Saturday, July 2, 2016

Reflections From The MIEExpert Forum

101 MIEExperts in one room!
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about joining the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (#MIEExpert) community. It has been a wonderful group to be a part of this year. About two months ago, I was invited to attend the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert US Forum. It was very exciting to receive this invitation from Microsoft. I was honored to be one of the 101 chosen to attend the forum in Denver, Colorado from June 25-26, 2016. I want to take a few moments to reflect on the experience.

Day 1 Highlights

One of the most important takeaways from this experience was the power of connecting with other educators. The teachers in this group are brilliant and energized individuals. When you surround yourself with such great people, conversations take place that cause improvements in our practices as educators. I was grateful to meet Tracey Wong (a school librarian from New York) in person. Tracey is the mentor who helped me become a member of the MIEExpert community.
Tracey Wong and I pose with the Skype screen prop

I also met Karey Killian (a school librarian from Pennsylvania) and Richard Snyder (a school librarian from Washington).

It was great to meet Karey Killian!
These are all individuals I met through social media. Each of them have impacted me in countless ways during the short time we have interacted. I also got to meet, Robyn Hrivnatz, the Marketing and Educator Programs Manager for US Education at Microsoft. I truly felt I had known each of these individuals for years as we met in person. It was like an extended family. (I plan to write a future article on the impact of meeting my personal learning network face to face.)

The Hunt

Our group for the hunt (along with Microsoft mascot, Flopsie)
One of the first things we did was go on a scavenger hunt in Denver, Colorado. We were split into groups of four, and we used an app created by the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) to receive clues.

The hunt took us around downtown and allowed us to see some of the sights as we solved riddles and found landmarks. It was great fun and it opened my mind to additional ways to present information to teachers and students. Everyone loves a good hunt, especially when it is a competition. I was very impressed with the app and how everything worked together.

A clue found in an art themed hotel in downtown Denver
Learning Gallery Showcase

The next highlight was the learning showcase where we showed off a lesson or activity we completed during the year. I chose to feature our Mystery Skype collaboration from May with Karey Killian's students. (Our students gave her younger students Mystery Skype tips.) It was eye opening to see examples of teachers' best lesson activities from grades K-12 and even up through college levels. What if we had such professional development at our own schools and each teacher showcased their best lesson? What could be learned together? Again, my mind was opened to possibilities.

Cutting edge holographic technology at this station!


We came back together in the evening for a brief awards ceremony. It was great to celebrate the achievements of my new colleagues. I was very surprised and honored to be chosen as MIE Rookie of the Year! I want to work even harder now for the students and teachers I serve!

Richard Snyder and I pose with awards in hand

Day 2 Highlights


I have been hearing lots about Minecraft in the classroom over the past year I have been involved with the MIEExpert group. Stephen Reid (@ImmersiveMind) shared some of the amazing ways he has used Minecraft in the classroom. His students had created a world that contained DNA models, alternatives to standard prisons, a showcase of flags from around the world, and more. I encourage you to look at his blog here for more ideas. I hope to help teachers experiment with Minecraft this year. There are endless possibilities for our students!

Breakout Edu Session

We were introduced to Breakout Edu by the MIEExpert team. We were placed into groups again, and the goal was to solve problems and receive clues to open a Breakout Edu box. The box had all sorts of combination and keyed locks to unlock. The clues were embedded in a Minecraft world in addition to other places. I again began to think about how this could look in the classroom or for teacher professional development. There are so many possibilities for presenting content in this "breakout" format.

Panel Discussion

I was grateful to have been chosen to serve on a 4 person panel discussion. The panel was led by Tony Prophet, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Education Marketing. Each of us had the opportunity to discuss the importance and struggles of incorporating technology into our classrooms. It was refreshing to hear such student centered focus in the discussion. What if our own school professional development could have a panel discussion portion?

Margo Day, the Vice President of US Education at Microsoft, finished the day by delivering a wonderful keynote. She emphasized that technology is everywhere in our world. The technology we fantasized about in television shows like Star Trek are now becoming a reality. She also shared Microsoft's mission statement:  "Empowering every student to achieve more". It is very exciting to see a company like Microsoft reaching out to educators to make a difference for learners. I am grateful to Microsoft for these continued opportunities to improve for my learning community. This partnership has only just begun, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

For more information on the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program, click here.

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