imageEven though she wasn’t there, through the joys of social networking and the participation of delegates. Jo Debens was able to participate and contribute to the Microsoft Global Forum #MicrosoftGF

I first became involved in Partners in Learning in 2010 and was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the four UK winners to attend the European forum in 2011 in Moscow. I’ve tried to remain in touch with what is going on in the Microsoft Education world; and have enjoyed co-presenting at BETT, and inviting Steve Beswick and co into our school last year. I’ve always been really pleased that the focus of PiL has been on learning, and having the right tool for the job – not on selling a device. As an educator, I believe in ‘learning: by any means’ and being flexible to suit learners, so I’ve really appreciated the network sharing resources and ideas for teaching using different software (especially the free stuff!). It’s amazing to see all the different activities that educators around the world are working on, either through the education blog or Anthony Salcito’s Daily Edventures. That’s what made the European Forum so exciting and what I hope will continue through the work of the Expert Educators.

I was so proud to see a friend and ex-colleague David Rogers get acknowledged as an Expert Educator and invited to the Global Forum in Barcelona last week, along with an impressive group of UK representatives. Obviously I would have loved to be there myself but that is why Twitter was invented! So I spent the week with the #microsoftGF hashtag constantly popping up on my phone and trying to get involved in as much discussion (and of course banter) as possible.

As an outsider to the event it was interesting to see the multinational experts getting to grips with challenges such as the learnathon – I was intrigued by these and really hope they can be shared in future. I’m always concerned that large-scale events (and this is true of lots of CPD) can be quite insular, and that something like a Global Forum should have an influence that is, well, global. As I said, the resources of the PiL network and blog are great, and there are some excellent practitioners out there to learn from – so I was glued to Twitter to see what was going on. I could be involved with spin-off threads that resulted from the keynotes which made the event interactive: debates about the purpose of education, the role of technology, and how students can collaborate and be involved in the shaping of education themselves.

Student voice in education is something close to my heart, and I had been working with my team of Curriculum Hackers only the week before (using trusty OneNote and OneDrive of course) to hack and improve teaching and learning in Geography and History – you can see some of this here http://bit.ly/1qJr2Jr if interested. David and others from the event were discussing the role of students in shaping learning and asked for feedback – so I asked my classes to get involved. Students from year 7, 9 and 10 tweeted out their thoughts from the @priorygeography account to express that they wanted to collaborate more, to have ownership, to work with international schools (particularly on global issues such as sustainability and the Millennium Development Goals) and to gain experiences of education in other cultures. It was fascinating and they were so excited to be included in a prestigious event and communicating with ‘real adults’ (obviously we as teachers in front of them don’t count!). I invited the Curriculum Hackers team back at break times and we sat and watched the twitter feed to get involved in the discussion. We also shared their hacking document with the world (http://bit.ly/1ikaHX1) and got live feedback. They were so proud! Proper spine tingly moment seeing their faces as they realised that adults were taking their thoughts seriously. So I would like to thank the Global Forum twitterati for including them.

I hope that the forum will lead to spin-off fringe events, and to a contagious spread through schools in each nation involved in order to enlighten and share. It’s all too common with CPD events that they benefit the individual or their immediate circle of friends/colleagues only but that the necessary knowledge osmosis doesn’t occur, so I really hope that Expert Educators will share their expertise, and that the amazing CPD they experienced will benefit a multitude of children. In essence: use this to change the world!

You can follow Jo Debens on Twitter as @geodebs and check out her website http://jodebens.com