When Fish Fly

Global Educator Innovator ForumI had the privilege of spending 5 days in one of the greatest cities in the world with some of the most innovative educators on the planet. Microsoft hosted over 700 educators from over 75 countries at the annual Global Education Innovator Forum. With an opening reception at the American History Museum and a closing gala at the National Portrait Museum, it was a world class event in every sense of the word.

Over 125 teams presented projects over the course of 2 days to judges, peers, and other guest as they hoped to earn one of 3 awards in each of 6 different categories.

Team USA meets U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Team USA meets U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Team USA was represented well with incredible projects by even more incredible educators (say hello to Nate, Jason, Kelli, Colin, Margaret, Melanie, Lou, Donna, Pauline, Johnny, Anthony, and David).

My group was honored, excited, surprised, and humbled to have received First Place in the Collaboration category. (and my fellow TeamUSA colleagues will understand the need for an immediate YEAH BABY shout out)
I will be blogging about the experience in a few different ways over the next month, but I’d like to start by showing the document that we submitted to Microsoft before the event occurred. It will give you a sense for our project, called When Fish Fly

Project Summary
When Fish Fly is a Kinect Xbox game creation project designed to replicate the sights, sounds, history and “sense of place” of Pike Place Fish Co.in Seattle, Washington. Student design teams incorporate Computer Science, project management, business concepts, and multimedia technologies to create a dynamic motion-based game simulation.
Project Description
When Fish Fly is a game creation project designed to replicate the sights, sounds, history and “sense of place” of Pike Place Fish Co. in Seattle while actively engaging the student design team in a technology driven collaborative process. This semester long project allows students to build a simulation for the Xbox Kinect game system focusing on multimedia technology, motion, digital arts, and Computer Science. Students utilize project management and business concepts as they collaboratively research, design, and code a game simulation replicating the experience of Pike Place Fish Co. While our project is based on this location, the concept is intended to be used as a model to be replicated in any city in the world. In addition to game play, there is a heavy educational component to both building the project and playing the completed game; there are numerous links to video clips, sound bites, historical facts and figures and other information, even live web feeds. In our project model, students study the history and economic data of the location while collecting audio and video interviews. In order to simulate the experience as accurately as possible, students also observe, photograph, and record the many types of people interactions, transactions, and activities that occur in the market. The completed project will be driven by dynamic motion-based interaction using the Kinect camera system. Part of the creative challenge and fun of this project is not only determining what motions and kinetic movements to incorporate, but how to implement them.

Project Inspiration What was the inspiration for your entry? During the U.S. IEF in Seattle, The Partners in Learning Network initiated an experiment dubbed “learning excursions,” which was created to engage and challenge the participants. Educators were organized into collaborative working groups and sent to interesting sites around Seattle. What kind of learning activities might be generated when top-tier educators are paired up with similar subject-matter and grade level peers and sent to explore unique places in a community and asked to come up with engaging, 21st century learning activities that could be used by teachers around the globe? Our team’s destination was Pike Place Market and our first task was to decide what format to present our project. Taking advantage of our core strengths: Computer Science, Digital Media Arts and KinectEd,

Margaret, Donna, Johnny, Lou, and myself

the logical solution for our project was a game-like simulation. We considered all the local businesses located in Pike Place Market that would lend themselves to a game simulation; the Pike Place Fish Co. was the obvious choice because of its history and its unique “fish toss” that would lend itself to the Kinect and game play. Pike Place Fish Co. captures the essence of the market and Seattle and allowed our team to build a replicable project that can be adapted to any locale. This focus had to meet the requirements of the task while promoting a multi-dimensional, cross- curricular, collaborative environment for the project to be a success. This solution allows for scaling as well as in complexity to accommodate advanced students or larger class sizes

Why did you start using technology in your classroom? Our students have grown up their whole lives in a world that has been digital and full of gadgets and advanced technology. Yet in schools we tend to fight that technology with rules, restrictions, bans, and regulations. So, the culture on school campus ends up being very different than the world we are preparing them for. Our group believes in using technology to design, create, build, interact, and present. Our classrooms must offer the chance for our students to create and build things using the tools of the digital age. Those who are in command of those digital tools, and can use them to produce creative, thoughtful, useful, and engaging products will be the next leaders of business, academic, entertainment, and research. We embrace technology and push it as far as it can go. And when we reach the edge, we use those same tools to innovate as we design the next tool.

What do you hope to get out of the Global Forum? We are all honored and excited to represent the United States at the Global Forum, so our first responsibility is to make sure we make the Partners in Learning team proud. The experience in Washington DC will be an experience of a lifetime; we’ll share our own ideas; hear other culture’s philosophies of education, and learn best practices from some of the most passionate people and schools in the world. What we loved about our own regional forum the was the chance to collaborate and engage with fellow colleagues from around the country; that experience has and will live on long after that forum was over. This Global Forum offers that same chance to learn and share with some of the true leaders of education and innovation across the world.

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Did this event meet and exceed anything you might have ever imagined? Without question.
Would you recommend going through the application process in 2012? With a doubt if you feel you are doing some great stuff in your classroom and would like to share and meeting others who are doing great things in their classroom.
Has this experience changed you fundamentally as a person? Having spent 5 days with some of the leading educators from the United States, along with some of the most professional and passionate staff and leaders from Microsoft, I can truly say that I am a better person due to this experience.
Did you really scream “Yeah Baby” loudly while accepting your award? uh huh

About Doug Bergman

Head of Computer Science at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC

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