What I Brought Home from the Microsoft Global Forum...

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WP_20140322_16_24_40_ProI've now been home a month from the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain. I've been at a loss as to how to express what I gained from this adventure. I came home on an educational high and couldn't wait to share what I had experienced with my colleagues and friends. I was asked many times over the past month, "How was it?" "What did you learn?" "Who did you meet?" and I repeated the same general stories over and over, with the same adjectives...wonderful, neat, incredible, crazy (in a good way), and I knew inside that those words weren't enough to explain what I felt, but how do you explain this to those that weren't there? How do you share the adventure of collaboration and communication with educators from across the world? How do you express the feeling of being welcomed into a family of educators that you have never met before, but feel like you have known forever? I'm still at a loss, but while sorting through and trying to come back to reality here in Virginia, I realized that what I brought home can be explained through a picture!

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Looking at the items in that picture brings me joy, laughter and many happy memories! The items are representative of all that I experienced while in Spain for 6 days!

Let's start here.... WP_20140322_16_25_20_Pro In November, I found out I would be one of 26 educators from the United States that would become part of the first class of Microsoft Expert Educators. I was so excited, and honored to be among the group that would travel to Barcelona, Spain in March to share our innovative and exciting projects with the world. It was a bit surreal for me, because I had recently left my 1:1 classroom and was starting from the ground up again with innovative technology in my new school and classroom. I was excited, but very nervous that I didn't fit in with these fantastic educators that I was meeting and talking with through Facebook and email. Many were familiar faces from my Microsoft adventure to the U.S. Regional Forum in 2011, but still...what I was doing did not compare to what these other U.S. teachers were accomplishing. I battled my inner demons and reached out, networked before we left and felt welcomed by all of them. Sitting here now, I can again say THANK YOU Microsoft and the U.S. team for creating an avenue for teachers to share, network and collaborate at all different levels. The passion, dedication, enthusiasm and excitement is contagious and yes....Team U.S.A. is an incredible group of people that I feel honored to know and hope to continue to network with. I came home changed because of the energy level of these educators!

The Event....4 days of "Learning"

The badge was around my neck for every moment that I was being challenged to collaborate and communicate and create....the event guide book listed all of the incredible experiences that we would be involved in during the week...the award was the icing on the cake!

I had seen the agenda before we left and was excited about the keynote speakers, the sessions and especially the Learn-A-Thon. What had not really soaked in was the how global it would really be. I knew there were 260 Expert Educators and I was told that over 90 countries would be represented. I had looked at the Partners in Learning website and perused the list of other Expert Educators, but wow....

I got to be a student again for a portion of those 4 days. I got to sit and create projects with my peers. I got to share my work with international judges. I was able to learn about products that Microsoft is developing for schools and classrooms. I saw what was happening in education around the world and started thinking about what I wanted to bring back to my classroom. I was a student of the world for 4 days!!

That experience of being in a learning situation with others from around the world is something that I wish I could adequately share with my colleagues at home. My Learn-A-Thon team consisted of teachers from South Africa, Switzerland, Portugal and Brazil. We were challenged by Microsoft to create a learning project involving technology that adressed the Millenium Development Goal of Poverty. The experience was amazing - the language barriers were adressed right away and through interpreters and Bing Translator, there no longer were any barriers. We worked for 8 hours...we laughed, we joked, we ate lots of Swiss Chocolate and we created a project that we were proud of; a project that focused on the students and the change that is necessary for our world to move ahead. We shared our project in the required 8 minutes with the panel of judges and felt proud of our accomplishment. We did it!! WP_20140322_16_26_20_Pro Later that night we were recognized for our accomplishment with the award of Runner Up in the Poverty category. I was being recognized as part of an international teacher team for a collaborative learning project that crossed cultural and language barriers...on an international stage ....in Spain! I never would have thought that this could happen, and for that I also thank Microsoft and the worldwide education team!

The Global Connections WP_20140322_16_25_10_Pro One part of the Global Forum event was the sharing of individual teacher projects. We set up booths, we displayed our work and our students work, we met with judges and we had the chance to see what the other 260 Expert Educators were sharing. The teacher exhibit hall was an amazing place...filled with knowledge, creativity and sharing! The energy level and the passion was overflowing. Many of the educators had items to pass out and share - the small representation of my "goody bag" of international "memories" is represented above.

the Frog hand puppet - handmade from Brazil and my Learn-A-Thon teacher partner, Gislaine

the Zebra keychain - from South Africa and and my Learn-A-Thon teacher partner, Cheryl

the "Offperts" business card - from United Kingdom and an amazing group of students that were sharing their ideas ad expertise with the world

the Future Makers - from Egypt - an incredible converation with an incredible educator about the state of education for female students in her country and her quest to help them. She presented me with a blue hair band that her students had made, at the end of our conversation.

Those 4 items are a very small representation of what I came home with. The material items from around the world and the conversations with international educators is an experience that I will never forget!! I'll repeat again, thank you Microsoft for bringing all of these Expert Educators together for 4 days to share our stories, our achievements and our students!

And finally...Barcelona!

I have been to Europe before, but never to Barcelona and only very briefly to Spain. I was very lucky to be able to share this experience with my family, as they traveled with me and spent the week touring while I was participating in Forum activities. The weather was beautiful, the people were welcoming and it was a great week in a foreign country on an adventure of a lifetime!!

As I think back and look ahead .... I again, am so honored to be part of this group of educators and thankful that Microsoft continues to support education in a way that makes teachers feel treasured and respected. I look forward to more adventures in collaboration with my new "family," and sharing my experiences and my new knowledge with my peers and colleagues here in Loudoun County, Virginia!!

I'm proud to say....

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