11/01/2010 05:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Educator Forum

My name is Pat Yongpradit and I teach at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, M.D. I love teaching computer science. In fact, it is my dream job. I have been blessed with a supportive school environment, motivated students, and an association with Microsoft that has connected my students and I with opportunities for creativity and innovation.

Currently, I am in Cape Town, South Africa where I am participating in the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Educator Forum. Microsoft has brought teachers from all over the world to Cape Town to celebrate innovative teaching practices, collaboration, and community. Many of the teachers went through a selection process in their own regions to make it to the worldwide forum. My project title is, "Game Programming with the Microsoft Zune to Promote High School Women in Technology." There are not enough girls entering and staying in computer science programs at the high school and college level. My surveys of students found that girls liked computer science and were good at it, but they didn't like smelly, nerdy boys... who happen to dominate the computer science classes. So I got all of the girls in the introductory technology classes together into a club called the Springbrook Women in Technology in order to show them that there were girls who were interested in technology just like them.

Together they formed a community of learners that mentored, tutored, and supported one another. They also got involved with some pretty cutting-edge programming.

The girls in the group programmed games for the Microsoft Zune media player. They wrote the games using the C# programming language, XNA Game Studio, and deployed their games onto the Microsoft Zune. XNA makes the game development and deployment process accessible to all. Most teenagers are familiar with the idea of media players and downloading apps. This generation has become very adept at using technology, but not many have had an experience in creating it. This project is innovative because through it we formed a supportive community of female learners in which students learned to be creators, not just users of technology.

The most inspiring thing that I saw at the forum this week was the power of collaborating with someone from a different country and culture. Cheryl Arnett, an American from small town Colorado, and Rawya Shatila, a generous and vulnerable teacher from Lebanon, collaborated online to give their elementary school students opportunities to collaborate with one another and learn about each other's cultures. Through the process, Cheryl and Rawya became close friends as well, close enough for Rawya to joke around with Cheryl that "not all ladies with scarves on their heads are Arab" and for Cheryl to know the telltale signs that accompany Rawya's need to go out for a smoke break. Their example has inspired me to start collaborating with teachers and students around the world to get firsthand accounts of social causes in their communities. My programming classes will in turn work with their newfound peers in other countries to create video games to bring awareness to these issues. These games will then be deployed to the Windows Phone 7 marketplace for global attention. A community of learners, working together for a common purpose, using cutting-edge technology that results in a real product and educates others about a social cause... this idea embodies what I learned from this forum.