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Student engagement is key to helping students develop and learn, while also maintaining that ever important classroom management. When used effectively, technology can enable great collaborative learning opportunities. However, we (the team behind Microsoft Whiteboard), are aware that using technology can sometimes pose challenges in classroom management. Today, we’re excited to announce six new features in Microsoft Whiteboard for Education designed to promote effective, focused collaboration for all students – and also add a little bit more fun.

Microsoft Whiteboard is an app that lets you and your students draw, add notes and charts, write, type, and work together on a freeform digital canvas. Collaborate wherever, whenever, and save different boards for all your different lessons and projects.

Reactions give students and teachers the ability to quickly “thumbs-up” stickies, images, and text on the Whiteboard from their Windows 10 or iOS device. They provide a low-stakes way for students to express opinions and participate, and they’re also great for taking quick votes and promoting peer feedback.

Send to Teams encourages students and teachers to continue the conversation beyond the class period by allowing individual users to share boards they’ve created to a channel within Microsoft Teams. Sharing a board keeps it viewable and open to collaboration, providing students with a touchpoint for reviewing, catching up on missed discussions, and continuing to iterate and expand on the lesson.

Emerging literacy, learning a second language, and learning differences like dyslexia or ADHD can sometimes present challenges in following what’s being written on a classroom whiteboard – physical or digital. That’s why we’re bringing Immersive Reader into Microsoft Whiteboard. Immersive Reader provides a set of tools like focus mode, parts of speech identification, and a Picture Dictionary to help students better decode text on the whiteboard – and ultimately improve their reading comprehension in general. 

Sometimes it can be tough to know where to focus on an infinite canvas – and that’s especially true for students with low vision. Follow-along (preview) helps direct students’ view by automatically following and zooming in on one user’s contributions to the board. For example, a student with low vision could use follow-along to keep the Whiteboard zoomed to wherever their teacher is working on the board, and thus stay focused on the most relevant content.

At other times, the barrier to students focusing is, well – other students! As great as interactive lessons on a shared whiteboard can be for student engagement, sometimes students will choose to engage in inappropriate ways, and that can take the lesson off-course. Read-only mode helps reduce this problem by allowing teachers to “mute” particular individuals, reducing distraction without embarrassing the student or interrupting the flow of a lesson.

Finally, to celebrate the partnership between NASA and the Education Workshop team, we’ve added two space-themed EDU sticker packs. Add fun and far-out friendship with Classroom Pets in Space or visualize the universe in class with our new Orbiting Planets sticker pack collections. Best of all, these new packs and all the Whiteboard stickers will soon be available on both iOS and Windows 10!

Download Whiteboard for Education on Windows 10 and iPad today. Reactions and space-themed stickers are now available.[*] Send to Teams, Immersive Reader, Follow-along, and Read-only mode will be rolling out soon to Windows 10 and iOS. To learn more, provide feedback, or be inspired by others using Whiteboard, join our Whiteboard for Education Facebook group.

*Reactions is available for both Windows 10 and iOS. Space sticker packs are available for Windows 10 and coming soon to iOS.

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For Microsoft Fellow and Skype Master Teacher Mary Collins, prioritizing 21st century skills in the classroom meant leveraging new tools to teach them. And Skype in the Classroom proved to be the tool that brought all those skills together. “As the 21st century learning skills are such a crucial part of our students’ learning, Skype…

This post was originally published on this site.

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Just a few years ago, the Immersive Reader was a bold idea in a Microsoft Hackathon focused on using the latest science and research around reading while using inclusive design principles to empower  students of all abilities.  Today, more than 16 million people every month are using it for free, improving their reading and writing comprehension and even their ability to do math problems.

 

Today, we’re thrilled to announce this powerful literacy tool will now be available as an Azure Cognitive Service, allowing third party apps and partners to add Immersive Reader right into their products, starting with the partners below. The Immersive Reader helps people of all abilities, including dyslexia, ADHD, emerging readers, non-native speakers, people with visual impairments. If there’s an app you love to use in your classroom and you would love to see an Immersive Reader icon show up there soon, let them know. We’ve made it easier than ever, you might even call it Literacy as a Service!

