Guest Blog: KNOWLEDGE LIKE THE WIND by Mark Harris


Whilst I don’t proclaim to be an expert in learning theory or knowledge construction, I am an avid thinker about the thinking that we perform. Although knowledge can be defined ‘as an awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation’. Much like our nose – we know it is there through observation and/or touch our nose is there, yet our mind has turned off to the fact it is there and doesn’t see it so how are we to know that it hasn’t gone?

“the smell of mahogany and leather bound books “

For many, knowledge conjures up the smell of mahogany and leather bound books sitting dormant on the shelves of institutions, for others it could be the sight of the creation of developed curriculum learning. As subjective as it is, we all know that knowledge is constantly around us in all that we do and see and is up to those who can translate that into an opportunity to gain further knowledge. I’m quietly confident that we can’t honestly say that knowledge can be pinned down and addressed as a physical entity, it is more a natural effect. But is it that knowledge only exists within the realm of one’s mind? Or is knowledge like the wind? Not always being felt or seen but constantly weaving through our entire existence around all that we do, see and feel, capturing and harnessing knowledge to move our understanding further along the road of life?


I see knowledge as the gusts of wind stirring up and manipulating the fragments of loose thoughts that are all too often forgotten.  Yet like knowledge, given the right circumstances has the ability to take one’s self to unexplored areas. If we imagine and picture a simple wooden ship being propelled around our world by simple breezes, we can picture and see that like wind; knowledge is only seen when it interacts with another object like the sail being strained at the mast or the simple paper wrapper tumbling down the street.  Like the sail our own drivers come into play when we harvest this energy to create usable momentum against the boundless ocean that appears allowing us to glide through – yet our momentum is constantly being robbed by the very medium that is keeping us afloat. For our own fears, worries and biases are the very friction that provide the opposition to knowledge.

So the question remains; if knowledge is all around us and all we need to do is harvest it, is it better to provide a bigger sail to catch it or reduce the very friction that strangles our ability to use the acquired knowledge?

Mark Harris



Mark Sparvell, Showcase Schools Program Leader:

What was your personal favorite memory as a student?

Easy! I remember my Kindergarten teacher, Miss Elizabeth McQuade, took a real interest in me as a ”reader” and gave me access to her personal library of children’s books in her office. I had a chance to skip the reading schemes and tackle real books. I remember literally forcing myself to learn to read while reading the original Tarzan series. I can remember the covers even today. They were a precious commodity.

Can you tell us more about the Showcase Schools Program?

The Showcase Schools are a global community of outstanding institutions which have pursued a vision of personalized and extended learning for all, enhanced by Microsoft technologies. The schools are identified by Microsoft Education leaders within countries and regions who know and understand the context.

These schools highlight the critical role of inspiring school leadership to create a shared vision and establish a blueprint for continuous improvement. The Showcase Schools contain at least two Microsoft in Education Expert Educators (MIE Experts) and may also be part of our Microsoft in Education Student Ambassador program.                            

Why should schools be excited about the SS Program?

For the schools involved, there is the opportunity to literally, “show-a-case” study around what can be achieved when innovative learning design is placed at the center of education transformation. The Showcase Schools are places where visitors are drawn to from local and national settings to see high-point stories of Microsoft in Education delivering improvements both educationally, organizationally and economically.

Showcase School teachers and leaders are often invited to present at forums and on panels locally, regionally and internationally. These schools are featured in School and Leader Snapshots. The Showcase School leadership team are engaged in an exclusive online community to share best practices within their network and also have access to an elite “virtual university” which intentionally explores research in practice. For other schools, the Showcase Schools provide real-world examples of education transformation and the Showcase School leadership teams make themselves accessible to other schools to visit or to engage with.

What’s your favorite part about working on the program?

Some of the Showcase Schools are known to me previously, and some I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with recently. As school leader myself, I have been simply blown away by the caliber, the commitment, the passion and the innovation these schools demonstrate. These are truly global Showcase Schools that inspire me to do what I do.

What’s going to be different about the program this year?

Well, the scale is different for a start! Previously our World Tour Schools numbered 35 and we are looking at approximately 120 Showcase Schools for 2014-2015…that’s significant. We’re really excited to be shaping a virtual university around the new Microsoft Education Transformation Frameworks and we are also establishing an Education Advisory Board to ensure the voices from the field, the education leads, have a platform at the highest level of Microsoft in Education. This is really how we obsess about the customer at Microsoft in Education.

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2 Responses to “We believe in the power of the educator, and the impact educators can have when they are brought together to collaborate and be recognized for their achievements.” – Ann Smith, USA

  1. Nurlan Zhanybek says:

    Great commitment and strong passion!
    Way to go!

