And.. so it came… the final day and what a day it was.
Genius Hour, the inspiration of Angela Maiers – our closing Keynote speaker – gave me a lot to think about. I have consistently said that I don’t want to take the step into principalship. However, listening to Angela and the fellow attendees at E2, I can’t help but think that if I was given the rein to mould a school around this creativity – there could be something in that leadership role…. However, another conversation for another day.
Traditionally, the last day winds down the conference. This year, being involved in the judging of the Challenges, I had to be on top form throughout the morning to give my fellow educators the attention they deserved for their projects and their pitches. To say that I was impressed by the work completed by each of the groups is an understatement. 42 different groups pitched their ideas in three rooms – the results based on three distinct areas of their project. Having been on the other side last year and creating our own project, I found it an excellent learning experience to be on the judging. Being partnered with the excellent Kurt Söser gave me a real insight to the thinking of a wonderful educator. I hope this close partnership continues in the future.
What a wonderful ending happened, though! The current CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, joined the educators for a thirty minute ‘fireside chat’ interview. This ‘WOW’ moment completely ‘blew us all away’ given the status of the man. It was also a reinforcement of the ‘Education First’ policy being adopted by the company. To be given an insight directly and personally from Satya regarding Microsoft’s commitment to seeing education working was inspiring. He spoke about his own family and how he feels technology is helping them. What also stood out was that the work of Lara and Gareth was quoted during the conversation – Ireland’s work truly on the global stage!
And, so it ended – in the stunning Experience Music Project. A night of celebration for the educators as well as recognising the work completed over the two days in The Challenge. We witnessed some wonderful pitches in The Challenge and it was with delight that two of the groups that were given awards on the evening included Lara and Gareth. I knew the work that all of our representatives had put into the projects and it was great to see it recognised.
On reflection, I feel that this was the best Microsoft Conference I had attended. Maybe it was because there was no pressure of competition for me or maybe it was the fact the overwhelming feeling that Microsoft was genuinely listening for ideas from the educators gathered. I feel that it was the latter.
From setting up meetings with the developers of OneNote, Sway and Office Mix; through the workshops that encouraged best practice; to the sharing of good practice through the TeachMeets and the final visit from Satya – it was obvious that the company is trying to make this relationship work. The company wants to see the products being used widely (of course it does) and this is a great vehicle for this. By tapping into the creativity of innovative teachers, Microsoft are seeing the ideas being pushed to the limit in many different ways. There were so many ideas on display – from Game Based Learning in Minecraft and ProjectSpark; with productivity solutions included in Skype in the Classroom and collaborative opportunities contained within OneNote – the future of technology in the classroom looks wonderful and, in the hands of some of the educators there – gloriously wonderful.
I, for one, CAN’T WAIT!
Personally, I would like to thank a number of people for the opportunity to attend E2 in Redmond. I was given the opportunity to attend by both Tom Jackson (Microsoft Ireland); Kirsten Panton (Microsoft Western Europe); Anthony Salcito and all the staff at Microsoft, Redmond for a wonderful 5 days; Team Ireland (consisting of Roisin Rice Cutter and Jarlath MacGill from St. Mary’s College, Derry and Lara Dabbagh and Gareth Callan from Coláiste Bhaile Chláir) for excellent company; ALL the other Fellows with whom I can see the future of education being well taken care off and, finally, all the attendees at E2 – where INSPIRATION doesn’t even cover it!