullying in College
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Microsoft Showcase Schools for 2019 announced

At Microsoft, we believe in the potential of every student. We believe educators deserve more time to teach. And we believe with the right tools, everything is possible.

The schools nominated for our Showcase School program exemplify these beliefs by implementing innovative practices throughout their leadership, teaching, and learning. These beliefs also extend into the development of their environments and technology choices. It is with both awe and inspiration that we welcome 290 Showcase Schools to the 2018 Showcase School program. We also pause to recognize some of the world’s most innovative School Leaders, from 61 countries this year, and their groundwork on increased student outcomes and educator/leader development in this diverse set of schools.

Each one of these schools demonstrated increased student outcomes. Their diverse practices saw educators offering free professional development – even to peers outside their own schools – and classrooms using Minecraft to empower students to solve real-world problems. They led by example and we are proud that their leaders select Microsoft solutions to enable increased student outcomes and greater educational transformation success, school-wide.

Students from Madoulides Schools, Showcase School located in Greece.

Showcase Schools are characterized by thoughtful leaders who empower educators and students to re-imagine and re-design leading, teaching and learning in their schools and regions. These leaders also come together as a group to tackle challenges, celebrate successes and share their learnings in a vibrant online community, available exclusively to Showcase School Leaders in Microsoft Teams. They are committed to developing their own strengths as leader-learners and work together to learn about global trends in education and test new solutions locally, adjusting to meet the specific needs of their own communities.

Each year, Microsoft Showcase School Leaders and the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts in their schools share best practices online, through the Microsoft Educator Community and Skype in the Classroom, as well as in-person at local events, hosted by each Showcase School and global events such as BETT, UK.

While reaching out to their local communities, or reaching within to empower educator and student outcomes in their own schools, Showcase Schools also:

  • Provide Microsoft engineers with valuable insights and ideas, in an effort to evolve technology and improve teaching and learning practices based on classroom experience;
  • Gain access to professional and career development opportunities and certifications;
  • Host regional events showcasing their use of Microsoft solutions

The impact of Showcase School excellence is felt globally, as these schools support their local communities by providing the opportunity to experience tomorrow’s transformation, today.

Thank you, Showcase School Leaders, for all the work your educator teams and you do to transform education, one school at a time.

Welcome to the Microsoft Showcase School community.

Take a video tour of MRSM Tun Mohammad Fuad Stephens Sandakan School, featured below.

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Find a Showcase School near you.

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Microsoft + Made by Dyslexia: Helping dyslexic students thrive with technology

It is estimated that one in five students has dyslexia, yet there are likely far more who have not yet been diagnosed in today’s classrooms. These students, who see the written word differently, are often mistakenly labeled as having a learning disability and, as such, make up approximately 70 to 85 percent of today’s special education classes. Their teachers and parents don’t often have the resources or training to help, however passionate they may be. Without the proper support in formative years, a struggling student’s confidence and love of learning can fade. History has shown these great young minds can bring tremendous gifts to the world – like the many great dyslexic innovators, artists and leaders before them – if they feel empowered and learn to see dyslexia differently.

That is why today, we are honored to be the first company to sign the Made by Dyslexia pledge: to give the 700 million people with dyslexia around the world access to technology that empowers them to excel in their academic journey, and in life. The pledge calls on partners to build a better future for those with dyslexia and, together with Made by Dyslexia, we aim to democratize dyslexia support, so that every dyslexic child is understood and given the right support to realize their brilliant potential.

To achieve this goal, we are expanding our Microsoft Education training materials, research and products that support dyslexic students. Products like Learning Tools are free to educators and students and are already helping more than 14 million people improve their reading and writing comprehension. Starting today, we pledge to expand access and improve ease of implementation of these tools.

Click below to jump to details on our commitments and new updates:

  1. Developing materials and training for educators supporting dyslexic learners
  2. Helping students to write with their voice using the Dictation Tool in Learning Tools
  3. Inviting all learners into the conversation with Immersive Reader in Flipgrid
  4. Helping students read math problems with Immersive Reader
  5. Supporting students in their native language with real-time translation in Immersive Reader
  6. Helping students sound out words, in partnership with the University of Washington
  7. Making the web more friendly to all learners with updates to the Microsoft Edge browser
  8. Capturing text from anywhere to read in Immersive Reader with Office Lens in Android

1. Developing materials and training for educators supporting dyslexic learners

Research shows 90 percent of children with dyslexia can be educated inside an inclusive classroom when teachers are trained in early dyslexia identification and intervention. To make this possible, we will be partnering with Made by Dyslexia to build free teacher and parent training materials on our Microsoft Educator Community in late January, 2019. The training will consist of short, informative and inspirational film modules that introduce educators and parents to dyslexia, as well as specific materials that focus on reading instruction. There will also be specific instruction around reading and dyslexia.

2. Helping students to write with their voice using the Dictation Tool in Learning Tools

Dictation (speech to text) is an important technology that allows people to easily type with their voice. It is especially helpful for those with dyslexia, dysgraphia or mobility impairments. We launched Dictation for Office 365 Desktop Apps earlier this year. In the coming weeks, Dictation will expand so that it’s freely available for Word and OneNote Online in any browser.

