Jo Debens joined our Geography Department as a Newly Qualified Teacher in September 2008. We made up of three teachers, a member of support staff and usually a PGCE student from the University of Portsmouth.
My first memories of Jo’s teaching involved a mystery that linked a fish being found on top of the Spinnaker Tower and a recent storm event. I knew from that moment that Jo would develop into a fantastic teacher.
Having started my own adventure with Partners in Learning, I ‘gently persuaded’ Jo ( who may disagree with the level of persuasion ;) to develop, implement and lead a project. The project was supported by the 21st Century Learning Alliance, Royal Geographical Society and The Geography Collective. Being someone who strongly believes that one of my roles as a Curriculum Leader is to actively encourage and develop the team, I again gently persuaded Jo to enter the project into the UK Innovative Teaching Forum. We were delighted when the project was selected to go through to the European Event in Moscow, partly because it meant that two teachers from our department had achieved this honour, but mainly because we all knew the impact that the project had had on pupils and staff at school.
The rest, they say, is history, but let us allow Jo tell you about her adventure:
The Microsoft Partners in Learning European Forum took place this week in Moscow. For those who do not know, this event is a time when educators from across Europe come together to exhibit and share educational projects which have been judged at a national level as innovative examples of teaching and learning.
The forum was held at the Renaissance Hotel and participants were able to learn from one another about different innovative approaches to teaching and learning via the exhibition of work, keynote lectures and a range of workshops. A large part of the programme was also the chance to network with other educators, creating contacts and sharing resources.
I was very honoured to have been chosen as one of four representatives of the UK to compete for the European Award for a project called Space Explorers:Space Creators (for more information see my blog or contact me). 86 teachers took part in the competition and were judged in six categories. A total of 24 winners and runners up were then chosen to go forward to the world forum event, which will take place in Washington in November. Although I was not ultimately successful myself I was very excited and proud that two colleagues from Team UK were selected to go through: Gareth Ritter with his 'Interactive Learning Resources' podcast project, and Jennifer Blum with her 'Mobilising for London 2012' media project. They are worthy winners and I wish them the best of luck in the world event. You can follow either of these two innovative teachers via twitter (@ritzertech and @bluminmarvelous) and see their progress in future via the Partners in Learning network website and blog. Similarly, the excellent work of Louise Dorrian with games-based learning is worth checking out (@louisedorrian).
What will I take forward?
It was an amazing experience to take part in the forum. I found it professionally challenging and inspiring. I was particularly impressed with the Netherlands 'Kodu Kids' project and through new contacts such as these I hope to incorporate more 'naughty learning' into my teaching. There were countless examples of ways to incorporate technology into education in a positive way. It was exciting and thought provoking to witness the great examples of innovative teaching being practised throughout Europe, regardless of the type of school or country. It makes me hopeful that the next generation are in good hands knowing there are teachers that care enough to go above and beyond, to push themselves to give the very best learning experience they can.
One of the highlights for me was the incredible keynote given by John Davitt (@johndavitt). His witty style and vast range of teaching and learning tools left me uplifted and ready to take more risks in the classroom. Although I was familiar with many of the New Tools suggestions, such as the Learning Event Generator (which I recommend personally), I was inspired with other new ideas. I recommend teachers to investigate the Learning Score planning tool, which is available to download for free. I also found John's comments about professional social networks touched home, most notably the use of Twitter for teachers to collaborate together and I would agree that it does provide "almost illegal undercover CPD for teachers".
Other speakers also left their mark, such as Mary Cullinane (@marycul) who drove home again the need for educators to constantly reflect and seek to improve the educational experience they give. It is true that in order for teachers to truly be innovative we can never sit still, and although this is a high challenge it is one which is ultimately worth the effort - both for ourselves as well as our students.
Team UK: Gareth Ritter (runner up), Louise Dorrian, Jenifer Blum (runner up) & Jo Debens
Finally, I was lucky enough to attend some useful workshops, particularly the use of Live@Edu by SEK, Active Learning with John Davitt, and the Shout Learning workshop led by Mandeep Atwal (Taking IT Global) who spoke inspirationally about their great collaborative environmental project 'Deforestaction'. I have experimented with using Live@Edu and New Tools at school and it was beneficial to see examples of use elsewhere. We will also be taking part in the Shout programme at school in the future and look forward to this. Stuart Ball also gave an excellent workshop on the variety of Microsoft tools available to aid learning.
The final message:
The work of Microsoft Partners in Learning continues to bring benefit to educators internationally. The support of Stuart Ball (@innovativeteach) and Jan Webb (@innovteach2) has been invaluable to me personally and I know I can speak for the others that this is true. The resources provided through the network and the blog are worth investigating for ideas or for software that can aid planning and learning. Additionally, through the network and blog it is possible to see examples of innovative work from a variety of schools.
I think the final message I took from this event is that summed up by Socrates and quoted by one presenter:
"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel"
Our mission is not to simply impart knowledge and facts in the next generation but to inspire them and give them a lifelong interest in learning...if we make sure that we as educators are also lifelong learners then hopefully we will achieve this mission.
Thank you Jo for sharing your experiences with us and I am very much looking forward to the undoubted impact that your adventure will have.