The Future of Learning

Published on 1 Mar 2012

At 2Revolutions, we are partnering with forward-thinking governments, funders, nonprofits and entrepreneurs to innovate across the human capital continuum – to ensure that each learner can be successful on the path he or she chooses. We design and launch Future of Learning models, and help catalyze the conditions within which they can thrive. If you are involved — or want to become involved — in building the Future of Learning, we hope you’ll reach out. Come check us out at

Teach Like An Egyptian

Mark Sparvell: Innovation Hunter 6- Port Said, Egypt

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by Mark Sparvell
School Leader Program Director, Microsoft

Hello leaders and learners!

Continuing my journey across the globe and capturing the voices, images and insights from some of our amazing Microsoft Innovative Expert Educations and the leaders in the inspiring Showcase Schools. If you haven’t been following my journey on twitter, might like to add @sparvell to your follows.


Date: February 2015

Location: Port Said, Egypt

Distance from home: 6839.3 Miles (11006.8 Kilometers / 5939.2 Nautical Miles)

The early morning drive from my hotel on the Giza Plateau towards Cairo was breathtaking. The sun, through the haze reflecting rose gold on the pyramids, coaxing activity into the street vendors as they stockpiled oranges for sale.

Port Said, a bustling vibrant city, is a couple of hundred kilometers from Cairo and was established 1859 as a base to house workers engaged in the construction of the Suez Canal. I enjoyed the experience in the afternoon of a short ferry rise across Suez from the continent of Africa to Asia- Port Said exists on two continents!

Showcase School Director, Ghada Attia and Principal of the National School, Noha Ikram greeted me at the school with warmth and enthusiasm.


Port Said Director, Ghada Aiitia and National School Principal, Noha Ikram are acknowledged at the recent Microsoft Global Forum held in Dubai.

Port Said is a semi private school built ten years ago. The school has 1300 students across the International and national sections. A highly awarded Year 1- year 12 school, Port Said has been a proud Global Mentor School, IT Academy and now Showcase School. Ghada Attia is fiercely proud of the schools achievements.


After some opening remarks and, pretty amazing snacks, we began a classroom and facility tour.


As a hunter of innovation, I’ve visited many schools and classrooms. I can always tell when powerful teaching and learning is happening because I simply want to stay in the room! This was my first experience. I visited an English Language class taught by MS Shaina’a Elbaz and Ms Radwa Gharbie and I was instantly captivated by her lively questioning style and positive energy. The teacher made excellent use of the interactive board to reinforce, focus and engage in ‘invisible assessment’. The students using their devices with Windows and One Note moved between whole class and individual tasks using quite complex scientific concepts to broaden and deepen English language skills. In further English Language and Arabic classes, I saw the other passionate teachers leveraging digital to amplify learning.

Port Said is in the process of exploring OneNote Class Creator to drive even greater collaboration.


I had the chance to view grade 9 computer programming. Again, what impressed me was the use of questioning to build on and understand student understanding, in this case about logic errors. The students told me that programming and coding have been a part of their learning since grade 1.


Port Said provides a holistic education experience and while I saw many examples of technology being used extremely well by students and staff, I also saw the richness of music lessons, dance classes, karate and evidence of a strong focus on values and citizenship.


At the end of the day a diverse student group were gathered to have a conversation with me. I asked them questions about their schooling experiences, engagement with technology and aspirations. I was impressed with the diverse aspirations, ‘engineer’, ‘mathematician’, ‘diplomat’, ‘military service’ and so on. It seemed that students could dream big different dreams at Port Said.

Students universally enjoyed their devices (the school pilots BYOD 1:1 with targeted classes with O365 as the common element next year) and felt these helped them with their learning.mark-6-3

I was very impressed with my visit to Port Said and grateful to the Partner In Learning Manager, Rasha el-Ashry for her coordination. The leadership team at Port Said have a clear vision for the kinds of graduates that the school produces and is clear about the role technology can play to extend learning. The school has created an environment where innovative teaching and learning can occur. The staff have professional learning opportunities including Microsoft ITA Academy, Microsoft Teaching with Technology, 21st Century Learning Design and other professional activities which are well supported by a vendor with a clear personal interest in the success of the school.

This was a surprise ‘packet’ on my journey to hunt and highlight innovation at its source.

Port Said , one of my Seven Wonders of the Educational World.

#showcaseschools #msftedu

Hot Potatoes & Cool Learning: The Innovator Hunter Series

 The Innovator Hunter Series by Mark Sparvell 2015


by Mark Sparvell
School Leaders Program, Microsoft in Education

Hello leaders and learners!

Continuing my journey across the globe and capturing the voices, images and insights from some of our amazing Microsoft Innovative Expert Educations and the leaders in the inspiring Showcase Schools. If you haven’t been following my journey on twitter, might like to add @sparvell to your follows.


