After many hours of travel, Stuart and I, our innovative Teachers Ollie and Mandeep and our new Innovative Schools from Scotland arrived in beautiful Salvador, Brasil. We were particularly excited about this year’s Innovative Education Forum, as it combines the best teachers from around the world, sharing practice and collaborating together, with schools from 30 countries who are participating in Microsoft’s Innovative Schools programme (more about that next week). It’s exciting, inspiring and a bit overwhelming and humbling to be spending the week with such amazing educators from all over the world.
The week’s festivities began with Monday night’s opening reception right on the waterfront, featuring young Brasilians singing, dancing, doing incredible acrobatics and playing drums loud enough to change the rhythm of your heartbeat. The schools started workshops right away, and the teachers had a little extra time to arrive and set up their Virtual Classroom Tours for the exhibition.
On Tuesday morning, the schools and teachers combined for the opening keynotes from the Governor of the Brasilian state of Bahia and from Microsoft’s Vice President Michael Golden, who runs our education products group. Michael had some exciting demos of current and not-yet-released products that any teacher can use in their teaching. We were all pretty impressed – even Stuart and I had not seen some of these demos yet.
But we couldn’t come all the way to Brasil and not bring something back for you! During Michael’s keynote, he also announced the launch of the new Partners in Learning Network. You’ll know this as the Innovative Teachers Network that we talk about all the time, but with a new name, a new look, and loads of new features and functionality to make connecting with teachers, resources and communities a whole lot easier.
The UK is one of the first handful of countries around the world to get the new Partners in Learning Network, largely due to the success of our Innovative Teachers Network. Stuart and I will be writing several new blog posts in the coming days and weeks to help you uncover the new features of the site, which now enables you to connect with teachers, schools and communities in any of the other Partners in Learning Networks around the world. But for now, I just want to introduce you to some basics.
Look for more blogs from Stuart and me about the Partners in Learning Network when we’ve finally returned home from Brasil. And wish our Innovative Teachers Mandeep and Ollie good luck as they face some really tough competition at the Innovative Education Forum this week!
As usual at these events, we have the best intention of writing blog posts every day, but the event’s agenda of workshops, keynotes and collaboration projects has kept us completely occupied from 9 – 18:30 every day. Thus it’s now Friday and it’s only our second post of the week. Better late than never, I always say…
In my last post, I mentioned that this year’s Innovative Education Forum was unique because it is bringing together teachers AND schools from all over the world. Microsoft has been running an Innovative Schools Programme for nearly three years now; it was originally announced by Bill Gates when he addressed world leaders with Gordon Brown (before he was prime minister) at Microsoft’s Government Leaders Forum in Edinburgh. In the Innovative Schools Programme, Microsoft works with schools from 35 countries, providing them with mentorship, a community of peers and education experts from around the world, and leading research, expertise and proven practice to help them transform the way their schools operate. Schools are encouraged to rethink all aspects of school life, from the structure of the day and the use of technology in the curriculum to ensure that teachers have the space and time to bring innovative practices to the classroom.
The competition to be a part of the Innovative Schools Programme is fierce; this year we had over 110 schools apply for 30 spaces. In the UK, we were lucky enough to be the only country with TWO schools selected to be in the programme – both from Scotland. They are Calderglen High School, outside of Glasgow, and Stirling High School in (you guessed it) Stirling.
Since we’ll likely be talking about these schools a lot this year, and since everyone will get to share in what the schools are learning at this conference – and at other meetings and “virtual university” sessions – through the Partners in Learning Network, I thought you should have a little introduction to them here.
Calderglen High School: Located in East Kilbride, Calderglen is a comprehensive school with over 1700 students ages 11-18. Calderglen is a relatively “new” school, having formed in 2007 as the merger of two schools put into a new build (sound familiar?). Their merger was extremely successful as a result of the connection they have with parents, community and other local stakeholders, and because of the work they did to prepare students and staff for the changes. They are partnered with another local school, which shares their campus, and pupils in both schools share aspects of the curriculum and all facilities with each other.
As part of the Innovative Schools Programme, Calderglen hopes to get help with some of the innovations in curriculum design, ICT use and CPD that they are undertaking right now. We’ll hear more from Tony McDaid and Odette Frazer (pictured at left at the Innovative Schools fair at the Forum), as well as others from Calderglen.
Stirling High School: A slightly smaller comprehensive school at nearly 1000 students, Stirling is also an 11-18 school. They have a successful model of distributed leadership at the school; indeed, the head teacher gave up her place on this trip so that the team behind the Innovative Schools application could attend. Stirling students are involved in real-world projects with environmental and enterprise focus that allow them to collaborate with community members and have an impact on the place they call home.
