Tag Archives: students

Back to school for the first time at Wilburton Elementary |

For students and educators around the world now heading back to school, it’s a time filled with emotions and opportunities to make new friends, connect with old ones, and embark on new learning opportunities.

For one school in Bellevue, Washington, it’s been a momentous week: Wilburton Elementary opened its doors to a new community of students, parents, and educators, for the very first time. Over the past year we’ve been sharing this school’s journey, from its earliest planning stages to partnering with Wilburton to bring the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework to life every step of the way.

More than 400 Wilburton Wolves are in for an amazing year ahead, and I couldn’t be prouder of what the teams have accomplished in creating a holistically impactful environment for these students to dream big, expect more, and give back.

A framework for leadership

For Bellevue School District Superintendent Dr. Ivan Duran, the new school represents a big step forward in the transformation of learning. “Wilburton Elementary is the first school we’ve built from the ground up in over 25 years, in order to serve a fast-growing and diverse area in our district,” Superintendent Duran tells us. “The state-of-the-art campus reflects the district’s commitment to creating innovative approaches for equitable and inclusive learning, enabled by Microsoft technology. Working in partnership with Microsoft Education, we’ve created a learning environment that will give students the skills and opportunities they need to be affirmed and inspired as creators of their future world.”

What I’ve learned over the years, through our Showcase School program, is that amazing schools are the output of an incredible leader. Beth Hamilton, Wilburton’s passionate and energetic principal, is a testament to turning a vision into a real-life, fully functioning school. Hamilton has been a leading light throughout the entire project, ensuring that every detail  – from the building construction, the design of the learning environments, through to the learning approach – has placed students at the heart of every decision.

“We’re going to help each other, take risks, get things wrong,” Hamilton says. “We’re going to laugh and cry, but it’s all to make sure that we have a relevant, adaptive, and rigorous learning experience for all of our kids.”

It’s been a privilege to work alongside Beth and listen and learn along the way. And what we’ve learned throughout the journey will help inspire and educate the next generation of new schools.

The Microsoft Education Transformation Framework (ETF) has been instrumental in helping Hamilton to consider every aspect of learning and design. Across Leading and Policy, Modern Teaching and Learning, Intelligent Environments, and Technology Blueprint, we’ve trialed and tested various approaches and options to best craft this amazing new place to learn.

And the new teachers at Wilburton couldn’t be more excited.

From day one to the first day

“On day one, the teachers were excited, but tentative,” Hamilton says. “Today, they’re excited and full of energy – all because of the relationships and trust they’ve built with each other. They believe in each other; it’s the mindset we’ve created.”

Wilburton’s educators, some of them brand new, spent the summer getting their classrooms ready and investing in their own development. Leveraging the Teaching and Learning component in the ETF, along with resources like the Microsoft Educator Community, these educators participated in over 100 hours of professional development, with a focus on connecting as a team and going deep with the innovative technologies designed to take student learning and experience to the next level.

First-grade teacher Mandy Sin says, “Coming in as a first-year teacher, I’m nervous about this whole new chapter in my life, but after our PD there’s a sense of togetherness. We’re a wolf pack – a family – and it feels like whatever I do, say, or try – it’s ok.”

And all of Wilburton’s staff is looking forward to the new resources they can access – including their partnership with nearby Bellevue Botanical Garden and the school’s learning terrace, which is an indoor/outdoor environment connected to their Maker Space. It’s an area for raised gardens, creativity, community building, with all the resources of a classroom. The school is also designed with pods that create open spaces, for students in different classes to connect as a community.

Built for today, built for everyone

From the very beginning, the school was designed to consider opportunities for technology to play a key role in driving digital transformation in both the learning environments and the efficiency and effectiveness of the school and facility itself. Using the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework, they executed on a plan that identified the tools their students and educators need today, and the systems and solutions the school needs to be more productive, efficient, and secure.

Wilburton Elementary provides every student with access to a device while they are at school, where they will use Office 365 with digital inking and a stylus to support their ability to collaborate with each other and be more productive. Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Forms and more will be used throughout the school to enable learning, improve feedback and assessment, and provide more personalized learning to every student.