  2. Lieu Nguyen says:

    I really admire Ms Ann Smith as well as well as Mr Mark Sparvell. I myself feel my using ICT in teaching better and better. Especially, when I became a participant of Pil network, my teaching make students more excited. I remember five years ago, I myself was bad at technology at that time. After that, I joined in a workshop, It was about PIL program in teaching held in Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam. I was introduced some techniques for new approaches as well as some ICT tools for learning activities. I really felt impressive on what I learnt, especially ICT in teaching. Since then, I have had awareness of the importance of ICT in teaching and I have tried to join in all the courses of ICT. I also teach myself through online classes… Now, I am a vice principal in a secondary school in Vietnam and I still keep studying new ICT tools although I am too busy with educational management. I still participate in innovative teacher competitions with my peers. On the second of October in 2014, I took part in the Microsoft Innovative Teacher competition 2014 held in Viet Nam. In this competition, I introduced my project in which my students showed skills of 21st century, especially their using ICT and won the first prize. Now, I am inviting some teachers in others countries to cooperate with me to carry out a global project in which my students will have opportunities to communicate with students around the world… I am looking forward for maximum participation from Educators worldwide as I personally believe this can be a good example of Global collaboration among different countries world over.

Doodling: A Teacher’s Secret Weapon for Unlocking Learning

Published first

A teaser

For educators, there are few things more frustrating than looking out into a classroom during the middle of a lecture and seeing nothing but bent heads. What are your students doing out there? Are they texting beneath the desk, despite repeated threats of phone confiscation? Are they scribbling notes to friends? Are they doodling silly animated books with teeth chasing your lecture notes off the page?

If the answer is the latter, you might not want to despair just yet. Despite centuries of teaching otherwise, researchers and thought leaders alike are increasingly rebranding doodling as a source of creativity, engagement, and yes, even keeping students on task. It’s something Sunni Brown, author of the book The Doodle Revolution, articulates well in her 2012 TED Talk, which emphasizes the importance of looking at doodling as something to embrace rather than shame.

Part 2: Is The Pen Mightier Than The Swipe?

There is a hum of a counter argument brewing which positions the pen at the pointy end of learning encounters! And it’s not just from the old edu-romantics!…its coming from academic researchers.

Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, says it’s important to help children acquire the skill of writing by hand almost as they would a second language.

“I think it is wise to continue teaching handwriting,” Berninger says. “We need to continue to help kids be ‘bilingual’ by hand.”

Berninger and her colleagues conducted a study that looked at the ability of students to complete various writing tasks — both on a computer and by hand.

The study, published in 2009, found that when writing with a pen and paper, participants wrote longer essays and more complete sentences and had a faster word production rate.

Richard Gentry, Ph.D., an expert on childhood literacy, reading, and spelling, and author of Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write says that,

“Handwriting is crucial because recent brain scan studies have shown that early handwriting skill helps kids learn to read. Keyboarding doesn’t have this effect. With a language such as English with its difficult spelling system, early handwriting practice and writing down messages and thoughts helps kids break the code.”

So, is it the art of nice legible linked script that is important here or is it something deeper that we need to explore? Could digital pens potentially provide a bridge between the analogue thinking and digital world?

Stay tuned for part 3.

Is the Pen mightier than the Swipe? Mark Sparvell

Is the writing on the wall for the teaching of handwriting or is there something behind the silky, inky lines that may make ‘mark-making’ fundamental and not just ornamental?

In our daily lives almost all of our business and personal communication seems to have been outsourced to devices. We type or tap emails, tweets, status updates, generate speech-to-text, tell Siri what we need, Skype chat or even, shock horror, use a phone.! Our students similarly engage with their world through touch, gesture and voice. No pens on paper required at all!

I remember as a beginning career teacher carefully ruling faint pencil lines on my first chalkboard at Fraser Park Primary to make sure my chalk linked script lesson was up to scratch. Within a year I was handwriting on a clear sheet of plastic projected by the overhead projector and a few years after that, using projection units with Powerpoint.

The practice of students carefully copying letters and sentences from a chalkboard or whiteboard appears to be a thing of the past. Teaching perfect ‘slopes’ and proper links in cursive writing is no longer a priority. It would seem with the advent of new technologies like tablets and smartphones, handwriting has become something of a lost art.

Is this a naturally evolution of communication modes in this increasing digitized world or, could we be at risk of throwing the baby androids out with the bathwater? Touch and gesture, keyboard and mouse seem to dominate computer input interfaces currently. Stubby stylus’s occasionally replace worn fingers on tablets and mobile screens but, what about the pen? Is it time to dip the nib in the e-ink?



Microsoft Innovative Educator – Expert

About the Job

Become a Microsoft Innovative Educator – Expert 

We’re looking for top educators, ready to spread the word about the great things they are doing in the classroom. The Microsoft Innovative Educator – Expert Program is an exclusive program created to recognise pioneer educators who are using technology to transform education.Microsoft is seeking top innovative educators who are using Microsoft technologies to engage students and their peers in innovative ways to positively impact learning. Microsoft is particularly interested in educators who are actively mentoring others, active in social media and have a passion for  and a desire to share their experiences.

As an MIE Expert, you will be asked to advocate and share your experiences with peers and policy makers on effective use of technology in education. The Australian MIE Expert community will also provide access to fellow innovative educators to share valuable experiences, lessons and best practices and work together as a community to promote ideas to innovate in teaching and learning.

This is a non-paid, ambassador program, however you will receive some fantastic benefits as an MIE Expert.  Benefits include your own Windows 8 tablet and, other rewards such as a chance to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Microsoft HQ, Seattle, in March 2015.

Applicants will be evaluated based on their learning activity, application form and interview if called.—Expert-137409186.aspx