Announcing new lesson plans and Minecraft: Education Edition update to spark interest in STEM

This week, the Microsoft Education team is in the Windy City showing off some exciting new technology and curricula to support STEM learning at the annual ISTE conference.

In today’s job market, 50 percent of jobs require technology skills, and in the next 10 years, these types of jobs will outpace non-technology jobs by nearly two to one. It’s more important than ever to help students understand and appreciate STEM fields, to prepare them for the future workplace and to be digital citizens in a rapidly changing world.

Technology can empower educators to deliver inspiring lessons, personalize instruction and build creativity and critical thinking skills, which is why we’re so excited to bring STEM to life with these new tools and programs!

1. Bring the mystery of the oceans to your classroom with new STEM lesson plans


In partnership with BBC Learning, we’re thrilled to announce a new collection of teacher-written, inquiry-based lesson plans to compliment the BBC Earth and OCEANX film, Oceans: Our Blue Planet.

These interdisciplinary experiences engage students in answering four big questions: how ocean currents form, how sharks swim, how deep the ocean is, and how to craft coral reefs.

How do sharks swim?

Learn about the 3D coordinate system by working with physical and digital shark models to   understand yaw, pitch, and roll in order to survey a marine environment.

How deep is the ocean?

Students explore remote terrains by modeling and graphing the ocean floors with an ultrasonic sensor to visualize organisms that live in different ocean layers.

How are ocean currents formed?

Students discover how salinity and temperature impact ocean currents by conducting experiments, building electrical conductivity sensors, and analyzing global data.

How to craft coral reefs

Through the power of Minecraft: Education Edition, take your classroom underwater to discover the different types of reefs and what can be done to save them.

Students start by taking on the roles of biological oceanographers and marine geologists, biologists, and physicists. Then, working through the content, they are challenged to write code, build sensors, analyze data, and create in 3D and mixed reality. These hands-on explorations are ISTE and NGSS standards aligned and include reflection, documentation, and assessment activities that are supported by a rich archive of stills and clips made possible by BBC Learning from BBC Studios. What’s more, they can all be done for less than a few dollars with everyday objects.

Check out these great new STEM lesson plans to build future ready skills in your classroom today and show students how to:

Write code

  • Craft coral reefs and explore shipwrecks in Minecraft: Education Edition using MakeCode scripting
  • Write sensor programs with Data Streamer Connect
  • Flash code for both Arduino and Micro:bit microcontrollers

Build sensors

  • Construct an electroconductivity sensor to measure conductivity of ocean water
  • Assemble an ultrasonic sensor to map the ocean floor
  • Engineer a joystick to navigate a robotic shark through a virtual marine environment

Analyze data

  • Stream real-time data from your sensors into Excel with Data Streamer
  • Work with global oceanic climate, temperature and salinity big data sets
  • Compare the world’s mountain heights to the depths of the ocean floor trenches

Work in 3D

  • Model the five ocean zones in Paint 3D and populate them with marine organisms
  • Animate a shark model in PowerPoint to understand yaw, pitch and roll
  • Use a 3D model of the world to understand how ocean currents circulate around the globe

Review and reflect:

  • Check understanding of mathematical and scientific concepts with interactive visualizations in Excel
  • Use photo and videos to create lab notebooks, student journals, and presentations

Teachers can also take their students on an underwater global odyssey in Oceans: Our Blue Planet, a BBC Earth and OCEANX film that reveals extraordinary discoveries and untold stories of the oceans’ most astonishing creatures. ISTE attendees can join us next week for a free viewing of the BBC Earth and OCEANX film, Oceans: Our Blue Planet, and see how it brings this STEM experience to life.


2. Minecraft: Education Edition adds Update Aquatic


Minecraft: Education Edition continues to grow with 35 million K-12 teachers and students in 115 countries around the world now licensed to use the game to transform the way they teach and learn. Teachers are using Minecraft to teach every subject imaginable and encouraging student collaboration, creativity and digital citizenship. This week, we’re sharing a cool glimpse of new worlds coming to Minecraft: Education Edition.

ISTE attendees this week will get to experience the Update Aquatic for Minecraft: Education Edition, a new set of game features and underwater worlds available for free to all Minecraft: Education Edition users. Students can use coding to build coral reefs, explore shipwrecks and underwater monuments, learn about sustainable fishing, and rescue dolphins. Educators are invited to use the free lessons provided with the update, which will be demoed at ISTE in the Microsoft Education booth by the Minecraft team and members of the Minecraft Global Mentor program.

Learn more about the Update Aquatic on the Minecraft Education blog.


3. Apply now for a Limitless Libraries grant to enrich the learning experience at your public or school library with mixed reality headsets


Microsoft is excited to announce Limitless Libraries, a new Mixed Reality grant program designed to help foster Mixed Reality adoption in education. The fund is open for applications starting today with the first recipients selected at the end of the summer. Sign up today!

Libraries – both in schools and in the community – have long been a place where students immerse themselves in the learning experience and ignite their creativity, envisioning their favorite stories come to life. With the expansion of digital technology like mixed reality headsets, we see a new world of possibility to transform learning efficiency, retention, and student engagement​.

The grant provides libraries with all the resources for getting a Mixed Reality program up and running, including:

      • Two Windows Mixed Reality headsets and two computers to operate them
      • Technical training of staff and administration
      • Assistance with marketing resources and program scheduling
      • Email support to answer any questions going forward
      • Access to other grantees
      • Updates about new content rollouts

Middle schools and High schools (grades 6-12) can apply, as can public libraries. Grant applicants whose programs provide exposure and increased knowledge in STEM, and where a high percentage of participating youth are considered underserved as defined in the local context, will be given priority.

Apply now and contact with any questions.

If you’re headed to ISTE, please stop by to say hello and learn more about these new tools and lesson plans and the rest of our exciting ISTE demos, which you can read more about here.

To learn more about Microsoft Education and our tools and technology that help foster inclusion and support personalizing learning for every student, click here.

*Open only to libraries in grades 6-12 in the US, and public libraries in the US. Applications close Monday, July 9, 2018. For details, see the official rules.

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