New Zealand is in the midst of lots of changes. Some of it is politically driven but most of it is driven by a real desire to improve education in the country and really grow how education can make a difference among both students who have had access to technology and the students who have been removed from that opportunity for economic or social reasons. One of the interesting things about New Zealand is how national assessment and benchmarking has affected how the leaders think about the quality of their education system. One of the things I heard quite a bit when I was in New Zealand was the solid performance the country has had on PISA and TIMSS benchmarking tests.
For the countries and the students who are doing well and achieve high scores on the tests it can be a source of amazing pride throughout the country. It seemed like everyone I talked to was reflecting on the fact that New Zealand's education system was fairly healthy comparatively from around the world. And that's good. It's good to see a country take pride in their education's success and successful outcomes. On the other side of the coin, I encourage education leaders to just not focus here, because fundamentally you don't want to not only rest on the education progress you're making but also take too much into any one measure. We've got to continue to innovate and elevate our education expectations regardless of one or two national assessments that happen every few years. Ultimately, we've got to continue to push hard.
I was excited to see the leadership in New Zealand is embracing that challenge and seeing that the way in which technology can make a difference and impact in the country is certainly nowhere near where the potential lies. There's lots of amazing conversations happening around how do think through everything from 21st century skills integration to how do we think about digital access to accessibility, technology, and making a meaningful impact. There’s also a fundamental connection to the industries and industry motivating elements like entrepreneurship as a key focus in the education system.
Although New Zealand may have good test scores, there’s clear motivation from people to continue to make improvements, and I'm confident they'll continue to be a world leader and push for change that can be helpful for the rest of the world to look at and learn from.
I was excited to be able to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 U.S. Forum last week in Redmond where 100 educators from 25 states showcased their innovative classroom projects to vie for a spot to compete at the Partners in Learning Global Forum later this year. The event is not just a competition, but a celebration of teachers who are making a difference in their local communities and helping their students prepare and expect more for their future. It’s also a great professional development opportunity as educators receive not only some technology training, but the opportunity to network, learn from and collaborate with like-minded peers who inspire others to scale change in education.
I was impressed with all of the U.S. projects I was able to see. It was great to see classroom projects tackling real-world problems like oil spills, unemployment, diabetes, disaster response, wildlife and more that help students build 21st century skills they’ll need for the workplace. The examples of creative uses of technology in learning represented the Pre-K–12 spectrum and included great ideas for blended learning, student video game design, professional development, flipped classrooms with students teaching their peers, and improving communications skills for those with autism and other special learning needs.
Check out the video below and my interviews with three teachers. Michael Braun teaches at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, and he’s using Touch Develop to get kids interested in computer science by teaching them how to develop mobile phone apps. You can learn more about his learning activity on the Partners in Learning Network here. Vince Interrante from Mineola Middle School (New York) and Robyn Hrivnatz from Lamar CISD (Texas) teamed up on a rocket bottle project that spanned more than 225 students at five schools on three continents! You can learn how they made this happen here.
The U.S. team will be sending 16 finalists to the Global Forum in Prague, Czech Republic on November 28-December 1. The 9th annual Partners in Learning Global Forum is the culmination of local and regional events that reach nearly 200,000 participants from over 115 countries. This year’s forum will gather 500 participants, including the most innovative global educators, school leaders, education leaders, and government officials.
For updates on the event and how to participate in the future, follow our #pilgf Twitter hash tag and our Facebook page.