Friday, 5 February 2016

MIEExpert Spotlight #4: Nosithembele Gcobo from Sentile Junior Secondary School in Queenstown

This is the fourth post in the series "MIEExpert Spotlight for South Africa". The tab with all the posts can be found at

Nosithembele Gcobo is a teacher at Sentile Junior Secondary School in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. She describes herself as ‘an innovative, dynamic teacher, ICT integrated and a TBBT - a transformed born before technology innovator!
She was selected at the end of 2015 as one of South Africa’s 63 Microsoft innovative Educator Experts for 2016. She says, “It is an unspeakable joy for me to be selected as an MIE Expert for 2016. Microsoft has exciting tools for teachers, like OneNote, Office Mix and Sway and other tools that make teaching an exciting journey. I personally have navigated and I fell in love with Sway – a digital storytelling app. It is a powerful app to share and format ideas, stories and presentations. I created a Sway for a Photosynthesis lesson for Grade 6. I just brought my ideas and my raw content and Sway’s intelligent design engine created a polished cohesive layout. The designs look great whether you are creative or not.

Nosithembile’s classroom
The vast majority of schools in South Africa have huge Internet connectivity problems, but Nosithembele perseveres in attempting to introduce her learners to innovative web tools. She says, “Every time I teach my learners, I make sure that besides the connectivity challenges and our geographical area, my learners use the mobile devices during the teaching and learning period. My lesson was on the Mapungubwe Kingdom in the Limpopo Valley, I decided to present it using Sway since Sway is a story telling app. The learners found the lesson was very interesting. They used the Internet to search for information on the famous Mapungubwe hill.” Take a look at the Sway she made for this lesson:

Nosithembile says, “The use of mobile devices during learning encourages my learners to be active participants thus creating communities of teachers and learners using ICT to improve learners. As a teacher I am able to manage learner collaboration within the classroom.”

Find out about Microsoft Sway on the Microsoft Educator network
You’ll find the Sway website at You can create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more. If you are keen to learn about Sway – check out this free Introduction to Sway course on the Microsoft Educator Community.

Application entry for the 2016 Microsoft MIEExpert program
Nosithembele used her blog as her entry for the Microsoft Innovative Expert program. This is called SENTILEJSS found at . Do head over and take a look at some of her interesting articles. Nosithembele is active on Twitter. You can follow her at @lasasana3

Get involved in the Microsoft MIEE program in 2016
If you are a teacher who likes to be innovative in the classroom, like Nosithembele, think about entering Microsoft's Innovative Teacher MIEExpert program in 2017 when applications reopen later in the year. You can learn more about the program at this link on the Microsoft Educator Network: You won’t regret it. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Teachers, Brescia House invites you to a free party, IT style on 15th March! If you are in Joburg please register!

Brescia House is having one of their wonderful TeachMeets again on Tuesday 15th March,  from 3pm – 5pm. They call it "a party, IT style!" (Sounds like fun!) This will be an opportunity to celebrate and share curriculum and technology integration ideas.  This is a free event but please pre-register.  Their advert ends off with ‘Party surprises in store!’ If you live in the Joburg area you can’t afford to miss this event!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Local Microsoft webinar 'Get Swaying! - Create Sways and use them in your classroom': 4th Feb. 3pm

You can use Sway to create and share interactive reports, presentations and personal stories.

In this webinar @MeganRademeyer and @VictorNgobeni will show you how to create a Sway and they will give you some ideas for using this fun, free presentation tool in your classroom. Guest presenter @PhutiRagophala, a current Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, will show us some of her Sways and how she’s used this tool in the classroom and to spread her ideas.  

Time: 3pm (SAST)
Date: Thursday 4th February 2016
Link: Watch the webinar live on this link:

You can also look out for the recording on the Microsoft Virtual Academy: If you can’t make the webinar – but are keen to learn about Sway – check out this free Introduction to Sway course on the Microsoft Educator Community

Monday, 1 February 2016

'Should I upgrade to Windows 10? What are the pros and cons?' A guest post from Charlie Wiggil MIEExpert from South Africa

Submitted by Charli Wiggil
This is a guest post from Charli Wiggil (@wiggs2010) Deputy Principal at Eden College in Durban. Charli is one of South Africa’s Microsoft MIEExperts for 2016. You can read more about Charli at 

Should I upgrade to Windows 10?
Over the past few months, we’ve all been inundated with offers popping-up on our screens recommending we take advantage of a free Windows 10 upgrade. The pop-ups include the upgrade button, the tantalising offer of the ‘FREE’ upgrade and they mention that if we are unhappy with the changes Windows 10 brings, we can easily revert to our previous OS. Social media has been abuzz with a plethora of comments from the early adopters - some who are already loyal converts and others who are seriously unimpressed for various reasons.

