Carmen Sandiego would be proud as I hid out in Singapore for a week with Microsoft!
It has taken me over a month to fully process what E2 Singapore was like personally and professionally. Microsoft's Education programming is both generous and modern in their approach to offer professional growth opportunities for educators of the world. Canada's Education Team builds on top of that making sure their educators have the experience of a lifetime. To both the Worldwide and Canada Microsoft Education Teams I say a genuine thank you for this opportunity.
Arriving in Singapore it was obvious that this city could challenge Dublin for the right to own the colour green! Green was everywhere and like Ireland it felt completely natural and comforting. I arrived at the hotel just in time for the welcome reception which took place next to the river and featured music, amazing food and educators from countless countries complimenting each others' efforts in education and sharing jet lag stories. The night ended early for most due to the effects of travel but because of that most, like myself, were awake way before dawn. I capture some great shots of the city both before bed on the first night and at 4am when I woke up!
Once everyone was awake it was showtime and Microsoft didn't disappoint with some of the most real and passionate keynote speakers I've seen. They weren't selling books, producing videos or even looking for Twitter followers. These speakers were there with heartfelt thanks, valuable information and inspiring stories that the global audience could appreciate. I immediately found online friends and made the relationships much more concrete. We were given our challenge groups and Computational Thinking competitions (Easier than figuring out the hotel bathroom light system) and I couldn't be happier! I got to work with an American, Russian, Uzbekistan teacher and New Zealand team leader. But the countries were the least important part. Each of these teachers were world-class when it came to intelligence, creativity and technological abilities. I didn't feel like the smartest or most capable person in the room at any point at this conference! Team 5 was alive and we began to work with smiles! Minecraft Education was offering a session and although I was sure I would know the content delivered I wanted to see how to deliver the content in a fun and engaging way and one of the best MCEE presenters in the world was a great example for me to see. At night Team Canada organized a wonderful walking tour of Singapore!
Day 2 - Starting to feel like home!
Day 2 started with more wonderful demonstrations of Microsoft Educational Technology which included Minecraft Education Edition, and powerful keynotes from teachers. When Meenoo battled through tech difficulties and made a pig fly due to chemistry I'm sure Minecraft sold thousands of more account licenses at that moment. It was awesome! I hit some Microbit training with Minecraft Mentors, worked even harder in our challenge team (Still Smiling) and we took a river cruise that I recorded in full and can't watch enough. Thanks to Mario of Team Canada I look back now and love the fact that E2 was the correct balance of tourism and learning for me. We even scored a sweet backstage tour of the ballroom where we got to geek-out over the technology involved in putting on a show like E2!
Learning Marketplace - Building a Better Future in MinecraftEDU with Sustainability Shuffle!
After a failed elevator pitch with Anthony Salcito (Acutally passing each other in an elevator doorway) I was determined to be ready at the marketplace. Using Twitter to request a redo I was pleased to see Anthony respond and confirm he would stop by.
Anthony didn't disappoint and even though he was extremely rushed he gave me the time I needed to communicate Minecraft Education's largest international project ever and its purpose to teach the United' Nations' Sustainable Development Goals around the world! The Sustainability Shuffle had its early day in the sun and the eventual hope is that the students' solutions can be seen by the United Nations!
Celebration Time - More than just a badge!
In a celebration setting I've only seen in movies, Microsoft ended E2 putting it on ICE! Met by a giant ice carving of #E2 as we entered the venue we found a food spread and beverage offering that made everyone think "I could get use to this lifestyle." The royal treatment continued throughout the evening as we danced next to Singapore Bay in a giant air-conditioned greenhouse like no other. They love their gardens in Singapore and we were smack dab in the middle of their crown jewel of gardens. Awards were given out for the challenges and I got to see some Team Canada members win gold and grace the stage with the flags and leadership team. Mario and I snuck away at the exact moment to catch, accidentally, the garden light show which was high on my to-do list! This was indeed the end of the educational event but I believe only the beginning of many relationships for myself. There is something comforting about face-to-face interaction and Microsoft enabled those opportunities perfectly. I had to travel to the opposite end of the Earth to meet these exceptional educators and people, and for me, the people made the event something I will cherish forever. Thank you to everyone I got to meet and spend time with and I am sorry to those who I didn't spend enough time with. Perhaps we can have another chance at "E3?" Is that how the number system works? :)
This event was more than just a badge for me. Returning home I have big plans and I hope that if I get to attend E2 again at some point I will take better advantage of my time there to meet many more wonderful people!
