Successful leadership in challenging circumstances

8 Strategies for improvement

6 Questions to challenge yourself

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These are the 8 areas in which research suggests leaders of schools in challenging circumstances can make a real difference.

  1. Focus on learning and teaching
  2. Generate positive relationships
  3. Provide a clear vision and high expectations
  4. Improve the physical environment
  5. Provide time and opportunities for collaboration
  6. Distribute leadership and build teams
  7. Engage the community
  8. Evaluate and innovate


And the key questions for each of these:

  1. In our school, what do we do already?
  2. What else could we do?
  3. What should we stop doing?
  4. Why are these changes important?
  5. What impact will they have on learning?
  6. How will we know?



Access the full guide




Who doesn’t like something for nothing? This awesome collection is from Microsoft Education Community here


21st Century Learning Design The 21CLD materials are presented in an easy to use, highly interactive way in this app. Using this app will help educators identify and understand the opportunities that learning activities give students to build 21st century skills.

AutoCollage Photo collages celebrate important events and themes in our lives. Pick a folder, press a button, and in a few minutes AutoCollage presents you with a unique memento to print or email to your family and friends.

Chemistry Add-in

The Chemistry Add-in for Word makes it easy to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas, and 2-D depictions within Microsoft Office Word. Additionally, it enables the creation of inline “chemical zones,” the rendering of print-ready visual depictions of chemical structures, and the ability to store and expose chemical information in a semantically rich manner.


ChronoZoom enables you to visualize the history of everything—the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity—in your Web browser. You can browse through history to find data in the form of articles, images, video, sound, and other media.

Creative Commons Add-in

This add-in for Microsoft Office enables authors and editors to embed Creative Commons licenses directly into Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents. With a Creative Commons license, authors can express their intentions regarding how their works may be used by others. The add-in allows the selection of a license, downloads it from the Creative Commons website, and inserts it directly into the working document.

Digital Education Services

This Windows app brings together multiple services, applications and programs in the education space with a common goal of improving the quality of learning.

Publish PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Sway, and PDF documents publicly without losing any formatting for free

Expression Web 4

Expression Web is a full-featured professional tool for designing, developing, and publishing compelling, feature-rich websites that conform to web standards.


Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input.

Local Language Tool

The most commonly used features within specific Microsoft products and operating systems have been localized to a language interface through a LIP. Downloaded free of charge, each LIP enables you to install a local language version as a “skin” on top of an existing installation of the Windows operating system and standard Microsoft Office system applications. This gives you the unique ability to use the technology in a language that is familiar and that honors your linguistic and cultural distinctions.

Mathematics Add-in

Works with Microsoft Word 2013, 2010 and 2007, and Microsoft OneNote 2010 and 2013. With this add-in, you insert an advanced math problem (from algebra to calculus, physics, or statistics) and then click to simplify complex expressions or to solve. Use these advanced math computational and graphing capabilities to: Plot a function, equation, or inequality in 2-D or 3-D, and save the results, solve an equation or inequality, calculate a numerical result, compute the inverse of a matrix, matrix operations, list operations, and integrals.

Mathematics 4.0

FREE! FREE! FREE! Graphing Calculator

From basic math to precalculus, Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 can help you visualize and see mathematical concepts as you’ve never seen them before. This free downloadable tool includes step-by-step instructions and explains fundamental concepts. The wide range of tools to help students with complex mathematics includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a hand-held calculator and ink handwriting support to recognize hand-written problems.

Math Worksheet Generator

Do you spend a lot of time searching for worksheets with practice problems to give your students? Now you can easily create your own in just a few seconds with the Math Worksheet Generator. This is a tool that generates multiple math problems based on a sample, and then creates a worksheet that you can distribute. By analyzing the math problem you provide, or one of the built-in samples, the generator determines the structure of the expression and provides similar problems. We tack on an answer sheet too.


Minecraft in education is a way to teach, learn and inspire. It’s students visiting ancient civilizations to create and play out their own stories. It’s exploring mathematical concepts like perimeter, area, and volume by breaking and placing Minecraft blocks. It’s practicing collaboration, problem solving, digital citizenship, and leadership skills through creative thinking and innovative design.