So - should you take advantage of the seemingly excellent offer?

What is Windows 10?
Windows 10 is a refreshing mix of the best things from Windows 8 while returning to the spirit of Windows 7, and will apparently be Microsoft’s last operating system release. Ultimately, everybody will be on it eventually and the free download will last for a year.

Trawling through the comments from global users of Windows 10 on a number of websites, here follow some of the advantages and disadvantages of the new OS:

  • Microsoft listened to consumers and has created a hybrid incorporating what users enjoyed in Windows 7 and 8 into the new product. Coupled with a number of new offerings, an exciting OS is presented.
  • The new Start menu is colourful, resizable, and ultimately configurable. It incorporates the Start screen (Windows 8’s modern style and flow) and Start menu (Windows 7’s functionality) which will please many.
  • The new “Settings” takes over more of the Control Panel’s responsibilities.
  • A Notifications centre collects all messages and important alerts in one place.
  • Windows 10 is the first version of Windows that sports virtual desktops (multiple desktop workspaces).
  • Cortana is billed as a Windows’ virtual personal assistant, allowing one to interact with one’s desktop computer using only one’s voice. Unfortunately there appear to be some glitches with this aspect at present, but they will surely be sorted with a patch update.
  • Microsoft has bought back Aero and Windows 7 users everywhere are celebrating. Windows 10 uses transparent effects substantially.
  • Microsoft Edge modernises the OS's default browser with improved compatibility and speed, and new capabilities like webpage markup and reading mode.
  • Windows 10 features a smaller installation size and uses a more efficient compression system, so your files will be smaller. Microsoft has shaved 4 GB to 12 GB off of Windows 10’s installation size.
  • The Windows Store now sports a cleaner, more streamlined interface.
  • Using the Continuum feature, you are able to seamlessly shift from a keyboard/mouse setup to a touchscreen or even use your Windows Phone like a computer.
  • Direct X 12 allows gamers better performance on their existing hardware.
There are several concerns: 
  • Some are calling Windows 10 a Spybot as apparently every keystroke can be recorded and the data supplied to Microsoft servers to be used for advertising and so  on.
  • Windows 10 Home (the free version) comes with automatic updates and the end-user has no control over these. All previous versions of Windows gave the user some autonomy for managing updates to their OS. In the new version, Microsoft is attempting to maintain a stable platform with less support required. Ultimately, this is a good thing, but people want to control when they download and update. 
  • Windows is still the most popular operating system in the world and that makes it a prime target for development of viruses and malicious attacks. Automatic updates will ensure that critical updates can’t be missed or dismissed.
  • Failed updates could cause a problem as the end-user has little control over the process. Unless Microsoft supplies patches quickly, this will lead to much frustration.
So should you upgrade? 
Upgrading to Windows 10 has plenty of benefits, and not too many disadvantages. Of course the fact that it's a free upgrade right now makes it even more tempting. You’ve got better search, window management, file management, gaming tools and more. Windows 10 is faster in general use and the new Start Menu is better.

The only real problems are centered on privacy, automatic upgrades and that Microsoft wants you to sign in with a Microsoft account and that you lose some features if you don’t. 

So what is your experience of Windows 10? Are you excited or do you have concerns about it? Let us know how you feel.

Join the Microsoft Educator Community
Why not join the Microsoft Educator Community (free) and connect and collaborate around the world and gain easy access to lessons created by educators for educators:

Useful Microsoft in Education posts this week #37

The Internet is currently full of posts about using Microsoft products effectively in the classroom. Here are a number of them from this past week:

Why not join the Microsoft Educator Community (free) and connect and collaborate with teachers and ideas for the classroom around the world:

Friday, 29 January 2016

MIEExpert Spotlight #3: Keshma Patel - Project-based learning, 1:1 technology, student websites and Minecraft!

This is the third post in the series "MIEExpert Spotlight for South Africa". The tab with all the posts can be found at

Keshma Patel, a Grade 6 teacher at Micklefield Primary School for girls in Cape Town and a 2016 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert,  believes that: as a teacher your learning should never end. Education is ever changing. You never have a dull moment. There are always new goals to set, new ideas to explore and different ways to inspire young minds.” 

