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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    A Judges view- Reflections from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum #4


    Ollie Bray from Education Scotland reflects on his time at the Global Forum as a judge.

    I’ve been involved with and a member of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Community since 2006. I became more heavily involved in 2009 as UK, European and Worldwide award winner for my use of computer games to enhance learning activities and to develop social interaction.

    Since 2009 I have continued to support the programme in a number of ways and this has included being a judge for the UK forum and also in Berlin for the 2010 European forum. I was honoured to be asked to be a judge for the 2011 Worldwide forum this year in Washington DC.

    Being a judge is hard. Not only because of the accountability and responsibility that the role brings but also because of the cross sector and cross culture of projects that have to be evaluated. Being a judge is however a complete privilege and you get to meet and talk to some of the most innovative teachers in the world. Many of these teachers are working in very difficult circumstances to deliver the best possible outcomes for children and young people.

    This year I judged projects from USA, Brazil, Nigeria, Germany, Ecuador, New Zealand, Canada and Chile. In there own way they were all outstanding often providing solutions to enhance learning where there were particular issues and local circumstances.

    With over 180 projects to judge there were 40+ judges at the Worldwide Event and I am sure co-ordinating such a bunch of opinionated people is not an easy task. But Deirdre Butler (Ireland), Kirsten Panton (Denmark) and Jacques Denies (Belgium) did a great job of keeping us all in line as well as sharing valuable expertise from their own personal experiences as educators and past judges.

    Before the judging started we had two days of training to make sure that everyone understood the process and that we shared a common language. I was also delighted that this year the judging criteria was more linked to the emerging Innovative Teaching and Learning Research that has been conducted by Maria Langworthy and her team and funded by Partners in Learning.

    As a judge you work with two other judges from other parts of the world. For the Washington event I was teamed up with Philip Walker (Australia) and also Gabi Barna (Romania) both who have an amazing track record of transforming classrooms and contributing to system wide change.

    The judging process is as follows. First of all you look at the submitted Virtual Classroom Tours (VCT) for each of the participants. This helps you get an overview of the project. Next you discuss the VCTs with your judging team, share your thoughts and your questions about the impact of the work and the teacher. Then individually to visit each of your projects and there is a chance for the teacher to give you a pitch and for you to ask questions on impact, assessment, collaboration, etc. You discuss your interviews with your judges team and then individually fill in your score cards. Each score card has a very robust rubric associated with it. The results are then cross checked and moderated by the senior judges is necessary.

    Although all of the projects we judged were very good. I was lucky enough to judge two of the first place winners.

    Chris Clay (New Zealand) received first place in the extending learning across the classroom category for his project “Linking Educational Accomplishments to Real-World Needs”. Chris created an online community that connects more than 140 teachers and students across New Zealand to tackle real-world biological challenges. Utilizing technology, students develop collaboration, critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication and digital literacy skills, as well as a love for learning.

    A team from the United States made up of Doug Bergman, Johnny Kissko, Louis Zulli, Donna Thomas and Margaret Noble recived first place in the collaboration category for their project “When Fish Fly”. Their students worked together across time-zones and state boarders to integrate computer science, fine arts, business and economics. Student design teams developed a dynamic motion-based game simulation for Kinect for Xbox 360 that replicates the sights, sounds, history and “sense of place” of Pike Place Fish Co. in Seattle.

    A complete list of all of the 2011 winners can be found on this Microsoft Press Release. Including our winner from the UK

    (Wales) Gareth Ritter who is doing some amazing work with technology and music.

    As well a judging I had the opportunity to attend the keynote presentations from Anthony Salcito (Vice President for Microsoft Education) and also David Christian. Davids work with Microsoft and the Gates Foundation on ‘Big History’ is defiantly going to be worth watching over the next 12 months.

    Overall a stunning event and huge thank you to my traveling companions Ian Stuart (Islay High School), Tony McDaid (Calderglen High School), Ben Rowe (, Gareth Ritter and Jen Blum (our two UK European Award winners) and finally Stuart Ball and Steve Beswick (from Microsoft). Thank you!

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    A Headteacher’s view- Reflections from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum #3


    Tony McDaid Head Teacher from , Calderglen High School reflects on his time at the Global Forum as a Global Mentor School.

    I found this year’s Global Forum in Washington to be an inspiring event and I had the privilege of working with school leaders who were focussed on transforming learning within their schools. The Innovative Schools’ track managed to be both fast paced and reflective and there was a willingness from all participants to learn from each other. Our group included schools from Sweden, England, Spain, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, among others. There were opportunities for discussion, sharing ideas and to stretch our thinking. Over the week we were posed a series of ‘what if questions’. One memorable ‘what if’ was - ‘What if schools no longer existed’, which challenged all of us to think beyond our traditional school boundaries. The exercise saw us taken to the National Mall, site of the Washington Monument and Korean War Memorial where we were set a series of learning challenges. It reminded all of us that we should capitalise on our local environment to maximise learning opportunities, although we accepted that Washington DC presented a superb location for this task!

