Will you be the next to attend a Microsoft Partners in Learning Institute week?

Submitted by Fiona Beal

Any teacher interested in integrating technology with the curriculum would jump at a chance to visit Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond to attend their Partners in Learning Institute, wouldn’t they? Well I consider myself in that category and from 24th – 31st July I had the privilege of such a visit! This PIL Institute is a new part of Microsoft’s vision for teachers, and you could be one of the next attendees! Microsoft is planning many more of these training events…

Who attended this training?

Microsoft’s educational wing known as Partners in Learning shortlisted 50 innovative teachers from 31 countries to attend the inaugural training in Redmond. Three South African teachers were selected – Cheryl Douglas, Ngaka Ralekoala and myself.

Where did we stay?

We lodged at the incredibly luxurious Hyatt-Bellevue Hotel in an area between Seattle and Redmond known as Bellevue. The hotel had magnificent views from the rooms. The conference staff organised a very busy week right down to the last detail late at night – but I must say that every second was well worth it.

A room with a view at the Hyatt-Bellevue in Bellevue

What was the purpose of the PIL Institute? 

The purpose of the Microsoft Partners in learning Institute is to grow innovative teaching and learning practices around the world through a cadre of teacher trainers who will take what they have learned to their communities to coach and train other educators.

Baldev Singh from www.imagineeducation.net

What did we do each day?

During the day we had training, workshops, discussions, field trips, work sessions and some learning excursions around which we created a project. I also enjoyed the TeachMeet  where we got the chance to give two minute presentations on something successful we have done in technology integration. I would LOVE to introduce this TeachMeet idea in South Africa. It would really enhance technology integration, I think. We also learned at length about 21st century skills and how to create and assess activities using 21st century skills. (We have homework to do on this due for the 15th August). It was marvelous to get to talk to teachers from all the different countries and find out how education happens in their country. Another treat was to be able to view the 102 USA finalist entries for the Microsoft Innovative competition. I always love to see what teachers come up with. 

One of the USA PIL Innovative Teacher entries

Here is a slideshow of some of the USA PIL Innovative teacher entries:

Here is a summary of the USA projects:


The winners of the USA IEF have now been announced:


One of the highlights was to visit the Microsoft Home of the Future at Their Headquarters in Redmond.


Who were our presenters?

The Institute was run under the Directorship of Maureen Cain. Our presenters were of the highest quality and everyone benefitted from their professional input as well as from the warm friendship and enthusiasm of the fifty teacher participants. One of the conference presenters was a Technology Integration specialist, Sonja Delafosse, from the Lake Washington school district. Now that is a job I would enjoy – helping teachers integrate technology into their lessons, because then both the students and the teachers benefit. What do you think?  Their classes seem to have netbooks at their disposal.  Sonja explained how technology integration in schools is very important to the parents of that area, since Seattle houses Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon.com, and Google also has offices there. In fact while we were participating in our Partners in Learning Institute, Google was holding one of its Google certified teacher courses at the same time.  

Did we do a lot of sight seeing? 

The 50 of us were transported everywhere by luxury coach.  Seattle is a great city. It is very green with beautiful trees and fresh clean air. Some call it the Emerald City. We didn’t have time for much sight-seeing in our busy schedule, but as mentioned, Microsoft cleverly arranged learning excursions in groups, with each group visiting a tourist site, and creating and completing a project about it. We stored these in our Partners in Learning Network shared folder, and shared them with one another. 

Our group visited the Seattle Underground

With so many great Microsoft tools tools at our disposal everyone felt as though they had been everywhere…

The Seattle Underground via a photosynth made by Wichai…


The Space Needle via a photosynth made by their group


The Pike Place Market via a video made by Jugoslava...


Seattle using a flashcard application made by Birgy…


The Seattle Art Museum via photosynth made by their group...


A video to sum it all up made by Bram…

Honestly I can’t believe Microsoft’s commitment to teachers – it is awesome! The company is playing such an active role in education. We saw previews of how Partners in Learning wants to facilitate change through educators. They are launching a completely new Partners in Learning Network in November, which we saw a preview of, and I think this will facilitate a powerful network of teachers world-wide. I loved this sign at Microsoft. After eventually working out that it stood for ‘Pedestrian crossing’, for me it still seemed to say… ‘Xing into pedagogical change’.  I have come back with a renewed vision for professional development. Thank you to Microsoft. 


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