Word Online dictation, available in any browser

3. Inviting all learners into the conversation with Immersive Reader in Flipgrid

In Flipgrid, educators can create social learning communities based on topic stimuli. Learners of all ages can share their ideas, stories, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds through short recorded videos. But when a learner struggles to read and understand the foundational discussion topics, it proves difficult to share their voice and participate comfortable in these discussions. By bringing Immersive Reader into Flipgrid, we’re making this powerful social learning tool more accessible to all learners, giving them the option to use Immersive Reader to access topic text. Starting today, Immersive Reader will work with any accounts being used with Flipgrid, whether connected to Microsoft or Google.

4. Helping students read math problems with Immersive Reader

Some dyslexic students struggle with math – not because they aren’t good at math, but often because they have difficulty reading math problems. Other students experience focus issues, or have dyscalculia, a specific learning disability in math. Later this week, Immersive Reader will begin rolling out support for math, which includes read aloud, line focus and page theme colors. When using OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote Online, students will be able to use any of the Immersive Reader capabilities. We will continue to focus on growing math capabilities in Immersive Reader in the coming year, including making it possible to easily take content from the Math Pane – typically a mix of text and math – and use it in Immersive Reader later this fall.

Example of math in Immersive Reader using OneNote for Windows 10

5. Supporting students in their native language with real-time translation in Immersive Reader

The ability to access text in any language is an important area of inclusion. An example might be an English-language learner who is also dyslexic, trying to access content in another language. Using Microsoft Translator, we are adding the ability for anyone to translate a page, word, or sentence into another language, in real-time and inside of the Immersive Reader. This new capability will support Read Aloud, Syllables, Parts of Speech and Picture Dictionary.

We will begin rolling out later in fall with support for full page and word translations, with sentence translation to follow. Real-time translation will be available in Word Online, OneNote Online, OneNote for Windows 10, OneNote iPad, OneNote Mac, Outlook Online, Teams and Flipgrid. You’ll find the list of supported languages here.

Example of real-time translation in Immersive Reader

6. Helping students sound out words, in partnership with the University of Washington

The English language is notoriously tricky with its use of more than 19 sounds represented by 5 vowels (and sometimes “y”). Together with The University of Washington’s Brain Development & Education Lab, we will begin to develop and test new tools designed to help struggling young readers sound out words that would otherwise be difficult. This project is part of a larger partnership effort with the University of Washington to understand the different factors that contribute to reading difficulties, and to design technology that accommodates the individual.

7. Making the web more friendly to all learners with Microsoft Edge browser updates

As part of the October 2018 Windows Update, the Microsoft Edge browser will have a number of big improvements that will support students of all abilities. The new capabilities include:

  • Built-in Dictionary for ePub, PDF, or Reading View in the Microsoft Edge browser
  • Expanded page colors for Reading View and ePub files
  • Line Focus feature for Reading View
Dictionary built-in to the Microsoft Edge browser on right click, Windows 10 October 2018 update
Expanded Page theme colors in the Microsoft Edge browser, Windows 10 October 2018 update

8. Capturing text from anywhere to read in Immersive Reader with Office Lens in Android

In addition to iOS Office Lens Immersive Reader, Immersive Reader is coming to Office Lens on Android starting today. Once students and teachers take a photo of a book page, or worksheet, they can send it to Immersive Reader, which uses optical character recognition (OCR) on the image. This allows the user to turn the image into accessible text content and use Read Aloud, Voice Speed, Text Spacing, Font Size, and Forward/Backwards. Now, students can gain independence with Android phones, tablets and access text from anywhere.

Immersive Reader now available for Android Office Lens

With these new materials and technology, we’re excited to help the people at Made by Dyslexia take their important awareness and advocacy work to a new level of action and impact in today’s schools.

To get started with these tools, visit our Inclusive Classroom Guide for free.

New to Learning Tools? No worries, you can learn how to use Learning Tools in 90 seconds here:

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Oct. 16 TweetMeet will help educators prep students for global Skype-a-Thon

In celebration of the 48-hr Skype-a-Thon event beginning on November 13, our 22 educators and experts are going the extra (virtual) mile and preparing a new #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet on Global Collaboration. Paired with the resources made by our Skype in the Classroom team, this event will help you prepare your students to travel far and wide and learn everything in-between during Skype-a-Thon.

You can join our special #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet on Tuesday, October 16, at 10:00 a.m. PDT (check your time zone here) and start absorbing ideas from our hosts – they’re well-seasoned travelers as far as Skype-a-Thon goes! (Sounds great, but what’s a TweetMeet?)

In the spirit of collaboration across continents, we have 3 brand-new language tracks this month: Русский (Russian), বাংলা (Bangla) and 日本語 (Japanese). We also offer Español (Spanish), Français (French), Italiano (Italian), Polski (Polish), Português (Portuguese), Svenska (Swedish),اللغة العربية   (Arabic), sprski (Serbian), Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese), Deutsch (German) and Nederlands (Dutch).

