Remote learning artifact from 2020

Remote learning taught me so much about clear instructions, the social and emotional needs of learning communities and how students rely on each other to decode activities that they need to complete for the subject I am teaching them.

This example comes from my Year 9 History OneNote Class Notebook from the end of Term 3 and a long spell of teaching and learning remotely.

The topic we had covered for most of the term was “Making a New Nation”. The students were weary, and we had completed the assessment for the topic but there were 3 lessons to go until the holidays.

Typically our Year 9 students have spent a week in Melbourne and three weeks in China by this time of the year. They were missing their friends and upset about what should have been. I decided that hosting an excursion would be something different even if we had to go virtually!

So, we “went” to the Canberra Art gallery!

This is the top of the page.
This is the table that the “work” had to go into.
High level response.
Less detailed response, but the “feelings” expressed are pleasing.

The second lesson of the week asked them to share and discuss one of the images they chose. Choices were shared on 4 pages within the Collaboration space. A number of students offered to talk about their choice and then students were asked to pick 4 favourites from those submitted.

The instructions page.
Some of the chosen images and the very messy voting process!
The lower image was the most unusual choice, but very well received.

While this excursion was not really a better way to go than if we had been able to actually visit an art gallery, it did allow for most students to enjoy something a bit different that summed up or studies over the term.

The last lesson of the Term was VERY successful. Three groups took on creating a task for their classmates. I facilitated and the term ended with a lot of much need laughter. We had a Kahoot run by two boys; a quiz shared by a girl who had been a bit disengaged in the last few weeks and a challenge from another girl.

It was a long term full of steep learning curves for all of us. All things considered we had the right products for teaching and learning already set up and being used: Teams plus Class OneNote, Forms, PowerPoint screen recordings, Stream and dictating in Word. As Teams Assignments began to roll out we trialled and applied and many faculties continue to use this method of assessing. Our students did a great job overall and a number of them really thrived. The challenge now is to retain the best bits and add face to face capacity to allow the best hybrid model we can.

E2 and MIEE Inspiration

Today I took a leap of faith and worked with Grade 5 students on the International Space Station challenge in MinecraftEDU. It developed neatly from our conversation a fortnight ago, during which I “introduced” them to Commander Chris Hadfield.

They were fascinated by his clips on how to brush your teeth, how to sleep and even eat a tortilla.

The following sentences were sent to me by email after the class:

I really enjoyed the Minecraft space station it was fun and creative. I was going to make a bedroom and a bathroom thank you. IM

Today’s lesson was great.  SC

Focus was not an issue

In my space station I am planning on making bigger spaces for life. For example, plants and animals. I think it would be amazing to see if animals and plants could be taken to Space, so that is what I am trying to succeed in Minecraft. Thank you for the lesson. SR

Lots of ideas.

Thank you so very much for the lesson I enjoyed it very much there were a few glitches for me but I still enjoyed it though SS

They love the touch screens on their classroom devices

I was going to make a new sleeping quarter and make it bigger. Today’s lesson was fun. MW

I was making a living space. CH

Detachable screens were on a number of laps.

I enjoyed the lesson can we do it again also I was building a lava trap. HS

Today during our lesson with you I was planning to make a living quarters. I really enjoyed it. DW


I am making it look more liveable. HN

Thank you for the lesson. It was enjoyable and fun. I would like to do it again. IR

Very grateful to my tech support for assisting with this first time event.

Thank you so much to Lynette Telfer and Troy Waller for pushing me on this! Ian Cook, Mitchell Clode and Stephen Mirtschin you are also spurring me on! The Microsoft Educator Community is such a supportive environment. Wonder what I’ll try next?

What is E2 and how did I get there?

The Microsoft E2 Educator Exchange Conference is an exclusive three-day event that brings together 350 of the most innovative educators from around the world for the opportunity to collaborate, create, and share their experiences on how to integrate technology and pedagogy to advance learning, achieve student outcomes, and transform education. This year the event was held in Paris.

Opening block of my Sway showing Paris at night with the Eiffel Tower lit up.