Location: Silverton Primary School, Victoria, Australia

Distance from home: 13266 miles

Silverton Primary school has a very long history with Microsoft as an Innovative School, World Tour School, Global Mentor School and now, proudly, Showcase School. Silverton school is situated in an diverse community with lower than average mean incomes and higher than average unemployment…yet Silverton shines bright in national testing results and the school, staff and principal have received multiple recognition for excellence at local, state, national and international .

Silverton are experts at hosting visitors, people travel from across Australia and globally to visit this high performing school which defies expectations based on social or economic context.

What strikes me about Silverton is the absolute clarity of expectation from the leadership team throughout the entire school regarding respect for learners and learning. The powerhouse of Tony Bryant and Amanda Prosser have combined to create an environment which balances pressure and support on all the inhabitants of Silverton Primary to be the very best they can be in all areas…music, performing arts, academic, sports, citizenship, languages etc. There are impressive systems in place for all elements of school operation and organization yet, these , like their clever use of technology are invisible to the naked eye, enablers of a culture of learning.

Tony and Amanda clearly believe that the role of a leader is to create leaders and, across the staff ,everyone seems to have ownership and opportunity for leadership within an area of interest. This conscious vertical leadership model combined with great transparence of data, has produced a high involvement innovative culture where there is permission to explore…not surprisingly, this approach has infiltrated teachers approach to teaching and I have yet to visit a school where more authentic personalised learning, extended by technology, exists.


A fundamental difference at Silverton is the dedicated discover time which builds from the very youngest years through to grade 6. Students are constantly being supported and challenged to design learning, to collaborate, the co-construct knowledge with peers and to think and talk about the process and the products of learning. I have never seen so many students write so much! Simply put, they have something to write about. Student preferred learning styles are levered to drive deep learning and educators are constantly observing, engaging, recording and intervening at critical points.

microsoft-toolsMicrosoft tools and devices provide a unifying experience in a device diverse landscape. I had 7 year olds explain and show me how they use Lync to record themselves explaining a learning discovery so their classmates can peer assess. When I asked why Lync was useful, they explained that the IM conversation is automatically sent to the conversation folder in Outlook! Two small girls patiently showed me how they use Outlook to share thinking, ideas and media with one another when collaborating on learning. Another girl was busy creating a gift for her mother using a 3D Printer…she showed me her complicated sketches of circles and measurements taken from a variety of cup models. All around this learning space students were choosing and using technology to get learning ‘done’ and occasional public screens allowed for ‘on the fly’ demonstrations by teachers or students. I saw students programming and testing hand-made robots, students publishing texts, students painting and students working individually, in pairs and in small groups….all this was happening simultaneously and no one was off task out of 60 students!

predeterminedBut, the potatoes…I approached a couple of boys who had three potatoes by a computer screen and observed them for a moment. One boy was dancing his hands over the potatoes while the other was intently watching the screen and mumbling. I interrupted and asked for an explanation. The boys kindly (patiently) explained this was a ‘Makey Makey’, they placed probes into the potatoes and connected via USB to the computer. Touching the potato completed the circuit and caused a figure on the screen to move in a pre-determined direction. This was a computer game with programmable potatoes as the controller. One boy was providing directions, the other was following the sequence.

There is palpable energy in the air at Silverton and a sense of 100% commitment by all the staff to lean in, to own success and to trust in the capacity of their young people to inspire and amaze.

I don’t think Silverton Primary will be running short of visitors in the near future.

Visit Silverton at

Guest Blog: KNOWLEDGE LIKE THE WIND by Mark Harris


Whilst I don’t proclaim to be an expert in learning theory or knowledge construction, I am an avid thinker about the thinking that we perform. Although knowledge can be defined ‘as an awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation’. Much like our nose – we know it is there through observation and/or touch our nose is there, yet our mind has turned off to the fact it is there and doesn’t see it so how are we to know that it hasn’t gone?

“the smell of mahogany and leather bound books “

For many, knowledge conjures up the smell of mahogany and leather bound books sitting dormant on the shelves of institutions, for others it could be the sight of the creation of developed curriculum learning. As subjective as it is, we all know that knowledge is constantly around us in all that we do and see and is up to those who can translate that into an opportunity to gain further knowledge. I’m quietly confident that we can’t honestly say that knowledge can be pinned down and addressed as a physical entity, it is more a natural effect. But is it that knowledge only exists within the realm of one’s mind? Or is knowledge like the wind? Not always being felt or seen but constantly weaving through our entire existence around all that we do, see and feel, capturing and harnessing knowledge to move our understanding further along the road of life?


