The MIE-Expert program: one of Microsoft’s greatest gifts to teachers
Innovative pedagogy is the holy grail of teaching. No teacher wants to feel outdated or uninspired as we hope to instil in our students what we ourselves experience in the classroom- enjoyment and engagement with learning. The challenge can come when terms fly by in a whirlwind and you find yourself the same teacher you were six months ago. As a recently qualified teacher I had too easily settled into my own norms and routines which, despite being effective, were repetitive and ‘safe’.
As a third year university student studying business, my younger sister was working as a Microsoft representative for the year. She contacted me with details of the program urging me to look into it due to the phenomenal opportunities it was offering teachers. Although I would usually avoid embarking on anything too ambitious during term time (particularly in the run up to a school show) the programme sounded like a very personal way to develop professionally and at your own pace. Often enough I have found myself in CPD sessions feeling my face burn with embarrassment at the idea of fessing up to my technological ignorance however the programme presented itself as positive and welcoming; a journey for all educators despite their IT ability.
Applying wasn’t something that I needed permission to do, from either my school or Microsoft. I Bing'd the Microsoft Educator Network and quickly found a link to their page. The page offers a bank of professional development opportunities for educators including the option to ‘earn badges’. It is within this section that I found the MIE-Expert program with the straightforward instructions that I needed to get started. To apply I submitted a learning activity which is a short statement and video depicting how I was using Microsoft technology to increase the achievement of students in my class. I had recently started using OneNote and constructed a scheme of learning which would encourage students to write creatively on a shared notebook. We were studying characterisation and I wanted students to write from the perspective of a chosen character and then to peer assess each other’s work. Applying was straightforward and I only needed to describe something that I was already implementing. Within a few weeks I received a confirmation email that my application had been successful and that I was invited to an induction day for the programme.
Attending the induction day required me to organise a day out of school. I was very supported by my headteacher who agreed that it would provide me with a unique opportunity for professional development. Entering Microsoft’s headquarters in London was like entering a gold-mine of resources. The showcase classroom was innovative and inclusive, promoting a range of learning opportunities for all. The colourful atmosphere was uplifting, attacking the senses with creativity! I was able to visualise how children could learn effectively in a variety of ways in the environment. Even as a teacher I felt completely compelled to try out the tools displayed and felt entirely inspired! The day consisted of sharing ideas with other MIEEs in the showcase classroom. What were we using? How were we using it? And more importantly what were the reactions of students? I was confronted with the magnitude of ways in which educators and students could interpret the Microsoft programmes and utilise them in school, all ideas that I could contribute to my own department.
As the day progressed Microsoft representatives led short workshops on how to use everything from Surface to Sway. These step by step sessions enabled me to access tools that I would usually feel intimidated by. It was refreshing to bounce ideas with other educators and we began working together to construct activities for our students.
I left the induction day feeling like part of a unique and invigorating group, supported by a network of approachable educators that I felt comfortable reaching out to and working with.
Could it get any better?
As the first term drew to a close and Christmas cards started replacing detention slips in pigeon holes I returned home to an MIEE gift that would transform my teaching practice in the new year- a Surface Pro 3! The Surface was completely free of charge and had absolutely no strings attached. It was made very clear to us that it would be our individual decision to stay in touch with Microsoft and to let them know how we were using the Surface in our teaching.
The kindness and welcoming nature of the staff made me want to work with them and to share ideas. It was like joining an incredibly enthusiastic group of practitioners who want to better the quality of children’s education. I was desperate to stay a part of it! Particularly once I realised exactly how engaging teenagers find technology. From the minute I stepped into my classroom the students were so excited by the device and began questioning me about the variety of things I could do with it, ideas that I had never considered!
Open Your Minds!
With the Surface in my lessons I was suddenly more determined to innovate my practice. Partnered with the support of the other MIEEs we moved away from teacher led lessons and began encouraging digital, collaborative learning. I was trying new things around the clock and delighting in it. Developing my IT skills had once seemed a chore but the enthusiastic responses from my students were contagious and motivating! Throughout this time, the MIEE network had conquered social media and so I was constantly in touch with likeminded educators. It was an incredibly exciting time for us all to be working together in education.
As term two began Microsoft continued opening doors to the MIEEs and I was privileged to be invited to speak about OneNote at BETT. I had never been to a technology showcase and as a Somerset girl was used to fairly small-scale events... BETT exceeded my every expectation!
It was eye-opening to network with so many educators all interested in innovating their pedagogy. This opportunity enabled me to meet OneNote’s exceptional product manager and marketer, Mike Tholfsen and Ari Schorr. Working with them really was such an honour! I was able to discover their intentions for OneNote, share how I had been using it and earn myself a OneNote cape!
Becoming involved with the MIE-Expert program was completely reviving my love of teaching. In a time when it seems so many new teachers decide to leave the profession I was grateful for the network of ideas and support. My professional development felt like it was reaching new heights, not just with technology but public speaking and working with educators from across the country.
Within my school I was bringing back the skills I had learned and sharing them with my colleagues during CPD sessions. As I returned from BETT with a long list of programmes to experiment with I never imagined that I’d be boarding a plane to Seattle only a few months later.
What other opportunities did Microsoft have in store for me? Be sure to visit our blog in the coming weeks to find out!
For more information on the MIE-Expert program, watch this short video.
Emma Hicks is a teacher of English, Drama and Media at a secondary academy in Nottingham. MIEexpert 2015. Runner, skier and avid spinner.