The lineup of 21st Century learning skills is long – from critical thinking to media literacy, and tying them together is the now mundane task of Web search. That’s why both Microsoft and Google pay so much attention to young learning minds: if there’s Google for Education, there is also Bing in the Classroom.
Without getting into the merits of using Bing for search purposes, let’s focus less on the company from Mountain View and see one of the latest initiatives coming out from Redmond.
A recent post on the official Microsoft blog demonstrated the simple approach: The high-quality homepage image is connected to free lesson plans which have been designed around the image, and graded for kids from K-4 to K-12. You can access the lesson plans by clicking on the Info button on the bottom right of the photo. As you can see in the screenshot below, you can learn more about the image and also click through to the lesson plan.
At present this is a US-centric feature as the lesson plans are designed under the Common Core standards though anyone can go in the Bing settings (click the Gear icon) and change your region to “United States – English” to see how it works.
Do note that the lesson plans are connected to the Bing image for the day. You will not find lesson plans for any of the previous images directly, but you can go into the Microsoft Educator page to access them. You can still download the Bing image by clicking on the download button next to it.
Using The Lesson Plans
According to the Common Core Standards, the free lessons plans are for grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12. Each learning activity is designed around the image of the day. For instance, this is the learning plan (for grade K-4) for the image of the Amargosa Mountains you saw above:
The learning objectives and subjects may differ with the grades. Though, Common Core standards are applied, some questions and activities are flexible enough for other grades.
The free PowerPoint download provided for each question of the day is a resource, which the teacher can use to guide the students towards the solutions and plan other activities around the topic. A blank template is also provided every day which the teacher can use to design other creative challenges around the day’s topic.
Encouraging Critical Thinking & Search Skills
The questions are generally broad and give rise to many offshoots – each requiring the student to dive deeper into the Web for the answers. Either individually or in groups, the questions are meant to encourage problem solving skills using a search engine, and Bing Search happens to be ad-free for schools.
Here are some search activities which could follow on from the learning objective we saw above:
As the Microsoft Blog noted, the main question is just a launch point for further web research, designed to jumpstart animated discussions in the process:
They start with a critical thinking question designed so that students can’t answer it by simply plugging it into a search box. Then the plans suggest five follow-up questions that online research that can help answer the main question.
The Benefits Of Prepared Lesson Plans
Though the Microsoft blog post highlighting the lesson plans is recent, the company has been working on it for the past few months. Since the fall of 2013, Bing has published nearly 800 lesson plans. They are neatly categorized and searchable from the Bing in the Classroom page, complete with an interesting “21st century skills” category. Two immediate benefits are clear:
- It’s not only about searching the Web for ready-made answers and “copying” them. The lesson plans can take students in unexpected directions and help them to learn against a context. An image of arctic foxes could lead to a study on global warming or intrepid arctic explorers.
- The lesson plans are also easily usable by parents. With the wide variety of subjects covered, parents shouldn’t have a tough time thinking up fun activities inspired by the lesson plans.
Google Is Teaching Too…
Google has its own menu of lesson plans. Many of them incorporate Google tools and quite a few of them are more tech-oriented. The Google Lesson Plan Search page is sortable according to the tools, the subject, and age.
The pull of the high quality photo is enough, but Bing in The Classroom isn’t the only educational initiative from Microsoft. What do you think about these well-designed lesson plans?
Are you a teacher or parent who has used Bing or Google learning resources?