Devon primary head and pupils excel for 'dragons' at Global Forum in Barcelona
Jonathan Bishop and David JamesBroadclyst head Jonathan Bishop and his deputy, David JamesBroadclyst Community Primary School in Devon took first place and $25,000 of the investors’ pot at The Pitch, a new competition launched by Microsoft at its prestigious Global Forum in Barcelona to find and support the most innovative ideas from school leaders worldwide.

Gayaza High School in Uganda was awarded $15,000 and Schloss Neubeuern school from Germany received $10,000 for its pitch. The crowd-sourcing element of the event came into its own when the pitch from Saint John's School, Chile, which failed to attract funding from the 'dragons', was met by Valerie Karaitiana, principal of Dallas Brooks Community Primary school, Australia.

Broadclyst headteacher Jonathan Bishop made the judges’ decision easier with a rousing presentation that included two of his pupils, Poppy and Jess, back in Devon taking part over a live video link. This pitch involved establishing a global Dragon’s Den-style enterprise challenge to give schools the opportunity to set up their own companies and create products. (For further coverage of the event see also " honoured at Microsoft Global Forum 2014".)

The activities would necessitate cross-school and cross-country collaboration and the most successful school would be rewarded with a trip to Seattle to meet the Microsoft education team. The $25,000 will be used to seed-fund the participating teams.

Project aims to spark '1,000 children working together across 20 countries'

“It wasn’t you, but your children,” quipped the Microsoft judge Akhtar Badshah to Jonathan Bishop. The pupils had shown the pitch some of the items they had made for their existing enterprise project, one of them a cover for an iPad. Akhtar Badshah had asked them, “Can you do one for my Surface?” “Yes,” they replied. “How much?” “Seventy pence,” they replied. It was the nearest thing to an inducement The Pitch had seen.

The children enjoyed it too. “It was a great experience doing a Lync call Barcelona to give our point of view on the Enterprise Project," said Poppy, in Year 6. “It was quite nerve racking but I felt confident talking about the project because it is something I have really enjoyed doing. It really is incredible that we won and I think it proves that if you work hard you see the rewards.”

Jess (also Year 6) found the experience “extremely exciting” too. “It was a great learning opportunity as we got to speak to a large group of people even though it felt quite daunting. It was brilliant to see ourselves on the big screen and it felt like we were famous! It will be amazing to see how the Enterprise Project develops globally in the future.”

Jonathan Bishop said, “The event was a wonderful opportunity to share what we have been doing at Broadclyst to bring together children from different schools into a collaborative project. To take this now to the next level and make it a truly global enterprise project will be really exciting. The children involved benefit tremendously from these international links but this project will get more than 1,000 children working together across 20 countries."

The strongest rival to Broadclyst was the pitch delivered by Ronald Ddungu from Gayaza High School, near Kampala, Uganda (see video below). This is the oldest girls' school in Uganda and its students had researched local business and found demand for a web service that promoted them and marketed their enterprises. They students plan to use space on their OneDrive online space to create an “eMarket Library”. The intention is to also video their production processes to increase collaboration and best practice, giving students more opportunities for their business studies work and entrepreneurship as well as giving a much-needed boost to the local business community.

“Youth today are being encouraged to be job creators and not job seekers skills,” said Ronald  The project will provide lifelong learning and we anticipate that the students will be qualified and inspired to begin their own enterprises or manage ICT marketing activities within any given organisation."

Those carrying out the initial screening for the Pitch thought the idea empowered students to prepare for their own futures while also helping their own business community, and the event judges were clearly in agreement that the money would go far and benefit students, teachers, the school and the local business community.

Jörg Müller, principal of Schloss Neubeuern presented his school’s pitch with the help of an on-stage robot scripted with a witty voice-over complete with a clever mimic of former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer. If you check out the YouTube video (below) for Schloss Neubeuern it looks more like a castle than a school. But Pitch judges have to operate on the quality of ideas rather than the size of bank balances, and the German pitch clearly had merit.

The school will set up a company to work through for this project. Students, working with their teachers will create German-language materials as their research indicated a shortage, besides which they said they would prefer to use ones that they made themselves.

The first judges to vet the project felt that it would empower students and teachers to “transform learning school-wide and create a more engaging curriculum catering to student preference and learning styles”. Principal Jörg Müllersaid, "The whole idea of the ‘inverted classroom’ approach hinges on a vast increase in self-directed and inquiry-based learning, while at the same time promoting  collaborative learning in true-to-life projects."  

