“We believe in the power of the educator, and the impact educators can have when they are brought together to collaborate and be recognized for their achievements.” – Ann Smith, USA
We talk about education reform and innovation every day here at Daily Edventures, and this week, I am excited to celebrate the reason we exist at all: the reformers and innovators on the front lines, every day. Today, we are announcing the 2014-2015 Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts and Showcase Schools. This group of 800 teachers and 120 schools represents the best of the best when it comes to using technology to reinforce critical 21st century skills.
At Microsoft, we are passionate about the power of the educator, and the impact educators can have when they come together, collaborate and are recognized for their achievements. Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIE Experts) are part of an exclusive global community that is paving the way for educators around the world to share ideas, try new approaches and learn from each other.
Microsoft Showcase Schools are premier schools with a strong vision for change. The leaders of these schools have created a whole-school innovative learning environment enabled by technology where students participate in their own learning and achievements to make learning more exciting. The selected schools are rethinking teaching, learning, and assessment in order to drive deep 21st century competencies.
Together, the MIE Experts and Microsoft Showcase Schools are working hard to drive innovation not only among their staff and educators, but among students as well.
What better way to get a deeper understanding of these incredible programs, than through two dedicated Microsoft employees who support the MIE Expert and Showcase School programs – one a former teacher, and one a former principal?
Ann Smith, who supports the MIE Expert program, began her career in 1992 as a secondary school teacher at the San Diego Unified School District. There, she pioneered a progressive program, Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), combining Socratic teaching methodology with computer-assisted instruction. She continued teaching secondary English in Clark County School District and Joint Meridian School District through 2002. Today, Smith manages several programs that enable teachers to utilize Microsoft technology to bridge the gap between technology skills and innovative teaching.
Mark Sparvell has over 25 years of experience as a teacher, coordinator, national project coordinator, principal and university course designer/lecturer. For the past three years, Mark worked at the Principals Australia Institute, designing and delivering professional learning for school leadership audiences across Australia and Asia-Pacific. Sparvell has supported Microsoft in Education for a number of years as a Global Innovative Teaching judge, Mentor School Coach and facilitator. Today, he is an integral part of the Microsoft in Education team, focusing on school leadership strategy, and supporting the Showcase Schools program.
Both Smith and Sparvell have been instrumental in the development of the MIE and SS programs. I’m pleased to share their stories today on Daily Edventures.
Ann Smith, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Program Leader:
What was your personal favorite memory as a teacher?
My favorite memory as a teacher was when I was teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) to underprivileged students in San Diego, California back in the 90’s. The students were working in groups to do research and write poems about famous people in history. Three of the kids, who rarely got excited about anything, chose Benjamin Franklin as their subject. They worked very hard on making sure the details were accurate and the poem rhymed well. They stayed after class to type it on the computer and print copies for everyone in class. Part of the assignment was to video tape a reading (back then on a cartridge Zenith).
When the day came, instead of just reading the poem, they got the class to tap a background beat and they rapped the entire thing. It was a masterpiece! Little did they know that they were working collaboratively, constructing knowledge and communicating skillfully – they were simply having a grand time!
Why should educators be excited about the Microsoft Innovative Educators Expert (MIE Experts) Program?
In addition to being recognized as one of the most innovative educators on the globe, experts can expect some great benefits such as free Microsoft tools and technology and exclusive professional development opportunities. They will have a chance to develop their MIE Expert personal “brand” and career as thought leaders by participating in case studies, speaking engagements and content development. They can collaborate and grow with top educators from around the world. Experts are also eligible to earn an all-expense paid trip to the Microsoft Global Educator Exchange in Redmond, Washington in April 2015.
What’s your favorite part about working on the program?
The best part of working on this program is meeting the amazing teachers. They have taught me even more ways to use Microsoft technology to ignite student learning and teach 21st century skills. Last week I met Kurt Söser, an Expert Educator from Austria. He demonstrated how he uses OneNote in his class but not on his own. He had two students with him to show their enthusiasm and brought the rest of the class in via Lync. His expertise and passion for teaching was so infectious, I wanted to go back to the classroom and start teaching students again.
What will be different about the program this year?
This year, we will be engaging with the experts more often, with higher quality and in different ways. We are redesigning our community engagement to enable easy peer-to-pear learning, we are scheduling monthly calls during which experts can share with one another and learn from Microsoft SME’s, we are reaching out through newsletters, social media, and conversation to get feedback and act on it. The experts will be our “ears to the ground” around the world in education.
Another exciting change is that we are hosting a Global Educator Exchange right here on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington and bringing a select group of the Expert Educators to learn, collaborate and celebrate. The event is focused on educators. They will have the opportunity to interact with Microsoft product teams, work alongside student ambassadors, and increase their knowledge of technology in the classroom.
Mark Sparvell, Showcase Schools Program Leader:
What was your personal favorite memory as a student?
Easy! I remember my Kindergarten teacher, Miss Elizabeth McQuade, took a real interest in me as a ”reader” and gave me access to her personal library of children’s books in her office. I had a chance to skip the reading schemes and tackle real books. I remember literally forcing myself to learn to read while reading the original Tarzan series. I can remember the covers even today. They were a precious commodity.
Can you tell us more about the Showcase Schools Program?
The Showcase Schools are a global community of outstanding institutions which have pursued a vision of personalized and extended learning for all, enhanced by Microsoft technologies. The schools are identified by Microsoft Education leaders within countries and regions who know and understand the context.
These schools highlight the critical role of inspiring school leadership to create a shared vision and establish a blueprint for continuous improvement. The Showcase Schools contain at least two Microsoft in Education Expert Educators (MIE Experts) and may also be part of our Microsoft in Education Student Ambassador program.
Why should schools be excited about the SS Program?
For the schools involved, there is the opportunity to literally, “show-a-case” study around what can be achieved when innovative learning design is placed at the center of education transformation. The Showcase Schools are places where visitors are drawn to from local and national settings to see high-point stories of Microsoft in Education delivering improvements both educationally, organizationally and economically.
Showcase School teachers and leaders are often invited to present at forums and on panels locally, regionally and internationally. These schools are featured in School and Leader Snapshots. The Showcase School leadership team are engaged in an exclusive online community to share best practices within their network and also have access to an elite “virtual university” which intentionally explores research in practice. For other schools, the Showcase Schools provide real-world examples of education transformation and the Showcase School leadership teams make themselves accessible to other schools to visit or to engage with.
What’s your favorite part about working on the program?
Some of the Showcase Schools are known to me previously, and some I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with recently. As school leader myself, I have been simply blown away by the caliber, the commitment, the passion and the innovation these schools demonstrate. These are truly global Showcase Schools that inspire me to do what I do.
What’s going to be different about the program this year?
Well, the scale is different for a start! Previously our World Tour Schools numbered 35 and we are looking at approximately 120 Showcase Schools for 2014-2015…that’s significant. We’re really excited to be shaping a virtual university around the new Microsoft Education Transformation Frameworks and we are also establishing an Education Advisory Board to ensure the voices from the field, the education leads, have a platform at the highest level of Microsoft in Education. This is really how we obsess about the customer at Microsoft in Education.