Post-IEF (How 2 Days in Seattle Changed the Way I Teach)

12 09 2011

After two intense, fun-filled, educational, innovative, amazing days, I walked away thinking, WOW!!  Over a month later, I’m still thinking, WOW!!

On July 28-29, I was invited to attend Microsoft’s Innovative Education Forum held on their main campus in Redmond, Washington.  To attend this conference, teachers from around the country had to submit innovative technology projects they use in their classrooms.  I was told thousands applied, and 100 teachers, representing 78 projects, from around the country were selected.  I was one of them, and I was the only one from Tennessee.  (To view my project, please see my post on the Innovative Education Forum.)

Microsoft HQ - Redmond, WA - July 27, 2011

Microsoft HQ - Redmond, WA - July 27, 2011

Upon arrival in Seattle, a day early, a small group of us were lucky enough to tour the Microsoft Home of the Future and Envisioning the Future Center.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about them, because Microsoft could sue me.  Seriously.  The non-disclosure agreement we had to sign before being allowed in was intense.  Suffice it to say, it was A.MAZ.ING!  It’s unbelievable to think that some of this mind-blowing technology we saw will be readily available in just a few years.

Friday night we had a nice welcome reception at our hotel, the Bellevue Hyatt, and the craziness began Saturday morning.  We frantically set up our exhibit areas before a simple breakfast at the building we would call home for the next two days on the Microsoft campus.  Note for future attenders:  a 4’ x 4’ poster is the way to go for your display area.  Invest the time and money in doing a nice one.  You will greatly appreciate the ease of setup!

IEF 2011 - Poster Session

IEF 2011 - Poster Session

After setup, we had our first keynote address by Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules.  I had read his book the year before as part of my school’s professional development program.  While the book was interesting, it was a little dry, but Dr. Medina more than made up for that in his presentation.  He is incredibly personable, energetic, dynamic and really quite funny.  Especially intriguing to me was his discussion on how 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least times a week can significantly improve math skills (and the evidence to back this up.)

Next was the reason we even there—the judging and exhibition.  During a three-hour time frame, split up by lunch, each presenter had three judges visit them.  Judges were experts in their various fields and truly came from all over the world.  One of my judges was from Dubai.  When we were not being judged, we were encouraged to walk around and view the other projects.  One of the winners would be decided by the Educator’s Choice vote.

I was deeply humbled as I reviewed other projects and talked to some incredible teachers.  I remember thinking I was way out of my league after seeing other projects.  But someone, somewhere thought my classroom project was worthy.  Whoever you are, I thank you!

IEF 2011 - Seattle Underground - Learning Excursion Team 2
IEF 2011 – Seattle Underground – Learning Excursion Team 2

That afternoon, we were sent off by teams of five to various locations around Seattle:  the Space Needle, the Asian Art Museum, Pike’s Place Market, the Olympic Sculpture Park, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Seattle Underground.  My group, known as Team 2 or Chief Seattle, toured the Seattle Underground.  Based on our Learning Excursions, as they were called, each team had to come up with sort of cross-curricular project that could work anywhere in the country.  We were given time to work on this on day two, but a lot of the work was done after the conference.  Final project submissions weren’t due until August 31.  We will be voting, as a team, on the top three learning excursion projects in the next couple weeks, and the winning team will be awarded the final spot to attend the Global Forum in Washington, D.C. in November.

That evening we were treated to a reception at the Space Needle.  We even had our own express elevator, superb appetizers, and a Kinect set up for us to use.

Day two was a little more laid back and not so rushed.  We attended two workshops in the morning.   Our choices included learning about OneNote; using games in the classroom such as Kodu, InterroBANG, and Kinect; a global teach tech in which a panel of international teachers shared their innovative technology projects; and using Microsoft’s newer free resources like Photosynth,  Movie Maker and Photo Gallery.

