2014 Global Forum – Education Leaders Explore Holistic Transformation

Earlier this month in Barcelona at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum, an accomplished group of over 140 school and university leaders, presidential advisors, national and regional government education leaders, NGO staff, professors, researchers, vendors, and Microsoft Education Fellows from 60 countries gathered to focus on holistic education transformation planning. The forum? A “pop-up think tank” that brought these change-makers together to inspire, create, share, and act in order to transform education worldwide.

After being inspired by students from Saltash.net Community School in England (more about these incredible students in next week’s Daily Edventures), by Pauline Roberts’ story of US students who changed lives in Zambia, and by Miguel Brechner’s Plan Ceibal where school technology and personalization are scaled up through sharing among teachers, participants went to work.

They learned about the British Council’s efforts to redefine professional development. They heard the latest from Michael Fullan Enterprises on system change and capacity building. And they listened as some of my Microsoft colleagues talked about the Microsoft YouthSpark Hub and our overall efforts to support education transformation.

With that as a starting point, diverse teams of leaders were guided by these 10 Critical Conversations to accelerate a vision for anytime, anywhere learning for all:


Several strong themes were expressed in both their dialog and transformation plans, which were presented at the end of the leadership track:

10 Critical Conversations Themes in transformation plans
  1. Vision


Education transformation should be holistic, collaborative, and systemic, guided by a shared vision.
  1. Enabling Transformation with Strategic Planning, Organizational Capacity and Sustainability
Transformation and sustained improvement depends on long-range plans for funding and policy. Such plans must support transformation, and be flexible and responsive.
  1. Monitoring and Evaluation to Inform Practice and Leadership
Improving education requires data on student performance that is reported in actionable forms and addresses legal and regulatory requirements.
  1. Equitable Access: Accessibility, Environmental Impact
Access to schooling and the resources needed for quality education opportunity must be equitable.
  1. Curriculum and Assessment for the Real World


School curriculum and assessment of learning must be student-centered, relevant, authentic, constructive, and interdisciplinary. It should develop innovation, creativity, and 21st century skills through deep learning. Content must be digital and shared widely.
  1. Personalized Learning for Global Citizens
Citizenship and social competencies are paramount. Students need multiple learning pathways to achieve globally benchmarked standards.
  1. Learning Communities and Technical Support
Educators and school leaders should have access to and participate in local and global mentoring, sharing, showcases, networks, and celebrations led by champions.
  1. Building Leader and Educator Capacity for Innovation
Professional capacity must be built through aligned teacher preparation, sustainable professional development programs and frameworks, and a clear focus on pedagogy.
  1. Smart Learning Environment (Efficient and Effective Institutions)
Physical and virtual learning environments require updated infrastructure, access to the community, and flexible accommodation of devices.
  1. Public, Private, Community Partnerships with Local Capacity Development
Diverse partnership should build school capacity and teacher competency with a range of stakeholders, parents, businesses, and attention to the local context.

This work translated into compelling themes for transformation, from closing the opportunity gap for students, to building a creative community for a creative economy, to achieving high-quality education that is sustainable and legislatively protected.

Developing stronger education leadership strategies means continuing to search for answers, though, and this group went a long way toward starting the next level of conversation about how to drive holistic change in education.  For example, should change start with curriculum and assessment, or policy? Should it start with “why,” and leave “how” open? How can technology-enabled teaching and learning be incentivized, and how can fear be reduced? And even more broadly, what purposes of transformation are most important and compelling? Should the purposes be pragmatic, such as workforce development, or broader, such as preparing society for a global future?

If the enthusiasm, commitment and collaboration of the leaders represented at this year’s Microsoft in Education Global Forum are any indication, we’re confident that these questions – and many others – will ultimately be addressed. And we can’t wait to see what these leaders and those they influence accomplish once they return home. 


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