Below is the first wave of partners that will be enabling Immersive Reader in their apps or service to help make content more accessible and inclusive.  We’ve been working with these partners during our private preview over the past few months.  These partners have enabled immersive reader for students and schools who have been doing early testing of the integration.  We have some early feedback from both teachers and students who have been using the Immersive Reader integrated with partner apps. 

Shannon McClintock Miller,  K-12 district teacher librarian at Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa – “Wow!  I am so excited about finding the Immersive Reader from Microsoft in Buncee now. This will bring Buncee’s to life for our readers and learners as they now can listen to the digital stories and projects they create and write.  This is truly a game changer for Buncee!”

Lisan H., High School student, , who is using the Immersive Reader with Squigl – “One of the things we advocate for the at the National Federation of the Blind is not only having one way of doing things but having multiple tools in your tool kit; so when you’re stuck you can rely on something else and the more avenues the better…Squigl with Microsoft immersive reader helps catch what my screen reader might not catch so it offers another layer of support. This helps further my ability to create creatively.”

 

Jonathan Cue from Ottoson Middle School, Arlington MA  –“Immersive Reader is a great new feature for JogNog. I use it in my Tech Ed class for English language learners. The students find it very useful when they aren’t clear on the questions/answers in English. From what I’ve seen, the written translation is used most frequently.”

Here are the list of partners using the Immersive Reader Private Preview

“In 27 years of Software Development, this was the easiest integration we’ve ever done”

  • Tor Henriksen, CTO and CEO of Skooler

Starting today, the Immersive Reader as a Cognitive Service moving into Public Preview.  This means that any app or partner can easily integrate Immersive Reader to make it easier to read text.  With just 20-50 lines of code, the Immersive Reader button and entire experience can be embedded into web sites, Windows apps, iOS, or Android.  We’ve had partners complete the integration is under an hour, and according to Skooler CEO Tor Hendriksen, “In 27 years of Software Development, this was the easiest integration we’ve ever done”.  And Buncee Director of Engineering, Aditya Balwani says “Immersive Reader was one of the easiest integrations the team and I have ever worked with. Many things claim to be plug and play but this one truly lived up to it!”

The public preview is free for partners to use, with final Cognitive Services pricing being announced later in 2019.

Get Started Today

To begin exploring how to integration the Immersive Reader into your app or service, here are some helpful getting start links:

We look forward to hearing your feedback, and partners enabling the Immersive Reader to help even more people with reading.

Mike Tholfsen

Microsoft Education team

@mtholfsen

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Microsoft Education’s mission is to empower every student on the planet to achieve more.  This mission is founded on inclusive principles and aims to enable 100% of all students. Built-in, mainstream, non-stigmatizing and free!  Coming into ISTE, Microsoft Education is releasing a wave of updates for the Inclusive Classroom.  Today’s round-up of new updates are grouped across reading, writing, math and communication.

To better understand the value that the Microsoft 365 inclusive technologies bring to students, educators and schools, we recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ Analysis of Microsoft Accessibility And Assistive Technologies For Education.  To learn more details, check out our recent Tech Community blog title Quantifying the value of Microsoft Accessibility and Assistive Technologies For Education.

Immersive Reader updates

3rd Party use with Cognitive Services: Today, we’re thrilled to announce Immersive Reader will now be available as an Azure Cognitive Service, allowing third party apps and partners to add Immersive Reader right into their products, starting with the partners below. The Immersive Reader helps people of all abilities, including dyslexia, ADHD, emerging readers, non-native speakers, people with visual impairments. If there’s an app you love to use in your classroom and you would love to see an Immersive Reader icon show up there soon, let them know. We’ve made it easier than ever, you might even call it Literacy as a Service! 

