A 15,000 kilometre plane ride to Singapore might be too far for an average March Break get-a-way, but for St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Elementary School teacher Maureen Richardson, the trip has so far been the highlight of a two-year journey as a Microsoft Education Expert.
The Microsoft Educator Exchange Conference (E2) is an annual event that joins together other Microsoft Educators from all over the globe to explore emerging digital trends in the classroom and learn how these technologies support student development.
From March 13 until March 15, Richardson, along with 300 other Microsoft Educators from 91 countries, were invited to participate in numerous activities, including key note speakers, educator challenges, and a learning marketplace.
For Richardson, her experience over the course of 24 months began as a quest for personal development. What she didn’t expect was that her discoveries would open up a global world of connections and resources that would not only benefit her, but also her students.
"Over these 2 years, I've created a personal learning network which has made a big difference. I'm exchanging ideas, collaborating globally and trying new things as I hear about the success of it in other classrooms," she said.
"Listening to these educators share where they came from and how much they've accomplished motivates you to step out of your comfort zone to try something new or to change things up, to make your teaching more engaging and interactive for the students."
But being the expert isn’t the most important, she noted.
“It's about giving the students the tools that they are already passionate about to explore things like math concepts or social studies that will have them engaged."
Some of these tools were displayed at the learning marketplace, a highlight of the conference, where educators set up booths that showcased some of the digital activities happening in their classrooms.
"This was the perfect opportunity to gain ideas and make connections with other teachers for possible future collaborations."
Richardson’s booth focused on the use of the programs Sway and Makey Makey, which helps reluctant reads engage with books.
As technology is constantly evolving, Richardson is unsure of what the future of teaching will look like but promises to be a risk taker and try new things that will hopefully benefit and inspire future students.
In terms of inspiring other teachers to join the digital world, Richardson’s advice is less technical.
“Just try it! Technology can be intimidating for fear things won’t work out or something will go wrong – and things will go wrong – but it’s important not to let that stand in your way of trying.”
“Another piece of advice is to learn with a colleague. I started my Microsoft journey with Colleen Horzelenberg (St. Thomas the Apostle teacher) and it was comforting to have someone else to problem solve together.”
As for Singapore, Richardson reflected on her trip with only positive memories. Regardless of cultural differences, the attitude shared by each educator she encountered was full of the same passionate, growth mindset and risk-taking attitude that inspired her to start this journey in the first place.
To learn more about Richardson’s experience, please visit: https://sway.com/iGdzrOBLfhNdpiqo