The school is also taking a holistic approach to accessibility and inclusion, using Microsoft Learning Tools to support every student, regardless of learning differences. STEM is considered fundamental in the curriculum, with the Maker Space leading to hands-on experiences, Minecraft and MakeCode introducing coding and creative thinking, and computer science serving as core.


Technology leads the way

Katherine Gorin, a 2nd grade teacher, is most excited about using technology to differentiate learning and make her classroom more inclusive and equitable. “When technology wasn’t as integrated in the classroom, it was a lot more difficult to make all the materials accessible,” she tells us, “but with technology that we’re extremely lucky to have, it’s so much easier to make sure all students have the opportunity to access what they need to be successful.”

Physical Education teacher Marnie Kazarian looks forward to bridging the connection from the classroom into the gym with technology. “I need to assess and check for understanding, and technology creates that environment where classroom teachers and I can connect to talk about health and skill concepts outside of the 40-minute class period,” she explains. “We’ll know what’s happening in both worlds and can make that connection visible to students so that they come into the gym with a focus.”

Lessons learned

Building a new school – and a new community – from the ground up has presented its share of challenges. The lessons Hamilton and her team have learned in the process apply not only to new schools, but to any school seeking to transform learning:

  1. Relationships, relationships, relationships. According to Hamilton, leading any school is all about building relationships, both within the broader school community and between teachers. “You can have all the procedures and routines figured out, but if you don’t have the relationships, it’s never going to work,” she says. “It’s the culture, climate, and relationships that staff, families, and students are creating with each other that will make the school amazing.”
  2. Less is more. The work of leading a new school requires Hamilton to wear many hats. “My Type A personality wants me to have everything in order and done,” Hamilton shares. “I’ve learned this year to focus what’s the most important – what we need to do right now – because an overwhelmed teacher is never going to be at their best.”
  3. Model the technology. Hamilton stresses that school leaders can’t just tell teachers about technology tools, they have to use them. “If you want teachers to use technology in an innovative way that is intentional and purposeful, you have to show them and model how it can be done,” says Hamilton. “And if they use it as a student, they have a better understanding of it’s potential, and they can pass that on to their students.”
  4. Throughout the journey, Wilburton leaned on the advice and support of many partners and stakeholders in the process, including Microsoft, ISTE, NPDL, Sam Labs, ST Math, Steelcase and local community partners.

Wilburton’s journey has been a learning experience for Microsoft, too. Putting innovation into practice continues to inform our products and our relationships with schools, educators, and students. We’re also excited to share the Wilburton story with the many education officials, school leaders, and educators, who visit the Microsoft Redmond campus every year. As part of our collaboration, Wilburton has a dedicated space for Microsoft to welcome those who want to learn more about the school from both students and educators.

As this part of the journey ends, another one (this time, with students!) begins, and we’ll be there every step of the way to provide support. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire Wilburton Elementary community! Thank you for an amazing journey. I am humbled that you chose Microsoft be a part of it.

Learn more about becoming a Microsoft Showcase School.

Catch up on the full Wilburton Elementary story, start to finish:

  1. Building for innovative learning: A new elementary school takes shape
  2. A new community breaks ground on creativity
  3. Staffing from scratch
  4. Professional development and the art of vulnerability
  5. The women of Wilburton Elementary are reinventing STEM for K-5
  6. Building community, one parent and one student at a time
  7. Making it personal: New approaches for inclusive learning at Wilburton Elementary

Unleashing ESL students’ potential with Microsoft Translator  |

I am a reading specialist, and my main goal is to provide students with tools to overcome barriers to literacy to promote strong readers, writers and critical thinkers. As an educator, I am always looking for ways to innovate my teaching practices. My lessons with English language learners (ELL) overseas challenge me to not only use best techniques in literacy instruction, but to also stay up-to-date on the most current technologies that will help meet their needs from thousands of miles away.

