Last week were at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona. Before I write about what went on during the week, I wanted to share with you the experiences of those who turned out to be the most influential people there. The students form Saltash,net community school.
For the last nine years Microsoft has provided a Global Forum for Education in which Teachers, School Leaders and Ministers of Education share the very best practice from around the world and award the best of the best internationally.
This year’s Global Forum in Barcelona was different. For the first time in the history of the Forum, students took part as educational experts in their own right. Four students from saltash.net Community School presented their ideas to ministers of education, school leaders and teachers from over 100 countries. They judged awards, provided a help desk and guidance for teachers, were interviewed by Anthony Salcito; worldwide head of education at Microsoft, interviewed Steve Beswick; the head of Microsoft Education in the UK and launched a worldwide student leadership project for schools all over the world. Together with their teacher Mr Scott Wieprecht they were presented with an award at the final Gala dinner by the Catalonian Secretary of State for Education.
The students; George, Amy, Jack and Rowenna from years 8 and 9 were photographed, videoed and interviewed all week like the Global superstars they are. James Bernard, Head of Global Partnerships at Microsoft was one of many to make a special point of thanking each of the students for the transformational role they played at the event.
Day by day at the event
Four teachers and four students flew from Bristol to Barcelona on the day before the conference.
On day one the students presented the now award winning project devised by Scott Wieprecht called the ‘OffPerts’: a student-led expert group that investigates features of Office 365 and produces guides for students and teachers. The students devised, shot and edited videos and these soon gained the attention of Stuart Ball: Education Programme Manager for Microsoft in the UK who has supported the group ever since, inviting them to be the first students to present at a product launch in the UK and then the Global Forum in Barcelona.
On day two the students presented their personal experiences of being involved in projects at saltash.net in which they provided assistance to teachers when each student in the class had access to a laptop / tablet for all their lessons. The audience was made up of over 150 global leaders in education who had come to the conference to plan similar projects on a larger scale. The advice of the students was used to inspire them as they started their two day workshop.
Later the students demonstrated new software to teachers and school leaders from over 100 countries and listened to internationally renowned keynote speakers, some of whom they were able to ask questions. There was growing realization by the on looking media that the students opinions were based on their firsthand knowledge of leading innovative projects and so the queue for interviews and photos began getting longer and longer.
On day three the students split into two pairs; Rowenna and George worked together with Spanish students to develop the essential features of future schools. They then presented this back on stage to the audience of global education leaders. This was highlighted as one of the best sessions in the conference by delegates. Jack and Amy each joined judging panels for teacher projects. They each listened to a range of projects and then debated their views with judges from Microsoft, School leaders and Educational leaders. The judges tweeted later how enormously impressed they were by the students and asked can they really be only 12 years old?
On the final day of the conference, the student’s launched a project open to all of the mentor and showcase schools in the conference in which they offered to assist in helping student leadership projects develop all over the world by running monthly virtual student-led sessions.
On the final day of the conference, the students pre-launched a global project, with the working title “Project Aspire”, to delegates on the schools track. The project, available to any forward thinking school in the World, would see schools regularly link up and exchange ideas about student leadership projects, and give suggestions of ways students could progress with there over a variety of levels.
They attended a keynote speech by non other than the Prince of Spain and European representatives together with a panel of teachers and school leaders from around the world who agreed that the role of students was changing in education. Julio Fontan from the world famous Fontan school in Colombia stated that he had seen a shift in the role of students at this conference compared to the others he had attended which made him more hopeful for the future of education globally.
After the keynote the students fitted in interviews including one with the Head of Microsoft in the UK; Steve Beswick. The students shared their ambition for a national student led conference to be held in Cornwall in 2015. Mr Beswick was extremely impressed and requested for them to send him a costed business plan.
After the interview with Steve there was time to visit the world famous Sagrada Famila which the students averaged as 7.5/10 compared to 8/10 for the cable car.
On returning to the hotel the students discovered that their interview with Anthony Salcito for his Daily Edventures blog earlier in the week had impressed the boss so much that it had earned the honour of seating at the top table for themselves, the four teachers from saltash.net and Stuart Ball at the Gala Dinner.
And finally, the suspense of the awards ceremony where, in front of over a thousand delegates from the world of education, Mr Scott Wieprecht from saltash.net had his student-led OffPerts project honoured with an award presented by the secretary of state for education to loud applause from the audience.
Later we returned to the stage for more photographs with some of the people who made the whole event possible. Thank you to all of the students for an amazing week after which the Microsoft Global Forum will never be the same and thank you to all of those who worked so hard to make this happen including staff from saltash.net; Scott Wieprecht, Grant Taylor, Sam Owen, Ben Rowe, Isobel Bryce, David Jones, Kellie Alders, Katie Boothman and Dan Buckley; and staff from Microsoft; Stuart Ball, Steve Beswick, Anya Ruvinskaya, Maria Langworthy, Razan Roberts, James Bernard and Nasha Fitter.
Day five should have seen an exhausted group of students and teachers but no; fired up by their success, the students were planning how to take the OffPerts project to the next level and introduce a UK wide and global project later this year.