Gareth Ritter, from willows High School in Cardiff, reflects on his time at the Global Forum as a Teacher award winner.

What an amazing experience the Partner in Learning global Forum has been. I arrived late on Sunday 13th November, On the Monday all delegates were put into groups and we worked collaboratively using the latest technology available. I felt so very lucky to have visited Washington in the company so many of the world’s finest educators. The first keynote speaker was Will Richardson, this really was an eye opening presentation showing that you really need to educate our youngsters for the 21st century and we must get away from the current teaching methods that have been in place for the last 200 years. He shared his vision of classrooms changing becoming innovative classrooms. He commented on the use of mobile phones in the classroom, why shouldn’t pupils be allowed to use their mobile phones in the classroom? If the teacher asks a pupil a question surely it makes sense for the pupils to take out their mobile phone, search the question and then be able to answer it, that’s what happens in the real world. People use the technology around us to make our lives easier. All the key note speeches were well thought out and thought provoking. The event was a great opportunity to share good practice, ideas and resources. I, like many other teachers were so proud to be able to showcase our pupils work on a global stage. On the Tuesday afternoon we were given time to set up our booths. This really was a great experience watching the 130 finalists from across the globe setting up their projects.

The amount of food was unbelievable; you know you’re in America when the choice of breakfast drink is tea, coffee or Pepsi. It was like that famous Home Alone scene where Kevin orders a ridiculous amount of food on room service, it was great.

Every day was started off with a keynote speech. Anthony Salcito, the vice president of Microsoft education gave a great keynote. He spoke about the need to deliver 21st-century lessons that will prepare our pupils for the world they are going to. His keynote speech was really interesting, when I hear keynote speeches like this it really makes me think how would this change benefit my pupils. In answer to that question it would change their lives.

Anthony Salcito also demonstrated the use of the kinect in the classroom with the release of the SDK. I found this really interesting and I know that friends back in the UK who have also been working with the kinect will enjoy and look forward to the plans Microsoft have for it. I’m a firm believer that if we can bring into the classroom the passion our pupils have for their games at home we will raise standards and their achievement and attainment. Our pupils play games at home past 12:00 at night, if they fail a level they don’t give up until they pass the level they are playing even if it takes them into the early hours, they always want to succeed. I’ve always believed that we need to bring that passion into the classroom and the kinect does that for us. I have already seen the benefits in my school.

Anthony Salcito also announced a revamped version of the Partners in Learning website, I really can’t wait to start using the beta version. This will open up global collaboration for teachers and it was really nice to see Stuart Ball have some recognition from the stage for all his hard work.

Another great keynote speaker was Arne Duncan, the secretary of education for the USA. I really couldn’t believe that I was sat in the same hall as the Secretary of Education. I really did feel special being sat amongst some of the finest educators I ever met and being spoken to by such a distinguished person in education.

We made a brief visit to the Smithsonian environmental research Centre. Here we worked in teams to build an ROV. It was great working with these innovative teachers to solve a problem and look how this type of project could be used with pupils.

After our trip we returned to the hotel by 3:15 PM and I had to quickly get ready to meet my first judge and present my project. My first judge seemed impressed with the project and the work that the pupils had produced. My second judge visited at around 4:30 PM and again seemed very interested in what the pupils had achieved. I really enjoyed talking about the pupils at Willows high school and it was great to showcase their work to a global community.

It was a real spectacle. Everyone was celebrating after such an eventful week. After we had our meal (with NO salad) it was awards time. As far as we were concerned we were all winners by being there. For me the highlight of the week was meeting some amazing people. It was great to be a part of the UK team; they are a great bunch of people with so much enthusiasm for education.

The time had come for the awards presentation. I couldn’t believe my ears when my name was read out. I was so proud of my pupils, their work had world recognition. As I walked towards the stage it was a strange feeling. So many people were clapping and cheering, it took a while to sink in.

The whole event was a life changing experience and one that I will never forget.

Thank you Microsoft Partners in Learning

For more info on our Award Winning Project please visit www.askthemusicteacher.co.uk