Microsoft’s Minecraft Education Edition just announced something the K-12 science education community has been needing for years. In February, Minecraft Education will become the single most engaging and relevant catalyst for K-12 chemistry education. Like a catalyst in a chemical reaction, the Chemistry Resource Pack will accelerate the process of K-12 students learning, understanding and applying the basic principles of chemistry in a safe and ultimately flexible learning environment. Students as young as 6-years-old can master the atomic composition of elements and then combine those into exciting compounds that can be used to make Minecraft tools. These tools include glow sticks, super fertilizer, underwater TNT and even helium balloons that carry mobs into the sky!
Imagine the future of grade 6-12 chemistry education when vast amounts of grade K-5 students have foundational skills in chemistry. As a Biochemistry university graduate I am delighted that this new learning catalyst will accelerate student understanding of science education moving forward. If you are looking for a tool to strengthen chemistry understanding and skills with K-12 students, Eureka! Look no further than Minecraft Education Edition! The first time your students attach a helium balloon to a pig and watch it fly away will be the perfect moment to hook them on science for the rest of their lives! Congratulations and thanks to the team at Minecraft Education.
Honesty alert - Despite diving into some of the most complicated educational technology around, two weeks ago I was the guy that avoided Skype because I somehow believed you had to pay to use it. This misunderstanding was due to my Office 365 account allotting me 60 "free" Skype minutes and therefore caused my assumption that to call another user costs minutes. A fellow Canadian Dean V. in Saskatchewan cleared this up nicely for me, as a Skype Expert would, and subsequently Caledonia Regional's first Skype-a-Thon call ever was made to Dean and his students in Saskatchewan on November 28th 2017. Dean and I teach a very similar grade 11/12 math course involving financial and workplace math. We decided to list a bunch of vaguely teen-related services and merchandise and compare the costs of these between New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Canada. The call was awesome and even though time was tight it felt natural and students remarked "We should do that more often" and "That was really cool." On November 29th the students at our school analyzed the costs from both places and were encouraged to dig deeper into the meaning and global issues that might cause some of the large discrepancies. When we all went to sleep on the first night we had done our part to generate the most virtual miles ever in Skype-a-thon history. But we were just warming up!
Day two and Microsoft had already reached their global Skype goal before school started in Atlantic Canada. Today was a big day for us as my students, who had worked so hard with Microsoft HoloLens, Minecraft and on Windows 10 Game Development using Unity 3D, were set to speak with Microsoft VP Terry Myerson who runs the Windows Device Group. Students had some great questions ready about "ESports" Electronic Sports and Gaming, Minecraft's future for Multi-school servers, HoloLens for both entertainment and workplace and even which Microsoft executives were the best and worst Minecrafters. At 1:30pm local we were connected to Terry and apologized for not having a cultural piece at the start of our call because the boys had eaten all of the Tim Horton's donuts and the world had already heard enough Justin Bieber music.
For a solid 20+ minutes the students hammered away at Terry with difficult questions but he kept his composure very well. He dodged the question about the worst Minecrafter in the executive team (Although he did blink twice when we suggested Anthony Salcito?) but he gave serious props to the team at Minecraft saying they all would easily be the best. He was also very proud of his Minecraft skin featuring a cape. The students got just enough insider information from Terry to feel that they had a special relationship and he held back enough info to keep his job. When the call disconnected the students immediately reflected on how cool that type of access was and had already begun planning future Skype requests and even talked about a Skype Studio in our Innovation Lab. It looks like I'll be writing more grants after all. It was a stressful time, an energetic time and a special time for all of us in our first Skype-a-thon and we all can't imagine not being part of it every year moving forward.