More details about the new Immersive Reader service at our blog http://aka.ms/ImmersiveReaderCSBlog The initial list of partners is listed below:

Minecraft: Education Edition We want to allow all students to engage in Minecraft: EE, and this includes reading signs, boards, in any form or any language.  Today we are announcing the Immersive Reader integration with Minecraft: EE. And as a bonus, we are also enhancing our Picture Dictionary with new Minecraft-specific images such as “Mooshroom” and “Creeper” This will be rolling out later in summer, and will be ready for Back to School 2019. Minecraft Education Edition Immersive Reader

Microsoft FormsAs Immersive Reader has been integrated with more and more Microsoft apps and platforms, a common educator request has been to integrate with Microsoft Forms. This integration can allow students to use it with reading passages, reading questions, and various other places in Forms.  A particularly powerful scenario we are excited about is with the new Forms Sections feature, and the ability to have a reading passage linked to a set of comprehension questions. reading signs, boards, in any form or any language.  The Immersive Reader will be coming to Forms later this summer for Back to School 2019.Immersive Reader in Forms

Microsoft Whiteboard – Microsoft Whiteboard provides an active, free-form platform for classroom collaboration – and we want to make sure everyone, including those with reading challenges, can join in the fun. That’s why we’re excited to introduce the integration of Immersive Reader into Whiteboard. With Immersive Reader, students can use tools like the picture dictionary, read aloud, and translation to help them decode typed text on the whiteboard, building their reading skills and encouraging more active participation in the lesson.  The Immersive Reader for Whiteboard will roll out later this summer.Whiteboard Immersive Reader

Neural Text to Speech and High Quality Read Aloud voices – one of the top pieces of feedback we’ve heard from students and teachers around the world is the desire to have a better sounding voice for “read aloud”.  The common request is to make it “less robotic sounding”.  We will be switching the default Immersive Reader Read Aloud voice to our recently released Neural Text to Speech (Neural TTS).  This new voice is extremely high quality and the most human-like voice we’ve ever released.  You can get an early listen to the Neural Text to Speech voice by using the Microsoft Edge Chromium beta, which now uses Neural TTS for Read Aloud.

Initial language support is for English, Chinese, Italian and German, which will start rolling out later this summer.  Many more languages will be rolling out in the coming year.

Inclusive Writing

Editor coming to Word and PPT Online: In May we announced new AI-powered writing capabilities coming to Word Online called Ideas.  Using our natural language and intelligence capabilities, we can help all students get more helpful writing feedback, which builds independence and gives teachers more time back.  These new writing tools will join Editor, which is now rolling out to Word Online and PowerPoint Online.

Ideas in Word Online

PowerPoint Online Dictation: In 2018 we added the ability for students to create PowerPoint presentations using Dictation in PowerPoint Desktop.  We are adding the ability to use Dictation in PowerPoint Online and PowerPoint Mac as well, rolling out later this summer.

Improved Speech to Text accuracy: Over the past month, Office 365 and Windows have rolled out improved speech to text (Dictation) updates that have significantly improved accuracy and quality.  These updates are in Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook Desktop, as well as Word and Online Online, and will also be in the forthcoming PowerPoint online Online speech to text feature.

Inclusive Math
Generate Practice Math Questions – Students can now generate a practice Math Quiz directly from the Math Assistant, consisting of a set of problems like the one the student is working on. The quiz is created as a Form and embedded directly into OneNote, allowing independence and as much practice and help as a student may need. The feature is rolling out to OneNote for Windows 10 and will be coming to OneNote Online too in the summer.

Generate Practice Math questions in OneNote

Inclusive Communication

Build Critical Communication Skills with Presenter Coach in PowerPoint – Whether you’re a teacher presenting a lesson or a student giving a report, our belief is that everyone can improve how they present. Training and feedback help people gain confidence and empowers them to speak up! Over the last few years we’ve have received feedback from educators and students that they want an easy way to practice their presentations to improve their public speaking abilities.  

Today we are announcing the upcoming availability of Presenter Coach in PowerPoint on the web. Presenting in front of others is a vital life-skill that teachers are eager to cultivate in their students. Based on best practices and academic research, we’ve integrated common tips and tricks into Presenter Coach to help teachers and students give more effective presentations.  

This feature allows teachers and students to enter rehearsal mode and when talking into a microphone, they receive on-screen guidance about pacing, inclusive language, conciseness of language, profanity, filler words like “um” or “uh”, culturally inclusive words, and originality. At the end of each rehearsal session, the presenter receives a detailed report with metrics for additional practice. 

