The Partners in Learning Global Forum took place last week, bringing together over 500 educators, civic and education leaders, and influencers to discuss global education issues, share learnings and best practices, and celebrate the innovation of great teachers from 80 different countries. Held this year in the city of Prague, Czech Republic, we celebrated a milestone in the Partners in Learning (PiL) program by announcing a renewal of the program for an additional five years with a $250 million investment. We also announced an expanded partnership with several NGO partners to invest $75 million in bringing technology to sub-Saharan Africa through the Spark a Child’s Digital Future initiative, which is the first phase of a multi-lateral partnership across public, private and individual donors to address some of the world’s biggest opportunity gaps. Both announcements underscore our deep investment in partnering with educators, influencers, and business partners to create long-term improvements in national economies through investing in education and student outcomes today. One of my favorite aspects of the Global Forum is the Teacher Exhibits. This year the exhibit included over 120 booths, each dedicated to a specific project conceived and implemented by a teacher to innovatively bring together technology tools and curriculum to teach 21st century skills to their students. As I strolled the exhibits and talked to the great minds behind them, I was inspired by the myriad of creative ways these teachers have tackled common challenges with preparing students for the future and adapting their traditional curriculum to incorporate the technology tools such as tablets and mobile devices, video conferencing for collaboration across schools, and creating multimedia presentations. Some of the exhibits I particularly enjoyed this year were:
• From Zero to Hero. This project from Puerto Rico sensitized students to the problem of violence in their communities, and explored what they could do to stop it. Students met with victims of violence, then worked together to brainstorm ideas about how they could do to change the prevalence and acceptance of violence. They wrote newspaper articles, made movies, and are now extending their work by developing a Windows Phone app to encourage kids to see the positive things that are happening in their community.
• Math Race. A Brazilian teacher made math fun by creating a math game on Kinect, and then extended that work by including robotics. Her students built a small battery-powered car from recycled materials, and when they got a math problem correct, the car would zoom across the floor. We all remember doing countless worksheets of math problems, and we all probably remember them not being very much fun to do – but this was a great example of how using technology could make the repetition required to perfect math skills more fun, engaging, and not seem like work at all.
• Infinity Architecture. A teacher from Northern Ireland unleashed his students’ creativity in designing a school for special needs children with a variety of technology tools, and the results were simply amazing. Students were able to conduct research with experts outside of Ireland, collaborate across multiple age groups, and create 3D renderings of their designs to make their ideas come alive. It’s a great example of how students can take control of their own learning and construct knowledge with the guidance of a teacher who empowers them with the right tools and aspirations. Of course the teachers were competing with their exhibits and a panel of judges selected final winners, which you can read about here. You can also catch video interviews with some of the teacher’s on the Partners in Learning Facebook page. All of the winning projects are also available on the Partners in Learning Network. PiL Global Forum may bring together innovative teachers and influencers from around the world at one time and place, but it isn’t limited to the walls of the conference. We saw the dialogues taking place within the conference spread through social media around the world. We saw supporters, including Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates who spearheaded the launch of Partners in Learning back in 2003 and inspired Microsoft’s deep commitment to Education, sharing the renewal news and celebrating the strength of teachers working together around the world. We appreciate all of the contributors to our global social dialogue but to give you a taste for some of the most inspiring tweets:
• @BillGates “So proud that @MicrosoftPIL is supporting innovative teachers & helping students reach their full potential. http://b-gat.es/UehUdP #PiLGF”
• @InnovativeEdu – “Don't put tech first. Put teachers & students first. #PiLGF #edtech”
• @BramFaems – “No bigger reward then getting the chance to speak about our vision on stage to teachers from around the world. Thank you #PiLGF”
• @karistubbs – “Thank you to the teacher track at #pilgf for sharing your ideas for games in education #gbl @brainpop pic.twitter.com/PeKQfLr5”
While we’ve wrapped up the Global Forum for 2012, I look forward to continuing the dialogue and great work with partners that started at the forum into more innovation and collaboration in the coming year and beyond. With our renewal of $250 million, we look to grow the 11 million strong PiL community to 20 million, or almost a quarter of educators worldwide, and to continue investing in teacher professional development, partnership to help each investment dollar go farther, and tools to facilitate 21st century learning and preparation of today’s youth for tomorrow’s global economy.