As part of the Innovative Schools Programme, Stirling hopes to learn from others (like our former UK Innovative School in Knowsley) about pupil-centred curriculum design, among other things. Meet Mark Rushton, Michael Mullin, Lesley Allen and Alan Hamilton at right.
I have been sitting with the schools during this week (when I wasn’t busy judging Innovative teachers projects – more on that later!) In addition to lots of discussion with the other 29 new Pathfinder schools and the 12 Mentor schools, they have heard from experts from Cambridge Education and the Anywhere Anytime Learning Foundation (on creating a vision for change), from the International Society for Technology in Education and the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (on system change vs incremental change in education) and from Microsoft and others (on developing innovations in business and education).
Today we’re all lucky enough to get to hear from Jean-Francois Rischard, former president of the World Bank and author of High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them. I had the chance to speak with him last night at a technology fair for all Forum attendees, and I can’t wait to hear what he has to share with us later today.
Tonight, of course, is the gala dinner. Stuart and I will blog later with the results. Fingers crossed for our teachers!
My favourite part of the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum is meeting the teachers that have submitted Virtual Classroom Tours to share with their colleagues. I’m lucky enough to have been asked to be a judge at this year’s Forum, which is a lot of work, but also means that I get to speak in-depth to most of the teachers about their truly extraordinary practice.
I always wish that every teacher I know could attend this event, to learn from and share with the other teachers here. (The head teachers I’ve spoken to here have said the exact same thing.) The energy is palpable – especially this morning as cheers erupted when teachers arrived and learned who had made it in to the semi-finals.
Here are some of the semi-finalists I was lucky enough to speak with today.
Annete Wagner, from Germany, devised a real-world chemistry lesson that helps students understand the “why” of learning chemistry. She took them to the supermarket to discover chemicals in products, and students presented their findings by creating Deep Zooms. Students learned how the chemicals used in baking one of Germany’s culinary treats – pretzels – are toxic before cooking and safe after cooking (and then got to eat the results of their work).
Teresita Trinidad Moreno, from Mexico, teaches at a school on the US border. To keep her students in Mexico – and working to support the Mexican economy – she connects them with local businesses so that they can gain skills by producing advertisements for local companies. Students create videos, print ads, and radio ads, and the project has been so successful that more companies are looking to participate.
Mark Sparvell, from Southern Australia, has built a community of schools all over Australia where students can talk about environment and sustainability issues their communities are facing. Students learn from each other in an online environment, challenging each other and selecting the topics they want to discuss and the method and technology for presenting their ideas.
Karina Batat, from Israel, works with parents, leaders and students in her school and community to connect her students with others around the world to discuss issues of culture and tolerance. Her pupils design a mascot and exchange it with pupils in various other countries, starting a dialogue with those children about their customs, challenges, and society.
And last but not least, our own Mandeep Atwal and Ollie Bray – both of whom are semifinalists as well! (For a reminder of their projects – Young Voices and Thinking out of the xBox, click HERE.)
Congratulations to all of the teachers at this year’s Innovative Education Forum!
We’re all finally back from Brazil, after an exhausting and very rewarding week. Our week ended on Friday with the event’s gala dinner and teacher awards. Before and after dinner, we were treated to a performance by the local Salvador youth orchestra. The orchestra has brought together some of the less fortunate young people in Salvador, in an effort to teach them music and improve their confidence and self esteem. The performance was truly impressive considering these kids had been performing together for less than two years. The crowd rose to their feet for standing ovations after nearly every piece – and we even did a bit of dancing at the end.
The highlight of the evening was most definitely the awards ceremony. As I mentioned in earlier posts, our teachers Ollie and Mandeep faced some really tough competition from the other incredible teachers and their projects from all over the world. Thus the entire UK contingent went a little crazy when BOTH Ollie and Mandeep were announced as winners!
Ollie won second prize in the Community category for his project, “Thinking Outside the XBox.” Mandeep won first prize in the same category for her project, “Young Voices.”
To add to the surprise, we learned that all of the first prize winners in each category won HP touch screen PCs, which had been donated by HP to each winner. Incredible!
The celebrating continued late into the evening, and we were ready for some sleep by the time we boarded the plane on Saturday. It was quite a week – but don’t just take my word for it. See the following blogs for more stories about the event from some of the people who attended.
