I’m in Denver for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Forum this weekend. I’ve spent some time at these events in the past but those times I was there as a Microsoft employee. This time I am there as one of the teachers selected to participate. It feels really different. Not better or worse – just different. Having been before I know what amazing teachers are invited so I’m really honored to have been invited as a teacher.
It’s quite an event with 101 teachers from all over the country here to share ideas and learn from each other. And from Microsoft of course but most of the presentations are teachers who are working in the classroom.That makes for some real authenticity.
Anthony Salcito,vice president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, gave the opening keynote. Anthony and I have talked a bunch over the years when I was at Microsoft and since. He really impresses me with as having a real interest in making education work better and not just selling stuff to schools. In his keynote he talked about needing to “go beyond digitalization.” That is to say we should not be doing the same old things with new tools but we should be using tools in innovative ways to change the way we teach. That is something one hears from a lot of teachers who want to really shake things up in education. Microsoft seems pretty serious about making tools that help teach better and differently.
There were a number of short flash talks from teachers. My friend Doug Bergman gave one representing the computer science teachers. He talked about the need for more people who think like computer scientists. He thinks we need to get more people not just into CS majors but CS minors. Given how important CS is in so many fields I think he is right about that.
He also made an impassioned plea for “no more meaningless projects” As more and more schools and districts start requiring more CS this plea is critical. We have to avoid turning off students who sign up for courses that are required and which they don’t start with an interest. CS is fun and exciting. We need to teach it that way.
There was a lot more to the day of course. All of the teachers prepared poster sessions and I saw a lot of interesting things. Much of it for younger grades. And Doug showed off his HoloLens. But these are some of the highlights for me.