With the sudden switch to remote learning for many students in 2020, many online learning platforms are continuously adding new features to keep up with demand. In particular, the Microsoft Education digital tools have enabled Renton Prep to still provide a world-class education to all of our students.
As the first Microsoft Showcase School in Washington state, we’ve used Microsoft Teams to stream our classes to our remote students. Amidst the pandemic, we’ve also found new creative ways to engage our students with the Microsoft Education platform.
These are the top five ways that Microsoft Education kept our classroom connected over the school year.
Five Ways Renton Prep used the Microsoft Education Platform in 2020-2021
- Virtual Competitions for Students
- Attending Virtual Global Events and Conferences
- Breakout Rooms
- Live-streaming Field Trips for Remote Students
- Collaborating on Group Projects
1. Virtual Competitions for Students
It can be challenging to keep students motivated during online learning, but a great strategy is to include activities to inspire their creativity. Microsoft released competitions to motivate students all over the world.
A popular example is the Minecraft: Education Edition contest that took place last year. Students formed groups and were instructed to create a sustainable city through Minecraft. This allowed students to demonstrate their understanding of STEM subjects. In math, the project involved volume, surface area, and more. In science, students had to consider pollution, human impact, and civil engineering.
Finally, these competitions also encourage students to practice collaboration and critical thinking.
2. Attending Virtual Events
Along with competitions, Microsoft Education hosts numerous events available to both teachers and students to allow them to share their insights with other instructors.
In 2020, our Executive Director Dr. Zimmerman and student Brooklyn Jones presented at the ISTE Creative Constructor Lab conference hosted by Microsoft. Together they shared their experience utilizing design thinking in education to inspire other instructors.
These virtual interactive seminar series stimulate new teaching methods that engage students.
Furthermore, two of our students were apart of Microsoft’s Hack the Classroom: STEM Edition virtual event last November. The event assisted educators, parents, and guardians to help students learn relevant skills that equip them for a digital future. Fifth-grader Gabriella and sixth-grader Alexandra presented their real-life experiences with coding in the Renton Prep classroom.
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3. Breakout rooms
To encourage meaningful discussions within the classroom, Microsoft Education added a feature called breakout rooms. Teachers are able to split the virtual classroom into small groups to allow students to discuss topics from the lessons.
This intimate experience provides an opportunity for remote students to ask questions that they may be too afraid to do in front of the entire class. Moreover, it also provides a small group to share creative ideas and critically think about the subject matter, even if only attending class digitally.
Additionally, the teacher has the option of choosing whether to assign the groups themselves or automatically generate the students into the breakout rooms. This option gives professors flexibility on how they want to direct their class or how they want the discussions to proceed.
4. Live-Streaming Field Trips
Here at Renton Prep, we place importance on place-based education. This hands-on approach helps students see and understand the value of the environment around them. However, just because students are staying at home doesn’t mean they should miss out on this learning experience.
With the use of Microsoft Teams, we were able to live stream the field trips that in class students attended.
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5. Collaborating on Group Projects
Because of social distancing, virtual group projects are important now more than ever to keep students connected and social.
Microsoft Education allows students to collaborate in group projects with students. Although it’s used often for students during classtime, this isn’t just reserved for communication between remote and in-person students in class. The group projects tool can be used at home or whenever students agree to meet and work together.
Additionally, groups can use the breakout rooms tool for class group work. Through this process, students are learning analytical skills on overcoming setbacks, digital literacy, and teamwork skills.
Finally, not only does this provide students with interdisciplinary skills, but also keeps them connected to their peers despite the distance.
Technology-Enabled Education, Powered by Microsoft
We’ve been named one of the top three Middle School STEM programs in America and one of under 40 Microsoft Showcase schools in the United States for a reason. Equally important, our school continues to be globally recognized as a leader in transforming education to truly integrate technology into our learning experience.
We’re constantly evolving as a society so we believe our classrooms and teaching methods should be too. Contact us today to learn more about our school, educational practices, and innovative environment. Enrollment applications for the 2021-2022 school year for early childhood through 10th grade are currently open.