   

Presenter Coach will be available on PowerPoint on the web this Summer. Check out this post for more details at this blog, and video is below

Presenter Coach in PowerPoint for the web - YouTube

Presenter Coach video

Teams EDU – English captioning: As we announced earlier this year, Microsoft Teams will be getting  the ability to turn on Live Captions during a meeting, to allow parents, students, or other educators see the captions in real-time. 

We hope you enjoy this round up of some of the inclusive and accessible 💯 improvements coming to the Microsoft Education platform!

Reach out anytime with feedback or suggestions

Mike Tholfsen
Microsoft Education Product Manager
@mtholfsen

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In today’s classrooms, diversity is the new norm. By creating student-centered, inclusive learning environments, educators have the flexibility and opportunity to meet the needs of the diverse group of learners in every classroom. Technology has the power to help teachers not only navigate, but also benefit from, their students’ unique learning styles.

In this month’s What’s New in EDU, we’re excited to announce tools and resources to help teachers empower all students to find their voice, grow their confidence and build 21st century skills.

Reach every student with new accessibility features from Windows and Office 365

We are excited to share new features that enable educators to tailor learning to ensure every student has a voice in today’s classrooms, 72% of which have students with special requirements. Whether a permanent or temporary disability, personal preference, or a unique learning style, the robust set of built-in and third-party accessibility features in Windows 10 and Office 365 let students choose how to use technology and express their ideas.​ Today, we’re unveiling new resources to help every student unlock his or her potential.

  • Improve reading comprehension with Immersive Reader, now available in Minecraft: Education Edition and other popular education apps. Today, we’re thrilled to announce that Immersive Reader, a proven resource to improve reading and writing for students regardless of their age or ability, will now be integrated into Minecraft: Education Edition to read in-game text, character dialogue, chalkboards and more. Immersive Reader will also be available as an Azure Cognitive Service, allowing third-party apps and partners to add the tool into their products to help both students and parents read text within the apps. In our pilot program, Skooler integrated Immersive Reader into its parent portal, enabling better communication with parents and guardians who are non-native English speakers. These partners will be the first to integrate Immersive Reader:

  • Help students speak with confidence using Presenter Coach in PowerPoint. To give teachers and students an easy way to practice their presentations and improve their public-speaking abilities, we’re launching Presenter Coach in PowerPoint online this summer, which uses best practices and academic research to provide tips and tricks for more effective presentations. Presenter Coach allows teachers and students to enter rehearsal mode and receive on-screen guidance about pacing, inclusive language, conciseness of language, profanity, filler words like “um” or “uh,” culturally inclusive words, and originality as they speak into a microphone. At the end of each rehearsal session, the presenter receives a detailed report with metrics for additional practice. Check out this post and video for more details.

Motivate students ​to share their voice with Flipgrid and Teams

This month, we’re also rolling out some big updates coming to Teams for Education that will make it simpler and more comprehensive than ever before, saving teachers time when creating new Teams, communicating with parents and students, and grading assignments. These updates include:

  • Big, easy-to-find visual icons for each of your teams and classes
  • A new way to create and track all of your assignments
  • A new gradebook so teachers can view and grade all of their assignments for a class directly from the channel’s Grades tab and view a single student’s progress across assignments
  • A new “Share To Teams” button that allows teachers to share resources with their classes directly from a learning source like Brittanica, Kahoot, Buncee, ThingLink, and Wakelet
  • The ability to import existing OneNote content into your Class or Staff Teams, allowing you to access all your information from a single location

Tune in to FlipgridLive on Monday night when we’ll unveil some exciting new tools to empower every student to share their voice, practice storytelling skills and engage in meaningful discussions inside and outside the classroom. Join the Flipgrid livestream on Facebook and be the first to explore the new ways you can amplify and empower your learners!

Tools & Resources for Student-Centered Learning

Here are some useful resources to help you plan for the upcoming school year and connect with other educators who are also working to build a student-centered approach:

More Microsoft Education news from ISTE

Learn about additional updates from Microsoft Education in the blogs below, or if you are attending ISTE next week, stop by and see them for yourself in the Microsoft booth.

