This is the last of my reflections on the recent Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington DC. I want to talk networks, because for me this is what Partners in Learning is and always has been about - it also might explain how I ended up being a judge at this years worldwide event. The post has actually turned out to be a bit of a trip down memory lane…
I am proud to say that I must be one of the longest active members of the Partners in Learning Community - this is one of the main reason I am so passionate about supporting it. In fact I am so sad that I can actually remember roughly when I signed up back in December 2005 and a screenshot from the orginal community confirms this (gosh, I looked young then!).
At the time I had just come across the proposals for the School of the Future in Philadelphia - this led me to the original Innovative Teachers Network where I signed up for a regular eNewsletter. I even managed to find the first ever one of these that I recived in an old on-line in-box from early 2006.
Anyway it was either the Inoovative Teachers eNewsletter or the SQA monthly digest that led me to find out about a partnership between Microsoft and the SQA where they were giving out technology grants for teachers. I applied and received an award that used early tablet technology and other technologies to produce revision Podcasts for Geography (we called them GEOCASTS). I painfully drew many of the diagrams (badly) myself in an early version of PowerPoint and Paint.
above: another young version of me (Photo by: Caroline Roberson)
GEOCASTS were some of the first revision material for students on the web (and probably some of the first regular education podcasts) - available in .mp3 and .mv4 formats - it is funny to think that this type of approach for learning and revision is still only really just taking off in 2011 (think Kahn Academy!).
I’ve embedded a sample below (for 2005/2006 they were actually pretty good):
The GEOCAST project did rather well as a concept and the atmosphere and oceanography materials were very popular in the USA. So popular, that I had to up my hosting arrangement with my Internet Service Provider and eventually when they became even more popular I gave them away to Do-Be ICT Training in Fife, Scotland to ship with their mp4 players and as a free download from their website.
Oh yes…. At one stage they were the 34th most popular education download on iTunes (this was worldwide - there weren’t regional accounts in those days!). The project gave me the first of many opportunities to speak at the Scottish Learning Festival in 2006.
So why is this important - well this was the start of building my education network (remember, this was a long time before Twitter and Facebook) and Partners in Learning is at least partly really responsible for this.
Here is an abbreviated version of what happened next…
As part of my Original 2005/2006 Partners in Learning Project I met three people who continue to influence my practice (they also all came to watch my talk at the SLF06).
- Tom Jackson (Partners in Learning Manager for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland);
- Walter Paterson (Former HMIe and now Independent Consultant - but my mentor on my original project); and
- David Noble (now Chartered Teacher (amongst other things) at Hillside School)
David Noble and I were into early social networking for teaching and supportive of each other’s practice. David started a regular Podcast and I had started a blog (funny to think it has been going in various forms since 2005). He was amongst the first of my audience and encouraged me to keep writing it. We continue to collaborate on-line and have worked together on a variety of projects over the years.
That evening of the SLF 2006 David and I want to the first Teachmeet (there had been a ScotEduBlogs meet up before this) that has been organised by Ewan Macintosh. This is where I met I number of other people who became a key part of my personal learning network. See if you can spot them in the photograph below but they include John Connell, Andrew Brown, John Johnston, Bob Hill and Neil Winton.
Photo: Ewan Macintosh
Earlier in the day Tom Jackson had given me his business card and I emailed him a few years later to tell him about a project I had been doing with Xboxes in the classroom. He introduced me to Stuart Ball and Stuart and I met at BETT 2009 - I agreed to submit a Virtual Classroom Tour about the project and went on to present the work in Reading, Vienna and Brazil throughout the year. Merlin John has got a good write up on my work here.
At the 2009 UK Event I met Mandeep Atwal (who now works for Taking IT Global). I met Dan Roberts in Vienna and since then we have become great friends and I have had an oppertunity to visit Dan at Saltash.net. At the Brazil Event I met Mark Sparvell (who now works for Principles Australia). Mandeep and Mark went on to win first place in their respective categories at the Brazil event. I also met Tony McDaid Head Teacher from Calderglen High School at the Brazil Event as they had just become an Microsoft Innovative School.
In 2006 I left the geography classroom for senior management - but I kept blogging and Walter and David (and lots of others continued to stick with me on my virtual journey). I gave a talk to the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers in 2006 where I mentioned Blogging and Geocasts and as result a ‘young bright eyed and bushy tailed’ David Rogers (now head of geography and multi-award winning teacher) started a blog - apparently that is why it is ‘all my fault!’
I introduced David to the Innovative Teachers Network via my own blog after the Brazil Worldwide Event. David then entered the 2010 competition with his VCT on social networking and pirates and made it to Berlin for the European final.
At some point a joined Twitter (actually it was June 2007) and twitter has done a great job of linking and aggregating all of the various education networks together. Which is why when I was asked to judge at the Worldwide Event in Washington this year I was delighted to meet both Lee Kolbert (@TeachaKidd) and Angela Maiers (@angelamaiers) both of who I had been following on Twitter for some time.
Of course the wordwide event was also great for meeting other inspirational teachers. Including the UKs very own Gareth Ritter (@ritzertech) but also teachers from other parts of the world such as Johnny Kissko (@johnnyeducation) and Chris Clay from Botany Downs Secondary College in New Zealand).
Gareth’s project is worth a look at if you have not seen it already:
Mark, Mandeep and Tony (remember then from above) were also at the Worldwide Event. Mark was judging and Mandeep presenting on Taking IT Global. Tony has taken his school from strength to strength and has become a mentor school within the Innovative School Programme (teamed up with Dan Roberts and Saltash.net). Hopefully you are now starting to see how everything is so joined up...
I’m also sure I have got a lot more people to meet! Hopefully the new Partners in Learning Network (which allows multi-sign on via a number of IDs) will help facilitate this.