To be selected, educators must be active participants in the Microsoft Expert Educator Program, have qualified as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and have lodged an application with the relevant person in their country. For Australians, this is Travis Smith, the K-12 Industry Lead at Microsoft Australia. The application had to be created using Sway; this is mine.

For 2019 Travis chose 4 Australians: Laura Bain, and Mark Savery from Queensland, Jodi Gordon from South Australia and me, Margaret Simkin, from Victoria. A fifth, Stephen Crapnell, also from Queensland, presented one of the whole conference sessions, as well as participated in the challenges.

Mark, Jodi, Laura, Margaret and Steve.
The Aussie team for 2019

In my case I was told that my selection was due to my engagement in programs, including presenting at TeachMeets in the school holidays, participating in online conferences outside school hours, and my social media involvement.

All attendees were required to participate in the following tasks:

  • Educator Learning Marketplace – sharing a learning activity and learning from peers who are using Microsoft technologies in innovative and creative ways. The lessons shared were varied, targeted all age groups from 5 – 18 Years and were in languages other than English in many cases. Many focussed on Minecraft, Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, for example Mark’s, which combined all three. Mine focussed on Collaboration, which is the nature of my role at The Hamilton and Alexandra College.
My marketplace stand set up, all about collaboration at my school. Australian flags and stickers to give away. Examples of our involvement in global projects.
My stand in the Marketplace.
  • Professional development and certification opportunities – we could all participate in workshops and training opportunities run by peer educators, and product development teams.
Mark, Jodi, Laura, Mike and Margaret
Mingling with those who lead the products we use _ Mike Tholfsen = OneNote (hence the purple cape)
  • Global Educator Challenge – Teams of 6 educators from a variety for countries, many of whom did not speak English, were tasked with completing the Class Hack educator group challenge. This involved a quick tour of the Eiffel Tower precinct and the forecourt of the Louvre, followed by the development of a learning activity using some of the designated Microsoft products to achieve a learning goal. The Translate tool was working overtime!
^ teachers from 6 countries: Argentina, Australia, Czech Republic, France, Israel and Spain.
Team 22 – take on the challenge.
  • Awards Ceremony: held at the Les Pavillions de Bercy. The Musée des Arts Forains – Collection Jean-Paul Favand a private museum of funfair objects located within the Pavillons de Bercy in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. This was an amazing venue with wooden games that could be played (a type of bowls which led to some mechanical horses racing across a space, a point scoring type of pool, fortune telling activities, and lots of life-size mannequins et cetera).
Inside the museum - sculptures and decorations
A location that is truly one of a kind.

Attending Microsoft E2 Educator Exchange in Paris Part 1 – The Aussie Team

The first week of April 2019 was spent in Paris attending the amazing Microsoft E2 Educator Exchange. I was honoured to be one of 5 Australian teachers selected, and the only one from Victoria.

Most of the team met for the first time at Dubai airport, and by Monday afternoon we were all together at the Marriott Hotel, our home for the week and the conference venue.

This is our Team, Laura, Me, Jodi, Mark, Steve and our Mentor and host Travis.
This is our Team, Laura, Me, Jodi, Mark, Steve and our Mentor and host Travis.

The plane landed a little later than scheduled and we were met at the airport door by a driver holding a sign bearing our names. None of us thought to photograph this once in a lifetime event!

After a shower and a rest, and working on instructions NOT to sleep (yes Travis!) we headed out for a quick tour around the area and then tea.

Mark and me with the wonderful waiter.
Our waiter! Lovely choice of Smith brand red wine – Thanks Travis.

The first full day that we were there was for acclimatising – so we got outside and wandered the streets. Unfortunately for Laura, Mark and I, our first choice for exploring, the catacombs, was closed on Mondays. We found our way to the Pantheon, taking taking photos along the way. Signs of the revolution were everywhere!

On our way to dinner, we stopped to take a photo outside Notre Dame.

Notre Dame in the background with Steve, Travis, Laura, me and Mark.  Jodi had been evacuated due to an unattended bag and we were on our way to find her.
Aussie Team outside Notre Dame.

We then took breath while three of us rode a carousel!

This is a still, you can download the “movie” below!

