Teachers, ever wondered what takes place at Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Global Forum?


Submitted by Fiona Beal with excerpts from the amazing blog Bulldog Readers belonging to Julie Hembree of Seattle, a Global Forum finalist from the US. 

Teachers, it is time to start preparing to enter Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Forum for 2013, best known as the Microsoft Innovative Educator competition. This competition takes place in 119 countries around the globe and culminates in the Global Forum where the world winners are revealed… being a winner in this forum will change your life forever!

To spur you on let me tell you something about last year’s Global Forum where the winners from the various regional events around the world gathered in Prague, Czech Republic from November 28 – December 1, 2012. The theme of the Global Forum was “Your ideas matter”. 500 of the most innovative teachers, school leaders, education leaders, and government officials from 75 countries gathered together for this event and up for grabs were 18 Global Innovative Educator Awards. It must have been a very exciting place to be right then!

Did South Africa have a representative?

Yes! We were PROUDLY represented by Charli Wiggil from Durban with his fantastic project Pay It Forward for the Blind. This was a project that had students make Braille Memory cards and educational games, plus record MP3 storybooks and original stories for the blind. They are now used all over South Africa for blind children in their classes. Charlie encouraged as many people as he could to use their 67 Mandela minutes to record these stories for the blind in South Africa, but he also inspired teachers in at least 10 other countries to collect stories on his behalf. You can find out more about this on Charlie’s wiki http://pay-it-forward-for-the-blind.wikispaces.com/

In the photo on the right below Charlie can be seen with Lucille Mahlatsi from Lesotho when they were both regional winners at the Morocco Forum earlier in the year. Lucille represented Lesotho – a country that has always done very well in the Microsoft Forums.

Charli Wiggil in Prague

Charli and Lucille – winners in Morocco

I should add the link to Charli’s class’s YouTube video about their project at this point. Unfortunately embedding has been disabled or I would have added the whole video here. To see what a project looks like when it features on Microsoft’s amazing PIL network for teachers (which I will talk about at the end of this post), take a look at Charli’s project here.

What actually happens at a Global Forum?

“In the afternoon it was time to set up the teacher booths. Each project had a booth to use for showcasing their work. We hung posters and decorated our spaces so people who walked by could get a quick idea of each project. Our booths were arranged in alphabetical order by country. When you look at the top, you can see the name of the project and then the country of origin.” Julie Hembree. (I am fortunate to find a wonderful reflection from my blogging teacher friend Julie Hembree from Seattle who was a US finalist at the forum so I’ll be drawing extensively on that.) Here is a picture of Julie next to her project ‘Kid Lit movies – Book trailers for young readers.

Julie Hembree with her Kid Lit Movies project

Here is some more about Julie’s Kid Lit Movies project on YouTube

“We had a welcome reception that evening. Each country wore something to indicate their team. It was a lot like going to the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Some people had team jackets, others had hats, or scarves. We all had our special name tags that we had to wear everywhere we went.(Julie)

“Thursday was our first day of competition. Each project was given three judging times over the course of two days. A judge would come to your booth for 15 minutes and ask you in depth questions about your project. I had two judging times on Thursday and then another on Friday. It was a very busy time. When we weren’t being judged, most of us tried to go visit other booths to connect with other teachers and hear about different ideas.” (Julie)

A few Literacy projects to note

“In Let’s Go to the Movies students in Colombia used Moviemaker to record movies they had written, acted in  and created about life in Colombia.

Let’s Go To The Movies

“What’s Up Egypt? by Mr. LaVogue in Florida had his students combine a news television show with rap music. They created a video show in moviemaker showcasing what they had learned about life in ancient Egypt in the lyrics of the music.

What’s Up Egypt?

“Fun, Education, Stop Motion Animation was a project from Macedonia. They made stop motion animated movies for primary aged children about all kinds of subjects, using MovieMaker.

Fun, Education, Stop Motion

“Creating Fairytale Radioplays was a project where teams of students drew scenes from a fairy tale, imported them into Movie maker, added narration and subtitles, plus background music and sound effects. The students wrote their own music and recorded it for the movie. Dr. Froehlich had headsets available so you could watch and listen to the radioplay.” (Julie)


In Flip the Flipped classroom Bram Faens from Belgium’s students solved maths and language problems by creating stop animation videos.

Flip the Flipped Classroom

Winners at the Global Forum

“The highlight of the last day of the Global Forum was a reception in Rothmayer Hall, followed by a gala dinner and awards ceremony in the Spanish Hall at the Prague Castle…Each country sat together at huge rounds tables underneath the most magnificent chandeliers and stucco decorations I have ever scene. All of us were in awe of the surroundings.”


“Before long, it was time for the awards ceremony. I have never been to the Olympics, but I think this event closely matched what it must be like at the awards ceremony. As teachers from different nations proudly wore their flags and came to the front for their awards, the rest of the room clapped and screamed in support.


“It didn’t matter where we were from -where were all part of the “teacher family”. Twenty-one teachers went home with an award recognizing their innovative use of technology in the classroom.” (Julie Hembree)

21 winners in total

I love Julie’s conclusion – it truly sums up what happens to a teacher who participates in this Partners in Learning competition and attends the Global Forum, “How I teach and why I teach will be forever changed by what I learned from the other teachers at the forum.”

Take a quick look at the final Ceremony in Prague (1’48”)

Make a start by joining the Partners in Learning Network

Where should you start? Definitely the first place is to start is by joining the PIL network (as we refer to it)! Microsoft’s Partners-in-Learning wing has an incredible network that is free to teachers and schools to join – the Partners in Learning Network. Among a multitude of other very useful resources for teachers there are thousands of projects, including all of the projects from the Global, US and other country/regional forums there for you to see should you want to see what teachers are up to in different parts of the world. You’ll notice that I have hyperlinked the projects mentioned in this post to their PIL network descriptions. 

Take a risk this year…and enter the competition!

If you want to get involved from South Africa this year and are looking for support and information please contact Megan (at) schoolnet.org.za. Want to change your life forever? To make change involves taking risks – why not take that risk this year and enter a project!

Further reading on the global event at Prague

Cheryl Arnott The time is now in The Huffington Post

Alice Leung: The iPony, an analogy in leading others to adopting innovative practices

Pauline Roberts Unpcking Prague

Bram Faens: Partners in Learning Forum you moved me

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