Our closing keynote speaker that afternoon was Dr. Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken:  Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.  I also read her book before attending IEF.  You can read a synopsis of her book here: Reality is Broken.)  Like Dr. Medina, Dr. McGonigal got our creative, innovative, and technological juices flowing.  She began her address by having the entire room of over 100 people play a game of thumb wars in which every person was somehow connected to at least 2-3 other people.  What followed was a fascinating discussion on the importance of gaming in society and how gaming can help education.

Our final dinner together was down at the Bell Harbor Seattle on the waterfront and ended with nine amazing teachers winning a spot to attend the Global Forum in November.  The top two winners in each of the following categories will attend:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Knowledge Building and Critical Thinking
  3. Use of Technology in Learning
  4. Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom.
  5. The ninth spot went to the educator who received the Teacher’s Choice Award
  6. The tenth spot will go to the team whose learning excursion project wins. 

I was not among the chosen, but I am deeply impressed by those who did win.  The educators I met, befriended, and collaborated with left a permanent mark on me.  I left the conference with a list of a dozen ideas I want to try in my classroom this year, and I have already incorporated some of them.

  1. I’ve begun using Twitter with my students as another means of communication.  If there is any one piece of technology most of us have on ourselves most of the time, it’s our phones.  Twitter is fast, convenient, and to the point.  I’ve been using it to send out reminders and to post questions for bonus points on assignments.  I’m still new at tweeting, but I hope to expand its usefulness as I become more familiar with everything it can do.  (You can follow my classroom goings-on at HuddlestonKFRA.)
  2. I have updated the name of my project.  I never really liked the original name, Create a Business, but I never put time into coming up with something different.  At IEF, I finally came up with something better.  The new name is Entrepreneur 101.
  3. I have incorporated a “Best in Class” judging component into Entrepreneur 101.  After all projects have been presented in class, student teams will vote on the one project—not their own—that they feel is the best all-around project.  They will base their vote on overall concept, feasibility of the business, realism, creativity, design, and presentation.  The winning team in each class will receive bonus points added onto their project grade.
  4. I also hope to incorporate a “Best in Show” award.  With this, I would like to pull in a panel of three outside judges, business men and women who have nothing to do with my school or my students.  I will ask them to judge each project on basically the same criteria as mentioned in #3.  The one team among all my classes with the highest total score from the judges will receive bonus points added onto their project grade.
  5. I am researching a way to get a Kinect set up in an empty classroom for students to use during their study halls throughout the day.  Dr. Medina spoke on the overwhelming evidence that 30 minutes of aerobic activity (not weight training and conditioning) at least three times per week can significantly increase math scores.  I would love for those students who are struggling in math to be able to get some aerobic exercise during the day playing Kinect.
  6.  I have created a new project for my Tech classes called Project Innovate that will be done over the course of the semester.
    1. In part one, each student has to find 10 news articles that have to do with innovative technology in any area of life:  medicine, education, automobiles, athletics, fashion, architecture, space travel, etc.  For each article, students simply have to write a one paragraph summary.
    2. In part two, students will pick one of their 10 articles and present it to the class.
    3. For part three, I will split the class up into teams of 3-4 students.  Each group will come up with one innovative new product or an innovative use for a current product.  They will need to research how this new product will be made, where it will be manufactured, who will buy it, where it will be sold, etc.  Each group will present their idea to the rest of the class at the end of the semester.

This is the first semester I’m doing all of these things.  I can’t wait to see what will happen with everything.

  • Thank you, Microsoft, for allowing me the opportunity to participate in such an incredible conference.  IEF was a game-changer for how I teach.
  • Thank you for treating all of us like royalty.  Considering the economic hardships much of our country is experiencing, you spared no expense.  What a delight!
  • Thank you for affirming me as an educator and letting me know you value what I do. 

 I hope to return someday!




4 responses

12 09 2011

Wow! This really was an honor. Your “Create a Business” project really was awesome, and useful. I’m glad you got to put your innovative thinking to the test!

13 09 2011

WOW, you are so great!

16 09 2011

The Project Innovate sounds really fun! I want to see what everyone comes up with.

29 09 2011
Wilfredo Pisano

“To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love forever is to live forever.” ~ Henry Drummond

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