Humbling Moment at E2 2019

Blogpost number 3 as a result of attending E2 (Education Exchange) in Paris in April, 2019. (See the others about my team challenge experience and overall experience.)

One of my biggest takeaways wasn’t from a speaker or session, but from an observation of how many attendees spoke English and spoke it well! What can we do in the US to step up our language game? English is prominent, but we are not the only language.

5 people wearing berets smiling at the base of the Eiffel Tower
Carlos from Peru, Ronel from the Philippines, me from the USA, Jacky from China, and Jacek from Poland

For the team challenge, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with fellow Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts from China, Peru, the Philippines, and Poland with our team fellow from Saudi Arabia. Before leaving for the conference, I researched how to greet people from those countries and downloaded Microsoft Translator on my phone and on my Surface. However, my teammates spoke English along with some speaking several other languages.

Me? I speak English. I can count to 6 in Finnish after playing miniature golf with an exchange student from Finland in high school. I know a few phrases in German, Spanish, and French, but could not hold a conversation in any of those languages.

Microsoft Translator logo with letters on a green background
Microsoft Translator

With today’s technology, many of us have translation apps on our mobile devices, readily available, so have we become complacent about learning another language? Is it necessary? Is there a benefit?

A recent article asked how important it is to learn a foreign language and invited students to comment. There are over 170 comments and, from the ones I’ve scanned so far, all are in support of foreign language classes despite many schools cutting the programs due to funding or a lack of teachers for languages.

Great American Melting pot gif of a boy jumping into a pot shaped like the United States with many others smiling and wavingAs a child, my family moved a number of times. The benefit is that this introduced me to a variety of cultures. I’ve been told I ate a LOT of Assyrian stew in Chicago and fell in love with sopapillas near Four Corners, Colorado. In kindergarten, I learned to count in English and Spanish. When attending college in Chicago, I met people who had never seen anyone of color. This shocked me! Spending most of my life in California has put me in a beautiful melting pot (cue Schoolhouse Rock song here!) It was hard for me to imagine anything else.

Which brings me back to the question, why learn another language? First of all, there are the professional benefits of speaking more than one language. It is a skill sought out by many companies (more than a third based on several online reports) and can mean a larger paycheck. A small study talked about how knowing multiple languages enables you to better focus on mental tasks which definitely helps your employability. Demand for bilingual employees has increased in recent years. One blog talks about multiple benefits of knowing a second language. 

Online, you can find many reports about the financial, mental, and creative benefits of speaking more than one language. For me, I believe it gives you a better global view. The more cultures and languages you are exposed to, the better you can understand different perspectives. When I taught 5th grade, I bought a book on the American Revolution while in England and shared it with the class. It was mind-blowing to them that America wasn’t always right. “Wait, England sent soldiers to protect colonists? Well, of course we should have paid!” They learned that it wasn’t about the taxes themselves, but how colonists were charged without a say. To them, it had been a simple, “We’re right, they’re wrong” issue, which changed that day.

In one study published in May 2015, researchers tested children’s ability to communicate effectively by taking other people’s perspectives and found that bilingual children—as well as monolingual children who still had significant exposure to other languages—were better communicators and found it easier to understand other people’s intended meaning.

from 7 Surprising Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

(While searching for resources to support my theory, I found this article which talks about different perspectives in different languages which leads down another fascinating rabbit hole.)

After attending E2, I feel inspired to try to learn another language. So which one? For me, I have yet to make that decision, but if you are about to start down that path, here are some resources that may help.

E2 Adventures – Part Deux

If you saw my previous blogpost, know that the Global Educator team challenge was just a part of E2.

a group of people at an airport holding a sign E2 Education ExchangeAfter arriving in Paris on Monday, Microsoft Education shuttled us to the hotel and conference center. Our shuttle had a number of us from the USA and others from Greece, Qatar, and Wales. Though many of us were jet-lagged, there was not a quiet moment on that bus! (I apologize belatedly to our driver.) We shared a bit about ourselves, talked about our flights, and discussed non-educational topics, too. I was grateful for Tomos from Wales who helped me understand the difference between American football and Rugby and loved meeting the #eTwinz (Mario and Alberto Herraez) in person since we follow each other on Twitter. Many of us had enjoyed their #Road2E2 videos. I had brought along a number of Disney pins and was overjoyed that the others loved choosing one to take home as we passed the lanyard around.

