I had the pleasure of attending the Worldwide Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), held in Doha, Qatar recently. This is the third year Microsoft has participated in the summit and it continues to be a very valuable K-20 conversation around the state of education around the world, and the need for reform. I participated in an interesting conversation regarding the need for reform in education. The official session was titled, “Rethinking Innovation in Education.” You can watch the discussion in the embedded video below.
One of the things I tried to do in my comments was disconnect innovation with technology, because too often it's synonymous for schools…as people think about innovation, they jump too quickly to technology as the solution.
There is tremendous enthusiasm for technology in education and it's definitely part of learning's future. The opportunity to share information, collaborate around the world, to consume truly endless amounts of content and get access to information anywhere, anytime, anyplace, is a game changer that fundamentally will have a huge role in the future of the way learning takes place. But the lessons we've learned in the past remain constant, and frankly even more important now than ever…and that is supporting great teaching, making sure kids are properly motivated to succeed, and that we align a holistic approach to a student's learning environment, from a classroom environment to getting parental involvement to making sure that we've got the right assessment in place, etc. Technology can support, enable all of those things, but technology alone isn't going to overcome a bad teacher or a bad environment.
The other issue we have to think about is as it relates to the technology itself, because in many cases the technology will evolve to create a new opportunity for learning. Most of what we've done with technology in schools all over the United States and the world has been to automate the passive learning models and modalities. So, we've taken classrooms and turned them virtual. We've taken tests and turned them online. We've taken books and created electronic books. While all these transitions are valuable and helpful, they don't provide any transformative experience other than moving from a piece of paper to a digital screen or a phone conversation to a text message. And while the value and efficiencies can support schools and help budgets, the learning process isn't transformed.
What can make a change is how technology is applied to create much more responsive, reactive and personal learning environments. To create the settings to connect students to quality of content and information that previously was unavailable, to refine learning to respond predictively to a learner's need based on learning styles, test scores, etc. And when all these elements come into play, learning retention increases, test scores potentially increase, and we have more engaged and motivated students.
As I’ve said before, the highlight of my year is attending the Partners in Learning Innovative Educator Forums around the world. This year's worldwide finals event in Washington, D.C. was no exception. It's an amazing opportunity to talk, to witness some amazing heroes from every corner of the globe, and the innovations that these teachers are delivering for students to really change lives.
The Partners in Learning Global Forum is the culmination of a year-long series of progressively competitive national and regional events that recognize the very best in innovative teaching and learning. The educators that made it to the Global Forum were selected from almost 250,000 teachers and schools that started the process. During the event, educators attended professional development workshops, collaborated on learning activities, heard from a wide range of amazing keynote speakers, and presented their schools and classroom projects. At the end of the week, we welcomed our 18 new Mentor Schools and recognized 18 classroom projects as the most innovative in the world in 6 different categories. (see picture below of all of the winners)
This year's event was attended by 800 educators from 75 countries and served as a reminder of the opportunities before us, the inspiration that teachers can provide, and the need we have to celebrate a community of great leaders.
I humbly congratulate the teachers recognized as winners, but all the teachers in attendance are certainly winners. You can see some great examples of the energy and collaboration from event in the video links below, as well as by reading the reflections from some of the participants and judges recounting their experiences here and here. News coverage in New Zealand, India, and Ireland also shows you how these teachers are being celebrated in their local communities.
We are already getting questions about next year’s Partners in Learning 2012 Forum, which will be held in Athens, Greece in November 2012. National and Regional events will be held throughout the year around the globe. You can stay up to date on local events by connecting with us on the Partners in Learning Facebook page and following us on Twitter (@MicrosoftPIL).
2011 Global Forum Daily Recap videos:Day 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u2GdFfINO0 Day 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBKBo1GflN4 Day 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md9FGBzx6dg Day 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyC5G0gHXso Winners: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNO52unYzPU
Back in September, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting (see blog post here) where Microsoft made a new commitment to help bring digital access to one million low-income families in the United States. I was able to speak with Stan Emert, the president of Rainmakers.TV about Microsoft’s Shape the Future initiative that is the program driving increased technology access around the world. Check out the conversation below.
Since CGI, Microsoft has announced a new partnership with the FCC where we will support the “Connect to Compete” initiative and provide a portal for free online job skills training, assessments and basic digital literacy. Beginning in 15 states over the next three years, we will also expand our Microsoft IT Academy program and deploy Microsoft Office training through our retail stores, local schools, libraries and community college.
We believe technology can be an enabler to obtaining a great education and I’m excited about what the future holds and can’t wait to see the impact we start making in 2012.