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 (Saltash.net), Gareth Ritter and Jen Blum (our two UK European Award winners) and finally Stuart Ball and Steve Beswick (from Microsoft). Thank you!

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