Last week I attended a 3-day Microsoft Bootcamp in the Microsoft London offices. It was a pretty packed programme across the 3 days covering a diverse range of topics however as I sit on the train on the way home let me try and summarise the key points.
The session on accessibility led by Hector Minto (@hminto) is the one that sticks in my mind the most. In fact from discussing with some others, it stuck in their minds too. During the session a variety of accessibility tools were demonstrated with the most important factor being that these solutions are already available within Windows 10 and the Office 365 suite. Some of the ideas where horribly simple; Horrible in the fact that these simple approaches hadn’t been something I had realised could have a significant impact. A larger pointer for when demonstrating on screen or a slightly different windows colour scheme were just two of the tips. Adding Alt text to images in documents and on social media posts was another. The ability to add subtitles to video via using Microsoft Stream or the use of PowerPoint and inline translation were also discussed.
It is clearly for all of us to do our bit, and generally this only requires making small changes to our normal practices.
The “MEC” or Microsoft Educator Community
I have been aware of the MEC and the variety of resources available within it for some time. The three-day event however highlighted how the MEC could be used as a vehicle for CPD. I, myself, have recently seen the power of training codes and badges on motivating people to undertake CPD in relation to educational technology and the event only served to strengthen this view. One of the keys tasks I believe I now need to undertake is to curate the MEC content which I believe is most valid and will have the biggest impact with staff at my school.
A fair amount of the event was focused on how Teams could be used in schools, colleges and universities. It was notable that the actual platform used throughout all three days, to facilitate collaboration, discussion and sharing, was in fact Microsoft Teams. People were posting questions, links and other content so that all attendees could benefit from the shared knowledge and experience of the group. I can clearly see the benefits of using Teams to support educators from across department, across a school or even across institutions to get together and work collectively to bring about continual improvement and to tackle challenges.
A number of the events sessions included remote sessions delivered from the Seattle and also Glasgow, a reasonably diverse choice in locations. These highlighted how Teams could facilitate opportunities for learning more akin to that experience by the increasing number of remote workers which now exist. This also, again, highlighted where Stream could play its part in the recording of such meetings complete with the automatic creation of subtitles which were easily searchable by users.
A number of individuals shared how they were using OneNote in their institution. I found a particular presentation by Esam Baboukhanto be very interesting. Esam pre-prepared regular checklists and review questions in OneNote in order to get students to take greater responsibility for their learning. He also mentioned the use of review questions which students were required to undertaken to get them to revisit learning in order to aid better memory retention. The use of OneNote as a tool to aid such spaced retrieval practice was something which I hadn’t considered however I can easily see how this might work well.
It was a tiring three days with lots going on. The event itself was specific to FE and HE, whereas my current context is that of an independent school. I had decided to attend given the large number of students we have which study A-Levels which otherwise they would study in an FE institution. In hindsight I made the right call as the event was very worthwhile. I left with plenty of notes and an equally high number of points either for consideration or for action. All attendees also left with Microsoft Trainer accreditation, thereby able to deliver training and issue training codes via the Microsoft training platform. For those who are considering attending a Bootcamp I would definitely recommend it.
I am also looking forward to continuing online discussions via Teams with those who attended the event and with others who have attended previous events. I suspect, despite what was an excellent event, I am still to experience the true benefits of the event. I suspect such benefit lies in the network and community of individuals sharing their ideas, resources and thoughts on the Microsoft platform, and on other EdTech following attending a Bootcamp.