Reflections from Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Global Forum

Teachers Lou Zulli (left) and Doug Bergman with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan playing “When Fish Fly,” a winning student project presented at Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington, D.C.

Being constantly immersed in new ideas and new technologies, it can take a lot to feel the “wow” factor. But after returning from Microsoft’s Partner in Learning Global Forum, all I’m left with to say is… wow.

Ironically though, the biggest contributor to this wow effect has little to do with any technology or event. It’s all about the people involved.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing how the Kinect will transform education and having a marching band drop in before dinner are every bit of amazing. Still, I am most in awe of the sincerely passionate people at this event and their vision on how to develop lifelong learners and relationships of significance, both in the classroom and beyond.

People like Lou Zulli, Doug Bergman, Pat Yongpradit, Gareth Ritter, and Angela Maiers make me extremely proud to be in education. The sincerity and passion of Microsoft’s education employees like Stacey Rainey and others serves as a huge testimony to the character of this division. From the individual teachers on up to the corporate level, I can tell you from firsthand experience that all of these folks are in the field of education for noble reasons. If everyone had the personalities, passion, and character driving these individuals, we’d make tremendous progress towards education reform.

The challenge lies in bringing that passion home to places where it may be dormant or underdeveloped.

Successful teaching is a matter of aligning yourself to share harmony with the needs of your students and your school’s values. Sustaining growth requires that you distance yourself from those in opposition of this philosophy while surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals.

Whether it’s online, local, or global like Microsoft’s Partner in Learning Network, joining an alliance where you share harmony with other members is critical for lasting success. Regardless of your career path, involvement in a network of like-minded individuals will provide you with growth and prevent you from becoming a victim of jaded personalities.

This event was one of, if not the best, professional development activities I’ve ever been involved with. This is not because of just the last five days, but rather from the continual dialogue I’ve shared with other members over the last several months and the dialogue yet to be shared. If you’re an educator, this is a solid network to join. If you’re interested in developing educational products, this is a phenomenal network to tap into for insight.  Check out the Twitter dialogue over the last five days to see what all went on in Washington D.C. at this forum.

On another note, our team’s Kinect project, "When Fish Fly" won 1st place at Microsoft’s Partner in Learning Global Forum! Looking beyond the award, this serves to validate the importance of computer science courses to contribute towards 21st century instructional practices. More details and pictures coming soon!

Johnny Kissko
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