I'd like to start this by saying I have honestly invested more time than I would like to admit into planning the fundraising for and the execution of burning the 17 United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals into the Moon's surface. The World's largest lesson needs the World's largest chalkboard right?
I honestly can't think of a country who would object as this lesson is truly in the best interest of every person on Earth. Daily, people could take an active role in helping to better balance and sustain our world and each night everyone would get a fresh reminder of the next day's challenge. Even beyond 2030 these goals will still exist as the most important mission each of us has when we wake up so the branding would certainly apply to all subsequent generations.
Until I achieve this lofty goal of my own we as teachers must do our individual roles to shine a light on the 17 goals that will guide humanity to a sustainable lifestyle together. This can take the form of a poster display on the walls of the classroom or morning announcements with reminders and facts about the goals. Each of these is great to raise awareness of the goals but the true power happens when teachers ask for action and students actively work to improve our current standards of living on Earth. Doing it alone as a class is awesome but these issues cross national and cultural boundaries so I would suggest reaching out beyond your classroom on projects large and small. The old saying "Be the change you want to see in the World" has never applied more than with the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
If you are completely new to the concept of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals there is no need to fear. I too was new to these goals just months ago and I can tell you they have given me a purpose in my programs at school like never before. We all want to make an impact on students' lives and provide authentic and meaningful learning opportunities. With the SDGs as the foundation for your lessons you will always see the benefits of your role in students' lives.
Join me. Join us. Join everyone in promoting active participation in working to improve our World in the 17 areas indicated on the bright coloured goal cards!
Visit www.globalgoals.org/ to learn more today!
Reach out to me on Twitter! @BBTNB
My Sustainable Development Goals Education Website - www.SDGsEDU.com
On a quiet night is there anything better than curling up with a great book? However, when that book is an iBook titled "Happy" by Tuniversity which allows the reader / participant to learn from Pharrell Williams and dissect and remix his massive hit song, the night doesn't stay quiet for long!
When tasked with creating a song for the movie Despicable Me 2 Pharrell did not disappoint. In a new iBook experience by Tuniversity called "Happy" we are all treated to not only Pharrell's personal process, but also detailed examples of how every musical aspect of the song was created by the hit artist. Aspiring artists and seasoned professionals can all learn something from this very interactive book and so can our students in K-12 classrooms! Students will read about developing the parts of a song and even try their hand with arranging and producing a hit song on their favourite iOS device.
No, not that S.T.E.M. education. One of the rarest resources in the world after four-leaf clovers has got to be a musical artist's audio stems. These elusive unicorns of music education encompass all of the polished tracks that make up a complete song, isolated for our remixing pleasure. Horns, vocals, drums, strings and even hand claps among other stems are the soul of a song and rarely provided for free. Tuniversity allows users access to these audio stem files for educational purpose giving complete production access and artist freedom to invent their own "Happy."
Once your students have created their "Happy" and you've clapped along (If that's what you wanted to do), you may be left temporarily searching for enrichment or similar experiences. Tuniversity has suggested this is not a one-off iBook and that more experiences are coming but in the meantime I strongly suggest you explore Indaba Music. They've been around forever and I remember fondly remixing my favourite band Weezer as well as Bran Van 3000, Marcy Playground and numerous rap artists' songs. Competition is the name of their game as artists provide audio stems and select winners with the best remix for swag and cash. Any student showing remote interest in Tuniversity would appreciate the personalized learning opportunity given by you through an Indaba Music contest suggestion. Soundtrap like GarageBand is a huge player in the educational audio production space so if you don't have an Apple device explore their device-agnostic solution.
Audio production and remixing is a personal passion of mine which when incorporated into my job represents my "Happy." You see students every day who share this passion and if you intend on sparking their educational flame you can't go wrong with Tuniversity, GarageBand or Soundtrap, Indaba Music and Pharrell Williams! I'm Happy!
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB