Celebrate Earth Day with Radical Recycling for Minecraft: Education Edition

Earth Day is almost here, and students around the world are busy devising ways to create a greener, cleaner, more sustainable planet. One of the most important lessons that educators can teach learners is that their choices matter, whether those are individual decisions or the solutions they support in their communities. To help students understand these crucial concepts, Minecraft: Education Edition has released the all-new Radical Recycling lesson!

This activity takes place in Sustainability City, a virtual world that gives students the chance to make their way through an epic Minecraft map as they explore recycling in a bustling urban setting. Learners start by researching and sharing background knowledge about recycling through introductory games and discussions to build connections with their own surroundings. They’ll also learn about a real-world recycling center that will help inform their actions in the game.

Once students have built up their knowledge of recycling, they enter Sustainability City and begin their quest. They’ll comb the city for recyclable materials, taking notes to determine what can be found at various locations. This journey will take them throughout the entire urban environment, including a house, school, office building, and grocery store. They’ll learn that different locations have different recycling needs and discover the kinds of materials that tend to accumulate at particular sites.

vehicle in minecraft

Once students have assessed the situation and shared their findings, they’ll visit the city’s recycling center to compare the in-game facility with its counterparts in the real world. They can consolidate their learning by writing a summary of which items can be recycled and how it’s done.

Now it’s time for students to get creative! Once they’ve assessed Sustainability City’s situation, they use the recyclable materials they’ve found to create a solution to a common household or classroom problem. It could be a lampshade made from recycled paper or a vehicle crafted from recycled cans—even a trampoline stitched together from repurposed clothing! You’ll be amazed at what your students create.

Educators can find supporting materials, guiding questions, curriculum connections, extension activities, and the Sustainability City world file on the Radical Recycling lesson page.

Earth Day learning isn’t just for the classroom. If you know a Minecraft player who uses a different version of the game, the Sustainability City world is also available as a free download in the Education Collection in the Minecraft Marketplace. By using the materials included on the lesson page, Minecraft players and their families can take part in sustainability learning at home.

A factory in minecraft

Looking for extra support? The Minecraft: Education Edition team is offering special sessions for educators and students. Join a virtual lesson jam on April 15 at 4:00 PM PT and get prepared to lead the Radical Recycling lesson with your students. On Earth Day itself, the team will be hosting a student-friendly live lesson experience featuring a brand-new Minecraft world, so register now and bring your learners on April 22 at 9:00 AM PT to get the first look at this new content.

The EdTech experts at Cobblestone Collective are also helping out with a full week of sessions designed to engage students using Sustainability City. Every day from April 19 to 23, they’ll be hosting live sessions to co-teach the lesson. After each session, students will show off their learning in a build challenge and can enter to win awesome Minecraft prizes. Can’t make the lesson? No worries! They’ll also be posting the challenges online. Learn all the details about these interactive virtual events.

Recycling in minecraft

We hope these Earth Day activities will inspire a new generation of innovative and ingenious sustainability superheroes among your students. Take a look at the Radical Recycling lesson plan and join the Minecraft: Education Edition team for their exciting events as you get ready for Earth Day. Together, we’ll empower students to build a better, greener world!

If you haven’t tried Minecraft: Education Edition in your classroom, get started at education.minecraft.net.

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Get the latest education news, delivered straight to your inbox

There’s a lot for educators to keep up with, like new technologies, upcoming events, students’ emotional and academic needs, and professional development. Luckily, managing all of that gets a little easier with the Microsoft Educator Center monthly newsletter, which shares the latest information about Microsoft Teams, Flipgrid, Minecraft, and more.

This valuable collection of time-saving tips, creative lesson ideas, tech insights, and learning opportunities helps educators support student learning while enhancing their own skills and knowledge. Plus, it’s a quick read, with skimmable text and convenient links to more in-depth information.

Content that’s useful, actionable, and inspiring

The newsletter covers all grade levels, from kindergarten through higher ed, and subjects from STEM to SEL. It includes immersive activities, student workshops, virtual events, support resources, and online classes to help educators further their own skills.

