The 2011 Microsoft Innovative Education Forum has come to an end. This year 102 incredible educators from all around the USA came together in Redmond, Washington for two days of excitement, wonder, and joy. They shared, collaborated, and learned together.
The Innovative Education Forum challenges teachers to submit their work to be judged by educational experts and leaders from around the country, to work collaboratively on new projects with teachers they have never met before, and to learn new ideas to try in their classrooms. The challenge takes place in the summer while they are on vacation from their demanding jobs and involves hours of preparation, competition, and a healthy dose of stress.
Keynote speaker at the event, Jane McGonigal, author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, spoke to the teachers about gaming, defining games as "unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle." The forum is, in a way, a game for educators. The participants volunteer to tackle the challenges of the event in spite of the pressure. They experience the same positive stress and blissful productivity that McGonigal attributes to playing games. Ask any attendee and they will tell you that the event was life changing, will impact their classrooms tremendously, and they can't wait for next year to enter again!
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the participating teachers is returning home to share the excitement and try to engage their peers in the game. According to McGonigal, gamers experience failure 80 percent of the time, but they don't give up. Inspired teachers will not give up either. The challenge of bringing about change in classrooms around the country can be frustrating and difficult, but the sense of accomplishment that comes from success is worth the effort. In the end the winners of the game will be the students and hope for a bright future in our changing world. Hats off to Microsoft!