People posing with photo booth props in front of a sign that says E2 Education ExchangeThat night, the USA team met for dinner at a local restaurant. Luckily, we had a room to ourselves since it got pretty noisy as we ate and talked for hours. Many of us used Microsoft Translator on our phones to help us select our dinner choices. Some had arrived a few days before so we heard about their Parisian adventures and again met many of our virtual PLN (Professional Learning Network) from Twitter.

3 women smiling wearing patriotic clothingFor the Wednesday morning keynote, Team USA sat together, proudly wearing our Flopsie Llama t-shirts (inspired by a teacher’s class project on llamas a few years ago and now our mascot), red, white, and blue sunglasses, and flag bandanas along with other patriotic accoutrements. I loved getting to know Tara,  Michelle, and the rest of the USA team. Special thank you to Robyn for our patriotic goodies!

French performer in a striped outfit in front of a sign that says E2 Education ExchangeThe attendees were entertained by Parisian performers, a pantomime comedian hilariously conducting an invisible orchestra followed by a contortionist. What a way to open! The G in GKTechies watched from home, but commented, “Actually, that’s a good way to open, to get you out of your comfort zone, opening your mind and thinking creatively.”

a man in a tux smiling at a woman in a striped outfit with Education Exchange on the wall behind themThe Power of Humor suggests that laughter can help with creative problem solving. Just what we needed! The full Day 1 keynote is available on the Microsoft EDU Facebook page. Speakers included: Anthony Salcito, Jean Philippe Courtois, Gabriel Attal, Joey Taralson, Hannah Le, and Karey Killian. Karey spoke about moisture damaging books in her libraries. I nudged Tara Gray next to me that Microsoft should get involved. #MindReader Anthony Salcito told Karey that Microsoft employees were delivering books to her libraries! #GreatMoment

woman standing at a wall with a list: In one hour, we'll cover Microsoft social media, Twitter, Activity 1: your profile, Twitter quality check, protect your account, the perfect tweet, Twitter etiquette, Building your network, Twitter search, Twitter lists, Activity 2: Building lists, TweetDeck, Activity 3Incredible morning and then off to sessions. For the first session, I knew instantly which one I would attend: Twitter tips with Marjolein Hoekstra (@OneNoteC) and Lindsay Bayne (@LBayne).  I had the privilege of being one of the hosts for a #MSFTEduChat which is how I met Marjolein virtually (who is an amazing organizer!) and was anxious to meet her in person. So many great tips for using Twitter! Mike Tholfsen (@mtholfsen) shared a tip for iOS (Apple) users to create keyboard shortcuts when you know you will be using a hashtag, or combination of hashtags, often. (See instructions at the end of this blogpost.) For E2, we used #E2 #Road2E2 #E22019 and #MicrosoftEDU.

For the second, I went to a focus group on the Microsoft Educator Community. If you are not familiar with MEC, it is a free website offered by Microsoft filled with tutorials, lessons, and other resources for educators. Did I mention it is FREE?! As Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Fellow Tammy Dunbar would say, “A teacher’s favorite ‘F’ word!”

Sign in with your Office 365 or a personal Microsoft account (also FREE). If you do not have a Microsoft account yet, here is a referral link that also gives you more storage space in OneDrive (cloud storage). You can connect with educators around the world, share your own lessons, and even find Skype in the Classroom activities such as Mystery Skype or discover a guest speaker or virtual field trip to use with your classroom.

a group of people in a room with display boardsNear the end of the day was the Learning Marketplace. Each MIEE (Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert) was asked to share a lesson. We were provided a science fair-like board and a table to display along with many bringing items to give away representing their countries.

board that says Accessibility Tools To Make ANY place the I decided to bring small American flags, Jelly Belly jelly beans, and some Disney stickers. The title on my board was, “Accessibility Tools: to make ANY place the happiest (most accessible) place on earth.” I love Disney and since the USA has parks on both coasts, it seemed an appropriate theme. You can view my accessibility resources in this Wakelet collection. The lesson plan is posted to the Microsoft Educator Community.

