It’s December: a time to reflect upon the year that is swiftly coming to a close, and a time to look forward to what the new year will bring.

This past year has held a lot of new experiences for me. I presented at a conference for the first time, I hosted a #MSFTEduChat Tweetmeet, and I participated in Project Kakuma teaching refugees via Skype in Kenya. I have to say they were some of the most powerful learning opportunities I have ever had and I feel fortunate to have been able to take part in them.

In April, I presented “Going Global” at the ConnectED 2018: Canada’s Learning and Technology Conference with my friend and fellow English teacher, Allison Timmins. While I did experience nervousness, it was far outweighed by the fantastic learning experience it was for me. The first thing you should know is that I live in Southern Ontario. This may seem completely unrelated, but Allison lives in Northern Ontario, so our whole presentation was collaboratively developed from afar. In fact, we didn’t see each other in person until the night before our presentation! I think back to when I was in high school and university and I’m in awe that we could build the whole presentation effectively without seeing each other in person – that just would have been near impossible when I was a student. Maybe I’m showing my age, but I still find it truly remarkable that technology allowed us to build our presentation while being hundreds of kilometers and hours apart. Microsoft Powerpoint presentations and Skype were our collaboration tools of choice. Powerpoint helped us not only create a presentation but one that had professional and appealing design via the new design features in Powerpoint. Skype allowed us to better communicate about the finer points we wanted to cover and more easily go over each slide to determine we were getting our points across effectively. We also used Skype during our presentation to talk to Emma Naas and really showcase the power of going global with our audience. The experience also afforded me an inside view of what it’s like to be a student again. By developing a presentation and delivering it to an audience, I appreciated anew the tasks I assign to my students. I now regularly build in tutorials to support my students in presentation design, using collaboration tools, and oral speaking tips – including how to handle stress.

April was a busy month because I also co-hosted a #MSFTEduChat Tweetmeet. I was thrilled to be asked to be a host for the April Tweetmeet where we discussed teaching the sustainable development goals.

Sustainable Development Goals poster

To begin, it was an amazing experience Skyping with 14 educators whom I admire from all around the world for our planning session. For me, working with so many passionate, like-minded people on a topic of such importance was truly awesome and humbling. This was also the first Tweetmeet to go multi-lingual offering 6 language tracks. It’s particularly cool knowing that the language tracks have exploded since then to 17!

Just in hosting that Tweetmeet alone I learned how to use Tweetdeck more efficiently, how to use Buffer – which was completely new to me, all about search queries, how to record a video on Flipgrid, and collaborated with amazing people to develop a Padlet of Teach SDG resources to distribute during the Tweetmeet. The efforts of Marjolein Hoekstra of OneNote Central (@OneNoteC) and now Tweetmeet Central (@Tweetmeet) are invaluable in putting the Tweetmeets together. She has thought of everything and shares it in her collaborative OneNote notebook for hosts which is pretty much a ‘hosting a global Tweemeet for dummies’ guide covering everything from how-tos to promotion for the beginner right up to the Twitter-savvy.

I’m very excited to be hosting again with the ‘Best of 2018″ Tweetmeet coming up on December 18th at 1:00 pm EST. Have a look at my flipgrid about the event here. Learn more here on my Flipgrid video: https://flipgrid.com/s/bdb86dfe888e

As a previous host and an active participant in the #MSFTEduChat Tweetmeets, I know this occasion will offer fantastic conversation, tips, and resources from some of the world’s most passionate and dedicated educators. You can get more info on the Microsoft blog or check out this Sway. Make sure to join in!

Combined Headshot

Finally, one of the most incredible experiences of my year was becoming a part of and teaching via Skype to refugees in the Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya with Project Kakuma.

snip_20181012082936.png

Koen Timmers of Belgium spearheaded this endeavor beginning in 2015, and it now boasts 324 Educators across 70 countries. Koen describes the project’s beginnings as sending some laptops to the refugee camp and starting to teach via Skype to offer basic maths, science, English, and religion to the students. He says:

Although people are charmed by the fact we offer free knowledge, we’d like to stress that we do much more than simply offering free education via Skype. This project allows students from across the world to connect with refugees which gives them a the right perspective of refugees’ lives. Students from 6 continents are able to have a chat about culture, hobbies, habits and religion. This intercultural exchange allows teachers to bring empathy into their classrooms.

What’s better than learning about global issues directly from people living in those countries?

The project has continued to grow, not only with volunteer teachers from around the world but in infrastructure in the camp where there are now 20 laptops, our own solar suitcases, and internet infrastructure in 3 schools as well as a refugee consultant who guides and trains the Kakuma teachers.

Wrapping up my year and looking forward, I feel blessed to have these opportunities and honoured to be a part of organizations and groups of people who are helping to make the world a better place. I was thrilled to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow last week and look forward to the new learning experiences that are in store for me in 2019.

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