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A new step in bringing Microsoft tools to Google schools

We’re excited to announce Customer Preview of simpler sign-on from G Suite to Office 365!  Many G Suite for Education customers have told us that they’d like to use Office 365, but their students have trouble remembering two sets of passwords.  With this new solution, they won’t have to, because they can just sign in to Office 365 using their Google credentials, and work side by side in Google Classroom and their Office apps! 

We’re at the beginning of an exciting new journey to bring Office 365 to Google school districts.  We’re starting by rolling out support in the United States for two of our most popular Education experiences – OneNote and Immersive Reader.  These will run on Chromebooks in certain tech configurations.  OneNote is a digital binder that makes it easier to store and share all your class materials, and Immersive Reader in OneNote is a powerful feature that’s proven to help students with reading differences improve their skills and comprehension. 

If you’re a G Suite for Education user, we hope these tools can help you achieve better student outcomes in your district.  And we need your help.  Please sign up to join the waitlist, and tell your IT admin to sign up too.  Then try us out and let us know what you think. 

How it works

We know that every minute of classroom instruction is precious, and we’ve heard that your students lose precious minutes trying to sign in to apps and devices.  So, we’ve built a new solution that we affectionally call “simpler sign-on”, featuring a tailor-made version of our popular Office Online extension for the Chrome browser.  With simpler sign-on, once you sign in to your school’s Chromebook, you can be automatically signed in to Office 365 in just two clicks, without retyping a username or password.  And there’s no need for you or your students to do any special configuration, because your IT admin can set it all up for you.  We’ll even help them get going for free!

Store and share class materials with OneNote and Class Notebooks

Google Classroom is popular with teachers, and we’re here to make it even better with OneNote Online, our powerful digital notebook.  With OneNote Online, your students can enjoy freeform notes and class materials that include text, photos, audio, links, embedded content, and more.  OneNote Online even has an easy-to-use equation editor, equation solver, and graphing calculator.  To learn the basics of OneNote Online, visit this support page.    

OneNote Class Notebooks raise the bar even higher with a Content Library for handouts, a personal workspace for every student, and a Collaboration Space for lessons and creative activities.  They’re a great way to store a whole “binder” of class materials all in one place, especially when you link to them from Google Classroom.  There are also pre-built Class Notebooks that deliver content, such as:

To save time, you can connect a OneNote Class Notebook directly to your Google Classroom and import your Classroom course roster.  You’ll be able to create and distribute assignments in OneNote and push the grades back to Classroom, so you can view all your assignments and grades in one place.  To watch a quick interactive video on how to use a OneNote Class Notebook, check out this short, interactive course on the Microsoft Educator Community.

Improve reading comprehension

With Microsoft Immersive Reader, you can empower students to independently improve their reading and writing skills.  Immersive Reader is a free tool that offers text and math decoding solutions for students with learning differences such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. Its features include Read Aloud, Picture Dictionary, Line focus, breaking words into syllables, and color-coded parts of speech.  Immersive Reader also increases fluency for English language learners or readers of other languages with real-time translation, and because it’s built into OneNote Online, it works great on Chromebooks.  If you store your course materials as OneNote pages, you can empower your students with learning differences to read texts in the way that best supports their learning.

Interested in trying simpler sign-on?

We can’t wait for you to try our tools, and we look forward to your feedback so we can learn where to improve.  Please sign up to join the waitlist at https://aka.ms/OfficeEduForYou and tell your IT admin to sign up, too.  We’ll provide them with free guidance to help them evaluate if simpler sign-on is a good fit for your district.  And if it is, we’ll help them set it up, for free!

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Today we launched Immersive Reader as a Cognitive Service, to enable people of all abilities with reading.  The Immersive Reader can be easily and quickly integrated into all app (Win10, iOS, Android), sites, or content providers.

For partners or developers interested in getting started, we have a set of helpful resources you can use to get up and running.

Documentation and SDK

Short 15 minute getting started videos for partners and developers

  1. Part 1 – Intro to Immersive Reader and overview
  2. Part 2 – Quick start sample code walk through
  3. Part 3- Advanced sample code walk through

We hope you enjoy working with Cognitive Services and integrating our new Immersive Reader!

