I am not the most travelled person. After all, I live in Wales, why would would I need to go anywhere else? But all that changed when my Virtual Classroom Tour won an award at the UK Innovative Teachers Forum held at the Microsoft Campus in Reading in 2005. I was chosen along with three other teachers to represent the UK at the European Forum held in Sweden. That event was amazing - meeting teachers from all around Europe, visiting the Ice Bar and a boat trip to a Gala Dinner where I had my first taste of reindeer (hmm, thinks, should I have admitted that?).
At that event, I was chosen to go Seattle to present my Virtual Classroom Tour at the first Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum. This was an incredible experience, meeting teachers from all around the world. I was amazed how highly Teachers from outside the UK regard our education system. It made me realise that despite all its faults we are not that badly off. I also met my future boss, if only I knew then… It was also my 40th birthday, and I proposed to my now wife (she also won an award., and I have to admit that her VCT was better than mine), thinking Microsoft might pay for the wedding. Of course I found that there are limits to hospitality!
When I reflect back, at the time I didn’t realise the impact such an experience was having on my perceptions of what I do in the classroom and how I changed my approach to learning and teaching. Meeting all those different teachers, seeing and being able to talk to them about education was the best professional development I ever had. And so, in the past two years, whilst working for the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Programme, I have been able to support a number of teachers through their Innovative Teachers Forum experience. Pretending to be ‘Rocky’ on the steps of the Art Museum in Philadelphia; a candlelit gala dinner on a boat on the Seine in Paris; staying a hotel converted from a prison in Helsinki; seeing a 6ft chicken promoting his work in Croatia (you might find the answer to this on the Innovative Teachers Network) – these are all memories I shall treasure. And next on the list is the Worldwide Forum to be held in Bangkok in November – what memories might I get from that?
So how do you get to attend one of the Forums? Firstly join the Innovative Teachers Network. We will shortly be announcing the date of the next UK Innovative Teacher Forum (sometime in February). Four of the award winning Teachers from that event will be invited to attend the European Forum in Vienna.
I can’t promise you that you will get a proposal of marriage or see a 6ft chicken, but your participation in the Innovative Teachers programme will definitely change the way you use technology in the classroom.