Opportunities from the Partners in Learning Network

I have decided to nominate http://blogs.msdn.com/b/teachers/ for an Edublogs award. If you read the below post you will see why I am nominating them for this, because without this blog the below would not of happened and they would not of had the significant impact they have had on the education system.


This is the longest blog entry I have ever done and even then I am not sure I have done these events justice, enjoy.  

Recently I was lucky enough to attend several events hosted by Microsoft in Reading. The first event was the 1st Microsoft Education forum #msedf this was hosted by Sean OShea @SeanOfTheNorth, Tim Bush @tbush and James Marshall @jamesbmarshall.

I found this to be a very interesting and very inspiring. The event was held to discuss and to show what Microsoft’s future plans where for their involvement within the education system. What I particularly liked about this event was that there was no hard sell with regard to Microsoft products. We were shown what was currently available from Microsoft as well as what was coming soon from Microsoft.

From my perspective one of the more exciting announcements was that a new PC version of the KINECT is due to be announced which will be able to be powered from a powered USB connection on your laptop or PC. This would allow anyone wanting to use a KINECT with their laptop to be completely mobile as they would not need to plug the seWP_000247nsor into the mains supply.

I also got my first experience of Windows Mobile 7.5. I was very impressed by how it integrated all of the social aspects of a person’s life such as Facebook and email. I was also very impressed on how you could communicate with anyone via instant messaging across multiple platforms all in the same message stream.

Below are some of the topics that where covered

www.dreamspark.com – Dreamspark (with Kodu)

http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=17786 – Microsoft Maths Add-In for Word and OneNote

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/uk_faculty_connection/archive/2011/07/12/net-gadgeteer.aspx – we didn’t cover this but I think it’s definitely worth looking at!

http://uk.partnersinlearningnetwork.com/Pages/default.aspx – Partners in Learning (with Learning Suite download)

http://www.microsoft.com/uk/education/schools/curriculum-resources/IT-academy/default.aspx – IT Academy

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ukliveatedu/ – Live@edu blog

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ukschools/ – Schools blog

The next event was the teachmeet  #itmeet this was held at the Royal Tandoori restaurant, this was hosted by Dan Roberts @chickensaltash and Stuart Ball @innovativeteach. Whilst at the teachmeet we heard from several different teachers about their projects such as Julia Skinner @theheadsoffice. Her 100 word challenge #100wc this has been a huge success since it’s been launched.

I also got to talk about my work with The KINECT alongside two very inspirational teacher Ray Chambers @Lanky_Boi_Ray and Gareth Ritter @ritzertech both of these teacherskinect-pr-top-1 have been working on using the KINECT within the classroom. Gareth won at the Microsoft Innovative teacher’s Global forum and Ray has just been selected to go to the European Forum for his work on KINECT.

Two other teachers who I think made a very good impression where Becy Allen @trainieteacher and Katie O’Reilly @kforeilly they are trainee teachers at Plymouth University they talked about how they use blogging and networking. Both spoke incredibly well and it was clear that they are very passionate about what they do. I follow both there blogs and they are very well written. One particular entry by Katie on ADHD is probably one of the best blog entries on the topic I have ever read, you can find their blogs here and here.

The final event I attenKinect Generations Projectded was the actual UK forum for the Partners in Learning Network #mspiluk2011. I arrived at Microsoft HQ to set up my stand to show what my Virtual Classroom Tour (VCT) was about (see The KINECT Generations Project via the menu) and had a look around there where a lot of people around all talking about what they were doing in their respective schools and how this had had an impact on their schools as well as the students.

The Keynote speakers where Ollie Bray @olliebray and Ian Livingstone, Ian Livingstone was up first and he gave a talk about the journey through computer games development from pong to the new Tomb Raider game due out next year (this looks very cool!). He went on to talk about how the current provision in the curriculum does not provide the key skills for those want to have a career in the games industry (The lack of computer science in schools). And that how important Maths and Art are incredibly important to anyone who wants to be a games designer.

Ollie Bray was up next talking about games in the classroom. I am a big fan of using games in the classroom and think it is a brilliant idea. He talked about how he used games such as Sim City to show his students about urban redevelopment as well as how he used Guitar Hero in his classroom. This was really cool and I hope that this kind of practice does become standard in the majority of schools.

After the key notes I went off to do my presentation about Skype in the classroom. ForSkype those of you who don’t know there is a Skype education page http://education.skype.com/ where teachers can set up projects and collaborate together at the time of writing this post there are currently 19334 teachers or people linked with education registered with this site. I would strongly recommend you sign up to this service as it is a great FREE tool to use in the classroom.

Ben RoweWhilst doing the presentations we Skyped back to some students from saltash.net with teacher and head of year 7 Mr Ben Rowe you may know him as @itsmerowey on twitter. If you are not following him, please do as he does some exceptional work within saltash.net. I have never heard Ben say that something cannot be done he will always go out of his way to make something happen. Which is why I am very grateful to him for helping coordinate the Skype talk which made the talks run smoothly.

It was then time to find out who had made it through to the European stage of the Innovative Teachers Forum in Lisbon. The four winners where Ray Chambers @Lanky_Boi_Ray, Katie Boothman @Boothmank , Sarah Coombes @CoombesS and Nicki Maddams @GeekyNicki, all of whom received Xbox 360’s and KINECT sensors. All of these projects where excellent and I urge you to have a look at their projects andanrobertsd blogs.

Dan Roberts @chickensaltash also received an award for his outstanding contribution by supporting other educators through the Partners in Learning Network. This award is very well deserved as Dan is the driving force behind saltash.net’s success in the Partners in Learning Network. I owe a lot to Dan who is always encouraging in all Endeavors and helped me establish this blog as well as a presence on twitter. More can be read about Dan’s aKatie Boothmanchievements here.

I work with Katie Boothman @Boothmank  at saltash.net, and must say she is an exceptional teacher with a definite passion for education. The impact Katie has had since joining the school has been immense her recognition for her work is well deserved. I expect that this is not the last time she will be mentioned within the Partners in Learning Network or indeed in educational circles.

The last talk I saw (before rushing for the train home) was from Alex Bellos @alexbellos, Alex showed us some amazing things about Maths and how our brains work with numbers. I wish I could explain in sufficient detail some of the amazing techniques he showed us but do not feel I could do him justice, I can only suggest that you get a copy of Alex’s new book Alex’s Adventures in Numberland. I have already ordered it from amazon!

I know this blog post is probably the longest one you have probably read and I thank you for sticking with it this far. I would like to thank the Partners in Learning Network for allowing me the opportunity to attend these exceptional events I would definitely recommend that you join the Partners in Learning Network as you will be hard pressed to find better a better continued professional development (CPD) experience anywhere.