Mike Tholfsen

Microsoft Education Product Manager

@mtholfsen

This post was originally published on this site.

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Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.  Geared towards 6-10th graders, its CS Discoveries course empowers students to create apps, games, and web pages and engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun. Now, with the integration of CS Discoveries and OneNote, students can reflect their own learning in a personal way and record their growth through journaling – one of six key instructional strategies used in the course – and teachers can provide feedback in multiple ways to students.

We’ve created a custom OneNote Class Notebook wizard that uses the Code.org colors, logo, and best of all, their amazing Computer Science Discoveries curriculum!  To sign in and create your Code.org Class Notebook with the CS Discoveries 2018 curriculum baked in, just go here: https://onenote.com/codeorgnotebook. Set up your Class Notebook just like a regular Class Notebook, but you can add the Code.org CS Discoveries Curriculum during setup.

Note: If your school doesn’t yet have Office 365, teachers and students can sign up for free at http://www.office.com/teacher

Example of the Code.org Class Notebook wizard containing CS Discoveries curriculum

After the Code.org Class Notebook is set up, the curriculum is populated into the Teacher-Only section of the Notebook, ready to start using! In addition, we offer some default Private Student Notebook names that Code.org has suggested as best practices. Eileen Lennon, an educator from New York City, has this to say about her early use Code.org notebook: “With the Code.org Class Notebook, I now have an online textbook, workbook, and notebook for my coding students. Thanks Microsoft and http://Code.org  for putting this together.”

A few examples of the Code.org content in OneNote are shown below:

Microsoft Educator Community page

We’ve put together a Microsoft Educator Community page designed to give schools and teachers high level information about the Code.org Class Notebook, helpful links, and how to get started.  Please share this in your districts!

 

Getting Started

To get started today, visit our How to use the Code.org Class Notebook page in the Support Center for Microsoft Education. There are specific steps for Office 365 teachers to get up and running today.

We hope you have a chance to bring Computer Science into your classroom this school year, and with the new (and free!) Code.org Org Class Notebook, now it’s even easier and more organized than ever.

Mike Tholfsen

Microsoft Education Product Manager

@mtholfsen

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Minecraft has proven to be an inclusive learning tool since teachers first started using the game in their classrooms, helping students develop communication and collaboration skills in a familiar, fun, digital environment. Educators say Minecraft: Education Edition empowers them to meet students where they are, and encourages learners’ confidence. “I think the greatest value that a product like Minecraft brings to any school district is that it breaks the monotony and routines that can happen in a school environment,” explains Bobby Blount, Chief Technology Officer for Cherokee Country Schools. “It speaks to kids on their level.”

We have been collecting feedback from our educator community, and are delighted to announce a new set of features to further support student-centered learning and enhance the classroom experience for Back to School 2019!

Immersive Reader for Minecraft: Education Edition

Immersive Reader will be integrated into Minecraft: Education Edition to support learners in reading or translating in-game text, including character dialogue, settings and boards, with Minecraft-specific images added to the Picture Dictionary such as ‘Creeper’ and ‘Mooshroom’.

Improved Multiplayer and Classroom Management

We are adding a Single Sign-on (SSO) option to allow for one-click authentication, making for a simplified and faster class login experience, especially for younger students. A new user interface will support educators, especially those new to Minecraft. Students will have more options for exporting their work for assessment, including as PDF. And, perhaps most excitingly, we are improving the multiplayer experience with shareable join codes, so students and teachers can control who enters their worlds!

New Educator Resources and Trainings

For educators and students new to Minecraft: Education Edition, we are expanding our training programs and in-game tutorials. Online professional development will launch this Fall on the Microsoft Educator Community platform; educators globally will be able to access these trainings for free. A ‘First Lesson Kit’ will help educators new to Minecraft teach their first lesson, complete with simple game tutorials, lesson templates and classroom management tips from other teachers. Finally, we will be sharing a new set of Minecraft tutorial worlds in the World Library for Back to School.

If you are interested in joining our Beta program to receive advanced access to these new features, and the opportunity to provide our development team with feedback, please fill out this form.

We are thrilled to bring an improved classroom experience to our educator community! Stay tuned for updates by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and signing up for our monthly newsletter.