For each language track, we have one or more hosts to post the translated questions and respond to educators. As always, we’re super grateful to all current and former hosts who are collaborating closely to provide this service.

The #TweetMeetXX hashtags for non-English languages are to be used together with #MSFTEduChat so that everyone can find the conversations back in their own language. For example: French-speaking people use the combination #TweetMeetFR #MSFTEduChat. English-speaking educators may all use #MSFTEduChat on its own.

Our #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet is getting ready to go ’round the globe with Skype-a-Thon. Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PDT. #skypeathon #globaled Click To Tweet

New this month

  • Post-event summary: Starting this month, we will publish a new post after each #MSFTEduChat event to summarize the key learnings from the conversations during the TweetMeet. The hosts will collaborate to curate a top selection of the tweets and trends  they found most significant. For even more highlights from the TweetMeet, the blog post will offer multiple Twitter Moments – curated stories and conversations from Twitter.
  • TweetMeet fan? Show it off on your Twitter profile: Every month more people discover the unique nature of the TweetMeets and become passionate about them. Well, you can now show your passion for the TweetMeets right from your Twitter page. The dimensions of our Twitter Header Photo are 1500×500 – the perfect size for your Twitter profile. Get this month’s image here: #MSFTEduChat Twitter Header Photo.

Why join the #MSFTEduChat TweetMeets?

TweetMeets are monthly recurring Twitter conversations about themes relevant to educators, facilitated by Microsoft Education. The purpose of these events is to help professionals in education to learn from each other and inspire their students while they are preparing for their future. The TweetMeets also nurture personal learning networks among educators from across the globe.

We’re grateful to have a support group made up exclusively of former TweetMeet hosts, who volunteer to translate communication and check the quality of our questions and promotional materials. They also help identify the best candidates for future events, provide relevant resources, promote the events among their networks, and, in general, cheer everybody on.

When and how can I join?

Join us Tuesday, October 16 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PDT on Twitter using the hashtags #MSFTEduChat, #skypeathon, #globaled and #MicrosoftEDU (which you can always use to stay in touch with us). To find the event time for your specific location, use this time zone announcer.

From our monthly surveys we know that you may be in class at event time, busy doing other things or maybe even asleep – well, no problem! All educators are most welcome to join after the event. Simply take a look at the questions below and respond to these at a day and time that suit you best. You can also schedule your tweets in advance. In that case, be sure to quote the entire question and mention the hashtag #MSFTEduChat, so that everyone knows the right question and conversation to which you are responding.

How can I best prepare?

To prepare for the #MSFTEduChat TweetMeet, have a look at the questions we crafted this time.

You can also equip yourself with a special Skype-a-Thon Teacher Toolkit in OneNote, and get a free activity plan to get your whole class primed for the global event.

Later in the month, join a training webinar on Monday, October 22 with VP of Education Anthony Salcito and Skype Master Teacher Stacey Ryan to learn how your class can participate and how you can organize your Skype-a-Thon activities from start to finish. REGISTER HERE.

If this time doesn’t work for you, please register so we can send you the on-demand video.

Our TweetMeet hosts have also assembled a great Flipgrid to help – and don’t forget that you can add your own video as well.

TweetMeet Questions

Time # Question
10:05 1 What does it take to be a global collaborator?
10:16 2 Why is global collaboration important for teaching and learning?
10:27 3 How do you embrace cultural differences and similarities?
10:38 4 Which resources and tools should be in any global collaborator’s toolkit?
10:49 5 Where will you be taking your students during
Skype-a-Thon on Nov 13-14?

Hosts

All hosts have been carefully recruited from across the globe based on their expertise in and passion for engaging their students in Skype-a-Thon, Skype in the Classroom, Mystery Skype and other global collaboration projects.