For example, they might learn how to take students on a virtual field trip with Flipgrid events, get a link to a free demo experience from Minecraft: Education Edition, or access a library of student workshops like virtual museum tours and book readings.

They’ll also get the latest on Teams features, video tutorials, upcoming events, and special offers—all especially helpful for educators during remote and hybrid learning.

Check out highlights from the latest newsletter

BettFest now on-demand

Free on demande sessions, replay the best of BettFest

Thanks to all who joined us for BettFest 2021 live! If you couldn’t attend the live event, you can still find much of the content online, available for on-demand viewing.

While you’re there, check out the Microsoft Hub for exclusive partner resources, free product demos, on-demand content, and more.

Microsoft Teams resource center

Teams is one tool that can help with educators’ administrative and classroom tasks, save teachers time, and teach students future-ready skills. Learn all the ways that Teams, alongside other Microsoft 365 tools, can help you, and how to get the most out of its many capabilities. Access resources to help you streamline your work today.

Tracking trends with Insights

Quickly identify assignment and grading trends

See how students are progressing with assignment and grading trends in Insights. Use the data to identify students who could use some extra support. Take a closer look with the demo linked above.

Digital activity report

An Insights digital activity report can tell you how active students are in Microsoft Teams. It shows when a student opens a file, visits a channel, attends a meeting, and more. Watch the tutorial above to see it in action.

Take teaching to the next level

Microsoft’s free educator newsletter can help boost productivity, efficiency, creativity, and professional development. To get started, sign up today.

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Empowering your faculty: A playbook for higher education

We’re excited to announce the completion of a new paper, “Flattening the multimodal learning curve: A faculty playbook,” which aims to equip faculty with effective strategies, practices, and tools to navigate the pedagogical paradigm shift accelerated by COVID-19. The paper addresses the key challenges, digital divides, skill gaps, and socio-economic disparities facing faculty at higher education institutions. It was produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) as a follow up to research released in December, “Bridging the digital divide to engage students in higher education,” which sought to better understand the impacts of the current dynamics on higher education institutions, staff, faculty, and students. The original study reported that at least a third of educators expect that remote and hybrid learning are likely to be a future operating model for many higher education institutions alongside on-campus programs. Additionally, the paper shared advice from education experts suggesting that instructors should go beyond simply delivering lectures online, and should instead create more opportunities for active learning and engagement.

The Economist Intelligence Unit

The study advances the concept that hybrid learning has evolved from simply enabling continuity of education amid the closing of campuses, to reshaping future operating models. The current student population has the highest tech expectations ever—nearly one-third of students said that flexible learning and interactive methods are the most effective ways to boost their engagement—and they require engaging, dynamic interaction with subject material whether they are attending classes in-person or virtually. So, institution’s success will be defined by the extent to which institutions provide an optimal environment for learning, and to which faculty instructors understand and respond to the changing, diverse needs of students in the new higher education paradigm.


"The worst possible outcome of Covid is that we go back to the old system." —John Hattie, Professor and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute. @MicrosoftEdu
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In essence, the EIU research shows that the future of higher education is migrating away from a fixed location and toward a more flexible, personalized, and collaborative experience. The role of faculty is expanding as well, going from being “sages on the stage” who lecture to groups of students, to being leaders of and participants in vibrant educational communities. As institutions introduce updated remote and hybrid pedagogies, integrated platforms and tools such as virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and hyper-personalisation tools will be key in empowering the transition. Additionally, institutions will need to invest in technology infrastructure and faculty skills training to survive and thrive.

To deliver valuable learning experiences in hybrid and remote formats, the research indicates that faculty professors will need to build upon pedagogical methods that boost engagement, outcomes, and value, as well as forge online connections and create communities of learners. These methods may include presenting programs in a hybrid synchronous and asynchronous format, increasing interactivity and allowing students to have greater flexibility over when they learn—which the EIU survey shows that students favor. All of these models are supported and enhanced by features in Microsoft Teams such as Together Mode, Recording, and Education Insights, and with powerful predictive analytics, intelligence tools, chatbots and success portals in PowerApps and Dynamics 365.  