I see knowledge as the gusts of wind stirring up and manipulating the fragments of loose thoughts that are all too often forgotten.  Yet like knowledge, given the right circumstances has the ability to take one’s self to unexplored areas. If we imagine and picture a simple wooden ship being propelled around our world by simple breezes, we can picture and see that like wind; knowledge is only seen when it interacts with another object like the sail being strained at the mast or the simple paper wrapper tumbling down the street.  Like the sail our own drivers come into play when we harvest this energy to create usable momentum against the boundless ocean that appears allowing us to glide through – yet our momentum is constantly being robbed by the very medium that is keeping us afloat. For our own fears, worries and biases are the very friction that provide the opposition to knowledge.

So the question remains; if knowledge is all around us and all we need to do is harvest it, is it better to provide a bigger sail to catch it or reduce the very friction that strangles our ability to use the acquired knowledge?

Mark Harris



Mark Sparvell, Showcase Schools Program Leader:

What was your personal favorite memory as a student?

Easy! I remember my Kindergarten teacher, Miss Elizabeth McQuade, took a real interest in me as a ”reader” and gave me access to her personal library of children’s books in her office. I had a chance to skip the reading schemes and tackle real books. I remember literally forcing myself to learn to read while reading the original Tarzan series. I can remember the covers even today. They were a precious commodity.

Can you tell us more about the Showcase Schools Program?

The Showcase Schools are a global community of outstanding institutions which have pursued a vision of personalized and extended learning for all, enhanced by Microsoft technologies. The schools are identified by Microsoft Education leaders within countries and regions who know and understand the context.

These schools highlight the critical role of inspiring school leadership to create a shared vision and establish a blueprint for continuous improvement. The Showcase Schools contain at least two Microsoft in Education Expert Educators (MIE Experts) and may also be part of our Microsoft in Education Student Ambassador program.                            

Why should schools be excited about the SS Program?

For the schools involved, there is the opportunity to literally, “show-a-case” study around what can be achieved when innovative learning design is placed at the center of education transformation. The Showcase Schools are places where visitors are drawn to from local and national settings to see high-point stories of Microsoft in Education delivering improvements both educationally, organizationally and economically.

Showcase School teachers and leaders are often invited to present at forums and on panels locally, regionally and internationally. These schools are featured in School and Leader Snapshots. The Showcase School leadership team are engaged in an exclusive online community to share best practices within their network and also have access to an elite “virtual university” which intentionally explores research in practice. For other schools, the Showcase Schools provide real-world examples of education transformation and the Showcase School leadership teams make themselves accessible to other schools to visit or to engage with.

What’s your favorite part about working on the program?

Some of the Showcase Schools are known to me previously, and some I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with recently. As school leader myself, I have been simply blown away by the caliber, the commitment, the passion and the innovation these schools demonstrate. These are truly global Showcase Schools that inspire me to do what I do.

What’s going to be different about the program this year?

Well, the scale is different for a start! Previously our World Tour Schools numbered 35 and we are looking at approximately 120 Showcase Schools for 2014-2015…that’s significant. We’re really excited to be shaping a virtual university around the new Microsoft Education Transformation Frameworks and we are also establishing an Education Advisory Board to ensure the voices from the field, the education leads, have a platform at the highest level of Microsoft in Education. This is really how we obsess about the customer at Microsoft in Education.

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2 Responses to “We believe in the power of the educator, and the impact educators can have when they are brought together to collaborate and be recognized for their achievements.” – Ann Smith, USA

  1. Nurlan Zhanybek says:

    Great commitment and strong passion!
    Way to go!

  2. Lieu Nguyen says:

    I really admire Ms Ann Smith as well as well as Mr Mark Sparvell. I myself feel my using ICT in teaching better and better. Especially, when I became a participant of Pil network, my teaching make students more excited. I remember five years ago, I myself was bad at technology at that time. After that, I joined in a workshop, It was about PIL program in teaching held in Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam. I was introduced some techniques for new approaches as well as some ICT tools for learning activities. I really felt impressive on what I learnt, especially ICT in teaching. Since then, I have had awareness of the importance of ICT in teaching and I have tried to join in all the courses of ICT. I also teach myself through online classes… Now, I am a vice principal in a secondary school in Vietnam and I still keep studying new ICT tools although I am too busy with educational management. I still participate in innovative teacher competitions with my peers. On the second of October in 2014, I took part in the Microsoft Innovative Teacher competition 2014 held in Viet Nam. In this competition, I introduced my project in which my students showed skills of 21st century, especially their using ICT and won the first prize. Now, I am inviting some teachers in others countries to cooperate with me to carry out a global project in which my students will have opportunities to communicate with students around the world… I am looking forward for maximum participation from Educators worldwide as I personally believe this can be a good example of Global collaboration among different countries world over.