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Showcase Classroom Visit

There was a time when the Classroom of the Future was a thing. A place where companies would deck out a space with the latest and greatest and people would come and play with it. A few remain, mostly looking rather like an Apple Store with educational quotes on the wall.

Microsoft's Showcase Classroom is a very different proposition - everything there is very much current, not future, but because of the pace of development now instead of old software on the latest and greatest hardware, the emphasis is on the latest software and a trainer who knows how to make best use of it and can relate that to the people in front of them (in our case the incredible Sam O'Leary). Sam took us on a highly accelerated tour of Microsoft's offer and I think left every teacher in the group with a few new ideas and tricks to use back in school on Monday morning.

To Sam's great credit she took our agnostic approach to tools (a mix of Google and Microsoft's cloud) in her stride and had the knowledge to compare intelligently.

The highlights for me included:

  • Although Microsoft's propensity for releasing similarly named things that do similar things but not quite the same drives me insane, the Snip tool (as opposed to the Snipping tool) brings a version of Office Mix to everyday use - I like the idea that at any point in a lesson I can grab something on the screen, annotate it and keep it handy for later without having to change gears. I think every Star Classroom needs this setting up as soon as possible! The confusion of course of having a Snip Tool, a Snipping Tool, Snip tools of various kinds in various Office Apps (the Powerpoint ones are great), Snipping tools in OneNote and of course the snip/ annotate tool in Edge is not a good thing.
  • I doubt I'll change from Google Forms just because it's become second nature to me, but the Forms tool in 365 is now equally capable and seems to produce forms that look nicer to the user.
  • Reading View in Edge allowing me to strip all the extraneous stuff from a web page to use in a lesson - adverts especially - seems such an obvious idea. Safari has a similar service and looking for Chrome I've found the Read Mode extension which works but nowhere near as well as the Microsoft baked in alternative).
  • Sway is an app I thought I fully understood - but to watch someone who really knows how to use it well put it through its paces really inspired me - in particular the options for grouping content together will let me make much more structured and well organised Sways.
Everyone there signed up for the excellent Microsoft Educator Community (which is one of the best under-promoted resources on the web for teachers) and earned the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award from the various points they earned over the day.

Several parts of our Basecamp programme were based on earlier experiences at the Showcase and I think as we plan for 2017-18's round of training and consider the tools to place front and centre we will still very much be featuring tools like Mix, Sway, OneNote and probably one of the various Snipping tools. Many thanks to Sam and colleagues at Microsoft for hosting our visit.


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