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Redefining Learning with Microsoft: A Story of Three Schools

2 Jul 2015 by Heather Breedlove

What are the best tools for learning in the classroom? Three different schools — all with the same goal of purchasing technology to drive personalized learning — answered that question during an ISTE panel.

Implementing Microsoft Tools

Peter Gale, a CCSS technology coordinator at Manteca Unified School District recently helped implement their “Going Digital” 1:1 initiative in 2015. His schools went from “no devices in the classroom to tablets in the hands of each kid.”

They rolled out over 1,200 Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablets and Miracast wireless screen projection devices to all teachers. Over 23,000 Panasonic 3E tablets were given to preK – 12 students. The network infrastructure also had to be upgraded to support the devices with over 1,600 wireless access points installed, as well as Cisco Nexus 9000 series switches that provide data services. MUSD’s Board of Trustees approved a $30 million Going Digital project to support the digital learning initiative.

Karyn Ginesi, a STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) teacher for Edmundson Heights Elementary, piloted their 1:1 program and now provides professional development for teachers in her building. Here are some ways Edmundson Heights teachers and students have started integrating the Microsoft Office tools in their classrooms:

  • Flipping lessons with Office Mix, which enables PowerPoints to turn into picture slideshows
  • Using digital ink in Microsoft Word to complete their math assignments
  • Videotaping themselves reading to practice reading fluency skills
  • Visiting other classrooms through Mystery Skype

Michelle Zimmerman, Ph.D, is a high school teacher at Renton Prep where she is developing a hybrid, online-apprentice Master’s program for teachers at Concordia University Wisconsin, where she also is an adjunct professor. Zimmerman says that “learning happens in all locations” and using Microsoft tools like Sway, a interactive web-based canvas where students can share ideas, made it easier for her students to blend their learning from the real world to what they were learning in the classroom.

Students visited Seattle’s Pacific Science Center's exhibition on Pompeii and then went back to the classroom and created a Sway, connecting their field trip to other research they had done on Seattle, history, art and life. Click on the link to view the students’ project: Pompeii and Seattle.

“Some kids pick it up really quickly, they love being able to show their knowledge in another way. Some kids who do well on tests feel uncomfortable with this kind of thinking,” says Zimmerman. She says that it’s important for students to experience the productive struggle and teach them how to approach challenges when they are learning a new tool or something that is hard for them.

Professional Development

The panel agreed that no matter what technology tools are purchased, the key is providing good professional development opportunities for teachers.

  • Provide job-embedded training so teachers can develop their skills.
  • Supply key support people, like coaches, to help teachers with thoughtful integration of curriculum and collaboration.
  • Pre-assess teachers and what their comfort levels are.
  • Give incentives for teachers to attend PD, like a stipend or bonus based on attendance and work.
  • Have flexibility: provide PD before and after school, during coffee sessions and build online resources.
  • Build capacity by holding a district technology conference where both teachers and students present sessions.
  • Provide community events where parents are able to learn about the new technology.

Impact on Student Learning

“There is a new world of learning using Microsoft tools,” says Gale. The impact of student learning is evident for the three schools who have implemented Microsoft tools in the classroom. Participation from students increased, there were more opportunities for collaboration and the students say they enjoyed using technology as they learned. Students are able to use the same tools at home, so that the learning continues.