  • Arnaud Perrier @arperrier (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, eTwinning ambassador, Flipgrid Certified Educator, 4th Grade Teacher – Montauroux, France)
  • Atef Elbatal @battal_teacher (MIE Expert, MIE Fellow, Skype Master Teacher, Global Minecraft Mentor2018, Ministry of Education Certified Trainer  – Doha , Qatar)
  • Elena Degtyareva @leadegtyareva (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, Global Minecraft Mentor 2018 – Verkhoturye, Russia)
  • Flor Irod @Flor_Irod (MIE Expert, Skype in the classroom passionate, Class Dojo Mentor, Flip Grid fever and eTwinning teacher – Valencia, Spain)
  • Gudrun Edhofer @GudrunEdhofer (MIE Expert, passionate 5th – 12th grade Math and History Teacher, Hollabrunn, Austria)
  • Gustavo Calderón @gustavocdeanda (Skype Master Teacher, Director of Technology and Learning Innovation / AP Computer Science Principles Teacher – Guadalajara, Mexico)
  • Joanna Waszkowska @joawaszka (MIE Expert, Edmodo Ambassador and Certified Trainter, 9th – 12th grade Polish Language Teacher, Superbelfrzy and eTwinning member – Katowice, Poland)
  • Josie McKay @MrsJosieMcKay (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, PBS Digital Innovator, Flipgrid Certified Educator, Class Dojo Mentor, and 4th grade Teacher – Indiana, United States)
  • Karin Ericson @kelisabet1 (MIE Expert, CINO and teacher at MTH Utbildning, a Microsoft Showcase School. I am also leading international Erasmusplus projects – Hudiksvall, Sweden)
  • Kimee Reed @msclift (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, Flipgrid Certified Educator, Epic! Certified Teacher, avid reader- Arkadelphia, Arkansas, USA)
  • Loretta Proietto @LorettaProietto (MIE Expert, Math and Science teacher, Carbonia, Italy)
  • Manuela Correia @musicadc2013 (Skype Master Teacher, MIEExpert, awarded eTwinner and an Erasmus+ project overall coordinator, Music teacher, Skype in the Classroom fan – Espinho, Portugal)
  • Megan Lipinczyk @LipEdTech (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, ScreenBeam Expert, District Reading Resource Teacher, Tampa, Florida, United States)
  • Mio Horio @mibra_mio (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, Flipgrid Certified Educator, hundrED Ambassador English Teacher – Shiga, Japan)
  • Ngoc Dieu Nguyen @NgocDieuNguyen4 (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, English Instructor – Hanoi, Vietnam)
  • Odeogbola Ayodele @Ebunayo (Global Teacher Prize Finalist, Forbes List Top African Educator 2018, MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher – Abeokuta, Nigeria)
  • Olivier Dijkmans @OlivierDijkmans (Passionate Teacher in P5 in Omnimundo,  MIEE, E2 Toronto Winner Gamification, Telly Award Winner 2018, Surface Expert, i3 All Star, Antwerp, Belgium)
  • Raihana Haque @HaqueRaihana (MIE Expert, MIE Trainer,  National Geography Certified teacher – Kishoreganj, Bangladesh.)
  • Seema Duggal @seemaduggal1 (MIE Expert, MIE Fellow, Skype Master Teacher, Minecraft Global Mentor, Microsoft Certified Educator, Math Teacher –  Delhi, India)
  • Shannon Miller @ShannonMMiller (Future Ready Librarian Spokesperson, Skype Master Teacher, Flipgrid Certified Educator, Canva TL Advisor & K12 Teacher Librarian in Van Meter – Iowa, United States)
  • Todd Flory @Todd_Flory (MIE Expert, Skype Master Teacher, 2018 Kansas Master Teacher, Buncee Ambassador, PBS Digital Innovator, TeachSDGs Ambassador, 4th grade teacher – Andover, Kansas, USA)

Special thanks to Francisco Texeira (@fcotexeira), who helps us coordinate the TweetMeet every month. 

What are #MSFTEduChat TweetMeets?

Every month Microsoft Education organizes social events on Twitter targeted at educators globally. The hashtag we use is #MSFTEduChat. A team of topic specialists and international MIE Expert teachers prepare and host these TweetMeets together. Our team of educator hosts first crafts several questions around a certain topic. Then, before the event, they share these questions on social media. Combined with a range of resources, a blog post and background information about the events, this allows all participants to prepare themselves to the full. Afterwards we make an archive available of the most notable tweets and resources shared during the event.

Please connect with TweetMeet organizer Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC on Twitter if you have any questions about TweetMeets or helping out as a host.

Next month’s topics: Computer Science and Hour of Code

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Microsoft Innovative Educators share tips for teachers in podcast series

Welcome to the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert Spotlight Series Podcast, a partnership between Microsoft Education and the TeacherCast Educational Network.  In each episode, host Jeff Bradbury, a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, interviews other MIEs to share and showcase what they are doing in their classrooms using Microsoft tools and applications.

If you’ve wondered about how other teachers have brought Minecraft: Education Edition, virtual field trips, and even Hip Hop into their classrooms, you’ll probably pick up a few pointers in this playlist!

The podcast can be found on all podcasting platforms in both audio and video formats – just pick one below, or listen to individual episodes from our full playlist below. Most episodes are between 30 and 60 minutes long.

Full YouTube Playlist

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Season 2 Episodes

Episode 1: 3 Ways to Participate in Skype-a-Thon

We take a look at the Hack the Classroom event with California educator Tammy Dunbar and learn how you can prepare your students for the 2017 Skype-a-Thon, with help from Paul Watkins and Gina Ruffcorn.


Episode 2: Looking Back at 2017 and Reflecting on Amazing Moments with Microsoft Education

We speak to Principal Product Manager Mike Tholfsen from the Microsoft Education Team about his favorite moments from 2017.

Episode 3: Computer Science Education for All Students

We learn from MIE Doug Bergman how any school can create an exceptional Computer Science program that includes all students.

Episode 4: Calling All Educators: Applications for the 2018 #MIEExpert Program are Now Open!

We welcome Sonja and Robyn back on the podcast to discuss the 2018 MIE Program.  Together, we discuss the reasons why hundreds of thousands of educators call the MIE program their second family and we discuss how you can become an MIE Expert in 2018!  

Episode 5: @Skype in the Classroom: Giving Your Students the Field Trip of a Lifetime

We speak with MIEExperts Amy and Valerie about innovative ways they create virtual field trips for their students, using Skype in the Classroom.