Woman wearing a black MergeCube hat and earrings next to a board with a giant MergeCubeFor part of the time, we were encouraged to go visit others. I learned about using Skype for foreign language lessons, the stray dog problem in Costa Rica, saw a fun hat and earrings made out of MergeCubes, Micro:bits, OneNote, sustainable energy, and so much more! We also had a good time visiting with each other. Norway, Switzerland, India, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Ireland, America, Mexico, and other countries all laughing together and enjoying each other’s lessons. Row D was the United Nations!

Smiling people sitting around a table with American flags and water glassesThursday morning opened with another keynote of amazing and inspiring people: Stephane Cloatre, Meredith Roe, Francois Taddei, and Carrie Patterson. I arrived with just a few minutes to spare due to an early morning project that you will read about later on this blog so one of those shadowed heads front and center is mine. I realized that this REALLY makes you pay attention, especially with cameras everywhere!

People looking surprised while standing around a table with a man showing them a computer screenFor the sessions, I participated in focus groups with my favorite moments during Immersive Reader and OneNote. I knew part of what was coming due to a previous conference so I offered to take pictures. Their faces were priceless! I’d love to tell you what we learned, but #ConeOfSilence and #CircleOfTrust. Just know that INCREDIBLE things are coming! Follow @mtholfsen for future announcements.

A group of people in front of a wall that says Winner Creativity Team 46After the second portion of the Learning Marketplace, it was time to clean up for the closing night gala. What a location! We were bussed to Les Pavillons de Bercy for the awards ceremony and if you saw my first blogpost, you will know that my global educator challenge team won the Creativity award for our lesson: Eiffel Tower AccessAbility Investigation. We were yelling and smiling so much that you would have thought we won the lottery.

In a way, we did, we ALL won. We won the connection with educators from around the world with new friendships, the opportunity to be inspired by amazing people and projects, and a few days in Paris that will forever remain in our memories.

Thank you, Microsoft Education, for choosing me as one of the educators representating the United States. To say it was life changing seems too small. I aspire to continue the message of E2 and be a #changemaker and hopefully encourage others to be #changemakers, as well.

Apple iOS keyboard shortcut instructions:

Open Settings. Go to General>Keyboard>Text Replacement. Click the + sign to add text replacement. For example, add as the shortcut gktech and and as the phrase so whenever you type gktech, it turns into  

E2 Global Educator Challenge

2 women in French berets holding up a paper that says Karyn FillhartLast December, this happened:

Thanks to Microsoft Education, I was headed to Paris to attend E2 (Education Exchange) with the theme of ‘Celebrating Changemakers’.

shield shape that says Microsoft at the top then E2 Education ExchangeE2 stands for Education Exchange. Attending this amazing event were 300 educators from around the globe, Microsoft staff from a number of programs and projects, and members of the press. I left invigorated, educated, and inspired.

a table with bottles of water, glasses, and navy blue berets with #MicrosoftEDU on themDay 1: The global educator challenge: Each group was assigned a table with Microsoft Education berets for each of us to wear. These groups were made up of educators from a variety of countries. I was a member of the last group, number 46. As the only woman on the team, I had a few trepidations.

In the days before, we were given our team list and a few of us had connected on social media. Once meeting my teammates in person, my concerns were completely gone. Jacek from Poland, Ronel from the Philippines, Carlos from Peru, and Tao (Jacky) from China all greeted me warmly. Each team had a MIEExpert who had attended E2 before assigned to them in case we had questions. Ours was Ibrahim Aljabri from Saudi Arabia.

Sam O’Leary went over the directions. We would be judged on inclusion, creativity, collaboration, and student voice.

The goal was to create a lesson using Minecraft, OneNote, Teams, and Flipgrid, though we were welcome to use other programs, too. Brainstorming took only a few minutes since we quickly found a concept that was close to my heart and caught the interest of others: Accessibility. The group decided to determine accessibility options at the Eiffel Tower in the areas of hearing, vision, and mobility with the idea that students could then research other Paris locations.

6 people wearing blue berets giving a thumbs up in front a bus that says ParisSoon, we loaded double-decker busses for the tour of Paris. Donning #MicrosoftEDU berets, we had a list of challenges to complete during stops at the Eiffel Tower and Louvre. Step number one: Time for collaboration. I believe it was Ronel’s idea for the group to sing Wheels on the Bus and we decided to invite the other groups to join in. What a surprise that so many knew the song.

people wearing berets smiling in front of the Eiffel TowerNext stop, the Eiffel Tower. With only a short time, we quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to get to the visitor’s center to look for information so instead we focused on the Flipgrid challenges. These were a lot of fun and included finding someone to speak French (we met a lovely couple and their small children who happily obliged), take a picture of the team with the Tower, and others.