“Our best online instructors…build community & demonstrate caring for their students’ frequent interactions, responding to questions quickly, getting to know students personally, taking time to check-in.” —Christopher C. Morphew,…
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Focusing on enhancing technology tools and improving faculty skills with them is just one part of the equation; along with investments in these areas, the study shows that institutions should provide the optimal environment for faculty and students to engage with one another. This environment should include an empathetic, supportive community of educators, partnerships with outside stakeholders such as tech companies, governments and service providers, and facilitation of culture-building, social-emotional learning, and interaction among students.

Empower your higher education faculty and professors by enabling and implementing the tools and IT environment recommended by the EIU study. Download the digital transformation path infographic, the Microsoft Education deployment guide, and read the EIU study.

For additional information and tips, view the instructional webinars:

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Engaging new presentation features in Microsoft Teams

Keeping students focused on learning can start with an engaging presentation. Today, we’re kicking off Microsoft Ignite, an annual event held virtually this year, with some exciting new Microsoft Teams features to help presenters deliver impactful presentations and provide meeting participants with dynamic experiences to keep them engaged.

Dynamic view intelligently and dynamically arranges the contents and participants in your meeting for a better viewing experience. In addition, the participant gallery automatically adjusts when the meeting window is resized.

The new Presenter mode empowers presenters to customize how their video feed and content appears for the audience. Our first mode, Standout, shows the speaker’s video feed in front of the shared content. Next, Reporter mode will show content as a visual aid above the speaker’s shoulder just like during a news segment. Third, Side-by-side mode will show the presenter’s video feed alongside their content as they present.

Educators will have the ability to disable video for students, either for individual students or for the entire class. This will help protect synchronous classes from unwanted disruptions and help keep students focused.

Educators will have the new option to download Attendance Reports after a class meeting is over in the meeting chat and channel thread. Only the meeting organizer has access to the Attendance Report, which will cover Join Time and Leave Time, Email Addresses, along with the class Duration so educators can more easily track student attendance and engagement.

Learn more about all these awesome new capabilities coming soon to Teams and if you’re not already using Teams, sign up for free to get started today.

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20 ways classrooms came together in 2020 with Microsoft Education

This year, we saw millions of classrooms come together in unexpected ways. While it might not have been easy from behind a mask or computer screen, everyone in the Microsoft Education community—from principals and teachers to students and parents—have shown flexibility and resilience this year. The community has worked together to create engaging and inclusive learning environments, support one another, and even have fun. As we reflect on the year, we’re sharing 20 highlights from Microsoft Education in 2020, and the technology that helped us get through it together.

Bringing the online classroom to life for students

  1. It’s important for students to see their teacher and classmates at the same time during remote learning. That’s why Teams expanded to a 7×7 Gallery View, allowing up to 49 students to be visible on video at one time.
  2. Another way to mimic the classroom setting is through Together Mode. An alternative to Gallery View, this feature has brought students out of their individual tiles and transported them into a shared setting—whether that’s a virtual auditorium, conference room, or coffee shop.
  3. A smaller setting can also help foster student participation. Breakout Rooms have helped students work within smaller groups for a discussion or assignment, just like they would in an in-person classroom.
  4. The new Spotlight feature has allowed teachers to control the main video feed that students see during class. This can help students focus on the presenter, rather than on the many faces on the screen.
  5. It has also been critical to provide students with the right devices during remote and hybrid learning. Windows 10 devices have been crucial in giving reliable, secure technology to learn from anywhere.

Staying organized and productive while teaching and learning from home

  1. Education Insights in Microsoft Teams uses at-a-glance data views to catch teachers up on their students’ activity, from turning in assignments to engaging in class conversations. The Insights dashboard can save teachers time in planning, giving feedback to students, and providing help.
  2. Microsoft Lists have made it easy for both teachers and students to stay organized, assign responsibilities, manage their schedules, and more. These virtual to-do lists provide a simple and smart way to make sure everyone meets their deadlines.
  3. Teachers can use the Rubrics tool in Assignments to create customizable, reusable rubrics. These help students understand the criteria they’ll be graded against and enable teachers to better evaluate their students’ work.
  4. Assignment Notifications have allowed teachers to notify students about upcoming assignments, giving teachers more flexibility in how they choose to communicate with students and assign them projects.