Episode 6: Microsoft Innovative Educator: Toney Jackson Shares How to Bring Hip-Hop into the Classroom 

We welcome MIEExpert Toney Jackson from New Jersey to discuss how he uses Hip Hop to motivate and engage his 4th-grade students.

Episode 7: Microsoft Showcase Schools

We invite Josh Sawyer, Senior Manager for US Education for Microsoft, and educators Scott Bricker and Alyson Dame  to discuss the Microsoft Showcase Schools Program.  

Episode 8: What Can You Do with Windows 10 This School Year?

At ISTE,  Shindy and Javier joined the podcast to discuss the power of inking and what advantages it brings to the classroom.

Episode 9: Learn What 20,000 Educators Were Talking About at the Microsoft EDU Booth During the ISTE Conference

Learn why educators today are all catching #FlipgridFever!

Episode 10: Microsoft Education Releases Two Major Updates for Minecraft: Education Edition

Jeff sits down with Sara Cornish and Trish Cloud from the Minecraft Education team at the Microsoft Education booth. The big announcement at the  ISTE Conference revolved around the two new updates for Minecraft Education Edition.

Episode 11: Microsoft Education News: Summertime Updates from Microsoft Office 365, Teams and OneNote

I had the opportunity to sit down with Tricia Van Hollebeke, Justin Chando and Mike Tholfsen from the Microsoft Education team at the Microsoft Education booth at ISTE.

Season 1 Episodes

Episode 0: Introducing the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert: Spotlight Series Podcast

Jeff sits down with Sonja Delafosse and Robyn Hrivnatz from the Microsoft Education team to discuss what makes the MIE program special and how you can become an MIE yourself.

Episode 1: How Can We Use Office 365 for Professional Development in Our Schools?

Jeff sits down with Cal Armstrong to discuss how his school district is using Office 365 to provide dynamic and collaborative professional development.

Episode 2: College and Career Ready: How to Set Your Students Up for Success

Jeff sits down with David Harcrow to discuss how he is providing a college- and career-ready curriculum that can not be felt in K-12, but well beyond graduation day.

Episode 3: Tech Coaches: How Can We Create a Safe Learning Environment for Our Struggling Learners?

Jeff talks to MIE Master Trainer Laura Stanner to discuss how we can help our struggling readers.

Episode 4: How Can We Use Technology To Raise The Bar in Special Education Classrooms?

Jeff sits down with Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Special Education Educator Lauren Pittman to discuss how technology can be used in the classroom to assist in teaching our exceptional learners.

Episode 5: Using Skype Video Conferencing to Connect Our Classrooms

Jeff speaks to Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Stacey Ryan to discuss how Skype video conferencing is being used to connect her classrooms worldwide.

Episode 6: What makes the Microsoft Education Community So Special?

Jeff talks to Pennsylvania educator Michael Soskil (@msoskil) about why YOU should participate in Skype-a-Thon.

Episode 7: Keeping Professional Development Fun and Exciting for Your Teachers

Jeff sits down with Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and MIE Trainer Alex Handy to discuss how he has turned professional development into a successful and enjoyable experience for his teachers and his school district.

Episode 8: How Do We Teach Our Students Practical Entrepreneurship?

We welcome MIE Expert Ole Johnny Devik onto the program to discuss how he brings the world of business and marketing into the classroom.

Episode 9: What Makes a Great Data Assessment Tool?

We welcome MIE Expert Mick Hellgren onto the program to discuss a fantastic (and free) tool from Microsoft called Power BI.

Thanks for listening!

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Building blocks for classroom success

“What if I never learn to read?”

This question was posed by eight-year old Fatima to her mom, Tasneem, after coming home from school in tears because she was struggling to read aloud in class.

Fatima has dyslexia, a term used to describe disorders that involve difficulty learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age after her teachers noticed that she was mispronouncing certain names and words.

Fatima’s mom explained to her that children learn in different ways and having dyslexia doesn’t mean she is “stupid” or “dumb”.  She assured Fatima that she is just as intelligent as the other children, and explained that many people who struggled with dyslexia had gone on to have successful careers, like Albert Einstein, who became the world’s most renowned physicist.

That was nine years ago.

Now Fatima reads with the assistance of sophisticated technology called Immersive Reader. Immersive Reader is a Microsoft Learning Tool that empowers students with challenges like dyslexia, dysgraphia (the inability to write coherently) and Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD) to improve their reading and writing skills. It’s currently used by more than 13 million students around the world and has been shown to increase student test scores by as much as 10 percent.

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Technology gives all students a leg up

It’s clear that our world is changing faster than ever. Just a decade ago, a child such as Fatima, who struggled to read or write, didn’t have the opportunities technology provides now.

For countries in the Middle East and Africa, where vast disparities in educational opportunities exist, technology offers many teachers and students access to tools and content that would otherwise be out of reach. Mobile technology in particular is poised to revolutionise education in the region, as more students in emerging economies use their cell phones as learning devices.

At the Likoni School for the Blind in Kenya, over 500 visually impaired children are using assistive technology to access richer digital learning content.  And in Sharjah City in the United Arab Emirates, the Al Amal School for the Deaf is also using technology to help teachers build more engaging lessons, create sign-language videos and facilitate independent learning.