    As a mentor school, it was also a wonderful opportunity to meet the school leaders that we will be working with during the course of this year. Together, and with the support of a great coach in Dan Buckley, we were able to identify our common goals for the year ahead and develop a workable plan that will bring about real change. We are fortunate that our school, Calderglen High, will be working in partnership with community school, Cornwall and Sartre High School, Berlin. Spending the week in the company of Ben Rowe (and virtually via twitter and email with Dan Roberts) from makes me feel that we will have an excellent year ahead. I have never met two more prodigious ‘tweeters’. I know we have forged a friendship that will last well beyond the programme.

    Meeting some members of ‘Team UK’ for the first time proved to be one of the best parts of the week. Gareth Ritter and Jen Blum’s amazing work on the teacher track showed that the influence of inspiring teacher’s will change the lives of young people.

    A word or two for my Scottish colleagues, Ian Stuart and Ollie Bray who were contributors to the teacher’s track as coach and judge respectively. "Slàinte mhòr agad!" (Great health to you). It was with pride that three kilted Scots participated in such an event. Ian and OIlie are both currently playing a significant role in transforming learning in Scotland and I know they will continue to do so.

    There were so many other highlights beyond the Forum including newly formed friendships and life long memories. The conversation with a White House Secret Service agent who strangely didn’t want his picture taken with Ben Rowe will also be remembered!

    My final reflections are for the Microsoft team. The work of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Programme under the outstanding leadership of Stuart Ball, and with oversight from Steve Beswick, has an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for our schools. Their desire to support transformational change will help schools on what can sometimes be a challenging journey.

    I have no doubt that the work of this year’s Microsoft Global Forum will have an impact on the lives of young people in our school. It helped remind me of why it is essential that we continue to strive to be innovative and connect with young people’s learning, using all of the technology available – and the venue was amazing!

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Microsoft UK Partners in Learning outstanding contribution award – Dan Roberts


    IMAGE_013Yesterday we held our Microsoft Partners in Learning UK Forum, we will be blogging about the event shortly, due to circumstances beyond our control we missed something out yesterday.

    Each year we present the Partners in Learning Teacher Awards, one of those awards recognises the outstanding contribution an educator has made to supporting others through the Partners in Learning Network. This year that accolade is presented to Dan Roberts, Deputy Headteacher at community school.

    Dan has tirelessly championed the Partners in Learning Network as something that teachers should access as part of the own professional learning network. Not only has he encouraged teachers in his own school. But, last year he spoke to over 1500 educators about how Partners in Learning can support them in the use of technology in the classroom. Dan does this not just in the UK , but has reputation amongst educators internationally as being as innovator in field of engaging young people with their learning. A great example of this is how he has helped his students create their own E-book on how Teachers can utilise Facebook and other social media as a tool for their own students learning. By selling this book for a small donation the students are raising money for charity, you can help them raise as much as they can by downloading the E-book at

    This is just another example of the great work Dan creates and shares with the education community and clearly illustrates why he is the most deserving recipient of this year’s award.

    Please join me in congratulating Dan, either by leaving a comment here on this blog , or contacting him through Twitter on @chickensaltash

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Why was I there? - Reflections from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum #2


    Ben Rowe from saltash .net community school reflects on his time at the Global Forum as a Pathfinder School.
    image(that’s Ben in the grey jumper, looking like a Westlife reunion!)

    Well, it’s been a two weeks since The Microsoft Partners In Learning Global Forum. I’m trying to get my head around the fact that this time two weeks ago I was on a Segway tour of Washington DC!!!

    Why was I there?

    I went to the forum to represent community school. We went as a Pathfinder School. We are now part of the programme and are working towards becoming a Mentor School.

    What does this mean?

    We went along and shared our schools’ innovative practices in a meeting that involved over 70 schools! It was a wonderful opportunity to speak to a ballroom full of inspirational and innovative practitioners. I learnt so much and made some fantastic contacts with people from all corners of the world.

    We also spent the whole week taking an active role in fascinating workshops that dealt with a huge variety of topics. These were all inclusive and interesting. I left with a head crammed full of new, exciting ideas.

    I met my mentor school and my coach and a great deal of time was spent with these people, generating ideas and getting a feel for the education scene on a global scale.

    Did it benefit me?

    YES! I have come away from the course feeling enabled and excited. I have gained a much broader outlook on education and what innovation in the classroom actually looks like.

