Last Saturday I was in Prague Castle for the culminating event of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum. Entering the Spanish Room with over 500 other educators, school leaders, policy makers and press from around the world I was awe not only of my elaborate surroundings but also of the caliber of the people I was with.
I was one of 20 educators competing for a chance to win one of 18 Global Forum Educator Awards in the following categories: Collaboration, Knowledge Building, Beyond the Classroom, Cutting Edge Use of IT, Teacher as Innovator and Change Agent, and Educators Choice. But it doesn’t really seem like a competition at all. It is more of a gathering of likeminded people to celebrate innovative teaching practices and the work that educators are doing all around the world to effectively integrate technology into learning.
In the preceding days I had the opportunity to connect, learn and collaborate with some of these amazing teachers and I was staggered by the work that they do. Coming from a school were technology is abundant, it was a humbling experience to learn that some teachers around the world have only their own personal digital devices to share with their students. And they are managing to do groundbreaking things that are not only changing kids’ lives but the lives of others within their local communities.
Sarah Freda Adei from Ghana presented a project about child labor, which is prevalent in her community. Students researched the impact labor has on the victims’ well-being first hand and the result was that some of those victims enrolled in school! The Glimmer of Hope project presented by two teachers from Jordan enabled students to deepen their scientific knowledge by embarking on a mission to spread awareness about early detection screening for breast cancer, thereby saving lives. Ayodele Odeogbola from Nigeria has been working hard with students to address issues such as vandalism, bullying, examination malpractices and drug abuse amongst teenagers. These projects and many more like them that I saw at the forum, highlight for me the need to put technology into the hands of children for it enables them to become powerful agents of change. That’s why the Spark a Child’s Digital Future is such an important initiative and I would urge you all to donate.
Being able to connect and learn from global educators at the forum is an invaluable experience and I will be taking many new ideas and friends back to my classroom. I was also fortunate to be able to spend time strengthening established friendships and building new connections within the US team. Cheryl Arnett and Melany Neton are two of the most wonderful educators and warmest ladies I have had the pleasure to meet and made me laugh non-stop. Julie Hembree led us on an amazing adventure through Prague and our conversations continually pushed my own thinking and learning. June Teisan, Alex Beels, Robin Lowell and Sherry Hann were our booth buddies and taught me so much about how to engage students with unique and diverse needs. Sarah Collins and Jo Spark share my interest in teaching kids to be responsible stewards and I learned much from them about how to help students motivate their peers. Gregg Witkin, Joli Barker, Jennifer Bevill, Jamie Ewing and Todd Lavogue inspired me with their passion for teaching and their zest for life and learning was infectious. Please learn more about what these stellar educators are doing with their students here or in the Partners in Learning Network.
A week later I find myself at home, sitting on my couch and contemplating being named a winner amongst these Olympian educators. I feel the weight of the responsibility heavily. I have the responsibility of living up to the standard of work my peers are producing all around the world. I have to maintain my own commitment to learning and sharing with and from others. I have to let other teachers know that the work they do matters. I have to keep learning about new technologies and how they can be employed to prepare my students to be productive and successful global citizens. And I will do it all with a recharged spirit and unprecedented enthusiasm thanks to the energy I have absorbed from these wonderful people.