Keshma’s amazing Grade 6 classroom!
Keshma uses 1:1 technology, project-based learning and websites in her classroom at Micklefield Primary School. She is a keen user of Microsoft applications.

Micklefield Primary is a small, private, girls' primary school situated in the heart of Rondebosch in Cape Town. This is no ordinary school but rather one that is alive with ideas and possibilities – and a school that is making great strides in showing a focus on technology integration. The Intermediate Phase teachers are encouraged to use the blended learning approach in their classrooms.

When Keshma joined the staff in 2015 she immediately encouraged her class to bring their own computer devices to school and she set up a 1:1 blended learning program. She says “After completing my first big blended learning project with my class, I was hooked. It amazed me to see how much information the girls in my class retained and how easy it was to integrate all learning levels and styles." Her class keeps evidence of their individual learning on their own individual websites they have created. Keshma keeps her class and parents informed via her website. You can visit Keshma’s class website called ‘Mrs Patel’s Classroom’ at

Keshma’s use of Microsoft applications
A glance at Keshma’s Twitter account @KeshmaPatel shows her innovation in using Microsoft applications in her classroom.  To summarise Keshma 's key technology, it would include Office 2013,  Skype in the classroom, Office Mix, Sway and Minecraft. All these (apart from Minecraft) are available free, with tutorials and lessons available from the Microsoft Educator Community.   

Keshma’s use of Minecraft in the classroom

What is Minecraft
At the end of last year Keshma decided to explore using Minecraft in her class. Minecraft is an open world game that was purchased by Microsoft in 2014. It promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. It’s enjoyed by a worldwide community of over 100 million players who constantly inspire others with their creations. Microsoft has announced that the Minecraft: Education Edition will soon be released. 

How Keshma got started
Keshma felt that she wanted to use the world’s most popular game as a tool for learning.  She says, Minecraft was something that was being consistently talked about at break times and whenever the girls had a free moment in class. After having endless conversations with my class about what they enjoyed about it, hearing about Minecraft at various workshops and reading posts that were being shared among the MIEExperts, I decided to give it ago…I have never looked back!  I was lucky that most of the girls had already purchased the game. There is a cost involved in order to download Minecraft. You can go to and follow the links from there. I paired up learners that had the game with those that did not and they completed tasks in this manner. Eventually as the interest grew, I found that the rest of the class had purchased Minecraft! I had to purchase Minecraft as well, and on occasion direct the girls using my personal computer and using my Smart Board." 

Using Minecraft to encourage critical thinking
"I began the first Minecraft lesson by allowing the girls to play. I grouped my class into those that were experts with girls that had not played the game before. They spent the first lesson teaching each other and me. Once we got the hang of it, I started introducing specific themes such as Area and Perimeter, odd and even numbers and square roots. I allowed the girls to direct my teaching and I soon started finding more and more that I could link Minecraft with normal school activities.  You can use it to introduce a topic, reinforce concepts that you are teaching or to develop certain skills. This week, we are re-creating a village from the Renaissance. This sort of activity is great as the girls have to research the architecture and the way of living."

Keshma noted that, “The girls love the fact that they are playing a game while learning various concepts. It is a real example of 21st century learning. Using a game like Minecraft is an out of the box way of cementing abstract concepts which really does deepen the learners' thinking skills.”

How to motivate other teachers to use Minecraft
Keshma is keen to motivate others to start using Minecraft in the classroom. “Minecraft has become my new hobby!” She is a teacher that likes to share what she knows with others as well as learn from others. She helps other teachers on the staff develop their blended learning projects through various staff developments. When asked how she would motivate her peers to start using Minecraft she said, “I think showing them what they could achieve by using Minecraft in their classroom would be the first step. I would do this by encouraging my peers to visit my classroom when I am using Minecraft in a lesson. Another way would be to encourage them to listen to what the learners in their class are interested in (technology and gaming-wise). They should not disregard these and instead try and incorporate them into their teaching. To not be afraid to let your learners teach you a thing or two is important.”

Keshma’s application entry for the 2016 Microsoft MIEExpert program
It is always interesting to see the entries the MIEExpert teachers submitted as part of their application to be considered for the program. Here is Keshma's:

Keshma and the wider community of teachers
On a wider scale Keshma has created a termly meeting of twelve or more Grade 6 teachers from other schools in the Rondebosch area. At the next meeting on they will be sharing different ways of incorporating technology in their classrooms.   There will be a speaker at this meeting and it is open to other interested teachers. The date is 25 February, 3-4:30pm at Micklefield School.  Come along if you'd like to - just phone Micklefield to let them know!

