Nearly all teachers today use Microsoft Office, but I'd guess that few really make the most of what it has to offer. There are lots of great features hidden away in the toolbars, but you wouldn't find them unless someone showed you.
When you reach a certain level of technology skills, you tend to find that it's enough to get by and you just stick to the things you know. It's safe, but dull. A course like this can freshen things up and give you new ideas.
As a starting point, we all took along a paper and pen activity which we might do with a class, and looked at ways of using PowerPoint, Excel or Word to make it more appealing. Then we began designing new activities from scratch. With two trainers to just eight people, we got lots of attention and it was easy to ask questions.
One of the best features I learned about is in the "forms" toolbar in Word.
You find it under the View option and it allows you to create drop-down lists that children can fill in. So they can label a human body, for example, or parts of a plant. It makes a Word document more like a web page - and that appeals to children.
There were other good tricks. The trainers showed us, for instance, how you can make PowerPoint interactive so children can write over it as it's running. I often use that now - it's made PowerPoint less dull.
You can design activities using Microsoft Office that are as good as specialist software. It saves your school money and there's the added satisfaction of having created them yourself
James Knowles is a supply teacher in the Cotswolds. He spoke to Steven Hastings
See remote learning software, page 58
Using Microsoft Office Creatively, run by Primary ICT, a Birmingham-based training company.
Course dates coming up on July 16 (Birmingham) and July 26 (Telford). It costs pound;145, but mention The TES Magazine course of the week when booking and receive a special rate of pound;99. Visit www.primaryict.org.uk