    Will it benefit my school?

    Of course! I am looking at collaboration, teamwork and the teaching environment. The findings I have and future projects that are in motion will, I hope, I have a positive impact on the school as a whole. It will also provide the support structure to keep improving and continue being an innovative school.

    All said and done the experience I enjoyed has been career changing. I have never been involved in something so exciting and enjoyable. It has given me a whole new lease of life as an educator and will keep me inspired for a long time to come.

    We will announcing details of our next Partners in Learning Schools programme shortly on this blog. In the meantime you can follow how Ben and his school are getting on with the programme on his blog -

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Am I a Loser? – Reflections from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum #1


    Jennifer Blum, reflects on her experience in this fantastic blog post:-

    They say just participating makes you a winner. But I would have rather won. Hey! I am American after all. However, like any good educator, I have spent some time reflecting on the experience (8 hrs, in fact, as this is the flight time from Dulles to Heathrow) and this is what I have learned:

    1. I am in good company with the other 182 ‘losers’ who did not win; a Hong Kong teacher who uses augmented reality to imageteach English, an Egyptian teacher whose students created a wiki to bring tourists back to Egypt after the revolution, and a Brazilian teacher who managed a television station across 5 schools to offer lessons to the wider community are just a few examples. I feel so honoured to be part of such a talented and inspirational bunch of losers!

    2. Losers get to save space in their luggage for all the other goodies from the Global Forum as they don't have to fit in their framed award. So I was able to take home 65 business cards, six DVD's of data,  two USB sticks full of resources and three bookmarks each with a list of useful websites & tips. All that and a snow globe of the White House.

    3. Even losers can make friends and influence people (just not the judges). I met some amazing people and took away great contacts and ideas. It's all about the networking at the Partners in Learning Forum. As a result, I've secured a journalist to come and speak to my class, a possible lead into educational development consulting and I'm collaborating with four teachers from around the world on a project using Facebook, Twitter and Wiki Spaces.

    So even though I did not win, I did not return empty handed. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I came back full of new knowledge, renewed motivation and a sense of purpose to live up to the honour bestowed on me by the Microsoft Partners in Learning community. My first day back at work was spent emailing staff and administrators the useful resources, links and knowledge gained at the forum as well as setting up CPD training for my department and encouraging my school to enrol in the Innovative Schools Network and hopefully get on the path to becoming a Mentor school.

    The experience Microsoft has given me has offered me the affirmation progressive teachers need and yet has spurred me on to go even further. I cannot thank Microsoft enough for the opportunity, as this journey has won me more than I ever could have imagined.

    Meet Jen and other outstanding Teachers at our Microsoft UK Partners in Learning Forum.  This  one-day conference, free of charge to all teachers and educators who wish to attend. The workshops and keynotes this year have a STEM ‘flavour’ and address the theme of ‘Teach more, learn more, inspire more.’

    This year the Forum is being held at the Microsoft Headquarters, Thames Valley Park in Reading on the 24th Nov 2011 – Full Details can be found here

    If you can’t make the day event in reading then why not sign up to attend the Teacher Meeting on the evening of 23rd Nov. Full details can be found here.!/event.php?eid=278570945508395

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Welsh Teacher takes coveted award at Partners in Learning Global Forum


    imageThe climax of the Global Forum was the gala dinner at Smithsonian Museum of Art in Washington D.C. , 18 teachers from 200 were recognised for their outstanding contribution to teaching and learning at our Forum awards.

    I am pleased to announce that UK Teacher, Gareth Ritter from Willows High School in Cardiff won a Partners in Learning Global Forum  award. He now joins an elite group of UK Teachers who have had their work recognised and praised by a global audience and can truly call themselves the best in the world.

    His project focussed on interactive music projects made by students for students. This project was not just about teaching music, but used great pedagogy to develop students as independent and collaborative learners. The judges also praised Gareth and his fellow teachers for their passion and commitment to their students.

    Gareth was not the only UK Teacher at this year’s Global Forum, Jennifer Blum from Strodes College, since she won her UK award  has got married and is expecting a baby, (we are not taking credit for that !), faced stiff and almost impossible to beat competition in her category from the the U.S. delegates. You can find out about her project here.

    You can meet both Jen and Gareth at our version of the Global Forum and at our Teacher Meet. You  can still sign up to the Forum here and take part in the workshops and Keynotes. Or join us for a Beer and a Bhaji and No salad at the Teacher Meet  – sign up here  on our Facebook page.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Microsoft Partners in Learning UK Forum Award Winners 2011


    I am pleased to announce this year’s award winning teachers. They will be presenting their projects at our Partners in Learning Forum in November.

