Wednesday, 22 March 2017

#E2 Toronto Day 1

Crazy day at #E2 today. It started with an amazing breakfast in the ballroom (strange place to have breakfast) where I sat with the team from Britain. Really interesting having a chat with them and finding out how their schools worked over our bacon and eggs and fruit. My next chat was with an MIE Expert from Khazakstan. I found out where Khazakstan is (which I didn't really know) and also that the capital is Astana, which is where he was from. It's fascinating finding out about other people and the countries - great for my poor geography skills!
These are my notes so they are often in shorthand. Don't expect great grammar!


The morning started with a performance by the Mini Militia, a local dance group who use the passion of art and dance to empower them in their lives.
 They were a really energetic and cute crew who wowed the crowd with their break-dancing skills. We were told that there were 240 educators from 83 countries at the conference and that we had travelled 1.7 million miles to get there! Marc Seaman, the National Director of Education and Public Affairs fro Microsoft Canada welcomed us and Reza Moridi, the Canadian Minister for Research, Innovation and Science shared how innovation and Science are critical to our future. He asked "How do we prepare students for a world that is constantly changing?" He mentioned that fewer and fewer jobs are untouched by technology and reminded us about so many jobs that were not possible in the past are now a reality, like an AI Engineer. 
John Meyers, the President of Edsby, a cloud-based platform for schools, spoke about the difficult job that teachers have. He reminded us that parents can get confused when teachers all use different tools so it is important for a school to have the same tools right throughout. He also said that social media was a good way to communicate with parents and students.
Lisa Anne Floyd spoke to us about STEM and computational thinking. She said that learning about algorithms and software can improve every area. We can write algorithms if we learn how to code. Failing is ok. Errors always happen. This helps us with all of our learning if we can learn the skills. Failure to programmers is just a minor setback. It's a first attempt in learning. Learn to code for transferable skills. Algorithms need to be diverse and culturally rich so everyone needs to write code. We need to expose all students to coding. Coding can enhance mathematical concepts. She showed us a few quotes from George Gadanidis and his website looks great. is a great resource and you should check out the Microsoft imagine website. She talked about curiosity, empathy and creativity needing to be there as well as computational thinking and suggested we go from multi tasking to multi asking across cultures and ages. She uses Skype to spark curiosity and asked the question:

"How can you help your students to be creators of future miracles?"

My morning tea was spent chatting with a teacher from Iceland. He was the first MIE Expert from Iceland to attend and E2 and was there by himself. Amazing chat and I learnt a lot about schooling over there, as well as the fact that they only have a population of around 330,000 people!

Session 2

One of the amazing opportunities we have over the conference is to work with other educators from around the world. We were put into teams of 5 or 6 and given a challenge to #Makewhatsnext. My group was Lieu Nguyen Thi - Vietnam (our MIE Fellow leader), Lingshuang Zhao - China, Jorge Francisco Sierra-Perez -Ecuador, Carlos Ernesto Henriquez -El Salvador, Eddie Tay -Singapore. What an amazing bunch of educators! We were tasked with creating a clever solution to an every day problem, making an innovative possible solution to a common classroom issue that can be universally implemented. These all had to be an improvement or addin for Microsoft products. A new feature is on the cards! Our group got a great idea before the end of the day and with only a few minor language issues, we got started on our task. This is a competition and the MIE Fellows and Microsoft will be judging our work this week. The judging criteria is based on the framework and how our idea impacts student learning and why is it an innovative feature.

Session 3

I went to a session this afternoon where there were 4 teachers telling us about the amazing things they were doing. The first was Velichka Dafcheva @vilidaf from Bulgaria talking about Computer Science and programming. She uses Micro:bit in her classes. Then Rachel Chisnall @ibpossum from New Zealand spoke about teaching teachers and personalising professional development for staff. This is something that is dear to my heart as we talk all the time about personalising learning for our students and yet so much professional development is a bunch of teachers sitting in a room listening to a lecture - just what we wouldn't do with our students. She used some great analogies to get across the difficulties we face trying to help teachers change and move forward. Finding the right tool is important and once we do that staff will take up the challenge and find their own way around problems. Change comes whether you like it or not. It will be different. Find strategies to help with change. We need to get staff voice heard and then act on what they say. Model risk taking!
Marisol Smith Irazabal @PnLpZ gave us an insight into bridging the gap between neuroscience and technology in education. She gave us an outline of the Triune Brain theory and explained that when we are under stress, our thinking brain turns off and we use our reptilian brain, which works on the fight or flight concept. Her suggestions to engage the brain are:
Provide meaningful content
Movement is important
We learn in a social environment
Use mirror neurons (yawn when others yawn) - need to show compassion
Provide choices - every brain is different
Give immediate feedback - when they want to achieve something they need feedback straight away
The last speaker was Amanda Jolliffe @msajolliffe who spoke about ideas to use in the classroom to increase engagement. She used Blooms Taxonomy to explain what they are doing in her school. She talked about making the move from teacher centered to learner centered learning and how this can take time to implement. This resonated with me in my new environment, looking to change how we work with our students. If we want to improve education we have to set a good environment and get student feedback on what we do.

Group Challenge

The rest of the afternoon was spent working on our group challenge. We finally narrowed our idea down to some changes for Microsoft Forms and we went to work on designing these. Being the only person in our group with English as a first language had it's challenges. Luckily a number spoke Spanish and could translate for each other, but it was good to remember to use simple language and it made me work on my explanations and terminology for the others.


Our evening was spent with other educators from the Asia Pacific region. Microsoft shouted us a fantastic dinner at The Hot House in Toronto and it was great to have some time to talk to others about their day and their groups.

Day One done. Lots learnt and lots to think about. Excited that I got a photo with Mr OneNote himself, Mike Tholfsen. The man is a legend and I had a great chat with him over lunch. Another day tomorrow. Bring it on.

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