According to Afaf Haridi, principal of Al Amal School for the Deaf, “The children are gaining skills that they can use in the professional world. All in all, the initiative we rolled out with the help of Microsoft hasn’t just improved classroom learning—it has also created an amazing bond between the school and our students.”

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No one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning

However, the benefits of integrating technology in the classroom don’t only apply to children who have disabilities. Technology is improving overall learning outcomes by meeting the needs of different learning styles of students.

The days of the “one-size-fits-all” educational model are numbered. Today’s educators have more tools and resources at their disposal than ever before, meeting the diverse needs of their students and helping them succeed both inside and outside the classroom.

Teaching for success: Integrating tech into the different learning styles

Students enter the classroom with a wide range of learning styles and abilities, as well as their own unique personalities. To help them grasp new concepts, a fundamental understanding of the learning styles is essential. But it’s sometimes difficult for teachers to accommodate each student individually within the traditional classroom setting.

Fortunately, technology is providing teachers with accessible solutions that support a more personalised and inclusive approach to learning.

In general terms, learning styles refer to the ways in which learners understand, process and remember new information. The most popular learning styles include: visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic

Girl looking through a Blaster

For example, visual learners respond best to pictures and videos. Incorporating a tool like Picture Dictionary into the classroom gives these learners the ability to see a picture and hear the word simultaneously aiding reading comprehension.

Nikki Heyman, a speech and language therapist in South Africa, uses technology to visually represent concepts to children. “Having material at hand because of access to technology is fantastic. There may be a word or a concept that a child doesn’t understand, and technology allows you to provide the child with an immediate visual image of the word,” she says.

Auditory learners, on the other hand, learn best through audible signals, storytelling and music. A tool like Dictation in Office is a simple yet transformative tool that helps students of all abilities write freely by speaking into a microphone. In addition, with Skype, students can connect with classrooms around the world. Foreign language teachers can also use Skype to connect their class with native speakers of the language which can help students develop their conversational skills.

Kinesthetic learners prefer acting and role-playing. A great way to enhance the learning outcomes of these types of learners is to incorporate mixed reality into the classroom. Mixed reality helps transform classrooms by enabling students to experience curricula in completely new ways. Students can immerse themselves in the subject matter in a truly engaging way.

For example, with Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloTour, students can explore the beauty and history of Rome or uncover the hidden secrets of Machu Picchu. They can experience a whole new world with a unique combination of 360-degree video, spatial sound, and holographic scenery.

For tactile students who prefer to learn by touch, mixed reality lets them experience 3D content creation. With Masterpiece VR, students can sculpt and paint using intuitive and dynamic features that assist students build tangible objects, colourful environments and high quality models.

Minecraft: Education Edition is another great tool for all types of learners as it teaches creativity, collaboration and even coding. Minecraft: Education Edition is used to teach all types of subjects, from mathematics and physics to history and languages. Today, the game has more than four million licensed users in 115 countries. Educators have created more than 250 free lesson plans spanning a variety of subjects and over 300 educators around the world are trained as Minecraft mentors to help others get started.

Giving a voice to more children

According to Heyman, “The biggest revolution in technology for me is the ability to give more children a voice. In the past children with complex needs were written off because they could not communicate.”

However, she believes that there are still challenges that need to be overcome before technology can be used to its full potential in the classroom. “There are many teachers who are reluctant to change from the ‘old school’ style of teaching for fear of the unknown and having to learn new skills. Also, placing a device in front of a child and expecting them to just use it, is not going to happen. They need to be taught how to use it, and this takes time, resources and practice. It needs buy-in from everyone in the environment to be successful,” she says.

This sentiment is echoed by Michele Botha, a primary school assessment specialist for the Independent Examinations Board in South Africa. Botha believes that using technology in teaching to enhance the learning experience demands a high level of understanding and skill – it cannot be left to intuition.

She also believes that the reason education is still playing catch up with the digital world, particularly in the MEA region, is because education is generally more conservative in its approach to change than other workplaces.

“By its very nature education is dependent on a deeply personal relationship of trust and care. Additionally, there is sometimes a lack of money, teacher training, confidence in use of technology, inadequate infrastructure and poor connectivity, which are also contributing factors,” she says.

Technology now for students in the future

The role of the teacher is to prepare the future generations. The biggest question facing educators now is what skills today’s children will need to be ready by the time they graduate, and how can technology support their educational journey?

Happy Graduates screaming

To answer these critical questions, Microsoft launched a key piece of research: “The class of 2030 and life-ready learning: The technology imperative.” The research interviewed more than 70 thought leaders around the world, reviewed 150 pieces of existing research, and surveyed 2 000 teachers and 2 000 students.

The research highlights personalised learning as an approach which supports skills development — both cognitive as well as social and emotional. The students were also clear: they want to develop these skills to navigate their own learning – to explore and make choices that unlock their curiosity and potential – and they want teachers who know and understand them as individuals.