This past year, I started teaching high school students from China who hope to study in the United States. Due to the vast distance between me and my students, we use Skype to meet for class. This enabled us to meet from anywhere at any time. As a former ELL student myself, I can relate with my students’ need to visualize content as it is essential for comprehension. Therefore, I have always typed out important information, such as key vocabulary or phrases, that I want to emphasize during lessons. The Share Screen feature has made it possible for students to follow the lesson by looking at a PowerPoint or OneNote notebook with charts and notes. Often, however, the language barrier can be impeding, regardless of how many ways I may try to explain the meaning of a word or concept.

Recently, I began to work with James, an ELL student with a strong background in English grammar, vocabulary and reading accuracy. Yet, he struggled with verbal communication and comprehension. During our Skype lessons, it quickly became clear that James was not fully engaged in our lessons. It took him a while to respond to my questions or prompts throughout the lessons. Even with visuals and written instructions, James really struggled to understand concepts and was becoming frustrated. This led me to modify my lessons. Instead of working on higher level thinking in our discussions, we had to work on basic comprehension. I needed to find a way for him to follow what I was saying throughout the lessons.

During this time, I was attending a technology conference (International Society for Technology in Education—ISTE) in Chicago, and I learned about Microsoft Translator. As I tried out the translator demo, I realized that this was not like other translation applications. Microsoft Translator (available on PowerPoint, as an app for mobile devices, as well as on the web) documents your dialogue as you speak into your microphone and provides live captions on the screen of anyone that is part of the conversation. In addition, anyone who joins the conversation (from one person to a large group of people) can choose which language they wish the information to be translated into. The most exciting feature for me was the one that allowed you to read information in English and in another language, simultaneously. I became so excited by the possibilities that this would provide for my students that I decided to try it the next day during my morning lesson with James.

While working with James using the Microsoft Translator, I learned more about him in that hour than I had in the prior month of lessons. I learned that James is a visual learner, and that he learns best when he can follow what is being said. I also learned that James is a strong thinker who can look at concepts abstractly, but he struggles finding the right words to express his ideas. For the first time, I saw James smile during our lessons. His high-level of engagement was evident as he quickly responded to my questions and eagerly waited for my responses. I noticed his eyes carefully following the captions on the screen to make sure he was not missing anything. By the end of this transformative lesson, James told me that he could not wait to share the Microsoft Translator app with his parents, who do not speak English, and his friends. He said, “Ms. Mata, the translator helped me feel so much more comfortable during my lesson, and I even learned new vocabulary!”

During our next lesson, we started a young adult novel. As we read together, he could see the captions in English and Chinese. Throughout the chapter, we stopped and discussed important ideas and even symbols in the story. Because he was able to understand what was being discussed, he was also able to respond — in English — and point out different important symbols in the story. At certain points in the lesson, I asked him to share symbols from his own culture and to explain them in Chinese. More recently, I asked James to challenge himself by trying to use only the English captions without the Chinese ones. Though this has been more difficult, he has been able to follow our conversations and effectively communicate while using this tool to help him stay engaged throughout the lesson.

I wonder how often students are not seen for who they really are and are instead perceived as disengaged and unmotivated. Literacy barriers that stem from learning disabilities or lack of fluency lead to frustration and, sometimes, negative behaviors in the classroom. As educators, it is our job to find ways to highlight students’ strengths, regardless of these barriers. Tools such as Microsoft Translator make it that much easier for students to understand ideas and express their own, thus alleviating frustrations in the classroom.

By using Skype and Microsoft Translator together, a whole new layer of James was revealed, and though his journey to English fluency continues, his progress has been remarkable. With this new tool, James is more capable to take on the English language than ever before. As we head into a new school year, I encourage other educators to take risks and try innovative techniques, tools and approaches. Microsoft Translator is just one of many incredible learning tools available to educators and students. Time and again, I have witnessed that while integrating new technologies may be an adjustment at first, their effect on student learning will positively impact students’ confidence and ensure their success in the classroom and beyond.

For more information on Microsoft Education tools for the classroom, visit the Microsoft Educator Community at https://education.microsoft.com.

New Skype features make sharing classroom experiences easier |

As a new school year quickly approaches, many teachers and students are eagerly anticipating engaging in new Skype collaborative projects, virtual field trips and guest speakers. Recently, Skype released some new features that will make those connections even easier. To get them all, upgrade your Skype today and learn more here.

