Give yourself a few moments to let that sink in.
These were the words that my 22 year-old son casually said to me as I headed out the door to share a project at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Regional Forum in Philadelphia this past April. He knew I was anxious. I’m sure the words came from a movie or perhaps a coach, but they were completely fitting for that moment.
How many times do we as teachers hesitate to “be awesome”? Sure, we work non-stop to engage our students, but when it comes to sharing our work with our peers, inspiring other professionals, we often hold back. It was time for me to let loose, relax and share what I knew was a great project.
My son’s words made me chuckle but also added a measure of excitement to the day. Maybe, just maybe, the project my teaching partner and I were presenting would be recognized and we would be selected to attend the National Forum at Microsoft Headquarters.
Our project, “Global Connections, a Study of World Cultures” connected 4th grade students (9 & 10 yr-olds) with people around the world. The students started this project by choosing a country they would like to study. Since the students were so young, research was guided and skills were stressed. The students used PowerPoint to create digital scrapbooks.
Once the initial round of research was completed, it was time to blog. The students were very excited that people around the world might read their posts, view their scrapbooks and offer comments. A visitor map was crucial in the endeavor, as student excitement grew when they witnessed the map being populated with visitors all over the globe.
The students used Microsoft Word to create International Blogger business cards to share with family and friends. We welcomed and encouraged comments from anyone, but were especially interested in comments from foreign countries. We reached out to our school community and asked them to forward the link to family and friends in far away places. Lastly I tweeted out the link to the blog.
On a few occasions, I tweeted the link while the students were watching the visitor map. Without exaggeration, they jumped out of their seat to marvel at the red dot on the map and at the realization that someone, thousands of miles away, living in a vastly different environment, was looking at their blog in real time!
The response in less than one month was phenomenal. The students’ blog had over 1000 visits from individuals in 49 countries. These 22 students received over 200 comments. The authentic exchange of information took this project to an exciting level. It was not uncommon to overhear conversations about the blog all over our school campus. There was a palpable buzz. The amazing part was witnessing the beginning of global voices, these children knew they had an audience, the world was watching and their work mattered.
Although I think we had a great project, there were many wonderful projects presented. I was humbled to be in the company of such creative, inspiring and passionate educators. As my hopes for being selected waned in such impressive company, I comforted myself with the knowledge that even if we weren’t selected, the day spent at the Regional Forum was an exceptional learning opportunity.
Was I awesome at the regional Forum? I didn’t feel I was “awesome”. The project was awesome and I wasn’t afraid to share. We were indeed selected to attend the National Forum in Redmond. What a humbling honor.
I encourage teachers everywhere to familiarize themselves with the Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum. Connect, collaborate and get involved in the Microsoft online learning community. It’s changed my world and it can change yours too. Don’t be afraid to be awesome!
This year’s National Forum is just a week away and I can feel the excitement build. Thank you Microsoft for this experience, I can’t wait!