Keshma is currently completing her Masters’ degree at UCT on the topic of how the use of technology develops critical thinking and we wish her well in that.

Get involved in the Microsoft MIEE program in 2016
If you are a teacher who likes to be innovative in the classroom, think about entering Microsoft's Innovative Teacher MIEExpert program in 2017 when applications reopen later in the year. You can learn more about the program at this link:  It could lead to big things!

Great Google in Education posts this week #42

After looking through all the Google posts that were shared to various subscriptions recently, these are 18+ that look useful for teachers.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Video-making opportunities with Next Vista - why not get your students to enter?

Next Vista for Learning ( is a wonderful video sharing site directed at teachers and students. Videos on Next Vista are made by teachers and students for teachers and students. Throughout the school year Next Vista hosts video creation contests for students and teachers. The owner of this site is Rushton Hurley, a marvelous motivational education speaker who has been out to South Africa frequently to speak at various conferences for teachers. I have heard him twice at Google for Education summits.

In January Rushton sent out a very inspiring newsletter with all sorts of opportunities, freebies and ideas for teachers. In this post I thought I would highlight two opportunities that teachers in South Africa might want to pursue with their students.

 Creativity sprouts!

creative sprout - main (300p)"Our spring contest, Creative Sprouts, is now in motion. As usual, the challenge for students and/or teachers is to creatively explain in 90 seconds or less something one might encounter in school. What your students make could help them better understand what you're teaching, help a peer figure out an important concept, or even allow your community to understand the good work being done at your school!

If you need any help getting this going, you'll find quite a bit of advice in these slides. Also make sure to look over the rules carefully, and if you wish, you can always email us ( with questions." (quoted from the newsletter)

Stories of service

"A number of teachers are getting their students geared up for our annual Service via Video project and contest. In it, we ask students to tell about people making their communities better, including researching charities (learning their stories, interviewing volunteers, and more) to create short videos (2 minutes or shorter) telling about these organizations.

The charities highlighted in the videos chosen as finalists earn $200 toward the featured organization (see the rules for details). We'd love to help you help the students help those organizations, so please get involved! We want every student to know what she or he can do to help others with a little digital media work.

Here are three examples from recent years to share and discuss:

foster_city_little_league_challengers_divsionFoster City Little League Challengers Division
from the 2014 Service via Video project

bc_spcaBC SPCA
from the 2015 Service via Video project

freestore_foodbankFreestore Foodbank
from the 2013 Service via Video project

Note that the rules for previous years (such as the length of the video) may be different than the rules for this year. You can find all the finalists videos for this project at this link." (quoted from the newsletter)

The Next Vista for Learning is definitely a site to bookmark and visit regularly. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Have you started your Grade 10-12 learners on the Microsoft Math portal yet?

How do you transform mathematics from the most disliked subject in school to every student’s favourite pastime, even beyond school walls? By introducing Microsoft Math! Microsoft Math is a free, online high school learning support service for Grade 10-12 students in South Africa and globally, provided by Microsoft. This is a 24-hour service that will benefit Grade 10-12 Maths learners enormously. It is available on any device and it provides:
  • thousands of Maths exercises 
  • examples of how to solve them 
  • theory and tests 
  • instant, interactive feedback 
This free application is not to be confused with Microsoft Mathematics! It is available on

There is a great video on the Internet called: "Now Mathematics is like My Friend”. Take a look.

Microsoft Math adds a social dimension to education, encouraging students to collaborate and compete with each other, and making the learning experience personal, engaging and exciting. Students can do thousands of math exercises, read theory, learn from examples, take tests, and more. Teachers can set assignments and homework for their class directly from the service, with the ability to better track students’ skill levels and to motivate them further.

Features of Microsoft Math
Let's revise the great features of Microsoft Math: 
  • Offers students 24/7 access to interactive maths learning
  • Game-like approach 
  • Offers social support
  • Provides an opportunity for students to collaborate with classmates and friends – or compete with them to see who can reach the top of the rankings. 
  • Helps teachers to improve their own skills and working methods. Teachers gain access to a rich exercise bank to ease class planning. The interactive system provides them clearer understanding of their students’ skills – and a new channel to communicate with and motivate them.
  • Can be undertaken on any digital device

Join the Microsoft Educator Community

Why not join the Microsoft Educator Community (free) and connect and collaborate around the world and gain easy access to lessons created by educators for educators: There are so many useful lessons on the Community and there are probably numerous Maths lessons.