Movie Maker

The sights, sounds and action of a movie are a great way grab your students’ attention and bring subjects to life. But who has time to teach and make movie magic? You do – with Windows Movie Maker. In just minutes, you can turn photos and video clips on any subject into interesting movies with special effects, sounds, and captions. Then share them with your class, on the Web, or DVDs so everyone can enjoy.

Office Lesson Planner

The Office Lesson Planner is a free tool that makes it easy to create daily lesson plans using Microsoft Word 2013 and 2016. The planner combines lesson plan templates and a “task menu” that displays a comprehensive library of daily learning targets developed from academic standards for math and English Language Arts.


Is an add-in for Microsoft OneNote. It provides additional functionality that is commonly requested. Although OneNote is fantastic software, we cannot include every piece of functionality in it. In some sense, Onetastic is a way to prototype and play with the things that are possible with OneNote.

Photo Story

A Microsoft Garage project, Photo Story helps you tell engaging stories using your photos. Simply choose a day, a theme and a soundtrack, and the app will create a rich stylized video from the best photos of the day. (for Windows phone)

Skype Translator Skype Translator helps you communicate across language barriers, bringing people closer together. Simply use almost any Skype-enabled device to make a free Skype Translator video or voice call with someone who speaks another language — and start talking. Translator is currently available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Mandarin. More languages are coming soon.

Small Basic Help your students start writing their first programs quickly and easily. With only 15 keywords and an inviting development environment, Small Basic is structured to help them succeed. Students who wish to advance their software development skills can also take advantage of Small Basic’s online guides and e-books to help them move ahead.


Bring your screenshots to life with voice and ink. Quickly take a screen shot, annotate and record, then share all from an easy-to-use menu that hovers over your desktop. Why show when you can show-and-tell?


Socl — pronounced social — allows you to express and share your ideas through rich post collages comprised of images, links, captions and videos. Socl is a research project from Microsoft Research FUSE Labs and began as an experiment in social search targeted at students for the purpose of learning. Following the lead of the Socl community, Socl has since evolved to be a service where people connect over shared interests expressed through beautiful posts that take only seconds to create.


Spark your students’ creativity, engage their interest, and improve learning outcomes by creating and sharing music in the classroom with Songsmith. Songsmith automatically generates musical accompaniment for anyone’s voice and can help you teach music, math, and many other subjects in innovative new ways. Sometimes helping kids “find their spark” is the hardest part of stimulating learning; Songsmith is a great way to encourage creativity.

Top 100 apps from the Windows store

There are thousands of education apps in the Windows store. To get you started, we’ve created a list of 100 education apps that we hope you’ll find helpful. For even more, go directly to the Windows store.


TouchDevelop is a development environment for mobile and Web apps that runs on any device. It is designed to adapt to your skills and helps you grow at your own pace. Working through 3 different levels, you can become an expert in no time! In the TouchDevelop environment, you write scripts by touching the screen. You can then share your scripts with other TouchDevelop users or submit your script as an app in the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store.

WorldWide Telescope (WWT)

Enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky.

Zoomit v4.5

ZoomIt is screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image.




Why online communities FAIL.


Well intentioned Online Communities of Practice often fail because

1.      They are created with good intentions but vague intent.

2.     They are created without any idea of learning theory or how people learn in a socialized context

3.     Participants are not provided with induction to this online worksite

4.     Roles are vague, variable or simply not visible

5.     Technical friction results in critical masses not engaged

From eConstruction Glue- available soon.

Leading from Calm: How technology can support leader wellbeing

In most learning environments, the Principal or Head Teacher/ Lead Teacher is the cultural compass and it is through the lived expression of their values that they shape the culture of the workplace.

Is your school happy?

Are you happy?

Like strands of DNA, these are interconnected and interdependent.


Is your school flourishing or well managed?

The well leader, leads well and promotes wellness.