The school plans to get students, supported by teachers, to create video curriculum materials for their own use, and which they can share with other German schools short of home-language resources. And they will create a company to take commercial commissions for bespoke video materials for other organisations and companies. Teachers will provide scripts for some of the videos and the students will produce their own too. Schloss Neubeuern entered The Pitch to get funding for some equipment to do the work.

Computer games are massively engaging for students but disengaging for many teachers (hence the importance of the work carried out in Scottish schools with the now-defunct Consolarium). The challenge in the pitch by Fernando José Reyes Gajardo, from  Saint John’s School, Chile, was to create integrate gaming and pedagogy to change teaching and learning in Saint John’s and beyond, and to move teachers' practice further on. It involves setting up a virtual platform for learners and teachers to develop and share their learning. The project aims to improve literacy too.
While the judges decided not to fund the project, the crowd-sourcing element of the competition came into its own when Valerie Karaitiana, principal of Dallas Brooks Community Primary school, Australia, stepped in to meet the start-up costs, and this was celebrated in an emotional moment at the awards ceremony.

The initial judges were impressed by the focus on inquiry-based learning and the potential of the videogames to "contribute to the learning process and the role of the students as a main character and navigator of their learning". The school commented: "We can see that our students live in a constantly moving environment, surrounded by games and visual stimulation. Our long-term objective is to create interchanges of knowledges and interactive materials through video games made by students and share with other people and in other countries."  

OneNote has proven to be a hugely successful program both in and outside education. It’s one of the best note taking programs for mobile devices on Microsoft, Apple and Google mobile platforms, and its integration with Microsoft’s OneDrive online service means that it can be used by virtually anyone. It’s not just about text as it can handle all sorts of media in very intuitive ways. That’s why the pitch by Appleby College, Canada, was intended to ramp up its capability to another level for schools.

In his pitch, Appleby’s Calvin Armstrong outlined the school’s plan to create a OneNote Notebook ‘template’ integrated with the online service Office 365 so that any teacher could simply click a button and generate a OneNote notebook “for every class, with shared and protected spaces for every teacher, student and group within the class, alongside read-only access for every parent for their student’s content”. "It will be a success when other school’s students with organisational problems no longer have difficulty finding what they need to learn,” he commented. “When students stuck at home can still access course content and receive feedback from a teacher who may also not be at school. The OneNote binders create an anywhere, anytime learning that bolsters the effectiveness of any classroom."   

The pitch hit a sticky patch when Microsoft’s Akhtar Badshah, in his “Mr (not quite) Nasty” role, suggested that this could have been done without seed funding and may in fact have already been done by other schools. The first round of judging had credited this bid as being one that tried to  create “solutions that increase the ease of use, integration and seamlessness of productivity tools for teachers”. is critical and the added visibility for parents to have more access and insight into students' school-work is just as important. Despite the decision not to fund though the idea is obviously worth pursuing (and who better to complete it - perhaps even a selection of templates for schools - but Microsoft?!).

E-safety is a topic that is rarely far from teachers’ minds when it comes to internet work. And that was the focus of the pitch (below), which was not asking for funding, from the Crescent Girls’ School in Singapore. This project intends to work in elements of gaming and social networking to create a system that engages young people and develops their awareness of esafety and how to deal with anti-social behaviour they might encounter online.This would be achieved through a Global Cyber Wellness Ambassador Programme.

The research behind the project was alarming. According to a worldwide study conducted by Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Unit in 2013, a global average of 37 per cent of youths aged between 7 and 18 had been subject to varying degrees of cyber bullying. According to the school, "As youths and students become ever more connected, inculcating good cyber-wellness practices among them is thus paramount to prevent them from the resultant suffering brought about by cyber misconduct."  

Most of the contestants are now back in school, and the implications of the new tasks and responsibilities are sinking in. Jonathan Bishop concluded: “The Pitch was certainly a test of my nerves. It was not only good fun but just brilliant to meet the judges and have the support of everyone at the MS Global Forum. I never dreamt that we would get through to the final let alone have our ideas accepted and receive the full $25,000 funding to make the project a reality.

"The hard work now begins and I am looking forward to working with all our partners in turning the ideas into reality. If there are any schools who would like to be part of the competition then please do get in touch.”

More information

Teachers can join the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network free of charge
Photos from the Barcelona Global Forum on Flickr
Global Forum hashtag on Twitter - #MicrosoftGF 
Broadclyst Community Primary School editor Merlin John acted as 'dragon' for 'The Pitch'

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