One new feature is the Chat Media Gallery. Files, links and photos shared through the chat are stored in the Gallery, making them easily searchable and accessible. People no longer need to scroll through their chat history to find a file. They can simply click on Gallery under the chat name to locate a file that has been shared through the chat.

Snapshots is another new feature. When people are on a Skype call, they can click the Snapshots button and a picture will be taken of all parties on the call. The photo will automatically appear in the Skype chat box for anyone on that call. This is a handy feature for classes doing a Mystery Skype or collaborative project. Their interactions can be quickly captured with a click of a button and shared on social media, with parents, or on a school bulletin or website. This is also a great way to capture the magic of a virtual field trip and share what the students learned in a school yearbook or email to parents.

A third new feature, Sharing Emotion, allows participants to click on an Emotion icon to cause it to automatically appear over the video during a Skype call. This is a fun way to communicate non-verbally during a call or to respond to a question during a Mystery Skype.

Skype Call Recording has just been added as a new feature, as well. It is cloud-based, and all participants in the call are notified when someone starts recording the call. It records everyone’s video, as well as any screens that have been shared. If there is a special Skype guest speaker or virtual field trip that a teacher wants to capture, or if there is a unique class-to-class Skype collaborative project, the recording feature is an ideal way to capture and preserve the learning experience.

These new features are a welcome addition to Skype and will further enable students and teachers to have engaging and world-changing Skype in the Classroom experiences!

Teachers: You are invited to explore all these amazing features here and start using them with your Skype in the Classroom activities.

If you are new to Skype in the Classroom, join our free and global community at skypeintheclassroom.com to expand the walls of your classroom and inspire your students.

Use the new Activity Plans to organize your Skype in the Classroom experiences |

Skype in the Classroom has always been one of my favorite resources for engaging students in real-life, relevant learning experiences. I recently learned that using Skype in the Classroom has become even easier for teachers with the addition of FREE activity plans! These are activity plans written by educators for educators.

5 Reasons to get excited about the launch of these helpful new resources:

Teachers always have a long to-do list. Want to engage your students with a Skype in the Classroom experience but short on time? These activity plans will help make it happen! The plans are free and easy to download in just a few seconds. Each one includes objectives (GREAT to share with parents and administrators), activities to activate background knowledge, research, brainstorming, preparing students for the call, assessment, reflection and more.

  • Easy to adapt

Each activity plan can be followed step-by-step or easily adjusted to best fit your students’ needs. Once you download, each plan is fully editable, making any adjustments quick, seamless and easy. This is also a great way to save any changes after the Skype experience, so you will be able to remember how you adapted the lesson for the next time you use it with students.

  • Aligned to ISTE Standards

Not only are objectives listed for each activity, they are also aligned to ISTE standards. This is a nice way to keep the big picture in mind. It’s a valuable resource to share with students, parents, administrators and colleagues.

  • Help other teachers

Do you know other teachers who are curious about using Skype in the Classroom with their students but are unsure how or where to start? This handy resource will give them a step-by-step guide, including question prompts, research and assessment ideas, and more.

  • Deep(er) learning

Each activity plan includes ideas to launch the lesson, research, prepare students, reflect and assess. These ideas help teachers plan intentionally for each aspect of the learning experience and provide a framework of ideas for before, during and after the Skype experience.

Whether you are looking to launch a new school year with an exciting Skype call, planning for Skype experiences throughout the year, dreaming of Skype-a-Thon connections, or whatever your Skype in the Classroom goals may be, be sure to check out and download the free activity plans to support and enhance the experience for you and your students.

Watch WE Day Aug. 17 at 8/7c on ABC |

Get ready to be inspired and to inspire your students to do good.

Invite your friends and families to join me and millions of Americans on August 17 to watch WE Day on ABC, a celebration of the transformative power of young people.

Microsoft is proud to support WE’s mission to empower youth to create a positive impact at home and around the world through service-learning. A supporter of the organization since 2013, we continue to help WE by equipping them with Microsoft technology that lets them bring the benefits of their programs to schools, families and youth around the world.

