Guest Post by Victoria Thompson
As an instructional coach I am often tasked with leading professional development opportunities for my school site. These professional developments include, but are not limited to:
- Consolidation of Technology Tools
- Utilizing OneNote Class Notebook
- Immersive Reader 101
- Using Pear Deck in the Virtual Classroom
These professional developments are often focused on the broad use of a tool and how it can help our school site as a whole. However, I sometimes receive requests to walk through a tool more thoroughly and/or see how the tool can be used for a subject area or grade level. While I am always available to do a demonstration or co-teach a lesson, I tend to direct folks to external website if they’d like targeted training outside of what I can provide. This is not in an effort to be callous, but rather that my role (STEM Integration Transformation Coach) spans so many areas that I may not receive a collective interest from my staff in providing professional development on one specific tech tool or one specific platform. In the interest of time and efficiency I often focus on what my whole staff needs yet will hold individual sessions with folks for academic or department needs.
As a school that is fully integrated with Office 365, this is where the Microsoft Educator Center (or MEC) comes to the rescue. I’ve been active on the Microsoft Educator Center for about two years now and have personally enjoyed every moment of it, and I definitely encourage teachers just starting in their tech journey—or even those that are seasoned!—to take advantage of so many of the wonderful things that it can provide.
What the Microsoft Educator Center?
The Microsoft Educator Center is a FREE (that’s right, FREE) online hub for educators to learn about the various programs, platforms, devices, and supports that Microsoft Education provides. The classes on the Microsoft Educator Center span from K-12 to higher education, which is a definite plus—I don’t see too many platforms dipping into higher education right now. The hub has a plethora of classes for folks to choose from on these various topics. Courses range from full-scale pathways to just 1-2 hour courses and cover topics such as using OneNote, designing presentations, LEGO Robotics, STEM education, Office 365, special education with Microsoft Teams, and student voice.
How can I access the Microsoft Educator Center?
The first step is to create a Microsoft email account. This may be provided by your school or district; if not, definitely create a free Outlook account so you can have access.
Once you have created an account, you can access the Microsoft Educator Center by selecting this link. This home page gives a detailed list of featured classes, but you are always welcome to search courses for what you’re interested in exploring (i.e. if you type “student choice” into the search bar, a list of applicable courses will appear for you to peruse).
Once you select a course it will act like a typical online learning course: there are videos for you to watch, text for you to read/listen to, and questions for you to answer. At the end of each course you take a quiz to test your learning and if you pass (typically between 80% and 93% accuracy, depending on the course) you get a badge and a certificate of learning. These badges and certificates of learning are also stored within your profile so you can see your progress.
How can this be beneficial to me as a teacher, or how can this be beneficial to my staff as an administrator?
Let’s begin by talking about the value of FREE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT that is focused around technology tools and vetted by professionals in the industry. That right there is a number one reason to use the Microsoft Educator Center. There are not many spaces that offer free professional development these days, nevertheless from a major technology company.
Second, I think it’s important to recognize that this is professional development tailored to a teacher’s needs. How many times have you yourself sat through professional development and found that it was not relevant to you, your coursework, or your academic department at all? The Microsoft Educator Center offers flexible professional development catered to what an educator would like to learn—all they need to do is search topics that are applicable to them within the website’s search engine. For a specific example, I recently searched for “math” on the Microsoft Educator Center and found six different courses (one on Immersive Reader and Math Tools in OneNote!). Whenever a member of my workplace completes a course on the Microsoft Education Center,
In the administrative space, I’ve also found it to be beneficial to suggest courses to your staff if they find as though there is a need to learn more about a specific product or tool. As always, follow up with your faculty and staff (either yourself or with your instructional coach) to see if there are any additional needs or questions.
In my next blog post I’ll be detailing my top five favorite courses in the Microsoft Education Center. Stay tuned!
About The Author
Victoria Thompson is a STEM Integration Transformation Coach at Technology Access Foundation–a nonprofit leader redefining STEM education in public schools–and a consultant for Ignite EdTech. She has been in education for five years and began her journey teaching fifth and sixth grade math and science in Summerville, SC. After completing her masters degree in curriculum and instruction she moved to the Seattle, WA area in 2018, where her career has pivoted to focusing on STEM integration in schools, K-12 mathematics instruction with research on decolonizing mathematics curriculum for teachers and learners, creating inclusive math environments, and using technology to bridge equity gaps in math education. She has presented at ISTE, ImpactEducation, CUE, and DigCitSummit on topics such as creating inclusive math classrooms, culturally responsive STEM education, and equity in educational technology.