The Microsoft Educational Community
At the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year my school introduced a school-wide use of Office365. As part of this we were encouraged to join the Microsoft Educational Community (MEC), you do not need to have an Office365 account to join. You can also create your account with a Hotmail/msn email, Facebook account, Skype account or even a Twitter account . This gave me access to lots of courses and resources to help me with my teaching, all for FREE. These are not just about using Microsoft products, but are aimed at empowering educators and promoting the teaching of 21st Century skills. More courses are added periodically. You can also earn badges, certificates and points to show how your skills and use of the community are progressing.
Teachers can also put up lesson plans for others to use and share their expertise. You can connect with educators and gain a greater insight into how to get the most from technology for your students. The MEC also connects classrooms throughout the world via Skype. There are virtual field trips that allow your students to speak with experts in all parts of the world and is available in a multitude of subject matters. You can also play Mystery Skype, where two classrooms are connected via Skype and each class has to ask yes/no questions to try to work out where the other class is located in the world. My students love playing this game, not only does it improve their questioning, research and social skills, it gives students access to other cultures. I had a great experience with this, my class won, which is great, however, the students did not have a common first language and ended up also singing songs in their mother tongue and other languages they have learnt. I have met some great people through the MEC and attending Microsoft’s Education Exchange (E2). There are two people I feel I need to mention now due to their amazing work using Skype with their classes. The first is @mibra_mio. She teaches English in Japan and found that her students did not see a reason to learn English. She regularly holds Skype sessions with others from around the world. Her students have become enthused and are loving practicing their new found skills. The other is @_Erin_Kate, she works in a primary school, where the students do not get to experience other cultures very often. Erin uses Skype to connect with people from all around the world, scratching off countries as she goes, to allow her students to learn about other people’s lives and their cultures. For both of these, you need to be a member of the MEC as this links the teachers accounts for safety reasons, and logs the miles travelled via Skype.
Becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE)
You can become an Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) by earning 1000 points. This is easily obtainable and gives you a foot into using the community. The next level up is an MIEE, which is an official recognition of your dedication to the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. I am in the Gulf region. Here for MIEE’s we have a monthly Skype conference call (one in Arabic and one in English) where new strategies and updates are discussed. We are encouraged to volunteer to lead these sessions, I ran one on how I use OneNote with my students. If there is anything you want discussed you can request this in advance and they will endeavour to host this topic. Being an MIEE is not just about being innovative, it’s also about sharing and supporting the community. You also get access to a dedicated Facebook group (which links you with many helpful experts) and some resources that are either not available elsewhere or you are eligible for a free trial. To apply you need to create a 2 minute presentation, either an OfficeMix or Sway to show how you use technology and why you want to become a MIEE. To apply or find out more APPLY HERE to apply for the Gulf region you can go to find the application form HERE. I have gained so much from being an MIEE, I attended E2 Canada (read below) given training to the press for Microsoft, given training to educators at BETT Middle East and met many skilled educators that have helped inspire and support me. It has given me a springboard to further my achievements.
Education Exchange (E2) Canada
I was lucky enough to win a place to attend E2 Canada. For this Microsoft flew me out to Canada and paid for a hotel. This was only open the top 300 educators in the world who are Microsoft Innovative Educational Experts (MIEE’s). It allowed me to mix and learn from the best of the best and we got to talk with the product design teams for OneNote. Our input was listened to and they are already trying to action some of the suggestions. We also competed in the competition “Make What’s Next” in the category gamification. We were put into groups with people from different countries and we had to design something new for a Microsoft product, using the we.org framework. We won and hopefully our idea might be created. This experience has inspired me and given me a new level of enthusiasm for using technology in my teaching. E2 represents the best professional development I have ever attended and I highly recommend people trying to win a place.
In the end I made some great friends and contacts form all around the world that I will cherish forever. The whole experience has been amazing and the future looks even better.