Supporting students and developing their social-emotional learning

  1. Technology can play a key part in developing social-emotional learning (SEL) from home. SEL-specific Praise Badges and Stickers have helped teachers recognize student social skills, grow emotional vocabulary, and give valuable recognition to the daily wins in their students’ learning.
  2. It can be difficult to gauge well-being during remote learning, but with tools like Reflect Messaging in Teams, educators can create a quick check-in to get insights on their students and offer support as needed.
  3. To spread positivity and encouragement, teachers can share Kindness Cards with students. Each virtual card has ideas, reminders, or inspiration that teachers can use to model kind behavior.
  4. Many milestone moments for students, like graduation ceremonies and sports finals, were cancelled this spring. Graduation Kits gave students a chance to virtually celebrate their accomplishments at the end of the school year, and Orientation Kits helped students with the return to school through online welcome and information sessions.

Preparing students for the future while still having (virtual) fun

  1. Many summer camps were canceled due to social distancing recommendations, so Microsoft created Passport to Digital Fun, a free virtual summer camp with weeks of interactive workshops. We also created winter camps to keep students engaged and learning during the winter break.
  2. Students from around the world imagined solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues through a virtual coding competition with Minecraft: Education Edition.  
  3. To keep students engaged during online learning in other ways, we hosted multiple events such as Global Learning Week, Hack the Classroom, Hour of Code, Imagine Cup Junior, and Global Read Aloud, each attended by thousands of students and educators from around the world. Teachers have also been empowered to create their own virtual events through Flipgrid, which offers advanced features such as augmented reality and video blogs.
  4. We participated in incredible partnerships to help make online learning fun for students. Learn more about our exciting collaborations with NASA, Wonder Woman 1984, the Smithsonian museums, and Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Building community among educators

  1. We’ve been inspired by educators’ drive to learn and grow amid this year’s challenges, including through Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) programs. This community of educators has continued to thrive as teachers shared their experiences and resources.
  2. Throughout the year, we participated in a variety of in-person and virtual events for teachers, including BETT, EDUCAUSE, Education Transformation Summit, and ISTE20 Live. Each of these events helped educators find community, support, and resources during an unpredictable year.
  3. Global connections were perhaps more important in this year than any. Microsoft continued to build connections with educator communities, seeking to empower teachers with training resources through the Microsoft Educator Center and events like the Global Training Partners Summit, where Microsoft-trained educators help others around the world meet their unique challenges.

We will carry each of these highlights with us as we look to 2021, and hope you will too. We are optimistic about what the next year will bring for the Microsoft Education community—and know that we will continue to learn and grow together.

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The acceleration of hybrid learning for higher-ed students and faculty

Before COVID-19 disrupted the education journeys of more than 1.5 billion students around the world, higher education institutions were already exploring ways to grow enrollment, reach more students, and better engage the “digital natives” of Generation Z. Though the need to move online created challenges, it also inspired solutions that will have long-lasting effects on higher education. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), educators believe the pandemic has accelerated the evolution of virtual education by ten years. “We’ve been entering a new paradigm for the last decade and COVID-19 has just expedited this progress. It provided gasoline to trends that were already underway,” said Michael Horn, co-founder of Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.


83 percent of higher-ed faculty members believe courses will be conducted mostly online this term, and 62 percent say they will be online for the coming academic year. @TheEIU aka.ms/EIU
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In an effort to better understand the impacts of the current dynamics on higher education institutions, staff, faculty, and students, Microsoft Education partnered with the EIU on a new paper: “Bridging the Digital Divide to Engage Students in Higher Education.” The EIU conducted surveys and interviews with faculty and students in the US, UK, Australia, and Germany, as well as with global higher education experts.