The post Classroom experience updates coming to Minecraft: Education Edition for Back to School 2019! appeared first on Minecraft: Education Edition.

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Celebrating eight new lesson plans from Microsoft Education in partnership with NASA

Recently, my mom gave me a box of papers from my childhood, and I discovered—preserved among the mementos, letters and drawings—a copy of Time Magazine’s “To The Moon Special Supplement” (July 18, 1969) and the front section of the New York Times from July 20, 1969. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten these treasures.

I spent the four days before the moon landing binge-watching TV anchors and their guest experts’ scientific explanations and animated simulations. As a middle schooler, I had done my best to absorb and unpack the vast number of details that were discussed. Within the first day it was clear—this context was necessary to interpret the constant stream of readings, measurements and color commentary in the exchanges between the astronauts and Mission Control in Houston, Texas.

Each step of the astronaut’s journey was a risk, and by Sunday the 20th, Earth-bound armchair explorers the world over were already exhausted. In four days, we had watched with bated breath as the Saturn V rocket launched, multiple Apollo modules were shed, the communications blackouts passed, the astronauts successfully positioned themselves in the moon’s orbit and, at last, they flawlessly landed in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon’s surface.

That Sunday evening, I became one of the estimated 650 million people worldwide who watched the live feed of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descending from the lunar module onto the surface of the moon. When the exterior camera went live, I remember struggling to pick out any human form within the grainy, black-and-white broadcast image.

And then, there it was, Neil Armstrong’s left boot dangling from the ladder. In that moment, I was overcome by the wonder of what I was witnessing. I also realized that there was now a real possibility that humans could live in space.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the moon walk, the 20th anniversary of humans living continuously aboard the International Space Station and the inaugural launch of NASA’s commercial crew program, it is hard to remember that not long ago many of these ideas were science fiction. We often forget that some of our everyday technologies like satellite television, infrared cameras and fire-resistant foam were developed by NASA to aid in the execution of these historic milestones. Research and exploration have always been at the heart of the space program. The launch of the International Space Station established an orbiting laboratory dedicated to studying how humans could live in space, testing advanced technologies for future explorations and understanding more about the Earth. Unlike my experience 50 years ago, we now have instantaneous access to live views of Earth, live maps to track the station’s orbit and, of course, real-time access to the astronauts via their social media channels. For today’s students, the distance between the low-orbit lab and the classroom grows smaller as their probability of spending time in space increases.

To inspire and engage your students, Microsoft Education and NASA have partnered to develop eight new lesson plans to introduce the considerations astronauts need to think about when living in space. The collection of standards-aligned, middle and high school materials integrates core academic concepts with hands-on experiences. Students are challenged to design in 3D, analyze data, build sensors, use virtual reality and work with a machine learning and AI module while engaging in discussions about the challenges of living in space.

Included in the collection are:

  • Two design challenges: The “Astro Socks” project has students investigate solutions to reduce the impact of working in microgravity on astronauts’ feet, while the other challenges students to work in 3D to build their own modules for the International Space Station.
  • A lesson that introduces the phenomenon of microgravity that incorporates hands-on experiments and a virtual-reality experience.
  • Four data-collection and analysis lessons that engage your students with hands-on experiments, to prove the ideal gas law, measure radiation in our environment and examine the light waves and frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum. They’ll use sensors to capture live data and relate their observations about life in space to their own on Earth.
  • A lesson that introduces the Earth’s biomes through photographs taken from space and challenges them to explore the techniques scientists employ to predict climate change with AI.

50 years ago, I witnessed the possibility of living in space take a “giant leap” towards becoming a reality. As we mark these major space exploration milestones, I hope you will bring this rich collection of educational materials to your classroom to inspire our first generation of commercial space travelers.

Designing Astro Socks to protect astronauts’ feet in microgravity

Video

Using materials science engineering to determine heat resistance

Video

Understanding adiabatic compression and the Ideal gas law

Video

What is the electromagnetic spectrum?

Video

Detecting Alpha, Beta and Gamma Radiation

Video

Minecraft build challenge: Design your Space Station

Video

Analyzing astronauts’ photos of Earth to predict climate change

Video

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