During winter time, if you stay home from school or college because it is snowing outside, it’s a day to celebrate some unexpected freedom; Make a snowman, have a snowball fight dread the arrival of the snowplough ? and the sun.  Unfortunately, with Covid-19 the whole world’s been on a snow day for months now, It may in some form  be stretching into years.  At this stage, Microsoft has decided the worlds school kids need a hand with their homework.

One hundred fifty million students, teachers and other academics and learners are now engaging with Microsoft Education products, with Microsoft Teams being the central hub, enabling remote learning.

 

Microsoft Teams is the newest classroom assistant and they’re rebuilding schools.

Microsoft has joined the battle to educate in lockdown.  Microsoft ‘Teamstechnology’ will allow remote and hybrid forms of learning throughout the entire school year.   Now classrooms can be made up of an audience view of 49 learners possibly more, backgrounds can be customized, class insights can be gathered and even virtual break out can be held.  It’s a lot more sophisticated than constantly resending a Zoom invite and suspecting it’s being auto deleted by some learners who are more interested in online gaming. 

 

In a survey of almost 500 members of the Microsoft Education community, including teachers from across the globe, Microsoft remote learning tools scored as powerfully used. Six one percent are planning to begin the next school year with a hybrid learning environment—that is, classes taught by a mixture of remote and face to face learning.  87% see it featuring as part of the physical classroom Not true…  especially  older teachers and teachers with chronic illnesses are more and more engaging with those remote tolls. 

 

Microsoft in Asia is working with ministries of Education in countries like Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines which have enabled remote learning for millions of students during COVID-19. These countries’ pupils have been enjoying real-time interactivity with their teachers and learning to learn and create.  Microsoft has also been using this technology in Australia where the school of the air and other services; have been doing this with CB radio and postal service before the internet had even been invented.  They might take some pleasure in the rest of the world finally catching up to them. 

It is obvious that technological innovation forces human innovation to accompany it.   How do you inspire or at least intimidate pupil’s to pay attention to the teacher when they may be on another continent?   Microsoft has provided a kit of digital tools for remote learning over distance. Of course, distant learning has issues with security, but Microsoft has tools for that.   This is a fascinating study group for what the future of education may look like.  Will we see the first generation to graduate college in their bedroom wearing a 3d printed mortarboard?

 

Some of the tools include;

Meeting Lobby: this ensures that students can’t sneak into classrooms they’re not supposed to be attending, and tutors can be aware of who’s attending and who’s maybe stolen away? 

Customizable learning space, a classroom virtual or physical should be a personal and inviting space for learning.   This enables both tutors and students to personalize their learning spaces to make them more personal and engaging.  Indeed they can even adjust their avatars, and learning can be made to fit the individual learner’s needs.

Microsoft is partnering with a range of providers: ‘Teams for Education’ now also includes combinations with Kahoot, Prezi, GO1, Nearpod, Piazza, Gaggle, Moodle, Canvas, and others. Microsoft will continue to add partner integrations making it easier for schools and universities to use Microsoft Teams.

One advantage of this brave new world of education is it can build in solutions to old problems from the very beginning.  Schools have often struggled to provide support for pupils with additional learning needs such as dyslexia.  But what if the tools that could help with these needs were right there in the very structure of the software making up this virtual software, as natural as the desks and chairs in a physical class room.   Microsoft thought of that. They included Learning Tools like Immersive Reader into Microsoft Word, Microsoft Edge, Teams, OneNote, Flipgrid, and Minecraft: Education Edition to give support to students across all reading levels or with additional learning difficulties due to dyslexia or dysgraphia.

 

Microsoft translator is also there to enable students using a second language to engage better.  It’s great when technology can not only surmount an existing problem such as quarantine and older ones such as engaging students with learning disabilities or needing language support.

 

Public-Private partnerships are building the virtual classrooms of the future.

Microsoft is working with global non-governmental and non-profit organizations like UNESCO and UNICEF to share their technical expertise with learning communities around the world which benefit equally from these advances. 

 

While helping educators, leaders and other academic staff to be able to share their wisdom or just amusing warning stories with the Remote Learning Community.  About how to ensure your teaching room looks professional and not just the laundry room with  a laptop on the ironing board.  There are more than 6,000 participants from around the world, offering professional development resources and coaching alongside Microsoft Store Learning Experts to make this a vast and vibrant community of learning. 

 

 

Jul 2020