Three technologies were highlighted in the research as showing great promise to support social and emotional skill development and personalised learning. These are collaborative platforms, mixed reality and analytics powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Technology can’t substitute the teacher

According to Botha, technology is not the silver bullet with which to solve all education problems. “It’s just another tool in a teacher’s toolbox. A teacher’s power lies in the opportunities he or she creates for learners to solve problems in an environment grounded in strong interpersonal relationships.”

“Good teachers have always finessed the technology available to them to create spaces where learning to think, learning to learn and creativity are paramount. Technology is only an asset when it’s added into this mix,” she concludes.

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How OneNote and Immersive Reader are helping students with autism

It all started last October. I was well into my first year of teaching second, third and fourth grade in a self-contained classroom for students with autism. My focus was to equip students with the social, academic and emotional skills needed to be members of their community. I was implementing eight behavior plans, three reading interventions, two math interventions, and was responsible for eight Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). It was a lot.

When I received an email that said my district was transitioning to the Microsoft Education suite, I wasn’t thrilled. In my mind, the Microsoft products were just another tool that would not meet the changing needs of the autistic students I taught.

I went to a Microsoft training, but still questioned how these products would meet the needs of my students. We only had three computers in my classroom, and my students were still learning how to type. How were they going to navigate complex programs like OneNote, PowerPoint, and Sway? How was I going to fit in the time to teach my students to use technology when they had more pressing social and academic needs? I decided I wasn’t going to implement the products.

Technology as a tool, not a barrier

Fast forward a few weeks and my class was working on a writing assignment. The goal of the assignment was simple—use visuals and adapted writing strategies, state an opinion, and support it with at least three reasons using complete sentences. I had graphic organizers, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) pieces, adapted lined paper, and a plan.

My students wrote two drafts with one-on-one support and explicit modeling, but one student was struggling. This student had a difficult time expressing his thoughts verbally, let alone on paper. He’d written two sentences in one week. It was difficult for me to figure out how to help him.

Then I thought of the Microsoft products that had been shared with me. It couldn’t hurt to try out OneNote with this student. So I put a computer in front of him and was blown away.

Without any prompting, he started typing. Not random letters, not a few simple words. He was able to write full, grammatically correct sentences. I couldn’t believe it.

The first time I used OneNote with the student who started the technology takeover in my classroom.

Seven months later, he’s made strides that are nothing short of incredible. His reading has increased nine levels. He’s gone from doing single-digit addition to multiplication. He’s playing at recess, talking to his peers, and smiling from ear to ear.

None of that would have been possible without the tools that Microsoft put into my classroom.

Here’s how OneNote and Immersive Reader help my students find success and give them access to the world around them.

Increased independence in reading

OneNote and Microsoft Learning Tools – like the picture dictionary and Immersive Reader – help my students read independently. They experience difficulty decoding words using traditional phonics strategies because English isn’t a consistent language. Microsoft Learning Tools provides my students with appropriate supports that can be increased or decreased to meet their needs.

For example, I have a student who benefits from visual prompts to read because he has difficulties applying decoding strategies on his own. I turned on his picture dictionary in Immersive Reader and taught him how to use it as a decoding strategy. During guided reading or independent reading, he is able to use the picture dictionary as a decoding tool, increasing his independence and access to the material.

If a student needs fewer prompts, I turn the picture dictionary off and teach my students how to use Immersive Reader when they are stuck on a tricky word.

        

A student uses Immersive Reader’s picture dictionary to decode a word.

After practicing technology decoding strategies in guided reading, we focus on comprehension. After multiple readings of a text, students answer questions using Forms in OneNote. I create a form unique to students’ needs and IEP goals, with the option to use them later with another student. These forms include pictures, answer choices, fill-in-the-blank statements – the possibilities are endless.

When students answer the questions, I immediately get the data in an Excel sheet that I can use to plan future instruction, update progress notes, and write IEP goals. Forms decreases the time I spend planning questions, increases my data collection, and creates a sustainable and economic way to test comprehension (no more copies!).

Forms can include accessibility supports such as pictures, answer choices, and read aloud features.

 

Writing

OneNote provides a way for me to differentiate writing materials to help my students be more successful. OneNote is not just an add-on or finishing tool my students use to type their final draft. I use OneNote to create personalized graphic organizers so my students can access writing independently. I highlight text, provide sentence stems, or write questions that promote independence for my students. For my pre-readers, these supports help because Immersive Reader reads them the supports.

Making a differentiated writing prompt in OneNote takes two minutes, saving me time and resources (like ink and paper) and can be the difference between a student having access or struggling with the assignment.

 

Examples of differentiated writing prompts. From left to right: A student uses a text in OneNote and a speech to text application to complete a graphic organizer. An example of a differentiated prompt that includes sentence stems and highlighting to indicate where students need to write. An example of another prompt that includes numbers to prompt the student to write the sentences in order.

Self-regulation

OneNote promotes self-regulation in my classroom when we use it to display visual schedules that help students transition to different parts of the room independently. My students use the “to do” feature in OneNote to check off centers as they transition, and they reset their to do list at the end of the day. In addition to promoting self-regulation, this is teaching a crucial life skill that my students need—how to make a list and cross off completed items.

An example of a visual schedule in OneNote that increases self-regulation and independence.

