by Meenakshi Uberoi
Expert Educator Columnist, India
Microsoft’s Global Forum in Dubai was a great ‘melting pot’ of leaders in education and policy makers who are driving transformation in education and supporting students to be equipped for work and life.
It was an honour for me to participate as a speaker in 3 sessions, namely, ‘Concepts & Contexts of Deep Learning’; ‘’Learning Design for Impact’ and ‘Technology Enriched Instruction’ and I am thankful to Microsoft worldwide & Microsoft India for entrusting me with such a great opportunity. As a self-reflection, I would like to share some insights and perspectives gained on the first day of the event.
Vibrant and welcoming opening remarks of Eve Psalti put the event in the right perspective and top gear. Next came the powerful words from Anthony Salcito – ‘Expect More, Do More, Be More’ – to set the tone and lay out expectations for the event.
The 2-day event was abuzz with insightful discussions, new pedagogies to adapt and availability of impactful resources for thoughtful integration of technology to enhance student learning experiences. The open-minded attitude of both the presenters and participants made the plenary sessions fruitful and meaningful.
The session on ‘Designing 21st Century Learning Experiences’ hosted by Mzeirea School Experience, outlined the need for the educators on focus on learning objectives and student outcomes and let technology enhance learning experiences. The speaker laid emphasis on providing students with varied avenues to present their understanding and make available resources to foster creativity. Continuing to focus on the learner, the next session talked about ‘Concepts & Contexts of Deep Learning’; quoting that deep learning involves a critical analysis of ideas, linking them to already known concepts, principles and experiences which leads to personal understanding and long-term retention. The speakers, myself, Mamta Narula, Lyneth Crighton & Megan Rademeyer shared examples from their own classroom to demonstrate how personalized, blended and Project-Based Learning have been key strategies for promoting Deeper Learning in their classrooms.
A thought-provoking question put forward by Tony Brandenburg during the session ‘Standards in Coaching’, got everyone in the room thinking as he questioned the audience to elicit the difference between Professional Development and Professional Learning. He then went on to explain that professional development is conceived of as something that one ‘does’, or that is ‘provided’, or is ‘done to’ teachers whereas Professional learning is what teachers ‘engage in’ to stimulate their thinking and professional knowledge and to ensure that their practice is critically informed and up-to-date. The latter acknowledges the importance of the individual in identifying their own learning needs and goals and to consider the how, what and why of their professional learning.
The following session on ‘Localized & Differentiated Content’ entailed case studies, ‘The Voices’ for hard of hearing and ‘Gaming for Learning’ by Daniel Donohue of BrainPOP citing examples of how gaming can support learning and cater to the needs of varied abilities within a classroom. The session broadly focused on how games can serve as an excellent way to develop higher order thinking skills for students as they engage in problem solving in a safe virtual environment without the fear of making mistakes and by trial and error method.
The session on ‘Learning design for Impact’ led by Shafaque Riaz and myself offered insights into practices in designing high-impact student learning experiences and laid emphasis on the need for students to be content creators instead of just information consumers. By putting technology in the hands of students, we put the learner behind the wheel. Instead of the teacher being the only one who works with technology to create learning objects, students become creators of learning objects. The thought that games inspire learning defined that there are many games that incorporate learning, interaction, and play all at the same time. We as educators and parents must capitalize on this by incorporating learning into play activities and hence foster attributes such as engagement, transparency, design and competition.
The next session on ‘ICT to Empower Learning’ by Rana Madani provided practical guidance on technological devices and systems that enhance student learning. She stated pedagogy, professional learning, curriculum development and technology integration as imperative stages for effectiveness of the system and that technology is there as a tool and resource, not as a visual aid.
To add to all this information was the glitzy, lively and captivating ‘Innovation Arena’ that hosted several latest technology based solutions for education and provided visitors first-hand experience in some of them. It also featured the very popular ‘Classroom of the future’ to give delegates a glimpse into what the future of learning will look like.
Well, so much learned in one day and I can still write more but the idea is to inform you not exhaust you, therefore I’m going to wrap-up by saying ‘Nothing succeeds like excess’. The event hosted innovation exemplars in excess, effective learning models in excess, current and information about future trends in excess thus the event was bound to be excessively successful! Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed penning this down.