    Congratulations to this year’s award winners

    Kristian Still Hamble College
    Katie Boothman community school
    Will Wright Uxbridge High school
    Emma Dawson Trinty  CE Lower School
    Glyn Rogers Ysgol Gymraeg Gwyn Llyw
    Sarah Coombes Tynecastle High
    Jimmy Edwards community school
    Lindsay Purdon Calderglen High School
    Nicki Maddams Hartsdown Technical College
    Ray Chambers Lodge Park Technology College

    We will posting full details of these projects soon.

    Can I take the opportunity to  thank all those teachers who entered this year’s awards. Again we had a record number of entries, the quality of which was extremely high. Thank you for taking the time to submit your project, please don’t let any possible disappointment of not  winning anaward detract from the fantastic work and commitment you have to the learners in your schools and colleges. We look forward to continue working with and supporting you in the future.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Jennifer King - Partners in Learning Teacher Award Winner


    imageMeeting teachers and working with them is major part of what we do at Microsoft Partners in Learning, I first met Jennifer at one of our Fun Free, Friday events, after I demoed our usual free stuff , she came and asked me some questions and to tell me about a great project she was doing with her students. In that conversation I set her the challenge of documenting her project as a Virtual Classroom Tour and entering our 2010 awards. Subsequently,  I heard nothing from her until, pleasingly,  I saw her completed project in my inbox at the competition deadline. That led her on a CPD journey that was so important , that she even re-arranged her honeymoon so she could attend the European Forum in Moscow

    Jen from Strodes College in Egham, is the other award winning teacher that will be attending next week’s Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington D.C.

    Her  project, ‘Mobilising for London 2012’  shows the power of empowering pupils to take control of their own learning. Students took part in a real-life challenge, a real-life brief for a real-life customer. What the students  achieved shows how learners can respond to high expectations with work that can stand its own in a commercial environment.

    Jen 2Jen’s Creative and Media Diploma students were given a brief by Ogilvy UK to prepare a mobile phone app that would promote one of 3 sponsors of the Olympics that will be held in London in 2012, whilst meeting the needs of the mobile phone app users wanting to make the most of their visit to the Games. Students had to show an understanding of the client’s brief and needs before investigating the information that would help them, generating, presenting and refining their own ideas. They had to consider how they would present in different contexts and supported each other in refining and improving what would be in their final presentation,.  They used a range of multimedia tools to present their pitch to the client and had some great feedback. Video clips they made were shared and celebrated at the Oscar-equivalent award ceremony held at the college.

    Jen will be presenting her project along fellow UK Teacher, Gareth Ritter, with 200 hundred teachers from over 100 countries, please join me in wish her good luck in the competition. You can follow her progress and that of Gareth’s in next weeks blog posts and on the twitter hash tag #PILGF. Please feel free to leave a comment wishing her luck. She would welcome your support.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Gareth Ritter - Partners in Learning Teacher Award Winner



    One of the best things about Partners in Learning is that we get to work with outstanding teachers here in the UK. Better still we get to celebrate the fantastic work of their students at our Partners in Learning Forums.

    Gareth from Willows High School in Cardiff, is one of our award winning teachers that will be attending next week’s Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington D.C. He describes his involvement with Partners in Learning as ‘the best CPD I have ever had , the impact on me, my school and my kids has been immense’.

    Gareth will be presenting his project along with 200 hundred teachers from over 100 countries, please join me in wish him good luck in the competition. You can follow his progress and that of Jennifer King (whose project I will describe in my next post) on the twitter hash tag #PILGF. Please feel free to leave a comment wishing him luck. He would welcome your support.


    His project, Capturing & Recording Sounds won awards at our 2010 UK Forum and the European Forum held in MoscowGareth 1 last March.

    He uses technology to motivate, inspire and enthuse his students, with them amongst other things,  preparing resources to help younger pupils with guitars, drums and keyboards. He has created a website to share their success and support their learning.

    Gareth’s motivation lies in the way the technology he uses enthuses learners who had previously had problems with school and are reluctant learners. Subsequently, the success rate in their GCSE music and music technology exams was 100% A*-C. The enjoyment of the pupils is evident in how they continued with the project at home and how they took responsibility for their own learning. He has capitalised on a wealth of free resources from Microsoft,  such as Microsoft Songsmith, Autocollage, Moviemaker and Kinect SDK.  These tools are now being used by other teachers in the school, they’ve been shared with other local schools and the videos that the students have made are available to the wider music teaching/learning community through

    Not only is Gareth a great teacher, but his many talents include Welsh Brass Band conductor of the year and a former winger for Cwm Rugby Club. He is also utilising his talents as a music producer for his students. They have just completed and released their first album, which they have shared throughout the school and community. You can listen to Belong, Believe, Achieve  here.

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