Microsoft Learning Accelerators aim to make education more accessible by providing students with vital tools to develop their learning, while teaching them essential skills in further education and later in their professional life.
In our latest Microsoft 365 User Adoption podcast, the Cornerstone Academy Trust (TCAT) reveals how they’re embracing the new Microsoft Learning Accelerators to enhance teaching and learning.
About The Cornerstone Academy Trust
TCAT is a multi academy trust comprising four primary schools in southwest England.
Its motto – “Fortune Favours the Brave”, is unequivocally reflected in its forward-thinking approach to technology in education. The MAT is a Microsoft Training Academy and runs a DfE English Hub, Behaviour Hub, a Science Learning Partnership and is also part of the West Country Computer Science Hub.
Cloud Design Box (CDB) has been working with TCAT since 2018 to develop a modern intranet in SharePoint and Teams, facilitating communication at the MAT-level and within the individual schools.
By automating the management of various Class Teams and Staff Teams across the schools based on daily MIS data, the CDB team helped TCAT establish a strong digital foundation for teaching and learning. CDB has also provided comprehensive training and consultancy to TCAT through workshops and an online training portal, ensuring that colleagues stay updated on Microsoft’s digital tools for education.
Jonathan Bishop, CEO of TCAT, joins podcast host and CDB Chief Operations Officer, Darren Hemming, to talk about the impact of the new Microsoft Learning Accelerators and how Reading and Search Coach are empowering students to become independent, avid learners.
Enhancing reading skills with Reading Coach.
Reading Coach – available within Microsoft Teams and Immersive Reader – provides students with valuable opportunities to practice reading and improve their skills.
“Reading Coach helps teachers provide those elements in lessons that are hard to achieve when you’ve got 30 children in your classroom,” Jonathan begins.
“If you wanted to sit down one-to-one with every child for even five minutes… well, you do the maths! How much of your school week is taken up?”
Students can read out loud to the Reading Coach, which responds with helpful feedback to improve accuracy and highlight any words the student has struggled with. Offering gentle guidance on pronunciation, reading speed and vocabulary, this tool is particularly beneficial for supporting students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
“What I like about Reaching Coach is that it’s like a virtual teaching assistant, listening to the student as they read, highlighting words they’re stumbling over, looking at accuracy and giving them real-time feedback. Plus, if they don’t understand a word, they’re able to click on it and get definitions,” he continues.
“There’s no sense of failure or fear of reading aloud in front of, say, a parent or a teacher. It’s not about passing or failing. It’s not a test. It’s the idea that the child can improve their fluency, which is a key step to becoming an avid reader. There’s an immense power in that.”
Empowering independent learners with Search Coach.
Search Coach helps students develop their research skills when searching the web. The tool can be added to any Class Team and works in a very similar way to a typical search engine.
Offering tips on how to form effective search queries and trusted sites, the tool allows students to add filters to their searches in a distraction and ad-free environment.
“Search Coach enables independent study in a safe way and has been empowering our children to operate and exist in a modern world filled with misinformation and false news,” Jonathan enthuses.
Students can view the credibility and transparency of each website, alongside other information like the region it’s from, and the type of website it is.
“It’s teaching children how to validate the information they’re getting online, making sure it’s appropriate, correct and safe.”
Equipping children to thrive in the modern world.
“Both Reading Coach and Search Coach are supporting students to develop skills for the modern world. The tools help them learn how to present their ideas coherently, succinctly and speak with clarity, as well as be confident in what they’re trying to articulate,” Jonathan adds.
What’s more, students at TCAT benefit from their own one-to-one devices – a Microsoft Surface Pro and Bluetooth-connected wireless headset.
“Bring that raft of tools together – the Microsoft Surface, Digital Pen, Bluetooth Headset and the Learning Accelerators – and this gives learners a sense of empowerment and independence,” he explains.
“Together, with more traditional tools, like a pen, pencil, ruler, art supplies, learning to bike and climb walls, creates a broad, balanced and exciting curriculum where we’re putting learning in the hands of the students as they become independent, avid learners. And, that’s surely the goal of every teacher in every school.”
Find out more about Microsoft Learning Accelerators in this introduction video by Cloud Design Box Founder Tony Phillips: