As a former teacher, one of the best parts of my job is getting the opportunity to work with teachers from the UK and from countries far and wide. I'm a firm believer that teaching is the most difficult job in the world, and I'm continually awed and inspired by what you are able to do with and for your students - regardless of the resources you've been given by your schools. (And in some cases, in spite of the resources provided by your schools!)
Microsoft has been recognising Innovative Teachers for years both on our Innovative Teachers Networks (ITNs) and at our regional and worldwide Innovative Teachers Forums. The Forums are events where teachers can come together to share good practice, learn and collaborate with other teachers and be celebrated for their use of technology to further the learning of their students. (It's like the good old days of local authority teacher meetings - where you'd end up hearing about what the teachers in the next door school were doing - but in this case national or global.)
The way these events typically work is:
- A teacher submits their fantastic learning activity as a Virtual Classroom Tour (VCT) on the ITN. (Yes, there is a theme here!)
- We identify the most "innovative" of these VCTs and then invite the creators to a national Innovative Teachers Forum.
- Our UK Innovative Teachers forum will be in February of 2009, so check this blog or the ITN web site on a regular basis for more information on how you can be involved! You can start preparing now by putting a lesson plan into a VCT.
- The winning teachers from the national Innovative Teachers Forum are taken by Microsoft to the regional Forum. In our case, this is the European Forum, which last year was in Zagreb, Croatia and next year will be in Vienna, Austria.
- And then (you can see this coming...) the winning teachers from the regional Forum are taken by Microsoft to the worldwide Forum. This year, Microsoft is taking our two winners from Croatia to Bangkok, Thailand for the Worldwide Forum (and of course, we pay for the trip for the winners).
A couple of notes here...
First of all, I hate using the word "winners" to describe these teachers. This may make you roll your eyes, but EVERY teacher at these events is a winner. (Okay, I just tested this on a colleague who did roll his eyes - apparently "everyone's a winner just isn't credible these days, but I'm originally from America, so I don't care what the Daily Mail thinks!) I organised and ran the first Innovative Teachers Forum at Microsoft headquarters in the US several years ago, and I have attended subsequent regional and worldwide forums in Paris, Helsinki, Philadelphia, and Cambodia, among others. These are incredible events, and all teachers who attend have the experience of a lifetime. Just look at photo of the gala dinner for the Cambodia Forum - outside one of the temples at Angkor Wat.
The Innovative Teachers Forums are not about winning - they're about learning. (Isn't that what we try to teach our students anyway?) The conference provides fantastic speakers and ways for teachers to collaborate with each other on projects during and after these events. But the best learning - for me as well - comes from the other teachers.
If you're registered on the Innovative Teachers Network, you'll note a community called Semi-finalists WW Innovative Teachers Forum 2007. This community was created by and for the semi-finalists from the last WW Innovative Teachers Forum in Helsinki. All of these teachers got the opportunity to go to Microsoft headquarters in June to meet Bill Gates (and a few other people). They have started this community to continue the discussions and collaboration they started at the Forum. This community is public, so feel free to join and ask them what it's all about. (You can see them with Bill Gates himself here. Note the poor person standing directly behind Bill in the photo - and remember this if you're ever in a photo with him!)
We will be blogging more about our Innovative Teachers Forum in the coming months, and we'll be looking for Innovative Teachers in the UK before, during and after the BETT Show in January. You can't participate without a Virtual Classroom Tour, so make sure you go to the ITN and upload your innovative practice today.
(A note on “Innovative Practice”: Everywhere I go I meet teachers doing really innovative things in their classrooms. But they don’t see it as innovative. In fact, they assume that every other teachers is doing something similar. In my experience, that just isn’t true. I willing to bet that you’re doing something that others aren’t, and that your colleagues can learn from. And if you’re not sure, just email me - there’s a link at the top of the page - if you want a second opinion!)