A school may have all the factors of success in place, a solid research-driven strategic plan, rigorous professional learning programs, well maintained facilities, healthy accounts, well considered structures, policies and processes and yet….it may be ‘just a workplace’, in a sense, it may not have ‘life’, it may not ‘flourish’….it could be argues that this is an example of a well-managed school.

Leadership is a tough gig because it has an emotional toil and the responsibility is enormous….however, these are the same reasons why it is such a wonderful privilege to lead a flourishing school.

Where deep leadership begins….within a calm place

An internet search will point to the problem here.

School leaders are asked to lead community wellness, support educator wellness, address health and wellbeing of students but rarely to consider, plan and promote their own wellbeing as strategy for sustainable whole school improvement.


Lever technology to improve leader wellbeing

Sure, technology can be accused of being the very thing that erodes leaders time with responding to emails sitting high on the list. Technology can also provide some solution to very problems it is perceived to have created.


Schedule Calm

Download this app (note: I have no affiliation with this APP…it just works on Apple/ Android and desktops)

As soon as you open you will feel calm.

  • Explore the guided breathing tool.
  • Learn the basics of mindfulness meditation
  • Having trouble sleeping? Meditative bed time stories might helpto

Best of all, you can (and should) set a mindfulness reminder to help you practice mindfulness daily.

Or use the app before or after high stress situations.

What a powerful cultural leadership activity this could be….the leader, investing time daily to be intentionally calm and focused.

Stay tuned!


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The Critical 21st (and a half) Skills Agenda

I have just been reviewing the findings from the Innovative Teaching and Learning survey published in 2011 and used as a basis for the 21CLD workshops  and rubrics widely used globally.

Get the ITL Research materials here

Get the 21CLD rubrics here

Get the 21CLD Learning Observation Guide here

Coming soon- a research based tool to measure perception around Innovative Teaching and Learning at a whole school level. Look to for updates


The agreed definition for Innovative Teaching and Learning used in the research was as follows( this forms the basis for the 21st Century Learning Design materials too:)

  • collaboration 
  • knowledge construction 
  • self-regulation  
  • real-world problem-solving and innovation 
  • the use of ICT for learning 
  • skilled communication

I compared these 21st Century Skills with the essential Cross Functional Skills (for the workforce)  identified by the World Economic Forum and published 18th January 2016.

  • coordinating with others
  • Emotional intelligence
  • People management
  • Complex problem solving
  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • judgement and decision making
  • cognitive flexibility

Looks to me that the 21CLD materials built on the ITL Research have much to offer still as we prepare young people for life in and beyond school.

21st century learning design is a global professional development program for teachers and schools to develop more innovative pedagogies that develop students skills for the 21st Century. The program is sponsored globally by Microsoft and is supported in each country by a network of education partners.

21st century learning design is based on the way ITL Research studies and measures innovative teaching practices. 21st century learning design asks teachers and school leaders to

  • Analyze and ‘code’ learning activities to see how deeply they integrate 21st century skills
  • Collaborate in designing new learning activities that provide deeper 21st century skills development
  • Examine the impact of these learning activities on students’ work
  • Use ICT as part of the process

21st century learning design works like this:

  • Teachers review the 21st century learning design rubrics that define each 21st century skill (e.g. ‘problem solving’);
  • Then they analyze and code an existing learning activity (lesson) according to one rubric (for example, does a science project on cell structure score a 2 or a 4 on the “problem solving” rubric?);
  • They review student work done as a response to the lesson and code it;
  • Then they refine the lesson to have a higher score on the problem solving rubric – providing students with more in-depth opportunities to develop this skill.
  • They follow this same process across many different rubrics, lessons and student work products.




NEW Education Leadership Courses

Microsoft recognizes that school leadership matters and has a clearly articulated strategy which includes events-programs and tools to support whole school transformation.


Building leadership capacity is a component of the Transformation Framework and the partnership between EdX, leading global universities and Microsoft is an expression of our commitment.

Read the blog here

Since launch in October, we have received over 3000 registrations, from over 110 countries for courses beginning in January 2017.

We encourage you to share news through your social channels