That’s right, I did say “free”!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of organising an INSET training day in my school. This is one of my roles as an AST and being the ICT INSET Day for the year I was keen to get stuck in!
After surveying staff earlier in the year I had an idea of what kind of ICT training staff wanted so based on this I arranged for some of my colleagues to deliver sessions and offered staff six sessions in total, they could opt-in to four of these:
- Online Surveys
- SIMS (Our database management system)
- Ranger Remote Control (The software we use to monitor and control students’ computer usage)
- Interactive Whiteboards
- Windows and the Learning Suite << My session
I delivered the last session on the list and it occurred to me that I should really share this further a-field than just teachers in my own school, so as it’s half term I finally have enough time to write this post! This session addressed recent ITL research by Microsoft which led us into discussing the fantastic Partners in Learning (PiL) website on which Microsoft provide a huge number of FREE tools for teachers to use in their classrooms, not to mention the vast array of learning resources and discussions by other teachers across the world. This is a place for collaboration and sharing ideas, particularly if you are interested in gaining links with schools in other countries.
The tools I looked at within my session are part of the Learning Suite, this is a collection of free tools, and the Learning Suite application gives you a nice interface to download each tool. Some of these tools are also available freely elsewhere, whereas others are only available for free if you are a member of the PiL Network:
There are 29 free tools featured as part of the Learning Suite but in my training session I only had time for three:
- AutoCollage – This allows you to create a collage very simply and quickly by selecting the folder that contains the pictures you wish to include, the software then automatically creates a collage of these images. The staff I showed this to were very impressed and had lots of ideas of how this could be used in lessons. The History and English teachers were particularly enthusiastic!
- Photosynth – This is another great tool; it allows you to create a 180 or 360 degree panorama by stitching a number of pictures together (in most cases seamlessly!). There are also mobile apps available for most platforms. You can take a look at Photosynths made by others on the Photosynth website. Some of the staff in my session actually began building a virtual tour of my classroom!
- Mouse Mischief – This tool is a plugin for PowerPoint; it enables you to plug additional mice into your PC and the children can use their own mouse (they get their own cursor on the screen too) to answer questions. I demonstrated with just two additional mice where the class were divided into two teams. Staff were very impressed with this, especially as it is really easy to use and the quiz questions can be added to already existing PowerPoint presentations!
Following the exploration of these tools staff were then encouraged to sign up to the site so they too could gain access to these tools and resources. I wanted to encourage this as joining the Partners in Learning Network three years ago really was one of the best decisions I have made. I signed-up when I won a competition to win 20 netbooks for my school, since then I have received free training in the form of a summer camp and have attended national, European and global forums! This has led me down an exciting path, meeting and collaborating with hundreds of other educators and I have never looked back! So my one piece of advice this half term - sign up to the Partners in Learning Network!