Parent communication

One of the best things about OneNote is the parent link share. I use this feature to show parents exactly what their kids are doing in the classroom. This link provides parents view-only access to their child’s notebook, and they can see everything they are reading in guided reading, notes from science, and any notes I leave in the parent communication tab.

This keeps parents up to date, involves them in their child’s learning, and provides an instant answer to the “What should I be working on at home?” question. It’s easy for parents to navigate, and even easier for them to help their child at home.

Technology in the real world

Microsoft OneNote and Immersive Reader give my students tools to be successful in the classroom, in the community, and in college and career. Regardless of their reading level, they can access books, newspaper articles, news updates, and job applications with Immersive Reader. OneNote provides them the platform to self-regulate and organize their daily schedules, assignments, and calendars.

Remember that student who began this technology transformation in my classroom? He is now my go-to technology expert when other students have questions or difficulties using Microsoft technologies. With the help of my principal, my classroom is now one-to-one with technology.

Our school’s first Skype a Scientist session that promoted inclusion between my class and a general education fourth grade class.

Students are able to use the Microsoft products in personalized ways that meet their needs. I am now a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert who is passionate about using technology to promote accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities. My school is on our way to becoming a Microsoft Showcase school and is a more inclusive school as Microsoft Learning Tools allows all students to work side-by-side, regardless of ability. Thanks to Microsoft, my students’ lives are better because they have access to 21st Century tools that will help them navigate the world.

Megan Callahan is a special education teacher in Washington, D.C. She writes about how she includes technology in her classroom at thespedcreative.com

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Teachers: Take your students around the world during Nov. 13-14 Skype-a-Thon – miles add up to provide school resources for kids in need

An estimated half a million students from over 100 countries will connect during Skype-a-Thon on November 13th and 14th. Each year, this 48-hour global learning event brings classrooms together, using Skype to not only deepen students’ understanding of the world beyond their classroom walls, but to help them become global citizens.

Participating classrooms travel “virtual miles” via Skype to talk to thousands of volunteer guest speakers about topics like conservation, history, animals, computer science, and more, or to simply share in song and dance, games, reading, stories, and virtual field trips.

This event is always special, but this year is extra special: By participating and travelling those virtual miles, your students can help other students in need. Microsoft is partnering with the nonprofit WE for Skype-a-Thon 2018 to help support access to quality education for children around the world.

For every 400 virtual miles traveled by Skype-a-Thon participants, Microsoft will donate to WE, an organization that makes doing good doable. WE Schools, a free service-learning program, helps students domestically and WE Villages, a holistic, sustainable international development model, helps students internationally.

The model is built on five pillars of impact – Education, Water, Health, Food and Opportunity. Microsoft’s donation will support WE Village’s Education pillar to provide access to education for children overseas and support UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 – Quality Education. If we reach our goal of 14 million virtual miles, together we can support up to 35,000 children across nine WE Villages partner communities. The donations will be tailored to each village’s unique needs, funding everything from construction of new classrooms and libraries, to school supplies, to teacher training.

Craig Kielburger, Co-Founder of WE, is as excited as we are and recently shared with me that he can’t wait to “embrace the collective energy and passion created during this event and turn it into real impact for thousands of children in need.”

In addition to teaching kids about giving back, Skype-a-Thon continues to be a fun and engaging way for teachers to help students build empathy and compassion. Sara Arlotti, Executive Director for Hearts on Fire, has partnered with Skype-a-Thon to motivate thousands of students across the globe to #BeTheSpark of compassion and change in their own communities. She says she believes the annual program has “opened the hearts and minds of students and teachers by bringing social change rock stars to the classroom.”

Sign up today!

  1. Register and download the Skype-a-Thon Step by Step Activity Plan to help you organize and prepare your students for their virtual Skype adventures.
  2. Get ideas and learn from teachers who have participated in the past with their students in the Skype-a-Thon Flipgrid.
  3. Schedule Skype calls with other classrooms or guest speakers via the Skype in the Classroom website for November 13-14 for your miles to be counted towards our goal.
  4. Download the Skype-a-Thon Teacher Toolkit filled with resources for your classroom from passports, certificates, posters, social media examples, and activities to track your miles and the impact each of your connections made to the world.
  5. Share your plans and goals with the Skype in the Classroom (@SkypeClassroom) community before and after the event with #skypeathon and #MicrosoftEDU. See ideas in our social media guide.

To learn more about how you and your classroom can support UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4: Quality Education and other SDGs through WE, check out the free WE Schools Service Learning Kit.

“Skype-a-Thon is a huge highlight each school year for my third graders!  This year, in addition to adding up our miles to places like Antarctica, India and more, we’ll be directly helping kids around the world support UN SDG #4 Quality Education. My class is going to try to travel 10,000 virtual miles so we can help 25 children in need in WE Villages! Having teachers come together to #TeachSDGs through the #skypeathon is a major step in helping to improve our world.” 

– Amy Rosenstein, 3rd grade teacher, Ardsley, New York, Westchester County NY School District

For more info, follow @MicrosoftEDU and @SkypeClassroom and reach out to us with any questions via Twitter!