Merlin John's blog: Merlin was a judge at last year's event in Hong Kong
Ollie Bray's blog: Ollie's blog is also a great source for ideas of new technologies to use in your teaching
The Stirling High School blog: The team from Stirling were blogging all week to tell their students about their experiences in Brazil.
The Learning Teaching Scotland web site.
Registration is still open for the UK Innovative Teachers Forum in Birmingham in December – go to the NEW Partners in Learning Network to join us!
A new name, a whole new sleek look and a whole new direction. We're talking about the launch of our new Partners in Learning Network. Like all new things it will take a little getting used to. Think of it as like getting a new pair of shoes: they need breaking in and you may get a blister or two, but it is worth it, because they look so good. (I can’t believe I am talking about shoes - I am spending too much time in Kristen’s company).
This is a whole new experience for me as well. I have been using the previous Innovative Teachers site for 5 years, so it is going to take a little learning on my part to get used to the new setup and be able to maximise the great new features. So, I will be blogging my experiences, which I hope will help your experience of the new site. For me, it's a case of teaching an ‘old dog, new tricks’, I think.
The first thing you need to be aware of is the name change. We are now the Partners in Learning Network. You will need to update your Favourites and change any links you have on your blogs or website.
This is totally new space and you will need to go through a verification process so that the new site will pull in all your information from the the old site. You only have to do this once.
When you visit the new Welcome page , click the Sign In button.
A number will things will happen. Firstly, you will be taken to the Windows Live site. Here you will need to use your Windows Live ID to sign. If you don’t have one you will need to sign up for one.
Next, when you sign in with your Live ID, you will see the following screen .
Once you have completed the relevant side of this form, you will be sent an email that will contain a hyperlink. This link will take you into the site. Many email filters are being a bit over zealous and sending this mail to your Junk email folder. So check that just in case you don't see the email in your inbox.
This will be the only time you have to go through this process and I realise it is perhaps a bit long winded, but it is essential to ensure that your data, your profile and communities move across from the old to the new site.
If you are experiencing any issues or have questions about the new site then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org We'd also love to hear what you are liking about the new site.
Stay tuned for the next post about the new Partners in Learning Network.
Over the past two weeks we have been blogging about the Innovative Teacher Awards in Brasil, and how well our two UK Teachers did at the recent Worldwide event. So imagine our surprise to find that the Innovative Teachers Programme, which this blog is part of, has been shortlisted for a BETT award.
We have been nominated for the ICT Service and Support Award. We are absolutely thrilled that the work that has been undertaken by teachers across the UK through the innovative teachers network is having such prestigious recognition. The winners will be announced at the BETT show in January. Fingers crossed that when we see you in January at Olympia, we'll have an award.
You can see the full list of Award nominees here.
After receiving the highest number of entries ever for a Microsoft Innovative Teachers Forum, (I say that every year, but it’s true.) I am pleased to announce the Virtual Classroom Tours that will be celebrated at the awards event at the Innovative Teachers Forum in Birmingham on Dec 1st (sign up HERE to attend the free conference).
The judging proved to be a very difficult and challenging exercise, with every one of the entries illustrating the outstanding work being undertaken in schools throughout the UK. But, Kristen and I were able to select 10 Virtual Classroom Tours in the Microsoft Innovative Ieachers category. These VCTs represent some of the best uses of technology to develop teaching and learning across a wide range of different school and scenarios.
This year's Microsoft UK Innovative Teachers Award winners are...
For this year's Innovative Teachers Forum, we have support from some of our partners. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust sponsored an award category looking for projects that looked at impact and improvement on learning. Their award winner is:
In the category Sponsored by Shireland Learning, who were looking for the best use of a Microsoft learning platform, the winners are:
You can find all these virtual classroom tours in this community on the Partners in Learning Network.
Congratulations to all these award winners and thank you to all those who took the time to submit a project, we a truly in awe of the fabulous work you are undertaking everyday with your students.
If you would like to the meet these award winning teachers and find out more about the work they do, they will presenting their projects at the UK Innovative Teachers Forum being held on the 1st December in Birmingham. This conference is FREE to attend. You can register and find out more here, but places are filling up quickly, so be sure do this soon if you are interested. At the event, you'll also have a keynote from John Davitt and choice of 4 workshops, offering practical advice on the use of technology to support teaching and learning. All delegates at the event will receive a free copy of John Davitt’s book, ‘New Tools for Learning’ .
Congratulations to all of this year's Innovative Teachers Forum award winners. We look forward to seeing you all at the forum next week.