In the evening we had a team meal at Georges, in an interesting building called the Georges Pompidou Centre. Here we had a rooftop table with a view of the Eiffel Tower.

Jodi, Steve, Laura, Travis, Mark and me at Georges. The back of the menu had images of a range of people called George!
Beautiful view, excellent meal, great company.

Having conquered the application process, developed the required materials for the exchange, and found our way via various routes to the beautiful city of Paris, were were ready to commence the exchange.

Between classes in other schools

A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example currently being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online. I am waiting for the other two schools to act – watch this space!

I have an experienced and enthusiastic teacher who is currently teaching Russia, which I teach in the second half of the year who wants to be involved.

Creating websites with Year 5 using Sway.

A brief verbal explanation and the students were ready to go!

The restrictions on this task were enormous: I visited the class for 50 minutes per week on Friday mornings. Many things were commenced and then by the time we met again a new topic was being introduced. Most students, however, were able to produce something useful in the first lesson. I can’t share the links with you because they all did what was requested and only shared with people within our organisation.

Many images were evaluated and then chosen as the starting item.

This student, who sometimes produced very little content, found and labelled a variety of “gold” images, including the hamburger at right!
Some of the girls loved changing the background from the gallery.
And all the images had relevance.

Year 6 World War 1 lesson

The student 1:1 devices were not quite ready to be used and my timetable allocated me to one of the Year 6 classes to assist with an Inquiry Topic into World War 1. Hmm – how best to meet the brief?

I selected a number of texts from the Senior School Library, loaded them into a crate with wheels and headed north.

What did I choose? A range of texts about the “Great War” – including titles relating to Chinese soldiers, the Australian Imperial Forces (great language to discuss) and several volumes of the wonderful but underutilised Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918  by Charles Bean.

By taking these somewhat ancient tomes I was able to discuss the role of an official historian, censorship, and the age of our school (which is why we have these in our collection).

Students were invited to enter the book gallery and complete a table in any way that they felt appropriate.

The collaboration, obvious interest in content and active discussions around the room were wonderful to behold. The images below were taken with my staff laptop (Toshiba Z20) screen and they worked better than I thought they might.

A number of girls fell in love with Bean’s volumes.
I thought they would look at one volume and no more. Boy was I wrong!
They found a wide range of interesting snippets – and mainly from the text, not the diagrams or photographs.
Great discussion ensued.
The power of the index was realised with information about our town (I rarely see senior students using this vital asset within texts.
Deep thinking and intrigue were evident.
Their excitement and conversation were palpable.
And each time they were asked to move on they did it with alacrity and respect.

The Scene was set at the start with the opening paragraph from “The promise : the town that never forgets : n’oblions jamais l’Australie” by by Derek GuilleKaff-eine (Illustrator), Anne-Sophie Biguet (Translator).

We had 50 minutes together and it was truly wonderful. Thank you 6R.


This post covers the focus of my Marketplace stand at Microsoft E2 Education Exchange, held in Paris 1 2nd-4th April 2019. You can see the summary of what will be displayed here.

There are many methods available for collaboration. These are demonstrated here and increase in complexity as you move down the page.

Within a class:

The most basic form of collaborating is within a class. It can be technology free, for example, this Year 6 activity about the Great War, or this example of collecting data and developing ways of using it at senior level. Work can be shared by the teacher taking photographs and embedding into OneNote ClassNotebook, or, if mobile devices are permitted, by the students themselves.


Within our school.

Reasons why you might collaborate internally.
Cross class collaboration.

With adults

Blogging by Grade 4 students in 2018, who were involved in collaborating with our regional Rural Industries Skill Training centre (usually training farmers and senior level agricultural students). Their experience can be seen here. 
This work was presented at a Microsoft Edumeet in Melbourne by the Grade 4 teacher, Stephen Mirtschin, and me in the middle of 2018.

Between schools:

Between schools

A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online.

Between schools teaching the French Revolution.


This type of collaboration enables understanding of how people live and work differently from others.

With thanks to Koen Timmers
Compare our region to others!

This was the Climate Action Project of 2017

Then we were involved in the Innovation Project of 2018

School Libraries are all about collaboration.
We can all learn more if we work together!