Celebrating Teacher Heroes

2011 Global Forum bannerThe Microsoft Partners in Learning 2011 Global Forum wrapped-up last week with a bang. A lovely Gala Awards dinner in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. A fitting venue to conclude an energizing week with educators from around the world.

The winners were announced recognizing 18 educators as Partners in Learning Global Innovative Educators across six categories that included: Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom, Collaboration, Knowledge Building and Critical Thinking, Innovation in Challenging Contexts, Cutting Edge Use of Microsoft Technology, and Educators’ Choice. These educators were chosen from over 200,000 applications leading to forums hosted in regions and countries around the world. The 115 finalists from these events represented over 70 countries and came to Washington, DC to be recognized and showcased for their innovative education practices.

Capturing succinctly the tenor of posts and tweets from the event - it’s not about the award it is about the people is Johnny Kissko, a US math educator from north Texas, aptly summed up, “…the biggest contributor to this wow effect has little to do with any technology or event. It’s all about the people involved.” And Lee Kolbert (aka @TeachaKidd) who voluntarily served as a judge at the US event and this Global Forum brought the event together quite eloquently, despite her fears otherwise. Ms. Kolbert has been in the classroom for many years and is now responsible for encouraging teachers to effectively use technology in the classrooms across her district. I think her words broaden the perspective of the event as she notes, “The most impactful effect of the forum on me was in how I viewed an effective lesson.*” [emphasis hers].

And that really is the goal of why we do this (a question I get asked a lot). Finding best practices of relevant and effective uses of technology in classrooms from around the world and encouraging the sharing of these practices to raise the bar for what happens in the classroom. I’ve attempted to share many of the projects here to provide that inspiration and insight, but this only begins to scratch the surface.

2011 US winners at Global ForumWe did have a few winners from the U.S. which was incredibly exciting to be a part of. Across the six categories we had three 1st places finishes. Not bad for this “World Cup of Educators”!

The U.S. educators who each received a Partners in Learning Global Innovative Educator Award were:


  • Lou Zulli, Jr., Lakewood High School (St. Petersburg, FL). 1st place in Cutting Edge Use of Microsoft Technology this project trulyPiL_Louis_223x122 defines what students can do with teacher as coach, providing support and an innovative project-based environment. In a previous post I detail his winning “CATNIP” project and if you’d like to learn more about Lou and what he strives for in the classroom see his profile on our Facebook site.


  • Margaret Noble & David Stahnke, High Tech High (San Diego, CA) 1st place Knowledge Building and Critical Thinking brought together what on the surface might feel like two disparate curriculum strands, Media Arts and Mathematics, to create the appropriately named “Illuminated Mathematics” where students using digital media creation tools find creative and effective ways to explain complex mathematics in art. PiL_Margaret_223x122PiL_David_223x122


  • The final first place award came in the Collaboration category, which was fitting on multiple levels. The project “When Fish Fly” was not even an idea until the Partners in Learning US Forum this past July in Seattle. The event brought together 100 educators from across the US. At the event educators were combined into “Learning Excursion Teams” sent off one afternoon to culturally and historic sites around Seattle with the goal of developing an innovative project that could be done in the classroom. This diverse team of five educators were sent to the Pike Place Market. What resulted was a collaboration bringing together teachers and students combining business, math, art and computer science to create an Xbox Kinect game that immerses the player in the sights, sounds and actions (!) of this famous fish market. Yes, you get to throw or catch a fish in this student-developed Xbox Kinect game. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even gave it a go! The teachers that created this project are noted below, however I would be remiss (and scolded!) for not mentioning the many students across these schools that were the real stars who built this game simulation:PikePlaceTeachers

You can see their pics and learn more about these educators in our new Educator Spotlight feature on Facebook page, our best attempt to showcase these real teacher heroes. And if you’re not on Facebook you can go here.

Congratulations to all of the above for truly well-earned recognition.

Having spent the week with these educators as well as the six other US finalists I know each left inspired and I look forward to seeing what they will do in their classroom’s this year. We will open the application for the 2012 US Forum in January, but if you want to be the first to know, connect to us on Facebook, sign-up to receive the Microsoft Education Newsletter or follow me. The US Forum will be held at the end of July in Seattle and next year’s Global Forum will be in Athens, Greece in November.


Rob (aka putting the “Teach” in @TeachTec)

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