Stewart Brown is currently seconded to the role of Education Support Officer (Digital Learning) for the SEIC. During training, the Learning Tools within Office 365 have really impressed practitioners and there is the need for all practitioners to be aware of their potential.
“Levelling the Playing Field with Microsoft Learning Tools” is an easily accessible piece of research that highlights in a real context the potential impact of the using the Microsoft Tools. It clearly shows the benefits of using these in regards to reading and writing attainment whilst accepting that the tools would not be the only contributing factor. I would suggest it is a useful starting point if you are wanting to make greater use of the tools as a whole setting.
If you were looking at “rolling out” the use of any systems like these across your setting, I would also recommend the recently published guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). It provides very clear and useful guidance around the importance of having a strong rationale for the technology we use and how it links to pedagogy.
The final “reading” that I would highlight for practitioners are the digital vision documents produced by Education Scotland.
The immersive reader within Word and One Note is a favourite of mine. When students can confidently use this, it can truly empower them and ensure that they are able to previously inaccessible materials. As a teacher, it can easily support any teaching and learning that involves written text. The ability to quickly translate the text can also make it a major game changer for some of our learners.
Within word, the dictate tool can allow younger students or those who find writing challenging to create texts that better match their ability. The “Ideas” tool supercharges the spell checker tool and helps to improve the content. Useful for children and practitioners alike.
The final tool I am highlighting, is the “Rehearse with Coach” tool in PowerPoint. This allows students to practice a presentation and gives instant feedback on their performance. Hugely useful for preparing presentations, developing talking skills in other languages, or preparing for the world of work and interviews.
As shown in the reading, there is a need when utilising technology to ensure that there is a key purpose. With these tools, there is a wide range of ways they can be used. Like with anything, I would suggest starting with one. Once you have that initial success you can then expand to see how else it could be of real benefit. With immersive reader, that might be to support that specific student who is able in numeracy but struggles to access the written questions. Or as a starter for a literacy lesson to identify different word types.
The Second vital point is the importance in teaching students to be proficient with the technology. They need to be discretely taught how to use it. This may take time, but it is 100% worthwhile in the long run if we are looking to provide tools to support lifelong learning.
Microsoft along with other companies continue to refine learning tools, spread their compatibility, and create new tools. It is important therefore that we support all our students in being able to access these, see their benefit and keep up to date with new developments. These can make a major impact in terms of equity and attainment.
If you are interested in further professional learning on this, why not have a look at the Microsoft Educator Centre or sign up to one of Professional Learning Topics here.
Welcome to the South East Improvement Collaborative Monthly Blog. Each month we will be publishing posts to support classroom practitioners. Colleagues from across the RIC will also be providing entries based on their own practice and professional learning.