I am particularly excited about our work with WE to inspire students to make our world more inclusive through the WE Are One Campaign. Today, thousands of youth are learning, creating and ideating on ways they can leverage technology to make their classrooms and communities more accessible and inclusive for all.

The WE Day Special features a great example of the WE Are One Campaign at work.

Johnny (featured above) is a glowing example of a student using technology for good. He built a social networking app for people with disabilities and their families, motivated and informed by his brother, Christian.

I invite our passionate education community to take part in the free WE Schools program, including the WE Are One Campaign. Through service learning, students learn to take action on the issues that matter to them, while learning critical academic and life skills along the way.

The WE Day Special on ABC will inspire action through the stories of everyday Americans making extraordinary impact in their communities. And you can catch host John Stamos, alongside Selena Gomez, Jennifer Aniston, The Chainsmokers, Dierks Bentley, and WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger on the WE Day stage as they celebrate youth and families committed to changing the world!

Join the WE Movement: Watch the WE Day Special August 17 at 8/7c on ABC @WEmovement #WEAreOne Click To Tweet

Imagine Cup 2018

Students from around the world compete in Imagine Cup World Finals

Now in its 16th year, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup has a mission to empower student developers to bring their technological innovations to life. Competing students create technology solutions with the potential to change the world.

This week, 49 finalist teams are in Seattle for the 2018 World Finals. Students will compete for the chance to win up to $100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. In addition, three special $15,000 prizes were also introduced this year to challenge students to bring forward their ideas in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Mixed Reality.

Read more

Partnership with Microsoft will bring computer science to four El Paso schools

Microsoft TEALS partners with teachers to provide students with skills required for today and tomorrow’s careers

EL PASO, Texas — April 30, 2018 — El Paso students at four area schools will have the opportunity to learn to code this fall, thanks to a new partnership announced Monday with Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which helps high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs through partnerships between classroom teachers and technology industry volunteers, will launch this fall at Clint ISD Early College Academy, Eastlake High School, Eastwood High School and Loretto Academy.

“Our region is fortunate to have terrific schools, which will be even stronger with the addition of a program that teaches one of the key skills young people will need to be successful in our increasingly technology driven world,” said JJ Childress, El Paso manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark program to foster greater economic opportunity and job creation in six communities in the United States. “We know teachers want to teach computer science, but it can be challenging to find the time and resources to learn the subject. TEALS addresses this by putting trained technology volunteers into classrooms to teach students, while helping teachers prepare to teach the subject on their own.”

Since its formation in 2009, TEALS has paired volunteer computer science experts from over 500 companies with high school teachers in nearly 350 schools, in 29 states and Washington, D.C. Volunteers join classes in person, or through the internet when enough volunteers aren’t available locally.

John Mack, Prudential’s head of Technology in El Paso, is among those who signed up to volunteer through TEALS. “Technology is driving the world economy, and there are so many rewarding careers available to those who have learned to code,” Mack said. “I jumped at the opportunity to work with young people in our community this fall, and I hope that many others join me.”

Other El Paso-based businesses helping promote TEALS among their employees, and supporting their employees in their volunteer work, include El Paso Electric and Steele Consulting. The University of Texas at El Paso is also helping to promote TEALS among students interested in volunteering through the program. As a result of this support from the community, employees from these companies, and university students, have applied to volunteer.

Edmond Martinez, principal of Clint ISD Early College Academy, a school that has long embraced the need for strong science, technology, engineering and math programs, sees the teaching of computer science as a duty to the next generation, and encourages local technology experts to step up to volunteer.

“We have a responsibility to create pathways for our students from high school, through college, and to professional positions,” Martinez said. “Technical knowledge and skills prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow, to solve serious problems, and create new opportunities for humanity. It’s my hope that many of those in our community who have technology training will sign up to volunteer with TEALS this fall. What could be more rewarding than passing on your skills to the next generation of innovators?”

Anyone with a computer science degree or equivalent industry experience, who wants to give back to the community by teaching high school computer science, can apply. Volunteers receive training over the summer, and other support throughout the process. Applications are open now, through the end of May, and can be found at https://www.tealsk12.org/volunteers/.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,


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