A Headteacher’s view- Reflections from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum #3

Tony McDaid Head Teacher from , Calderglen High School reflects on his time at the Global Forum as a Global Mentor School.

I found this year’s Global Forum in Washington to be an inspiring event and I had the privilege of working with school leaders who were focussed on transforming learning within their schools. The Innovative Schools’ track managed to be both fast paced and reflective and there was a willingness from all participants to learn from each other. Our group included schools from Sweden, England, Spain, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, among others. There were opportunities for discussion, sharing ideas and to stretch our thinking. Over the week we were posed a series of ‘what if questions’. One memorable ‘what if’ was - ‘What if schools no longer existed’, which challenged all of us to think beyond our traditional school boundaries. The exercise saw us taken to the National Mall, site of the Washington Monument and Korean War Memorial where we were set a series of learning challenges. It reminded all of us that we should capitalise on our local environment to maximise learning opportunities, although we accepted that Washington DC presented a superb location for this task!

As a mentor school, it was also a wonderful opportunity to meet the school leaders that we will be working with during the course of this year. Together, and with the support of a great coach in Dan Buckley, we were able to identify our common goals for the year ahead and develop a workable plan that will bring about real change. We are fortunate that our school, Calderglen High, will be working in partnership with saltash.net community school, Cornwall and Sartre High School, Berlin. Spending the week in the company of Ben Rowe (and virtually via twitter and email with Dan Roberts) from saltash.net makes me feel that we will have an excellent year ahead. I have never met two more prodigious ‘tweeters’. I know we have forged a friendship that will last well beyond the programme.

Meeting some members of ‘Team UK’ for the first time proved to be one of the best parts of the week. Gareth Ritter and Jen Blum’s amazing work on the teacher track showed that the influence of inspiring teacher’s will change the lives of young people.

A word or two for my Scottish colleagues, Ian Stuart and Ollie Bray who were contributors to the teacher’s track as coach and judge respectively. "Slàinte mhòr agad!" (Great health to you). It was with pride that three kilted Scots participated in such an event. Ian and OIlie are both currently playing a significant role in transforming learning in Scotland and I know they will continue to do so.

There were so many other highlights beyond the Forum including newly formed friendships and life long memories. The conversation with a White House Secret Service agent who strangely didn’t want his picture taken with Ben Rowe will also be remembered!

My final reflections are for the Microsoft team. The work of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Programme under the outstanding leadership of Stuart Ball, and with oversight from Steve Beswick, has an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for our schools. Their desire to support transformational change will help schools on what can sometimes be a challenging journey.

I have no doubt that the work of this year’s Microsoft Global Forum will have an impact on the lives of young people in our school. It helped remind me of why it is essential that we continue to strive to be innovative and connect with young people’s learning, using all of the technology available – and the venue was amazing!

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