Selena Woodward
Chief learner, Uni lecturer, Co-founder and mum. Passionate about empowering my students, myself and my colleagues so that we can be the best we can be.

Engaging Now! 7.4

MIE Expert Forum – Day 2

June 5, 2019 | Focus Areas: | | | 0 COMMENTS

Day two of the MIE Expert Forum saw us connecting with some of the leaders of the Microsoft ship and some of their engineers.  It was a day full of inspiration and some information that I am not allowed to share… it isn’t public knowledge yet.. we’ll all just have to wait.  I can tell you that Educators are truly appreciated by Microsoft and that they are putting a lot of work in to make sure that they advocate for us with our various Department of Educations.

Both Anthony and Steven’s message was very clear to us. They want to make sure that we have everything we need to help develop the next generation’s tech and life skills. That’s partly why this event happens. It’s about giving educators an opportunity to connect with the developers and engineers who write the software we work with everyday.  Today was all about that.  We spoke to the teams behind Teams, Sway, Paint 3D and more.  Each one showing us what they had created for future releases and asking for genuine feedback.  It’s good to feel listened to and I look forward to seeing some of the wonderful features shared over the coming weeks and months.

Apart from these features, Microsoft are also moving toward the use of AI and the Azure platform to help develop optimised data sets that can be used for predictive and personalised learning.  Apps such as Flo, dynamics and the Power Apps were mentioned for the first time as tools in the education space.  That’s wonderful.  They can be used powerfully to improve workflow and create stronger learning opportunities.

Steven told us about the work Microsoft had been doing with all the CIO (Chief Information Officers) from each department of Education.  They’ve been advocating for us.  Talking to them about what it means to us to have the right devices, immersive experiences that are not about tech but about powerful learning opportunities.

“The technology is irrelevant. Technology needs to get out the way.  We need to help a teacher. Help them do their job. Help them simplyfy what goes on in a classroom. Help a student engage in different ways..”  Steven Milller

It’s so good to hear Steven talk like this.  Technology is, after all simply a tool to solve a problem and I am glad that he’s framing his conversations that way with the key decision makers in our education departments across Australia.

We spent the bulk of the day working and talking with the developers of Teams, Stream, Paint 3D and VR and AR toolsets.  In doing so there were a few new tools to explore inside these systems which I believe I could apply to implement  positive interactions to engage and support my students in classroom activities. (4.1)

In particular, I discovered today that is is possible to add a Microsoft Form inside a video using Stream.  I can have them stop the video at a certain point and not be able to continue until they have compelted a quiz.  Now, this might be a way to encourage students to actually watch an entire lecture video.   we know that many of them just fast forward to the end and hope that it registers as complete.  If there were quizzes throughout they’d have to make sure they were engaged in order to get to the end and get their credit.

It was also refreshing to hear a lot of talk about how technology was being used to increase human interaction, empathy and relationships.  These are things that ICT are often accused of removing or causing issues with.  AR and VR were things that were mentioned as tools to combat this problem.  Placing students in the shoes of others and encouraging them to work together in one AR environment.


In the afternoon, we moved to exploring how technology could be used to support students with disabilities.

We were all given a statement about a fictional student and asked to create a powerpoint (which we would then present) that would outline how we could use Microsoft Technologies to support and assist that child to learn. Here was our scenario:

Group 2

We created the following presentation to show how we would use technology to implement teaching activities that support the participation and learning of students with disability and address relevant policy and legislative requirements. (1.6).

Accessibility Presentation

As apart of this we explored Microsoft’s assistive, physical resources.

The young man we were working for, Frank, had Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  This meant that he was unable to use fine motor skills and needed to support to take part in learning activities.  We chose to use these buttons to create short cuts that could be easily activated, to tools such as Immersive Reader and Dictate.   We then explored how he could use the dictate feature (with headphones) to speak his work and have it typed for review.  How the Immersive Reader afforded the opportunity to change the font sizes and spaces and to use the line reader to help clear the screen and reduce fatigue in the eye muscles.  We also explored how the Immersive Reader, read aloud tool, might be used to have text read back to him.

Again. the focus was very much on how Technology might remove barriers to learning and I love that this was the focus.  It’s vital that, when we choose technology it is done so in the knowledge that what we select is helping improve outcomes.

Artificial Intelligence.

In the very last session of the day, Travis Smith shared with us some of the tools inside Azure.

Now, this is a space that I would definitely like to explore further. We looked at Azure’s ability to use AI to detect pictures and their content, to analyse video and much more.  It was really impressive and lead to a lot of conversation around how we might use these tools to collect and use data to inform decisions around planning and personalisation.  I think this will, most definitely, be an area that some of us would love to explore further. These tools are also found as add-ons in Excel and other Office products.  You can literally apply articifial intelligence to your data with the click of a button and have it tell you something insightful about your data.

All in all, the two days was an excellent opportunity to catch-up and re-ignite the spark.  A spark to go and explore further and see what else we can get technology to do for our students and for our own workload too!

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