Insights indicate that rather than being a short-term solution, remote and hybrid learning are likely to be a future operating model for many higher education institutions alongside on-campus programs. Though more than 80 percent of faculty members surveyed said that less than half of their institution’s courses were online prior to the pandemic, one-third of them report that their institution will permanently add online options for all or most courses moving forward. The expanded availability of virtual learning will require increased investments in technology and additional training for faculty, but these investments, along with more flexible learning programs, could make higher education more accessible and equitable, with learning supported by technology that addresses the needs of diverse learners and flexible programs with schedules that work for students with other obligations. The increased opportunity for remote attendance will serve to broaden institutions’ geographic reach as well, drawing students to the most innovative programs rather than simply the one closest to home.

There is a difference in perspective between faculty and students on preparedness for remote learning. While 85 percent of faculty members surveyed reported that they felt prepared to meet student needs effectively with the resources they had available, more than 60 percent of students shared that they did not feel mentally or academically prepared for the academic year of fall 2020. And almost half of students claim the pandemic has worsened their ability to remain focused and engaged.

85% of faculty feel ready to meet basic student needs

Education experts say that the pandemic has caused students to be stressed, anxious, financially challenged, and socially isolated. According to a study carried out by Hope College in July 2020, 60 percent of the 38,000 students surveyed reported experiencing basic needs insecurity.

Douglas Harris, non-resident Senior Fellow, Brown Center on Education Policy said, “The current situation is pushing faculty to realize that at the very least, students are not going to be able to learn in their class if they’re suffering in other ways.”

John Hattie, Professor and Director of Melbourne Education Research Institute, pointed to the sense of isolation and lack of social connection that students are feeling: “One of the biggest factors that influences student engagement and performance is their sense of belonging in their higher education experience. This is what has suffered the most as a result of COVID-19. They no longer have the same sense of belonging that they used to have.”

To foster a greater sense of connection, experts recommend that instructors go beyond simply delivering lectures online, and instead create more opportunities for active learning and engagement. Innovative schools like St. Edward’s University already use virtual anatomy, virtual internships, virtual counselling, and virtual student teaching, says Dr. Rebecca Frost Davis, Associate Vice President of St. Edward’s University. One teacher even set up a virtual crime scene using 3D cameras, allowing students to go places they couldn’t normally go. “The students who had done the simulation first did better because they weren’t distracted by things when they were learning,” says Dr. Davis.


“The key to making active learning work online is to leverage groups and technology to make students accountable and give them ‘skin in the game’ to do the work.” —Michael Horn, Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation…
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Collaboration tools like Education Insights in Microsoft Teams can help instructors identify students’ needs and adapt their material for maximum impact. Dr. David Kellerman of the University of New South Wales says, “Insights for classroom Teams… has helped me connect with struggling students on a personal level, and to understand the broader trends in my classroom. Every teacher, professor or instructor on Teams has something to learn from Insights.”

Additionally, social activities such as orientations, graduations, and other traditions can be presented virtually to create more opportunities for socialization and connection. Resources such as this e-book and virtual graduation toolkit have ideas and tips for bringing events online. Beyond webcams and chat rooms, there are other creative ways to reimagine in-person gatherings, including building virtual versions of campuses in Minecraft to host in-game meetups and ceremonies.

Today’s higher education students are primarily Generation Z, a generation that is comfortable with technology and who expect it to be a part of their learning experiences—93 percent believe that remote learning will benefit their education. But they are also very clear about what they are looking for: they want their institutions to put their needs first by providing physical and virtual security, and they want to learn skills that will help them succeed in work and in life. “There is a push for higher education in the United States particularly to show greater value and a return on investment. As a result, students are looking for the best value in terms of what they are getting from their higher education and what they will be able to do in the workforce,” says Dr. Stella L. Smith, Associate Director, MACH III Center, Prairie View A&M University.

As higher education leaders work with instructional designers and professors to reimagine courses and fine-tune pedagogy, students and faculty agree that the pandemic is transforming higher education. With cooperation and creativity, this accelerated evolution can enhance student experiences through integration of emerging technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, and create new revenue opportunities for colleges and universities as they develop innovative options for students to pursue lifelong learning with flexible course schedules or micro-masters from different higher education institutions.

For a summary of key takeaways from the report, see the “Strengthening student engagement ​through hybrid education” infographic, and for full details, read the paper.

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