175521050419bd2671315770Back to the bus and on to the Louvre. Again, we hoped to get to the visitor’s center, but it was gated off due to maintenance. Thank goodness for Edge and Bing to research online! When the bus headed back to the hotel, Jacek pointed out a feature in the sidewalks that he felt demonstrated accessibility. I thought I was going to tear up with joy. He was seeing his surroundings with a different lens. (He was also the first to figure out a puzzle I sent the group asking why something in the picture wasn’t accessible. Way to go, Jacek!)

Once back at the conference, it was time to get to work. Work was divided up, but we each continued to support, brainstorm and provide feedback on each other’s contributions.

Microsoft Translator logo with letters on a green backgroundgreen WeChat logo with 2 white speech bubblesOur first hurdle was probably the fact that we spoke 5 languages! The others, fortunately for me, spoke English, though we were prepared to use Microsoft Translator, if needed. We also realized that our plan to use GroupMe for sharing pictures and conversations wasn’t going to work since one team member didn’t have access. However, WeChat was available and without question, the rest of the team quickly downloaded it and set up accounts.

Minecraft Education Edition logoNone of us were Minecraft experts so that was our next hurdle. Jacek eagerly accepted the challenge and set to work teaching himself the program. While I worked on filling out the lesson plan template, Jacky and Carlos worked on a Sway and Ronel researched the Eiffel Tower.

The group learned that there are Eiffel Tower replicas in China so we asked Jacky about them. Ronel then discovered a Wikipedia page that listed replicas around the world. Light bulb and lesson change! The idea would be that the whole class would research the Eiffel Tower in Paris to be followed by collaborative groups researching the replicas allowing for compare and contrast.

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The Minecraft world would have the Eiffel Tower and an Accessibility Information Center with kiosks for each of the areas (hearing, vision, and mobility). Jacek continued to impress us when he told of the different textured paths for each area, making them easier to follow.

Woman in wheelchair in a crosswalk with a woman and a dog carrying a yellow flag. Title Jacky and Carlos worked on the Sway, searching for images of accessibility successes and failures. Some images made no sense, some were laughable attempts, some horrifying, but others were positive efforts to make sure everyone had access.

We laughed, we high fived, we encouraged, we learned.

green and white Flipgrid logoThe final moments before the deadline arrived quickly and our last task was to create a Flipgrid video summarizing our lesson. Each of us took a part. Then we realized we forgot to include our table sign so I ran to get it while the others practiced their parts since they would not be using their native languages. Again, we recorded the video with a minute left on the clock, hit submit and nothing. NO INTERNET from where we were so we ran, as a group with our computers and phones back into the main work area and VOILA! Success!

Sign in Paris: Liberte - Egalite - Fraternite Republique FrancaiseAfter crashing into our chairs with relief and starting to breathe again, there was nothing to do but wait until the awards assembly that evening when the results would be announced. Early on, I said, “Team 46, last, but not least.” Ronel said that it was, “…last, but best!” Those early trepidations about being the only woman? Hardly! My team had embraced the French national motto of: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Liberty Equality Fraternity.

A group of people in front of a wall that says Winner Creativity Team 46The results for the area of Creativity were being announced. Second runner-up, first runner-up, and the winner is TEAM 46! The joy on the stage was palpable. We had worked hard as a team and had achieved recognition beyond belief. Later, during the gala, the 5 of us gathered to have some fun at one of the photo booths, going home with lasting memories of a night we will never forget.

5 people posing in a photo booth - E2 Education Exchange 2019 #MicrosoftEDUCan women and men work together as equals? Can people from 5 different countries and languages each contribute and collaborate on a lesson?

Team 46 would answer OUI!

Side note: That bus ride around Paris was pretty successful. All 3 teams: 44, 45, and 46 won awards at the gala for their contributions.

Look for another future blogpost about other E2 Adventures!

(Featured image thanks to Simon Johnson @clcsimon.)

Here is a copy of our lesson Eiffel Tower AccessAbility Investigation.